Most people believe skinwalkers are half-breeds of lycanthropes, or that they share some slight version of the curse of those creatures. Skinwalker shamans say they are chosen by nature or the gods to be a bridge between the world of humanity and the animal world. The truth may lie somewhere between these two ideas. For indeed, skinwalkers are those with a lycanthrope crouching somewhere in the branches of their family tree. These distant progeny of monstrous werewolves and other creatures of the night have special talents unlike those of most civilized peoples, and they arise randomly among remote humanoid populations as well as within their own secretive sects. A pair of humans may give birth to a skinwalker—the dormant lycanthropic ancestry making itself known in a child neither beast nor human—or a pair of skinwalker parents may produce a skinwalker child, though these couplings can sometimes produce human children as well.

Skinwalkers resemble humans much of the time, but they possess the uncanny ability to transform into bestial humanoids who combine the most fearsome aspects of flesh and fur.

Physical Description: Outwardly human, skinwalkers are virtually indistinguishable from others of the ethnic group into which they are born. Those rare skinwalkers who have bred true for generations tend to have dark eyes, straight dark hair, and richly colored skin. Skinwalkers’ features vary greatly when they shapechange. They gain a bestial visage evoking the creatures they emulate; the snout elongates, teeth become more prominent, claws emerge from fingertips, and skin toughens into hide. Despite their shapechanging abilities, they are not immune to infection from full lycanthropes.

Society: Skinwalkers sometimes weave themselves into other societies, hoping their peculiar talents go unnoticed. They may also be nomads found in lands with wide-open spaces. Groups of skinwalkers hidden among a larger community of non-skinwalkers may regularly gather for lunar rituals or nocturnal pack hunting.

Relations: Skinwalkers mostly populate human settlements and communities. They tend to get along with catfolk, tengus, and members of other animal-like races (including lycanthropes), and are comfortable taking their animalistic forms in the company of these fellows. However, many natural lycanthropes see skinwalkers as weaker, inferior versions of their own kind, and some lycanthropes even take to infecting or even hunting their distant kin.

Alignment and Religion: Skinwalkers tend toward neutral alignments, but may be of any. Many follow the Green Faith or venerate deities with close ties to nature and the animal world, as well as those connected with hunting, transformation, travel, and trickery.

Adventurers: Often on the move, skinwalkers make for excellent adventurers. Once they become comfortable in a group, most skinwalkers come to see their adventuring allies as their pack or herd.

Names: Skinwalkers born in human and humanoid societies share the naming conventions of the surrounding culture. Skinwalkers born in their own packs typically have names similar to their overarching ethnicities appended with flavorful, animal-inspired appellations such as Bearmaw, Wolftamer, Fangblood, or Owlmarked.

Skinwalker Racial Traits (10 RP)

All skinwalkers are humanoids with the skinwalker and shapechanger subtypes. They have the same random starting age, aging effects, and random height and weight as a human. Skinwalkers have the following racial traits.

  • +2 Wisdom, –2 Intelligence, +2 to one physical ability score while shapechanged (1 RP): Skinwalkers are well attuned to the natural order of things and value passion above reason. While in their bestial form, they gain a +2 racial bonus to either Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution (see Change Shape).
  • Medium: Skinwalkers are Medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
  • Normal Speed: Skinwalkers have a base speed of 30 feet.
  • Low-Light Vision (Ex): In dim light, skinwalkers can see twice as far as humans.
  • Animal-Minded (2 RP): Skinwalkers have a +2 racial bonus on Handle Animal and wild empathy checks.
  • Change Shape (Su, 5 RP): A skinwalker can change shape into a bestial form as a standard action. In bestial form, a skinwalker gains a +2 racial bonus to either Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution. While in this form, a skinwalker also takes on an animalistic feature that provides a special effect. Each time a skinwalker assumes bestial form, she can choose to gain one of the following features:
  • 2 claw attacks that each deal 1d4 points of damage
  • Darkvision to a range of 60 feet
  • +1 racial bonus to natural armor
  • The racial ability score bonus and additional feature last as long as the skinwalker remains in that form, and a skinwalker can remain in bestial form for as long as she wants. While in bestial form, a skinwalker takes a –4 penalty on Charisma and Charisma-based checks when interacting with humanoids that lack the shapechanger subtype. A skinwalker can return to her humanoid form as a swift action. To change forms and gain a different benefit, a skinwalker must first return to her humanoid form then use her shapechange ability again. A skinwalker can shapechange into bestial form a number of times per day equal to 3 + 1/2 her character level. Different skinwalker heritages allow skinwalker characters to select from different sets of bestial features.
  • Spell-Like Ability: Skinwalkers with a Wisdom score of 11 or higher can use speak with animals once per day as a spell-like ability. The caster level for this ability is equal to the skinwalker’s character level.

See Also