This is not a rules question.

I have been playing a druid and one of the things that doesnt make much sense to me is the wild shape ability. Specifically in how it functions. It makes sense that the stronger you are the longer you can hold a form, the further away from your original size you can get, and even able to support different ... biology? I can even understand the abilities being withheld until you are strong enough to use them like pounce and grab.

  1. But why does a druid gain the ability to become some things and not others?

  2. Why can they take the form of an owl or a bear, but the owlbear (which is a magical beast) is beyond them?

    Everything the owlbear is came from forms that the druid is able to produce.

The druid can change into stone, air, water, and fire, but somehow dragons, fey, and vermin are beyond those capabilities?

The only thing I can think of is the druid's connection to nature. It would explain the elements, plants, and animals. It also explains why "unnatural" magical beasts are not possible, but surely there are natural magical beasts. Vermin should also be considered a part of nature, but they are not allowed.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You are aware that there are ways for druids to become vermin, correct? \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Sep 15, 2017 at 3:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Im assuming that would be an archetype then? Or is there a way for normal druids without archetypes to gain this in wild shape? \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Sep 15, 2017 at 4:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not sure there is a strict answer to this question. It is up to the DM - how does they interpret the game setting. You should add some criteria for a "correct" answer, or the question probably will be closed as "opinion-based". \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Sep 15, 2017 at 17:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The initial assumption "a druid gain the ability to become some things and not others" isn't correct. You might confuse druids with the "druid" character class. It is like asking "why a fighter/ranger/rogue can do some things and not others". Most of the restrictions were probably introduced for purely mechanical (so-called "balance") purposes and aren't supported in game world at all. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Sep 15, 2017 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Fering its linked on my comment, Vermin Shape, its from Ultimate Magic and on the druid's spell list. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Sep 15, 2017 at 19:06

2 Answers 2


It's a matter of paradigm

When the druid takes the shape of some creature he is not really applying some physics to alter his body so in the end it looks like the creature: he is just taking the shape of the creature. He couldn't for example take the shape of a cat with a dog head (by shaping his head and the rest of his body separately): he takes the whole natural form at the same time. The whole thing has to make sense in the natural paradigm.

You can see this as menus in some restaurants: if today the menu is either chicken pie or roasted pork you can't have roasted chicken. Not because roasted chicken is hard to make, just because it is not available in this very restaurant.

A magical beast is more than just a natural lifeform (otherwise it would be an animal), probably more complex to handle for a druid. That's why the druid has to be of an higher level to take this shape (and it is also probably an issue of game design to make the last levels more interesting as you unlock these new shapes)

Dragons are typically Paizo's Mary Sues: just look at there abilities, they have perfect saves everywhere, full BAB, the highest HD... They definitely can't be considered "natural".

Feys are intelligent creatures. Druids can't take their shape for the same reason they can't take the shape of a human, an elf or a dwarf. Even if they can be considered closer to the nature they definitely can't be seen as savage animals.

Vermins are a weird case. My guess is the reason why the vanilla druid can't take their shape is because the natural paradigm only involves what is seen as "nature as it should be" and that these vermins are seen as just ugly lifeforms and not worthy of salvation (like would be viruses). The methods to take a vermin shape would have been added because of difference of point of views.

About pounce and grab it seems to be more a balance issue than because using them needs for you to better handle the transformation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Vermin could just be so low intelligence that they need special training to change into them and not start to lose intelligence, same for plants, that's why some can and others can't. The ones that do have to spend time training to do it and for most druids it's not worth it. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Sep 15, 2017 at 20:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast: I didn't find any support for the last one, that's why I wrote "it seems". \$\endgroup\$ Sep 18, 2017 at 7:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @John: following your thinking druids trained for vermin shape shift should be able to take shape of plants as well. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 18, 2017 at 7:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ except plants are even stupider and/or you could say they require completely different training. Plants may be more about keeping your mind from slowing down to the plants life cycle. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Sep 18, 2017 at 13:59

Wildshape is limited by power and difference of shape.

Two factors limit polymorph magic.

  1. Power. D&D/Pathfinder assumes a setting with an abstract concept that every creature has an measurement of power. This is usually represented by HD, which has an in-world effect on how difficult it is to affect the creature with certain spells. You can also see this in the bestiary; extremely high CR creatures tend to be outsiders and dragons.

  2. Difference in Shape & Size. Changing a creature to anything other than a Medium humanoid requires greater magical power as represented by spells like form of the dragon I having a higher spell level than something like beast shape I or alter self.

The druid's wildshape has the same limitations because it is an ability using polymorph magic. As a result, polymorphing into an owlbear is more difficult than becoming a bear because magical beasts are a more powerful type of creature. Becoming a house cat is harder than becoming a cheetah because house cats are much smaller than Medium humanoids.


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