Skip to Content

Alter Self 5e D&D Guide

Alter Self 5e D&D Guide

Alter Self is a 2nd-level shape-changing spell on the Sorcerer, Wizard, and Artificer spell lists.

Adaption occurs naturally in all species. However, some spellcasters can change their entire body with a single spell.

It has the potential to change them into fierce fighters with beast-like features, an aquatic humanoid with the qualities of a fish, or a person reborn, choosing not only their race but everything that follows.

The Player’s Handbook states the following:

Alter Self 5e

2nd-level Transmutation

Casting Time: 1 Action

Range: Self

Components: V, S

Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour

When you cast this spell, choose from the following options, the effects of which remain for the spell’s duration. You assume a different form.

While the spell lasts, you could end one option as an action to receive the benefits of a separate one.

Aquatic Adaptation

Your body changes to suit an aquatic environment by developing gills and webbing between your fingers.

You can breathe underwater, increasing your swimming speed to be equivalent to your walking speed.

Change Appearance

You transform your appearance completely.

You determine your appearance, including your height, weight, facial features, tone of voice, length of your hair, coloration, and distinguishing characteristics, if any.

You can pose as an individual of a different race, but your statistics remain the same.

Additionally, you don’t appear as a creature that is larger or smaller than you, and your basic shape doesn’t change.

For example, if you are bipedal, you cannot use this spell to change into a quadrupedal.

You can use your action to alter your appearance in this manner again at any point during the duration of the spell.

Natural Weapons

You grow claws, fangs, spines, horns, or a different natural weapon of your choice.

You are competent with your unarmed strikes, which deal 1d6 bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage, depending on the natural weapon you selected.

Lastly, your natural weapon is magic, and using it gives you a +1 bonus on attack and damage rolls.

When Can Classes Pick Alter Self?

As mentioned before, Alter Self is freely available to traditional classes like the Sorcerer, Wizard, and Aritificer.

The Sorcerer and Wizard can unlock and use Alter Self at level 3, while the Artificer can only use it at level 5.

There are no subclasses that freely unlock Alter Self.

Is Alter Self Good in 5e?

Alter Self is a good choice for characters who need to adapt to various situations and challenges.

However, the spell’s usefulness may vary depending on the specific situation and the player’s preferences and character.

Advantages – Alter Self

No Material Component

Casting Alter Self without the need to carry or prepare Material components makes it more accessible whenever you need it most.

Its benefit is specifically shown in the middle of combat or other high-pressure situations where your access to materials may be limited.

Extended Duration (Up to 1 hour)

There are various ways in which an extended duration can be helpful.

It can allow the caster to have a longer period of time to utilize the abilities and resistances.

Let the caster stay in their altered form for longer and avoid the need to constantly recast the spell.

A long duration can also increase its versatility and usefulness for the caster. Making it a good option for offensive or control mages.

Disadvantages – Alter Self

Concentration Spell

Concentration spells require you to focus on the spell’s effects, which can be difficult in combat or stressful situations.

Note: It is especially dire when your Concentration is broken in the middle of a fight, as it can leave you vulnerable.

You can only maintain one Concentration spell at a time, so choosing Alter Self could prevent you from using other, more useful Concentration spells.

Spells Similar To Alter Self 5e

Spells like Disguise Self, Shapechange, Wild Shape, and Polymorph have similar shapechanging effects to Alter Self.

Note: The Eldritch Invocation Mask of Many Faces allows the caster to cast Disguise Self.

When or How Should I Use Alter Self?


Alter Self can be used to infiltrate an organization or location by appearing as someone who is allowed entry.

Note: Remember to keep your Concentration up, as failing to do so will cancel the transformation.

However, using the ‘Change Appearance’ option only changes your appearance and doesn’t grant any abilities or traits of the chosen form.

Close Combat

If combat lasts for quite a while, you might run out of high-level spell slots or not have close-range spells.

If this happens, simply use Alter Self and join the fighters!

You’ll be more proficient in unarmed striking, meaning you don’t require a weapon and can be useful without casting spells.


A Sorcerer who Multiclasses into a Druid can use Alter Self as an excellent way to roleplay.

Not only does the Druid gain the ability to change forms, similar to Alter Self, but they’re built to shape change.

Note: Roleplaying a shape-changing spellcaster gives you control of the battlefield using spells and the opportunity to help in close combat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between Alter Self and Disguise Self?

Alter Self is for players who want to physically alter their appearance while gaining abilities and features.

Disguise Self is more of an illusion spell used by players who want to only change their perceived appearance.

Note: Disguise Self’s changes are purely cosmetic compared to the very real physical changes of Alter Self.

Does Alter Self Change Smell?

There’s no reason to believe that Alter Self doesn’t make the altered creature smell as much as look like the creature they are emulating.

If you change to an elf, you will likely smell like an elf.

Note: It’s up to the DM if the spell will work this way.

Final Thoughts

Alter Self shouldn’t be ignored as a shapechanging spell. It has good qualities and many uses that can give players the upper hand.

While there are better spells, don’t feel shy to pick up and use Alter Self. Shapechanging is always a blast, especially when used to cause confusion!

Disguise Self 5e D&D Guide [2023]

Tuesday 21st of March 2023

[…] voice in any way. It would be stated in the rules if that was part of the spell function. The spell Alter Self does allow for complete mimicry of the disguise taken. Disguise Self only alters the physical […]

True Strike 5e D&D Guide [2023]

Monday 13th of February 2023

[…] buying a Cantrip’s scroll like Alter Self from a merchant can expect to pay around 25 […]