About Shapeshifters: What it says on the tin. They're things that can turn into other things, and use that ability to survive and manipulate their way through life, because regular society sure isn't welcoming them. They gain forms by consuming parts of another creature's body - though some families have special methods/target parts, and some can mimic vaguely on smell/sight/sound - eating's the most effective way. They were quite the top predator in the day, but in confidence became stuck in painfully outdated traditions and rituals. Strong family bonds are rooted in the old days where they would produce families entirely by natural cloning. But with old major clans being very insular and overly proud, they were not open to changes that would save them from human industry and were quickly driven into hiding once technology came into play. Modern shifters who reside in cities are by necessity very different from their traditional counterparts, with far fewer attachments even to family, and more taciturn about what they are, knowing the danger of hunters. With practice their ability is perfect for irresponsible fun and clawing to power in the modern world.
At birth, they're wormy brainlike parasites that can do nothing but devour and convert the body of the nearest living creature - once they have their first body, they can start to develop conciousness. As a rule, small bodies are easiest to convert and raise - so conveniently lots of baby shifters are start off with young kid hosts (provided their parents can hunt one down) and often revert to that form and let it age for stability. The shifter habit of nabbing kids is probably what really got humans on their case.
Transformation isn't infinitely flexible; healing serious injuries is tough, as is fully combating aging or sickness, but they do recover from trauma much faster than normal save for one kind of burn. When touched by Life Fountain aura, they feel a searing pain and lose the power to change the injured part.
Shifters can assume animal forms, and even non-sentient organism forms but with the difference in mental state, changing back into something more complex is quite difficult. A plant is probably never becoming human again.
Shifters tend towards groups, supporting each other and ganging up on other families for resources or just to make a statement. Since they are often raised by and know nobody but their own clan, inter-family conflict and alliances tend to drag for centuries. It's considered really bad luck for a shifter to live alone.Anima (Vanagandr, Hrodvitnir, Nifelheim, Tirfing - not anymore)
flex ★☆☆☆ | dur ★★☆☆ | rep ★★★☆
Corpus (Van, Hro, Fen & friends)
- Until Corpus was formed, this old clan that used to be the only shifter family with any success in the human cities. Extremely strict hierarchy with very very old regressive family heads. Keeping the leaders alive/successful as long as possible was the goal with religious fervor. They took stragglers (there was nobody else clan-less city shifters could turn to) but only if they would join the high pressure workforce.
- The leaders were focused on making their numbers as large as possible and selling labor mostly in construction and mining, but the poor treatment of their working members plus the workers' exposure to improving human lifestyles eventually caused an uprising.
- The original members of Corpus were part of this family, but obliterated the elders and most of the followers when they split off. Fen was preserved as a body-less, baby brain in a jar during his entire tenture here which colored his impression of old shifter families a lot.
flex ?☆☆☆ | dur ?☆☆☆ | rep ★★☆☆
Face Eaters (Randgris & Shutsuu)
- Most members of this one are NOT biologically related, so there's huge variation in ability. They were formed by abandoned blacksheep shifters or shrinking families banding together in the city. They're hard to pin down, and only the core members are a coherent group. More of a social network than a real "Family".
- Living in a new environment without ancestors, they are more likely to take advantage of technology/communication/education in ways their countryside cohorts won't. Many will gun for high power (human) occupations where they can support their family members. According to their leader, they want to clear the way for shifters to live/hunt openly in major cities. Until that happens, they seem to be fine living alongside humans, blending in and doing what it takes to create stability.
- Old traditions say shifters should care for each other over any human prey, even in spite of clan rivalries. But these guys will attack fellow shifter families and defend humans if seen as useful to their cause.
- They spend some time seeking out shifters in need. Shapeshifters can sort of sense each other because they reflexively detect how easy it will be to transform into someone when they meet them - it tends to be kind of low, but for fellow shifters it will feel distinctly different. The most adept ones can detect other from pretty far away (and of course powerful ones can be detected from further away -- but if they're REALLY powerful they can hide too)
flex ★★★☆ | dur ★★★☆ | rep ★★★★
All clones, highly traditional, even old families don't simply clone themselves anymore. They are born+grow in pseudo human form, don't need a host body when born. Straight brown hair and yellow eyes. They appoint one queen by some mutual nonviolent agreement, all the pure clones come from her until she becomes old.
- Their body shapes are somewhat similar, they tend to not be large but are very agile and flexible. They seem strong because they can sprout extra limbs and double up muscles and of course learn to be pretty sneaky.
- They hunted out entire towns by posing as visitors. Very good at both hiding and defending themselves, if confronted will just fight it out albeit with some tricks. Disguises are just a game for them, since most of what they do can just be done in original forms.
- They won a lot of ancient territory wars and basically drove other shifters out a certain mountain range as well as sending the humans into hiding out of fear of legends. A longtime reputation for being erratic neighbors and nasty competition. Most of the time they pillage farms or hunt animals but they have a ritual regarding humans - each generation must have a chance.
- They mostly use knives. Everyone gets a mask, wearing isn't strict but you should have it on hand. The mask seems to be to help the kids distinguish between samey looking adults. Masks are basically the only toys for the kids.
- They only eat/hoard heads, hence the goofy name, and burn the rest. Their form retention is excellent, they can remember multiple forms accurately for a long time, especially faces, and mix and match various parts painlessly.
flex ★☆☆☆ | dur ★☆☆☆ | rep ★☆☆☆
- Really unreliable, flimsy transformations, likely to have patches of incomplete color/skin/muscle that they cover in fake skin or collected bones. The really weak ones need to eat constantly to get a fresh form. They try to find weak targets, sometimes resorting to animals. Human conversions often fail.
- Cruddy form-keeping results in frequent memory degradation
- Mostly hidden in the forests, they send a small group to the city once but it was scattered and mostly wiped out. Sao was probably one of them. However he passed quite easily as a normal person because his appearance seems totally stable, without hunting much (or at all). Also masks were popular... past that not much indication of being a shifter.
- (even he's not sure if he's a shifter who's lucky to be stable, a shifter who lost memory, failed conversion or kid who pretended to be a shifter so long he forgot...)
flex ★★★★ | dur ★☆☆☆ | rep ★☆☆☆
Morning Star (Misteltein, Dainsleif)
- Very sensitive transformation ability. They don't need to eat to steal form, can just rely on touch, smell, and sight. However their forms are really unstable as a result - they can accidentally shift without realizing it. Inconsistent training related to...
- Really low (live) replacement rate, always found abandoned or with deceased parent, no family structure at all. Most specialty families pass down technique/records but there's nothing here. So there's no real method to learning how to control their strange conditions. Actually nobody's really sure who's part of this family other than Freenet and suspected, scattered ancestors.
- Freenet in a show of anime style inspiration, probably just became (mostly) stable because Van taught him to be self assured.
flex ★★☆☆ | dur ★★☆☆ | rep ★★★☆
- A ghoulish traditional family that merged with the regency of a pastoral region far away, and now legally own land and consequently a decent army + foodsource. the shifters' dream! They rule with an iron fist, live in castles with horrible dungeons. They are feared but considered champions of national defense to their subjects tend not to bother them.
- The kids are socialized among human subjects but think of themselves as superior. To keep them from getting too weak/spoiled they are also raised to fight each other violently as play, so only the strongest survive to lead. There is a lot of reverence for the top tier.
- They transform with standard methods, but have an odd appearance that their shifted forms revert to over time - black hair/fur and eyes with very pale skin.
- They are pretty well trained and have reduced pain reception (reason they are good for battle) and can transfer this w proximity.
About Life Fountains: Essentially immortal, constantly regenerating creatures who have long loitered in their mountain enclaves. They are powerful, mostly immutable, but generally slow and peaceful - barring a few extreme deviants who are quietly sent away. Internally and even among exiles, there isn't real conflict. Needing little of health and safety standards, they tend to be overindulgent, looking irrationally calm and oblivious to danger, and frequently ignorant of social niceties that would be based on human safety and satisfaction.
Life Fountains produce aura, a substance of varying form per LF - common forms are faint light, foam or steam issuing from skin. Control, range and strength of aura vary depending on the Life Fountain but it is always the basis of their trademark super healing. Aside from preserving the LF it has a rejuvenating effect on the natural world and most living creatures - except shapeshifters, who are permanently burned by it. The aura is produced throughout the body, so when parts are removed, they can all survive for a while. If left sitting without an organic well to absorb it, pure aura eventually dissipates without waste.
LFs resemble humans, and age at an expected pace until adulthood where they sort of linger. They can technically live through all sorts of diseases and injuries but their regeneration can become imbalanced with natural decay and create unpleasant internal/external tumorous growths. Since the health issues can't take them down, most Life Fountains only pass on by their own willpower, when life is no longer enjoyable. Once they willingly enter brain death and go to sleep for good, their aberrant growths overtake them and they merge with whatever natural forms are nearby; most of the hills around their villages are actually ancient sleepings LFs.
Normal Life Fountains are pretty lackadaisical, not much to worry about, just living as long as they want as slow as they want. But when an exception happens, their ordinarily life-giving power can get converted into something ugly. When it becomes a risk to their village, this exception will be exiled - either to just wander, or more recently to human cities.
Trae (black smoke)
control ★★☆☆ | selfheal ★★★★ | outheal ★★☆☆ | dmg ★★★☆
Exudes a thick black smoke that seals his body, preventing even dismemberment; he heals himself really well. When used on others it can heal extreme injuries, but with some side effects from prolonged use: drains color, then energy, then finally the mind. A "saturated" body is more or less his loosely controlled zombie, aging is more of a dryout, it can move based on memory but even that degrades, and the body is robust but still prone to injury. Sudden fatal injuries can happen by accident. Once that happens, he can't bring them back to life. In humidity the smoke can goop up and congest his airways, causing coughing and fatigue.
Misaki (all fire)
control ★★☆☆ | selfheal ★★☆☆ | outheal ☆☆☆☆ | dmg ★★★★
Produces really bright, colorful fire. Easily restrained to a point of pressure where it can just be shot into the air as a fireball, and can project with more control from limbs/skin with some exertion. The output easily increased, and with potential infinite generation whenever she wants it's a good hunting aura once the shape can be controlled (actually it's the same as a famous hunter... but that hunter was supposedly defeated by Van?) Self healing is average, but she is not harmed by the fire itself. It can probably heal others if VERY carefully held near skin but the wild movement and side effect of setting fire on contact makes it mostly pointless in that regard.
Rai (blue hands)
control ★★★☆ | selfheal ★★☆☆ | outheal ★☆☆☆ | dmg ★☆☆☆
Low power, very short range- hands only. Can have minor increase in power for targeted healing or to burn a little more than usual is possible, but it's never super potent. The natural effect is so light shifters might not notice they are burned until they look for the sunburn-like mark - of course, the downside still stands that the mark is permanent. He can dim the effects as well, but it's also no game breaker since he can never fully stop the light. Covering hands for a long time makes the LF growths sprout over and they have to be surgically removed.
Cadmus (petal skin)
control ★★★☆ | selfheal ★★☆☆ | outheal ★★☆☆ | dmg ★☆☆☆
Weak but rare dry solid form, it lasts for a pretty long time even when separated from him so it can be packaged up for medical uses. It falls like reddish pieces of peeling skin, but the joke is it looks like flower petals when you don't know the origin. Smells like nothing though. His self heal is too weak to instantly cover where the skin falls off, but blood clots quick enough not to make a mess. Restraining the "shedding" actually has no health downside other than the small constant effort.
Cilix (oil well)
control ★☆☆☆ | selfheal ★★★☆ | outheal ☆☆☆☆ | dmg ★★★★
Super flammable blob. Extremities such as ear tips and fingers seep black oil that require some willpower/discomfort to fully restrain. The main substance dries up fast but leaves a thin black grease film. The aura has no useful out-healing effect by itself, not even on contact like Misaki's fire, but it can be collected and used as a clean, efficient fuel with little to no waste fumes in its primary state. His self healing factor was quite high because he was frequently on fire... but eventually he caused a fireball he couldn't recover from.
Nereid (foam and bubble)
control ★★☆☆ | selfheal ★★★★ | outheal ★★★☆ | dmg ★★☆☆
A fairly common shape of aura but way more severe than it should be. She is constantly bubbling or regrowing parts that need to be cut off before they get out of control, they seem to thrash will a will of their own if left too long - control over them is fuzzy, she probably lies about how much control she really has. The real aura form is bubbles, but there is so much they pack together into a solid form, so there's no pain reception in them. Once removed, the tentacles just dissolve. Like Trae, her body will seal up even extreme injuries very quickly. People can be healed by the bubbles' contents but it tends to be imbalanced.
About Humans: Or human equivalents. Why do they have animal ears? Why does magic exist but ghosts are still a mystery? well in this flawlessly produced fantasy world there's obviously an explaination and that is
The Central Army: The national military, no particular outstanding deeds but the biggest one around and credited with the relative peace. A while back, they launched a massive recruiment compaign but also became secretive about what they were spending resources on, and the secrecy at the worst of times incited the Rebel Army. Back to the good times now, they're just flat generic, with little to do after 4e were defeated and the major shifters went into hiding. Their trademark color is beige.
Wishfort Mansion: A supposed safe haven for homeless kids. A single house in an idyllic meadow surrounded by forests full of shifters and beasts. There were many serious, black-garbed "tutors" who cared for the kids and apparently more than a match for their surrounding threats - keeping stuff out, keeping others in. Many normal children graduated and continued to schools outside, but some special pupils (the most well behaved, oddly enough) were put to some other purpose. // Kuvirea, Saohme, Catoble, Vontarc, Tohakken (graduates), Millamant (ex tutor)
Wishfort Forge: An ancient legendary group of smiths who manufactured "blessed" or "cursed" weapons and armor out of human bodies and souls. It's more complicated than it sounds, usually the material needs to be pure hearted and willing to sacrifice themselves, so when times of major political/religious passion faded out their material ran thin and they faded away. Unfortunately, outside the hero support business, their skillset was only useful in less moral fields. //note: you can't reform shifters or LFs //blessed weapon owners: Brinhilde, Kieruu [previously owned by his parents], Zushu [bought], Freenet [stolen], Misteltain & Dainsleif [technically stolen from royal family, but many years back]
The Revolutionary Army: aka the Four Emperors Army, led by a quartet of Central Army rebels. They defected at a time when secret Central institutions were being build around the continent, and the lack of transparency caused them some personal offense. With hyper aggression they drove Central control out of many parts, but were eventually defeated when it appears the leaders lost interest and direction. The "Emperors" title is based on the leaders' nicknames from when they were served the Central Army.
A power company looking for new ways to provide for the growing urban development. Considered progressive and innovative, but the latest clean energy attempt proved to be a dangerous bust. They wear dark green with gold buttons. Cilix was usually seen wearing jumpsuits with these. He probably died in one too.
Chimera Corporation: A successful security company that has secretly been acquired by Corpus shifters to covertly fund research against Life Fountains, and provide shelter and jobs to stray shifters who come to the city. Despite these shady side projects (or maybe thanks to it) the "real" business is flourishing, so nobody's looked too closely into their affairs. They have a futuristic image and outlook.
The local force that is tasked with keeping the peace, doing well enough since there's not too much going on it seems. They have recently been pressured to hunt down the stealthy city shifter families, and start working with Life Fountains. Progress is slow but shifter activity seems supressed for now. Contractors and juniors get bronze instead of silver badges.
The largest shifter family/network of any urban area. They are discreet and the members' identities aren't widely known but they can cause serious harm if prodded - they will turn on both humans and fellow shifters. [more info above] The leader, Van, admired the police force a lot at Corpus's inception and mimicked the shield logo to make his ribcage one.
Central Lab: K and Shu's employer. Though their work is often medical, they aren't strongly affiliated with the hospital. They have made small breakthroughs in imitating shifter genetics. Before that, they were in charge of demystifying LF biology. They take volunteers for experiementation as well as regular staff. The actual owners are a mystery.
Central Hospital: Continental medical provider. Not outstanding but not expensive which helps. The main branch has started utilizing Life Fountains since Cadmus joined the staff. There are branches in many other regions except most of the North, where a private military hospital has control.
RRI Project: A type of AI funded by the National University Network. In brief, it crowdsources mental reactions for use in mediation and diplomatic decision-making. It has some semi-magical properties but was primarily reliant on technology.
A mechanic called Rikaron created it but also gave it physical functions on a whim which caused a disastrous reaction when it was introduced to the varying extremes of the public. During its first private showcase, it destroyed the audience and escaped.
E34234 Project: A biochemical project conducted by the Central Army, it was considered complete and the research crew defunded. Kind of like a weaker, synthetic Life Fountain Aura, it provides some backup power for a body that is injured/dying until they can recover naturally (it does not increase healing power itself). However if the user dies their bodies are still forcibly sustained and there are inevitably problems. It's pretty explosive stuff so that's a way to dispose of unwanted zombies.
The substance is gray in the system of a corpse, and bright red in the living.
also thinking about: National University Network, unnamed factory town (Trae), unnamed shadow country (Mist)