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Shapeshifter is a mage specialization in Dragon Age: Origins which allows a person to transform their body into the form of an animal.

Shapeshifters in Thedas[]

Rumors speak of barbarians that hold secrets of transforming the body into the form of animals, but the Circle of Magi denies such stories. While the Circle of Magi would prefer that it be so, theirs is not the only tradition of magic in Thedas, and this rare art survives in the forgotten corners of Thedas. Prior to the Circle’s formation, magic was either practiced by the Magisters of the Tevinter Imperium or in remote areas, knowledge handed down from one generation of practitioners to the next. “Hedge mages,” as Enchanters of the Circle refer to them, or “witches” as legend would name them, do not always employ forbidden magic. Quite often their talents lie in the creation of charms, the use of curses and the ability to change their own forms.


Spell grid for Shapeshifter

This is the last talent that has been incorporated back into the Circle over the centuries. It is said to have been first introduced by hedge mages that joined the Circle, perhaps by force. The path of the Shapeshifter is one that crosses the boundary between mage and warrior. Some mages see it as a form of self-mastery, while others use it as a method of survival; a physical bag of tricks that enable the mage to be unpredictable in battle.

Shapeshifters must master one form at a time, the most common ones being those that are found in the Fereldan wilds. The mighty bear is popular as are wildcats, spiders, and even birds. Legend tells of mages who mastered even more fantastical and deadly forms. To a skilled Shapeshifter, no door is impassable, no fight is unwinnable, and no terrain inhospitable as long as they know a shape that can meet the task at hand.[1]

This skill is also known by at least some of the Keepers of Dalish clans, as revealed in a possible conversation between Morrigan and the Dalish Elf Origin Warden.

Shapeshifter spells[]

Spider Shape Spider Shape
Range: Personal
Upkeep: 50
Fatigue: 5%
Cooldown: 90s
Requires: Level 7
The shapeshifter can transform into a giant spider, gaining a large bonus to nature resistance as well as the spider's Web and Poison Spit abilities. The caster's spellpower determines how powerful the form is. With Master Shapeshifter, the mage becomes a corrupted spider, growing still stronger and gaining the Overwhelm ability.
Bear Shape Bear Shape
Range: Personal
Upkeep: 60
Fatigue: 5%
Cooldown: 90s
Requires: Level 8
The shapeshifter can transform into a bear, gaining large bonuses to nature resistance and armor as well as the bear's Slam and Rage abilities. The caster's spellpower further enhances this bear's statistics and abilities. With Master Shapeshifter, this form transforms the caster into a powerful bereskarn and gains the Overwhelm ability.
Flying Swarm Flying Swarm
Range: Personal
Upkeep: 30
Fatigue: 5%
Cooldown: 60s
Requires: Level 10
The shapeshifter's body explodes into a swarm of stinging insects that inflict nature damage on nearby foes, with the damage increasing based on the caster's spellpower and proximity. While in this form, the caster gains Divide the Swarm, and any damage the shapeshifter suffers is drawn from mana instead of health, but the caster regenerates no mana. The swirling cloud of insects is immune to normal missiles and has a very good chance of evading physical attacks but is extremely vulnerable to fire. With Master Shapeshifter, the character gains health whenever the swarm inflicts damage.
Master Shapeshifter Master Shapeshifter
Requires: Level 12
Mastery of the shifter's ways alters the forms of Bear Shape and Spider Shape, allowing the caster to become a bereskarn and a corrupted spider, both considerably more powerful than their base forms. In those forms, the shapeshifter also gains Overwhelm. Additionally, the Flying Swarm shape drains health from foes whenever the main swarm inflicts damage.



Shapeshifter in a fight

  • Morrigan will teach this specialization if her approval of you is neutral; she is not willing to do so once her approval rises above 25. Judging from the conversation, this is a bug because Morrigan's explanation for not teaching the Warden is something along the lines of "not knowing each other enough". If anything and in line with other specialization acquisitions, the tree should only unlock when approval rises above 25.
    • Specializations can be unlocked at any level and will stay unlocked on subsequent progress. So if a player encounters this bug it is possible to save then reload a previous save where her approval had not yet risen above neutral then unlock the specialization and then revert back to the current save.
  • You can purchase a Shapeshifter Manual from Varathorn in the Dalish Camp at the Brecilian Outskirts for around 12Gold.
Note: The sloth demon in the Magi Origin will teach a form of shapeshifting. This only works for the duration of your time in the Fade, it will not unlock the specialization. When you enter the Fade during the Broken Circle main quest line you do not permanently gain the Shapeshifter specialization.

Shapeshifting Mechanics[]

When the caster assumes a new form, the Strength, Dexterity and Constitution attributes may be replaced by those of the chosen form, which are based on Spellpower. Any attribute which would be higher in unshifted form will remain unchanged. Bonuses given by equipment to any stats (including Armor, Armor Penetration, Defense, and Damage) are calculated after changing forms.

The exception for offensive bonuses (most don't carry over) is critical chance/damage. You can utilize skills like Song of Courage and equip items as well to give your shapeshifter a decent critical chance for Bear and Spider. Flanking attacks will also factor in whether your form does a critical.

Very briefly-the flanking formula:

Also increase chance for critical hits by 1/5th of the flanking bonus fCriticalHitModifier *= (1.0 + (fFlanking/5.0));

fFlanking is the flanking bonus, which is a number between 0.0 and 7.5 for non-rogues. fCriticalHitModifier is the critical chance in percent. The '*=' operator multiplies the left hand side by the right hand side; e.g. 'x *= 2' is a shorthand for 'x = x * 2'.

The result is that the critical chance gets multiplied by up to 2.5 for non-rogues. You can apply this to shapeshifting that if your Spider gets a full flanking attack on an enemy, a 20% chance to critical in origins can easily become 50% with the full 2.5 flanking multiplier.

Build and form strategies[]

There are generally two types of Shapeshifters: the "mage", who focuses on spell-casting and only uses the Shapeshifter talents for the specific use of an ability/form or after the depletion of mana; and the "specialist", who aims to make their shifted forms as strong as possible.

The "mage" does not invest at all in the Strength and Dexterity attributes. They primarily shift forms to tank specific bosses (as the forms are immune to powerful boss abilities like Grab and Knockback). The "specialist" invests in the Strength, Dexterity and Magic attributes, as all three will usefully improve the Shapeshifter forms.

Spider Form[]

Spider Shape is the most versatile of the forms, with two ranged attacks as well as the powerful Overwhelm (ability) gained with Master Shapeshifter. The Spider Shape's attributes scale the slowest with increasing Spellpower, however, making it the weakest form for "mage" Shapeshifters.

Bear Form[]

Bear Shape is the toughest form and does the most Physical damage. Its attacks are much slower than the Spider Shape's, so equipping a staff (for auto-hit and Armor Penetration) before shifting is recommended, especially at lower levels. Bear Shape also scales faster with increasing Spellpower than the Spider Shape, remaining useful throughout the campaign.

Flying Swarm[]

Flying Swarm's damage-over-time attack does not harm allies and is capable of doing greater damage (per target) than most damage-over-time spells at the same level of Spellpower. It is the fastest of the forms and the only one that does not alter any of the mage's main attributes. Instead, Flying Swarm improves the mage's base Missile Deflection stat, making it particularly useful for "specialist" Shapeshifters.

Notable specialization combinations[]

"Mage" Shapeshifters may wish to consider the passive benefits of any given second specialization.

Arcane Warrior[]

Arcane Warrior gives greater flexibility in equipment, making higher stat values possible when in shifted form.

Spirit Healer[]

The Shapeshifter's versatility works well with the Spirit Healer's focus on defense, helping them avoid damage until their talents are needed, at which point they can shift instantly back to human form to cast them.


Battlemage enables a mage to inflict high area-of-effect damage. Switching to the Spider form allows the mage to use its Web ability to hold enemies within the area, and to Overwhelm enemies that manage to flee it.

Blood Mage[]

A Blood Mage that focuses on tanking & crowd control can easily use Blood Wound to stop and damage enemies for a time, and use the Shapeshifter's Flying Swarm to replenish HP for even more casting upon reverting to the humanoid form and repeat the cycle.


  • Sustained spells are automatically deactivated by shapeshifting.
  • Casters do not have access to potions and other items while in shifted form.
  • If the weapon equipped prior to shifting is a staff, then the shifted form will not deliver critical hits.
  • Most defensive bonuses (e.g. Physical, Mental and elemental Resistances) from equipped items are carried over when shifting.
  • Armor rating for Spider or Bear form is either a default, fixed value or from the mage's base armor from equipment (whichever is higher). If the mage's Armor is higher than Bear Form's base armor, Bear Form increases it by 10.
  • The mage cannot Level Up while shifted. Experience will appear to halt at the amount required for the next level. The next experience gain while in "natural" form will trigger the level advance. (No earned XP will be lost in either form - it will be added retroactively when the level is properly gained.)

Known shapeshifters[]

See also[]

  • Players are researching the effect of spellpower on shapeshifting abilities here.
  • The Shapeshifter specialization can be improved with the Expanded Shapeshifting - Learned Forms Mod from the Nexus Mods. It adds 20 new lore friendly shapeshifting forms, that are gradually unlocked as the player progresses through the storyline.


  1. Shapeshifter on the official wiki.