The D&D rule change will eventually transform your druid into an owlbear

Posted by Charlie Hall on February 23, 2023 at 11:26 am

When the original Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves trailer arrived in July 2022, fans were pleasantly surprised at how cheerful it looked – particularly the sequence where one of the characters transformed into a white, feathered monstrosity called the Owlbear, to kick your ass . Rules advocates, however, lamented foul as D&D 5th Edition, as written, would never have allowed for this particular transformation. Now, a new set of official playtest materials aims to address this continuity issue in the most player-focused way possible.

One D&D is the working name for the next iteration of Dungeons & Dragons, which is expected to be released in 2024 for the game’s 50th anniversary. For the past few months, Wizards of the Coast developers have been publicly testing new rules to see how they work. These playtest materials are called Unearthed Arcana, and a new set was released on Wednesday. This includes the proposed early playtest changes for the druid class and is a massive overhaul of existing systems.

Why is Wizards proposing this change for the druid class? The answer is simple, says Lead Rules Designer Jeremy Crawford. The Druid is currently the least played class in D&D, and Wizards is bound to do something about it. Recently, designers took a closer look at the 2014 text published in the Player’s Handbook and found the druid’s mechanical error. Since druids can use their iconic wildform power to transform into any beast with a challenge value of one or lower, it means their options are spread across many, many different books – including obscure titles like Acquisitions Incorporated.

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Instead of sending wannabe druids to the library every time they want to cast Wild Shape, which Crawford calls an “iconic” part of the modern druid class, they’ve simplified things. New playtest materials give the druid three stat blocks to choose from – Animal of the Land, Animal of the Sea, and Animal of the Sky. Instead of inheriting the stats of the animal they wish to transform into, druids now simply select one of the three stat blocks and use the listed defensive stats and offensive abilities. But in this paradigm, it’s up to the druids to decide what they look like.

So can you look like an owl bear just like the character of Sophia Lillis? “Absolutely!” Crawford said in a YouTube video released alongside the post. Or at least into an owl/bear… Thing:

Because in this new version we even built in that your shape can be a hybrid shape that has traits of different animals – like an owl and a bear. We’ve seen that over the years too […] There are druid players who want to change, but they have something they want to turn into. They want to be a bear, or they want to be a squirrel, and maybe something else every now and then, and they don’t want to feel like they have to choose a shape because it happens to have an enticing statblock. Instead, as a druid, you now have customized stat blocks and decide what the creature looks like.

Image: Wizards of the Coast

Does your small creature — say, a possum or a squirrel — have the same stat block as a large one? For now, yes…yes, it does. But this is a playtest, folks, and if this drives you nuts, then you’re encouraged to leave feedback starting March 20th, when the playtest opens for fan feedback.

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Of course, longtime fans of D&D can recall how absurd this all is. Odd, unique creatures like the rust monster and the owl bear look that way because in all likelihood either Dave Arneson or Gary Gygax went to a drug store in the 1970s and bought a bag of funny looking plastic dinosaurs.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves hits theaters on March 31st.

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