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In my story, set in medieval times, shapeshifters exist who have a human form and an animal form (only one, which they are born with). The majority of the population is human, many of whom hate the shapeshifters due to religious differences. They systematically oppress the shapeshifters and use violence against them. Eventually, a civil war starts between the two races, and this is where my story begins.

Question: Why wouldn't the shapeshifters be able to overpower the human forces with their animal forms? Is there a way I can make this war more believable, as in, the humans are winning for a majority of the time?

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, maddefelice! If you have a moment, please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox useful. Here is a meta post on the culture and style of Worldbuilding.SE, just to help you understand our scope and methods, and how we do things here. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Gryphon Jan 12 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome. You're asking two huge questions here. 1) Is this realistic? 2) Why wouldn't the shapeshifters be able to overpower the humans? The first is easy: yes. Countless books exist about oppression of people who are different. Including different supernaturally. If you take just the second question and narrow it down only to warfare, you might have a decent question that will stay open. I'm going to go ahead and edit that. If you don't like my edit you can do a "roll back" which will return the question to its original form. $\endgroup$ – Cyn Jan 12 at 18:34
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You could have all sorts of reasons, including any of the following:

  • The shapeshifters are a stark minority, allowing them to be overwhelmed by numbers.
  • The shapeshifters are initially captured as infants and brought up in monasteries/crippled/killed, any of which could be used to weaken them in numbers or mental/physical strength.
  • Shapeshifting inherently takes effort, thus weakening them.
  • Most shapeshifters live without transforming, thus being unskilled in fighting in their animal form.
  • There is little expertise in animal armor and weaponry, thus humans have a technological advantage.

I hope this provides some inspiration.

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Try and name one animal that could give a group of well armed guards or soldiers a challenging fight. You'll be hard-pressed finding any.

If this was set in the ice ages, maybe a sabertooth or a mammoth could do it. But once people have steel and crossbows, you are [redacted]. If anything, a shapeshifter makes the fight easier for humans by not using weapons.

If the shapeshifter army was composed of millions of grasshoppers, then maybe they could threaten the humans by eating all their crops, if the humans are stupid. Most probably the shapeshifters would all DIAF though.

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Main Reason

In Medieval times humans were already able to deal with almost every animal on the planet easily. So being an animal wouldn't necessarily be an advantage exceptions are boars, large cats (tiger, jaguar,...), rhinos, hippos, crocodiles,... basically large animals which are strong or have good armor like crocodiles.

Every other animal would probably already lose in an 1v1 with a skilled and prepared human as the humans should be when hunting enemies.

Additional Points

Also because they are a minority they don't have a number advantage as well as they don't have the advantage of fortifications like fortresses and castles. (of course this is when striking back is still an important factor)

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