Changeling

Depending on who you ask, changelings are either people with the poor luck to be mutated into something inhuman, or creatures whose human disguises failed during childhood. They bear the dual stigma of bestial attributes and sterility — no changeling can bear or sire children. Changelings are widely considered ill-luck and inferior; many are cast out from their birth families to make their own way in the city. Some families seem to have greater propensity to throw changelings than others, but changeling prevalence also seems to depend on where in the city you live. Why changelings occur is a mystery; a multitude of theories abound.

Description

Changelings are born to normal human parents, and themselves start life with an eminently normal human appearance. Like the rest of the city's population, they tend to be of Caucasian form and coloring; other racial types occur in the changeling population at about the same frequency, which is to say, "uncommon". Changelings who are pitched out to fend for themselves at a young age and survive tend to average a bit smaller and slighter than humans, as they are generally less likely to get enough food while growing up.

Attributes

Changelings are inhuman, but they are not superhuman. In essence, they have characteristics which otherwise belong to animals: examples include sharp teeth, claws, fur, hearing like a bat, the strength of a gorilla. Traits have a tendency to come in complementary packages, more so than is expected by chance; for example, changelings with gills are likely to also have smooth, stiff skin and webbed digits, the better for swimming with. These inhuman attributes seem to arise as a consequence of changeling fever — or the fever is a side effect of their emergence. There is a definite relationship between how early the transition happens and how pervasive a changeling's inhuman attributes can be.

Age Max scope Description Examples
0-3 significant Changes are pervasive across an entire organ system and/or introduce major components with no analogue in primate physiology. gills, increased strength, modified digestion, magnetic navigation
4-7 moderate Affects one sense or organ in a moderate way. May introduce minor components with no analogue in primate physiology. enhanced sense, venom glands, scales
8-12 superficial Changes are few and mostly cosmetic, requiring little to no modification of bone structure or other internals. claws, webbed digits, modified pigmentation, fur

Players should take no more than three distinct inhuman attributes for a changeling character; if your character must have more, you'll need to get staff approval in advance. All attributes should have some kind of logical relationship to one another, and must be within the scope of natural vertebrate physiology. Attributes are subject to normal rules of physics and biology; note any side effects or drawbacks which might come with your changeling's special features.

Note that it is not required to take attributes from the maximum scope possible, or to take all three; e.g. a character can change at 9 months of age and have no more than a coat of fur.

Changeling Fever

In terms of symptoms, changeling fevers are very like influenza; in fact, they are frequently mistaken for the common flu at early stages. Conversely, more mundane cases of (admittedly severe) flu can be mistaken for changeling fever, with sometimes serious consequences. However, there is a definite test for changeling identity: if the Ark permits a person entry, that person is human.

There is no known preventative for changeling fever, though many in the city swear by one treatment or another to protect infants and young children. Whether any are truly effective is anyone's guess (or belief).

Days Symptoms
1-2 Mild fever, coughing, dizzy spells and occasional queasiness.
3-4 Fever increasing, loss of appetite; alternate cold and hot spells, often with aches and general malaise that ramp up in tandem with the fever.
5-7 Fever peaks and holds dangerously high; patient is delirious when awake, may be unconscious for the entire period. Those who die of the fever do so during this stage. Inhuman attributes become apparent, if of a visible nature.
8-12 Fever recedes and coherence returns. Appetite and strength return gradually; recovery may be complete anywhere between days 9 and 12.
Age Mortality Rate
0-2 60%
3-5 45%
6-8 20%
9-12 5%

Changeling fever is the single most lethal disease known to the city; scholars who study these things say it kills more children than even the summer water plagues. In all, about one-third of children who develop changeling fever die, but the odds of survival depend greatly upon age. It's uncertain how much the mortality rate owes to the relative fragility of younger children, and how much to the inverse relationship between age and severity of change.

Prevalence

Although changeling fevers occur throughout the city, they are more or less common in different regions. Generally, areas bordering the verge and/or with more suburban environments tend to have more changechildren. Deep urban areas, such as the Meridian Core, have very low incidences. Check a location's page for its fever incidence.

No case of changeling fever has ever been documented inside the Ark, although some Ark-born children have been brought outside and subsequently denied re-entry. Whether such children are contaminated by the outside world, or have some intrinsic corruption awakened by exposure, is a subject of active debate.

Social Status

See also: packs, society

Changelings are the lower class denizens of the city — distinctly lesser than true humans, both in human eyes and in their own. Being sterile, a changeling cannot perpetuate their bloodline nor create associations by marriage. Most families consider them a drain on resources — at best a break-even proposition in terms of resource expenditure, and often a losing one. This leads to many changechildren being put down or cast out young, and others frequently leaving "home" to try and make a better fortune for themselves.

Life free in the city is in some respects better, and in others worse. Adolescents in particular frequently find easy entree into packs, as they are young enough and eager enough to readily adopt a pack's ways and beliefs. The pack replaces family, providing acceptance and affirmation, social support and the means of survival. However, all packs come with rivals and enemies, and pack conflicts are more likely to erupt into violence than those of human families. Packs are also on average closer to the edge of survival than families; resources are rarely plentiful, and when they are, they are coveted by many.

Changelings are most often relegated to life in the outer city, areas which are generally suburban in nature and shared with wild predators and some ferals. The human families of the deep city frequently refuse to do business with changelings and their packs, or do so with great distaste — and at great cost to the changeling. Changelings also have no access to the Ark; that edifice's systems deny all changelings entry, and Ark-dwellers are even more scornful of changelings than streetsiders of any stripe. Changelings therefore have very few of the luxuries which come out of the deep city.

Character Creation

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Note: Advance approval from staff is required for any trait from a non-vertebrate source, and for changelings with more than three inhuman attributes.

Creating a changeling character follows the same process as a human: create your character sheet, post a request for review, and begin RP. Advance approval is not necessary for most changeling concepts (except as noted above).

Changeling characters are strongly advised to be members of a pack, or at the very least to have a "wardship" affiliation with one. Changelings may also be members of a family, if permitted by the family's principles; even if not members, they have birth and blood connections to one. Affiliation with preexisting groups is strongly encouraged; however, if none suit your particular needs, you may request a new one. To establish a new pack or family, follow the directions on the appropriate wiki page.

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