IFAQ: What are Doppelgangers?

Doppelgangers have been part of Dungeons & Dragons since its earliest days. The original Eberron Campaign Setting introduced changelings as a playable species that shared some of the features of doppelgangers, but not all; in third and fifth editions, doppelgangers possess a powerful unarmed attack and the ability to detect thoughts at will. But what exactly is the relationship between the two? Over three editions, we’ve had three different answers in canon material.

  • The third edition Eberron Campaign Setting says that changelings “evolved through the union of doppelgangers and humans, eventually becoming a separate race distinct from either ancestral tree.”
  • Fourth edition books use “changeling” and “doppelganger” interchangibly. The doppelganger in the 4E Monster Manual has the white hair of a changeling and doesn’t possess an unarmed strike or the innate ability to detect thoughts.
  • Fifth Edition D&D returned the doppelganger as a unique creature with an unarmed attack and detect thoughts. Rising From The Last War says that the daelkyr created doppelgangers by warping changeling stock, essentially reversing the third edition story; doppelgangers are altered changelings rather than changelings being watered-down doppelgangers.

So, we have three different options presented in canon. So which do I use?

I loved doppelgangers long before I made Eberron. I was disappointed that we never saw any sort of doppelganger society, because I thought it was fascinating to consider the impact both of shapeshifting and innate telepathy in terms of how a culture would approach privacy, community, and identity. In The Complete Guide to Doppelgangers I presented a very inhuman approach to doppelgangers, suggesting that mimics and doppelgangers were different stages in the lifecycle of the same creature, and that the final stage of this cycle is the doppelstadt—gestalt mimics that can replicate entire buildings. It’s not just that some of the people in your neighborhood are doppelgangers; it’s possible the neighborhood itself is a doppelganger. in proposing Eberron, I wanted doppelgangers to have a place in the world; the 10-page proposal includes a mention of the conflict between the Boromar Clan, the Tyrants of Sharn, and Daask, suggesting that these things typically considered monsters were part of everyday life in Eberron. The problem was that the standard doppelganger was too powerful to work as a basic option for player characters. I liked the idea of having a weaker baseline doppelganger and introducing a “monster class”—as seen in the sourcebook Savage Species—that would let the player acquire the full powers of the standard doppelganger. In the end, we did half of that approach: we created the changelings as that weaker baseline that was suitable for player characters, but made the standard doppelganger a separate species. The problem with this is that it both left the doppelgangers themselves without any real story—per the ECS, all we really had was “True doppelgangers are considerably more rare and mysterious than their changeling descendants… They sell their services as spies, thieves, and assassins, but their true motivations usually lie beyond mere gold.” The second frustrating element is that we often had changelings and doppelgangers working side by side, and that arrangement ends up highlighting the fact that changelings are fundamentally weaker doppelgangers. I never really liked that as a story. So while I loved that changelings gave us the opportunity to explore shapeshifting cultures and societies and to have them in everyday life, I was never happy with where it left doppelgangers.

Fast-forward to the present. Fourth edition and fifth edition present two different options. Which do I use? Both. Because those two options tell very different stories. Let’s look at each of them.

The Gifts of the Traveler

I like to blend the Fourth Edition approach with my original idea—the concept that the abilities of the doppelganger are something that any changeling can develop if they put their mind to it. The defining gifts of the doppelganger are telepathy and an unarmed attack, something a psion or monk can match. I called this out in an Eberron article in Dragon 193, suggesting that “intense training, the traditions of Ohr Kaluun, and their devotion to the Traveler” allowed the changelings of Lost to develop enhanced telepathic and shapeshifting abilities. From a practical standpoint, this is a possible explanation for the class abilities of a changeling character. A changeling monk can describe their enhanced unarmed attacks and armor class as being tied to their shapeshifting, something further developed with the Way of the Living Weapon in Exploring Eberron. But there’s no need to limit such gifts to the powers of the old-school doppelganger. The Lost article notes that the hidden village has a core of mental adepts whose abilities rival those of kalashtar adepts, allowing them to communicate with sending and monitor the region with clairvoyance. It calls out that some changelings can shapeshift into animal forms, mirroring the abilities of druids—something I’ve called out elsewhere as the Changeling Menagerie.

So overall, I like the idea that changelings are the shapeshifting species that are part of everyday life in Eberron, and that “doppelganger” is actually a skill set a changeling can master… and the “doppelganger” in the 5E Monster Manual is a changeling with a particular set of skills. The one problem with that is that while a player character changeling can improve their unarmed attack by taking a level in monk, there’s no easy way for them to replicate the ability to detect thoughts at will. However, the uncommon helm of telepathy lets a character do just that, and more. In my campaign, I’d allow a changeling player who trains to become a “doppelganger” to acquire a supernatural gift, something like this…

Doppelganger’s Vision (Requires attunement, can only be attuned by a changeling)

This supernatural gift reflects your training in the telepathic techniques of the doppelganger. To use this gift, you must devote an attunement slot to it, just as if you were attuning to a magic item. While you are attuned to this gift, you can use an action to cast the detect thoughts spell; Charisma is your spellcasting ability for this. Once acquired, this gift is a part of you, but you can only use it while you are actively attuned to it.

This is similar to the blessing of wound closure, a supernatural gift in the DMG that provides the benefits of an uncommon magic item; however, it is weaker than a helm of telepathy (only providing one of the helm’s three benefits) and I’m saying that it requires an attunement slot to use to balance the fact that I’d be willing to grant it at a lower level than I’d allow most blessings. But like any supernatural, it’s not just something you can buy. To gain this gift, the player character would need find a mentor—a skilled doppelganger willing to teach them this technique. Developing the gift would take time and the mentor would set tasks the would-be doppelganger would need to carry out during their other adventures; at a narratively suitable time, I’d grant them the gift. If you don’t like supernatural gifts, the Telepathic feat from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is an alternative, although it doesn’t provide the full at-will use of detect thoughts.

So this is my primary approach to doppelgangers in my campaign: a doppelganger is a changeling who has developed the abilities we associate with the doppelganger monster. Having said that, there’s also room in the world for a very different sort of doppelganger….

Doppelgangers of the Daelkyr

Eberron has always challenged the idea of “what makes a monster,” and this was part of the point of the changeling—to take a creature that was generally featured only as an antagonist and to add depth to it. At the same time, in some stories you want a monster. There’s horror in the moment when you see your reflection and it smirks at you and draws a knife, or in the fear that one of your friends isn’t actually your friend. Compare Mystique from the X-Men to the alien in the movie The Thing. In this analogy, Mystique is a changeling. Sometimes she’s a hero and sometimes she’s a villain, but in either story we understand her motives and can sympathize with her. The Thing is incomprehensible. It may be driven by a desire to survive. It could be an anthropologist that researches alien worlds by assimilating their species. It could just be hungry. We don’t know.

This is the purpose of the Daelkyr doppelganger: to be a source of horror, a shapechanging enemy whose motives are unknowable and, at the end of the day, potentially irrelevant; in The Thing, what matters most is survival. In a story in which a changeling impersonates a duke, their motives matter; they might be trying to seize power or they might be trying to free oppressed peasants from the Duke’s tyrannical rule. By the end of the story, the players will understand why the changeling has taken these actions—and in the latter example, they may have a difficult decision to make as to whether they bring down the imposter or allow them to remain as a more benevolent Duke. By contrast, you may never know the motives of the Daelkyr doppelganger. Perhaps it’s helping a cult of the Dragon Below. It could be that the doppelganger has a non-linear experience of time and is consuming creatures in reverse, unwinding its way through its own timeline until it reaches the moment of its death when it is finally itself alone. It could be that it feeds on specific memories and needs to digest the memories of the duke before it moves on.

One of the reasons I like this approach is to expand the roster of creatures you can expect to deal with when clashing with daelkyr and Cults of the Dragon Below. It doesn’t have to be all dolgrims and mind flayers. Doppelgangers, werewolves, gargoyles—there are many monsters that can work as daelkyr creations; they should just feel different from their mundane counterparts. Rising From The Last War suggests that daelkyr doppelgangers are creations of Dyrrn the Corruptor, but I think that’s an unnecessary limitation; with few tweaks you can create unique versions of the doppelganger tied to different daelkyr.

  • Dyrrn is known for creating the mind flayers and the dolgaunts. Telepathy and tentacles are one of Dyrrn’s signatures. A standard doppelganger has a slam attack that deals 1d6 bludgeoning damage. For a Dyrrn doppelganger, I’d change this natural attack to deal piercing damage and describe it as the doppelganger’s fingers becoming burrowing tentacles or it attacking you with its barbed, prehensile tongue—that when it drops its disguise, it’s dramatic. I’d also highlight its telepathic nature, giving Dyrrn doppelgangers Telepathy with a range of 120 ft as a language. Dyrrn doppelgangers would only speak when interacting with other humanoids; among themselves they would always be eerily silent. A more dramatic change would be to give them blindsight based on the idea that they actually see using detect thoughts rather than standard vision, and that their eyes are just cosmetic (and likely absent in its natural form); like a dolgaunt, they would be blind beyond the radius of their blindsight.
  • Kyrzin loves oozes. I’d see a Kyrzin doppelganger as being an ooze that has the ability to assume humanoid forms. While it would generally use the doppelganger stat block, its slam attack would reflect it transforming its fist into a heavy pseudopod. I’d give the Kyrzin doppelganger a form of the Amorphous trait possessed by many oozes; it has to squeeze, but when it squeezes it can flow through any opening up to one inch wide. This ability wouldn’t extend to equipment, but I’d be willing to let a Kyrzin doppelganger to mimic basic clothing with its shapeshifting.
  • Belashyrra’s doppelgangers could function the same as standard doppelgangers, but with the idea that they don’t physically change shape but rather psychically change the way you perceive them. Given the power of the daelkyr, I’d be willing to just make this a flat effect and not something that requires a saving throw to succeed, and to say that the effect extends to senses other than sight—but I’d probably add that it doesn’t undead or constructs, or possibly creatures immune to being charmed. I could also imagine a version of They Live, where an adventurer can acquire a set of goggles or a salve that allows them to see through the disguise of Belashyrra’s doppelgangers.
  • Valaara could create a form of doppelganger that can’t change shape instantly, but instead kills a creature and then enters a chrysalis state to assume its form; so more limited than a normal doppelganger, but still able to replace people in an extended story. Its unarmed attack would be a concealed stinger that would deal piercing damage; if I wanted to make it more dangerous, I might add poison. I could see Avassh growing duplicates of people; these doppelgangers wouldn’t be able to change shape and I’d make them plants instead of humanoids, but it would still allow its cult to infiltrate a region. For either of these I’d likely give the doppelgangers a form of Telepathy that they can only use to communicate with others tied to their kind or allied cultists, playing to the idea that they’re part of a communal mind.

With all four of these, the key point is that they’re VERY DIFFERENT FROM CHANGELINGS. Dyrrn might have created his doppelgangers from changelings long ago, but the other three described here have nothing to do with changelings. They might all use the doppelganger stat block, but they’re different both from changelings and from one another.

Fey Changelings and Other Variations

While I haven’t personally seen the text, the word on the street is that Monsters of the Multiverse makes a number of changes to changelings—notably making them Fey instead of Humanoids. On the surface, this seems logical enough; they’re called changelings, and a mischievous shapeshifter sounds fey enough. However, it’s not a change I’ll use for the main changeling population in my Eberron campaign. We’ve never presented the common changeling as having ties close ties to Thelanis, and we’ve even said the name “changeling” comes from a minsunderstanding—people assuming a fey connection even though none exists. That 4E article calls out the changelings of Lost mastering techniques of Ohr Kaluun, not Thelanian magic. Beyond this, once changelings are fey, it becomes very easy to spot a disguised changeling by casting detect evil and good, which pinpoints the location of any fey within 30 feet—undermining some of the more interesting methods we’ve discussed for dealing with changelings. So in MY campaign, the main population of changelings will remain humanoids.

However, just because they aren’t mainstream doesn’t prevent there from being fey changelings in the world, and I’d certainly allow a player to play such a changeling. The obvious path for such a character would be to literally be a changeling—a humanoid carried off to Thelanis as a child and raised there, and transformed over time into a fey creature themselves. There’s a changeling Greensinger in the Threshold campaign I’m running on Patreon, and I might give them the Fey subtype, because it fits their story.

But there’s another point to this. Just as I’ve presented five different ideas for creatures that use the doppelganger stat block, there can easily be different types of creatures that use changeling traits. The Children of Jes and their descendants are the most common form of changeling. But I’d allow someone to use changeling traits to represent a shapeshifting assassin magebred by House Vadalis, someone with an unusual aberrant dragonmark (I could imagine a Wild Magic changeling sorcerer whose form changes uncontrollably when they have a Wild Magic Surge), or a Cyran changeling necromancer who can only assume the forms of people who died in the Mourning. So I’m happy for there to be fey changelings alongside the changelings of Sharn and Droaam—and potentially other exotic changelings as well.

That’s all for now, and perhaps more than anyone wanted to know! Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible.

41 thoughts on “IFAQ: What are Doppelgangers?

  1. For the most part, changelings (and dopplegangers) are very terrestrial, even the Gray Tide are sailing on and through the waters. Where would you place an aquatic group of doppelgangers, or fine tuned amphibious changelings?

    Would sahuagin see dopplegangers as a threat to their consume to become lifestyle, or a highly sought delicacy?

    Thanks, Keith. It’s neat to hilight differences in creatures across editions as the game changes.

    • The Changeling Metamorphosis feat in Exploring Eberron allows changelings to adapt to aquatic life. I could see that as being presented as a natural gift of a particular group of changelings, or a specialty consciously trained and developed by many of the changelings of the Gray Tide—just as you could train to improve your telepathy, you could train to improve specific aspects of shapeshifting. So you could have an aquatic colony around the Gray Tide. If not there, there’s nowhere in particular that stands out—unless you wanted to put them on the coast of Ohr Kaluun or Droaam.
      I could see changelings as a sahuagin delicacy. The real question is what they taste like—and if you can change that taste dramatically depending on how you prepare them.

      • “Yes, we could make them comfortable, but we’ve learned that fear makes the meat soft and tender once prepared. Especially if we have someone come around and beat them every three or four days.” – Sahuagin changeling ‘farmer’.

  2. For my part when questioned on doppelganger-changeling relationship I always told my players that whether you believed doppelgangers were predecessors of changelings, were a state of apotheosis changelings achieved, a mental break that represented inhuman thinking in a changeling, or daelkyr abominations, you were right and wrong. A case of the one statblock being used for what are four (or five, seven, dozens) distinct creatures with the same abilities, like the hill giants of Droaam or ettins of Xen’drik not being related to the reverse, or Kryzin being able to create aboleths but not THE aboleths of the Lurker in Darkness.

    Even assuming changelings and humans settled in Khorvaire at the same time, there’s a whole mountain of history in Sarlona before that which is lost (Lost?) variants and ancient manifest zones and Kaluunite horrors that might have birthed something new which lived and died unrecorded in Galifar’s archives.

    Just my usual answer when I start finding myself worrying too much about contradictions in the lore or too many options

    • A case of the one statblock being used for what are four (or five, seven, dozens) distinct creatures with the same abilities, like the hill giants of Droaam or ettins of Xen’drik not being related to the reverse, or Kryzin being able to create aboleths but not THE aboleths of the Lurker in Darkness.
      Exactly. Stat blocks are a tool, but they can support multiple stories.

  3. While the doppel does walk, any thoughts to a doppel that swims a Doppelschwimmer?

    Also would a kryzin doppel need to sleep in a bucket like Odo DS9 (that they can’t assume a solid form when unconscious).

    While most changelings aren’t fey, what if a minority are? Possibly tied into the hag who do have the story in the MM of replacing children. Possibly a thelanis hag gained this power due to the misconception of mortals and the stories of such.

    With the daelkyr doppel there is the potential for the modern doppel, that of a alien abduction for experiments. (and crop magic circles)

  4. “the 10-page proposal includes a mention of the conflict between the Boromar Clan, the Tyrants of Sharn, and Daask”

    Meaning Tarkanan was a later addition?

    ““doppelganger” is actually a skill set a changeling can master”

    I wonder how feasible it would be to make a Changeling Paragon class in 3.5 as one of Unearthed Arcana’s Racial Paragon Classes to quantify this in 3E. The idea of paragon classes was neat, and the Drow Paragon description puts a lot of Drow lore in OGL, but they were woefully underpowered unless you were trying for a gimmick build that needed as many ability score boosts or freely assignable bonus feats as possible.

    • Meaning Tarkanan was a later addition?
      That’s correct. The 10-page proposal didn’t include dragonmarks, let alone aberrant dragonmarks; they entered the picture at the 100-page stage.

    • Quickly building a concept of the idea:
      HD: D8
      BAB: Mid
      Saves: Good Reflex+Will
      Skills: 6+int skill points. Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Forgery, Intimidate, Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Spot, Use Magic Device
      Proficiency: Simple Weapons and Light Armor.
      1: Change Shape: Your Minor Shapeshift can take the form of any small or medium humanoid, not just creatures 1 foot shorter or taller
      2: Slipperier Mind: Immunity to sleep and charm effects.
      3: Detect Thoughts: You can continuously use detect thoughts as the spell, with a caster level equal to your hit dice. You can suppress or resume this ability as a free action. The save DC is Charisma-based.
      Ability Score Boost (Wisdom +2)

  5. I’m not sure if you’re aware but the stat block for playable doppelgangers has been changed AGAIN in 5e. I believe they now have the option to be small OR large and can shapeshift between small or large forms. Additionally, their creature type is now fey (I do not know if this means the doppelganger creature type was changed from monstrosity to fey as well). How would you incorporate these changes into your Eberron, if at all?

    • I mention how I’d handle the Fey creature type at the end of this article. My understanding is that they can be Small or Medium (not Large) and if that’s the new rule I’d allow that in my campaign—but given that changeling shapeshifting specifically doesn’t affect your equipment, casually changing size is going to be somewhat inconvenient.

    • If you mean the stats for playable changelings, Keith mentioned the fey aspect in the second half of the article. I don’t think doppelgangers are playable in the new revised races.

  6. I’ve always been a huge fan of how Eberron dealt with shapechangers and the Traveler’s various worshippers including the Cabinet of Faces, so I really appreciate you talking more about one of my favorite monsters.

    With this article in mind how would you handle prominent doppelgangers in Sharn like Ek, Tyrant One of the Tyrants, and Velvet? What type of doppelganger path (if any) would you put them in?

    • With this article in mind how would you handle prominent doppelgangers in Sharn like Ek, Tyrant One of the Tyrants, and Velvet? What type of doppelganger path (if any) would you put them in?
      I’d make all of them remarkable changelings, with different explanations for their expanded abilities. Chance is a powerful priest of the Traveler whose enhanced abilities come from that faith, as is Zaz at the Cracked Mirror; either one of them could potentially be from Lost, though neither works with Daask. Velvet strikes me as a Sharn native doppelganger who has honed her telepathic abilities. Ek and the other doppelgangers of the Tyrants would likewise have trained to become doppelgangers. In my campaign, either Ek or Velvet could serve as mentors to learn the Doppelganger’s Vision gift I suggest here.

  7. If you were to use Thelanis-changelings in Eberron, how would you implement them? Changelings have been stated to often become actors, due to their ability to transform perfectly into whichever role they’re trying to take on. Could this possibly be related to the story-based nature of Thelanis?

    • I’m happy to use fey changelings in my campaign, but I’d make them rare and remarkable, not present in significant numbers and not something the general population of Khorvaire particularly knows about. I’d see two types. Non-native (to Thelanis) changelings would be literal changelings: mortals pulled into Thelanis and transformed by their time there. Each one would have a unique story and likely a unique way in which they got their shapeshifting gift, and I wouldn’t expect that gift to pass to their children—they’re unique and interesting, but not a SPECIES. Native fey changelings would be part of the supporting cast, commonly found in the baronies and shifting shape to match the needs of the story. For one to leave Thelanis would be remarkable; they aren’t generally used to having ongoing, persistent identity. This could happen because an archfey charges them to act as an envoy or spy—a great basis for a changeling warlock—or by accident, in which case the changeling might have a lot of trouble adapting to a world where fairytale logic doesn’t apply. Again, they’d be unique corner cases, not a significant population within Eberron.

  8. Under your current reckoning, what is the Cabinet of Faces, and how much influence does it have in Khorvaire?

    • That’s too big a question for me to answer in a comment. I could address that in a future IFAQ if there’s interest.

  9. Since I’m using Pathfinder for my game, I still use the 3.5 explanation for changelings. As far as dopplegangers went, it brings me back to the Doctor Who episode where they actually had a doppleganger. And it looked like a spiny green slug.

  10. Something that I like that was brought up in the Discord discussion over this topic, was that the changeling-doppelganger transition might be something tied to Xoriat or inherently destabilising to the changeling psyche:

    >>> An interesting point there is that I’ve always suggested that Dal Quor and Xoriat are common sources for psionic power because both are tied to the mind—but that Dal Quor is more influential over ordered psionic power like the psion, while Xoriat is more tied to the more chaotic gifts of the Wilder. We’ve always suggested that changelings have a latent talent for telepathy, but saying that it’s tied to Xoriat rather than Dal Quor—and that strengthening it strengthens that connection and can be destabilizing—is interesting.

    >>> Perhaps there’s a way to reconcile the daelkyr origin and skill-based relationship. Ohr Kaluun was known to deal with horrible things. Perhaps the modern changeling is a “watered-down” doppelganger: in that they’re hanging on to a form of personal identity they could fully surrender to as part of taking on the legacy of what the magelords of Ohr Kaluun wanted them to be: true doppelgangers.

    >>> This then means they descend into a form of madness that’s easier for the daelkyr to use and worsen, filling in the space where the personal identity used to be with a malevolent whisper not unlike the one that broke the Uul Dhakaan. Perhaps the manifestation of telepathy is the final stage in the changeling’s loss of individuality; they quite literally lose their mind. As a doppelganger, their “mind” as in individual personality disappears. It is “lost”

    Sorry for the copy-paste spam, I just think it’s worth recording here too. (“^__^)

  11. Since you are reading Fizbans, do you believe the Hoard Mimic is a good example of what a Facades (the dire mimics of lost) might look like?

    Also, as someone who is Irish, it’s nice to see the setting neutral changeling becoming a Fey as it fits with what they were in folklore. Tho I agree with the argument made being fey confuses things. Do you imagine Thelanian Changelings being tied to an existing Archfey? Being tied to a new one, it possibly changelings being found with different ones like the different dopplegangers of the Daelkyr?

    • Since you are reading Fizbans, do you believe the Hoard Mimic is a good example of what a Facades (the dire mimics of lost) might look like?
      Not as they’re described in Dungeon 193. As described in Fizban’s, hoard mimics are intelligent (Int 10, Wis 16); can fight; and can only change into hoard form. Per Dungeon, “Facades are simple creatures and need to be given telepathic direction to assume complex forms… If attacked, a facade will shift its skin to the texture of stone. The creatures can’t fight enemies, but they are very durable and can shrug off most wounds.” Facades are supposed to be more like livestock than like doppelstadts; they’re related to mimics, but they’re not just big mimics. Personally, I’d just use the statistics provided for them in the article even in 5E. The main question is whether to keep the idea that they have Resist 10 to all damage, as in the article, or whether to give it the typical 5E resistance. DR 10 allows it to completely ignore minor damage; a team of commoners could hit a facade with handaxes all day and never get anywhere. If it has 5E resistance, it can get overwhelmed by a sufficient wave of small attacks.

      Do you imagine Thelanian Changelings being tied to an existing Archfey?
      No, I’d imagine them as being found in every barony. It ties to the basic concept of the “supporting cast,” minor fey who assume the forms needed for the story. But as described in Exploring Eberron, it’s possible for members of the supporting cast to break away and develop individual, mortal identities, or to be promoted by an archfey; either of these could be the basis for fey changeling adventurers.

  12. Thanks for the article! An interesting insight, and loving those doppelganger variations.

    • As a matter of fact, I used that very term in the 10-page submission. “Pure-hearted guardsmen must keep the streets safe from doppelgangsters and halfling crimelords while trying to root out the corruption in their own department.

      • Is the original 10 page pitch available anywhere to read? I would be super interested.

        • It belongs to Wizards of the Coast, so it’s not something I can release. But they may decide to at some point.

          • Thank you for replying i’ll keep a look out for it.

            In a simi-related question you linked to a book you wrote for 3.5, complete guide to doppelgangers on dmguild. In the about section it lists you as author but you arn’t searchable by author for it.

            I love your world building and have tried to find all of your stuff that I can. Do you have a list of things like this where you might not be properly listed as the owner on dm’s guild so I can find them?


    • Yes, and that’s definitely the way to go if you prefer an officially sanctioned option. On the other hand, the feat only allows you to use Detect Thoughts once per long rest, as opposed to the doppelganger’s ability to use it at will. By contrast, a Helm of Telepathy grants it at will, along with additional abilities. So with my Supernatural Gift I’m aiming for something in between the two.

      • The feat also lets the character use spell slots for further castings. So not quite at-will, but perhaps a more PC-appropriate version of the idea in that it consumes resources that could be used elsewhere. Accessing those extra uses does require the changeling be a caster, though.

        • Sure, but to take the side of the Traveler: Supernatural gifts are an established element of the rules. Per the DMG, the Blessing of Wound Closure provides the benefits of a Periapt of Wound Closure—an uncommon magic item that requires attunement—and doesn’t require attunement; so we have a clear example of a supernatural gift providing the benefits of an uncommon magic item even though it can’t be removed. The Blessing of Wound Closure doesn’t use an attunement slot and it provides the full benefits of the item it emulates; I’m suggesting a gift that requires an attunement slot to use (burning a player resource) and that is a WEAKER version of an uncommon item, stripping two of the three benefits provided by a Helm of Telepathy.

          Feats are purely mechanical; the player chooses them when their level provides an opportunity to acquire them. Supernatural gifts are granted at the discretion of the DM as part of the story. And that’s my point here: to acquire this gift you would have to find a doppelganger mentor and you would have to work with them—earning the gift through adventure, until the DM decides to grant it—the same way they would decide to include any other magic item as treasure. As a supernatural gift, the concept both has clear precedent in and is weaker than the Blessing of Wound Closure. The unconventional aspect is the idea that it requires an attunement slot to use, something no other supernatural gift requires… but which I’d include as a limitation because I’d be willing to allow it at a lower level than I’d allow a gift like Wound Closure.

          • I’ve updated the article to mention the Telepathic feat and to clarify the concept of the supernatural gift, noting the comparison to the Blessing of Wound Closure.

  13. In a one-shot I conducted, I was inspired by the Outsider TV series.

    The doppelganger in question feeds on the pain and despair he causes. He is mortal but coming from another plane (I never defined which one, let alone why he came to Eberron) he does not age.
    For about a thousand years he has been wandering around Khorvaire claiming victims and blaming innocent people.

    Thanks to Keith for this beautiful article, which will help me complete the details of this adventure.

    About interpretations of the origins of doppelgangers in the various editions of Eberron, I did not accept RotLW’s daelkyr. But after reading this article, having various types of doppelgangers I find it a great option. Thanks again Keith.

  14. “the neighborhood itself might be the dopplestadt.”
    Great, now I have the start for a Danny the Street statblock.

  15. Having rewatched the Ghostbuster movies recently the Traveller comes up a few times. Gozer the Gozerian offers petitioners the chance to choose the form of the destroyer. She/He does seem telepathic to some degree but no tentacles. I guess they’re kids movies.

  16. When it comes to blurring the definitions of ‘monsters’ and ‘people’, I’ve always wanted a type of playable troll. Maybe there’s a ‘high’ type of the species similar to the Irda, or ‘high ogres’ of Krynn. They don’t regenerate nearly as fast as their more bestial cousins, but that also means they aren’t so ravenous all the time.

    Maybe you almost never see females among the monstrous trolls because hags have replaced them, in order to use the males as servants, soldiers, and breeding stock. The rapid regeneration is more like a type of cancer; damaging the monstrous trolls constantly. Their healing requires an almost as constant need for protein, so their higher brain functions have dwindled to the point that violence and feeding is almost all they can think about.

    The original high trolls who were never caught in this cycle remain hidden, and if they’re seen at all, are assumed to be goliaths, firbolg, or a particularly civilized type of ogre. The high trolls have much better posture, are more grey than green. They do heal quickly, but it’s not half as fast as the rapid regeneration of the monstrous trolls.

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