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Can a player character (occupying 1 space) in the frightened condition shape change into a larger creature (occupying more than 1 space) if that change requires them to occupy a space closer to the source of their condition? In this case, the player is against a wall and can only expand the space it occupies in the direction of the source of its fear.

The frightened condition says that a

creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear

so I guess this would hinge on whether the shape change is seen as willful movement.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: Can you teleport closer to a creature you are frightened of \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Commented Apr 5, 2023 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related on What is "closer" for the purposes of the frightened condition? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Apr 5, 2023 at 19:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ignoring the letter of the rule for a moment (as one should really), that's EXACTLY what I'd expect a frightened and cornered shapechanger to do. \$\endgroup\$
    – biziclop
    Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 10:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @biziclop I agree with that. Part of the concept is that the character isn't supposed to be thinking rationally. They do not want to get closer to the thing but the fact that a panicked transformation (into something bigger) incidentally puts them closer may not be something they are considering. It's just panic -> shapeshift. \$\endgroup\$
    – JamieB
    Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 14:14

2 Answers 2

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Changing Shape is not Movement

Abilities that allow a being to change shape, such as Wild Shape, are not movement and do not use movement.

There is no issue changing shape while frightened, unless some other effect specifically takes this into account.

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    \$\begingroup\$ By this logic, would you also be allowed to teleport closer to the source, since Teleport is also a spell, not Movement? \$\endgroup\$
    – Opifex
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 12:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Opifex: Yes, technically RAW, as argued in the top answer on Can you teleport closer to a creature you are Frightened of? (which also points out that it's almost certainly not intended). \@goodguys5 linked that Q&A in a comment under this question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 20:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, right. My bad @PeterCordes. Didn't see it. Btw. for clarity: I wasn't trying to dispute your answer. Just wanted to provide some food for thought. \$\endgroup\$
    – Opifex
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 20:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ An additional bit of silliness that I don't want in the answer: Under no other pressures, a shapeshifter could grow larger and smaller, slowly slinking towards the source of their fear, choosing the closest square to "shrink" into and "expand" from. \$\endgroup\$
    – goodguy5
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 20:48
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Moving means moving over a distance

October 2016 PHB errata:

Is standing up from prone considered moving? Standing up costs movement but moves you nowhere. When the game refers to you moving, it means moving some distance. It doesn’t mean making a gesture or standing up in place. To move while prone, you crawl or use magic (PH, 191).

Changing shape may alter the number of squares you take up (that is, the number of squares you control in combat), but changing shape does not 'move you some distance'. Thus it does not count as moving closer to the source of your fear.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It does 'move you some distance' if you use a grid system. You're originally centered in one cell, but you're centered in the corner of a cell after the transform. On a square grid, this means you moved a distance of s/sqrt(2) where s is the size of the grid. I'm not saying your conclusion is wrong, only that your argument doesn't work for people using a grid. \$\endgroup\$
    – ikegami
    Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 20:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ikegami If one defines "you" specifically as the point at the center of the space controlled, sure - but I don't think even the grid variant does that. Suppose a character had already moved their full speed in movement and then tried to change form. Are you suggesting that should not be permitted because they would need another c. 5 feet of movement to do so? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 21:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nope. Like I said, I'm not contesting the conclusion. Just the argument. And what you just said presumes that all movement requires movement points, which is not true. \$\endgroup\$
    – ikegami
    Commented Apr 6, 2023 at 21:48

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