I'm currently working on a computer game where malicious magical users transform others as a primary way of removing them and passifying threats. I thought I'd ask this a little more scientifically.

Let's say, assuming in one instance the effect wasn't instant that a spell hits you and takes effect over one week. Your body, mind, organs, nervous system and brain tissue and even neural wiring, all of it will become a different individual, like a secretary or bar wrench, their daughter, even a copy of the individual that transformed you.

How would the phenomenon play over the week? Consider how your brain tissue would change, cell by cell along with your DNA over the week, your memories and brain components, effecting your memories, personality, and respective psychology. Is there an analytical way to look at this? Assume the end result you'll become has no brain defects or disabilities and, aside from being a completely different person, is relatively 'normal' functioning.

If it's easier they might be the same age and gender as you. Otherwise, opposite gender and entirely different age and culture. How would a person experience such a curse?

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    $\begingroup$ Explaining superpowers with science is moot. As far as we know, it's not possible. So no chance to get it "realistic". $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 15 '16 at 11:35
  • $\begingroup$ I don't need an explanation on how the powers or magic works. You could just as easily replace the scenario with science fiction where nanobots or advanced gene therapy and neural synaptic memory re-allocation is able to alter someones mind/DNA. It's more a question examining, realistically, what would be a persons subjective experience from the perspective of having their entire body, mind and Identity forcibly changing over time. $\endgroup$ – hankhoward Nov 15 '16 at 12:55
  • $\begingroup$ Look up the Twilight Zone's Quality of Mercy episode, although that describes a more physical transformation. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Nov 16 '16 at 1:15

It would basically be hyper puberty.

You wake up feeling different and weird every day. Your body's changing in unexpected and confusing ways. Your hormones are going to go off the charts, shooting high into the air, then crashing down again. They'll be in constant pain as their body changes shape, down to their very bones.

This person, no matter their start and end personalities, is going to be moody, overly-sensitive, and exhausted at all times during the transition period. They'll probably try and sleep at least 16 hours per day, and shovel food down the remaining eight hours.

In all likelihood, this person is going to be extremely confused and embarrassed by what is happening, and try and hide it, shutting out friends and family. Violently, if necessary. If they don't live alone, they may flee into the wilderness while the change is happening.

I mean, really, do you want to tell your husband that you grew a penis overnight? I didn't think so.

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    $\begingroup$ Or a having to tell your wife you grew a pair of tits. Would be an odd bedroom conversation. Not to mention the sexual orientation shift and new hormones would be a sanity killer, assuming you had any time to pay mind to those. $\endgroup$ – hankhoward Nov 15 '16 at 13:48

I would recommend against trying to dig too deep into the science of this. This is so far from real science that it's much better to just call it magic and leave it at that.

Who we are is not just our physical structure, or mind, our DNA, or the proteome. Each of them play a huge part in who we are, and all of them would have to change in ways that no real existing creature has ever endured.

The physical structure is the easy part to define, but a hard part to explain. There are many structures which are easy to grow from an embryo, but incredibly difficult to grow in a fully grown body because the distances are so much greater. This means your magic will have to weave new tissues in ways which are not biologically real.

We don't understand how the mind works, so your magic would simply have to do something which is not biologically real to weave the mind.

The proteome contains an extraordinarily large amount of information. Where is your magic getting its information from? Its source of "what do you want to transform into" could only come from a perfect clone, being cloned in a a way that is not biologically real.

The DNA... is not all the same. Each cell has slightly different DNA due to mutation errors. There is no biologically real way to change all of that DNA, perfectly. Thus, you have 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 base pairs in the body to check and compare.

Consider that, in Russia and China, they are preparing for the first full-body transplant. Even with pre-existing hardware (i.e. a cadaver to transplant from), they still expect to have to keep the person in a medical coma for an unknown amount of time to prevent their nervous system from destroying the body.

Instead, use Sanderson's First Law of magic.

Sanderson’s First Law of Magics: An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic.

What parts of your curse do you need the readers to understand so that you can solve conflict in your game. Focus on those. Use science if it is convenient. Otherwise, there's plenty of other approaches for building understanding.


Depending on how you want to explain the changes in their minds the people might as well die. Not only because you are reprogramming everything and have to leave the important parts that control the basic functions of this constantly changing body intact at all times.

Imagine walking down the street and being attacked by one of these malicious magical users. It happens fast and you don't even realize what exactly is going on. Suddenly everything changes. You fear for your live. You try to run away. Home. The place you know best. You run away, struggling with the weird feeling spreading throughout your body. Nearly home, just across the street. And BAM! Weird foreign memories. Memories from a complete stranger. Your mind tries to comprehend what is going on and you are stunned for a few seconds - you won't even see the truck...

The people affected have to stay home and will struggle with diverse problems. Foreign memories and weird tingling sensation throughout your whole body. Suddenly you are craving coffee and going in the kitchen to make some - when you realize that you never liked coffee and don't have any. When going back you trip. The left leg feels a little shorter than before. The problem: your reflexes are not the same anymore and you will fall hard on the floor. You struggle to get up again, fighting against the weird faint voice mumbling nonsense in your head. Then you realize that it wasn't a voice in your head, it was your wife standing next to you and talking to you, but your ears didn't work for a second. She tries it again, louder this time. But now your ears are suddenly hypersensitive and you scream in pain - which causes the next shock, because your voice doesn't sound quite right.

And this is just the beginning. If everything changes at the same time you will have a lot of problems at the same time. And it will still take your week to finish this transformation. The body doesn't change so fast. Some parts might change slowly, like your legs becoming shorter. Some things might be suddenly, like your memories. Some things might be slowly, but you won't adapt to the change until you need to, like your ears.

It will be horrible for the person and it will be horrible for everyone around. The biggest problems will be the mental problems. Seeing your loved ones fade away in a mere 7 days. Becoming insane and then suddenly acting completely different, because the other person took over. And for the person himself - losing control over your body and having to explain to your kids that daddy won't be daddy anymore in a few days... Just a few days to say goodbye - and you don't even know at which point you won't remember them anymore.

The physical problems will be gruesome, too. A malicious mage trying to maximize the harm could change, in one of the nicer cases, your body to one with a whole lot of life-threatening allergies. You are confused, dehydrated, hungry - let's just grab my favorite snack, so I can think again. A few minutes later you can't breathe anymore.

But allergies are not the worst that could happen - diabetes, cancer, leukemia... The list of medical condition the mage could give the person is endless, and one is worse than the one before...

Depending on how the change goes on it might affect the person you are changing into, too. Realising you are a parasite, slowly destroying the live of another person and having to watch without being able to do something. Being killed, because you cannot prevent the suicide of your host. Seeing the fear in the eyes of the people aroung you. And it is a human mind you are "transplanting" - one second you are on your way home and someone choloroforms you so he can scan your DNA - the next you are in a foreign body, trying to get the control and realising you are destroying the live of someone else while struggling to survive and gain control over "your" body.

All in all this is one of the most gruesome methods to torture someone and everyone around him. Especially if you want to torture someone multiple times, so you use him as the blueprint for the next instances of body-transformation. Seeing how horrible it will be for him in different environments, again and again and again...

Most people will become insane in the process. The original and the parasite. The suicide-rate will be incredibly high and the potential to die an unintended death is high, too. Your magic users are truly fearsome and sadistic toturers...


There is an analytical way to look at this - look at the research into multiple personality disorder, especially first person accounts. Also the book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat contains descriptions of real brain disorders that produce related experiences.

  • $\begingroup$ Dissociative Identity Disorder is about multiple distinct personalities co-existing within a single body. @hankhoward is asking about one personality (and entire body) rapidly changing, on the molecular level, into another one, permanently. The half-way state is not going to be two personalities fighting for control of a body, but a single personality that has subtly changed to be more inline with the new personality. $\endgroup$ – Azuaron Nov 15 '16 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ I believe that the phenomenological experiences would have commonalities. For example, some personalities are aware while others are in control, and remember what happened during that time, even though they were powerless to act. Others have complete amnesia. During the week of conversion, the person could experience one or both of these scenarios. $\endgroup$ – Jnani Jenny Hale Nov 15 '16 at 13:43

So do other changes that were done to the person's body persist during and after the change, or are all unintended changes automatically corrected until the person changes into an exact copy of the target? Like, if he is hungry, hurt, or learned something new, would it matter when the transformation is complete? What if he died? And is the target state a "snapshot" of the other person at the time of spell casting, or a continuously changing state of the living other person?

If these changes don't matter, I guess the person would be very confused(under strict physical explanations of consciousness). If furthermore the target state is a static snapshot, he would be practically unable to remember anything or keep doing anything for any length of time as information in his brain is overwritten, probably trapped somewhere or wandering in the street not knowing where he is or how he should do the random task that were on the target's mind. Otherwise he will behave disoriented if the target state is changing, as new experiences and intentions keep flowing into his brain and old stuff are wiped out. His knowledge will be disrupted and incoherent, as memory is somewhat distributed and a partial change will end up with lots of mixed and matched facts and silly associations, probably like those we experience in dreams.

If however the spell is not self-correcting, things get much worse. Like, the immune system could attack partially transformed parts of the body, unless the spell can keep the changes to so many types of cells in the immune system, existing antibodies, and antigens in perfect synchronization. Any difference could lead to bad autoimmune reactions that will not get corrected, and unlike in the previous case, the person could just die. And memory is actually volatile, each time we recollect something our brains have to store it again into long term memory or it's lost(or so I'm told). So while mental inconsistencies are just a temporary inconvenience in the previous case, it will cause partially transmitted memories from the target to be overwritten by old/wrong ones as the person will certainly be constantly trying to reflect, wondering what the **** am I remembering? The transformation will not be safe or accurate unless the person is put into metabolic stasis(sleep is not goo enough, memory processing happens during sleep too).


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