The possibilities of Shapechange

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Lord Stone
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The possibilities of Shapechange

#1 Postby Lord Stone » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:36 am

Shapechange lists no option at all for opponents to see through the new shape (where, for example, Disguise and even Invisibility does). Most of the times this causes no issues, there are many reasons to use Shapechange in order to use the natural abilities of some animal.

However, in covert operations the power can be very strong... it is (in the right situation) even more useful than Invisibility for the purpose of not being seen. (What palace guard would mind a bird flowing over its head?) Similarly it is very useful for tricking your opponents, even the skilled Wild Card ones.

Myself, I tend to use a similar clause as Invisibility. If someone has reason to pay attention (and mind shapechangers), he is allowed a Notice roll.

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#2 Postby Zadmar » Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:26 am

As far as I understand it, the chance to see through the Disguise power only applies when you're immitating a specific person; it doesn't mean people penetrate the magic, only that they realise you're not the person you're pretending to be. If you just wanted to look different, I don't think they'd normally get a roll. Similarly, while people can potentially detect your presence while you're invisible, that doesn't mean they can actually see you, or recognise who you are.

If you wanted to shapechange to look exactly like the BBEG's persian cat, for example, then I'd use the same guidelines as the Disguise power (although I wouldn't normally allow that degree of control unless there were some other limitations, such as a trapping that only allowed you to shapechange into felines).

I might also require a roll if there was something unusual about the player's choice - such as using a nocturnal form during the day, or shapechanging into an animal that doesn't normally live in the region. But normally I wouldn't require a roll.

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#3 Postby TheLoremaster » Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:22 am

Zadmar wrote:As far as I understand it, the chance to see through the Disguise power only applies when you're immitating a specific person; it doesn't mean people penetrate the magic, only that they realise you're not the person you're pretending to be. If you just wanted to look different, I don't think they'd normally get a roll.

Not correct. From SWDEE,
It requires a Notice roll at –2 to see through disguise if someone is familiar with the specific person mimicked; the penalty increases to –4 with a raise. If unfamiliar, the penalties are –4 and –6 respectively.

I suppose you could apply the same rule for shape change if you wanted to, but since that Power largely "removes" abilities from the caster (as in, he can't cast spells while shape changed), I don't think it needs a further balancing factor.

And, of course, the target is also vulnerable to a simple detect arcana... "There's lot of rats in here!" "Yes, but only one of them is magical..." :twisted:
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#4 Postby Lord Stone » Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:15 am

Yes, Detect Arcana will work perfectly of course, but I always reason under the presumption that a character with the right Power at hand being present will be an exception rather than a rule.

Furhermore, Detect Arcana has only a very limited duration, so if you are guarding an area where animals are not uncommon, it is a very poor strategy of trying to catch a shapechanger.

My reasoning is more in the comparison with the other Powers. Invisibility, which is probably the ultimate Power to avoid being spotted, has a roll mentioned to spot the character. Disguise being the ultimate Power of not being recognized has a roll for being recognized.

In campaigns like mine, magic often turns into a highly tactical tool. The world has a relatively small number of specialists with access to magic. Any magic that cannot be counteracted by mundanes for a reasonable price quickly becomes too powerful. Shapechange may seem reasonably innocent, but without a recognition roll it is too perfect for, for example, dropping a magical specialist inside the enemy walls during a war.

And yes... Teleport is a tactical disaster spell as well. The existence of reliable teleportation in a medieval setting makes city walls almost a waste of effort. All reliable methods of getting inside an area under siege create that problem, of which Shapechange is one.

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#5 Postby Zadmar » Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:25 am

TheLoremaster wrote:
Zadmar wrote:As far as I understand it, the chance to see through the Disguise power only applies when you're immitating a specific person; it doesn't mean people penetrate the magic, only that they realise you're not the person you're pretending to be. If you just wanted to look different, I don't think they'd normally get a roll.

Not correct. From SWDEE,
It requires a Notice roll at –2 to see through disguise if someone is familiar with the specific person mimicked; the penalty increases to –4 with a raise. If unfamiliar, the penalties are –4 and –6 respectively.


That explicitly refers to immitating a specific person, with the viewer receiving a penalty depending on how familiar they are with that person. The roll allows you to see a flaw in their disguise, but there's no mention of what happens if you're just trying to look different rather than immitate a specific person.

TheLoremaster wrote:I suppose you could apply the same rule for shape change if you wanted to, but since that Power largely "removes" abilities from the caster (as in, he can't cast spells while shape changed), I don't think it needs a further balancing factor.

I imagine that would depend the trappings of your Arcane Background. If you only need to make gestures for example, then you could still cast spells as a monkey. If you need to speak, then you could still cast spells as a parrot. And if you had psionic powers, you could cast spells regardless of form.

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#6 Postby TheLoremaster » Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:28 am

Zadmar wrote:That explicitly refers to immitating a specific person, with the viewer receiving a penalty depending on how familiar they are with that person. The roll allows you to see a flaw in their disguise, but there's no mention of what happens if you're just trying to look different rather than immitate a specific person.

But you can't just "look different". From the text (emphasis added):
Disguise allows the character to assume the appearance (but none of the abilities) of another person.

So when using disguise, you always pick a specific person to emulate. Just because that person isn't familiar to the target doesn't mean it's not a specific person.
Zadmar wrote:I imagine that would depend the trappings of your Arcane Background.

Nope. The text specifically disallows it:
He has no capacity for speech and cannot use powers...


Lord Stone wrote:Furhermore, Detect Arcana has only a very limited duration, so if you are guarding an area where animals are not uncommon, it is a very poor strategy of trying to catch a shapechanger.

Which is why the Necromancer Of Doom obtained a relic that sounds an alarm whenever a dweomer he didn't cast himself appears within 20' of his chamber doors... and recharges 2PP/hour.

There's ways of getting around every Power in one way or another. Sometimes you just gotta be sneaky about it.
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#7 Postby Clint » Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:37 am

TheLoremaster wrote:
Zadmar wrote:That explicitly refers to immitating a specific person, with the viewer receiving a penalty depending on how familiar they are with that person. The roll allows you to see a flaw in their disguise, but there's no mention of what happens if you're just trying to look different rather than immitate a specific person.

But you can't just "look different". From the text (emphasis added):
Disguise allows the character to assume the appearance (but none of the abilities) of another person.

So when using disguise, you always pick a specific person to emulate. Just because that person isn't familiar to the target doesn't mean it's not a specific person.
Zadmar wrote:I imagine that would depend the trappings of your Arcane Background.

Nope. The text specifically disallows it:
He has no capacity for speech and cannot use powers...


Beat me to it. That's all correct.

That's why Disguise says "the specific person mimicked" not "if a specific person is mimicked." By default the power is always mimicking a specific person. And thus others are equally by default either familiar or unfamiliar with that person.

It would take a trapping adjustment to allow variations in appearance beyond copying another person. Obviously feasible but not the baseline any more than Bolt being lethal or nonlethal damage at will.

And on Shape Charge, that's not an X thus Y statement, it's an X and Y statement. So the baseline is that the character cannot activate powers while transformed. It would take a pretty major trappings change to allow such a powerful ability which should come with major drawbacks to balance it.

Honestly, it's easier to explain why the psionic can't use his mental powers through an animal's brain than how his psionic powers transform him into an animal to begin with. ;)
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#8 Postby Zadmar » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:20 pm

Hrm interesting, so the Disguise power doesn't actually allow you to disguise yourself, only to impersonate someone. That's rather unexpected, I guess I've always treated it more like the D&D Disguise Self spell, whereby it's relatively easy to disguise your appearance so that someone can't identify you, but much more difficult to impersonate an actual person.

In regard to being unable to speak, I wouldn't personally apply that limitation if the mage was shapechanged into a form that is physically capable of talking (such as a raven, parrot or lyrebird). Similarly, I would still allow dogs to bark, cats to meow, and so on - which could also be used as a basic form of communication, particularly with a little creativity.


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