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I'm looking for the best wild shape form (or Elemental) for grappling damage. The conditions are as follow: No multi classing, just strictly a base human druid no specific archetype. My objective is to maximize my damage with the feats I have selected in wild shape form.

The stats are: STR 18 / Dex 13 / Con 14 / Int 9 / Wis 15 / Cha 7.

Level 13

Feats are: Dirty fighting, improved grappling, greater grappling, rapid grappling, natural spell, celestial obedience falayna, and powerful shape

Any non aquatic form I have knowledge of (for purposes of Wild Shape)

No magical items, and please no spell buffs for simplicity sake.

The goal is to do more damage against a single target (large humanoid target which has 400 hp which does not have freedom of movement or any spell casting ability) in a round than a wild shaped giant anaconda (on land) which is doing 6d8 plus 9 times Strength bonus per round (3 grapple checks per round, dealing 1d8 + 1 1/2 Strength for the bite and an equal amount for constrict).

The answer I am looking for will be maximized grappling related damage I suspect it could come from either a giant tree form or possibly a land animal but I am not certain. Please no aquatic creatures because the module takes place on land and water is scarce and the druid lacks familiarity with aquatic creatures.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. If there are new questions that this question or commentary on it has raised, consider posting them as new questions. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 17 '17 at 22:14
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Allosaurus > Giant Squid > Behemoth Hippo >Corpse Lotus

As long as the creature has grab and constrict, you gain those qualities and no other special ability that increases grapple damage. All wild shape-related spells (beast shape, elemental body, plant shape, etc) state that you only gain the listed qualities.

So as long as you assume a form with those qualities, you gain them, and your damage is based on your own stats (and feats) and your size while on that form. So there won't be a best form, but forms that are better on given situations.

Also, the number of attacks matters little if your objective is to cause damage while grappling, as you won't gain the ability to grapple multiple creatures at once, but i listed them for a few creatures that have a considerable amount of natural attacks per round. Also note that some attacks are different from the Natural Attacks table from the bestiary, as some GM's enforce that table instead of what is listed on each creature's entry (which accounts for feats and special qualities), but for this answer we will assume that this is a case of specific ruling overriding a general rule and keep the creature's damage dice.

I will mention when an attack is secondary, so it deals 50% str damage, or when a creature has a single primary attack, so it deals 150% str damage. Otherwise we can assume they are primary attacks that deal 100% str damage as normal.

Lastly, i know you said "no water creatures", but i will list them for completeness of the answer, you can ignore those.

Best animal form

Works as Beast Shape III, which can grant the following abilities if the creature has any of them:

  • Huge size, burrow 30 feet, climb 90 feet, fly 90 feet (good maneuverability), swim 90 feet, blindsense 30 feet, darkvision 60 feet, low-light vision, scent, constrict, ferocity, grab, jet, poison, pounce, rake, trample, trip, and web.

The Giant Squid (huge animal) form would grant these abilities:

  • Low-light vision, swim 60 feet, jet, grab and constrict. Has 5 natural attacks. But the GM might rule that you cannot move on land. Has a single bite attack (2d6), 2 arm attacks without grab (1d6), and a single "tentacles" attack with grab (secondary, 4d6 damage).

  • Huge animal: +6 size bonus to your Strength, a -4 penalty to your Dexterity, and a +6 natural armor bonus.

The Giant Octopus (large animal) will grant:

  • Low-light vision, swim 30 feet, jet, poison (1d3 str), grab and constrict. Has 9 natural attacks, one being a bite (1d8 with poison) and the others tentacles with grab (secondary, 1d4), and has a land speed.

  • Large animal: +4 size bonus to your Strength, a -2 penalty to your Dexterity, and a +4 natural armor bonus.

The Allosaurus (huge animal) will grant:

  • Low-light vision, scent, grab, pounce, rake. Has a bite (2d6 plus grab) and two claws (1d8 each).

  • Huge animal: +6 size bonus to your Strength, a -4 penalty to your Dexterity, and a +6 natural armor bonus.

  • A special note here about Rake, this special ability will grant you a bonus attack against grappled foes, which works similarly to constrict, but do not automatically hit. In this case, might even do higher damage, since the creature can basically make a full-attack while grappling with a single grapple check.

The Megalania (huge animal) will grant:

  • Low-light vision, scent, swim 30 feet, grab, poison (1d4 dex). Has a land speed, but no constrict ability, which might be compensated by the poison, which will reduce the target's CMD every time they take poison damage. Has a bite attack (single, 2d6 plus poison).

  • Huge animal: +6 size bonus to your Strength, a -4 penalty to your Dexterity, and a +6 natural armor bonus.

The Hippopotamus, Behemoth (huge animal) will grant:

  • Low-light vision, grab, trample. No constrict, but has the strongest bite (single, 4d8) damage of land animals, if you include Improved Natural Attack (Bite), we are looking at a strong candidate.

  • Huge animal: +6 size bonus to your Strength, a -4 penalty to your Dexterity, and a +6 natural armor bonus.

Best elemental form

Works as Elemental Body IV, which grants:

  • Huge sized, immunity to bleed damage, critical hits, and sneak attacks while in elemental form, damage reduction 5/—, and elemental abilities based on size, such as burn, vortex, and whirlwind.

The problem here is that none of the elemental forms available have grab or constrict. So, though they are useful forms, none will take great advantage of your build. The "best form" here is whichever grants you the highest strenght bonus, the Earth Elemental (+8 strenght).

However, there are other possibilities here. The Air Elemental will allow you to grapple and fly with your foe, and if they happen to release the grapple, they will take fall damage. The Fire Elemental will allow your grapple to cause extra fire damage with the Burn ability. The Earth Elemental will allow you to grag your enemies underground, where you can probably release them and wait for them to suffocate if they cannot dig their way out.

The extra damage from Burn is complicated to calculate due to it's non-stackable nature and variable duration, but you can assume that the damage should add a constant 2-12 extra damage.

Best plant form

Works as Plant Shape III, which grants:

  • Huge sized plant, damage reduction, regeneration, trample, energy resistance 20, vulnerability (which we want to avoid), darkvision, low-light vision, constrict, grab, and poison.

The Corpse Lotus (huge plant) will grant:

  • Darkvision, low-light vision, DR 10/slashing, energy resistance acid/eletricity 20, grab and constrict. Has 4 vine attacks (1d8 plus grab each).

  • Huge plant: +8 size bonus to your Strength, a -2 penalty to your Dexterity, a +4 size bonus to your Constitution, and a +6 natural armor bonus.

The Assassin Vine (large plant) will grant:

  • Low-light vision, energy resistance fire/cold/eletricity 20, grab, constrict. Has a slam attack (single, 1d8).

  • Large plant: +4 size bonus to your Strength, a +2 size bonus to your Constitution, and a +4 natural armor bonus.

The Sargassum Fiend (large, aquatic plant) will grant:

  • Energy resistance cold 20, DR 5/slashing, grab and constrict. This is the plant creature with the highest constrict damaged listed on official books (2d8). Being an aquatic (seaweed) plant, it might not be available to your character, but it is worth listing here.

  • Large plant: +4 size bonus to your Strength, a +2 size bonus to your Constitution, and a +4 natural armor bonus.

The Fungus Queen (medium plant) will grant:

  • Darkvision, low-light vision, DR 10/cold iron or good, resistance to eletricity/acid/cold 20, grab and constrict. Has 2 claws (1d6) and 4 tentacle attacks (secondary, 1d4 plus grab), though their damage is low for being a medium creature.

  • Medium plant: +2 size bonus to your Strength, a +2 enhancement bonus to your Constitution, and a +2 natural armor bonus.

The Tendriculus (huge plant) will grant:

  • Low-light vision, regeneration 5 (bludgeoning or fire), energy resistance acid 20, and grab. No constrict, but you gain regeneration, so i listed it here for it's general usefulness. Has a bite (2d6) and 2 tentacle attacks (secondary, 1d6), all with grab.

  • Huge plant: +8 size bonus to your Strength, a -2 penalty to your Dexterity, a +4 size bonus to your Constitution, and a +6 natural armor bonus.

Spreadsheets

Community members at paizo.com created spreadsheets that can help druids to pick the best form for certain levels and specific situations. You can easily download them and create column filters to narrow down your search.

That said, the most DPR is probably from the Allosaurus, with 2d6+str and 1d8+str x2 per grapple check, which can use all three attacks on the very first round using the pounce ability. If this is a 18 str druid, we are looking at a +7 str bonus per attack (str 24), or 6d6+21 plus 6d8+42 (bite 2d6+7 and two claws of 1d8+7 each) if all attacks hit. Minimum 75, maximum 147, average 111 damage. On the second round and forward, you can also use his rake ability to keep causing this damage every round after the first.

If the assumed form is that of a Corpse Lotus, we are looking at 6d8+48 per round (str 26). The constrict will automatically hit, but the damage output is still much lower. However, you gain a few extra defensive abilities. Minimum 54, maximum 96, average 75 damage.

Note that even with 2d6 Burn ability and being a Huge creature, the Fire Elemental grants no size bonus to your strenght, so you are using only your character strenght to cause damage here. Best case scenario, we are looking at 2d6+4 plus 2d6 fire damage per grapple check, or 12d6+12 if the target has absolutely no fire resistance (nearly a third of the creatures do). If they have energy resistance (fire) 10, then the fire elemental is no longer a viable option. Including the catch on fire damage (2-12), we have a minimum 26, maximum 96, average 61 damage.

The Behemoth Hippopotamus has the strongest natural attack and is one of the best candidates, even without constrict. With 4d8 bite damage and 24 str (+7 * 1.5: +10 for being a single primary attack), we are looking at 12d8+30 damage per round. Minimum 42, maximum 126, average 84 damage, higher average damage than the Corpse Lotus.

If aquatic creatures are allowed, the Giant Squid is also pretty strong, with it's (secondary) "tentacles" attacks doing 4d6 damage plus constrict, his bite with 2d6+7 and two arms with 1d6+7, the scenario would be 24d6+18 per round (str 24, +3 damage for being a secondary weapon), or 4d6+3 (tentacles) plus 4d6+3 (constrict). Minimum 42, maximum 162, average 102 damage.

You could also consider other tactics might result in more damage, such as mantaining the grapple as a free action and making a full attack. For example, the Giant Octopus makes a total of 9 attacks (bite and 8 tentacles), plus a constrict. With 24 str, that is a +7 bonus on the bite attack and +3 on the tentacles (secondary), for a total of 16d4+48 plus 1d8+7 (with poison) from his bite. Assuming all attacks land, that is minimum of 72, maximum of 127, average of 99 damage.

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Your title says 'animal' but your body seems to be okay with anything that's not aquatic, so assuming that's true:

A Huge Fire Elemental

Fire elementals have the 'Burn' special ability, which you gain. That ability states:

A fire elemental deals fire damage in addition to damage dealt on a successful hit in melee. Those affected by the burn ability must also succeed on a Reflex save or catch fire, taking the listed damage for an additional 1d4 rounds at the start of its turn. A burning creature can attempt a new save as a full-round action. Dropping and rolling on the ground grants a +4 bonus on this save. Creatures that hit a burning creature with natural weapons or unarmed attacks take fire damage as though hit by the burning creature and must make a Reflex save to avoid catching on fire. See Burn for more details.

Anacondas have the 'Constrict' special ability, which adds additional damage every time you make a grapple check. Constrict is very, very powerful for grappling-based-damage, as is grab, which lets you make a free grapple check every time you hit the opponent. While anacondas get constrict racially, you really need to have both abilities to be a relevant grappler, and they can be gained in a variety of wild-shape-compatible ways (there are spells, magic items, and feats that will let you do this and which you can use or become able to use while wildshaped without wasting actions in combat). Therefore for the purposes of this answer we are going to ignore grab and constrict, regardless of source, with the understanding that together they will approximately triple your actions and thus your effective damage.

Since we're ignoring grab and constrict (since we'd be acquiring that some other way), only abilities like burn are relevant to our damage calculations; you can't add 'burn' to an anaconda the same way you can add 'constrict' and 'grab' to a fire elemental.

When we're comparing damage, then, all we need to pay attention to is the natural weapon dice, the differences in effective strength modifier, and any additional gained abilities we can't just add to anything we want.

For the anaconda, the strength modifier is higher. Fire elementals boost Dex and Con, while Huge Animals boost Str. This results in an effective Str mod of 7 for the anaconda, but only 4 for the fire elemental. Both get the X1.5 for being primary attacks, which results in 10 for the anaconda, since we have to round down for the unfortunately odd number, and 6 for the fire elemental.

The damage dice for your anaconda is a pathetic 1d8. That's terrible for a Huge creature's primary natural attack. The Fire Elemental also has really bad damage dice (probably for the same reason: both of them make extensive use of a damage multiplier in combat) but a 2d6 slam attack is at least marginally better than a 1d8 bite.

The fire elemental has the abovementioned burn ability, which adds 2d6 to each grapple check/attack/whatever you make (and also punishes the enemy when they try to make checks against you, but we'll ignore that). Because we're already dividing out the grab/constrict multiplication that will later occur, this can be modelled by adding 2d6X1d4 to our damage done each round, assuming the target will live long enough to take damage from all the burns. With 400 hp, this is a bit of an overestimating assumption-- the target probably dies by round 3 if you're actually landing all these effects/checks/attacks.

This makes the damage per check-or-attack 2d6 bludgeoning from slam + 6 bludgeoning from strength + 2d6X1d4 fire from burn (albeit over the next several rounds), for the Fire Elemental.

The Anaconda gets 1d8 piercing/bludgeoning/slashing from bite + 10 piercing/bludgeoning/slashing from strength. That's less than the Fire Elemental by a substantial margin (~15 damage on average).

The key here is that, while grab and constrict can be gained via methods other than form, Burn is a very unique ability that further multiplies your grapple damage significantly when fighting a single opponent with lots of HP. This makes up for (anydice link) the Fire Elemental's pathetic natural attack damage in all but the most extreme cases (like the rediculous up-sized mandragora swarm).

If you do want just an animal or plant:

A Murder of Crows

One of the advantages of Tiny wildshaping is that it lets you access swarms. If you are allowed to just scale up creatures, like you have done with your anaconda, a Huge Murder of Crows is an excellent choice. The birds deal 2d6 damage when 'Tiny', and when upgraded to 'Huge' that changes to 6d6-- much more than your Anaconda's 1d8+10. This is usually also better than a Fire Elemental, but not in the specific case you're addressing (your target has enough hitpoints that the burn ability can come into play). The Fire Elemental only deals 9 1/2 more average damage per check, so it's really important that those burns get their full effect in for this assessment here. Fire elementals drop behind the Feast for Crows when their burns can't get at least 2 rounds of triggering in.

Do note that swarm attacks don't get to add any strength modifier, which will make your 18 Str druid sad :( (but at least he's no longer MAD ;P )

If you can somehow gain access to Tiny wildshaping for plants (for example if you were a treesinger, which I understand you are not), or if your being allowed to size up creatures arbitrarily extends even to creature forms you would not normally be able to take (due to their being too small), you have an even better option:

The Mandragora Swarm

With 5d6 damage while tiny, this creature's damage increases to 12d8 damage when Huge. That is a lot of damage for each action, and will easily beat out even the Fire Elemental (23.5 more damage per check-attack-thingy on average). YMMV on getting your DM to let you use this, however.

Lastly, if, for some reason, you really can't gain constrict or any other accessible special abilities, the Fungus Queen has both Grab and Constrict and thus will outpace the anaconda, especially when hugified, dealing 2d6 damage per tentacle and getting that cruicial extra +1 strength modifier to roll over the total to an even number. The fungus queen is best used with via full-attack+swift action grapple even by your character, due to her large number of natural attacks with grab. This yields 11 check-attack-things instead of the 6 for the anaconda, and lets you use your additional 2 claw attacks as well (though those don't have grab :( ) A comparison chart for this case (including constrict/grab or just constrict) can be found here: as you can see the fungus queen deals 68 damage more each round, on average (and the Fire Elemental still just barely beats the anaconda in a best-case scenario).


I have some slightly more complete but cluttered anydice graphs, so here's some links if you want them:

Realistic case

Can't get nuthin' case

Also, it's not really super important for your question, but you're calculating the size changed damage on your anaconda wrong-- 1d4 advances to 2d6 not 1d8. Remember that each size level gives you two lines on the chart (as long as everything's medium or larger).

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