Transmutation turns one thing into something else. Sometimes that means turning wood into metal or turning a friend into a tyrannosaurus. School of Transmutation offers a sampling of everything that Transmutation has to offer, but the individual subclass features aren’t especially powerful and add very little beyond what you get from core wizard class features.
School of Transmutation’s features get you very little which you couldn’t already get more easily from other places, often at a lower level. Transmuter’s Stone is arguably the best part of the subclass, but you can replace it with the Resilient feat or by taking your first level in the Artificer, Fighter, or Sorcerer classes to get proficiency in Constitution saves, then learn some basic spells that any sensible wizard should know anyway. Master Transmuter is the next high point of the class, but waiting until level 14 to get a passable subclass feature is not a good choice. Even then, the best benefits are made totally obsolete by Wish three levels later.
Conceptually, School of Transmutation should allow the Wizard to be a creative Utility character who can turn into a combat monster in combat to serve as a Defender and/or Striker, but the subclass offers surprisingly little that improves your ability to do those things.
Table of Contents
- School of Transmutation Features
- School of Transmutation Ability Scores
- School of Transmutation Races
- School of Transmutation Feats
- School of Transmutation Armor and Weapons
- Example Build – Polymorph into a Problem
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
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The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released, and the article will be updated accordingly as time allows.
School of Transmutation Features
- : Standard for PHB wizard subclasses. Strangely, this feature incentivizes you to use your two free spells learned per level to learn literally anything except spells from your favorite school.
- : It’s hard to say how best to use this, but at the very least you could turn a block of wood into silver and sell it before it reverts and you’re run out of town.
- : Several excellent buffs to choose from, and you can change the selected buff easily. If you enjoy Concentration spells like Polymorph, proficiency in Constitution saving throws is huge. You might also share that benefit with a cleric if there’s one in the party since clerics have tons of good Concentration spells and tend to be on the front lines a lot but also don’t get proficiency in Constitution saves. If you want Darkvision, cast Darkvision. If you want the damage resistance, Absorb Elements or Protection From Energy work, but they may be more costly. Remember that you can change the benefit when you cast a leveled transmutation spell, so don’t be afraid to change it when the situation calls for it.
- : Helpful for scouting and utility purposes, but it won’t get you through a fight, and you can use a Rogue or a Divination spell for scouting. You can use it for overland travel by turning into something that flies, but stick to Giant Eagle, Giant Owl, or Giant Vulture because most beasts have an Intelligence score low enough that you’re likely to forget where you were going.
The Panacea and Restore Life options are very good, and giving up your Transmuter’s Stone to get the benefits is worth the cost since you can create another one at no cost except time. Wizards don’t have many healing options and can’t raise creatures from the dead until you can cast Wish, so these are useful options, especially in a party without a cleric.
Restore Youth is amusing but it’s basically a party trick.
: The Major
Transformation option can do curious things like making adamantine weapons,
but can’t create adamantine armor because adamantine armor is a magic item
even though adamantine weapons aren’t.
School of Transmutation Ability Scores
No different from any other wizard.
School of Transmutation Races
No different from any other wizard.
School of Transmutation Feats
Little different from any other wizard.
- PHB: If you’re planning to polymorph yourself in combat, you need some extra hp for when you get knocked out of polymorph and extra damage cuts into your regular hit points.
School of Transmutation Armor and Weapons
Just don’t. Turn into a dinosaur instead.
No different from any other wizard.
Example Build – Polymorph into a Problem
We’re going to lean hard into Polymorph because it’s the Transmuter’s most iconic spell. In order to build around Polymorph, we’re going to look for options which improve our capabilities even while polymorphed. This means long-duration buff spells which don’t require Concentration. Unfortunately, there aren’t many of those.
Still, we’ll want to be exceptionally durable, both to avoid losing Polymorph and to survive once we’re knocked out of it.
We’ll go for mostly typical wizard ability scores, but we’ll put more into Constitution than usual because we need our hit points to be good.
Custom Origin Hill Dwarf. +2/+1 increases, +1 hit point per level, and resistance to poison. That adds a lot of durability for when we can’t be polymorphed. We’ll trade the 4 weapon proficiencies for tools.
Any. Sage is a good go-to.
Skills and Tools
Any 4 skills and 4 tools. It doesn’t really affect the build.
It’s easy to look at feats and think “Resilient (Con)” or “Warcaster”, but remember that, when you cast Polymorph on yourself, you’re going to use the creature’s statistics, which means giving up your feats. Of course, we won’t be polymorphed all of the time.
We’ll plan to take Resilient (Con) at level 12 and Metamagic Adept (Quicken, Subtle) at 16. We’ll also take Warcaster at 19 to double down on Concentration so we’re unlikely to be knocked out of Shapechange.
|Level||Feat(s) and Features||Notes and Tactics|
– Fire Bolt
– Mind Sliver
– Shape Water
– False LIfe
– Find Familiar
– Any 3
|For starting equipment, take a dagger, a component pouch or spellcasting focus, either pack, and a spellbook.|
For our starting spells, we grab some good transmutation options and some basic wizard staples. False Life will be a helpful way to expand our Polymorph form’s effective hp when we get to that point. Find Familiar will eventually be a rider for Dragon’s Breath in addition to typical familiar shenanigans.
For your other spells, go-to options like Absorb Elements, Magic Missile, and Shield all work great.
|Minor alchemy lets us do things like turn a wooden carving of a tool into an iron tool, or turn an iron door into a wooden one before our party chops through it with axes. The biggest challenge is that this takes 10 minutes (or more) to do, and ends after an hour, so the timing may be difficult.|
Jump and Longstrider are both buffs which don’t require Concentration. Jump’s duration is admittedly short, so using it alongside Polymorph is hard, but you can cast Jump, then cast Polymorph the following turn (remember the restriction on spells with a Bonus Action casting time), then jump a horrifying distance with your 25 Strength.
Lonstrider lasts an hour without Concentration, so it’s a great buff before polymorphing.
– Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp
|Darkvision is a great buff, but might be too expensive to justify using frequently at this level. Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp is a single-target save-or-suck.|
|4||Ability Score Increase (Intelligence 17 -> 19)|
New Cantrip Known
|More Intelligence isn’t super exciting, but, until we get Polymorph, we’re still mostly a normal wizard relying on staple wizard tactics.|
Knock makes locks obsolete. Levitate is a weird save-or-suck on a Con save, but if you can make it stick on melee-only targets they’re absolutely helpless. Eventually we’ll upgrade to Telekinesis.
|Two options for crowds: Fireball for the damage. Slow for when you’re worried about friendly fire.|
– Tiny Servant
|The Transmuter’s stone offers several benefits. Darkvision can be replaced by the spell Darkvision. The speed bonus can be replaced by the spell Longstrider (though the two stack, which is neat). Proficiency in Constitution saves can be replicated with a feat, which is expensive. The damage resistances can (mostly) be replicated with Resist Energy, which requires Concentration. So this is a decent, versatile buff. Tragically, it doesn’t work on us while we’re polymorphed, so you might share it with an ally.|
Fly is a major tactical advantage for your party. Tiny Servant is nice because it gets you a little friend for 8 hours.
– Fire Shield
|Polymorph is a lot of fun. At this level we very briefly enjoy turning into a giant ape until we max out Polymorph’s CR cap at level 8. We could also cast it on an ally, but what fun is that? They built themselves to do whatever they do, so let them do that while you turn into an ape and monkey about.|
Fire Shield is a great defense to combine with Polymorph. With a 10-minute duration, you can pre-cast it and Polymorph before you go lookin for trouble. Your Polymorph options have terrible AC but big piles of hp, so you’re going to take a lot of hits. Fire Shield punishes enemies for that behavior.
Also: be sure to cast buffs ahead of time. The temporary hp from False Life will be lost before your Polymorph hp. Longstrider will improve your speed. Darkvision works if your form doesn’t already have it (the Tyrannosaurus Rex notably does not).
|8||Ability Score Increase (Constitution 16 -> 17, Intelligence 19 -> 20)|
– Stone Shape
|I don’t know how Fabricate interacts with Minor Alchemy, but as a DM I wouldn’t allow you to cast Fabricate on something under the effect of Minor Alchemy. No turning a 10-foot cube of iron into wood then creating something wooden before it reverts. |
Stone Shape is an excellent utility in a game that involves a lot of caves and such.
We can now Polymorph into a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Turning into a CR 8 creature remains a powerful, effective tactical option for quite a while. The biggest weakness is the T-Rex’s 13 AC and absolute lack of save proficiencies. Mage Armor won’t help the AC (until you get knocked out of polymorph), you can’t cast Shield, and you can’t benefit from your equipment, so you want other, more creative defenses if you can get them, such as False Life and Fire Shield.
– Animate Objects
|If someone knocks you out of Polymorph, or if there’s no room for a Huge creature, Telekinesis is fun. Grab a creature, lift them into the air, and have your party beat on them while they’re restrained and unable to move.|
Animate Objects is a bit like a summon spell. Animate a bunch of loose rocks or a bunch of beer mugs and have them swarm your enemies.
– Any 2
|We’ve known Polymorph for 3 levels, so getting it added to our spellbook for free isn’t helpful. The free castings are… also not super helpful, which is frustrating.|
We can cast Polymorph once per short rest for free, but only yourself, and only beasts up to CR 1. That largely limits us to utility and scouting forms. Unfortunately, you adopt the creature’s mental ability scores when you polymorph, which makes it difficult to drag your big wizard brain around while scouting since you’re using the brain of a rat or a house cat or something. Forms like Giant Owl are an option, but those aren’t especially subtle since it’s a bird the size of a horse.
– Create Homunculus
|6th-level spells mean access to Tasha’s Otherworldly Guise and Tenser’s Transformation, but I wouldn’t use either unless I were a Bladesinger.|
Contingency doesn’t stop working when we turn into a dinosaur. In fact, we could make that the trigger for Contingency.
We’ll grab Homunculus for another pet to drag around.
|12||Feat: Resilient (Con 17 -> 18)|
– Any 2
|Proficiency in Con save for Concentration, and raising our Con mod gets us more hp.|
– Draconic Transformation
– Reverse Gravity
|Draconic Transformation is a 1-minute combat form, so it competes for space with Polymorph. It also doesn’t give us a big pool of hit points on top of our wizard hp, so Mage Armor and our big pile of hit points are really helpful here, as are defensive spells like Absorb Elements and Shield.|
Against a crowd, Draconic Transformation’s breath weapon will be more effective. Against single targets, Polymorph into a T-Rex and bite stuff to grapple it.
Remember how we could lift enemies off the ground with Levitate, then eventually with Telekinesis? Now you can do that to a whole room without a save!
– Any 1
|Master Transmuter is neat. Turn a block of gold into an adamantine weapon or tool (remember: equal or lesser value). Remove diseases, raise the dead, etc. The option to reduce a creature’s apparent age is purely for vanity, so ignore it. You can learn Clone at your next level. And of course, when we get Wish in 3 levels this becomes totally obsolete.|
We want Simulacrum for eventual Wish abuse.
– Any 2
|The only Transmutation spell at 8th level is Control Weather. There’s really nothing here for us beyond what’s good for any wizard.|
|16||Feat: Metamagic Adept|
– Any 2
|Metamagic Adept for Quickened Spell and Subtle Spell is a great addition. Even once per day, we can quicken Polymorph if combat starts and we’re not ready to eat somebody. Draconic Transformation is already a Bonus Action so we won’t always need to Quicken, but it’s a great backup option and both True Polymorph and Shapechange will benefit next level.|
– True Polymorph or Shapechange
|True Polymorph is the king of polymorph spells, giving us the option to permanently (or for an hour if we like being a dwarf) turn into whatever creature we decide upon. Dragons are a good go-to.|
We could instead choose Shapechange, and if we like turning ourself (instead of an ally) into things, that’s the better choice. You retain your mental ability scores and class features, meaning that in addition to being whatever high-CR monster, you’re still a high-level wizard, too. There are some great forms suggested in our Practical Guide to True Polymorph and Shapecange.
Wish is here for two reasons. First: it’s Wish. Second, one of the options is “grant up to ten creatures that you can see resistance to a damage type you choose.” When you’re a squishy wizard attempting to turn into a melee monster, permanent damage resistance is really nice. But this option comes with he 33% chance that you never get to cast Wish again.
Enter: Simulacrum. We cast Simulacrum while we have a 9th-level slot and Wish prepared, so our Simulacrum has those. Simulacrum casts Wish to give us, everyone in the party, and a few of our favorite NPCs resistance to a damage type. If the Simulacrum can never cast Wish again, no problem. They couldn’t recover spell slots anyway.
Repeat until you have permanent resistance to all damage or until you run out of gold for the 1,500gp material component for Simulacrum.
– Any 2
|Spell Mastery isn’t especially useful for the transmuter. None of our fun spells are at 1st or 2nd level. Grab staples like Shield and Web.|
|19||Feat: War Caster|
– Any 2
|War Caster gives us Advantage on Concentration, and since we’re often going to be in melee using Shapechange to be something terrifying, we can also cast spells in place of Opportunity Attacks, allowing us to do things like Disintegrate enemies when they try to run away.|
– Any 2
– Any 2
|Nothing neat here, either.|