So one of the biggest quirks of the world I'm building is that, along with supernatural powers suddenly becoming real in modern day, the human race is granted multiple separate opportunities to voluntarily transform themselves into exotic and never-before-seen humanoid species. Periodically, for the first few years, everyone on earth is given the body of a new species to try out (the same species for everyone on earth each time) and they're given a week to decide if they want to stay human or become this new creature forever.

Essentially, previously all-human modern societies are now also populated with fantasy races through an opt-in system.

Now, since this is an opt-in system, obviously people have to want to make the jump, which means it has to be tempting to at least a sizeable chunk of people. Now obviously this for the most part excludes making any of these creatures things that humans wouldn't find sexually attractive (so more like elves, less like orks and trolls), but I'm pretty sure it takes a lot to make somebody throw away their entire physical form in exchange for a new one even if it isn't creepy or gross. So I brainstormed a while for a system that could make it tempting without making these species objectively better than humans, and the system I came up with was that your new body was totally genetically randomized. The body could be male, female, tall, short, anything. The human body you started with has no bearing whatsoever on what your new body will look like.

This I think would tempt a lot of people. A lot of people, for whatever reason, lost the genetic lottery, and if there were suddenly a second one, one which some of these people proceeded to win the hell out of, I'm pretty confident a lot of them are going to be tempted. So with this system I'm picturing the following being the biggest reasons people took the offer:

1: The new body they were offered, through sheer luck of the draw, scores significantly higher on the attractiveness scale

2: It was a chance to escape a sick, disabled, or genetically defective body and live a relatively normal life

3: They're transgender and the body they were offered was the sex they identified as

4: They just flat-out like the new species better and want to be one

Buuuuuut... I have this nagging feeling I might be missing something here, some other major reason somebody might want to make the jump, or possibly that I'm underestimating how many would belong to category 4.

Can anyone here think of any significant or noteworthy reasons besides these four that I'm missing here, and which I might want to bring up or show in-story?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You can also allow people to keep changing bodies and maybe eventually change back to their original bodies. Like once they have changed and a better races more suitable comes along, they can still change. By knowing that the change isn't permanent, many more people would be willing to take the risk, since you won't be missing out on anything better and could recover your original body. $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Apr 24, 2018 at 1:03
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    $\begingroup$ Might be countered by the presence of superpowers, but the first question I'd ask myself when trying to figure out "why would X do Y?" is "how could Y help X do illegal stuff?". You mentioned elves. I think being able to move/climb swiftly, high endurance and other elf tropes would fit a thief, for instance. $\endgroup$
    – Jenayah
    Apr 24, 2018 at 1:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Jenayah There’s actually an even bigger way these bodies affect crime. Since the body’s genetically randomized and for that one week you can shift between them at will, anyone who wanted to do anything illegal would have total anonymity if they treated one of their bodies (obviously more likely the new one) as a disposable anonymous alter ego if they wanted to commit a crime or just do something crazy they’d normally be too shy to do. $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2018 at 1:23
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    $\begingroup$ @JasonClyde good point, hadn't thought of that. As o.m. stated in his answer, I hope you have a way to track who's who, otherwise you're in for a lot of trouble. $\endgroup$
    – Jenayah
    Apr 24, 2018 at 5:37
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    $\begingroup$ If you want to explore how the people feel about their choices after a while (both those who changed and those who didn't) I would highly encourage you to watch this TED talk about choice and happiness: ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy $\endgroup$
    – glaux
    Apr 26, 2018 at 11:09

11 Answers 11


A few things I can think of:

  • Peer pressure: If all your friends and family decide to make the jump, would you want to be left out?
  • New rules: Different species with different physical/mental capabilities means this could open up new jobs and regulations which need to be adopted and during this shift having a new body will mean you can be apart of, or leader of, this change.
  • Incentives: If these fantasy bodies are potentially better for sick or disabled people, government could give incentives for people to make the shift. These incentives might provoke others to follow.
  • Different groups: People love to categories things [citation needed] and the pull of being part of a unique group will mean people are more willing to change.
  • Blackmail: What if people could be blackmailed/forced to change? You mention the fantasy forms would ideally be attractive still, imagine the unfortunate people involved in sex trafficking forced to change in order to appeal to wider range of customers. Scary thought. Rule 34 of the internet...
  • New culture: Just look at Japanese culture of manga and anime and I'm sure people will jump at the opportunity to carve out a new life as some of these fantasies creatures.

What might be interesting is if you can switch back and forth between your human form and fantasy form, for example once a year or so. This might mean more people are willing to adopt it as you still have the option of return to "normal".

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! Blackmail, by your own admission, wouldn't count as a voluntary change, but the rest look like good ideas. $\endgroup$
    – F1Krazy
    Apr 24, 2018 at 9:40
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you and good point! Though the fact that a voluntary system can be abused is still worth investigating as it inevitably will happen $\endgroup$
    – Jonnyboy
    Apr 24, 2018 at 9:59
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    $\begingroup$ @F1Krazy yes, but it would still be a reason why somebody would make the jump by my rules. That’s actually the biggest thing he gave me to think about. $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2018 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ Can you clarify the “incentives” one? The idea’s interesting but I don’t see how that follows from reason 3 I have. Unless you meant something else. $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2018 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ @JasonClyde True the concept is very similar. I was thinking along the lines of employment benefits because you could be potentially taking someone who can't/finds it difficult to work to someone who now can $\endgroup$
    – Jonnyboy
    Apr 24, 2018 at 12:08

My list...

  • Poor man's immortality. I'm old, and the body I've been offered is young. It's a chance to live a second lifetime.

  • Anonymity

    • I owe the Mob a LOT of money and the body I've been offered looks nothing like me. Punishment avoidance in general might actually be one of the biggest reasons anyone changes races. And the bigger the crime, the more likely they'll opt in to avoid prison time. Worse still, and generally speaking, this may become a popular form of bankruptcy without all the hassle of contacting a lawyer and standing before a judge. An easy way to avoid paying debt.
    • I'm running away... from my family, from my job, from my abusive father/boyfriend/husband.... In this regard it could even become a form of suicide (identity suicide vs. physical suicide). I could even imagine the suicide numbers dropping as the opt-ins inrease, prompting a wave of government-funded studies....
  • I'm saved. I have a terminal disease and my new body doesn't. Very obvious choice. Would also apply to the disabled in any form including blindness and deafness. It is, in fact, a way to correct nearly any genetic or accidental deformity or condition. Prompting more government-funded studies...

  • Time to give Johnny the beat-down of his life. Particularly popular with the Orc conversions will be the victims of bullying, because it's all too human to want to seek vengence.

  • Glarnak's will be done! Particularly popular with the cultists and those waiting for the aliens riding in the wake of the next asteroid. These religiously-minded people tend to opt-in in groups. And since Glarnak is the god of worldbuilding, it's obvious that He would like as many opt-ins as possible.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The fact that both bullet points under Anonymity would be basically in the same legal and financial situation as each other, sympathetic people who sacrificed everything to escape a horrible situation and scum who gave up their identity to perfectly and permanently evade the law, and nobody would be able to tell or prove which is which, is such a fertile concept I can barely fathom the possibilities. Thanks so much for pointing that out! $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2018 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ I think the Anonymity would be short-lived, unfortunately, as governments figure that out and require that the transforming agency provide an official connection between ID's. And if there is such a connection, then it will necessarily extend beyond government/official use. That is, of course, if the TF agency is in fact subject to those governments, which might be another interesting avenue to explore. $\endgroup$
    – AaronD
    Apr 25, 2018 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ @AaronD, another aspect is that laws change very slowly. It's not that the government will track the changes but when. Between now and then is often a lengthy period of time. What mayhem can ensue during that period? The mind boggles! $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Apr 25, 2018 at 17:55

In many fantasy novels or games, the non-humans depart from the human baseline. For game balance, they might not be better across the board, but they are better in many stats and they have advantages.

  • Elves are graceful. Elves are beautiful. Elves are near immortal. They may be a bit less sturdy than humans, but on balance, who doesn't want to be an elf?
  • Orcs are strong. Orcs have stamina. Orcs heal quickly. Okay, so they are a bit dumb and ugly, but there are compensations.

And then there is how the change happens. Would it be possible to identify the individual after transformation? What about fingerprints? DNA? Could a divorced parent wiggle out of child support payments? Would a criminal record vanish?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I really like your point about not being reckognizable anymore. You could truly start a brand new life, from scratch, with absolutely no burden from the old one. That in itself would probably be the biggest draw. On a side note: OP wrote that the new races are not objectively better than humans, so near immortality and other superhuman things are out of the question. $\endgroup$
    – joecro
    Apr 24, 2018 at 6:52
  • $\begingroup$ @joecro well not exactly out of the question. Some of them are objectively physically better than humans, but at the cost of being unable to use certain categories of powers. I did this to get rid of the “humans are always suboptimal” nonsense I hate about fantasy race minmaxing in RPGs. Humans are the only ones who can use all the powers. I just thought that was too off topic to put in the OP. $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2018 at 9:56
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    $\begingroup$ What I figured about identification is no, there’d be no way to identify them against their will. What would happen for those who wanted to be up front was that the government would have people who want to stay the new race basically confirm their identity while they can still freely switch between them and get a new driver’s license and such. Staying the new race without matching it up to your old identity would itself be a crime. Which isn’t to say it wouldn’t happen, just that starting over fresh with no documentation would be tough. $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2018 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ @JasonClyde, in many games the humans are not suboptimal but rather generalists. Better Intelligence than an orc, better Strength than an elf, better Dexterity than a dwarf. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Apr 24, 2018 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ @o.m. : which is what sub-optimal means in this context, they are generalists who can do every job, but there are specialists for any individual job who can do it better than a human, so for any specific task the human is always the "sub-optimal" choice because there's always a race that can do it better. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 24, 2018 at 18:23

Adding to other lists already given:

  1. Your culture says women are weak and feeble, and have to stay at home and be protected by the manly, macho menfolk. Well screw you, patriarchy, now I'm a troll lady or giantess and can rip you weak and feeble human men into small pieces. So NOW try and stop me learning to drive or getting that job as a policewoman or soldier!
  2. I can't have kids. Maybe this new body will be able to father children/bear children?
  3. I don't want kids. If I become an elf and my other half stays human maybe we won't be cross-fertile... and our parents will stop carping on about grandchildren every time they visit.
  4. I'm pretty good at my job as a human, but if I was an [insert species here] I'd be awesome at it. Elf for a supermodel, orc for a Rugby prop forward, and so on.
  5. My religious leader says that [insert species here] are God's chosen people. It is my destiny and religious duty to become one.
  • $\begingroup$ Wow, I kinda disregarded #1 initially when brainstorming because one of the earlier powers everyone got already put women on the same level as men. But now that I think of it, that probably still wouldn’t stop some women from joining the stronger races to make some sort of feminist statement. $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2018 at 16:33

People tend to dream they are someone else

Look at roleplaying events: many people like to present himself as a hero or fantasy creature. Most of them could transform unconsciously.

People tend to be different

People change color of their hairs, made tattoos and even surgeon operations to be different. They think they will be unique but they are not. With some time a new species like Terminator-man-with-gun-in-arm or Sweet-girl-with-big-eyes-and-colored-hair would arise.

In fact, I read some fiction stories where opposite problem has been arisen: why many people still don't change their look? It's too easy to want to be a little different and too hard to revert to original state.


"I'm an elf trapped inside a human body"

Just as you have trans-gender people now, you could have trans-racial people...

  • $\begingroup$ Could? There is already a claim for that to exist Rachel Dolezal-> en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Dolezal $\endgroup$
    – Crettig
    Apr 25, 2018 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ Also cat people in Japan, $\endgroup$
    – Pliny
    May 6, 2018 at 15:49

A new body is like having a new life, even if nothing else about your life changes you're suddenly having to relearn how to type with new fingers, how to walk on new legs, how to talk with a new mouth and tongue, not to mention all the sexual stuff. I think the more extreme the transformation the more enthusiastic people will be to try it, have you ever wondered what it would be like to have and extra pair of arms, scales or fur or an exoskeleton, or a merfolk tail, what if you could have face tentacles like an illithid?

A lot of people are simultaneously crushed by how mundane their everyday lives are but also too comfortable to leave the secure/predictable life they've set up for themselves, a new body lets them have the best of both worlds, their life doesn't change at all but everything in it feels different.

Why be an elf or an orc when you could be an aarakocra, tiefling or aboleth?


I have some questions about this system.

When you go into a new body how much are you yourself? After every transfer, you could have the same memories but will you feel different about them? The same action in one body may feel wrong in another body. A piece of music you love as human can evoke displeasure as an elf. Is the experience between different races the same?

Can the races interbreed? Will one spouse hope to be an elf so they can have half-elf children with their other human spouse?

What are the rules for establishing identify after the change? Must there be witnesses to the change to verify identify? Will the government accept that? Will your family and friends?

When you become a member of the new race, will the members of new race accept you?

Although getting traits are random, what is possibility that after the change the person in question looks like someone else? You wrote the system generates some attributes randomly. Who controls that system? Can that system be hacked to commit fraud or force certain attributes?

Can you change back up if you try it and do not like it?

  • $\begingroup$ 1: Completely. You're still totally yourself mentally, it's only your body that's changed. 2: No. They're not interfertile, mostly because in a lot of cases that either wouldn't make much sense or could potentially be broken as hell. 3: Since you can freely shift between forms at will for that first week, you prove your identity at some place like the DMV, have your license and documents updated with this info, and voila. 4: There are no "originals" to be gatekeepers here. The ones who change are the first generation. 5: Nobody knows, the source of all this magic weirdness is a mystery. 6: No. $\endgroup$ Apr 24, 2018 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ Someone or someforce is giving people the chance to change. How is that opportunity communicated? Whatever doubts they harbor may resolved by those who communicate this opportunity. Perhaps, someone or someforce is giving people the chance to change may be impressive to be the reason why people want to change. $\endgroup$
    – user49647
    Apr 25, 2018 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Based on your answers, the people may just take the change for fun if they have a week to change back. $\endgroup$
    – user49647
    Apr 25, 2018 at 17:10


Assuming changing is largely free, some bodies will offer more economic opportunity, a large portion of your poorest people will be forced into changing just due to economic circumstances. This may very well be your largest factor.

Dwarves and mechanical aptitude, flying races, attractive elves, water breathing, temprature tolerances, night vision in general, each offers new economic opportunities to your person. It is the same reason the poor were often the most likely to go to colonies or move in unsettled areas historically.

If they get to pick their race this is several orders of magnitude more powerful, since people will try to match skills or desires with the new race.

  • $\begingroup$ Ooooooohhh... that's a big one. It's crazy how that would mean that even without any direct oppression or racism on the parts of humans, these new races are still going to be overrepresented in the poorest areas. $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2018 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ this gets slightly more creepy since they can't pick their gender, how many elven hookers will you have from men who do not have a skill set compatible with a slight female body. another weird side effect will be the average health and attractiveness of humanity will increase noticeably as those with "loosing tickets" try their luck. which is weirdly how many fantasy setting humans are. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 25, 2018 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ It would also mean that the average attractiveness of the fantasy races, at least in the upper class where there are fewer people who did it out of desperation, would be artificially inflated as well. $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2018 at 20:45
  • $\begingroup$ How? I assume the final appearance is random for that race. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 26, 2018 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but since everyone gets to choose which body they like better, excluding more desperate and dire circumstances like discussed here, the ones who make better humans are more likely to stay human and the ones who make better elves are more likely to turn into elves. If a bunch of people only become elves for the sake of being hotter, then the average elf will be hotter than the law of averages would normally suggest. $\endgroup$ Apr 26, 2018 at 13:43

answering as prompted in your other question...

To be honest, assuming your starting world is anything like our world, getting anywhere near 50% take-up sounds beyond fiction.

Going through your suggested reasons:

  • Attractiveness – most of us – even if we aren't particularly attractive – are happy, and it's likely to look like some furry fetish if we transform into flawless animal-people. Also, cosmetic surgery already exists, but most people don't take it up not due to price, but because they don't want it.

  • Healthy body – some might take it for this reason, but a quick google suggests only a very small proportion of the (non elderly) population has a life-limiting physical disorder.

  • Forget trans; even optimistic estimates suggest only 1% has "some degree" of non-binary conformity. It's not going to give you a significant proportion. Additionally, I'd imagine someone who identifies as a female human isn't going to want to be a female cat any more than a male human

  • Prefer the species – I think many of us might wonder what it's like, but not want to do it long-term. The grass is always greener on the other side. I imagine a lot of people might take the 1 week trial each time, then revert.

Initial Offerings

For the first offering, anyone even vaguely sensible would avoid an offer of a species change. There's too many risks & unknowns. Will it work? Are there side-effects? Are they really killing people and replacing them with beastman puppets? What happens to my memories & personality?

There's enough people who avoid the first release of an OS because it'll be problematic, how much more an unproven supernatural species change! A 1 week trial is also worth nothing on the first offering, as there's no proof yet that you can change me back!

So once you've had at least a couple of offerings, and people are starting to believe it's for real, and doesn't have any major immediate side-effects...

It's likely that the first people who take it up will be people with a furry fetish, or sex-workers who want to / are forced to monetise that. So that immediately means that – unless furry fetish has suddenly become respectable & desired (it won't in that time – look how long it's taken LGBT to become acceptable) – most people are going to look at it in a somewhat dim view. I think this is worth considering, because those who first embrace it are likely to set the tone for the overall thing.

Breaking it down

Let's deal with some easy demographic blocks...

I'm going to skip 'Christian' (31%) because it's a very varied block.

Wikipedia gives ~24% of the world's population as Islamic, and most of that will be in countries with some degree of Islamic law. Taking Indonesia as an example (it's one of the most liberal Islamic majority nations, and one I'm somewhat familiar with), the culture is still largely conservative, and species shifting is very likely to be seen as Haram. This is doubly so if species shifting is seen as a 'western' thing – which is likely will as the countries most likely to give it good press are western – or a fetish. So religious observance and social pressure will prevent them from taking up the offer – and in many Islamic nations, there would be punishments (either official or done by local communities) for anyone who did accept the offer.

China (18%) will be your next largest block. It seems unlikely that the Party would look favourably on species shifting. It would likely be seen to go against the One China value. The current party is more traditionally communist, and has been stamping out anything seen as foreign / disruptive (e.g. clampdown on Christianity in China), so I think we can safely assume they would similarly take a very low view of species-shifting. It would also possibly be seen as disrespectful to one's family / community. It would be a career-limiting move.

Your next biggest demographic block is Hindus (15%). My knowledge here is rather limited, so perhaps a commenter who knows more might help. For lack of anywhere better to start, comparing attitudes to LGBT issues, Hinduism is more accepting than Islam, but it's still not as accepted as in the west. Hinduism does of course have a big connection to anthropomorphic animals in its gods – I suspect that would make it reject shape-shifting, as e.g. it would be seen as disrespectful to Ganesha to accept an elephant trunk. On the other hand, it might mean a larger uptake. However, again, very strong family pressures are likely to prevent people taking up the offer.

We've now dealt with 57% of the world's population... You'd now need near 100% uptake in the rest of the world to reach your goal.

Let's go to the other extreme – Western Europe and North America (~14%) Views here are generally very liberal.

I think we can assume that uptake would be largest amongst the young (mid-teens to mid 20s). Younger children hopefully aren't permitted to make life-altering decisions like species-shifting for themselves? Also once you move up the age brackets, views tend to be more conservative. So let's assume it's highest amongst 15-35s (~25% of UK population, probably similar across WE/NA).

Initially, it's going to be a career-limiting move. Even if governments move to make discrimination based on species illegal, discrimination based on sex has been for decades, but most companies still have a huge gender pay gap. It's going to be hard to be taken seriously in a executive meeting with rabbit ears. Based on other discrimination issues, it's likely to take decades for it to become widely accepted.

It'll also be problematic practically – in particular, any changes like tails or wings, or changes to basic skeletal structure (animal legs) will be hugely problmatic. As noted in your other thread, it'll cause issues for clothing. But also chairs. And cars – I won't want a tail if it stops me driving (or makes it difficult / uncomfortable). Modifications to cars – because of safety certifications – will take years. New furniture will be expensive. Similarly medicine – these new bodies might start healthy, but presumably they'll decay like ours. Medicine will take ages to catch up. Will I have to visit a vet to get my tail / wings looked at? Why is my fur/feathers dropping? I've got lice. Vets aren't licensed to work on humans in most jurisdictions.

There's many jobs where it'll be impractical – a safety hat won't fit big ears; a tail will be a liability in a kitchen. Whilst some might give benefits (wings for couriers...?) the majority of tools and workplaces aren't ready to take advantage of it. Paws won't work a mouse and keyboard. And flight is likely to get legislation pretty quickly (think drone laws), due to risks (dropping your bag at 100ft and killing someone), and privacy fears. There might be compulsory registration – knife laws are pretty pointless if gangs have retractable claws. Every nation will consider how it can be militarised.

With the increase of 'far-right' groups, one can quickly imagine "Keep Europe for Humans" marches (EDL, etc.). Short of actual lynchings, this will create social pressures against species-shifting.

Let's optimistically say uptake in WE/NA, amongst 15-35s (where it'd be highest) is 10%. Let's say 5% across WE/NA. That gives you probably less than 1% worldwide uptake. More realistically, it's likely to be an order of magnitude lower for many decades, without some other pressure.

So... what could you do to encourage people to change?

To make people want to change in large numbers, you'll probably have to invent some big issue, like a disease epidemic which the new species (and perhaps some humans if you want to keep them) are immune to. Or large cash payments, or real-estate in the beastman world across the portal, etc. Or a food shortage – perhaps the new bodies are able to digest grass & leaves etc.?

Sorry... that's all really negative! You might want to just skip your story forward a few decades to the point where uptake is now ~10% and starting to spike up? Or just set it somewhere like California or Vegas where uptake might be highest? Or start with a future world with widespread cybernetics & surgical bodymods which would be much more accepting of this offer.

  • $\begingroup$ ...Yeeeeaaah, 50% nonhuman... man that was an embarrassing ballpark of mine... I swear it sounded right when I thought of it, though I can’t say how... this has given me a lot to think about. $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2018 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ Think we could talk this over in chat? I have a bunch of variables regarding this that I need to consider and I can't lay them all out in a concise comment, and I think your insight could be really valuable to sorting out how to do this realistically. $\endgroup$ Apr 28, 2018 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ Sure. I can’t see an option to start a chat but if you can start one and invite me I assume it’ll tell me how to join! $\endgroup$
    – Dan W
    May 3, 2018 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ darn it, it looks like it doesn’t give the option until comments start becoming a back and forth. Lemme see if there’s a way to PM. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2018 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, I think I managed to get it to work. I followed some pretty bizarre instructions that sent me to an account with a totally different name, but I started a chat room. Did you get an invitation or something? $\endgroup$ May 3, 2018 at 14:46

Well, does the new body have any special abilities beyond physical boosts, like magic, flight, etc.? Because a lot of people would probably give up their human forms in a heartbeat if they could fly in exchange.


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