Hengeyokai are intelligent, shapechanging animals, able to shift freely between human and animal forms, as well as a bipedal, animalistic form. Several subraces exist, defined by the kind of animal form they can assume. They are typically found on the fringes of human-settled lands, where they can mingle in human form but retreat to solitude when they desire.
In animal form, hengeyokai are almost indistinguishable from normal animals except through magic. Naturally, their behavior often provides proof of their intelligence, so careful observation of a hengeyokai in animal form can reveal that it is not what it appears to be. Hengeyokai can also assume a bipedal, animalistic (“hybrid”) form. They stand on their hind legs (or similar appendages) to the height of their human form. The front paws, wings, or fins change into hands, capable of gripping and using normal equipment. The rest of the body retains the general appearance of the animal, including fur, feathers, wings, tail, and other characteristic features, but in the overall shape of a humanoid head and torso. In human form, hengeyokai look exactly like normal humans, though (like lycanthropes) they often display some feature associated with their animal form. For example, a sparrow hengeyokai might have a sharply pointed nose, while a rat hengeyokai might have beady eyes and a long mustache.
Hengeyokai tend to be secretive, reclusive, and solitary, dwelling alone or in small bands. They often display personality traits similar to their animal type—so monkey hengeyokai are curious and inquisitive, hare hengeyokai are peaceful but easily startled, and so on. Hengeyokai usually do not try to fit into human society, knowing that they are different and believing that they are more closely connected to the spirit world. Hengeyokai do not have lands of their own. They live—alone or in small bands—near human communities, usually on the edge of civilization, near regions of unsettled wilderness. Given their strong chaotic streak, hengeyokai are frequently on the move, particularly when the advance of civilization turns their wilderness retreats into bustling metropolitan areas.