November 4, 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!
“I swear on every god of life and death, if you ask me if I’m sure one more time, I’ll rip your heart out and eat it, ranger. Yes! I’m certain he went this way.
“Now hurry – I’m starving for vengeance ….”
When first meeting a tuskhunt shifter, you might imagine that any of a hundred features would catch your eye at first … but you would be wrong. It’s true that a tuskhunt’s hair, rather than covering the entire scalp, grows in a natural two inch wide strip from forehead to back, and that tusks jut up from a prominent lower jaw. Perhaps you would be drawn in by the small, upturned nose common among tuskhunts, or their hunched gait. Indeed, those features are unusual and they might even attempt draw your attention.
But they wouldn’t. Not at first, anyway.
No, the first thing you would see would be the eyes – small, black orbs, punctuated by pinpricks of gold toward the center. Sharp and quick, these eyes pierce the darkest shadows with ease, and fill the creature they focus on with foreboding.
A tuskhunt shifter is a master of the hunt – following the signs and scents of its target to the farthest reaches of the wilderness. To these unhappy quarries, the tuskhunt’s fearsome eyes will be a harbinger of doom. Not merely the first thing they notice of the shifter … but, likely, the last as well.
Playing A Tuskhunt Shifter
Ask anyone in a nearby village about shifters and you will probably hear the common phrase, “The difference between lycanthropes and shifters is that you try to avoid making a lycanthrope angry during a full moon – but you never want to make a shifter angry.” This saying is never more true than with the tuskhunt shifters.
Many tuskhunts have ancestors that were once dwarves, twisted by lycanthropy as wereboars, and later mixed with human bloodlines. It’s hardly surprising, then, that tuskhunts are known as gruff and rude, if also determined and loyal. Tuskhunts are always on a short fuse, as far as temper goes. Easily provoked and deadly serious in response, tuskhunts are usually out of place in civilization, preferring a nomadic existence in the wild with their own kind. They are, by far, the most accepting of their shifter kin, regardless of sub-species. Tuskhunts have a family and community centered culture, often calling each other “brother” or “sister” – even when the two tuskhunts hardly know each other.
Even among shifters, tuskhunts have a savage countenance. Where most shifters have left their lycanthropic heritage nearly behind, tuskhunts have, for better or worse, managed to hold onto it. A longtooth shifter’s wolfish features may be fleeting and ignorable, but few ever mistake a tuskhunt for merely human or manage to miss his obviously boar-like countenance. From her black eyes, to the tusks jutting from her jaw; from his long beard sprouting from the end of his chin, to the strip of hair running over his scalp – there is little doubt that lycanthropy runs in the family. Indeed, for tuskhunts, more than any other shifter, their transformation is much more a shift than the metamorphosis seen in the majority of the race. Certainly, the change is frightening to behold … but it is subtler and, to a tuskhunts companions, often more disturbing.
The Crippling Hunger
Food and shelter. To most races, these are the necessities of out and out survival. The desire for more than these things surfaces over time, but little more is needed … for most.
Tuskhunts, unfortunately, require more than food and shelter – or, at least, more than is generally required. Each tuskhunt, as he or she approaches adulthood, begins to feel a terrible need grow within: the Crippling Hunger. More than merely desire, the Crippling Hunger is an actual biological need which tuskhunts soon die without. Making the Hunger worse is the fact that each tuskhunt has a different appetite.
Some tuskhunt shifters are starving for certain exotic foods, enormous amounts of money or power, or various types of companionship. Others are hungry for attention, justice, or sleep. Many need to keep a steady diet of hunting, running, or murder to feel satisfied, but all need to partake in their Hunger once every week or two – or perish from hunger.
For this reason, tuskhunt tribes generally have a leader appointed to manage the Crippling Hunger. Known as the Soul Butcher, this tuskhunt manages trade among his people to allow for the more … exotic hungers to be fed on a regular basis. Both beloved and feared by her people, the Soul Butcher is dedicated to the tribe’s survival, regardless of the cost.
Tuskhunt Shifter Backgrounds
Family Reunion: You are the last living descendant of a dwarven clan, a thousand years old, which was cursed by lycanthropy. Unfortunately, another clan has hunted your family for that thousand years – seeking its destruction so they might return home with honor. What loved ones have you already lost to this clan? Do you seek to escape your enemies, or destroy them? What do you know of your ancient family, and what do you wish to discover?
Associated Skills: Dungeoneering, History
Optional Benefit: You count as a dwarf for the purpose of taking feats.
Seven Siblings: You were born into a strange family, indeed. You, along with your brothers and sisters, have developed a strangely themed Crippling Hunger: the seven deadly sins. Strong, fast, and merciless, your siblings have begun to stalk the countryside, spreading fear and death in their wake. If your Hunger has manifested, which sin starves you? Do you seek to kill your siblings, or merely slow their rampage?
Associated Skill: Religion
Spirit Chef: As a long-time protector of your tribe, you eventually were given the post of Soul Butcher. … But the task of feeding your entire tribe has proven difficult. Perhaps you act as a police force in your tribe, keeping hunger-mad tuskhunts from rampaging. Or you might go on expeditions to find rarer “foods” through adventuring. Perhaps you might even attempt the search long thought impossible by Soul Butchers: the search for the cure to the Crippling Hunger.
Associated Skills: Endurance, Heal, Nature
Prerequisite: Tuskhunt shifter
Benefit: When you charge while under the effect of your tuskhunt shifting racial power, you also knock the target prone on a hit.
In addition, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls against prone creatures while under the effect of your tuskhunt shifting racial power.
Jared Glenn: Jared has been playing 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons since before it came out, and designing for it nearly as long. He produces and hosts a weekly D&D Podcast, The Power Source, at http://www.powersourcepodcast.com . Jared has also written two classes for the game system, The Explorer and The Jester. He lives in Utah with his family, where he writes and records at a desk made of pure awesome.