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Can changelings instantly change their hairstyle?

  • For example, if a changeling wants to imitate someone with long braids, do they have to shapeshift, then braid their hair, or can they just get the braids with the shift?
  • Does it matter how complex the hairstyle is?
  • If they can't have instantly braided hair, can they instantly unbraid their hair?
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, that's a funny question! I'd imagine a changeling could make something that looks like braided hair and is actually a solid block of keratin or some such, but anyone who pays attention could notice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phoenices
    May 6 at 15:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 6 at 15:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to return your question with a question: can a changeling include scars and sun-damaged skin when changing? I think a black-or-white ruling on this is always going to significantly influence the playability of shapechanging. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flater
    May 9 at 3:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can do that IRL, while you are not a changeling. Well, with some limits. I think, also the changelings have some limits, only much lesser as we have. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gray Sheep
    May 9 at 15:44

4 Answers 4

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Probably. Ask your DM, though.

The relevant text in the Changeling's Shapechanger trait is:

You determine the specifics of the changes, including your coloration, hair length, and sex.

This is not a fully comprehensive list. There is an unspoken '...including [but not limited to]...'. Otherwise, you wouldn't be able to choose other things like ear shape or other small details. So it stands to reason that hair style could be one of the specifics of the change. However, it would be up to the DM to determine this.

Personally, I would absolutely allow it. There's somewhat of an argument to be made about "Hairstyle is not a naturally occurring part of a creature, which is what the changeling shapechanges to", however being able to set hair length isn't natural either. Cutting your hair is changing the style, so if you change into someone with short hair, you're deciding on a style.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As a middle ground, the changeling can grow their hair as much as they want, but if they want it shorter they need to book an appointment at the salon. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sidney
    May 8 at 12:41
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Probably not, but ask your DM

The Shapechanger feature says:

Shapechanger. 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 and can change your size between Medium and Small. 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 an individual 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 can change your hair length, and as you can imitate other races, I think also the type and color of hair; you need to be able to, to copy the looks of an individual that you have seen. But the styling is nothing that is inherently a property of the creature, it is more like clothing in that you can change it without changing the creature - the same hair can be arranged in different hairdos. So I think like clothing, it would need to be applied.

As the feature text is not explicit about it, this requires the DM to rule on it. What speaks for allowing it is that it feels a bit cheap to be nitpicky here, as the player likely expected to be able to depend on their feature to copy another's likeness in exact duplicate.

If the DM rules you must get the hair done, they probably should be stating it up front, so that the players don't feel cheated when the guards hold up the fake duchess because instead of her normal pompadour, her hair is just straight down, quel scandale.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Funny, you posted this right as I was about to post mine, being the opposite :) \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 17:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheLittlePeace, Yes, the final answer is probably "Ask your DM", as you can argue for either view. I would probably allow it too; not allowing it can lead to some extra roleplaying, and maybe make the world a little more believable. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 17:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ The fun of the changeling is the variety and options, but that does lead to questions like this. I feel like this is a reasonable limitation if discussed ahead of time, as it means the player has to do additional planning for a good impersonation, which feels balanced. It also means that complicated hair styles (and maybe tattoos?) could end up in fashion as a security measure to prevent impersonation when changelings are known to be about. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 20:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aherocalledFrog: The player already has to come up with a costume and any physical props that are otherwise required. In a modern setting, that would include forged IDs and the like, but identifying documents are not entirely a modern thing. I find it hard to believe that hair is really the most challenging part of the whole getup, regardless of whether you get it "for free" or not. So from a balance perspective, I'd be inclined to allow it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kevin
    May 6 at 23:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd probably rule on it much like I would clothes, but more for world-building reasons than balance. If you have a bit of time to dress and do your hair, you can absolutely impersonate someone's appearance; I wouldn't require a roll or any other specific explanation. But if all you've got is a few seconds unobserved, shapeshifter doesn't change your clothes, and it doesn't style your hair. I probably would allow (for both clothes and hair) the shapeshifter to attempt to make a body shape that looks like something you don't actually have, but that might not pass close inspection. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben
    May 7 at 7:07
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Yes, you can change your hairstyle

You can change your appearance, as an action. The rules go through great length to give you very wide latitude in changing your appearance.

Your hairstyle is part of your appearance. You can change your hairstyle every single time.

So, yes, you can change your hairstyle as an action. If you want braids, you've got it. Unbraids, you got it. Instant bouffant. Mohawk in a minute (well, an action!). Pile it high, go chrome, have it three feet long and sticking out straight in all directions.

Umm, you don't get free hair ties, bobby pins, scrunchies, hair-clips etc. though. "Your clothing and equipment aren’t changed by this trait."

(Although, a reasonable DM might well just give that to the player, after all, it's a supernatural ability; however, clearly the race description makes no mention of hair accessories one way or another.)

It is a strange reading of the rules indeed that says you can change everything about your appearance, but not your hairstyle.

Just consider the absurdity of being able to change so much about your appearance, but not being able to change your hairstyle. "Oh, yes, I can look like a gnome or an elf or a harengon or an orc, but I'm stuck with this hairstyle."

The Shapechanger trait says:

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 and can change your size between Medium and Small. 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 an individual 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.

So:

  • You can change your appearance and your voice
  • You determine the specifics
  • Those specifics can include coloration, hair length, and sex
  • You have to be small or medium
  • You can look like another race
  • You can't copy an individual you've never seen
  • You have to keep your same arrangement of limbs

You can absolutely change your hairstyle. That's within "the specifics".

So, it's good to be on the same page with the DM, and it's their game, but barring the DM saying you can't, the rules say you can.

Furthermore, the Changeling description gives some insight into the race:

a typical changeling changes their shape the way others might change clothes. A casual shape—one created on the spur of the moment, with no depth or history—is called a mask.

I do want to add, you probably can't get any mechanical advantage out of this, so Rapunzel might be a long shot. Check with your DM.

To be fair, there is a counter-argument

As is often the case, there is a level of ambiguity to the rules that results in different people reading the rules differently, so in that sense, it is up to the DM, who interprets the rules.

As laid out in reasonable answers here, there are arguments that hairstyle is not included in "changing appearance".

This answer says "Hairstyle is not a naturally occurring part of a creature, which is what the changeling shapechanges to".

This answer says "the styling is nothing that is inherently a property of the creature".

First of all, the race description does not say it is limited to naturally occurring features.

My reading, the race makes less sense if the change does not include hairstyle, and it's implicit in the race.

As an example, the Shapechanger feature says, "You can’t duplicate the appearance of an individual you’ve never seen", which means you can duplicate the appearance of an individual you've seen. In a single action. If duplicating the appearance does not include hairstyle, then that severely limits the ability; especially since hairstyles can be quite elaborate, and it seems like if duplicating hairstyles required time (and the skill!), then that would be mentioned in the "clothing and equipment" limitation.

Furthermore, if the changeling is limited to "naturally occurring parts of the creature" or things that are "inherently a property of the creature", then scars, tattoos, and amputations could not be duplicated. Those things seem reasonably a part of a creature's "appearance".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess the thing is hairstyle includes various things. You can modify the length of the air, so you can get any cut you want. Braiding would be something you do to that hair, and would not require applying ribbons or such, so I guess this is the area where the different answers have a different read. Sticking out to the sides in spikes pretty assuredly would require some fixative like sugar water or starch, and that to me would plainly fall under the same category as clothes: something external, not part of the body, required to get the hairstyle. \$\endgroup\$ May 7 at 7:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've altered my answer to reference answers by TheLittlePeace and Nobody-the-Hobgoblin, who make some good points, even if I don't agree. @Nobody, the feature does not say what consistency of hair is produced, or that the hair of this supernatural fey creature is like human hair. So, we'll have to disagree on that point. The fey PC wants pointy hair from their supernatural ability, I don't think they need a fixative to do it. It's not human hair, it's supernatural fey hair. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    May 7 at 13:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ The wording is very inclusive. By saying 'including' it is not a limiting list, just giving some examples. By saying "You can’t duplicate the appearance of an individual you’ve never seen", it implies you CAN duplicate the appearance of an individual you have seen. That should include the hair style you saw them with. \$\endgroup\$ May 9 at 13:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JasonGoemaat I agree with you. I thought my answer covered your points, but I'll review when I get a chance and make sure. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    May 9 at 13:50
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One question that is an interesting sub-topic: If you shape-shift in a form with long braided hair, where does the hair tie or fastener required to keep your hiar done up come from?

Do Shapeshifter get magic hair scrunchies?

Hair (also, fur, claws, hoves, horns, and shells) are not comprised of living tissue. So the question is, how do shape shifters deal with this? Do they simulate the look of Keratin and bone with soft tissue, or do they spontaneously generate this sort of material? If shape shifter hair is really just soft tissue, then sure you can probably create any hairstyle and color you want, along with what looks like hair ties. This might be a great way of detecting a Doppleganger, ask it to take off its hair tie and hand it to you.

If this is just soft tissue in disguise, then I'm not sure how dangerous shape shifter horns and claws are. There are probably just, ahem, 'firm fleshy protrusions'.

Ultimately, the answer to this question is probably the the same as the answer to the classic question, 'How are baby mimics made?'

Just ask your game master.

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