May 11, 2016
Shapeshifting in Sword and Sorcery Games
I just wanted to share a random thought that struck me out of the blue. Shapechanging magic, and the way it should work in a sword and sorcery milieu. One of the core elements of sword and sorcery is the tinge of horror that should surround magic, so a high-fantasy, or worse, a pseudo-scientific approach to shapeshifting magic puts my immersion in the genre off. But what if we posited a more shamanistic way of thinking about shapeshifting and gave it a bit of metaphysical horror?
The basis of shapeshifting magic in my scheme is that you 'borrow' a form from a spirit; want to assume wolf form, you need to deal with a wolf spirit, a mouse form requires a mouse spirit, and so on.
There's an innate danger to shapeshifting, though, that works like an addiction. I call it the 'seduction of the wild.' Turning into a flying form seduces you with the freedom and power of flight. Turning into a tiny, easily hidden form seduces you with freedom and secrecy. And most of all, turning into a big, powerful form like a wolf or bear or even worse, something as badass as a dragon, simply intoxicates the soul with sheer power. The effect of this intoxication, if uncontrolled, is that you forget your humanity.
Should this happen, you can no longer return to your original form unless reminded of your humanity somehow. Moreover your shapeshifted character gradually becomes incapable of human thinking, until recovery, or even the desire for recovery, is impossible. This makes beast magic very dangerous to the caster, as it should be.