D&D (2024) Thoughts on Druid class

Yaarel

He Mage
Druid Love

I am happy with the direction the playtest Druid is moving.

My main experience with the Druid class is an old school Druid (playing one for my friends homebrew blend of 1e and 2e) and a 5e Druid. Druid is my favorite old school class, probably the best example of a "gish", a fullcaster mage that is competent in melee.

Because the oldschool wildshape happened at a high level 7, I dont especially associate the Druid class with wildshape. But it is there among the later options. For me, the Druid is the fullcaster that is comfortable in combat, whose flavor is to attune the lifeforces of nature.

However, at the highest levels, about 9 and up, my Druid adventured away from the wilderness to adapt into an almost exclusively elementalist Druid. Along with the standard Druid elemental spells, I was able to "Spell Research" several new elemental spells, thus covering Earth and Fire well, and dabbling in Air and Water. The character reached level 18 as a 1e Unearthed Arcana Hierophant, but was already elemental long before then. This character is still alive.

For me, the 5e Druid feels awkward. It includes some of my favorite flavors, from berserkr shapeshifter to elemental weather witch, and concepts in between like forest mage and earth elemental. But I find the 2014 5e combines these flavors in a way that is self-conflictive conceptually and mechanically. I havent gotten into the 5e Druid because of a lack of synergy.

The playtest Druid seems like it can unlock the 5e Druid for me.


Channel Nature

The playtest Druid is a breakthru: Wildshape is now a Channel Nature option.

(I would call the class feature "Attune Nature", because the character becomes nature, rather than channels nature. Channeling is more a Cleric theme. Becoming is a Druid theme.)

By any name, the player can use the Channel Nature for "various magical effects", not just Wildshape. "Healing Blossoms" and "Wild Companion" are alternative uses. The Channel Nature is a breakthru because it can solve the my problem with the lack of synergy. I can more completely decide what kind of Druid I want to be, and then emphasize which Channel Nature best fits my character concept. The flavor of a weather witch is quite different from the flavor of a berserkr shapeshifter. To build a specific Druid concept, it is just as important to be able to remove a flavor, as it is to be able to combine separate flavors. The Channel Nature mechanic allows the player to focus on the chosen character concept, rather than get locked into unwanted features that distract from the chosen concept.

To combine all of the possible Druid features is a legitimate and appealing flavor. It reminds me of modern medicine that combines cyber engineering, rainforest herbal remedies, and animal DNA splicing. The premodern versions of this amalgam include various alchemy traditions and convoluted Celtic potions. So, the everything Druid works. But not every Druid should need to be everything. It should be possible for a Druid concept to focus exclusively on a specific concept, like shapeshifter or weather mage, or earthy mountain rock formation, with one flavor having nothing to do with the others. Choosing how to use Channel Nature makes it possible to specialize.


Druid Concepts

Conceptually, the Druid class can organize into following the themes.

Beast-Humanoid-Shapeshift. A Druid can be a shapeshifter. This shapeshifting includes Beast-like forms and Humanoid forms. The feedback from other forumers seems overall comfortable with a template, but needs to vary and finetune more templates to choose from. I think of the suggested templates as the five-guy band. The Humanoid forms are the Jock Guy. Strong Guy is the one-guy-army bear form or dinosaur form or so on that rips thru melee combat unscathed. The Smart Guy might be a Tiny Observer who can sneak to see what is going with heightened senses but cannot take damage or spellcast. The Rebel Guy might be a fast and agile skirmisher. The Heart Guy inspires, whether adorably cute or with a terrifying roar, and might work well as a spellcaster. At higher levels, the Druid should use any of these forms to fly, waterbreathe (or not need to breathe), or so on.

A cool part of the playtest, the Wildshape can blend one, two, or more animals. The explicit blending for the Wild Companion should apply to any Wildshape form too. The blend flavors a mythic quality, like a mythic draconic blends snake-eagle-lion or snake-bat-wolf, as well as the blends of many other mythic creatures. A blend is both natural and inclusively preternatural. More than one animal, the Druid is any and all animals. In practice, the fluid blendings can shift from one animal form into an other animal form to give a mercurial vibe, like in the movie The Thing. The shifting explains why a rhinoceros in one moment climbs up a wall in an other moment. Even in ones own Humanoid form, a Druid should be able to exhibit harmless beast features, like the appearance of wolf ears or snake eyes, or some residue of whatever form the Druid took last. Because the Wildshape is utilizing a set templates any way, that are familiar and balanced, I would like high-level Thousand Faces feature to be able shift into any of these Beast-like or Humanoid forms at-will, including the ability to impersonate a specific Humanoid or Beast.

Air-Water. This is where the elementalist aspects of the Druid come in. Air-Water is the weather witch, combining aspects of airy wind, thunder and lightning, cold water, snow, and ice. This kind of Druid should use Wildshape to transform into an Air Elemental or a Water Elemental, or both simultaneously becoming a storm. Even the Wild Companion should be an Elemental form, rather than a Beast-like form.

Earth-Fire. The earth-fire mage is a maker. Walls of stone spring from the ground forming exquisite towers, armors of metal condense into perfectly tailored shapes, crystal palaces, gems, swords. Also raw natural forms: a towering mountain, a desert dune, a fertile soil, a volcanic eruption, a fiery inferno. A dabbler terraforms a new lake with its surrounding landscape and flora and fauna. The molten heat connotes the malleable shifting to forge any form. This Wildshape and Companion is any Fire or Earth Elemental, or both simultaneously. It is the kind of Druid that is especially metallic, potentially wearing fullplate armor rather than armorless or wolf skins.

Plant-Healing. Plant is more like a kind of elemental, albeit an organically living one. Plant combines all four elements via Soil, Rain, Sunlight, and Wind, and likewise becomes hard wood, fluid sap, burning fire, and bringing forth airy breathable oxygen gas. For me, plant "growth" connotes healing, especially wondrous regeneration. The wound knits together in a plantlike way via tendrils flesh becoming whole. Plant also connotes the ability to fissure and graft, to split into several creatures or merge several into one. The "spirit" of Plant as a kind of elemental might be the same thing as the Feywild plane. The Wildshape and Companion are Plant forms, resembling anything from a treant to an animate glossy wooden statue. Plant-Healing can also be a maker, sculpting buildings out of living trees, or objects of wood and fabrics and resins. Herbal remedies and toxins are without equal. Reallife wildfarming applies here, where the farm is a natural biosphere. A character traveling thru it might not even realize it is a farm except for a remarkable abundance of certain produce.

A Druid might be only one of these themes, or two, or all of these themes.



Druidic Language

Rather than a "secret code", I want the Druid Language to be a way attune with nature.

Animal-Shapeshift can communicate with animals at will.

Plant-Healing can communicate with plants at will. Perhaps the Sylvan of the Fey is actually the language of plants.

Air-Water and Earth-Fire can communicate with Elementals. In other words, these kinds of Druids speak the Primordial language telepathically, according its respective dialects of Auron, Aquan, and Ignan, Terran.

None of these choices of Druid Language are a spoken language. They are mental attunements with nature. The Druid can also communicate with any other creature that happens to know the same the Primordial dialect, or speak with animals, or Sylvan-plants. As long as both the Druid and the other speaker share this same language, either can initiate a telepathic conversation with the other.


Simple Weapons and Light Armor

I like the playtest Druid with simple weapon proficiency and light armor and shield training. Sometimes the weapon is a metal shortsword, sometimes it is a wood spear. Sometimes the shield is wood or metal. Sometimes the armor is wolf fur or snake skin. If a Druid specializes in Earth-Fire, I want to see heavy metal armor like fullplate, or even a crystalline adamas armor made out of gem. If an animal-shapeshifter, I want to see awesome exotic armors, including dragon scales, or naked weapon-deflecting skin, or bear fur growing from the Druids own body.


Channel Nature

Most importantly, I want the Druid class to allow the option to specialize in one theme, and ignore the other themes. The choice of which Channel Nature to take can mechanically allow this specialization to happen.
 

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