The Changeling “Race”

This alternate PC Race is not really a PC “race” at all: I guess the best way to describe it is as a subrace of humans who have undergone a bizarre experience that has transformed them, for better and worse. It’s inspired by world folklore, as well as by the White Wolf game Changeling (though I only know a little about the game), as well as films like Night Watch and Pan’s Labyrinth. (Oh, and a little inspiration from Frank Mitchell’s Cambion race for LotFP.)

Imagine being abducted by a being like the faun in Pan’s Labyrinth, or by Elder Gods from the Cthulhu Mythos, or djinn, or the grey aliens of American UFO mythology, and kept prisoner (and slave) in their bewilderingly alien world. Imagine being changed by force to better serve them, and then imagine escaping or being spit back out into your own world, forever changed. That’s what a Changeling is.

A warning: this class is experimental, wild, and pretty complicated—and the description is long since there’s variety of possible powers and flaws available. I don’t recommend the class for a newbie player’s first character.

Pans-Labyrinth
The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth is a great example of what an Abductor from the Elsewhere would be like.
For that matter, the Faun from Pan's Labyrinth is a classic Abductor type.
For that matter, the Faun from Pan’s Labyrinth is a classic Abductor type.

The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a great black ship, into the hold of which I was soon transferred… as human cargo. Would I ever see my husband or children again? Entrapped amid that pestilential stench, I and my fellow victims rode in chains for but three days—towards who can say where?—when of a sudden a great Tempest struck the ship and tore it apart. Drowning, I was dragged down into the inky depths of the sea, I though by the hands of them who had abducted me from my homeland, though I soon discovered it was other hands drawing me down, out of the mortal world. Hands that were not human, carrying me to a realm I cannot explain to you, not in human words, to serve masters even more indescribable…

Changelings are those exceedingly rare individuals who, at some point, underwent the experience of being abducted from the familiar, mortal world to some other world, universe, dimension, plane, or reality.

image by Len Yan. Click for source.
image by Len Yan. Click for source.

Specific explanations of this experience vary from culture to culture and time to time, though some form of the experience is seen in practically every culture on Earth. Some speak of traveling to the faerie realm; others, a shamanic journey to the domain of the spirits, imprisonment by demons, a retreat among ascended bodhisattvas; still others speak of mysterious beings from the heavens who whisked them off to other celestial domains, or of horrendous Elder Gods who dwell in the depths of human nightmares, feasting on their thoughts and fears for what felt like eternity. All of these explanations are metaphorical, all of them accurate in some sense and wrong in another. One thing is true of all such stories: the beings that abduct Changelings are dark, mysterious, beautiful, and horrifying all at once.

(In game terms, the terms Abductors and Elsewhere will be used here , but a player running a Changeling character should choose a specific metaphorical narrative for the character’s experience, to use in those moments during play when the issue comes up.)

Not sure where this was originally from, but you can click to see where I got it from.
Not sure where this was originally from, but you can click to see where I got it from.

All Changelings have experienced at least one period of lost time, ranging anywhere from days to centuries; often, the period of time missed in the mortal realm differs significantly from the subjective time passed Elsewhere. Living Elsewhere may also have aged a character, not necessarily in ways that correspond to the passage of time in either realm. A character abducted as a child could be returned what seems (to other mortals) like mere days later, but with a lifetime of experience in servitude Elsewhere and looking like an old crone. Likewise, a character could be abducted, serve a few months Elsewhere, escape back to the mortal realm, and find himself arriving a century later, looking not a day older. The details for the passage of time in the two realms, and how the character’s appearance was affected in terms of age, are up to the player.

Cthulhu-Abductor
Another good example of a potential abductor from the Elsewhere.

Changelings can be a member of any major class: Magic-User, Fighter, or Specialist. They cannot be an Alice, Revenant, a Cleric, or a Dagonian. Note, however, that Changeling Magic-Users are unusual—though not because Changelings are not interested in magic! In fact, many Changelings are more attracted than they would otherwise have been to magic, due to their immersion in magic for an extended time. However, intensive study and use of magic only accelerates their accumulation of Taints, which is dangerous for their survival. Likewise, magically powerful Changelings tend to be reclaimed by their Abductor masters more often, and for longer periods of time, than other Changelings.

Note: as Changelings are very rare, it is unlikely that more than one such character will exist in a given party of adventurers. The Changeling’s status more than likely is unknown to other characters at the beginning of that character’s career as a Player Character, unless the player can provide a backstory that explains why it should be otherwise.
Hiver-Snyggad
Hang out in the Elsewhere too long, or go back too many times, and you could end up looking like this… Click to see where I got the image. Courtesy of Jacob Petersson at Curiomira.
The Elsewhere

The Elsewhere is the game term for the place to which Changelings were abducted, which changed them forever. (The material describing that realm has been moved to its own post in the Settings section of this site. See “The Elsewhere” for more.)

 

Culture

As they live among humans—and are, in fact, human beings who simply have been changed by their experiences in the Elsewhere realm—Changelings who have returned to the mortal realm do not have their own culture or special language. Indeed, their interactions with the denizens of the Elsewhere were conducted in their native tongue, since languages mean nothing to the Abductors, so they do not even learn a language from them.

That said, Changelings can immediately and unmistakably recognize another Changeling on sight. This seems to be a supernatural ability, as when asked what tipped them off, they always give wildly varying answers. (“Something about her eyes,” or “something in the way he carried himself,” are common answers.) Even so, they often employ words or phrases common in the Elsewhere—terms related to contracts, for example, or the names of significant figures in the Elsewhere culture, such as Aveni and Sudarath—as if to reassure another Changeling that they, too, remember the Elsewhere, and that the experience was indeed real. (After all, many Changelings worry that their experiences were the result of madness.)

Despite such reassurances, some Changelings prefer to avoid others who have had an experience similar to theirs, perhaps out of fear that two Changelings in the same place may attract the attention of their former Abductor masters and prompt their repatriation to Elsewhere… or, for that matter, others fear that their changed nature may be more noticeable to fellow mortals—and more likely to bring on persecution—if two or more Changelings are gathered together… a fear not completely unwarranted, in fact.

However, others, especially those who are more ambivalent about their return to the mortal realms, tend to be strongly attracted to those who share (and can understand) what is, after all, one of the great defining experiences of their lives. These Changelings form their strongest bonds with other Changelings—either in the form of deep friendships, or torrid romances which, of course, can be complicated by the Changelings’ ties to different masters in the Elsewhere.

(The most tragic of all such romances involved two Changelings—Josquin the Brown and Eleanor of Toulouse—who met after returning from Elsewhere; when, a year later, their Abductor masters went to war with one another, the couple was manipulated into returning to Elsewhere to join the war… and to ultimately face one another on the battlefield.)

changelingbloody

Due to the stigma brought upon them by their Taints and the difficulties posted by their Allergies (for both, see below), Changelings lead an unusual life, and those who take to adventuring quite often do so because wandering is safer for them than living in one place, because their endowments are less remarkable (and less likely to get them killed by their fellows), and because their come back from the Elsewhere twitchy, eager for thrills more difficult to find in the mundane mortal world.

Race vs. Class

In our campaign, race does not function as class. A Changeling has no special ability score modifications for her race status, and her skills and abilties are determined by her class, but she does roll Saving Throws as an Elf (see the Rules & Magic book for the chart). In addition, Changelings gain +1 to their “Lore” skill automatically: the stories and legends they heard as children loom large after their experience in the Elsewhere.

Endowments

All Changelings receive one endowment as a result of living in servitude Elsewhere. Some of these are a natural consequence of living immersed in that magical reality for an extended period, and others are skills or powers gifted to their by their masters in order to render them more effective in their servitude. The specific endowment that a Changeling receives is chosen by the player, and cannot be changed or exchanged for another later on.

(Changelings can, in theory, be gifted with a second Endowment track, which they must develop by continued level-up, in return for exceptional servitude to their Abductor Master at some point subsequent to their return to the mortal realm. However, in practice this is extremely rare.)

There are (currently) three Endowments for players to choose from: Occult Affinity, Magical Corruption, and Veil Drawing. The abilities granted by the endowment increase as the Changeling gains levels in her class, with a new cumulative ability added at each level that is a prime number.

Occult Affinity

Some Changelings gain from their experience of the Elsewhere a certain sensivity to how the forces of magic bind into people, places, and things, and develop an ability to manipulate such bindings.

 

1. Spells of any level can be stolen, but the Changeling will only recognize spells she has seen cast in the past. The Changeling can opt not to cast any spells she has stolen, and either hold them in her memory indefinitely (for example, until she sees them cast), or allow them to dissolve in her next sleep. If she either attempts to cast a spell she has never seen cast before, or which she could not cast were she herself a Magic-User, she must make a Saving Throw vs. Magic with the following penalties: -3 if she has never seen the spell cast before, and -1 per level of the spell above the highest level she could cast as a Magic-User of equivalent level. If she fails the Saving Throw, the casting fails; if she gets a result of 1 (either through penalties or rolling a natural 1), there is a wild magic surge. If her result is below zero, there is a wild magic surge with two effects. The Changeling cannot write down the stolen spells unless she is a Magic-User herself, though she can explain the contents of the spell to a Magic User who can write it down and (if the Magic User succeeds in rolling a Level check plus Intelligence bonuses on a d20, and the Changeling successfully makes a Saving Throw vs. Magic, the spell inscription will be accurate. Otherwise, the result will be a botched spell which, when memorized, results either in no effect (95% change) or a wild magic surge (5% chance.)

Magical Corruption

Because of her exposure to the raw forces of magic in the Elsewhere, the Changeling has the innate ability to discern between types of magic, and eventually to warp specific magical effects to suit her needs.

Veil Drawing

The Changeling’s relationship with the veil that divides our realm from that of the Adbuctors is particularly adept: she may puncture it, draw it aside, or even, as she grows more powerful, temporarily destroy it at will.

Taints

Of course, one does not disappear into a magical realm without corrosive effects upon one’s mind and body alike. All Changelings have two kinds of long-term scarring from the time spent in the Elsewhere: Tarnishing Marks and Allergies.

Tarnishing Marks. Elsewhere is a violently chaotic place suffused with magical energies—or, rather, it is a place made of those energies on a fundamental level, and is the place from which those magical energies leak into the characters’ homeworld. These energies, in their most raw form, are simply too powerful for a human being to withstand prolonged exposure without permanent effects.

Therefore all Changeling characters will have at least one visible physical trait acquired during their time Elsewhere. The Player should choose from the following for her first Tarnishing Mark.

changelingtarnished

Each time the Changeling behaves in a way that exposes her to the Chaotic forces of the universe—using a magical spell or effect (excluding one of her Endowments), killing a sentient being, or encountering a major supernatural creature, she adds 1% to her Tarnishment score, which is tracked on the back of the character sheet. Then the player rolls a Tarnishment check, rolling d100 against the Tarnishment score. A “success” means she receives another marking, which is determined by rolling on the Tarnishing Marks table below.

Tarnishing Marks Table

 

  • If the character does not already have a mark of the type rolled, they receive a Mild mark develops. If she does, then the mark proceeds to the next stage (from Mild to Moderate, or from Moderate to Severe.)
  • If one of the above effects seems likely to grant the character a new ability—a bite attack for cat’s teeth, a tail slap for a long, difficult-to-hide tail, a kick attack for a character with goat’s legs, that new ability should be discussed with the GM and clarified when the Tarnishment is first received. Note: it may require practice before it can be used at full effect. (i.e. It will be used at a penalty at first.)
  • Tarnishing marks are permanent: they can be concealed using mundane or magical methods, and they can be temporarily removed by force (usually causing hit point damage: removing horns causes 1d6-1d10 points of damage, for example), but they inevitably grow back. Only very powerful magic can undo the tarnishments that characters accumulate.

tarnishments2

Unusual Allergy. The physical removal of the character from the mortal world has also left the character sensitive to one specific material, object, or property in the mortal realm which did not exist Elsewhere. Roll on the following table to determine the character’s allergy:

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