Ponies of the Eclipse – Changeling Speculations

And it’s another pony question…

You say that there really isn’t enough canon information on changelings to write up the race – and Queen Chrysalis’s plan seemed unworkable anyway. So what would your speculations look like?

Oh well. The other pony articles stuck closely to known information from the show (and there isn’t much on changelings), but speculations don’t call for a lot of hard information – so I’ll speculate a bit about ponies and changelings.

  • It’s quite obvious that ponies produce love.

In general though, creatures don’t produce things they don’t need other than waste products. If love is one of the great powers of Equestria (and no one is being paid to haul it away), then it’s safe to say that love is not a waste product.

Is love different from friendship? What we call “love” often contains elements of sexuality and possessiveness – but then we have “friends with benefits”. Perhaps the most succinct real-world definition that I’ve come up with is that you find the welfare and happiness of your friends important to your own, while you find the welfare and happiness of those you love necessary to your own. They’re different in degree, not kind. Of course, in Equestria… love / friendship is a measurable force, a source of raw magical power, and an actual principle of the universe.

  • So do ponies use love and friendship?

Why yes, yes they do. They bind together (huge!) families with it, use it to handle animals, and – if they must – can use it to fuel their natural magic, boosting it considerably. Love lets Big Macintosh bounce around towing a house with no effort at all, restores enchanted friends, and defeats small armies.

  • Do ponies produce more love than they need?

Evidently they do; they certainly seem to have plenty to spare most of the time. Look at Fluttershy’s relationship with Angel Bunny or Rainbow Dash with Gilda. It definitely looks like the Ponies are on the giving ends of those relationships – and they’re always ready to add still more friends and family and forgive their enemies.

So, “Love” in Equestria is an emotionally sticky and bonding power reserve that their society can spare a fair amount of if it’s not otherwise being drained. Love attracts creatures and makes them into friends and allies. It’s addictive. It fills you with energy. According to the metaphors you can be sweet on someone, they’re your honey, it’s like drowning in golden syrup…

There are actually an awful lot of similarities there. A swarm of bees can, if given access to plentiful sources of nectar and pollen and sheltered from creatures that want to steal their food reserves, produce a good deal more honey then they need. Enough for the humans who aid and protect them to quietly get a share without hurting the hive. Whether that’s symbiosis, parasitism, or farming is a semantic argument, and really rather unimportant.

So lets think about changelings. At the most basic…

  • Changelings are parasites (or possibly symbiotes). What’s more, they’re long-term and successful ones; they weren’t even really noticed for many centuries (although the fact that Candace could name them and not have to explain says that they were at least rumored).

That means that they derive their energy from what their host species can fairly readily spare (or they couldn’t pass unnoticed). Thus, if one parasite even approaches the power level of the host species, then they must be VERY heavily outnumbered.

That fits. Queen Chrysalis almost certainly brought most of her swarm (save, perhaps, for a home guard and the kids) along on her invasion. After all, if she needed their help they’d be no use at home and if she had other major projects going on, why not do the invasion later? Sure, Shining Armor may have been a great source of love – but he was only one stallion. Why take the extra risk of going in without every possible advantage, or of going in to Canterlot at all, when she could simply scoop up a dozen sets of newlyweds from across Equestria at any time? After all, to quote Queen Chrysalis herself.

“Equestria has more love than any place I’ve ever encountered. My fellow changelings will be able to devour so much of it that we will gain more power than we have ever dreamed of!”

That doesn’t sound like Shining Armor was particularly unique even if he was a royal treat. It also says something else that’s very important. It says either “refugees” or “nomadic” – and either of those says “no cities”, “poor”, and more than a bit “desperate”. People don’t become nomads or refugees because all is well and they have plenty of everything.

So. Changelings as a group are vastly weaker than ponies. On an individual basis they get beaten quite readily – and there weren’t enough of them to really swarm and control Canterlot effectively or they wouldn’t need to go in for the random-blasts-and-panic approach. Yet Canterlot is a very small piece of Equestria even if it is the capital. It’s also one of the better defended locations in Equestria.

A takeover could never work. So what was Chrysalis’s original – and presumably sane – plan?

if Twilight hadn’t fouled things up, Chrysalis would never have been revealed (a pretty basic goal in a species so adapted for infiltration). She’d have “married” Shining Armor and (presumably) gone on the scheduled honeymoon with him – likely with the intent of allowing her “army” to quietly drain all the love being poured out at the reception and of later brainwashing Candace and leaving her to nurse Shining Armor back to health after an “illness”. That would allow her and her swarm to escape with a huge store of love with no one the wiser (after all… being exhausted, having a headache, and needing a day to recover is pretty routine after a citywide party). A resources-raid on a massive scale “to feed her people”. After all, why else keep Candace? And why then stash Twilight with her? Was there any likely reason besides to brainwash them and return them later to preserve changeling secrecy?

Then Twilight pulled the big reveal and that plan went down the drain. Chrysalis then revealed her army and “intention” of taking over Equestria – no matter how obviously impossible that was when we think about it. Why would she do that? Why did her army need to break Shining Armors shield when she could have just had him drop it or let them in in advance? Why were there so few Changelings outside the shield? After all, there seemed to be more blocking the way to the Elements than there were in the entire army that broke in. Were they there in advance? Perhaps Chrysalis’s “plan” wasn’t what it appeared to be? What was she actually trying to accomplish?

Well, announcing that she and her Changelings were there to conquer Equestria would keep the guards focus on defending the city and its people – not on keeping her soldiers from rescuing her or on pursuing her swarm after they were “driven off”. Keeping every ponies eyes on a comparative handful of changelings in the sky would keep them from paying too much attention to her disguised ground forces. In turn, as ponies frantically sought to find, rescue, and protect their loved ones in the confusion those disguised ground forces could harvest vast amounts of love before running. That wouldn’t be a bad backup plan. It would give her a good shot at pulling a clean retreat with a sizeable profit out of complete disaster.

Then she had to engage Celestia, who (quite unexpectedly) didn’t rush off to rally her guard and defend her city. Perhaps Celestia knew about Changelings and was only surprised to actually be attacked by one? Regardless… Chrysalis obviously didn’t think that she’d win that fight. She was taken aback at the prospect of fighting Celestia, was blatantly apprehensive, closed her eyes at first, was blinking in shock when her magic overpowered Celestias, and even ANNOUNCED that Shining Armors love was even more powerful than she’d thought; “it had made her powerful enough to defeat Celestia!”.

That’s a pretty clear statement that she’d thought that she WOULDN’T be able to defeat Celestia – and an admission that “taking over Equestria” had never actually been a part of her plans.

Still, with Celestia down and Luna wherever Luna was the swarm didn’t have to run immediately! New plan! Have the swarm grab every bit of love (and anything else useful) that they possibly could before the inevitable retreat! Now that they’d lost secrecy… the swarm would need every resource it could get since it would have to run a long ways to find a refuge. Why else would Chrysalis send her personal guard to go and feed while she was in a room full of enemies? If she actually expected to hold Canterlot, what was the rush?

Unfortunately, as it turned out, Changelings might eat love, and power their magic with it – but Chrysalis at least didn’t actually understand it, or what ponies could do with it. If she had, how could Candace and Shining Armor have surprised Chrysalis with a rather basic (and thoroughly cliche) “Our Love Empowers Us!” effect? What did Chrysalis say? “What a lovely, but absolutely ridiculous, sentiment!”?

And then said sentiment smacked her and her entire army over the horizon. Evidently it wasn’t so ridiculous after all.

That’s all we see of Changelings until season five, when a single one turns up at Cranky Doodle Donkey’s and Matilda’s wedding (presumably to collect some excess love) – and is only scary to foals. And this is a species that panicked at a rabbit stampede. Evidently the ponies have become experienced with Changelings – likely some were scattered around Equestria undisguised after A Canterlot Wedding – and now find a changeling less frightening than a swarm of rabbits, despite their invasion attempt and Chrysalis’s defeat of Celestia. What could have convinced them of that?

Perhaps they found out that it was true? After all, an intelligent species who’s lives depend on your species being happy, safe, prosperous, and filled with love, is somewhat less than menacing.

Shining Armor attended Cranky and Matilda’s wedding too, and he didn’t care that there was a Changeling there either – and if anyone would have reason to be paranoid about Changelings, it would be him.

So… it’s rather hard to believe that Changelings never discovered ponies before – or would have failed to realize that a land full of them would have lots of love about. Why couldn’t Chrysalis take the quiet route and just harvest love across the land via infiltration? None of the OTHER races seemed to be aware enough of Changelings to stop them. Ergo… whatever was stopping her was either something innate to the land or its inhabitants (in which case we have to ask what suddenly happened to let Chrysalis in) or it would have to be… other Changelings.

You know, Equestria seems to have few border problems. All of it’s monsters are pretty readily handled. The neighbors never try to take over. It’s almost like something subtle and hidden is quietly manipulating the neighboring griffins, dragons, and other races to keep Equestria peaceful and full of love.

Such a force would probably stay well away from Canterlot though; that’s where those ultra-powerful, highly-experienced, and all-too-perceptive Alicorns hang out. Going near them on a regular basis would be an incredible security risk for any secretive group.

And there’s a rational reason for Chrysalis to be making the equivalent of a smash-and-grab in-and-out raid on Canterlot. Equestria is already the territory of one or more other, stronger, Changeling hives who are doing their best to stay secret and keep “their” pony love-bees happily producing as much extra love as possible.

Perhaps Celestia knew more about changelings then they thought – and thus was very startled to be attacked by a changeling; they’d been quietly protecting her borders, slipping her information, and messing up foreign notions about attacking Equestria for millennia while making no fuss at all. Why would they abruptly change that strategy when it was working so well? How was she to know that Queen Chrysalis was an outsider with no stake in the current system?

And thus – at least speculatively – Chrysalis fouled up a strategy that had been working for more than a thousand years. It’s no wonder that Chrysalis has never appeared again. She’s probably in a lot of trouble.

Now, for actual changeling statistics…

  • Quadruped / “Accursed” (-3 CP): Changelings only move at half ground speed when they can’t use all four legs. They can use one hoof as if they were hooking a forearm around something, one forehoof and their mouth as if they were a hand, and may use both forehooves and their mouth as if they were a hand-and-a-half (-4 penalty on anything which requires two hands). As some slight compensation, this does provide the usual quadruped bonuses (+10 ground movement and increased carrying capacity, along with a +4 against Bull Rush). Fortunately, rings, boots, and so on adapt to fit anyone – so there are no changes in their behavior for changelings even if they can wear magical horseshoes in their “boots” slot.
  • Attribute Shift /-2 Dex, +2 Con: Changelings are fast and coordinated enough, but – when you come right down to it – hooves and mouths just aren’t quite as good as hands when it comes to fine work (6 CP).
  • Shapeshift (Specialized, only as a prerequisite, 3 CP), Variants (Specialized, only to alter their personal appearance. While physically-based, this is essentially equivalent to Disguise Self and does not affect clothing or gear – although it does provide a +10 bonus to Disguise (or Deception or whatever the appropriate skill is in the system in use) checks, 3 CP).

This is one of the defining changeling abilities – which makes it all the more annoying that it’s rather unclear as to how it works. On the show changelings imitate various ponies. In the comics they can take small animal forms. That would make infiltration and feeding easy and the invasion pointless, so here it’s ponies and similar creatures (such as the shows versions of griffins and hippogriffs) only. Similarly, if they could interbreed with ponies I’d expect there to be plenty of halfbreeds – so either they can’t or their shapeshifting extends to their genes, and “crossbreeds” are always either true changelings or true (whatever). Importantly, they cannot readily tell the difference between another Changeling in disguise and a pony, as demonstrated repeatedly in the fight with the mane six. That’s also a big strike against the “hivemind” notion, which will thus not be appearing in this writeup.

  • Changelings (or at least the ones on active military operations) appear to have fangs, horns, and exoskeletons. They probably share at least a part of other ponies resistance to weather, and they can manifest clothing (and presumably basic tools) as needed. That’s Immunity/having to actually have basic tools, simple melee weapons, mundane light or medium armor, and clothing to gain it’s benefits and/or relevant appearance. (Very Common, Minor, Minor, 8 CP). Proficient with all Simple Weapons, Light and Medium Armor, Corrupted/only applies to items “gained” via this immunity, not to potentially superior or enchanted real items (8 CP). Note that they can’t lend stuff to other people or leave it behind; it’s a manifestation of themselves, not actual items.

Changelings don’t need winter outfits, hammers, saws, trowels, shovels, picks, chisels, knives, lockpicks, breastplates, shortswords, or similar gear. They have pockets (despite not appearing to have any) and can appear with hats, elaborate clothing, and similar fashion accessories at will too. (On duty Chrysalis’s soldiers apparently normally default to a “Breastplate”, “Shortsword”, and basic black under any disguise, but other groups may vary). This is very useful to “normal” changelings. It lets them essentially carry a fair chunk of their civilization with them even as they migrate, ready themselves for war without industries or preparation time, and stretch their cash – but it’s no match for pony magic, strength, and toughness. It also isn’t much use past the first few levels, after which mundane equipment becomes a minor expense at most.

Given that this is Eclipse, Changelings are free to upgrade their Immunity to the Major level (+4 CP), allowing them to add Martial Melee Weapons and Mastercraft Qualities to their “virtual equipment”. At the “Great” level (another +12 CP) they may add Special Material Qualities to their “equipment” and produce Alchemical Items as needed.

  • Innate Enchantment: All of these abilities are Spell Level One, Caster Level One, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated (x 2000 GP). With a net cost of 9,400 GP, this costs (10 CP).
    • Goo Splat (Conjuration, L1): The caster may project a glob of goo equivalent to a Tanglefoot bag – although it may also be used as normal glue / cement, in which case it’s permanent since it isn’t being splattered over an area. Fire, or almost any form of attack magic, will eliminate the stuff in moments though.
    • Goo Mastery (Transmutation, L1): The caster may polymerize a goo splat into a mixture of silk-and-resin composite, forming the stuff into ropes, simple nets and restraints, a gripping aid (gain a Climb speed of 10, the Climb skill bonus also applies to holding onto things, resisting bull rushes, and similar checks), a wall finish, hull patches, storage containers, or similar items. The stuff still will not stand up to fire or attacking magic though.
    • Greater Magic Hand: This lets them manipulate objects and pretend to be a Unicorn reasonably well.
    • Sustenance: Reduces the need to eat, sleep, drink, and breathe to one-quarter normal. As long as a changeling has enough love, it needs very little other sustenance Unlike the other effects, this is a personal-only ability, costing only 1400 “GP”.
    • One first-level spell of choice – commonly Charm Person, Sleep, Color Spray, or some similar effect
  • Enthusiast, Specialized for Double Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: Only for Innate Enchantments, takes several weeks of study to change the spell. This provides 2000 GP worth of Innate Enchantment – enough for another first level spell or a couple of cantrips (2 CP).

For the invasion the army was using…

Kinetic Aura (Evocation, L1): The caster may make a straight-line full move at 5x normal speed., During the move he or she is protected by a glowing force shield (+4 Shield Bonus to AC). Of he or she runs into anything, whatever it is will take 1d6 damage per 50 feet which the caster has moved to a maximum of 2d6 (resilient unanchored things like most creatures), 3d6 (unanchored hard objects or anchored/trapped resilient things), or 4d6 (anchored hard objects). The caster is not harmed by the collision.

A few Changelings learn Ritual Goo Magic (Ritual Magic, Specialized in Goo-Related Effects, 3 CP) – allowing them to make prisoner-containment pods, healing goo, and artificial limbs, to turn excess love into easily stored jellied love candies, and to manage some other low-powered but handy magical constructs and effects – but this isn’t a very big branch of ritual magic. That is, of course, why it’s also so cheap.

  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP).

Changelings are born with their innate enchantments, and need not pay any extra experience for them (or for those they add and drop with Enthusiast). If the Pathfinder Package deal is in use, this cost will not apply – and changelings gain an additional +2 racial bonus to Disguise.

  • Adept: Changelings may buy four skills (using a condensed skill list: Deception, Persuasion, Sense Motive, and Speak Language) for half cost (6 CP) and gain a +4 Racial Bonus to all those skills (8 CP).
  • Winged Flight: One level of Celerity with the Additional modifier (Flight, 30′ base, perfect maneuverability), Specialized for reduced cost: will not function properly if the user’s wings are entangled, damaged, or otherwise restrained (although, weirdly enough, as long as the user’s wings are free to move, it doesn’t matter if they are actually moving), is subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects, and makes the user magically conspicuous (9 CP).

Changelings can feed on love, or at least Chrysalis directed them to do so and stated that, if they got a lot of extra love, they’d become far more powerful (although exactly what powers would be getting a boost outside of “magic” is never clearly defined). They’re also generally presumed to need some to live and more to use their magic. Sadly, we have no details and only one example; Shining Armor. Worse, that involved Chrysalis feeding slowly and avoiding discovery in a rather public situation, and may well be unusual. Secondarily, Chrysalis had mind-control abilities, but there’s no indication that normal changelings usually do; they had to settle for simple captures. I’d also note that they evidently can’t feed on lust or abstract appreciation; otherwise they’d have no need for the invasion in the first place. A shapeshifter can get plenty of those pretty much anywhere.

In any case, Shining Armor was left very tired, unable to use his magic, and possibly rendered more suggestible – but he was still in love with Cadence and he made a full recovery in very short order (albeit with Candace’s help). Being drained apparently wasn’t really that serious.

  • Since we don’t really know exactly what this does, I’m going to buy it as Inherent Spell/Bestow Curse, with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted: target must be experiencing the emotion of Love or Friendship and the effect fades over the next few days whether removed or not (4 CP). That lets “love draining” inflict whatever effects the GM feels is appropriate – and explains why Shiny was so devastated; he’d probably been cursed a dozen times.
  • For the power-bump from having lots of love, throw in Physical and Magical Hysteria, Specialized for Increased Effect (runs on “love points” (see below) rather than Power) and only works when the user is at at least 80% of their “love capacity”, only works with “love points” (12 CP).
  • Finally I’ll throw in Traceless Changeling Magic, Specialized for Increased Effect (hides that the victims are making saving throws) / only applies to their Curse Bestowing and Shapeshifting (6 CP). That makes their shapechanging pretty much undetectable and keeps feeding victims from noticing that they’re making saving throws and being cursed on a failure.

And that’s about it. We don’t know if changelings have additional magic, or what kind of society they have, or how they reproduce, or if they have non-combatants in their population, or how they learn, or if there are other queens (although my speculation is that there are), or even if (barring the comic books) the entire Changeling Army was simply conjured up by Chrysalis while the real Changelings stayed safe at home. We do know that Chrysalis can mind-control at least four ponies at a time, and – when hyped up on love/magic – can out-blast Celestia (or at least outblast what Celestia is willing to do when in a city surrounded by friends). So she’s better at combat magic than Celestia – which isn’t necessarily saying that much; Celestia is no warlord. Chrysalis can also project energy blasts capable of destroying hats, exert some form of mind control, and had some way to banish Twilight to the tunnels below Canterlot – although that may have been something she did with special preparations.

Overall the basic Changeling Racial Template has a base cost of 85 points – a +2 ECL species (there’s even enough room to throw in Occult Sense / Darksight (6 CP) and another instance of Enthusiast to make them more magically versatile without raising the ECL if you think it’s justified). Changelings, however, suffer from a couple of really severe disadvantages:

  1. They are cut off from the flow of Mana in the world. They do NOT gain (Con Mod) free mana points to use every round. This… is crippling, and it’s the game mechanical explanation for why the pony races grossly outpower them in the end. Changelings have some neat tricks and can pull equipment out of nowhere. Ponies have an endless font of raw magical power to draw on. It’s James Bond versus Superman.
  2. They are reliant on draining love to power their magic and survive. For a mechanic, each time they “feed” by successfully cursing someone, they gain 3d “love points”. If the qualifying emotion was true romantic love use d12’s, for true friendship or familial love use d8’s, for crushes and abstract love (groups, comic books, whatever) use d6’s, and for casual affection or lust use d4’s. They can store up to (Chr x Con) Love Points. In general, staying alive costs two points a day – one for their innate Sustenance effect, one for simply functioning. If they’re trying to heal up, it’ll cost another one. Changing forms costs one, as does holding a form for a few hours (three for a day). Finally, using their Innate Enchantments other than Sustenance costs one per five minutes or part thereof.

That reduces a Changeling’s net racial cost to 28 CP – a +0 ECL race. If you’re using them in a world without the Superheroic Template that first limitation becomes meaningless, increasing their base cost to 57 points – a +1 ECL race. Finally, if you eliminate the love dependence (or just make it a roleplaying note), they’re a +2 ECL race.

Overall, this version of Changelings makes for wonderful spies – but getting into a straight fight with Ponies is simply not their thing. The “Invasion” bit was Chrysalis’s last resort – and she was probably pretty desperate at that point.

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18 Responses

  1. A very nice set of speculations, and a great write-up to boot! Of course, at this point I can’t help but ask for your write-up of Queen Chrysalis as a follow-up.

    (Also, saying “In general though, creatures don’t produce things they don’t need other than waste products” strikes me as using a version of “need” that’s closer to “want,” since in terms of literal necessity people make a lot of things that aren’t strictly required.)

    • Hm… The biggest barrier to writing up Queen Chrysalis is “lack of information” again, but that’s less of a problem for speculation. I shall give it some thought.

      The “creatures don’t produce…” segment is more of a biological statement though, rather than being about things people (of whatever kind) consciously create. For examples, oysters don’t secrete mother-of-pearl to make the inside of their shells pretty or to make pearls; it’s to coat rough edges so that they don’t hurt them. Whales don’t produce ambergris so that humans can make perfume, they (rather like an oyster) secrete it to allow irritating lumps to pass through their intestinal tract without hurting them. Trees make lignin and cellulose so as to grow tall and transport water, not to provide meals for termites or housing for squirrels. Thus, if ponies produce love… it’s almost certainly something that, like hemoglobin or adrenaline in humans, they need to function properly.

      My tendency to be over-technical is leaking through again isn’t it?

  2. […] Changelings (Speculative) Their Build and Society, Chyrsalis’s Plans, What is Love, Farming Ponies, Goo Splat and Mastery, Kinetic Aura, and Feeding on Love. […]

  3. […] To summarize the Changeling Racial Template Modifiers: […]

  4. Just for fun, how would you say the alternate future that we saw in season five’s [I]The Cutie Re-Mark[/I], where Queen Chrysalis has apparently become the conqueror she purported to be, fits in with the theories given above?

    For what it’s worth, the episode does have some ambiguities about it. Zecora mentions that the changelings took over “not long ago,” despite the fact that that’s the chronological “present” – that is, it’s still at the same point in time at the end of season five, quite far from Chrysalis’s original appearance at the end of season two…then again, that’s (by my guess) only a little over a year, so perhaps that’s what Zecora meant.

    Also, Chrysalis references taking Zecora to the “dungeons of Canterlot,” so perhaps she’s only holding that particular city, rather than all of Equestria. Likewise, Chrysalis (when disguised as Applejack) says that the changelings have attacked Ponyville, which seems to imply that Ponyville has been holding its own before now…though there’s apparently enough reason for the “resistance” to live in the Everfree Forest. That makes sense, given that even with Zecora’s “see the truth salve” (or whatever it’s called) changelings had still infiltrated their hideout.

    Chrysalis also says that if Zecora goes quietly, she’d spare the others, which is an interesting proposition given that ponies generate the love that changelings need to feed on (though I doubt they produce much when they’re prisoners under a monstrous tyrant)…but Twilight points out that Chrysalis’ trustworthiness is in doubt anyway.

    • Well, now that I’ve seen it, I can speculate – although, once again, there’s barely enough material even for that.

      This particular “bad future” shows us that Chrysalis considers Zecora a serious threat (presumably the biggest immediate one in Equestria since it’s the current primary target) – yet the only abilities Zecora demonstrates are very quickly losing in physical combat and making a lotion or powder that reveals Changelings when it’s smeared on them (thus the need to put it on Twilight and Spike).

      Why does that even MATTER? If Chrysalis controls Equestria by conquest, haven’t Changelings already gone public? And if they HAVE gone public… there are dragons, griffins, not a few powerful unicorns, and more, who are likely to be more of a threat than a few villagers and Zecora.

      Perhaps the Changelings haven’t gone public? Chrysalis may control Equestria – but without Twilight-the-student-of-Celestia to reveal her presence and turn Cadence loose, it may be that Chrysalis was never revealed, and so there was no overt attack. If something then let her get the jump on Celestia and Luna (allowing her to put them in pods and use them to keep the cycles of day and night going) then Chrysalis – as Cadence, the Last Alicorn (since Twilight would never ascend in this timeline)- could become the ruler of Equestria with no combat at all. The ponies would simply obey their last Princess.

      And the only immediate threat to Chrysalis’s rule would be those few individuals who could reveal Changelings and were aware of the need to do so (that covers the “in season five, not shortly after season two” problem too; Chrysalis may have been in charge for longer than Zecora thought). That gives us a pretty good reason for Chrysalis to lead her forces against a maker of potions with a couple of dozen followers. Zecora and her little village know too much.

      Chrysalis did say that the Changelings had attacked Ponyville – but that could easily be a bluff to try and bypass what little defense Zecora’s group could put up. After all… why start out with disguises and conversation at all when your target group has already been infiltrated and you have them surrounded and massively outnumbered? Given that pony combat is nonlethal, about all that going with the bluff might accomplish is to trade a chunk of her and her forces (presumably valuable) time for a rather small savings on their love expenditure.

      Why is that important if Zecora’s little camp is the most important resistance target in Equestria? Wouldn’t she have a virtually endless supply?

      It could just be habit – but perhaps she’s not at all sure that the good times are going to last. If she was still focused on building up the largest possible reserve of love before she has to retreat, then her tactics make a lot more sense.

      It also means that this particular future is not necessarily hideously dark; most of Equestria will be doing just fine – if likely in mourning for the apparent death or disappearance of Celestia and Luna. Sure, Chrysalis and her Changelings will be draining love from the populace, but given the “loss” of two princesses and the rise of the last one, the ponies would probably be flooding Canterlot with the stuff anyway.

      Twilight, of course, popped up in the middle of the worst bit. And, while even I have no reason why the Cutie Map seems to be in the Everfree Forest suddenly in that timeline, time-travel stories usually play fast and free with logic. It’s like asking who managed to deal with Nightmare Moon, Chrysalis, Tirek, and Discord, but lost out to the Flim-Flam brothers in future number six.

      That’s pretty speculative again of course, but presuming that the species of infiltration-and-stealth experts had continued to stick with infiltration and stealth, it seems reasonable enough. As a side-benefit, it’s also quite consistent with the current writeup. It’s always nice when that happens.

  5. Okay, so with the recent airing of The Times They Are a Changeling, it’s worth revisiting this again in light of what that episode told us. Quite a few things were presented about changelings, and one or two were retconned (albeit not at all explicitly):

    – It’s now been confirmed that changelings can feed on friendship as a form of love. (Personally, I don’t care for this change, even if I have to agree that it does make sense. I just liked it better when their feeding was something more personal, as that better justified their nature as covert parasites; it’s one thing when a changeling pretends to be a celebrity hitting up a local bar, it’s quite something else when they pretend to be your new bride.)

    – While it was always strongly suspected, we now know for certain that changelings (besides Queen Chrysalis) can talk when they’re not transformed.

    – Chrysalis having Shining Armor (and three bridesmaids) under her control was stated to be because of “a spell,” rather than a side-effect of having their love drained. While A Canterlot Wedding never out-and-out stated that their zombification was because of their love being drained, it heavily implied it, hence what I said before about a non-explicit retcon. (This also seriously downgrades the parasitic nature of changelings; does feeding on ponies’ love have any debilitating effects at all, now?)

    We also met Thorax, the first non-evil changeling seen in the show to date (with the possible exception of that young changeling at the end of Slice of Life). Presuming that we can take him as an example of your run-of-the-mill changeling – and this is not at all certain, since his flashback shows us that he was different from the other changelings (at least in mindset) from the moment he was born – then this introduces several other alterations:

    – Changelings can disguise themselves as inanimate objects, such as rocks, rather than just other living creatures.

    – Changelings tend to hiss and snarl as a reflexive action when they’re hungry. (I’d call that Compulsive/makes an Intimidate check when potentially able to feed when they’ve fallen below two-thirds of their “love points” threshold.)

    – Thorax purports that changelings might be able to sustain themselves on friendship for one another, instead of needing to take it from others. (Which makes about as much sense as vampires feeding on each other so that they can leave humans alone.)

    So yeah…we got a little bit more information about changelings, but overall it wasn’t very helpful, or at least I didn’t think so.

    • Well, now that I’ve taken a look at the episode, it does give us a little information…

      Changelings seem to be naturally talented mimics – they can copy physical movements superbly – but do not seem to have a natural talent for acting. Queen Chrysalis does a lousy job of acting like Cadence and Thorax is stiff and out-of-character even in an apparently-original role. That doesn’t seem likely to be an anti-talent though since it would seriously impact their lifestyle. Chrysalis being arrogant, and Thorax being nervous and shy, would seem to cover it well enough.

      Thorax can fly fast enough to catch someone who’s falling (twice!) – or else has better than average telekinesis, or Feather Fall, or just made some really good rolls, or has a level or two.

      Of course Thorax was on the run from the hive – and so might very reasonably have a “fly faster!” spell in his Enthusiast-based Innate Enchantment slot.

      Changelings can talk without changing form and can apparently “make up” forms. They do not necessarily change their voices when they do change forms.

      This works just fine; since I was making them a playable species, minds of their own were taken as normal – and they could “make up” their own pony appearances and voices if they wanted to anyway.

      Thorax seems to have a very hard time controlling the impulse to hiss and snarl when overly hungry, startled, frightened, nervous, or stressed (such as when a bunch of powerful ponies and guards are glaring at him). That didn’t seem to be a problem for the changeling troops in their first appearance though – so it might be unique to him, or perhaps having Chrysalis around helped them handle it. If it simply goes with being hungry… I’d expect that it’s specific to Thorax; otherwise it seems kind of maladaptive at best. I think I’d make it a personal disadvantage, rather than a racial one.

      Thorax can feed on “Friendship”, as well as “Love”. Given that those do seem to be closely related, that was a feature of the original build anyway. I made feeding on Friendship a bit less efficient than feeding on Love, but then Thorax is not attempting to bring a harvest back to the hive – so he doesn’t need to go for maximum efficiency anyway. Even “Friendly Feeding” will still result in short-term low-level curses given the writeup though – but if a Changeling is being friendly, handing out “-6 penalty on saves versus sleep spells”, or “unable to knit” or some such will likely never be noticed.

      According to Thorax’s “flashback” to infancy (I’ll call it a constructed memory based on later observations and tales, given that the authenticity of just-after-birth memories is open to doubt) Changelings have nursery hives, are born from very small eggs, and are apparently directly taken care of by Queen Chrysalis (I’d guess there would be various nursemaids too, but that those were unimportant enough to be left out).

      None of this changes anything about the build; we still don’t know if Queen Chrysalis lays all the eggs or if the parents just bring them to the nursery – although them starting very small might make it more possible for Chrysalis to lay them all.

      We’re told that Chrysalis used a “spell” to control Shining Armor and the Bridesmaids, rather than it being a side effect of draining them. I kind of thought that to begin with – the eye-color change seemed to imply changeling energies being put into them, rather than their own being drained – and she seemed to be limited in how many ponies she could control anyway. That’s why Chrysalis’s list of Psionic Powers included Charm and Dominate. Even presuming that Thorax is right (he might not be), this still fits.

      Thorax – as a friendly Changeling – didn’t get along very well in changeling society and left. This is, at least, a strike against the high-end “hive mind” and “mindless drone” speculations. Of course, I saw no evidence for those speculations in the first place and didn’t include them.

      Thorax seems to be vulnerable to overloading on love just from being in the presence of too much of it. For a stealth-based race that feeds on love this seems astonishingly maladaptive – to the point where it should have exposed the Changelings regularly.

      Wait… Thorax is apparently capable of appreciating and returning friendship. He understands it and it makes him happy… But Changelings EAT friendship and love – and living creatures do not normally expel their food. Worse, too much empathy with your food source makes for a bad parasite. And Thorax was starving, despite his hanging around near the love-filled Crystal Empire.

      OK. It looks to me like Thorax cannot properly absorb and process love. Only a portion of what he’s exposed to is correctly metabolized, leaving the rest to be experienced and returned to those around him. Trying to take in too much love at a time will overload him and disrupt his love-based Changeling magic – among other things, forcing him to return to his true form.

      This also accounts for his difficulties in Changeling society; they will see him as being a disgustingly wasteful and sloppy, eater – and HE will see them as cold, distant, and never returning any of the love and friendship he offers. It’s no wonder that he left the hive – although it’s entirely possible that none of the other Changelings cared.

      Thorax can disguise himself as a rock. That may be a talent beyond the norm though (I can certainly see why a social outcast might want to learn it). After all, if every Changeling can disguise itself as inanimate objects, or even as just various types and shapes of rock, and they can feed on nearby love… why isn’t every statue, beloved historical monument, or landmark at the local lover’s lane, one or more changelings in disguise?

      This one is probably best left as a special talent. As a named character, Thorax is presumably at least level one – and thereby could readily afford to add something like the level two “Tree Shape” spell to his list of abilities.

      Thorax’s notion of Changelings living on their own love for each other is pure speculation of course – and given that it’s an obvious perpetual-motion scheme, I suspect that the proposal merely tells us that Thorax has no idea of how his abilities work. Of course, we know that Chyrsalis has no real idea of how HER powers operate, so why should Thorax?

      I must agree with your conclusion. Overall… this episode didn’t really tell us all that much more than we already knew or suspected. it does mostly fit in pretty well with my existing racial writeup though, which is always nice.

  6. So, given the events of the sixth season finale – to say nothing of all the addendums here in the comments – I’d like to request a new article on the changelings with all of the updated information (even if what happened at the very end of said finale still leaves a lot of questions open).

    (On an utterly unrelated note, I rolled my eyes when the finale canonized the idea that Discord is a “draconequus.” As a unique, singular entity, the idea of him having a name for “what” he is strikes me as misplaced. “Discord” is both who and what he is.)

    • I haven’t actually seen it, but I shall have to take a look so as to have something to base things on.

    • Well, now that I’ve had a chance to look at the episodes in question, they do show a few things about changelings.

      1) Many changeling drones are lousy actors. Now that people know about them… how do they expect to fool anyone for very long?

      2) Uh-oh! The Changelings have gotten a hold of the “unexplained method of taking out a lot of powerful people with no disturbances” plot device and used it off-screen, thus ensuring that nothing went wrong with it’s use!… Wait, if Luna’s power wasn’t suppressed how did the Changelings grab her? And if it WAS, how did she get a dream-message out at all?

      4) The changelings have magical communications devices. That is actually fairly important; the show hasn’t shown a lot of mid-range magical items. Most of them are either mighty plot devices or trivia. It doesn’t tell us anything about Changeling abilities though, since we don’t know where they came from.

      5) Changelings aren’t all that perceptive. They also don’t seem to have a lot of magic; no alarm-spells, no search-spells, no nothing except for opening and closing doors with basic telekinesis. Still, most Unicorns don’t have a lot of magic beyond the basics either.

      6) Thorax’s wings now look funny. Of course, Changeling. Still… has his magic changed color? Evidently he’s undergoing some sort of basic change, but there’s little clue as to what.

      7) Another plot device power! It negates even Discord’s magic because it’s an antimagical rock! Wait… WHY does it still allow Changeling magic? How is the day-night cycle still going without Celestia and Lunas magic? Why wasn’t this stuff used to make safe zones when Discord was ruling Equestria? Why didn’t they bring some along to make it easier to conquer Canterlot? Where did it come from? Is there more? Doesn’t this blow open big enough plot holes to sink a lot of prior episodes? Yes, yes, it does. No, we won’t get any explanations because reasons. It’s almost as if some writers tried to come up with a quick way to sideline all the major characters for some reason…

      Still, if Chrysalis can tap into the power that the throne absorbed, it would let her do some pretty impressive things.

      8) Changeling Hives shift at random? Thus opening random holes in the defenses? When they contain enough unused space to conceal an actual STEALTHY intruder indefinitely? WONDERFUL idea. What’s powering and directing it anyway?

      9) Yep, the Changelings continue to be idiots even if they CAN look like Discord. Discord is silly and easily distracted, but at least he’s not an IDIOT. He knows that there’s no reason why Fluttershy would be out in the tunnels instead of in a STANDARD CHANGELING CAPTURE POD (which is where, of course, she actually turns out to be).

      10) Changelings – or at least Chrysalis – evidently really can stick to walls. They can even twist their necks around disturbingly. Of course, shapeshifters.

      11) Chrysalis is still an idiot. Her “plan” includes no way to keep the country she wants to exploit running.

      12) So all it took to fix the Changelings hunger, destroy Chyrsalis’s uber-powerful throne, overthrow and replace her, and transform the entire changeling race… was for a single changeling to try sharing love freely. Are the writers SERIOUSLY saying that, in a world full of friendly ponies, helpful sea serpents, and more… no Changeling has ever even TRIED this? Why not? Is what is special about Chrysalis and Thorax simply that they are not brain dead?

      And Chrysalis has no idea of what will happen or what to do. So she has NEVER encountered a Changeling who made friends before? And yet the Changelings have enough emotional independence and normal feelings that a single speech manages to turn them all against her while in her presence?

      12) Oh yes. The Changelings change forms again. Uhm… brightly-colored insectoids are often quite poisonous… Still, that’s reality creeping in.

      13) Wait… what about all the Changelings who aren’t present at the big confrontation? Wouldn’t there be a lot scattered across Equestria? At the very least, all the ones replacing the kidnapped characters? Is there any reason that they might have changed?

      14) Just why did Thorax suddenly become leader? If it was a “He defeated Chrysalis” thing why didn’t they swap loyalties to Cadence long ago? Maybe it has to do with freely sharing love? (And yes, that still sounds like perpetual motion to me. Still, since we’re given no details at all, maybe it isn’t).

      15) So the Changelings have changed! They now probably have individual magical aura colors – but we have no other details at all. Can they still shapechange? Do they still need love from outside sources? Are their (rather speculative) original powers now totally different?

      I haven’t got a clue. For all I know they now have stingers full of happiness and love that they inject into depressed orphaned children before taking them to Never-Neverland.

      I’m sorry – but I’m going to have to pass on this one until the show tells us something about the actual abilities of these new “changelings”. I can do a lot of extrapolating, but I need SOMETHING to go on – and all I have at the moment is that they probably don’t feel so hungry and look different. It’s just not enough.

      • 1) Maybe they didn’t need to fool anyone for very long… I mean, “Charm Pony” is probably a spell they could easily employ and it fits with your speculations too (in form of the 6 CP Enthusiast).
        2) Was it ever established that Luna physically walked into dreams? If not, maybe they grabbed her sleeping body?… I dunno, ponies are rarely consistent.
        3) … Doesn’t exist .-.
        7) Another plot device power! It negates even Discord’s magic because it’s an antimagical rock! Wait… WHY does it still allow Changeling magic? How is the day-night cycle still going without Celestia and Lunas magic? Why wasn’t this stuff used to make safe zones when Discord was ruling Equestria? Why didn’t they bring some along to make it easier to conquer Canterlot? Where did it come from? Is there more? Doesn’t this blow open big enough plot holes to sink a lot of prior episodes? Yes, yes, it does. No, we won’t get any explanations because reasons. It’s almost as if some writers tried to come up with a quick way to sideline all the major characters for some reason…
        Still, if Chrysalis can tap into the power that the throne absorbed, it would let her do some pretty impressive things.
        8) I think Cityscape even has a spell like that.
        9) If Changelings were smart, Twilight would’ve been dead since season 2. I think this is another writer vs. consistency conflict.
        10) Uhm… I guess if we go with your speculation, Spider Climb could work…
        11) Does Equestria even NEED someone running it? Or at least someone competent running it? I’d actually say that everyone who’s a royal could easily fill in… Blueblood included.
        12) Why are there two 12s? .-.
        13) On a more positive note, they and Chrysalis are the only Changelings that look less weird than Discord now :3
        14) Maybe they just stick to their own kind? On note of the perpetual motion thing… Well, it IS in your speculations too: Bestow Curse has many effects, so one could select a less dramatic one and siphon love points from other Changelings (or oneself) without actually reducing the love points of the victim. One could say you predicted this with a flash of insight^^
        In D&D terms, this wouldn’t be more perpetual motion than regaining spells, infinitely charged items, sacrificial rules or other things. Sure, you get something you really want… But you pay for it in time, investment or blood… Or in this case, suffer a curse over a short period of time.

      • I forgot to edit 7)
        It also contains a question: While we could just call it a plot power, I’d like to know how something like that would be built, and my first instinct was to make it a Ward Major. Could the Changelings have made it an Otherworldly-Ward? Effectively, it would just cut off the Mana-Flow/Pony-Magic-Flow while leaving the changelings, who draw on a different energy source, unaffected?

      • 1) They could use Charm Person (it’s on the “probable” list for their individual innate enchantment anyway – but for the vast majority of them it will only last for an hour. Worse, the save DC is low and it costs them love points to keep their abilities active. With careful organization and much frantic racing from pony to pony it could help them maintain control for a bit, but it doesn’t really seem like a viable long-term strategy.

        2) Yes. The Tantabus Episode (“Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep”) even showed a chase sequence going in and out of reality through various dreams.

        3) Yep. Got moved down the list in editing – which is why there is a second “12” – and I forgot to fix the earlier numbers.

        7) A Ward Major is certainly the easiest repeatable way (and would at least explain why it’s immobile and has a specific focus. After all, if it was just the rock… why should breaking it up matter?). A major ritual could cover it too, since a major ritual that happens offscreen can be used to cover pretty much anything. Anyone with access to Battle Magic, a major power source (Dominion as Ruler of the Changelings?), and a selective antimagical effect could cast something similar (it wouldn’t work on the Discord-Is-A-God build though). Create Artifact could do it too (After all, Artifacts are pretty much the solid-state versions of Rituals and can be blamed for anything at all).

        I’d still say that allowing it makes an even bigger hash out of Equestrian history and its magic system than it’s already in, but it’s not like I write for the show, so that won’t matter much to anyone else.

        8) Quite possible. After all, this is the game that includes Defenestrating Sphere, Spider Hand, and Silverbeard. I still suspect that – under the circumstances – actually casting the thing would be a bad idea.

        9) I suspect that they’re as much against killing as ponies are. After all, when you feed on love, killing friendly, loving, people is a dreadful waste.

        10) Well, they did show them walking around on the walls. Of course, the Goo Mastery effect already allows that since it was implied earlier than this – so this is just confirmation.

        11) Hard to say – but given that Princess Celestia had to deal with parasprites outside of Ponyville, how easily ponies seem to panic, and the need for a central focus to keep ponies from just running off or seceeding,.. I’d say that they probably do need a reasonably competent ruler.

        12) Because #3 got edited down the list. See #3,

        13) To answer with a quote…

        From My Little Economy (In the Comments)

        “Thorax?”

        “Yes, Your Majesty?”

        “Remember when I came up with this genius plan where you would befriend everypony in the Crystal Empire and we would put on this clever show about how giving love can turn all the changelings good, and how it would ensure all of the changelings would have enough love to consume forever?”

        “You came up with–? Oh! Yes. Your plan. Most certainly your plan. Yes, I remember.”

        “Remember when I asked about what shapes and colors these ‘good’ changelings would change into in order to fool the ponies?”

        “Yes, Your Majesty. You said I was to just deal with the problem and get out of your room before you had me eviscerated.”

        “Right. Now that it’s all over, I just have one question. Are you color-blind?”

        “Since hatching, Your Majesty.”

        “I thought so.”

        14) Oh well. That’s why #14 is a list of questions… we just aren’t given enough information to say much. As for perpetual motion… well, regaining spells, permanent items, and sacrafices are (at least in theory) rather like hydroelectric dams. They all draw power from other (in d20 usually extradimensional) sources (which may or may not be finite). In terms of my thermodynamics courses… not at ALL the same thing as “perpetual motion”.

        For Changelings – presuming they really feel love and friendship in the first place to fulfill the curse requirements (and that looking in a mirror and cursing themselves won’t work) we could just assume that love and friendship is an external and nigh-infinite power source in Equestria – but that really just loops us back to “If changelings don’t actually need to drain others and get no actual benefits from doing so… why have they been doing it up until now?”

        And that kind of inconsistency and lack-of-a-reason is what really annoys me. Those are two of my pet peeves!

      • 1) The Love Point cost doesn’t seem too high for the gain: In theory, you could just pay a single Love Point to keep the Charm Pony up for 5 Minutes and Charm effects make you feel friendship towards someone. It seems to me like they could use the Charm effect and then cast their 5 Bestow Curse SLAs in short order. It even comes with the benefit that one of the options for Bestow Curse introduced in BoVD would be to make all Changelings invisible to the cursed for the duration of the curse. Even if we say the Charm effect fails the first three times (a DC 11 effect), they’d exchange 4 Love Points for 15d4 Love Points, which is a favorable deal. Unless of course charm person cannot be dispelled, which would make it a cost of about 16 Love Points… but even so, that’s still not horribly bad if they can get 15d4 out of it.
        2) Huh, so it does… I actually didn’t know that. I could’ve sworn she stayed in bad… Maybe I’e just seen too many fan animations…
        9) Is that really a good idea though? The amount of ponies that could be dangerous to them is rather small, so if they kill them, they loose out on some Love, but still gain a lot of reserves. On the other hand, by letting them live, they risk loosing everything over a relatively small amount of Love. It feels like the risk of keeping them alive (no food at all) far exceeds the benefits of not doing so (a bit more food).
        11) I fail to see how they needed a competent ruler for that. Anyone with enough firepower should be able to do the job. Or Pinkie Pie. I could see them needing an idol or a figure of authority (if they can be scared enough to run away, you can scare them into obedience too), but a competent one? Someone who looks competent should be more than enough to do the job.
        14) Changelings do gain a benefit from doing so though: They do not suffer their own curses. While some curses are relatively harmless (sterility for a few days, for instance) others can be incredibly devastating (hatred from the next person you meet can be horrible if said next person is a powerful individual).
        A penality to Charisma or Constitution or ability-score penalities in general are a pain to work with too.

  7. […] get even more specific, it’s Changelings… Well, more or less. You see, in the setting I’m working on (which is pony-related), […]

  8. […] but it’s not like it needs to; both theories are pure speculation. Still, speculation is what the Changeling and Dragon articles were all […]

  9. […] Changelings (Speculative): Their Build and Society, Chyrsalis’s Plans, What is Love, Farming Ponies, Goo Splat and Mastery, Kinetic Aura, and Feeding on Love. Commentary: Chrysalis the Conqueror (Alternate Future), Thorax the Changeling King, Perpetual Motion Love, Antimagic Thrones, and lots and LOTS of plotholes. […]

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