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Though I have asked a similar question here, and I am very thankful for NautArch's answer, I realized that the more I looked into the text of a changeling's shapeshifter trait, the more questions I had as I am not quite understanding their limitations and specifications.

To reiterate the text:

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.

The first part of the confusion I have is knowing what exactly you can change into. Adjusting height, weight, color, (gender, hair length), and race so long as they are a medium creature sounds simple enough, but does this mean you can be any creature with 4 limbs in a medium-size? From a medium minotaur to a wolf? From a Babau to an animated armor? What about see-through creatures like Shadows?

The second part of the confusion is understanding the nuances of how sizing works. While I realize that the basic rules focus on player space, I found that the System Reference Document of 3.5e seemed to comply with 5e's guide when checking playable race height guides, so good as a guide to find out how tall/short I can make my changeling.

According to that, a changeling can be anywhere from a 4ft 60lbs character to one of 8ft and 500lbs. However, as a changeling's stats don't change and things like speed and lifting strength are not tied into the size of a creature, does this mean that your changeling monk with the mobile feat and a +1 strength (for instance) could appear to be a 4' dwarf weighing 60lbs carrying 225lbs at 60ft per round the same as an 8' tall goliath with 500lbs of pure muscle unable to do any better?

I realize that these examples might seem exaggerated, or quite different, but there are there to highlight the confusion that I still have with the changeling's feature; the monster type is described in 3 vague ways (descriptors, race, creature) leaving little understanding to the limitations, the stats remaining the same seem odd if one can gain or lose muscle mass, and I can't seem to wrap my head around it.

Last note, I realize this question is quite similar, but I am still confused and was hoping for a bit of clarification.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I realize that the question is similar and that my SRD guide is from an unlicensed source, but I could not find a good height and weight guide on D&D Beyond. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Jul 7 '20 at 23:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 I have read all but the second and third one -didn't find them- (having made and linked the last one in my question), though the second one seems to contradict "rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/139399/…" which states a doppelganger is able to take small to large shapes but must be humanoid, while the changeling can only be medium shapes but can be any creature with the same arrangement of limbs.... So that still leaves me confused as to what a changeling can change into... \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Jul 7 '20 at 23:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm confused as to what your actual question is here. Are you confused about the mechanics of it? Because it seems like you understand it, but that it just doesn't 'make sense' to you. Or are you really asking "why is it this way? It doesn't make sense?" \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Jul 8 '20 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Sorry for the confusion. 1. WotC tends to choose their words carefully, specifying humanoids, beasts, etc. Yet the RAW for changelings states "race" then "creature", though not what categories (like construct) are considered creatures.... 2. I can't wrap my head around the physics. A changeling morphs their body rather than creates an illusion, so how is the stride of a 8' tall person equal to that of a 4' tall person? And how can a scrawny guy weighing 60lbs lift the same as 500lbs of pure muscle? To put it simply, I'm asking something like "I read F=ma, but how does that work?" \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Jul 10 '20 at 0:35
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Changelings can impersonate medium sized people they've seen

You can imitate another medium humanoid creature including a dwarf or goliath

Both Dwarves and Golaiths are medium, so both are fair game for the changeling(Eberron: Rising from the Last War p.18):

You can also adjust your height and weight, but not so much that your size changes.

The limitation of the extant of the alteration is such that it would not change your size category.

Changelings can imitate different races, but not different creatures.

The changeling trait(ERiftLW p.18) limits them to another race, but not another creature type entirely:

You can make yourself appear as a member of another race, though none of your game statistics change.

This also eliminates wolves, animated armor, skeletons, etc...

Race vs Creature Type

Opening sentence of choose a race section of Player's Handbook (p.11) states races are species of the humanoid creature type:

Every character belongs to a race, one of the many intelligent humanoid species in the D&D world.

Races encompass what the world considers people and have the humanoid creature type.

And the people themselves — people of varying size, shape, and color, dressed in a dazzling spectrum of styles and hues — represent many different races...

Race in the monster manual is provided as a tag of creature type. See soldier or archmage for an explicit example of this tag being listed as race:

Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment

Other examples of race tags are: lizardfolk, sea-elf, halfling-musician, warforged-soldier

A spell effect that has a race changing effect is reincarnate.

Only races with same limb arrangement.

Some races are not illimitable as they don't have the same arrangement of limbs such as centaurs or aarakocra (depending on how you count wings). The changeling trait limits the changes to those that match their own limbs:

you must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs that you have.

Equipment

The disguise is more than just adapting the form of another person. The equipment is not included in the transformation.

Your clothing and equipment aren’t changed by this trait.

Thus, a diminutive dwarf, while still being medium, might attract some attention while carrying 265 lbs of equipment. Similarly, a muscle bound goliath struggling to lift a load would likely draw unwanted attention. These are considerations changelings must account for when imitating a person.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Jul 14 '20 at 4:35
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The stats indeed do not change, and thus indeed seem odd

The inability to change game statistics is indeed a major limitation on this racial trait, and means that changelings are usually pretty easy to spot for attentive and knowledgeable folk regardless of what form the changeling takes, because they cannot actually act like members of the race they are impersonating. A dedicated changeling might attempt to make a disguise more convincing by picking one close to their true form (like a human), using magic, using legerdemain, making use of concealment, and/or limiting the circumstances under which they are observed, but a changeling forced to adopt a new form 'on the fly' will have great difficulty pulling it off, especially for races with a lot of observable traits (e.g. a changeling-turned-wolf has neither a bite attack nor Pack Tactics nor the Beast type. Maybe a human city-dweller might confuse it for a wolf through a fog bank, but there's no way a wolf should be fooled into thinking it's part of the pack, even for an instant)

For all other concerns, ask your DM

"The same basic arrangement of limbs" has no special meaning, nor any clear meaning in real life. The GM has to make up what that means. The same goes for "the specifics" of your appearance, and "so much that your size changes". It's going to vary widely from table to table. The only real solution is to ask the person running your game, or decide what you want if you are running your own game. A spider is basically never going to be okay, a human will basically always be okay, but there's a lot of grey area to argue over in-between.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree their masks (or "on the fly" as you say) would make it a bad choice, yet the entry on their persona states that it would be quite hard (unless they are caught in something like a local from their supposed birthplace) to detect the disguise as they are masks done with a lot of research and background information. Adding an actor feat would help solidify the masks too.... but that still doesn't give a good point as to what a changeling can turn into... Another example I thought of later was "cannot change into a creature you didn't see" vs "I saw a drow and I want black hair"... \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Jul 8 '20 at 0:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, that might have been confusing. As Personas are legit second identities with the documentation for any medium creature they have seen, I am finding it confusing on knowing where the line is drawn... In my examples (this or that), I hinted at different configurations including constructs to ask "is this a valid creature type?" \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Jul 8 '20 at 0:22
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How does it work? Because Magic.

I think you are looking too deeply into this and wanting to assign a reason for something magical in nature. Yes, this is a physical property of a fantastical race, but the explanations for exactly how that work are really not necessary to explain how it works.

It's clear from the Changeling's description in what you can do and what benefits it gives and doesn't give you. The why really isn't as important, because it just is.

It does make it hard to understand how someone wouldn't notice, but the level of notice is going to be up to the DM and the table as to how many limitations they want to place on this ability.

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