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I have a Dragonborn Druid character in the works, and I was wondering if I can use my breath weapon while transformed by Wild Shape. Like, if I'm in the shape of a dire wolf, can I still shoot a 15 foot cone of fire? I started playing about a month ago, so whatever edition was the newest back them, is the edition that I play.

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    \$\begingroup\$ On a tangential note, I as a DM would allow it regardless of actual rules. Dragonborns need all the help they can get, especially Druids. \$\endgroup\$ – András Jun 9 at 6:56
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Yes.

Per Jeremy Crawford's unofficial ruling on Twitter:

Q: Could a dragonborn druid use breath weapon while wildshaped into, like, a wolf?

A: The dragonborn's Breath Weapon trait requires exhalation. No anatomy is specified. Does your beast form have a mouth? You can exhale.

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There is no rule that unambiguously prevents this

The critical rules text from the druid's Wild Shape feature is (emphasis added):

You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them if the new form is physically capable of doing so.

The dragonborn's breath weapon is clearly a "feature from your race", so the question becomes, what is required for a dragonborn to be "physically capable" of using their breath weapon? Let's look at the description:

Draconic Ancestry. You have draconic ancestry. Choose one type of dragon from the Draconic Ancestry table. Your breath weapon and damage resistance are determined by the dragon type, as shown in the table.

Breath Weapon. You can use your action to exhale destructive energy. Your draconic ancestry determines the size, shape, and damage type of the exhalation.

In the description of the breath weapon, the only explicit requirement is the ability to exhale. Most if not all beasts have this ability. Beyond that, as Jeremy Crawford observes, "no anatomy is specified." Hence, nothing in the description of the dragonborn's breath weapon is explicitly incompatible with Wild Shape. If you are content to leave things here, we can answer the question in the affirmative: yes, you can use your breath weapon while wild shaped, because nothing says you can't.

However, the description of the dragonborn race makes it clear that they are "born of dragons" and that the blood of dragons runs through them. So we can also look for information on draconic breath weapons in the Monster Manual's section on dragons. The most relevant quote I can find here is:

Dragons are also magical creatures whose innate power fuels their dreaded breath weapons and other preternatural abilities.

(Note: this "innate power" is the kind of background magic that isn't detected by Detect Magic or negated by Antimagic Field, as described in the Sage Advice Compendium.)

These facts make things a bit more ambiguous. A dragonborn druid that has Wild Shaped into a wolf no longer has the blood of dragons in its veins, since it is now physically a wolf. If you decide that having the blood of dragons in your veins is a physical requirement for a draconic breath weapon, then a wild shaped dragonborn druid would not satisfy this requirement. On the other hand, the fact that draconic breath weapons (and therefore also dragonborn breath weapons) are powered by their innate magical power could be used to further justify the conclusion that the breath weapon is not tied to any specific physical anatomy beyond a mouth with which to exhale the energy.

Therefore, when we look beyond just the text of the dragonborn Breath Weapon feature itself, to the racial description and the description of true dragons, we find indirect support for both positions, but still no clear and unambiguous resolution. So, as with many things in 5th edition, this ultimately comes down to the DM's ruling. In some sense, this is more of a world-building decision than a rules decision. As a DM, you need to make a decision about how a dragon's breath works in your world. Is there a specific gland or organ, some part of a dragon's anatomy and physiology, that powers their breath weapon? Or are they directly manifesting elemental energy through their innate magical power?

In general, I'd recommend allowing things that the rules don't clearly disallow, especially when there isn't a huge balance concern in doing so, as is the case here since the dragonborn's breath weapon is only usable once per rest anyway.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Further indirect support for "No" is that dragons' Change Shape ability doesn't let them keep their breath weapon. Although, Wild Shape != Change Shape, so it is only indirect. Thank you for quoting the Draconic Ancestry, it was along that line of logic that I was developing an opinion as well but you took that and expanded with even more references to make a great answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Willem Renzema Jun 9 at 15:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WillemRenzema I'm hesitant to compare Wild Shape to a true dragon's Change Shape ability, since both the source of the magic and the mechanics are quite different. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Jun 10 at 2:25
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Jeremy Crawford gave his input on the question over on Twitter:

Do Dragonborn Druids retain breath & resist in Wildshape? Can a caster use 2 spells in surprise round with the ready action?

Stating:

"I would allow a dragonborn druid to retain those traits in beast form."

Given this unofficial ruling, I would say that you can do it.

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No.

Wildshape states:

You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them if the new form is physically capable of doing so.

The Dragonborn’s breath weapon is a unique function of the Dragonborn’s physical anatomy, since the breath weapon is not magical.1 Because Wildshape changes the physical anatomy of the Dragonborn, they are no longer physically capable of using their breath weapon, since all eligible creatures are physically incapable of exhaling fire, lightning, etc.


1 This was addressed explicitly in the Sage Advice Compendium:

Determining whether a game feature is magical is straightforward. Ask yourself these questions about the feature:

  • Is it a magic item?
  • Is it a spell? Or does it let you create the effects of a spell that’s mentioned in its description?
  • Is it a spell attack?
  • Is it fueled by the use of spell slots?
  • Does its description say it’s magical?

If your answer to any of those questions is yes, the feature is magical.

Let’s look at a white dragon’s Cold Breath and ask ourselves those questions. First, Cold Breath isn’t a magic item. Second, its description mentions no spell. Third, it’s not a spell attack. Fourth, the word “magical” appears nowhere in its description. Our conclusion: Cold Breath is not considered a magical game effect, even though we know that dragons are amazing, supernatural beings.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wait, a ruling by JC that doesn't jive with the rules? Nah. Couldn't be! \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 8 at 16:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Yes, I would definitely disagree with those answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jun 8 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Is the basis of your argument that all racial traits are either magical or are a part of a creature's physical anatomy? \$\endgroup\$ – Willem Renzema Jun 9 at 0:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Can you clarify then how you are asserting that the breath weapon is a function of their anatomy? All I can see from your argument is that the breath weapon is supernatural, but not magical, but I don't see the connection between that and claiming it is a part of their physical anatomy. Especially when you are not claiming racial traits are one or the other. \$\endgroup\$ – Willem Renzema Jun 9 at 3:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov To be clear, I think that is a completely valid ruling. My point is that it is a ruling and not something that is spelled out directly in the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Jun 9 at 16:16

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