A preface: All modern day shapeshifters share a common origin, long lost to ancient history. The magic that forged them drew inspiration from the naturalized world, from the fey creatures that arose from the Elements. While modern peoples neither know nor care about these origins, it is worth keeping in mind that not every shapeshifter is what it seems, or thinks itself to be. Those with fey origins, no matter how remote, are subject to different realities about magic. Those of the common shapeshifter ancestry have lost much of their magic over the generations, and now, most individuals are “normal”, outside of carrying a second animal soul.
Serpents: venomous (cobras, vipers) and non-venomous (pythons, and boas)
The venomous lines tend to have powerful magic, usually mirroring the color of their scales. Pythons and boas usually do not, though some interesting individuals have popped up here and there. In ancient times, cobra magic usually dominated anyone of split parentage, and venomous tended to rule out over non. It is possible to be born split formed or blended form, displaying the talents and scales of both parents. Usually, such people still only have a single serpent form, but there are rumored to be some who call two entirely separate sets of scales.
For various reasons, serpents are often hit hardest during times of fear and war. Many of the lines known in ancient times are long lost, and with them, the magic they carried. Stories remain, but to most, they are just that: stories.
Avians: raptors (owls, hawks, eagles, and falcons) and passerines (basically any bird that isn’t a predator) *and corvids
Divided into two classes, the raptors and the passerines, based loosely on the bird type they call. An ancient legend says that the first passerine was born when he lay down his magic willingly, to foster peace in a war-torn world. In our modern world, it is true that passerine types almost never have any magic, but even in the raptor types, magic is less and less common. Those raptors who do possess magic tend to be very old, and very secretive. This may be due to the still lingering distrust of the griffics, a legendary nation of chimera: gryphons, hippogriffs, and wyverns. Even though nothing but rumors remain of the nation today, their reign was so absolute, fear of winged magic is hard to forget.
*Crows, ravens, magpies, and jays make up an outlier group known as crovids. Magic can be found in their ranks, but not often. Some of these shifters are of a similar background to the first passerines, while others come from more fey-like origins. The legends and superstitions surrounding these groups are as varied as the cultures they find themselves struggling to be a part of. In Riverside, most of the corvids live uptown with the raptors, in a loose alliance with the witch community. But it is equally common for corvids to integrate with passerine groups, or, in large enough numbers, to form their own units.
Felines: nations (tigers and lions), families (leopards and panthers), and solitaries (any) *and foxes
Like most of the predator races, felines are better known for their martial prowess than magical. Aside from the lions and tigers, felines tend to be solitary creatures, forming small familial bands, if anything. Even the great tiger nations are made up of smaller tribes, operating as independent war-bands unless called together by their overlords. Some feline forms also crop up in mixed species family groups, especially in remote and wild places like the North and the West, where magic is more common, and unpredictable. Such peoples almost never venture into the more modernized lands, and so little is known about them. But, presumably, they feel the same nomadic urge common to other feline types. Like the cat types they call, feline magic tends to be fickle, and it is not uncommon for a first shift to occur as late as early adulthood, though it can occur much younger.
*While foxes are not classically feline, behaviorally, they fall into this category. Like the corvids, their ancestry may be common with other shifters types, while other lines descend from fey types. Fox magic, when it crops up, leans towards illusions and dreams, Fire, or Earth.
Canids The Pack (wolves) and the solitaries (jackals and coyotes) *and The Den (hyenas)
Straight up, traditional Werewolves, without all the moon-gaga, silver-fearing bullshit. Wolves form rigid pack structures, with clear lines of dominance leading to their absolute Alpha. Occasionally, Lone Wolves are tolerated within a Pack’s territory, either by being minor enough to ignore, or by paying appropriate tribute. Lesser canids like jackals and coyotes are either ignored, or bullied. Might makes Right in the canid world, and so the fierce dedication to structure is all that keeps them from tearing themselves apart like animals. Fiercely territorial, the health of the local wolf pack either means meticulously guarded Order in their area, or barely contained gang violence. Thankfully, canid races tend to be devoid of magic. It is also not uncommon for their shapeshifting magic to be controlled, monitored, or even suppressed by their group’s energy until puberty.
*Call a hyena a dog and they will bite you. Despite, or maybe because of, their similar dominance behaviors, hyenas and wolves war nearly every time they clash. As a general rule, hyenas fight less for dominance, usually forming a clear line of command based on experience and age, rather than brute strength. In Riverside, the local Den are somewhat militant, divided into small bands of four or five that look an older leader, with those units grouped together to make a squad, squads into sections, and so on. Currently, there are five “generals” who form a council under the highest leader, known simply as The Den.
Herd: Horses and Deer *and rabbits
Herd families are a dying breed. With the growing sprawl of urbanization encroaching on the wilderness, wide open spaces are harder and harder to come by. Intimately tied to the land’s own magic, fecundity is becoming increasingly reduced as space is becoming a premium. In today’s modern world, horse families are less and less nomadic, buying up any land they can and forming homesteads. They live in the most perfect disguises: as horse farmers and cattle ranchers. Few nomadic bands remain, serving as caravan guards and escorts in those remote places where civilization refuses to take. Deer families, if they still exist, are never seen outside of their native forests.
*While not properly herd, rabbits crop up in those same odd families in the North and West.
Shapeshifter magic reflects the land it comes from. While some elements of form are inheritable, local elements influence the form a child’s magic will take. Nica, for example, is hawk like her father, but being born on American soil, her soul took the form of a Red-Shouldered Hawk when it reached for a specific shape, while his was something reflecting his native European land. So, depending on a myriad of conditions, in theory, ANY naturalized animal could potentially show up in a shapeshifter’s soul, provided it resonated with the basic type (bird, serpent, feline, canid, herd). Add to it the mingling of fey-type lines into “pure” shifter lines, and the magic becomes even less predictable.