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The Shapeshift variant druid from Player's Handbook II, pp39-41, replaces wild-shape and animal companion features with a swift action shapeshift into different forms, with different capabilities.

The ability does not inherit rules from any other form-changing abilities, and mentions only once what happens to gear worn or carried:

...All your held, carried, or worn gear melds into your new form and becomes nonfunctional until you return to your normal form...

He has the option to change to another shapeshift form directly, or to his normal form. So, presuming that a character has shapeshifted into a form, then dons gear, such as barding or armor, or a magical necklace, what happens to the gear when he changes form, to either his normal form or to another shapeshift form, again? If the gear melded into his new form, which form is his 'normal' form regarding that gear? When it does 'unmeld' where is it?

What I'd like to have happen is that the gear worn in a shapeshifted form melds into his new form, or normal form, until he returns to the shapeshifted form again, but I see no rules either way.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the question centered on what the druid's normal form is after the druid's shapeshifted? That is, After the druid's shapeshifted once, is the druid's normal form its shapeshifted form so that if the druid shapeshifts to assume a third form, the druid's gear melds into the second form? (Maybe so the druid could have potentially limitless carrying capacity or a doubly imperceptible hiding place?) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Sep 4 '16 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, to a degree, but the question has multiple levels: what happens to the gear, when does it return, and in what manner or location? I'll clarify in the q. \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Sep 4 '16 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ My intent is not to have 'limitless capacity' (the gear's weight should still encumber the druid, but that's not clear either), but to have gear that the shapeshifted druid can keep on in each form for use; armor, items, etc. The rules are ... not clear. Since it doesn't inherit from other shape changing, it has fewer codified rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Sep 4 '16 at 18:31
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(Couldn't find explicit RAW to support this)

You are correct in stating that 'the ability does not inherit rules from any other form-changing abilities', nor is it labeled as similar to any.

However, comparing the other common shape change rules, you see the following (all emphasis mine):

Alternate-Form and Change Shape Monster Abilities

Any gear worn or carried by the creature that can’t be worn or carried in its new form instead falls to the ground in its space. If the creature changes size, any gear it wears or carries that can be worn or carried in its new form changes size to match the new size. (Nonhumanoid-shaped creatures can’t wear armor designed for humanoid-shaped creatures, and viceversa.) Gear returns to normal size if dropped.

This is clearly different than the Shapeshift class feature. Note that there's no "melding gear" effect here.


Standard Druid's Wild Shape

Any gear worn or carried by the druid melds into the new form and becomes nonfunctional. When the druid reverts to her true form, any objects previously melded into the new form reappear in the same location on her body that they previously occupied and are once again functional. Any new items worn in the assumed form fall off and land at the druid's feet.

This is in essence the same behavior as the Shapeshift variant, with the added explicit statement that gear obtained in the 'non-true' form falls off when you revert to your true form.


Transformation Spells such as Alter-Self, Polymorph and Shapechange

When the change occurs, your equipment, if any, either remains worn or held by the new form (if it is capable of wearing or holding the item), or melds into the new form and becomes nonfunctional. When you revert to your true form, any objects previously melded into the new form reappear in the same location on your body they previously occupied and are once again functional. Any new items you wore in the assumed form and can’t wear in your normal form fall off and land at your feet; any that you could wear in either form or carry in a body part common to both forms at the time of reversion are still held in the same way. Any part of the body or piece of equipment that is separated from the whole reverts to its true form.

Right, so again we see the "melding gear" effect, and again, it applies only to gear carried in the true form - anything gained in an alternate form falls off when you revert (unless you can wear or hold it in the same way in both forms).

From these examples I see two possible interpretations (which one you use basically boils down to your GM's call and your group play style):

The "Power Gamer" Interpretation

Other mentions of the 'melding gear' effect explicitly state it applies only to the true form, while this is absent from the Shapechange variant. By taking this omission as intentional, you can conclude this effect works on any form - effectively allowing your druid to have a different inventory for each shape. Moreover, you may claim that the Shapechange variant druid doesn't really have a true form, as he can stay indefinitely in any of his forms...

This interpretation makes this feature much stronger, and will allow for less cumbersome gameplay if you intend to use magic items to buff each form (as your druid won't have to worry about donning armor and wearing amulets, belts and rings every time he changes - as well as where to carry them the rest of the time...).

However, it can easily be abused, turning your druid to the party's pack-mule / walking bag of holding...

The "If it Quacks like a Duck" Interpretation

There seems to be two different themes for shape-changes in 3.5E - one without the 'melding gear' effect (which applies mostly to monsters), and another with it - which applies mostly to PCs and NPCs. All other descriptions of this effect always make a clear distinction between the 'true form' and alternate ones, and apply the effect only for transformations from the true form. It seems more balanced to apply the same treatment for the druid variant too - especially as this feature's description does use the term 'true form', hinting that regardless of how much time he actually spends in that form, the druid still have one.

This option is less powerful, but has less impact on game balance. It may force your druid to invest in wild-armor which changes shape with him, and perhaps have some of his alternate form's gear carried by other party members.


Either way, I'd ask the GM to allow for items relevant for both shapes (such as magic amulets or belts) to remain 'unmelded' and functional across shapes, so you don't need to have several copies of each (for option 1), or depend on an ally to dress you up before and after every change (for option 2) - of course, they may cost more than standard magic items for this additional ability...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chemus - For what it's worth, if I were running 3.5E again, I'd opt for option II (only true form's gear melds, and it returns only in that form). I never took into account the 'melded-gear' weight, and I doubt it should (for one, it'll become ridiculous for a human druid to turn into a raven and try to fly). Finally, I'd allow the 'wild' feature for armor (and possibly other items) to apply for the Shapechange variant - it's close enough to Wildshape, and as the 'wild' feature was published earlier, it's no wonder there's no reference to it's interaction with the variant. \$\endgroup\$ – G0BLiN Sep 12 '16 at 16:07
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That druid's normal form is the druid's original form

The druid alternative class feature shapeshift (Player's Handbook II 39-41) implies that such a druid's normal form is the druid's form when the druid's not employing the supernatural ability shapeshift to assume one of the listed forms, like predator form or aerial form. That is, the description seems to synonymize normal and original—"If knocked unconscious or slain in shapeshifted form, you revert to your original form"—, so I think its safe to assume by normal the game means when the druid's not a murder-animal instead of any alternative meaning.

Thus, for example, a human druid with this alternative class feature that assumes predator form then assumes aerial form still has as its normal (or original) form the human druid form.

"But what about that druid's stuff?"

Because "[a]ll your held, carried, or worn gear melds into your new form and becomes nonfunctional until you return to your normal form" (40), it doesn't matter how many times you—a druid—use the supernatural ability shapeshift to assume different forms, each time you do, "all your… gear melds into your new form… until you return to your normal form."

There's simply no option to, for example, still be wearing armor donned in predator form after you've used shapeshift to take aerial form then taken predator form again. It's only when you return to normal form when everything becomes available all at once, the armor you donned in predator form (before you took took aerial and before you took predator form again) maybe appearing at your feet in your square (because it won't fit a human druid or the original form's already wearing armor).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that choosing to inherit from wild shape is the most likely ruling, but I like the cleanliness of armored predator/aerial et al., forms. Was hoping there was unseen support for my way ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Sep 4 '16 at 19:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chemus RE: "I agree that choosing to inherit from wild shape is the most likely ruling…." I didn't realize I'd mentioned anything about wild shape. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Sep 4 '16 at 19:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, wasn't trying to put words in your mouth; I meant 'choosing to inherit from similar effects, like wild-shape'. Your 'maybe appearing at...' line was closest to inheriting from WS, that's why I mentioned it. \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Sep 4 '16 at 19:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Chemus Fair enough. Yeah, I don't think the game really knows what actually happens to baubles accumulated by shapeshifted druids when they resume their normal forms. I don't know what kind of campaigns the devs play where that isn't, like, the second thing a player asks. ("What happens to my stuff?" coming behind only, "How big can I get?") \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Sep 4 '16 at 19:45

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