Shapeshifting Magic Theory

Shapeshifting is a fairly common magical ability, though it includes everything from were-beings with one alternate form, to shifters who can take several or many forms. The more limited types of shifting are the most common, while an ability to do a wide range of shifting is quite rare.

With any level of shifting, there are four factors involved in determining the range of one’s shifting ability as well as one’s shifted appearance: one’s body, one’s character or personality, one’s magic, and one’s will.

Broadly-speaking, the body and character could in one respect be considered “resistence” factors, as they are the source of most one’s limitations in shifting. On the other hand, they also function as what could be considered “autopilot” factors, filling in any features left unchosen by the shifter. At very least, these “autopilots” govern those details of a shifted form that the shifter’s conscious mind usually remains unaware of or unconcerned with, such as the structuring of internal anatomy. Sometimes these “autopilots” entirely determine one’s shifted appearance.

Conversely, one’s magic and will serve as powering and guiding factors, driving a shift past the resistance presented by the body and character and providing any conscious control that may be present in the direction a shift takes.

The kind and extent of a shifter’s ability is determined by the unique and complex interplay between these four factors as they exist in that individual. Each factor is present to different extents in each shifter, and each factor influences the others in quite nuanced ways. However, the role of each inidivual factor can roughly be broken down as follows:

Will:
The factor of will refers to the extent to which a shifter has the ability to choose both the timing and the form or forms of their shifting. An extremely high degree of will would allow a shifter not only to consistently shift when desired, but it would also give that shifter choice in nearly every detail of the shifted appearance, from the very general choice of species, down through types and breeds, to coloration and the specific shaping and detailing of features. A high degree of will would also play a role in giving the shifter a greater number of forms from which to choose. However, will is probably the factor that varies most from one shifter to the next: in some cases it plays a highly-controlling role; in others it may play no role at all. The case of a classic werewolf shifting in response to a full moon would be an instance of a type of shift in which will plays no role at all: the shifter has no control over whether they will shift, when they will shift, or what they will shift to.

Magic:
Magic is, of course, required to power any kind of shifting. One could say it interacts with the will in providing the energy the will has to work with in controlling one’s shifting, and that it ineracts with the body and personality in overcoming the resistance to shifting that they put forth. Thus a greater amount of magical power will increase the scope of one’s shifting ability, and a lesser amount will, of course, more greatly limit that scope. However, this increased scope can manifest in different ways from one shifter to the next. In one individual, it may increase the number of forms they can take; in another it may increase the degree of control the individual has over the details of the shifted appearance; in still another, it may allow them to take forms more widely divergent from what would come naturally to them. And it can also, of course, produce varying combinations of these effects.
In addition to these roles, magic also serves as an additional “autopilot” factor, helping to determine certain elements of a shifted form not under the shifter’s conscious control.

Body:
The body is the first and primary of the “resistance factors” in shifting. The body naturally resists any change in form, though this resistance can vary somewhat from one individual to the next. Bodies with lesser shifting resistance would require less magical power to achieve a given amount of change in form than would a body with very high resistance. Even when this resistance is overcome, the body will have more difficulty taking a form that is highly divergent from its native form, and it will naturally incline toward the most familiar or “natural” version of the target shifted form it can take. This latter inclination, however, can be overridden by the will of the shifter given enough control and magical power. Still, if left to itself, this inclination, combined with the influence of the shifter’s personality or character, will determine a shifter’s “default appearance” for any form the shifter is able to take.

Character/Personality:
While the resistance to shifting presented by the body is mostly resistance to the physical changes (size, shape, etc.), shapeshifting does to an extent involve taking on the nature as well as the shape of the shifted form. Thus, in the same way that there are limits to the extent of change the body can sustain, so also an individual’s character or personality will be able to more fully partake of the nature of forms with which it can resonate sympathetically, while forms that represent a characteristic nature wildly divergent from the shifter’s character may be difficult or even impossible for a shifter to take. Thus, for instance, a shifter with a shy, timid personality will most likely have difficulty taking a form that is usually highly aggressive by nature. Conversely, a highly assertive shifter will often have difficulty taking forms that are extremely passive by nature. This can, however, be a very complex dynamic, because it is in part based on a given shifter’s perception of the target form’s nature. Given two shifters of similar personality, one may find highly sympathetic traits in the nature of a given form, thus easing the shift, while the other may find that same form utterly foreign and inimical, rendering the shift difficult or even impossible to achieve.

Shapeshifting Magic Theory

Red King's Command Wayfarer