How long does True Shapeshifting take in Dresden Files?

There are a bunch of powers labeled "Shapeshifting" in dresden files, and in general they are pretty easy to understand and use. It even mentions that, unless otherwise mentioned, shapeshifting is a supplemental action. (YS175) However, it mentions under true shapeshifting that a player (In this case, a changeling) can shapeshift into anything they want, including inanimate objects, but that it takes much longer, "usually several actions, maybe minutes." (YS177)

You'd have to know my players, but... One of them is thinking about trying to change into a space shuttle. Non-human magic doesn't cause hexing, so that isn't a problem. My question is, how long would that take and does he have to worry about fuel?

My guess would be

about a week and yes.

but I want to get a couple of other opinions.

• I'm glad i wasn't drinking anythign when I read this.... Why does a player want to change into a space shuttle? – DForck42 Jun 26 '12 at 16:07
• To keep a long story short... While dealing with some loup-garou, the party got a Cassandra's Tears riddle suggesting to go to "The source of their power." The party guessed that meant the moon (I meant something like the full moon garage) and their resultant idea was too much fun to inform them of their mistake. I'm running with it. – IgneusJotunn Jun 27 '12 at 1:24
• If they haven't made their proper research, also inform them that the shuttle isn't designed to go beyond low earth orbit. A trip to the moon would require a gargantuan fuel tank many times bigger than the one it is currently carrying. And once there, it has no means to land, and no means to start a trip back home. It's a fun endeavor though :D – edgerunner Jun 27 '12 at 7:34
• asi.org/adb/05/sts-to-the-moon.html – edgerunner Jun 27 '12 at 8:30

In terms of time, I would say weeks. Human to Vacuum cleaner, your "losing" mass, and transmuting chemicals, which takes minutes. So sizing up to something like a space shuttle, weeks is probably a minimum. I would also have your player making concentration checks, say every 4 hours. He can eat normally during the early stages, but after that, no he doesn't have to eat.

If he blows the concentration check, the result should be equal to the mass he's gained. The farther along the path he is, the more likely he's swimming through 2,030 TONS of ectoplasmic goo.

2,030 TONS. Oh my, oh my, oh my. What a huge amount of fun that could be. If you assume 6 weeks for the transformation, it's 338 tons by day 7. 48 tons per day on the six week schedule. Heck, for that much fun... start the difficulty low, and build. You really want the balloon to pop at 48 tons (1,920 CUBIC FEET, 13,440 GALLONS) or more....

Another entertaining option, is that the mass is coming in the form of ectoplasm from the NeverNever. I wonder what creepy crawly is going find the hole, and say "Hi!" that everyone is going to have to deal with.

Which brings me to the fuel question, he doesn't eat fuel. Vacuum cleaners don't eat dirt. They need to be plugged in. If he actually wants to lift off, he's going to need to generate the fuel as well.

Which brings to all the reasons why NASA uses gantry's to hold up the shuttle. It's one great big huge sail standing there in the wind.... which could bring a whole lot of hilarity on it's own.

Also, don't forget that as the shuttle takes size and shape, it's going to have to deal with some of the things the current shuttle does. I seem to remember nesting wood peckers and other bird issues. As in pecking holes in things and building nests.

Then, you have what happens when the engines light off. That's basically a controlled explosion going off. That could be entertaining to explain, because the cops, FBI, Secret Service, FAA and every other alphabet soup agency in the government is going to want to know. THAT's probably 10 or 15 different story arcs all by themselves. Being able to pull this off at the cape, or other authorized launch site... probably not possible. Even so, there's no way to keep the launch secret.

If the character is a shuttle engineer, maybe it'll actually fly. The parts are highly complex, and all have to work perfectly. Getting the plans and designs and know how to do this, would be interesting in and of itself. You can kind of fake your way through being a vacuum cleaner, but this is in a whole new galaxy of complexity compared to that.

Something else to think about, at 48 tons per day, that's 2 tons per hour. That's a veritable whirlpool of ectoplasm coming out of the NeverNever. What happens if something gets caught in that? Since NeverNever beings are ectoplasm, it would be reasonable to assume that whatever gets sucked into the vortex becomes a part of the shuttle.

Now, if that happens to be some sort of phobophage. Let's face it, the shuttle is a flying bomb, space is horrendously dangerous all of which will raise the level of fear, which would feed the phobophage of course. Power struggle for the flying ship of fear between the changeling and the phobophage? Sudden leaks in the ship? I can imagine so many ways to turn this into a wonderful campaign all by itself.

What if it's something a little more fire oriented? In a flying bomb? Or something with a vendetta against someone? Now they're fighting for control of the shuttle. Maybe a hunting party from one of the Faerie courts? Or a raiding party, and you get both sides?

• Above and beyond the call of duty for the "yes, but..." possibilities. A phobophage incorporated into a player's own shapeshifted body? That sir, is a deviousness I approve of. – IgneusJotunn Jun 27 '12 at 1:28
• Thank you. I appreciate that. I was having fun coming up with as many things that could go wrong as I could. – Jim Barrows Jun 27 '12 at 21:00

At certain points, the rules become less relevant, especially in a story-focused game. How long does it take? I'd answer with, "How long does the story require that it take?" It's along the same path as "Is shapeshifting into a shuttle relevant to the story?"

There's also a very important tool the GM can use in order to frame the responses to these questions- Aspects. Is there some sort of aspect that can be introduced to the scene or that the player has that might affect these answers? Compel them for the complication of time in the scene, or have the player invoke an aspect for effect to describe what he is doing in relation to the storyline.

The next thing to be concerned with is shown in a couple of quotes from YW174.

The True Shapeshifting ability (below, page 177) is rarely possible for a mortal mind to bear— the stress and strain placed on the sense of self inevitably leads to a psychotic break of some sort.

And a little further down the page...

Whatever the case, this is very much a case of (mental) function follows form— changing the body may well be the easiest part. What to do with the mind when this happens— that’s paramount, at least as far as mortal shapeshifters are concerned.

Such a vast change would seem to fit these parameters, though that's an exercise for you as GM and the player to work through.

Last, in terms of the need for gas, and, indeed, whether the shuttle can fly, that is not inherently conferred. You gain Skill Shuffle, but any other effects are bought using the Modular Abilities power (both on YW177). When the Shapeshifting power was purchased, the source of the power should have been discussed. Unless the power was originally determined to be technological in source, I'd say that the form shifted into, though it may appear to be a technological construct, is still based in whatever power sourced it (i.e. magic). so any abilities conferred in the case of magical based shapeshifting would be magical, and if they did indeed have the ability to purchase flight, it would be magical flight.

I haven't really known of anything in the Dresdenverse than can turn into a vehicle. So if Astro Train there can't hex himself to turn into one, you have to wonder if anyone else with the hex can fry the electronics while near/inside him. Also, you have to think about the rules on whether or not Astro still needs to breathe or take in nutrients other than fuel because at the core of it all he is a living thing.

Every time I have seen an actual shapeshifting power it turns into something with a discernible (if not almost identical) anatomy and the further from the core being it is, the longer it would take for the transformation.

So! Since this seems to ride such a specialized homebrew power set, the final say falls into your hands.

• "True Shapeshifting -4 You are able to shapeshift into a variety of human and non-human (usually animate) forms." Later on in the power description... "Multi-form: You may take on nearly any humanoid or beastly form as a supplemental action. Changing into something else- say, a tree, a vacuum cleaner, a water bed- takes a longer amount of time, usually several actions, or even minutes, depending on how different." Your Story, pg 177. – IgneusJotunn Jun 26 '12 at 3:01
• Then I stand by the points of how you want the nutrients themselves need to work for the being in question. Does he need to feel sated as his core form or whatever form he's in? Because it would be strange to change back and have a stomach full of rocket fuel because that's what was put in. Edit: If you go with a week, you may want to keep the ace up your sleeve to have some sort of ritual on hand to hasten the process – CatLord Jun 26 '12 at 3:36
• Given that the Alphas from the books have never seemed to have any difficulty digesting all the weird things they eat, I kind of assume it all works out fine. The fact that a vacuum cleaner is a legal target for this power means that electronics, complex moving parts, and really weird stuff in the 'stomach' do not present a problem. – IgneusJotunn Jun 26 '12 at 3:46
• The things the Alphas consume tend to be living, and electricity goes away once the source stops transmitting. But since you have a strong foundation for how you want your game to work (the most important thing of all), then it seems like you have your answer. – CatLord Jun 26 '12 at 3:52

Just say no. At some point, GMs need to actually limit the actions a player takes when they get too out of hand/too far afield.

• I've always found that thinking about the consequences of outlandish behavior, and then hitting them with the worst possible cases leads to tons of fun, and lessons :) – Jim Barrows Jun 27 '12 at 21:01