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Wild Shape Revised
Mike Mearls

A little over a week ago, we talked about the druid's Wild Shape ability in our regularly irregular podcast. Tomorrow, October 15th, we'll have an updated playtest packet available for download that includes some changes to that ability. This minor update to the packet will be the last. We wanted to make Wild Shape as simple as possible. Here's a breakdown of our new direction.

When your druid uses Wild Shape, you simply adopt the stat block of the creature you've chosen to transform into. You retain your own Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, but otherwise use your chosen animal's statistics.

That transformation extends to you using the animal's hit points. If damage reduces you to 0 hit points, your Wild Shape transformation ends. Any excess damage applies to your current hit point total. For example, a druid with 22 hit points transforms into a 5 hit point creature, then takes 10 damage. The animal form takes 5 damage, the druid transforms back to normal, and the remaining 5 damage reduces him to 17 hit points.

Magic items do not extend to your animal form. Magic and mundane gear is subsumed into that form, so you don't have to worry about dropping all your gear to the ground when you change. You do not gain any of the benefits of your items.

Your proficiencies do carry over, and you gain any proficiencies that the animal benefits from.

The animal forms available to a druid are meant to provide creative options for solving problems. You can transform into a bird, a fish, or some other small, mundane animal. The Circle of the Moon druid can take forms that are more ferocious and suitable for battle.

Overall, these changes are meant to simplify and streamline Wild Shape while creating a sense of flexibility for the druid. It's easy to simply switch to a new set of statistics while in animal form, rather than going through the steps of modifying one set of stats or the other. How Wild Shape handles hit points is perhaps the biggest change compared to earlier approaches.

So, there are the Wild Shape changes in a nutshell. This set of rules keeps things simple, emphasizes that forms such as a bird or fish are best used outside of a fight, and also makes the battle-focused forms powerful and durable in melee.

Mike Mearls
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He led the design for 5th Edition D&D. His other credits include the Castle Ravenloft board game, Monster Manual 3 for 4th Edition, and Player’s Handbook 2 for 3rd Edition.
This is a GREAT change! Simplifies the shapechange ability while making the druid more balanced compared to other classes.

The Druid could always do TOO MUCH. I personally would not be opposed to a class with some subsections. Perhaps a caster type, a shapechanger and then a summoner type. Have all 3 was always too strong!
Posted By: LostLegolas (10/18/2013 11:29:29 AM)


Rather liked the idea of the Druid keeping his or her hit points.
Posted By: Pyrate_Jib (10/18/2013 9:30:57 AM)


So in order to simply and streamline Wild shape you made it more complicated and set it up so that beast battlers will either be useless or getting huge HP buffs.

Wow... just wow...
Posted By: rampant (10/17/2013 6:23:32 PM)


What happened to the new character sheet that was in the packet? I downloaded the packet on my computer at home, and both versions of the character sheet (the old one that was included in the 9/20 packet and the new one that incoporporates the changes 10/14 packet) were there (but I had a bunch of trouble trying to open them - kept getting an error message about corrupted files). Now when I download the packet, the character sheets are not included. I'm guessing that they were removed in order to fix them. Can't you guys at least check to make sure everything works before you release the packet? Are we going to see an another "minor" update to include them?
Posted By: TheGimper (10/16/2013 1:36:55 PM)


Can anyone direct me to where this update is supposed to be posted? The playtest packet doesn't appear to be updated. Thanks for any help.
Posted By: Kormyr (10/16/2013 9:45:41 AM)


It's the regular link. I don't think they changed much at all in this one. - John
Posted By: Seanchai (10/16/2013 10:23:48 AM)


No changes to the Weaponmaster (some minor formatting differences throughout Classes), but Paladins now have access to an Oath of Vengeance (and the poor Ranger is the only class unable to apply a Spellcasting Bonus to saving throws versus h/h spells).
Posted By: RadperT (10/15/2013 8:28:54 PM)


Is it just me, or does Circle of the Moon seem too much like lycanthropy?
Posted By: Jhishma (10/15/2013 4:20:43 PM)


The first time i haved read "Circle of the Moon" I think: "Oh, great! A circle of werebeast druids!"
Maybe is better change this name and leave it for the time this idea come true.
Posted By: Eilistraecomeback (10/15/2013 4:53:10 PM)


What's up with the tiny animals' -2 attack bonuses? Except a cat is at -3!
Posted By: RadperT (10/15/2013 3:18:29 PM)


The changes sound great. Been playing the same druid since 1985 [my username], can't wait to convert him over.

People, these comments are so negative! It's supposed to be fun.
Posted By: SaintVarden (10/15/2013 7:54:53 AM)


I'm glad to see that the team is providing updates to the rules to try out, even if the formal public play test has come to an end. The extra hit points aren't a big issue for none combat animals, but how it plays at the table for combat animals might look very different.
Posted By: Prom (10/14/2013 5:21:01 PM)


I like it! Definitely an improvement over the current Next shapeshifting. It gives lots of flexibility without the confusion of which magic items shift over and whatnot.

As for the crunch aspect, whether or not the temp HP matters will have to wait until we get actual numbers. The gameplay of tracking those HP will be easy, just track them in a second pool like Temp HP.
Posted By: ritorix (10/14/2013 4:24:22 PM)


Most you can get outside of Circle of the Moon Druids is 10, which you trade off for 10 AC, and a less effective offensive chasis, and the inability to cast spells. Generally it'd just be better to stay as a humanoid druid, then.

For CotM druids, You'll slightly outclass a raging barbarian, but you'll also have lower AC, and lose the majority of your offense, when you lose your Beast form
Posted By: Avric_Tholomyes (10/16/2013 5:31:42 AM)


Seems fine to me, the shape gives you an advantage until it's gone (perhaps with disadvantages as well if the animals have worse defense etc.) I'm not sure why the hand-wringing over rules-lawyering interpretations. This isn't an MMO, if player x is one-shotting everything with impunity there is a DM and other players there to balance out the game again with a small amount of effort. In this case, a little common sense is all that is needed to tell that a Rancor or t-rex is not a small mundane animal. If a player finds some really effective use for any power, design your encounters with a counter now and then as well as designing encounters with possible solutions aimed at the wild shape.
Posted By: jonzes (10/14/2013 1:46:02 PM)


Dude's got a point, this is one of those abilities that is always going to be more lethal in the hands of a creative player. Excessively tinkering with it for the sake of balance only serves so much purpose if the utility of it is gone.
Posted By: Bly2729 (10/15/2013 5:48:09 AM)


How does this not create a big problem?

If you have a druid with 20 hit points Wild Shaping into a creature that also has 20 hit points, then BOOM... you've just doubled your hit points. Use Wild Shape twice and you've tripled it.

Granted, I guess most creatures you Wild Shape into would have relatively fewer hit points, but if you're selecting tough forms, this ability could get pretty powerful pretty fast.
Posted By: BadMike (10/14/2013 1:03:03 PM)


This is one more reason why Mearls and Gang have lost credibility. This "free hit points" is so OBVIOUS to anyone who takes even a quick read of the article.
Posted By: Seeker95 (10/14/2013 3:49:33 PM)


(a) What makes you think there are going to be any 20hp animals the druid can transform into? I expect most of the Wildshapes are going to be Medium or smaller, and of those only the Basilisk and Cockatrice have more than 20hp. Both of those sound kind of outside the bounds of what a Wildshape can do.

(b) Why is this a bad thing? Characters in DDN aren't nearly durable enough as it is, and since Druids lack the AC to be a proper front-liner (and can't cast spells while wildshaped, and lose item bonuses, and can only Wildshape a few times a day), combat Druids are going to need the extra HP to facetank their way through encounters.
Posted By: Kalranya (10/14/2013 9:35:52 PM)


Good points...

(a) 20 hit points was just an arbitrary number I threw out. The main point that I'd want to get across is that I think the execution of the ability is problematic, regardless of whether a druid gets 10 or 20 or 30 hit points. However, I do think it's reasonable to presume there might be forms that net a druid at least 20 extra hit points per change - bears, perhaps?

(b) I guess this just boils down to what you see a druid as being. If you like it, you like. For me, I just have a hard time picturing them as two or three times as durable as a barbarian or fighter. And thematically, I don't like the idea of Wild Shape being used as a force field to stave off damage - it feels like a boring use for the power.
Posted By: BadMike (10/14/2013 10:34:52 PM)


This is an interesting subject, but honestly I have a slightly different concern: Why is THIS our last fix and not the mage? Druid could have been fine for the remainder of the stretch leading up to the proper release of Next, but instead we have to continue using this subclass ready mage crap which you said you're moving away from immediately after you gave us this packet? It's less than nonsense and it frankly infuriates me.
Posted By: Kageshinju (10/14/2013 12:46:56 PM)


Probably because the Mage is going to take longer to fix and require more work and more thought. You're right, the Mage is a MESS right now. The Druid, on the other hand, was a fairly simple thing to update.

Be happy you got anything at all.
Posted By: Kalranya (10/14/2013 9:40:57 PM)


What's wrong with the mage?
Posted By: G_X (10/15/2013 8:14:56 PM)


Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of shapechanging classes, having played Druids, Transmuter Wizards, Master of Many Forms, Shifter, Were-creatures and such. But that makes me feel even stronger that abilities like this should be mechanically well defined by themselves, not though yet to be published unknowns.

I would really like to see good shapechanging mechanics in Next, and in my view "whatever happens to be published somewhere and not vetoed by the DM" is a very bad solution. In my experience it makes it very hard for both DM and player. The freedom you're trying to achieve actually works against it.
Posted By: RogerWilco (10/14/2013 12:26:33 PM)


I think this is a step back from the current design of Wild Shape. I think it repeats the problems with Wildshape/Polymorph-ish spells in especially 3E, where it's power was defined though which published monsters existed.

I feel strongly that abilities/spells like this should give fixed changes depending on level, not depending on what some writer might have thought was a cool monster in some book or adventure somewhere.

I think one should also keep Wildshape in mind as a template for other future shapechanging abilities of yet unpublished classes.

I would strongly advice against such an open ended version. It has been the bane of 3E for all of it's existence.
Posted By: RogerWilco (10/14/2013 12:19:20 PM)


From what the last packet said and from what I see here, you can only shape change into natural animals. I could easily be wrong, but if that is the case, that prevents a druid from becoming a displacer beast or beholder or anything else that would be overly powerful. A bear or lion can do considerable damage, but not really much more than a fighter of the same level. Add to that the likelyhood that there will be a limited number of times per day a druid can wild shape, and I think that solves the issue.
Posted By: Tulloch (10/14/2013 3:49:29 PM)


I like it so far. It makes "sense" and it is simplified. However watch out for the CoDzilla thing, but I think that we can adopt this mechanic and avoid CoDzilla. So, in general, I like this mechanic.
Posted By: cassi_brazuca (10/14/2013 11:59:44 AM)


I like how simpler and more versatile Wild Shape is becoming, but i am concerned with HP and duration.

Also, if its the last update, does it mean we won't have an update for the Paladin ?
Posted By: Plaguescarred (10/14/2013 10:05:27 AM)


Mundane animal? What yours intend for "mundane" animal?
Mr. Mearls, please look at the image you have posted: for a druid who live in the wild all these animals are "mundane".
Is not more simply to give the druid a wild form of same Hit Dice or less?
And about gain the HP of the animal form adding it to their HP... I think is too strong. Druid can become a sort of "tanker", and a druid of the Circle of the Moon can become the definitive tanker, much more than barbarian or fighter.
I love druids, but maybe this is excessive.
And it's another sign of lazy game design.
Posted By: Eilistraecomeback (10/14/2013 8:48:59 AM)


Hate it. In combat, one wild shape can be rendered completely obsolete as soon as you get a new one.
Posted By: sournote103 (10/14/2013 8:30:11 AM)


I share the concerns may have expressed about the hit points, but I think this could work... I just don't think I would call it a simple solution. I had to read it twice, and I can see a lot of questions at the table.
Posted By: Osgood (10/14/2013 8:27:39 AM)


For those wondering about druids turning into T-Rex, it's pretty obvious from the article that there will be a list of fixed shapes you can use. You can probably fluff text them, so a swamp druid might use the "Bear" stat block but describe it as an alligator (maybe with a minor adjustment like a bonus to swim checks or something), but he's not going to be pulling out the monster manual and picking any creature.
Posted By: Lizard_SF (10/14/2013 8:09:11 AM)


This point was made clear in the podcast. Having defined lists of shapes solves most problems, as long as the designers are mindful of the animals they put on that list. Then in future products, you can offer variant lists, such as a Dark Sun specific list for druids in that setting.
Posted By: GilbertMDH (10/14/2013 8:42:18 AM)


Druids in DARKSUN?!?!?
Posted By: alhoon2 (10/14/2013 10:33:02 AM)


Druids have existed in Dark Sun since the start. They are basically bound to a specific location/piece of terrain like a particular canyon or oasis.
Posted By: Serpine (10/14/2013 2:24:23 PM)


Ditto the HP question/problem. I like the overall concept but you'd need to put some caveat in to prevent a Lvl 3 Druid from transforming into a Dire Bear or T-Rex or Giant Squid. I think you're going to have to have some sort of list of animals (or animal types) that a Druid can transform into. The 'gear subsumes into the animal form' concept always bugged me. It works from a game play/simplicity standpoint but seems forced. Conceptually, I'd prefer that the Druid who transforms into a crow drops all his gear and emerges from a pile of clothing... or that he'd need to strip before assuming the form of a Grizzly Bear or get the 'Hulk Smash' effect on all his clothing and belts and whatnot.
That said, I don't know how you'd really work 'The body changes but the gear does not' mechanic into the game and make it workable. The Druid would have to spend way too many turns/rounds undressing and dressing to have the ability work in Combat.
Posted By: Kazadvorn (10/14/2013 8:00:03 AM)


You could maybe have it both ways:

1) If you transform while wearing/carrying/using your gear, it is generally subsumed into your form.

2) If you take the time to undress/de-equip you can then carry your gear around, which allows it to be usable by others, or by yourself if you can make a reasonable argument that your form could do so, like say, terrestrial wild-shape forms donning barding equivalent to your armour proficiency (though likely not the same armour you had in humanoid form), or a simian form using thieves tools, assuming you are proficient, a bird-form carrying and dropping alchemist's fire on an enemy, essentially 'bombing' them.

In this way, you can get an extra benefit by planning ahead and sacrificing some time/flexibility. It even has a built-in drawback to curb abuse situationally (though you could probably over-come it if you were smart about it) in that, say you take off your armour or allow it to be subsumed by your form, then, ... (see all)
Posted By: OskarOisinson (10/14/2013 12:55:56 PM)


On second thought, why not have the first option as the default, and the second as part of an expanded module on Druids/Primal casters/etc.
Posted By: OskarOisinson (10/14/2013 12:57:14 PM)


I like this alot, keeping an animal stat block on hand for the shape change is easy to track and maintain. The only thing I would change though is get rid of the list of forms you can change in to a simpler mechanic.

Wild Shape could be easy like, you can take on any animal form of your level or lower. Perhaps add an element of adventure to the new shape, but going one step further and saying that you must first combat the animal mentally or physically before taking on the new form. Perhaps at higher levels making it so that you can Wild Shape into a few magical creatures as well.

This could be a good reason for a small druid side quest to track down this animal in the wild and commune with it.
Posted By: Darkwon (10/14/2013 6:45:00 AM)


Replacing the PCs stats with an animal's was a huge problem back in earlier editions of DnD. Not just a problem, a huge problem. Druids became combat beasts that didn't need to have good physical stats. Transforming into elephants or bear or other animals like that gave stats outside the range that other PCs could get. This is the classic and well known polymorph issue.
Posted By: Blue23 (10/14/2013 6:37:16 AM)


I agree to disagree. I have been a DM since the time of 1st Edition and have never found this to be a problem. Its easy to get past this problem by a DM saying that you can only transform into an animal of your HD or your HD -X
Posted By: Darkwon (10/14/2013 6:48:05 AM)


You say it's not a problem, but then say it's a problem to be fixed by the GM restricting some options. If you have to do that to prevent abuse the rule shouldn't be there in the first place.
Posted By: Criswell (10/14/2013 10:26:51 AM)


I like it.
Posted By: BuddhaKai (10/14/2013 3:02:37 AM)


The previous version hurt play because the menu of options was forced and illogical. You could become a bear and a goldfish, but not a badger or a shark. While the intention was that the fish form might be for infiltration or overcoming an obstacle, in play it was frustrating. You can get past the castle moat in goldfish form, but face the risk of not being able to face any danger within the moat.

The new system seems to return to 3E, where players carried around a binder of animal forms. Inevitably, it led to optimization, because some book would have some amazing form (the way rangers could use a spell to take a whale's blindsight 120'!).

I would far prefer a very simple stat block with a damage value and a few other bits that scale by level. Then a menu of options from which you choose one, with DM approval, based on the type of creature. You gain creature types (aquatic, flying) as you level. This would give you the freedoms to pick an aquatic form and pick ... (see all)
Posted By: Alphastream1 (10/14/2013 1:56:36 AM)


I'M with you on your proposed solution Alphastream, although I'm pretty sure that they're not returning to an open list of forms.

They're changing to stat-blocks instead of improvements, but that doesn't mean the stat-blocks won't be fixed and included in the class.

Personally, I liked the current version more from what I'm seeing. HP-wise especially, but also the idea that you have to have Str to become a strong animal or have to have Dex to become a nimble animal. It added more thought to character building, although maybe it generated too much stat-dependency.
I liked that it had limits, like Strength up to 24 and such. I don't think it was breakable and I didn't see much to keep track off: the changes are the same as with a stat block, actually less since only relevant things are mentioned. And after the first time you use them, you calculate the difference and refer to those "new" stats for a good number of levels, exactly as looking at anothe... (see all)
Posted By: LordArchaon (10/14/2013 9:46:32 AM)


I agree, I kind of like the 'Evolutions' of the Beastmaster class in PF myself, but adapted to the Druid's Wild Shape. You have you make a form, and size choice when you change.

Form gives you proficiencies appropriate to that animal so a fish gets a swim speed, under-water breathing, low-light vision, etc., your natural attack options (maybe you can choose another one every so many levels, and some sort of form-appropriate ability (so like, an ink-cloud for an octopus form or camouflage for a chameleon/lizard form.

Size gives you your physical stats.

Initially you can only go Small or Medium form, maybe at a higher level you can go large.

If you do Circle of the Moon or something, you can get more powerful forms. While if you do the hypothetical Circles of the Swarm or Sea you get more varied form expressions as you level such as Swarms of Vermin or Water Elemental shape.
Posted By: OskarOisinson (10/14/2013 1:12:20 PM)


What if you wild shape into an animal that has more HP than you do? Or can you just never do that?
Posted By: seti (10/14/2013 1:23:37 AM)


Works for me. I like it.
Posted By: VividAntivirus (10/14/2013 1:22:43 AM)


Wtf? This isn't simple. This is convoluted bullshit. Now you have to keep track of two separate pools of hit points that aren't separate but work separately except for when you shift back or go unconscious and... wtf?
Posted By: akaddk (10/14/2013 1:19:41 AM)


Does that mean there might be more animal stats to go with the change to wildshape? I seem to remember there at least being wolf and ape, what about higher levels? Should there be choices for big dinosaurs like the T-rex or the return of elemental wildshape?
Posted By: KoboldAvenger (10/14/2013 1:07:32 AM)


I like in theory but see the same HP issue others do. While more complex, I think if the animal form you transform into has greater HP then you normally would then if the animal form drops to 0, you revert at 0 HP, if the animal form has lost more HP then your maximum but has more than 0, and you chose to return to normal, you revert to 1hp.
Posted By: sagechan (10/14/2013 12:34:56 AM)


I like it. You just get temporary hitpoints. If they are used up, you revert back to human.

If you willingly transform back, you just lose any temporary hitpoints and you are back to your old hp.

That is very simple and easy to track.

I don´t understand why some previous posters think you cannot change into an animal with more hp than you have currently.
I guess they didn´t understand, what excess damage meant.
Posted By: UngeheuerLich (10/14/2013 5:28:01 AM)


I like it so far but I have to try it in play...
Posted By: GMforPowergamers (10/14/2013 12:29:31 AM)


I like it. I like the hit point duration/limit. Simple, clean. Can't wait to see the rest of the revisions to wild shape.
Posted By: Timmee (10/14/2013 12:19:35 AM)


The problem is you create a pool of bonus HP for the druid each time they change form. Why not just have them keep their normal HP total and transform back after damage equal to the current shape's HP? Or transform when they are reduced to 0 HP if the form would have more HP than they normally do? I remember with dread the days of the CoDzilla, and this is a step that way - a step in the wrong direction.
Posted By: Clansmansix (10/14/2013 12:12:32 AM)


I think it's kind of equivalent to the fighter's temp hits, but your suggestion is one I can get behind.
Posted By: Timmee (10/14/2013 12:22:42 AM)


The thing is that this really isn't the case. For non Circle-of-the-Moon druids, the benefit you get is negligible, compared to the drawback of having a less effective combat presence. For them, it's much better to use WS to scout ahead or spy on enemies.

For Circle of the Moon Druids, however, it's not really an issue. It's akin to the Barbarian's Rage THP. The Druid gets more of them, but combat that with the fact that she gets fewer regular HP, Beast form AC is pretty sub-par, and that her non-beast form chasis is weaker.

Some balancing is still needed, but I'm not getting CoDzilla vibes from this.
Posted By: Avric_Tholomyes (10/16/2013 5:17:59 AM)