Shapeshifting and transformation are the ability to completely change one's body from one form to another, usually by magic or Applied Phlebotinum
. Common in Speculative Fiction
, and folklore and myths are replete with tales of princes transformed into frogs, gods turning themselves into animals, and so on. Several of these tropes are Older Than Feudalism
There are a wide
variety of ways that this can occur, but thematically it can be sorted into two broad classes:
- Shapeshifting: A character can transform their own body as a special power or ability. Obviously enough, they are called shapeshifters, and often ply their powers for fun and profit (whether good or evil), or simply to trick or play practical jokes on normal folks.
- Transformation: An otherwise non-shapeshifting character has a transformation cast upon them from an outside source (again, usually by magic or Applied Phlebotinum). This is typically Played for Drama; it may be part of a character's backstory, or even form the central conflict within the work. Curses are a popular source here, as it requires the character to go on a Quest to satisfy the Curse Escape Clause. A list of possible causes for transformations can be found here.
Tropes related to Shapeshifting as a power or ability
- Dual Age Modes - The ability to change between an "older" and "younger" form.
- Elemental Shapeshifter - Transforming oneself (in whole or part) into an elemental energy.
- Super Smoke - Transformation into a gaseous form like smoke, air, mist, etc.
- Growing Muscles Sequence - Bulking up as you transform.
- Henshin Hero - A character who gains superpowers by transforming.
- Humanshifting - The ability to only transform into humanoids.
- Involuntary Shapeshifter - If you can't control when/where your shapeshifting powers kick in.
- Kaleidoscope Hair / Kaleidoscope Eyes - Some forms, where you can change your hair/eye color repeatedly.
- Limb-Sensation Fascination
- Long Neck
- Magic Pants - What happens to all your clothing when you transform (or more importantly, transform back) ?
- Morphic Resonance - When a shapeshifter's forms all have some common feature that the audience can identify them by.
- Multiform Balance
- My Instincts Are Showing - Behavior is frequently influenced by another form's instincts, during or after the morph.
- Narrative Shapeshifting - A silent character recounts a story by playing shapeshifting charades.
- Our Werebeasts Are Different
- Rubber Man - He can stretch and flex himself into almost any needed shape.
- Sexier Alter Ego - Transform into a more attractive or otherwise sexually appealing form.
- Shapeshifter Baggage - Some forms are smaller/larger or lighter/heavier than others.
- Shapeshifter Mashup - When attempting to mix-and-match multiple forms goes horribly wrong.
- Shapeshifter Mode Lock - A Phlebotinum Breakdown that leaves a shapeshifter Brought Down to Normal and trapped in one form.
- Shapeshifter Showdown - Shapeshifter vs. shapeshifter! Awesomeness ensues.
- Shapeshifting Seducer - Shapeshifter trying to get in your bed? It'll just turn into the most desirable person you've ever seen.
- Shapeshifting Squick - Shapeshifters must have a very interesting love life...
- Sizeshifter - The ability to alter one's size, rather than shape.
- Skin Walker - A supernatural skin-thief of Native American legends, but isn't always a bad type as some Skin Walkers are empowered by good spirits instead of Ritual Magic.
- Slow Transformation - The change happens gradually.
- Swiss Army Hero - Shapeshifting where each form has some kind of exclusive ability. A popular manifestation for Video Games.
- Totally Not a Werewolf - A shapeshifter becomes mistaken for whatever creature or monster they appear as.
- Transformation Is a Free Action
- Transformation Sequence - Activating one's superpowers may also induce a physical transformation. May become Stock Footage in serial works.
- Transforming Mecha: Shapeshifting for robots!
- Tricking the Shapeshifter - If you can't defeat a shapeshifter in one of his forms, convince him to transform into something you can.
- Voice Changeling - The ability to imitate anyone's voice, rather than their shape.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting - The "standard" shapeshifter package.
- You Sexy Beast - For cases where a less human form is considered more attractive.
Tropes related to transformations as an event
Other shapeshifting tropes