Skinchangers: Open Beta Test

By Kat (@SunsStepchild)

In Skinchangers, the players are shapeshifters granted powers by the spirit of their chosen animal. They are charged by these spirits with the responsibility to find and cleanse abominations. It uses Fate dice and has a rules system similar to Apocalypse World and/or Fate Accelerated. The setting is a little reminiscent of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and Neverwhere.

Note that this is in Beta right now and the most recent version was updated 4/9/2018. I’ve not actually played it yet but am looking forward to trying it out soon.

Author

Skinchangers is written by Levi Kornelson, an indi rpg designer of various unique system titles like Hoard (you play as dragons, sign me up, can’t wait to read) and Situations For Tabletop Roleplaying (5 situation building tools for intrigue, coupes, significatnt journeys, social movements and monster-hunting scenarios). He also has a policy of releasing his games to public domain and allows anyone to use his content, hoping that if more people see his work, it will help him gain a bit of notoriety (I hope so too, bc spoilers, this game is really cool!).  

Skinchangers PCs

You play as shapeshifters that have met powerful animals spirits. They granted the PCs the power to transform into an animal, use supernatural abilities, and see the spiritual and supernatural world. The trade off is that with this power, they’ve gained the responsibility of hunting monsters, be they “vampires in suburbia, great beasts in the subways, or weekend getaways where the owners prey on their guests”. Additionally, being part of the supernatural world detaches you from the rest of humanity. Most normal folks forget supernatural events incredibly fast, including the PCs if they meddle too much into magic.

Stakes, Dangers & Augments

Automatic stakes are something that happens as a result of the PC’s actions that can’t be removed. Dangers are bad things that happen on a roll unless the player spends a (-) Fate die to cancel it. These might include Delay, Injury, Mayhem, Expense, or Fatigue. Augments are something that won’t happen as a result of the action unless the player spends a (+) Fate die to make it happen. Possible Augments include Observation, Speed, Style, Subtlety, Advantage, or Duration.

Ancestors

A PC’s Ancestor is the animal spirit which granted them their powers and who’s form they take when they shapeshift. These animals are:

  • Bobcat (damage dealing ambush setters)
  • Crow (flexible roles, can heal, inspire, cause and escape chaos, weakest in combat)
  • Fox (quick and tactical)
  • Owl (diviners, healers, purifiers, great scouts not so much warriors)
  • Raccoon (Great at theft, crafting, and stamina)

Origin

In Skinchangers, not all PCs have the Origin Humans granted power. Some are Beasts visited by their Ancestor after contact with humanity. These sorts of characters might retain much of their bestial thought patterns, not really differentiating between spiritual events and real ones. Alternatively, a Skinchanger might have a Hybrid Origin, gaining their powers when an Ancestor melds the spirits of a dying human and dying animal together into one being.

Virtues and Favour

These sorts of characters also have very little interest in the humanity’s prejudices and ideals of sexuality and ethnicity and instead focus on the Skinchanger Virtues of Zeal, Purity (working against pollution, disease, ect), Decorum (respect of mentors, spirits, and other ‘changers), Kinship (maintaining familial ties to both beasts and humans), Discretion, and Vigor (not wallowing in confusion and self-doubt).

The virtues are important as a rule mechanic because the only way to gain new powers and make your PC stronger is by gaining Favour, a rating from 1-7 that raises and lowers based on your PCs deeds and Virtues.  

Approaches, Health, & Wounds

Similar to Fate Accelerated, each character has approaches (though Skinchangers uses 5 different approaches vs Fate’s 6): Brutal, Covert, Fleet, Showy, and Studious the array being (4, 3, 2, 2, 1). Every time a PC attempts an action they choose what approach seems to fit best and rolls dice based on their rating.

Each players has 7 health boxes and 3 spots for wounds and scars. Each point of damage marks off a heath box until they are all used. When this happens, the PC chooses a scar listed and marks it down. They suffer the effects of this scar but it will heal eventually. This covers 7 damage and once a scar is chosen, all 7 health boxes are recovered. Additionally, PCs can take a wound as well which covers 7 health boxes as well but PCs can only take 1 wound per scene. PCs can also black out a wound box to gain a permanent scar that will not heal and gain the benefits just as if they’d used a scar to refresh health boxes. If the Pc can’t cover the damage, they die.   

Fade & Clarity

The Fade is the effect that erases evidence of the supernatural from the world, be they memories, actual records, or even people involved in them(sort of like Vulgar magic in Mage: the Ascension). Skinchangers and some other individuals hare a resistance to this, known as Clarity. When involved in a Blatant supernatural event with non-supernatural witnesses, the GM can have the players roll a Fade die. If they roll a (-) they incur a point of fade. Just like Health boxes and Wound spots, after a PC is dealt 7 Fade points, they may take a Fade Condition to replenish their Fade boxes.

Each condition forces a PC to become further and further detached from humanity. At first their mundane records and loved ones will drift away, next they find themselves “drifting” easily, wandering away from their intended target and closer to unnatural and faded places and people, and finally, they drift into the Deeper Fade where unless led back, they will be erased from reality as we know it.

Overall

I’m really into this one and can’t wait to play it. I’m not exactly sure how the gameplay will sort itself out but it looks pretty solid. The worldbuilding regarding spirits and the way they affect the world is really interesting and I’m really looking forward to running a one-shot of this! Now I’ve just gotta get around to reading all of Kornelson’s other rpgs!  

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