Uh, anyone who has played D&D with me for any real length of time probably knows that I don’t like druids. I mean, there are a lot of things that I don’t like–of which druids are only one–but I have a lot of grievances with druids, beginning with their existence and extending into almost every one of their class features.

I had some thoughts this morning. I don’t know why I was thinking about druids in particular, I don’t recall what brought it on. But I had some ideas about how to make the druid class more palatable to me, starting with stripping spell casting from the core of the class and appending “circle magic” as an archetype.

Oh, I’m going to follow the 5e standard for classing/subclassing since that’s what my group’s playing right now, but I believe you could find an equivalent in 3e’s prestige classes or 4e’s paragon paths (if that’s what you want, anyway…).

Let’s start… anywhere. There are lots of reasons people play druids.

* One reason to play a druid is to change into animals.
* Another reason is to be a hippy. (Politically, anyway)
* A reason, I guess, is because the person likes plants and/or animals. (Kind of like being a hippy.)
* Some players want a “pet.” Usually a wolf. I mean, pretty much only a wolf.
* I mean, you could also really like nature? Or just be “all about life?”
* Some druid players are kind of hedonistic.
* Other druid players are like, really noncommittal. They should be playing a fighter, but either they don’t want to be a “soldier,” or they want to fight but don’t want weapons, or armor, or any of that jazz.
* Some players want magic that isn’t explicitly “work” (like wizards), or “hereditary” (like sorcerers), or involves “religion” or any kind of “covenant” (clerics, paladins, warlocks…). Like, they want magic but they don’t really want to work for it. They also don’t want it to be like, totally weird and random. They want “natural” magic. Whatever that is. Herbs I guess.

Part of my problem with the druid class is that like, all of these play styles are simultaneously legitimate even though some of them either, seem mutually exclusive or instead the player only wants like, ONE of those things, and none of the other stuff really supports the play style.

I kind of dig the 2e approach to like, a druid hierarchy that forces them to take on servitor druids and battle each other like immortals in Highlander. I also kind of dig the “sentinel” class published for 4e Essentials. It was a really solid, really basic class. I also really like the 4e Warden class, and I think it was criminally undervalued by the player base. Whoever was actually playing 4e besides me & my group.

I also kind of dig the like, historical approach to portraying druids. They were just “priests of the wrong religion” to a lot of the people who were writing history. So I kind of view druids as belonging somewhere between wizards and priests. They might be hermits, or they might belong to a circle. They probably hang out in nature with the plants and animals. But maybe they’re also kind of like the Avatar and can commune with the Spirit World?

I forgot to mention that I’m a fan of the “planar shepherd” archetype piloted by Eberron in the 3e days, where druids protected the natural world not just from civilization, but from incursions by like, Cthulhu and stuff. That made druids pretty bad-ass, in my opinion. Maybe the druid should have a connection with the Feywild, or maybe they should just have attacks that are “super effective” against extraplanar critters like I dunno, elves and stuff.

Finally, given the weird tenuous position between wizards and priests, maybe we should examine a relationship with monks? Monks kind of inhabit that space as well. Though I think it’s fairly easy to say that druids are “less fight-y” than monks in the traditional manner of say, fisticuffs.

As a final note, I’m going to enforce a little “separation” of types between clerics and druids: if druids are “one with nature” and “attuned to life,” and all that… clerics are NOT. Which is to say, no more “Nature” domain, no more “Life” domain, … no, that belongs to the druid. In fact, probably no more “Tempest” domain either. It’s “too natural” for clerics. Those domains encroach on the druid’s space. Also, clerics have too many choices. Go praise something else.

Oh, uh the paladin shouldn’t have that nature’s defender thing either. That’s going to be retrofitted to the druid. Nobody plays anything other than “Devotion” paladins anyway. Go praise something else.

Here we go:
* Probably the same skill, save, and weapon/armor proficiency as before.
* No natural spell progression though, druids only get spells if they take the “circle magic” archetype at 3rd level.
* At 1st level, the druid chooses a “kingdom” to swear fealty to: plants or animals. If they choose plants, they gain the equivalent of shillelagh and barkskin at-will. If they choose animals, they get an animal companion, natch. Later on, maybe we have other kingdoms like the moon phases/stars or the four classical elements (even though that’s alchemists).
* At 2nd level, they get wild shape as before. It’s a pretty hefty class feature.
* At 2nd level, I’m kind of thinking a druid might get something like a warlock invocation. Something that’s designed to expand on the basic features of their plant/animal kingdom fealty, or their wild shape. Not sure yet. But druids are really customizable and I don’t want them to just GET everything (the way they have in some editions).
* At 3rd level, the druid chooses their archetype. If they choose “circle magic,” they start down the path of a traditional magic-using druid of previous editions. In a lot of ways, this progression will match the quality & quantity of like, the paladin/ranger or fighter/rogue (as eldritch knight or arcane trickster).
* Probably the “moon” or whatever druid archetype still does what it does. Also, the druid can choose to be the “nature’s avenger” or whatever the paladin archetype was. “Ancient’s Oath,” I think. This will build upon whichever “kingdom” they swore fealty to at 1st level.
* Beginning at 7th level (I think), I would give the druid a ritual-like use of the revivify spell they could use between short rests. This way they don’t have to prepare it and they can always use it at least once per day. This might be inherent, or it might be an “invocation.” (See above)
* Beginning at 9th level, I would give the druid a ritual-like use of the reincarnation spell. I might limit this to like, once a week? Again, this might be inherent, or it might be an “invocation.” (See above)

There are a slew of “miscellaneous” magical effects that are generally afforded to casters as choices that I might give a druid as freebies here and there. The kinds of spells that would be super-useful if you didn’t have to prepare them. I see the druid’s role as being like, the “party guy,” and maybe they should be able to perform Heroes’ Feast as a ritual, and purify food and drink as a regular function of the class. Honestly, these might work best as druid invocations, as long as you can get around the fact that EVERY WARLOCK TAKES AGONIZING BLAST YOU STUPID.

I want to build in some “spirit world” powers, but I don’t know what they might be yet. Go go magic Avatar State! (Hey, there’s an idea…)

I’m kicking around an idea of a “pool of healing” like what the paladin has, maybe even just TAKING Lay on Hands from the paladin and giving it to the druid instead. I get that paladins are a Christian warrior, and lay on hands is… “Christian,” but seriously… historical druids, shamans, and related traditions are older than Christianity. “Faith” and folk healing is way older. Move over Christian warrior, get your own super powers.

I’m gonna give it some more thought. Maybe sketch out some more level progression.