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I am playing as a changeling in a new campaign where every officially published races are accepted. We told the DM the races and classes we wanted to play in advance and he was OK with it. However, during the first session, he said that my changeling will only be able to change their appearance once per day, during a long rest.

I am going to try to negotiate a bonus in exchange for this restriction.
There are two options I'd like to propose, but don't know which one would be fair:

  1. The Actor feat (PHB, p. 165) - So even if my character can't change very often, they are very good at it.
  2. The Unsettling Visage trait, from the UA: Eberron Races version of the changeling - It's in theme and could be fun to describe.

I like "Actor" more, but would it be balanced to get it at first level?


After exchanging a few messages with our DM, I've decided to propose a third option: another way to limit my character's power. I've asked about it as a separate question:
Is this modified version of the changeling's "Shapechanger" trait fair?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The most important question is why did you pick changeling in the first place? Ideally you want something that ensures your race does what you wanted it to do. This sounds like a ridiculous nerf by an inexperienced DM worried you are going to cause havoc. Yet a 2nd level warlock could do the same with an invocation. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Oct 4 '20 at 11:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Since all races were allowed, I wanted to play one with a "unique" mecanic. I also wanted to play a bard for a long time. A changeling bard made sense and looked very intersting (especially with the charlatan background added in the mix) \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueBass
    Oct 4 '20 at 12:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri We can't control how that DM makes decisions, but the collective expertise of the various contributors here may be able to help the OP come up with a balanced/viable recommendation to mitigate the nerf. I think this is a pretty good homebrew question, particularly as it indicates a healthy communication mode between players and DM. (PS: the changeling shape changing is in the opinion of a number of players that I know an OP racial feature ... but that's a matter of opinion). (Compare to half orc 1/ long rest and drow 1/ long rest features ....) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4 '20 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @korvinstarmast I was more trying to ensure that home-brewing something is the right path, because this is a not insignificant nerf to a race. But yes it is an interesting question. As for power any social abilities are very campaign and DM dependent, but yes that's another question. I also can't help but worry when I see a DM arbitrarily make changes like this, I wonder what is next in the firing line. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Oct 4 '20 at 13:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri copy all, hopefully we can get an answer or two that gives our OP something solid they can take to the DM. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4 '20 at 14:00
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Is actor balanced at first level?

Let's take a look. The only official race that grants a feat, and the only official way to get a feat at 1st level, is Variant Human. The variant Human get's a +1 to two different ability scores, a skill proficiency and a feat. Is +2 Charisma, +1 to one ability score of your choice, a once per day shape change and two skills equivalent to +1 to two scores and a skill? It is obviously not. Let's look at balancing this. Actor gives +1 to Charisma. Would it be fair to say that without that +1 Charisma, actor is just half a feat? (As ASI's are either +2 to ability scores or a feat). Then, is all of the changeling features, and half a feat, equivalent to the Variant Human traits, minus the feat? Well, not quite. Changelings already have one more point of ASI than Variant Humans, or half a feat. The last thing that I would do to balance this is change the Changelings Charisma bonus from +2 to +1. Now is it balanced? I think so.

In my opinion, it would be balanced to take the actor feat, without the +1 boost to Charisma. (As this was your first pick, I will not bother answering the unsettling visage portion of the question.)

Hope this helps!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! It's a great idea, I really felt the feat was a too strong but didn't think about taking only part of it \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueBass
    Oct 6 '20 at 11:09
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I think the answer by TheDragonOfFlame is a fair assessment and I also recommend going with the Actor feat without the +1 to Charisma if you are going to go with that option. What I would more strongly recommend is talking with your DM about why he is restricting what is literally the defining characteristic of your race of choice.

If he is afraid of your character abusing the ability, ask him to clarify how he thinks you might do that. I can definitely see the occasional edge case where you might do so, but I doubt it would make much difference to typical play. In fact, I would argue that it would create opportunities for your character to do some fun espionage work.

It might be worth mentioning to him that changing your appearance is only one part of a disguise, and barring some magical means, costume changes can be quite difficult to pull off on the fly. There is also acting the part and sometimes pulling off appropriate dialog or having to know some password or even a trivial fact about who you are impersonating can prove to be fatal to this kind of subterfuge. Remind him that your success at these things is not automatic (though, as a bard you will certainly have advantages to such things).

Most of all, try and come to an understanding between both of you that makes you both happy. Make sure you're wanting to play/run the same kind of game and if something is off, find a compromise. Even a few sessions in, you're better off adjusting things to have fun than slogging through something you don't enjoy.

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