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In D&D 3.5e, can a Wild Shaped Druid interact with mundane objects, such as doors, gates, and the likes?

(Clearly, most non-Tool User shapes aren't going to allow for them to use fine tools such as thieves' tools or crafting tools, but that's generally not something druids ever deal with, anyway, as if they have Rogue levels and want to use Open Lock/Disable Device, or are crafting something, they'll be either in their humanoid form or a Tool User form.)

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The short answer: Yes, in the typical case, this would be allowed

This is probably the simplest rule to work with, especially if you don't have exotic wildshapes in your game. Clearly, a Druid retains their knowledge of "how do I door?" when shaped, as they retain the knowledge needed to reshape and do other, much more sophisticated things.

The long answer: It depends on the shape and the door latch

If you feel the need to bring more complexity to your table, or you have druids who like to wildshape into exotic things, you'll have to figure out how the shape they're in could interact with the object in question.

The Shape Matters

Clearly, Tool User forms will have no trouble with doors; nor will Elemental shapes, as those are typically humanoid in appearance (or can assume a humanoid appearance when needed), while verminous shapes (ordinary rodents, insects, spiders) are better off using other means to deal with the door in their way, and aquatic shapes aren't really concerned about doors for the most part. For other shapes, it depends on their capabilities:

  • Most Medium or larger predatory quadrupeds (felids, canids, ursids) are capable of rearing up on their hind legs and using a forepaw to actuate a door mechanism. Likewise, in some cases, it is possible for them to grab a latch handle in their teeth and actuate it with head or full-body movements, or gnaw a cord holding a gate until it holds no more.

  • Small predatory shapes (such as a housecat) can still actuate some types of handles by jumping up and using their body weight. This is easier in some cases than others, though.

  • Hooved animal shapes (such as a suid or bovid form), however, are more restricted -- the "jaw grab" option is the only option for most of them, with the exception of equines, which perhaps could rear back and put a hoof into the handle. Of course, suids and some bovids can also simply charge the door and bash it down in many cases (a druid wild shaped into a bison would simply go right through a cheap door on a charge, no questions asked).

  • Avian shapes theoretically could use some tricks with flapping-while-perched to generate the necessary force to open a door handle (could you teach a raven to open a door IRL?).

  • Dinosaur shapes can be handled by analogy of form to the cases above (most herbivorous dinosaurs are akin in capability to a bovid, while carnivorous ones would be closer to a modern carnivore in capability).

How do you door?

The other factor in this question is "how is the door's operating mechanism constructed, and is the druid on the 'push' side or the 'pull' side of the door?" As a few general rules:

  • Sliding doors are easy if you can place something against the door hard enough to be able to then slide it.

  • Panic bars and panic plates/press plates are very easy as well, as you can just barge into them with, well, whatever. I've been known to walk through panic-bar type doors IRL with my back to the door. However, these latches generally are only found in modern settings, having been invented for life-safety reasons.

  • Twist-handle doors are not hard to operate from the push-side either: just get a paw on the handle, push down, and push out -- you'll see this from the dog example provided by Nibelung. Small creatures, of course, can just jump up to get on the handle and use their body weight for the rest, as the cat video from Nibelung's post demonstrates.

  • Pull-handle latches (pull only latches), such as those found on a car door, succumb quickly to "grab in mouth and pull", as one lioness demonstrates for us (and the fool who forgot to lock his car doors). The same trick, of course, can be used for non-latching pull handles, especially those mounted horizontally.

  • Twist-handles that require a pull, not a push, to actuate, may be possible as well -- it depends on how well the creature can twist their head while holding onto something. I suspect the Medium predatory forms are capable of this, but I don't have evidence of it at hand; likewise, the same case holds for pull-bars mounted vertically with no latch.

  • Thumb latches also pose a challenge from the pull side -- the required bearing would be difficult for a creature to get with its mouth. They might be able to do a "two-paw pull" if they're large enough to get at the handle from the ground, though...

  • Obviously, doorknobs are the most challenging case, especially for pull-to-open doors where grasping ability is practically required to open the door from that side; a well-placed paw with a good grip on the face of the paw, combined with a twist and push, can get them from the push side, though.

  • As a side note, gate latches are typically less sophisticated to operate -- a gate that's simply roped in place is vulnerable to gnawing as one slightly clever horse found out, and even the gate latch mechanisms I have seen would be defeatable by a Druid, as they tend to be bistable in that its possible to get the latch to remain unlatched after it is actuated.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There a lot of more examples on youtube alone. Just type "(animal) open door" and you can see a ton of examples. Most are from horses, dogs and cats probably because those live more time around doors and some even have plenty of time to experiment with them, while others the owner teach them to show up to friends. \$\endgroup\$ – Nibelung Sep 8 '15 at 3:42
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Nothing on the rules says they can't, but it also don't say that elves are not made of cotton candy. In this case, I think it boils down to basic common sense.

Most real life animals can't open fences and doors mostly because they don't understand how the door works in the first place. There are plenty of video evidence of cats and dogs opening unlocked doors. I found even one of a horse undoing a fence and a lion opening a car door.

So, for practicality of the rules on table (quickness of resolution), I would say that yes, a druid wild shaped should be able to open doors and gates as normal.

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