Changelings are a race of shapeshifting creatures that can change their face as easily as a normal human changes clothes. Want to turn and face the strange? Read on for how you can play out the changes of a Changeling.
Changelings are a fascinating part of Eberron, not necessarily because of what their abilities do, but what they represent. To play a Changeling is to open the door to questions of identity and persona; of the self as a construct as well as–wait come back, I promise we’ll get to statistics and rules and like people on horses in front of lava strewn mountains.
But the reason I start off so heady is: Changelings are about as Cyberpunk as you can get in D&D, right up there with Warforged. Let’s digress together. Cyberpunk as a genre asks all kinds of questions: what does it mean to be human, especially in the face of the worst parts of human nature, how much of yourself can you lose and still be a person? I mean you’re cutting out parts of your body and replacing them with machines–where does the man truly begin. But another big one, what is identity, is a huge part of it. And one that gets kind of tossed to the sidelines, because it’s sexier to talk about robots and cybernetics.
Dig through an old Cyberpunk sourcebook and you’ll find just as much space devoted to describing fashion and streetwear as you will weapons and armor. In certain circumstances they’re just as important. One of the cynical messages of Cyberunk fiction is that appearance can sometimes matter more than actual substance.
Only now we call them influencers
But when you take that idea to an extreme, say combining the idea of appearances meaning as much as actual ability with the idea that you can change the way your body looks, then you have all kinds questions about the self. When the body is as malleable as your clothes, what does it mean to look like anything?
And that’s what brings us back to Changelings. They’re a race that has the natural ability to change their form to look like anything they wish. Their shape, height, weight, even gender and voice are all a means of expression. Delving into Changeling culture you’ll find the idea of Personas and Masks. Masks are spur of the moment transformations–but Changelings will go out of their way to construct identities for some of the forms they adopt, sort of locking them in as ‘outfits’ if you will.
So a Changeling who’s proficient as a Blacksmith might have a form they wear when they want to be good at Smithing, but adopt a different persona altogether when they want to sneak down dark alleyways or plunge into the depths of a dungeon. This is reinforced mechanically with their Divergent Persona ability which gives them proficiency/expertise with a certain tool while in a certain form. And it has to be defined, which is interesting.
Anyway, all this to say Changelings treat bodies as forms of expression and I’m here for it. They are one of the most underrated races of Eberron, I think–and admittedly there are only four, but as far as player races go, I think they fly under most people’s radars. But you definitely want to give them a try, especially since (right now) they’re one of the few races who get a native Charisma bonus, and with their Dex as a secondary stat, they make for excellent spies and face type rogues, but they also make amazing Warlocks, ranged Paladins, and Sorcerers. In fact this may be one of the more potent Sorlock races–which is interesting considering that most of them are shunned by Eberron society at large.
Aside from their Divergent Persona and Shapeshifting–which works like a slightly depowered Disguise Self, allowing you to shift your appearance at will, down to details like tattoos on your skin, etc., only your equipment doesn’t change–you get Unsettling Visage which is a 1/rest reaction to give an attacker Disadvantage on an attack, and a few proficiencies that Changelings towards interaction.
They’re not the most powerful of races, but if you’re looking to take the lead when talking, or are interested in presenting a few different characters–then this is the race for you. A few things could be a little more strongly supported mechanically; they make a big deal of the Changeling’s Persona but only give them the rules to establish one, maybe a rolling suite of proficiencies would be the way to go–but all in all, they’re a solid race that’s very good at the things they set out to be good at.
Well that’s it for now, and leaves only the Kalashtar now–so be sure and check back next week as we round out the Races of Eberron.