A druid in my game recently obtained the Wild Shape skill, and chose the Circle of the Moon to follow. This effectively turned him into a Dire Wolf tank, since the CR of the animal he can turn into is now 1 instead of 1/4.

The trait that really sets him apart from the rest of the group is his new found hit points. He's got 37 HP as a Dire Wolf, and once those are depleted he's got roughly 28 as a Druid. A total of 65 hp is huge compared to some of the other players. Then I remembered that he can shape shift twice between rests. Does this mean he can be a Dire Wolf, lose 37 hp and turn back into a man with 28 hp, then immediately (on his next turn) shape shift back into a Dire Wolf and get another 37 hp besides his normal ones? 102 hp is going to be basically game breaking at this point. How do I deal with this?

As a side note, I didn't know that one had to have seen the creature to take their form. When the druid said "I turn into a Dire Wolf," I said "cool!" Upon going over the rules I realized my error, but thought that since he's a druid I might give him the benefit of the doubt and let him say he's seen one in his travels. Maybe this was my mistake and I have to go back on this. Advice on this would be bonus helpful in an answer to this question.

Can a druid wild shape into an animal, lose all those animal hp, and then wild shape back into the animal on his next turn to regain full animal hp?

Was allowing my level 2 druid to turn into a Dire Wolf a big mistake? Should I go back on this ruling?


7 Answers 7


Like most other answers, I would say yes, two shapeshifts in a combat is legit; no, you did not make a mistake by allowing your player to wolf out and; no, you shouldn't try to claw back the ability.

One thing I would add to the previous answers is that this issue will almost certainly balance itself out fairly soon. Yes, a CR 1 creature in a level 2 party is huge. But level 2 ends quickly.

  • At level 3, most classes get their archetype paths with cool powers and primary casters get level 2 spells. The wolf will be the same wolf it was before.

  • At level 4, a CR 1 creature is considered a medium encounter for a single party member. Everyone will be pumping their primary stat or taking a feat. Wolves don't get much out of Wisdom, nor is there much overlap between the feats that help them and those that work for druids.

  • At level 5, all classes see a major power spike. Cool abilities, level 3 spells, proficiency bonus goes up to +3. The party might also be finding minor, but interesting, magical items. While your Druid is kicking it lupine style, they won't get to enjoy any of that.

  • By level 6, the Druid can finally upgrade to a CR 2 creature! Of course, at 450 XP, a CR 2 is less than a medium difficulty solo encounter for a character that level.

The dire wolf will remain a CR 1 creature while the world around it scales up. On top of that, if your player wants to jump straight into wolf form every encounter, then every encounter is going to play exactly the same for them, because a wolf only gets the one basic attack.

I'd say, let your player have their fun. Everyone should get a chance to feel like they've beaten the system once in a while. It doesn't seem to be worth the trouble of taking that away from them if the whole situation will simply resolve itself in time.

I'd honestly be more worried that a character with a d8 hit die has 28 hitpoints at level 2.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That his health at level 3. He rolled his heath upon leveling and rolled high each time. Helpful answer by the way. This is a good way to look at this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Besty
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 23:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ I just wanted to add that he only has those 2 uses. If the druid is pushing the party to rest after he decides to pop both uses in a single fight to handily win it, you could always just ambush the party while it tries to rest, or dog the party with a roving party forcing it to keep moving. Basically, it's perfectly fine for characters to blow everything they have in one fight, but what happens when another group shows up and they're out of spells, abilities and ammo? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 1:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ The increase in HP from Wild Shape still leaves the druid vulnerable to disabling spells. Use crowd control on the druid while you deal damage to the other players. Of course, most of these spells require WIS saves that druids are usually strong against, so... smh. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 19:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I also want point out one weakness in the wild shapes, their current hp is the effective character hp. This means that spells like power words and sleep work very well. Also if you are in a shape and you get hit by disintegrate spell, you are dead instead of falling to original form. \$\endgroup\$
    – PnP
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 4:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ "I'd honestly be more worried that a character with a d8 hit die has 28 hitpoints at level 2." -- xD \$\endgroup\$
    – Nilima
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 14:50

RAW both of those are true.

Circle of the Moon archetype ignores the level requirements for the CR of the creatures you wild shape change into and instead instantly allows access to CR 1 creatures and from then on at level 6 allows access up to your druid level divided by 3. Thus your Druid player is well within his rights to shape change into a Dire Wolf.

Additionally there seem to be no restrictions on the uses of their shape change ability beyond the limit of two uses without resting and the regular action economy restrictions. Your Druid could wild shape twice in the same fight.

Let him/her keep playing the PC as they are and if it feels like they are outpacing the rest of the party make natural reactions to balance things.

By which I mean if there is a big, shape-changing druid making hash of the enemies the enemies will probably focus fire on the druid to try to take him out of the fight. Likewise there will be times where there isn't a chance for an hour long short rest between fights and the Druid may realize that they blew their load too early. These things work themselves out. Just be fair, transparent, and try to follow the fiction of events whenever possible.


5e is a skirmish game, fights should be brutal nasty and short, and there shouldn't be time to rest between each fight.

Can your druid wildshape into a Dire Wolf twice every fight? By the rules, he can wild shape twice between rest periods. The question then is every fight delimited by a rest period? Not in my experience.

You have a ton of options to deal with this.

  • You can as arthexis mentions retcon that he can't have changed into a dire wolf because he hasn't seen one. This is a plausible retcon, but really isn't particularly helpful long term and doesn't at all deal with the consequences. I do not recommend this course of action. I'd rather the PC talk about how he'd seen one prior to becoming an adventurer than stonewalling the transformation by saying "you've not seen one of those yet." This is a story opportunity, let it play.

  • You can embrace the fact that this character has tanky elements to him. Make sure you enemies catch on that there are squishier targets or focus fire on the wolf.

  • Add things to the encounter the incentivize swapping out of a wild shape. People that need to be rescued, doors that need to be manipulated etc.

  • Provide incentives for the character to change into other things or not at all. Flying enemies, enemies that are hard for the Dire Wolf's attacks to hit etc are things that should be used. (It's important though with this and the previous two elements, to not cause your PC to feel attacked for playing a druid and using his cool powers, make sure you're attacking your other PCs at their strengths too).

  • You can string encounters together so that resting has a cost.

I really like the last one the best. Encounters should be designe to test PCs and deplete their resources. They work best when they are limiting the number of short rests that PCs take. By rule a short rest is at least an hour. That's enough time that in a dungeon a patrol should sweep the area, if the adventure you're using has random encounter, roll on it each time the PCs take a short rest (though this can be annoying if you have session time constraints). However, more importantly, use the fact that short rests take time to your advantage in other ways. Make sure there are timed events in your dungeons, like certain minor goals disappear after a few minutes, things get harder, or there are other known complications that provide a sense of urgency to the PCs.

You don't want to eliminate resting entirely, but you do want to make sure your PCs are going 2-3 encounters between rests rather than rests providing a scene break like they did in prior editions (this was the case in 4th, I think short rests functioned similarly in 3.5 as well).

Basically, you don't want your character thinking "oh I can blow all my per rest stuff now, we'll rest as soon as this encounter is over" every single encounter. That is going to make most encounters too easy as PCs level up.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't stringing together encounters hurt the non-druid PCs more than the druid PC because the non-druids don't have the same ability to plow through multiple strung-together encounters like the druid PC does? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 17:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Other PCs have other adequate defense measures. And pretty much everyone has a per rest feature that merits haranguing them into multiple encounters per rest period. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 17:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does adequate defense measures mean the same as equal to the druid's as the question describes? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 17:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I'd hesitate to say "equal" as every class has their rest powers going to different things. Druid's wild shape trades hyper utility for damage soaking, The fighter's action surge and second wind add damage and healing ability. The Life Cleric's turn/destroy undead can trivialize an encounter. These are the kinds of things that may or may not be comparable. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 18:18
  • Can a druid wild shape into an animal, lose all those animal hp, and then wild shape back into the animal on his next turn to regain full animal hp?

Yes, that is what the 5e rules as written say.

  • Was allowing my level 2 druid to turn into a Dire Wolf a big mistake? Should I go back on this ruling?

I'd say go with it, for a few reasons.

First, this happens to be a high point, power wise, for the Druid. These happen in 5e. The Druid gets no better a form until level 6.

Second, look at the AC on that Dire Wolf. 14, cannot be improved.

Suppose you have a foe with +4 to hit and deals 1d8 damage on a hit.

Next, your level 3 druid has 28 HP and 14 con. Those are some amazing rolls -- I'll assume equally amazing for the level 3 fighter. I will assume the druid has 14 AC in human form because it makes the math easier.

Your level 3 fighter is wearing plate and has a shield. He rolled 10 and 8 on the HP rolls, and has 14 con, for a total of 34 HP. The fighter has a second wind for another 8.5 HP on average.

The foe deals 1.35 damage per attack on average (most attacks miss), so takes 32 attacks to drop the fighter.

The druid has 28+37+37 HP, for a total of 102 HP. But has 14 AC. So the attacker hits more than half the time, and deals an average of 2.7 damage/attack. It takes 38 attacks to drop the druid -- more than the fighter, but not by far.

Each time the fighter is healed 5 HP, the fighter lasts another 3.7 attacks.

Each time the druid is healed 5 HP, the druid lasts another 1.9 attacks.

If they both receive 17 points of healing, they have the same durability. Every point of healing past that the fighter pulls ahead: healing the fighter is far more efficient than the druid.

Each additional level, the fighter gains the ability to soak another 6 attacks from more HP, and magical armor can pull the fighter up even further. The druid gains 2.6 (all in human form).

At level 6, things change again.

Don't get me wrong -- the Druid's wild shape is still almost "an entire class as a class feature", but it isn't as horribly amazing as it looks at first glance.

The third reason why I'd go with it is that this is a new system, and sometimes you don't want to look for problems before they occur.

If you are really concerned, consider letting the Fighter burn HD when they second wind. That will let the Fighter dip into a deeper resource pool in a given fight, without adding much long-term endurance.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why is the AC 12? The Dire Wolf's stat block has AC 14 \$\endgroup\$
    – Besty
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 1:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Besty sorry, was reading older Dire Wolf stats. Updated with the level 3 assumption, and assumed the Fighter is wearing decent armor. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 2:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just for your info Yakk, if the Druid is playing tanky as the OP said he is, he would be stupid not to pickup Barkskin as he levels so that his AC would be 16. This persists through shapeshifting. He gets this at level 3, so he still remains viable as a tank for awhile before hitting level 6. I'd consider editing the post to remove the statement that the Dire Wolf AC can not be improved. That is misleading. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 11, 2015 at 1:25

Page 67 PHB states: When you revert to your normal form, you return to the number of hit points you had before you transformed. However, if you revert as a result of dropping to 0 hit points, any excess damage carries over to your normal form.

Page 66 also indicates: You can revert to your normal form earlier by using a bonus action on your turn.

Finally, Page 69 under Circle of the Moon says: You gain the ability to use Wild Shape on your turn as a bonus action, rather than as an action.

So, even though they could have a large chunk of HP, you only get 1 bonus action per turn to transform or revert. Doing both in the same turn costs your action. So, in general, yes: the druid can have a lot of HP by using up all his animal HP then Wild Shaping back into it again.

For the next question: Since you have already allowed him to turn into a Dire Wolf at least once, you have two options.

a) Talk to the player and explain that you were in error and that it is a requirement for him to have seen a Dire Wolf in-game. Maybe he will just understand and a retcon can be made without hurting anyone's feelings.

b) Don't worry too much about it. Unless he is going solo, the HP will not make a large difference since he doesn't have a way to effectively tank for other players, cannot cast spells, use equipment, etc.

If you want to make it more interesting and less predictable, you could roll the Dire Wolf hit dice (5d10 + 10) on each change.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The idea to roll the health every time is good. I will consider that for the future. \$\endgroup\$
    – Besty
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 23:37

From what I've read and other games I've played the druid can use his wildshape to soak up damage like you suggested, because later transforming into even a powerful creature can be a disadvantage, in some situations. The circle of the moon is also arguable the most powerful choice at second level too. Also one thing to keep in mind as well that if a druid is in his wildshape form and he is forced to transform back any excess damage will be dealt to the druid himself.

For example. if your druid in his wolf form has 5 hp left and takes 7 damage, the druid would take the 2 damage excess when he is forced transform back.

Also once that druid reaches level 20 he is nearly unkillable because he can keep wildshaping anytime he needs to soak up damage.

For your second question, I'd say that you may have made a minor mistake but don't go back and change the call. As it would also make sense for a druid to have seen a dire wolf during his training so it seems reasonable to me that he would be able to choose it.


Yes, in short. Like everyone here has said. However, if you feel that is too powerful, the rules do state that the Druid must have seen the creature before. Has your Druid seen a Dire Wolf in his minimal adventures before level 1? Has the Druid seen a Dire Wolf in your campaign? Ultimately it's up to you what gets introduced into your world.
Yes, a Druid of the Circle of the Moon can change into a CR1 Beast. But it also has to be something the Druid has encountered before, and become familiar with. If you think a Dire Wolf is too OP, then you could determine that his character would not have seen something this OP, and lived to tell the tale.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi, welcome to the site! If you haven't already, take the tour to get acquainted with the site. I suspect you're getting downvotes because the answer is not really adding anything that's already been said. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 9:30

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