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 during eclipses. Speed decrease when in warform. 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. Also means that they generally need more of a medication in order for it to be effective.
Lifespan: 500-1000 years.
Background: Originally, not an incredible amount was 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 written evidence of the Shifters was in the True Book of the Dead, as recorded by the vampires -- so one can imagine exactly how accurate it might have been. 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. (And now that it is known that the origins of the race hail from an arcane and long disappeared arcana of mages, this might be indeed true.) But, in early stories, 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", because they watched over the dead - the dead being, in this case, the vampires. In this capacity, they were taken in by the undead children of Isis and Osiris. It was initially believed that they worked in some capacity as guards and mercenaries, protecting the new vampires and their offspring. However, it is now believed that they instead may have given the vampires magical council. This is why, vampires claim, so many Egyptian deities are portrayed with animal heads - because of the influence of the Shifters.
Accounts differed as to what happened next. Vampires said 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 their kin 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 vampiric 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 would be mindless beasts, beholden to the whims of the moon. 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 death of one of those 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. Fiercely independent, the Romani banded together, in caravans, in clans, in camps and in packs, living always at the outskirts of society. Although the Shifters protect the Romani, and are their secret weapon, many Romani are simply human, and being human is not construed as lesser or greater among the Romani or the Shifters.
In later years, towards the escape to Juniper, much more information came to light regarding the truth of the Shifter origin story.
Traditionally, the Shifters had no central government. They were, however, long led 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'. Baba Yaga seemed to defy the age limit for Shifters, as most elderly shifters remember her as being a crone even when they were young. Her pack was known as the She'enedra (The Blood Sisters), and on most iterations of Earth, they controlled large swaths of territory in Eastern Europe, claiming it for the Romani.
For thousands of years, Baba Yaga led the feud between the Vampires and the Shifters, for she and others of her coven had personally experienced the enslavement at the hands of one of the eldest vampire progenitors. Born a mage of the rare and long-lived Moon arcana, ages before time of Osiris and Isis, Baba Yaga had freely given to Isis the spell to bring her husband back to life. However, Isis later realized that this left Baba Yaga as liability, knowing how to destroy her husband via that self-same spell. She charged Sekhmet and Apophis with tracking and retrieving the mage. However, Baba Yaga had too much potential use to be destroyed. So, by force, Apophis ghouled her, making her a slave with no choice but to serve. Baba Yaga's coven, those who escaped ghouling, rose up to free the ghouled ones, and in the process killed many of the second generation of vampires. In fury, a curse was put upon Baba Yaga's coven, that they should flee forever and never find a place to settle. That they should be as the beasts of the ground, assaulted by the moon. That they should be shunned, feared, and never accepted. And Baba Yaga, at the heart of all of these things, should live forever and watch the madness she had wrought. Thus began the endless war with the vampires. At least, everyone thought it would be endless. But, it ended the way so many other fights end -- when the two sides realized that there was something bigger they needed to fight, or both sides would be lost. And in this case, this was the Avalonian Fae, who invaded New Earth in 2024.
The longtime feud between the vampires and the shifters was put to rest during the last days of the battle with the Avalonians. Baba Yaga fought tirelessly, and honorably, but died protecting Dacia the Moor, eldest of the Thoth vampires. Dacia was finishing casting magic to thwart a curse being set upon the shifter race by King Oberon - because taking out the Shifters would have crippled the opposition. The curse would have all but destroyed the shifter race, but Dacia, with the magical backing of the entire Carpathian Council, managed to thwart the curse. In the same moment, she accidentally destroyed the old curse upon the shifters which forced them to shift during new and full moons, as well as the curse which forced them to need to breed with humans, and even potentially the curse that they must forever be outsiders without a land. In her dying words, Baba Yaga, who had previously been believed to be completely immortal and unkillable, said to those gathered, "Let the blood we have spilled over the centuries be absorbed by the sand. Let our differences be settled in open duel rather than protracted and bloody war. Let those who defy my dying wishes be destroyed by my flock." And at that point, Baba Yaga's corpse was consumed by thousands of blackbirds, believed to be her devoted minions.
The eldest of the Shifters is now Krisky Plaksy, known also as The Nocnitsa, of Poland. With a mysterious past, she was raised by Baba Yaga, and now leads the Blood Sisters, who have come to Juniper. It is believed that, in general, the Blood Sisters are exploring Juniper, looking for a place that the Romani might finally call their homeland.
Locally, Shifters tend to bind into family units, clans, or caravans. Unlike other races which were held together by a council or other authoritarian party, the Shifters were held together by their shared culture -- the Romani culture. However, displacement onto Juniper has scattered them in different directions, and the lack of a common enemy now that the truce holds with the vampires, means that rigidly cohesiveness is no longer necessary. In a world where almost everyone is an outsider, no longer do the Shifters need to group as tightly over their own 'outsider' status.
So what does this mean for Romani culture, and the Shifters as a whole? It's unknown. It's possible they will form small clans, but also possible they will assimilate in public, whilst holding tightly to their Romani culture in their private lives. Many of them remain dedicated to both the idea of honoring the past, whilst also looking to the future. Some await word from the Blood Sisters that a new homeland has been found where they can finally live according to their culture and traditions for many generations to come.
Shifters can be of a variety of animal types, but only one animal type each. The animal must be an undomesticated mammal, or avian, and are generally those animals who will eat meat. Common shifter types include: wolves, bears, large cats, rats, bats, crows, vultures, and foxes. There are NO reptile shifters, nor any shifters that are not land/sky animals. There are very rarely insect shifters (we are not accepting insect shifters at this time, except as transfers from CV2.)
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. This is a much larger form than either human or beast form. 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.
In the past, Romani would turn a Vargulf out of their camp. They would then be hunted, lest they begin to kill and attack their own. The non-shifter Romani in the camps were 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: Eclipse days will be put on the online calendar, and announced in group. On those days, Shifters must shift during the time period listed.
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. It should be noted that with the death of Baba Yaga, Shifters can now once again reproduce with other Shifters.) Each Rasa has a soul-howl, a special howl that when done, not only identifies their rasa but also can have an emotional effect on others. Soul houls can not be used more than once a day, and a new soul howl from a different race will effectively cancel a soul howl heard from a different race.
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 limited 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. 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 the planet for seven days. 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, who can regenerate, 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. They are also the strongest of all of the rasa.)
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 these days, 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. (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 Subterfuge. Once 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.