Shapeshifting into a Magical Creature

OK, as it had come up on a previous thread, I went to go remind myself of the rules for shapeshifting - and I could have sworn there were restrictions or clarifications on transforming yourself into (say) a dragon. Specifically, a clarification on the powers that such a creature has; that the 'natural' powers (such as flight) are available, but the ones that requires you spend magic might are unavailable. I was under the impression that the actual rule was something akin to "if you want to breathe fire as a dragon, you need to either know a fire-breathing spell, or else have an Ignem requisite to the shapeshifting effect". However, I can't find this rule anywhere.

Am I thinking of a previous edition, or am I just not able to find it?

it helps, if you can specify, just how the transformation into a dragon is made, and which Guidelines are used. Just MuCo(An) and Guidelines from ArM5 p.132 box?


Quick thoughts:
The fire breathing ref in core is from MuAn 25 to give a horse fire breath power with ignem. P. 118.
I certainly agree that the transformation grants physical abilities only and there should be some logical limit to those abilities too.
Transformation into a dragon should be a version of any other MuAn spell. You're getting a big strange shaped lizard, as long as your spell pays for the complexity and size; go for it.
I also think the form does not get Might either. No powers and no might.
Edit: perhaps if a spell effect is to grant a power design the power as normal and then apply MuAn base with the Form of the power?

OneShot - yep, it was just a straight-up MuCo(An) Effect; basically I was originally using the lvl 20 "change into a bird, +3 for size increase" - but upon further reflection, a Dragon is probably 'just' a land animal with wings (base effect 10, +1 complexity, +3 size) - unless there's some sort of mideval explicit categorical argument for that one, of course.

IronTome - thanks, I think that's what I was looking for. Yeah, I'm pretty sure you can't just grant yourself magic might. Alhough in looking at the rules for shape shifting, it looks like you get both the mental and physical changes; you basically end up averaging them or taking the highest/lowest, except for Intelligence (HoH:MC, pg. 23). So basically my thought was, "oh, that's nice. Is there any animal that has a positive Perception, Presence, and Communication that my no-social-skills Lab Rat character can shape shift into? Why yes, there is! (Am5, pg. 194)."

And actually it wasn't the fire-breathing that interested me; rather, the ability to duplicate Stellatus' ability to take human form, while retain all of his draconic Characteristics. Which is a complete Cheese way to get around not having social skills, although it is amusing and completely in-character for said lab rat. "Oh, I need to talk to someone. I know! I'll turn myself into a dragon! That will work just fine, and in no way will have completely unexpected long-term consequences!"

Although here's another question - does the very act of transforming into a creature that 'naturally' has a supernatural ability make it easier to integrate that supernatural ability into the effect? (ie, is it simply a +1 Ignem requisite to breathe fire), or does the level of the spell actually have to match up with the complexity of the ability? (ie, to get a fire breath roughly equal to Ball of Abbyssal Flame, the shapeshifting abilty needs to be at least lvl 35 MuCo(An,Ig) effect?)

I think the powers should be designed using a hermetic spell, then added into the MuAn or MuCo base. Similar to when a spell has a related sub-effect; +1 mag for small powers, +2 mags for moderate, and not allowed for really huge effects. So your second example for BoAF is probably where I'd tend to go.

That said, if a single spell was designed to grant a power which is sympathetic to the new form and could logically work then it should be easier. Like making a dragon fly faster should be ok as it can already fly, despite that rapid flight spell being at least moderate in power level. I like my Europe on the Mythic side though.

BUT I'd also argue that a dragon should use the MuAnCo base for Birds not land animals as the creature can fly. Adding wings to a creature is not enough to grant effective flying, the transformation should be more wholesome to allow flight without additional magical help. Written as:

aside - I wrote a little about rationalizing muto transformation and transformation into very large creatures in six parts, which included dragons and all sorts of other stuff that came to mind. Use of powers is something I've still got in draft along with their game stats.

So let's note this down as an instance of cheese your troupe will not accept. There is also an explicit rule on that subject:

That's a mulligan argument. HoH:MC p.23 Statistics of Shapechangers applies to "Bjornaer magi and other shapeshifters", not to the targets of Muto spells.

One can argue with one's troupe, that Perception, Presence, and Communication of Stellatus are due to his dragon shape (including good eyes and fine nostrils) and size +8 (giving him quite some "force of personality" to throw around, which just cannot be overlooked). So they might indeed be gained by assuming his dragon form by Muto spell.

Since we noted, that your troupe will not accept Magic Might gained through MuCoAn spells, such spells cannot give you Powers driven by Magic Might either - like Stellatus' Human Form. So it is for now irrelevant to argue, whether Characteristics gained from assuming a form with a Muto spell are retained when that form is changed again.


Actually, Statistics for Shapechangers does totally apply to targets of MuCo(An).

As for double-shifting for better stats, which can actually be done with more spells, no "Human Form" ability required... Technically it's RAW-legal, but I don't think ot makes any sense and you'd be hard-pressed to convince me that it works.

  • On another note, I just tried to write a paragraph about how, if we wanted to turn the RAW tables, somebody who actively shapeshifts into a human could only understand, not speak, General Ability languages, but then I remembered that Latin is Academic and Academic Abilities are retained in full. More proof that RAW can and does often produce nonsense, where in this case you can communicate with your peers because a language is dead but not with the general populace because their language happens to be alive, even though you know both languages equally well.

Make an argument. Read before:

MuCoAn is not mentioned on this page at all.


Indeed; but in the previous page ("Ringing the Changes") it says that "There are three basic types of shapechangers in Mythic Europe" and the first type includes characters who change by spell or invested item. It seems by far the most obvious interpretation that information on "Statistics for Shapechangers" in the next page should apply to all three types.

The precise text you recall is:

(Bolding and (sic!) mine)

So, this HoH:MC box divides shapechangers into three categories:
(1) those using a spell or invested item (including the Skinchanger Virtue),
(2) those who have an innate supernatural power to change shape such as shapeshifters and lycanthropes,
(3) and those with a heartbeast.
Only shapeshifters and Bjornaer magi are mentioned on HoH:MC p.23 Statistics for Shapechangers. So only to these shapechangers the rules given there apply. A reason may be, that these shapechangers have a far closer relation to their animal shapes than the others.


OneShot, let me make a minor correction. The text does not talk of "shapeshifters and Bjornaer magi", as you say, but of "Bjornaer and other shapeshifters". Thus, we should assume that shapeshifter here is used as a synonim of "character who can change his shape" i.e. Shapechanger (including e.g. Lycanthropes, as written below).

Yes. That's why this entire line of questioning was about additional requisites for magical abilities gained via shapeshifting. Stellatus' shapeshifter ability would be an example of adding in an additional power, just like the firebreathing example I used in the opening post. Personally, I'd rank it at a +1 magnitude, as it's an innate ability of the target creature, and it's a shapeshifting power that comes from a shapeshifting spell; as such, it's already got its own requisites built into it.

If that were the case, the authors of HoH:MC would just have written shapechanger instead of shapeshifter in the text of HoH:MC p.23 Statistics for Shapechangers. They used 'shapeshifter' explicitly in a different way in the text preceding p.23, and especially in the box you quoted before. Thereby they made using it for "generic shapechanger" in the following text impossible.
In any case, somebody changed by a Muto spell is not an "other shapeshifter" even in the widest sense.


They did. You just quoted it. "Statistics for Shapechangers". If there were a difference between the three different kinds, it would have been stated on this page.

The logical path is as follows:

  1. Pg. 22 "There are three basic types of shapechangers in Mythic Europe" - and then goes on to describe the three different kinds.
  2. Pg. 23: "Statistics of Shapechangers" on pg. 23. Applying to all three different kinds.

I agree that the "For Bjorner maji and other shapeshifters" line is slightly vague. However, it is much more consistent to say that such a term includes all shapeshifters than to say that it excludes one of the three.

Except literally.

One Shot - for your argument to work, there needs to be some sort of explicit description of "shapechanger" that doesn't include "the three types of shapechangers in Mythic Europe". I'm not seeing that anywhere on either page.

One Shot, if your argument were correct, the current text would be impossible :smiley:
The single sentence (in the boxes in p.23 and 22) where the authors use "shapeshifter" before is incompatible with the sentence we are discussing. In that sentence, Bjornaer are explicitly not shapeshifters. In this sentence, the explicity are.

Thus your argument is incorrect; you have to accept that the authors have not used the term shapeshifter consistently.
Given that, you should ask yourself: what is the most likely meaning in this context? It clearly cannot mean solely characters with the Shapeshifter ability, since it also encompasses Bjornaer. The most obvious answer seems the one that uses "shapechangers" and "shapeshifters" as synonyms, and thus includes character assuming animal shape through Hermetic means.

This is a title of a chapter. It makes sense, because in its introduction that chapter refers to "the statistics for the creature as described in the appendix", which is relevant for all shapechangers in the sense of HoH:MC p.22 box.
The additional rules in it explicitly apply, however, only to "Bjornaer magi and other shapeshifters". Of course It is of interest for other shapechangers in the sense of HoH:MC p.22 box, that they do not apply to them - which further justifies the title of the chapter.

No, especially not literally. There is an obvious difference between shifter and shifted - just as between maker and made, or leader and led - that needs no further explanation.


And if you care for a pull from the core rulebook, AM pg. 132. "Muto Corpus spells cannot alter a person's mind, so they leave the transformed person's intelligence and knowledge intact." Which is consistent with HOH:MC, pg. 32. And the muto spells are referred to on pg. 132 as "shapechanging".

As such, I'm betting that the section of the book that says "Statistics of Shapechangers", and matches up with the core rules of what happens when a character uses Hermetic Magic to change shape, and doesn't explicitly reject hermetic shapechanging, probably can be applied to Hermetic shapechanging.

Finally - if you want to argue that MuCo doesn't affect Per, Pre, or Com, you'd have to exclude anything but Bjorner, as per the callout. "Unlike the other two, the Bjorner magus does not merely take the physical characteristics (the "accidents") of an animal shape; he actually becomes the animal in question."

So, you end up with a contradiction: either the "Bjorner magi and other shapeshifters" refers to all three categories of shapechangers (which I agree is a bit vague but grammatically correct), or else only Bjorner can take the mental characteristics of the animal (which is a direct contradiction of the description on pg. 23). Or you can argue that Per/Pre/Com can arguably be physical characteristics....which I agree that they can be. But in that case, then MuCo can affect them.

To be consistent with that, you would have to argue that lycanthropes aren't considered shapeshifters either, because it's the curse that's changing them, rather than their own volition. Which is a contradiction of the explicit rules on pg. 23.

So, again - if we take your interpretation, we have to go through numerous logical gymnastics, and we still end up with at least two contradictions. In contrast, If we assume that "and other shapeshifers" refers to all three categories (which is a logical and grammatical acceptable thing to do - if only slightly more vague than we would hope for), then the rules don't end up being a higgledy-piggledy mess.

The authors were - wrt to the "other" in "Bjornaer magi and other shapeshifters" - indeed not consistent.

But this certainly does not turn somebody changed by a Muto spell cast by another into a shapeshifter. And the MuCo guidelines do not vary wrt to the Characteristics of shapes assumed, if a spell Range increases beyond Personal.


ArM5 distinguishes shapeshifters and lycanthropes explicitly: both in the ArM5 definition of Virtues and Flaws, and in HoH:MC p.22 box. HoH:MC p.23 Statistics of Shapechangers does not mention lycanthropes either - so there is no reason to apply that chapter to lycanthropes.

That's strawman gymnastics. You are welcome to them, but don't blame me.