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Starting at 2nd level, you can use your action to magically assume the shape of a beast that you have seen before.

This doesn't say anything about the gender or age of the beast, so can a druid change into a female bear if he has only seen male bears? Can he change into a bear cub if he has only seen adult bears? What about hens/roosters/chickens, which look quite a bit different? Or does the gender of the animal shape just match the gender of druid?

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You just need to see one beast of its kind, not every possible phenotypic category of a kind of beast. If you did, it would specify that with something like

... the shape of a beast of a [gender/age/size/colour/seasonal pelt] that you have seen before.

It only specifies that you have seen that kind of beast before, nothing more.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This fits how everyone I know plays, but seems at odds with the answers to this related question. That is, they all seem really sure that the RAW does not indicate a general "kind of beast" ability, but a really, really specific individual, with DM house-ruling to the contrary the only out. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Nov 8 '17 at 23:06
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I would make this entirely at the DMs preference. If a given druid had only ever seen adult dragonflies and wanted to assume the shape of a juvenile dragonfly, I would certainly allow it, but the outcome might not be exactly what the player wanted, because a juvenile dragonfly is not just a smaller version of an adult.

Likewise, if the character would likely assume a male black widow spider is just like a female except with boy parts, that's what he would look like.

I think it quite rare that fun opportunities like this would ever occur, and in most cases a baby animal looks like a cuter/smaller version of the adult and a female/male look pretty much the same minus the naughty bits, but I would certainly reserve this right for those rare occasions. At least make him describe how it differs from what he has seen in the past.

"A female red-winged blackbird? I dunno, a black bird with red spots on the wings. Just with a sexy voice and a milkshake that brings the boys."

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    \$\begingroup\$ If the spell works based on what the druid thinks the target shape looks like, wouldn't that allow druids to transform into beasts they haven't seen by taking their best guess at it? \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Dec 23 '14 at 6:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's my point: If a druid needs a mental image based in reality in order to transform into a creature, why do you think a druid can transform into imaginary creatures by getting some of the details wrong? \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Mar 1 '15 at 23:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe No, and that is kind of my point. Let's see if I can explain better. I've seen a bear, I can transform into a bear. I want to specify that I'm a female bear or a child. It doesn't really matter what gender/age I saw previously because a bear basically looks like a bear except for the naughty bits. But I've also seen dragonflies. I have a picture in my mind. I want to say I'm transforming into a child dragonfly, that has to be based on what I saw, but smaller. I don't know about larvae. \$\endgroup\$ – IchabodE Mar 3 '15 at 4:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe But I also say it's up to the DM. He may say I need to roll for it, or that I may just fail if I haven't observed the life cycle of this animal. Or he may just say like SevenSidedDie did that if you've seen one, you've seen them all. I tend to leave the option open to add humor or drive story in my campaign. But to each their own. \$\endgroup\$ – IchabodE Mar 3 '15 at 5:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I just don't see how you can justify limiting the druid to only animals they've seen if they can make bits of any animal up. "Oh, I've only seen a rabbit's hindquarters, but I imagine the front end has razor-edged vorpal tentacles and lasers. I turn into that." is functionally identical to "I've never seen a sheep, but I assume they have razor-edged vorpal tentacles and lasers. I turn into that." I guess we're just two different kinds of GM. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Mar 3 '15 at 6:20

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