Shifter: Defensive Instinct + Wild Shape


Rules Questions


Hey there! Just trying to figure something out. Is the Shifter's Defensive Instinct Ex ability supposed to be usable in Wild Shape form? It seems like the intent was to have it usable with it, but when looking under the Polymorph sub-school, it's not quite so clear as it states the following:

"While under the effects of a polymorph spell, you lose all extraordinary and supernatural abilities that depend on your original form (such as keen senses, scent, and darkvision), as well as any natural attacks and movement types possessed by your original form. You also lose any class features that depend upon form, but those that allow you to add features (such as sorcerers that can grow claws) still function. While most of these should be obvious, the GM is the final arbiter of what abilities depend on form and are lost when a new form is assumed. Your new form might restore a number of these abilities if they are possessed by the new form."

Unfortunately, this passage is not very descriptive on what kind of Su or Ex abilities would still work with it or not. It seems that most Ex passive effects with RAW would cease to function, including Defensive Instinct. But all the examples given of Ex or Su abilities that cease to function are things like sensory abilities. So, I guess it all depends on whether Defensive Instinct is considered form dependent or not...
I haven't been able to find any information on any thread anywhere that actually talks about this. I can't imagine that with this being out as long as it has been that I'm the only one who's found this issue?

Just curious what people think about it and whether or not I'm missing something here.


So the point of that rule regarding polymorph spells is that "you don't keep abilities that depend on special body parts when your body parts are different". Defensive Instinct is, well, instinctive and so it's housed in your brain which is not changed much when you polymorph.

Specifically I would say one's instincts do not depend on their form at all, so Defensive Instinct is fine to use when polymorphed.


PossibleCabbage wrote:

So the point of that rule regarding polymorph spells is that "you don't keep abilities that depend on special body parts when your body parts are different". Defensive Instinct is, well, instinctive and so it's housed in your brain which is not changed much when you polymorph.

Specifically I would say one's instincts do not depend on their form at all, so Defensive Instinct is fine to use when polymorphed.

Gotcha. I would tend to more or less agree. I guess it's just that what's written under the Polymorph sub-school section can be a little confusing with what it allows or doesn't allow. This in particular is super vague and I don't really think the rules list anywhere of a definition or list of what an ability is that depends on your original form.

but all the examples given seem to be sensory-related.

Just wasn't sure if there was more to this than what I've seen, so I figured I'd put it out here since I couldn't find this particular interaction being asked about or answered.

Appreciate your response. If anyone has a different opinion, would be curious as well.


I am totally onboard with the interpration given above. Learned skills or abilities, like defensive instinct, should stay. Off hand I'd say 90%+ of class abilitie would stay, as taking those class levels did not require specific anatomy.


Java Man wrote:
I am totally onboard with the interpration given above. Learned skills or abilities, like defensive instinct, should stay. Off hand I'd say 90%+ of class abilitie would stay, as taking those class levels did not require specific anatomy.

I can definitely see two ways of seeing this though, to be fair.

1. It's allowed because it's a class feature that doesn't require the form in order to operate.

2. It's not allowed because it isn't a class ability that 'adds' something (like the Sorcerer's that can grow claws, or like the Shifter's own ability with their Shifter Claws ability).

I do realize that it gives the GM specific control over what can and can't be considered for this clause, but I really wish Paizo did a better job of defining the terms they use. Lack of defining terms properly is a cause for so many issues in interpretation. :p


A lot of the time, you lose the ability, but you also get it back. If a Tengu with Claws and a Bite Wild Shapes into a Tiger. She loses the Claws and Bite because it's no longer a Tengu, but she gains Claws and a Bite because she is now a Tiger.

Similarly, lots of Animals you might Wild Shape into have Scent, Grab, and other things.


PossibleCabbage wrote:

So the point of that rule regarding polymorph spells is that "you don't keep abilities that depend on special body parts when your body parts are different". Defensive Instinct is, well, instinctive and so it's housed in your brain which is not changed much when you polymorph.

Specifically I would say one's instincts do not depend on their form at all, so Defensive Instinct is fine to use when polymorphed.

I agree.

Jesse VanSpyker-Maillet wrote:

This in particular is super vague and I don't really think the rules list anywhere of a definition or list of what an ability is that depends on your original form.

but all the examples given seem to be sensory-related.

Just wasn't sure if there was more to this than what I've seen

The Shifter Class does not have a Race Prerequisite. You can be a Shifter if you are a Human, Half Orc, Nagaji, or Tengu. I think you can be a Shifter even if you are a Grimlock, and Grimlocks are Blind (Although I am less sure about this, because I haven't seen Grimlock as a Race for PCs.). The point is that Defensive Instinct does not seem to depend on your form. It is a Class Ability having to do with the way you use your senses, regardless of how keen your Race's Senses are.

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