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Pathfinder - Practical Guide to Polymorph

Last Updated: Apr 3, 2017

Disclaimer

I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

  • 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.

Introduction

Polymorph is one of the most confusing and difficult parts of the magic system in Pathfinder. This guide is an attempt to explain how the rules work, and how you can best make use of Polymorph spells.

I can't reasonably cover every possible form for every polymorph form available, so this guide will generally only go into the options presented in the original Bestiary. For additional options, check the official Bestiary Index and filter by the creature type and size that you want. Hopefully the analysis presented below will help you to asses omitted forms on your own.

How does polymorph work?

Before you read this guide, read the section on Polymorph on the Pathfinder SRD. I'll wait here because this is a text document on the internet.

Are you good and confused? That's alright, so was I. Let's break things down a bit.

What do you get when you polymorph?

  • "+10 bonus on Disguise skill checks" (presumably only to appear as a member of whatever species you polymorph into. Polymorphing into a Fire Elemental won't help you impersonate a dwarven prince.)
  • "a number of bonuses to your ability scores and a bonus to your natural armor"
  • Movement Types: Flight, Climb, Swim, etc. Keep in mind that you only get these if specified in the spell's entry. If the creature has a move speed greater or less than what is specified in the spell, you get the lesser of the two. For example: if the creature has a fly speed of 10 feet and the spell specifies a fly speed of 30, you get a fly speed of 10 feet. If the creature instead specifies a fly speed of 100 feet, you only get a fly speed of 30 feet. Maneuverability follows the same rule.
  • Resistances: Resistences to energy, DR, etc, but not type immunities like elementals' immunity to sneak attacks (Unless they are mentioned in the spell's description)
  • Senses: Darkvision, Low-Light Vision, Blindsense, etc. If the creature has greater/lesser version of the ability (e.g. Darkvision greater than 60 ft.), you get the creature's version. Keep in mind that you only get these if specified in the spell's entry.
  • "Your base speed changes to match that of the form you assume.": This is only your base speed, not the fly, climb, or swim speeds that the creature might possess. Most spells will specify that you can get special movement speeds.
  • "The DC for any of these abilities equals your DC for the polymorph spell used to change you into that form.": This sentence should have been placed two sentences earlier in the paragraph. If the polymorph effect grants you access to one of the creature's abilities, such as Poison, Trample, or a Breath Weapon, the DC to resist that ability is equal to the DC for the polymorph effect. This is fantastic because it makes poisons extremely difficult to resist, and make Spell Focus (Polymorph) worth taking.
  • "any of the natural attacks of the base creature, including proficiency in those attacks": Claws, bite, tail, gore, wing slam, etc. "These attacks are based on your base attack bonus, modified by your Strength or Dexterity as appropriate, and use your Strength modifier for determining damage bonuses."
  • "If a polymorph spell causes you to change size, apply the size modifiers appropriately, changing your armor class, attack bonus, Combat Maneuver Bonus, and Stealth skill modifiers. Your ability scores are not modified by this change unless noted by the spell.": So halflings don't get extra strength from polymorphing into something really big.
  • Reach

What do you NOT get when you polymorph?

  • Extraordinary Abilities (Unless they are mentioned in the spell's description): "Your new body might look and feel like the genuine article, but it's not the genuine article." --Rules of the Game: Polymorphing (Part Two)
  • Supernatural Abilities
  • Spell-Like Abilities
  • Special Attacks (Unless they are mentioned in the spell's description)
  • Racial skill bonuses, like the Owl's bonuses to Perception and Stealth.
  • "Polymorph spells cannot be used to change into specific individuals"
  • "Polymorph spells cannot be used to assume the form of a creature with a template or an advanced version of a creature."

What happens to you when you polymorph?

If you polymorph into a humanoid, not much. But unless you're using Alter Self, you're probably polymorphing into something cool. Namely "a creature of the animal, dragon, elemental, magical beast, plant, or vermin type." If you polymorph into one of these, here's what happens:

  • "all of your gear melds into your body. Items that provide constant bonuses and do not need to be activated continue to function while melded in this way (with the exception of armor and shield bonuses, which cease to function).": This means that your ring of protection, your cloak of resistance, and your belt of physica perfection all continue to function. Your +1 Full Plate does not. Mage Armor provides an armor bonus, but since it's not part of your gear so it doesn't meld into you. I would rule that Mage Armor and Shield continue to function, but check with your DM.
  • "Items that require activation cannot be used while you maintain that form.": So no wands, staves, potions, or many slotless magic items.
  • "you cannot cast any spells that require material components (unless you have the Eschew Materials or Natural Spell feat), and can only cast spells with somatic or verbal components if the form you choose has the capability to make such movements or speak, such as a dragon.": Eschew Materials suddenly seems like a really good idea for Transmuters and Polymorph enthusiests.
  • "If your new form does not cause your equipment to meld into your form, the equipment resizes to match your new size.": So if you polymorph into an Ogre, your greatsword will change size to Large. Depending on your DM, your over- or under-sized items may also change size with you. So your barbarian's large Bastard Sword might stay large when you polymorph him into an Ogre, or it may stay one size larget than him. Check with your DM.
  • "While under the effects of a polymorph spell, you lose all extraordinary and supernatural abilities that depend on your original form (such as keen senses, scent, and darkvision), as well as any natural attacks and movement types possessed by your original form.": "Depend on your original form" is important here. Very few of your class abilities will depend on your "original form", so you're probably only going to lose your racial senses.
  • "You also lose any class features that depend upon form, but those that allow you to add features (such as sorcerers that can grow claws) still function.": So Sorcerors can polymorph into a snake and grow claws. WAR SKINK.
  • "You can only be affected by one polymorph spell at a time. If a new polymorph spell is cast on you (or you activate a polymorph effect, such as wild shape), you can decide whether or not to allow it to affect you, taking the place of the old spell. In addition, other spells that change your size have no effect on you while you are under the effects of a polymorph spell.": If you are affected by Baleful Polymorph, someone can Polymorph you and you can choose to end the Baleful Polymorph effect and then wait for the Polymorph effect to wear off.

"While most of these should be obvious, the GM is the final arbiter of what abilities depend on form and are lost when a new form is assumed. Your new form might restore a number of these abilities if they are possessed by the new form."

What if I polymorph something which is smaller than Small or bigger than Medium?

The only difference is that you need to adjust the abilities for the creature's size before you apply the modifiers for polymorph.

Ability Adjustments from Size Changes
Creature's Original Size Str Dex Con Adjusted Size
Fine +6 -6 - Small
Diminutive +6 -4 - Small
Tiny +4 -2 - Small
Small - - - Small
Medium - - - Medium
Large -4 +2 -2 Medium
Huge -8 +4 -4 Medium
Gargantuan -12 +4 -6 Medium
Colossal -16 +4 -8 Medium

Can I use weapons while polymorphed?

Yes! "If your new form does not cause your equipment to meld into your form, the equipment resizes to match your new size." So if you're an Eldritch Knight and you use Giant Form, you can continue using your awesome magic sword.

Let's look at some examples

Marly is a level 10 dwarf wizard. His move speed is 20, and he has Darkvision. He has no other special movement speeds or vision types. He regularly casts Polymorph, so he needs to understand what happens to him when he changes shape. Polymorph allows you to duplicate the effects of Beast Shape II, Elemental Body I, and Alter Self, so let's look at some examples.

Marly wears bracers of armor +1, a ring of protection +1, a cloak of resistance +1, a Quick Runner's shirt, and a belt of physical perfection +2.

Marly polymorphs into a human

In this case, Polymorph behaves like Alter Self. Marly loses his darkvision and his 20 foot movement speed. He gains the human 30 foot move speed, and a +2 size bonus to strength, as specified in the Alter Self spell description. Because he is still a humanoid, his items all continue to function normally.

Marly polymorphs into an earth elemental

Being a dwarf often involves a large quantity of being underground. At one point, Marly decides that he wants to earth glide through some walls and ceilings. When he polymorphs into an earth elemental, Marly looks at the entry for earth elementals in Elemental Body I.

"you gain a +2 size bonus to your Strength and a +4 natural armor bonus. You also gain darkvision 60 feet, and the ability to earth glide." From the bestiary entry for Small Earth Elementals, Marly gains a 20 ft. move speed. He does not get the elemental's burrow speed, as it is not specified in the spell. However, he does get the Earth Glide ability. Because you can't Earth Glide without a burrow speed, it stands to reason that Marly should get the burrow speed as part of the Earth Glide ability, even though it is not specifically stated in the spell description, but that's something that the player and the GM should discuss.

Note that the spell allows you to gain the elemental's darkvision, but does not specify tremorsense. This means that Marly does not get tremorsense. Marly also gains the small earth elemental's slam attack, dealing 1d6 damage plus his newly modified strength bonus. He does not get the elemental's immunities to bleed, critical hits, etc.

Marly loses the effect of his bracers of armor ("with the exception of armor and shield bonuses, which cease to function)") and can't activate his Quick Runner's shirt, but his ring of protection, cloak of resistance, and belt of physical perfection all continue to function as normal ("items that provide constant bonuses... continue to function":).

Elementals are capable of speech, which means that they can perform Verbal Components. Marly will likely need Eschew Materials for many of his spells, or he will need to set his spell component pouch down before he polymorphs and pick it up later. At his DMs discretion, he may also be able to use Somatic Components, but the DM may rule that earth elementals rock-like appendages aren't precise enough to mimic complex Somatic Components. This is entirely up to the DM, so Marly needs to make sure to check with the DM before his tries to cast any spells. At some point, Marly may choose to invest in Still Spell to remove this complication.

Marly polymorphs her Horse... into a Horse

Marly is clearly mad. A Horse is Large and has Str 16, Dex 14, and Con 17. Because it is large, we adjust the horse's size down to medium (Str 12, Dex 16, Con 15), then apply the Beast Shape modifiers for Large animals (See Beast Shape II), giving it Str 16, Dex 14, Con 15, and a +4 bonus to natural armor. The horse is essentially identical, but traded 2 points of Constitution for +4 natural armor.

Building your character

Regardless of class, there are a few points in your character that you need to address in order to by an effective polymorpher.

Race

Your race will matter less when you're no longer human/elf/etc., but your ability score modifiers and size will influence your ability scores when polymorphed. Halflings and humans are a prime example. Halflings have higher dex, but lower strength. These modifiers don't go away when the Halfling changes size, so a Halfling and human with otherwise identical stats will have slightly different ability scores. This makes Halflings more useful while in dexterity-based forms, and they may want to take Weapon Finesse and focus on forms which primarily depend on Dexterity.

Abilities

If you are building your character entirely to focus on polymorphing, you can afford to not focus on your spellcasting abilities. Where normally a wizard would need to dump his ability points into intelligence, a Transmuter needs to give up some of his intelligence to put points into Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. Druids who plan to rely on wild shape must do the same, instead sacrificing some of their wisdom.

Because you give up armor and shield bonuses when you polymorph, your AC may not be good enough to protect you. Many polymorph options will give you a bous to natural armor, but this is very unlikely to keep up with a fighter in full plate. As such, you will need to have reasonable dexterity for AC and Constitution for hit points. Strength will most likely be your primary source of damage. Make sure to find a reasonably balance between the physical abilities, and enhance abilities which you find yourself depending on most heavily.

Class

  • Arcanist: On par with the Sorcerer, but without the bloodline (unless you take the Blood Arcanist archetype). The Brown Fur Transmuter archetype grants some really fantastic abilities which raise the Arcanist above the Sorcerer.
  • Alchemist: Alchemists get polymorph spells at the same level as Sorcerers and Wizards, but only go up to 6th-level spells. You won't get new options as quickly as a Sorcerer or Wizard will, but the Alchemist's Mutagen provides an easy way to enhance your physical ability scores. The natural armor bonuses won't stack (they're both "natural armor bonuses"; neither are "enhancement bonuses to natural armor" like an amulet of natural armor), but an Alchemical bonus to Strength is a great idea on most polymorph forms. Even if you don't want to do any polymorphing, the Alchemist is still a great class option. The "Infusion" discovery allows you to bottle polymorph effects and share them with your allies. Imagine handing your fighter a potion of Giant Shape I and letting him turn into a Rock Troll for a few minutes.
  • Cleric: The Animal domain includes a handful of polymorph options. With 2/3 BAB and d8 hit points the cleric is a decent option for polymorphing. However, because they get so few polymorph options it can't be a central part of your build.
  • Druid: Druids get all of the Beast Shape, Plant Shape, and Elemental Body spells as part of Wild Shape, and they get them a level before the wizard. Until Form of the Dragon II and III, this means that druids get the best polymorph options a level early. As they level, druids can use their highest level polymorph effects more times per day than anyone else, and with Natural Spell, they can cast spells while wild shaped into something which might not be able to do so normally. On top of all of this, they get medium BAB progression, which means that their attacks will be more accurate than anyone else, and they get more benefit from Power Attack.
  • Eldritch Knight: The Eldritch Knight is a prestige class, but it deserves a mention. Once you get into polymorph spells full BAB and bonus combat feats can be extremely valuable. Unfortunately it will cost you two levels of spellcasting, which means you're a spell level behind on polymorph forms.
  • Sorcerer: You get spells one level later than wizards, but you get more per day. The differences between Sorcerer and Wizard here are the same differences between Sorcerers and wizards in any other case. Sorcerers also have a lot of bloodlines which can allow you to grow claws if you don't already have them. This allows you to add claw attacks to creatures which have no business with claw attacks, such as snakes.
  • Witch (Transformation Patron): You only get a limited selection of polymorph spells, but you get Beast Shape and Form of the Dragon, which are the best options.
  • Wizard: The transmutation school and its subschools offer some great options, and allow you to do some extra transformation for a few rounds per day.

Feats

  • Agile Maneuvers: If you have high dexterity, or like forms with high dexterity and grab (such as constrictor snakes), this is a must.
  • Defensive Combat Training: If you plan to grapple, you will need a decent CMD to keep your enemy in the grapple.
  • Dodge: You need as much AC as you can get.
  • Improved Grapple: If your form is built for grappling, you will get abilities like Grab and Constrict which make Improved Grapple redundant. However, the +2 bonus to your combat maneuver check stacks with the bonus from grab, which can make you more reliable.
  • Improved Natural Weapon: The return on damage for this feat is very small. Look for better bonuses elsewhere, like Power Attack.
  • Multiattack: Not nearly as good as you might expect. The best polymorph forms have multiple primary attacks, so you will likely never benefit from this feat..
  • Power Attack: You're going to have a ton of strength to throw around. Your base attack bonus likely won't keep up with the fighter, so your penalty and bonus won't scale as quickly as everyone else, but you will still get some extra damage.
  • Spell Focus (Transmutation): Very few Transmutation spells require a save from your enemies, so it's not immediately obvious what this does for you. When polymorphed, any abilities provided by the polymorph effect which allow a saving throw to resist use the DC for the spell. This means that Spell Focus improves the DC of your Poison, Trample, Breath Weapon, etc..
    • Greater Spell Focus (Transmutation): Where +1 is good, +2 is great.
  • Toughness: Druids get d8 hit points, but Sorcerers and Wizards only get d6. Even with decent constitution, your AC will probably be mediocre. Additional hit points will keep you on the front lines.
  • Vital Strike: Forms with only one natural attack with high damage can capitalize on Vital Strike. For help with Vital Strike, see my Practical Guide to Vital Strike.
  • Weapon Finesse: If you plan to use a lot of dexterity-dependent polymorphs, this is a must. Many creatures, such as Fire Elementals, use weapon finesse naturally, but polymorphing into those creatures without weapon finesse won't necessarily hurt you. All natural weapons can be used with weapon finesse, so if you have high dexterity and low strength, you can use weapon finesse with almost any form.
  • Weapon Focus: If you tend to use a small set of forms, especially those with common natural weapons like claws, you can get some use out of Weapon Focus. While your strength/dexterity should be fantastic while polymorphed, your base attack bonus won't keep up with fighters, so bonuses to attacks are nice.

Polymorph options by spell

Alter Self

alchemist 2, bard 2, magus 2, shaman 2, sorcerer/wizard 2, summoner/unchained summoner 2, witch 2

Polymorph into a small or medium humanoid. You can't get natural armor bonuses, but you can get some special senses (most notably darkvision and scent) and a swim speed, and you get a modest ability bonus depending on what size you change to, even if you were that size already.

Only races which provide one of the bonuses allowed by Alter Self are included. There are numerous races which do not grant anything with Alter Self. Lycanthropes are also omitted because they are templates applied to humanoids.

  • Small Humanoids: You get +2 size bonus to dex from the spell. If you were medium before, you get +1 to attacks and AC for your new size, and +4 bonus to Stealth checks.
  • Medium Humanoids: You get +2 size bonus to strength from the spell. If you were previously small, you lose the +1 to attacks and AC for being small, as well as the +4 size bonus to Stealth checks.
    • Adlet: Low-light vision, Scent, 40 ft. speed
    • Boggard: Darkvision, low-light vision, 20 ft. speed, and a 30 ft. swim speed
    • Bugbear: Darkvision, 30 ft. speed
    • Catfolk: Low-light vision, 30 ft. speed
    • Changeling: Darkvision, 30 ft. speed
    • Dhampir: Darkvision, low-light vision. 30 ft. speed
    • Drow: Darkvision, 30 ft. speed
    • Dwarf: Darkvision, 20 ft. speed
    • Duergar: Darkvision, 20 ft. speed
    • Elf: Low-light vision, 30 ft. speed
    • Gnoll: Darkvision, 30 ft. speed
    • Hobgoblin: Darkvision, 30 ft. speed
    • Kitsune: Low-light vision, 30 ft. speed
    • Lizardfolk: 15 ft. swim speed, 30 ft. speed
    • Locathah: Low-light vision, 30 ft. swim speed, but only a 10 ft. land speed
    • Merfolk: Low-light vision, 30 foot swim speed, but only a 5 ft. land speed.
    • Nagaji: Low-light vision, 30 ft. speed
    • Ogrekin: Low-light vision, 30 ft. speed
    • Orc: Darkvision, 30 ft. speed
    • Samsaran: Low-light vision, 30 ft. speed
    • Sasquatch: Darkvision, low-light vision, Scent, and 30 ft. speed.
    • Skulk: Low-light vision, 30 ft. speed
    • Tengu: Low-light vision, 30 ft. speed
    • Troglodyte: Darkvision, 30 ft. speed
    • Trox: Darkvision, 40 ft. speed
    • Usaeus: Low-light vision, 20 ft. speed
    • Vanara: Low-light vision, 30 ft. speed
    • Vishkanya: Low-light vision, 30 ft. speed
    • Wayang: Darkvision, 20 ft. speed

Beast Shape I

alchemist 3, bloodrager 3, magus 3, sorcerer/wizard 3, 4th-level Wild Shape

Polymorph into any small or medium animal. You can get climb 30 feet, fly 30 feet (average maneuverability), swim 30 feet, darkvision 60 feet, low-light vision, and scent.

For your combat needs, Deinonychus is your best bet. Use Cheetah if your DM prohibits dinosaurs. For scouting, use the Dire Rat or Eagle. For swimming, use the Electric Eel or Bull Shark.

Unfortunately, with the addition of Monstrous Physique, Beast Shape I becomes a much less appealing option for polymorphers not locked into it. Gargoyle outpaces the deinonychous in damage output, and the gargoyle can match the eagle's flight without sacrificing offensive output. Beast Shape I is still good, and druids will do fine as a deinonychus, but Monstrous Physique is strictly better.

  • Small Animals: you gain a +2 size bonus to your Dexterity and a +1 natural armor bonus.
    • Antelope: The antelope's only appeal is its 60 ft. speed. Beast Shape never grants Powerful Charge.
    • Archaeopteryx: The Eagle is a considerably better flyer, but as far as birds go the Archaeopteryx has impressive land speed.
    • Badger: The badger gets three attacks, making it an interesting combat option at small size, but its base damage is very poor, so you'll be depending almost entirely on your unmodified Strength. You also don't get the Badger's burrow speed until Beast Shape III.
    • Baboon: The Baboon isn't an impressive stat block, but it offers the ability boosts from Beast Shape and still has opposable thumbs.
    • Dire Rat: 40 foot move speed, 20 foot climb, and 20 foot swim. Low-light vision and scent. With some ranks in Stealth, the Dire Rat is a fantastic Scout form. The 1d4 bite isn't going to get you far in combat, but if you've ever fought rats in an RPG that shouldn't surprise you.
    • Dodo: Dodo are extinct because they're a lousy species. And because dogs ate their eggs. But mostly because they're a lousy species.
    • Dog: 40 foot move speed, low-light vision, and scent. 1d4 bite attack. Strictly worse than the Dire Rat, but considerably less degrading, and you can move around in public without horrifying people.
    • Eagle: Low-light vision, and flight with average maneuverability. Eagles typically get 80 ft. flight, but Beast Shape I limits you to 30 ft. You also get 3 attacks, all three of which are primary, so none of them get a -5 penalty to hit, and you get to apply your full strength bonus to all of them.
    • Electric Eel: Low-light vision, 30 ft. swim speed. Apparently Electric Eels breath air, which I didn't know until I read it in the Pathfinder rules. Primary d6 bit, plus a secondary melee touch to deal electric damage with your tail.
    • Goat: Nothing which you can't get elsewhere.
    • Great Horned Owl: The Eagle is strictly better.
    • Octopus: Low-light vision, 30 foot swim speed. You don't get jet, which makes me a little sad. 1d3 bite, plus the tentacle grab. Keep in mind that you don't get the Grab ability until Beast Shape II.
    • Platypus: You never get electrolocation, and you won't get Poison from Beast Shape I.
    • Sloth: You're kidding, right? A species iconic for being so slow that they grow moss on their own bodies?
    • Thylacine: The Thylacine doesn't really do anything. The Dog is strictly better.
    • Trumpeter Swan: While the base Trumpeter Swan has a better fly speed than the Eagle, with Beast Shape I you're limited to a fly speed of 30, making the two roughly identical.
    • Velociraptor: Low-light vision, scent, 60 foot speed, and three primary natural weapons. Altogether a great form for small size, but it can't compete with the Deinonychus.
    • Vulture:
    • Low-light vision, and Scent. Scent is extremely rare on flying creatures. At Beast Shape I the Vulture will have the same speed as the Eagle or the Trumpeter Swan, so as long as you don't mind giving up the Eagle's attacks the Vulture is a fantastic option.
  • Medium Animals: you gain a +2 size bonus to your Strength and a +2 natural armor bonus.
    • Boar: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed, and a 1d8 gore attack.
    • Bull Shark: No blindsense until Beast Shape III, but you get Keen Scent because it's a superior version of scent, and you get low-light vision and the Bull Shark's extremely impressive 2d8 bite.
    • Cheetah: Low-light vision, scent, 50 foot move speed, a primary bite at 1d6 damage and two primary claws at 1d3 damage each. No sprint because it's extraordinary.
    • Constrictor Snake: Scent, 20 foot move speed, 20 foot climb speed, 20 foot swim speed. The 1d4 bite isn't great since you don't get Grab until Beast Shape II.
    • Deinonychus: Low-light vision, scent, 60 foot move speed. 2 primary claws at 1d8 damage, a primary bit attack at 1d6, and 1 secondary foreclaws attack at 1d4 just for fun. The best combat form in Beast Shape I, even though you don't get pounce until Beast Shape II.
    • Dimorphodon: Low-light vision, scent (rare on a flying creature), and flight. With Beast Shape I the Dimorphodon's 30 foot speed matches the limitation imposed on other options like the Eagle and the Vulture. Unfortunately, you don't get Poison until Beast Shape III, so the Eagle and Vulture are still better flying options.
    • Dire Badger: Literally just a bigger Badger with slightly bigger damage dice. You don't get the Badger's burrow speed until Beast Shape III, so the Dire Badger is outmatched by numerous other options.
    • Dolphin: 80 foot swim speed (Beast Shape I limits this to 60 ft.), low-light vision, and 1d4 slam. You can't get blindsight from Beast Shape, so the dolphin never gets appreciably better. Go for the Bull Shark instead.
    • Elk: 50 foot move speed and three mediocre attacks.
    • Giant Frog: Low-light vision, 30 foot move speed and 30 foot swim speed. You can't use Tongue because it's an extraordinary ability, and the 1d6 bite is pretty uninteresting.
    • Gar: The Gar's only appeal is Grab, which you don't get until Beast Shape II.
    • Giant Gecko: You don't get the Giant Gecko's Expert Climber ability, so the Giant Gecko really only offers a climb speed. And why use a climb speed when you can fly?
    • Giant Porpupine: You don't get the Giant Porcupine's Quills ability because it's Extraordinary, and its tail slap isn't good enough to make it a combat form.
    • Giant Tortoise: You get none of the Giant Tortoise's special abilities at any point.
    • Giant Weasel: You don't get Grab until Beast Shape II, and you never get Blood Drain.
    • Goblin Dog: Low-light vision, scent, 50 foot move speed, and a 1d6 bite. You don't get allergic reaction because it's an extraordinary ability. You do get immunity to diseases (I think. It's a "resistance", and you get resistances).
    • Hyena: Low-light vision, scent, 50 foot move speed, and a 1d6 bite. You don't get Trip until Beast Shape II.
    • Kangaroo: You don't get Trip until Beast Shape II.
    • Leopard: Low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed, 20 foot move speed. You get a primary bite and two primary claws, all at 1d6 damage. You don't get pounce until Beast Shape II, and you don't get Rake until Beast Shape III.
    • Monitor Lizard: Low-light vision, 30 foot move speed, 30 foot swim speed, and a 1d8 bite. You don't get grab until Beast Shape II or poison until Beast Shape III.
    • Pony: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed, and two 1d3 hooves.
    • Ram: Worthless.
    • Riding Dog: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed, and a 1d6 bite. You don't get trip until Beast Shape II.
    • Squid: Low-light vision, 60 foot move speed. You get a Primary bite at 1d3 and two secondary tentacle attacks at 1d4. You don't get ink cloud, and you don't get Jet until Beast Shape III.
    • Stag: Low-light vision, Scent, 50 ft. speed, and three attacks. Not awful, but it can't match a real combat form like the Deinonychus or Cheetah.
    • Stingray: You don't get blindsense or poison until Beast Shape III.
    • Venemous Snake: Low-light vision, scent, 20 foot move speed, 20 foot climb speed, 20 foot swim speed, and a 1d4 bite. You don't get poison until Beast Shape III.
    • Wolf: Low-light vision, scent, 50 foot move speed, and a 1d6 bite. You don't get Trip until Beast Shape II.
    • Wolverine: Low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed, and 10 foot climb speed. No burrow until Beast Shape III. You also get two primary claw attacks at 1d6 and a primary bite at 1d4. You do not get Rage, sadly.

Beast Shape II

alchemist 4, bloodrager 4, magus 4, sorcerer/wizard 4, 6th-level Wild Shape

Now you can get climb 60 feet, fly 60 feet (good maneuverability), swim 60 feet, darkvision 60 feet, low-light vision, scent, grab, pounce, and trip. The addition of grab, pounce, and trip makes previous Beast Shape forms considerably more useful, including Deinonychus and Leopard, which both continue to be decent, but the additional strength and natural armor make larger forms more viable.

For scouting, continue to use Dire Rat or Eagle if you want speed, or switch to Viper or Hawk if you need stealth. For combat, use Dire Tiger: Three primary attacks that do as much damage as a flachion/greatsword, gran, and pounce.

  • Tiny Animals: you gain a +4 size bonus to your Dexterity, a -2 penalty to your Strength, and a +1 natural armor bonus.
    • Cat: Low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed. Two primary claws at 1d2 and a primary bite at 1d3. Even with bad stats, you have a solid chance to kill a level 1 human commoner.
    • Compsognathus: Low-light vision, Scent, and a swim speed, but you won't get Poison until Beast Shape III.
    • Flying Squirrel: The flying squirrel is a hilarious rules anomaly. It has a fly speed, but because the polymorph rules don't grant you extraordinary abilities you don't get Glide, and can therefore fly like anything else with clumsy maneuverability.
    • Fox: Low-light vision and scent, but those are both very common.
    • Hawk: Low-light vision, 10 foot move speed, and 60 foot fly speed with average maneuverability. Two talons at 1d4 damage. The Hawk supplants the Eagle as the flying scout option because its smaller size makes it more difficult to notice.
    • Lizard: Low-lght vision, 20 foot move speed, 20 foot climb speed, 1d4 bite.
    • Monkey: Low-light vision, 30 foot move speed, 30 foot climb speed, 1d3 bite. Since you have human-like hands, you could reasonably perform somatic components.
    • Otter: An adorable, fuzzy swim speed.
    • Owl: Low-light vision, 10 foot move speed, and 60 foot fly speed with average maneuverability. Two talons at 1d4 damage.
    • Pig: Monsters already want to eat you. Don't encourage them.
    • Poison Frog: Low-light vision, 10 foot move speed, 20 foot swim speed, and bite for a flat 1 damage. No poison until Beast Shape III.
    • Porcupine: You don't get Quills.
    • Raccoon: Low-light vision, scent, and a 20 foot climb speed. The Rat is more versatile, but if you don't plan to be swimming the Raccoon is faster.
    • Rat: Low-light vision, scent, 15 foot move speed, 15 foot climb speed, 15 foot swim speed, and a 1d3 bite. A smaller, stealthier, slower version of the Dire Rat.
    • Raven: Low-light vision, 10 foot move speed, and 40 foot fly speed with average maneuverability.
    • Skunk: You don't get Musk.
    • Snapping Turtle: You don't get Shell, and even if you did the Snapping Turtle would still be a bad options/
    • Tuatara: Darkvision and a climb speed. Not terribly impressive, but the Tuatara is the first thing that offers Darkvision.
    • Viper: Low-light vision, 20 foot move speed, 20 foot climb speed, 20 foot swim speed. 1d2 bite, but no poison until Beast Shape III.
    • Weasel: Low-light vision, 20 foot move speed, 20 foot climb speed, and a primary bite at 1d3 damage. No Attach because it's extraordinary.
  • Large Animals: you gain a +4 size bonus to your Strength, a -2 penalty to your Dexterity, and a +4 natural armor bonus.
    • Arsinoitherium: You don't get Trample until Beast Shape III, but a base 4d8 gore works really well with Vital Strike. Unfortunately Beast Shape doesn't grant Powerful Charge.
    • Aurochs: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed, and gore at 1d8. No stampede.
    • Axe Beak: You never get Sudden Charge, which is the Axe Beak's only real appeal.
    • Bison: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed, and gore at 2d6. Strictly better than Aurochs.
    • Camel: You don't get Spit.
    • Crocodile: Low-light vision, 20 foot move speed, 30 foot swim speed. Primary bite ate 1d8 and secondary tail slap at 1d12. You don't get any of the Crocodile's cool abilities because they're extraordinary.
    • Dimetrodon: You don't get Tearing Bite, and even if you did it wouldn't make the Dimetrodon a good option.
    • Dire Ape: Low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed, 30 foot climb speed, and 10 foot reach. Primary bite at 1d6 and two primary claws at 1d6 damage each. No Rend until Beast Shape IV. Because you have human-like hands, you could reasonably perform somatic components.
    • Dire Bat: No blindsense until Beast Shape III. 20 foot move speed, 40 foot fly speed (average). Bite at 1d8 damage.
    • Dire Bear: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed. Two primary claws at 1d6 damage each and a primary bite at 1d8 damage. Despite being a bear, this is a poor combat form. The attacks and damage are respectable, but other forms get pounce, grab, and eventually rake.
    • Dire Boar: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed. Gore at 2d6 damage plus 1.5 strength.
    • Dire Hyena: Low-light vision, scent, 50 foot move speed. Bite at 2d6 damage plus 1.5 strength, plus you get Trip. Strictly better than Dire Boar.
    • Dire Lion: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed. Primary bite at 1d8 damage plus grab, and 2 primary claws at 1d6. You also get pounce, but you don't get Rake until Beast Shape III.
    • Dire Tiger: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed. Primary bite at 2d6 damage plus grab, and 2 primary claws at 2d4 plus grab. You also get pounce, but you don't get Rake until Beast Shape III.
    • Dire Weasel: You get Grab, but you don't get Blood Drain or Blood Rage.
    • Dire Wolf: Low-light vision, scent, 50 foot move speed. Bite at 1d8 damage plus trip.
    • Dire Wolverine: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed, 10 foot climb speed. 2 primary claws at 1d8, and a primary bite at 1d6. No rage, sadly.
    • Emperor Cobra: No poison until Beast Shape III, but good land, climb, and swim speeds.
    • Giant Chameleon: You don't get Tongue.
    • Giant Frilled Lizard: Low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed, 30 foot climb speed. Primary bite at 2d6, plus a secondary tail attack at 1d8. You don't get Intimidating Charge, which is unfortunate because you can't show off those sweet frills.
    • Giant Moray Eel: Low-light vision, scent, 30 foot swim speed, and a bite at 2d6 damage plus 1.5 strength and grab. You don't get Gnaw, which is dissappointing.
    • Giant Octopus: Low-light vision, 20 foot move speed, 30 foot swim speed, but no Jet until Beast Shape III. A primary bite 1d8 damage (no poison until Beast Shape III), and a brutal 8 secondary tentacle attacks at 1d4 damage each, plus grab. If you have a bard in the party, or some other bonus to all of your attack like Sneak Attack, this is a really fantastic option.
    • Giant Seahorse: Horrible attacks, and no useful abilities. You don't get Anchor, and even if you did it wouldn't be helpful.
    • Giant Skunk: Horrible attacks, and you don't get Musk.
    • Giant Toad: You get Grab, but you don't get pooison skin, and there are better options for Grab.
    • Giant Vulture: You don't get Diseased, so the normal vulture is actually better.
    • Gorilla: Low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed, 30 foot climb speed, and reach. 2 slams at 1d6 damage each. Since you have human-like hands, you could reasonably perform somatic components and use weapons.
    • Grizzly Bear: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed. 2 primary claws and primary bite at 1d6 damage each.
    • Hippopotamus: All you get is a 2d8 bite. The base damage is nice, but forms with multiple attacks will be considerably more effective.
    • Horse: Low-light vision, scent, 50 foot move speed. 2 Hooves at 1d4 damage each. Because you don't get Docile, your hoof attacks aren't treated as secondary. You may also be able to serve as a mount, if you need to do that for some reason.
    • Lion: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed. 2 primary claws at 1d6 damage and primary bite at 1d8 damage plus grab. No Rake until Beast Shape III.
    • Manta Ray: Worthless.
    • Megaloceros: Barely better than the Elk. You don't get Powerful Charge.
    • Pachycephalosaurus: You don't get Clobbering Charge.
    • Pteranodon: Low-light vision, scent, 10 foot move speed, and 50 foot fly speed (clumsy). Bite at 2d6 damage plus 1.5 strength.
    • Rhinoceros: Scent, 40 foot move speed. Gore at 2d6 damage plus 1.5 strength, but you don't get Powerful Charge, which is the whole the reason you want to be a Rhinoceros.
    • Shark: The Bull Shark may actually be better because its bite does twice as much base damage.
    • Styracosaurus: You don't get Powerful Charge or Reflexive Strike.
    • Tiger: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed. 2 primary claws at 1d8 damage plus grab and a primary bite at 2d6 damage plus grab. You also get Pounce, but no Rake until Beast Shape III.
    • Walrus: Worthless. Garbage attacks and no special abilities.
    • Woolly Rhinoceros: Scent, 30 foot move speed. Gore at 2d8 damage plus 1.5 strength, but you don't get Powerful Charge, which is the whole the reason you want to be a rhineroceros. You don't get Trample until Beast Shape III.

Beast Shape III

alchemist 5, magus 5, sorcerer/wizard 5, 8th-level Wild Shape

Now you can get burrow 30 feet, climb 90 feet, fly 90 feet (good maneuverability), swim 90 feet, blindsense 30 feet, darkvision 60 feet, low-light vision, scent, constrict, ferocity, grab, jet, poison, pounce, rake, trample, trip, and web.

For scouting, your previous options continue to be your best bet. With the addition of Rake, Dire Tiger continues to keep up with your combat options at this level. For charging and murdering single targets, use Allosaurus. For running down mobs, use Mastodon. For area control in combat, use Stegosaurus.

  • Diminutive Animals: you gain a +6 size bonus to your Dexterity, a -4 penalty to your Strength, and a +1 natural armor bonus.
    • Bat: Fly speed of 40 feet with good maneuverability is respectable, low-light vision is nice, and 20 ft. blindsense is awesome. At Diminutive size, you get a +12 to Stealth, and a 1d3 bite attack. This is a fantastic form form scouting, assuming your DM doesn't mandate that you squeek to use your blindsense via echolocation.
    • Toad: The toad's stat block doesn't list the amphibious subtype. They have no swim speed, and their base speed is 5 ft. There is no mechanical reason to ever be a toad.
  • Huge Animals: Huge animal, you gain a +6 size bonus to your Strength, a -4 penalty to your Dexterity, and a +6 natural armor bonus.
    • Aechelon: Basically a giant snapping turtle, and just as effective.
    • Allosaurus: Three attacks, pounce, grab, and rake. The Allosaurus's base damage is equal to that of the Dire Tiger, but because it's larger you get better reach, a better size bonus to Strength, and a better size bonus on grapple checks.
    • Ankylosaurus: Low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed, 15 foot reach, and a tail slam attack at 3d6 damage plus 1.5 strength. You don't get stun, which makes this a much worse option than the Stegosaurus which gets Trip.
    • Baluchitherium: Two hoof attacks with decent base damage and Trample. Nearly identical to the Mastodon, but the Mastodon has better reach.
    • Behemoth Hippopotamus: Fairly unremarkable except for its impressive 4d8 bite damage. Unless you have Vital Strike, skip the Behemoth Hippopotamus.
    • Elasmosaurus: Low-light vision, scent, 20 foot move speed, 50 foot swim speed, and 20 foot reach. Single bite at 2d8 damage plus 1.5 strength. Similar to the Stegosaurus, this is great for area control.
    • Elephant: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed, and 10 foot reach. Primary gore and a slam at 2d6 damage each, and you get Trample for 2d8 plus 1.5 strength. Run over lots of small people. Mastodon is strictly netter
    • Giant Gar: You get Grab, but you don't get Swallow Whole.
    • Giant Squid: Low-light vision, 60 foot swim speed, 260 foot jet, 15 foot reach which increases to 30 with arms and tentacles. One primary bite at 2d6 damage, two primary arm attacks at 1d6 damage each, plus a single secondary tentacles attack at 2d6 damage with 19-20 crit and grab. With constrict for 4d6 damage plus half strength, grab is pretty scary here. Even with no ability to move, the 30 foot reach can make you a huge scary grapple monster. If you cast Overland Flight, you're a giant scary flying tentacle monster.
    • Giraffe: Worthless.
    • Great White Shark: You don't get bleed, and the Great White Sharks other stats aren't impressive.
    • Iguanodon: You don't get thumb spikes.
    • Killer Seahorse: You get Grab and Constrict, but not bleed. If you're looking for an underwater grappler, stick to the Giant Squid.
    • Mastodon: Low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed, and 15 foot reach. Primary gore at 2d8 damage and a primary slam at 2d8 damage, and you get Trample for 2d8 plus 1.5 strength. Disregard elephants, run over lots of small people. Remember that the DC for Trample is the DC for the polymorph effect, so you probably won't match the Mastodon's DC of 29.
    • Megalania: You get both Grab and Poison, but not Swallow Whole.
    • Megatherium: Trip, but otherwise worthless.
    • Orca: You only get blindsight out to 30 feet, but goes up to 60 with Beast Shape IV. Low-light vision, 80 foot swim speed, 10 foot reach. Bite at 2d6 plus 1.5 strength.
    • Parasaurolophus: The Parasaurolophus's only cool ability is Trample, which the Mastodon does considerably better.
    • Stegosaurus: Low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed, 15 foot reach. Tail attack at 4d6 damage plus 1.5 strength plus Trip. With the big reach and trip, this is a really great area control option.
    • Triceratops: Low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed, 15 foot reach. Gore at 2d10 damage plsu 1.5 strength, and trample for 1d8 plus 1.5 strength. You don't get powerful charge, so the Mastodon is a strictly better option.
  • Small Magical Beasts: you gain a +4 size bonus to your Dexterity, and a +2 natural armor bonus.
    • Almiraj: Beast Shape grants none of the Almiraj's special abilities, leaving you with a lousy gore attack.
    • Auromvorax: Four claws and a bite, all of which apply Grab. Grab us great, but at small size you won't be very effective at grappling. The Auromvorax also gets Rake, though the damage is pretty minor. If you absolutely need to be small, you could find a worse combat form, but the Auromvorax comeptes with fantastic options like the Dire Tiger and the Chimera.
    • Cockatrice: Darkvision, low-light vision, 20 foot move speed, 60 foot fly speed (poor), and a bite at 1d4 damage. You don't get petrification, which makes this a completely worthless option.
    • Darkmantle: You only get blindsight 30 feet now, but it expands to 60 feet with Beast Shape IV. Darkvision, low-light vision, 20 foot move speed, and 30 foot fly speed (poor). A single slam at 1d4 damage plus grab, and constrict at 1d4+4. At this point, if you want to tentacle grapple things, Giant Squid is a much better option.
    • Ratking: Beast Shape doesn't grant any of the Rat King's special abilities, so you only get the 5 crappy bites.
    • Shocker Lizard: Darkvision, low-light vision, 40 foot move speed, 20 foot climb speed, 20 foot swim speed. Bite at 1d4 damage. You don't get any of the electricity powers, so this is a completely worthless option.
  • Medium Magical Beasts: you gain a +4 size bonus to your Strength, and a +4 natural armor bonus.
    • Aranea: The Aranea is only interesting because it can cast spells as a Sorcerer. Without that, all you get is a crappy poison.
    • Baku: Beast Shape doesn't grant any of the Baku's special abilities.
    • Basilisk: Darkvision, low-light vision, 20 foot move speed, and a bite at 1d8 damage plus 1.5 strength. No gaze attack, so this is totally useless.
    • Blink Dog: Beast Shape doesn't grant spell-like abilities, so the Blink Dog is effectively just a Dog with Darkvision.
    • Bunyip: You don't get Bleed, Blood Rage, or Roar, so its only interesting ability is Keen Scent.
    • Chupacabra: You don't get Chupar, and Pounce and Grab aren't particularly effective with such weak attacks.
    • Galvo: You don't get any of the Galvo's special abilities (including swarmlike), but you almost definitely get the electricity damage on attacks.
    • Grodair: Beast Shape doesn't grant any of the Grodair's special abilities.
    • Gryph: The face-hugger of birds. You don't get any of its horrifying abilities from Beast Shape.
    • Jackalwere: Not to be confused with a werejackal, and certainly not to be confused with a good idea. You get none of the jackalwere's abilities, but you're still humanoid enough to use weapons and armor.
    • Krenshar: You don't get Skullface, so the Krenshar is limited to a trio of mediocre attacks.
    • Pard: You don't get the Pard's special abilities, and you don't get its resistances until Beast Shape IV, so all you get is its lousy natural attacks.
    • Peryton: You don't get any of the Peryton's special abilities, and its natural weapons are terrible without Frightening Critical. The fly speed is nice, but not enough to make the Peryton useful.
    • Siren: All you get is flight and two claws. Beast Shape grants none of the Sirens' interesting abilities.
    • Slurk: You get none of the Slurk's special abilities. It's not clear if you still get the Slime Squirt attack.
    • Trollhound: Beast Shape doesn't allow you to get Regeneration, and one attack with Trip isn't good enough for Beast Shape III.
    • Voonith: 5 natural attacks, and Trip on one of them. Not completely awful, but you can do considerably better at this level.
    • Worg: Darkvision, low-light vision, 50 foot move speed, bite at 1d6 damage plus Trip. Totally useless this late in the game.

Beast Shape IV

alchemist 6, magus 6, sorcerer/wizard 6

You can now get burrow 60 feet, climb 90 feet, fly 120 feet (good maneuverability), swim 120 feet, blindsense 60 feet, darkvision 90 feet, low-light vision, scent, remorsense 60 feet, breath weapon, constrict, ferocity, grab, jet, poison, pounce, rake, rend, roar, spikes, trample, trip, and web. If the creature has immunity or resistance to any elements, you gain resistance 20 to those elements. If the creature has vulnerability to an element, you gain that vulnerability.

For scouting, your previous options continue to be your best bet. Allosaurus continues to a fantastic combat option, but it has to compete with magical beasts with similar offensive options which can fly.

  • Tiny Magical Beasts: you gain a -2 penalty to your Strength, a +8 size bonus to your Dexterity, and a +3 natural armor bonus.
    • Blindheim: You don't get blinding gaze, and the Blindheim's attacks are awful.
    • Carbuncle: Without any of its abilities, the Carbuncle is essenially a Lizard.
    • Ratling: With none of its special abilities, the ratling is essentially a tiny humanoid. You're still humanoid enough to use armor and weapons, but at tiny size why would you bother?
    • Stirge: Darkvision, low-light vision, scent, 10 foot move speed, 40 foot fly speed (average). Since you don't get any of the special abilities, this form is roughly equivalent to the Bat.
    • Zoog: You get none of the Zoog's special abilities, and its natural attacks are awful.
  • Large Magical Beasts: you gain a +6 size bonus to your Strength, a -2 penalty on your Dexterity, a +2 size bonus to your Constitution, and a +6 natural armor bonus.
    • Ahuizotl: You don't get any of the Ahuizotl's special abilities, so all you get is a couple of mediocre attacks.
    • Amphisbaena: Two bites with Poison which deals Constitution damage.
    • Androsphinx: Fly, Pounce, and Rake, but you don't get any of the Androsphinx's spell-like abilities.
    • Ankheg: Darkvision, low-light vision, tremorsense 60 feet, 30 foot move speed, 20 foot burrow speed. You get a bite at 2d6 plus some acid damage and grab, and you might be able to convince your DM to treast Spit Acid as a breath weapon so that you can use it.
    • Catoblepas: Roughly equivalent to the Gorgon, the Catoblepas has four natural attacks, Trample, and a breath weapon with an impressive 60 foot range and which deals a stunning 1d6 constitution damage. Remember that the DC is equal to the DC of your polymorph effect, so a Wizard casting Beast Shape III will have a minimum DC of 17, but will probably be much better.
    • Chimera: Darkvision, low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed, 50 foot fly speed (poor). A primary bite (2d6), another primary bite(1d8), a primary gore (1d8), and two primary claws (1d6 each). Oh, and a breath weapon usable every 1d4 rounds for 6d8 damage. With some decent buffs, this can be a very scary combat form. The +6 size bonus to strength, plus Bull's Strength makes a human commoner stronger than the average chimera, which already makes it quite a bit scarier. Remember that the breath weapon DC equals the DC for the polymorph effect.
    • Criosphinx: You don't get Swooping Charge, which is the Criosphinx's only interesting tactical option.
    • Death Dog: Basically a Wolf with two attacks.
    • Death Worm: You don't get any of the Death Worm's abilities except Poison and its burrow speed.
    • Devilfish: You don't get any of the Devilfish's special abilities except Grab, and you can find much better options for Grab.
    • Disenchanter: You get no special abilities, so the Disenchanter is functionally a blue camel.
    • Dragon Horse: You get the Dragon Horse's breath weapons, though other options have much more effective breath weapons. The Dragon Horse's attacks are mediocre, even with the bonus electricity damage. The Dragon Horse has an impressive 120 foot fly speed, but that's really not enough to make it useful.
    • Dragonne: The Dragonne can fly (badly), and it has Pounce, but its attacks are weak.
    • Flail Snail: All you get is the four Flail Snail flails.
    • Giant Eagle: Low-light version, 10 foot move speed, 80 foot fly speed (average), 2 primary claws at 1d8 damage and a primary bit at 1d6 damage.
    • Girallon: Darkvision, low-light vision, scent, 40 foot move speed, 40 foot climb speed, 10 foot reach. Primary bite at 1d6 damage, 4 primary claws at 1d4 damage, and rend for 1d4 plus 1.5 strength.
    • Glacier Toad: You don't get Swallow Whole or Bitter Cold, and the Glacier Toad's bite is't significant enough to make it interesting.
    • Gorgon: Darkvision, low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed. Primary Gore at 2d8 damage and two secondary hooves at 1d6, but they're not important. The big important ability here is the breath weapon. Remember that the DC is equal to the DC of your polymorph effect, so a Wizard casting Beast Shape III will have a minimum DC of 17, but will probably be much better.
    • Gray Render: Three attacks and Grab, but there are several better options with Grab.
    • Griffon: Darkvision, low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed, 80 foot fly speed (average). Primary bite at 1d6, 2 primary claws as 1d6, rake for 1d4 plus 1.5 strength, and pounce. Basically a flying leopard.
    • Hieracosphinx: Three attacks, pounce, and flight. You can do much better.
    • Hippocampus: Basically a horse with a swim speed.
    • Hippogriff: A good flyer, but useless in combat.
    • Hodag: You only get the Hodag's crappy natural weapons.
    • Juvenile Rukh: Bad flight, bad natural weapons, and no abilities.
    • Kamadan: The Kamadan's attacks are awful, but because its breath weapon uses the DC of Beast Shape, you will have at least a DC of 15. Sleep doesn't affect as many things as Petrification, so the Gorgon's breath weapon is still better.
    • Kirin: The Kirin is a fantastic flyer, but its attacks are awful, and you don't get any of its spell-like abilities. You do get the Kirin's breath weapon, but the damage is really mediocre.
    • Lammasu: Four natural attacks, Pounce, and Rake. Basically a flying Allosaurus, but the Lammasu doesn't get Grab.
    • Leucrotta: Lousy natural weapons, and you get none of the Leucrotta's special abilities.
    • Manticore: Darkvision, low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed, 50 foot fly speed (clumsy). Primary bite at 1d8, 2 primary claws as 2d4, or 4 ranged spikes at 1d6 each. Something with Pounce will be cosniderably more effective.
    • Mobat: Basically just a Dire Bat with a special ability which you don't get.
    • Nue: You get Poison and Pounce, but not Energy Drain or any of the Nue's other special abilities.
    • Owlbear: Darkvision, low-light vision, scent, 30 foot move speed. Two primary claws at 1d6 damage plus grab, and a pirmary bite at 1d6 damage.
    • Pegasus: Darkvision, low-light vision, 60 foot move speed, 120 foot fly speed (average), primary bite at 1d3 and two secondary hooves at 1d6 each. Really the only interesting part is the 120 foot fly speed.
    • Phase Spider: Darkvision, low-light vision, 60 foot move speed. You get a bite at 2d6 damage plus poison and grab, but you don't get any of the cool ethereal abilities. The constitution damage poison is pretty nice.
    • Sea Cat: Slightly better at killing 1st-level human commoners, but not by enough to make it a good polymorph option.
    • Seaweed Siren: All you get is the Bite attack. You don't get Sonic Beams because it's a Supernatural ability.
    • Shedu: 5 natural attacks and Trample, but if you want something with Trample the Mastodon does more damage and the Gorgon also gets a cool breath weapon.
    • Sleipnir: The Sleipnir's attacks are mediocre, and its Trample is weak, but its breath weapon replicates a 7th-level spell, which is pretty fantastic. Prismatic Spray is very unpredictable, but when it works it's fantastic.
    • Sphinx: Darkvision, low-light vision, 40 foot move speed, 60 foot fly speed (poor). 2 claws at 2d6 damage, plus pounce and rake. Without the spell-like abilities, this is basically a clumsier griffon with more damage.
    • Spider Eater: Flight and a paralysis poison are enough to make the Spider Eater a viable option. Its attacks are mediocre and you don't get its other special abilities, but paralyzing a target makes it coupe de grace bait.
    • Stymphalidies: The Stymphalidies is only effective because of its special abilities, and Beast Shape doesn't grant any of them. You don't even get DR.
    • Unicorn: Darkvision, low-light vision, 60 foot move speed. Primary gore at 1d8 damage, and two secondary hooves at 1d3 damage each. Since you don't get any of the special or spell-like abilities, this isn't a good option.
    • Winter Wolf: Darkvision, low-light vision, scent, 50 foot move speed. Immunity to cold, vulnerabolity to fire. 15 foot cone of cold breath weapon for 6d6, usable every 1d4 rounds. Primary bite for 1d8 damage plus 1.5 strength, 1d6 cold, and trip. This isn't as powerful as Chimera, but it's probably the best Trip option.

Elemental Body I

alchemist 4, bloodrager 4, magus 4, sorcerer/wizard 4, 6th-level Wild Shape

Elementals can speak, so they can perform verbal components. They may also be able to perform somatic components with your DM's permission. All elemental forms get darkvision, and a single slam attack. At this level, the slams deals 1d4 damage plus strength. Regardless of size, the elemental forms typically have one specific function. Air elementals are scouts, earth elementals are damage dealing tanks, fire elementals are strikers, and water elementals are low-damage tanks.

At this level you need to compare your options to Beast Shape II. For scouting, Air elemental may be a better option than Hawk, and your DM may let you cast spells while polymorphed. None of the combat forms will come anywhere near Dire Tiger unless you're fighting enemies with vulnerability to fire.

  • Air: The fly speed is great for scouting. You can also turn into a whirlwind, which is a fun crowd control ability. Remember that the DC for Whirlwind will be equal to the DC of your polymorph effect.
  • Earth: The bonus to natural armor is huge, and earth glide is a cool movement ability, but that's really all you get.
  • Fire: The best elemental combat form at this level, and still not very scary. Burn inflicts damage over time, but only for 1d4 rounds. As a small elemental the damage is only 1d4, so this isn't going to win you any fights.
  • Water: Vortex is the same as Whirlwind, but it only works underwater. The natural armor and bonus constitution make this a decent tank form, even compared to the earth elemental. The swim speed is nice if you need to go swimming.

Elemental Body II

alchemist 5, magus 5, sorcerer/wizard 5, 8th-level Wild Shape

Now you're medium. Most of the bonuses at this level are flat numerical increases. Your slams increases to 1d6 damage plus strength.

This levels competes with Beast Shape III, which adds Rake to the already formidable Dire Tiger, and introduces the Mastodon for stomping mobs. Being a larger elemental with no additional speed actually makes the Medium Air Elemental a worse scout than the small elemental, and none of the other elementals gain meaningful combat options.

  • Air: More dexterity, more natural armor, and your whirlwind gets 10 feet higher.
  • Earth: More strength and more natural armor. Fun.
  • Fire: Burn goes up to 1d6, you get more dex, and a bit more natural armor.
  • Water: More constitution, more natural armor, and your vortex gets taller.

Elemental Body III

alchemist 6, magus 6, sorcerer/wizard 6, 10th-level Wild Shape

Now you're large, which gives you 10 foot reach. This level also brings in bonuses to a second ability score. Slams increase to 1d8 damage plus strength.

At this level your combat options need to compete with Beast Shape IV, which lets you turn into a fucking Chimera. You could be a large fire elmental and set some people on fire, or you can be a chimera and set the whole room fire.

  • Air: Bonus to strength, more natural armor, taller whirlwind.
  • Earth: More strength, a penalty to dexterity, a bonus to cosntitution, and more natural armor.
  • Fire: Bonus to constitution, more natural armor, burn at 1d8 plus strength.
  • Water: Bonus to strength, a penalty to dexterity, and more constitution. Taller vortex. Even on land, this is the best tank form.

Elemental Body IV

sorcerer/wizard 7, 12th-level Wild Shape

Now you're huge, which gives you 15 foot reach and 2d6 damage on your slams. Even with the improved reach and slam damage, Beast Shape IV is still a better combat option, and Air Elemental stopped being a scout several levels ago, even with the improved fly speed.

  • Air: More strength, your fly speed doubles, and your whirlwind gets taller.
  • Earth: More strength and more constitution.
  • Fire: More dexterity, more constitution, and burn at 2d6.
  • Water: More strength, more constitution, taller vortex.

Form of the Dragon I

alchemist 6, magus 6, sorcerer/wizard 6

You gain a +4 size bonus to Strength, a +2 size bonus to Constitution, a +4 natural armor bonus, fly 60 feet (poor), darkvision 60 feet, a breath weapon, resistance to one element, and vulnerability to another. You also gain one bite (1d8), two claws (1d6), and two wing attacks (1d4). All of the natural attacks are primary, and the breath weapon can only be used once each time you cast the spell. At 6d8 damage, the breath weapon isn't your best combat option.

Keep in mind that your ongoing magic effects remain in place, and you can cast spells as a dragon. Effects like the Copper Dragon's Spider Climb are easily replaced with a spell, and elemental vulnerabilities can be easily overcome with Energy Resistance. With spells available to cover the dragons' weaknesses, they are essentially identical except for their breath weapons. Because the breath weapon will be strictly worse than a fireball at this level, the breath weapon isn't really worth considering, so each dragon is functionally identical.

At this level you must compete with Beast Shape IV, which turns you into a chimera. Beast shape gives you +6 strength, -2 dexterity, +2 constitution, and +6 natural armor. The -2 to dexterity is mostly offset by the natural armor, so the base stat bonuses are better. The Chimera doesn't get reach, but it's large, gets the same number of natural attacks with better damage, and it has a breath weapon that also deals 6d8 damage and can be used every 1d4 rounds. The chimera gives up 10 feet of fly speed, but is otherwise better than a medium dragon as a combat monster. However, Dragons can cast spells, so I would assume that you can also cast spells whil polymorphed. If this is something you want to do, go for Form of the Dragon. Otherwise, go for Beast Shape.

Form of the Dragon II

sorcerer/wizard 7

This level adds more strength and constitution, more fly speed, DR 5/magic, better natural attack damage, reach on your bite attacks, a new tail slap attack, 2d8 more damage on your breath weapon, and you can use the breath weapon a second time. 8d8 damage slightly beats the average damage of a 10d6 fireball, but at this level you have plenty of other blasting spells available (such as Cone of Cold) which will do more damage than the breath weapons.

Form of the Dragon III

sorcerer/wizard 8

The bonuses to strength, constitution, and natural armor are truly stunning at this level. 120 foot fly speed is fantastic, and you get blindense, 120 foot darkvision, and a frightful presence. Your reach goes up to 10 feet (15 feet with bite), and your natural weapon damage goes up with your size. You gain elemental immunity, and you can use your breath weapon at 12d8 damage every 1d4 rounds. 12d8 is roughly equivalent to 15d6, and you can use the breath weapon every 1d4 rounds for 1 minute per caster level. That's a lot of breath weapon damage.

Giant Form I

alchemist 6, sorcerer/wizard 7

At large size you get 10 foot reach, and you get low-light vision as part of the spell. The bonuses to strength, constitution, and natural armor are pretty great, and you can cast spells because you can speak normally and have humanoid hands. If you do use weapons (Eldritch Knights are great for Polymorph), giant form is great.

Because you probably don't have a big scary weapon to wave around, you probably want to use this to change into something with natural weapons that you can rely on. This means that Troll is essentially the only option worth considering, which is fine because Troll is pretty fantastic. The natural weapons still aren't great, but you get Regeneration and Darkvision.

At this level you need to compete with Form of the Dragon II and Elemental Body III. Elemental Body III is terrible, but Form of the Dragon II will give you much better combat options for full casters. Weapon users like alchemists will do very well as a Rock Troll since they can continue using their armor and weapons, and gain Regeneration.

  • ash giant: Rock throwing, rock catching. Ash Giants are immune to disease and poison, but Giant Form doesn't give you either.
  • cave giant: Darkvision, Low-light vision, rock throwing, rock catching. Cave Giants get Ferocity, but Giant Form doesn't let you get it.
  • cliff giant: Rock throwing, rock catching, resist acid 10 and fire 10. RAW you get resist 20 to anything to which the giant gets resistance, so you actually get resist 10 to both Acid and Fire, but this seems to be an error, so check with your GM.
  • cyclops: You get literally nothing. Even the Ogre is better. How sad is that?
  • desert giant: Rock throwing, rock catching, immunity to fire (you only get resistance 20). Because you don't gain vulnerability to cold, the Desert Giant is strictly better than the Fire Giant.
  • ettin: You get nothing but a second head.
  • frost giant: Rock throwing, rock catching, immunity to cold (you only get resistance 20), vulnerability to fire.
  • fire giant: Rock throwing, rock catching, immunity to fire (you only get resistance 20), vulnerability to cold.
  • fire yai: Regeneration 5 (acid or cold), immunity to fire (you only get resist 20), darkvision, and vulnerability to cold. The Fire Yai doesn't get the Troll's natural attacks or rend, but cold damage is considerably less common than fire, so the Fire Yai's regeneration is more reliable. The Rock Troll is still better, but the Fire Yai isn't bad. You don't get the Fire Yai's fly speed from Giant Form.
  • Freshwater Merrow: Two claw attacks, but you don't get Grab.
  • hill giant: Rock throwing, rock catching.
  • ice troll: Basically the same as the Troll, but you also get resist cold 20 (real ice trolls get immunity) and vulnerability to fire. In situations where you need to worry about cold damage the ice troll is better than the Troll, but in other situations the Rock Troll is your best bet.
  • ice yai: The same as the Fire Yai, but reversed cold/fire resistances and vulnerabilities.
  • marsh giant: Rock throwing, rock catching.
  • moss troll: Weak by Troll standards, the Moss Troll's regeneration isn't stopped by acid damage, but the moss troll adds vulnerability to fire, doubling your issues with the most common type of energy damage. The moss troll gets improved reach with its claw attacks, but that vulnerability to fire is still very concerning.
  • ogre: Darkvision. Yes, that is all.
  • ogre mage: Darkvision, regeneration 5.
  • river giant: Rock throwing, rock catching.
  • rock troll: Basically the same as the Troll, but the Rock Troll's regeneration is stopped by acid and sonic damage instead of acid and fire. Because sonic damage is so much less common than fire damage, the Rock Troll has a small advantage over the normal Troll. Note that you don't get Sunlight Petrification like a real Rock Troll.
  • slag giant: Rock throwing, rock catching, resist fire 20 (slag giants get 30, but you only get 20 from Giant Form).
  • stone giant: Darkvision, low-light vision, rock throwing, improved rock catching.
  • troll: You get regeneration 5 and darkvision, a bite at 1d8 damage and two claws at 1d6 damage each. You get rend for 1d6 plus 1.5 strength damage if you hit with two claws. You can also be a "scrag" which lets you breath in water and gives you a swim speed.
  • wood giant: Rock catching. The Wood Giant's biggest strengths are spell-like abilities, but you don't get any of those from Giant Form.

Giant Form II

sorcerer/wizard 8

You get slightly better strength and constitution, 2 more natural armor, and a 10 foot bonus to speed. Your size also gives you 15 foot reach. Full casters still have the same problems that they did in Giant Form I. None of the available forms have regeneration or natural attacks, which makes them strictly worse than rock troll in some ways. You can use Giant Form II to be a rock troll with the better bonuses, but at this level you could also be a Huge Dragon. This spell is basiclaly only useful for Eldritch Knights since they're the only ones who use weapons enough to make this useful and also get access to the spell.

  • Athach: Darkvision, rock throwing, and resist cold 10. You get the Athach's bite attack as per standard polymorph rules, but you don't get its poison or its Swift Claw ability.
  • Cloud Giant: Rock throwing, rock catching.
  • Great Cyclops: You get a gore attack.
  • Jotund Troll: Regeneration 5 (jotund trolls normally get 10), rock throwing, and rock catching. You don't get any of the Jotund Troll's cool abilities, but Regeneration is fantastic by itself. Unfortunately the Jotund Troll doesn't get Rend like many trolls do.
  • Jungle Giant: Rock throwing, rock catching. You don't get any of the Jungle Giant's cool abilities from Giant Form.
  • Ocean Giant: Rock throwing, rock catching, resist cold 30 and electricity 30.
  • Saltwater Merrow: Two claw attacks, but you don't get Grab.
  • Storm Giant: Rock throwing, rock catching, immunity to electricity.
  • Taiga Giant: Rock throwing, rock catching.
  • Void Yai: Darkvision, regeneration (you only get 5 instad of the void yai's normal 15), and immunity to cold.
  • Water Yai: Darkvision, regeneration (you only get 5 instad of the water yai's normal 15), and immunity to acid.

Monstrous Physique I

alchemist 3, bloodrager 3, magus 3, sorcerer/wizard 3

Polymorph into a small or medium monstrous humanoids. You can get climb 30 feet, fly 30 feet (average maneuverability), swim 30 feet, darkvision 60 feet, low-light vision, and scent, and the aquatic and amphibious subtypes. Since you get both subtypes from aquatic creatures, you don't need to worry about breathing air or water.

Monstrous physique runs the same levels as Beast Shape, so it's easy to make comparisons between the two. Since monstrous humanoids have human-like anatomy they have the massive advantage of being able to use your weapons and armor. For classes which work well in melee (alchemists and magi), this is an important advantage.

For full casters, Beast Shape is typically a better option at any given spell level because it gives you a complete melee package without you needing to spend gold on a pointy stick. However, there are exceptions (like Beast Shape 1 vs. Monstrous Physique 1), and there is something to be said for the ability to cast spells while polymorphed.

Gargoyle and Storm Hag provide everything you need. They're fast, they fly, they have excellent natural weapons, they can talk, they have human-like hands, and they have Darkvision. Full casters who don't have something like power attack to boost their damage will probably get more out of Storm Hag, but alchemists and magi will likely be able to do more with the gargoyle's additional attack. If you're stuck in the water, go for Deep One.

  • Small Monstrous Humanoids: you gain a +2 size bonus to your Dexterity and a +1 natural armor bonus.
    • None listed in Bestiary 1.
  • Medium Monstrous Humanoids: you gain a +2 size bonus to your Strength and a +2 natural armor bonus.
    • Deep One: 20 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, swim 30 ft., Aquatic and Amphibious subtypes. 2 claws.
    • Doppelganger: 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft.. 2 claws.
    • Gargoyle: 40 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., fly 30 feet (average). 2 claws, a bite, and a gore. Basically a flying deinonychus with better base damage. This makes Beast Shape I completely obsolete.
    • Grioth: 30 ft. speed, fly 30 ft. (average). Bite, but no poison.
    • Hag, Green: 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., swim 30 ft.. 2 claws, but no Weakness. Deep One is strictly better.
    • Hag, Sea: 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., swim 30 ft., Aquatic and Amphibious subtypes. 2 claws. Deep One is strictly better.
    • Harpy: 20 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., fly 30 ft. (average). 2 talons. Gargoyle is strictly better.
    • Medusa: 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft.. Snake bite, but no poison.
    • Morlock: 40 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., scent, climb 30 ft.. Bite.
    • Sahuagin: 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., swim 30 ft., Aquatic and Amphibious subtypes. 2 claws and a bite.
    • Skum: 20 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., swim 30 ft., Aquatic and Amphibious subtypes
    • Storm Hag: 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., fly 30 ft. (average). Bite and 2 claws which all deal bonus electricity damage.
    • Thriae, Dancer: 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., fly 30 ft. (average). Sting, but no poison. Gargoyle is better.

Monstrous Physique II

alchemist 4, bloodrager 4, magus 4, sorcerer/wizard 4

Polymorph into tiny or large monstrous humanoids. You can get climb 60 feet, fly 60 feet (good maneuverability), swim 60 feet, darkvision 60 feet, low-light vision, scent, freeze, grab, leap attack, mimicry, pounce, sound mimicry, speak with sharks, and trip. If the creature has the undersized weapons special quality, you gain that quality.

Anunnaki is really the only useful form at this level, and while it's neat that it has so many attacks it's only occasionally a good option. Sneak Attack users will get just as many attacks from the Giant Octopus in Beast Shape III.

  • Tiny Monstrous Humanoids: you gain a +4 size bonus to your Dexterity, a –2 penalty to your Strength, and a +1 natural armor bonus.
    • None listed in Bestiary 1.
  • Large Monstrous Humanoids: you gain a +4 size bonus to your Strength, a –2 penalty to your Dexterity, and a +4 natural armor bonus.
    • Anunnaki: 50 ft. speed, fly 60 ft. (good), darkvision 60 ft.. Bite and 4 wings, but you don't get primal chisel since you don't get Lantern of Civilization. This is a linear improvement from the Gargoyle, giving you better flight speed, the improves size bonuses, and another natural weapon attack. Since your natural weapons are no longer attached to your hands, you should be able to use weapons and cast spells in addition to the bite and wing attacks.
    • Centaur: 50 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., undersized weapons, only 5 ft. reach. Worthless.
    • Minotaur: 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft.. Gore attack. Can't match most options on other spells of the same level.
    • Stormghost: 50 ft. speed, climb 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent. Bite and two claws which deal extra electricity damage. The
    • Yeti: 40 ft., climb 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft., scent. 2 claws, but no rend until Monstrous Physique IV.

Monstrous Physique III

alchemist 5, magus 5, sorcerer/wizard 5

At these size categories you have very few options. Gegenees is your besy bet for raw damage output, but use Thiae Queen if you need flight. Alchemists and magi will get more use out of these forms than full casters since these forms have such poor natural weapons. Full casters should use Beast Shape III instead.

  • Diminutive Monstrous Humanoids: you gain a +6 size bonus to your Dexterity, a –4 penalty to your Strength, and a +1 natural armor bonus.
    • None listed in the Bestiary Index.
  • Huge Monstrous Humanoids: you gain a +6 size bonus to your Strength, a –4 penalty to your Dexterity, and a +6 natural armor bonus.
    • Gegenees: 50 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision. 6 slams plus Grab on all of them.
    • Svathurim: 50 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., undersized weapons. Gore and 2 hooves. You don't get any of the abilities that make Svathurim dangerous.
    • Thriae Queen: 30 ft. speed, fly 50 ft. (good), darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision. Sting and poison. You don't get the resistances to energy and poison until Monstrous Physique IV, so this is basically a boring giant with a fly speed.

Monstrous Physique IV

alchemist 6, magus 6, sorcerer/wizard 6

Essentially the same as Monstrous Physique 3, but now you can get tremorsense, breath weapon, rend, roar, spikes, energy resistances and vulnerabilities, and a bonus on saves against poison. You also no longer get saddled with undersized weapons.

The improved list of abilities doesn't make things much better, unfortunately. You'll likely get much better results from Giant Form I at this level.

Plant Shape I

alchemist 5, sorcerer/wizard 5, 8th-level Wild Shape

Literally all of the options are terrible. Beast Shape I is better, and you get it a spell level earlier.

  • Small Plant
    • Fungus Leshy: Darkvision, low-light vision, and 3 crappy natural weapons.
    • Gourd Leshy: Darkvision, low-light vision, and one crappy slam.
    • Leaf Leshy: Darkvision, low-light vision, and really lousy flight.
    • Leaf Ray: Flight and a poison sting, but the poison is terrible.
    • Mandragora: Grab and Poison, but at this level a small creature won't do well with Grab, and the Poison effect is terrible.
    • Mindlsaver Mold: You get nothing. I'm not even certain if you can attack because the Mindslaver Mold's only attack is a Supernatural ability which you don't get from Plant Shape.
    • Phycomid: You get nothing. I'm not even certain if you can attack because the Phycomid's only attack is an Extraordinary ability which you don't get from Plant Shape.
    • Seaweed Leshy: Darkvision and a swim speed. I'm not sure if you can ttack because the Seaweed Leshy's only attack is an Extraordinary ability which you don't get from Plant Shape.
    • Vegepygmy: Darkvision, low-light vision, and 2 claws at 1d4 damage each.
    • Xtabay: Terrible natural attacks, terrible speed, and no special abilities.
  • Medium Plant
    • Basidirond: Slam at 1d8 damage plus 1.5 strength.
    • Cerebric Fungus: You get none of the special abilities, and the Cerebric Fungus' attacks are awful by themselves.
    • Myceloid: You get none of the special abilities, and the Myceloid's attacks are awful by themselves.
    • Phantom Fungus: Without Phantom Flesh and Blindsight, the Phantom Fungus is awful.
    • Jack-O'-Lantern: You get none of the special abilities, and the Jack-O'-Lantern's attacks are awful by themselves.
    • Living Topiary: You get none of the special abilities, and the Living Topiary's attacks are awful by themselves.
    • Mi-Go: 4 attacks and Grab is nice, but Beast Shape II offers the Dire Tiger, which is considerably more effective at using Grab.
    • Saguaroi: You get none of the special abilities, and the Saguaroi's attacks are awful by themselves.
    • Violet Fungus: Low-light vision, 10 foot reach, and 4 tentacles at 1d4 damage plus strength.
    • Weedwhip: You get none of the special abilities, and the Weedwhip's attacks are awful by themselves.
    • Yellow Musk Creeper: One tendril at 1d4 damage, and 10 foot reach.

Plant Shape II

alchemist 6, sorcerer/wizard 6, 10th-level Wild Shape

Your options at this level are better than Plant Shape I, but have to compete with Dire Tiger and Chimera. Shambling Mound doesn't even come close.

  • Alraune: You don't get any of the Alraune's special abilities except Grab, and 4 tentacles with Grab just isn't enough at this level.
  • Ascomoid: You get Poison and the Ascomoid's resistances, but its attacks are pathetic.
  • Assassin Vine: Slam at 1d8 damage plus 1.5 strength and grab, 10 foot reach. Resist cold and fire 10 each (though based on the wording of Plant Shape II you may get 20).
  • Sargassum Fiend: The Sargassum Fiend gets two attacks with Grab, as well as Constrict. The Sargassum Fiend also has an improved version of Grab which allows it to grapple enemies up to Huge size.
  • Shambling Mound: 2 slams at 2d6 damage plus strength and grab. Resist electricity 20, resist fire 10 (though based on the wording of Plant Shape II you may get 20).
  • Viper Vine: The Viper Vine's bite is very potent, and 4 vines with Grab is pretty nice. Unfortunately Plant Shape doesn't grant any of the the Viper Vine's special abilities.

Plant Shape III

sorcerer/wizard 7, 12th-level Wild Shape

The forms aren't any better than Plant Shape II, and now you have to compete with turning into a large dragon.

  • Giant Flytrap: Low-light vision, 4 bites at 1d8 damage plus strength and grab, resist acid 20.
  • Hangman Tree: 3 vines with Grab is nice on a Huge creature, but its unclear if you get to use the vines because they're listed as an Extraordinary ability.
  • Jinmenju: You don't get any of the Jinmenju's special abilities, and its natural weapons are pathetic.
  • Kapre: You don't get any of the Kapre's special abilities, and its natural weapons are pathetic.
  • Moonflower: Plant Shape III grants the Moonflower's impressive DR, but none of its secial abilities, and the Moonflower's attacks are terrible.
  • Quickwood: You don't get any of the Quickwood's special abilities, and its natural weapons are pathetic.
  • Tendriculos: Its attacks are mediocre, but regeneration is fantastic.
  • Treant: Low-light vision, 2 slams at 2d6 damage plus strength, vulnerability to fire.

Polymorph

alchemist 5, sorcerer/wizard 5

Functions as Elemental Body I, Beast Shape II, or Alter Self, with the added ability to cast it on other willing targets. Turn your Barbarian into a Dire Tiger for insane charges. Turn your Rogue into a Giant Octopus for 8 tentacle sneak attacks. For polymorphing yourself you have much better options at this level.

Polymorph, Greater

sorcerer/wizard 7

All the benefits of polymorph, but the options list expands to include Beast Shape IV, Elemental Body III, Plant Shape II, and Form of the Dragon I.

Shapechange

sorcerer/wizard 9

Replicate every other polymorph spell, plus you can change shapes as a free action once per turn. Start off as a Dire Tiger, charge into combat, then change into a dragon and wreck some people. If your HP gets low, change into a troll and regenerate for a few turns.

Undead Anatomy I

alchemist 3, bloodrager 3, magus 3, sorcerer/wizard 3

Undead Anatomy is an anomaly among polymorph spells. Instead of getting all of the attacks and such from your chosen form, you get bite and 2 claws or slams. Three attacks is fine, but it also removes a lot of the diversity and versatility that makes polymorph spells so interesting. On top of that, the undead must be corporeal and have humanoid anatomy. The corporeal limitation doesn't disappear until Undead Anatomy IV, but the humanoid anatomy requirement appears to be omnipresent.

I specifically copied the rule disallowing templates above under "What you NOT get when you polymorph?", but I want to specifically mention it here. Undead Anatomy I's spell description specifically mentions skeletons and zombies, and the higher-level versions of the spell allow Blood Drain, which is largely exclusive to vampires. Undead Anatomy II allows DR 5/bludgeoning, which I have to assume is for skeletons. However, all three of those creaures are templated creatures, and are therefore disallowed by the general Polymorph rules. This is a distinction which largely breaks Undead Anatomy, making it extremely limited in utility and very difficult to use in comparison with most other polymorph spells.

You can also get climb 30 feet, fly 30 feet (average maneuverability), swim 30 feet, low-light vision, and scent. Because the list of availabilities is so small, I will only list especially notable forms. Forms which are omitted don't offer any of the listed abilities.

Most options at this stage are functionally identical, and really the only useful ability you can hope to get is movement. Grim Reaper is the fastest both in land speed and fly speed, the Leng Ghoul has the best burrow and climb speeds, and the Draugr is the only option with a swim speed. Unfortunately, the bulk of the time Monstrous Physique I is a much better option since gargoyles get more attacks than you can get from Undead Anatomy. Unless you need the positive/negative energy switch from Undead Anatomy, stick to Monstrous Physique.

  • Small Undead: you gain a +2 size bonus to your Dexterity and a +1 natural armor bonus.
    • Tiyanak: 5 ft. speed, fly 30 ft. (average). The closest you'll get to a scout form, and a passable option for finesse users.
  • Medium Undead: you gain a +2 size bonus to your Strength and a +2 natural armor bonus.
    • Baykok: 30 ft. speed, fly 30 ft. (average). Grim Reaper is better.
    • Berbalang: 40 ft. speed, fly 30 ft. (average). Grim Reaper is better.
    • Crypt Thing: 30 ft. speed, low-light vision. The only option with low-light vision.
    • Draugr: 30 ft. speed, swim 30 ft.. The best option with a swim speed.
    • Gaki: 30 ft. speed, fly 30 ft. (average)
    • Ghoul, Leng: 30 ft. speed, burrow 30 ft., climb 30 ft.. A 30 ft. burrow speed is excellent.
    • Ghul: 40 ft. speed, climb 20 ft.. Leng Ghoul is better.
    • Gravebound: 30 ft. speed, burrow 30 ft. Leng Ghoul is better.
    • Grim Reaper: 60 ft. speed, fly 30 ft. (average). The fastest land speed available and the best flight at this level.
    • Guecubu: 30 ft. speed, burrow 15 ft. Leng Ghoul is better.

Undead Anatomy II

alchemist 5, magus 5, sorcerer/wizard 5

You can now get blood drain, DR 5/bludgeoning, scent, freeze, grab, mimicry, pounce, shadowless, sound mimicry, and trip. Unfortunately, there are only a tiny handful of tiny or large undead which still have roughly humanoid atanomy.

Just two notable options, and they're both really bad.

    • Tiny Undead: you gain a +4 size bonus to your Dexterity, a –2 penalty to your Strength, and a +1 natural armor bonus.
    • Pickled Punk: 15 ft. speed. Literally the only option at this size.
    • Large Undead: you gain a +4 size bonus to your Strength, a –2 penalty to your Dexterity, and a +4 natural armor bonus.
    • Devourer: 30 ft. speed, fly 20 ft. (perfect). The only option that gets anything beyond 30 ft. move speed.

Undead Anatomy III

alchemist 6, magus 6, sorcerer/wizard 6

ou can now get all-around vision, blindsense 30 feet, darkvision 60 feet (even though you get it for free already), low-light vision, scent, constrict, disease, DR 5/—, fear aura, grab, jet, natural cunning, overwhelming, poison, pounce, rake, trample, trip, unnatural aura, and web.

Considering how poor the options were for Undead Anatomy II, it should come as no surprise that the options for Undead Anatomy III are similar poor. There are no options for Diminutive, and only three for Huge. Of the few options aavailable, only the Saxra is worth of mention. It has excellent flight, but its combat capability won't come anywhere near those of the Allosaurus, the Chimera, a dragon, or a rock troll.

    • Diminutive Undead: you gain a +6 size bonus to your Dexterity, a –4 penalty to your Strength, and a +1 natural armor bonus.
    • Unsurprisingly, there are no diminutive undead with humanoid anatomy.
    • Huge Undead: you gain a +6 size bonus to your Strength, a –4 penalty to your Dexterity, and a +6 natural armor bonus.
    • Gashadokuro: 30 ft. speed, DR 5/bludgeoning.
    • Nightshade, Nightwalker: 40 ft. speed, low-light vision, DR 5/good and silver, resist cold 20.
    • Saxra: 40 ft. speed, fly 80 ft. (good), DR 5/bludgeoning, resist cold 20.

Undead Anatomy IV

sorcerer/wizard 8

You get the usual list of new abilities, but the biggest change is that you can now take the form of incorporeal undead. Unfortunately, doing so reduces the duration of the spell to rounds/level. You get some nice things for being incorporeal (like the ability to make touch attacks), but you shouldn't be having any trouble hitting, and

Also, the size bonuses for Tiny and Large forms improve to exceed those provided by Diminutive and Huge forms. While this is neat, it's really frustrating that you need to give up Saxra and go back to Devourer.

Vermin Shape I

alchemist 4, bloodrager 4, druid 3, magus 4, sorcerer/wizard 4, witch 3

Polymorph into a small or medium monstrous vermin. You can get climb 30 feet, fly 30 feet (average maneuverability), swim 30 feet, darkvision 60 feet, low-light vision, scent, and lunge.

I hate bugs. I hate them. I still eat crab from time to time, but I have to very conciously will myself to not think about how closely related they are to bugs. Writing this section took me longer than it should have because I felt physically repulsed by basically every creature Vermin Shape covers.

Vermin Shape I competes with Beast Shape II. Beast Shape allows considerably more abilities (including notable options like Grab and Pounce) which makes Vermin Shape I generally much worse than Beast Shape II. However, Vermin Shape has the advantage of including forms with Darkvision. In underground environments, that's a crucial advantage. Still, Vermin Shape I should reasonably be a spell level lower to make it comparable to other polymorph options.

For scouting, use giant mosquito. For combat, use albino cave solifugid.

  • Small Vermin: you gain a +2 size bonus to your Dexterity and a +2 natural armor bonus.
    • Assassin Bug, Giant: 30 ft. speed, fly 30 ft. (clumsy), darkvision 60 ft.. Bite and 2 claws.
    • Beetle, Fire: 30 ft. speed, fly 30 ft. (poor), low-light vision. Bite attack. You can use the Mining and Flash beetle variants, but you won't get anything for it.
    • Caterpillar, Horn: 30 ft. speed, climb 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. Bite and bristles, but you don't get poison or the defensive part of bristles.
    • Cockroach, Giant: 30 ft. speed, climb 30 ft., fly 40 ft. (poor), darkvision 60 ft.. Bite attack. Obviously terrible in combat, but a fairly decent scout form which combines darkvision and flight. However, the poor maneuvaribility may be a problem in small spaces.
    • Crab, Coconut: 30 ft. speed, swim 20 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. 2 claws with You don't get the aquatic subtype, so you can't breath underwater.
    • Dragonfly, Giant Nymph: 10 ft. speed, swim 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite. You don't get the aquatic subtype, so you can't breath underwater.
    • Flea, Giant: 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft.. 1 Bite attack.
    • Parasite, Giant Rot Grub: 20 ft. speed. 1 bite attack.
    • Scorpion, Ghost: 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft.. 1 sting and 2 claws. You don't get any of the scorpion's cool abilities like poison or tremorsense.
    • Solifugid, Giant: 50 ft. speed, climb 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. Bite and 2 claws, but no poison or rend. They're fast and get three attacks and can go straight to hell.
    • Spider, Giant Crab: 30 ft. speed, climb 20 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite. You don't get webs or anything.
    • Tick, Giant: 20 ft. speed, climb 20 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite.
    • Water Strider, Nymph: 30 ft. speed, fly 20 ft. (poor), darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite and 2 claws.
  • Medium Vermin: you gain a +2 size bonus to your Strength and a +3 natural armor bonus.
    • Ant, Giant: 50 ft. speed, climb 20 ft., darkvision 60 ft., scent. 1 bite and 1 sting, but no poison or grab. You may be able to use the "drone" version to get fly 30 ft. (average) if your GM allows it.
    • Assassin Bug, Great: 40 ft. speed, fly 30 ft. (clumsy), darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite and 2 claws, but no poison or special abilities.
    • Bee, Giant: 20 ft. speed, fly 30 ft. (average), darkvision 60 ft.. 1 sting attack, but no poison.
    • Beetle, Fire: 30 ft. speed, fly 30 ft. (poor), low-light vision. 1 bite.
    • Cave Fisher: 20 ft. speed, climb 20 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. 2 claws.
    • Centipede, Giant: 40 ft. speed, climb 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite, but no poison.
    • Crab, Giant: 30 ft., swim 20 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. 2 claws.
    • Dragonfly, Giant: 20 ft., fly 30 ft. (average), darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite, but no grab.
    • Fly, Giant: 20 ft., climb 20 ft., fly 30 ft. (average), darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite, but no disease.
    • Leech, Giant: 5 ft., swim 20 ft., scent. 1 bite, but no attach.
    • Locust, Giant: 20 ft., climb 20 ft., fly 30 ft. (average), darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite, but no spit since spit is an Extraordinary ability.
    • Maggot, Giant: 10 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite.
    • Mosquito, Giant: 20 ft. speed, fly 30 ft. (average), darkvision 60 ft., scent. 1 bite, but no bleed, disease, or grab.
    • Scorpion, Cave: 60 ft. speed, climb 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. 2 claws and 1 sting, but no poison.
    • Sea Urchin, Hunter: 15 ft., low-light vision, scent. Tongue, but no pull.
    • Shrimp, Giant Mantis: 40 ft. speed, swim 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. 2 pincers, but no grab or sonic burst.
    • Solifugid, Albino Cave: 50 ft. speed, climb 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. Bite and 2 claws, but no pounce or rend.
    • Spider, Giant: 30 ft. speed, climb 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite, but no poison.
    • Termite, Giant: 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., scent. 1 bite with added acid damage.
    • Xenopterid: 40 ft., climb 20 ft., fly 20 ft. (clumsy), darkvision 60 ft.. 2 claws and 1 bite, but no grab, poison, blood drain, etc..

Vermin Shape II

alchemist 5, druid 4, magus 5, sorcerer/wizard 5, witch 4

You can now get burrow speed, good maneuverability, tremorsense, blood drain, constrict, grab, poison, pull, trample, and web.

The Knight Ant, Giant Quee Bee, and Giant scorpion are the only interesting forms at this level. Unless you really enjoy poison damage, none of them can compete with the forms avaialable from Beast Shape.

  • Tiny Vermin: you gain a +4 size bonus to your Dexterity, a –2 penalty to your Strength, and a +1 natural armor bonus.
  • Large Vermin: you gain a +4 size bonus to your Strength, a –2 penalty to your Dexterity, and a +5 natural armor bonus.
    • Ant Lion, Giant: 30 ft. speed, burrow 10 ft., darkvision 60 ft., tremorsense 30 ft.. 1 bite plus grab.
    • Ant, Knight: 50 ft. speed, burrow 20 ft., climb 20 ft., darkvision 60 ft., scent, tremorsense 30 ft.. 1 bite with grab, and 1 sting plus poison that deals Strength damage. Great senses, but still not much of a threat in combat.
    • Bee, Giant Queen: 20 ft. speed, fly 60 ft. (good), darkvision 60 ft.. 1 sting plus poison that deals constitution damage. The best flight available on Vermin Shape, and Constitution damage poison. It's only 1d2, so it's not going to kill anything quickly, but it's still decent.
    • Beetle, Giant Stag: 20 ft. speed, fly 20 ft. (poor), darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite.
    • Beetle, Slicer: 40 ft. speed, fly 20 ft. (poor), darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite with 19-20 crit range.
    • Caterpillar, Blood: 30 ft. speed, climb 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft., 1 bite, bristles, and poison that deals Strength damage. You still don't get the defensive aspect of bristles.
    • Flea, Mammoth: 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite with Blood Drain for 1d2 con. If you want to deal Constitution damage you'll get more mileage out of the Giant Queen Bee.
    • Jellyfish, Giant: swim 20 ft., darkvision 60 ft.. 4 tentacles plus poison. Vermin Shape doesn't give you the Aquatic subtype, so you still need to breath air despite being unable to move on land. The 1d4 con damage poison is extremely tempting, but unless you have some other means of locomotion (like a Fly spell) you'll have trouble reaching anything to attack.
    • Mantis, Giant: 30 ft. speed, climb 30 ft., fly 40 ft. (poor), darkvision 60 ft.. 2 claws with grab, and Lunge. The Giant Mantis's only real advantage over the Giant Scorpion is its flight.
    • Scarab, Giant: 40 ft. speed, climb 20 ft., fly 20 ft. (average), darkvision 60 ft.. 1 bite.
    • Scorpion, Giant: 50 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft., tremorsense 30 ft.. 2 claws with grab and 1 sting with poison that deals Strength damage. A fierce combat threat.
    • Sea Anemone, Giant: 5 ft. speed. 1 attack with tentacles that includes grab and poison. You don't get sightless, but nothing explicity says that you're blind.
    • Sea Urchin, Spear: 5 ft. speed, scent, tremorsense 30 ft.. 2 attacks with spines that deal poison that deals Strength damage and nauseated enemies. You don't get the Spine extraordinary ability so you don't get free atack when people attack you. If you can easily get into melee attack range, the nausea poison is amazing, so make sure that you've got another means of locomotion like an ongoing Fly spell.
    • Spider, Giant Black Widow: 30 ft. speed, climb 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft., tremorsense 30 ft.. 1 bite with poison that deals constitution damage and staggers target. You also get the Web special attack. The poison is great, but that's the only notable piece.
    • Wasp, Giant: 20 ft. speed, fly 60 ft. (good), darkvision 60 ft.. 1 sting with poison that deals Dexterity damage. Giant Queen Bee is better since the two are largely identical, but the bee has better poison.
    • Water Strider, Giant: 30 ft. speed, fly 20 ft. (poor), darkvision 60 ft., tremorsense 30 ft.. 2 claws and 1 bite. You don't get Water Skating.

Help! I'm a GM and Polymorph is Breaking My Game!

Polymorph is an extremely powerful mechanic, and the more creatures are published for Pathfinder the more powerful it gets. While not every new creature will provide a viable new option, even a handful of useful new forms totally rebalances polymorph. Having a massive list of potential options means that a polymorph user will have a form which fits every situation, generally at no cost beyond knowing the spell. So, a reasonably gamemaster might ask "How can I allow polymorph in my game without letting it totally unbalance the game?"

Consider requiring familiarity with the creature. A druid who has never left the arctic tundra certainly shouldn't be able to polymorph into a reptile or a tropical bird since they have never seen one, and likely have never heard one described unless they studied the appropriate skill.

We'll define "familiarity" similar to the way that knowledge skills allow players to identify a creature's abilities and weaknesses, and we'll grant modifiers similar to Scrying's "knowledge" modifiers. However, instead of requiring a check, we'll simply require that the spellcaster have a requisite skill modifier, modified based on their familiarity with the creature in question and possibly an object which establishes a connection to that creature.

You could instead require skill checks to adopt new forms. If you choose to do, set the DC at 10 + the number of ranks required.

Polymorph Spells and Required Skills
Spell Required Skill Modifier
Alter Self Knowledge (Local)
Elemental Body Knowledge (The Planes)*
Form of the Dragon Knowledge (Arcana)
Monstrous Physique Knowledge (Nature)
Giant Form Knowledge (Nature)
Plant Shape Knowledge (Nature)
Polymorph Varies - Use the appropriate skill for the replicated spell
Shapechange Varies - Use the appropriate skill for the replicated spell
Undead Anatomy Knowledge (Religion)
* - Druids may substitute Knowledge (Nature) when using Wild Shape to replicate a polymorph spell.
Polymorph Familiarity Requiremenets
Familiarity Ranks Required Description
Secondhand 10 + Spell Level + CR You have read about the creature or had it described to you in detail. This is the level of familarity gained from normal skill rank advancement; creatures may be described in great detail in books or oral descriptions, but they are still considered "secondhand" sources.
Firsthand 5 + Spell Level + CR You have encountered the creature, and spent at least one minute observing or otherwise studying the creature. Fighting the creature counts for these purposes, provided that the total time you spend observing the creature still totals at least one minute.
Familiar 0 + Spell Level + CR You have studied the creature, alive or dead, in person for at least one uninterrupted hour. This study may require touching, manipulating, and often dissecting the body. After this hour of study, the body is no longer usable for study. However, if other creatures participate in the study period they also gain the benefits of doing so.

Creatures with a CR less than 1 count as CR 0 for these purposes.

You may also allow players to acquire "connections" to their polymorph forms which improve their familiarity similar to the way Scrying works. These connections help establish a mental understanding of the creature, allowing the spellcaster to more easily adopt forms with which they might not have studied in great detail. Players must acquire these connections ahead of time, and must do so with GM approval. These might be easily acquired or created, or may require the spellcaster to purchase them from a trader or artisan who can produce them.

Polymorph Form Connections
Connection Familiarity Bonus Description
Likeness +2 A figurine, drawing, or painting accurately depicting the creature.
Token +4 A piece of fur or skin, a piece of claw, etc. taken from the body of the creature.

Example: Craig the 5th-level human wizard knows Alter Self. He has 18 Intelligence, and 1 rank in Knowledge (Local). Alter Self relies on Knowledge (Local). He has spent a lot of time around common humanoids like humans and elves, so he is considered to have Firsthand familiarity. If he wants to polymorph into an elf, he needs a total modifier of +7 (5 + 2 for Alter Self + 0 for and elf's base CR), which his skill modifier of +8 covers (1 rank, +3 class skill, +4 Intelligence). If Craig wants to polymorph into a Sasquatch (which he has read about, but never seen), his +8 modifier won't be enough to cover the required modifier of +9. However, Craig acquires a detailed sculpture of a Sasquatch from a traveler who lives in an area where sasquatches are common, giving craig a +2 modifier, and allowing him to meat the required +9 modifier to polymorph into a sasquatch.

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