D&D (2024) Fix for the Druid's Wildshape: A limited number of beasts

Remathilis

Legend
I think there is a tendency to underestimate the importance of story to class concept. The concept of a druid, cemented after decades not just in D&D but in other media such as World of Warcraft and so on, is of a spell caster empowered by their link to the natural world, which allows them to shape shift into beast from the natural world. Specific animals. I think what a lot of advocates for templates are resisting is the fact that a lot of folks demonstrably do not want a la carte templates. That is not what the druid is, conceptually, to many people, and I don't think trying to force the template option is not going to change their minds. It's not changing mine.

Which I guess is a very heart of the matter issue: what CAN a druid turn into?

Look at the list I posted above as the PHB list. For sake of argument, let's assume that is the only choices that a druid can select from. What's missing? Well, lots of things. Dogs, squirrels, cows, coyotes, elephants, monkeys, bass, bees, doves, prihanna, etc. That is a wide range of options I can find in the real world that a druid cannot turn into, and that is without bringing in megafauna or dinosaurs, let alone fantastic beasts. Are we suggesting that those are the only things a druid's magic will allow? It's a bold world building assumption! Maybe the primal spirits of tigers will lend a druid their form, but the primal spirits of cows will not! Of course, the limited list doesn't account for any sort of environmental difference (with arctic druids turning into crocodiles but not polar bears) and the weight of the list is on weaker forms (none are above CR 1) both are only solved by expanding the list exponentially. (Again, at the cost of page space and comparison time).

Which brings me back to the Crux of the problem: if a druid wants to turn into an animal that isn't in the back of the PHB (like a duck), what is the answer? It's either: 1.) No, there is no stat block therefore you cannot choose that form, 2. Yes, but pick another stat block and call it something else, or 3. Pick this generic template and call it whatever you want. Two of those options are still effectively "pick stats and call it something else" one just involves extra steps.
 

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Agreed. Picking a real beast, and then having a set way that it get's 'better' as you level up as a moon druid makes the story of the moon druid one who's magical link to nature enhances the real beast they turn into, rather than an a la carte template for 'creating' any type of beast.

As a side note, I think it would be fine to limit the number of different beasts that the druid can wildshape into. I'm not sure the story of the druid is the ability to turn into ANY beast, but rather the ability to turn into specific ones that are meaningful to the character. 1 per druid level seems appropriate, perhaps with the ability to switch those out by spending 1 hour with a new beast you want to wildshape into. That would help reduce endless stat block searching as well.
I have heard no valid arguments about certain stat blocks being more "real" than others. There are no "real beasts" to select. There are only stat blocks, some balanced for DM use, and others balanced for PC use. And PCs know nothing about stat blocks, let alone are able to compare them. The stat blocks aren't sacred, "real" versions of creatures. And they don't even do a great job getting the creatures just right. Why are tigers the only cats that get darkvision?

Additionally, DMs already reskin things all the time, especially because the designers can't create stats for all dangerous beasts one can find in the real world, let alone dinosaurs or megafauna, or the popular nonmagical hybrids we see in media, like owlbears from D&D, and polar bear dogs and turtleducks from ATLA). Heck, look at all the new Beasts being added from official sourcebooks. Two-headed crocodiles are not natural animals. (I don't think that Wizards wants to stick to real-world animals, anyway, otherwise they'd call them animals rather than beasts.) DM Monster Stat blocks also don't scale, and a Wolf-shape druid deserves to be effective at 3rd level, 11th level, and at 20th level, without having to reskin a... well... what is the highest CR Beast that could be reskinned to represent a mighty wolf?

Wild Shape stat blocks are all an illusion of perception. One illusion has you scrape through a limited number of specific stat-blocks amongst multiple books. Another has you look at an even more limited number of stat blocks that have been reprinted in a PH appendix (a waste of page space that should be used for other purposes.) Neither of these are a good experience, and there is nothing so "sacred" about PCs being able to use DM-only monster stats that it is worth having to do that leg work.

Another potential illusion allows scalable, PC-balanced stat-blocks that can be used to reskin anything you can imagine within the agreed upon aesthetics of the campaign. Want to be a Large Dire Wolf that can harry a giant effectively? Want to be an owlbear or a komodo dragon, or a dire kangaroo? It's all good. That is the design I hope they lean into.
 

I think there is a tendency to underestimate the importance of story to class concept. The concept of a druid, cemented after decades not just in D&D but in other media such as World of Warcraft and so on, is of a spell caster empowered by their link to the natural world, which allows them to shape shift into beast from the natural world. Specific animals. I think what a lot of advocates for templates are resisting is the fact that a lot of folks demonstrably do not want a la carte templates. That is not what the druid is, conceptually, to many people, and I don't think trying to force the template option is not going to change their minds. It's not changing mine.
And I think that the story isn't the one you think, even taking as read the truly obnoxious "overcoat of Temp HP" has got to go.

First the current concept doesn't allow for e.g. the Wolf Druid. That is the druid that turns into a wolf as its combat form. Or a bear druid. Or any number of other forms because thanks to the current implementation these forms do not scale so you're stuck at CR 1/4. Second without a Big Book of Beasts you are inherently limited in what you can transform into by what's in the books. Only one specific type of story is covered. Unless you're steeped in video game lore why would you expect that it would work that way?

The druid is a lot of things to a lot of people, so is shapeshifting. But using stat blocks from the MM forces it to be only one - and in the process it makes things a lot less newbie friendly, slows the game down, and disproportionately incentivises system mastery, all of which are bad things.
 

Mephista

Adventurer
I think there is a tendency to underestimate the importance of story to class concept. The concept of a druid, cemented after decades not just in D&D but in other media such as World of Warcraft and so on, is of a spell caster empowered by their link to the natural world, which allows them to shape shift into beast from the natural world. Specific animals. I think what a lot of advocates for templates are resisting is the fact that a lot of folks demonstrably do not want a la carte templates. That is not what the druid is, conceptually, to many people, and I don't think trying to force the template option is not going to change their minds. It's not changing mine.
I don't know about ala carte options or the like, but I know I personally want to focus on a single animal (ie roleplay a werewolf, or fox shifter, orwhatever). And, going by the video, I wasn't alone in that desire.

So, while there very much are people that want a swiss-army-knife wildshape option, there very much are people that just want the equivalent of a hammer here.
 

I still maintain the best way forward here is to just make shapeshifting its own class.

Either the Druid drops much of its caster identity, or shapeshifting splits off into its own class.

Shapeshifting is a difficult thing to cram into what, as of 1DND, is effectively 1/3 of the class desifn space, and especially so when its desirable to have it be as substantive and non-limited as it has been.

And ultimately, shapeshifting on its own is a deep enough concept as it is. Cramming wizardry and pseudo cleric stuff into it is just unnecessary, and doesn't really track with all that many shapeshifters in fiction to begin with, especially the ones that only really do shapeshifting and little else.

Heck, even the Druid in the movie is guilty of that. We saw one or two spells from her but her depiction was almost 100% shapeshifting and slingshot.

Drop the casting part (whether we still call it the druid or something new) and you have a lot more room to work with.
 

As long as polymorph can do the whole "Dive into every source you have to transform an opponent", Druid has to have something comparable.

The class that goes all in on shapeshifting should always be the best shapeshifter
The class that is a 9 level spellcaster shouldn't be able to also go all in on shapeshifter. The 2014 moon druid is fine for a non-caster. It's ludicrous on a full caster and needed to be nerfed into oblivion.

Druid shapeshifting should be a set number of spells with specific adaptations and fluff the appearance as desired.
 
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Mecheon

Sacabambaspis
The class that is a 9 level spellcaster shouldn't be able to also go all in on shapeshifter. The 2014 moon druid is fine for a non-caster. It's ludicrous on a full caster and needed to be nerfed into oblivion.
Eh, I'd argue the other: Nerf the casting and go more in on the shapeshifting. Shapeshifting is The druid thing these days and what people will be drawn to the class to do. Sure, nature magic is important, but shapeshifting is of equal importance. People want to specifically be a creature and be able to do those things of being a creature. They want to go "Oh hey, a chance for me to turn into a big ass snek and grapple someone, then I can escape by going into small bird and flying away"

And like, its not like you can combo-wombo spellcasting and shapeshifting until, what, 18? And by then the wizard's doing its high level nonsense so frankly, probably deserved at that late level
 

Eh, I'd argue the other: Nerf the casting and go more in on the shapeshifting. Shapeshifting is The druid thing these days and what people will be drawn to the class to do. Sure, nature magic is important, but shapeshifting is of equal importance. People want to specifically be a creature and be able to do those things of being a creature. They want to go "Oh hey, a chance for me to turn into a big ass snek and grapple someone, then I can escape by going into small bird and flying away"
Make the shifter as the real shapeshifting class rather than change what the druid has been for 5 editions - a full caster. I do think it would be hugely popular. One of my first time players wanted to be a shapeshifter and was irritated they had to learn spells rather than just being Beast Boy.

And like, its not like you can combo-wombo spellcasting and shapeshifting until, what, 18? And by then the wizard's doing its high level nonsense so frankly, probably deserved at that late level
It's because it allows them to fill multiple niches and maximize spellcasting utility when wildshape can function effectively in combat. Why be a guy swinging an axe when you can be a guy who turns into a bear that's roughly as tough AND is also a full spellcaster? Non-casters get jack squat for noncombat abilities. so if the wildshape gets to even approach them in combat, it's design failure, because they still get caster utility out of combat.

Wildshape needs to be roughly on par with turn undead. More a ribbon, rather than a significant chunk of the power. Any real power should come from expending spell slots.
 

Mecheon

Sacabambaspis
Make the shifter as the real shapeshifting class rather than change what the druid has been for 5 editions - a full caster. I do think it would be hugely popular. One of my first time players wanted to be a shapeshifter and was irritated they had to learn spells rather than just being Beast Boy.
The druid's had shapeshifting for all 5 of those past 5 editions. It isn't a new thing, and 3 of those editions its been a major druid feature, for at least those specialised into it.

The wider RPG zeitgeist equates druid with turning into animals. That's just, the big thing for them at the moment. Sure, nature-based caster is there as well, but shapeshifting is an equal feature. Plus, well, the movie making the druid's big moments all shapechanging and not, spellcasting, and 'accused of affecting two D&D editions' games of Diablo and Warcraft both being big on shapeshifting druids as well for people entering into the D&D space...

It's because it allows them to fill multiple niches and maximize spellcasting utility when wildshape can function effectively in combat. Why be a guy swinging an axe when you can be a guy who turns into a bear that's roughly as tough AND is also a full spellcaster? Non-casters get jack squat for noncombat abilities. so if the wildshape gets to even approach them in combat, it's design failure, because they still get caster utility out of combat.

Wildshape needs to be roughly on par with turn undead. More a ribbon, rather than a significant chunk of the power. Any real power should come from expending spell slots.
Yeah, that's, the druid's thing. They're not as powerful healers as clerics, not as powerful full on casters as wizards, not as powerful tanks as fighters, but they can fill in any of those niches in an emergency. Its the same thing as Bards, good at filling in on these fields but not absolute experts

The problem is being looked at the other way: Non-casters should be getting buffed so they can have stuff to do outside of combat. But, well, that's a massive 5E issue that's longgoing. However, nerfing a player class's feature that's been in the game for 5 editions, is the draw for people playing it, and is widely represented as "This is why you should play this class" in both D&D media and the wider fantasy genre as a whole is just going to make people confused and angry

Turn undead didn't get top billing in trailers for a recent popular movie. Shapeshifting did. People coming to D&D after that movie are going to expect "I can turn into an owlbear and throw mooks around", and anything that doesn't allow for that is a failure on the designer's behalf
 

Mephista

Adventurer
Eh, I'd argue the other: Nerf the casting and go more in on the shapeshifting. Shapeshifting is The druid thing these days and what people will be drawn to the class to do. Sure, nature magic is important, but shapeshifting is of equal importance. People want to specifically be a creature and be able to do those things of being a creature. They want to go "Oh hey, a chance for me to turn into a big ass snek and grapple someone, then I can escape by going into small bird and flying away"

And like, its not like you can combo-wombo spellcasting and shapeshifting until, what, 18? And by then the wizard's doing its high level nonsense so frankly, probably deserved at that late level
There's plenty of people that want nature mage druid. It was a significant enough responce that JC mentioned it in the video. And nature-mage involves quite a bit of things. Summoning, healer, environmental manipulation to name the most basic.

That same video also established that there's also a very significant amount of people who want to be able to focus on a single animal instead of going constrictor to birb.

We've got so manyhtings druid wants to do... and I don't think a separate class will help, because things are things people want the DRUID to do. We can have more classes in the future that do it, but we need to get the druid workign first.
 
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