Shifter Playable Race Guide in D&D 5e

From lore and descriptions to traits and abilities, learn all about Shifters in D&D 5e

Shifters are humanoids that have animalistic attributes to them. None are entirely sure how they were created but many suspect they are the descendants of Humans that were perhaps touched by nature somehow, or more likely, the descendants of Humans infected with lycanthropy. In either case, Shifters are capable of transforming their body temporarily to take on more animalistic traits such as a hairier body, claws, fangs and other similar attributes. Not all Shifters are related tot he same animal either, some take their attributes from wolves, bears, rats or many other types of creatures which provides some variety in the abilities they gain.

Shifters were introduced as a playable race in D&D 5e in Eberron: Rising from the Last War and were updated for Monsters of the Multiverse. While originally an Eberron specific race, they can easily be incorporated into any setting you like. Our guide below tells you everything you need to know to play as one of these animalistic races.

What is a Shifter in D&D 5e?

In short, a Shifter is the descendant of Humans that have been granted animalistic traits either through lycanthropy or magic. They are not lycanthropes though so the bite of a Shifter will not turn someone else into a Shifter, nor are they affected by the moon or any of the other curses associated with lycanthropy. They are their own separate race and have full control other their animalistic form (though it certainly does affect their inclinations).

Shifters are often shunned in society however. Some fail to distinguish them from lycanthropes and others simply fear their more animalistic side. In fairness, Shifters aren’t much for society and people anyway preferring their independence and disliking being tied down to the rules that society imposes.

Description

Shifters look a lot like Humans but they do have some very distinct animal features to accompany their mainly Human forms. All Shifters are different however and are influenced by different animals. Some may have hairier bodies, oddly coloured eyes or various features that match their associated animal. It’s up to you to decide what animal features your character takes on, though these features should be inspired by a single animal rather than a variety of animals.

When a Shifter channels their animalistic form though, these features become far more distinguished and obvious. They might grow fangs, claws, whiskers, hair or have their body alter in a variety of ways to enable their animalistic abilities. This form can’t be held for a long time (about a minute), but the transformation can be useful in moments of great need.

Personality

While Shifters aren’t controlled by animalistic needs, this heritage does hold sway on their personality and most Shifters tend to be fairly independent beings, eschewing society and instead, working by themself or perhaps with a small pack of others (normally other Shifters).

Shifters tend to be affected by heightened emotions that they prefer not to tame but allow to envelop them freely. This can be a source of conflict, but also tends to mean that what you see is what you get with Shifters. While they will at times enjoy the company of others, they do tend to enjoy the freedom of independence.

How to play as a Shifter

Leaning into your animalistic features is important when playing as a Shifter. Consider what animal your Shifter is influenced by to help determine your personality. For example, if you’re influenced by a rat, you may operate with more subtlety and may be more skittish, if you’re influenced by a bear, you may be more proud and bold. It’s up to you how your animal side influences your personality.

You may also want to consider how you get on in social situations. You likely dislike cities and may also struggle in social situations. An adventuring group shouldn’t be much of a problem for a Shifter though. Most Shifters that work with an adventuring party tend to treat them as their pack.

Shifter features in 5e

Ability Scores+2 to one ability score and +1 to another or +1 to 3 different ability scores
Creature TypeHumanoid
SizeMedium
Speed30ft
LanguagesCommon and 1 other
TraitsBestial Instincts, Darkvision, Shifting, Beasthide, Longtooth, Swiftstride, Wildhunt
Book found inMordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse, Eberron: Rising from the Last War

If you want to play as a Shifter, your character will have the following traits and abilities:

Shifter traits

Bestial Instincts – Channeling the beast within, you have proficiency in one of the following skills of your choice: Acrobatics, Athletics, Intimidation, or Survival.

Darkvision – You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You discern colors in that darkness only as shades of gray.

Shifting – As a bonus action, you can assume a more bestial appearance. This transformation lasts for 1 minute, until you die, or until you revert to your normal appearance as a bonus action. When you shift, you gain temporary hit points equal to 2 x your proficiency bonus. You can shift a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Whenever you shift, you gain an additional benefit based on one of the following options (choose when you select this race):

  • Beasthide – You gain 1d6 additional temporary hit points. While shifted, you have a +1 bonus to your Armor Class.
  • Longtooth – When you shift and as a bonus action on your other turns while shifted, you can use your elongated fangs to make an unarmed strike. If you hit with your fangs, you can deal piercing damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.
  • Swiftstride – While shifted, your walking speed increases by 10 feet. Additionally, you can move up to 10 feet as a reaction when a creature ends its turn within 5 feet of you. This reactive movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.
  • Wildhunt – While shifted, you have advantage on Wisdom checks, and no creature within 30 feet of you can make an attack roll with advantage against you unless you’re incapacitated.

Published by DM Ben

Ben is an experienced dungeon master and player who's been immersed in the D&D universe since he was a teenager over 20 years ago. When he's not writing for Dungeon Mister, Ben loves creating fiendish puzzles and devious dungeons for his players. He's an especially big fan of the Ravenloft and Dragonlance settings.

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