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Can a naked Changeling use its Shapechanger feature to duplicate the appearance of clothing or equipment, similarly to Mystique from the X-Men?

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.

The feature states that it can't change your clothing and equipment, but doesn't mention anything regarding changing your body to duplicate the appearance of clothing or equipment.

It also states that you can turn into other races. So if a Changeling can turn into, for example, a Yuan-ti Pureblood and duplicate the appearance of scales, then I see no reason why it wouldn't be able to duplicate the look of leather, or silk, or other clothing materials.

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Rising from the Last War text: doesn’t say

The text of the ability from Rising from the Last War quite simply doesn’t give us enough information to say one way or the other on this question. It lists a number of ways in which you definitely can change your appearance, but the use of the word “including” to introduce the list indicates it is not exhaustive: you can change your appearance in these ways, but you can also change your appearance in other ways not listed. The absence of evidence here cannot be construed as evidence of absence—we certainly can’t say from this text that you can, but we equally cannot say that you can’t. There just isn’t enough information to say.

Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron text: doesn’t say, but might imply “no”

Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron was an Unearthed-Arcana-tier publication that previewed some of the content in Rising from the Last War, and it includes a version of the changelings. The text of this ability is lengthier there, and includes

You decide what you look like, including [...] any other distinguishing feature.

Which sounds kind of hopeful—it’s far broader than anything on the list in the Rising from the Last War version of the ability. However, really, both Rising from the Last War and Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron indicate a non-exhaustive list (both introduce it with “including”), Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron is just a little more explicit that it is non-exhaustive.

Further on, however, it says

Your clothing and other equipment don’t change [...] requiring you to keep a few extra outfits on hand to make the most compelling disguise possible.

Now, this doesn’t strictly rule out faking clothes with this ability—after all, the fakes are never going to be as good as the real thing, and you wouldn’t be able to, for example, take off a fake coat or hat. But it certainly goes farther than Rising from the Last War in suggesting that clothes aren’t happening.

Eberron Player’s Guide text: definitely cannot

Going even further afield than Unearthed-Arcana-tier content, Eberron Campaign Guide was the 4e book describing Eberron, and it described changelings for that edition.

Changeling Disguise

[...] Effect: You alter your physical form to take on the appearance of any Medium humanoid. You retain your statistics in your new form, and your clothing, armor, and possessions do not change. The new form lasts until you change form again.

In this case, you could only fake clothing if the Medium humanoid you were trying to take the appearance of had fake clothing as part of its body—which is probably none of them. So in 4e, changelings definitely could not do this.

Eberron Campaign Setting text: probably not

The original description of Eberron and its changelings was Eberron Campaign Setting, for D&D 3.5e. There, we have

Minor Change Shape (Su): Changelings have the supernatural ability to alter their appearance as though using a disguise self spell that affects their bodies but not their possessions. This ability is not an illusory effect, but a minor physical alteration of a changeling’s facial features, skin color and texture, and size, within the limits described for the spell.

And then for disguise self we have

You make yourself—including clothing, armor, weapons, and equipment—look different. You can seem 1 foot shorter or taller, thin, fat, or in between. You cannot change your body type. Otherwise, the extent of the apparent change is up to you. You could add or obscure a minor feature or look like an entirely different person.

Here, disguise self can explicitly disguise your gear, but minor change shape nixes that by restricting it to “their bodies but not their possessions.” Minor change shape also includes a list of things you can change, but it is not introduced with “including”—which may indicate it is an exhaustive list. And it definitely does not include faking clothes, unless perhaps they are skin-tight and you can achieve that effect via skin color and texture. Of course, treating this list as exhaustive is really problematic, because it prevents all kinds of things that changelings are described as doing—by this list, you wouldn’t be able to bulk up, slim down, and so on, all of which we know changelings can do, both from other editions and from various descriptions of changelings within 3.5e.

Conclusion: Probably safest to assume “no.”

The official rules for 5e changelings, as found in Rising from the Last War, neither prevent nor allow this behavior, but the rules from earlier publications all suggest—if not outright state—that this is beyond their power. There’s certainly room to ask your DM for it—and if they’re willing, then awesome, because it’s a cool idea and I strongly doubt it’s going to be a problem—but there’s a lot more room for the DM to say no.

The one exception to that might be skin-tight clothing, which seem to be within the capabilities of all versions of the changeling race aside from 4e’s (and 4e was weird in a whole lot of ways).

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You cannot make equipment because you cannot change your statistics

We already have a Q/A which establishes that equipment (and thus clothing) are part of a creature's statistics: "What all is included in a creature's game statistics?"

The Shapechanger feature in question states:

As an action, you can change your appearance and your voice. [...] none of your game statistics change. [...] Your clothing and equipment aren't changed by this trait. [...]

So you definitely cannot make new clothing because that would change your equipment, and thus your statistics. The question of course, is whether you can make something that looks like clothing.

Ask your GM about the specifics of the transformation

All we know is that it allows you to change your appearance and then lists a number of ways to go about doing this. Is this an exhaustive list? Maybe, maybe not; only your GM can say.

What I would say

You cannot make actual clothing, and Shapechanging is not an illusion, it is a physical change to how you appear, not how you physically feel, or what you can actually do. (The trait cannot change your statistics). Thus even if somebody tried to make themself appear to be wearing new clothes there is no way these would function like real clothes; they would not move and flow with the wind, have actual weight, or provide bonuses to your Armor Class.

You can make something that looks like clothing, but it will move with your skin, so unless you're imitating skin-tight clothing it will be quite obvious to others that it is fake.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your clothing and equipment aren't changed by this trait. [...] / So you definitely cannot make new clothing. I don't think you're saying that the latter follows from that one part of the rule, or at least I hope not. Just to be clear, that part is saying that if you were wearing clothing, your appearance only changes under your clothes. i.e. like X-Men's Mystique, who is always nude in her true blue form, not wearing real clothes that she couldn't change. (Although I agree with your conclusion on the overall wording: at best you might appear to have form-fitting clothing, like leather.) \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Mar 29 at 4:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ So you could look like a sexy vampire from the movie Underworld. (No cape unless you can justify it as a hair-like growth or leathery flap of skin to your DM. Elephant ears are a thing...) \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Mar 29 at 4:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes And thank you for pointing that out. Always good to actually right down your logic (I've removed my earlier comment now since it's resolved and suggest you do the same) \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Mar 29 at 5:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not following the "it will move with your skin" stuff that seems to form the basis of much of this answer. Does your hair move with your skin? Does your tongue move with your skin? Are we saying that only the skin changes appearance? That the actual "configuration" of matter within and on the shapechanger's body cannot change? Because then your "is not an illusion, it is a physical change" seems like off wording. \$\endgroup\$ – Asteroids With Wings Mar 29 at 14:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Are we not transforming skin into not-skin? Which then by its nature can have not-skin-like properties? Much like a tongue can move independently of the surface of your body, why could not this newly transformed material? It depends what we mean by shapeshifting. You're apparently saying that shapeshifting is actually just camoflague by changing the colour/texture of skin, rather than actually, well, shifting shape. If that's so, fine, could just use some clarification in this answer I think. \$\endgroup\$ – Asteroids With Wings Mar 29 at 14:41
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Not as well as Mystique, but as good as any body-painter.

From the shapechanger text you quoted, you can change

  • appearance and your voice
  • coloration, hair length, and sex
  • height and weight
  • race

You can't fake proper clothes. Maybe you could imitate a race that can fake clothes, and even naked, appear to be wearing them, but as far as I am aware, no such race exists. However, you can change your coloration, and with enough DM fiat, you can do some incredible make-up effects.

That being said, it wouldn't be broken.

... speaking purely as a cosmetic chance. If no one in the party is actively making clothes (using Disguise Kits or Weaver's Utensils), then having the ability to shapeshift into credible clothes should just provide a fun experience to the party, without stepping on the ability of another party-member. The fact that doing so requires you to be naked, without armor or proper equipment, makes it a fun RP tool rather than some exploitable combat or exploration mechanic.

As a DM, I would allow my player, within the bounds of reason, to imitate simple sets of clothing. But this is something that your table should agree upon.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Mar 28 at 17:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your “as no race that I'm aware of has a look that imitates clothing,” seems to be a non sequitur, as I see no reason why there would need to be such a race for a changeling to do this—nothing about the ability that I can see limits your appearance to matching only races or creatures that actually exist. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 28 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I've reworded that sentence to make it clearer \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Mar 28 at 21:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ OK, but I still disagree with that—the existence or lack thereof of a creature with such features is irrelevant to the ability text I’m reading. Nothing says you can copy creatures, or that you can only copy creatures. So that point still seems besides the point. And while things that appear like clothes aren’t listed, the list as given says only that you can change things “including” what’s listed—it’s certainly not an exhaustive list. That doesn’t mean fake clothes are necessarily on the full list, it just means that being absent from this list (absence of evidence) doesn’t mean anything. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 28 at 21:27
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You could pretend to be a daelkyr, if you've seen one.

The Daelkyr are a race of godlike aberrations who are responsible for creating the various aberrations of the Eberron setting. They generally resemble humanoid figures, but with their clothing being a symbiotic part of their bodies; in the 5e Eberron book, one of them is described as appearing to be a woman wearing a dress made out of her own skin, while another is a man who has a suit of living plate armor integrated into his body. As such, a Changeling would be able to mimic a Daekyr if they've met one before, since the Daekyr fall within the restrictions of the Changeling's abilities.

It's unlikely that a Changeling would be able to pass off their dress made of living skin as ordinary clothing, however, and a suit of living armor that they mimicked would provide no mechanical benefits.

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No, you can only change you appearance into that of another creature, clothings are gear and not part of a creature, a good way to get around this would be to take magic initiate for Disguise self or magical clothing that changes it´s appearance on command, or you could use a disguise kit in adition to your natural abilitys.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you back this up with any citation of game text? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Mar 28 at 16:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have any source or reasoning for this? Simply stating something as a fact without anything backing it isn't exactly credible. \$\endgroup\$ – Tirafesi Mar 28 at 16:46

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