Changeling Race Guide 5e: History and Abilities – What We Know

Last Updated on November 8, 2023

Changeling Race

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 2. In addition, one other ability score of your choice increases by 1.
  • Age. Changelings mature slightly faster than humans but share a similar lifespan — typically a century or less. While a changeling can transform to conceal their age, the effects of aging affect them similarly to humans.
  • Alignment. Changelings tend toward pragmatic neutrality, and few changelings embrace evil.
  • Size. In their natural forms, changelings average between 5 to 6 feet in height, with a slender build. Your size is Medium.
  • Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
  • 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, 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. You can’t duplicate the appearance of a creature 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 stay in the new form until you use an action to revert to your true form or until you die.
  • Changeling Instincts. You gain proficiency with two of the following skills of your choice: Deception, Insight, Intimidation, and Persuasion.
  • Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and two other languages of your choice.

Changeling Abilities and Character Traits

The shapechanger ability is the main focus of changelings, without it they’re just another humanoid race. So I’ll save that for later. First, let’s talk about the other great things this race has going on, and what kind of character their abilities set up.


Reinforcing the versatility are the proficiencies we pick up. Three languages including common means that we can speak just about anything we want. 

People often overlook languages, but when you have the ability to just casually pick up Sylvan or Draconic, you take it.

The skill proficiencies we gain are less versatile, but still give us options. Three of the four skill proficiencies are charisma-based, and then there’s insight, based in wisdom. We may not get the most options, but given the stats and the background of this race, it fits perfectly that we would get some social interaction skills.


That brings us to the main event, shapechanger. This ability has a lot going on, so go read it again to keep us on the same page. As you can see, this ability is nothing short of amazing. There are only a few restrictions. We can’t change our size, our limbs or our clothes, nor can we duplicate any creature we haven’t seen.

Those restrictions are very small, but they make the game playable. Since our size is medium, we can assume the appearance of almost any medium creature. Need to break into an orc compound, break out the tusks. Need to infiltrate an elvish high council, practice your sylvan and make those ears longer. 

Medium creatures are between 4 and 8 feet tall and weigh between 60 and 500 lbs. 

Basic Arrangement

One of the most common questions pertains to the “same basic arrangement of limbs.” So to start, changelings have four limbs. Limbs are defined as an arm or leg of a person or a four-legged animal, or a bird’s wing. 

“Basic arrangement” is a much harder concept to define, and the Sage Advice Compendium has nothing on it at the moment. 

We can start by defining it as the same number, since adding limbs definitely changes the arrangement. That alone is probably the most lenient interpretation.

While the specifics are open to interpretation and DM ruling, it’s fairly clear that we can’t sprout wings, or grow extra arms; so Aarakocra impersonations are off the table.

However, there are plenty of things that aren’t limbs, which we can add or remove to change our appearance. 

Tails, horns, teeth, claws; all of these and more are parts of the body that are completely within the changeling’s ability to manipulate, opening up worlds of possibilities.

What Classes Are Well Suited to Changelings?

Changelings have a lot of versatility and could make a charismatic option for any class. That +2 in charisma does make us want to lean towards a class that focuses on the ability, such as bard, paladin, sorcerer, or warlock. 

The disguise aspect of changelings also makes them a great option for rogues whose secondary ability is charisma rather than intelligence.

Bard – Bards are the most social class, focusing on an ability to inspire those around them through artistry and more. Changelings are typically very deceptive, and those who embrace their identity, or their assumed identities, may be very practiced in wielding their words as tools of manipulation. Whether that manipulation is good or evil is up to you.

Warlock – Warlocks are seekers of knowledge and truth. A changeling who either knows very little of their nature or is part of the seekers culture, would fit perfectly into the role of a magical pact. The ability to disguise themselves isn’t inherently beneficial, but it can be an exciting addition.

Paladin – The +1 to an ability score of our choice works well with a paladin build, since that ability might not be the same for each subclass. Of course, nine times out of ten we’re going to put it into strength.

Rogue – While charisma is only a secondary ability for rogues, it’s a very important one. You’ll want to use your +1 in dexterity, and then get a disguise kit to add on top of your shapefiter abilities, allowing you to perfectly impersonate any target. Spies, assassins, masterminds, and swashbucklers would all be amazing fits for a character who can change their appearance at will. 

Sorcerer – There’s not much in the roleplaying or mechanic area that screams perfect synergy other than the +2 in charisma.

Changeling Appearance: Underneath the Masks

I think I’ve mentioned this already, but changelings can change their appearance. The question that we haven’t covered yet is: what if they don’t? Changelings do have a natural state before they use their shapechanging ability.

Changelings in their natural form are extremely pale humanoids. While they have all the same body parts as a regular human, there tend to be a few notable differences. For starters, their arms tend to be just a bit longer in proportion to their body than most humanoids. 

They also lack many features, in a way that sets them right in the uncanny valley. While they do have hair, which also tends to be very pale if not white, they have no facial or body hair.

They also lack any defining characteristics like high cheekbones, a strong jawline, or noticeable ears. Instead, they are almost eerily nondescript.

Perhaps the only noticeable feature are the dark rings around their eyes that stand in such extreme contrast to the rest of their person. 

Changeling Names

Since changelings can alter their appearance at will, they tend to have no concept of gender norms. Their naming traditions consist of monosyllabic names such as:

Aunn, Bin, Cor, Fir, Kraan, Nix, Iire, Laats, Jin

While their names are very simple and easily understood, there is often another component that other humanoids won’t notice. 

Changelings distinguish their names with a specific shifting of some sort of trait. This sort of naming is too subtle to be picked up by others, but immediately recognizable by a changeling.

For example, there might be two changelings named Rai, but one may tint their eyes blue and the other may elongate their ears as a punctuation to their name. 

Their names to other changelings would be Rai with-blue-tinted-eyes or Rai with-long-ears, even if an onlooker would only hear “Rai” both times.

A Note on Doppelgangers

An important distinction to be made is that in fifth edition D&D, changelings are distinct from dopplegangers. 

While both have the ability to change their appearances and impersonate others, doppelgangers are the naturally more aggressive species. 

Doppelgangers possess an additional psychic ability, which they use to learn as much as they can about a target before killing them and assuming their identity. 

Doppelgangers tend to be spies and assassins, almost as a birthright, while changelings are freer to choose their own path.

The relationship between the two races is a muddied one. Various editions of D&D have combined and separated the two, with each having an impact on the other. 

Some characters who were previously thought to be shapeshifters are now doppelgangers and vice versa.

It is important to be aware of the difference, so you don’t go walking up to a group of doppelgangers looking to be buddy-buddy. The two species would be able to tell each other apart.

If you’re looking for a monstrous shapeshifter, try bringing doppelgangers into your game instead of shapeshifters. They pack far more excitement and intrigue, maintaining the ability to fully assume the identity of someone else.

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