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Can a druid still talk to the rest of the party while in wild shape? Or can he/she only make animal sounds?

If the latter, how does it interact with Speak With Animals?

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2 Answers 2

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According to the description of Wild Shape in the PHB,

You can’t cast spells, and your ability to speak or take any action that requires hands is limited to the capabilities of your beast form. (p. 67)

A DM may rule that a high-level druid has some capacity for speech in beast form based on being able to perform verbal spell components with the 18th level class feature Beast Spells.

Beginning at 18th level [...] You can perform the somatic and verbal components of a druid spell while in a beast shape ... (id.)

But, this would be a houserule and likely not intended by RAW since Beast Spells specifically limits the verbal aspect to druid spells (not all spells).

The inability to form words (i.e., communicate in a language) in beast form would not prevent you from "gain[ing] the ability to comprehend and verbally communicate with beasts for the duration" pursuant to Speak With Animals (PHB, p. 277).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! I was scanning too quickly, and I thought that paragraph was just about spell casting, so I missed the "and your ability to speak" part of it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim
    Dec 29, 2014 at 5:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you Wild Shaped into a beast that had the mimicry feature then the DM could allow speech. Ravens (MM p335) can mimic a person whispering for instance. While parrots are not listed in the MM, they will exist as a tiny beast and clearly have the ability to speak. \$\endgroup\$
    – Protonflux
    Nov 15, 2016 at 14:59
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If the new form is capable, yes

This is answered by Sage Advice:

Can a Circle of the Moon druid speak the languages it knows while in the form of an elemental?
Yes, since the elementals listed in Elemental Wild Shape can speak. A literal interpretation (RAW) of Wild Shape could reasonably lead you to think that transformed druids can speak only languages that appear in an elemental’s stat block, but the intent (RAI) is that druids retain their knowledge, including of languages, when they transform and can speak the languages they know if an adopted form can speak.

Thus, a druid can speak when wild shaped if their new form is physically capable of doing so. For low-level Moon druids, and non-Moon circle druids of any level, there are precious few Beast forms that are going to be physically capable of speech.

As one example, though, we have the Giant Elk. AT CR2, this is obtainable by Moon Circle druids only, starting at 6th level. Giant Elk understand Common, Elvish, and Sylvan but can't speak them - presumably their trumpets, bugles, and snorts cannot reproduce enough of the sounds found in those languages. However, Giant Elk have their own eponymous language, Giant Elk. A druid wild-shaped as a Giant Elk could speak Giant Elk - if they happened to know it. And the rest of the party could understand them without speak with animals - if any of them knew it. Or if they didn't, with comprehend languages or tongues. Neither of those spells get around the fact that the druid would need to learn Giant Elk before they transformed, though. It would be a similar situation with Giant Owls and Giant Eagles, which also have their own languages, which druids could learn before their transformation and then be able to speak after. A Giant Eagle has a CR of 1, and a Giant Owl 1/4, which means that both of them are available to non-Moon druids. But because both of them have flying speeds, no druid, Moon Circle or not, can get them before 8th level.

For more accessible speech in a wild shape, now that The Wild beyond the Witchlight is available, we have the Giant Swan. As a CR1 with a fly speed, it is available to all druids at 8th level. Its languages are Auran and Common, meaning that any druid who speaks Common can retain their capacity for speech in Giant Swan form.

Now, Giant Swan isn't the best 'scouting' form for a druid - to spy out the enemy unnoticed and still report back to the party. For that, you want the Raven. With a fly speed, it won't be accessible until 8th level. But once it can be selected, a raven:

can mimic simple sounds it has heard, such as a person whispering, a baby crying, or an animal chittering.

The native raven has an Intelligence of 2 and has no languages listed (it "neither speaks nor understands" any languages). But is physically capable of reproducing at least the simple sounds of speech, it just lacks the intelligence to understand speech itself and put those sounds together into coherent words. Thus a native raven can speak, but it doesn't speak. When a druid wild shapes into a raven, however, they retain their Intelligence, and they are limited only by the capabilities of their new form. A druid wild shaped into a raven could speak, for the raven has the vocal apparatus to do so and the druid retains their own knowledge of language.

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