Changing shape using Wild Shape appears quite daunting when first looking it over. I was wondering if there was a clear, step-by-step, process of working out what you do and do not gain from changing shape.

This comes from trying to figure out how the spell works by looking at Wild Shape, Beast Shape, the Polymorph Subschool and things like the size modifier table to try and work it all out.

I also understand that there is a similar question for DnD5E, which is why I would like it explained for Pathfinder in friendly terms if possible.

Here's a small list of example questions which should be addressed:

  • Do you gain the skills listed for the new form via. Wild Shape?
  • Do you gain the size bonuses listed in Wild Shape in addition to normal size modifiers?
  • Are there any modifications to attributes, BAB, saves, etc.?

Some of these are listed clearer than others in the spell descriptions, but to have them all in one place would be extremely helpful.


3 Answers 3


How to use wild shape

The creature takes a standard action that doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity to use the supernatural ability wild shape. Then you make a new character sheet.

From wild shape, the druid...

  • loses the ability to speak if an animal form is assumed, but while in the assumed animal form the druid can make noises and gesticulate like a typical creature of the assumed form.
  • gains the ability to communicate with other animals of the same general grouping. Note: Ask the DM what a general grouping is for the assumed form. (That is, do tigers speak the same language as house cats?)

From the effect of a supernatural ability duplicating the effect of the spell beast shape I, the druid...

  • gains the base land speed of the assumed form.
  • gains a climb speed equal to the assumed form's climb speed but not more than 30 ft.
  • gains a fly speed equal to the assumed form's fly speed but not more than 30 ft. This fly speed always has average maneuverability.
  • gains a swim speed equal to the assumed form's swim speed but not more than 30 ft. The druid also gains the ability to breathe underwater while swimming.
  • gains darkvision with a range equal to the range of the assumed form's darkvision but not more than 60 ft.
  • gains low-light vision if the assumed form also has low-light vision.
  • gains scent if the assumed form also has scent.
  • gains bonuses based on the assumed form's size. Assuming the form of a Small animal grants the druid a +2 size bonus to Dexterity and a +1 natural armor bonus. Assuming the form of a Medium animal grants the druid a +2 size bonus to Strength and a +2 natural armor bonus.

From the effect of a supernatural ability duplicating the effect of a spell of the transmutation subschool polymorph, the druid...

  • gains the natural attacks of the assumed form and proficiency sufficient to use those attacks. Note: The druid uses his own base attack bonus but his modified ability scores to determine attack bonus and final damage with these natural attacks.
  • gains a +10 bonus on Disguise skill checks made to masquerade as an animal of the assumed form, although specific creatures' forms can't be assumed.
  • gains the appropriate size modifiers to armor class and on his attack bonus, Combat Maneuver Bonus, and Stealth skill checks if the druid has changed size. Note: This should also likely include modifiers to Fly skill checks, but this goes unmentioned by the text.
  • sees all his carried gear meld into his new form because the assumed form is that of an animal (or plant or elemental). The only magic items that continue functioning are those that both provide constant bonuses and do not need to be activated to function (see here). Note: Enhancement bonuses from magic armor and shields don't usually work either.
  • loses the ability to cast spells because the assumed form is that of an animal (or, probably, a plant). Note: The feats Eschew Material and Natural Spell help a druid cast spells while in an assumed form that normally prohibits casting.
  • loses extraordinary and supernatural abilities dependent upon on his original form, including keen senses, scent, darkvision, natural attacks, and movement modes.
  • loses class features dependent upon his original form, but those class features that allow adding features to the original form can still be used to add such features to the new form. Note: Special restrictions apply to effects of the polymorph subschool (see below).
  • gains immunity to other effects of the polymorph subschool. The druid can allow himself to be affected a new polymorph subschool effect, but such an allowance ends this current polymorph subschool effect. Note: This is actually a bigger deal than you might expect.
  • gains immunity to effects that change his size.
  • gains and loses whatever the GM says he gains and loses if there are any questions. Note: That's actually in the rules.

When the druid gains the ability to also use, for example, beast shape II, the second section is, I think, the only part that needs changing.

Nothing else changes, but the druid's Dexterity-based or Strength-based stuff will need to be adjusted for his modified ability scores. Specifically, a creature that uses the special ability wild shape does not gain the assumed form's skills, does not gain the assumed form's size-based modifiers as if it were advancing as a monster (instead using the special polymorph subschool size change rules), and does not gain the assumed form's base attack bonus nor the assumed form's saving throw bonuses (although the druid's attack bonus and saving throw bonuses may change due to the modified ability scores).

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Sean You're welcome. Perhaps the most important and easily overlooked side effect of using a polymorph subschool effect (which includes wild shape) is the one effect at a time! restriction that makes many other awesome buff spells unavailable. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan i did look up for a while but ended up here. Some creatures have higher damage than what is listed for their size (see behemoth hippo). Can you tell me which damage dice do the character use? The creature's statblock damage dice or the damage dice listed on the natural attack table for a creature of that size? \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 21:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras With absolutely no research, my instinct as GM would be to go with the stat block, specific beating general and all that. But, considering the enormously brutal nerfs Pathfinder made to polymorph et al. (which, mind, aren't all bad), I wouldn't be surprised by a double-secret rule tucked away in some largely ignored Paizo messageboard thread or buried in some minor text that says, in essence, O, you silly form-changing power gamer, you should've known you'd us the chart! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 21:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, in my experience, iv seen both being mentioned (both by novices and veterans). But iv also seen guides telling people to use the creature statblock for animal companions (erroneously). Since this answer did link to the natural attacks table, i figured you could know about a source that i didn't. I will try to get an official feedback on this. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 21:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Good luck, and I appreciate your faith in my research skills. :-) Let me know here or in another Pathfinder Q or A if you get an answer (perhaps by posing such a question and self-answering). (And the intent wasn't, in the answer, to link to the natural attack table but to the definition of natural attacks; the table just happened to be there, lurking alongside it.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 21:36
  • You do not gain racial skill bonuses from the type of creature that you shapeshift into.

  • In addition to the size modifiers to stats listed under the spell that you're mimicking with Wild Shape (ie, Beast Shape II, etc.), you also gain the standard size modifiers to attack, CMB, CMD, AC, and Stealth checks. If you are carrying a weapon and shapeshift into something that can wield that weapon (eg, using Giant Form), then the weapon grows or shrinks with you and its damage dice change. Your reach may also change. These size modifiers are not listed under the spells because they're part of the universal combat rules.

  • You do not get the creature's BAB, saves, etc. The only attribute adjustments that you get are the ones listed under the spell that you're mimicking with Wild Shape.

Basically, if it's not part of the universal combat rules and it's not described under either Wild Shape or the spell that you're mimicking with it, you don't get it.


I would add that you also do not get special attacks/abilities from the form that are not explicitly listed under the "Wild Shape" spell. For example, Giant Toad has a swallow whole ability, but no level of Wild Shape lets you get that ability. So no swallow whole attack for you!

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi, Ian, welcome to the site! if you haven't already, check out the tour to get acquainted with how the site works. Could you add more details to your answer? What are you adding to, for example? We like answers to be complete and able to stand alone. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 4:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's a feet called 'Powerful form' that makes you count as one size larger when wildshaping. That enables certain animal shapes to use swallow whole, as I recall. \$\endgroup\$
    – rasmus91
    Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 19:34

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