Can a Circle of the Shepherd druid in Wild Shape still communicate with beasts using the Speech of the Woods feature?

The Circle of the Shepherd druid has the Speech of the Woods feature (XGtE, p. 23):

You learn to speak, read, and write Sylvan. In addition, beasts can understand your speech, and you gain the ability to decipher their noises and motions.

One of the restrictions of the Wild Shape feature is:

You can’t cast spells, and your ability to speak or take any action that requires hands is limited to the capabilities of your beast form.

Related question: Can a druid speak while in wild-shape?

Depending how you parse Speech of the Woods, either you can speak Sylvan and beasts can understand you when you speak Sylvan (at which point this question is moot) – or you can speak Sylvan, and separately, beasts can understand your speech, presumably in any language you choose.

So if the druid wild shapes into a wolf, they can only speak “like a wolf” (fairly limited). But they can also decipher the noises and motions of a wolf, and wolves can understand their “speech”, however that is defined.

Am I trying too hard to suggest that the druid can communicate with other beasts when in beast form? Or at least other beasts of the same species?

Are there any official CR 8 beasts that are not dinosaurs, for the purpose of the Polymorph spell?

Although the party wizard has had a wand of polymorph since finding it in a hand-converted U3: The Final Enemy (before the release of Ghosts of Saltmarsh), she has typically used it defensively, turning enemies into slugs and such. Only recently has she begun to use it offensively. After fighting some carnivorous apes, she turned the 7th-level barbarian in the party into a CR 7 Giant Ape when he was low on HP.

Per the description of the polymorph spell:

The new form can be any beast whose challenge rating is equal to or less than the target’s (or the target’s level, if it doesn’t have a challenge rating).

As a result of that battle, the party has leveled up, and the wizard can now polymorph the barbarian into a beast of CR 8.

Unfortunately, I know of only one CR 8 creature that is a beast – the Tyrannosaurus rex. While RAW there is no restriction on using polymorph to achieve forms that the character has not seen before, it would harm the verisimilitude of my game, in which none of the characters have even heard of dinosaurs.

Do any official published products include CR 8 beasts that are not dinosaurs?

How to cast 5e / 5th lvl ‘Awaken’ (spell) on ‘highly intelligent’ plants and beasts?

The 5e Awaken spell allows a gain of intelligence and ability:

After spending the casting time tracing magical pathways within a precious gemstone, you touch a Huge or smaller beast or plant. The target must have either no Intelligence score or an Intelligence of 3 or less. The target gains an Intelligence of 10.

How does one get this Awaken spell to work on plants or animals with more than three (3) intelligence score?

The baboon and some giant creatures have four (or more) intelligence. Even the Shambling Mound would be an amazing pet (for a month) were it not so deeply clever. Yet, if high school taught us anything, baseline and expected intelligence is NOT guaranteed. Perhaps there is a work-around?

  • Give the target a Feeblemind spell first.

  • Enroll them in high-contact American sports.

  • Polymorph them into a more-stupid beast, then they change back smarter! Though StackExchange gave this one a complicated answer.

  • Admit that the author is probably making a bigger deal out of this than necessary and just House Rule the damn thing.

Repeat of Question for Exchangers of Stack: how does one imbue bonus intelligence (and myriad abilities) to plants &/or beasts with a wee bit ‘too much’ intelligence?

What opportunities exist in D&D 5e in order to turn into beasts, while maintaining personality and mental characteristics?

What opportunities exist in D&D 5e in order to turn into beasts, while maintaining personality and mental characteristics (Intelligence, Wisdom and not necessary Charisma)?

As far as I can see, one of the obvious solutions is Wild Shape. Are there any other options?

What are the fanner beasts?

I’m reading some of the original lore for Dark Sun, and the dray are described as herding "fanner beasts", supposedly some sort of lizard-like creature. But I can’t find any information about what these beasts actually look like or what their characteristics and stats are. Can anyone point me to some good sources of information about "fanner beasts"?