skinchanger and clothes

A character with the Skinchanger supernatural virtue can put on a special animal skin and transform into that animal until they take off the skin/cloak.

But what happens to their normal clothes? Do they transform also?
I am away from books now

It's not specified, but I personally prefer that the clothes not be transformed. So if you turn to a weasel or a crow, you can just get out of the pile of clothes. Turning into a bear rips your way out of them instead.

That is certainly more cinematic and has a better feel. If we consider purely thematic reasons I am in favor of this approach too.

However if you take the "clothes dont change" approach it makes the skinchanger virtue practically useless for travel purposes as it is not much fun to reach your destination without all your stuff and naked. The virtue is also not much use as a way to sneakily approach others unless you either have magic that allow you to speak in animal form or you are very good at symbolic communication.

Depending on who you are, this may or may not be a problem for you. Personally the ability to travel quickly and discreetly is perhaps the main draw of the skinchanger virtue, so for me the "clothes dont change" ruling is very problematic. If my main goal was to change into a bear to kick ass I would have a different opinion.

Its as you wish, with no direct answer given. For me, personally, the clothes transform with the user. They don't become naked when they transform back. I find I want magic to be a bit more user friendly and such when it comes to such things.

I asked because, being a non-hermetic magic, it might behave differently than Hermetic rules.

The tales do seem to suggest that when a swan maiden's cloak is stolen, they are bathing naked.

Still, for a redcap companion, I could rule that purely animal product clothes might transform. eg doe skin leather, or silk shirts. Maybe all the clothes need to be the same animal product. Footwear as well.

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Unless the Skinchanger virtue also allows you to prepare normal clothes to transform. Just as the animal skin can be prepared to transform the character.

I think that's the key. There isn't much to dig in the virtue description, so bringing the point is only going to give you opinions, so ultimately is up to you. You just need to think what that "special animal skin" really is and how is it working. If you look into it in hermetic terms, you would need to add requisites into the effect, power or whatever it is to transform the wearer and his clothes. But non hermetic magic use to be quite loose about requisites, think of Gruagach's Give Shape spells, you don't need to worry there about forms like Co, An and He being separated stuff you need to include. So if it's non hermetic, I'd tend to think that it also would transform clothing and equipment. Unless in your adventure you want some swans to turn into naked maidens, of course.

There is also the thing that the wearer maybe isn't aware of how that magical skin is working. Maybe these swans turn to naked maidens because they thought their clothing would tore down, so they got naked before putting their swan cloaks in the first place. Or maybe there is some kind of restriction in the item (like it needing to touch a big area of the wearer skin) and it only works when you use it naked in the first place.

and if they are a Redcap, their 50 pts of magic items might go into a magic pack that can be commanded to follows them while they are skin changed.

This discussion has helped focus my thoughts

Well, yes. Swim wear is (AFAIK) an invention of the Victorian era. And still hadn't become universally accepted in continental Europe by WWI

It is specified for Bjornaer heartbeasts on HoH:MC p.22 Changing Form: "The clothes and possessions of the magus do not transform with him." So you can derive the effects of the weaker kinds of shapechanging from it. Magic items of Bjornaer magi hence benefit from HoH:MC p.24 box Perceive the Change effects.

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Though I don't recall the Norse goddess Freja needing to disrobe before she wore her falcon cloak...

It's heavily implied clothes don't change. Even the Heartbeast ability does not change clothes, Falke, the Bjornaer Prima has a magical ankle chain which has a spell in it just to transform her ankle chain when she transforms into a bird.

I've found that this contributes to the game nicely. Bjornaer magi, and skinchangers have completely different attitude to nudity, and it's weirding the other PCs out.

"God blind me, he's landing right in front of us again!"

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The Bjornaer maga in our party also has (or plans on) an enchantement on her talisman so that it changes form along with her.

As for nudity, if the Covenant is based in northern Europe, sauna culture will have de-stigmatised it.

a request for magic item design assistance.

Which would be easier?

  1. have an amulet with an Arcane Connection to pack, that can teleport the distant pack to the amulet's location
    2.enchant the pack so that flies towards/follows an amulet when commanded.

The valid guidelines for both are in TME p.107 New Guidelines for Instant Transportation errataed here.

If I understand your alternatives correctly, you trade off:
(1) the Range AC of an effect (+4 magnitudes for Range) and its complexity (+5 magnitudes for far transport);
(2) continuously having a pack follow you by means of magic, which you could control by Concentration (and Concentration rolls!), by triggering smaller effects (like Range Sight or less) repeatedly, or by trying to make the pack verrry clever.

In case (2), enchanting the pack instead of the amulet does not help you, if you need to command a distant pack repeatedly. While enchanting the pack to perform continuous clever maneuvers to follow an amulet quickly becomes a fishy question for the troupe, and at the very least requires many effects enchanted into it.

Important logistics of in-game communications between SG and players favor (1) a lot, while with (2) your character risks to become sodalis Just-where-did-I-leave-my-pack in the saga, because either continuously worrying about it or once spectacularly failing to care.
I currently imagine a 'clever' pack trying to enter the amulet wearer's room at an inn by battering down the closed blinds. :nerd_face:

EDIT: If the magus just wishes to enchant a pack for his clothes while scouting in heartbeast shape, he could reduce the distance over which to teleport the pack. Going with just 500 paces saves 3 magnitudes and might make (1) much more affordable.

Honestly, I feel like it doesn’t really matter; players should decide which version of events they want. If they don’t want to be naked after shapeshifting, just let them. You’re playing a powerful wizard, it’s alright. Don’t worry.


I would disagree, in the sense that I don't think one can automatically derive the mechanics of skinchanger from those of heartbeasts. For at least three reasons:

  1. The skinchanger effect is closer to that enacted by Hermetic spellcasting than that enacted by a Heartbeast, and Hermetic spellcasting does allow minor stuff to change along.

  2. Having a Heartbeast is generally superior to being a Skinchanger. Since they are both Minor Virtues, you might want to give Skinchanger a little slack and allow clothes to change.

  3. For what it's worth, in old editions of Ars Magica shapeshifters' (N.B. not skinchangers', but still...) clothes and small items did explicitly change along.

I intentionally did not write "it follows", but "you can derive". That said, I consider all your arguments to the contrary quite weak.

Read again ArM5 p.48f Skinchanger: "Clothings and possessions (save the animal item) do not transform, ...". So there is no dithering at all about Skinchanger.

The Bjornaer pays for her Heartbeast with the lack of a familiar, too. In general, the Heartbeast is considered far superior to Skinchanger and Shapeshifter: see especially HoH:MC p.22 box Ringing the Changes.

You said it: "For what it is worth, ...."

So no one cared to actually read the virtue description until the topic's 17th reply. :sweat_smile:


Actually I did.

But @lvgreen was without books and @Jank answered very quickly and politely: so I refrained from rubbing noses in the obvious.

@ezzelino wishing to disagree changed the situation.