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Version 0.31: This article is up to date for the latest stable release of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.

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 physical form.

Preferred Species

Naga, Merfolk, Draconian, Troll, Demonspawn, and Demigod 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 and ranged damage, affecting even stones and darts you throw. If you find a great weapon in the early Dungeon, don't be afraid to use it. Note, however, that Flux Form forces you into Unarmed Combat, and other talismans do boost Unarmed damage.


In the very early game, 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 strong 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, and lets you advance to Flux Form.
    • If you don't find a better weapon on D:1, you'll want to train UC for a bit (not training Shapeshifting at all), to make combat easier.
    • Note that the first few levels of any skill are cheap. For Humans, going from 3 -> 4 Shapeshifting would take the same XP as 0 -> 3 weapon skill. So once a skill becomes a lot more expensive than the others, you can train another useful skill.
    • If you decide to abandon Shapeshifting entirely, then a weapon skill has better long-term prospects. E.g. a weapon-wielder can find a great +2 cloak, which Beast Form prevents you from wearing, and decide to never use a form again.

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


  • Shapeshifters was introduced in 0.31, replacing the Transmuter background.
Warriors FighterGladiatorMonkHunterBrigand
Zealots BerserkerChaos KnightCinder Acolyte
Warrior-mages WarperHexslingerEnchanterReaver
Mages Hedge WizardConjurerSummonerNecromancerFire ElementalistIce ElementalistAir ElementalistEarth ElementalistAlchemist
Adventurers ArtificerShapeshifterWandererDelver