FAQ: Changelings

This is a time to think of all the things we’ve thankful for, and I for one am thankful that I haven’t been replaced by a changeling. So it seems like a good time to address a few of the questions I’ve received about changelings, the shapeshifters of Rising From The Last War.

First, let’s take a quick look at the foundation of the changeling:

As an action, you can change your appearance and your voice. You determine the specifics of the changes, including your coloration, hair length, and sex. You can also adjust your height and weight, but not so much that your size changes. You can make yourself appear as a member of another race, though none of your game statistics change. You can’t duplicate the appearance of a creature you’ve never seen, and you must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs that you have. Your clothing and equipment aren’t changed by this trait. You stay in the new form until you use an action to revert to your true form or until you die.

A question that comes up quite often is given the threat posed by changelings impersonating people, what steps do Eberron’s factions and governments take to deal with them?

The everyday magic that drives the civilization of Khorvaire only goes up to around 3rd level. So you don’t have guards stationed with true seeing at every important location. Which is good, because from a metagame perspective, changelings should be able to fool people. That’s the point of playing a changeling. We don’t muzzle dragonborn to keep them from using their breath weapons or make wood elves wear cement boots to negate their extra movement. If you play a changeling, you should be able to fool people.

With that said, that doesn’t mean it should be EASY. The people of Khorvaire are very aware of the existence of changelings, and after centuries of coexistence have a very good idea of their capabilities. So let’s consider those for a moment.

  • As a changeling it is assumed that you can perfectly replicate the appearance of a creature you’ve seen before (just like someone using disguise self). No roll is required to duplicate basic physical appearance.
  • However, this doesn’t provide you with any knowledge of that person and their quirks. It’s taken for granted that you sound like them—the voice comes with the shape—but you don’t know their mannerisms or their vocabulary.
  • Likewise, the most crucial limitation on changelings is that clothing and equipment don’t change. You can look like a guard, but you don’t get the uniform for free.

So: People of Khorvaire know there are people out there that can duplicate their appearance… but that they can’t steal their memories or copy their belongings. One immediate impact of this is that people make a conscious effort to develop unique mannerisms and accessories. People establish in-jokes and call-and-response phrases. They will often have at least one unique, personal accessory—a piece of clothing, jewelery, even a pet—that they carry all the time as an identifying factor. In part, this is simply about developing a personal style; but in Eberron, it also has the absolute concrete underlay that “If you see me without this accessory, you should be suspicious.’

So in my case, I have a hat that I wear all the time. Everyone knows me by that hat. If I every show up without the hat, my friends will notice. They won’t automatically assume that I’m an imposter, but they WILL probably try out one of our shared jokes or stories and see if I respond to it. This same basic principle applies to institutions. Guards will have distinctive uniforms. They will have SOME sort of ID object—whether it’s identification papers, a brooch of rank—that will stand out if it’s absent. And they WILL have a system of passwords or phrases that they use to test people suspected of being imposters. Because after all, changelings aren’t the only threat; anyone can get a hat of disguise. In a high security location, this system could have more layers to further confuse people. The ID item could change regularly. Imagine an ID brooch that’s a common magic item, enchanted so you can change its color by touching it and saying a command word. The appropriate color could vary based on the current time and day of the week. So an imposter with disguise self could duplicate the appearance of the uniform; but if they don’t know the system, they won’t know what color their brooch should be.

While this isn’t foolproof, these sorts of systems can make it very difficult for a changeling to fool people. However, this is where DECEPTION comes into play. You don’t have to make a skill check to duplicate someone’s appearance. You have to make a skill check when you do something that makes them suspicious… and if you are successful, it means you’ve managed to allay their suspicions. If you duplicate my appearance and don’t have my hat, a successful Deception check means you’ve recognized that people are suspicious and done SOMETHING to convince them that nothing’s wrong. Perhaps you make an excuse about what happened to the hat. Perhaps you never even know the hat is the issue, but you’re just so skilled at putting people at ease that they forget about the hat. It’s the same principle with a password or an ID badge. The fact that you don’t know the password doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for you to get past a guard; an excellent Deception check means you’re able to convince them there’s a good reason you don’t have the password, or to otherwise get them to ignore it. On the other hand, there can also be inanimate security systems that can’t be fooled. An alarm could be tied to that common magic ID badge; if you enter the chamber without one, it will trigger the alarm. Which means you CAN still pull off this job; but you are going to have to somehow get one of those badges to do it.

In general, if you’re playing a changeling bard with expertise in Deception, you are SUPPOSED to be a master deceiver. You SHOULD be able to fool people. On the other hand, you’re not going to be able to simply walk into the Kundarak vault and steal all the treasure because you’re wearing someone’s face. They will have passphrases, and they will use magic that’s available (up to 3rd level); so you will have alarm, and in the case of a Kundarak vault you might even be questioned under a zone of truth. People KNOW changelings are around. They are PREPARED. But it’s always possible to overcome these with enough work and preparation.

One key point to bear in mind is that an easy way to not get caught is to not impersonate someone in the first place. The whole idea of a persona is that changelings will CREATE unique identities for their purposes. If a family of changelings created the identity of “Keith Baker,” they’re the ones who came up with the hat in the first place; they KNOW all the recognizable quirks of the character. The traveling changelings often don’t duplicate the appearance of outsiders; they simply use the persona best suited to the situation.

Another question that’s come up is can a changeling impersonate a warforged? This ties to a second question, can a changeling appear to be wearing a mask, but it’s actually just their face?

The answer to both of these hinges on the phrase your clothing and equipment aren’t changed by this trait. A mask is a piece of equipment, so no, you can’t make a fake mask. Likewise, you can duplicate the appearance of a warforged, but you can’t replicate armor—and most warforged are always wearing armor. So you could be a “naked’ warforged, which means you’ve just got the livewood musculature exposed, but that’s not normal for warforged and you’ll draw a lot of attention.

If a Changeling transformed into someone/thing with webbed hands and feet, or claws, would they have any benefit, even if it’s not a lot?

No. A changeling gains no mechanical benefit from their disguise. As suggested in the comments, I could imagine granting a Stealth bonus to a naked changeling who wants to shift the color of their skin to hide in a snowbank, but the key points there are “naked” and “snowbank” (IE, not a complex background). A changeling can make it LOOK like they have sharper teeth or claws, but this doesn’t actually give them natural weapons; it’s a deception. Essentially, it is a form of disguise self, NOT alter self.

Having said that, Exploring Eberron will have a few options that allow changelings to improve their natural shapeshifting abilities in order to get mechanical benefits from it.

Could a particularly skilled Changeling pull off a Cuttlefish impression?

No; the ability states “you must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs that you have.” With that said, I have in the past suggested the idea of a Changeling Menagerie—a changeling who is mechanically a Circle of the Moon druid, but who explains their class features as being derived from their mastery of shapeshifting as opposed to druidic traditions.

I’d love to know more about Changeling Culture. I do have a question, and it might be addressed in your book already, but here it is: In your Eberron, how would Changelings view love and romance? Would they stick with their persona the entire time they’re with their significant other, or show their true nature once they decide to commit to each other?

Exploring Eberron does go into more detail about changeling cultures, and the key point is that this isn’t a simple answer because there’s more than one changeling culture and the common answer (as there’s always exceptions in love!) would definitely vary by culture.

  • Stable changelings live openly as changelings and wouldn’t need to hide their true nature in the first place. I’d expect them to use personas as part of courting, but not to deceive the lover—rather to show them all the different facets of the changeling’s personality, to explore all the possibilities of their relationship. This could be confusing for a non-changeling lover, but between changelings it would be an important part of learning about one another. A final aspect of this could be developing an entirely new persona that is used ONLY with the lover: this is who I am with YOU.
  • Passers—lone changelings blending into non-changeling communities—might chose to share their true nature with a lover because they want to be completely honest with them. But there are passers who deny their own changeling nature and consider their chosen persona to BE their true identity; so they might believe they are BEING honest in using the persona. But part of the point is that passers aren’t really a culture; each one deals with unique circumstances.
  • Where the static changeling might create personas to show their facets to a lover, for the traveling changelings personas are important tools and stories. Many personas are shared, and any change you make to the core story of the persona would have to be followed by anyone else using the persona. If Tel-as-Bronson takes Jesse as a lover as Bronson and their cousin Dal also uses Bronson, then it’s Dal’s job to love Jesse when they are Bronson. So essentially, the question is are you taking this lover yourself—in which case, once you are certain about the relationship, you would DEFINITELY want them to know your true face—or is the persona taking this lover—in which case you’d never want to let them see your true face. This doesn’t mean the persona-lover would be any less intense or real; but it’s not part of YOUR story, it’s THEIR romance.

And these are just three of the more prevalent changeling cultures. So there’s a lot of possibilities.

I would think changelings must have some kind of internal law system for dealing with malcontents.

Remember that just like elves or for that matter drow, “changelings” don’t have anything as a whole. They aren’t a monolithic force; they have different cultures, and each culture will have their own traditions. With that said, yes, there would definitely be punishments for those whose actions threaten the community. Also bear in mind that theft of identity is a crime under the Code of Galifar; obviously casual actions can be hard to prove, but it’s an issue a changeling had best be aware of if they are going to be going before the law of the Five Nations.

One of the simplest but most severe punishments would be an indelible mark—a magical tattoo that cannot be removed by shapeshifting. The technique of the indelible mark is a secret held close by the elders of the Children of Jes, used only in severe situations. An equally severe punishment for serious offenses is removal of all or part of a limb; as noted above, changelings can’t create limbs with their power. With both of these punishments, the message is simple: if you abuse your gift, it can be taken from you. A lesser punishment would be the destruction of the criminal’s personal personas (through other changelings adopting the person and taking actions that can’t be undone).

Do changelings sometimes use their shapechanging artistically or outlandishly? Wild hair colors, patterned skin, strange eyes?

This is a question of culture. In stable changeling communities where they live openly as changelings, they absolutely use shapeshifting artistically and as a form of expression. The Queen of Stone has a changeling dancer changing patterns on their skin as part of the performance. Page 18 of Rising From The Last War notes that changeling names often incorporate a minor degree of cosmetic shapeshifting—Jin-with-vivid-blue-eyes. Traveling changelings and passers hiding their changeling nature obviously won’t use shapeshifting in this way, but still use it subtly to convey messages to family members.

Can all changelings get pregnant? Are they biologically asexual and just choose their current sex with shapeshifting?

Yes. What’s been stated in the past is that changelings set their sex with shapeshifting. Prior canon has said that a pregnant changeling actually loses the ability to shapeshift during the pregnancy. This seems extreme to me, but I could see the idea that they need to maintain a female form in order to maintain the pregnancy (and that shifting form very early in the pregnancy would simply end it, so changelings have a very easy form of birth control). The idea that changing sex is an instinctual thing, like flipping a light switch, and that a normal changeling couldn’t, for example, assume a male form but keep the uterus. With that said, if you had a changeling called out as having greater control over their abilities (for example, the Changeling Menagerie druid I’ve mentioned elsewhere) I might allow that.

Can changelings mate with non-changelings, and are their children full-blooded changelings?

What we’ve said before is that changelings can mate with most humanoids, and that the child is always a changeling. The child is born with the apparent species of the mother, and the shapeshifting ability doesn’t set in for around a year. This is the origin of the name “changeling” — because when someone’s previously human child suddenly becomes a pale thing, it was once thought that the original child had been taken to Thelanis.

Having said that: while changelings CAN mate with other humanoids, I’d say that it is RARE for them to impregnate creatures of other species. It can happen, but the fertility rate isn’t that high. It’s quite possible that humans and other human-compatible species are the most viable. With that said…

Are changelings biologically compatible with other changelings or are they parasitic with humanoids?

Changelings are biologically compatible with changelings. Most changeling cultures are relatively insular, precisely because many traditions of the culture are tied to shapeshifting and a fluid outlook on identity, and it’s difficult to integrate a single-skin into the community. There certainly are changelings who choose to pursue relationships with members of other species —see the changeling romance answer above—but it’s not the common practice.

Can they disguise injuries, like if a guard cut your face and you escaped but they try to track you by the cut?

It would depend on the extent of the injury. There is no mechanical benefit to changeling shapeshifting, so they can’t actually heal themselves. However, I’d personally say that they can conceal minor injuries. If it’s a specific story point—an especially grievous wound inflicted for the express purpose of marking the changeling—I’d probably have the changeling make a Wisdom (Medicine) check to simply seal the wound. If they failed that, I’d still likely let them minimize and conceal it, but if someone was explicitly looking for an injured changeling it would be grounds for requiring a Charisma (Deception) check to conceal it.

What if you cut off a changeling’s arm?

Changeling shapeshifting provides no mechanical benefit, and as a changeling “you must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs that you have.” The ability to regrow a lost limb would certainly be a mechanical benefit. So as noted above, this is a particular brutal form of justice in a changeling community.

Can changelings fake convincing dragonmarks? Can changelings be tattooed?

Yes and yes. A changeling can duplicate the appearance of a creature they’ve seen; there’s no exception stating “unless that creature has a dragonmark.” With that said, dragonmarks glow when used; if the character is attempting to make it appear functional, I’d definitely require a Charisma (Deception) check, and for them to have seen the mark used before. And note that this sort of fake dragonmark won’t let you use a dragonmark focus item.

As for being tattooed, changelings can definitely be tattooed, and they can just as easily erase the tattoo with a moment’s thought. As mentioned above, the Children of Jes have a curse known as the indelible mark which can only be removed using a spell that would remove a curse, but a mundane tattoo can be easily faked or removed.

What’s up with doppelgangers? We know changelings believe they’re a kind of insane changeling, but how true is that if doppelgangers seem to come from Khyber?

Under 5E lore, doppelgangers are changelings twisted by the daelkyr Dyrrn the Corruptor. A general belief is that this change is actually primarily psychological. Doppelgangers have a fundamentally alien outlook. They are predators who so paranoia and chaos when not working for a specific Cult of the Dragon Below, but there’s often no apparent motive for their actions. This is largely about the horror of a creature who knows your thoughts, who can kill you with its bare hands and steal your face, but that you don’t know WHY or what it wants.

One possibility is that doppelgangers are biologically distinct from changelings. Another possibility is that they are physically identical, and that the doppelganger’s superior abilities are simply unlocked by its alien psychology. With this said, it’s possible that changelings can also unlock these same abilities—but that in so doing they will lose their original personality and become doppelgangers.

Would a scholar be able to tell the difference between a changeling and a doppelganger? Would a changeling be able to recognize a doppelganger if they saw it using its abilities?

In their natural forms, doppelgangers and changelings are quite different. Just take a look at the picture in the Monster Manual! Doppelgangers are hairless and less human in their proportions. If you embrace the idea of the changeling becoming a doppelganger, once it underwent the psychological transition its “true form” would change to match the hairless doppelganger form.

With that said, a changeling could DISGUISE itself as a doppelganger (if it had see one in its true form), and vice versa!

As for recognizing it, the BASIC shapeshifting action is identical. You don’t see someone shift faces and say “That’s not a changeling, it’s a doppelganger!” You recognize it by its ability to read thoughts and by its deadly unarmed attack.

Does the 2nd level Moonbeam work against changelings? If so, wouldn’t this have large implications in the viability of hiding as a changeling? Likewise, are changelings immune to the polymorph spell, which fails when used on shapeshifters?

This is something that requires errata. The changeling racial description doesn’t clearly state that changelings have the shapeshifter subtype. However, in Chapter 6, the example changeling NPC DOES have the shapeshifter subtype, which means that it’s vulnerable to moonbeam and immune to polymorph. This is definitely something that will be clarified in the future, and I don’t have the ability to make a ruling on behalf of WotC, so for now it’s a DM’s decision.

With that said: Moonbeam isn’t a particularly effective changeling test. It’s a 2nd level spell, so it is in the world, but that’s still not something people use all the time. It’s also a druid spell, and druidic magic isn’t common in the Five Nations. Most important, it inflicts 2d10 radiant damage, which is MORE than enough to kill a normal person. So using moonbeam to check if someone’s a changeling is like shooting them in the face to see if they’re a vampire.

To what degree are 4th (Private Sanctum), 5th (Geas), and 6th (Forbiddence) level spells available to high end buyers (eg Royalty). I know the 3.5 Dreadhold write up had antimagic, which is 8th level, but I don’t have a sense to grade from “Standard enclave” to “The most impenetrable prison of all time”. I know greater marks go up to 5th, but are 5th level spells that aren’t on a Spells of the Mark list available for the ultrawealthy?

This isn’t strictly a changeling question, but it ties to the general topic of detection. First of all: one of the general principles of Eberron is that only magic of up to 3rd level is commonly available — employed by magewrights, etc. This article discusses a range of options that fall under that umbrella, based on alarm, glyph of warding, and arcane lock.

Spells of 4th level and above can be available, but they are rare and expensive—not services you should take for granted. The Spells of the Mark tables are good guidelines but are NOT complete. These are spells heirs may be able to CAST, but the direct powers of a mark are not as important as the ability to use focus items – and for example, I have a focus item in Exploring Eberron that allows a dwarf with the mark of warding to cast guards & wards. Effects such as forbiddance and true seeing are POSSIBLE, but they should be RARE, not something anyone would take for granted. It’s the sort of thing where a commoner might have HEARD of a Kundarak houseward but never seen one.

Meanwhile, Dreadhold is the most secure prison in Khorvaire. It is LEGENDARY. Yes, it employs forbiddance and antimagic—but that doesn’t mean you should find these effects in a typical city jail.

I’ll be writing more about changeling culture in my upcoming book Exploring Eberron. In my next post I’ll talk about my plans for PAX Unplugged and The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance!

And thanks as always to my Patreon supporters! I hope to do more with the site in the future, and support will help determine what’s possible.

If you have questions or thoughts about changelings, post them below!

69 thoughts on “FAQ: Changelings

  1. To what degree are 4th (Private Sanctum), 5th (Geas), and 6th (Forbiddence) level spells available to high end buyers (eg Royalty). I know the 3.5 Dreadhold write up had antimagic, which is 8th level, but I don’t have a sense to grade from “Standard enclave” to “The most impenetrable prison of all time”. I know greater marks go up to 5th, but are 5th level spells that aren’t on a Spells of the Mark list available for the ultrawealthy?

  2. I’d love to know more about Changeling Culture. I do have a question, and it might be addressed in your book already, but here it is: In your Eberron, how would Changelings view love and romance? Would they stick with their persona the entire time they’re with their significant other, or show their true nature once they decide to commit to each other?

    The way I see it, at least in my Eberron, is that a changeling dropping their disguise around someone they love is an ultimate sign of trust– no deceptions or lies to be had. It makes sense to me, given that if they ever have kids it will likely be obvious who they really are if their race turns out to be a changeling, but I’d love to hear your take on it.

    • I may have forgotten to mention it – good question, and I’ve answered it in the main post. In short, for some changelings the true face is the sign of ultimate trust; some see a persona as their true face; some CREATE a persona that is who they are when they are with their beloved; and for some, the relationship may actually be between the persona and the lover, not the core personality.

    • I think I can answer part of this question because this was mentioned in the Eberron Discord some time ago– I mentioned having a session where my Changeling had to disguise herself by turning her skin snow white and laying low in the 3 inch deep snow while one of our party members (a Hobgoblin) was trying to negotiate with some bugbears. Keith said that he would have granted advantage on her stealth check if she were either naked or had matching attire.

      So in terms of pure disguise, depending on your DM, it’s reasonable to be given advantage on your stealth check if you made your appearance a lot like your surroundings– however, you can’t form anything that would add a mechanic in the game– claws that can deal more damage than a normal unarmed hit, or armor from a warforged (as mentioned in the post.) People would likely know right away if you have shifter claws but can’t claw the heck out of paper.

      • Ah.
        fair enough.

        Still, stealth is still rather useful…
        i’m imagining a Changeling Rouge blending in with statues in a museum, or making their skin green and full of flaps in order to hide in a bush…

    • It’s an interesting question. Personally, I think I’d allow it, but I think it’s a DM’s decision. But it wouldn’t provide any mechanical benefit; it wouldn’t change your natural weapons, for example.

  3. The book, RftLW, covered about The Tyrants, but it never touched about the Cabinet of Faces. What’s like to be for a changeling under their employ?

    • That’s a little beyond the scope of what I can answer in this article; the Cabinet is a good topic for a full article of its own, when I have time.

  4. So Changelings can’t change into a form with multiple extra limbs, but what about something with fewer limbs? Say they want to impersonate a veteran of the last war who lost his legs, or an arm and a leg, do they have issues with compensating for the loss?

    • The text of the ability is “You must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs that you have.” I’d personally read this as “If you have four limbs, you can only assume a form that has four limbs.” Your bones may be more malleable than a normal humanoid, but you can’t just get rid of your arm. So in my opinion, a changeling with legs wouldn’t be able to impersonate a veteran who has lost their legs.

  5. With widely available magic up to level 3, and moonbeam being a second level spell that can reveal shapechangers, does Moonbeam work against changelings? If so, wouldn’t this have large implications in the viability of hiding as a changeling?

    • Given that the Changeling ability is called “Shapechanger”, I’d imagine that it’d be ruled that way most of the time (though I’m certainly no authority).

      However, bearing in mind that it’s a leveled spell with a very short duration, I wouldn’t be too worried; it’s also the sort of thing that could easily kill most people so it seems unlikely to be used to scan for intruders. In addition, it’s only available to Paladins (of the Ancients) and Druids, so you’re unlikely to see it as a ritual or as part of security in any given city. Essentially, if they’re using Moonbeam on you, they’re already going for the kill so losing your disguise isn’t a huge concern; the disadvantage on the check is another matter.

      I wonder if that spell should be opened up to Clerics of the Silver Flame, perhaps instead of “Flaming Sphere” as part of the Light Domain. It’s very much a spell that a devout member of the church that stands against Supernatural Evil should be able to cast, especially in a world where “Supernatural Evil” is usually a disguised Rakshasa or, rather personally to the CotSF, fiendish Lycanthropy. That bit’s not related to Changelings, oops; they’re only supernaturally evil if they choose to be. Just a thought on the spell.

      • These are essentially the same points I make above; even assuming you have access to it, you don’t want to use a spell that will easily kill an innocent just to check whether they might be a shapechanger.

        In my answer I call out that it’s druidic as a reason it WOULDN’T be seen in the Five Nations, but I agree – it makes a lot of sense as a spell that would be granted by the Silver Flame, and I could see it replacing either Flaming Sphere or Scorching Ray in the Light domain.

        • Ah, yes, sorry! I hadn’t seen your response (page was open for a while), so I just said what immediately came to mind. Definitely didn’t mean to just parrot.

          Also, cool! Or, the opposite, I suppose. Radiant! Thank you very much for the response.

      • Yes, I agree that changeling PCs would be treated as “shapechangers” mechanically – if they didn’t want that to be the case, they wouldn’t have renamed the racial trait from “Change Appearance” to “Shapechanger”. The NPC changeling having the “shapechanger” tag further supports this.

  6. I would think changelings must have some kind of internal law system for dealing with malcontents. I mean, just imagine the harm one rogue changeling could do to a community if they took their personas and took it for a metaphorical joyride. (that’s rogue changeling, not changeling rogue). What kind of trials and punishments do you think changelings carry out on their wayward brethren?

    • I would think changelings must have some kind of internal law system for dealing with malcontents.

      Remember that just like elves or for that matter drow, “changelings” don’t have anything as a whole. They aren’t a monolithic force; they have different cultures, and each culture will have their own traditions. With that said, yes, there would definitely be punishments for those whose actions threaten the community. Also bear in mind that theft of identity is a crime under the Code of Galifar; obviously casual actions can be hard to prove, but it’s an issue a changeling had best be aware of if they are going to be going before the law.

      One of the simplest but most severe punishments would be an indelible mark—a magical tattoo that cannot be removed by shapeshifting. The technique of the indelible mark is a secret held close by the elders of the Children of Jes, used only in severe situations. An equally severe punishment for serious offenses is removal of all or part of a limb; as noted above, changelings can’t create limbs with their power. With both of these punishments, the message is simple: if you abuse your gift, it can be taken from you. A lesser punishment would be the destruction of the criminal’s personal personas (through other changelings adopting the person and taking actions that can’t be undone).

  7. In my home game I’ve always portrayed doppelgangers and changelings as the same race. Doppelgangers are born as normal changelings, but as they grow up they become especially talented in shapeshifting, and with training can easily attain a flexibility in form far surpassing most changelings. I have an NPC doppelganger who recalled not having control over this power as a child, somewhat reminescent of an X-Men mutant — shrinking when scared, turning red and growing fangs unwillingly when angry, etc. How valid would this be as a depiction of a doppelganger, especially since the reveal that they’re actually changelings corrupted by Dyrrn?

    • What you’ve described is the 4E approach to changelings and doppelgangers: that the only thing differentiating them is expertise. In 5E, the most important difference is psychological. Dyrrn changed the MINDS of the doppelgangers; we don’t understand how they think or want they want, but they aren’t driven by the normal desires of changelings or humans. They are fundamentally ALIEN. They generally use their abilities to cause sorrow and misfortune—but like the mind flayers and the daelkyr themselves, we generally don’t know why.

      The purpose of this is to amplify the inherent horror of the doppelganger. It knows your thoughts. It can kill you with its bare hands and steal your face. And yet its motives are an utter mystery.

      So I see nothing wrong with saying that in 5E, a changeling could potentially develop the abilities of a doppelganger. The question is whether doing so means opening your mind to the alien CONSCIOUSNESS of the doppelganger—whether it’s possible to wield these powers and not become an agent of Dyrrn.

      But as with all things, that’s up to player and DM.

      • That’s a good point. Although if the two ideas are combined (it’s never mentioned HOW Dyrrn makes doppelgangers after all), it means that any changeling child might bear the taint of Dyrrn and grow up to become a doppelganger…in that way the horror element applies as much to the changeling community said doppelganger arises from. A child that appeared not just normal, but GIFTED, becomes more and more alien as he grows up, eventually abandoning all sense of humanity and becoming a monster…

  8. In your Thorn of Breland book series, Thorn wore a “shiftweave” garment that had changeling qualities. Would it be entirely conceivable that a Changeling could acquire this (I presume quite costly) clothing item to have quite the upper hand in being able to mimic both appearance, AND their clothing? It’s something I’m considering in my photo-novel that features the custom figures(approx 4″ tall) that I’ve created of many of the various races. I want to give the female changeling character a garment with said “shiftweave” ability.

    • Shiftweave is a common magic item described on page 279 of Rising From The Last War. It’s definitely useful for changelings, but it can only assume five specific forms, so it’s not entirely unlimited. Xanathar’s Guide to Everything also has the Cloak of Many Fashions, which would be useful for a changeling.

  9. Following up on questions about moonbeam and such, this could have strange implications for Polymorph. It fails automatically on Shapechangers, but if any race seems like it would be receptive to Polymorph it would be Changeling. This also has the problem a taking away a pretty fun spell for changeling bards or similar classes.

    • It’s important to note that only an unwilling creature makes a save against polymorph, and that a shapechanger automatically succeeds at this save… they aren’t immune to the spell, they just get to choose if they want to allow it or not

  10. Are there any specific differences in how halflings, gnomes, small goblins and kobolds feel about changelings (whose size they cannot assume)? A halfling could be fairly sure the stranger on the plains is also a halfling in that case, no? In Sarlona are the only people the Thousand Eyes can’t impersonate dromites?

    Would this lead to fewer ingrained “identification tells” culturally? I can already imagine gnomes are paranoid enough anyways to still do it…

    Or are changelings and doppelgangers (who can assume small size) so associated in the minds of people that the defense against magical shapechanging also exists among the small people?

    Also, do changelings sometimes use their shapechanging artistically or outlandishly? Wild hair colors, patterned skin, strange eyes? Assuming such an out and out reveal wouldn’t lead to exile and lynch mobs I mean

    • Also, do changelings sometimes use their shapechanging artistically or outlandishly?

      This is a question of culture. In stable changeling communities where they live openly as changelings, they absolutely use shapeshifting artistically and as a form of expression. The Queen of Stone has a changeling dancer changing patterns on their skin as part of the performance. Page 18 of Rising From The Last War notes that changeling names often incorporate a minor degree of cosmetic shapeshifting—Jin-with-vivid-blue-eyes. Traveling changelings and passers hiding their changeling nature obviously won’t use shapeshifting in this way, but still use it subtly to convey messages to family members.

      As for small creatures, this is still a world where disguise self and alter self exist, not to mention fiends, dragons, and other shapeshifters; changelings are by no means the only concern. And doppelgangers can become small creatures. If anything, these cultures would be MORE paranoid about shapeshifters, because if you’re being impersonated by a fiend or a doppelganger, it’s much more likely to be a threat than if it’s just a changeling. And let’s face it, the Zil gnomes are extremely detail conscious purely as a matter of principle, and make up secret languages and call-and-response phrases just for fun.

  11. It occurs to me that travelling changelings with shared personas would sometimes find themselves in romantic situations like that found in THE PRESTIGE. I assume it’s down to individual psychology as to whether they’re able to handle it better, but overall it’s more likely to be the case – especially if you’re already culturally used to assuming shared personas.

  12. What about a changeling with an aberrant dragonmark? can they hide it’s existence easily? or would it show up every time they used it while in another form? Could a changeling with an aberrant dragonmark more easily fake a different dragonmark (since it would likely glow much like the real counterpart when used)?

    • MECHANICALLY there’s nothing that prevents an aberrant dragonmark from being concealed using magical effects (such as changeling shapeshifting or disguise self). It would such if having an aberrant dragonmark meant your changeling shapeshifting was useless. So I would allow a changeling to hide their aberrant dragonmark, yes. I’d PERSONALLY say that the mark manifests when it is used, overriding any form of disguise – but that’s me.

      Could a changeling with an aberrant dragonmark more easily fake a different dragonmark (since it would likely glow much like the real counterpart when used)

      The idea of making your aberrant dragonmark look like a true dragonmark is interesting. But the issue is that aberrant and true dragonmarks aren’t similar in appearance and the behavior of an aberrant dragonmark DOESN’T resemble the manifestation of a true dragonmark. It might fool people who have little experience with true dragonmarks, but if you’re dealing with, say, a dragonmarked house I’d think it would raise MORE suspicion.

  13. Do you believe objects and magical experimentation have been done to amplify or alter the changeling’scapabilities? As it is done with dragonmarks.

    What kind of objects or developments you think would be?

    (Even if they are uncommon and not widespread)

  14. Changelings can’t imitate halflings and gnomes due to size difference. Is this limitation known in-universe? Seems like something Sivis and Ghallanda would take pride in. Can a Changeling copy someone’s makeup or is this another defense?

    One piece of art shows a Changeling copying a portrait. Does this allow them to, if a competent artist or helped by one, make original forms not copied from any particular person (as they could do in 3E)? Can these original forms be outside the natural? Non-natural hair colors (though what’s “non-natural” is in question with sorcerers and manifest zones is another question)? A race that doesn’t actually exist (but has the right body structure)?

    • Keith addresses a similar point to the one in your first paragraph in another comment:

      “As for small creatures, this is still a world where disguise self and alter self exist, not to mention fiends, dragons, and other shapeshifters; changelings are by no means the only concern. And doppelgangers can become small creatures. If anything, these cultures would be MORE paranoid about shapeshifters, because if you’re being impersonated by a fiend or a doppelganger, it’s much more likely to be a threat than if it’s just a changeling. And let’s face it, the Zil gnomes are extremely detail conscious purely as a matter of principle, and make up secret languages and call-and-response phrases just for fun.

    • Someone’s already quoted my answer to the first question. The second question is answered in the main article, in response to the question “Do changelings sometimes use their shapechanging artistically or outlandishly? Wild hair colors, patterned skin, strange eyes?” In my opinion, yes: a changeling has to see a thing to IMPERSONATE it, but in my Eberron they can absolutely change their form in ways that are entirely unnatural – creating unique shapes that aren’t impersonating anything.

  15. If a changeling’s true form is having the race with silver-white hair, does it mean that they are not considered hairless and can have facial and body hair to differentiate themselves from other changelings?

    • Changelings aren’t hairless and can differentiate themselves from other changelings with facial and body hair. With that said, a changeling can CHANGE their facial hair or body hair on a whim. And while their NATURAL hair is silver-white, they can MAKE it whatever color they want. Changelings in stable communities may not conceal the fact that they are changelings, but that doesn’t require them to wear their unaltered true form at all times; they can and in my opinion do use their shapeshifting powers in cosmetic and social ways.

      So Dal may wear their true FACE most of the time, but they usually have red hair when they’re happy and blue hair when they’re sad, and the length of the hair indicates the intensity of the mood.

      • Still, normal humanoids can assume that they are changelings from their pale gray skin color and white eyes, if they appear in public as themselves in their true form, with/without hair?

        • Yes, most people have an understanding of what changelings look like, and if they see one in its natural form they’ll know what it is.

  16. Can a changeling put the floating +1 ability score increase in Charisma? That would make them be the first race where it is possible to start the game with a +3 increase in a single ability score.

    • Yes, WotC has confirmed that this is the design intent. I wasn’t personally involved in this decision, so I can’t go into any more detail about the reasoning, but that is correct: they ARE the first race that can get a +3 in a single ability score.

  17. Hi Keith!

    I don’t remember if you addressed this in the Discord server, but if you haven’t: regarding the phrase “you must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs that you have”, there has been some disagreement tails fall afoul of such. By the strictest definition, a tail isn’t a “limb”, but in practice its a significant deviation from the changeling default body structure that it could be ruled as an extra “limb” in practice. My personally take is that tails are fine, and that changelings can change into humanoid forms with tails, such as tieflings and lizardfolk — provided that they’ve seen one before and have that as a reference to go off of. Would you rule the same or differently?

    • I think the big question to be is whether the tail is a prehensile tool. I don’t believe lizardfolk can DO anything useful with their tails, I think they are just THERE. Essentially, I’d probably let a changeling fake a tail but say that they can’t DO anything with it and that it probably has a more limited range of motion than a proper tail for the species; if they got pulled into a traditional tiefling tail-dance, that would trigger a need for a Deception check. (“Oh, sorry, my tail was paralyzed at Starilaskur — it hasn’t been the same since.”)

      Again, the guiding principle is that a changeling gains no mechanical benefit from shapeshifting. If the tail provides no mechanical benefit, I’d probably allow it. But they couldn’t create a prehensisle tail that could hold a dagger.

      • A similar question, in an upcoming game a player has asked to what extent he can mimic an animal. Knowing that limbs have to be the same arrangement and given your answer on tails to what extent would you allow someone to mimic a bear for example? How much could their weight or size change?Rising From the Last War does say they cant increase or decrease there “size” to large or small but what would you consider a reasonable limit? Would they convincingly look like a bear albeit a small permanently bipedal one?

        • By the rules, the answer would be No. While the racial trait is slightly unclear, if you look to the changeling NPC in chapter 6 it says:
          The changeling can use its action to polymorph into a Medium humanoid it has seen…
          Humanoid, not beast. If they want to be able to shapeshift into beast forms, they could play a changeling druid.

          Now, that’s the INTENT of the rules as written. As a DM, you could change that and say “A bear is close enough to a shifter that I’ll allow it.” But that would be up to the individual DM; by default, changelings can only impersonate humanoids.

          • Thank you for the response! It was my feeling as well that if they wanted to shapeshift as animals they should play a druid or flavor it as the menagerie changeling I’ve seen mentioned here.

  18. Great article! I can imagine changeling homes having an embroidered motto (to paraphrase the line oft attributed to Abraham Lincoln): “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but fooling all of the people all of the time takes WORK!”
    On to my question: Per The Rules, a changeling can imitiate perfectly the look of any humanoid they’ve seen, as well as their voice (presumably having heard it.) But what about senses which are underdeveloped or absent in most humanoids? The most common and obvious example is scent: Could a changeline deceive a dog about the identity of its master? Or a guad dog trained to recognize dwarves employed at a Kundarak bank? Or, for a much less common case, couldl a changeling deceive someone with blindsignt?

    • This is a case where things are up to the DM, but the default is to say that a PC shouldn’t be penalized unless the rules specifically state that they should be penalized. As I say above, the changeling is SUPPOSED to be able to fool people, and the ability doesn’t say “This has no effect on loyal dogs.” I could see a case that an ESPECIALLY loyal dog that has a close relationship with the person being impersonated would give you grounds to make a Deception check; if the changeling succeeds on the Deception check, that means they’ve somehow convinced the dog that the smell is close enough.

      But again, if a guard dog was all it took to counter changelings, it wouldn’t be that much fun to play a changeling. A creature with True Seeing, on the other hand, would be a different story.

      • Perhaps if one wanted to have a particular locale guarded that way, one could say that there are unique (and ridiculously expensive) Vadalis mage-bred dogs used for such purposes. But, yeah, one should then allow the PC changeling to try to come up with a cliever way to, ahem, throw the Vadalis guard dogs off the scent – the cleverness of the ruse providing a modifier to the Deception roll needed to get past.

        • Certainly. Consider that True Seeing is a 6th level spell, which means it’s not IMPOSSIBLE for it to be found in the Five Nations, but it should be very rare. Again, places like Dreadhold and the Kundarak Vault in Sharn can have this sort of security, it just shouldn’t be casual.

          Setting aside changelings, a key point is that we’ve established that there are shapechanged dragons and rakshasa manipulating society and they’re supposed to be getting away with it. There SHOULDN’T be a common, reliable way to expose shapeshifters, because if there was, we’d spot the Lords of Dust. Again, true seeing EXISTS – but it isn’t everyday magic.

          • Not only is it a sixth level spell, it has an expensive material component. This stops it from being an everyday casting.

            It’s more economical to use Planar Binding on an Avoral and have it guard the place for you. I imagine some place like Flamekeep or a major holy site of the Sovereign Host* does.

            *Actually that’s a good question: Are there sites typical worshipers of the Sovereign Host would consider “Holy” (beyond just “under the effect of Consecrate spell”) or is the religion too non-centralized for that?

  19. What happens if a changeling has a child with a member of one of the Dragonmarked houses? Could you have changeling offspring capable of manifesting a Dragonmark? Specific scenario I’m envisioning is a member of the Tyrants in Sharn seducing a member of one of the houses as part of a job and ending up pregnant as a result.
    Question could also be applied to the human and elf Dragonmarks with half-elves/half-orcs/etc

    • Nope. Canon lore is very specific: dragonmarks only manifest on members of specific races. A mark tied to a human bloodline won’t be passed to a changeling or half-elf offspring. Meanwhile, a mark that manifests on a half-elf—such as the Mark of Detection or Storm—can’t be inherited by a human. There’s a genetic component to dragonmarks, but at the end of the day they’re magical and connected to the Prophecy, not simply genetic.

      Of course, in your campaign you can CHANGE canon lore if you want this to be possible. But If changelings COULD inherit dragonmarks it would be a big deal; I could imagine the Cabinet of Faces working to collect dragonmarks. But again, by canon lore it is impossible.

    • There are two mechanical ways I know of to get a Dragonmarked Changeling. The Racial Emulation (Races of Eberron) feat Racial Emulation to take a Dragonmarked feat and Cataclysm Mage (Explorers Handbook) prestige class’s capstone. Racial Emulation is best paired with Chameleon (Races of Destiny) since the Dragonmark feat would be useless if you became non-human and Chameleon gets a bonus feat they can change greatly. Cataclysm Mage says Dragons hate you for this, and that bit of lore likely applies to Racial Emulation Chameleons.

  20. Great post, made me interested in Changlings as a race to play or include in my campaign.

    Is weight/mass conserved in a change? E.g. would a changling elf be as heavy as the same changling as a lizardfolk? Might that be used as a method of detection?

    Can changlings learn about species/individuals from each other? If changling Alice has never seen a Valinar elf could changling Bob transfer teach those such that Alice could now make a hypothetical Valinar elf? Only the one Bob knew? A whole host of new Valinar elf forms/personas?

    What about mixing and matching? Could a changling who has encountered an Arenal elf make a hypothetical (and grossly heretical) Arenal dwarf?

    How mutable are personas? I know it will vary from group to group and individual to individual, but could the persona of Bob be a Cyran in Breland and a Thrane in Aundair? Or would those just be similar personas, BobA and BobB? Is there a sense of how far details can be stretched before it stops being the same person(a)? Obviously personas are not (usually) themselves changelings, but to (some) changlings feel free to use their abilities to tweak a persona or would that be untrue to that person’s experiences and limitations?

    • From the post itself: As an action, you can change your appearance and your voice. You determine the specifics of the changes, including your coloration, hair length, and sex. You can also adjust your height and weight, but not so much that your size changes.

      So that indicates they can change their mass to a very limited degree. But that’s still enough that weight itself can’t be used to detect changelings. It’s supernatural, not biological, and I’m pretty sure magic doesn’t care about the conservation of mass and energy.

  21. Indirectly a changeling question: The Vestment of Many Styles from the 3.5e handbook Races of Eberron specifically mentions it doesn’t change or disguise any armor worn, but could it simulate the look of armor? If not with actual armor pieces, then something like tin painted to look like steel or steel so thin as to be worthless as actual armor?

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