Thursday, June 4, 2015

Races of Pathfinder: Changeling

Genetically Changeling are the offsprings of hags and humanoids.  Mechanically, Changelings are a whole lot of situational bonuses wrapped up in un-synergetic abilities. Still, if you can unwrap the enigma, they can really work.

Racial Traits:
Ability Scores: +2 Wisdom, +2 Charisma, -2 Constitution.  I'm not a big fan of the double mental bonus, single physical penalty ability distributions.  Classes that key off of mental stats tend to key off of only one, and everybody likes some good old constitution. Even the cleric, who uses both Wisdom and Charisma, is going to be hurt by the Constitution penalty.

Size: Changelings are the same size as humans.

Speed: Changelings have the standard 30ft base movement speed.

Natural Armor: +1 natural armor bonus is fantastic.  Too bad the changeling's ability scores less than prepares them for melee combat.

Claws: Changelings gain not one but two natural attacks.  This screams sneak attack, but it's unfortunate that we suffer a -2 to Constitution.

Darkvision: Darkvision is way better than low-light vision, because realistically most DMs don’t really worry about lighting conditions except for darkness. This is a great ability to have.

Other Racial Traits:
Changelings are now placed in the unique position of choosing a single additional trait, based on their parentage.  They are universally pretty weak, and mostly for flavor.  It is possible  for many of them to only come up once or twice a campaign, so consider your GM  and campaign. If you are playing an aquatic campaign, sea lungs is an option. If you are big into playing the femme fatale, then perhaps Green Widow?  Otherwise, Hulking (or Mist Child below) are your best options.

Hulking Changeling: +1 to melee damage isn't much, but its a far more useful, consistent bonus that these other racial traits.  If you are a melee character, this is probably your best bet.

Green Widow: +2 on Bluff, but only on those creatures sexually attracted to you.  Small bonus that only activates sometimes.

Sea Lungs: You can hold your breath for longer before drowning.  If your entire campaign takes place in an underwater city, then maybe?  Otherwise, this is either never going to come up, or you'll know about it ahead of time and will be able to cast a low level spell to prepare.

Alternate Race Traits:
Hag Magic [Natural Armor]: 0th or 1st level spell a few times a day instead of +1 natural armor could be useful with something like mage armor.  Grabbing a of whatever spell you want is better though and let you keep your +1 AC on at all times.

Mist Child [Hulking]: Now, it is possible to augment a build by increasing concealment miss chance by 5%.  If you love smoke sticks, goz masks, obscuring mist, or invisibility, or love blinding your enemies, this could be the best choice of an unimpressive not. If you don't constantly generate concealment for yourself, it's still not the worst choice in the world.

Object of Desire [Green Widow]: I'm sorry, am I missing something?  A caster level bonus does virtually nothing for the charm spell, except perhaps dispelling them.

Ocean's Daughter [Sea Lungs]: +1 bonus on Swim checks.  Also you won't take the 1d6 nonlethal damage from swimming from an hour.  Whoopie.  If you are in an aquatic campaign, you have to decide if Ocean's Daughter or Sea Lungs is less useless.  Or, just take something better.

Witchborn [Ability Scores]: +2 to Intelligence and Charisma instead of Wisdom and Charisma.  Opens up the wizard and witch as viable options, as well as any class that keys off of Intelligence.  Entirely based on what class you want to go with.

It is difficult at best to make the most of all of the Changeling's abilities for any class.  Still, some classes can cherry pick and leverage the rough corners.  Note that I consider a Changeling's survivability to be average with any other class - the Natural Armor bonus and Con penalty nearly cancel each other out.  Ranged characters will also benefit from easily switching to claws while still holding a bow or gun should the enemy get too close.

Alchemist: There's really no synergy here: no Intelligence bonus, no Dexterity bonus, no easy way to use claws or that extra armor.  That's not to say a Changeling Alchemist will be bad - just not particularly good.

Barbarian: -2 to Con isn't a great start.  It's somewhat mitigated by the AC and claws, but Barbarians are one of the few classes that can get claws themselves without too much difficulty.  Besides, that Wis and Cha are wasted.

Bard: The Charisma bonus is fine, and with average survivability a Bard changeling can stick to the back and shoot a bow.

Cavalier [Samurai]: There's no synergy here.

Cleric: Cleric seems like the obvious choice.  Clerics use both Wisdom and Charisma, so if you want to be a straight casting and channeling Cleric the Changeling is a good choice.  With some armor (and extra armor from Mother's Gift), you can make a competent melee guy as well.  With Witchborn, we lose out on the Wisdom and this is Green.

Druid: Druids will benefit from the Wisdom bonus and wild shape can mitigate the Con penalty.  It also mitigates all of the other bonuses, but it's still very functional.  With Witchborn this is Orange.

Fighter: Again, there is virtually no synergy for the straight martials.

Gunslinger: There are a few things that keep gunslingers in the green.  Your wisdom bonus (or charisma bonus, with mysterious stranger), gives you some grit, and you've got claws to fall back on in case the enemy gets too close. Darkvision is also nice for those ranged characters.  With Witchborn this is Orange, or still Green with mysterious stranger.

Inquisitor: Inquisitors will gain from the Wisdom bonus, but a lack of survivability means ranged could make a good choice.  With Witchborn this is Orange.

Magus: The magus is one of the few spell casters for which there is no real synergy.  Given that they are a bit glass-cannony anyway, I would stay away.  With Witchborn this is Green.

Monk: Well, we've got the Wis bonus and the armor bonus, but that's about it.  Claws are wasted with flurry of blows.  With Witchborn this is a solid Red.

Oracle: I'm a big fan of the favored class bonus, and with charisma bonus the Oracle changeling could be great.

Paladin [Antipaladin]: A ranged paladin or antipaladin can do alright thanks to the Charisma buff, but there isn't much else.

Ranger: A natural weapon ranger is tempting, particularly with the Wisdom bonus, but survivability will always be an issue.  It's a risk, but it's also flavorful.

Rogue [Ninja]: Here is where things get interesting.  Natural weapons are clutch for sneak attaches, particularly with feats like Hag's Claws coming into play. Mist child can also nicely augment any invisibility, goz mask, nighttime shenanigans that you have going on, and dark vision helps with the scouting.  Besides, that favored class trait is wonderful.  Survivability is a problem, but the natural armor and Surprisingly Tough can help with that.  Ninjas are an even better choice, given that they benefit from the charisma buff

Sorcerer: Sorcerer is a fine choice for the changeling, as well as being thematically appropriate.  You can force some synergy between bloodlines and other racial traits if you feel the need.

Summoner: Other than the bonus to Charisma, you don't have anything specifically going for you.  This is a fine choice.

Witch: No intelligence boost and a weak archetype doesnt really help the witch's case. Go with Sorcerer or Oracle instead. Witchborn bumps this up to Blue.

Wizard: As with the Witch, you'll never be an optimal Wizard as a changeling. Be a Sorcerer instead. Witchborn bumps this up to Blue.

Racial Favored Class Bonuses:
Oracle: Adding 1/2 level to your curse abilities is great.  You'll minimize the penalties and get some of those tasty high level bonuses early on.

Rogue: I know people don't love rogue talents, but a well-picked rogue talent is well worth 6 hit points, 6 skill points, or anything else you could be using your favored class bonus for.  This is especially true as many rogue talents can free up feats that could be used for toughness, gaining you those hit points back anyway.

Witch: Extra spells for your familiar is nice, but you can always add them from a scroll or a wizard's spellbook by tossing cash at them.

Racial Archetypes:
Dream Weaver (Witch) The dreamweaver is absolutely loaded with flavor, but ultimately falls short in the combat department.  She gains fun bonuses against sleeping targets, but sleeping targets are usually already out of the combat and no bonuses are needed.  Only her level 10 ability, casting magic jar on sleeping enemies, is really powerful.  Still, if they are sleeping, you usually can devote your attention elsewhere.  Luckily, the Dream Weaver doesn't sacrifice a huge amount for her abilities, only trading out three extra hexes from levels 2 to 10.  If you find yourself only using a small number of hexes anyway and really like the flavor, you can consider it.

Racial Feats: 
Mother's Gift: This great feat is really three feats in one.  You choose one of the bonuses each time you take the feat.
      Hag Claws: +1 to attack and damage with your claws is just straight out better than Weapon Focus.  Definitely grab this if you are going the natural weapon route.
      Surprisingly Tough: +1 to natural armor is great for those melee characters attempting to take Improved Natural Armor but not meeting the 13 Con requirement.  You can only take it once, but still, it's worth it.
      Uncanny Resistance: Spell resistance of 6+ character level isn't amazing, but it can be fairly strong.  Assuming that you are fighting enemies of your level, this means that every spell thrown at you has a 25% chance of failure - not bad!  Don't forget that you can voluntarily lower it.

Unusual Origin: This feat isn't going to be active a lot, even if you are in a party of Changelings (which is doubtful). You are better off taking combat casting. .


  1. What about the changeling's alternate racial traits from 3PP? Are you going to cover those as well or not worry about them?

    1. Unfortunately, I think that's a rabbit's hole too deep for me to delve. Sticking with Paizo only for this guide.

  2. Theres an additional Changeling racial feat - Unusual Origin

    (There's also variants of it for the Dhampir, Fetchling and Gillmen too)

    1. Weird feat! Added them all, thanks!

  3. The Inner Sea Races book just added an alternate racial trait for Changelings that changes their +2 WIS to +2 INT. Couple other things in there, but that seemed the most interesting.

  4. Personally, I would give the changeling a little higher of a rating for alchemist, but only if you go for a Mr. Hyde/Natural Attack build. Having the claws in your base form means that any feats you use to enhance them won't be wasted half the time. Add in the extreme dangerous stuff you can get through monstrous physique and the beastmorph archetype, and it's build worth considering. For a bomber though, they are kind-of trash, but the witchborn trait would help.