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Background

I have never had a problem with Druids in my games take things such as, Multiattack, Improved Multiattack, and Improved Natural Attack. However, I reached a 'scratch my head' moment whenever a player, who loves wolves, decided on specializing in wolf forms.

She embraced the whole Trip attack thing, and I fully supported her build. However, she wanted the archtypical 'intimidating wolf howl' and saw Mighty Roar, and Greater Mighty Roar in Savage Species.

Wolf Howl


Problem

Mighty Roar [Monstrous]

Prerequisite: Animal or magical beast; Large size.

Greater Mighty Roar [Monstrous]

Prerequisite: Animal or magical beast; Large size, Mighty Roar.

The prerequisites... Animal or magical beast. I told her, "But you aren't an animal, and you don't 'turn' into an animal, you retain the humanoid type."

Her reply was, "Well, you let me have Improved Natural Attack, and as a humanoid I have no natural attack."

She had me speechless.


Question: Does Wild Shape actually allow Monster feats mentioned above? Why or why not?

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[Monster] feats vs. [Monstrous] feats

Yes, these are different things. Which is absurd, and a terrible choice on Wizards part.

Monster Feats

These feats apply to abilities most commonly found amongst monsters or are related to monsters.

Monstrous Feats

Only creatures with a monstrous form or one or more monstrous abilities may select these feats. Monstrous forms are those that are unavailable to normal humanoid and animal creatures, including but not limited to extra appendages, nonstandard appendages (such as tentacles or a tail), supernatural abilities, and spell-like abilities. With your DM’s permission, you may be able to choose monstrous feats for your character if your character acquired unusual abilities through transformation or by advancing in a prestige class.

Monster feats are from the Monster Manual and are so-called just because Wizards assumed that monsters were the most likely ones to want them; they have no special requirements and PCs are allowed to take them. This includes Improved Natural Attack.

Monstrous feats were introduced by Savage Species, and as you can see, have extremely vague and ill-defined requirements. In particular, monstrous features are “unavailable to normal humanoid creatures” but include both spell-like abilities and supernatural abilities, which are not at all unusual in humanoid creatures. Then there’s mention of being allowed to take them if you transformed or took a prestige class, but no mention of what happens if you had those features without doing so. Savage Species is not a well-written book.

Anyway, it’s pretty clear that Wild Shape probably qualifies the druid for [Monstrous] feats anyway, so long as you approve it as DM. The final issue is Mighty Roar, which has another requirement on top of being Monstrous: it requires Animal or Magical Beast type. Why the authors felt they needed another requirement on top of those from Monstrous, I couldn’t say, but they did. As you note, Wild Shape does not change type. And you are correct to make a distinction between this and Improved Natural Attack; INA does not require any particular type.

But again, Savage Species is a poorly-written book. If the druid is willing to accept that they’ll only get to use Mighty Roar while using Wild Shape, I strongly feel it should absolutely be allowed.

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RAW says no, but you should allow it.

So what do these feats do? Mighty Roar (and Greater Mighty Roar) are 1/day effects that cause shaken for 1d6 turns/panic for 2d6 turns, Will negates. This costs two feats for the latter effect, a resource that a Druid does not have a lot of. Plus it uses Charisma as its DC modifier, which is traditionally not a Druid stat. So you don't get a spectacular DC on this: it will likely be closer to 20 than 25 at character level 20.

So what do you do? RAW says that no, the player cannot take these feats because they are not an animal or magical beast. But as always when dealing with strange situations, consider the player's intentions: she only wants to use the feat while in a form that does qualify for the feats. So if you tell her that yes, she can take the feat but only use its effects in her wolf shape, which she was going to do anyway, you meet the requirements of the feat and the player is happy. And the feat is not terribly imbalanced, so it will not break the game or give the wolf a significant power advantage (I know, the Druid is Tier 1, but bear with me). A win/win scenario, really.

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A typical humanoid creature with the special ability wild shape does not meet the prerequisites of the feat Mighty Roar and also may not meet the requirements set forth by the feat's type...

Although some feats are listed in the section Monster Skills and Feats in the Monster Manual, those feats are only "typically only used by monsters" (303), so those feats are available to PCs who meet the feats' prerequisites.

However, the feats in question aren't in the Monster Manual but in Savage Species, so two other issues need addressing.

Meeting the feats' prerequisites

The Player's Handbook on Prerequisites says

Some feats have prerequisites. Your character must have the indicated ability score, class feature, feat, skill, base attack bonus, or other quality designated in order to select or use that feat. [...]

A character can’t use a feat if he or she has lost a prerequisite. For example, if your character’s Strength drops below 13 because a ray of enfeeblement spell, he or she can’t use the Power Attack feat until the prerequisite is once again met. (87)

Feats are selected upon advancing a level as part of the standard level-up process as per Level Advancement (PH 58-9), and prerequisites must be met right then. The Dungeon Master's Guide says that

You may want to award experience points at the end of each session, or you might wait until the end of each adventure. That’s up to you. However, the standard procedure is to give them out at the end of each session, so players whose characters go up a level have time to choose new spells, buy skills, and take care of other details related to level advancement. (18)

Thus, while the nuts and bolts of advancement occur between sessions, the XP awarded at the session's end is what determines if a creature advances a level and effects affecting the creature when that session ends determine if the creature meets a feat's prerequisite.

Yes, that's crazy and can lead to more than a little stupid if the DM is unreasonably strict.1 But it does mean, for example, a druid wanting to pick the feat Multiattack (MM 304) must meet that feat's prerequisites (probably by using the special ability wild shape) when a session ends during which the druid gained enough XP to advance a level.

By the same token, a druid that wanted to take the feat Mighty Roar (Savage Species 37) must meet that feat's prerequisites of the animal or magical beast type and Large or bigger size at the session's end, a difficult task. (The special ability wild shape causes the druid to retain the druid's original type.)2

Dealing with the feat type monstrous

The Savage Species (Feb. 2003) description of feats with the type monstrous says

Many of the feats described in this chapter belong to a new category, monstrous feats (see the second half of Table 4–1, on page 32). Only creatures with a monstrous form or one or more monstrous abilities may select these feats. Monstrous forms and abilities are those that are unavailable to normal humanoid or animal creatures, including but not limited to extra appendages, nonstandard appendages (such as tentacles or a tail), supernatural abilities, and spell-like abilities. With your DM’s permission, you may be able to choose monstrous feats for your character if your character acquired unusual abilities through transformation or by advancing in a prestige class. (29)

Emphasis mine. This could mean monstrous form as in the creature can use the supernatural ability alternate form (on which wild shape is based) or change shape to assume a monstrous form, but the DM could also read it as the creature needing to be a literal monster all the time. Then the creature, if a PC, also needs the DM's permission. (Similar language is used in the Draconomicon (Nov. 2003)—another source of many monstrous feats—, while Serpent Kingdoms (June 2004) directs readers to Savage Species for monstrous feats, providing no definition.)

However, the PC may eventually want a monstrous feat from Libris Mortis (Nov. 2004), that text's monstrous feats definition saying

A few of the feats in this chapter belong to the category of monstrous feats. Only creatures and characters with a monstrous form or one or more monstrous abilities may select these feats. Monstrous forms and abilities are those that are typically unavailable to humanoid or animal creatures, including but not limited to extra appendages, nonstandard appendages, and extraordinary, supernatural, or spell-like abilities.

Although some characters will be unable to take these feats initially, later events (such as acquiring an undead template or multiclassing into an undead monster class) might allow access to these specialized feats. (23-4)

Emphasis mine. Thus the DM's permission isn't required for these feats. Finally, Magic of Incarnum (2005) shortens its definition to

Monstrous feats require a creature to have a monstrous form or special abilities. (34)

probably so as not to waste page space giving a detailed definition of the feat type when that text contains only one feat of that type, Undead Meldshaper (MoI 41).

The strict DM has two choices:

  • The DM can elect to have the definition of monstrous feats from Magic of Incarnum (which is largely useless and serves no purpose beyond assigning the feats a type other than general), be, as the last printed definition, the final word on monstrous feats.

    Under this ruling, for example, a druid that meets the prerequisites of the feat Mighty Roar can take feat Mighty Roar.

  • The DM may have each text's definition of monstrous feats apply to the monstrous feats in that text (e.g. only monstrous feats from Savage Species use the Savage Species definition), making things more complicated but giving the strict DM permission to nix PCs taking some feats having the type monstrous.

    Under this ruling, for example, a druid that meets the prerequisites of the feat Mighty Roar can still be denied the feat Mighty Roar by the DM because the Savage Species definition of the feat allows DM to.3

Besides feats with the type monstrous, other feat types also have variable definitions depending on the definition's source (e.g. ambush feats, divine feats, vile feats), so making such a choice may set a precedent for the campaign.

...But allowing a druid to take the feats anyway won't be disruptive

The feats Mighty Roar and Greater Mighty Roar collectively allow a once per day non-mind-affecting, non-fear effect that can render foes within 30 ft. of the user shaken or panicked, respectively, if foes fail a Willpower saving throw. That's only cool, and nothing compared to what the druid could have done with those two feats. A house rule changing or even eliminating those feats' more restrictive prerequisites is not a big deal.


1 "Remember, Blackleaf is poisoned," says the DM, "and that 1 point of Strength damage drops your score to 12, so you can't take the feat Power Attack when you level up like you wanted. See you next week!" (Seriously, don't sock him—just count to 10 and walk away.)
2 A druid who ends a session while affected by the 1st-level Drd spell aspect of the wolf [trans] (SpC 16-17) and the 5th-level Drd spell animal growth [trans] (PH 198) meets the prerequisites of the feat Mighty Roar (SS 37), but such effects must be duplicated were the druid to want to meet subsequently the prerequisites of the feat Greater Mighty Roar (SS 35).
3 No, I don't know why the DM would be a jerk about the feat Mighty Roar, but he might want to restrict a PC's access to something like, for example, the feat Improved Rapidstrike (Dr 70-1).

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