The Shapeshifter has rather a lot in common with Frank Miller’s version of Batman. Both of them have survivor’s guilt. Batman feels guilty that his parents died and he lived, and the Shapeshifter feels guilty that alone out of all the people under his care he survived. Both take out their aggression on those they feel are responsible, and both want desperately to let themselves cross the line and become as bad as what they hate. But neither one does.
Download 5e XML character compatible with Fantasy Grounds: Jushur Bel, 3rd level Paladin of Thor, Oath of Vengeance, great weapon fighter.
Homerule: As changelings do not exist yet as an official 5e race, my version gives Jushur the ability to use disguise self at will. However, he cannot change his clothes. On the plus side, this is an actual transformation not an illusion, so touch cannot reveal it as faked. Jushur can easily create new identities, but to impersonate another person requires competing his deception vs anyone who knows them’s insight. Jushur begins with two additional languages that must share a common script.
Ideals: Responsibility. I respect those above me, and those below MUST respect me.
Bond: Nothing is more important than the other members of my Order. My word and my duty to them are sacred.
Flaw: I too often hear veiled insults and threats in every word, and I’m quick to anger.
Jushur Bel grew up in the fortress city of Akkad, supposedly descended of a long-line of warriors, but in truth a changeling whose family had only recently come to town. Jushur and his mother both were of the tradition of changelings that mastered one form rather than constantly adopting different forms, and he came to consider his human disguise more himself than his own natural form. It was important to Jushur to ensure that his true feelings were hidden below the surface of his human disguise, known as Alalngar.
Jushur was taller and stronger than any other changeling in his family, and particularly enjoyed the brute physical might of the martial arts taught by the Father of Storms. He also enjoyed how Thor was generally hostile to shapeshifters but blood-brother to the god of shapeshifters. And how he went from laughing and friendly to angry and bellowing. Thor seemed something like a changeling himself in that way. So Jushur followed around the local knights, Order of the Stormlords, and tried to learn everything about them. But as Alalngar he took what he learned and used it to appear to be a follower of Halav the patron of weaponmakers and warriors, and patron of the oldest knightly order in Akkad.
His father, however, thought Alalngar was too soft and too small to be a good knight, and tried to discourage him. He even went so far as to have a knight tell Alalngar all about how hard it is to join the order and all of the trials. This did convince Alalngar, but it backfired on Jushur who had become even more determined to prove his combat skills.
Rather than going through any of the usual knightly orders or churches, Jushur went out into the hills away from Akkad and invented his own ritual to honor Thor. That night during a massive storm he performed it, was blasted by lightning and awoke unharmed (but very sore) in the morning. He soon displayed the ability to call on strength, healing, magical light, and more, he had become a paladin of Thor. A few weeks later the Castellan of Akkad observed Alalngar displaying the powers of a paladin, and assuming they were granted by Halav invited him to become a squire to Akkad’s Champion because of how rare paladins are.
Everything was going great for the first few years, Alalngar was successful as a knight and learned to use all manner of weapons. He found that he had a knack for motivating people, sometimes by befriending them, sometimes by frightening them, and it was a rare day indeed that he couldn’t get what he wanted. As the second to Akkad’s Champion, he had access to great wealth and nearly anything he wanted. Enough to build himself a secret shrine to his true deity Thor.
After years of peace a tribe of Hunters started a campaign against Akkad’s outlying villages. The Champion and Alalngar spent months gathering troops, leading raids, reinforcing villages, and generally holding the line against a very deadly and cunning force. A priestess identified the location of their base and named a time when they would be out raiding. The Champion took two knights and a band of men-at-arms to hit the shrine, while Alalngar held the village that the priestess said would be the next raid target.
Jushur awoke to see the whole village in flames, with no surviving people. There was a Hunter champion lying next to him, with his head caved in apparently by Jushur while wielding a blacksmith’s hammer. His greatsword lay shattered nearby. He looked down at his hands and didn’t recognize them. He was not in his natural changeling body, nor in his Alalngar disguise.
As he stood confused, a detachment of Knights from Kish rode up on the ruined village. They had come to relieve Akkad which was under siege and followed the smoke assuming someone might need aid. These knights were of the order of the Stormlord and they looked upon a battlefied where it appeared that a villager loyal to Thor had slain the Hunter Champion in defense of his village and was the only survivor. Jushur was too confused and disoriented to challenge their version of events, but he did mention his master was still missing. Scouts rode out and found his group, all slain apparently by ambush. The commander of the knights didn’t want to leave Jushur alone in the ruins so brought him with the contingent to Akkad.
They arrived to find the city assailed by a massive force of Hunters. The Knights didn’t hesitate, they called on Thor, summoned a booming thunder, and charged. Jushur rode with them but being untrained for mounted combat dismounted and fought on foot after connecting. Jushur went into a berserker rage, lashing about with no concern for his own safety. The Hunters took heavy losses and dissolved away in all directions. After the battle the Knight Commander said that the rage was a blessing from Thor who was known to be a berserk himself. They offered Jushur a place in their order, which he accepted and rode back to Kish with them.
In Kish he started changing every night, never wearing the same face twice. But no matter who he turned into, he couldn’t long conceal his anger. Whereas before he enjoyed his strength and power and used to show off cheerfully, he had become something of a bully. He was always angry and picking fights and saw insults in everything other people said.
After being disciplined by the Knight Commander for ending a bar fight by crippling both of the combatants, he was sent to cool off at a shrine away from town via a week-long vow of silence and meditation. Jushur remembered his childhood ritual and tried to perform it again, but his anger kept him from connecting to his devotion. And he could not force himself into his natural form no matter how he tried. When Jushur returned no better off, the Knight Commander realized what was going on was survivor’s guilt. He dispatched Jushur to Kentarre and assigned him as Castellan to a very important but hard to fill post: the only horse ranch owned by the Stormlords.
The Knight Commander hoped that caring for the horses and bringing new foals into the world over and over would open him to the understanding that life goes on. Also, the local reeve was a completely corrupt and selfish man would would challenge Jushur’s control over his anger. The Stormlords suspected that the Reeve may have had the previous Castellan murdered, but could never prove it.
Jushur found the ranch nothing like he expected. It was a small hillfort surrounded by the most wild and overgrown forest he had ever seen. Instead of a cleric of Thor, the local shrine was tended by one of Ordana’s druids. From him Jushur learned that in the Dawn War when the gods and primordials fought Thor and Ixion established their now famous alliance specifically to battle the most powerful of all primordials, Terra, the mother of creation. When they fought her they realized that killing her would endanger all life throughout the whole multiverse, so as they fought, they had a ritual performed that channeled her power into Ordana the primordial who created trees but one who was an ally of the gods. Thus when Terra died life continued and Ordanna’s druids maintained shrines near many strongholds of Sun and Storm as a way to repay the gods for granting her dominion over all living things. The druid, Deucalion, instantly recognized Jushur for a changeling, but said nothing and didn’t reveal it.
Instead, he guided Jushur into the knowledge of several rituals including one that he claimed was to allow Jushur to transform but in fact did nothing. Jushur took the hint and changed using his own powers. Deucalion realized that Jushur couldn’t talk about things that he cannot transform into, such as his childhood and his Alalngar body, or even his own natural body. Deucalion works with Jushur to master his shapeshifting, using druidic magic to help him explore changes beyond what a changeling can do naturally, such as becoming an animal or a plant. Learning their true natures by being them in the hopes of guiding Jushur into remembering his own nature.
As much as he enjoyed the druid and mastering transformation, he and the reeve got along exactly as the Knight Commander expected: they hated each other instantly but feigned politeness. Jushur found that around the reeve his temptation to transform was too great, and feared being discovered. Also, being around the other Stormlords at the keep reminded him of the burned village. So he started to spend time in town instead of at the ranch.
In town he quickly found a bar where he could set up a number of identities and bribe the bar keep into providing aliases whenever needed. Thus he indulged his new addiction to many forms and ability to wear a new face every day. Being drunk made it hard for him to maintain a single form, so he had to stop drinking and paid more bribes to the bar tender to cover for him when he was drinking with companions. But every time he returns, he has to either exit through the south gate and ride all the way around the city, or take the Stormgate right past all the Stormlords following the shortest path.
One day while wearing the face of a cleric, pretending to be very drunk and bitter about everything, the bar owner talked to Jushur about rituals and storms and revenge. There had been Hunter attacks in northern Kentarre province, and Jushur wanted to ride out and fight them, but was not given permission to leave his keep. The bar tender shared with Jushur a ritual scroll that was very similar to his old ritual, it called on the wild powers of the world to batter the caster’s enemies with storms. The bar tender wondered if the cleric could change the ritual to make himself the center of the storm. Jushur bought teh scroll and returned to his keep. Deep in his forest he tried, calling on Thor to make him an instrument of vengeance. He was battered by lightning, which also smote a nearby great oak shattering it into flinders. Afterward, it tok him a week to recover fully, but he could feel that his powers had changed. No longer was he a protector, he was a destroyer. He wielded thunder and lightning as weapons, not warnings. So he had his men cut down a branch of the charred oak and fashion two hammers for him out of it. His warhammer and his maul. When he finally returned to town, even though he wore a different face, he could tell by the bar owner’s smirk, that he knew the ritual had worked.