5E [GUIDE] Thy Fearful Symmetry: A Circle of the Moon Handbook (original)

RCanine

Visitor
This guide is available on Google Docs.

This guide was originally posted on the Wizards of the Coast community, and was removed along with the rest of the content there. As a number of members here feel like its information is valuable, I will keep this post here. I'm new to the community and still figuring out the formatting tools, so please refer to the link above while this post is reconstructed.

The Circle of the Moon Druid is a fascinating class, because its mechanics come directly from monsters in DM resources, rather than an allotment of interesting class features. You combine the utility of a caster with the brute force of a melee fighter, although you generally can’t do both at the same time. For those interested in the class, this guide gives you some pointers on making smart choices.

Note that this isn’t a solely a combat optimization guide. It’s not about eeking out every last point of damage, or finding a gimmick that gets you through a Patchwerk-style fight in record time. The options I recommend will tend to shine in all three areas.

Contents:



  1. Introduction
  2. Class Features
  3. Ability Scores
  4. Races
  5. Forms
  6. Spells
  7. Feats
  8. Multiclassing

1. Introduction



This guide will use the following ratings:

Red is outclassed. Another option exists that is in all ways at least as good or better. Red choices aren’t necessarily valueless, however, and are fine to take if you really like them.
Purple is a substandard choice. It might be useful in corner-case situations, but overall it's not worth the investment.
Black is average. You're not hurting your character by taking this, and it might even help in some situations, but there are better choices.
Blue is a good choice. It definitely helps your character in the majority of cases.
Sky Blue is a fantastic choice. An option you should strongly consider above most others.
Gold is mandatory. It's a rare rating that denotes something that is so good that you must take it, or you can't call yourself optimized.

This guide doesn’t attempt to give you a full understanding of the Druid class, other builds, or RP options. For those you can refer to a generic Druid guide. This guide deals specifically with the Circle of the Moon Druid and its available options and synergies.

On sources:
All options are from the Player’s Handbook unless noted otherwise. Other sources include:

  • Elemental Evil Player’s Companion (EE), the PDF.
  • Monster Manual (MM), the published book.
  • Unearthed Arcana (UA), blog posts
  • Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (SCAG), the published book

2. Class Features



The class's mechanics are fairly straightforward:

  • At level 3, you gain the ability to take a stronger Wild Shape form than other druids
  • At level 6, your attacks in Wild Shape count as magical
  • At level 14, you gain a free use of Alter Self, although I’m not sure why you’d want it.

...and that’s it. The rest of your benefits come from the abilities of the increasingly more powerful creatures you can transform into.

3. Ability Scores



Your ability scores aren’t quite as relevant as other classes, even for your attack stat, so you have more license than other classes to be creative.

  • Strength gets replaced by Wild Shape. It’s useful only for multiclassing and skill checks outside of combat.
  • Dexterity gets replaced by Wild Shape, but powers your initiative and AC outside of beast form. Spare points not used for multiclassing can go here.
  • Constitution gets replaced by Wild Shape, but hit points are always good, and you may need to keep a concentrated spell up for a round or two between Wild Shapes. It’s even better if you multiclass into Barbarian.
  • Intelligence sticks with you in human form, and powers a decent array of skills, but gives you nothing else.
  • Wisdom stays with you in beast form powers your spell DCs and important skills Perception. Despite this, it’s still not as necessary as other classes’ primary stat. It gets better if you multiclass into Monk, but you can get away with a 14 in this stat at level 1 if you’re interested in getting creative with your race or multiclassing.
  • Charisma sticks with you through Wild Shape, but you won’t be making much use of it since you can’t talk while transformed. It’s not a bad place to throw some extra points, since it’s useful out of combat as well.
 
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RCanine

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4. Races



Although most races would line up directly around ability scores, this isn’t the case for us. The primary driver of your race should be story, and whether the race provides useful features in your beast form.

Common Races



Dwarf (Hill): Stats you like and bonus HP.
Dwarf (Mountain): Nothing you get from taking this subrace is useful.
Elf (High): Bows are a nice compliment when you’re not Wild Shaped, some of the Wizard cantrips are interesting out-of-combat, but this subrace doesn’t give you much that Wood Elf doesn’t do better.
Elf (Wood): Excellent stats, and all of the subrace abilities are useful. The obvious choice.
Elf (Drow): Nothing you get from taking this subrace is useful. The standard elf stuff applies here, but the racial features aren’t useful with Wild Shape. While it’s not a great Druid race, Circle of the Moon Druid is a great option if you’ve got your heart set on playing drow, since their primary drawback does not apply while wild shaped.
Halfling (Lightfoot): Although Lucky and Brave are good abilities, Halfling abilities that care about your size aren’t useful since you’ll spend most of your time large or bigger.
Halfling (Stout): Slightly better stats and even more resistances makes this an acceptable choice.
Human (Standard): You don’t need the stats. They’re fine, but there are better options.
Human (Variant): Feats are so powerful early game that this becomes a great choice.

Uncommon Races



Dragonborn: Uninteresting stats, but the other powers are useful.
Gnome: The defensive boost is OK, but that’s all you’ve got going for you with this race. The stats aren’t great and their powers aren’t useful with Wild Shape.
Half-Elf: Legit stats and a skill. Not bad.
Half-Orc: Although the stats aren’t great, everything else they have is useful in Wild Shape.
Tiefling: There’s nothing for you here.

DMG Races



Aasimar: Stats you’re looking for but otherwise unhelpful features.
Elf (Eladrin): High elves seem marginally better, but a teleport could be situationally incredible.

Elemental Evil Races



Aarakocra: Useful stats, though the flight and talons abilities are not allowed in beast form. Given that your wild shape requires level 8 before it gives you flight, and the CR of flying creatures is never greater than your level 2 forms, it’s safe to say that having resourceless flight from level 1 is absurdly powerful.
Gnome (Deep): Nothing wrong with these guys; their darkvision is useful and their saving throw bonus makes up for cruddy stats.
Genasi (Air): You can’t actually use the Mingle with the Wind trait while in wild shape, although your ability to recreate Sharknado means there might be some fun RP opportunities.
Genasi (Earth): Earthwalk and Pass Without Trace are interesting abilities with some good exploration potential, but they don’t synergize particularly well with anything you’re doing.
Genasi (Fire): Meh stats, spells you can’t cast in beast form, but some upside with darkvision and fire resistance.
Genasi (Water): Although the spells granted aren’t usable in beast form, they’re not really combat spells either. Water breathing and a swim speed aren’t the most exciting of abilities, but are situationally very useful if you’ve outleveled or just don’t want to expend one of your aquatic forms. And oh, hey, stat compatibility. Bonus.
Goliath: Once-per-short-rest damage mitigation is nice, and in mammoth form you could carry back the entire dragon’s horde and the dragon.

Unearthed Arcana Races



These are experimental rules. Ask your DM if you can use them. But they’re so underpowered that there’s no reason other than story to say no.

Changeling: Thought nothing could be worse than a tiefling? You were wrong! Shapechanger could be fun, but it conflicts with wild shape and the stats are both not helpful and underbudget.
Minotaur (Krynn): Decent stat bump, but I wouldn't let you use any of the horns-related features in wild shape. Circle of the Land would probably be more fun for a Druid Minotaur.
Shifter: I’m not going to go through all of the shifter subraces. They’re terrible. I’m not sure why wizards thought a once-per-short-rest ability was worth shorting this race in stat points. Notable exceptions are below. Whether shifting works with wild shape is up in the air, although if your DM rules that it doesn’t, these all go down to whatever color is worse than red.
Shifter (Longstride): You’re not going to have a lot of use for bonus actions, so the ability to run around a lot could have its uses.
Shifter (Razorclaw): While useful things to do with bonus actions are nice, the damage is not going to be worth the time you spend rolling the attack at higher levels. Gets a little better if you take a few levels of Monk.
Warforged: An AC bonus is useful to beast forms, but probably not so good as to short you of a stat point and all other racial features.

Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide Races



Dwarf (Grey): Almost exactly the same as Drow. Not much good here unless you’ve got your heart set on playing one.
Halfling (Ghostwise): A wisdom bonus and the ability to communicate under beast form turn a meh race into an amazing one.
Half-Elf Variants: Since nothing you gain is useful in wild shape, I’m going to rate this as strictly worse than the default option.
Tiefling Variants: There’s nothing for you here, unless your DM lets you have wings, but that would be silly.
 
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Yunru

Visitor
I'd like to point out that all the level 3 forms are actually level 2 forms, because you choose your curcle at second level.
 
Ghostwise halfling: don't forget the benefits of being Lucky! It's like +1 to all your attack rolls and saving throws.

And being Moon Druid mitigates the worst downside of being a halfling: slow movement speed and not being able to use heavy weapons effectively.

Plus, the flavor totally fits. From the SCAG description, Ghostwise halflings ride around on giant owls and do spooky stuff at night. I'd probably play one more like an Athasian halfling (minus the cannibalism? or not) than a hobbit.
 

faria

Visitor
Why do people hate on Forest Gnome? Those racials are incredibly good. DEX is useful to every class for higher Initiative and even AC in normal form. Druid keeps their mental scores in animal form, so you undervalue INT. Investigation rolls are common for a scout.
 
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bid

Visitor
Why do people hate on Forest Gnome? Those racials are incredibly good. DEX is useful to every class for higher Initiative and even AC in normal form. Druid keeps their mental scores in animal form, so you undervalue INT. Investigation rolls are common for a scout.
Because almost every race can do 10 14 14 14 14 10 and none of the gnome features are useful in wildshape.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I'm playing around with the concept of a Druid / Wizard (Bladesong). Looks like you can bladesong in wild shape for +Int to AC, bonus to keeping up a concentration spell case before wildshaping, a bonus to speed, and if going to 6th gets Extra Attack. Has access to Mage Armor, Haste, etc. Also, for when not wildshaped can use Shillelagh for an attack stat. Both Int and Wis are kept while wild shaped. Looks like it would be more Int heavy than Wis heavy.

The question is where can we afford to lose druid levels while still keeping viable wildshape forms for the types of foes the party would meet for it's level. Get to Druid 3 for Brown Bear & Dire Wolf, then Wiz 2 for bladesong, then soem more druid and then wiz 3-6, then finish up druid? How would you balance it to be playable with viable melee forms for every level?
 

RCanine

Visitor
I'm playing around with the concept of a Druid / Wizard (Bladesong). Looks like you can bladesong in wild shape for +Int to AC, bonus to keeping up a concentration spell case before wildshaping, a bonus to speed, and if going to 6th gets Extra Attack.
On my first reading I had concluded that you couldn't use the bladesong in wild shape, although in re-reading I don't see anything that explicitly forbids it. That said, I think a DM would be within his rights to declare a sword dance something your beast form is not capable of doing; I probably would.

The benefits themselves feel a bit lackluster to warrant the level dip; the concentration bonus is nice, but you get no benefit of stacking int outside of the AC boost, and you're pretty MAD, wanting dex, con, wis and int. I think both monk and warlock (always-on mage armor) would be superior, but it could work.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
On my first reading I had concluded that you couldn't use the bladesong in wild shape, although in re-reading I don't see anything that explicitly forbids it. That said, I think a DM would be within his rights to declare a sword dance something your beast form is not capable of doing; I probably would.

The benefits themselves feel a bit lackluster to warrant the level dip; the concentration bonus is nice, but you get no benefit of stacking int outside of the AC boost, and you're pretty MAD, wanting dex, con, wis and int. I think both monk and warlock (always-on mage armor) would be superior, but it could work.
It seems to me that the weakness of a number of forms is AC, so between Mage Armor and +Int to AC it would really shore up that weakness. If I can keep the wildshapes alive longer, the physical stats that are replaced seem less important. I don't even need Con for concentration saves while wildshaped since that uses the beast Con. And at that point it's only 4 more levels (of full caster even) to get Extra Attack instead of 5 levels elsewhere, if I want to go that route. And that would give 3rd level spells like Haste - so an attack with one big attack I could do 3 times (2 with Extra attack, 1 more for Haste.)

Thematically, all of the bladesinger styles are based off of animals, and uses a variety of weapons to match the animal's attacks, not just swords (SCAG pg 142 sidebar). Much like a monk can carry over it's knowledge of martial arts to help an animal defend itself better which no one questions, I wouldn't see a problem with this. But it's something to keep in mind, worth checking it out with my DM before playing.

It's not an optimal build, but I think it's a viable build. The problem is that I'm really relying on wildshape for combat, and with missing druid levels is that sustainable at the mid and high levels. Missing 2, likely. Missing 6, much bigger question.
 

RCanine

Visitor
Thematically, all of the bladesinger styles are based off of animals, and uses a variety of weapons to match the animal's attacks, not just swords (SCAG pg 142 sidebar).
Eh... viper style probably is as similar to the physiognomy of a snake as a hot dog is to an actual dog. Knowing how to eat hot dogs isn't going to help you herd sheep, but again, this is a DM's call.

It's not an optimal build, but I think it's a viable build. The problem is that I'm really relying on wildshape for combat, and with missing druid levels is that sustainable at the mid and high levels. Missing 2, likely. Missing 6, much bigger question.
I totally agree it's viable. I just think that there are more efficient ways to get mage armor, such as the magic initiate feat. I also think if you're going druid/wizard, bladesinger doesn't feel like the best arcane tradition unless your DM gives you an overabundance of short rests.
 

Lejaun

Visitor
I would think the hiccup with adding something like bladesinger is that it makes your need for stats go up significantly. You are now adding INT to the mix, and needing that INT to be high to get a noticeable benefit. I'd rather focus on having a high WIS, CON, and DEX over INT. It also seems to want to force you to take ASI more often instead of a feat due to the higher need of stats, which would reduce your options in builds.

You just have to weigh whether the added benefit of a bladesinger is enough to cover the added costs.
 
Eh... viper style probably is as similar to the physiognomy of a snake as a hot dog is to an actual dog. Knowing how to eat hot dogs isn't going to help you herd sheep, but again, this is a DM's call.



I totally agree it's viable. I just think that there are more efficient ways to get mage armor, such as the magic initiate feat. I also think if you're going druid/wizard, bladesinger doesn't feel like the best arcane tradition unless your DM gives you an overabundance of short rests.
If you're a Bladesinger/Druid, you don't need your DM to "give" you short rests. You just take them when you feel like it, using Rope Trick/Meld Into Stone/Leomund's Tiny Hut.

However, I wouldn't do the Bladesinger thing for two reasons: even one level of Bladesinger costs you your capstone; and the Mobile feat plus Earth Glide is better than +Int to AC, anyway. Opportunity cost is too high for the benefits received.

Also, wildshape and bladesong both consume your bonus action, which would get annoying.
 
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Also, wildshape and bladesong both consume your bonus action, which would get annoying.
Combat Wild Shape merely gives you the option to use a bonus action. You can still use an action if you want. Thus, you can activate both Bladesong and Wild Shape in the same turn.
 
Combat Wild Shape merely gives you the option to use a bonus action. You can still use an action if you want. Thus, you can activate both Bladesong and Wild Shape in the same turn.
Hmmm. I'm AFB. I don't suppose you could help me out with a quote here? Is it a "may" vs. "must" thing?

It will be nice if so. Would be one of only two cases I can think of in 5E where you can use your action in place of a bonus action--the other is the DMG variant rules for Overrun/Evade.
 

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