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Wolf Mammal Wolves Animal Predator  - 14070813 / Pixabay, Skinwalker
14070813 / Pixabay

A Skinwalker is a person with the supernatural ability to turn into any animal he or she desires. Closely related to lycanthropes and other “were” creatures.

A Yeenaaldlooshii is one of several varieties of Navajo witch who uses his powers to travel in animal form. Those who have attained the highest level of priesthood then commit the act of killing an immediate member of their family, and then have thus gained the evil powers that are associated with skinwalkers.

Although it is most frequently seen as a coyote, wolf, owl, fox, or crow, the Yeenaaldlooshii is said to have the power to assume the form of any animal they choose, depending on what kind of abilities they need. Witches use the form for expedient travel to escape from pursuers.

Skinwalkers have the ability to steal the “skin” or body of a person. It is also said that they avoid the light and that their eyes glow like an animal’s when in human form and when in animal form their eyes do not glow as an animal’s would.

They are usually described as naked, except for a coyote skin, or wolf skin. Because animal skins are used primarily by skinwalkers, the pelt of animals such as bears, coyotes, wolves, and cougars are strictly tabooed. Sheepskin and buckskin are probably two of the few hides used by Navajos.

Often, Navajos tell of their encounter, or (understandably) to talk of such frightening things at night. Sometimes the skinwalker will try to break into the house and attack the people inside, and will often bang on the walls of the house, knock on the windows, and Climb onto the roofs. Sometimes, a strange, animal-like figure is seen standing outside the window, peering in. Described as being fast, agile, and impossible to catch. Sometimes a wounded skinwalker will escape, only to have someone turn up later with a similar wound which reveals them to be the witch. It is said that if a Navajo was to know the person behind the skinwalker they had to pronounce the full name. And about three days later that person would either get sick or die for the wrong that they have committed.

According to Navajo legend, they can have the power to read human thoughts. They also possess the ability to make any human or animal noise they choose, or use the voice of a relative or the cry of an infant to lure victims out of the safety of their homes.

The legend of the skinwalker tell of god giving the people a gift of transformation and was used only against their enemies. Over time, the people began to abuse this power, thus bringing god to earth to reclaim it. Some gave the power up and others hid with it and passed the knowledge to others.

Hopi skinwalking

In Hopi culture there is a ritual ceremony once performed called the Ya Ya Ceremony. In this ceremony members would change themselves into various animals using the hide from the animal they chose, and the members use certain animal attributes like sight, strength,etc. The ceremony was banned after members developed a disease of the eyes.

This man seems human at first, but a closer look reveals he has claws and sharp teeth.

D&D 5E Epic Monsters: Skin-Walker (5E)

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D&D 5E – Epic Monsters: Skin-Walker (5E) | EN World | Dungeons & Dragons | Tabletop Roleplaying Games

Supernatural hunters that walk amongst humanity unseen: Skin-Walkers.

The most prominent legends regarding this creature come from the Navajo and they’re said to roam only the North American continent (predominantly in deep wilderness forests). Once it has chosen a victim it can stalk them for days or longer, waiting for a target to be isolated. They are nightmarish creatures able to mimic the voice of any human or animal, even shifting their shape when wearing the skin of their prey. Traditionally it’s taboo to speak of, write down, or even think about skin-walkers so specifics about them are sparse. One resource I found claimed that skin-walkers were once the most respected and capable warriors of the tribe, donning the skins of coyotes and other animals to better spy on enemies, and it was only after the Great Dying that they began to turn against their own. There’s also a condition known as clinical lycanthropy which bears some thinking about too, although ultimately, it’s much more interesting for our purposes for these monsters to be more than mentally disturbed.


Medium monstrosity, unaligned
Armor Class 15 (natural armor)
Hit Points 90 (12d8+36)
Speed 30 ft.

18 (+4)17 (+3)16 (+3)13 (+1)17 (+3)18 (+4)

Skills Deception +10, Nature +4, Perception +6, Stealth +9, Survival +6
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 16
Languages Common
Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)

Exceptional Stealth. The skin-walker has advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks and its passive Stealth score is 24.

Keen Hearing and Smell. The skin-walker has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.

Magic Resistance. The skin-walker has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Mimicry. The skin-walker can mimic animal sounds and humanoid voices. A creature that hears the sounds can tell they are imitations with a successful DC 15 Wisdom (Insight) check.

Shapechanger. The skin-walker can use its action to polymorph into another humanoid or a beast, or back into its true form, which is humanoid. Its statistics, other than its AC, are the same in each form. Any equipment it is wearing or carrying isn’t transformed. It reverts to its true form if it dies.

Skinsuit. When the skin-walker has the skin of a creature it is using Shapechanger to assume the form of, it has advantage on Charisma (Deception) and Charisma (Persuasion) checks made to maintain its disguise.

Multiattack. The skin-walker makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claws or spear.

Bite (Beast or Hybrid Form Only). Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6+4) piercing damage.

Claws (Beast or Hybrid Form Only). Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 13 (2d8+4) slashing damage.

Spear (Humanoid Form Only). Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft. or reach 20/60 ft., one creature. Hit: 7 (1d6+4) piercing damage or 8 (1d8+4) piercing damage if wielded in two hands.

Gore Stench (Recharge 5-6). The skin-walker summons the blood and effluent from corpses that have died nearby creating a powerful gas in a 60-foot radius sphere centered on a point it chooses within 60 feet. Creatures in the area make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or are sickened. A sickened creature has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks, it cannot take reactions, and on its turn it can only take a bonus action or action (not both). The gas dissipates at the end of the skin-walker’s turn. At the end of each of its turns, a sickened creature can make another Constitution saving throw. If it succeeds, the effect ends. On a successful saving throw, the creature is immune to the skin-walker’s Gore Stench for 24 hours.

Screeching Echoes (Recharge 6). The skin-walker summons the voices of the creatures and warriors that have died nearby, creating a malicious cacophony all around it. Each creature within 120 feet of it that can hear it and that isn’t a monstrosity must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or be stunned until the end of the skin-walker’s next turn.

Skinwalker CR 1/2 (Ranger 1)

XP 200
Male skinwalker ranger 1
N Medium humanoid (shapechanger, skinwalker)
Init +2; Senses low-light vision; Perception +6


AC 15, touch 12, flat-footed 13 (+3 armor, +2 Dex)
hp 12 (1d10+2)
Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +2


Speed 30 ft.
Melee 2 claws +4 (1d4+3)
Ranged longbow +3 (1d8/×3)
Special Attacks favored enemy (human +2) Skinwalker Spell-like Abilities (CL 1st; concentration +3)

1/day—speak with animals


Str 17, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 8
Base Atk +1; CMB +4; CMD 16
Feats Power Attack
Skills Climb +7, Handle Animal +5, Perception +6, Survival +6, Swim +7; Racial Modifiers +2 Handle Animal
Languages Common
SQ change shape, track +1, wild empathy +2


Change Shape (Su)

A skinwalker can change shape to a bestial form as a standard action. In bestial form, a skinwalker gains a +2 racial bonus to his choice of Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution. While in this form, a skinwalker also takes on an animalistic feature that provides a special effect.

Each time a skinwalker assumes bestial form, he can choose to gain two claw attacks that each deal 1d4 points of damage, 60 foot darkvision, or a +1 natural armor bonus.

These benefits last until the skinwalker returns to his humanoid form as a swift action. A skinwalker must first return to his humanoid form before changing to bestial form again to change benefits. The skinwalker presented here is currently in bestial form, and has claw attacks and a +2 racial bonus to Strength.


Environment any forests, hills, or mountains
Organization solitary, pair, or pack (3–12)
Treasure standard (studded leather armor, longbow, other treasure)

Most people believe that skinwalkers are half-breeds of lycanthropes, or that they possess a weaker version of the curse of lycanthropy. However, skinwalker shamans claim that their people were chosen by the gods as a bridge between humanity and animals. Either way, skinwalkers resemble humans much of the time, but they have the uncanny ability to transform into bestial humanoids with powerful and fearsome aspects of animals.

Section 15: Copyright Notice

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 5 © 2015, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Dennis Baker, Jesse Benner, John Bennett, Logan Bonner, Creighton Broadhurst, Robert Brookes, Benjamin Bruck, Jason Bulmahn, Adam Daigle, Thurston Hillman, Eric Hindley, Joe Homes, James Jacobs, Amanda Hamon Kunz, Ben McFarland, Jason Nelson, Thom Phillips, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Alistair Rigg, Alex Riggs, David N. Ross, Wes Schneider, David Schwartz, Mark Seifter, Mike Shel, James L. Sutter, and Linda Zayas-Palmer.

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