Known as wargs in Nordmaar, loup du noir in Agatea, and simply as "skinchangers" everywhere else, these practitioners of the old magic are closely related to the Woodstriders of the Borderlands. Like the Woodstriders, they have the power to change their form into a bestial shape - most frequently a great wolf, particularly amongst the wargs of the North. Although the source of this power is fundamentally the same as that of the Woodstriders, skinchangers are nonetheless very different in how they channel it.
The Woodstrider's way is a practiced and discipline one, closely tied with the Druidic faith. It preaches a constant balance between man and beast, and Woodstriders strive at all times to maintain constant control over their forms. The skinchanger, by contrast, is more bestial. They are mortals - almost always humans - who have learned to wear the pelt of a beast and take its shape at will, resulting in a deadly and dangerous opponent with the full cunning of humankind.
Like the Woodstrider, the experience threshold to level up for skinchangers is increased by 20%.
Each skinchanger has a pelt, which they use to change. When they don this pelt they transform, their weapons and equipment disappearing into their new shape. The creation and wearing of such a pelt is a kind of old magic, and one that can be learned - but only by those who have the right temperament. Besides a Wisdom of at least 13, one must have the kind of instinctive, primal personality required to subsume their own mind into that of a vicious beast.
If deprived of this pelt, a skinchanger is powerless - at least as much so as any normal human. A pelt permanently destroyed is a great loss, but it can be replaced with great difficulty. Doing so requires a dire wolf to be stalked - alone - and defeated in single combat. Its pelt must be perfectly skinned and worn at all times by the skinchanger, so that it becomes like a second skin. Each night, when night falls, he must go with his pelt into the wilderness and act as a wolf does - each time they will be less like a man wearing a pelt, and more like the wolf itself. When thirteen days have passed, the transformation will be complete and they are once again able to assume their true and natural form.
A skinchanger, once changed, is a deadly beast. They have the size (and temperament) of a dire wolf, with a bite that deals 2d6 points of damage, and several special abilities besides. While transformed, any wounds heal too quickly for normal weapons to harm them. Magical weapons can inflict permanent wounds, but they deal only half damage. Only silver or blessed weapons can deal full damage to a skinchanger transformed. Furthermore, the skinchanger is immune to being charmed and held, and receives a +4 bonus to any other saving throws against mind-affecting spells.
The skinchanger is a deadly opponent in battle, not least because they retain their full human intelligence. Amongst other things, means that they retain their normal HP and THAC0, if it is higher than that of a dire wolf. However, their human judgment is clouded by an intense bloodlust that can turn them against any creature they encounter, even innocents or friends. If the skinchanger is driven to attack someone or something it might not want to, the creature may roll a saving throw vs. spell to attempt to resist. There is a cumulative -1 penalty to the roll for each day that the skinchanger has not killed something; eventually, the creature must give in to its murderous urges.
Furthermore, the power of the skinchanger is seductive. While Woodstriders spend their lives struggling against what they call "Regression", skinchangers gladly embrace their bestial nature, and the desire to repeat their transformation whenever possible is immensely strong. A character resisting the urge to transform must roll a saving throw vs. spell with a cumulative -1 penalty for each day that has passed since the last transformation. Failure indicates an irresistible urge to change; if this saving throw is failed when the skinchanger's pelt is not available, they will "transform" of their own accord, raving and howling like a lunatic. This deals 1d6 points of sanity damage each night until they properly transform.
Unlike Woodstriders, a skinchanger has only a single form - and they have far less control over their transformations than a Woodstrider does. In exchange for this surrender of control, however, they can unlock the true lycanthropic power of a shape-changer. Because the skinchanger gives in to the primal allure of the beast-form, however, they are far closer to their murderous instincts than any except lycanthropes themselves. The most bestial and savage skinchangers are so far gone that, like werewolves, their bite has the potential to inflict lycanthropy on their victims. Like other lycanthropes, the chance is 1% per point of damage inflicted.