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For context:

In a new campaign, the DM accepted my request to play a changeling, but wants to limit its "Shapechanger" trait (E:RftLW, p. 18). His idea was to allow only one change a day, during a long rest.

The reason he gave is that he didn't want this ability to be "abused", as he played a changeling in the past and did abuse it by changing his character's appearance "as often as he could". Also, since my character has the Charlatan background, he has planned to have her run into former marks randomly, and I think he doesn't want it to be too easy to escape.

We are going to talk about it in a few days, and I'd like to propose another way to restrict "Shapechanger".


My revised version of the Shapechanger trait:

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.

Changing your appearance in this way takes 15 minutes. Your skin and organs take a half-melted consistency and start bubbling and reshaping themselves. Your bones change their shape and size. During that time, you are paralyzed, blind, and deaf.

Because of involuntary spasms and various flesh noises, the DC for any perception check that could reveal your position is the same as if you were casting a spell with somatic and verbal components.


Questions:

  • Would these changes prevent the abuse of the "Shapechanger" trait?
  • Is the description clear enough? Not too long?
  • Does it feel like it could be integrated smoothly into a campaign?
  • Is it too restrictive?

A related previous question on the same subject: What bonus would be balanced against a restriction on a changeling's Shapechanger trait?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What exactly do you consider "abuse" of the ability? What is the actual problem you are trying to solve? Would the changes affect all changelings in your world? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Oct 6 at 12:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ So your DM is ok with shenanigans as a player (when they benefit), but not as a DM? \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Oct 6 at 12:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega Our DM had a very busy past couple of weeks, so I didn't have the occasion to interrogate him further. All I know is that he doesn't want me to transform "all the time" and prefers a "hard" rule to prevent it. It would probably affect all changelings, but I don't know if there are going to be any other in the campaign \$\endgroup\$ – BlueBass Oct 6 at 14:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Would your DM impose the same restrictions on a Warlock with the Mask of Many Faces invocation? \$\endgroup\$ – Louis Wasserman Oct 6 at 23:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've replaced the links in the question that point to a site rehosting non-SRD content with links to D&D Beyond instead. Also, the trait was renamed in Eberron: Rising from the Last War (and the final version of Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron) from "Change Appearance" to "Shapechanger". \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 7 at 3:27
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I would simply accept that I am not playing a changeling with this DM.

“Fair” or not doesn’t come into it; it’s not worth the argument. But being able to change their appearance at will is literally the sole reason to play a changeling. That is what they do, what they are there for. Getting to do so only once per day is a ludicrously tight restriction in the face of the official “whenever they want,” and leaves the race with nothing notable or worthwhile about them.

So I would not play that race and would instead choose something else.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for this, I'm going to prepare a couple of replacement characters in case our discution leads nowhere \$\endgroup\$ – BlueBass Oct 6 at 14:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BlueBass Honestly, your takeaway should probably be that your DM really doesn't want you to play a changeling, but for whatever reason isn't willing to just say that. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Oct 6 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage or the DM is confused about how powerful the ability really is. \$\endgroup\$ – John Oct 6 at 17:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Aren't changelings the only race able to get a +3 racial bonus to an Ability Score, IIRC? \$\endgroup\$ – nick012000 Oct 7 at 2:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000: Technically, yes. Relevant Q&A: Can a changeling increase their Charisma by +3 at character creation? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 7 at 3:44
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It seems excessive.

Changelings are not particularly powerful, and you may need to discus this with your DM.

keep in mind the ability can be replicated by low levels spells like Alter Self (2) of Disguise Self (1), fairly low level class abilities like Mask of Many Faces, or even a disguise kit. Many of these actually preform better in many ways.

As a changeling you cannot alter your clothes, you can't gain abilities so for instance even if you look like a triton you don't get a swim speed. You really are not getting anything a normal human charlatan could not achieve with a disguise kit or a first level spell. Also consider they basically get nothing else, they don't even get darkvision which is really common in 5e.

Keep in mind the downsides of this ability, building trust will be very hard is you are constantly changing appearance, it will also create a lot of inconveniences. "But I already paid the tax/fee" "Nice try but I've never seen you before, pay up now" A good DM can turn this into just as much of a disadvantage as an advantage. You can't game fame or renown, plus changelings are canonically hated so if anyone sees you change you are looking at a witch hunt.

The clarifications I made for Changelings for my games:

First in addition to the restriction to the same arrangement and number of limbs you also cannot convincingly take on the appearance of a warforged.

Second

You can’t duplicate the appearance of a creature you’ve never seen

I gave the player a choice of how to interpret this, either:

  1. You can only change in into a specific creature you have seen before, if Bob is the only human you have ever seen you can ONLY look like Bob as a human.

  2. You can only turn into a human if you have seen a human before and only the features you have seen before, (so you can't become a redhead unless you have seen one) Looking like any specific human requires detailed study and a performance (wisdom) check.

The player chose the former since it fit better with their character concept, and not once in the game did the ability feel overpowered. It caused all kinds of wonderful shenanigans including the player getting jumped by thugs collecting "Whot is owed", getting stabbed by their own teammate while rushing into a room, getting cornered by a tax collector and having to pay 50gp in back taxes, getting thrown out a pub the person they were impersonating was banned from, even getting cursed (geas) by a jealous lover of the person they were impersonating. Remember in small towns everyone knows everyone else and they all have history.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 as this is the only answer to touch on the fact that changelings cannot change their clothes. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Oct 6 at 16:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical Well, through their ability... otherwise they could easily be identified by just their smell :) \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Oct 12 at 18:28
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You need to talk with your DM directly

We can't tell you if these changes are "fair" or if they will integrate into the campaign. For that level of approval, there is only one source you have to let you know: Your DM.

However, there is no 'target number' for a perception check to notice this change based on casting a spell with components. You will need to further develop when you talk with your DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ About the perception part : it was to make is so it's not too easy to hide during a transformation, the same way it's difficult for a PC to hide while casting a spell. We are goind to talk about it this week-end, I just wanted to make sure this proposition is at least decent. Sorry for the lack of clarity, English isn't my first language \$\endgroup\$ – BlueBass Oct 6 at 12:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BlueBass No worries! The lack of clarity is fine, that's what we're here for - but ultimately, we really can't tell you if the DM is going to accept anything. Only they can. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Oct 6 at 12:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, It's fine! I wanted to know if this, as written, was "solid" enough to even be considered usable \$\endgroup\$ – BlueBass Oct 6 at 14:19
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This seems to meet your DM's Goals

While being fair and campaign integration would best be discussed with your DM, given your statement:

he has planned to have [your character] run into former marks randomly, and I think he doesn't want it to be too easy to escape.

this seems to be a fair compromise (in that it meets what you state your DM's goals to be). Essentially you need 15 minutes of safe privacy to change forms; if a former mark is chasing you down, you can't just turn a corner and shapeshift out of trouble. This certainly would make it quite difficult to escape, since you essentially cannot rely on shapeshifting to escape.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The questioner stated what they believe their DM's goals to be in their question. I edit in a parenthetical to emphasize this though. \$\endgroup\$ – ESCE Oct 6 at 16:31
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What you describe seems to meet your DM's goals.

Also, note that one version of the changeling had two extra features that was missing in the final version:

• Unsettling Visage. When a creature you can see makes an attack roll against you, you can use your reaction to impose disadvantage on the roll. You must use this feature before knowing whether the attack hits or misses.

Using this trait reveals your shapeshifting nature to any creature within 30 feet that can see you. Once you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

• Divergent Persona. You gain proficiency with one tool of your choice. Define a unique identity associated with that proficiency; establish the name, race, gender, age, and other details. While you are in the form of this persona, the related proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses that proficiency.

you should consider mixing a weakening of the core change appearance mechanics (as above) with one or both of the above features.

That kind of ask might help, as it changes things from "changeling, but worse" to "changeling, but different".

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