Shifters are an exciting race in Dungeons & Dragons 5e who were introduced to us via the Eberron campaign setting, most recently in the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron and Eberron: Rising From the Last War.
Are you hoping to play a Shifter in your next DnD campaign? In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Shifter race in 5e. From their history and abilities to tips on what class to choose and what to name your Shifter.
The Story of the Shifters
Many call Shifters ‘weretouched’ because they are believed to be descended from humans and lycanthropes – humanoids that can shift into the shape of an animal, such as werewolves.
What is the difference between Shifters and lycanthropes? Shifters only have a small portion of their lycanthropic ancestors’ shifting abilities. Rather than changing, at will or otherwise, fully into a beast, Shifters can enhance their animalistic features.
In the Eberron setting, Shifters were once caught up in an inquisition led by the Church of the Silver Flame. This drove them to the northwestern land of the Eldeen Reaches, which is covered by heavy forest.
Shifters have a strong presence here, though they can also be found in any rural area and they mix well with humans.
What is the Shifter’s Beast Within?
All Shifters have a ‘beast within’ – an animalistic force that they were born with and they bond with for the rest of their lives. Some Shifters regard this force as an ancestor of theirs who they can speak to and who guides them.
Others regard it simply as the power that resides in them.
There are four common subraces of Shifters that are determined by the beast within.
- Beasthide: A bear, a boar, or any creature known for its toughness, making the Shifter stubborn, stoic, and thick-skinned.
- Longtooth: A wolf or dog, giving the Shifter lupine or canine traits and a preference for running with a pack.
- Swiftstride: Predatory felines such as a mountain lion or tiger, although Swiftstride Shifters could also be cunning rats.
- Wildhunt: Any creature that tracks its prey, giving these Shifters excellent instincts and a resolute nature.
In the Morgrave Miscellany, three more subrace options are given for Shifters.
- Cliffwalk: Mountain goats, making Shifters prideful, aloof, and great climbers.
- Swiftwing: Songbirds, these Shifters are charming and light on their feet.
- Truedive: Aquatic creatures, intelligent and curious Shifters with an affinity with water.
The beast within gives Shifters physical, mental, and spiritual qualities. These are shown most obviously through the Shifter’s physical attributes, such as cat-like ears or wolfish eyes.
But Shifters will feel an affinity with their beast within beyond their own appearance – some even feeling closer to their beast within than their human counterparts.
Shifters Abilities and Traits: What Characterizes the Weretouched?
There are some abilities and traits that all Shifters share whilst others are dependent on their subrace ‘beast within’. Here are the general abilities and traits of Shifters.
Age. Shifters mature quickly, usually reaching maturity around 10 years old. They rarely live past 70 years old.
Alignment. Shifters tend towards Neutral alignments, since they are often more focused on survival than being good or evil. Shifters also have a strong need for freedom, which may make them Chaotic.
Size. Shifters are Medium in size. Their exact height and weight may be determined by what sort of subrace they are, for example, bear Shifters might be large and brutish whereas a rat Shifter would be small and lithe.
Speed. Shifters have a base walking speed of 30ft.
Darkvision. Shifters can see in dim light as if it were brightness (60ft) and darkness as if it were dim light (still 60ft, but not as clearly).
Shifting. Shifters can use a bonus action to take on a more beastly appearance for 1 minute or until they revert back. This can be done once in between long or short rests.
The abilities that you gain if you shift depend on your subrace, but all Shifters gain temporary hit points equal to their level plus their Constitution modifier (minimum plus one) when they shift.
Languages. Shifters can read, write, and speak Common.
Each subrace also has its own traits and abilities in addition to those listed above. We’ll list them here and then break each one down for you.
Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution increases by 2 and your Strength increases by 1.
Natural Athlete. You have proficiency in the Athletics skill.
Shifting Feature. Whenever your Beasthide Shifter shifts, you gain an additional 1d6 worth of temporary hit points and plus 1 to your Armor Class.
Beasthide Shifters are tough fighters with lots of hit points. If you want a D&D character that can always be in the thick of it during combat, the Beasthide Shifter is great.
Ability Score Increase. Your Strength increases by 2 and your Dexterity increases by 1.
Fierce. You have proficiency in the Intimidation skill.
Shifting Feature. Whenever your Longtooth Shifter shifts, you grow elongated fangs. These can be used to make an unarmed strike as a bonus action, dealing 1d6 plus your Strength modifier worth of piercing damage.
Whilst Beasthide Shifters can withstand battle for a long time, Longtooth Shifters are defined by their fierce and deadly fighting skills. The fang attack as a bonus action is a great combat move and the Intimidation proficiency makes them even more fun to roleplay.
Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity increases by 2 and your Charisma increases by 1.
Graceful. You have proficiency in the Acrobatics skill.
Shifting Feature. Whenever your Swiftstride Shifter shifts, your walking speed increases by 10ft and you can move up to 10ft as a reaction whenever a creature ends its turn within 5ft of you. This reaction movement will not cause opportunity attacks.
Speedy and acrobatic, the Swiftstride subrace is great if you want to play an agile and sneaky character in DnD. The shifting feature isn’t quite as strong as those of the other subraces, since the reaction movement can be very situational – but it’s cool nonetheless.
Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 2 and your Dexterity increases by 1.
Natural Tracker. You have proficiency in the Survival skill.
Shifting Feature. Whenever your Wildhunt Shifter shifts, you gain advantage on all Wisdom checks and no creature within 30ft of you can make an attack roll with advantage against you.
The Wildhunt Shifter is probably the weakest in combat out of all the Shifters, but they are by no means the worst choice. If you choose a class that focuses on Wisdom (more on classes below), the ability to gain advantage on Wisdom checks when you shift can be game-changing.
Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity and Intelligence scores increase by 1.
Cloven Ascent. You have a climbing speed of 30ft.
Shifting Feature. When your Cliffwalk Shifter shifts, moving through difficult terrain does not cost any extra movement.
The Cliffwalk Shifter subrace is very situational. If your campaign involves climbing up lots of mountains – great. If not, there isn’t much to get excited about here.
Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma and Dexterity scores increase by 1.
Light as a Feather. Your jump distance is doubled.
Shifting Feature. When your Swingwing Shifter shifts, you can use a bonus action to gain a flying speed of 30ft until you land. Until you land, your altitude drops by 5ft at the end of each turn. If you do not move 30ft horizontally, your altitude automatically drops to 0ft and you land or fall. If your altitude drops to 0ft you must use this feature again as a bonus action to regain flying speed.
Being able to fly is always cool, and the Swiftwing subrace’s bird-like abilities make them lots of fun to play. They would suit any ranged class since they could easily fly above their enemies and shoot down at them.
Ability Score Increase. . Your Constitution and Intelligence scores increase by 1.
Swimmers Build. You have a swimming speed of 30 feet.
Shifting Feature. When your Truedive Shifter shifts, you can breathe underwater, you gain resistance to cold damage, and you ignore any penalties associated with deep, underwater environments.
Like the Cliffwalk Shifter, the Truedive Shifter subrace is only useful in certain environments. If there isn’t much water where you’re going, there’s not much you can do here. That said, a good swimming speed, water breathing, and resistance to cold damage can often come in handy.
What Classes Are Well Suited to the Shifters?
The best class for Shifters is very dependent on your Shifter’s subrace. So we’re going to break down the best classes for Shifters by subrace since there is no single class that suits all of them.
Barbarian – Constitution-heavy class.
Fighter – Defensive Fighters make awesome Shifters.
Barbarian – The most obvious class choice for a Beasthide Shifter is a Barbarian. Constitution is the Barbarian’s primary statistic, and the plus 2 on Constitution for Beasthide Shifters will make you super tough.
In addition to this, the Barbarian class is thematically suited to Beasthide Shifters, since Barbarians are also in tune with their animalistic side.
Fighter – Fighters also use Strength and Bonus as their saving throw modifiers, so these bonuses come in handy if you’re a Beasthide shifter. Beasthide Fighters will focus more on defense than attack since their abilities are linked to their high hit points.
Fighters offer a bit more flexibility than Barbarians, especially if your Shifter is closer to human civilization than their animalistic origins.
Fighter – Longtooth Shifters are ferocious Fighters by nature.
Ranger – Strength and Dexterity focused class.
Fighter – The Longtooth Shifter is somewhat more suited to a Fighter than the Beasthide Shifter is, since they are such great attackers. Combat is part of the Longtooth Shifter’s nature, so the Fighter is the natural class to go for.
Ranger – Longtooth Shifters are also well suited to Rangers, given the Ranger’s focus on Strength and Dexterity. Given the Longtooth Shifter’s ability to make an unarmed attack with their fangs on nearby opponents, it makes more sense to be a melee Ranger rather than a ranged Ranger.
Rogue – The Dexterity bonus makes Swiftstride Shifters awesome Rogues.
Ranger – A Swiftstride Shifter would make a great ranged Ranger.
Rogue – The Rogue class feels like a natural choice for the feline or rat-like Swiftstride Ranger. The Dexterity bonus will come in handy a lot – as will the Acrobatics skill if your Rogue is scaling buildings.
Ranger – Swiftstride Shifters also suit the Ranger class thanks to that Dexterity bonus. A ranged Ranger will also get some more use out of the Swiftstride’s reaction movement abilities when they need to quickly move into range.
Druid – Druids will love the Wildhunt Shifter’s Wisdom bonus.
Cleric – A ranged Cleric is well-suited to the Wildhunt subrace
Druid – If you’re opting for a Wildhunt Shifter, the Druid class is your best choice. The Wisdom bonus is great for Druids, who use it for saving throws and spellcasting, and the Dexterity bonus doesn’t hurt either.
A Wildhunt Shifter Druid won’t be the vegan hippy we sometimes imagine Druids to be, instead, they will be a protector of nature who accepts the circle of life as part of the hunt.
Cleric – If your Wildhunt Shifter isn’t as connected to nature as, say, a Druid, the Cleric is a good race to choose. Clerics also use Wisdom for saving throws and spellcasting and can also be tougher in combat than Druids if that’s what you’re looking for.
Ranger – Dexterity is always great for a Ranger.
Rogue – Dexterous and intelligent.
Ranger – Ranger is probably the most thematically appropriate class for a Cliffwalk Shifter. Accustomed to traveling through mountainous regions and with plenty of agility, a ranged Ranger fits the bill.
Rogue – With their bonuses to Intelligence and Dexterity, Cliffwalk Shifters naturally fit the Rogue class. Climbing up walls and fences is daily part of life for both Cliffwalk Shifters and Rogues, so why not bring the two together?
Bard – Charismatic songbirds
Monk – Attacking from the sky
Bard – As the songbird subrace, the Bard class is a natural choice for Swiftwing Shifters. The Charisma and Dexterity is great for the Bard’s saving throws, and there are lots of opportunities to roleplay these charismatic songbirds.
Monk – A more unusual choice, but one that could be a lot of fun, the Swiftwing Shifter Monk uses their flying and jumping abilities to strengthen their martial arts combat skills. The Dexterity bonus will come in handy and this is a great class choice if you want to play a tougher Swiftwing Shifter.
Fighter – An intelligent swordsman
Wizard – A water-breathing curiosity
Fighter – With their Constitution and Intelligence bonuses, there isn’t an automatic class that suits the Truedive subrace. That said, a Fighter is an easy enough class option for these intelligent Shifters.
You won’t be as tough as some fighters, but you’ll have a decent Constitution and Intelligence, making you a well-rounded character.
Wizard – Wizards use Intelligence for spellcasting, so the Intelligence bonus that Truedive Shifters get is helpful. Plus, the water-breathing and swimming abilities make for a more interesting Wizard than some.
Shifters Appearance: General Looks Found Among Them
Shifters are similar to humans in terms of their height and build but they also have distinct physical qualities that make them instantly recognizable. Shifters grow fur all over their body and often have pointed ears, large eyes, flat noses, and animal-like teeth.
The exact physical appearance of a Shifter is dependent on their subrace. Longtooth Shifters, for example, may have canine teeth and silver-gray fur.
Beasthide Shifters might be broad and brutish with dark brown fur like a bear. Swiftstride Shifters could have feline eyes and lithe bodies.
There is plenty of room to get creative with your Shifter appearance. Just remember that although they take on many qualities of their animal subrace, Shifters are always clearly Shifters and humanoid in their shape and stature.
Shifter Religions – Who Do Shifters Worship?
Shifters usually favor deities linked to nature, the moon, and primal strength. Some deities your Shifter might worship include:
Auril. Goddess of Winter. Neutral Evil.
Eldath. Goddess of Peace. Neutral Good.
Ilmater. God of Endurance. Lawful Good.
Malar. God of the Hunt. Chaotic Evil.
Mielikki. Goddess of Forests. Neutral Good.
Selûne. Goddess of the Moon. Chaotic Good.
Silvanus. God of Wild Nature. Neutral.
If you are playing a Shifter in the Eberron setting, these Shifters are often suspicious of foreign and overzealous religions due to the Church of the Silver Flame’s crusade against them.
They often have mild religious beliefs including worship of nature rather than any deities, as Druids have, or they worship the Traveller.
Shifters do not have their own language and rarely exist within a community made up solely of Shifters. Their names are more likely to be linked with the region they come from rather than anything to do with their race.
That said, many Shifters have ‘wandering’ names that they use when meeting strangers. These are often linked to their subrace, their homeland, or other qualities that they have and are gender-neutral.
Shifter Names: Badger, Bear, Blaze, Cat, Claw, Echo, Fang, Grace, Grim, Moon, North, Rain, Red, Rift, Scar, Shadow, Snow, Swift, Talon, Tiger, Whisper, Wolf.