Shifters are those humanoid beings who can shift forms to other species. Most shifters appear as human in their humanoid forms, but there are elfish, dwarfish, and other shifter base forms. They can transform into many other, usually beastly, forms, such as bears, lions, wolves, rats, eagles, giant lizards, and more. Shifters can only shift between two forms. However, there are rumors of shifters that can assume multiple forms, perhaps even shifting between humanoid species.
In their base form, shifters are outwardly identical to the humanoid forms their are rooted in, generally human, elf, or dwarf. Their features may tend toward their animal form, but they rarely exceed the norms of their root humanoid form. When they shift to their animal form, they outwardly resemble the base form of the animal. However, they often emphasize certain traits of the base animal. For instance, a wolf-form shifter may be stronger and larger than a typical wolf.
Genetics and Reproduction
Shifters can mate in either humanoid or animal form. A shifter mating with another shifter of the same base animal form can have offspring that has a 25% chance of being a shifter of the same base animal form. Only shifters of the same base animal form can have shifter offspring. Otherwise, shifters can mate with any other humanoid, as per the base humanoid. The offspring is always humanoid, with the same options as the base humanoid. They do have a tendency towards stronger magic than the base form, however. Gestation is as the base humanoid, although term tends to be up to 10% longer.
Dietary Needs and Habits
Shifters have similar dietary needs to their base humanoid form, except they tend to need up to 50% more calories. Their diet is also influenced by their animal form. For example, a wolf-form shifter would tend to prefer meat, the rarer the better. Shifters can also eat in their animal form, just as the base animal would, with caloric intake adjusted for their relative size differences.
Contrary to popular myths, shifters are not affected by the phases of the moons. However, they are influenced by the natural cycles of their base animal form. For instance, a bear-form shifter tends to be sluggish during the times a natural bear would hibernate.
Perception and Sensory Capabilities
The humanoid form of a shifter tends to have senses that are enhanced by their animal form. For instance, a wolf-form shifter will have enhanced smell in humanoid form.
Civilization and Culture
Shifters were developed late in the great war of the Third Age. By being able to shift into natural species, they made excellent spies and warriors. In the Fourth Age, magic greatly affected their shifting ability. Pre-magic shifters were restricted to a similar size between humanoid and animal forms. Upon the return of magic, they were able to add or lose mass based on the target animal type. For example, while a pre-magic human bear shifter may be a large man, the bear form would be no larger. They would have the claws, teeth, and musculature of a bear, but be man-sized. Post-magic, the same shifter could easily become an 800 pound bear. Early in the Fourth age they learned to hide among humanoid populations, due to the fear the animal forms would garner.
Interspecies Relations and Assumptions
Shifters are generally shunned by other species. This has caused a split among the leaders of the shifters between those who would prefer to convince others to accept them and those who believe shifters to be superior to other humanoids.