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In D&D 5e, Half-Dragon is a template (MM, 180) that can be applied to any beast, humanoid, or giant. When I applied the Red Dragon Wyrmling's dragon breath - which deals 7d6 fire damage in a cone - to a Raven (CR 0) it came out as CR 1/4 (according to the creating a monster section of the DMG).

Druids can Wild-shape into any creature CR 1/4 or lower, starting at 2nd level (or Circle of the Moon Druids can Wild-shape into CR 1 creatures).

This would mean a level 2 Druid can wild shape into a creature that can deal 7d6 fire damage in a cone, with a 1/3 chance of being able to reuse it every turn. This is more damage than any other class can deal at this level, even with max stats (eg. a fighter action surging [once per day] deals only a max of 4d6+10, approximately the same as this, which the druid can do infinite times in a day). So, can druids Wild Shape into beasts with the half-dragon template?

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Players can't apply templates to creatures, nor can they assess CR. That's up to the DM.

You'd have to discuss this with your DM, and they'd likely (at the very least) tell you that you'd need to have seen a Half-Dragon Raven before you can do this. They might also disagree with your assessment of the CR, especially when it's a creature in the hands of a player. You've got no argument against it, since there's no printed statblock for a Half-Dragon Raven and the CR guidelines are explicitly meant to as guidelines and give the DM final control over the CR.

And, also relevant, this won't even work. Your Druid can't turn into flying creatures at level 2. You could probably turn into a Half-Dragon Rat if the DM lets you.

And the final thing; you say "7d6 almost infinitely" but you probably forgot that these CR 0 critters have only 1 hit point, so realistically you can do this once and then your wild shape ends and you take a full attack's worth of damage minus one point.

So really, it's something that required DM approval, they'd probably not let you do it, and even if they did you'd quickly find out that it's of fairly limited use.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Dec 4, 2020 at 10:31
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Half-dragons don't have a defined CR.

The one example in the MM, the half-dragon Veteran, is CR 5 and is explicitly based on a CR 3 Veteran.

The CR of a half-dragon-half-raven is not specified, though we can infer it would be higher than the CR of a raven.

The template does say that the CR can sometimes be left unchanged, if the creature is already an appropriately high CR for its size / breath weapon potency. Otherwise, "you" determine the CR by applying the guidelines in the Dungeon Master's Guide (which, note, is the Dungeon Master's Guide, so it's intended for use by the DM). So suppose you make a good-faith attempt to do that.

What should the CR be for a flying creature with 1 hit point and a 7d6 breath weapon? There's no precedent for that. The mismatch between its dinky AC 12 1hp frame and its great honking flamethrower throws the guidelines all out of whack. (Even calculating the "average" damage output of the attack is hard: a 24 damage AOE will end a lot of fights in round 1, so the recharge doesn't matter; if the bird has enough space to fly out of range while recharging, then the recharge really doesn't matter; etc.) The guidelines are just not written for this.

And this breaks the assumption that keeps Wild Shape under some kind of control: you can only turn into a beast, and beasts have a fairly narrow range of capabilities. They don't get spells or AOE attacks or teleportation or other craziness. They almost never get ranged attacks. They do sometimes get swimming or flight--and Wild Shape locks those creatures out until higher levels. Wild Shape is still very powerful for what you get, but the individual forms are supposed to be kind of boring.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It should be CR 1/4, according to the customizing a monster section of the DMG \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2020 at 19:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TheDragonOfFlame No. You have read that section incorrectly. That section doesn't give hard rules for what CR is. It gives vague guidelines, and tells the DM to adjudicate for themselves. There's a lot of DM adjudication baked into 5e, and situations like this are exactly why. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Dec 2, 2020 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TheDragonOfFlame "An appropriately equipped and well-rested party of four adventurers should be able to defeat a monster that has a challenge rating equal to its level without suffering any deaths." A party of 1st-level adventurers fighting four of these birds is going to die. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Dec 2, 2020 at 19:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheDragonOfFlame a half-dragon raven has an offensive CR of 11 (if I am reading the table right) and a defensive CR of 0, sugesting that its final CR is around 5. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 2, 2020 at 22:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Heck a party of level 2 PCs vs 8 of these guys (approx CR 2), or a party of level 3 PCs vs 12 of these guys (approx CR 3), are ALSO going to get royally creamed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat
    Dec 3, 2020 at 1:42
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The half-dragon raven is CR 3, so this won't work

It is true that

  • applying templates to Beasts and creating new monsters is the province of the DM,
  • beasts that are not directly from the Monster Manual require DM consent
  • the procedure on p. 274 of the DMG needs judgment, as formulas are not able to account for all the possible interactions
  • a normal wild shaping druid cannot transform into a flying creature

All of these are valid objections to the original poster's efforts to break the game with this combination. However, they are not needed.

Using the normal, unmodified calculation procedure, the CR of a half-dragon raven (or rat) is not 1/4, it is 3, and as such it will be out of reach of both a normal druid or a moon druid on level two.

Calculation

Here is the step-by-step calculation:

Raven: AC 12 hp +4 to hit Damage 1 piercing CR 0

Half Dragon Template adds : Fire Breath 15-foot cone 24 (7d6) DC 15 Dex save halves

For the purpose of determining effective damage output, assume the breath weapon hits two targets, and that each target fails its saving throw (DMG p. 280)

That is, the breath weapon is worth 48 Damage/round

DMG p. 274

CR 0: Armor Class <= 13 Hit Points 1-6

Defensive Challenge Rating: 0, since both AC and Hit Points fall into the CR 0 category.

CR 7: Attack Bonus +6, Damage/round 45-50, DC 15

If your monster's attack bonus is at least two points higher or lower than that number, adjust the challenge rating suggested by its damage output up or down by 1 for every 2 points of difference

Offensive Challenge Rating CR 6, since from the base of 7 for 48 Damage per round we deduct one point for the 2 point lower Attack bonus.

The monster's final challenge rating is the average of its defensive and offensive challenge ratings.

Average Challenge Rating: (0+6)/2 = 3

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know what excactly you refer to. I do believe you cannot always trust CR calculations, but in this case, even the unadjusted calculation would block any abuse of the template. Can you be more specific? It seems nobody did check the claim that the resulting creature is 1/4. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 1, 2022 at 17:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! The guidelines come out with a CR 3 creature, much more in line with the deadliness of the creature, and by normal guidance for CRs able to kill level one characters, as Mark suggests. I agree with everything he says in principle, but in this case the guideline seems to work pretty well. And would nip the druidic shenanigans in the bud. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 1, 2022 at 17:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Cool Cool. Just wanted to see if you had seen it :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Mar 1, 2022 at 17:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Druid circles of the moon at max level can change to a CR 6 creature tho... \$\endgroup\$
    – Rp_Master
    Mar 1, 2022 at 18:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ If I had to guess, the OP got the CR from taking a damage of 24 (i.e to only one creature) and dividing by 3 because of the recharge 5-6. That gives an average DPR of 8 or CR 1/2 for the offensive challenge rating. Not saying they were right, just trying to understand where their calculation came from. \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Mar 1, 2022 at 23:20

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