D&D 5E Wild Shape Adjustments + Minor Wild Shape spell(?)


So, I really like Wild Shape as an ability! But I do think it's limitations can be unnecessarily frustrating.

Moon Druid is a particular fly in the ointment for me. I feel about them like some people feel about Hunter Rangers I think, where I kind of wonder if you'd be better served rolling their features into the base class somehow. I think it's a little lame that only one subclass has the option of using the main class ability for combat after a certain level threshold. But also on the other hand, if you've committed to being able to use Wild Shape in combat, it makes the idea of using a Wild Shape charge to transform into something for utility, turn into a Rat to do some eavesdropping or some such, a lot less attractive. This is offset by Wild Shape recharging on a Short Rest as everyone correctly points out when this comes up, but. Even still.

So yeah. These are the changes/additions I was considering;

  • Circle Forms (or equivalent) for all Druids. Could just take Moon's model 1:1, max CR of Druid level divided by 3? Or could reduce it to max CR of druid level divided by 6? Maybe that's a happy medium? So you can still get some cool ones without being too hot in combat on the cheap? I haven't hashed out the math on that but it sounds good in my head.
  • Combat Wild Shape/Primal Strike for all Druids(?) Less sure about this, I guess it'd come down to if I'd really want to commit and discontinue Moon as a subclass. It may create too drastic a balance issue if every Druid got these features, couldn't say. I mainly really like the alternative use for spell slots while Wild Shape is active. Bit of a risk/reward thing, to dump more resources into keeping the Wild Shape going, rather than have them ready for when/if Wild Shape drops.
  • Ritual Activation for Wild Shape. This was something I half-pinched from another thread, about the notion of Barbarian being able to Rage via a meditative ritual. I really like that idea, and I think it'd be cool if all the Nature classes could access their primary abilities in that way. Goes some way towards alleviating that worry of "I can't afford to waste an ability charge on this non-combat situation". Might this be too strong with the Short Rest refresh time? Possibly!
  • A new spell: Minor Wild Shape/Minor Polymorph(?) This is a more barefaced flight of fancy. I think being able to turn into an animal would be nice for the other (Nature) classes as well, particularly Ranger, but they have no mechanism for doing so as it stands. Full casters get Polymorph way later, but you're not gonna use a 4th level spell to become something normal, it's basically always gonna be dropping a T-Rex or whatever in the middle of a fight. I thought a reduced strength/applicability spell might be a happy enough comprimise so it doesn't tread on Druid's toes too much? I haven't tried writing it out properly yet, but. Was thinking maybe a 2nd level spell, range of self (so no turning the bad guy into a mouse or whatever) and a flat max of CR 1 Beasts for the choices? Still some cool choices with that limit. Dire Wolves, Tigers etc. I guess it'd have to be Concentration. A duration longer than an hour would be nice, but. I don't know how I'd work that. I don't know how it would interact with the movement restrictions regular Wild Shape has. I have mixed feelings about those restrictions anyway, I just think the CR and size are the more important distinguishing factors. It's annoying that turning into something normal like a Raven, and turning into a Giant Eagle, are put on the same level. But I haven't made that a bullet point because I have less concrete thoughts about it.
That's what I'm thinking! I am prepared to be corrected on these points, and to be informed that actually Druid is perfect as it is. Some thoughts on the spell concept would be cool though.
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