An Introduction to the Druid Class for Players New to Dungeons and Dragons 5e
Are you a little too into nature? Do you prefer hanging out with animals to spending time around other people? Have you ever wondered what animals or trees might have to say if they could talk? If this sounds like you, you’re going to want to hear more about the Druid class in Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition.
Side note: This guide assumes you have the Player’s Handbook for more detailed information, and is more intended to give you an idea of what this class can do. If you also need help with the process of creating your first character, click here first for my character rolling guide for new players.
Overview: One with Nature
A druid’s power comes directly from their communion with nature and their connection to it. As such, their class features and spell list heavily feature a natural flavor. Druid spells can cause plants to overgrow an area and restrain foes, heal and bolster allies, talk to plants and animals, call down the fury of the storm, and much more. They are at their most effective out in their elements, as some of their spells have better functionality in their natural environment.
The most interesting feature of the druid, though, is their ability to take on the forms of beasts with their Wild Shape feature. Wild Shape allows you to turn into your favorite furry friends starting at second level, taking on their physical abilities for the duration. This can be incredibly useful for situations from scouting (become a mouse!) to combat (become a dire wolf!). The best part? When you are knocked to zero hit points, you simply re-emerge in your humanoid form with the hit points you had when you first shifted.
A note about the class when you are choosing equipment: although you have access to medium armor and shields, druids will not use armor or shields made from metal. This limits your actual choices for armor at first level, but if you’re creative there are ways around this restriction (hint: if you have enough money or you can get them to really like you, an armor-smith might be willing to make a special order piece for you). If you feel strongly about your druid wearing metal, you can always talk to your Dungeon Master to see if they’ll let you bend this rule.
Role in the Party
Depending on the Circle you choose to follow, your Druid could fill a few roles in the party quite effectively. They are best as either a tank (a character focused on soaking up damage on the front lines) or a support (a character focused on healing and bolstering allies while hindering enemies).
A druid that follows the Circle of the Moon gains improvements to their Wild Shape feature, making them resilient in combat and more than capable of being on the front lines of a fight. This comes at the expense of their spell-casting, though, as you cannot cast spells while in animal forms. You can, of course, still cast spells otherwise – and it may be wise to open with a good spell before shifting into your animal form when a fight breaks out! Druids following this circle make very effective tanks, as they can shift into hardy animal forms and take punishment with very little risk.
Circle of the Land focuses more on the spell-casting side of the class, granting access to expanded spell lists depending on your home environment (arctic, desert, forest, etc.). With this circle, you can focus on the support side of the Druid’s kit. This isn’t to say you are required to play a support if you go this route, that is simply the role most clearly supplemented by your spell selection.
Looking Ahead: High Level Druids
At higher levels, you become a force of nature on the battlefield. High level druid spells can do things like call tidal waves across the battlefield, change the weather in a five mile radius, travel instantly between any plants you have encountered in the world, and bring allies back from death.
You will also see improvements to your Wild Shape feature as you level up, allowing you to use it more often at first and ultimately placing no limit on how often you can shift at level twenty. You eventually even gain the power to cast spells from your animal forms, erasing one of the only weaknesses of Wild Shape. Combine this with the ability to cast spells with your mouth gagged and your hands tied behind your back at the highest level in the class, and druid becomes one the most terrifyingly hard to kill classes in the game. Not bad for a tree-hugger.