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Gelace’s Forms of Hiding: A Blast from the Past, 2011-08-02

Back in 2011 my blogging was exclusively about RPGs with a focus on the OSR. May of that year I had “the May Project”. The idea was for 30 days to use a small set of sources picked according to Jeff Rient’s “Alchemical Proposal” to create an RPG setting from scratch. I never finished it, but I think I did make a few very creative elements. This is one of my favorites. It might seem low level for its power, but the risks balance out. While written for older (pre-3x) editions, it should work for 3.x/Pathfinder and 5e without issue.

The third story in Sword and Sorceress VIII is Geese by Laurell K. Hamilton. Yes, it’s by that Laurell K. Hamilton. You would think with my love of Harry Dresden, Rachel Carson, and Mercy Thompson that Anita Blake and especially Merry Gentry would be regular reading for me but they aren’t. This is the first Hamilton I’ve read and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.

This is the first of two posts bringing elements from the story to the May Project Setting setting.

Perhaps I had been a goose for too long. Perhaps it was time to become human again, but the desire was hazy. I was no longer sure why I wanted to be human. I could not quite remember the reason I had hidden myself among the geese.

Quote from Geese, copyright Laurell K. Hamilton.

The protagonist of the story begins it changed into the form of a goose. She is at the edge of losing her human identity and fully becoming a goose when she is shocked out of the form by an attack on children. While contemplating as a goose at the beginning she mentions spending summers in the form giving it an apparently unlimited at will duration. Clearly, though, the longer one stays in the form the more likely one is to never return from it, a common idea in folklore and fantasy stories.

Gelace’s Forms of Hiding
Magic-User Level 4
Duration: Unlimited (but see below)
Range: Self

The caster to shifts into the form of a normal animal smaller than herself. The assumed form cannot have more hit dice than half the caster’s level (round up) nor may it have more than half mass than the caster. The caster gains the physical capabilities and statistics of the new form but initially retains her mental abilities. Special abilities the caster has, such as spell casting, are not available while in the changed form. The caster does retain memorized spells while in the animal form despite their inability to cast spells (although, see below). Any geas or quest spell on the caster becomes inactive while in the animal form but will immediately return in affect upon returning to human form.

The spell is unlimited duration in the sense that the caster may remain in the form as long as they desire. However, prolonged form changes risk the caster’s mental abilities shifting from their original form to match that of the animal form. To shift back to human form the caster must make a successful save versus spell. A failure means the caster must wait at least a month before making another attempt to shift back. They may gain a bonus to this saving throw by channeling a memorized spell into it. They bonus is the spell level divided by 3, rounding to nearest (so at least a 2nd level spell must be sacrificed to gain any bonus).

While in animal Every month the caster spends in animal form she must make a save versus spell. Every time the caster fails this roll they gain a cumulative -1 to their restoration saving throw.

History: The Ballad of Gelace and Lonan tells that Gelace spontaneously created this variation on the more common Polymorph Self trying to escape the death of her entire family at the hand of the Baron Madawoc. After several years in hiding (a period unduplicated since) she returned and killed the Baron, gaining both her family’s land and Madawoc’s traditional lands for herself.

License: The material in this box is available under Open Gaming License or the Creative Commons Attribution License. For the purpose of the Open Gaming License all text is open content.

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