Lycanthropic wild shape Options

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One of my message board regulars asked for advice on a druid PC that wanted to focus on his wolf shape and werewolf-like abilities to the exclusive of all others. I thought that (like some of the monk options in the Oriental Adventures book), it would be cool to allow a druid to "swap out" certain class abilities for the ability to emulate some of the powers a lycanthrope gets. Although the DM in question decided to go with a prestige class instead of this method, I thought it was worth exploring, so here it is.

A lycanthrope is a humanoid creature that can take animal form. Since a druid can already do that with wild shape, we just need to separate out the abilities a lycanthrope gets that a druid doesn't. These are lycanthropic empathy, skill bonuses, hybrid form, saving throw bonuses, and damage reduction. I'm not sure why lycanthropes need the save bonuses, especially as your average Com1 with a lycanthrope template is going to get a huge save boost just from his animal hit dice, so I'm going to ignore that ability for the purpose of this discussion.

Once a druid gets wild shape, she has the potential to gain six class abilities related to animalness or changing form. These are venom immunity, wild shape (Tiny, dire, Huge, and elemental), and a thousand faces. If we break down the lycanthropic damage reduction into three incremental steps (DR 5/silver, 10/silver, and 15/silver), when added to the three other lycanthropic powers we end up with six lycanthrope powers to match the six druid class abilities.

So here's the rule:

Lycanthropic Wild Shaping
When she reaches a class level where she would gain one certain abilities, a druid map opt to permanently exchange one of those ability for a lycanthropic power. What powers may be selected in place of class abilities is determined by the following table.

Lycanthropic Powers for Druid Class Abilities
Lycanthropic PowerMinimal Druid Class Ability Sacrificed
Lycanthropic EmpathyVenom Immunity
Lycanthropic Skillswild shape (Tiny)
Hybrid Form*wild shape (Dire)
DR 5/silver**A Thousand Faces
DR 10/silver**wild shape (Huge)
DR 15/silver**wild shape (elemental)†
DR 15/silver**wild shape (elemental) 3/day

    * The hybrid form gains the animal's Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution (but without changing hit points, just like wild shape), plus the template's natural attacks, natural armor, feats, special attacks, and special qualities. A hybrid form has humanoidlike hands and can still speak and cast spells.
    ** The lesser version of the damage reduction ability must be selected before this improved version can be chosen. Damage reduction only works in animal or hybrid form.
    † A druid who forsakes this ability at 16th level still gains the ability to wild shape into an elemental 1/day at 18th level.

For example, a druid may select Lycanthropic Empathy instead of Venom Immunity or any of the later druid class abilities listed in column 2 of the table. She might select Lycanthropic Empathy at 9th level when she would normally get Venom Immunity, or she may wait until 12th level and choose it instead of wild shape (dire).

Each time one of these powers is selected it applies to one type of animal form. For example, a druid could select Lycanthropic Empathy (wolf), and would gain that bonus with wolves whenever she was in wolf form; in panther form she would not have any special bonus toward panthers or wolves, but could selecte Lycanthropic Empathy (panther) to gain that benefit toward panthers when in panther form.

If a druid with the ability to wild shape into a dire animal takes the dire form of an animal for which she has a lycanthropic power, that lycanthropic power applies to the dire animal form. For example, a druid with Lycanthropic Empathy (wolf) gains that ability whether in normal wolf or dire wolf form. There are no "hybrid forms" for dire animals.

Despite the use of the name "lycanthropic," druids who learn these abilities are not lycanthropes. They do not change to the shapechanger type, they are not forced to change form with the phases of the moon, do not transmit lycanthropy, and do not gain any other powers or vulnerabilities of lycanthropes except as described above.