Sunday, February 23, 2014

Splat Book Preview: Changelings!

Here's what I've been cooking on the side of late: Changelings as a character race


Racial Ability: Shapeshifting: The changelings are an enigmatic race of shape shifters that hail from the lands far to the south and west of Equestria. They appear to be a cross between a pony and some sort of chitinous winged insect, with translucent insectoid wings and frightening looking fangs to compliment a mottled and pockmarked black exterior. Their legs look notably unusual, with deep holes and chunks taken out of them at odd places, often going completely through the center of the leg. The edges of these holes are razor-sharp, as if they were cut out using precision tools. Changeling eyes tend to lack clearly defined pupils (the same is not true of changeling queens, who have eyes similar in appearance to ponies). They have horns in roughly the same anatomical location as a Unicorn, and although the horn usually appears twisted and misshapen it is still used as the focal point for their race’s unique magical abilities. Pre-war, they were noted for being particularly ruthless and extremely deceptive in the pursuit of their one goal: sustenance.

Changelings do not consume normal food; they can eat and drink as normal ponies, but to truly survive a changeling needs Love, or another powerful positive emotion. They can obtain their food of choice in a number of ways. A common way pre-war would be to trap a victim via ambush, cocoon them, and then, while their cocoon drained their first target of emotion, assume their form to absorb the love they received from their friends and loved ones. If this more subtle approach failed, they would often resort to over-running and cocooning entire settlements of different races, absorbing the love and sympathy exuded by their victims at the plight of their loved ones. Larger hives of changelings were noted to engage in the subtle infiltration method as a precursor to the more reliable method of mass-entrapment. Nearly all larger hives were hated by both sides, and those in known locations received megaspells from both sides during the last days of the zebra-pony war.

Changeling hives are ruled by a queen, usually almost twice the size of a normal changeling. While multiple ‘females’ exist within the hive and the queen is not thought to be the only source of new changelings (though the exact details of changeling creation or reproduction are not known– various theories abound, not the least noteworthy of which includes the magical removal of the heart of a living equine), the queen guides the hive as an absolute monarch towards the end of achieving its goals. It is unknown why the queen designation is female; neither the queen nor the drones has a physical gender except when transformed, as their ‘base’ form has no observable genitalia.

Changelings are demonstrably capable of independent thought, so it is implicit that they do not require direct input from the queen for their individual survival. It has been postulated that the changelings of a hive give their queen their own love, making her a sort of ‘champion’ to their cause as a consolidation of their strength; whatever the reasoning, changelings will follow their queen’s orders almost without question.

When several larger hives were destroyed in the last days of the war, many changelings took a proactive stance to ensure their own survival; at least one stable became over-run with the creatures, which used its inhabitants as a food source to ride out the storm. The ultimate fate of this stable is unknown. Many individual changelings lost their hives and survived on their own by supplanting individuals in shelters and stables, essentially taking over another creature’s life. Still other hives survived by forming small burrows in low-radiation zones and entering into a state of hibernation, only to be awakened when enough ambient love abounded for them to survive upon resurfacing.

Changelings receive a bonus attribute point to Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence or Luck at character creation. Their abilities grant them a unique place in the wasteland, where positive emotions are scarce. Love and hope are something that they seek to foster in order to stay healthy and alive, but these things tend to come with a price which perches them quite precariously in terms of karmic balance.

Instead of normal food and water, Changelings must interact with others to sustain themselves. A speechcraft roll MFD ½ generally allows a changeling character to garner enough affection from a character or creature to sustain them for 1d6 days. After that period, if they do not feed again immediately, they will begin to suffer the effects of starvation as would any other race. Changelings can receive love from other changelings to make this last longer, but receiving enough love to count as resetting the 1d6 ‘countdown’ causes the other changeling to immediately begin starving (they must roll on the starvation penalties table immediately). Changelings may attempt to feed on negative emotions as well (possible applications of this fact include influencing the attitudes of others), but doing so acts as it does for herbivores eating carnivorous food. Though they feel sated and are temporarily able to ignore starvation penalties, it ultimately does nothing to nutritionally sustain them (and may even make them feel ill).

Normal changeling drones are physically incapable of speaking anything that could be interpreted as a language by ponies, instead making only high pitched buzzing and chirping noises to communicate with one another. As a result, they must take the Dumb hindrance, though this neither provides them with a creation point nor counts towards their total hindrance limit. While transformed using Shapeshift, they may speak or make noise just as the target they are mimicking. Similarly to Alicorns and Hellhounds, Changelings are just too damn powerful. To compensate for this, at character creation they only receive 1 character creation point for every two hindrances taken, and their maximum recommended hindrance limit is extended to 8. Changeling magical abilities are linked to Charisma, rather than Intelligence.

Cocoon Changelings are capable of producing a sticky, viscous green gel from magical glands in their mouth and esophageal tract. They’ve been observed using this to cocoon individual dominated or restrained victims, and it is believed that they are able to absorb the victim’s emotions remotely via the cocoon. Given at least 5 uninterrupted minutes with a subdued, restrained or mentally dominated character, a changeling can fully encase them in a cocoon. If not fully cocooned, a character may attempt to break free with a STR check MFD 1; the difficulty of this roll is increased by 1 MFD step for every full minute the changeling has been working to cocoon them. While in the cocoon, they are completely physically and magically restrained – casting spells and making strength checks to escape are all at an incredible 3 MFD step penalty, magical strain is drained at a rate of 1 per hour and regenerates at half speed, and even sound is extremely muffled. Breaking out of a cocoon from the inside can only be attempted once every 12 hours, and requires dealing at least two wounds to the cocoon itself. Cocoons have 25 DT and damage per wound equal to twice that of the creature they contain. If damaged, they can be healed by a changeling spending a full minute to repair the damage. They can also be burst from the outside. Creatures inside the cocoon are kept hydrated and are able to sleep normally, but still suffer normal penalties for starvation. Many trapped in changeling cocoons will eventually die as a result of this fact, but it is theorized that characters stuck in cocoons for long enough actually become changelings themselves as their emotions are slowly drained out of them over the course of multiple weeks. While it has at least one living cocooned creature, a changeling does not need to feed on emotions.

Feed – Changelings that are unable to absorb a sufficient amount of ambient love may occasionally be forced to resort to more drastic measures to ensure their survival. This technique is such a measure – by cornering a victim, a changeling can forcibly drain the emotion from them, sating their appetite. They roll magic opposed versus the target’s charisma or intelligence (they roll both and take the better of the two). For each MFD step they succeed by, the changeling extracts enough love and positive emotion to be sated for 1d4 days (maximum 14 days). Failures accomplish nothing. The target is stunned for a number of combat rounds following the feeding equal to the number of steps they lost by. This method of feeding requires that the target be surprised and/or cornered, and that they are experiencing at least some level of positive emotional response at the time of feeding. Changelings with mental influencing abilities often induce such states in their victims before feeding in this fashion.

Shapeshift – A very powerful natural form of illusory magic, all changelings are capable of using this ability from a very young age. In terms of scope and function, it is very similar to the Alter Form spell, though it has no time limit, can only affect the caster, and must use a mimic-form of a character that the changeling has seen before as a basis for the transformation. The caster must have a clear mental picture of whom or what they are imitating. Also unlike Alter Form, this spell will copy voice and speech patterns (similar to Voice Alteration). Shapeshift changes the physical appearance, feel, and sound of the caster to look like any other living creature of approximately the same size and shape, up to and including those of dramatically different race or with considerably different anatomy. Though it may physically alter the weight and stature of the caster by as much as ±50%, this spell has no effect on physical or mental attribute scores or damage per wound values. Using this ability takes a single action in combat, and creates the appearance of the changeling’s form being briefly enveloped in a flash of green fire. The fire itself does not produce heat, but is bright enough to dimly illuminate a 20’ radius, and it will damage any items held by the changeling during the transformation. Items touching the flames take 3d20 damage, and any flammable items (such as cloth) disintegrate. While shapeshifted, a changeling can only use the physical abilities of the form they assume. If the ability is not one they normally possess (like Dig), they gain that ability’s skill at rank 25. They do not copy natural venoms or other abilities that are not visible in nature (the claws they get from imitating a hellhound look sharp, but aren’t really. The tail they get from copying a radscorpion doesn’t actually inject venom. For copied natural weapons, treat damage as though it were done by a horn (3d6 + STR) for sharp piercing attacks or griffin claws (2d10+STR) for slashing attacks. Blunt attacks still do damage as hooves (STR). They do not assume the magical abilities of any form they copy – any magic they cast is their own, and their assumed shape not having a horn does not prevent them from casting magic (the glow of magic is visible in their eyes, instead of and in addition to their horn). Changeling magical auras are universally green, and do not change regardless of form.

Skill Bonus Ranks: +3 Speechcraft, Mercantile, Unarmed, Melee Weapons. Pick any two. No Lockpicking penalty. -40 Speechcraft vs. all other races unless disguised.

Racial Skills:

Flight: +5, Agility Based. Changelings cannot learn level 4 flight maneuvers. With the exception of basic (level 0) maneuvers, they must have witnessed the maneuver performed at least once to attempt to learn it. 

Magic +10, Charisma Based. Changeling magic is based off of imitation, making it exceptionally versatile but limited in power. Changelings can learn any unicorn spell up to level 2 and/or any spell in the Mental/Memory and Illusion/Stealth spell categories (including the level 3 and 4s). They have the same numerical limitations or spells at each level as Unicorns, but cannot learn intuitively or develop their own spells. To learn a spell, a changeling must have witnessed it being performed at least once. Otherwise, normal unicorn spell learning procedures apply. Changelings begin play with two spells: Telekinesis and Voice Alteration. It costs a changeling no strain to cast Voice Alteration, though it cannot be cast without Shapeshift being in effect. They may maintain it indefinitely.

Special Trait Eligibility
- Changeling Queen – (3 Point Trait) – You are a young changeling queen from a small hive, perhaps one that was forced into hibernation to escape the balefire holocaust. You receive the Large perk for free, your eyes have defined pupils, you do not need to take the Dumb hindrance, and you have 1d4 normal changelings under your control. GMs may assume direct control of these changelings or even stat them out as player characters and give them to players, but their loyalty to the queen is unquestioning and they should be built and played appropriately to reflect that fact. Changeling Queens also begin play with the Mind Trick spell. If the queen dies, her loyal changelings will seek out a new queen.
- Changelings may take the Smooth Talker perk as a trait at character creation
- Built in Tools – Changelings are eligible to take this perk due to the unnatural-looking configuration of their legs. If taken, this trait represents their ability to use sharpened protrusions on their legs as natural lockpicks. In a pinch they can also be used as weapons! (Use the stats for a Knife).


  1. Beautiful addition with changelings here. It really balances them to be an overall good general race

  2. Balance has been my primary concern with anything I have to add in that isn't explicitly canon :)

    Lemme tell ya, it's making Dragons very difficult!

    1. Well you've done the balance work really good with changelings. It makes them a good generalized race, without going too far into alicorn or overpowered areas.

      Have to admit I'd love to have dragons xD Can't wait to see that one come about

  3. How does feeding on willing victims work?
    What if a fellow party member is willing to be fed on by a changeling? Does the changeling get 4d4, since the victim isn't resisting?

  4. Feeding, even against a willing victim, still requires an opposed roll. Even if they consciously allow it, the subconscious response to having your emotions ripped out of you by magic is to resist.

    Basically, the The victim gets to choose which roll they pick, however. They don't HAVE to pick the better of the two rolls, if they're consciously trying not to resist...