The most unique trait of a Druid is their ability to Wild Shape. Their connection to nature, whether through the world itself or a deity who embodies the wild spaces of the world, grants them the unique ability to change their body from that of a humanoid to that of an animal.
At second level, a druid may use their action to magically assume the shape of a beast that they have seen before. This feature can be used twice per short rest and the length you may remain in wild shape is equal to half of the druid level of the character (rounded down).
In the newer subclasses (i.e., Circle of the Stars, Circle of Wildfire, etc.) you may use your Wild Shapes to power other features, much like the Channel Divinity of the cleric and paladin. However, the base action of turning into an animal is a throughline for all druids.
My experience using Wild Shape
In my experience, this feature is incredibly useful. From providing additional hit points to infiltration, the wild shape ability provides utility that is unmatched in other innate class resources. For many years, I played a Circle of the Land druid named Naiah. While she did not use her wild shapes every session, they came into play quite often.
A vivid memory comes to mind when our characters were facing a cult of gnolls. Their leadership had run off and I and our cleric wanted to ensure that no one could continue spreading the violent faith they spewed.
So, Naiah wild-shaped into a horse so that our cleric could jump on her back and cast Call Lightning on the gnolls as I used my action and movement to gain on them. I remember feeling so powerful in the moment and I can picture my friend’s character wielding her sword as lightning rained down around us riding on a horse with the markings of my character all along the horse’s coat.
Many of my memories of my first campaign with Naiah involve her turning into a variety of creatures for her party. It was one of my favourite parts of being a druid. I always had this tool in my back pocket if needed.
In this short guide, you will find a collection of wild shape options that are useful as your druid levels.
To note: Circle of the Moon druids have a whole different progression with access to CR1 creatures starting at Level 2 (though they still must follow the restrictions on swim speed and fly speed). Eventually these druids can turn into CR 6 beasts – which could mean becoming a mammoth! We will not touch on their higher-level transformations here but this is a great starting guide for these druids as well.
Wild Shape At Level 2
When you are granted this ability at second level, there are several limitations on what you can transform into. You cannot choose an animal that has a flying or swimming speed, and the max CR must be 1/4 or under. Despite these limitations, there are several options that will aid your party in a variety of situations.
These bad boys are immensely helpful in combat situations. With a higher HP at 19 and a move speed of 40 ft., giant goats are the G.O.A.T at low levels. They are difficult to knock prone due to their Sure-Footed ability and can add an additional 2d4 damage to their Ram attack if they Charge before hitting (run at least 20 ft. straight toward a target). Not only are they powerful, but the mental image of a Giant Goat wrecking shop on the battlefield, while your party backs them up, is something you will remember for many years.
Being able to transform into a horse is immensely helpful. While you may not be able to be a horse for an entire travel day, having the ability to provide quick land travel in time-sensitive situations will likely save a lot of NPCs in your game. Something quite important to note as well is that horses are quite common in high fantasy settings – listening in to conversations when you are a horse can be conspicuous in the right circumstances.
Bugs in general are an excellent choice for infiltrating a space that is otherwise forbidden to your party. They are small and generally left alone when there are other things to focus on. I specifically am highlighting the spider as it is a bug that cannot fly which is a limitation at this level. The only downside of using bugs, and spiders in general, is that many of the folks who may run into your spider might try to kill it. Be ready to run if that happens to you!
Your character will likely have seen a wolf by Level 2. Adventuring or even just living as a druid would put you in the path of many a wolf. These creatures are best used as a boost to your HP if your druid is hurting. An extra 11 HP is not something to shake your head at, especially at early levels. In addition, their Bite attack is quite strong dealing on average seven piercing damage on a hit.
You would also cause your enemy to succeed on a Strength saving throw or they are knocked prone. Quite an advantage for your party if the enemy rolls low enough. This form is best used in combat but can also be pulled out if you need a good tracker through their Keen Hearing and Smell ability.
Wild shape At Level 4
At fourth level, you receive a boost in CR of the beasts that you can transform into as well as the ability to choose creatures with a swimming speed. Being able to turn into a beast that can swim doesn’t come up too often but may be a good option in scenarios where you have to cross dangerous water or when you are having combats in and around water (i.e., swamp combats, sailing ship combats, or underwater combats).
The biggest bonus of transforming into an ape is not only their ability to Multiattack, two times with their fists, but they also have a ranged weapon attack available to them: Rock. While rudimentary, just throwing a rock at an enemy can be so satisfying (as well as induce laughter at the table, especially if you’re throwing that rock at a wizard).
At a CR of 1/2 and including a 30 ft. swim speed, the crocodile is an excellent option for any water-based combat. They can hold their breath for 15 minutes and have a stealth proficiency that can be used for surprise attacks if your party can hold it together right before being spotted.
The biggest boon of this creature is the strength of its Bite attack. Rolling 1d10 +2 at level 4 on an attack is quite strong, especially considering that the target becomes grappled which removes an enemy from combat at least until their next turn.
Giant Poisonous Snake
While I am personally not a fan of snakes, using a wild shape on one is quite helpful. Not only can giant poisonous snakes swim, but their Bite attack also causes a large amount of poison damage when it hits. In addition to the 1d4 + 4 piercing damage, after attempting a Constitution saving throw, an enemy takes 3d6 poison damage (or half on a successful save).
This attack is also with a reach of 10 ft! Their HP is a little on the lower side so you may be easily taken out of this form but if you can make it to an attack, you will put a dent into your enemies.
While not as powerful as the crocodile, an octopus provides the same level of stealth as the spider I mentioned earlier. With their Underwater Camouflage and specific Stealth bonus, they can follow or spy on any creatures that escape into open water.
Wild Shape At Level 8
The world is your oyster now! The only limitation you have left – and that will follow you for the rest of your levels (unless you are a Circle of the Moon druid) – is that the beast you are turning into must be CR 1 or less. But the best part of reaching eighth level is that you can now fly! The possibilities are endless. The number of times I saved my party from falling by transforming into a giant eagle is beyond measure. I have so many stories involving wild shaping into a bird of some kind.
One of the strongest CR 1 beasts, the Dire Wolf has high hit points, a higher AC at 14, and a strong bite attack. While the Bear has a Multiattack feature and similar HP, the difference in AC is significant. It depends on what your intention is with the summoning of a powerful beast – do you want a little bit of flavour depending on your backstory, or do you want to suit the situation? If you need health, go with the Dire Wolf because of their AC. If you want to have a substantial attack, go with the Bear.
This one is a no-brainer in my opinion. At one point or another in your adventures, you would have run into one of these majestic creatures (and if you haven’t, try and tell your DM that seeing an eagle is the same thing). Their utility is incredible.
Depending on your party, you could carry 2 members to safety. I remember a moment when my druid, Naiah, cast Conjure Animals to summon 2 Giant Eagles before transforming into a Giant Eagle herself. It saved our party, especially because we were plummeting from an airship but it also was so magical. You maintain concentration while in Wild Shape so even mechanically it worked!
As I mentioned above, the utility of flying creatures is incredible. Having the option to turn into a smaller, innocuous bird provides the opportunity for stealth missions and spying missions. If your party doesn’t have a familiar or a rogue among them that can scout ahead, transforming into a bird can provide that information for your party.
An Owl’s Keen Senses make it an excellent option to hear conversations or identify potential obstacles in your way. The Raven’s Mimicry provides the potential for distraction and confusion.
Final Thoughts about Wild Shape uses
Now these are just a starting point! Take note of the animals and beasts you interact with as you adventure – they could provide inspiration for wild shapes for your druid. In addition, you don’t need an official stat block to necessarily transform into the beast of your dreams! Check with your DM if you can reskin stat blocks and play around with features that seem reasonable to the beast that you want to turn into (at least based on our world experience). Remember – you need to have seen a dinosaur to transform into one!
Have fun and let your imagination run wild!