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I’m returning to D&D after a VERY long time, and will predominantly be playing solo.

Can you create a character that is an animal? I’m thinking of a cat who is a wizard, possibly because of a spell that went wrong. I’ve started reading the D&D basic rules from 2018 , and can only see four races? The character is/was human, but is stuck in a feline form after a spell that was above their level backfired.

Okay... I played D&D back in the 80s, and got interested again after an artist I dig shared his love of the game. Given the U.K. is going back into lockdown, I wondered if you could do solo adventures. Cats are my favourite animals, and a lot of my own characters (I’m a professional artist) are cat like creatures. A cat like wizard just really appealed to me! So, basically, a cat like human, around 5 feet tall, not a domestic cat. I like the idea of him being grumpy and a bit distracted, like cats can be. He would have good agility and balance, as cats do. Basically thinking it’d be FUN. Another add on is that he could be on a quest to return to human form...

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, how are you playing solo? It usually takes two to tango. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 4, 2021 at 15:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is likely we will also need to know what level you would be starting at since the types of magics that could go wrong to result in a form change are typically relatively high level. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 4, 2021 at 15:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Related on Can I play 5e solo? \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Jan 4, 2021 at 16:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Kind of related: playable races in 5e and 5e resources online \$\endgroup\$
    – Adeptus
    Jan 5, 2021 at 0:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi @Adeptus... I just wanted to get back into playing really. I think when I’ve done some solo adventures, I may well join an online group, but I just want to have some fun and get to grips with gaming again. The community here is super supportive, so I definitely don’t feel alone. Just taking baby steps right now! Thanks for connecting! \$\endgroup\$ Jan 5, 2021 at 1:12

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Consider the Custom Lineage optional rules

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything provides the optional rule variant for designing your character's race outside of the standard race options. Essentially you would choose your size (small/medium), a +2 ability bonus, a feat, a skill proficiency/darkvision, and an extra language. If you want your wizard to be catlike due to a magical mishap this might help distinguish you from regular catlike races.

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You are looking to play a Tabaxi Wizard.

They are catlike humanoids

Hailing from a strange and distant land, wandering tabaxi are catlike humanoids driven by curiosity to collect interesting artifacts, gather tales and stories, and lay eyes on all the world’s wonders.

and have a feline trait

The Cat Lord, the divine figure responsible for the creation of the tabaxi, gifts each of his children with one specific feline trait.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As the link redirecting will indicate, tabaxi were printed in Volo's Guide to Monsters, though DDB should sell independently if they don't want to shell out for the whole book. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Jan 4, 2021 at 21:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think they are also available via Tomb of Annihalition and Explorer's Guide to Wildermount. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Jan 4, 2021 at 21:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Awesome! Thanks for this guys! I’m getting back into D&D after a LONG time, so I’m learning everything from scratch! \$\endgroup\$ Jan 4, 2021 at 21:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu: They're not a playable race in ToA. (The only playable races printed in adventure books are genasi in Princes of the Apocalypse and goliaths in Icewind Dale: Rise of the Frostmaiden, AFAIK.) They are reprinted in EGtW, though, as you mention. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 6, 2021 at 8:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, to clarify, the "feline trait" mentioned in the second quote is referring to what's described in the sentences that follow it in the original text: "The Cat Lord [...] gifts each of his children with one specific feline trait. Those tabaxi gifted with curiosity are compelled to wander far and wide. They seek out stories, artifacts, and lore." \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 6, 2021 at 8:12
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Playing solo you can do ANYTHING you like

One of the best things about playing solo is that you don't have to worry so much about balance between races and classes, you only have to worry about having fun.

There may be rules for feline races (there are lots of books you have to pay for that you haven't got, and Tabaxi are a thing), but without buying those book simply say to yourself (and your DM if you have one) "My character has all the stats of a human, but is part cat and looks like a cat, because xyz happened in my past cough magic cough"

Nobody else can complain!

The only thing I would recommend is that you don't change any rules, just flavour what it already there to make it look and feel the way you enjoy.

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Akixkisu's excellent suggestion made me think of a couple other possibilities: Leonin, from Mythic Odysseys of Theros:

Leonin are proud lion-like hunters, many of whom live in defiance of the gods.

Shifter (Swiftstride or Wildhunt) from Eberron: Rising from the Last War and Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron:

Swiftstride are often predatory and feline... Wildhunt shifters are born from any creature that tracks its prey.

If you want to play as an actual cat, your best bet is probably homebrew. RAW, you may need to resort to Polymorph and/ or Wish. For an example of an animal NPC, you could look to (spoilers for Descent into Avernus):

Traxigor was polymorphed into an otter years ago, and decided he preferred the new form to his original one (that of a wizened old man). His otter form was made permanent by a wish spell. He uses the archmage stat block, but is a Tiny beast with a Strength of 3. His alignment is chaotic good, and he speaks Common, Draconic ...

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Playing awakened animals isn't possible.

All playable characters are humanoid and either Small or Medium in size. A cat, even a cat given intelligence and the ability to speak with the Awaken spell, is not a viable player character. They're Tiny Beasts, not Humanoids, and rules for them only exist in the form of NPC stat blocks.

Additionally, if an awakened animal such as a cat were to become a Wizard, they would be incapable of casting spells that require Somatic components since they don't have hands.

As a result of these issues, I would recommend that you instead try to play a character who belongs to a cat-like humanoid race, such as a Tabaxi, Leonin, or Shifter, as suggested by other answers.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "A cat like wizard just really appealed to me! So, basically, a cat like human, around 5 feet tall, not a domestic cat." The OP specifically says they're not looking to as a cat but as a cat-like human so I don't see how this is really relevant to what's being asked about. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 6, 2021 at 4:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleMonkey I didn't see that section, but the first part clearly seems to be describing an Awakened animal. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Jan 6, 2021 at 4:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000: It really doesn't seem to me like that at all: "The character is/was human, but is stuck in a feline form after a spell that was above their level backfired." Awakened animals are animals that gained sentience, not humans that gained animal features. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 6, 2021 at 8:08

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