Also known as ‘I wish the entire party were Druids’, Animal Shapes is an immensely enjoyable spell that is as useful and powerful as you want it to be.
It allows the caster to turn shapechange as many creatures as they want and lasts up to a full day. The only restrictions are that the targets have to be willing and within range when the spell is cast and that they can only be transformed into a Large or smaller beast with a Challenge Rating of four or lower.
In effect, it allows a Druid to share a watered-down version of her Wild Shape ability with the rest of the party – and any other allies able to fit into a 60ft. circle. It follows virtually identical rules, which means that unlike a creature that has been Polymorphed they retain their mental characteristics when transformed and can still act intelligently and communicate, if not actually speak. Likewise, they can’t use magical items or cast spells while in animal form and all their equipment melts into their furry new body.
You’re not really too limited in your choice of beasts, as most of the mundane creatures easily fit within the Challenge Rating and Size restrictions. All of the more powerful dinosaurs are out, however, as are elephants, giant sharks and giant apes.
As far as combat goes, polar bears and giant scorpions offer some of the best options from the official books. To be honest though, if you’re using Animal Shapes in the hope of enhancing the party’s fighting skills something has probably gone very wrong. It’s an eighth-level spell, so by the time you’re actually able to cast it turning your Fighter into ten feet of clawed death will probably significantly reduce her killing power.
What Animal Shapes excels at is taking advantage of the more subtle benefits of assuming a new shape. For example, why bother working out a complicated plan with Invisibility spells, Portable Holes and a whole lot of slit throats when you could sneak into the King’s palace by turning the entire party into pigeons and flying over the wall?
The fact that it can be cast on so many people at once is another major plus factor that you can really take advantage of with a bit of creative thinking. If the village is about to be hit by a tsunami you can just gather the population up and turn them into sharks for a couple of hours, or have them hover above the devastation as a flock of seagulls.
If you’re willing to risk the ire of your DM by embarking on an incredibly cheesy plan, you can even assemble a reasonably effective army by gathering up a mob of a few hundred commoners and turning them all into rhinos or giant eagles.
However, while it’s great fun and can be incredibly useful if you think outside the box, Animal Shapes feels comparatively underpowered for it’s level. By the time a Druid can cast it she can create earthquakes and summon down sunbursts, or simply rip out a target’s mind and leave them a broken mess for months at a time. Turning a few party members into squirrels seems rather tame next to that.
One of those spells that scales with your own creativity and ability to think out of the box. It feels a little weak considering the level requirements, but has the potential to make a huge impact on the game under right circumstances.
Also, can be used to manufacture an army of furious polar bears, which has to count for something.
Casting time: 1 Action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 24 hours
Your magic turns others into beasts.
Choose any number of willing creatures that you can see within range. You transform each target into the form of a large or smaller beast with a challenge rating of 4 or lower. On subsequent turns, you can use your actions to transform affected creatures into new forms.
The transformation lasts for the duration for each target, or until the target drops to 0 hit points or dies. You can choose a different form for each target. A target’s game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast, though the target retains its alignment and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores.
The target assumes the hit points of its new form, and when it reverts to its normal form, it returns to the number of hit point it had before it transformed. If it reverts as a result of dropping to 0 hit points, any excess damage carries over to its normal form. As long as the excess damage doesn’t reduce the creature’s normal form to 0 hit points, it isn’t knocked unconcious. The creature is limited in the actions it can perform by the nature of its new form, and it can’t speak or cast spells.
The target’s gear melds into the new form. The target can’t activate, wield, or otherwise benefit from any of its equipment.