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I know that if you want to Wild Shape at a level before 5 when you get it as a regular Druid or a Wild Shape Ranger, there are a few options (Divine Minion, Totem Druid), but the downside to these abilities is that you get a variant version of Wild Shape that does not grant you the whole suite of regular animal forms normally included with Wild Shape.

I have been thinking about solutions to this: either WS Ranger 1/Druid 1 with the Divine Minion template, OR Totem Druid 1/WS Ranger 1. Both put you a level 2, though the first requires no multiclassing and nets you a tempalte.

This question comes from an optimization point of view: I want to get the most out of Wild Shape and both Planar Shepherd and Master of Many Forms. A build of Totem Druid 1/MoMF 4/Planar Shepherd 9/MoMF 6) gets me far, but it would mean that I cannot turn into the quite useful repertoire of normal animals. So my question is as follows:

Is it possible to access the Wild Shape ability at lower-than-usual (<5) while still being able to Wild Shape into natural animals?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The literature on the subject suggests that you've found all routes:

In short, enjoy your first five levels as an excellent class.

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Yes, But...

  1. only if the DM allows creatures to meet prestige class requirements using magic items, and...
  2. only if the DM allows a Drd1 to acquire somehow the correct magic item.

Only the DM prevents creatures from meeting with magic items prerequisites and requirements, but talk to the DM. Many folks think that doing so is shady, lazy, or cheap, but committing a different resource to solve a problem is still committing a resource to solve a problem, so if the DM allows it, that's number one down.

However, a PC getting his grubby mitts on a magic item way beyond Table 5-1: Character Wealth by Level (DMG 135) is something that must be done at the gaming table or—more likely—written into the background of an already high-level constructed character. If everyone at the table is level 1 and intent on exploring the dungeon and murdering kobolds while one PC wants to find the druid circle so he can borrow their skin of Kaletor (see below), chances are not all of the players are on the same page, and that's usually a bad thing. But if everyone is going a similar wacky, obscure route to achieve maximum power early because it's an extremely high op campaign setting (e.g. the Tippyverse), that's number two down.

Anyway, the requirements for the prestige class master of many forms (Complete Adventurer 58-60) are the feat Alertness (PH 89), the feat Endurance (PH 93), and the class feature wild shape. Any level 1 human or a level 1 wizard of any race with a nearby familiar can meet the first two requirements, but the wild shape requirement was obviously put there to delay entry into master of many forms until level 5. The Dragon #324 Magic Shop column "Power at a Price," however, introduces

The Skin of Kaletor

[...] This bearskin cloak... gives off a powerful rotting stench that is immediately noticeable and incurs a −6 penalty on all Charisma-based skill checks and wild empathy checks.1 When wearing a skin of Kaletor, a druid can use the wild shape ability as if he were four levels higher than his current druid level. Additionally, any non-druid who wears the cloak can use the wild shape ability once per day as a 4th-level druid.2

Faint transmutation; CL 4th; Craft Wondrous Item, creator must be a druid; Price 12,000 gp; Weight 10 lb.

(So we're all on the same page, in my head I've been pronouncing this KAYL-tor.)

(There's an argument to be made that a Drd1 gets nothing from the skin, as he does not have the class feature wild shape and is a a druid, but I find it unlikely that this is the argument that stops the character from doing what he wants.)

Anyway, assuming pure theorycraft or the DM's a goldfish or the player's persuasive powers are amazing or everyone in the group doing likewise, a Drd1 who borrows an ioun stone (dark blue rhomboid) (DMG 260) (10,000 gp; 0 lbs.) to get the feat Alertness and Shadahkar's swift wind (Dragon #324 75-6) (8,350 gp; 1 lb.) to get the feat Endurance3 and a skin of Kaletor to get the special ability wild shape and who employs all 3 items while advancing a level (see Experience and Levels on PH 58-9) can take as his second character level the first level of the prestige class master of many forms.

This is, in case this isn't clear enough already, utterly crazy.

It is the subject of some debate whether the druid must keep these items (or, y'know, find another way of meeting the master of many forms requirements) either to continue advancing in the prestige class master of many forms or to use any abilities of the prestige class master of many forms. Especially as, after returning the skin to its rightful owner, the DM must determine whether the additional uses per day of the special ability wild shape granted by the master of many forms add to the creature's zero wild shape uses per day (therefore allowing the creature to wild shape 1/day as a Drd1/Master of Many Forms 1) or to the creature's Ø wild shape uses per day (therefore allowing the creature to wild shape... um... Ø/day). But, y'know, if things have gone this far without the DM objecting, I can't see this as the problem.

Campaign Ramifications

A campaign in which any Drd1 could take the prestige class master of many forms at level 2 is a scary one. Changing form is one of the most awesome and game-breaking special abilities in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5—on par with (and slightly off to the side of) spells and psionic powers—, and being able to do so to the degree the master of many forms does at such an early level creates a campaign world that's potentially terrifying. Druids are already the game's most powerful base class; this campaign world is likely ruled by them. I mean, even more than most campaign worlds are.


Notes

1 I'm not sure why it matters how things react to the skin—it's not described as usually an intelligent item, and the skin certainly doesn't have the special ability wild empathy. (I know, article author Robert J. Hahn, that this is the editor's fault—I'm just messin' with you.)
2 Which is hilarious, as a level 4 druid doesn't possess the supernatural ability wild shape. (I figure this is also the editor's fault.)
3 Yes, the same article. I know.

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