D&D 5E Druid's Wild Shape House Rules!

Rocker26a

Explorer
Last year I was debating how I'd improve Wild Shape. I dislike how Moon Druid has a near monopoly on it's combat application after the early levels, and I just think it could be a little better in general, make Druid a more attractive prospect compared to Cleric. So I worked some changes out with my DM, inspired by the points I had last year but actually whittled down into applicable rules. Here's what I've got as it stands!

  • Maximum CR buff. Non-Moon Druids now cap out at CR 3 Beasts! I also changed the rate at which the max CR improves; You go up a tick every 2 levels. So non-Moon Druids start with CR 1/4 at level 2 and reach CR 3 at level 10, whereas Moon Druids start with CR 1 at level 2 and reach CR 6 at level 12. Some may vehemently disagree, but I much prefer having the cap be at a level you might actually see once in a while. Like always gets brought up, rare is the game that continues beyond level 15 or so, nevermind going all the way to 20. So bring 'em forward! Hardly gonna break the bank.
  • Wild Shape has the "Ritual" tag. Basically, you can meditate for a period of time and activate Wild Shape for free. This is something I'm implementing for all the "Primal" classes and their signature abilities; Druids and their Wild Shape, Rangers and their Hunt (my other homebrew thing just pretend I said Favoured Foe), Barbarians and their Rage. I really like this thematically and mechanically! Especially with some subclass features keying off of Wild Shape, you expend a use of it to do something new. Makes it a little less intensive on the value proposition.
  • CR 0 Wild Shapes are free. This is something I pinched from a Reddit thread on the subject, you can turn into a CR 0 Beast without expending a use. I think it's really nice for utility, and for any fun character/roleplay stuff you might wanna do but normally can't because "well what if i need to actually do stuff with it today".
  • Bonus action activation for all Druids + Removal of movement limitations. Lumping these two together, might be a sticking point for some people. I think Moon Druid being the only one with Bonus action activation isn't super fair. Their value is in better creature access, self-healing and magical attacks. As for the movement limitations, they just didn't compel me very much personally! It just seems weird for, I dunno. A Cat to be fine, but a Raven isn't. Why, other than balance? And as for balance, I've just always thought that getting access to swimming or flying creatures is mostly only valuable when you can take an ally with you, not before.
  • Some Monstrosities are eligible. This is a common talking point, especially after that one movie, but yeah. In the setting I play, it fits alright for some creatures that are considered Monstrosities but it's a blurred line, to be accessible Wild Shape forms. As it stands it's just Owlbears, Griffons and (reduced threat) Displacer Beasts (I find it really weird that Displacer Beasts have nearly double the HP of Owlbears, you'd think it'd be reversed). May not fit as a baseline for every campaign/setting, but! I like it!
  • Addition of "Minor Wild Shape" as a spell for Rangers and Barbarians. Basically I packaged up vanilla Wild Shape with a little of Polymorph's mechanics as a 3rd level ritual transmutation spell. Rangers get it regularly, Barbarians I'm thinking maybe Totem Warriors/Wildhearts can get it as an alternative ritual spell at 10th level? Maybe alongside Commune with Nature, similar to how their first feature is two spells. I just think, turning into an animal is thematically relevant to the other Primal classes, and it's a shame that Druid has it locked down outside of Polymorph. It's a limit of CR 1, so not really crazy for combat, maybe some applications? Otherwise, all for utility and character stuff. What fun!
Aaand that's all I've got I think! I do like all of these changes in theory, I hope I've at least somewhat justified why, but I will take criticism/thoughts if you've got some!
 
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MarkB

Legend
One I liked from the playtest: You can still talk in wildshape. For me the greatest restriction on my druid maintaining wildshape for its full duration was that I couldn't communicate in-character with the party during that time.
 

Rocker26a

Explorer
One I liked from the playtest: You can still talk in wildshape. For me the greatest restriction on my druid maintaining wildshape for its full duration was that I couldn't communicate in-character with the party during that time.

That's actually something else I adopted for our house rules! I just didn't mention it in this post because, small potatoes.
But yeah! It's such a nice thing! Should've been that way from the start I feel like. Lets you avoid that dumb "oh i've just gone on a scouting journey but now i can't tell my party what i saw" nonsense, and lends itself to Druids being associated with that kinda spirit guide role. Fun for that kinda character stuff.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
One I liked from the playtest: You can still talk in wildshape. For me the greatest restriction on my druid maintaining wildshape for its full duration was that I couldn't communicate in-character with the party during that time.
This reminds me of a FATE Dresden Files game I played in. I was a werewolf, and my character was bad at people skills. So whenever we got in a situation in which he realized he could screw things up by saying the wrong thing, he'd just turn into a wolf. That way he literally couldn't say the wrong thing!
 

Rocker26a

Explorer
This reminds me of a FATE Dresden Files game I played in. I was a werewolf, and my character was bad at people skills. So whenever we got in a situation in which he realized he could screw things up by saying the wrong thing, he'd just turn into a wolf. That way he literally couldn't say the wrong thing!

Sounds about right!
It reminds me, I've always thought it's maybe a little weird that all(?) "domesticated" Beasts have negative Charisma modifiers. I feel like they ought to be higher, and then that is part of the utility of those creatures. Become/summon a dog, distract some civilians by getting them to fawn over you/them. But, the scores argue against it!
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Bonus action activation for all Druids + Removal of movement limitations. Lumping these two together, might be a sticking point for some people. I think Moon Druid being the only one with Bonus action activation isn't super fair. Their value is in better creature access, self-healing and magical attacks. As for the movement limitations, they just didn't compel me very much personally! It just seems weird for, I dunno. A Cat to be fine, but a Raven isn't. Why, other than balance? And as for balance, I've just always thought that getting access to swimming or flying creatures is mostly only valuable when you can take an ally with you, not before.
Some fun ideas!

One of the reasons for the Druid Wildshape movement limitations is acting as a limiter on situations where the party could easily become split. It's the "decker" problem from Shadowrun. For example, the 2nd level druid flies up to the top of a barricaded tower and enters a crack in the windows as a songbird. The rest of the party is stuck down below. The party is now split with the weight of the action being carried by the druid player, and the rest of the players getting bored.

Is it surmountable? Yes, with skill and practice, a DM can run a split party effectively and keep the spotlight switching.

Is it something that the designers should be cautious hard-baking into the rules at earlier levels when new DMs are learning how to DM? Yeah, I think they should be cautious about that.

But as a house rule for experienced group? Sure, knock yourself out!
 

Rocker26a

Explorer
Some fun ideas!

Thanks! I like the other stuff better than the movement limitation removal, to be fair.

One of the reasons for the Druid Wildshape movement limitations is acting as a limiter on situations where the party could easily become split. It's the "decker" problem from Shadowrun. For example, the 2nd level druid flies up to the top of a barricaded tower and enters a crack in the windows as a songbird. The rest of the party is stuck down below. The party is now split with the weight of the action being carried by the druid player, and the rest of the players getting bored.

Is it surmountable? Yes, with skill and practice, a DM can run a split party effectively and keep the spotlight switching.

Is it something that the designers should be cautious hard-baking into the rules at earlier levels when new DMs are learning how to DM? Yeah, I think they should be cautious about that.

But as a house rule for experienced group? Sure, knock yourself out!

I do think that makes sense and is fair enough, it's just, yeah. Not a significant factor for me personally. Especially on Druid where, I am compelled by the flavour their primary mechanic, turning into various animals, and I would like for it to be as cool and useful as it can be, within reason.

Especially when the limitation in question isn't even especially effective at achieving it's intended goal, I would argue. Like in your tower example; the Druid could just as well have turned into a Spider, climbed up the wall and through the window instead, and be in the exact same situation! (I get that was just an example of course, but you see what I mean, the no flying early on isn't necessarily a perfect answer even assuming the fairness of the intention.)

But yeah. I wouldn't argue that removing that limitation works for everyone by any means! I just like it for me if no-one else.
 

Clint_L

Hero
I like all those house rules except for the last. I want to keep wildshape as a signature ability for druids. I particularly like letting druids turn into beast-like monstrosities, as in the movie.

Wildshape is super fun, and anything that lets it be used more often is great, IMO, as long as it is balanced.
 
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Rocker26a

Explorer
I like all those house rules except for the last. I want to keep wildshape as a signature ability for druids. I particularly like letting druids turn into beast-like monstrosities, as in the move.

Wildshape is super fun, and anything that lets it be used more often is great, IMO, as long as it is balanced.

Thanks! And that's reasonable of course about the spell, that's why the spell is markedly weaker and lacks any scaling or similar, I wasn't looking to hand over Druid's place on the top spot. It's similar to my feelings on Beast companions I guess, I think it could be cool for all the Primal classes to have access to one if they wish, even if the Ranger's would be way out in front of the others' overall.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
For the monstrosity thing, I actually homebrewed a feat for my game...

Monstrous Wildshape: You can use Wildshape to assume a number of Monstrosity forms equal to your proficiency modifier. The forms cannot be humanoid in shape (not an ettercap or yeti), cannot have a human face (not a centaur or manticore), cannot be a swarm, and should feel “bestial” in nature (not a mimic). Examples of suitable forms include cave fisher, crag cat, displacer beast, hippogriff, owlbear, peryton, phase spider, rust monster, winter wolf, or worg.

...not that you need to make it a feat, more that you could borrow the language/logic I used.
 

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