I'm a relative newcomer to D&D 5th Ed. and am playing a druid fond of Wild Shape. I'd like to know in what ways it can be detected by NPCs (or even fellow PCs). It appears that this is a sort of debated subject, as to how and whether Detect Magic works on it or not.

I read through the question, Detecting Wild Shape with a Mythal, but I've no idea what a Mythal is. In portions of the question and its answers, there seems to be various interpretations of how Detect Magic might work (or not). It seems to me that the ability is a sort of innate or supernatural ability, and whether it is "magical" or not is somewhat ambiguous.

My reason for asking is that Detect Magic seems to be a relatively low-level spell and thus makes Wild Shape (for espionage, surveillance, scouting, etc.) somewhat less dependable.

In another answer by Neil Slater, this excerpt seems applicable:

...the consensus in groups I have played in ... is that Detect Magic is equivalent to "Detect Spells, Spell-like Effects and Enchantments". That is, it will detect spells in progress, spell-like powers of monsters, and permanent enchantments on scrolls, and standard magic weapons. Under that interpretation, will not detect supernatural powers, such as a druid's Wild Shape...

Is there a more recent consensus on how this mechanic might work?

Finally, Detect Magic aside, in what other ways can a druid's Wild Shape be detected or nullified?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting that the first question you link is for 3.5e, a previous (and much incompatible) edition of the game (arguably a different game just with the same name). \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 20:27
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Also, related q by you: Being the best animal I can: How to successfully convince NPCs as a wild-shaped druid? \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil I was going to ask this question in the body of my other question, but I felt that there might be a reasonable difference between passing a check for performance, versus direct detection of the supernatural/magical/innate effect. (I was trying to avoid asking multiple questions in one.) \$\endgroup\$
    – JYelton
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 20:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JYelton you did well to make the distinction. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 21:54

2 Answers 2



A monster with Truesight can, out to a specific range, [...] perceive the original form of a Shapechanger or a creature that is transformed by magic.

This is supported by this answer.

Truesight can be obtained by casting the 6th level spell True Seeing, which lasts one hour without concentration. Needless to say this spell comes at a high cost and is the ultimate tool for finding a magically concealed intruder.

Detect Magic

Wild Shape is a magical effect:

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

therefore it can be detected by Detect Magic, which unambiguously states the following:

For the duration, you sense the presence of magic within 30 feet of you. If you sense magic in this way, you can use your action to see a faint aura around any visible creature or object in the area that bears magic, and you learn its school of magic, if any.

Is Wildshape useless for infiltration?

No. The basic implication here is that Wildshape is not an effective tool against magic users that are actively looking for an intruder. This does not mean that it's useless.

It's a pretty steep cost for a spell caster to continuously consume 6th level spell slots to cast True Seeing or 1st level spells slot to cast Detect Magic just in the off chance that a druid is nearby. A creature using the spell in this way is certain to run out of spell slots after a short period of time.

If, instead, they're using ritual casting for Detect Magic, they'll be continuously occupied and there will be 10 minute gaps between each casting. These gaps could be the perfect time for a Druid to sneak past them.

Patience is on the side of the Druid. They can simply wait while a spell caster exhausts both their time, resources, and patience looking for them, before casually sauntering past them in whatever discreet form they please.

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    \$\begingroup\$ 30 minute? Ritual casting detect magic takes 10 minutes. It lasts ten minutes. So really you should be having Detect Magic on for 10 minutes and then Detect Magic off for 10 minutes if you were genuinely doing this all day. I think the more pressing issue is the continuous occupation bit, few spellcasters would tolerate spending half their day casting the same first level spell over and over instead of doing something useful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 22:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic The window isn't 10 minutes wide, it is six seconds wide. Ritual casting *adds 10 minutes, so a Ritual Detect Magic takes 10m6s to cast. The caster spends 10m6s to cast, then immediately starts again. The first casting's duration ends 6s before the second casting finishes. Wash, rinse, repeat. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 13:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @T.J.L.No, Detect Magic requires concentration, as does casting any spell with a casting time longer than one action. You’ll have to go magic blind for half the time even if you want to dedicate your whole day to being a magic detector. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Commented Jul 21, 2020 at 13:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ don't forget the simplest, the druid doing something its current form would not naturally do. like a rabbit in a third story window, or a turtle on a tightrope. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Commented Jan 16, 2021 at 14:58

It's a special case (it would only apply to some specific animal forms with an INT of 3 or lower), but casting Detect Thoughts could reveal that something is abnormal about the creature (though it wouldn't reveal a Druid in Wild Shape, specifically).

Since Detect Thoughts has no effect on creatures with INT 3 or lower, casting the spell on such a creature would normally have no effect. But if you start actually detecting some thoughts, then some response may be warranted.

This is an inferior solution to Detect Magic, already covered well by Andrendire, but for completeness' sake this is another (potentially) workable option.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Checking the surface thoughts would likely reveal a druid vs. a smart animal, after you detected that there was a nearby mind that you didn't expect, or you see a suspicious creature. (Also, minor terminology nitpick: you cast Detect Thoughts on yourself, not another creature. You can change targets at will while it lasts, or use it to detect the presence of minds in general in the area to find one you didn't expect. As well as being able to direct your attention to one of those minds, or to a creature you can, to get surface thoughts.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 27, 2022 at 5:15

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