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In many D&D settings, the character of a human who can shapeshift into an animal is a standard archetype. Druids, Vampires, and Werebeasts are pretty common. However, does any support exist for a character that is the reverse of this structure? That is, could one create a viable character who is an animal that shapeshifts into a human? I'm not sure what sorts of flavor implications this would have, or even if it would ever be mechanically beneficial for an animal to shapeshift into a human.

I know there exists some support for something like a dragon that takes a human form and vampires that can change their appearance, but I was more wondering if any rule systems support something like a particularly gifted bear that could shapeshift into a human.

Possibly a duplicate of How can I make a shapeshifter that takes human forms?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What edition are you playing? Or is this a lore question (in which case, what you are going to use this information for is important as it may change the answers, and might prevent this from being closed as a list question)? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 19 '15 at 19:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie This question isn't so much a consideration for a game that I intend to play as much as it is a curious thought. As such, I don't have any intention to actually build this character, I'm just curious if it can be done in , say, 3.5 or 4e. Thanks for the quick response! \$\endgroup\$ – Robby Jan 19 '15 at 19:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Almost makes me want to see if I can make that race in 5E... \$\endgroup\$ – Korack Jan 19 '15 at 19:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ You'll need to tag this with a specific edition, Different editions handle this very differently. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Jan 19 '15 at 20:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Being pedantic, the only were-human is a human... ("were" comes from the Old English for "man") \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Jan 20 '15 at 4:18
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Yes, it's possible. The idea of inverting a were-creature into a "creature-were" isn't new and has been done in various editions of D&D. There are various monsters and "PC" races (and because this is a game of imagination, new ones can — and are, often created): hengeyokai, jackalweres (not werejackals!), wolfweres, kitsune, and many others are all shapeshifters of some kind that are natively animals but can assume human form, and which have been implemented in some edition of D&D in some form that could allow creating one as a character. The concept is well-represented in D&D!

I can't give you a definitive list and won't try (and it would quickly be incomplete even if I did), but the main point is demonstrated: yes, you can make a "were-human" character.

Depending on the edition and DM that you would be trying this with, your options may be more or less constrained. Some of them are monsters, and creating such a character would require an edition and DM that allow and have rules for creating PCs out of "monster" races; some of them are PC races but are found in "non-core" books that may not be permitted at a given table.

So yes, it's possible and there's support for it in D&D taken as a whole, and the ability to do it is actually pretty common across editions even if the "how" varies considerably. The details of each way to get to this goal are as diverse as the species that can do it and as there are editions of D&D, so it would heavily depend on the details of your specific future play situation if and when you attempt to create such a character.

(Because mechanics vary considerably, they can't really be addressed properly without a specific game, DM, and group that you're actually making a character for. Should you find yourself in such a situation, that would make a great follow-up question.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "were" means "man" (in the sense of "human", not "male"), so "were-human" is either redundant, or a doppelganger. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Brian S Jan 20 '15 at 15:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BrianS I did not know that, but the construction seemed not quite right to me, but also not a big deal if so—hence my repeating it but with scare quotes. But I'm always happy to learn a new bit of etymology! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 20 '15 at 15:35
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In addition to the more “straight” examples offered by d7, many varieties of “true” dragon in D&D can take on the form of humanoids (as well as other animals).

For example, in the 3.5 edition (which is relatively easy to reference thanks to the SRD), the bronze, gold, and silver are core dragons that are capable of it. The steel dragons from 3.5e’s Dragons of Faerûn is even described as preferring humanoid form. The steel dragon, in particular, apparently is detailed for 4e in that edition’s Draconomicon.

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