Everybody knows about the ‘typical’ druid combat forms, specifically wolves and bears. In a vacuum, these two options deal the most damage and have the most hitpoints for their level. Generally, these two can get your basic job done, and some druids never use anything else. And trust me, I understand where they’re coming from.
But there are so many crazy options available if you expand your horizons! In this article, I wanted to discuss five alternate combat forms I like to use. Often I’m looking for environmental or situational opportunities where I can take maximum advantage of their unique upsides. (This article is focused on lower-level druids, so CR2 or below. Even so, this list will also mostly be useful for Moon Druids due to their higher likelihood of shapeshifting in combat.)
1. Cave Badger
Cave Badgers are an enhanced variant of the Giant Badger, released as part of the Out of the Abyss adventure. Not only do they come with tremorsense and keen smell, they get multiattack and (most importantly) can burrow medium-sized tunnels. When exploring/fighting in caves, I’ve found the burrowing ability incredible for bypassing obstacles, ambushing targets, and leaving a tunnel behind for my team to follow.
At CR½, the Ape is a useful form even for non-moon druids. Firstly, you get a ranged attack, very rare for beast forms. Then you get a climb speed, which is always useful. And finally you get to keep your opposable thumbs. This can be good for environments that require the druid to interact with doors/switches/ropes mid-combat. And it also means you could hypothetically wield a weapon or carry a potion if you wanted.
3. (Giant) Constrictor Snake
The Constrictor Snake can excel in situations where ordinary animals may struggle to maneuver. It’s Large-sized, gets blindsight, and has an auto-grapple attack. Moon Druids can use the even-chonkier Giant Contrictor Snake, with all the same upsides but Huge-sized and hitting like a truck. Outside combat, my team has occasionally used me as a bridge or a multi-person riding mount due to my massive size. Though I should note, this form’s main downside is that the swim speed prevents you from using it until level 4.
4. Giant Spider
I’m truly surprised more druids don’t ever use the Giant Spider. You get blindsight, a massive stealth bonus, and wallclimbing abilities. Plus you can fire webs at people to restrain them, or poison them with your bite. If you’re fighting in the darkness, or in a cave, or in an area with verticality, consider using the Giant Spider to take advantage of your environment.
5. Giant Octopus
The Giant Octopus is my favorite shapeshift form in the game, hands (tentacles?) down. You get a ton of hitpoints, darkvision, and auto-grappling attacks in combat. Outside combat, you get a stealth bonus, enhanced climbing, an ink-spray disengage, and a great swim speed. Its main downside is that it can only hold its breath for an hour. But that’s usually more than enough for a single session. The main reason I love it are the prehensile tentacles, letting me pick locks/open doors/etc while still in combat form. Though I should note, like the snake, you can’t use this form until you hit 4th level thanks to its swim speed.
Again, I’m not suggesting you use any of these forms all the time. They’re mostly for situations where a typical combat form might struggle with an unexpected or unoptimal environment. Whether waterlogged, highly-vertical, pitch-black, etc… It’s rare for a fight to take place in a clean simple area. Never forget that druids are the most adaptable class in the game, and don’t be afraid to change yourself to suit the situation!