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Shapeshifter Baggage

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"Oh my god! Someone's abandoned a pile of three hundred babies!"

"The description for the hammerfist's power says that he focuses hundreds of pounds of biomass into his arms to turn them into wrecking balls. Hundreds of pounds of mass from where? From 'fuck you, I'm gonna smash a tank into pancakes with my bare hands now', that's where!"
Something Awful poster McSpanky on [PROTOTYPE]

Whenever shapeshifters are depicted with the context of magic they have the ability to assume any form regardless of the mass difference between themselves and the new form. Usually, no attempt beyond maybe A Wizard Did It is made to explain how the shapeshifter disposes of excess mass or acquires needed mass.

But if given a scientific basis, this apparent violation of one of physics' most basic principles is sometimes given a rudimentary form of explanation.

If the issue is brought up at all, it's only to avert the trope by pointedly illustrating that its shifters cannot change mass and/or size. Or they may Hand Wave the issue with some quasi-scientific Applied Phlebotinum, e.g., 'Pym Particles' in the Marvel Universe. It's also possible that the character draws mass from an extra-dimensional source, or sends mass there when they get small (if any explanation is given to magical shapeshifters, it's usually this).

This can also apply to characters with a Healing Factor, as many of them appear to be able to regenerate biomass from thin air. Tropes that avert using Shapeshifter Baggage are Pulling Themselves Together, Appendage Assimilation and Kibbles and Bits. Compare Elemental Baggage and see Required Secondary Powers.

Sometimes explained by increasing or decreasing the density of mass, making the shifter smaller or larger by changing the spacing of the particles/darkmatter/etc. that makes up their body. Sometimes it is done by consuming mass like food/drink/flesh/etc. then expelling it later to change size, shape, or mass. One particular way to achieve this is through a Physical Attribute Swap or a Transferred Transformation; after all, the process you use to take the alternate form from another person could just as easily be used to take extra mass from that person as well.

Similar tropes applying to inanimate objects include Hollywood Density and Impossibly-Compact Folding.


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    Comic Books 
  • Plastic Man: Although it is explicitly stated that Plastic Man cannot change his amount of mass, he at one point shape-shifts to the size of a building, while apparently remaining dense enough to fight a similarly-sized Martian Manhunter and smash through concrete.
  • The Incredible Hulk:
    • The Ang Lee film made some attempt to justify it, basing Bruce Banner's initial transformation on real animals that appear to "Hulk Out" (i.e. get bigger) when they are scared or angry. Ok, cool. Then it turns out that the Hulk grows even bigger when he gets even angrier… In that film, at least, the Hulk transformation is a healing factor based on real life animals that hulk-out (bullfrogs, for one). Using a combination of nanobots and energy from gamma radiation, a reaction kicks off that continuously repairs tissue in response to trauma. Most of the time, this causes the subject to explode, since the tissue creation never stops. However, Bruce Banner was experimented on as a child by his father for a project in adaptive genetics. As a result, Bruce could cope with the extreme healing factor and regulate it based off his mental trauma (as animals do) instead of physical. The transformation then buffs muscle and skeletal tissue in a non-dangerous way. Since he has frighteningly intense anger issues, he becomes the Hulk.
    • The Other Wiki's article on the Hulk states that gamma rays, being the most powerful form of energy known, are so strong they can actually transform energy into physical mass, possibly explaining the increase in size. Now, as for where the mass goes when he transforms back, that's anyone's guess.
  • In the Marvel Universe, a common explanation for size increase/decreases/etc is that characters' added/excess mass is "shunted off into a pocket dimension."
    • Similarly, the censors are mollified by having uniforms made of "unstable molecules" for most shapeshifters, either heroic or villainous. The example springing most easily to mind is Rahne "Wolfsbane" Sinclair, of the original New Mutants class, whose skintight school uniform shifts into a collar when she turns into her wolfoid and wolf-forms. A collar that is so small that it doesn't even distort the fur around her neck, but is so comfortable that she has never, ever mentioned its existence. Rahne was frequently 'sartorially challenged' in the early comics she appeared in. Yet more than once changed from plain clothes to super uniform between panels.
    • Averted in the novelization of X2: X-Men United, where Mystique reflects that she's good enough that she makes it looks easy — even though it's not. If she wants to grow in size significantly, she has to gain mass; if she wants to shrink significantly, she has to lose mass; and she always has to keep in mind the position of her organs. Based on the comics (unless this changed recently); unlike other shapeshifters, Mystique can't change mass and has to keep a generally human form. It's even suggested that she can remain in her Raven Darkholme form indefinitely because there's no change in mass, while trying to keep the same mass in a larger form is a strain that keeps her from using such forms for long. Given her age and experience, however, that sort of 'strain' is a relative term. In her solo series of comics, she demonstrated an incredible creativity with the use of her powers despite the limits she had compared to most other shapeshifters. Among the feats she performs is flattening out to avoid taking damage by an explosion, assuming a monstrous form by sprouting a second face and pair of arms in order to quadruple wield (though she specifically mentions that doing so was very dangerous to her health, brain, and a massive strain to her powers), faking a glass vial being broken in her hand, faking the effects of a lethal virus, smuggling items in a "flesh pocket" in her stomach, and pointing out that since she mimics all her clothing too, she's technically naked all the time.
  • Great Lakes Avengers: Averted by Big Bertha. It's not explained where the extra mass comes from when going from supermodel Ashley Crawford into I-stop-traffic-the-hard-way Big Bertha. But after the heroics are done, she does have to expel the extra mass... by vomiting it back out. She doesn't like it any more than you do.
  • The alien Skrulls are explicitly described as being unable to alter their mass, and therefore having size restrictions on what they can imitate. Some writers forget this, as when a Skrull character became a flea to hide on someone's person (or in their very first appearance in Fantastic Four, when a Skrull poses as Sue Storm and mimics her ability to turn invisible by shrinking), or gained tremendous weight to crush someone. This is "explained" by the existence of mutant Skrulls with the powers to do things like their human counterparts.
  • Averted by The DCU's Martian Manhunter. In an issue of his solo series, he reveals that he can borrow mass from the Earth. He also dodges it in that, since he can make any part of himself intangible and invisible, he can hide any excess mass he's not using.
  • Micro-Might from PS238 averts this trope. When using her powers, she gets smaller, but not lighter; she gets denser instead, apparently using the Square-Cube Law (although in a comic book physics way) to get stronger and tougher. Mass Master of Power Pack also had this property, and may have been the inspiration for Micro-Might.
  • In the Supergirl storyline The Killers of Krypton, it is not explained how Empress Gandelo can grow to gigantic size, or where her extra mass goes when she goes back to her normal size.
  • In Ultimate Iron Man, Tony's Healing Factor lets him regrow his legs, but he has to become a Big Eater to get the necessary materials.
  • Spider-Man: Dr. Curt Connors regrows his arm whenever he becomes the Lizard. When this transformation happens gradually it can be handwaved; growing it back was, after all, the point of his research. But then there's Komodo, whose improved version of the Connors' formula lets her shift between forms at will. In human form, she hasn't got any legs, and it becomes a bit harder to rationalize someone losing and growing back their legs as a result of falling asleep on a plane for a few minutes.
  • Atom Smasher of the Justice Society of America received his powers from his radiation-affected grandfather, but he uses a surprising mechanism for growth. His bones and muscles literally break and regrow as they stretch, pointing to some sort of accelerated biological growth process.
  • New Mutants: Warlock seems to have no limit on how large he can transform (and change his mass to fit the size) instantly, but for some reason he doesn't really transform into anything smaller than he originally was.
  • The Transformers (Marvel) is explained in greater depth down the page in Animation, but the comics have the same issues with Megatron transforming into a gun and Soundwave and Blaster as cassette players, all about big enough to fit in their hands in robot mode. A more noticeable example is Broadside, a triple-changer with alt-modes as both an aircraft and an aircraft carrier.
    • Explanations have been given for the particularly grievous examples like the above mentioned case of Broadside, wherein he is made up of a large number of armored plates that decompress and fold out to recreate the large mass of an aircraft carrier.
  • Ms. Marvel (2014): Ms. Marvel's ability to shapeshift and change size is eventually explained as working by shunting her mass back and forth along her timestream to when she needs it.

    Comic Strips 
  • In What's New? with Phil and Dixie, the aversion is described as one of the potential problems with shapeshifting. The shapeshifter tries to disguise himself as a flower in a field of flowers... but he cannot change his mass, and so his flower rather stands out.

    Fan Works 
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Vulture's "Bushwacker" Quirk lets him turn his arm into an Arm Cannon, but requires him to use his body's own mass to create the components, making him more scraggly and fragile. He also doesn't come with built-in bullets and has to load them in manually.
  • Child of the Storm discuss this trope briefly, and since it's partly based on The Dresden Files, goes with that series' explanation for it: extra mass comes from the Nevernever in the form of ectoplasm, which collapses into inert, colourless goop that evaporates fairly quickly after it's discarded.
  • Lampshaded in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: as part of McGonagall's Magic Test, she demonstrates her Animagus abilities. Harry immediately flips the fuck out at this blatant violation of the laws of physics. (Note that everything after the line about conservation of energy is, scientifically speaking, gibberish.)
    You turned into a cat! A SMALL cat! You violated Conservation of Energy! That's not just an arbitrary rule; it's implied by the form of the quantum Hamiltonian! Rejecting it destroys unitarity and then you get FTL signaling!
  • Averted in One Winged Angel, Voldemort comments in passing that a Metamorphmagus who becomes taller would also be thinner and vice versa.
  • Abused to hell and back in White Knight, Grey Queen where Tonks not only repeatedly changes into forms ranging from a small child to a 400-lb. man during the Final Battle but does it within seconds. Plus she somehow mysteriously gains the skills and abilities of the more specialized forms, like when she morphs into an "Oriental gymnast" and can suddenly do fancy twirls and stuff.
  • Oskar Osäker: True Omnivore: Leads to a funny moment when Fluttershy cannot pick up Oskar (who looks like a mouse at the time) because he had just beennote  a sea-serpent minutes before.
  • Brought up in the Doctor Who/Teen Titans (2003) crossover "Equilibrium" when the Doctor openly questions how Beast Boy can become the size of a T-Rex in seconds, speculating that Beast Boy has access to a pocket universe to store the excess mass of his larger forms.
  • In The Bridge, when kaiju enter Equestria, they either shrink down or transform into native species. Rarity asks where the mass comes and goes, and Twilight Sparkle theorizes that the mass is converted to energy and back. If this didn't happen, the shrunken or transformed kaiju would be so heavy they would fall through the floor. The kaiju can briefly return to their true forms, but they require a massive influx of energy to convert to mass. Also, Mothra became a Changeling, and learns she can change form, but only to beings of similar size.
  • Much like in her boss fight in Metroid Prime 3, Gandrayda in Metroid: Kamen Rider Generations, after returning from the dead, can transform into villains that previous Kamen Riders fought, and most literally, Kamen Riders themselves. However, per Word of God, she cannot change into a certain Kamen Rider that can change into previous Riders before it.
  • Kitsune in Big Red use a gem that stores their extra mass as energy when they shapeshift; for both Naruto and the Kyuubi, they instead use seals tattooed all over their body to store said mass. Because Naruto's new body is a copy of the Kyuubi, when his human form is decapitated, he almost instantly grows a new head (after getting over the shock of decapitation) as the difference in his overall mass makes it equivalent to less than a paper cut.
  • Played with in For Love of Magic in regards to Tonks' metamorph powers. While her magic is used to fuel any changes to require extra mass, it does run out eventually. After making her breasts not only lactate, but do so with high pressure, Tonks only manages to squirt Harry with milk for a couple minutes before she runs dry and feels like she hasn't eaten all day.
  • Discussed in Coyote when Izuku points out that Momo's quirk cannot possibly work the way she thinks it does (transmuting fat cells into the objects she creates) because he'd seen her use it to create objects weighing in at at least a hundred kilograms, and if she'd lost a hundred kilograms of mass she'd be dead.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Turning Red, giant red panda forms seem to mass proportionate to their size. 90-pound Mei becomes a red panda that is the size and mass of a large bear. Her grandmother and aunties have red-panda forms that are the size and mass of an elephant or thereabouts, while her mother Ming's red-panda form is over a hundred feet tall and heavy enough to shatter the concrete floor of the SkyDome when she jumps down onto it, making her roughly the size and mass of a blue whale. The mass changes are easily justified by the fact that the red panda transformation is literally a gift from the gods, who can do whatever they like regardless of those pesky "laws" of physics.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • John Carpenter's The Thing is mostly fairly good with this, with The Thing usually seeming to obey conservation of mass. However, at the end the Blair Thing is able to turn into a quite large monster. In fairness, he is shown attacking another man first, and it's possible he consumed additional material since the transformation happened offscreen (another character who vanishes during the climax was supposed to have been assimilated as well, but the scene was cut to avoid Special Effect Failure).
  • Species starts out fairly well with this, with Sil having to eat huge amounts of food to maintain her bamboo-like growth rate. Then the realism level crashes and burns when she goes into her cocoon and comes out a mature woman who has to weigh about twice as much as the little girl that went in. There's an attempt to justify it by explaining her food consumption as "storing up calories for some big event" except if that was true she should have been visibly bloated from holding her own weight in food in her stomach, and she wasn't (at most, child Sil is slightly chubbier before the cocoon). The whole cocoon process was probably mostly just made up so Sil could go straight from asexual child to mature sexpot without a logical but family-unfriendly intermediate stage. They repeat this with her offspring, whose rapid growth rate is fueled by gobbling up sewer rats, but who then becomes visibly larger without any proportionate mass intake when he assumes his One-Winged Angel form.
  • There's a good reason why in most Spider-Man media, including Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Amazing Spider-Man Series, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spidey uses mechanical web-shooters. In the Spider-Man Trilogy, he has organic web-shooters, and no explanation is given as to how his body can produce and secrete so much organic matter without turning him into an extreme Big Eater.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • Wolverine's fast healing must take a hell of a lot of stamina/metabolism.
    • The guy from X-Men: The Last Stand who could shift body shape at will and re-grow arms (but not all his anatomy) within a fraction of a second.
    • The first two movies averted this with Mystique by having her only transforming into adults (or in one case, an adult-sized Statue of Liberty model). Then the third had her briefly becoming a child, and in X-Men: Days of Future Past, the small Bolivar Trask.
    • The guy who could grow bone-horns and throw them.
    • Multiple Man.
    • Where did Beast's fur go when he walked near Jimmy/Leech? (Days of Future Past gave kind of a Hand Wave by having younger Beast going from "regular human" to "blue cat person" through a serum, so Beast's fur could have retracted into his hand)
  • The Incredible Hulk: Where does all that sudden biomass come from? And where does it go? In the first Hulk movie (not the one with Norton), every time Banner is seen returning to human form, we see steam emanating from him and water dripping from every pore of his body, slicking his hair to his head and soaking the Magic Pants to him. The suggestion seems to be that the excess mass is created by rapid cell division and when he calms down, the cells are turned into steam/water and are shed thusly. It wouldn't be the strangest thing to happen in a Marvel movie, but cell division does not actually create mass.

    The Hulk's greater size, when compared to Bruce Banner, might be explained by him simply inflating himself like a pufferfish — i.e. he gets bigger, not heavier — except that when he's shown strapped to a table and deliberately induced to transform, the support strut for the table buckles under his extra weight.

    Incorporating nitrogen and oxygen from the air could add about a kg per cubic meter absorbed. Admittedly that would create a pretty intense draft toward the guy while he's growing and some really unfeasible chemistry, plus when shrinking back down he'd emit some pretty toxic fumes (nitrates and peroxides— not friendly) but given that he's literally part starfish in the Ang Lee movie, upgrading his biology to starfish alien makes a certain amount of sense on a casual viewing, at least.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids attempts to answer this question, but in fact just raises further questions with its explanation. Reducing empty space does not reduce mass, after all. One shudders to think what it must be like to weigh 120 pounds at a quarter of an inch tall.
  • No attempt is made to explain how the Big Bad of Guyver is able to turn from a middle-aged Corrupt Corporate Executive in a suit into a room-sized monster. Most other Zoanoids only become slightly larger than humans.
  • Serleena from Men in Black II initially arrives in a small spaceship in the form of a tiny plant with a tail. Upon seeing an appropriate human form, this organism quickly expands in size to copy an entire Victoria's Secret model. This model eventually expands to turn the entire MiB headquarters into a mass of tentacles.
  • Defied in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. John Connor asks the Arnie T-800 why the enemy T-1000 doesn't just turn into a handgun or a bomb to kill John, but the T-800 explains that the liquid metal terminator cannot alter its size, nor can it form complex machinery made up of many parts or use different chemicals. What it can do is form solid metal shapes, an ability it puts to good use throughout the film. In the novelization, it explains that when the T-1000 took the form of the fat security guard, it had to make its insides hollow to compensate for the greater size.
  • In the spoof film, Epic Movie, a parody of Mystique played by Carmen Electra drags the character Peter into a tent to have sex with him. After making out with him, she asks him what he wants her to shapeshift into. He at first asks for bigger boobs and a big booty. He then asks for a monobrow, "Big Flabby Grandma Arms", and "Bingo Wings, like a fat blue Britney Spears." She ends up changing into an entirely different, fatter actor. It's never explained how she can change size.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played with in Alphas. We never see the shapeshifter's real form, but it appears he doesn't have shapeshifter baggage, has to study the person extensively, and holding the transformations appear to be extremely painful. After all, what most people ignore in shapeshifters is that they're changing their entire bone structure, moving muscles in ways that are not meant to happen, and essentially violently overriding their entire genetic code.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Justified with the Doctor (and other Time Lords) as despite the obvious physical differences, none of the thirteen actors to date who've played the Doctor have varied much from normal human physical measurements. The mass varies by no more than a few percent at most, could easily be accounted for by changing the Doctor's density, and wouldn't be expected to have much of an effect on anything we see the Doctor doing onscreen. Or maybe the Doctor themself is Bigger on the Inside.
      • Humorously addressed in the cinema prologue to "Deep Breath". Strax, recounting the Doctor's incarnations, notes the rather obvious height difference between Six and Seven and wonders what happened to the rest of him.
    • "The Dæmons": The alien Azal creates vast amounts of heat whenever it changes size. Or cold. Presumably, heat is created when it loses mass by shrinking, and is absorbed when it gains mass by expanding. Though, the amount of heat generated by getting rid of enough mass for a 20 ft monster to turn microscopic would make quite a mess of your planet.
    • "The Lazarus Experiment": Professor Richard Lazarus exposes himself to a de-aging device which mutates him into a giant, life-force devouring monster. However, despite the radical change in size, it's stated that he hasn't actually gained any mass and thus his body is highly unstable.
    • The Zygons are able to shapeshift into, pretty much, anything and anyone. In "The Day of the Doctor", the Tenth Doctor suspects that Queen Elizabeth is one, despite the fact that they look fairly large. A few scenes later, one does turn into a copy of the Queen. The Doctor even suspects a harmless bunny of being a Zygon. The real Queen later kills the Zygon!Queen with a small dagger, pointing out that, at the time, the creature was as much a frail woman as her. The clothing bit is mentioned too by a different character.
      • The novelization explains that it can't turn into a small animal like a rabbit but can turn into a group of rabbits linked by a Hive Mind that can't go far from each other. Also they're able to use hologram shells to imitate clothes but not functioning objects like Osgood's inhaler.
    • The Doctor states in "Flatline" that, if the TARDIS lands with its full mass projected in 3 dimensions, the Earth will shatter. In the same episode, something starts draining the TARDIS's dimensional energy, having it shrink into a small box several inches high. It also gets light enough that Clara is able to pick it up and carry it in her handbag. From the Doctor's point of view, the entrance out of the TARDIS has shrunk. Handwaved by the TARDIS being an extra-dimensional Eldritch Abomination that regularly ignores the laws of physics.
  • At first Heroes kept it fairly reasonable. The series' first "shapeshifter" was really a Master of Illusion. In the fourth volume they introduce a genuine shapeshifter, whom power thief Sylar promptly snacks on. At first, Sylar only used his shapeshifting power to shapeshift into people of roughly the same size and weight as him (and also still wore the same clothes before and after shifting). However, after a few episodes, Sylar is able to shapeshift his clothes, and also turns into a kid.
  • In H₂O: Just Add Water and Mako Mermaids: An H₂O Adventure, mermaids and mermen have tails noticeably bigger than the legs they replace. The Doylist reason for this being the actors of the show are putting the tails on over their legs.
  • In From the Cold: Jenny can “body morph” somehow into the shape of an older man who's much heftier than herself.
  • On No Ordinary Family they don't even try to explain how Victoria can shapeshift into perfect duplicates of other characters, including their clothes.
  • Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is described as "heavier than he looks" (while in human form), which would make sense if he spent most of his time getting bigger instead of smaller. Apparently he can be heavier than an average human and still manage to turn into a bird and fly around (remember, "heavier than he looks"), or be carried around by Rom easily while in the shape of a glass.
    • A book of the series actually features Odo lamenting this when he's in the form of a rat to squeeze through some ventilation ducts. He points out that, due to conservation of mass, he can't move as fast as real rat and if he's not careful will actually be heard crawling through the vents.
  • In Supernatural, shapeshifters are shown to shed their old skins whenever they take on a new form. This only covers half the issue, though.
  • True Blood:
    • Shapeshifters can change into large animals, like horses, to tiny insects, like common flies. There's no explanation whatsoever how a shifter's mass changes.
    • Werewolves turn into normal-sized wolves, which are smaller than most of the werewolves' human forms.

    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS gives a nod to this. Shapeshifting normally lets you gain or lose mass however you wish but the Mass Conservation limitation stops this and goes a bit further noting that 150lb mice and elephants shouldn't be allowed.
  • White Wolf's Werewolf: The Forsaken takes time out in a supplement to explain the deep mechanics of Uratha (werewolf) biology. Among the various points is the fact that Werewolves don't actually shift shapes... they swap shapes. Uratha meta-biology has all five of a Werewolf's forms existent at all times; one in the physical world, and four stored as spiritual energy templates in the Werewolf's aura. As a result, beings that can see Auras perceive Werewolf auras as being intensely bright and dense, with the light brightening or dimming based on the size of the physical form. That means the aura is brightest in Urhan (normal wolf) form, and dimmest in Gauru (Man Wolf Death machine).
    • Although, if you're paying attention to the aura while in the presence of an eight foot tall enraged evolutionary monstrosity honed for violence... one might question your priorities.
    • Entertainingly, this has actual mechanical effects on other aspects of the game. Since Vampires effectively eat souls and Magi can turn them into distilled energy for spells, Werewolf blood and flesh is an extra-potent tool for both creatures and one of the primary reasons your wolf-man sometimes ends up on the wrong end of the predator/prey relationship.
    • The Cheiron Group from Hunter: The Vigil has a "regenerative nodule" implant that can allow someone to temporarily gain regenerative abilities like those of a Werewolf. However, there's a catch: while Werewolves can regenerate biomass from "elsewhere," a human with a regenerative nodule has to fuel the regeneration with his own body. As a result, when using the implant to heal wounds, the human has to constantly consume large amounts of food or risk starving to death.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, the various Voluntary Shapeshifting and Forced Transformation spells and abilities ignore conservation of mass, as demonstrated by 125-ton dragons Humanshifting into standard-size humanoids. Some editions explain this as magic drawing energy and material from the Elemental Planes to fuel their effects.
    • Subverted with humanoid shapeshifters like Doppelgangers and their kin, Changelings from Eberron. While there are no strict rules about how big or small they can become, their flavor text notes that they can't become significantly larger or smaller than their base shape.
  • Averted and played straight with daemons in Warhammer 40,000. In one of the Ciaphas Cain novels, a ship servitor is possessed and becomes rapidly larger and gains a healing factor that renders it all but immune to damage. The aversion, however, is that Cain notes that it's actually pulling up parts of the deck as it walks: it's a techno-organic abomination to begin with, so it's just absorbing the bridge of the ship (and the crew) to add mass. Played straight in most other cases of possession: the host generally explodes into a pulsating mass of organs, then starts rapidly gaining mass from nowhere. Possibly justified by the nature of the Warp and daemons in general, as daemons can manifest without hosts (or with dead ones), but they tend to be much, much less stable than ones with a body to start building off.
    • And if worst comes to worst, they can just Handwave it by saying the daemons are borrowing mass from the Warp.
    • Averted in the short story "The Last Church". Uriah finds it odd that whenever his visitor Revelation sits, his chair creaks loudly under the strain despite Revelation's frame (tall, but not bulky) and simple clothes. Revelation is the Emperor of Mankind in disguise, and reveals himself to be superhumanly tall and wearing heavy gold armor note .
  • Disgustingly averted in the Splicers' Metamorph class: In order to change into a larger shape, the Splicer must consume twice the mass of the intended form in protein. This included translucent sacks that fill up to hold the extra meat. This then forms into a cocoon for the Metamorph to change inside of. To shift to a size down, the Metamorph simply uses the body as a cocoon, then the new form bursts out of the old body in a spray of blood and gore.
  • The default shapeshifting of the Lunar Exalted ignores conservation of mass, but is limited to a particular size range (essentially because of the mechanical advantages going outside that range gives). They can extend that range with various Charms/Knacks to take on bigger or smaller forms.
  • Æon notes that biokinetics acquire extra mass, when it's needed, by converting noetic energy (the energy that fuels Psychic Powers) into that mass. The exact nature of this energy-to-mass conversion is practically its own field of energy physics, but most are just glad that the process at least slightly obeys the laws of thermodynamics, unlike the powers used by Aberrants.

    • The Makuta are actually Energy Beings wearing shapeshifting armor, which has a mass limit. However, they can absorb other living creatures in order to make the suit of armor bigger. When not in use, they can store excess mass in a Pocket Dimension.
    • The Rahi Nui beast was originally a size shifter that grew when fed elemental energy, but the Toa realized that its mass stayed the same and it became less dense as it grew. They then exploited this fact; feeding it so much energy that it grew to the point that its molecules drifted apart and it became immaterial. It eventually recovered, but took a good millennia to do so and seems to have permanently lost its special powers including size-shifting in the process.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY:
    • Averted. When Ruby first meets Jaune, he shows off his sword and shield and says that the latter can collapse down into a scabbard when he gets tired of carrying it. Ruby points out that that shouldn't change how much it weighs, and Jaune sadly admits that she's right and it's just as heavy in either form.
    • On the other hand, Raven and Qrow can shapeshift from human form to corvid form despite their bird forms being far smaller than their human forms. This is why everyone who sees them shapeshift instantly recognizes it as real magic in a world where the vast majority of magic is long gone.

    Web Original 
  • Worried about and obsessed over in the Whateley Universe: ordinary Shifters can't violate Conservation of Mass, but the highest-level Shifters (who may not be using the same underlying principles) can. The researchers are still trying to figure out where the extra mass goes or comes from, but it seems to be inter-dimensional. As for clothes, the best Shifters shift their own, and have to learn how to do it right so people aren't pointing out that their 'dress' has pores and hairs showing.

    Real Life 
  • Plants gain mass via photosynthesis, which basically involves using sunlight to power a chemical conversion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into various carbohydrates and oxygen as a waste product. It could be concluded that the atmosphere itself is a plant's shapeshifter baggage, containing the majority of the biomass the plant will use to grow, be it a blade of grass or a 100-foot-tall redwood tree. (At least, combined with minerals dissolved in moisture in the soil and absorbed through the roots.)
    • Interestingly, this is true in reverse for animal life. One would think that someone who undergoes significant weight loss would have excreted most of that weight via the usual "waste disposal" methods, but it is actually mostly expelled via breathing - the CO2 expelled is denser than the O2 inhaled and over time this adds up to a lot more than urination/defecation.
  • Einstein's famous formula E = m * c^2 basically states that mass is a form of energy. (Granted, that's putting it rather simply, but still.) As energy can change form, it is perfectly possible to convert energy into mass or vice versa. Slam an electron and a positron together at sufficient speeds (that is, with enough kinetic energy), and you may well get a muon and antimuon, each of which is 200 times as heavy as an electron.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Shapeshifter Hammerspace


Shapeshifting Alien

Dale encounters an alien emerging from inside a spaceship that he thought was a Walnut. Upon meeting the alien, the alien becomes scared of Dale's reaction and attempts to shapeshift into various things to escape Dale. However, the alien is unable to escape Dale and turns into a Giant Dragon to scare Dale.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShapeshifterBaggage

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