Power Sets: Shapeshifter

Many heroes have the power to alter their forms, from a simple alter-ego switch like DC’s Captain Marvel to the full metamorphic capabilities of a Mystique. In Wild Talents, this can lead to a rather cost-effective character that has a single alternate form to an extremely flexible (and expensive) build based on Variable Effects.

Fixed Forms

Some characters can only assume a limited number of alternate forms. Typically, this is the case if a character has a normal identity and a super-powered “alter-ego”.

The simplest way to build this is to take a miracle with a single Useful quality that changes your form and then buy powers that are Attached to that miracle. Put two Hard Dice in the shape-changing power to ensure it can activate, and you can adjust the speed of the transformation with levels of the Go First extra.

When creating alternate forms, powers may be derived from body parts that are not found in normal humanoid morphology. For example, taking the form of a winged dragon will allow you to fly, but that power is dependent on the ability to use your new wings.

Forms like this require two considerations. First, you should include the Custom Hit Location miracle to add or alter hit locations. Adding hit locations will require you to take wound boxes off of other locations (such as the arms or legs) to “build” a new body part (like wings). These diminished wound boxes can be shored up again with the Extra Tough miracle.

Second, whatever power is derived from the new body part should be given the Locational flaw to represent this. This flaw means the power can be disrupted by damaging the chosen location(s) or denied altogether if the body part is crippled.

A final point is whether the assumed form is larger or smaller than is normal for a human. If it is, you will need the Size Shift miracle. You can limit Size Shift to only increase or decrease size, as appropriate, as a -1 Flaw.

Here is an example form, that of a large dragon. The dragon form is about 12 feet long and weighs 1600 pounds. It has wings and can fly at 200 miles per hour. Tough scales give it LAR 4 and HAR 3. It has 4 points of extra Body beyond the human form. Its hit locations and wound boxes are as follows: Head (10), 6 boxes; Torso (7-9), 12 boxes; Right Wing (6), 6 boxes; Left Wing (5), 6 boxes; Right Foreleg (4), 6 boxes; Left Foreleg (3), 6 boxes; Right Hindleg (2), 6 boxes; Left Hindleg (1), 6 boxes.

Total cost is 110 points.

Dragon Form 2HD

Useful (+2), Duration (+2).

Custom Hit Locations 2HD

As miracle in Wild Talents, plus Attached to Dragon Form (-2).

Extra Tough 2HD

As miracle in Wild Talents, plus Attached to Dragon Form (-2).

Flight 4D

Defends (+2), Attached to Dragon Form (-2), Locational (-2).

Useful (+2), Attached to Dragon Form (-2), Booster (+1), Locational (-2).

Heavy Armor 3HD

As miracle in Wild Talents, plus Attached to Dragon Form (-2).

Hyperbody +4D

Hyperstat (+4), Attached to Dragon Form (-2).

Size Shift 4HD

Defends (+2), Armored Defense (-2), Attached to Dragon Form (-2), Permanent (+4).

Useful (+2), Attached to Dragon Form (-2), Growth Only (-1), Permanent (+4).

Flexible Morphology

A true shapeshifter is not limited to a small set of forms. Instead, they can assume many forms, perhaps even an unlimited variety. The Alternate Forms miracle is designed for this. As a Variable Effect, you can assign dice from Alternate Forms to other powers appropriate to an assumed shape. The more powerful you want your potential forms to be, the more dice you will need in Alternate Forms.

If the powers you emulate have more extras than flaws, you will have to pay Willpower, as explained under the Variable Effect extra. You can compensate for this using Locational flaws as above. Unfortunately, you can’t get the price break for Attached, since the powers are being generated directly by Variable Effect.

Finally, using Alternate Forms to assume a shape with multiple associated powers requires multiple actions, one action for each power quality you are emulating. You can reduce this requirement by putting Permanent and Attached on two of the three power qualities in the Alternate Forms miracle, increasing the cost by 4 per die. You would still need to take an action for each power.

As an example, to assume the dragon form above, you would need 8D+11HD in Alternate Forms, for a total of 540 points. In addition, assuming the dragon form would cost you 10 Willpower and would require 10 actions to affect the change.

Alternate Forms is much more expensive and requires system mastery to exploit its full potential, but it allows for incredible flexibility in play. You can literally become anything you can imagine.

Other Tricks

Being able to alter your form can be a potent defense simply by shifting out of the way of an attack. This can be accomplished by adding a Defends quality to the fixed form miracle or by removing the If/Then (only for Variable Effect) flaw from Alternate Forms. (Remember, in the case of Alternate Forms, you only have access to dice that haven’t been “reassigned” with Variable Effect.)

Similarly, shapeshifting can be used to enhance your natural attacks by altering your form at the moment of impact, perhaps into a harder form or into sharp claws. Add Attacks to your fixed form miracle, remove the If/Then from Attacks on Alternate Forms, or purchase dice in Hyperskill (Brawling).

Sample Character

Shapeshifter (Werewolf) (250 points)

Archetype (5 points)

Source: Unknown

Permissions: Power Theme

Stats (92 points)

Body 3d, Coordination 3d, Sense 3d, Mind 2d, Command 3d, Charm 2d

Base Will 9

Skills (78 points)

Athletics 2d, Brawling 3d, Dodge 3d, Endurance 2d, Intimidation 2d, Perception 3d, Stability 3d, Stealth 3d, Survival 2d, 16 dice in other skills.

Powers (75 points)

Werewolf Form 2HD (4 points)

Useful (+2), Uncontrolled Activation (-1)

Extra Tough 3HD (18 points)

As miracle in Wild Talents, plus Attached to Werewolf Form (-2).

Hyperbody +2d (4 points)

Hyperstat (+4), Attached to Werewolf Form (-2)

Hypercoordination +2d+1WD (12 points)

Hyperstat (+4), Attached to Werewolf Form (-2)

Hypersense +2d+1WD (12 points)

Hyperstat (+4), Attached to Werewolf Form (-2)

Hyperbrawling +3d (6 points)

Hyperskill (+1), Attacks +1 (+1), Deadly (+1), Penetration 1 (+1), Attached to Werewolf Form (-2)

Light Armor 3HD (3 points)

As miracle in Wild Talents, plus Attached to Werewolf Form (-2).

Regeneration 2HD (16 points)

As miracle in Wild Talents, plus Limited Width (-1).

This is a rather typical werewolf. He can change from his normal human form into that of a large (roughly man-sized) wolf. This change is mostly under his control, except under the full moon, when he must change. While in wolf form, his physical traits are enhanced, he has 3 extra wound boxes on each hit location, and he has LAR 3. His claws are extremely sharp, dealing W+1K with Penetration 1. He regenerates 1 wound box on each hit location every round, even when in human form.

About Paul Stefko

Paul Stefko is a game designer living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has done freelance work for Steve Jackson Games and is currently developing his own science fiction RPG, Full Moon, using funding from Kickstarter.