Learn about the shapeshifting playable race known as Changelings
What are Changelings in DnD 5e?
Changelings are shapeshifters. They can take on the appearance of any creature that has the basic proportions and appearance of most humanoids. This obviously makes them beings of frightening levels of subterfuge as they could be disguised as anyone!
Originally published as a playable race for the Eberron setting, Changelings originated in the Feywild. They have since spread across the planes and can be found all over the D&D multiverse (though are not a hugely common race… At least as far as we know).
Changelings are my favourite race in all of D&D 5e. They aren’t the most optimised race for combat as their abilities revolve around role play situations, but they are a lot of fun to play. However, as fun as it is to change your appearance and mimic others, it’s also a very challenging way to play D&D. You have to be able to switch personas constantly which can be difficult. If you’re up for the challenge though, they can be hugely rewarding! And our guide is here to help you make the most of your Changeling character.
Changeling features in 5e
|Ability Scores||+2 to one ability score and +1 to another or +1 to 3 different ability scores|
|Size||Medium or Small|
|Lifespan||About 100 years|
|Languages||Common and 1 other|
|Traits||Changeling Instincts, Shapechanger|
|Book found in||Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse, Eberron: Rising from the Last War|
If you want to play as a Changeling, your character will have the following traits and abilities:
Changeling Instincts – Due to your connection with the fey realm, you gain proficiency with 2 of the following skills: Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Performance or Persuasion.
Shapechanger – You can use an action to change your appearance and voice including your species, sex, colour, hair, size and weight. You can only change into a shape that is small or medium in size and has the same basic arrangement of limbs. You cannot transform yourself to appear like someone you haven’t met before and your stats remain the same no matter the form you transform into. Your clothing and equipment remain the same when you make this transformation.
How to play as a Changeling
Changelings are a little unique among playable in races in D&D 5e as their abilities are entirely focused on out of combat situations. This means we’re looking at classes that can make the most of your out of combat abilities, especially charisma and dexterity based skills.
I’d say these are the main benefits of playing a Changeling:
- Best skill selection – You can pick 2 out of 5 skills, and 4 of them are top skills (and even performance might have its uses when playing as a Changeling).
- Shapeshifter – But this is the most important ability, and when used right, is one of the most powerful in the game! You can look like any humanoid (pretty much) and if you’ve seen someone, you can imitate their appearance. You can use this to imitate someone threatening, an important political figure, a guard or just hide your identity. The opportunities are endless. I can’t understate how brilliant this ability is if you’re playing a campaign with high levels of social intrigue, investigation, role playing or stealth. Even without these things, it can just be fun to pretend to be one of your friends and cause mischief. It should be noted though, in combat heavy and dungeon-delving campaigns, you may find you get little from a Changeling’s abilities.
Best classes for Changelings
To really make the most of a Changeling’s shapeshifting, you’ll want a class with a high charisma and probably also a strong dexterity score too. You can get the most out of your skill proficiencies too with traits like expertise that both a rogue and bard have access too.
I’d recommend the following classes as good fits for a Changeling:
Bards and rogues are the absolute standouts here with bards edging it for the best Changeling class. Although rogues don’t necessarily need charisma to be effective, it’s often useful for a deceptive approach to your subterfuge. Add to this the bard and rogue’s superior skill capabilities and you have the ideal Changeling.
Paladins make the list as a charisma-based martial so can easily buff up their deception. Sorcerers and Warlocks are in a similar boat with their high charisma but lack the skill utility of rogues and bards.
A subclass you could consider is a trickery domain cleric who benefit a lot from a Changeling’s abilities in their deceptive tactics.
I’d also recommend considering a rogue mastermind here too. While they are one of the weaker rogue subclasses generally, their ability to perfectly mimic the speech of another complements a Changeling’s ability to perfectly mimic appearance. Disguise kit proficiency is also handy here.
Worst classes for changelings
If you want to take advantage of a Changeling’s shapechanging abilities, you’re going to need great charisma to make sure you’re not found out as soon as someone talks to you. Unfortunately, this rules out classes like barbarians, fighters, artificers and wizards. It’s possible to make these classes work, but you’d need to sacrifice another ability for the boost in charisma, and even then, they’d be less effective.
A lack of skill variety also harms a lot of these classes too as with 4 charisma skills plus things like insight, stealth and perception needed, these classes will have to sacrifice something.
It’s rare though to see a Changeling in their true form. Other races tend not to trust Changelings so most will be cautious to reveal themselves. Even then, most Changelings will use their ability to shapechange to express emotions and their personality. Shapechanging also fulfils functional purposes, perhaps to delight an audience or to impersonate another. This means that usually, when coming across a Changeling, you won’t see them in their true form.
As natives of the Feywild, Changelings retain that fey predisposition towards mischief. In some Changelings, this can often form into criminal behaviour as when you can change the way you look, it can be easy to escape the law. It’s also much easier to impersonate someone like a prison guard, banker or someone of wealth and simply walk into a bank, vault or some other secure location.
Changelings tend to prefer mono-syllabic words as names that then have a description added to the end to distinguish between individuals of the same name. This means that 2 Changelings called Var might be Var-with-wrinkled-face and Var-with-golden-hair.
Because Changelings have such transient appearances, they have little concept of gender. It’s common for Changelings to switch between genders depending on how they feel. This also means that their names are appropriate for either males or females.
How to roleplay as a Changeling
Playing as a Changeling can be tricky so I wanted to share what I’ve learnt from playing as a Changeling:
- Have a default persona – Have a persona you can fall back on as your natural persona. Knowing how to act in normal circumstances means you won’t always be thinking how should I roleplay this segment of the game? In reality, Changelings will have a natural personality and perhaps even appearance they prefer to maintain anyway.
- Prepare personas in advance – Changelings will often have personas they like to use when they feel certain feelings or want to accomplish something specific. Write down a name, description, personality traits and background information for each of these personas. These don’t have to be long, but when you know you need to shapeshift into a noble, a merchant, a guard or whoever else, you have a readymade persona and don’t have to invent it on the spot.
- Go off script – But don’t be afraid to go off the script if you need to. Sometimes the best characters are the ones that just come to you in the moment.
- Throw yourself into social situations – It can be intimidating throwing yourself into some of these difficult social situations. Impersonating the mayor or a guard can easily go wrong, but this is when playing a Changeling becomes the most fun!