• Gemstone Sets

  • Enamel Pins

  • Building a Shifter in 5E

    April 29, 2024 6 min read

    Author: Chris Katrev

    Originating in Eberron during the 3rd edition, the shifter represents a predominantly human-like humanoid with ancestral ties to lycanthropy. At the heart of shifter mechanics lies the Shifting trait, which shapes their gameplay significantly. While shifters commonly share attributes like speed, Darkvision, languages, and basic shifting mechanics, the bulk of their abilities are intertwined with their chosen form of shifting.

    Exploring Shifter Traits
    Although the mechanical details may vary slightly, the fundamental essence of each shifter subtype remains consistent in Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. Beasthide shifters boast durability, Longtooth shifters prioritize offensive prowess, Swiftstride shifters excel at mobility, and Wildhunt shifters specialize in detecting and countering hidden threats.

    The Shifter has evolved through three distinct versions. Initially introduced in Eberron: Rising from the Last War, it underwent a significant transformation with the custom origin rules in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, offering greater flexibility in ability scores and skills. The most recent iteration in Monsters of the Multiverse further refined the Shifter's traits, introducing updated skill proficiency options.

    Bestial Instincts

    Channeling the untamed spirit within, Shifters possess an innate proficiency in one of several primal skills, including Acrobatics, Athletics, Intimidation, or Survival.


    Embracing the essence of their animalistic heritage, Shifters possess the ability to see in darkness as if it were dim light, and in dim light as if it were bright light.


    With a mere bonus action, Shifters can tap into their primal essence, transforming their appearance and bolstering their resilience. Each shift gains temporary hit points equal to 2 × 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. Furthermore, Shifters can choose from four distinct forms, each offering unique benefits tailored to their preferred combat style:

    • Beasthide: This form enhances the Shifter's durability, granting1d6 additional temporary hit points. While shifted, you have a +1 bonus to your Armor Class.
    • Longtooth: Embodying the ferocity of the predator, Longtooth Shifters unleash their elongated fangs to deliver devastating strikes. 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: Swiftness defines the essence of the Swiftstride Shifter, granting them unparalleled speed and agility. 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: For the cunning and perceptive Wildhunt Shifter, each shift brings heightened awareness and unparalleled vigilance. 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.


    Exploring Shifter Class Options
    Delving into the myriad possibilities that Shifter characters offer across different classes unveils a fascinating world of versatility and adaptability.


    Beasthide is ideal for front-line artificers seeking to draw attacks and stand their ground. Swiftstride is suited for hit-and-run builds centered around Booming Blade, enabling swift movement out of melee during enemies’ turns and back in on your own turn for casting.


    Beasthide enhances durability, while Longtooth boosts offensive capabilities. Wildhunt is particularly valuable for barbarians, providing the ability to negate Advantage on attacks from Reckless Attack.


    Beasthide and Swiftstride offer helpful defensive options, although primarily beneficial in melee, which may not align with typical bard tactics.


    Beasthide is great for melee-oriented clerics, providing additional Armor Class and temporary hit points. Longtooth offers an extra attack that triggers Divine Strike, enhancing damage output for melee builds.


    Beasthide is welcomed for its added durability, especially beneficial for druids with lower Armor Class. Challenges may arise when incorporating Shifting into druid action economy, particularly with Wild Shape.


    Beasthide and Longtooth are both excellent options, with Beasthide enhancing durability and Longtooth boosting offensive capabilities. Swiftstride is recommended for ranged builds to easily withdraw from melee.


    Beasthide's added durability offers significant benefits to Monks, although their Bonus Action is typically occupied by Martial Arts and Flurry of Blows, leading to potential frustrations with action economy. However, sacrificing an attack or two may still be worthwhile considering the advantages of increased durability.


    Beasthide, Longtooth, and Swiftstride are all viable options, with Beasthide and Longtooth offering similar advantages as for fighters.


    Beasthide is suited for melee builds, while Longtooth offers benefits for some Strength-based melee builds. Swiftstride is tempting for archery builds, but Zephyr Strike may be preferable for avoiding melee.


    Beasthide provides durability, although not crucial for rogue playstyle. Acrobatics or Intimidation may offer benefits based on build and party role.


    Beasthide provides decent durability, but not exceptional. While Swiftstride offers mobility, it doesn't help with grappling situations, making Misty Step a preferred choice. Thus, the appeal of Swiftstride may seem diminished.


    Shifters make excellent Warlocks due to their durability, granting temporary hit points with Beasthide, enhancing survivability in combat. Swiftstride's increased speed aids in maneuverability, crucial for Warlocks who rely on positioning. The ability to shift forms adds versatility, allowing Warlocks to adapt to diverse challenges.


    Beasthide grant Wizards enhanced durability with temporary hit points, bolstering their survivability in combat.


    Exploring Shifter Feat Options

    If you're looking for feats that complement the abilities and themes of a Shifter here are several feats that align well with those characteristics:

    Aberrant Dragonmark

    This feat adds an intriguing magical aspect to a Shifter character, granting them access to spells and abilities related to aberrant dragonmarks. The additional spells and features provided by this feat can enhance the versatility and utility of a Shifter, allowing them to fill different roles within the party or adapt to various challenges they may encounter.


    Shifters are often depicted as agile and precise combatants, making Piercer an excellent choice for a Longtooth enhancing their damage output with their fangs. The ability to reroll damage dice on critical hits with piercing weapons allows a Shifter to maximize their damage potential in combat, making them even more formidable adversaries on the battlefield.

    Savage Attacker

    With their feral nature and primal instincts, Shifters excel in physical combat, making Savage Attacker a natural fit for enhancing their prowess in battle. The ability to reroll damage dice and choose the higher result empowers a Shifter to consistently deal significant damage with their weapon attacks, making them a formidable threat to their enemies.


    Shifters, with their keen senses and heightened awareness, excel at protecting their allies and controlling the battlefield. Sentinel enhances these traits by granting them the ability to make opportunity attacks against creatures that attack their allies within reach, as well as the ability to prevent enemies from disengaging easily. This makes a Shifter with the Sentinel feat an invaluable asset in combat, capable of disrupting enemy tactics and protecting their companions effectively.


    Shifters are often portrayed as resilient and enduring characters, capable of withstanding significant punishment in battle. Tough increases Shifter's hit point maximum, making them even more durable and difficult to defeat. This extra resilience allows Wildhunt to remain in the fight longer, absorbing damage and protecting their allies while continuing to press the attack against their enemies.


    Exploring Shifter Background Options

    Shifter can fit into a variety of backgrounds depending on their past experiences, training, and purpose. Here are some backgrounds that can be particularly suitable for Shifter characters:


    This background emphasizes survival skills and adaptability, making it suitable for Shifters who have spent a lot of time in the wilderness. Outlanders are accustomed to shifting environments, which aligns well
    with the Shifter's nature.

    Folk Hero

    Shifters who have risen from humble beginnings or who are regarded as protectors of their community might choose the Folk Hero background. It grants proficiency in Animal Handling and Survival, reflecting the character's close connection to nature.


    This background can provide skills like Medicine and a unique tool proficiency, reflecting the character's time spent in isolation and their focus on self-discovery. Additionally, the feature called "Discovery," which could represent a significant revelation about the character's Shifter heritage or a deeper understanding of their place in the world.


    Shifters, with their keen senses and heightened awareness, could excel in roles that require investigation and deduction. Choosing the Investigator background could reflect a Shifter character's proficiency in gathering information, solving mysteries, and uncovering secrets. The skills provided by this background, such as Investigation and Insight.

    Mercenary Veteran

    Shifters, known for their adaptability and combat prowess, might have
    a background as a seasoned mercenary or soldier. The Mercenary Veteran background provides proficiency in useful skills like Athletics and Persuasion, reflecting the character's experience in warfare and negotiation.

    In conclusion, Shifters offer a rich tapestry of storytelling possibilities within the realms of Dungeons & Dragons. From their mysterious origins to their diverse array of abilities, Shifters captivate both players and Dungeon Masters alike.