giant elk


Spent the weekend roaming the redwoods, lush with green from El Niño’s rain.

Redwood National Park, CA. March 2016. (Instagram)

Druid Week: Druids in the Game

As a DM:


Druids already have a huge part in most roles, so they don’t need much in terms of catering. A bard might need to feel more involved in a campaign, but a support druid can also provide utility, tankiness, damage… they can Wild Shape or cast a spell whenever they need anything! They are one of the most versatile classes in the entire game. If they need encouragement, give them a variety of challenges (as you should always be doing, really) to force them to take more creative problem-solving measures.


Make unique landscapes and environments for the druid. You don’t have to do it every time, but every once in a while feel free to go overboard. Floating midair land masses, waterfalls that flow upward, geysers of acid, an insect hive the size of a city… just describe some beauty shot that can really tug at the druid’s magic-strings. They will be interested in the unique plants and animals and magic there, which can influence how you populate such a land. Not to mention the other players will love such a wondrous place, too.


One thing a lot of DMs forget is to give druids a place to excel. Druids fall flat inside an enclosed dungeon. Give them space out in the open; in the wild. Give the druid some non-magical beasts to interact with. DMs always forget that regular threats like lions, tigers, and bears exist and with a druid, these often turn into roleplaying encounters rather than combat ones. Speak with Animals, Animal Friendship, Beast Bond, Beast Sense, Animal Messenger, Dominate Beast, Locate Creature, and Commune with Nature can all interact with beasts in some way. Beasts are everywhere if the druid is looking for them.


Another thing to keep in mind is plant life. I just did a whole two-part post about Herbalism as a more fleshed-out system for 5e. Part 1 is just a pipeline of dice tables to make up new herbs. The herb could play a minor role in a story or adventure, or it could simply be a useful tool that exists in your world. For instance, I once had some herbs with yellow flowers that would act as healing potions, but you could only eat them twice within 24 hours or you would get sick. Ever since then, the players could find those herbs elsewhere and have a unique source of HP instead of a boring old potion. Plus they have the a-ha moment of realizing they found something useful on their own instead of opening a chest and finding it there. Part 2 of the Herbalism Guide was more about how to use the herbs as potion ingredients, as medicine, and as spell components. If you want to go the extra mile or want ideas for what herbs could do, use it!


Just like clerics, druids can have supernatural senses that can add to the mood of an adventure. Imagine if you were a druid PC and the DM says “The druid senses something off about this forest. It makes you feel sick.” or “This jungle is in agony. You empathize with its pain, which feels like insects stinging you all over your body, and you can almost hear the wails of the trees.” Druids could make an Insight check to try and feel how a beast is feeling in the same way. It singles out the druid, identifies the problem as environmental corruption, and enhances the mood. What more could a DM want.

As a Player:

Get the Most Out of the Game:

Ask your DM questions about the flora and fauna and traits of the setting. When you travel to a new area in-game, be sure to cast Commune with Nature and get a lay of the land. This can add to the experience and provide vital information on targets for Locate spells, herbalism, and beast-influencing spells. Don’t be afraid to ask your DM for strange things that might not exist in the standard rules like “Can my druid think of any herbs that could cure paralysis in this environment?” The DM might find that intriguing and make it a plot point (making things a bit easier on the DM and giving you a potential solution to your problems to boot).

Don’t be afraid to request unique creatures to Wild Shape into, even if they aren’t in the book! I don’t see jellyfish in the Monster Manual but if a player asked me for it, I would just turn them into a Poisonous Snake with no land speed and 10 ft. swim speed, but maybe increase the poison damage a tad. And heck, who says there aren’t Giant Jellyfish in the realm of D&D? Use a Giant Poisonous Snake for that! You could easily reskin monsters like that, especially for cosmetic reasons. In the tropics? Turn into a Giant Parrot instead of a Giant Eagle. In the tundra? Turn into a Snow Hare instead of a Badger to better hide in the snow. In the desert? Turn into a Coyote instead of a Wolf. There are so many animals in the world, there is no excuse for creativity on your end as a druid!

Wild Shape:

Optimize the usage of your Wild Shape. Pick the right animals for the right jobs!

  • Mobility/Scout: Giant Elk, Deer, Hyena, Horses, Flying Snake, Giant Owl, Giant Eagle, Giant Badger, Ape, Panther, Giant Toad, and Giant Crab all have either fast movement or unique movement (fly, swim, climb, burrow).
  • Tackle: Lion, Panther, Allosaurus, Giant Octopus, Crocodile, Giant Constrictor, Giant Toad, and Giant Crab can all knock enemies prone or restrain them.
  • Poison Damage: Poisonous Snake, Giant Scorpion, Giant Spider, and Female Steeder (OotA) all have poison that can deal damage to those not resistant.
  • Sustained Damage: Wolf, Giant Crocodile, Tiger, Giant Boar, Ape, and Dire Wolf all deal reliable damage and have adequate tank.
  • Tank: Warhorse, Black Bear, Giant Constrictor, Rhino, Ankylosaurus, Whale, Elephant, Hulking Crab, Triceratops, and Mammoth all have a bunch of HP and AC.
  • Spy: Mule, Horses, Cat, Frog, Crab, Snakes, and Spiders are great at hiding and some have blindsight! Crag Cat (SKT) has Nondetection as well!
  • Thumbs: APES HAVE THUMBS. Which means that they can manipulate things other animals can’t. Also: You can wield your weapons while in Wild Shape!

Other tips: use summoned minions or your allies to help flank enemies while in Wild Shape. Cast buffs before you Wild Shape, make sue they don’t require concentration if you want them to stack, otherwise you can at least concentrate on one thing while in Wild Shape. If you are in a long dungeon with little to no rest,  save Wild Shape for big fights when the tank is worn down or save it for utility when the other casters are low on spells. Also for grappler beasts knock the enemies down before you grapple. Then they can’t move and when they break grapple they can’t get back up as easily!


Buffs: Druids are great for buff spells. Be sure to buff yourself before entering Wild Shape! ex: Enhance Ability, Faerie Fire, Longstrider, Barkskin, Stoneskin, Protection from Energy, Antilife Shell

Zoning: Druids have crowd control spells, but many of them control crowds through zoning. Take advantage of the fact that you are the largest influence on the surrounding environment. You get to change the battlefield to your advantage! These are big, flashy spells that make the druid fun. Use them to put obstacles in front of creatures to slow their advances, make it harder for creatures to dodge, provide cover for your party, or force enemies into a trap. “Oh there’s a Wall of Fire there I better go around it” [gets bottlenecked by ranged PCs instead of taking fire damage] ex: Wind Wall, Wall of Fire, Entangle, Plant Growth, Spike Growth, Flame Sphere, Sleet Storm, Insect Plague, Wall of Stone, Wall of Thorns, Bones of the Earth (such a cool spell)

Minions: In D&D 5e, most ACs are nearly the same thanks to Bounded Accuracy. So more attack rolls equals more damage. Minions help with this, and druids can get plenty using Conjure Elementals, Conjure Fey, Conjure Woodland Beings, and Conjure Animals! Not to mention spells like Awaken and Dominate Beast to get more allies.

Healing: Druids are good at healing. Note that Healing Word is a bonus action and has range, unlike Cure Wounds. Druids also get the Restoration spells and Reincarnate, which is less powerful than Resurrection and such, but hey it’s something!

Damage: Druids can output damage, mostly through their zoning spells, but also with some neat single-target spells. Note that Moonbeam and Blight are rare sources of Radiant and Necrotic damage, respectively.

Utility: Druids have utility. Various divination spells can break the game if you are clever. Several spells help you get where you want to go or get rid of enemy spells. Use them liberally unless you have a Wizard to lighten the necessity for utility spells. ex: Speak with Plants/Animals, Water Breathing, Animal Messenger, Pass Without Trace, Find Traps, Locate Object/Animals/Plants, Gust of Wind, Detect Poison/Disease, Detect Magic, Dispel Magic, Meld into Stone, Scrying, Tree Stride, Commune with Nature

Hey, look. It’s that Megaloceros giganteus portrait I started in April 2015… and finally finished.

Commonly known as Irish elk* or giant deer, M. giganteus lived in Eurasia during the Middle Pleisotcene and Early Holocene. It had the biggest antlers of any known cervid: it could reach up to 40kg in weight, and up to 3.64m across. In body size, it was similar to the Alaskan subspecies of moose, reaching on average between 540 - 600kg, with large specimens weighting 700kg or more.

It’s closest living relative is probably fallow deer (Dama dama)

*elk in British English is exactly the same animal as moose in American English. Don’t ask me why. Elk/moose live in Eurasia as well as North America, so it really doesn’t make any sens to me, but there you go.



It was a beautiful morning in the Hoh Rainforest. We woke up and had oatmeal with peanut butter for breakfast, then we quickly packed up our backpacks to hike out. As we wandered slowly through the forest we heard some noises in the bushes. Alix was the first to notice him. It was what I had been wanting to see for years, a Bull Elk about 50 yards off in the distance. He was partially obstructed by humungous trees but as he pranced away we could see his enormous size. The moment was too precious and I didn’t bother taking out my camera. I was just happy to be here. We waited about five or so minutes to see if he would reappear but he never did. We continued our stroll through the forest admiring the trees, mushrooms, banana slugs and droplets of rain. At this moment we were clueless to the fact that we were surrounded by a herd of Roosevelt elk. They slowly revealed themselves to us as we hiked through the forest. We were ever so quiet, moving in slow motion and rather delicately. If you weren’t paying attention to your surroundings you could easily not see a single elk at least until they were completely blocking the trail. When we finally realized that we were completely surrounded by we were in complete shock. It was just too cool.  Leaning just a little to your left or to your right  could reveal dozens of elk, that’s how hidden most of them were. We stood there in awe surrounded by babies, youngins and females. Then a massive bull elk lifted his head right in front of us, we were twenty feet away. It took my wife about a minute to even notice him because just one tree blocked her entire view of him. I slowly inched her over until she could clearly see him, then I took a few photos as he checked us out. As he slowly wandered away the elk bugling began. It was magical, a moment in time that I will never want to forget.

Northwest Adventure Post 01: Portland

Northwest Adventure Post 02: Mount Hood

Northwest Adventure Post 03: Hoh Rainforest 

So I just started a new D&D campaign and this is what's happened so far

- I’m a druid wood elf and my name is Crüd
- For a while I had a pet giant elk named Garbage
- Someone rolled to shit their pants. They got a crit fail and the dm just said they lightly farted
- there were giant weasels
- someone drank moonshine from goblins at 8 in the morning
- my highest roll of the night was to shit talk an attacking scorpion. It only slightly worked


California–  in the last month me and Sadie camped in the giant sequoias, hiked by Half Dome and swam under yosemite falls and under El Cap’ in Yosemite NP,  and camped our way up the coast.  We saw dolphins, seals, bears, elk and more, we were so damn lucky to have such a good trip

also tonight in d&d

our druid had cast conjure animal during a battle, and he conjured a giant elk or a moose or something, which he named Tiny Horton (because: moose, canada, tim hortons)
we went through all the combat, explored some more rooms in the castle, and eventually the druid wanted to stand on Horton to grab something higher up. which lead the monk to ask “wait, how big is tiny Horton anyway?” well… turns out “tiny” horton is actually A GIANT ELK, HE’S GIANT SIZED. HE’S FUCKIN 15 FEET TALL. HE TAKES UP 9 SPACES ON THE GRID.

the dm had to make the executive decision to make him only 10 feet since any bigger and he wouldn’t even fit in the hallway he was originally conjured in.

ok so cut to a little later: the only way up to the next floor is a five foot wide staircase, so tiny Horton had to stay behind until we found a way to get him up. the castle is crumbling and we came across a room where walls had fallen away and we could see from the top floor down to where we had to leave tiny Horton.

now…. this fucking giant elk is 1000 pounds. our barbarian wasn’t out of town and wasn’t able to play tonight so the only person with any strength is the dm’s NPC paladin, and she wasn’t going to be able to do it alone. so we start brainstorming what kind of spells to use to get tiny Horton up to us.

I proposed two tensers floating discs, the cleric was going to cast a combo of summon food and water (the same cleric as before, who used that spell to summon 30 gallons of water and 45 pounds of chicken nuggets to extinguish a very small, maybe haunted, fire) and water walking.
we’re throwing ideas around and the druid says to me, “wait, can you cast spider climb on tiny Horton?”

we were all stunned silent for a second before everyone yelled OH MY GODDDDDDD!!!!!

I went down to the lower floor, cast spider climb on this giant fucking 1000 pound elk who proceeds to walk up the wall, across the ceiling and David-Bowie-in-labrynth-style flips over the broken edge to the floor of the next story up where everyone was waiting.

this has been probably the most ridiculous night of this campaign.


Merlin is the Leader of the Druids but the Dark Elves from the Land of the Dargonelles hear about his power to talk to Dragons. The Dark Elves are looking for a way to conquer Camelot especially since Mad Uther last lay seige on their lands and people.

Merlin visits the Elves in their darkly gorgeous city built into the mountains. He drinks their wine not realizing he is being tricked. The wine is magical and the elves get control of Merlin’s mind and magic.

Prince Arthur had met Merlin many times in the Druid forests.Once Arthur found him talking to a Giant Elk. Arthur knew that Merlin was a peaceful man and a handsome druid leader. 

Arthur could not believe the rumours he was hearing about Merlin and his army of dark elves and monstrous dragons pillaging city and towns near the mountains. 

Could Arthur save the Druid he knew from the clutches of Dark Elves before Merlin’s soul disappeared leaving only Merlin’s image to embody the evil new King of the Elves?

Gandalf: This is all your fault, Thranduil.

Thranduil: What did I do?

Gandalf: You just had to be interesting. You just had to dress better than anyone else. You just had to have great hair. You just had to ride on a giant elk. You just had to speak with such a deep, sultry and resonant voice.

Thranduil: This battle is not about me.

Gandalf: Oh, no. Not the battle.

Thorin: Don’t listen to him, boys.

Fíli: I like his hair. Same color as mine.

Kíli: Listen to what, Uncle?

Thorin: Why do you look so much like me, Kíli?

Kíli: Lucky, I guess.


2 days, 28 miles, 60+ lb bag, 3000+ feet of elevation gain, hundreds of fallen trees, 1 peak, 3 national parks, 40+ hours of 100% isolation, 3 hours of sleep, 60mph winds, 95+ degrees, heat exhaustion, headaches, dehydration, friendly people, fantastic views, unfortunate selfies, mountain goats, almost getting smashed by falling trees, sleeping on rocks, being chewed on by giant squirrels. The Black Elk Wilderness gave me an experience like nothing I have ever done before, and it was one of the most awesome and terrifying things I’ve done in my life. I definitely recommend at least trying it once. (Part ¼)