Strengths: Exceptional physical strength. Heightened sense of smell. Can shift into animal as well as monstrous warforms. Claws do extra damage. Increased regeneration via solitary meditation. Resistance to toxins due to regeneration.
Weaknesses: Silver does increased damage to them. No control over shifting on nights of the full and new moons. Partially infertile -- can only breed with humans. Prone to losing their tempers. Less ability to become intoxicated due to fast metabolism. They can get intoxicated, they just have to drink...a lot.
Lifespan: 500-800 years.
Susceptible to D13: No
Part of the Consortium: Yes
Race Leaders: Traditionally, the Shifters have no central government. They are, however, represented at the Consortium by an aged crone known as "Baba Yaga", one of the oldest living Shifters and generally spoken of by most as 'someone you do not want to fuck with', who is generally seen as the leader of the Shifters when a leader is needed. Baba Yaga seems to defy the age limit for Shifters, as most elderly shifters remember her as being a crone even when they were young. Her pack is known as the She'enedra (The Blood Sisters), and they now control large swaths of territory in Eastern Europe, claiming it for the Romani.
Locally, Shifters tend to do things by consensus, and fairly diplomatically, though a leader is generally named to speak for the group, broker alliances, and make some important decisions. The makeup of their government tends to shift from leader to leader. The leader of the caravan is not always the same as the leader of the local Shifters, but sometimes they are one in the same.
Background: Not an incredible amount is known about the origin of the Shifters. This is because, for a very long time, in their culture (and largely to this day) it was believed that the written word contained powerful magic. To be written about would be to allow others to know about you, and that knowledge could be used against you, even past death. To this day, Shifters have two names, their family name, and their public name. Only those who are closest to you know the name you were given at birth. Others address you by your public name. It is considered a terrible grievance to write down another's family name, or to address them by it in public.
The first recorded evidence of the Shifters is in the True Book of the Dead, as recorded by the vampires -- so one can imagine exactly how accurate it might be. Shifters, however, claim that their race is much older, dating to the time of the first tribes, and the shamanic rituals of taking on the guise of a spirit animal to aid in the hunt. Those Shamanic priests who connected deeply with the animal spirit were given powers by animistic demigods beholden to the goddess of the moon. The truth is debated, but the vampire account lists the Shifters as the "sons and daughters of Anubis". As such, they were taken in by the undead children of Isis and Osiris as protectors of palaces and temples. It is believed that they worked in some capacity as guards and mercenaries, protecting the new vampires and their offspring. This is why, vampires claim, so many Egyptian deities are portrayed with animal heads - because of the influence of the Shifters.
Accounts differ as to what happened next. Vampires say that the Shifters betrayed them, taking money from their enemies to lead a daytime attack which left several vampire elders dead. The Shifters, however, believe that they merely saw how their employers treated the slaves of Egypt, and being compassionate, and smart (for they did not wish to end up like the slaves), they decided to take action. When the slaves managed to win their freedom from the Pharaoh, and began the mighty exodus later detailed in the Bible, the Shifters decided to go with them, promising themselves as guards and protectors in return for a place in their new land.
In either account, the vampires declared vengeance upon the Shifters. The bloodline progenitors for once put aside their differences and, all together, cursed the shifters. Not only would they be unable to conceive with anyone else of their blood, (likely forcing them to pollute their line with the blood of slaves), but they were cursed to forever wander the land, without a home of their own. They became outcasts of every society.
Over the years, there have been numerous battles with the vampires. The vampires progenitors still hold a grudge over the deaths of many of their first childer, and wish to wipe the Shifters from the face of the planet, or at the very least enslave and torture them for their part in the Exodus. The Shifters aren't too pleased either, and many a Romani Seer has divined that only the deaths of those vampires involved in the curse will end the curse.
It is no coincidence, then, that the word "Gypsy" is an offshoot of the French "Egypsien". The culture of the shifters, and that which would later be known as "Romani" culture is irrevocably entwined. Not all Romani peoples are Shifters, but all Shifters have Romani blood somewhere in their bloodline, even if they do not know it. Over the years, their people have spread out over the globe, adapting to almost every continent and environment. The largest concentrations live in Europe, Russia, the United States, and Brazil. There are Romani in India, and even Australia. Their culture is steeped in mysticism, with it's own language and traditions.
There is generally no central authority for the Romani peoples, and each caravan or troupe must choose its own leader. This made it difficult when the Consortium required a representative from the Shifter race. Eventually, however, a council of elders convened and chose someone to speak for them, the wizened crone known as Baba Yaga. Since that time, more weight towards centralizing leadership to Baba Yaga and the She'enedra has been seen. Like the mages, it is believed that one of their main reasons for participation was to avoid further persecution. However, Shifters also have a very deep need for the continuance of the human race. Without them, there would be no more Shifters, since their race can only breed with humans.
Shifters can be of a variety of animal types, but only one animal type each. The animal must be an undomesticated mammal, avian, or insect and are generally those animals who will eat meat. Common shifter types include: wolves, bears, large cats, rats, bats, crows, vultures, foxes, and spiders. There are NO reptile shifters, nor any shifters that are not land/sky animals. (See the Underkin for Merfolk.)
Shifters have three forms:
The first is their human form. They may utilize magic in this form, and have increased strength and regeneration.
The second is their beast form, in which they take the form of an animal. Magic may still be utilized in this form, though it is somewhat harder to cast. They additionally gain whatever senses and abilities that animal might have.
The third form, the warform, tends to only be used during battles or times when exceptional increased physical strength is needed. Strength and regeration are at their peak in this form, but magic can not really be cast. However, they CAN cast magic on themselves before 'going warform', if it's magic that will last for a scene, or they can use magical items such as talismans. The warform is usually associated with too much rage and need to SMASH to really be condusive to channeling magic. However, subrace abilities can be used in this form, and howls have an extremely increased effectiveness.
Another reason the warforms are used so sparingly is the possibility of becoming Vargulf. A Vargulf is a shifter who has lost all concept of humanity or becomes lost to violent insanity. There are several things which could contribute to becoming a Vargulf. If a shifter does not leave beast form for an entire moon, it is said they will become stuck as their animal, their human life slipping from their mind. However more dangerous are those shifters who spend too much time in warform, or use their soul howl too often. Those who spend too much time in warform become creatures consumed by rage and bloodlust, knowing neither friend nor family. They will fall to insanity, killing for the sheer enjoyment of it, rather than for food or for logical reasons such as vengeance for wrongs done unto them. Those who use their soul howl too often become "soulless". This doesn't mean they literally give up their soul so much as lose their connection to morality, and eventually become psychopaths.
A Vargulf can not be trusted within a camp. They must be turned out, and hunted, or they will begin to kill and attack their own, and the non-shifter Romani are easy targets for the insane shifters. There is a cure, which works only in the very early stages -- the curse of the Moxado is said to 'reset' a shifter's mind. However, there is no cure for those who are Moxado and become Vargulf, which is yet another reason the Moxado are feared.
NOTICE: Full Moons and New Moons last 24 hours. Whenever the weather HUD says "Full Moon" or "New Moon", you must remain shifted into your animal form. This means that you will be shifted during the day as well.
Rasa (Subraces): The various Rasa were developed over time as the roles that Shifters fell into became more connected to their bloodlines. Originally, however, each Shifter chose their role. A Shifter child will always be the same rasa as its closest blood relative Shifter. (It is possible for a non-shifter of Romani blood to mate with another human and produce a Shifter as offspring.) Each Rasa has a soul-howl, a special howl that when done, not only identifies their rasa but has an emotional effect on others.
The Moxado: The Moxado are also known as the "outcasts". In the days before the gifts of the tribes were passed by blood, the Moxado were those who were forced to live even at the edges of the caravan, or even shunned completely. They were those who broke the sacred laws, committed crimes against their own brethren, performed forbidden magics or were considered 'polluted' (such as those who had been ghouled by vampires). Much is still forbidden to the Moxado, though they are no longer shunned to the degree they once were. The Moxado may never be packleader or alpha. In a hunt, they eat after all other Rasa have had their fill. And after they die, only other Moxado may perform death rites for them, as their corpses are considered extremely unclean. It is possible for the other Rasa to become Moxado still, however, through a painful ritual which ends in their skin being pierced three times with a silver dagger. And this is often done as a punishment to other Shifters for crimes committed against their race or for atonement. (The soul-howl of the Moxado induces sorrow. They also have the ability of the Moon Curse, which allows them to construct a curse to be placed on any non-Shifter that lasts a full moon. They additionally have powers of curse removal, though higher-level curses may be beyond their ability to destroy.)
The Moartemora: Technically meaning "the friends of death", the Moartemora are feared by a great many Romani, and even other Shifters do not always trust them. Their original purpose was the handling of the dead, and protecting them against evil spirits who come to take the souls of the recently deceased (possibly ghosts of the Gray Crusade). Eventually, they learned not only to speak with the dead, but to channel powers on par with those spirits, powers some say are born of a similar evil, though the Moartemora say they are just fighting fire with fire. Although some of the Moartemora still have the good intents of being the bridge between this world and the next, helping the dying and keeping in contact with the dead, others have almost certainly allowed their souls to become twisted and vile. (The soul-howl of the Moartemora induces fear. They have the ability to see and speak to the dead, and also may channel life-energy between this realm and the world of the dead, known as the Pale Realm. This is usually done to help the dying pass on painlessly, but on a vital and living being causes fatigue, then decay-like damage, and if channeled long enough, death. If used on a disembodied wraith, it drains their powers.)
The Storvandre: The Storvandre, meaning "those who travel long distances", are the trackers, scouts, and guides of the Shifters. Not just the physical guides, but the spirit guides. It is considered good luck to have a Storvandre about when traveling or hunting, for they always seem to know the best route, or which way the prey went. Their sense of smell is the best of all of the shifters. But they are also often called upon when a Spirit Journey must be taken, a ritual to commune with the ancestors and find the best path forward in a situation. (The soul-howl of the Storvandre induces restlessness and the need to move. The Storvandre are completely unable to be disoriented or lost and will always know how to find a location they've physically been to again. Once a Storvandre has smelled a person or animal directly (not their possessions), they can track that person anywhere on Earth for a full moon. They can determine a great many fine details from their sense of smell.)
The Rinkeni:The "attractors" are those who cause diversions. Originally, they were tasked with diverting authorities while the caravan got away, but in leaner times they held the attention of a non-Romani whilst their kin robbed them. They sometimes bait people, especially those of Romani blood who do not know it, or those with whom the Romani wish to interrogate, back to the caravan. In the hunt, they often pretend to be alone, chasing or misleading the prey into a trap. Typically, the Rinkeni are beautiful and bewitching females, but there are occasionally male Rinkeni as well. Intersexed and xyaRinkeni are common. (The soul-howl of the Rinkeni causes lust. The can activate a power that makes others pliant to their suggestions, but must remain touching to do so. Continued use of this power on a person can cause obsession, even violently murderous obsession.)
The Drabarni: Mystics and sages, the Drabarni range from traditional shaman types to keepers of Shifter lore, to Technomancers. For a long time, it was forbidden to write or leave record of the Shifters, for fear that anyone who found out about them would hurt the human Romani kin, either out of fear, or out of an attempt to capture Shifters. The Drabarni kept an oral history, passed down from generation to generation, and with it, ancient knowledges in mystical arts. Today, many Drabarni are augmenting this knowledge with what can be found in books and via computers, and there have even been a few Drabarni who specialize in Technomancy, helping to bring the Romani into the digital age. Others shun these new-thinkers, and adhere very strictly to the Old Ways. The Drabarni are also generally the ones who take up the healing arts, though these tend to not be used on other Shifters so much as their human Romani kin. (The soul-howl of the Drabarni causes a feeling of spiritual peace. They have the ability to lessen or remove physical or emotional pain, depending on how much energy they expend, by touching a person. As long as they continue touching the person, this power continues to work. If used for more than an hour a day, the pain will begin to seep into the Drabarni.)
The Churara: The "Shon Churara", or moon-swords, are the warriors among the Shifters, and are by and large, the most populous of the Rasa. They are the most likely to be elected pack-leader during a time of crisis. At other times, they are charged with protecting the caravan and most especially protecting the Drabarni and elders. The Churara tend to be the strongest, physically, of all Shifters. Males as well as females can be Churara, and are respected equally as long as they uphold their duties. The Churara have a streak of territorialness in their bloodline, and tend to be extra wary of outsiders who approach the caravan. Infamous for their "blood rage", it is believed that the smell of their own blood causes a Churara to fight harder and longer, so many of them will cut themselves and paint their faces with blood before a battle or transformation. (The soul-howl of a Churara is a call to battle, and causes aggression. The smell of a Churara's own blood gives them a stamina boost in battle. They additionally can manifest their "moonblade" in their hand by a focus of energy. This moonblade may be of any size or shape, but must be a cutting instrument. If disarmed, the moonblade will disintegrate rapidly, and they will have to focus for a full battle round to create a new one. Churara can use their moonblades while in war-form.)
Sonkaichoro: One can easily put together the two words that make up the name of this Rasa to glean the opinions of some people about them: Sonkai, meaning 'gold' and choro, meaning 'thief'. One would assume, therefore, that the Sonkaichoro are the thieves of the Shifters. Not exactly true, though occasionally some do take up straight theft, it's more proper to say that they are the gamblers, and sellers, dealmakers and con-artists. In the past, many communities made it hard for the Romani, who were outsiders, to make a living among them, pushing the Romani to the outskirts. They would not even sell food to the Romani, or basic supplies. Thus, when times got hard, and the familia had to be fed, the Sonkaichoro arose, playing games of cards or selling off a house that may just be empty for a few days and not even theirs, making deals for trade of hunted animal pelts or quilts made by the Babas by reading their marks expertly. Unfortunately, it led to a terrible cycle, the more the Sonkaichoro had to ply their trade to help feed the others, the worse the reputation of the Romani became, and the more hostile people became towards them. Nonetheless, a clever Sonkaichoro is worth his weight in gold, quite literally, they say. And in this era of D13, it's good to have someone who can make a good deal or take a good gamble on your side. Even if the cleverness of a Sonkaichoro sometimes gets the familia in trouble? A lot more often, that cleverness gets them out of trouble too. It's also very common for the Sonkaichoro's Shifter animal to be crows or other types of highly intelligent birds of prey, or even ferrets or raccoon type Shifters. After D13, there was a dip in the number of Sonkaichoro. It was believed that this is because something happened that caused backlash from Fate itself against this Rasa, causing a disproportionate amount of them to get captured or go missing. However, once again Fate seems to have been restored, and the Sonkaichoro are making their ways back to the camps of the world, many times with fantastic stories and interesting fortunes or acquisitions that they found along the way. (The soul-howl of the Sonkaichoro induces greed, and is often used to keep a mark betting when better judgment might cause them to cease. All Sonkaichoro start with free journeyman Sleight of Hand or Con Artist. Twice per scene, the Sonkaichoro can use their abilities to find a way to change the outcome of a physical action...for themselves, or for /someone else/. This means that for any physical action they can influence Fate just enough to make things potentially occur differently -- for themselves, or for others -- by having a re-roll on a failed roll. They can use these re-rolls for themselves, but they can also give them to someone else. However, because this skill requires concentration to pull on the threads of fate, they can not use it when THEY are in combat, however if the person they are giving it to is in combat, that's fine.)
In addition to their Rasa powers, each Shifter starts with two level 1 magics. Additional Rasa may be added by admin approval.
Much of the inspiration for the Shifters of Convergence: TLC was taken from the television show "Hemlock Grove". A good Romani glossarycan be found here.