D&D General Druid, Ranger & Barbarian: What distinguishes the magic of the Primal classes?

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Not really. They can use a Druidic approach, which includes Fey, elemental, spiritual, barbaric (not really a thing), and even draconic power, and dominant is not part of the fiction of the class at all, and codependent is not a term people describe magic with. Science I’ve already replied to. Religious is only there in terms of D&D 5e continuing the nonsense tradition of making nature magic Divine, same as the Druid.
That's like your opinion, man.

The Drake Warden and Fey Wanderer explicitly states that their magic can come from something other than a Druid. A dragon or fey respectively.

And seeing that a ranger is not barred from taking beasts and plants as favored enemies, there could be rangers who hate beasts and plants while still having nature magic making them unlikely to be taught the Druidic path to Primal magic.

And if you follow the inspirational characters of media for rangers
  • Aragorn
  • Dar the Beastmaster
  • John Snow and his "siblings"
  • Aquaman
a ranger's connection to nature could be a bloodline trait and have nothing to do with Druids.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
That's like your opinion, man.

The Drake Warden and Fey Wanderer explicitly states that their magic can come from something other than a Druid. A dragon or fey respectively.
Hmm, let’s fact check that.

“Your connection to the natural world takes the form of a draconic spirit, which can manifest in physical form as a drake.”

Fey Wanderer simply makes no mention of the natural world, but Fey and Nature are pretty closely tied in D&D anyway. That’s why people treat the Oath Of Ancients Paladin and the Archfey Warlock have both stuff that makes for nature and stuff that makes sense for Fey, and Dryads are Fey.

So, rather than what you said above, one of those explicitly says you can summon a draconic spirit as a result of your connection with nature, and the other simply doesn’t mention nature.
And seeing that a ranger is not barred from taking beasts and plants as favored enemies, there could be rangers who hate beasts and plants while still having nature magic making them unlikely to be taught the Druidic path to Primal magic.
This is a weird stretch.

I’ve never seen anyone understand favored enemy: beasts as hating beasts. It’s just being very good at hunting beasts.
And if you follow the inspirational characters of media for rangers
  • Aragorn
  • Dar the Beastmaster
  • John Snow and his "siblings"
  • Aquaman
a ranger's connection to nature could be a bloodline trait and have nothing to do with Druids.
Aragorn had to learn his craft, Dar isn’t especially rangery, and John Snow and Aquaman just aren’t Rangers.

The only part of Aragorn’s abilities that is from his blood is longevity, and commanding that army of dead men who owe his grandpa a solid. The rest he learned in Lorien and Rivendell and amongst the Dunadain who are his kin.

Even the Athenas plant (kingsfoil) is just a name of a healing plant that has a folkloric and mythohistorical association with the line of Elendil who are the rightful kings of Gondor and Arnor, and who brought the plant from Numenor. The idea that it’s more potent in the hands of a king is just folklore, and as a story element it’s more important that the Dunedain are the only Men who remember that it’s useful.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It's nice when someone else says what I'd like to convey, but I'm not sure I have the right words or line of thought for.
To be clear, I’m not saying that Rangers shouldn’t have better usage of their unique supernatural abilities, I’m just saying that the lore explanation for thier magic is that it’s the same kind of magic as Druids, and many rangers even learn it directly from Druids.

I want them to make Natural Explorer more supernatural and more potent, for one thing.
 

Rocker26a

Explorer
To be clear, I’m not saying that Rangers shouldn’t have better usage of their unique supernatural abilities, I’m just saying that the lore explanation for thier magic is that it’s the same kind of magic as Druids, and many rangers even learn it directly from Druids.

Oh sure, the latter's my main point with this, and I definitely agree with the former. That Rangers should have better usage of their unique supernatural abilities, rather.

I want them to make Natural Explorer more supernatural and more potent, for one thing.

Me too, though part of me thinks they might have an easier time writing a table of strong and thematic class features, if they'd just start properly from scratch. No more "what can we make Natural Explorer do slightly differently this time?", "how can we remix Favoured Enemy, should we make it Hunter's Mark Lite again somehow?" etc., just work from a bare chassis. Maybe that'd hurt more than it'd help in reality, but. I feel like it might have merit? Obviously they're probably not gonna do either, but. It's a thought at least.
 
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Shadowdweller00

Adventurer
The way I run things in my games is that Druidic magic involves invoking a variety of natural and elemental spirits to perform various tasks. There's kind of a blurry overlap between natural and divine spirits, and some druids worship nature gods or god-like natural spirits that are capable of convincing lesser spirits to work for them. There are various druidic sects that venerate one set of spirits (or even singular entities) over another, but they tend on average to be very animistic.

Druids specialize in this sort of magic.
Rangers pick up a bit of it, but many of their abilities are simply non-magical training that seems extraordinary.
Barbarian abilities are mostly non-magical, though some (like the Totem Warrior or Storm Herald) pick up some druidic-style tricks. Other barbarian types might make use of magical abilities that aren't actually druidic at all.

None of this requires veneration of these spirits per se - it's entirely possible for a ranger to use nature spirits entirely as a tool or something to be manipulated, for example. But the spirits usually respond much better to genuine respect, faith, and politeness; it's usually easier to connect or commune with spirits under these circumstances. And it's possible to offend the spirits (causing temporary loss of druidic-style magic) if they are mistreated. So it's far more common to find Druids and Rangers that legitimately hold the spirits they interact with to be sacred / special / respectworthy, rather than merely being a tool to be used.
 
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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Hmm, let’s fact check that.

“Your connection to the natural world takes the form of a draconic spirit, which can manifest in physical form as a drake.”
Read the Drake Warden origin table.

  1. Study of dragon scales.
  2. Study of dragon lore
  3. A dragon gave you magic
  4. You drank dragon blood
  5. A magic dragon stone
  6. A crazy dream
Fey Wanderer simply makes no mention of the natural world, but Fey and Nature are pretty closely tied in D&D anyway. That’s why people treat the Oath Of Ancients Paladin and the Archfey Warlock have both stuff that makes for nature and stuff that makes sense for Fey, and Dryads are Fey.
Fey and Nature are tied. The point is they are not the same. That's the whole point of @Rocker26a 's thread.

To figure out how rangers, barbarians, and druids's magic is different magically.

Rangers can have magic powered by Fey and Dragon lore. Druids do not.

A feypact Warlock doesn't cast druidic magic or primal magic right. It's Arcane magic. Because in D&D, fey magic is arcane magic. Nature themed arcane magic.
And draconic magic is arcane as well.
And in 1e, rangers had straight up wizard spells. And in 2e and 3e, rangers have some spells that they only shared with the arcane classes.

This is why lorewise, Rangers having Spells Known made most sense. Because Rangers are travellers. They picked up spells from their travels. Some from their master. Some from a friendly fey. Some from an allied dragon. Some from their party Wizard. The problem was that the Spells Known was too low and WOTC printed 0 new ranger only spells.

Aragorn had to learn his craft, Dar isn’t especially rangery, and John Snow and Aquaman just aren’t Rangers.
Aragorn learn his craft due to his special heritage and was better at it due t his blood.

Dar. A warrior who can communicate with and see through the eyes on animals isn't a ranger.
Same with Jon Snow and Aquaman.

If rangers are just mini-druids, why don't they just get every low level druid spell? And why do rangers routinely across every edition with spellcasting rangers have some unnatural or civilized magic?

Arcane magic has at least 3 paths into it.
Divine has at least 2.
But Primal only has the Druidic path?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Arcane magic has at least 3 paths into it.
It’s all arcane Spellcasting. Sorcerers don’t even channel raw magical energy in D&D they just inherently know arcane spells. The same arcane spells wizards can learn. Warlocks get hacks and shortcuts to those same spells so maybe they stand apart, and I guess you could say artificers aren’t even necessarily really casting spells in the fiction, but if they are they are casting arcane spells they prepared and cast using the same components and levels and casting times as a wizard.
Divine has at least 2.
unless you mean 1. Cleric and Paladin, and 2. Sorcerer and Warlock subclasses, I don’t see how there is more than 1.
But Primal only has the Druidic path?
Yes. The two are directly synonymous.

Like other magic, you can only focus on so many things, and so you get different primal classes, but they’re all doing the same magic when they cast spells.
 

Shadowdweller00

Adventurer
The issue is that IMO there is zero mechanical or thematic need to have these classes practice different types of magic. In fact, I am of the opinion that it is entirely better for worldbuilding if they do not. The classes each represent different regimens of training, each with their unique foci, customs, and biases (or more accurately different ranges thereof).

In the real world we have a host of professions that have significant overlap in knowledge and education base, but nevertheless distinct roles. For example Doctors, Nurses, and Diagnostic Imagers (e.g. "rad techs") all study medical knowledge. However, doctors focus on diagnosis and treatment of disease processes, nurses focus on patient care (mostly), and diagnostic imagers focus on imaging relevant parts of the human body.

Ymmv, but.... fey are the most iconic of nature spirits. And share common mythical roots with real world druids. Your assertion that fey magic is somehow not druidic seems fairly nonsensical to me, particularly given the number of fey-themed druidic subclasses and abilities. Warlocks, of course, practice arcane magic - but that could as easily be using a slightly different approach to accomplish the same thing. We already know there is some overlap between divine and arcane magic, as bards cast arcane variations of divine spells like Healing Word. I also have no problems with a sect of druids devoted to dragons. I might even have created such a thing in the past. Several dragon types classically have naturalistic abilities in fact.
 
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Shadowdweller00

Adventurer
If rangers are just mini-druids, why don't they just get every low level druid spell? And why do rangers routinely across every edition with spellcasting rangers have some unnatural or civilized magic?

Arcane magic has at least 3 paths into it.
Divine has at least 2.
But Primal only has the Druidic path?
Because the classes focus on different things. Druids have a broader and deeper conceptual understanding of druidic magic (e.g. more formal education about it possibly or theory vs vocational training); whereas rangers are much more focused on armed physical fighting and hunting techniques.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Alright alright alright fine

Druids - These are the Voice of Nature. They can also be it’s terrible wrath, but on a day to day, they are connected directly to the Land, Moon, Wild Fire, etc in the context of how those things are part of Nature. Some serve gods like Silvanus, while others revere the land itself. Their magic is the magic of someone whose entire being IS the Power of Nature.

Rangers - Their magic also comes from the land, from nature itself, but they do not focus on it nearly as much. Instead they express reverence for nature by prowling and striking from the shadows like a predator, knowing the land as a friend rather than making it part of themselves as the Druid does.

Where is distinguish them more would be to give them animalistic or even supernatural senses, in addition to the climb speed, ignoring difficult terrain, ability to move soundlessly and hide from natural sight, etc, and the ability to share these abilities in some part with allies to make the team better.
Also the ability to understand beasts and creatures of the plant type.

Barbarians - Counter to a lot of folks, I’d give Barbarians a little more supernatural juice in the base class. But, since that drives a decent chunk of folks up the wall and back, I’d probably compromise and at least make it soemthing you could choose from a list that includes purely martial stuff as well.

But, the Barbarian would be purely rituals.


I’d also give the Barbarian a pet subclass, and the Druid, but their pets wouldn’t be as powerful as the Ranger’s, because again, the ranger treats with nature as a friend and ally, and being able to befriend beasts is right in that wheelhouse.
 

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