I'm DM'ing for the first time, for a group of first-time players. I chose the LMOP-campaign because it would be the easiest both for them as for me.

This week, we had our first session. 3 of the player-characters got humiliated (mainly because of bad rolls, but still... it was funny), but one player, who was a druid, was the star-player, killing 3 of the 4 monsters in the first encounter (I'm trying to be vague enough to avoid spoilers).

This druid will play a Moon Circle druid at level 2, which is (so I read elsewhere on SE) the most overpowered subclass in 5e.

We talked a while about how Wild Shape worked, and how strong it was, but after a while I noticed something that we both somehow missed all the time:

Starting at 2nd level, you can use your action to magically assume the shape of a beast that you have seen before.

So the druid must have seen the beast before. I guessed that this would mean that the character must encounter the beast while playing, before it can shapeshift into it (when playing RAW). However, the player argued that in her lore it says that she lived in Neverwinter woods all her life, and that she would have seen lots of creatures already. I have to admit, this makes a lot of sense.

So... how should I handle this? Is she allowed to shapeshift into any creature of the list? Or is it required for her to see them during the adventure?

Or... what I was thinking: maybe I should make a list of creatures that we can assume roam around in Neverwinter woods, and that she can use. (For example: we can expect wolves, but probably not camels...) I looked for resources on this, but can only find this information for plants. Not animals.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Opifex. I suggest you edit your question to focus in a single thing you want answered. As it stands I think this is focused enough to not get closed, but it rambles a lot and if the title wasn't there I wouldn't know. So: What is your question? Is it what animals live in the forest, or how to handle Wild Shape choices? \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 21:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage: I want to know how to handle this situation fairly and/or RAW. Because I don't believe the rules say anything about this, I made my own suggestion, but then I need to define what creatures live in Neverwinter woods. Could you suggest what edits I can make to my post to prevent it from being closed? To be honest I think it's a fair question, but I couldn't find any similar question on SE. \$\endgroup\$
    – Opifex
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 21:39

4 Answers 4


I recommend finding yourself a copy of Xanathar's Guide to Everything and referring to the Learning Beast Shapes tables that start on page 24.

They detail what animals a Druid will have most likely seen in their life, depending on the environment they grew up in.

For instance, a Druid that grew up in the Neverwinter Woods could refer to the Forest table on page 25 for a list of animals and their CR ratings.

Please note, I won't be including that list here due to copyright reasons.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a great suggestion! I looked it up in the book, and it makes a lot of sense! Exactly the answer I was looking for! I'll wait untill tomorrow to accept your answer, to encourage others to provide possible better answers, but I already gave you the upvote in the meantime! \$\endgroup\$
    – Opifex
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 22:50
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "Please note, I won't be including that list here due to copyright reasons." - An alphabetical list of animal names would generally not be copyrightable. \$\endgroup\$
    – aroth
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 10:43

There are only three beasts listed in the LMOP DM's guide (Appendix B). So you could safely consider a wolf as a beast that lives in the woods.

The player is correct to point out that their druid would have seen beasts that aren't necessarily listed in the LMOP DM's guide. Most beasts in the Player's Handbook (Appendix D) could plausibly have been seen by the druid in the Neverwinter Wood region, (even if only at a zoo in Neverwinter).

As a DM, if you are on the fence as to whether a beast is too exotic (e.g. tiger), you can have the player roll a nature check to see if their character is familiar with the beast.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 8:37

One option would be to use the Optional Wild Shape Forms rule from the 2016 Unearthed Arcana: Druid release (the rule in question starts on page 3 of the PDF). This variant removes the ability to wild shape into any beast that you have seen. Instead, it allows level 2 druids to know 3 wild shape forms from one of two pre-defined lists, to gain a new form at each level up, and to gain additional forms through careful study of beasts you encounter.

The intent of this variant option is to remove the complexity, ambiguity, and bookkeeping of the original rule, which sounds like it might suit your needs. That said, you should note that while Unearthed Arcana is produced by Wizards of the Coast, it is unofficial playtest material which may not be perfectly balanced or designed.

If you don't want to overhaul the wildshape rules completely, you could use the list of common beast shapes for temperate regions from the document as a starting point for beasts your player might have seen.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Thing is, if I wanted to do this, I should have made it clear at the start. Introducing a big nerf like this in the middle of a running adventure would feel very unfair to me. I also told them at the start that we will be using only the PHB and the Basic Rules. To keep it simple and noob-friendly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Opifex
    Commented Jul 8, 2019 at 22:52

So it is kinda hard to come up with any official answer as to the kinds of animals/beasts that live in Neverwinter Woods as that never has been the focus of any description of the Neverwinter Woods that I recall.

In fact, most sourcebooks giving informations about the Neverwinter Woods barely have a paragraphe on it, like in 3rd edition's Forgotten Realms campaign Setting where it is mentionned that:

  1. The Neverwinter Woods is a charmed forest
  2. It is constantly warmed by Neverwinter River which runs under the dormant volcano of Mount Hotenow
  3. Humans and orcs have learned to fear the woods and tend to avoid it.

The most information that I could find about Neverwinter Woods is in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting. But I could not find anything more precise as to the kind of beasts that can be found there.

They do mention some features of the wood like the Crags, which are a series of hills and steppes that grow into a small mountain range terminating in the awesome Mt Hotenow.

They mention the ruins of Sharandar, ruins from the fey empire of Illefarn which is now being reborn (to make a long story short), which are also part of the Neverwinter Woods.

More is said about what can be found in the depths of NW, but nothing that answers your question. I would say ... any kind of beasts found in Northern regions would fit the bill. You could include animals from the Forest terrain types, along with beasts that live in hills and mountain ranges, since those might be found hunting in Neverwinter Woods from time to time.

At this point, I do believe you will have to look at the beasts available to a Moon circle druid and decide if you believe he could have met such beasts and would have survived the encounter as a level 1 druid ...

  • \$\begingroup\$ Not all encounters are combat, especially druid Vs animal \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 8:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's that level 1 spell, Animal Friendship that would allow a druid to survive encounters with violent predators that could easily kill any first level PC, 1 on 1. Then again, if you meet more than 1 such predators, the spell can only target 1 ... I'm saying it is risky and there's nothing that would allow a druid to survive ALL encounters against animals in lower levels. But besides that 1 spell, druids with animal handling do not get anything to help against wild animals... \$\endgroup\$
    – Catar4
    Commented Jul 9, 2019 at 21:10

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