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This is an old revision of ShapeshiftingInTTU made by BaxilDragon on 2010-04-29 01:26:09.


Shapeshifting In TTU

This page discusses the various ways that people change the physical shape of their body in TTU, whether magical (via a spell) or innate (like therianthropes do). It also has some notes on the interaction of shapeshifting, shapeshifters and magic. Although it has some background information on the mechanics of therianthropy, it does not cover how to become a theri; see that page for more.

The basis of shapeshifting

The one-sentence summary of what happened to the Earth when it was struck by TheChanges would be: "It became possible for people to directly manifest their beliefs within reality." In other words, magic started working. But "magic" in the traditional spellcasting sense was not the first sign of The Changes: shapeshifting was, as therianthropes changed from human form into Something Else.

In TTU, it's a common belief that shapeshifting is merely a facet of the greater "magic" phenomenon. Shapeshifters change in the same way mages cast spells: they create physical effects via the manifestation of their beliefs (in this case, a belief that they possess a different physical form from the human one they started with).

However -- as some scholars of magic point out -- if "manifesting beliefs" was solely responsible for all of The Changes' effects, physical shapeshifting certainly shouldn't have been the first manifestation! Shapeshifting is a huge and hugely intricate effect -- including (but hardly limited to!) creating/destroying/rearranging large amounts of matter; making said matter organically functional; and changing a living organism's biofeedback loops on the fly without internal injury or disruption. It's one thing to light a candle by willing a flame into existence; it's quite another for a theri to grow a set of arms or wings and immediately be competent at their use. There's a LOT of extra power that goes into that latter process -- seemingly without any effort!

In the early days after the Changes, it was only theris who seemed to be able to tap that "something extra"; it remained elusive for others. But as mages began to study shapeshifting and what made it behave differently from their spells, the insights they gained would ultimately bring about magic that unlocked the possibility of shapeshifting for everyone.

So far, only mages who work within the Volitionist school of thought have managed to come up with a theory that coherently explains shapeshifting within the rules of magic. The rest of this page will examine shapeshifting from within this Volitionist view. (Alternate hypotheses generally claim that there's something arbitrarily exceptional about theris. While such theories make sense within their traditions, they don't offer any real understanding of shapeshifting, so we'll ignore them here.)

How souls shape theris

"Every living being has a life force -- let's call it a "soul." Most of my fellow mages do, even though the mechanism by which this "soul" acts doesn't match the image the word traditionally conjures up.

"Your soul is the
total of what it means to be you. It is your consciousness -- but it is not just what happens when you're conscious. It is your life itself. It's more than the memories and emotions in your brain. It's more than the nervous system's bodywide control and biofeedback. It's more than the cellular processes that keep the body alive to receive those messages. It is all those things, and more. It's the way that your body interacts with itself, reacts to itself, remembers itself, directs itself -- from molecules to cells up to organs, from mitochondria metabolizing glucose to your arm reaching for a soda. It's the gestalt of the incredible society of moving parts that goes into what we call a person.

"Cogito, ergo sum, Descartes said, and he was more right than he knew. Life itself is matter deciding to assert that it is alive, continually throwing willpower behind this assertion until one day it gets a little too distracted and can't fight off the universe's suggestions to the contrary any more."
-- CharacterDennisRedwing, in "We Walk Among You," describing the basis of volitionist willworking

According to the Volitionists, it is this willpower that mages tap to power magic in TTU: just as the soul provides the energy to sustain life, it can also loan its energy to sustain whatever effects its owner creates in the world outside.

But here's the trick: That volition is always active, whether its owner is consciously directing it or not. Volition's most important and immediate job is to subconsciously maintain itself exactly as it is. So a person's soul is constantly coursing through their body, giving and receiving feedback -- being shaped by the limits of the physical form, and reinforcing that form in return.

Mages call this continuous synchronization of a person's soul and body their resonance.

However, resonance is not a constant. It can be changed. If a kitchen knife slips and cuts you, your body asserts its normality as usual, but is suddenly opposed by the knife's physical rearrangement of your skin and your subconscious acceptance of the laws of physics. Resonance fails, regroups, and reasserts itself in its new slightly-bloodier configuration.

Resonance changes can also come from inside. Some people simply believe that the body they currently possess is not the one they were meant to inhabit. (Here on our Earth, this can range from phantom limb syndrome to the transgendered or transspecies). Their awareness of its incorrectness is itself a form of feedback, and the resonance reacts to that.

Their soul is never quite at home in their body. And within TTU, the dramatic increase in the power of that internal volition can charge up the soul enough for it to assert itself into something it finds more appropriate. Then, under the right circumstances, the body itself can be rebuilt to that resonance; the new match between soul and form cascades into a positive feedback loop, and they not only change form but stabilize into their "proper" shape. They have become a therianthrope.

Methods of Shapeshifting

Therianthropic Change

As described above, after The Changes, some humans with strong self-images as different sorts of creatures found themselves able to trigger a shift in form that realigned their physical body with their expectations. That is the essence of what TTU calls "therianthropy."

However, this realignment requires dedication and a specific endpoint, and (barring a life-changing shift in self-image) is neither repeatable nor reversible. Any further changes -- and any shapeshifting by people who already match their self-image -- must come from one of the other methods listed below.

Memory resonance

When therianthropes shift into their new form, and the resonance asserts itself into something the soul decides is intuitively more correct, it's a basically permanent shift. They no longer have any reason to feel out of place within their own skin (or fur, or scales). However, theris do have a very powerful tool in their internal arsenal, and many (but not all!) make use of it: memory.

A theri who has just become a dragon after The Changes will have a body that finally fits, but will also have decades of experience in a human body -- a lifetime of memories and sensations. Those who are willing and able to do so can sit down, focus, and imagine themselves back into that body; their soul will respond and reshape itself, and their resonance will get fuzzy again. At that point, the theri -- who by definition has already had experience with physical shapeshifting, and who has a better idea of how to summon conscious willpower and evoke a specific trigger -- can catalyze the resonance cascade and prompt the soul to force another body rebuild back to human form. And, armed with the memories of their earlier shapeshifting, they can do the same thing again to return to true form; ad infinitum.

For some reason, not all theris have this skill. Some cannot even reshape their resonance after specific tutoring -- but these also tend to be the theris that were so firm about their need to change that they may not even want to try! (Do note that this will NOT prevent unintentional theris from being stuck in a form they don't want. See BecomingATheri for more details.) The TheriType page has statistics about which classes of theri are more likely to be able to do this.


Some therianthropes are lucky enough to be able to inherently shapeshift: the body that their resonance has adjusted to possesses some sort of innate capacity to rewire its own resonance. This isn't an issue of memory; the activity that the body itself generates is full of small and subtle cues that can produce those resonance feedback loops with a thought, and so even a (were) werewolf that was born in wolf form will be able to instinctively become a human.

Largely, this is limited to theris whose mythology includes shapeshifting prowess, such as werecreatures and (a few) dragons. Theris whose form is that of a non-mythological animal also seem to have an innate shapeshifting ability, even those who don't think of themselves as "werecreatures"; some mages say this is due to a subconscious acceptance that they exist somewhere between the animal and human worlds, and can't be fully animal due to their status as a sapient being.


The raw amount of power necessary to create a theri -- not only making raw changes in people's bodies, but also adjusting their resonance to make the change permanent -- isn't achievable via spellcasting alone. When an outside spell works against the body's resonance, the body will fight back -- and it's on its home turf, and it's got nothing to lose.

However, the earliest -- and still most common -- shapeshifting spells can temporarily fool a body into futzing with its own resonance under conscious control, producing a cascade and a shapeshift effect that can be maintained as long as the consciousness can actively assert the shift. (Once the spell's target loses focus or consciousness, the soul will go "Hey, waaaaaiiit a minute!" and kick off a resonance cascade to revert itself.)

True Shifting

A tiny minority of (un)lucky theris are truly shapeshifters in the traditional sense of the word: when they take a new form, their resonance immediately adapts to it. All of their physical changes come with the ease of an innate change -- even to totally new forms -- and are permanent. (At least until they make another shift.)

This ability isn't unlimited; they still have to shift into living matter (at least their soul's sense of self-preservation is strong enough to disallow anything it can't inhabit), and it has to be something that's within the power of their soul to create and animate (no 90-foot monsters). But it's still far beyond the capability of any other mages or theris to reproduce.

Unfortunately, the great power of this ability comes with drawbacks. It tends to leave shifters mentally unstable, which magic use worsens (as seen in the Magic section below). Those Volitionists who have studied the phenomenon consider so-called "true shifting" to be a soul malfunction, and a taboo has gradually formed against seeking this kind of shapeshifting.

Spells and Shapeshifting

Spells and Theris

Spells and Shapeshifters

/in progress

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