D&D 5E Hack Your Druid: Alternatives to Wildshape

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
We just finished our Session Zero for my new campaign...it's a homebrew campaign setting based very heavily on The Seas of Vodari. It's a swashbuckling heroic adventure in the Age of Sail, in a world where Atlantis is real, dinosaurs never went extinct, and pirates rule the seas.

One of my players decided to roll up a druid, but he doesn't want to play "that same old druid everyone else plays." Specifically, he wants to get rid of the druid's Wildshape ability completely, and replace it with something else. When I asked him what he had in mind, he said "literally anything else, I hate Wildshape so much." Direct quote, no exaggeration. So obvs, I suggested one of the subclasses that would let a druid spend wildshape uses to do other things, like the Circle of Stars and its "Starry Form" ability, or the Circle of Spores and the "Awaken Spores" ability...but neither of them appealed to him. He wants to build a Shannara-style druid--one who is more in tune with the elements, feels more like a nature-based wizard than anything else.

In the moment at Session Zero, the first thing that came to mind (and which I quickly suggested to the player) is the Arcane Recovery feature of the wizard. Lose the ability to turn into animals, gain the ability to restore a handful of spell slots instead. The player shrugged and said something like "I guess that's fine, better than turning into something I'm not," so we tentatively went with that...but it was fairly obvious that nobody was really impressed with it. And for good reason, it's pretty friggin' dull.

So I'm fishing around for ideas that I might suggest to the player instead before the next gaming session. We are a clever bunch here on EN World, and I'd like to pick your brains. Does anyone have any ideas?
 

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Richards

Legend
Bearing in mind I'm not familiar with the 5E Druid or subclasses and know even less about Shannara druids, the following suggestion came to mind:

Instead of wildshaping into an animal so many times per day, maybe he can summon an aspect of nature that many times a day. This would be similar to a summoning spell, but the "creature" summoned (which could have pretty much the same stats as a normal creature of that type) would be a physical manifestation of nature created from whatever natural elements are available. So instead of summoning a black bear in a forest, the roots and vines of the forest vegetation weave themselves into the rough shape of a bear, which attacks as a bear but maybe has the relevant characteristics of a plant. Or in a desert environment, the druid summons forth a panther whose body is composed entirely of sand and rocks. And maybe in a field, a bunch of flowers and thorny weeds weave themselves into the semblance of a serpent. Once the duration of the summoning has finished, the creature's "body" reverts back to normal, with sand and rocks falling where they are and any living plant matter re-rooting itself back into the soil.

This image from the 3E Manual of the Planes is a good representation of what I was imagining:

1664736833103.png


As the druid advances in power, he becomes able to summon forth more powerful manifestations of nature.

Johnathan
 



Dausuul

Legend
The Wildfire druid is another subclass that has a Wild Shape replacement option.

However, I think it's on the player to offer some direction here. If somebody says "Give me anything other than Wild Shape," but then says no when offered a thing that is not Wild Shape... then clearly "anything other than Wild Shape" is false, and it's on him to say what he does want.

It doesn't have to be mechanically fleshed out, but if you can't get him to suggest--just in a general, conceptual way--what he wants his druid to be able to do, then I think it's a waste of time to blindly throw out ideas. Arcane Recovery is a perfectly sensible solution: If he wants druid spellcasting but doesn't want Wild Shape, then he gets more spellcasting.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I think I'd suggest not losing the ability, but just suggesting to him that he does not need to use it. For non-moon druids it isn't really that much of a combat ability. You can already use the ability to find familiar for a short period if he would like to get away from that idea. If you really want to get away from animals, allow the player to summon a mephit instead.

Wildfire druid is one option, as mentioned above. If they like the idea of summoning, but not the fire elements, instead replace their wildshape with 2 'pact magic' slots (like the warlock) that can be used to cast spells that summon the appropriate types of creatures for the theme they like - and for those spells to not require concentration.

Alternatively, if you want to get away from animals and summoning, I suggest giving them some 'life and death abilities'. In my homebrew, druids draw power through the spell weave directly from the Positive and Negative Energy Plane. Wizards steal from the weave, and clerics have power sent to them through the weave from divine powers ... but druids pull power directly from the life and death forces of the universe. This is a very evocative different in my setting that took druids from 'true neutral' to a blend of the extremes. It gives them a really cool feel. A simple version of this might be to give them abilities of the Undead or Undying pacts from the warlock instead of wildshape. It would not be overpowered to take away wildshape and give them all benefits of the pact.

Finally - reskin is an alternative. Don't give them wildshape, but use it as a model to give them the ability to alter their form in other ways. Maybe they can grow their body, gain bonus temp hit points, etc....

I had a druid a few years back that wanted to get into the evil side of druids in my world, so we replaced wildshape with 'deathform' which essentially allowed him to assume the form of undead humanoids instead of beasts - but we limited him to one use of each form he took once per level to avoid the risk of spamming overpowered options (and I have a lot of hoimebrew undead). The PC did not survive long (scouting is dangerous), but it worked while he did live.
 


aco175

Legend
Does the PC want to be more combat focused or spell focused?

You can have things like spectral claws come out and deal additional damage. Then it can get more powerful and a wind gust can fly him 60ft or push a bad guy. Think Avatar the cartoon instead of the blue people.
 

You could give him something like the chainlock's fighting familiar, since in practice they are mostly just extra good scouts. I would keep sprite and pseudodragon, and then replace the imp and quasit with a quickling and any of the mephits.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone! Keep 'em coming.

Would it be fine for them to pick any other class with the druid's spell list?

I could recommend Storm Sorcerer or Nature Cleric + primal spells list.

Or something like a Wizard + the Primeval Guardian ranger UA + primal spells. That'd be awesome, I think.
This was my first suggestion. I played a sorcerer who used the Druid spell list a few years ago, and it was a lot of fun. But no, the player is sold on everything about the druid class except for Wildshape. He likes preparing spells like the druid, he enjoys the druid class features and skills. And he's fine with just crossing off "Wildshape" on his character sheet and never thinking about it. I just feel like he's getting robbed a little bit, so I want to help him out a bit.

swap wildshape for absorb elements
So kind of woodland step?
Hmm....interesting. I should take a closer look at the Nature Domain and see if there's anything in there I could crib. Might also take a look at the Oath of Ancients pally.

However, I think it's on the player to offer some direction here. If somebody says "Give me anything other than Wild Shape," but then says no when offered a thing that is not Wild Shape... then clearly "anything other than Wild Shape" is false, and it's on him to say what he does want.

It doesn't have to be mechanically fleshed out, but if you can't get him to suggest--just in a general, conceptual way--what he wants his druid to be able to do, then I think it's a waste of time to blindly throw out ideas. Arcane Recovery is a perfectly sensible solution: If he wants druid spellcasting but doesn't want Wild Shape, then he gets more spellcasting.
When I asked him, he said he wants his druid to be more elemental than the D&D stereotype, and mentioned the Shannara druids as an example. (The druids in the Shannara books are more like non-arcane wizards, keepers of ancient lore and guardians of a place called Paranor. They use elemental magic, the signature example being something called the "druid fire.") So I'm starting with that one.

Does the PC want to be more combat focused or spell focused?

You can have things like spectral claws come out and deal additional damage. Then it can get more powerful and a wind gust can fly him 60ft or push a bad guy. Think Avatar the cartoon instead of the blue people.
Definitely more spell-focused. Elemental spells, in particular.
 

Mad_Jack

Hero
Here's a question that would definitely influence things - which Circle is he choosing? Does he know yet?
Since he's already got Recovery, which is the first feature of the Circle of Land, maybe you could give him their extra cantrip, as well. Or even have him choose a land type and get the bonus spells.
Or, get one of the basic features of one of the other Circles.
 
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DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
This is a good carry over from another thread:


Perhaps allowing a use of "wild shape" to allow spontaneous switching of element damage type?
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
This was my first suggestion. I played a sorcerer who used the Druid spell list a few years ago, and it was a lot of fun. But no, the player is sold on everything about the druid class except for Wildshape. He likes preparing spells like the druid, he enjoys the druid class features and skills. And he's fine with just crossing off "Wildshape" on his character sheet and never thinking about it. I just feel like he's getting robbed a little bit, so I want to help him out a bit.
The problem is that the capstone features of the druid and many features of the archetypes refer to wildshape.

Maybe replace wildshape with Natural Explorer from the PHB rangers? That + Land druid would be a fine geomancer/elementalist. Swap ''wildshape improvement'' for more favored terrains and remove the capstone to a feature allowing to be able to switch the extra spell list depending on the terrain where he finished his last long rest.
 

J-H

Hero
Ideas:
1) Companion similar to Beastmaster
2) As a caster-druid, the ability to concentrate on 2 spells at once, with some sort of level cap so that one of the two is lower level. One of the big things holding caster druids back is the number of good spells that require Concentration
3) Signature Spells (as the Wizard 18th level feature)
 


Dausuul

Legend
When I asked him, he said he wants his druid to be more elemental than the D&D stereotype, and mentioned the Shannara druids as an example. (The druids in the Shannara books are more like non-arcane wizards, keepers of ancient lore and guardians of a place called Paranor. They use elemental magic, the signature example being something called the "druid fire.") So I'm starting with that one.

Definitely more spell-focused. Elemental spells, in particular.
In that case, the wildfire druid seems like a good starting point. You burn uses of Wild Shape to call up a fiery spirit, which acts immediately after you and can either blast enemies or teleport you and your allies for short distances. (Actually it also blasts enemies when teleporting.)
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Here's a question that would definitely influence things - which Circle is he choosing? Does he know yet?
Since he's already got Recovery, which is the first feature of the Circle of Land, maybe you could give him their extra cantrip, as well. Or even have him choose a land type and get the bonus spells.
Or, get one of the basic features of one of the other Circles.
So far, he has his eye on Circle of the Land, Circle of Stars, or the Circle of the Deep (from Tribality's Seas of Vodari). I'm also going to suggest the Circle of the Elements (thanks @J.Quondam!) to him, after I've made a few tweaks.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
What about using the Wild Companion optional feature from Tasha's, and just allow the fey beast familiar to scale up using the Wildshape CR/movement type guidelines?
 


Lidgar

Legend
Combat Druid. Look at the Valor Bard but with the Druid spell list. Can add some of the elemental smiting spells from the Paladin list too.
 

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