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DnD’s Wild Shape Druid ability just got a lot more useful

Druids' iconic shapeshifting skills get a leg-up in the new 2024 Dungeons and Dragons rules, but it's not all good - here are the changes.

DnD Wild Shape Druid rules update for One DnD - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a half-orc druid with a bird perched on his hand at night.

The nature-loving, animal-transforming Druid is the latest DnD character class to have its upgraded, 2024 rules revealed by Wizards of the Coast this week, and it seems their signature Wild Shape ability is going through a transformation – largely for the better.

Shown off by Dungeons and Dragons’ lead game designer Jeremy Crawford in Wizards’ latest One DnD rules explainer video on Wednesday (watch it below), there’s a raft of changes for this most eco-friendly of DnD classes – but most impactful are certainly the tweaks to Wild Shape, the class feature that allows Druids to shapeshift into a variety of beasts.

The big news? Wild Shape is now a bonus action for all Druid subclasses – where it was previously a full action unless you had the Circle of the Moon subclass. That’s going to make it significantly easier to make use of your beast forms during combat. Whatever sort of Druid you are, you’ll now be able to shift into a Brown Bear or Wolf without having to wait a whole dang turn to start swinging your claws.

It aims to fix a common issue for DnD Druid characters – which saw them transform into their animal form, only to get mobbed by enemies during the full turn they then had to wait before attacking, ending their Wild Shape before they get a chance to actually use it.

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The new 2024 Player’s Handbook also restructures how Wild Shape gets replenished. In the 2014 rules, your Druid got back all their uses on a DnD short rest or long rest; in the new One DnD world, a short rest will only recover one use, and only a long rest fully recoups them.

On the other hand, the new Wild Resurgence ability you’ll get at level five lets you burn a spell slot to restore one Wild Shape use – and once you reach the level 20 cap, you’ll get one use back every time you make a DnD initiative roll with no Wild Shapes remaining.

Interestingly, Crawford also explains a couple of new, alternative uses for Wild Shape itself, if you don’t fancy skin-changing just now. Once per long rest, you can now trade one Wild Shape to restore a level one spell slot, exchanging some of your magical reserves from one form into another, as the situation demands.

And he confirms the Wild Companion skill, first introduced in the 2020 DnD book Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, is coming back as a core Druid rule. This allows you to spend a Wild Shape use to cast the DnD Find Familiar spell, summoning an animal ally to your side rather than transforming into one yourself.

“We wanted to make it easier for Druids to have a critter friend with them,” Crawford says in the video.

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Mind you, the new Wild Shape rules aren’t without some controversial points. Most notably, in the 2024 rules, Wild Shape no longer has you take on a totally new HP total with the hit points and hit dice of the beast you’re becoming – instead, it’ll give you temporary hit points.

At most character levels, that won’t make a huge difference – but it effectively shuts down a loophole where very high level Druids could cycle through their multiple uses of Wild Shape (often combined with other abilities) to keep restoring their HP indefinitely. A nerf, to be sure – but arguably a welcome one, given how overall power levels are rising in the new classes.

Besides the Wild Shape changes, there are some interesting updates to the core class, and the choices you’ll make early on in DnD character creation. At level one, Druids now choose from two archetypes called Primal Orders: the fighting Warden (which gets proficiency in martial weapons and medium armor) or the nature-mage Magician (which gets an extra cantrip and a stacking buff on Intelligence, Arcana, or Nature checks).

Additionally, the level one Druidic feature now not only lets you speak the Druidic DnD language, but also gives all Druids the Speak with Animals ability as standard.

With the 2024 Player’s Handbook coming out on September 17, Wizards is only partway done releasing details about the new class rules, with lots more still to learn about the changes to DnD backgrounds, the complete overhaul to the DnD races (a.k.a. species) and more.

To keep up with all of it, bookmark our DnD release schedule and follow Wargamer on Google News for daily updates.