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I am looking at building a character with monstrous hit die and at least one level adjustment. This character focuses heavily on natural weapon attacks and I would like to include the Warshaper class (from Complete Warrior, page 89) in the build. However, in the description for the class it states: “The class features function only when the warshaper is in a form other than her own.” How can I make use of the class features by taking a form that is “other than [my] own” but still has the benefits of my base form? Classes that grant wild shape such as the Bear Warrior, Druid, and 3.0 Shapeshifter are not sufficient because I want to keep my own natural weapons, natural and manufactured armor, and ability score modifiers.

Lycanthropy does appear to be a valid option that would use my race as the base when creating an alternate form, but at the minimum it would add another HD and LA, which I would like to avoid. The specific character is a non-psionic Thri-Kreen (2 racial HD and a +1 LA) with the Feral template (+1 LA). Given his four “dead” levels, -6 to Intelligence, and -4 Charisma magical options are limited for this character. However, class levels, feats, allegiances, magic items, etc. are all on the table.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The Were Glade from the Planar Handbook is also something I am looking at. However, even if I spent 48,000gp on two lesser amulets of the planes for reliable travel there and back, I feel like getting the Lycanthrope template and a Werewolf hybrid form for 9-hours a day should probably cost more than the one feat spent on planar touchstone. \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin May 9 at 0:24
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Changeling

Changeling from Eberron Campaign Setting is ideal here: you get minor change shape at will, which is very nice with warshaper class features, and its changes are purely cosmetic and therefore your alternate forms have all the features of your regular form. Changelings are an LA +0 playable race, though obviously you can’t be a changeling if you are also a thri-kreen.

Egoist Psion

You can also get the same at-will minor change shape as an egoist psion, instead of your 1st-level bonus feat. That option is presented in this Mind’s Eye article. I’m currently playing a psion warshaper doing exactly this. The −6 Intelligence penalty does mean you will probably get nothing out of the psion’s powers, sadly, since you need 11 Intelligence to use them, which is basically not going to happen with a −6 penalty. Still, for one level, to get at-will access to warshaper features, it may still be worth it.

Now, there is a discrepancy between the two we need to address: changelings have the shapechanger subtype, which is defined as follows:

A shapechanger has the supernatural ability to assume one or more alternate forms. Many magical effects allow some kind of shape shifting, and not every creature that can change shape has the shapechanger subtype.

The shapechanger subtype is one of the listed ways to qualify for warshaper, which specifies

Special: Must be able to change shape in one of the following five ways:

  • Change shape supernatural ability (aranea, hound archon, barghest, doppelganger, rakshasa, slaad).
  • Shapechanger subtype (lycanthropes, phasm).
  • Polymorph as a spell-like ability (astral deva, planetar, solar, couatl, marilith, bronze dragon, gold dragon, silver dragon, efreeti, leonal guardinal, night hag, ogre mage, pixie).
  • Able to cast the polymorph spell.
  • Wild shape or similar class feature (bear warrior, druid).

The alternate form ability (possesed by quasits, vampires, and others) is insufficient to become a warshaper.

As you can see, this is a rather specific list—and minor change shape isn’t on it, and is not the same as the change shape ability of a doppelganger or others. So while changeling definitely qualifies, due to the shapechanger subtype, it’s not clear if an egoist—who has minor change shape but nothing says is a shapechanger—does.

Then again, warshaper was published in Complete Warrior, long before Eberron Campaign Setting and changelings ever existed, and thus before the Mind’s Eye article gave minor change shape to egoists. Therefore, we can’t read too much into the omission of minor change shape from the list—it didn’t exist to be listed in the first place. We can’t read that as an intentional choice to exclude it. And minor change shape is much more like change shape than it is like alternate form. A creature with one or more alternate forms always turns into the same form—you can learn to recognize a vampire in wolf form, because they always turn into the same wolf. A druid can wild shape into any wolf they please. A changeling—or egoist—can take on the form of any individual with the same body type. For my money, that’s a good reason to consider minor change shape as sufficient to qualify for warshaper.

We can also consider this from another angle—the egoist option for minor change shape was published in a Mind’s Eye article. The Mind’s Eye articles are done to a pretty significant degree of polish, among Wizards’ web articles, but it’s still less than that of a full book. That article credits Dark Psion and Mark A. Jindra—just two people. Eberron Campaign Setting had three game designers, three game developers, three editors, and a manager for each of those teams, as well as a “Director of RPG R&D.” Clearly, Eberron Campaign Setting got a lot more care—it’s also a vastly bigger undertaking, but you see my point, there are a lot more eyes and a lot more time spent dotting i’s and crossing t’s. Which is to say, I think egoists with minor change shape should have the shapechanger subtype. Not every creature who can change forms gets that subtype, but changelings do—and the only reason they have it is because of their at-will minor change shape. Egoists with this option have the exact same ability, and so should also be shapechangers. And if an egoist has the shapechanger subtype, that absolutely qualifies for warshaper.

So either way, I think egoist should be an option for warshaper.

Aside: Insectile Creature

Depending on why exactly you’re interested in thri-kreen, you may want to consider Savage Species’s insectile creature template as a possible alternative.

Addendum: Pathfinder’s minor metamorphosis

Disclaimer up-front: I have worked freelance for Dreamscarred Press, whose work I am going to recommend, in the past. I did not work on the particular product I’m recommending, and have no financial interest in its success (also, all of it is OGL and available on d20pfsrd.com, so you don’t have to buy anything anyway).

I am playing an egoist warshaper in a campaign, and while my character was ruled to have the shapechanger subtype, and minor change shape was ruled sufficient for entry to warshaper anyway, it’s worth noting that one of the key things that my character relies on is also an excellent answer to this question—if you can use some third-party Pathfinder material.

Dreamscarred Press (which did some 3.5e material before switching to Pathfinder, and which has produced almost all of the psionic content for Pathfinder 1e) adds a 1st-level power to the egoist discipline list called minor metamorphosis. Unlike 3.5e metamorphosis and greater metamorphosis, the Pathfinder versions (as well as the new minor metamorphosis) don’t have the new form’s statistics replace your own, you just get some cosmetic changes as well has a few specific new forms of special attacks or abilities.

That makes minor metamorphosis a valid answer to this question, because you keep all of your abilities while using it. It’s also a strong ability for a warshaper to have. There is some question as to whether it’s a valid option for qualifying for warshaper, but metamorphosis is very close to simply being the psionic version of polymorph, listed in the options for warshaper. Thus, it is, I think, even more clearly a valid option than minor change shape.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the minor change shape effect enough to qualify for the class? The other examples the class lists seem to be equivalent to polymorph effects instead of disguise self effects. \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin May 10 at 2:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Benjamin Good point—changelings have the shapechanger subtype, which is an explicit avenue for entry to warshaper, but the egoist option for minor change shape doesn’t mention it. On the other hand, changelings have the shapechanger subtype because they have at-will minor change shape, that’s the ability that makes them a shapechanger. So you’ll have to discuss that with your DM, but I do not think it’s a stretch to say that an egoist should get the subtype as well. It’s more just smoothing over an oversight in the web article rules. I’ll update my answer accordingly though. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 10 at 13:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. Well if Egoist is on the table then scraping together enough int for 1st level powers would be a great choice anyway because Expansion is excellent for a natural attacker that's already getting +5 feet of reach (Warshaper level 3). However, if disguise self is sufficient for this, do you think the at-will Disguise Self effect from a Hat of Disguise (SRD) would work? Alternatively, what about the at-will Alter Self from a suit of Fleshshifter Armor (Book of Vile Darkness)? Assuming the FAQs-supported answer from here is supported: rpg.stackexchange.com/a/60121 \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin May 10 at 14:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Benjamin It’s very important that minor change shape is not disguise self; it’s like disguise self, with the very key exception that the effect is not illusory. It’s a transmutation, not an illusion. An illusion wouldn’t cut it for warshaper. (A magic item would, though—while the FAQ is the only place that explicitly says items can work, that’s just confirmation of the fact that prerequisites specify that you have to have a certain property without any restriction on how you have it.) Anyway, yes, expansion is certainly valuable, but it’s not a psion/wilder power. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 10 at 15:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Benjamin You could take 3 levels of psion to get 2nd-level powers and then take Expanded Knowledge for expansion, but that’s rather pricey. As is getting a 17 into Intelligence just for the sake of an 11 after penalties. You’d be better off taking a level each of egoist and psychic warrior at that point. My own egoist warshaper is using some Pathfinder material, including minor metamorphosis, which would both be an answer to this question, and a source of a size up. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 10 at 15:07
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Become a twisted lord

The the prestige class twisted lord (Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde 13—15) typically becomes available when a creature possesses at least 6 Hit Dice. At level 1 the class grants the extraordinary ability twisted form that, in part, says

[Y]ou gain the ability to adopt a twisted form by taking a move action to do so. Your face takes on a sinister, misshapen cast. Your limbs lengthen and bend, and your spine stoops. The symmetry of your body becomes a thing of the past.

While in your twisted form, you gain a +4 bonus on Bluff checks to feint in combat, a +4 bonus on Intimidate checks to demoralize an opponent, and a +4 bonus on Escape Artist checks. You take a −4 penalty on Diplomacy checks and other attempts to influence an NPC's attitude.

You can remain in your twisted form as long as you like. Many twisted lords find it more comfortable than the form they had before they partook of twistroot. (13)

As the twisted form ability doesn't mention natural attacks, the creature's natural attacks should remain unchanged when it's using the twisted form ability.

Keep in mind that the twisted form ability alone does not allow the creature to meet the change shape special requirement of the prestige class warshaper (Complete Warrior 89—91).

The least resource-intensive means of meeting that requirement is probably by gaining a use-limited ability to become a werewolf and the subtype shapechanger from the higher order ability of the Were Glade (Planar Handbook 164) plus the feat Planar Touchstone (Magic of Incarnum 207) et al.

Anyway, once the creature's a twisted lord/warshaper, the creature can use warshaper class features while using the twisted form ability. That is, the warshaper entry Class Features, in part, says, "The class features function only when the warshaper is in a form other than her own…" (90), and the twisted form ability should qualify: It is a form other than her own even if it's not itself a form that would meet the special requirement of the warshaper class.

The downside of the twisted lord class? Requirements include spending some some skill ranks (5 in Intimidate and a whopping 9 in Bluff), toting some setting-specific baggage (an allegiance to the Ebon Cabal), and the creature participating in a perfectly safe poison-chugging ritual supervised by assassins. Discuss with the DM house rules to change the twisted lord class's requirements in a non-Shattered Gates campaign. Also the rest of the class's features range from terrible to meh (barring shenanigans), so you may be looking for greener pastures after level 1 of twisted lord (or level 2 if you want some sneak attack).


Note: The prestige class twisted lord was the secret ingredient in the Iron Chef Optimisation Challenge in the Playground LXXXVI, available here. Certainly some inspiration can be found there. And, yes, that's an 86.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Twisted Lord looks like exactly the kind of option this build would need. Even taking it as a dead level without a point of BAB, if it lets me keep Warshaper online 24/7 then it's absolutely worth it. Bonus points for how well it thematically flows into Warshaper's horrifying tendencies. \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin May 10 at 2:44

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