Dragons' Change Shape Ability


Rules Questions


I have a relatively simple question regarding certain dragons' ability to Change Shape.
There are many references to dragons taking the form of a human, elf, or other medium-sized humanoid. The Change Shape ability specifically states that a creature with the ability can only assume a form one size larger or smaller, yet most (or all) of the dragons that gain this ability don't acquire it until they are Huge.

I want to say I already know the answer, but . . .
Can a dragon Change Shape into a medium-sized humanoid, despite the apparent contradiction in rules?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

kindredspirit wrote:

I have a relatively simple question regarding certain dragons' ability to Change Shape.

There are many references to dragons taking the form of a human, elf, or other medium-sized humanoid. The Change Shape ability specifically states that a creature with the ability can only assume a form one size larger or smaller, yet most (or all) of the dragons that gain this ability don't acquire it until they are Huge.

I want to say I already know the answer, but . . .
Can a dragon Change Shape into a medium-sized humanoid, despite the apparent contradiction in rules?

Yes. That's the whole point of the ability. That's why on the entry for "Change Shape" at the start of each dragon's Special Abilities it says they can take "any" animal or humanoid form. The use of the word "any" allows them to pick any size.

Polymorph itself is such a complicated spell, of course, that balancing it for use in play forced us to get really specific in how it's used, but for things like dragons, those restrictions are less important.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Sorry to pick up an old thread, but I have a follow-up question: I'm assuming that a supernatural (Su) ability such as a the draconic Change Shape ability in question, has the same duration as the spell it references (in this case, polymorph, with a duration of 1 minute per hit-die). However, in the Dragons of Golarion supplement for Rise of the Runelords, it's indicated that unrepentant chaotic bronze dragons will use their shape change ability to hide in human communities, often taking protective jobs such as town watch or bodyguards. Is this an indication that the duration of draconic Shape Change is indefinite and not limited to a minute per hit-die or am I mistaken regarding the duration of supernatural abilities?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Talon Dunning wrote:
Sorry to pick up an old thread, but I have a follow-up question: I'm assuming that a supernatural (Su) ability such as a the draconic Change Shape ability in question, has the same duration as the spell it references (in this case, polymorph, with a duration of 1 minute per hit-die). However, in the Dragons of Golarion supplement for Rise of the Runelords, it's indicated that unrepentant chaotic bronze dragons will use their shape change ability to hide in human communities, often taking protective jobs such as town watch or bodyguards. Is this an indication that the duration of draconic Shape Change is indefinite and not limited to a minute per hit-die or am I mistaken regarding the duration of supernatural abilities?

This is an indication of the rules changing between 3.5 and PFRPG.

There'll be a feat in the upcoming World Guide to the Inner Sea that allows creatures with change shape to pick a favored form and then remain in that form for as long as they want.

But as a general rule... dragons in the Inner Sea region are not normally going to be of the type that masquerade as humanoids. That trick is something dragons in Tian Xia are more about.


James Jacobs wrote:
But as a general rule... dragons in the Inner Sea region are not normally going to be of the type that masquerade as humanoids. That trick is something dragons in Tian Xia are more about.

Looks like somebody has been giving thought to the customs and society of Tian Xia! Mabye for a book or adventure a year or year and a half from now... Hmmmmmm?

(Enter me drooling here.)


James Jacobs wrote:
Talon Dunning wrote:
Sorry to pick up an old thread, but I have a follow-up question: I'm assuming that a supernatural (Su) ability such as a the draconic Change Shape ability in question, has the same duration as the spell it references (in this case, polymorph, with a duration of 1 minute per hit-die). However, in the Dragons of Golarion supplement for Rise of the Runelords, it's indicated that unrepentant chaotic bronze dragons will use their shape change ability to hide in human communities, often taking protective jobs such as town watch or bodyguards. Is this an indication that the duration of draconic Shape Change is indefinite and not limited to a minute per hit-die or am I mistaken regarding the duration of supernatural abilities?

This is an indication of the rules changing between 3.5 and PFRPG.

There'll be a feat in the upcoming World Guide to the Inner Sea that allows creatures with change shape to pick a favored form and then remain in that form for as long as they want.

But as a general rule... dragons in the Inner Sea region are not normally going to be of the type that masquerade as humanoids. That trick is something dragons in Tian Xia are more about.

So is it supposed to be limited in duration ? I kinda assumed it lasted till the dragon chooses to change shape, having (su) abilities function like spells is a bit awkward.

Also incase James reads this I noticed alot of (sp) abilities do not have a level listed, which can be important in some cases.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
But as a general rule... dragons in the Inner Sea region are not normally going to be of the type that masquerade as humanoids. That trick is something dragons in Tian Xia are more about.

Okay, the coolness of a Tien Xia supplement aside, what you're indicating here is that, if a bronze, gold or silver dragon had reason to use its Shape Change supernatural ability to live amongst human(oid)s, in order to do so indefinitely, it would need this feat, otherwise, its limited to a round per hit-die as indicated by the polymorph spell?


Remco Sommeling wrote:
Also incase James reads this I noticed alot of (sp) abilities do not have a level listed, which can be important in some cases.

CL is equal to HD if nothing else is listed.

"For creatures with spell-like abilities, a designated caster level defines how difficult it is to dispel their spell-like effects and to define any level-dependent variables (such as range and duration) the abilities might have. The creature's caster level never affects which spell-like abilities the creature has; sometimes the given caster level is lower than the level a spellcasting character would need to cast the spell of the same name. If no caster level is specified, the caster level is equal to the creature's Hit Dice. "

http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/monsters/universalMonsterRules.html

Talon Dunning wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
But as a general rule... dragons in the Inner Sea region are not normally going to be of the type that masquerade as humanoids. That trick is something dragons in Tian Xia are more about.
Okay, the coolness of a Tien Xia supplement aside, what you're indicating here is that, if a bronze, gold or silver dragon had reason to use its Shape Change supernatural ability to live amongst human(oid)s, in order to do so indefinitely, it would need this feat, otherwise, its limited to a round per hit-die as indicated by the polymorph spell?

One minute per caster level, as indicated by the polymorph spell. That being equal to HD, yes.

That does seem...rather short.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It's a leftover legacy of Mike McArtor (author of Dragons Revisited) who had a soft spot for wacky ideas like "dragons living in a small town and drinking with locals on Friday night".

As far as I could judge from James and Erik recently, the "wacky factor" gets dialed back a notch in the new Campaign Guide. I'm all for it, because the next thing after dragons on drinking night in the local inn are lvl 20 archmages in the small cottage by the river and CG drow rangers with twin scimitars ... and neither rocked my boat. Leave the zany stuff to The Great Beyond and Dark Tapestry I say.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Kain Darkwind wrote:

One minute per caster level, as indicated by the polymorph spell. That being equal to HD, yes.

That does seem...rather short.

Indeed, especially considering part of what I'm doing specifically involves the "natural" creation of a humanoid half-dragon (as opposed to one created via magical experimentation). Even a great wyrm (base CR + 16) is only going to stay polymorphed for 20 minutes or so if its Shape Change ability is as limited in duration as the polymorph spell. Even at 3 x day (a total of about an hour), that's hardly time enough to do the deed, much less actually meet and woo an unsuspecting elf maiden without the help of something like charm person, which is a questionable thing for a good-aligned creature to do, to be sure (even something as enigmatic as a dragon). Then again, wooing an unsuspecting elf maiden without warning her that you're actually a dragon is a little iffy for a good-aligned creature in and of itself, especially considering how dangerous a birth I imagine that would be (all those horns! yikes!). But I digress...

If, indeed, the Shape Change ability is as limited in duration as polymorph, then the use of the aforementioned feat sounds like the solution to my dilemma, although I may need to wait on its release in order to use it in my project.


Kain Darkwind wrote:
Remco Sommeling wrote:
Also incase James reads this I noticed alot of (sp) abilities do not have a level listed, which can be important in some cases.

CL is equal to HD if nothing else is listed.

"For creatures with spell-like abilities, a designated caster level defines how difficult it is to dispel their spell-like effects and to define any level-dependent variables (such as range and duration) the abilities might have. The creature's caster level never affects which spell-like abilities the creature has; sometimes the given caster level is lower than the level a spellcasting character would need to cast the spell of the same name. If no caster level is specified, the caster level is equal to the creature's Hit Dice. "

http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/monsters/universalMonsterRules.html

I know the rules for casterlevel, I rather meant equivalent "spell level" for (sp) not copying spells, when casting defensively for example or determing the effect of a globe of invulnerability. I will leave it at that not to derail this thread, but if you got answers feel free to share.

Scarab Sages

Just attract some dragon "groupies". Easily done a number of ways. Find one that, eh, tempts the eye, and have your good-hearted way with her. I'm sure she'll be thrilled.

Meet and woo in dragon form.

woo-hoo as fast as you can

then cook her breakfast in the morning.

Alternatively, leadership is a great way to bring in... compatible... folks :)

Other options to revealing you're a dragon include using illusion spells to make you look like a human

long romantic conversations in her dreams

long distance conversations

Third party dispensing the potion of *charm* on the unsuspecting maiden, without your knowledge of course, in hopes of creating a child that the third party can kidnap, raise, and train as a powerful weapon in the quest for WORLD DOMINATION! MUAHAHA! MUAHAHA!!! MUAHAHA!!!!

Or use a polymorph any object spell to turn yourself into a human for a while.

Let's see...

same kingdom +5
same class +2
Same or lower intelligence +2

Just enough to make it permanent... though the same class could be debatable... even without it though, you've still got a week.

Dark Archive

I treat it like the wild shape ability, 1 hr./level or HD. Change Shape is a special ability that "mimics" other spells (alter self, animal shape, etc.; however, it is not those spells, nor was it intended to be those spells, otherwise it would be shape change, plant shape, etc.


I guess six and a half years wasn't enough beauty sleep for me.

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