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Trunk-only: This article pertains to a feature of Crawl which is being tested. It will likely change before the next release, and may even be removed entirely.

For the monster, see shapeshifter (monster).

Shapeshifters use talismans to shift their body into different forms, granting them uncanny power but making them unable to use some items. They enter the dungeon with a beast talisman and a potion of lignification.

Shapeshifters are wanderers who specialise in Shapeshifting, using talismans to shift their form. They are best described as kung-fu mad scientists.

Preferred Species

Merfolk, Draconian, Troll, Demonspawn, Demigod, and Meteoran are the recommended species if you pick a Shapeshifter Background.

Racial restrictions

Ghouls and Mummies are forbidden from becoming Shapeshifters, as they cannot use talismans to transform themselves.

Starting Equipment

Some species may receive different items based on their unique restrictions.

Shapeshifters start the game in Beast Form.

Starting Skills and Stats

These are adjusted by your species' aptitudes.

Choosing Shapeshifter adds 6 to your starting Strength, 2 to your starting Intelligence, and 4 to your starting Dexterity.


Beast Form does not give a special boost to Unarmed Combat; it boosts all melee damage. If you find a great weapon in the early Dungeon, don't be afraid to use it. Note that other talisman forms, such as the flux talisman, do boost your unarmed damage, however.


Shapeshifters have more complex skill decisions than most weapon starts. What you find on D:1 - D:2 can influence the best thing to train to increase early game survival.

  • At 3 Unarmed skill, your fists will be stronger than any plain short swords or spears on the ground. However, weapons with a brand - such as short swords and whips of venom or electrocution, are better than your unbranded fists.
  • When in Beast Form, each level in Unarmed Combat gives more benefit than Shapeshifting. Shapeshifting, in turn, gives more benefit than weapon skills. Players without a great weapon will likely want to train UC for a bit, to make combat easier.
    • The first few levels of a skill are cheap. For Humans, going from 3 -> 4 Shapeshifting would take the same XP as 0 -> 3 weapon skill.
    • If you decide to abandon Shapeshifting entirely, then a weapon skill has better long-term prospects. E.g. a weapon-wielder can find great a +2 cloak, which beast/flux form prevents you from wearing, and decide to abandon Shapeshifting completely.

Depending on what you find and what you've trained, you may want to upgrade to a different form, stay in Beast Form, or use formless Unarmed Combat.


  • Shapeshifters will be introduced in 0.31, replacing the Transmuter background.