D&D 5E Wildshape Interactions with Weird Racial Features

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I find the idea that dragon breath is ok because it's magical to be kind of odd. I mean, last I checked, we don't have shapechanging humanoids or sentient goo people in our world either, so if a dragonborn's physiology is magical, then so should a changeling or plasmoid's. Until we have some litmus test for what is or is not a supernatural ability, I'm inclined to say "if a real creature can't do it, then it must be magic".
 

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Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Regarding the changling: I could be convinced that -while wildshaped- appearing as a different "race" would work as being able to appear as alternate breeds of the same type of animal.
you can do that anyway. Afterall when I wildshape into an eagle noones asking if its a white-bellied sea eagle or a black chested buzzard
 

Argyle King

Legend
you can do that anyway. Afterall when I wildshape into an eagle noones asking if its a white-bellied sea eagle or a black chested buzzard

They might be, depending upon the circumstances.

In that case, you could switch pelts/feathers/whatever without needing to use a second wildshape.
 

Clint_L

Hero
I'm of the impression that the breath weapon is said to still work because most creatures still breath.
That's what Crawford said, while responding specifically to this question, so the implication is that the breath weapon is not produced by the Dragonborn's anatomy and simply needs breath to be expelled.

Edit: I think what this comes down to is just trying to follow the sensible intent of the Wildshape ability. OP's examples seem like trying to subvert the clear design intent. Wildshape is intended to let the druid, through their connection to nature, assume the physiology of beasts (with some special exceptions due to sub-class; e.g. elementals). If we let a player keep Plasmoid features that are clearly drawn from its physiology, then we should let all players keep all racial features while wild shaped, period. It seems odd and unfair to make a special exception for Plasmoids and Changelings.
 
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Argyle King

Legend
That's what Crawford said, while responding specifically to this question, so the implication is that the breath weapon is not produced by the Dragonborn's anatomy and simply needs breath to be expelled.

Edit: I think what this comes down to is just trying to follow the sensible intent of the Wildshape ability. OP's examples seem like trying to subvert the clear design intent. Wildshape is intended to let the druid, through their connection to nature, assume the physiology of beasts (with some special exceptions due to sub-class; e.g. elementals). If we let a player keep Plasmoid features that are clearly drawn from its physiology, then we should let all players keep all racial features while wild shaped, period. It seems odd and unfair to make a special exception for Plasmoids and Changelings.


I somewhat agree.

At the same time, many races do keep their features. Tabaxi movement boost still works, as an example.

I think it's something that would be a case-by-case decision for me. I'd give a player a chance to sell me on why something would or wouldn't work.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
The breath weapon example is a weird ruling by Crawford that seems to be based on the idea that a breath weapon is a magical effect, not one that is produced by any particular anatomy in a Dragonborn (or a dragon, presumably). I think that is a strange idea, so I would veto it in my campaign, but that's just me.

However, it seems pretty clear that the various Plasmoid features discussed above are rooted in their plasmoid physiology, so those cases seem more straightforward. They are things a goo creature can do, not a bear.
Does Plasmoid "specify anatomy?" That's the line he drew, whether or not the description does or doesn't specify anatomy.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
That's what Crawford said, while responding specifically to this question, so the implication is that the breath weapon is not produced by the Dragonborn's anatomy and simply needs breath to be expelled.

Edit: I think what this comes down to is just trying to follow the sensible intent of the Wildshape ability. OP's examples seem like trying to subvert the clear design intent. Wildshape is intended to let the druid, through their connection to nature, assume the physiology of beasts (with some special exceptions due to sub-class; e.g. elementals). If we let a player keep Plasmoid features that are clearly drawn from its physiology, then we should let all players keep all racial features while wild shaped, period. It seems odd and unfair to make a special exception for Plasmoids and Changelings.
To me, it seems odd and unfair to make a special exception for Dragonborn.
 

Clint_L

Hero
Yeah, I think it's a bad ruling that also makes Dragonborn and Dragons function differently than I had imagined. I kind of pictured them producing the Dragonbreath from within themselves, but apparently that is not the case.
 

I think it's a bit more nuanced than that.

A dragonborn druid can still use their breath weapon while in animal form.
No, they can't. Dragonborn breath weapon is a physical ability. That's obvious. Mental abilities are things you can do because you know how to do them: skills and proficiencies, casting spells, psionic abilities - if the form you are wildshaped into also has the physical ability to do those things then you can use them whilst wildshaped.
I'm on the fence about sprouting tendrils because it's not entirely clear what the mechanism for that happening is. Squeezing through small spaces seems like a clear "no" though.
It's clear its physical. You can do it because you have a plasmoid body, not a plasmoid mind.
 

I find the idea that dragon breath is ok because it's magical to be kind of odd. I mean, last I checked, we don't have shapechanging humanoids or sentient goo people in our world either, so if a dragonborn's physiology is magical, then so should a changeling or plasmoid's. Until we have some litmus test for what is or is not a supernatural ability, I'm inclined to say "if a real creature can't do it, then it must be magic".
"It's magical" is irrelevant. The test is is it physical or is it mental? Physical abilities may or may not be magical, mental abilities may or may not be magical.
 


Argyle King

Legend
No, they can't. Dragonborn breath weapon is a physical ability. That's obvious. Mental abilities are things you can do because you know how to do them: skills and proficiencies, casting spells, psionic abilities - if the form you are wildshaped into also has the physical ability to do those things then you can use them whilst wildshaped.

It's clear its physical. You can do it because you have a plasmoid body, not a plasmoid mind.


Yes, they can.

A Dragonborn Druid is still able to use their breath weapon.

Likewise, a tabaxi can still use their speed boost in other forms.

In contrast, a tabaxi may or may not be able to use their climb speed, depending on if the new form has claws (or something which may function similar to claws).

I would not allow a plasmoid [in other forms] to squeeze through small openings. But, As said already, I would be open to hearing a player explain why the pseudopods and blobby hands might work. The mind/body connection there is important because it indicates knowing how to control an aspect of a body.

I'll add that, if a player (of an unusual race) were to propose that an aspect should carry over into other forms, I would likely offer back that some aspect of their true form carries over into other forms.

So, a Plasmoid Druid might have a shiny/wet sheen as a condition of my openness to allowing certain abilities to carry over. It is a small detail but potentially an important one if a knowledgeable adversary could use it to track or identify a character.
 


James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
To quote Nick Fury "...but given that it's a stupid-ass decision, I'm going to ignore it."

Why? How is this not a physical characteristic of the race? It's freaking cheetah-speed.
Jaguar-speed, technically.

Here's the issue with all of this. Races are not balanced with the Druid class in mind. Some have special abilities that are likely not inherent to their physiologies, but other factors.

Since the designers, however, chose not to label these abilities as being from a particular source, or to tell us what a Moon Druid could still use when using their Wild Shape, we come to the problem of some races are better at being Druids than others, which maybe fine for some, but seems at cross purposes with current design.

I'm of the mind that either all races can use their racial abilities when Wild Shaped, or none can. It's the only way to be fair.

Nitpicking about "well, obviously Half-Orcs can use Menacing, Relentless Endurance, and Savage Attacks while Wild Shaped, but Svirfneblin cannot use Stone Camouflage" feels like a joyless exercise, especially when the arguments for and against aren't for any kind of play balance concerns.

Personally, I see no reason why members of a particular race can't receive special Druid training or blessings from the primal spirits to let them use their racial advantages in their wild shape form; sure, the resulting animal forms might look weird, but as near as I can tell, "weird-looking monsters" are about as common as normal animals, if not more so, in a lot of campaigns.
 

Argyle King

Legend
To quote Nick Fury "...but given that it's a stupid-ass decision, I'm going to ignore it."

Why? How is this not a physical characteristic of the race? It's freaking cheetah-speed.


The tabaxi speed is a physical characteristic, but -as animals can move- D&D 5e appears to define it as being possible.

The climb speed would depend upon the form and whether or not the form in question had claws or something which could be used in a similar manner.

All things considered, I partially agree with @James Gasik.

At a certain point, it is questionable whether or not it is *worthwhile even parsing out which abilities work and which abilities don't. Personally, I see some value in it, but that initial instinct is likely assuming a game and gameplay style which is likely not 5e's default.

Whatever a DM decides for their table, I believe it should be clearly communicated to the players.

*edit for clarity
 
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I would say no, since your are effectively trading your body, which does "stuff", for another, which does other "stuff". Squeezing under a door is nifty, but sometimes you just need to use bear claws to make a point.

That said, if someone with a warforged druid wanted to have their wildshapes be mecha-bear, mecha-crow, &c., I would be completely okay with that.
 

Redwizard007

Adventurer
At a certain point, it is questionable whether or not it is even parsing out which abilities work and which abilities don't. Personally, I see some value in it, but that initial instinct is likely assuming a game and gameplay style which is likely not 5e's default.

Whatever a DM decides for their table, I believe it should be clearly communicated to the players.
That's entirely fair. I'd be on the side of allowing no racial abilities to be used, but the reverse could be a lot of fun if you are running a campaign with the intention of letting things get a little crazy.
 

Corinnguard

Adventurer
This reminds me of 3.5, when Eberron released the Warforged, and immediately I recall some hubbub about Warforged Druids and not only whether they should be able to wild shape at all, but what they should be able to wild shape into, as a Construct-adjacent race turning into a flesh and blood animal seemed very odd (magic can, of course, do this sort of thing, at least as long as Polymorph Any Object has been in the game, but a lot of people I've found seem to think that what arcane magic can do is not thematic for Druids- never no mind Shapechange is a Druid spell).

While 3e had fairly specific rules about what abilities are lost/gained with wild shape, 5e does run into a problem since races are a mix of inherent and trained abilities (though this is changing as time goes on).

While Fleet of Foot doesn't specify that it's inherent to one's form, the argument you would have to make comes down to this: are Wood Elves faster than other races because of being Wood Elves, or do all Wood Elves learn to run really fast as a result of their lifestyle?

If it's the first, obviously, Wild Shape would make you lose it. If it's the second, it would not, but it would beg the question why anybody couldn't receive training to run really fast- since unlike the fast movement of a Monk or Barbarian, which any race can acquire, Fleet of Foot allows Wood Elves to be faster than other Monks or Barbarians.

Like so much in D&D, the answer is going to be "ask your DM", as you'll find people on both sides of the fence.
Druid: Circle Of The Forged (HB) - DND 5th Edition There is a homebrewed subclass for Warforged Druids on dnd5e.wikidot.com called Circle of the Forged . Warforged Druids with this subclass do not resemble flesh-and-blood animals when they use Wildshape. Instead they resemble animal constructs made of the same materials their original forms are made out of.

I am going to assume that those of you who have played a Druid in the past had a tendency to stick to a particular animal form whenever you wildshaped. If so, then this homebrew might allow you to play a ' Beast Wars Transformer' in a D&D setting. ;)
 

MarkB

Legend
Treantmonk has an upcoming good video on racial options for the druid Wildshape feature, using the Moodruid subclass. When the video goes live on YouTube I'll try and edit this post to link to it.

There are two races he includes which are "very weird" and prone to DMs saying their key racial features are not usable while wildshaped. And I thought they were interesting enough, and flavorful enough, to bring the question to folks here and get their input. Wildshape, as a mid to higher level ability, isn't really so awesome. In fact you're often better just staying in Druid form a mid to high levels and casting spells. They're great at low levels, but falls well behind as you get to higher levels. So I am not too worried if these racial options would give them a boost in power. I am more interested in whether people would allow these things, and why or why not.

1. Changeling

Shapechanger​

As an action, you can change your appearance and your voice. You determine the specifics of the changes, including your coloration, hair length, and sex. You can also adjust your height and weight and can change your size between Medium and Small. You can make yourself appear as a member of another race, though none of your game statistics change. You can’t duplicate the appearance of an individual you’ve never seen, and you must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs that you have. Your clothing and equipment aren’t changed by this trait.
You stay in the new form until you use an action to revert to your true form or until you die.

So, what can you do with this ability, if anything, when you're wildshaped into:

A. Cave bear (which has four legs)

B. Earth Elemental (which has two arms and two legs)

Can you use the ability at all?

If so, could you change yourself into a small dog with option A, or an a medium sized Elf with option B?

Can you change your voice to be able to speak?

Can you change yourself into something which can wear armor and/or wield weapons?
So, a changeling can change size between Medium and Small. If you're starting out as, for instance, size Large as a cave bear, turning into an elf would be changing size between Large and Medium, which you can't do. So, while you can still change your appearance to that of anything with a similar arrangement of limbs, if you're not starting out from size Medium or Small you can't change size category.

Here's a fun wrinkle, though - once you change form using Shapechanger, you stay in that form until you either die or use an action to change back.

So, if you wildshape into a cave bear, then shapechange into a dire wolf, then take enough damage to end the wildshape, do you go back to your normal form because of the rules of Wildshape, or do you stay as a dire wolf because of the rules of Shapechanger?
 

Clint_L

Hero
That said, if someone with a warforged druid wanted to have their wildshapes be mecha-bear, mecha-crow, &c., I would be completely okay with that.
Oh yeah, I think the aesthetics should be in the hands of the player. I just don't like them getting physical racial advantages because that seems unfair. I agree that Crawford's rulings on this seem kind of arbitrary and counterintuitive, and that's why I would ignore them.
 

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