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How Balanced would Shapechange be as a Lower level spell?

Content of the article: "How Balanced would Shapechange be as a Lower level spell?"

Shapechange is an interesting spell, as it's the only way to actually shapeshift in DND 5e outside of animal specific forms. The problem is that since it's a 9th level spell, nobody's ever gonna get the chance to use it. This honestly makes me angry, as shape changing tricksters are a really common trope in fantasy.

Here's the full rules as a refresher, TL;DR at the end;

You assume the form of a different creature for the Duration. The new form can be of any creature with a Challenge rating equal to your level or lower. The creature can’t be a Construct or an Undead, and you must have seen the sort of creature at least once. You transform into an average example of that creature, one without any class levels or the Spellcasting trait.

Your game s⁠tatistics are replaced by the s⁠tatistics of the chosen creature, though you retain your Alignment and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. You also retain all of your skill and saving throw Proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the creature. If the creature has the same proficiency as you and the bonus listed in its Statistics is higher than yours, use the creature’s bonus in place of yours. You can’t use any legendary Actions or Lair Actions of the new form.

You assume the Hit Points and Hit Dice of the new form. When you revert to your normal form, you return to the number of Hit Points you had before you transformed. If you revert as a result of Dropping to 0 Hit Points, any excess damage carries over to your normal form. As long as the excess damage doesn’t reduce your normal form to 0 Hit Points, you aren’t knocked Unconscious.

You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them, provided that your new form is physically capable of doing so. You can’t use any Special Senses you have (for example, darkvision) unless your new form also has that sense. You can only speak if the creature can normally speak.

When you transform, you choose whether your Equipment falls to the ground, merges into the new form, or is worn by it. Worn e⁠quipment functions as normal. The DM determines whether it is practical for the new form to wear a piece of e⁠quipment, based on the creature’s shape and size. Your e⁠quipment doesn’t change shape or size to match the new form, and any e⁠quipment that the new form can’t wear must either fall to the ground or merge into your new form. E⁠quipment that merges has no effect in that state.

During this spell’s Duration, you can use your action to assume a different form following the same restrictions and rules for the original form, with one exception: if your new form has more h⁠it points than your current one, your h⁠it points remain at their current value.

TL;DR

You change into any creature you've seen, with CR up to your level.

Now obviously being able to quadruple your effective CR is strong, hence why this was probably moved to 9th level, but seriously? Before this we get nothing good for shapeshifting. Wildshape? ridiculous limitations. Polymorph? Has to be a beast and you lose your mind along with it. True Polymorph? Also 9th level.

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The closest thing we get to passable shapeshifting magics are Disguise self (Which is illusion and not transmutation) and Alter self (Oh cool, have a +1 Magic shortsword, gills, or a disguise self as transmutation this time. all for the low low price of a second level slot.) Moon druid gets an honorable mention for being really strong, but it's still animal restricted.

So How do we fix this?

Well why not make Shapechange, Something that Imps can do, and make it a lower level spell. Now before you get mad it wouldn't be the Shapechange spell listed above. as i said before being able to quadruple your effective threat level is a bit strong. what I propose instead is making a spell like shapechange, but suited for lower tiers of play. maybe you can only change into creatures 1/2 your level in cr? maybe even a quarter?

We then take the super shapechange at 9th level and call it 'True Shapechange' to mimic polymorph. I think our shapechange should be lower than polymorph though, since you can only target yourself and the CR would be lower.

I've still got a lot of questions, since at the end of the day I'm just a player mad at the lack of options for my favorite fantasy trope.

  1. What Level should 'Shapechange Junior' be? Maybe around 2nd, like alter self?
  2. what level of cr should it grant? on par with druids, moon druids?
  3. should it have restrictions the way wildshape does?
  4. which classes should get it?
  5. maybe it would keep your normal hit points, and when you run out you go down like normal, but the spell ends?
  6. should it have the same equipment transfer quality as Shapechange Senior?
  7. maybe we drop the ability to switch around during the spells duration? that seems a little out of place for a lower level version.
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Source: reddit.com

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