My story has a country/society made up of mostly shapeshifters. How shapeshifting works is that once someone turns 21 they are allowed the gift of shapeshifting through an advance technology. They can't choose what they get, it could be anywhere from a blue whale all the way to at least something with a brain. Anyone who registers for a morph must receive a 'sticker' which (depending on the morph) is usually just a small device which would trigger a' looker'. Which is basically a device which can identify people in morph, most look like something along the lines of speedometer police scanner. The problem there are illegal forms of getting a morph without having to having to get a sticker, meaning it's sometimes really difficult to tell if that pigeon that just landed on your lawn is just a bird or actually a man. Also the most common morphs are usually animals with backbones, but invertebrates morphs such as bugs do also exist though.

Note: It's completely legal to kill someone in morph if they're invading your property, as it doesn't actually kill the person only the morph, someone killed in morph just simply turns back. Also (besides morphing) this setting only has modern day technology available.

Edit: How the technology works is that tiny microscopic nanobots flow through the bloodstream and can kinda turn a switch in the human body from animal back to human. This is why the biggest size limit would be something along the lines of a flea.

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    $\begingroup$ Upvote because "IT'S MORPHIN' TIME!" $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Feb 28, 2022 at 0:54
  • $\begingroup$ it is ironic if the owner's son in law morphs into a bug and is lured by the bug zapper, then is it suicide or insecticide ;D $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Feb 28, 2022 at 2:22
  • $\begingroup$ Possibly related: How could shapeshifters tell each other apart within their own societies? $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2022 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ "someone killed in morph just simply turns back" there's a bunch of loopholes there big enough to swim a blue whale through. I forsee a lot of "tragic", "accidental" deaths of trepassers, burglars, and suspects attempting to evade arrest or escape custody. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2022 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps more relevantly though, what's the nature of the technology? does the morphed person retain some mechanism inside their animal body? Is there a minimum size of body? $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2022 at 14:37

10 Answers 10


It depends on what sets them apart from what they're meant to shift into.

Examples from folklore and mythology. Werewolves fall into a dozen or more 'lineages'. The Greek Lycanthrope was effectively a man cursed by a god to turn into a wolf. As this was a curse, you can expect that they retained if not human level intelligence, then at least their memories.

Germanic werewolves often took up the mantle of their own volition. Depending on the exact folk tale involved, they either had to drink water from the paw print of a wolf, or they have to wear the pelt of a wolf they killed with their bare hands. This is thus a voluntary change. In the case of 'wearing the pelt', they started out clumsy and their wolf form was just slightly larger and far more aggressive than natural wolves--they also had to hide their wolf pelt, so you could find it and lather it in rock salt to make changing agonizing. In the case drinking from the paw print, they would be almost indistinguishable from a natural wolf, but would have an intelligence in their eyes and used tactics unheard of with natural wolves.

My point here, is that there's something that sets them apart. If you take modern day technology into account, you're apt to find even more differences. Suggestions:

  • a higher or lower body temperature than natural creatures
  • an imperfect shift (especially with less experienced shifters), where there are some 'abnormalities'. Think wings with abnormally large feathers, or claws that are either misshapen or the wrong length/colour.
  • an odd glimmer in their eye, either their iris or their pupil.
  • odd body language or sounds considered unnatural to the species. Just because they can shift, doesn't mean they understand the nuances of communicating in their shift's language. Think pigeons that make odd sounds, or dogs that can't communicate with other dogs.
  • blood samples. They can shift into the species. Does that mean they carry the species' DNA?
  • how does the nanotech that allows them to shift affect them in human form and while shifted? Does it slowly impart bits and pieces of the shift? Rat-shifters slowly starting to hate the light or being able to navigate mazes with relative ease? Dog/wolf-shifters becoming more pack oriented? Perhaps slowly affecting their nails and joints and height and voice?

If you apply scientists attention to detail and the scientific method of dozens if not hundreds of people finding this new avenue of applied science/tech? There's no way they won't find ways to differentiate them. Anything from 'one less bone in their left small toe' (from My Hero Academia) to 'distress markers in their DNA' to 'sensors that detect nano-tech'.

But, that all depends on the specifics of how these things work and what little tells you want to leave in.


Magnetic Weapons

The way you describe this technology working is that this is accomplished via nanobots in the bloodstream using some form of futuristic technology to change the subject to an animal. To change back, you activate the nanobots.

Now, let us suppose that the nanobots were subjected to a localized electro-magnetic wave which completely wiped the nanobot's memory. That would render the nanobots incapable of functioning and lock down the subject to whatever shift they were occupying at the time. Not to mention that, given the fried nanobots, it may be impossible for them to return to their original form even if they had someone nearby to give them a fresh injection of these nanobots, unless those were keyed beforehand. Needless to say, this would be very bad. Very, very bad.

So, let's say you had a defensive system which incorporated this weapon. The mere threat of it should be more than enough to deter all the would-be intruders, except for the most determined and well equipped, but any target which would attract such intruders should have much more secure defenses as well.

One final point - electromagnetic shielding isn't possible with regard to nanobots. EM shielding relies, on other things, on material thickness, and a shielding a few nanometers thick won't stop a sufficiently powerful magnetic wave.

  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. It sounded like nanobots to me too. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2022 at 16:05

Assume Everything is a Shifter

You realize that you there isn't going to be a reliable way to secure against shifters while still allowing not shifters access. So you decide nothing gets access, no insect, cat, bird or any other form of life will be allowed into your home, yard, property at all.

Only the security personnel and residents of the home are allowed in, and even they require authentication (passwords, secret phrases, physical keys etc.) to get into the property, as it is still possible that one could shift into a human too (or just wear a disguise).

  • $\begingroup$ +1 indeed and it can go beyond life. One time a shape shifting burglar disguised as my morning newspaper. I went to work and it stole my TV. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Mar 8, 2022 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ You can easily secure most of the house by making it so the windows do not open and installing filters in the air ducts (maybe with some UV-light/electric mesh to kill would-be-intruders). This is followed by closing off all other entrances to the home in similar ways. The only way remaining for things to enter/exit would be to lift along with a human when they enter/exit. This would mean that anything that a person hasn't consciously brought into their home (random cat/fly/etc.) is likely a shifted human. $\endgroup$
    – vinzzz001
    Mar 9, 2022 at 11:20

Trigger on anything large enough to be a morph.

Of course you have the usual sensors. Pressure pads on your front walk. Things that detect a door or window opening when it should not, just for example. But you want earlier warning than when the unfriendly is already forcing open your bathroom window.

It is simple to make motion detectors that are extremely hard to bypass. For close to the ground, you use capacitance changes in a wire fence. These can work for the areas within about 2 meters of any fence, structure, the roof, etc. It can be set so that anything with more than a few grams of water or metal will trigger it. Or it can be made somewhat less sensitive, if your rose bushes waving in the wind are setting it off.

For flying critters, you put up fish-eye lenses and detect changes from one frame to the next. You can do some jim-jam with the optical focus length, so clouds don’t trigger it.

Slightly more sophisticated could be infrared lasers doing nice spirals, with detectors sensing changes in the reflection from the surroundings. You can set this so it only senses stuff within some maximum range. Infrared so that most people can’t see it to avoid it. It’s the same general thing that comes out of some TV remote controls. It range-finds by having crossing beams and triangulating. Won’t be harming anybody’s vision. Hard to bypass.

Once triggered you have choices. First, the system alerts the homeowner through his cell phone. Then there is probably some kind of warning. Maybe alarms, flashing lights, etc. Depending on how concerned you are about neighbor kids, wild animals, the postman, etc., maybe you look through your phone before moving to harsher methods. You need cameras at strategic locations covering the entire exterior.

If you have a human at your front door, then you change things over to the usual things for that. Check if you know them, if they are selling something, if they are a charity, if they are the police, etc.

If it appears to be an animal, you might hit it with a squirt of water to try to scare it away. Or extra loud sirens, though you need to be concerned with your neighbors complaining if the siren goes off frequently. You could have other amusing ways of discouraging animals that start with non-harmful and work their way up. I’m thinking a big flyswatter coming out of a trap door and giving the wayward bunny a big slap.

If that critter that looks like a rottweiler is not deterred by sirens, getting squirted, and getting told over loudspeakers “Bad dog! Go home!” then maybe you need other methods. Possibly you call the police, who presumably are aware of morphs. Or possibly you move to various “Home Alone” methodologies. Or maybe you move on to lethal stuff.

  • $\begingroup$ Sounds very expensive. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Mar 2, 2022 at 14:12
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The most expensive form of security is security that does not work. $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Mar 2, 2022 at 14:33

How to Catch a Human That Might be a Flea or a Cat or a Bird?

Look out for human tendencies in animals:

Any sign of reading or having apparent understanding of human writing. Observance of signs. Indifference to fire. Laughing.

Also look out for animals acting unconventionally/suspiciously. Eg. That goat that tried to get in the front door earlier, or that fly that keeps going inside my top. If it's mostly tiny creatures you're worried about getting into the house you'd probably need some sort of bug-zapper lazer setup.

Also, if it's nanobots then perhaps a giant magnet would do the trick to de-morph them. And if it's nanobots, they should only be allowed to be activated by shouting "It's Morphin Time!" and if someone does it without shouting first they are a baddie.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Other signs an animal is secretly a human they wear a tiny hat or coat; or they take frozen potato waffles out of your freezer and put them in the toaster. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Mar 4, 2022 at 11:39

I believe you just answered your own question and set up the perfect security system. I do understand that these morphs don't have a sticker, and you don't know if they are really just animals. OK, I will get to that. Let's walk through this:

  1. We want security from bad people, just like we have here on earth. No one is allowed to just walk into your house, even if they're an ant or a dog form.

OK, the way we handle that on earth is with a deterrent. Something that alarms when they come, and calls a professional (police officer); or some people just take care of it themselves with a gun. After all, they are intruders.

The important point here is, as humans, we really are not concerned with the safety or well-being of the intruder. So, that should be the same with a shape-shifted morph. We don't care about the ant's well-being, or the dog's well-being if they are an intruder. Is that logical?

But there is a slight difference because a human form and a morph form are physically different. But that's where the difference ends. There is no moral difference, or rational difference in the way an intruder is handled based on their shape or size.

What is different is the professional we call, or the weapon we use to protect ourselves. For a human, we call the police, or use a gun. For a morph, we call the exterminator, or use whatever bug spray or taser we would handle the problem as a creature.

We have an advantage against morphs as humans because we have hands. There are really no morphs which could reasonable get into your house that you can't overpower. A bear isn't getting in, you have doors. They're tough, but doors are generally tougher. If you have cheap doors and windows, and a morph bear is your worry? well then, this question is looking for the security options. Those are your options: tough doors and windows at the hardware store.

So thinking about what morphs could be getting into your house, they will pretty much be limited to bugs and lizards and very small critters that you can step on. Bigger critters don't have hands to work a door knob. And even if they did, just buy a better door knob, or lock the door.

  1. Let's look at the legal implications. There are none. Your world absolutely allows you to treat a n animal morph just like an animal, because no one gets hurt.

Conclusion: Security against a morphed person is identical to the security against the real creature they have the shape of. Big things are stopped by walls and doors and windows with locks. Small things are stopped with poison or exterminators or your shoe. Ant poison is available to just sprinkle on the floor at your doorstep. And if they do sneak in and get big, then they are humans. That security is the police, or a gun. In effect, nothing at all changes. The way you secure your home against any "thing" today, is the way you secure your home against any "morph-thing" as well.


there isn't a problem with how to identify the morph, but there are some problems with the law and government's protocol here

1)I believe there is some problem here about the law which you can't kill invaders. consider this: if front of my house's door, I leave some tools and an invader come and kill him/her self with that. do I perform any action against the law?

in my opinion, the answer is no!

in some cases in defense of the act of invaders or a law breaker, they can just say they aren't informed about the danger or the law and that's why they are harmed or perform such an action (like invading a house that security can kill or harm them).

so u can just hang a sign from your door or somewhere that they can see to inform them and then use any security application that can kill even invasion of a bug.

2)the second problem is how they know the security holes? consider this: if I have a password to open an isolated room in any way. how they can use shape lifting against that? the information on how to open the locked room is only yours!

the real question would be: what is the protocol for the government after someone is rubbed by a morph?

and forget about installing bio or non-bio identifier devices! because, without a database, they would be useless.

police officers can use patterns of crimes and other investigation tools to find the morph just like serial killers.

  • $\begingroup$ Your opinion on dead trespassers is not necessarily one shared by all jurisdictions, FYI. $\endgroup$ Mar 6, 2022 at 14:54

Morphing and perception

Morphing also morphs the brain and the senses. For larger creatures and the brain this isn't a big problem, but morphing into a pigeon has serious consequences for capacity. Menory, processing, decision making and situational awareness is either diminished or radically different. But you have a heavy sci-fi vibe that might allow that

I would then consider the creatures senses. As you say, the people go blind if they choose a mole. Considering that, lets look at the pigeon example. I place question marks if a pigeon eye has the focus depth and general ability to read even basic text. They are eyes meant to look all around for predators, making them highly inefficient in focusing on specifics.

Considering this it's more likely that for lots of spy tasks we would use predators. Humans have a highly visual based society, so predator eyes that can focus properly are all important. This highly limits the available morphs. Other senses can still offer information, like superior smell, yet are also more niche applications. To add, you need a certain size to effectively focus/read, so fleas or jumping spiders are out. Also their hearing is probably too limited, as it's focused for their purposes and not human things like a book, conversation or monitor screen.

These things highly limit the available morphs for spying. We need predators of sizes that can support the understanding of the human world. Many predators are thus unsuitable as they often avoid contact with humans. Cats or dogs would then be an easy pick, but in such a society you'll probably limit their movements, or have iron clad identifiers for them and kill any that fail a test or are just in general suspicious.

Even things like eagles are limited in use. They might spy on a house or through a window, but again this might not be enough to identify text, they are more often rare and shy away from urban areas and have limited living areas.


It'll be easy to identify morphs. They are highly limited in their choices to spy upon others thanks to perception differences. Identifying a person, text or sound can already proof impossible for many smaller creatures. Creatures that can navigate and understand the human world are limited, often rare in appearance, might not get access everywhere and are easily identified as morphs because of their unusual behaviour.


Nanobots are used to detect if people have shape-shifting nanobots in them

Assuming many people want to defend against people abusing illegal shapeshifting means that likely the government or people selling home security would have developed nanobots that can be sent out automatically towards any living creature, such a nanobot would likely be much easier to design and make than shapeshifting nanobots so it is very much possible they made something like that. the nanobots will send a signal if they find any which triggers the alarm and registers the person, if it doesn't find anything for a certain time it will break itself down so it can be removed by the body

especially a government would likely make something like that due to the average obsession with knowing everything about someone, especially if it is something many people are afraid of. in that case, they might just give everyone those bots(this might be boring in a story, so..), or have the bots remain and send out a signal so that the system will not trigger if the animal it detected already has the nanobots, this would allow for a nice plot where eventually someone figures out how to spoof that signal and pretend to have the bots while in reality not having them and only having shapeshifter bots.

if you don't care about that method you can try the following things: You talk about nanobots, which assuming they work on something like electricity or resonance.

The nanobots resonate, block/cancel out, and or send out a specific frequency Long ago this same principle was used to spy the white house, a small wallhanger was made then they added a microphone and a small thing which reonated to a specific frequency, they spies would send out a specific radio signal which would activate and power the device, the device would send back audio on a different frequency. real nanobots also respond to certain frequency, just like a RFID but often a higher frequency. magnetic induction or vibration can often also be used, this is used to scan the ground for things like the underground landscape, water or metals, etc. with something like this you could easily notice if someone is a shifter since they have the nanobots and probably lots of them which will be different. This can be used in a radar-like way, which is also actually already being done and researched right now, radio or sound waves for 3d scanning and figuring out what material something is, or what it consists of.

High voltage or strong magnetic fields will mess up the nanobots and work kind of like a force field, the nanobots are powered by something, that same thing can be send out in extreme level to render the bots useless. the same goes for canceling it out, since they might send out signals or one might design a specific signal which causes currents in the devices going the other way.



Basically, you could make the society a paranoid totalitarian regime that keeps a truly ridiculous hold on everyone who is a citizen, routinely violating its citizens' privacy through tracking devices and/or truly obsessive amounts of cameras and recording devices.


If you are okay with the leaders being absolute idiots with no concern for the integrity of the environment, the leadership could simply decree that all animals not wearing the patch that identifies them as a legal morph should be killed, out of concern of the fact that they may be illegal morphs.


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