September 6, 2010 by Jeff
The very nature of the shifter is variable. While the shifter race shares a common origin in lycanthropy, few races can claim such a wide variety of ancestors.
The great-grandchildren of cursed mortals, shifters can smell fear wherever they go, and this knowledge of their heritage has shaped the race to look out for its own. From the swift razorclaw shifter, to the unstoppable denkeep shifter, to the rare and inescapable dreamsight shifter, all are one in the eyes of their fellows.
Join us as we take a closer look at shifters and explore their varied genealogy in this five part series, Shifting Focus!
“Behold the Verdant Gates of Ghulenas. They have remained open for a thousand years and will never close – not even against your pathetic army.
“But you will need to pass by me to enter under these sacred boughs, in the which case, I will simply wish you luck.”
A denkeep shifter is taller and sturdier than his cousins, with thick hair that is generally worn long and bushy. Most male denkeep shifters tend to have beards, and thinner hair over most of their bodies. Broad shoulders are common, even among females, making them even more formidable than their size would suggest.
The werebears that were the denkeep’s ancestors had a penchant for protection and a fury that could send foes flying. Denkeep shifters live up to this reputation perfectly, even expanding on their were-father’s reputation for doing good. Though, in truth, every denkeep knows that the beast sleeping in their hearts is just as furious as that within any shifter. This, more than anything else, stirs fear in a denkeep’s heart – and that of his foe.
Playing A Denkeep Shifter
Denkeep shifters tend to be solitary souls, for the most part. This has little to do with a denkeep’s appetite for company, which tends to be as large as its appetite for food, but instead because a denkeep shifter is a hunter at heart. Since stealth already ranks fairly low on their list of talents, they prefer to hunt their prey alone. Eating, on the other hand, is a different matter, and most will seek companions for a meal.
Denkeeps are often assumed to be clumsy, due to their large size, but they remain as fast as most races – and are considerably more hardy runners. Then again, if the other option is pushing past a denkeep shifter, running may be the smarter option. That or slitting your own throat.
Of all the myriad sub-races of shifters, denkeeps are the most likely to settle into a location and put down roots. These places rarely become towns, since denkeep shifters usually enjoy a few miles between one home and the next, but a roadside lodge always springs up nearby. These cozy stops are frequented by travelers and adventurers, of course, but denkeeps come from miles around in the evening to swap stories and share a drink. It is in such lodges that more than one young denkeep has decided to set out on an adventure to save the world – or just get very rich.
The Long Sleep
Denkeep shifters have an unusual duality among their fellow shifters. First and foremost, denkeeps carry far less of the shifter stigma among humanoid settlements. In general, they are acknowledged as forces for good in the world.
Secondly, and strangely, despite their powerful and frightening forms, in most shifter gatherings they are viewed with an attitude of mysticism. Most outsiders are startled to see these veritable giants consulted like sages, but all shifters know the reason: The Long Sleep.
When a denkeep shifter reaches the age of fifteen, a ceremony takes place in the home or tribe of the young shifter. The denkeep is sworn to neither gather nor hunt food until he or she returns to the tribe, then is given food sufficient for three days and commanded not to return for three months. The young denkeep is forced to search for suitable quarters, and go into a sort of hibernation for several months.
While some go hungry for a day or two before mastering the Sleep, nearly all denkeeps manage to fall into this trance. During these long months, the denkeeps see visions of the past and future, as well as of far off places. Many shifters see the Long Sleep as the best times in their lives, as they visit ancient lands or watch their descendants. While these visions are edifying, they are also entirely random and do not begin until after sleeping for several weeks. When they do come, however, they are always timely.
Only the wisest denkeep shamans enter the Long Sleep more than once a decade, but these few are revered and heeded closely.
Denkeep Shifter Backgrounds
Other Voices: As you entered your Long Sleep in the midst of winter, a strange voice found your mind and enhanced your visions – whispering advice and prophecies from its far-off prison. Perhaps it offered a pact. Did you agree, or fight the urge through months of stalwart resistance?
Associated Skills: Arcana, Dungeoneering
Shamed Sleeper: When you were sent out to obtain your Long Sleep, you found that each time you fell into the trance, you were besieged by nightmares too horrible to comprehend. Sleepless and starving, you broke your vow and hunted. Now, exiled from your tribe, do you accept your fate or seek revenge for the impossible task you were given?
Associated Skills: Bluff, Endurance
Spirit Father: Your first Long Sleep was not your last. You have often visited your past, watching your werebear ancestors – until they began watching you in return. Recently, you were approached by the spirit of an ancient forefather stuck in bear form. Perhaps he has become your spirit companion, or maybe he follows you as a familiar. What secrets and prophecies has he brought, and what might it portend?
Associated Skills: History, Nature
Ursine Knight: The heft of a sword and shield have always felt like extensions of your limbs, and cries for assistance ring in your ears. Do you fight evil wherever you find it … or is your quarry more specific?
Associated Skills: Diplomacy, Intimidate, Religion
Prerequisite: Denkeep shifter
Benefit: You gain a +2 bonus to grab attacks. In addition, while you are under the effect of your denkeep shifting racial power, you can make a grab attack as a move action.