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I'll start with a bit of context - my friends and I are playing a 5e campaign with a Backrooms inspiration where characters from different sections of the infinite multiverse are being pulled into what they have dubbed the "backdungeons" - an endless liminal dungeon comprised of many floors.

It's a fairly open thing so we've all got two parties and each have a couple of characters who we switch out as we feel like between expeditions outside of their safe haven.

One of the characters I want to bring in is, in her own setting, a nekomata - an intelligent magical cat who can shapeshift into human form.

How can I implement her shapeshifting ability in 5e? The best I've found so far is making her an Astral Self monk whose astral self is her human form - will that work?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! Please take a look at the tour, it's a useful introduction to the site. In particular, Stack Exchange isn't like a traditional forum, it's a Q&A site, and the site mechanics are geared around surfacing "best" or "right" answers. Your question seems perfectly fine to me, but the way it was written was likely to get closed as idea generation ("what are some ideas?" doesn't really fit into right/wrong evaluation). I've edited your question to make it fit a little better and avoid close votes; please roll it back if it's no longer in line with your intent. \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Feb 13 at 2:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi. Two details would help greatly. One, how many character levels, magic items and outside help are we allowed to use in answer? And two, the size of the cat. Would it be ok if it was a tiger-sized form (large, or medium with powerful build), or do you need it to be housecat sized? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Feb 13 at 7:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ If your cat form will be advancing with levels, this is a somewhat related question from a player who wants to play as a hamster but with druid spellcasting abilities. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Feb 13 at 7:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you planning to be useful in combat as a cat, or is this just an RP thing? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Feb 13 at 9:07

2 Answers 2

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Work with your DM

As a player, there isn't much available to you that is under your control in this concept, but there are things that a DM can modify, so pitch your idea and see what they say. One thing to clarify would be in terms of leveling. If you are truly a cat who can assume the form of a human, how are both of these forms affected by leveling? Which gets more powerful, and how - or do they both? Does your cat form have class abilities? Once these details are worked out, you might consider one of the following:

Suggestion: modified Changeling race

The Changeling is a race available to PCs and can be found in Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse and Eberron - Rising from the Last War. Their central ability is described as:

Shapechanger. As an action, you can change your appearance and your voice. You determine the specifics of the changes, including your coloration, hair length, and sex. You can also adjust your height and weight and can change your size between Medium and Small. You can make yourself appear as a member of another race, though none of your game statistics change. You can’t duplicate the appearance of an individual you’ve never seen, and you must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs that you have. Your clothing and equipment aren’t changed by this trait. You stay in the new form until you use an action to revert to your true form or until you die.

In general, what you are asking for is considerably less powerful then this, since you would have only two end forms, human and cat, and since the cat form would presumably be Tiny rather than Small. Because of this downgrade, as a DM, I would overlook the 'basic arrangement of limbs' clause and be reasonably generous in working out the other benefits of the race.

Suggestion: Weretiger, without the resistances

PCs are permitted to be lycanthropes. The weretiger, capable of changing into a powerful tiger, and with immunity to non-magical, non-silvered attacks, is far too powerful for a first level PC. But if we discard the resistances and the hybrid form, make the human form conform to a human of equivalent level as your PC, and have its shapingchanging ability access your true cat form, with an appropriate stat block for a cat rather than a tiger, that seems about right. As written, weretiger PCs have a minimum Str of 17 - we could make this ability score one that ties better into your concept of the magical cat race.

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Changeling race

The most likely candidate to be a mostly-cat, sometimes-human is the Changeling race, which has the Shapechanger ability.

Shapechanger. As an action, you can change your appearance and your voice. You determine the specifics of the changes, including your coloration, hair length, and sex. You can also adjust your height and weight, but not so much that your size changes. You can make yourself appear as a member of another race, though none of your game statistics change. You can't duplicate the appearance of a creature you've never seen, and you must adopt a form that has the same basic arrangement of limbs that you have. Your clothing and equipment aren't changed by this trait. You stay in the new form until you use an action to revert to your true form or until you die.

You control the transformation and can stay in your preferred form for as long as you want. But you are locked to Medium size.

Druid Tabaxi wildshaping into a human?

I do not know if that will work at your table (as by RAW you can only wildshape into creatures of the beast type), but perhaps you are a druid and one of your known wildshapes is a humanoid. But Wild Shape sharply limits what you can do in the transformed form, and is limited to 2 times per rest.

Other options

Mostly humans, but can be beasts for a time

  • Beast Barbarian
  • Shifter race

Not really human

  • Tabaxi Warlock (or any other casting class with the Eldritch Adept feat) with the "Mask of Many Faces" (cast disguise self at-will) invocation
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