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!
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