Legends & Lore: Mildshape

One of the druid's most iconic features is wildshape.

In 3rd Edition you had to wait until 5th-level before you could change your form into a Small or Medium animal just once per day. As you leveled up you could change more times in a daily period, and you gained access to more size categories and creature types. The only limitation was that the form's Hit Dice could not exceed the druid's level, which was not much of a limitation when you could still, say, change into a dinosaur capable of charging while still making multiple poisonous attacks.

A level before the fighter could make her second attack.

Assuming she does not take more than a 5-foot step.

Not eclipsing the fighter--or really any other class--as a melee combatant based on one choice is one of several reasons why 4th Edition's take on the druid is by far my favorite, but what makes it really interesting is how dynamic it is. Unlike other classes a druid's evocations require her to be either in a human or beast form, which you can change at-will from the start. This allows you to change up tactics on the fly: do you stand back and blast enemies from a distance, or do you get close and personal with your beast form? Daily evocations could grant you more bonuses, and there are even feats that get in on that form-based action.

The only drawback is that you are limited to Small or Medium size critters, and you do not gain any special features or movement modes. I mean, you could change into a Medium-sized bird, you just cannot fly. To do that you have to choose special evocations, which are generally limited to a per-day basis. I also recall that you could not manipulate objects in those forms, even if you changed into something like a monkey. This was an instance where I feel that they erred way too far on the side of game balance.

Currently 5th Edition's stab at wildshape is that aside from your mental ability scores, you replace your stat block with that of the creature you change into. I guess each form will have its own hit points, and when those run out you automatically revert back. I do not mind any of this in concept. I think that just swapping out stat blocks streamlines the process while hopefully preventing 3rd Edition's abusive forms (though I think 4th Edition made it much simpler by just enabling beast form evocations, assuming you took any).

The problem is that wildshape has per-day uses (makes no sense) and that the forms are limited by what the designers feel you should be able to change into, meaning that there is no customization: at 1st-level you get hound, at 5th-level you get steed, etc. I know that there will apparently be a menu to choose from, but I am guessing it will just be more of the same, which is boring and restrictive.

See, aside from re-skinnable daily evocations 4th Edition allowed you to determine what you were changing into, and even let you determine for the most part how much you cared about wildshape through evocation and feat choice. If you want to get in touch with your wild side, take beast form powers and load up on feats that give you benefits in beast form. Feel like wildshape is for the birds? Well you still have to take all of one beast form at will, but otherwise you are free to cultivate your nature magic.

I think druids should be able to not only choose whether they can wildshape at all, but do so whenever they please. I think it would also make sense to limit them based on terrain and/or season (kind of like how Dungeon World does it). You could let the druid determine what she changes into based on these parameters, as well as size and type (which are expanded upon via wildshape class feature selection).

Wildshape benefits could just be a package deal depending on if you are going with a combat/predator or exploration/prey form. Predator forms would make you tougher, stronger, faster, etc, while prey forms would make you faster, harder to hit, and give you skill bonuses. Druids could also have access to something like fighter maneuvers, they just need to be in a suitable animal form to utilize them.


  1. With the addition of the Shaman and Seeker in 4E, providing access to Primal spellcasters other than the Druid, I find that the only real drawing point to the Druid class is the ability to shapeshift into animals. Without that, I feel the Druid is nothing more than a spellcaster with a focus on nature. The wildshape ability is what gives the Druid flavour, what sets it apart from other classes. Without that, there really isn't much reason to choose it over a different class with similar utility.

    For them to continually restrict the ability of the Druid by limiting the wildshape use and the choice of animals, it's basically negating the entire reason people play Druids. I understand wanting to tweak the class and make sure it's balanced with everything else, but all they're doing is breaking it down to nothing. Sad days, my friend.

    1. Shaman it´s a diferent role than a Druid on 4e (Shamans are Leaders), and Seeker while do share the same role and power source, it´s not implement based, but ranged weapon based instead wish make their powers effects diferent (implement powers effects are usually less damaging, but are more outlandishin their effects). So even without Wildhshape, Druids do feel and play very diferent from Shaman and Seeker

    2. Fair enough -- and that's the best thing about 4E! Every character, no matter the source of power or the "role", all play entirely differently. But despite all of that, the Druid is still very much centered around the wildshape ability. Without that, or with limitations on it, it negates a lot of the flavour with the Druid.

      Of course, I presume we can both agree on that? So happy days.

  2. Even without wild shape, I think druids could stand out from wizards by having a unique spell selection (including rituals), as well as their own spell casting mechanic. Josh and I talked about this awhile ago, and I felt that druids should be largely limited to nature and "fey" magic that exhausted them (possibly even inflicting hit point damage).

    If I were in charge of D&D I would require druids to pick a terrain to determine their spell and/or wild shape options, possibly mixing it in with a season that lets them focus on growth or decay (spring and winter, respectively).

    Shamans on the other hand communicate with spirits, essentially like warlocks and their patrons, just probably on better terms. You would pick spirits that would in turn determine what spells you had access to, as well as what spirits you could summon (kind of like how it works in Shadowrun). I would also mix in some of the flavor from The Waterborn and The Black God.


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