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The question basically sets the scene. If a lvl 20 Wizard used the Shapechange spell to become an Ancient Brass Dragon, then they retain all their Wizard class features. Simple enough.

However if the same Wizard then uses the Change Shape feature of the Ancient Brass Dragon to become a humanoid, would they still have those wizard class features?

I would think no, however I've had people argue that because Change Shape says "Its statistics and capabilities are otherwise replaced by those of the new form, except any class features or legendary actions of that form", this means that RAW, your existing Wizard class features aren't replaced and thus remain in the new form.

Basically I'm asking for the RAW interpretation in this situation. Do you keep Wizard features after you Change Shape?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/q/115349/31402 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 17:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does this answer your question? Can you use a Dragon's Change Shape Ability to Turn Back Into Yourself? \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim C
    Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 18:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimC It doesn't really. The linked question speaks about the logistics behind turning into yourself as a Dragon. My question is about whether you keep class features after you Change Shape, regardless of the form you change into. The linked question also asks about "True Polymorph", whereas I'm asking about the specific interactions between Change Shape and the "Shapechange" spell which lets you retain class features (unlike True Polymorph) \$\endgroup\$
    – TheBoss 20
    Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 18:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: True polymorph and the dragon Change Shape feature \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 3:14

2 Answers 2

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Yes, they do

You posit:

If a lvl 20 Wizard used the Shapechange spell to become an Ancient Brass Dragon, then they retain all their Wizard class features.

Minor quibble with the phrase "to become an Ancient Brass Dragon". Shapechange doesn't let you "become" a dragon (as opposed to True Polymorph, which does). Rather, Shapechange lets you "assume the form" of a dragon, which in this case is actually important, because while shapechanged, and unlike while polymorphed:

You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them, provided that your new form is physically capable of doing so.

So now you are still a 20th level wizard (but a shapechanged one), with all the class features that implies, and the only restriction being that to use those class features the dragon form must be physically capable of doing so.

At the same time you are a wizard:

Your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the chosen creature

This means you can in fact use the Change Shape feature of the Ancient Brass Dragon, since that feature is part of its stat block. When you use the Change Shape, you can, as an action, polymorph:

into a humanoid or beast

which lets you return to whatever your wizard race was (or any other humanoid race, for that matter). Note that you are polymorphing into a "humanoid" and not a 'wizard'. However, for your dragon form, your:

statistics and capabilities are otherwise[1] replaced by those of the new form, except any class features or legendary actions of that form. (emphasis mine)

That is to say, your current statistics and capabilities are replaced by those of the (generic, classless) humanoid except for the humanoid's class features. If the new humanoid form's class features do not replace yours, then your class features are retained. And since your class features are currently those of a 20th level wizard, you get to keep those.

Thus - at least until the duration of your shapechange expires - you have the changed shape form of a humanoid with the class features of a 20th level wizard.


1The use of "otherwise" here refers to the fact that you do retain the "statistics and capabilities" of the dragon form enumerated in the previous but unquoted sentence. That is, after you change shape, regardless of your new shape, you keep the dragon form's "alignment, hit points, Hit Dice, ability to speak, proficiencies, Legendary Resistance, lair actions, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores, as well as [the change shape feature]"

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My interpretation of "statistics and capabilities are otherwise replaced by those of the new form, except any class features or legendary actions of that form" is that all your stats and capabilities (which includes your class features) are lost and replaced by all of the new humanoid's statistics, minus it's class features. I say this because the stipulation of 'except class features' specifically refers to only 'that form', i.e. the new humanoid form. IMO, to keep class features RAW, it would have to say "except any class features or legendary actions of the dragon form and new form." \$\endgroup\$
    – TheBoss 20
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 7:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheBoss20 Features do what they say they do. Change shape does not say all your features are lost and then replaced by those of the new form, just that they are replaced except for class features, which are not replaced. The wording you suggest would only be necessary if the dragon features were lost, but it does not say that they are. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 14:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Exactly my thoughts: features do exactly what they say and they say that all your existing Dragon statistics and capabilities are replaced (with the exception of things like Hit Dice). It does not say that class features from your dragon form are retained (whereas it does say that Hit Dice and the Change Shape action are retaained for example), only that class features from the Humanoid formed are not gained. \$\endgroup\$
    – TheBoss 20
    Commented Apr 14, 2023 at 4:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheBoss20 The actual brass dragon doesn't have any class features, because it doesn't have a class. So change shape can't say that the dragon retains its class features in the list of things that it "otherwise" retains (like its alignment). Everything that is not retained is replaced by the new form EXCEPT class features and legendary actions. So the dragon keeps its legendary actions (even though they are not on the otherwise list) and it 'keeps' its class features - which it doesn't have. But your wizard in dragon form keeps its wizard class features, as the exception to what is replaced. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Apr 14, 2023 at 5:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ "at the same time you are a wizard:" I think you meant to say dragon there. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 17:01
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I think you may have misread shapechange. First paragraph:

You assume the form of a different creature for the duration. The new form can be of any creature with a challenge rating equal to your level or lower. The creature can't be a construct or an undead, and you must have seen the sort of creature at least once. You transform into an average example of that creature, one without any class levels or the Spellcasting trait.

Shapechange does not allow you to use the abilities of the creature you've changed into, only their basic numbered stats. You do not have spellcasting once you've shapechanged, this includes the polymorph spell, which is what the dragon's change shape is.

You are more or less a dragon in appearance, but you do not gain any benefits of the dragon other than your physical claws, teeth and hide.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So, would this work for other characters, such as a warlock with a yuan-ti familiar? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 1:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TieflingDragon84 unsure what you mean? In PHB a yuan-ti is not a creature that can be used as a familiar. They're intelligent humanoids and monstrosities. In addition they're not on the list of creatures in the Find Familiar spell - even the empowered warlock version. Unless the yuan-ti is a companion familiar that the warlock has found in their travels the non spellcasting way - that is. These types of familiars do not share the same bond with their master as familiars that have been created with the Find Familiar spell. Neither warlocks nor familiars generally shapechange. \$\endgroup\$
    – Danasaur
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 2:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ The ancient brass dragon does not have the spellcasting trait and cannot cast spells. Change shape is an action. "The dragon magically polymorphs" just means that it can change its shape as an action, not that it is casting the polymorph spell per se. Compare for example with Oni, which have the same language on their change shape, but which in addition have Innate Spellcasting, and a list of spells they can cast, which does not include the spell polymorph. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 2:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ See also this question for several examples of creatures that can polymorph without casting the polymorph spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 3:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am pretty sure Change Shape is not a spell. Your quote specifically says that a Spellcasting trait is not gained but this word does not appear in the dragon's stat block at all. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 5:04

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