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If my level 5 druid with +1 hide armor wild shapes into a brown bear, does his armor resize to fit the new form?

In the PHB for druid wild shape it says:

You choose whether your equipment falls to the ground in your space, merges into your new form, or is worn by it. Worn equipment functions as normal, but the DM decides whether it is practical for the new form to wear a piece of equipment, based on the creature’s shape and size. Your equipment doesn’t change size or shape to match the new form...

In the DMG description of wearing and wielding magic items it says:

In most cases, a magic item that's meant to be worn can fit a creature regardless of its size or build. Many magic garments are made to be easily adjustable, or they magically adjust themselves to the wearer.

To me, it sounds like the druid can wear the armor in wild shape as long as it is magical, as it will adjust to the new form. Is that correct?

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Rule interpretation in general

There are two points to remember when looking at an ambiguous rule:

  1. Your group, with the DM as final arbiter, decides the ruling for the rule. So, you need to establish what this is for each group that you play with.

  2. Specific beats general. Start with the most general rule you can find and see how the specific rules change this.

Armor resizing in particular

For your issue, start with PHB p. 145 (ignoring the optional part because it makes no difference to the case at hand)

Variant: Equipment Sizes

In most campaigns, you can use or wear any equipment that you find on your adventures, within the bounds of common sense. For example, a burly half-orc won't fit in a halfling’s leather armor, and a gnome would be swallowed up in a cloud giant’s elegant robe.

There's your general rule: no armor that fits a PC race (size S or M) would fit a bear (size L).

Wild Shape (p. 67 PHB) says:

Worn equipment functions as normal, but the DM decides whether it is practical for the new form to wear a piece of equipment, based on the creature’s shape and size. Your equipment doesn’t change size or shape to match the new form.

No help there; the armor will be too small and the wrong shape. In addition, there is a ruling that has to be made right here: is it practical for a bear to use armor even if it is the right size and shape? My ruling would be yes but your results may differ.

Now from DMG, p. 140:

In most cases, a magic item that's meant to be worn can fit a creature regardless of its size or build. Many magic garments are made to be easily adjustable, or they magically adjust themselves to the wearer.

The ruling needed here is does the hide armor a) need easy adjustment or b) magically adjust itself. If b) then all is easy, if a) then the druid may need to allow it to drop to the floor and then get some assistance to put it on which would take 5 minutes (PHB, p. 146) which makes it pretty useless in combat.

Those are the issues; your group needs to make the ruling.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You missed the question of which is more specific Wild Shape or Magic Items, because as you quoted: "Your equipment doesn’t change size or shape to match the new form." could preclude the magic items from resizing. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Apr 15 at 21:57
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Yes, by RAW your magic armor should adjust automatically to your wildshape form during the wildshape trans-formative process.

For 5E, you start with general and go to specific.

1st General rule: Equipment (PHB pg.144, Variant: Equipment sizes)

In most campaigns, you can use or wear any equipment that you find on your adventures, within the bounds of common sense. For example, a burly half-orc won't fit in a halfling's leather armor, and a gnome would be swallowed up in a cloud giant's elegant robe.

So regular equipment does not alter to other forms, especially radically different forms, as the examples provide. However, this is only a variant rule, and after the quote it goes on to say that the DM can change this to allow moderate alterations, or very petty and that different individuals of the same race can't wear another's armor without getting it adjusted first. So, there is flexibility, and definitely not definitive.

2nd General Rule: Magic Items (DMG pg. 140/141, Wearing and Wielding [Magic] Items)

In most cases, a magic item that's meant to be worn can fit a creature regardless of size or build. Many magic garments are made to be easily adjustable, or they magically adjust themselves to the wearer. Rare exceptions exist. If the story suggests a good reason for an item to fit only creatures of a certain size or shape, you can rule that it doesn't adjust. For example, armor made by the drow might fit elves only. Dwarves might make items usable only by dwarf-sized and dwarf-shaped characters. When a non-humanoid tries to wear an item, use your discretion as to whether the item functions as intended. A ring placed on a tentacle might work, but a yuan-ti with a snakelike tail instead of legs can't wear boots.

The first part says yes, magic items will "magically adjust themselves to the wearer", and initially it gives no limitation on size or form of the magical adjustment to fit. In the last part of the quote it specifically addresses the limitations on magical adjustment, in that there is no size limitation, strange pairings are OK (ring on a tentacle), but impossible ones are out (snake tails have no feet for boots).

Your magical Druidic power of Wildshape gives 3 choices, drop, magically merge with new form, or adjust to new form. If it can't adjust, then you only have two options. As the General Equipment rule tells us that without specific DM changes, non-magical equipment will not adjust, so it must drop or merge. The DMG tells us that Magical items do adjust to fit the wearer, your armor would fit most forms you would take (that would use it) and there is no impossible match-up (armor on an air elemental), you should be fine to have it change with your new form.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Except Wildshape contains the line: "Your equipment doesn’t change size or shape to match the new form." which might be more specific that the magic item rule. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Apr 15 at 22:01
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For the purposes of magical armour, your DM will need to decide what option to use from the description in the Dungeon Masters Guide. This could involve armour that "magically adjusts" which is great for Wild Shape since Beasts come in all shapes and sizes.

In most cases, a magic item that's meant to be worn can fit a creature regardless of its size or build. Many magic garments are made to be easily adjustable, or they magically adjust themselves to the wearer. (DMG, p.140)

However, from the intention of your question I gather that you want to increase your AC while shape-shifted into an animal shapes. The AC for most beasts is 10-13 at best, which is not great. There is an alternative solution though if you are allowed to multiclass in your campaign. You will need to have a minimum score of 13 on your Dexterity and Wisdom (PHB, p.163) to access this option, but it will be well worth it. You can take 1 level as a Monk! This gives you Unarmored Defense (PHB, p.78).

Unarmored Defense: Beginning at 1st level, while you are wearing no armor and not wielding a shield, your AC equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Wisdom modifier

This feature can be awesome: so long as you don't wear armour or wield a shield you get an AC bonus. For this to be effective you will need to try to get your Dex and Wis scores as high as possible. Your Wisdom score is the nuts-and-bolts of your Druid casting, so that's probably not a problem; just make sure you have a good Dexterity score, too.

If you start off with 15 in both Dex/Wis, you will get AC 14 (10+2+2) right from the outset (including in your Wild Shape); by level 4 you get the option to add +1 to both Dex/Wis which will mean that you get AC 16 (10+3+3). This is just as good as Barkskin and requires no concentration and is always be active. It also means that you can cast other concentration spells and then Wild Shape. Bonus!

Now, going back to the magical armour question. You might still be able to use an AC enhancing magical item in Wild Shape which is neither armour nor a shield and still benefit from the Monk's Unarmored Defense feature. Get hold of a Ring of Protection! You will gain a +1 bonus to AC and saving throws while wearing this ring (DMG, p. 191).

Addendum

In response to the comment. I am not able to find a specific entry on rings, however this entry would suggest that wearing a Ring of Protection would be fine for a wild-shaped Druid:

Can a familiar attune and wear or use a magic item?

There will need to be a bit of discussion at times with the DM, as to the practicality/wearability of it. However, it is important too, to remember that even within the playable races of D&D there is great variance. The ring that would "realistically" fit a Kobold would be very different from that of a Loxodon. Yet, if one found it as loot, it would be a very mean DM who did not allow a Loxodon to wear the Kobold's magical item, and vice versa.

In our current campaign, our DM allowed our druid to incorporate a Ring of Water Walking into its ear while whild-shaped into a War Horse - sort of like a piercing. Other options would be a toe-ring or nose-ring or tail-ring.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you checked on the rulings regarding the rings working in wild shape? I think we have a Q&A on that; a link to one of them would be handy. I am not sure about rings, to be honest with you. Worn equipment functions as normal, but the GM decides whether it is practical for the new form to wear a piece of equipment, based on the creature’s shape and size. Your equipment doesn’t change size or shape to match the new form, and any equipment that the new form can’t wear must either fall to the ground or merge with it Equipment that merges with form has no effect until you leave the form \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 7 '20 at 12:38
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Yes, it should, so long as the new form is capable of wearing the item.

As others have mentioned, specific trumps general.

From page 67 of the PHB, in the entry for wild shape(sorry for posting excerpt again, but it's relevant). Emphasis is mine.

You choose whether your equipment falls to the ground in your space, merges into your new form, or is worn by it. Worn equipment functions as normal, but the DM decides whether it is practical for the new form to wear a piece of equipment, based on the creature’s shape and size. Your equipment doesn’t change size or shape to match the new form.

In this instance, items generally do not change shape to match the form of the wearer, and are only worn by the form if they are already the correct size and shape for the new form.

And just for completion's sake, from page 141 of the DMG..

In most cases, a magic item that's meant to be worn can fit a creature regardless of size or build. Many magic garments are made to be easily adjustable, or they magically adjust themselves to the wearer. Rare exceptions exist. If the story suggests a good reason for an item to fit only creatures of a certain size or shape, you can rule that it doesn't adjust. For example, armor made by the drow might fit elves only. Dwarves might make items usable only by dwarf-sized and dwarf-shaped characters. When a non-humanoid tries to wear an item, use your discretion as to whether the item functions as intended. A ring placed on a tentacle might work, but a yuan-ti with a snakelike tail instead of legs can't wear boots.

However, magic items specifically and explicitly change their shape and size to match that of the wearer, unless a "good reason" for it not to exists. Given this, I believe we can safely assume that unless a magic item is intended only for a specific race or creature type, and the form you assume has the ability to wear such an item, the item can change its shape and size to match your new form.

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I would say that this is up to the DM, but I would rule that yes it does change shape with wild shape. If the armor changes shape with you then if you change shape it makes sense that it would also change shape.

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