Druids do more than just adopt the outward traits of animals. Yes, your hands may shrink, you may grow a tail, your nose may elongate. But with it, your entire perspective of the world changes. As a bear, your nose is constantly assaulted by scents. A cat? You must look at the world in black and white. A bird? Imagine the sensation of unsupported flight – mankind's dream since one proto-human smacked another with a club. Shapeshifting is like opening a passage to a whole new universe of sounds, scents and experiences. The world seems bigger and your mind sees everything differently. Roleplaying this experience takes a certain shift in sensibilities.
Imagine for a moment that you are a Druid, transforming for the first time into the shape of a cat. First, look at your hands. Imagine them shrinking, each finger losing distinction. It feels like your knuckles have swollen – they lost their flexibility and skill. Your palms grow thick, too thick to feel through easily. Then your back begins to hunch, curving as your hips tip strangely. When your legs point at a natural 90-degree angle you fall to your hands and knees, feeling your legs shrivel and your bones compact. At the same time, your arms grow out, away from your body. Your elbows twist end bend and your wrists lock. Your tail sprouts through your trousers, brushing against your legs as your clothing is absorbed into the cat's fur.
Feeling naked, you look at the chair you once sat in and it's oddly large – its seat is on the same level your head is. Your nose stretches forward, your skull curves and elongates and several new teeth grow in your jaw. Then, you recognise scent – scent a humanoid never knew. Imagine a blind man waking up to find he can see. How do you define the first sight of the colour green? This is how it feels like to feel your first trace-scent, to know exactly who has been here and how long ago.
Now that your transformation is complete, you must learn to walk like a cat. This isn't at all easy, coordinating every step with your arm movements. Leap forward, always landing on your hands and don't compensate for the length of your legs – they aren't long any more, remember? Speaking is a completely different experience – your mouth is a maw full of sharp fangs, with limited movement.. Don't pick things up – your hands don't work that way and besides, how would you carry it? Let others strap something to your back and you feel like your spine is breaking.
Machines seem magical and terrifying. It's your instincts that have begun to take over – without them, your mind wouldn't be able to process the strange smells and sounds you are experiencing or to balance the unfamiliar weight of your body. You have to relax and allow the instinct of your new form to guide you – but at the same time you have to prevent the cat from taking over. If that happens, your mind could be lost forever.
When the time comes to cast off your form you have to go through the process again. Your haunches stretch, throwing you terribly off-balance as your forelegs shrivel and shrink. Your paws lose their strength and your fingers become ribbons of bony flesh. They don't work together in harmony but instead flex separately, like strange claws. Your spine thickens and and you can hardly twist your body around. Something in your hips tilts and you fall to the ground, unable to support your heavy rear on your spindly forelegs. Your nose shrinks, your eyes lose focus and the world fades away. It's almost surreal how much information you lose and yet how vibrant the colours become. Sounds fade, smells are forgotten and you sense a great chill as your warm fur becomes loosely hanging shreds of fibers and hides.
All this, and more, is part of the magic of the Druid. Truly becoming another creature is one of the greatest joys – and dangers – of Druidism.