The campaign setting of Eberron added a number of unique elements to classic D&D – in particular, a few interesting new races – when it first appeared in D&D 3.5. In 2019, the Eberron: Rising from the Last War supplement brought this campaign setting and its new races into 5th Edition D&D, including one that’s definitely worth a look – the Changeling, a race of humanoids who can change their appearance at will.
Physical Traits of Changelings
While Changelings can and do change how they look (often several times), they do have a true if seldom-seen form. The natural form of a Changeling has light grey or whitish skin, except for thick black rings around the blank, colorless eyes.
Their hair is usually a pale silver, though it can also be platinum or blonde, and very rarely a faint silvery shade of blue, green, or pink. Much like elves, they don’t have body or facial hair. Medium-sized creatures, they are thin of build with arms slightly too long for their size.
Their facial features are nondescript to the point of being slightly unformed, giving them a somewhat unnerving appearance to most races.
Unlike doppelgangers (to whom they have a connection), Changelings have gender – though they can alter this just as they can all other aspects of their appearance.
Changelings reproduce normally, either with other Changelings or with any humanoid race. In the latter case, there is a 50% chance the offspring will be a Changeling.
Note that a pregnant Changeling must remain female throughout the pregnancy, though she can still change other aspects of her appearance as normal.
Changelings have a similar lifespan to humans, though they mature more quickly. They can, of course, appear as any age they wish, within the size restrictions (a fully-grown Changeling can look 18 or 80, but can’t appear as an infant – at least, not a normal-sized one).
In D&D 3.5, the Changeling race was described as being descended from doppelgangers, while in 4th Edition, Changelings and doppelgangers were treated as interchangeable terms.
For D&D 5th Edition, they have been tweaked again and are now the original race, with doppelgangers as a degenerate offshoot from them, created by evil experimentation.
Cultural Changeling Traits
Changelings are a scattered race. With no single homeland or civilization of their own, they occupy the nooks and crannies in the changeling communities of humans and other races. Very rarely, a Changeling can live openly in their community.
More often than not, they must conceal who they are so as not to rouse the fear and mistrust of their neighbors. Sometimes Changelings will band together in small communities, or more likely mobile groups (such as traveling performers, for example), but they exist most commonly in ones and twos, outsiders hiding a secret life.
Living with the fear of discovery, Changelings tend to be cautious by nature, keeping a low profile and living generally quiet lives, though a number do use their talents in less-than-honorable ways – which in turn only reinforces the stigma most Changelings spend their lives hiding from.
While they do not have a unifying culture, many Changelings share a reverence for the Traveler of the Dark Six, a god of change, transformation, and deception – though Changelings can also adopt any gods from areas in which they live, either sincerely or to enhance their “disguise”.
While no two Changelings are exactly alike, there are three basic philosophies or approaches Changelings take to life – being a Passer, a Becomer, or a Seeker.
Passers want only to live a conventional life, fitting in to their chosen community. To this end, they choose a single form and stay with it, essentially ignoring their ability (or using it as rarely as possible) and living as a regular human, elf, or whatever race they live among.
Passers are often looked at with derision by other Changelings and are referred to with epithets like “pretender” or “actor”.
Becomers, on the other hand, use their ability enthusiastically. They will frequently change between any number of forms and identities, or “personas” as they are called.
A Becomer might have a stock of different personas for different tasks or situations – such as a bookish young scholar for research; a grizzled rogue for gathering rumors on the streets; or a delicate, waifish young woman for more diplomatic encounters.
Each of these personas would have their own name, appearance, voice and even habits or mannerisms. Such a Changeling is almost like a group of distinct people sharing one body.
Seekers (also called Reality Seekers), like Passers, eschew their shape changing abilities, but in the opposite way. They rarely if ever take on a different appearance, preferring to remain in their true form and living in small communities of their own kind.
Seekers believe there is a great truth, a perfect way of living, which Changelings by their nature are better equipped to discover one day. They oppose deception (to varying degrees) and are generally more lawful in alignment than most Changelings.
While Changelings usually take on different names with each of their different appearances, they also have a true name – though like their true form, most rarely share it except with other Changelings or those few whom they trust completely. These are always short, one-syllable names and are gender-neutral, such as Oz, Pim, or Bic.
Changeling 5E Stats and Powers
In D&D 5E, Changelings receive a +2 bonus to Charisma, as well as a floating +1 they can apply to another stat of their choice. In the original 5th Edition version, this floating +1 could go to any stat including Charisma
. This could allow a Changeling to potentially begin with an impressive +3 Charisma bonus – obviously useful for the Charisma-based classes Changelings are prone to.
An Eberron errata from late 2020, however, has revised the text for the floating bonus to say, “any other stat”, matching the floating stat rule for other races.
Changelings are medium-sized creatures, with a base speed of 30 feet. The Changeling Instincts racial feature allows a character to select proficiency in any two of the following skills: Deception, Insight, Intimidation, or Persuasion, and Changeling characters begin with Common and any two other languages of their choice.
Of course, the signature racial feature of a Changeling is “Shapechanger”. This ability allows the Changeling, by spending an action, to change their skin tone, facial features, voice, hair (color, length, and texture), height, weight and even sex.
They can take on the features of other humanoid races, appearing as an elf, orc, or dwarf, though their game stats are unaffected by this transformation. Note that they cannot impersonate a race or creature they have not seen.
Note that this shape-changing ability is not unlimited. Changelings cannot squeeze through impossibly tight spaces, imitate tables, tapestries, or the like – they’re Changelings, not mimics.
They also are limited to creatures with a basic humanoid body structure (bipedal, 2 arms, 2 legs, 1 head, etc.) and their ability to change height and weight is limited to medium-sized beings – they can’t imitate a Gnome or a Storm Giant, for instance.
There is a little gray area here – Changelings can’t mimic creatures with more limbs than a normal humanoid, so what about an aarakocra? Are the wings additional limbs? What about a tiefling’s tail?
These are questions for the DM, but the general rule would be that small tweaks on the basic humanoid shape (small satyr-like horns, or a very short tail) are within bounds, and beyond that becomes a judgement call (though in any case, the wings would be non-functional, as the Changeling can’t pick up racial benefits or otherwise change their stats).
Also note that clothing and gear doesn’t magically change at the same time – a Changeling suddenly trying to vanish into a crowd as a harmless old lady would still be sporting the same leather armor they were wearing a few seconds ago.
And while an elderly Changeling can appear young, this has no impact on the effects of their true age, in terms of game stats or otherwise.
Best Changeling Classes
With their Charisma bonus and ability to conform to any group or race a party may encounter, Changeling characters have obvious value as the party’s “face”. They also lend themselves to classes that use Charisma as their spellcasting stat and have obvious potential for any class that makes use of deception or trickery. Here are just a few of the best suggestions:
Bard: Changelings make excellent bards, both for the Charisma-based spellcasting and the Changeling’s bonus skills. The floating stat bonus should be used for DEX, though CON could be an alternative depending on your specific build. A particularly good choice is the College of Whispers (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything), with its focus on infiltration and the uncovering of secrets.
The Mantle of Whispers ability at 6th level is particularly useful for gleaning the knowledge of the dead for use during impersonation.
Rogue: It’s no surprise that a class centered around deception and infiltration would be a perfect fit for a Changeling. The free skills for Changelings suit this class as well. Again, DEX would be the best place to put that floating stat bonus.
Warlock: The Changeling’s Charisma bonus comes in handy for Warlocks, and the Great Old One subclass, with Awakened Mind as a 1st level ability and Detect Thoughts as a 2nd level Expanded Spell, suits Changelings particularly well. The floating stat point would likely go to DEX or CON, as you prefer.
Sorcerer: Like the Warlock, the Sorcerer class benefits from a Changeling’s Charisma bonus. Consider the Aberrant Mind subclass (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything), which offers similar benefits to the Great Old One Warlock. Again, the floating stat’s best home is probably DEX or CON.
Paladin: With the floating stat bonus in STR or DEX, Changelings can do well with just about any build of paladin.
While these are likely the best builds for a Changeling character, they are by no means the only good ones. Changelings, after all, are flexible, and the player that can make the most of their strengths can find playing a Changeling full of possibilities.
Yes, since version 3.5, Changelings have been a playable race in the Eberron campaign setting – or you can always homebrew Changelings into whichever setting you’re using.
As noted above, any class that benefits from the Changeling’s CHA bonus – Bard, Rogue, Paladin, Sorcerer, Warlock – has good potential for a Changeling character.
While some of the Changeling’s abilities have been pared down in 5th edition, their shape changing ability is still rich with potential. As always, what makes a race “good” is how well you match its strengths to a class and style of play. Changeling barbarian – probably not; Changeling rogue, definitely.
They can, with fellow Changelings or with other races (the offspring has a 50% chance of being Changeling.
In 5th Edition D&D, Changelings are a standalone race from which doppelgangers were made. They tend toward neutral alignments, though individuals can be anything.