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This is an odd question, but I'm sure it must be doable.

The main ways I've found so far are:

  1. using polymorph, shapechange, etc to directly turn into something that has the swallow whole ability.
  2. having the anthropomorphic animal template from Savage Species. This only has level adjustment given for a preset list of animal types, but this seems to be only a space-requirements limit (e.g. an appropriate LA could be eyeballed for others). The (non-dire) animals that have the swallow whole ability that I can find are:
  3. being a dragon of Huge size with the Snatch and Swallow feat. You might qualify for this by:
    • being a kobold with the Dragonwrought feat, and somehow permanently becoming Huge size.
    • repeatedly changing into a Huge dragon (via polymorph effects, Draconic Wild Shape feat, or the Master of Many Forms class), allowing you to gain the feat but it only working while you're a Huge dragon (depending on the DM).
  4. being a 9th-level synthesist summoner with the swallow whole, grab, and bite evolutions.
  5. being an amphi dragon, wyrmling (Tiny, 1 HD, LA +2), very young (Tiny, 4 HD, LA +3), young (Small, 7 HD, LA +4) or juvenile (Medium, 10 HD, LA +5), from Dragonlance: Bestiary of Krynn Revised. This is less of an option if you don't want to be covered in warts, constantly produce a repulsive smell, and naturally generate enough acid to put holes in even stone floors.
  6. using the 8th-level spell bite of the king (Spell Compendium) for a single pseudo-swallow whole attack. This is only available with the Gluttony and Hunger domains.

However, I'm still curious to find more "elegant" ways this might be done, with a minimum of template use and questionable rules interpretations. For example, there might be a monster type out there that I've missed that has level adjustment listed and already has the swallow whole ability, or there might be a class or prestige class that can get it directly in some way. (The summoner can, for example, but it's still not exactly the summoner getting it, but only getting the benefit of it via the synthesis ability.)

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Note that all of the Polymorph-dependent options above are 3.5-only, as the Pathfinder versions of these spells provide limit the extraordinary and supernatural abilities that can be gained to ones on specific lists, none of which include swallow whole. – Matthew Najmon Apr 14 '13 at 7:03
This seems like it's both a question and an answer. I think it's better that it actually be submitted that way, that is, I think it's best if Roadie asks the question, "how do I get swallow whole?" and then provides an answer of "this is what I've found so far." If nothing else, both seem deserving of an upvote. – KRyan Aug 5 '13 at 18:08
A pathfinder Summoner's eidolon can get swallow whole as an evolution, if that counts – Eric B Feb 15 '14 at 19:44

After conferring with a couple of other DM friends, we decided that the two most elegant ways we could think of were:

  1. Same as you, polymorph/shapechange/etc.
  2. An item employing such.

Swallow Whole is an odd ability, and it is not particularly designed for PC use in any way, shape or form. AFAIK, there are neither templates nor monster classes that give this by default (excepting those listed above), nor have I ever seen a class or PrC that gives it as a direct ability.

Best bet for "elegant" will be using the spell, or putting in the time and effort to make an item of it.

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Be a Dungeons and Dragons 3.X Rog10 and select the special ability feat. Then take the feat Gape of the Serpent.

The [general] feat Gape of the Serpent (Savage Species 35) was never updated to 3.5, making the feat, although published during the 3.0 era, 3.5 legal. A level 10 or higher Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 rogue can select as a special ability feat (Player's Handbook 3.5 51), the text of which reads, "Feat: A rogue may gain a bonus feat in place of a special ability." Only page 7 of the Monster Manual provides any guidance of what bonus feat might mean when used this way (individual classes (e.g. Ftr, Wizard) follow bonus feat rules that technically apply only to those classes not the rogue), and it says, "Creatures often do not have the prerequisites for a bonus feat. If this is so, the creature can still use the feat."

The rogue's feat special ability is a piece of rules strangeness has never been addressed by FAQ or errata, and the same text persists unchanged in even the most recent (and, indeed, updated) Player's Handbook 3.5 (2013). It's a contentious bone in some circles, and even suggesting the rogue can pick any feat (even one as goofy as Gape of the Serpent instead of, for example, Spellfire Wielder or Perfect Multiweapon Fighting) is liable to incite fist fights, flame wars, and terrible sorrow. You have been forewarned.

In Pathfinder, by way of comparison, the rogue advanced talent feat benefit reads, "A rogue may gain any feat that she qualifies for in place of a rogue talent" [emphasis mine], making things unambiguous in that game.

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The "bonus feat" description in the monster manual refers to the racial bonus feats, which are the feats marked with a superscript B in the monsters' lists. The rogue's feat class feature description is "A rogue may gain a bonus feat in place of a special ability.", where bonus means extra and has no special qualification exceptions. – Zachiel Aug 4 '13 at 9:19
@Zachiel: The term bonus feat is defined for each class getting it except rogue. Yet a definition of the freestanding term bonus feat exists in the Monster Manual. That definition applies to all creatures not just monsters, and rogues are definitionally creatures. – Hey I Can Chan Aug 4 '13 at 17:56
The definition in the MM is not freestanding: it belongs to the "reading the Monster Entries" section. The classes that get their own bonus feat definition get that because of choice limitations. I suggest you to bring the discussion, if you want to have one, on the chat. – Zachiel Aug 4 '13 at 19:04
This proves my point: It's a contentious, unresolved issue, and about which reasonable people disagree. I said as much in the answer. But the answer addresses 2 of the question's 3 criteria: elegance and no template shenanigans. However, the provided answer does require a questionable rules interpretation, so if that's enough to make the answer lack merit vote it down. It's cool. – Hey I Can Chan Aug 5 '13 at 10:36
I think you're misreading. It's asking for a minimum of questionable rules interpretations. @Roadie: please confirm. – Zachiel Aug 5 '13 at 10:54

Agreeing with the above answer, but I would also say that in combination with my experience with "monster feats" and a quick reference to d20 SRD, in theory any creature with the Snatch monster feat in relation to a bite attack would have the unofficial opportunity to add the Swallow Whole ability for +1 ECL (see Improving Monsters under "Adding Special Abilities") to the base creature. It's a combat effective maneuver but since escape is possible it wouldn't really fall under "significant".

I'd almost say that the Swallow Whole ability is implied by a huge creature size, as it seems to really only matter in monsters than can swallow your average party member and might do so before shredding or pulverizing them. In essence, the monster becomes a terrain for whatever it can fit into its mouth.

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