SR5:Race:Changeling

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5th Edition Rules
Basics Combat Magic Matrix Driving Character Creation
Races
Humans Elves Dwarves Orks Trolls
Centaurs Nagas Pixies Sasquatches Changelings Shapeshifters
CHARACTERS AND CHANGELING CULTURE

Changelings are outsiders by nature. They don’t want to be part of the normal society because they are special. They were pushed to the outskirts and found a home there, with others like them who understand them. While the world has had sixty years to adjust to the idea of 2.5 meter trolls, burly orks, stout dwarfs, and graceful elves (and haven’t gotten it perfect yet), they have had only a little more than a decade to come to grips with beaks, tentacles, frog tongues, and tails. And there are so many fewer changelings than metahumans, no one ever gets a chance for them to be seen everyday and make them seem normal.

A character, even one running the shadows who is a natural outsider, still needs a place to call home with people who understand them. The character can choose whether they are trying to fit in, whether they go back to their neighborhoods, or whether they go the route of the hermit and live alone, away from the world. Roleplaying the difficulties of fitting in when you don’t look like anyone near you or even the difficulties of a life where finding someone like you may never happen should weigh heavily on the character. They may be the dreamer who knows that the right one is out there; they may be the shut-in, angry at the world because they can never know whether their present company is there for them as a person or because they want to watch the sideshow; or they could be oblivious, or play oblivious, to the reality of their situation. Being a changeling may seem cool to have the great abilities or nifty stat boosts, but the true advantage is in the character you can play, the chance to play out the role of the outsider on the outside, while struggling to be accepted on the inside.

The still-developing culture of the changelings is an interesting area of study. Anthropologists are able to observe the breaking away of a sect of a culture in real time as opposed to making guesswork on what happened from writings or stories. Changelings today usually go one of two ways, depending on the severity of their SURGE expression. Those who have been greatly changed are what I’d rather focus on, as they are the ones who are developing a new culture for themselves and their kind. Those whose expressions are minor often simply stick within their original culture and accept their small differences as simply a part of who they are, or they hide them in order to fit in. These same individuals are also the ones who show up at changeling gatherings and then try to fit in because they “know what it’s like,” only to find themselves drummed out or ignored. Because in truth, they don’t know what it’s like.

The changeling culture is one of acceptance for their own kind and the expansive variations of their expressions, along with a reluctance to take part in the formalized culture of anyone else. They revel in their nature, and many have been trying to create changeling-only communities with varying levels of success due to the limited number of individuals with extensive expressions. Within these areas, and within the culture of the changelings themselves, is a world of accepting difference and expressing one’s self, often through art or stage performance. The revitalization of small portions of slum communities has become a calling card for changeling communities. As a group and as a culture, they help each other out, and every structure is customized for the changeling who will live there. They even work together to remodel homes for those who move in or when they have children who display different traits. The areas have also attracted many metavariants who also don’t feel at home in the rest of the world. Acceptance is universal for the altered. That acceptance is limited, though, as they have very little tolerance for any normal human (or “norman,” as they call them) who wants to live among them, feeling they are simply being used to boost the norman’s countercultural cred, or that they are being pitied as “freaks.”

The counterculture of changelings is about not accepting changes, but rather trying to erase them in an effort to fit in. They may attempt self-mutilation to get back to normal, they may cover up changes and act as if they don’t exist, or they may try to become a mainstream success in some field or another, giving something for the normans to condescendingly admire as an “inspiration.” For changelings, joining the culture of the world at large is their counterculture.

Biology

In 2061, the passing of Halley’s Comet changed the face of metahumanity forever—in some cases, quite literally. First UGE (Unexplained Genetic Expression) brought elves and dwarfs to the Sixth World, then Goblinization gave us orks and trolls, and finally the comet triggered SURGE (Sudden Unexplained Recessive Genetic Expression), which exposed the world to the changelings. Changelings are not a metatype of their own but a metagenic expression that sprang up across the globe, seemingly at random. In the years since, researchers have discovered that some events had a method, while others remain a mystery. For example, the ganesha, elephant-headed people that arose from the Ganges River event, reflect the beliefs of the local populations, while a clerk from the accounting department of a small business suddenly growing blue fur, a tail, and bat ears seems completely arbitrary. Research has explained that the changes were caused by metagenic traits that were damaged over millennia of natural selection, cross-genetic input from viruses or gene therapy, genetic drift and spread, assimilation, dysfunctional repair systems, and mutation by environmental factors such as radiation, pollution, and chemicals. This damaged coding required a certain spike in mana to activate, which first occurred en masse when Halley’s Comet swung by and threw the Gaiasphere for a loop. Another round of SURGE occurred a few months later when the comet made its second pass. A third major SURGE event has yet to occur, but that does not mean that new changelings are not appearing—or that there is not a new event waiting to cause a new spike and accompanying SURGE.

Several locations around the globe have highly fluid mana levels, and occasional mana spikes occur randomly. If the right person with the right genetic code is in the right place at the right time, that individual might express. Those who wish for the changeling life—mostly disgruntled teens hell-bent on avoiding the corporate leash they fail to realize is already around their necks— make pilgrimages to these locations, hoping to experience SURGE. Some do, some don’t, some keep trying, some accept their mundane fate, and some suddenly change a week, a month, or a year later. As expected, there are some people who profit from this by claiming to know how to identify changelings pre-change, but the best scientific and arcanological minds of our time have found no way to know.

Once a change has occurred, there is a chance a changeling trait will pass on to offspring. The few studies performed show that genes pass on within the standard range for primary genetic traits. Thus far all traits discovered are autosomal and not linked to specific sex chromosomes. A changeling’s offspring can exhibit some of the traits of either or both parents, or a plain human baby can result as well.

When looking at pre-change demographics for changelings, humans are the most likely to SURGE (59 percent), followed by orks (16 percent), trolls (10 percent), dwarfs (9 percent), and elves (6 percent). Those who have SURGEd are separated into three basic categories based on the extent of their change, though these categories are beginning to blur and shift over time.

Class I changelings have a few select traits, usually associated with metatypes other than their own, such as pointed ears, tusks, thermographic vision, or dermal deposits. Some Class I expressions exhibit traits unknown in other metatypes, but due to the minor nature of the changes they are classified here.

Class II changelings express a wider breadth of alternative phenotypic expressions, many of which are found outside metahumanity. Expressions can include traits normally limited to other mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and even fish. These traits can be strictly phenotypic, but many generate functional organs such as gills. Class II expressions are usually focused within a single classification of creature, but recent breeding between changelings has created several hybrids.

Class III changelings are the most radically different from their initial metatype, often to the point of seeming like an entirely different species. Like Class II, expressions are usually focused within a single classification of creature, but changes are extreme. Most changes are so extreme that surviving them should not have been possible, but the mana-induced portion of the metamorphosis allowed these massive physiological changes to occur. That said, the mind does not always come through so intact, leaving many Class III changelings with mental health issues. Breeding between Class III changelings of different animal phenotypes has produced a larger number of early miscarriages, further promoting the concept of differing species. Few Class III-born changelings are old enough to have reached puberty, and none have been subjected to further testing.

  • That he knows of.
    • Plan 9