View Full Version : Replacing Wild Shape with Beast Shape Abilities [3.5, PLUM]

2012-08-18, 05:13 PM
What if wild shape let a druid take on aspects of wild creatures instead of literally turning into them? This is ground that has been explored before, as with the Pathfinder version, but that still fundamentally relies on the idea of knowing animals and turning into them specifically to gain the specific abilities. I think that is a bad mechanic. If you want to see why, click the spoiler for storytime! If not, just assume I'm right. I usually do.

I was playing Pathfinder as a Magus. Now, I had taken Monstrous Physique because it seemed really useful, but I had never cast it before. The party came to a point where it would be really convenient to for me to be able to fly so we could cross an obstacle. I had no idea if there were any Small or Medium monstrous humanoids that could fly - harpies, maybe, but I didn't know if those even existed in Pathfinder, but the spell description said I could gain flight. I asked the DM whether he knew any. He said "Um... maybe?" We spent about five minutes trying to search through books quickly before gave up and said that I turned into a "something" that could fly. The same thing happened when I tried to gain the scent ability, and from then on, I just became a "something" when I used the spell. It was really metagamey and broke suspension of disbelief pretty hard.

I think this is a problem inherent in any ability which requires knowledge of the monster manual to work. That's not a book meant for PCs, and requiring PCs to understand it is just a bad plan. Heck, even the paladin's special mount in the 3.5 game I ran was a mystery to him half the time, because he didn't understand how animal HD worked. The horse was just a mysterous pile of stats that I had to write down for him every couple of levels. I don't think this is a good game mechanic.

The question, then, is how to do this. Fortunately, it's really simple - we can just use the lists of abilities that the Pathfinder Beast Shape spells (http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/spells/beastShape.html#_beast-shape-ii) provide.
Here's how it works. When a druid first gets wild shape at 3rd level, they can gain any one of the following abilities (from Beast Shape I): climb 30 feet, fly 30 feet (average maneuverability), swim 30 feet, darkvision 60 feet, low-light vision, and scent. They can keep that ability for the normal hour per druid level, but it takes a use of wild shape to change abilities.
At 8th level, the druid can get two abilities from Beast Shape II.
At 13th level they can get access to three abilities from Beast Shape III.
At 18th level they can get four abilities from Beast Shape IV.

The progression can be made smoother, and I'd take off or change some of the abilities - 8th level is too early for hour/level flight - but this should work in general.

*PLUM:Please Like Unconditionally, Maybe?