Shifters, sometimes called “weretouched,” are believed to be descended from intermarriage between Sarlonan humans and natural lycanthropes, now nearly extinct on Khorvaire due to the Silver Purge. Shifters cannot fully change shape but can take on animalistic features — a state they call shifting. Shifters have evolved into a unique race that breeds true. Shifters themselves believe that they actually preceded lycanthropes as a distinct race and that it is the werebeasts who are a corrupted version of them. There may be some truth to this theory as the shifters possess a distinct culture with its own traditions and identity that they brought with them from Sarlona, where their race most likely originated in the Tashana Tundra region that is still home to the Qiku tribes of shifters.
The personality and behavior of shifters are influenced by their animal natures. Many are boorish and crude, while others are quiet, shifty, and solitary. Just as most lycanthropes are carnivores, shifters have a predatory personality and think of most activities in terms of hunting and prey. They view survival as a challenge, striving to be self-reliant, adaptable, and resourceful. Shifters are humanoid in shape, but their bodies are exceptionally lithe. They often move in a crouched posture, springing and leaping while their companions walk normally alongside. Their faces have a bestial cast, with wide, flat noses, large eyes and heavy eyebrows, pointed ears, and long sideburns (in both genders). Their forearms and lower legs grow long hair, and the hair of their heads is thick and worn long. Many races feel uncomfortable around shifters, the same way they feel around any large, wild predator. Of course, some grow to appreciate individual shifters despite their natural aversion, and halflings in general get along well with them. For their part, shifters are accustomed to distrust and do not expect better treatment from members of the other races, although some shifters try to earn respect and companionship through acts and deeds.
Shifters have no land of their own. Being descended from human stock, shifters live in human lands. Unlike changelings, however, shifters often live in rural areas away from the crowded spaces of the cities. They are most commonly encountered in the Eldeen Reaches and other remote areas that can be found in all the nations. Many shifters earn their way as trappers, hunters, fishers, trackers, guides, and military scouts. The fact that none of the dragonmarked houses includes shifters cements their place outside the mainstream of Khorvarien society.
Most shifters incline toward the druidic religion of the Eldeen Reaches, believing in the divine power of Eberron herself, the elements, and the creatures of the world. The most powerful shifter clergy are an order of druids known as the moonspeakers. The moonspeakers tied great meaning to the movements of Eberron’s moons, believing that the moons’ ties to the shifters’ lycanthropic heritage gave them great power over the lives of shifters. Those shifters who revere the pantheon of the Sovereign Host are drawn toward the deities Balinor and Boldrei, while other shifters follow the Traveler. Shifters rarely worship the Silver Flame, for obvious reasons.
Spread over many nations and nearly always a minority population, shifters struggle to maintain a sense of racial unity and a cohesive view of their society and culture. Despite the efforts of community leaders and others who work to preserve a uniform vision of shifter society, two distinct types of shifter community on Khorvaire have become prominent. The first, and by far the most numerous, is a small enclave of shifters within a larger community of some other race, most often humans. These enclaves are welcomed by some shifters, since they give members of the oft-shunned race a sense of community and belonging much greater than what they receive from the general populace. Others view these enclaves as subtle traps, preserving the rift between shifters and the other races. In light of the unpleasant effects of the Silver Purge on shifters, such concerns are well-founded. Although shifter parents are as dedicated to raising their children as the members of any of the common humanoid races, the family group is not the core of shifter society as it is among many other civilized races. Instead, shifters form their strongest emotional bonds with a group of friends near their own age. When compared to the social interactions of other races, these peer groups are loose, disorganized affairs that emphasize the shifter’s self-reliance and personal space more than the cohesiveness of the group.
The second type of shifter community exists apart from the Five Nations, usually sheltered deep within the forests of the Eldeen Reaches. Whether driven by the Silver Purge, the repercussions of the Last War, their own traditions, or the simple desire to live free of the nations governed by other races, many shifters have gathered into barbaric tribes and scattered communities across the wild lands of the Reaches. These communities reinforce the shifter’s preference for bonding with fellow shifters rather than members of other races and the shifter enclaves in the cities of other races resemble these shifter-only communities more than they resemble the surrounding cities. While shifters are not isolationists, they greatly prefer the company of other shifters, for few members of the other races understand that the shifter’s reticence and personal distance are respectful in their own way, and members of other races often seek out frequent social interactions—interactions that feel in many ways invasive to the shifter’s sense of privacy and self-reliant attitude.