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The Purifiers

September 05, 2015

demoIn the Millennium of Purification, a group of Elves and Dwarves join forces to purge the world of the dark magicks they themselves once helped unleash. Is there a chance to make up for their sins of the past and restore order to the world? Find out in the serial fan fic: The Purifiers.

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May 05, 2015

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September 05, 2015

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Changeling Culture

Unfortunately, due to the great persecution of their race throughout the ages, Changelings have never been able to create a true culture of their own. This is true with the possible exception of the Prestida Kings (see Island on the Edge of the World for more details on the Prestida Kings). Despite this fact there are certain traits and notes that are common among most Changelings. These similarities are not so much of a culture as they are a method of survival. Every Changeling is taught from a young age that if they are not very careful then a new Changeling Inquisition may begin.


Children and Aging

Due to their unique nature Changeling are neither male nor female, while at the same time being both. Though this may sound like a contradiction to other races that are born a certain gender, for a Changeling it is simply life. They are able to change between male and female forms at will. This plays a part in Changeling reproduction. Since they are not limited to only one gender they can choose whether to impregnate or become pregnant.

When a Changeling is with child it soon becomes impossible to hide during the nine month pregnancy. This is because the still unborn child is not yet capable of shape changing. Early in term it is possible the pregnancy will not show or that it can simply be explained as gaining some weight, but during later terms there is little that can be done to hide it. For this reason the Changeling carrying the child will usually remain in female form until the end of pregnancy. It is said that for many giving birth is a life changing experience and that after giving birth the Changeling has decided to remain in the form of a woman, despite the ability to switch back and forth.

Until the age of three a Changeling is not able to consciously control their shape. As early as the age of one a Changeling develops the reflex to mimic the race the parents are impersonating. There is almost always (90% chance) some minor flaw in the reflexive mimic that can identify the baby as not of the same race. Another danger with this instinctive mimic is that the child may randomly mimic another they meet making it clear to all its true nature. For this reason Changeling children are usually kept out of sight, usually behind closed doors, until the child can control the shape change and do so accurately. This can be hidden behind family tradition, much as the Prestida Kings once did.

After birth Changelings tend to age at a slow rate, about half that of humans. This means at the age of ten the Changeling will only appear to be five, and at the age of thirty only look fifteen. Once reaching the age of thirty their aging slows to a mere fifth of human aging. Only their true form ages at this rate. As a shape changer they are able to adjust their age to appear to be whatever they wish. Size restrictions still apply, so a five year old Changeling is not going to be able to impersonate an adult Elf for example. But it is possible to appear a few years older, adjusting a few features and some height.

While aging, it is important for a Changeling to try and adjust in appearance appropriate to the age of the race being imitated. For this reason most Changelings move around every few years. Otherwise it would eventually become apparent that a Changeling isn't a human after living over 200 years, or an Elf for dying so young. Dwarves have a very similar lifespan to those of a Changeling making them a popular race to mimic when settling down for a long time. Despite this fact Elves are among their preferred races to impersonate. This is because Elves are the only race they consider close to an ally.


Changeling Biology

An interesting note about Changeling biology is that they actually have no bones! Instead their entire skeletal structure is composed of cartilage, similar to that of a shark and a few other types of fish. Though not as tough as bone it is lighter and more flexible. Some speculate that it is this added flexibility that allows a Changeling to alter their size and shape so easily and that, given the time and research, all of their abilities can be explained with science instead of magic.

Like most other races a Changeling's teeth are not actually bones but tissues of varying density and hardness, including dentine and enamel. A Changeling body stores up extra of these materials so that the size and number of teeth can grow, shrink, and change shape along with the rest of the body. While a Changeling can mimic the teeth of a Wolfen and other races they cannot mimic the jaw muscles and support to the same biting power for increased damage. This also allows a Changeling to re-grow teeth that have been lost. When a Changeling dies these excess deposits carry through the body and typically bond to the cartilage skeleton causing it to harden and leave skeletal remains the same as any other race.

Even though Changelings can choose between impregnating and becoming pregnant, it plays little part on whether they decide to be in the form of a male or female. Changelings possess the internal biology for both regardless of their outside appearance. With the ability to switch between male and female as well as the choice to be mother or father Changelings are classified as asexual. Some mistakenly believe that this means a Changeling can reproduce without the need of a mate. This is not true and it does still take two Changelings, a mother and a father, to have a child.

Due to their unique biology Changelings do not have active fertile cycles. Instead, a Changeling actually makes a conscious decision to begin a fertile cycle that lasts for two days, but repeats the cycle every fifteen days. It is important to keep in mind that simply because a Changeling can choose their fertile cycles does not mean that pregnancy is guaranteed. When a Changeling becomes pregnant the term of pregnancy will last for nine months, but because of their weaker constitution it takes six months to fully recover and be able to start another fertile cycle.


Shape Changing Ability

Changelings have the uncanny ability to change their physical appearance to mimic another person. It is so impressive that they can look like a person's living twin (see Palladium Fantasy RPG main book for full details). Usually though, a Changeling will avoid trying to mimic a specific person because there is always the chance of running into someone that recognizes the person. Either through a small detail of appearance or lack of proper information this can lead to their true nature being uncovered. As a result a unique face is typically preferred when dealing with other races. While impressive when copying another when not attempting to mimic someone in particular there are limits to their shape changing ability.

The exact reason is unknown but Changelings are far less flexible when altering their appearance in a unique manner. They can only increase or decrease their physical beauty (P.B. attribute) by 5% per level of experience. Additionally, they are only able to create one birthmark, scar, or tattoo per level of experience. Luckily for Changelings these restrictions only apply when creating a truly unique face. Their shape changing abilities are not hindered by these rules when copying a specific individual.

When attempting to mimic a specific person the Changeling must successfully roll on the disguise skill. If successful the Changeling is an exact match. However if a failed roll the Changeling missed some feature, whether it is missing a birthmark, the wrong skin tone, the age is off, a scar on the wrong side of the face, or many other possibilities. These discrepancies can alert others to the imposter. Depending on the discrepancy it may still be overlooked by many who only have limited interaction with the person. Close friends, trusted comrades, and family have the highest chance of noticing.

Each future shape change requires another successful disguise roll. With the help from another paying close attention and noting these discrepancies the Changeling can adjust and fix them to become a perfect match. Once these discrepancies are fixed the Changeling receives a +10% bonus to mimic the same person again in the future. The highest percentage a Changeling can have is 98% because even the most skilled Changeling is capable of making a mistake.

Most Changelings have a second form, aside from their true form, that is so second nature that it can be taken anytime with no need for a skill check. This second form has been taken many times in the past and is likely the form they grew up using to hide their true nature. Having used it for so many years it is automatic and as natural as their true form. Even practicing for hours, days, weeks, or even months cannot equal the experience from using it everyday for years.

Shape changing requires a conscious effort. To fully change their shape requires one full melee round (15 seconds) to complete the transformation. More minor changes, such as adding a mole, altering a nose, or adjusting skin pigmentation can be done in a single melee action (one action per feature altered). While it requires concentration to alter their shape the form can be held indefinitely. Neither sleep nor being knocked unconscious will cause the Changeling to switch to another form. Death on the other hand will cause Changelings to revert to their true form. Anyone witnessing it will have the truth revealed before their very eyes.


Behavior and Attitudes

While Changelings do not have a very developed culture, rarely even knowing where there is one other Changeling that is not family, there are certain reoccurring trends in their behavior. For example, in an area free of persecution, Changelings will change their appearance as readily as humans change their clothes. This is simply in their nature as much as it's in the nature of a bird to fly. Given the chance most will explore new forms and experiment with the limits of their powers simply because it is natural to them, and many find it invigorating.

Similarly their path through life often has many of the same experiences. All Changelings crave companionship and culture, but with little of their own available they turn to the other races. They are usually quite willing to be a productive member of a community as long as it means they are around other people, even if they must do so in disguise. This is a common trait among most sentient beings. Humans, Elves, Trolls, Orcs, and all other races form cultures and communities with others of their kind. While it is true convenience and survival play a part, the truth is all races hunger for companionship and Changelings are no different.

The young are the most inclined to explore and take chances. They want to see new people, new places, to see the world. Many will change locations as readily as they will their appearance. It is common for them to feel that things will somehow be different for them, that the world has somehow changed and that they will find a place or group that accepts them. Things rarely change that easily and few ever realize their hopes and dreams, but that does not stop each new generation from doing the same. It is the common idealism of youth to see things as they should be, not as they truly are.

Almost every Changeling will think about telling at least one person they know and call friend the truth. Their true nature is a heavy burden to keep secret, one that they desperately wish to share. Few rarely tell another soul though. Either out of cowardice or through testing the waters with questions, more often than not the result is that a Changeling will never be accepted. The luckiest may find a place or group that doesn't judge them by their race, but for the rest the most they can hope for is that their dreams are silently crushed.

For those that are not so lucky death may be the best result. At least then the pain and suffering comes to an end. The alternative leaves deep, jagged wounds that never heal, the worst of which scar the soul and not the body. Carrying around such pain is a difficult task and often leads to bitterness and resentment. It is these Changelings that most often become the terror that others fear and hate so much. While it is true that some are simply born evil, more often than not it is some incident in their past that has made them that way.

As the young Changelings grow older, after years of facing hatred and persecution, it becomes more common to simply want to settle down in peace. A quiet, unnoticed life in some small community keeping the same form day after day is preferable to a life dealing with constant bigotry. Some even go so far as to build homes in the woods or on some mountain where they can be alone, to live and die in solitude. This is the sad fate that awaits most Changelings.


Scarring and Tattoos

The shape shifting ability of the Changeling is able to give the appearance of almost any feature, including mimicking a scar. However, if the Changeling has a scar the scar will remain no matter what form the Changeling takes. This can make it very difficult to mimic a specific person, and a truly distinguishing scar can make it difficult to take new forms without still being recognized. Fortunately for Changelings they do not scar easily. Their healing is more advanced than those of other races. While they heal at the same rate the actual healing process is able to continue healing to eliminate most scars. It is not impossible to scar a Changeling, just far more difficult. Only truly deep wounds are likely to leave a scar.

The ability to heal minor scarring also prohibits them from getting standard tattoos. A tattoo will only last so long before the Changeling will actually heal it and it needs to be redone. In order to have a lasting tattoo a Changeling must go through a special process using special inks, different tools, and is more painful. Most of the tools and ingredients for the inks are the same as those required for Glow Tattoos (see below for more details on Glow Tattoos). For this reason a Changeling that is determined to have a tattoo will simply get a Glow Tattoo. This helps to avoid raising suspicion for the specialized procedure and keep the identity of the Changeling a secret. Due to their naturally weak constitution it can prove even more dangerous and deadly (risks are the same, but lower P.E. decreases the likelihood of bonuses).

As with scars a Changeling can mimic a tattoo, but cannot shape change a tattoo they possess. This means a real tattoo possessed by a Changeling will remain in any form it takes. Most Changelings will avoid getting tattoos for this very reason. It limits their options and potential leaving them more vulnerable to be discovered in the future. There are some exceptions that cause Changelings to seek tattoos regardless of the penalties, but these are the exception and not the rule.

Magical tattoos, such as Danzi Spirit Tattoos, are also able to scar a Changeling with no or very little difficulty. The benefits of a magical tattoo will prompt some Changelings to seek one. There are also some organizations that require a tattoo. This is the case with some guilds. It is possible the Changeling can mimic the necessary tattoo and not get it for real, but this usually will not be taken well by the guild if the truth is discovered. Another reason is that some young Changelings seek to defy their parents and heritage by permanently scarring their bodies in rebellion. Later in age these Changeling can come to regret the foolishness of their youth.


Changeling Awareness and Secrets

Changelings have the uncanny ability to sense when another Changeling is in the area. Exactly how this ability works is not clear, not even to Changelings. It is simply a knowledge that all Changelings seem to possess naturally. The Changeling cannot actually see the other, and in a crowded room it can be hard to discern which person is the other Changeling. Unless there is something unusual about the current shape they will need to find another way to figure out the identity of the other. If both parties wish to meet it is common to look for another person moving off to be somewhere secluded.

When a Changeling touches another there is a magical tingling sensation that lets them know each other. This can be felt with a kiss or even a handshake is enough to trigger this feeling, but this feeling must be through the touch of flesh. Wearing gloves or touching a shirt will block the feeling. The feeling itself is pleasant, but not intoxicating or addicting. A Changeling that wishes to remain anonymous will usually be careful of making direct contact with others for this reason, especially when another Changeling is present. By avoiding it all together makes it easier to explain than a change in behavior when another is present.

None of the other races know about this innate ability. It was suspected during the Changeling Inquisitions that they had some way of noticing each other but it was never proven. Despite the countless days of torture no Changeling ever revealed the truth. It was, and still is to this day, a fear that should anyone find out about this ability, an alchemist, or other, may be able to study a Changeling, living or dead, and find a way to duplicate the method. If that were to ever happen all Changelings could be put in jeopardy, especially with Changeling paranoia what it's been through history.

A Changeling will never reveal the true nature of another Changeling under any circumstances. It is an unwritten rule that the whole race follows, much the same way Dwarves have abandoned mystical study. The Changelings have been so persecuted throughout the ages that they have had no one to ever call a true ally other than each other. This is not a simple matter of being selfless and protecting other Changelings, but a matter of preservation for their entire race!

It is a well accepted fact among Changelings that those of only one form cannot be trusted and, if given enough time, will betray a Changeling. If Changelings ever start to betray each other they may truly end up extinct. No other race has faced the possibility of extinction as much as the Changeling race. As a result, no other race understands the importance of protecting each other as much as a Changeling. Not even Changelings know how many of them still remain, so each and every other Changeling is important to the survival of their people. It is felt that even a rival Changeling is better off alive than letting the entire race become extinct.

There are times when an individual Changeling will feel that a particular member of a different race can be trusted with the truth. This is always a serious decision and should never be taken lightly. It is never known how the individual will react once the shocking truth is discovered. In case of betrayal, as that is always a possibility, the only identity revealed is that of the Changeling doing the unveiling. This way, should the trusted friend prove untrustworthy, no others will be harmed due to the carelessness of a single individual.

It is a risky matter to trust another with the secret. No matter how much time passes, the secret of no other Changeling will ever be revealed because, if history has shown anything, betrayal does not always happen right away and can happen years later. Many Changelings, after revealing the truth, have kept a very close eye on their friend waiting for betrayal. This constant suspicion and mistrust of the Changeling has, sadly, led to the destruction of some of these friendships. With the end of the friendship has often come betrayal, ironically caused by the Changeling's fear of being betrayed.


Enemies of the World

Changelings are truly enemies of the world. Every other race views them with incredible suspicion, most of which will kill a Changeling on sight.  This is known as Changeling Paranoia, an insanity possessed by most of the world. However, Changeling Paranoia goes deeper than just that. While it's true that every race is paranoid of Changelings, the term also applies to how paranoid Changelings have become of the rest of the world. Even those who the Changeling would have once called friend are now watched carefully and trust is all too rare for all concerned.

Traditionally the closest to an ally were the Elves. If a Changeling intended to reveal its true identity, then it was an Elf that was the most likely candidate. This sentiment is still held true to some, but not nearly as common as it was in days long past. Today an Elf may accept a Changeling if it is proven to be good natured. They are also just as ready to turn on a Changeling at the first indication of betrayal or corruption, while others would have been given a chance or the benefit of the doubt.

Gnomes are actually one of the most accepting races of a Changeling, which is to say they are indifferent towards them. This is likely because feelings such as lasting hatred go so strongly against the nature of most Gnomes. Of course, another possibility is that Gnomes are too small for a Changeling to mimic. Without the fear of impersonation the Gnomes have the least to worry about and that can afford them the luxury to be understanding. If Gnomes were just a foot (0.3 m) taller it is possible they would be as paranoid as every other race.

The danzi (see Eastern Territories for more details on the danzi) are another race that can accept Changelings, but with a few stipulations. First, the Changeling must be open and honest with the danzi tribe. If the Changeling can be open and keep no secrets the danzi are understanding and can even sympathize with their plight. Unfortunately, this is something that is difficult for most Changelings. They have been hiding for so long they don't know how to be so trusting. The second stipulation is that a Changeling must never take the form of a danzi. While they may understand the Changeling's need for disguise among the other races, taking the shape of a danzi will not be tolerated.

Many of the monster races such as Ogres, Trolls, Orcs, Goblins, eandroth, and others will tolerate the Changeling and let them live among them, but typically only as long as the Changeling appears to be useful in some manner. Even then these races are careful and suspicious around them. There is no kinship or camaraderie merely because they are all hated by humans and their allies. At the first infraction, even a minor one, the shape changer is beaten, tortured, and usually killed. If lucky the Changeling may be let off with only a beating and banishment from the community, but this is rare. Many of these races will view it as a badge of honor to kill the mighty shape shifter, even if the Changeling is defenseless at the time.


The Inquisitions, Hysteria, and Extinction

Changeling hysteria has existed since the dawn to time. It has lead to countless campaigns of mass genocide in an attempt to wipe out the entire race. The worst of these campaigns was the Changeling Inquisitions over four thousand years ago which lasted for over two hundred years. These inquisitions spread across almost the entire Palladium World and were an event from which the Changeling race would never fully recover. It finally came to an end when the Changeling race was finally believed to be extinct, a belief most Changelings prefer to encourage.

Despite the grueling efforts taken the Changeling race managed to survive the two centuries of horror of the Inquisition. After it was over not even the Changelings knew how many of their kind survived and how close they may be to extinction. Before the Changeling Inquisitions they had a way of keeping in contact with other members of their race, but now they were cut off. Now afraid of the other races more than ever, and even of other Changelings, all the survivors could really do is try to move on and continue their survival.

Historically Changelings had places to gather and meet others of their kind. There were methods for passing messages to others in different regions. During the Inquisition though these places proved to be death traps! Once a single Changeling's true nature was discovered that individual's life was studied very thoroughly. Following recent patterns of behavior the Inquisitors would often find these places and, the moment a single Changeling was discovered in a place, every person in that place would be killed under suspicion of being a Changeling. There were no exceptions. This savage and ruthless behavior led to many Changeling deaths, but to the death of even more innocents. Any message systems discovered ended with similar results.

Perhaps even more horrifying than the acts of those of one form were the actions of other Changelings. Some Changelings actually joined the Inquisitors in the Changeling hunts to try and avoid suspicion. Though they never offered any relevant data to help find other Changelings, once a Changeling was found by other means these traitors to the race often had a hand in the death of a fellow Changeling. These atrocities would forever scar their race, giving them new mistrust of the world and even others of their race.

After the Changeling Inquisitions ended Changelings still had a tendency to avoid each other. All the horrors they had witnessed could not be easily forgotten or forgiven. The only knowledge they would have of each other is the occasional sensation felt in passing. It usually just remained at that, passing on a road and nothing more, not even a word to the other. There were times when two would meet for the purposes of mating, but afterward the two usually went their separate ways. This is the darkest and loneliest time in Changeling history. With their numbers thinned so greatly during the Inquisition and their ignoring of each other the Changeling race truly did come close to extinction.

For some Changelings extinction would not have been such a bad option. It is hard to bring a child into the world when there is no faith in the world. The concept of bringing a child into a world that would hate it simply for being born is baffling to them, and still is for some. Fortunately for the race time passed and so did the generations. While their fear of other races may still be a dominate trait, most have learned to once again trust other Changelings forming small families or gatherings. There are some though who will never let go of the past and wish to keep their identities secret, even from their kind.

A common fear of all Changelings is that one of them will be discovered and a new campaign will begin. The most recent of these campaigns took place 212 years ago in the Great Northern Wilderness. There was a Changeling discovered hiding among the Algor Range Huntsmen Wolfen tribe sending all thirteen tribes into the last recorded Changeling hunt. Luckily for Changelings this hunt was restricted solely to the Great Northern Wilderness and did not catch the attention of the rest of the world. If it had there is no telling how far it may have gone.

To help prevent future campaigns against their race Changelings will go through great lengths to cover the tracks of another. After all, if even one Changeling is discovered the repercussions could be horrific. The greatest threat comes from death, when the body reverts back to the true Changeling form instinctively. Even the corpse of a Changeling can be enough to start a panic. As long as the world continues to believe that Changelings are extinct there will be no need for a new campaign of death and destruction against them.

Typically before death a Changeling will try to wander off into the middle of nowhere so that the body will not be discovered. This is most common when Changelings are coming near the end of their natural life span. Even if mortally wounded, a Changeling will usually try to survive long enough to escape out of the view of those with one form. The most preferable method is to have family or friends that will take care of the matter, but this can be difficult with Changeling paranoia what it is today. Changeling families and gatherings can be beneficial for this reason, not only because of companionship but to conceal each other's identities as well.