D&D PHB: The Druid

Ok, Laundry and the Dishwasher are both running, so let’s see if I can knock out the Druid quickly.

First off, seriously, why is that elf purple? Not “alabaster tinged with blue”.  Purple. Why are there so many purple characters in this book?


I worry a little bit how much justice I can do to the class before I get to the spell section. Historically, a lot of the uniqueness of the druid could be found in her spells. Without those, she is often just a gimmicky shapeshifter. Still, we’ll see what we can do. I’ve very curious to see if they find a way to handle shapeshifting without the super abstract rules of 4e buth without the bookkeeping of earlier editions.

Before that, I’ll just note that druids cast like Clerics – pray for a certain number of spells, cast N slots per day. They get ritual casting, and they can use a…er…druidic focus as a spellcasting focus. I guess that’s a sickle or something? I have to skip ahead to chapter 5 to check and discover that, no, it’s a sprig of Mistletoe, a totem, a yew wand or an wooden staff. So, ok.

Wild shape (which you get at 2nd level) is, of course, the big question. You get to do it twice per rest, and you can assume a form with a max CR of 1/8th your level (maximum 1, round down, with some limits on things like flying and swimming at lower levels). Notably, I have no idea what that means[1] yet but for examples, a Wolf is CR 1/4, an Crocodile is 1/2 and a Giant Eagle is CR 1.

While shapeshifted, use the animal’s stats, including hit points. Barring situations like getting KO’d in in animal form, you return to your pre-shapeshift HP after a shift, so while it can’t be used for healing per se, it means a shapeshifting druid can stay on her feet a long time. All in all, it’s going to demand that the druid keep a copy of preferred forms on hand for ease of use, but it seems pretty painless. It has nice checks against turning into a 50 hit point mouse or flying at second level, and it explicitly just lets the druid decide what happens to his gear (drop, stays on the new form or merge into the form) which is weird fiction but convenient play.

But the thing is, excepting one or two more things (at level 18 your aging slows down and you can cast spells in animal form, and at level 20 you can wild shape whenever) that’s it. Druid does not have a lot of class abilities. In fact, like the cleric, the druid is hugely defined by her subclass, called a druid circle. The circle is chosen as level 2, grants intro abilities, and then grants more at 6, 10 and 14. Obviously, these circles are a big deal.

For caster druids, the circle of the land is reminiscent of JRPG geomancers, getting extra spells based on terrain types. A druid of the land gets an extra cantrip and recovers a few spell slots on a short rest, if it’s taken in nature. They pick up some of the classic druid abilities like ignoring terrain obstacles, immunity to natural charms and fear (as well as poison and disease) and general friendliness with nature.

They also pick a favored terrain, and expand their prepared spell list with some new spells based on that terrain (much the way a cleric’s domain expands their list). Some of these are pretty badass, and I actually like this hook more than I expected to because it is explicitly to the “land where you became a druid”. In picking a terrain, the players is saying something about their characters history which might be very interesting, especially if the current terrain is far from their home.

The Circle of the Moon is basically for druids who want to shapeshift more and get in fights. They transform faster and into more dangerous creatures, and can burn spell slots to heal while in animal form. Eventually your attack become magical, you can turn into an elemental and you can learn more subtle shapeshifting.

All in all, the druid looks fun, and I could see either circle being a hoot. The shapeshifting looks well designed, and apparently I can turn into a black bear OR a shark at level 4 (level 2, if I go Circle of the Moon), so that seems about right to me.

What seems to be missing is that there is no way to increase the number of times you can wild shape. Until you hit level 20, it’s 2 per rest, that’s it. At first blush, this seems overly restrictive, but as I think about it, I imagine the thinking is that druids should assume a form and stay in it for a while rather than be sort of fey, fluidic shapeshifters. I could see them doing a circle that allowed more shapeshifting, just as they’ve done one to allow more powerful shape shifting, but they definitely would not want the options for both.

  1. I mean, yes, I know it means Challenge Rating, and I’m familiar with the concept form previous editions, but the numbers I’ve seen so far suggest that it might be used in a manner I am unfamiliar with, so I’ve just sort of left a pin in it.  ↩

7 thoughts on “D&D PHB: The Druid

  1. Brandes Stoddard

    The Circle of the Moon druid is still really weird to me, specifically because it ignores the druid’s stats. The idea that you lose your Wild Shape from taking damage has always struck me as strange. The CotM druid… usually doesn’t care about increasing Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution when she levels (as these just get replaced when she Wild Shapes anyway), doesn’t care about most feats, and can’t use most magic items. Wild Shaping to create a hit point buffer (huge at low levels – up to 200% more hit points) just seems like a weird benefit to get out of the bargain, compared to what I think of as the “normal” reasons in the fiction that one wants to take on an animal’s shape.

    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      The logic, to me, was basically “bear tank” in the MMO sense. I’m not sure that’s a compelling vision, but it’s the first thing that sprang to mind.

      1. Brandes Stoddard

        Also wik, the fact that you get a new pool of hit points that replaces your old pool of hit points (unless there’s overflow) means that you interact a bit oddly with hit point threshold spells.

        1. Rob Donoghue Post author

          True, though I suspect there’s a general ruling somewhere (or will be).

          Also, took a quick look at the feats, and while there aren’t a lot for the Bear Druid, I think the Sentinel feat is going to be a must have for most of them.

          1. Brandes Stoddard

            The pool of options is nonzero, definitely. Charger does some amazing things when combined with the various Pounce attacks. Individual DMs get to rule on whether Defensive Duelist and Dual Wielder apply to the claws of high-Dex forms. Likewise Great Weapon for big bitey types? Okay, now that I’m actually looking at it, it may be a kinder environment on feats than I thought, even without creative reinterpretation – Martial Adept and Savage Attacker are fine family fun. Tough might need a clause to let it apply to creature forms.

            Anyway! Thanks for the conversation about this.

  2. Rob Donoghue Post author

    Important realization about damage overflow – it specifically prevents the “turn into an elephant 500 feet up” attack.


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