What are the best homebrew Shifter fixes out there?

Homebrew and House Rules

I'd love to play a lycanthrope-style character at some point and I want something I can pitch to my GM. Shifter fits best, but the class looks borked and my GM agrees (he's played it before). So... Is there a good replacement?

I'm looking for whatever homebrew he may be willing to accept that changes the Shifter and would be mostly compatible with the Weretouched archetype.

Would 3rd-party product recommendations be okay?

You could take a look at Legendary Shifts, which gets good reviews.

The adaptive shifter archetype fixes most problems.

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SorrySleeping wrote:
The adaptive shifter archetype fixes most problems.

Not even close. While the archetype was at least written by someone who actually understands class design (unlike the vanilla Shifter), with selectable class features (i.e. character shaping choices™, see below's inner spoiler), class features that prevent every combat from being the same, and the ability to actually do what the class advertises ("the shifter can take on the forms of nature and even fuse them together with devastating effect"), some fundamental problems remain. The chassis is still very bad, the delayed Wild Shape removes about the main upside the class had over Druid (pounce at 4th level), and it's still a dead class after a certain point, albeit four levels later (9th instead of 5th).

In practice, I see Weretouched Shifter as more of a fix than Adaptive Shifter. Don't get me wrong, Weretouched Shifter is dead after just four levels, but at least during those levels you get something not obtainable from any other class. There a bunch of multiclass options that work well with these four levels as groundwork, and the point of switching is actually early enough so that you can even produce a worthwhile multiclass concept with a casting class (my favourite is Jinyiwei Investigator with Quick Study).

For the precise topic, namely "lycanthrope-style character", those four levels in Weretouched Shifter give you everything you want, in a good combination of power and flavor. It doesn't do anything above and beyond that, but that can work very well flavor wise (the four Shifter levels represent the nature, the other class the choices, if you will).

In case anyone is interested, here is an in-depth analysis of the Shifter's design faults.

What's wrong with the Shifter?:

*takes a very deep breath*

There's a section in the ACG about designing classes. Some extracts and how Shifter breaks them:
"While the rules for a class can share some similarities with those of an existing class, each new class should have something that makes it unusual, giving it a means to interact with the game, and the game’s world, in a new and interesting way."
Every single Shifter class feature was copied from another class (mainly Druid, Hunter, and Monk), and it's supposed novelity of spell-less shapechanger was already done by Metamorph Alchemist and Beastkin Berserker Barbarian - the later even has the exact same "select one form each at 1st/5th/10th/15th/20th level" feature.

"Look for a way that the class can perform its role without coming in contact with the rules of another class. If the rules are too close, you might end up with a class that invalidates (or is invalidated by) an existing class’s mechanics in a way that makes it unappealing to play."
Shifter is completely overshadowed by Druid (plus the two above mentioned archetypes).

"There are a number of questions you should ask yourself.
• Does the class have a novel concept and rules niche?
Without a single new class feature in sight, it's no big surprise that the answer is "neither".

"As a general rule, (...) you want to avoid dead levels—acquiring new and improved abilities is part of the fun of leveling up!"
Half the levels only grant increases to small bonuses, and sometimes nothing at all, so plenty of dead levels.

The problem is not power level - Shifter is already doing relatively well when it comes to raw damage - but it's versatility. In short, what the Shifter is lacking is what I call Character Shaping Choices™.

Almost every Pathfinder class requires you to make character shaping choices. These choices not only dictate how varied multiple characters of the same class can be, it also effects versatility and power level. Fixed class features are generally mediocre (or bad), while selectable class features (including spells) have both good and bad options. This is a mandatory design principle to avoid having everyone with that class be super powerful (and have every character of that class look the same). As a result, you can make a Wizard good or bad by making good or bad character shaping choices, but you can't make a class good if there are no character shaping choices.

Such character shaping choices come in three forms:
1) Daily: Mostly spell preparation and the Medium's spirit.
2) On levelup: Spells known, rage powers, etc., doesn't have to be every level up
3) One time: Domains, bloodline etc., mostly done at first level

I don't count feats, skills, and equipment because it should be obvious that options that literally every class can take have to be relatively weak (otherwise almost every character would take them, cf. Leadership for what happens when this rule is broken). I also don't count choices that don't affect playstyle and only grant minor numeric bonuses, such as a Fighter's weapon training.
Archetypes are technically one time choices as well, if these are included depends on what we want to compare.

Naturally, the more choices you can make, the more you can (in general) shape your character. Also, the more often you can make choices, the more flexibility the character can have. Daily choices don't add power over on levelup choices, but they add a lot of flexibility.

The following classes are generally accepted to be the weakest ones in Pathfinder: Fighter, Brawler, Rogue, Cavalier, Samurai, Gunslinger, Swashbuckler, Monk.
Apart from the Rogue *, you'll notice that none of these classes have a daily or on levelup choice **. Cavalier and Samurai have a one time choice at first level, while the others don't get to make any character shaping choices at all. It's also noteworthy that there are no classes lacking daily or on-levelup choices that are generally considered good.

Now, choices don't automatically contain strong options (few rogue talents are better than feats), some fixed class features are fairly powerful as well (like rage), and there are options that offer choices to make on the fly, like wildshape or a Summoner's SLA (not character shaping by definition, but can be very powerful). But if you look at both power level and flexibility, there's almost no getting around having class features that allow character shaping choices fairly often.

*) Whoever thought that a pure martial with medium BAB, no accuracy increasing abilities, d8 HD, and the worst possible saves a PC class can have was a good idea?
**) Fighter got on levelup choices with AAT and AWT, while Monk got on levelup choices with UnMonk's Ki Powers and Style Strikes.

The Shifter get's to make one such choice every five levels, and quite frankly, it's just not enough. Since many aspects are very similar, after the second (combat form + flying form), you basically only get the minor form bonuses, and those aren't even remotely character shaping. The class description say the Shifter can "fuse [forms] together with devastating effect", so where is the class feature for that? A limited use Skill Focus is not helping me be devastating!

We already have "can turn into one type of creature all day long" with Druid and Metamorph (and Agathiel Vigilante), and "can turn into one of the few previously selected animals multiple times per day" with Beastkin Berserker.

On a side note, the oft heared 'solution' of "just give it Druid style wild shape" leads to a class that is a strict downgrade from Druid, i.e. a class that completely breaks the other class design guidelines quoted above.

It is possible to turn the Shifter into a powerful, flexible, and interesting to play (all for a martial, of course) class that abides by the "designing classes" guidelines even with keeping the current chassis (of pre-selected minor/major aspects). One of the biggest complaints about the Shifter is that it's basically a Druid focussed on Wild Shape, but then Wild Shape got nerfed, without gaining anything in return.
That means that if the choices for Wild Shape are limited for Shifter, the individual choices should be stronger, i.e. granting things not normally aviable to a wildshaping character.

Step 1: Make something cool and unigue out of every major form (like Wolverine's rage+powers).*** There's no reason to limit the major forms to what the Beast Shape spells grant.
Step 2: Make the minor forms worthwhile. Can mostly be done by granting a slightly limited form of the unique thing the major form grants.
Step 3: Grant some cool class feature that aren't copy pasted from the druid to increase versatility.****

***) Abilities could be something like Blindsense (short range for minor, larger range for major) for Bat, Pounce for Tiger's minor form, unique poisons (that are actually worth it) for Snake, and so on. Minor forms could also grant movement types.

****) Example: "At 12th level, the Shifter can turn into a major form not selected once per day. Staying in such a form expands one hour of wild shape as normal, after which the Shifter reverts back to her base form. At 17th level, she can use this ability twice per day."
One could specialize their Shifter according to their campaign, and the new ability can help out for that moment where you really need a burrow speed or something. Might even have a lower version for minor forms granted at 7th level.
There are a lot of levels that could use new class features once you stop counting crap like "+1 average damage to one of your attacks". Even the new Shifter's Fury explicitly made to fill dead levels is useless to multiple forms and builds.


For the precise topic, namely "lycanthrope-style character", those four levels in Weretouched Shifter give you everything you want, in a good combination of power and flavor. It doesn't do anything above and beyond that, but that can work very well flavor wise (the four Shifter levels represent the nature, the other class the choices, if you will).

That could be workable. It's different than devoting all my levels to a concept, but looking at it... You're right: 4 levels gives me pretty much everything I'd want flavor-wise and has a quick little bump in power.

Thanks for the suggestion.

SilvercatMoonpaw wrote:

Would 3rd-party product recommendations be okay?

You could take a look at Legendary Shifts, which gets good reviews.

I'll eyeball this, by the way. Thanks!

So, I'm eyeballing the Legendary Shifts book. My GM voted against using it, so I'll have to save that for a future campaign. In the mean time, 4 levels of Weretouched Shifter probably is my best bet.

Has anyone here used the Legendary Shifts material? Does it measure up well in Pathfinder?

Shadow Lodge

Bit late to the thread, but the Shifter from Drop Dead Studious, found HERE is probably one of, if not the best shapeshifting class.

Dragonborn3 wrote:
Bit late to the thread, but the Shifter from Drop Dead Studious, found HERE is probably one of, if not the best shapeshifting class.

Though it requires learning some new magic rules. The core Shifter is self-contained.

Shadow Lodge

Very little to learn though. And if asking for homebrew you're asking for new stuff you'd have to learn anyway, so...

The Genius Guide to the Talented Druid. It's still technically a Druid... but you don't technically have to take Spellcasting, either.

Take Claws, Bite, Vicious and Senses at 1st level instead of Spellcasting. Or put Senses off until Level 3 to get an Animal Companion. Druid has some crazy options if you're willing to give up a level... or nine... of spellcasting.

Combine it with Talented Monk. Martial Artist waives the asinine Lawful requirement and allows you to take Fighter feats with your Fighting Style weapons-- in this case, the Natural Weapons group. Unfettered Kata, Deadly Strikes, Insightful Strikes.

Mix and match to taste.

The Legendary Shifter Book is excellent, and what the shifter should have been from the start. Paizo clearly didn't understand why people enjoy playing shapechanger classes.

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