Skinwalker (3.5e Prestige Class)

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Skinwalker[edit]

He was always a big, hairy man. Not that big of a change, really.
—Karlon, dwarven fighter, upon seeing his goliath companion transform into a bear

The goliaths of Pansaer believe that their lives are governed by animistic spirits who lend their powers and features indirectly to those they watch over. The most primitive goliaths of the farthest regions of the Tumbling Fells go one step further: someone particularly in tune with the ancient ways and knowledgeable of hushed secrets can take on the guise of their guardian animal.

Turns out, sometimes they are right.

Becoming a Skinwalker[edit]

A skinwalker is a brutal melee combatant who turns into an animal form to wreck havoc on enemies. The prestige class is a good choice for anyone who wants to pack a little extra punch, especially those classes who don't naturally have the strongest attacks. It's also a good class for roleplaying.

Entry Requirements
Base Attack Bonus: +3.
Skills: Handle Animal 8 ranks, Survival 8 ranks
Special: Culturally a goliath.

Table: The Skinwalker

Hit Die: d12

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Special
Fort Ref Will
1st +1 +2 +2 +0 Animal shape (Medium)
2nd +2 +3 +3 +0 Track
3rd +3 +3 +3 +1 Animal shape (Large)
4th +4 +4 +4 +1 Low-light vision
5th +5 +4 +4 +1 Animal shape (Huge)

Class Skills (4 + Int modifier per level)
Craft (Int), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Jump (Str), Knowledge (nature) (Int), Listen (Wis), Survival (Wis), Spot (Wis), Swim (Str)

Class Features[edit]

The most notable feature of skinwalkers is their ability to assume an animal form. In addition, they gain some beastly features, such as improved vision, and even their appearance starts to resemble their animist patron. All of the following are class features of the skinwalker.

Animal Shape (Ex): A skinwalker gains the ability to turn herself into their patron animal at will. This animal is chosen on attaining the first level of skinwalker. The animal form is Medium: creatures who are naturally Large get -4 Strength, +2 Dexterity, -4 Constitution, -2 natural armor, as well as all other usual size modifiers. The usual choices are ape, bear, bison (stampede only Medium size or smaller), boar, cheetah, crocodile, lizard, snake or great wolf (Intelligence 2, creature type Animal instead of Magical Beast). Any other mundane animal of roughly the same power can be chosen at the DM's discretion. This ability functions like the alternate form special ability, except as noted here. The effect lasts until the skinwalker changes back. Changing form (to animal or back) is a standard action and doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity.

Any gear worn or carried by the skinwalker melds into the new form and becomes nonfunctional. When the skinwalker reverts to their true form, any objects previously melded into the new form reappear in the same location on their body that they previously occupied and are once again functional. Any new items worn in the assumed form fall off and land at the skinwalker's feet.

A skinwalker loses the ability to speak while in animal form because they are limited to the sounds that a normal, untrained animal can make, but they can communicate normally with other animals of the same general grouping as their new form.

At 3rd level, a skinwalker can choose to turn into a Large version of their patron animal. Creatures who are naturally Medium get +4 Strength, -2 Dexterity, +4 Constitution, +2 natural armor, as well as all other usual size modifiers.

At 5th level, a skinwalker can choose to turn into a Huge version of their patron animal. Creatures who are naturally Medium get +8 Strength, -4 Dexterity, +8 Constitution, +4 natural armor, as well as all other usual size modifiers, and creatures who are naturally Large get +4 Strength, -2 Dexterity, +4 Constitution, +2 natural armor, as well as all other usual size modifiers.

Track: At 2nd level, a skinwalker gains Track as a bonus feat.

Low-light Vision (Ex): A skinwalker of 4th level can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. A skinwalker retains the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions.

Campaign Information[edit]

Playing a Skinwalker[edit]

Combat: A skinwalker gives a character the gift of variety: a non-melee character can suddenly hold their own in close combat, a specialist can turn into a tank, and a spellcaster can have a taste of the fray. Skinwalkers in animal form are usually on the front line, using their wild strength and extraordinary abilities to devastate foes.

Advancement: Since the benefit of turning into a Huge animal is massive, a skinwalker usually wants to stick to the class for the whole five levels. After that, anything goes: you may want to increase your former strengths, or take a new direction entirely.

Resources: Goliaths treat skinwalkers with fearful respect, since they are the ones most in touch with their animistic deities. A skinwalker can usually trust an old-fashioned goliath tribe to help them, but friendship among them is rare: skinwalkers are notoriously feral, after all.

Skinwalkers in the World[edit]

Your culture thinks the mouse a pest, a coward, a joke. Not so. The mouse is fast, and clever, and hungry - and so am I.

Due to the fear they evoke, skinwalkers tend to be lonely wanderers. They visit goliath tribes and settlements and help them with their troubles, only to set off again before the tribe's attitude goes sour. Thus, they make wonderful adventurers, with their power and wandered lifestyle complementing a party of heroes greatly.

Skinwalkers are designed for the Years of Gold setting, which has a much lower power level than most settings and goes for a low-magic feel. Within this framework a skinwalker is a rare, spectacular class. In other settings, a well-played druid is obviously more powerful, but the skinwalker class can work in any setting where the power level is sufficiently toned down.

NPC Reactions: A goliath NPC is likely to treat a skinwalker with the utmost respect, though certainly not adoration. They and the skills they possess aren't too well-loved in civilized lands, and a skinwalker showcasing their powers freely is sure to draw ire and hostility. Then again, when not using their powers, a skinwalker isn't too conspicuous, and is treated like anyone else of their race and occupation.

Skinwalker Lore[edit]

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (acana), Knowledge (history) or Knowledge (nature) can research skinwalkers to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including information from lower DCs.

Knowledge (acana), Knowledge (history) or Knowledge (nature)
DC Result
10 Of all the races of Pansaer, goliaths are most in tune with the animal kingdom. Each goliath associates him- or herself with a patron animal.
15 Legends speak of goliaths who, with powers lent from their animistic gods, can turn into the beasts they venerate.
20 Goliaths aren't they only ones to become these "skin walkers" - anyone who identifies as a goliath culturally and has a patron animal is capable of possessing such powers.
25 As the power of the skinwalker grows, so does their ability to emulate their patron animal. The most powerful can turn into unnaturally large versions of the beast.

Skinwalkers in the Game[edit]

The high hit points and animal shape of skinwalkers makes them excellent close combatants, but since the class has a relatively low entrance requirements as far as base attack bonus goes, even a frail wizard can take up the class, varying their repertoire by that much.

Sample Encounter: While traveling in the Tumbling Fells, the party finds the fells unnaturally quiet and uninhabited - not a giant in sight. When the sun is just dipping below the horizon, they discover the reason: an ape the size of a small house snarls at them, starved hunger in its eyes.

EL 10: Jenne Apeborn is lost something serious. She's originally from Ghaer, but an attack by the cultist servants of Ophidia drove her tribe apart. Since then, she's been trying to find safety, which the Tumbling Fells certainly won't offer. She's starved, scared and angry - woe betide those who approach her and can't calm her down.

Jenne Apeborn
Size/Type: Medium Humanoid (Goliath), 5th-level Barbarian/5th-level Skinwalker
Hit Dice: 10d12+20 (85 hp)
Initiative: +2
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares)
Armor Class: 12 (+2 Dex), touch 12, flat-footed 10
Base Attack/Grapple: +10/+17
Attack: Unarmed +13 melee (1d3+3 nonlethal)
Full Attack: Unarmed +13 melee (1d3+3 nonlethal)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Rage 2/day, animal shape (Medium, Large or Huge ape)
Special Qualities: Natural wrestler, animist guidance 1/day, improved uncanny dodge, trap sense +1, low-light vision
Saves: Fort +10, Ref +7, Will +3
Abilities: Str 16, Dex 14, Con 15, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 11
Skills: Handle Animal +13, Intimidate +10, Survival +13
Feats: Dodge, Mobility, Multiattack, Spring Attack, Track
Environment: Any
Organization: Any
Challenge Rating: 10
Treasure: None
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Advancement:
Level Adjustment:


Rage (Ex): Jenne can fly into a rage twice per day. See here for details.

Animal Shape (Ex): Jenne can assume the form of a Medium, Large or Huge ape.

Natural Wrestler: Jenne has a +4 racial bonus on grapple checks, and doesn't provoke an attack of opportunity when beginning a grapple.

Animist Guidance (Su): Once per day as a free action, Jenne can invoke the spirit of the Ape to gain a +2 insight bonus to all saving throws for 10 rounds.

Improved Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Jenne retains her Dexterity bonus to AC when flat-footed, and she cannot be flanked except by a rogue of at least 9th level.

Trap Sense (Ex): Jenne has a +1 bonus on Reflex saves made to avoid traps and a +1 dodge bonus to AC against attacks made by traps.

Low-light Vision (Ex): Jenne can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. Jenne retains the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions.

Jenne Apeborn (raging, animist guidance and in Huge ape form)
Size/Type: Huge Humanoid (Goliath), 5th-level Barbarian/5th-level Skinwalker
Hit Dice: 10d12+40 (105 hp)
Initiative: +1
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares), climb 40 ft.
Armor Class: 12 (-2 rage, -2 size, +1 Dex, +5 natural), touch 7, flat-footed 11
Base Attack/Grapple: +10/+31
Attack: Claw +17 melee (1d8+9)
Full Attack: 2 claws +17 melee (1d8+9) and bite +15 melee (1d8+4)
Space/Reach: 15 ft./15 ft.
Special Attacks: Rage 2/day, animal shape (Medium, Large or Huge ape)
Special Qualities: Natural wrestler, animist guidance 1/day, improved uncanny dodge, trap sense +1, low-light vision
Saves: Fort +16, Ref +8, Will +7
Abilities: Str 29, Dex 13, Con 22, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 11
Skills: Climb +17, Handle Animal +13, Intimidate +10, Survival +13
Feats: Dodge, Mobility, Multiattack, Spring Attack, Track
Environment: Any
Organization: Any
Challenge Rating: 10
Treasure: None
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Advancement:
Level Adjustment:


Skills: Jenne in ape form has a +8 racial bonus on Climb checks and can always choose to take 10 on Climb checks, even if rushed or threatened.

Jenne has stuck to her Huge ape form for protection, but her stay in the form has further hampered her thinking. Every passing day makes her more akin to a savage ape instead of the defender of her tribe she once was. She starts fights by flying into a rage and invoking the spirit of the Ape for protection. Then she rushes into melee. Her full attacks are devastating, and if a single foe is causing a lot of trouble, she can easily overpower them through grappling. The kind thing to do would be to try and reach out to her, but if this proves impossible, she won't stop fighting before she is dead.


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