Skinwalker
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Basic Information

A skin walker is a creature from Amerindian legend that combines aspects of the lycanthrope and the witch.

Traditionally the skin walker studies the darkest aspects of his culture's magic (most, but not all skinwalkers being male) and specialises in transforming into the forms of all kinds of animals. To become a skin-walker the aspirant must also bury his humanity by repeated acts of depravity - including incest, necrophilia and the murder of close relatives (acts which have obvious possibilities for "double dipping"). In some ways the skin walker may be seen as the opposite of a medicine man.

Besides mastery of shape shifting, the skinwalker is also said to have powers of near perfect mimicry and the ability to read minds and to paralyze (or even possess) people by making eye contact with them. When transformed a skin walker is also supernaturally fast and strong, making them deadly in combat. Their portfolio also includes a significant range of curses and magical poisons - presumably as part of their background study. One of their more potent weapons is said to be a substance named corpse powder (in a refreshing lack of mystical euphemism) - an unpleasant substance popular amongst Amerindian black magicians.

Despite their skill in shape shifting, their animals forms are often seen to move in odd and unnatural ways (often a feature of spell casters transformed by magic). Other weaknesses may include dependence on a totemic animal skin of some kind (like the loup-garou werewolf) and their tendency to sicken and die if denounced by their full name whilst in animal form (another similarity to some European werewolf legends).

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Potentially a good villain for any game set in the Americas.
  • Presumably the combination of shamanistic origins and repeated mutilation of the prospect's own soul implies that the skinwalker may be merging their soul with a possessing spirit or demon. Not a pleasant thought for those that understand such things.
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