Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Shape Change Mini-Game

Wouldn't it be cool to capture the feel of a mythic shapeshifting chase/duel?  I have the glimmering of an idea of a mini-game that could be engaging for players as well as interesting in-game.  I'll tell you what I'm thinking and maybe you can finish the idea.
You have a diagram of possible creature shapes.  The wizard enters the diagram by becoming one of the weaker/smaller creatures.  I'm thinking d6 +level, so more powerful mages can jump right to bigger things.  Then they can shift form once each round, but they have to achieve the number or higher to move between the creature shapes.

This would become interesting and strategic if they were having to shift from flight to swimming and then from swimming to burrowing.  Or if they were matching fire resistance to a fire breather, etc.

It's possible you could have different diagrams for different schools, say a reptile only, or a mythic beast only diagram.  But that ups the complexity and the number of pages you have to have around.

You might make this interesting by tying it to a magic item that forces a player to shift each round (or else why ever shift from hydra once you get there?).

Or maybe when you get deeper into the chart it gets harder to get back out.

My example diagram is triangular but I imagine a complete circle of choices you could navigate around.  I'd need some more silhouettes and some ideas of which creatures to use.


  1. There could be a cyclical hierarchy element in that a small creature can hide from a creature X steps larger or more, but a creature x-1 steps larger or fewer can eat the smaller creature if it can catch it.

  2. Isn't that the idea behind the old game Shape Shifters by Fat Messiah Games?

  3. I will be sold when "bubbles in beer" is on the creature list.
    ...looks intriguing but I don't know where you're going yet with it.

  4. Hey, thanks for the comments.

    Wow, Orchaldir, I remember longingly seeing that cover in Dragon (?) but I never owned that game or played it. So . . . it looks like I just re-invented a 21 year-old game. I mean the concept is not new, but it's more than that. The gameboard uses silhouettes and categories almost identical to what I came up with (lizard to snake etc).

    Oh, well. I have an idea that you might make a mini-game for mages attempting to acquire a familiar. But maybe I should just move on to something different altogether.

  5. That looks like a really cool minigame. Richard has a point though, a lot of the fun with shapeshifting is in the potential for creativity. You are never going to be able to draw a chart big enough for all the things that players will want to turn into. But I'm not sure how you could keep that creativity alive without opening the door to "I turn into a dragon, I win." (Which is EXACTLY what happens in the shapeshifting duel in The Sword in the Stone, of course!)

    Perhaps the players are always allowed to shapeshift into inanimate objects or non-threatening animals. But this sets you back to the start of the progression. So it might be worth it if you have a good plan ("I'll turn into a bomb and explode in his stomach!") or you just want to escape ("I'll turn into a sword and hide in this sword rack.")

    Hmm, but would it be worth giving up the hydra (or other apex monster) to do that?

  6. Hey thanks, Will. That kooky creativity would be the most fun/interesting and I'm guessing that the best way to implement it in game is with that big ol wet computer of the DM's brain making rulings. But I'll keep thinking on this.