Scenario: The Human Moon-Druid is the playful type, but she is so turned-off with the commitment issues that plague most humanoids when all she wants is to play. She gets this crazy idea: In order to get her playful fix, she Wild-Shapes into an animal, struts about town with pheromones all ablaze, play around with a matching animal, then go back to her team in her original form, and they're all none the wiser (hopefully).

However, she is concerned about catching some disease in this way, especially since she'd be having casual, no-strings-attached play with complete strangers.

Hence the question: If she manages to contract a mundane affliction while in Wild Shape, will it stay or go away when she steps out of Wild Shape?

My thinking is that mundane diseases/poisons should just go away. If physical wounds don't carry over (whether inflicted magically or not), why should these?


4 Answers 4


The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.

In this case, at least, the above is true. Since the wording for wild shape does not explicitly say conditions are removed/dispelled, and disease is a condition, that condition is not dispelled upon shifting back. It can then be surmised that status affects such as poisoned, blinded, etc, are also not removed upon shifting to and from wildshape, it can be easily concluded that those effects still persist in the original druid's form.

This is not to say a disease is a standard condition like poisoned, blinded, etc. But it is still a condition that persists on the player until the effect wears off, or is cured.

Diseases specify what creatures are affected by them. For example, Cackle Fever:

This disease targets humanoids, although gnomes are strangely immune.

Or Sight Rot:

This painful infection causes bleeding from the eyes and eventually blinds the victim. A beast or humanoid that drinks water tainted by sight rot must... etc.

After this point, the real question becomes does a mundane disease that affects a specific animal affect the druid in their humanoid form?

That goes into some science that is more theory than actual rules. So there's no easy way to say that a disease will or will not affect the druid in a different form. However, it could be said that the disease remains dormant in an unaffected or immune host, but when the host becomes a viable creature the disease persists. This is up to your DM at this point.

  • If the druid is considered their race in terms of biological susceptibility in wildshape or not, then the disease would always persist.
  • If the druid is not considered their race in terms of biological susceptibility in wildshape, then the disease would not persist, or would be quickly cleansed from an unsupported host.

One last observation from this can be taken from the text of Wild Shape:

You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them if the new form is physically capable of doing so.

Of course, biological susceptibility to a disease wouldn't exactly be considered a "benefit" but you could rule this to mean that if you are a Gnome you will, for the purposes of disease viability, be able to be infected as if you were a Gnome, no matter what beast you were taking the shape of.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Great answer, and I quite agree with it (this was my RAI too). But is disease really a condition? It's not in the Conditions appendix, and Lesser Restoration separates it from the other conditions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pitzy
    Nov 17, 2015 at 8:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're correct, it isn't included with other conditions. I believe the reason behind that is because there are too many varied types of diseases, but the same could be said of poisons. The other reason could be that not all diseases share the same debuff on the player, whereas the "poisoned" effect is all-around disadvantage on attacks/saving throws, so it can be lumped into a condition. But the extra effects of poisons outside of that condition are varied. \$\endgroup\$
    – D. Sorrim
    Nov 17, 2015 at 8:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another data point -- the druid's racial and class features carry over into the wildshape form -- this includes the Dwarf's resistance to poisons, for example. It seems obvious that if the resistance to poisons carries over from humanoid form to wildshape form, the impact of any poisons carries back in the opposite direction as well. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 17, 2015 at 19:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good to note. Thanks. I think it's covered well by my quote from the text of Wild Shape. But I can adjust it to address dwarven poison resistance. I will edit it later when I'm not at work. \$\endgroup\$
    – D. Sorrim
    Nov 17, 2015 at 20:03

Disease is a story-telling opportunity

Being diseased is not a condition in 5e. Each disease has its own particular rules and mechanics rather than being bound by an overall approach (DMG 256):

the specifics of how a disease works aren't bound by a common set of rules.

Further, 5e subverts our real-world concept of infectiousness by explicitly stating that diseases might, or might not, pass between individuals of different types (ibid):

Diseases can affect any creature, and a given illness might or might not pass from one race or kind of creature to another. A plague might affect only constructs or undead, or sweep through a halfling neighborhood but leave other races untouched. What matters is the story you want to tell.

Of the three example diseases given in the DMG (257), Cackle Fever affects only non-gnome humanoids, Sewer Plague affects only humanoids but can be carried by beasts, and Sight Rot affects both humanoids and beasts. Thus your druid might be able to wild-shape her way out of the first two diseases, but not the third. Although many things remove diseases in general, transforming between different physical forms is not one of them. For diseases other than the three listed in the DMG, it would be entirely up to the DM and 'the story they want to tell' whether wild shaping would remove the disease or not (unless the rules description of the particular disease specifically said that it could affect beasts).

However, the conditions imposed by the diseases (incapacitation and exhaustion) would still carry over into the new form, even if the disease itself was ended, since conditions specify what counters them, and in no case is that wild-shaping.

Your question seems to use 'play' as a euphemism for sexual activity, and thus your concern appears to be whether your druid, if she contracts a sexually-transmitted disease while in her wild shape, would be healed or cured of such a disease when she returns to her humanoid form. None of the diseases listed in the DMG or Monster Manual specify that they are transmitted through sexual intercourse. While I certainly don't have all 5e products, I doubt that there are any diseases that are described that way. Thus, such diseases would only exist in the game if your DM wanted them there. Is your game of the sort in which the DM is telling stories about sexually-transmitted diseases? If not, then your druid needn't have that concern to begin with. If so, then your DM is the authority on whether such diseases get carried over between forms.


There is a reason reason why people might feel this way. The ruling for Wild Shape states that damage carries over into your normal form, when it overflows.

But another way to think about it is that damage hitting the shape actually vanishes if it doesn't overflow. The same could be said when you Wild Shape 2 times in one combat, and your beast form (which may look exactly the same as before) is at full hp. This would normally and logically constitute a separate body. However, this is not RAW.

Another thing that proves you aren't the bear is that you keep its physical stats, and in addition, you use its Hit Dice instead of your own if you manage to rest in that form.

A final point is that while some racial features carry, racial features like darkvision do not carry over when your shape changes. This is all PHB.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer would benefit greatly from formatting to separate ideas and apply emphasis. \$\endgroup\$
    – ValhallaGH
    Jul 26, 2021 at 22:16

You are well within both Canon and RAW to make this assessment, and I cannot say I am a fan of "The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence." In every game there is implied concepts & mechanics that don't make it into the text. This is because the writers are restrained by how much "text" they can cram into a book. So, there is no direct statement or text in 5e to say one way or the other. It places the final judgment squarely on the DMs shoulders and interpretation.

Several D&D novels and video games touch base on the subject of druid wild shaping with concern to what happens to their body when they shift. If you are open to considering them Canon it may be a good place to look.

With your concept in mind, there is much that insinuates a druid (their bodies at least) blink out of existences when they wild shape (5e):

  • Magical items absorbed by wild shape no longer exist and are completely undetectable. Even artifacts blink out of existence.
  • Physical stats are replaced. While most people focus on increases the reverse is equally true. A druid with 18 CON loses vitality by wild shaping which does not make sense if they are one and the same with their form, and size does not determine CON.
  • HP does not flow over, and if the Druid is injured when they take a wild form they are subsequently still damaged when the revert. You cannot even heal the druid body while in wild shape.
  • When a beast form runs out of HP it does not die, it simply puffs out of existence. When the druid takes the form again it is a fully healthy beast, this is contradictory to how the Druid's body is treated when they dismiss the form.
  • Hold person literally fails to work because the druid is no longer humanoid.
  • Beast effects such as webbing or poison do not go away when the form is lost or dismissed.
  • On top of that, there are beasts that have diseases as part of their stat block. The druid should not contract these diseases just for wild shaping into these forms.

These are just a few examples that support your concept of Druids, and regardless of how you rule on the concept, it should not impact any storyline.

It would be a fair assessment to say; "If a druid has a disease and they wild shape, then their beast form should not be contagious because they are in a different body, but when they revert back to their hominoid body they should still have the disease until they cast remove disease." The reverse is equally fair, they could catch diseases all day as a house cat and return to their clean humanoid body there after.

I would imagine a great many druids partake in your player's extracurricular activities. Especially if they are separated from their forms, because many animals don't have most of our social or speculative concerns regarding the activity, so for them it is a pure recreation. For the Druids it would be an effective form of birth control.

Additionally if the druid is NOT separate from their form there are some very negative connotations associated with Wild Shape:

  • Wild Shape becomes a form of abortion. By shaping into a creature that does not live birth (like a fish, or an opposing gender beast) an infant inside a druid would be instantly destroyed.
  • Aside from directly seeking the activity, some beasts reproduce externally. Scorpions for example, breed via combat without coitus. A druid could turn into a giant scorpion, fight another giant scorpion, and end up pregnant. A perfectly viable genetic match at the time of conception, although this could explain many species in the D&D canon.
  • Then there are those beasts with pre-equipped diseases I mentioned. If a druid takes these form. The druid instantly contract that disease, or the DM removing it from the stat block effectively nerfing the beast's CR.
  • A majority of beast attacks are bites, so if druids are one in the same with their forms then nearly every druid is a "cannibal" by default. There is also the concern of what they may swallow. If a beast swallows a decapitated head, is it still in the gut of the humanoid druid? The rules don't say.

One might suggest that Damage overflow may support that druids are one and the same with their forms. The problem with that is, most magical effects are instantaneous, however, melee attacks are not. Damage flows over because enough damage was done to the form to end the magical effect instantaneously, but the remaining damage is applied to the druid because the attack is not resolve until all of the damage is applied. Effectively when the druid blinks back into existence there is still some momentum to the attack.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is perfectly fine as headcanon, but nothing in the game materials suggests, let alone supports this interpretation. Among the more obvious contradictions is the passthrough damage when the wild shape reverts; if half the damage from an attack reduces it to 0 HP, and the attack was entirely against the wild shaped form, why is the druid's form affected by the other half of the attack's damage? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2023 at 18:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ This question is about how the rules work, and it isn’t clear to me how this addresses that. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2023 at 17:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ To give more detailed feedback, you mention “RAW” several times here, but I don’t see any mention or reference of actual rules. If you’re going to claim something rules-as-written, I think you need to cite those written rules. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2023 at 17:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ The material you are referring to in an answer does not belong in comments. Comments are temporary post-it notes, and citations/references belong in the answer. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2023 at 18:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nothing is restricting you from commenting on your own post. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2023 at 19:06

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