9
\$\begingroup\$

The Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden adventure contains a list of possible Character Secrets in Appendix B. One of these possible secrets is "Doppelganger" (emphasis mine):

I’m a shapechanger. I have none of the traits of the race I’m imitating, but I retain my class features, background, and alignment. I have darkvision out to a range of 60 feet. I can use an action to do either of the following at will:

  • I can innately cast detect thoughts, requiring no components. My spellcasting ability is Intelligence. The spell’s Wisdom save DC is 8 + my proficiency bonus + my Intelligence modifier.
  • I can polymorph into any humanoid I have seen or back into my true form. My statistics, other than my size, don’t change. Any equipment I’m wearing or carrying isn’t transformed. I revert to my true form when I die.

Does this mean that your default race's traits are nullified when selecting this Character Secret?

For instance, if that were the case, a Variant Human character with the "Doppelganger" character secret wouldn't have the +1 bonus to two ability scores, the extra skill proficiency & extra feat.

\$\endgroup\$
9
\$\begingroup\$

Yes, the Doppelganger secret removes racial traits for the presenting race.

Frostmaiden p. 14 states under "Character Secrets" that a player can draw a new secret "if the [first] secret is a bad fit for the character," implying that the secret is superimposed onto the character. If so, this secret would remove the PC's previously-defined racial traits while gifting new ones. If the PC is created after drawing a secret, potential racial traits are likewise suppressed in favor of the new ones from the secret.

We can also know that racial traits are removed because the secret is that the PC is a bona fide doppelganger and not just a generic shapechanger. We know most easily because the PC is given three traits shared with Monster Manual doppelgangers, and "if it looks like a duck and acts like a duck" (and the title is "Duck"), etc.

However, the book does clarify this for us. The title of every other secret does what it says. The "Alagondar Scion" and "Runaway Author" secrets, for example, are exactly those things, and this is true of the other secrets as well. "Littlest Yeti" looks like a stylization, but is also literally true—the PC was the smallest member of the tribe that raised them. Likewise, "Owlbear Whisperer" is a clear riff on horse whisperers, and in that regard does exactly what it says it does. In this light, the only possible interpretation is that the secret titled "Doppelganger" should be literally understood.

None of this is made easier, of course, by the secret's short length (IMO, probably just to keep the text from overflowing the card bounds) and incomplete definition. Notably, the card does not redefine essential racial traits that it has removed, such as size and speed. For that, the DM will have to reference the doppelganger stat block. As a DM, I would probably

  • to mimic the doppler's strengths, also give the PC +2 Dex, +1 Cha, and allow their detect thoughts feature not to alert the target; or
  • simply have the player play the Changeling race from the Eberron book.
| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yep, this seems to be the obvious intended interpretation, even if it's badly implemented (it's missing basically all the traits common to every race, i.e. ability score increases, size, speed, and languages - as well as age, even if that only tells you a typical range for the race anyway). There doesn't seem to be any other logical way to interpret a secret called "doppelganger" that tells you you're a shapechanger, lets you polymorph into other humanoids, and innately cast detect thoughts (seemingly at will). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 23 at 9:08
6
\$\begingroup\$

No. You have a race and its attendant traits, but present as a different race.

You have emphasized the relevant text. You have a race, so you use those traits, but you imitate another race, and don't use those traits.

It should be obvious that your player character is a member of some race: this is step 1 of character creation in the Player's Handbook. Further, this is assumed when the feature uses the phrase true form. The doppleganger character secret explains that you are imitating another race but don't have any of the racial traits of that race, so naturally, you retain the racial traits of your true form.

I'll use an example to explain the feature description.

I am Jimothy, a lawful-neutral Halfling barbarian with the Far Traveller background. This is what the other characters at the table know my character to be.

The secret is this: I am actually a Goliath. My character sheet would read like a Lawful-Neutral Goliath Barbarian Far Traveller, but I present to the party as a Lawful-Neutral Halfling Barbarian Far Traveller.

Note, it seems quite clear that this secret is not intended to use the Doppelganger monster stat block in any way. If it was, it would say so using the convention described in the intro:

When a creature’s name appears in bold type, that’s a visual cue pointing you to its stat block as a way of saying, “Hey, DM, you better get this creature’s stat block ready. You’re going to need it.” If the stat block appears in appendix C of this adventure, the text tells you so; otherwise, you can find the stat block in the Monster Manual."

The secret name is stylized identically to other secret names, and the word "doppelganger" appears only in the name of the secret, never in its description.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ What makes you think that this character secret isn't meant to represent you being a version of an actual Doppelganger? \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Sep 21 at 7:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer If it was, it would say so using the convention described in the intro: "When a creature’s name appears in bold type, that’s a visual cue pointing you to its stat block as a way of saying, “Hey, DM, you better get this creature’s stat block ready. You’re going to need it.” If the stat block appears in appendix C of this adventure, the text tells you so; otherwise, you can find the stat block in the Monster Manual." As it is, the secret name is stylized identically to other secret names, and the word "doppelganger" appears only in the name of the secret, never in its description. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Sep 21 at 16:56
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I did not mean to suggest that one should be using the doppelganger's game statistics. But this option appears to me to replace the character's racial features with alternative abilities that happen to be almost exactly the abilities that a doppelganger has (less the stealth/ambush benefits). Essentially what I'm saying is that it seems overwhelmingly more likely that this option called Doppelganger means that you are a Doppelganger with Doppelganger abilities, not a normal race that happens to also have Doppelganger abilities. (I'd counter-answer, but don't have access to RotF to read around) \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Sep 21 at 21:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Seems they would tell you what your racial traits were if that were the case... \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Sep 21 at 21:57
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It seems to me like they do, because the option gives you three new features; they just haven't explicitly called them out as racial traits. I would definitely say that this whole feature could be better written than it is because of precisely this kind of confusion - I'm going on what my intuition tells me is intended. I take it from the absence that there isn't any other text in RotF that relates to the secret character backgrounds and helps provide context or clarification, unfortunately. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Sep 21 at 22:10
3
\$\begingroup\$

Your true form is Doppelgänger.

Unfortunately, this is not explained clearly in the secret’s brief description in Chapter 1, nor in the more detailed description in Appendix B.

The description in appendix B speaks of your "true form":

I can polymorph into any humanoid I have seen or back into my true form.

My initial trouble in parsing this feature is that your true form is never actually defined in the two places where the secret’s features are given.

But all hope is not lost. On page 85, during an encounter with a druid, we see the following:

If a character who has the Doppelganger secret (see appendix B) fails their saving throw against the druid’s moonbeam spell, remember that the spell reveals the character’s true (doppelganger) form.

Here we have an explicit definition of your true form: doppelganger. So we conclude that your true form is a doppelganger, not one of the playable races.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good find! I wasn't expecting them to only explicitly state that in the description of some specific encounter partway through the adventure (even if it's implied elsewhere)... \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 26 at 21:36
2
\$\begingroup\$

not sure if this is definitive or not, but dndbeyond has incorporated this module: https://www.dndbeyond.com/forums/d-d-beyond-general/bugs-support/81555-icewind-dale-rime-of-the-frostmaiden-issues-and

CHARACTER OPTIONS: SECRETS This adventure introduces a new character generation mechanic known as "Secrets"

It is suggested that any secrets for your characters are added to the character sheet via the NOTES section, which cannot be seen by other players in a campaign.

they also responded to a ticket I opened with them: Request #978037
stating that since secrets don't modify any existing character statistics, they are not looking at providing any app/coding modifications to their tool.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is an interesting answer, but D&D Beyond didn't write the module, nor are they WoTC. That ticket response seems to cover what the intent is, perhaps, if they have some inside info from the WoTC module writers. Unclear, but interesting. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 7 at 15:23
-3
\$\begingroup\$

My reading would be no.

5E is very simple in that it clearly states, you get what things say. You don't infer and you don't read between the lines. No Racial change, no sub race, no different ability modifiers.

You don't get to add or change your base HPs to the MM Doppelganger's, you don't get the special attacks, and you don't get it's immunities.

Your true race is what ever you picked at your character creation: Human, Elf, Dwarf, etc. and you would have all the HPs and stats that the race and your class combination gives you. You get what ever is stated in the secret that is drawn/picked as a bonus flavor - very similar to background traits.

When using the doppelganger secret ability, any other form you take besides the one that you selected from initial character creation, is only for the look/feel. While being a human and taking the form of a Gnome you won't get its spell-like abilities or the Orc's fury ability - you retain all your Human abilities while taking the new form.

Here are some references:

About secrets from Perkins' interview:

https://venturebeat.com/2020/06/18/dd-icewind-dale-rime-of-the-frostmaiden-adventure/

“I think the most interesting part [of Rime of the Frostmaiden] is the character secrets,” Perkins said. “Characters can play it one of two ways. They can keep their secret close to their chest and not reveal it to the other players, fostering and breeding paranoia, or they can reveal it anytime they want to, and then wrestle with the consequences of it. That’s left entirely up to the players.”

https://gamerant.com/dungeons-dragons-campaign-icewind-dale-character-secrets/

The Icewind Dale includes a section called Appendix B: Character Secrets, and it has a list of seventeen potential secrets players can insert into their characters' backstories to help get them in the mood for a horror-themed DnD game. Like most campaigns, players are encouraged to develop their character's backstories, although many DMs will know that this can range from a vague one-sentence idea to several handwritten pages, depending on the experience level and style of the player.

About 5E basic rules:

Multiple articles discuss how not to create additional text that isn't there. https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/sage-advice

Two videos with Jeremy Crawford:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOD5oUw7fYg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbj_TcpuzqU

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.