Last Updated: April 25, 2022
Changelings are the closest that players will ever get to playing a doppelganger, gifted with the ability to change their appearance without relying on spells or on items like a disguise kit. While there is more to the race, this is generally what draws players to the Changeling. Changelings first appeared in Eberron: Rising From the Last War and have been a staple race in the Eberron setting since 3rd edition.
In the original version of Eberron: Rising from the Last War, the Changeling could apply their flexible +1 ability increase to any ability score, including Charisma, which allowed them to start at level 1 with 18 Charisma. This has been corrected in errata.
Shapechanger is versatile, but also limited. Since your clothing and equipment aren’t covered by the effect, you may need to partially rely on mundane disguises or spells to pass yourself off as a specific person. It’s unclear if you need to make checks to deceive other creatures while disguised in this way, but as a DM I might apply disadvantage on other creatures to realize that you’re disguised based solely on appearance. It won’t help you talk, but the Changeling gets a Charisma increase for that, as well as two Face skills.
For classes which don’t rely solely on Charisma, the Changeling competes for space with the Variant Human and with the Half-Elf. Variant humans can get similar Ability Score Increases, and with the Skilled feat can pick up two skills and proficiency in the Disguise Kit to roughly match the Changeling. The Half-elf gets an additional free increase, Darkvision, Fey Ancestry, and any two skills rather than two from a fixed list, not to mention the availability of variants. If you’re playing a changeling, you you want Shapechanger.
Even with the custom origin rules or the updated version of the Changeling published in Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse, the Changeling is still defined by Shapechanger, which is their only trait beyond skill proficiencies which can be matched by numerous other races like the Kenku and the Tabaxi. This predisposes the Changeling to campaigns where infiltration, subterfuge, and intrigue are the norm. Games that are all about crawling dungeons and slaying monsters will be a struggle because the Changeling brings essentially nothing useful in combat.
Table of Contents
- Changeling Versions
- Changeling Classes (Customizable Origins and MMoM)
- Changeling Classes (Classic Rules)
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
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The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released, and the article will be updated accordingly as time allows.
The Changeling was originally introduced to 5e in Eberron: Rising from the Last War. At the time, their +2 Charisma increase and their +1 flexible increase were allowed to stack, allowing them to start with 18 Charisma. This was changed in errata close to the release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Tasha’s introduced the Customizing Your Origin rules, giving us the second version of the Changeling (let’s call the errata version 1.1). This opened up the Changeling’s skills and let them expand beyond Charisma-based classes, but their predisposition to subterfuge still makes Charisma-based classes among the Changeling’s best options.
Most recently, Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse re-published the Changeling. The changes here were minor, replacing the Changelings Ability Score Increase trait with the new standard for ability scores, allowing players to assign either +2/+1 increases or three +1 increases. It also adds Performance to the list of skills available with the Changeling’s two skill proficiencies, allows you to choose to be Medium or Small size, and significantly improves Shapechanger (though it still doesn’t fully replace Disguise Self). Changelings are also fey instead of humanoids now. This update does little to change your best options, unfortunately, so while the Changeling is better at what they’re known for, they’re still only noteworthy in games where infiltration and subterfuge feature heavily.
Changeling Classes (Customizable Origins and MMoM)
This section assumes that you’re using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. If you’re not using those rules, scroll down to the next section.
Artificers have few capabilities that support the Changeling’s subterfuge-heavy capabilities. Perhaps most notable is that the Artificer adds double their proficiency bonus with tools, which includes the Disguise Kit.
Barbarians don’t have capabilities that support the Changeling’s subterfuge-heavy capabilities.
Likely the Changeling’s best spellcaster option, the combination of abundant skills, Expertise, and Charisma-based spellcaster synergize well with the Changeing’s skill options and Shapechanger. College of Whispers feels like a natural choice thematically.
A trickery cleric might work, and the Changeling’s additional skills help bring you closer to the Rogue’s capabilities, but you’ll need to balance your need for Dexterity and Charisma with the class’s need for Wisdom.
As useful as turning into an animal is when you need to be sneaky, that simply isn’t enough. Druids can’t afford the Charisma to make skills like Deception work. They typically need decent Dexterity since the Druid’s AC is terrible, so at least you can manage Stealth.
Fighters don’t have capabilities that support the Changeling’s subterfuge-heavy capabilities.
Monks do well with Stealth, but they can’t afford the Charisma to make Deception work, so it’s not a great choice for the Changeling.
The Changeling’s best martial option, paladins have enough Charisma to back up skills like Deception, and a Dexterity-bsed build works fine to support Stealth.
Rangers do well with Stealth, but they can’t afford the Charisma to make Deception work, so it’s not a great choice for the Changeling.
The go-to option for changelings. Abundant skills and expertise work very well alongside Shapechanger to support any sort of infiltration or other shenanigans that you want to get into.
While they don’t have as many skills as the Bard, the Sorcerer is still Charisma-based, making it easy to use skills like Deception, and with a bit of Dexterity you can easily manage Stealth.
While they don’t have as many skills as the Bard, the Warlock is still Charisma-based, making it easy to use skills like Deception, and with a bit of Dexterity you can easily manage Stealth. Mask of Many faces is partially redundant with Shapechanger, so I recommend avoiding it.
If you’re going to play a wizard, just cast Disguise Self.
Changeling Classes (Classic Rules)
This section assumes that you’re not using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything or the updated version of the race published in Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse. If you are using those rules, scroll up to the previous section.
You can get the crucial Intelligence increase, but nothing else about the Changeling complements the Artificer’s capabilities.
You can get the crucial Strength increase, but nothing else about the Changeling complements the Barbarian’s capabilities.
18 Charisma at first level, two Face skills, and Shapechanger. Thematically perfect for College of Whispers, but you can make the changeling work very well for any bard build.
You can get the crucial Wisdom increase, and with the Changeling’s free additional proficiencies and the Cleric’s class skill list you can easily play a Face with minimal investment in Charisma.
You can get the crucial Wisdom increase, but the Druid has nearly no use for Charisma, and if you don’t want to be yourself the Druid typically turns into an animal rather than turning into another humanoid.
You can get the crucial Strength/Dexterity increase, and the Charisma increase and addition skills work great for a Purple Dragon Knight, but you can get that from the Half-Elf or from the Variant Human. Shapechanger has little use for most fighters.
One free increase isn’t enough.
+1 to either Strength or Dexterity, an increase to Charisma, and additional skills so that you don’t need to put every single one of your skills into Face skills. Shapechanger is unusual for paladins, but if you use it more like a fun character quirk than like a tool for tricking people it could be a lot of run.
You can get the crucial Dexterity increase, and with the additional skills you can almost keep up with the Rogue.
The obvious options for changelings, the Rogue is better-suited to tricking people and general skulduggery than any other class. If anyone can capitalize on Shapechanger it’s the Rogue. Two additional skills piles on top of the Rogue’s already spectacular advantage with skills, and Dexterity and Charisma increases work great for a Face.
18 Charisma at level 1.
18 Charisma at level 1. Mask of Many faces is partially-redundant with Shapechanger, so I recommend avoiding it.
You can get the crucial Intelligence increase, but little else about the Changeling complements the Wizard’s capabilities. I could see a changeling sorcerer being fun, but I don’t know if it’s better than a sorcerer with lots of illusion spells.