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DnD 5e - The Shifter Handbook

Last Updated: July 17th, 2020

Disclaimer

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

Introduction

Many of D&D's playable races exist to make some cool monster into something closer to a human. Dragonborn for dragons, tieflings for fiends, and shifters for lycanthropes. Originally introduced in Eberron back in 3rd edition, the Shifter is a mostly-human humanoid descended from a lycanthrope. While the Shifter doesn't retain full lycanthropy, they can briefly "shift", gaining various benefits depending` on their subrace.

Mechanically, Shifters are defined almost entirely by their subrace. While they share speed, Darkvision, languages, and the basic mechanics of Shifting, the rest of their traits vary by subrace. This allows each subrace to thrive in its own niche, but it also means that there is very little overlap between where each subrace thrives.

Classes

Artificer

No Intelligence increase.

Barbarian

Beasthide and Longtooth both make excellent barbarians. Beasthide will be more durable, while Longtooth will be more effective offensively. Just keep in mind that Shifting and Rage both take a Bonus Action to activate so your Bonus Action will be in high demand.

Bard

Swiftstride offers a Charisma bonus, but that's the best that you can get from any of the Shifter's subraces. None of the Shifting options are particularly helpful for the Bard.

Cleric

Wildhunt is the only subrace which offers a Wisdom bonus, but little else works well for the Cleric. Other subraces like Beasthide and Longtooth could work for martial cleric builds, but they're still not a great fit.

Druid

Wildhunt is workable, and the additional durability of the Dexterity increase and the temporary hit points can be very helpful since druids tend to be frail and have poor AC. Unfortunately, Shifting likely doesn't work while using Wild Shape since it's a physical transformation inherent to your physical body.

Fighter

Beasthide and Longtooth make excellent fighters. Beasthide will be more durable, while Longtooth will be more effective offensively. Longtooth offers a great way to use the Fighter's typically under-utilized Bonus Action which offers a great way to boost your damage output.

Monk

Wildhunt's ability score increases work great and the Shifting option is useful defensively, but since Shifting is only helpful defensively, the vast majority of the time your racial traits are reduced to ability score increases and Darkvision.

Paladin

Beasthide, Longtooth, and Swiftstride all work for the Paladin. Beasthide and Longtooth work for the same reason that they work for the Fighter, while Swiftstride works for a Dexterity-based highly mobile build.

Ranger

Wildhunt was basically tailor-made for the Ranger, and if the Shifting option was better it would be a great option. Unfortunately it's only useful defensively in certain situations so it's hard to capitalize on Shifting.

Rogue

Swiftstride makes a great high-Charisma build, and the Shifting benefit allows you to quickly move away from enemies if you're fighting at range or if yu just prefer to keep some distance between you.

Wildhunt works well for a highly-perceptive build like the Inquisitive, but it also works well thematically with the Scout.

Sorcerer

Swiftstride offers a Charisma bonus, and the Shifting benefit can keep you from being bogged down in melee.

Warlock

Swiftstride offers a Charisma bonus, and the Shifting benefit can keep you from being bogged down in melee.

Wizard

No Intelligence increase.