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 Shifters: "dual-natured" versus "Dual Natured"

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PostSubject: Shifters: "dual-natured" versus "Dual Natured"   Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:46 pm

So a fellow GM and I have recently come to a spot where there seems to be some confusion in the SR4 rules. The following is a summary of the discussion to-date.

1. "dual-natured" is a necessary description used in SR4 to describe a being which is active on both the Physical and Astral planes simultaneously. The description is first given words in the Auras and Astral forms section, and further clarified in the Astral Perception section. In Astral Perception, it states that "A character using astral perception is considered dual-natured, active on both the physical and astral planes simultaneously."
Point: From this I draw a definition.
"dual-natured" = A character is considered dual-natured when active on both the physical and astral planes simultaneously.
"Auras and Astral Forms; SR4A P.191":
 
"Astral Perception; SR4A P.191":
 
"Astral Combat; SR4A P.193":
 

2. "Dual Natured" is a specifically described Critter power. For the Critters who have the power of "Dual Natured" it is listed in their Powers list.
"Dual Natured; SR4A P.294":
 

3. In SR3, Shifters were most assuredly "Dual Natured" with all of the negatives and benefits. As with other things between SR3 and SR4 (not to mention SR4A) there have been many changes, some of which don't make the best sense. We've had discussions about this in the past. Some of them were nearly universally unnoticed by myself and most of the GMs I worked with (on here included) until some new player to the site pointed out the difference between the book and our application of the rules (thank you new players; do not hesitate to speak up when you notice something!).

4. In SR4, the description is somewhat outstanding in this matter. While we know Shapeshifters to be inherently magical, and possessing an infinitely available power to change shape, as well as innate Astral Perception capacity, the writing of the Runner's Companion entry seems to have chosen to list them as "dual-natured" rather than "Dual Natured". Per the above definitions: this would suggest that the authors intended for Shifters to be void in the benefits of the "Dual Natured" Critter power; unfortunately subjecting them to the negatives of being permanently astrally active, without the benefit of being permanently astrally aware.
"Creating a Shape Shifter; Runner's Companion P.86":
 
"Shifter Powers; Runner's Companion P.87":
 
"Magic; Runner's Companion; P.87":
 

4a. The Runner's Companion has been reprinted. There have not been any updates to the above descriptions and rules. I assume that indicates that they are intended to be read, and used, as written. This means that because there is no entry for "Dual Natured" in the Powers section, the SR4 Shifters are not intended to have the benefits of the "Dual Natured" Critter power.

5. There are other PC-playable Critters in Runner's Companion. Some of them are "Dual Natured"; and their Powers description includes the power of "Dual Natured". In addition, the section on Magic for the Critters includes specific verbage for the "Dual Natured" power. This is distinct from the Shifter entries, which come next in Runner's Companion.
"Naga; Runner's Companion P.84":
 
"Sasquatch; Runner's Companion P.84":
 
"Sapient Critter Magic; Runner's Companion P.85":
 

6. There is a "Dumpshock" forum which was written on the subject. In it, several other Players state conclusively that Shifters are in fact "Dual Natured". Later in the forum, "Ancient History" who was an author in SR4 (though we don't know if he specifically contributed to these entries) makes a few statements. In it, I understand him to indicate that the authors did, in fact, differentiate between "dual-natured" and "Dual Natured". He does not (unfortunately) offer an opinion as to whether Shapeshifters are one or the other - his post is in reference to the actual power of "Dual Natured".
http://forums.dumpshock.com/lofiversion/index.php/t29195.html
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PostSubject: Re: Shifters: "dual-natured" versus "Dual Natured"   Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:55 pm

I don't suppose I need to clarify my position... But I will just the same:
I am of the opinion that Shifters are "dual-natured" and not "Dual Natured". That is to say: Shifters are bereft of the benefits of the "Dual Natured" Critter power; while being vulnerable to their permanent "dual-natured" stature.
To that end: I have made a "house ruling" for the purposes of my games. I have ruled that Shifters actually gain some of the benefits of the "Dual Natured" Critter power, though not all: they are permanently Astrally active, and do not have to "turn on" their Astral Perception. Unlike "Dual Natured" Critters, according to my house rule, Shifters do not have Astral Information given to them at all times, in conjunction with their Perception rolls: instead, they must announce that they are "paying attention" to the Astral; and are subject to the -2 penalties for Physical Actions while viewing in the Astral.
- Summary: in my House Rule Shifters may switch their perception from Physical to Astral at will; but are still subject to the normal player penalty of -2 for physical actions while utilizing Astral Perception as their primary perception mode.

Further: I take it as fairly obvious that the above descriptions taken either in agregate or distinctly state that Shifters are not subject to the benefits of the "Dual Natured" Critter power. But: that is simply my position.


I have written this forum so that you players/GMs can contribute to the discussion! Please do!


[EDIT] In an attempt to "re-clarify" my position:
Rules as written: Their powers section is notably lacking the "Dual Natured" entry.
My take-away: Therefore, they do not gain the benefit of the "Dual Natured" power.
Rules as written: Their magical description shows that they are, in fact, "dual-natured".
My take-away: Therefore, they are permanently astrally active.
In summation: Since the book does differentiate between situations where something is astrally active and thus "dual-natured", and critters which have a power called "Dual Natured", there does not seem to be any way to conclude that Shifters are ascribed the benefits of the power of "Dual Natured". Particularly because it is not in their powers list.
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PostSubject: Re: Shifters: "dual-natured" versus "Dual Natured"   Wed Jul 11, 2012 4:06 pm

Well since I pointed it out in the OCC thread, I'll point it out here too.

As per the entry under magic it specifically states that Shifters are dual natured in both forms.

As per the Sentient ability, if Shifters were merely sentient and not dual-natured, then they would be unable to learn to assense or use astral combat without first having to be an adept, mage, mystic adept or similar. This is specifically stated under the rules for sentient creatures. However the entry for Shifters specifically states that they CAN learn these abilities even without being an adept/mage etc. The only ones that can do this are those that are Dual Natured.

In the end all it boils down to is if they get the -2 or not because that's the sole benefit of being dual natured that isn't granted to them already. Everything else is strictly a downside. EG; Constant vulnerability to attacks from the astral, the ability to be physically forced through astral barriers and thus knocked out instantly, and let's not forget what FAB III does to dual natured creatures, considering it was used to wipe out both the entire ghoul colony in Chicago along with quite a few insect spirits. Among a few other things.

Ultimately there is no 'grade' of dual natured. You either are, or your not. The only time there is any difference is if you have the ability to switch it off (Astral perception powers, certain drugs etc).

This also has an impact on their ability to perceive and combat astral threats, as if they are argued to be dual natured, without having the benefit of actually being dual natured, then they are visible on the astral at all times, and completely unaware of any and all astral based threats that can kill them unless they specifically become adepts and purchase the astral perception power or become mages
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PostSubject: Re: Shifters: "dual-natured" versus "Dual Natured"   Wed Jul 11, 2012 6:27 pm

Kesslan wrote:
In the end all it boils down to is if they get the -2 or not because that's the sole benefit of being dual natured that isn't granted to them already.
Actually, I would argue (though this is purely subjective) that the largest benefit of the "Dual Natured" power is not the -2 penalty, but that the power specifically states that they perceive the Astral plane in one large package with all other perception. What that means in game terms is simply that Astral Perception details and Physical Perception details are taken together. From a game-play perspective, I would consider that to be far more important than the -2 penalty. The scenario is this: You're walking down the street. You see a man. He appears physically normal; yet he is astrally active. It's as simple as that. You'll need an Assensing test to determine what it is which is causing his aura to "light up" but you automatically know that he is astrally active. There's no "I switch to Astral, what do I see?". Another scenario: As combat begins, you yell: "Which of them is a magician?!?" Where a "Dual Natured" Critter wouldn't ever even think to have to yell that. They already know. "Geek the Mage" is that much faster.
Relative to what I consider to be the upside of "Dual Natured" I would consider the -2 penalty to be effectively irrelevant. The truth is that the automatic knowledge of the presence all things magical is such a major benefit... But then again, that is (as I stated myself) purely subjective, and my opinion.


As for the rest of your response: I completely understand the confusion. I've been confused about it many more times than I would like to admit; which is entirely why I was so well prepared for this discussion. I've been through all of those entries which I quote in my initial post myself, many times. Unfortunately, the confusion, and your interpretation of the confusing portions, are not actually "Rules As Written" (RAW). The RAW for the Shifter is simply this: "Dual Natured" is a Critter Power which Shapeshifters do not have. That power grants the inclusion of all Astral Perception in all Perception at all times (and excludes those Critters from the -2 penalty). By comparison; their magical description of "dual-natured" is one which is similarly used in many other circumstances in the various books to describe something which is active on both the Astral and Physical planes - that description does not inherently include the "Dual Natured" critter power (and specifically excludes it in most cases).

It's Confusing:
"Shapeshifters are Awakened but they are not magicians. Shapeshifters are dual-natured beings in both forms, and, as such, they may learn Assensing and Astral Combat, but otherwise they cannot learn or use Magic Skills, astrally project, initiate, or bond foci unless they take an appropriate quality such as Adept, Astral Sight, Magician, or Mystic Adept."
- You're absolutely correct: that entire statement is confusing. In fact, it seems to directly contradict itself. In one sentence, it states that they may learn Assensing. In the next, it states that they cannot use Magic Skills without taking Astral Sight (or other magical qualities). So... Huh? They can Assense without Astral Sight? How does that make sense?
There is no doubt that this is a confusing statement. And while I understand the conclusion that you've drawn from the above confusing statement (your conclusion: Shifters have "Dual Natured" critter power), I don't agree. And as written, neither does the book. Since that portion is confusing: I think it warrants a House Rule, to alleviate the affects of that confusion during game-play. I have created a "House Rule" which effectively grants an at-will version the power of Enhanced Senses (Astral Sight). Other GM's can respond to this confusing statement in their own way. And, I believe, they should respond to this confusion (which is why I did, oh so long ago) when they are GMing games which have/allow Shapeshifters.
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PostSubject: Re: Shifters: "dual-natured" versus "Dual Natured"   Wed Jul 18, 2012 11:07 am

Well I put the question to the official sr4 bboards and so far the clear opinion is that Shapeshifters are, as per fluff and RAW, dual-natured and thus have the corresponding trait.

Still waiting on trying to get a response directly from Catalyst mind you.
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