In a recent game that I was DMing, the players were tasked with sneaking a parcel of poisonous ingredients to a chef contact they had, in order to poison some high value targets at a banquet.

One of my players is a druid and had the idea to wild shape into a rat or something similarly small to sneak the parcel into the kitchen stealthily. I instinctively said that this wouldn't work, as something of that size would not be able to carry the parcel, as I described it as a heavy ornate wooden box. The druid then argued that all of his equipment can be merged into the beast form, and said that the parcel would count as equipment.

I disagreed, but couldn't really find a concrete ruling online. I should also mention that I am a new DM, so I haven't dealt with a situation like this. I eventually ended up asking the rest of the players what seemed most reasonable and we agreed that it seemed unreasonable that this package would just merge with the druid if he was holding it, so I said that he couldn't do that.

The player was visibly upset by this and was quiet for the rest of the session. How should I have handled this? Should I have allowed it?


2 Answers 2


Your druid player is right: anything worn or carried can be transformed

The rules for wild shape (page 67 PHB) say:

You choose whether your equipment falls to the ground in your space, merges into your new form, or is worn by it.

So, the only question is if the box or parcel you are carrying is part of your "equipment". If it is, then they could chose to merge it with the new form. Once transformed, the original weight of stuff does not matter at all any more. The Shapechange ability says explicitly:

Equipment that merges with the form has no effect until you leave the form.

No effect includes no effect on movement that weight would have.

You can also see this from everyday play: the average character typically carries equipment that weighs far more than 30 pounds in the form of backpack, weapons, armor, rope and so on, and a tiny animal like a rat with strength 2 would not be able to move carrying that after transformation if the weight counted.

Do carried objects count as equipment?

The answer to this appears to be yes. There are multiple places in the rules that suggest anything you wear or carry counts towards your gear or equipment. For example, the rules for Variant Encumbrance on p. 176 PHB say:

The rules for lifting and carrying are intentionally simple. Here is a variant if you are looking for more detailed rules for determining how a character is hindered by the weight of equipment.

While the rule itself is optional, it shows that the rules consider anything that the character is lifting or carrying as part of his equipment: the total weight of what you carry is what determines penalties to movement, and this total is referred to here as the "weight of equipment".

There is also wording in spells that adds further support, for example Meld into Stone (p. 259 PHB):

You step into a stone object or surface large enough to fully contain your body, melding yourself and all the equipment you carry with the stone for the duration.

Nobody would expect items carried in your hands, like your sword or a parcel could not be taken into the stone like this, and the spell explicitly refers to "equipment you carry".

Carried items count as equipment; they thus can be transformed with Shapechange, at which point their original weight has no effect any more.

The Shapechanged rat could have carried the parcel with poison into the kitchen. While your instinctive ruling is understandable, it is not what the rules say.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the thorough answer! Lesson learned! \$\endgroup\$
    – Pelly
    Jul 19, 2022 at 18:48

It seems like there are two questions here, which I will try to cover fairly.

A "heavy box" probably counts as equipment, unless it's too heavy to carry.

Generally, if I can have it in my inventory without dragging it, I consider it a piece of equipment. PCs regularly carry around 65lb plate armor, and Encumberance rules go ridiculously high (off the top of my head, some PCs could carry something like 300lbs of stuff for hours without taking exhaustion levels).

This means that while the rest of the table may have agreed with the ruling that this box was special and didn't meld into the Wild Shape form, the rules as written don't bear that out.

When you want to tell the players "No", don't say No: put challenges in their way.

Your other, more social, question is about whether you did the right thing by making this ruling. You mention that the player was "quiet for the rest of the night"; they may have felt that the fun of playing a druid - which they were in a sense entitled to, by choosing to play one - was stolen from them.

You cannot control how a player reacts to a contrary ruling, but as DM, you are also responsible for "reading the room", and playing to it. I sympathize with your position here, as someone who often must say "No" to a rowdy cast of characters. But, when I do refuse them something, it isn't by flatly stating "that doesn't happen", it's by introducing a complicating circumstance in-game.

The Art of the "Yes, And"

A lot of what you're doing at a table is improvisational acting. Therefore, the "Yes, and..." rule applies. In brief: within limits, what the players say happens, happens; but the consequences of what happens are up to you.

Given your druid-and-a-box example, the most obvious "Yes, and" that I can think of is this: "Sure, you grab the box and wildshape into a rat. On your way down the hall into the kitchen, you are accosted by the biggest, meanest, ugliest cat you've ever seen, and he looks at you with his one remaining eye and says in Beast Speech: 'Prince Mittens hungers.' Roll initiative."

The social benefits of Yes-and are immense, because nobody closes out the night feeling like their fun has been stymied, when at heart they are just sitting at a table with some friends trying to have a good time. When you make rulings and narrate the consequences of actions, very often you'll find that a short-term bending of the rules, for the sake of a player's fun, can reap huge long-term benefits. Just... try not to bend rules in a way you'll regret later.

How can you tell the right and wrong ways to bend the rules? Well... that question takes a lifetime to answer :)

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would warm about being careful dropping cats in the druids way, that is just a passive aggressive way of saying no. The trick is finding a place to get back to being full size and planting the poison. If that cat wasn't part of the DM notes (and possibly prior exposition) I as a player would feel equally cheated if it suddenly existed just to spite my chosen option. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jul 19, 2022 at 6:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ {waggles hand} As to whether adding a cat imposes an additional encounter, I think that would depend on whether the Druid's wildshaping eliminated another encounter. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 19, 2022 at 12:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I'm imagining that as DM the OP already had an encounter planned for this quest, and the druid's plan is about to nullify it. So the encounter count remains the same, but the kind of encounter has been influenced by player choice. The goal is to entertain people. \$\endgroup\$
    – order
    Jul 19, 2022 at 12:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ To reply to your last comment, part of entertainment is to let the players win. When they do something to win an encounter saying 'ha you just walked into another one because I the DM declared that one must happen ' doesn't fit my definition of fun. Players do something clever, reward them. Also they used a resource to bypass that encounter, which is really the point of encounters, so job done. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jul 19, 2022 at 19:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't cats be pretty typical in a pseudo-medieval kitchen? They'd go without mentioning in most cases, but they'd be there. \$\endgroup\$
    – prosfilaes
    Jul 19, 2022 at 21:41

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