The D&D Next Druid is a warden of the forest and a guardian of the creatures that live within it. They are members of a secret society, practising their rites while hidden away from the prying eyes of civilisation.
They seek to maintain the balance of the natural world and generally frown on aggressive colonisation, though their reactions depend on how militant they are.
More than just an ordinary ‘tree hugger’, druids derive power from their connection to the natural world and gain special abilities over time as a result. Eventually, a druid’s bond with nature grants him the longevity of the mightiest oak.
A druid learns to draw power from the land and they typically begin their careers with the ability to cast spells. They acquire a couple of cantrips to start with, as well as the ability to prepare a small number of low level spells.
Druids prefer to operate in secret and this is reflected in their use of a language unique to all druids. Teaching this language to outsiders is forbidden and the offending druid can expect severe sanctions from his order.
While they are not warriors, they nevertheless train to use armours, shields and weapons. However, druids face a special restriction in that they cannot use metal equipment (with some exceptions). If the druid carries a wooden staff, wand or rod, he can use it as a focus to empower their spells.
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
As a druid, your connection to nature allows you to assume the form of a relatively harmless animal. You take on all the characteristics of the animal, but you retain your own intellect, willpower and ego. You also retain knowledge of skills you are proficient in and can make use of them, provided you have the ability to do so as an animal – e.g. you cannot bluff your opponent, since you lose the ability to speak in your animal form.
That said, a mid-level druid will learn to speak while in animal form and those that reach the pinnacle of their careers as druids can cast spells while assuming the form of an animal.
You can eventually use this ability to alter your own appearance as a humanoid to resemble another individual of your own race. This can be a known individual or someone more nondescript.
By default, druids cannot change into more powerful beasts. They must be a member of a specific circle of druids before they are granted the ability to take the form of a mighty animal.
Lay of the Land
Druids who gather locally in one area typically form a local group called a Circle. Each circle has it’s own outlook on the natural world and it’s members practise their own culture and ceremonies. There can be many circles spread around the world, but each druid belongs to one of two circles.
The Circle of the Moon consists of militant druids that guard the deepest parts of the forest, driving away those who would trespass on the sacred woodlands. These druids can assume the forms of mightier animals such as wolves and panthers and as the druid becomes more experienced, they can shift into more powerful animal forms.
The Circle of the Land on the other hand are a branch of druids who have taken a more mystical path, forming a much deeper link to the land in order to augment their magic. All members of this circle can move effortlessly through the wilderness and are less susceptible to spells that manipulate plants to hinder movement. By mid level, you are rendered invulnerable to disease and poison and the mental influence from elementals and fey have no sway on you.
While a druid may be members of the same circle, their geographical location has some influence on the magic available to each circle of druids. For example, a druid of the forest will have access to magic that allows them to survive in the forest while a druid of the desert can better withstand the extreme conditions and create mirages.
Not the Only Pebble On the Beach
The one issue I have is why did the D&D Next Developers remove wild empathy as a class ability for druids? Instead, you must cast a spell in order to change an animal’s perception of you, which I feel is giving too much credit to the power of magic – something I’m personally not comfortable with.
It’s not beyond the realms possibility for a human to be able to earn the ‘friendship’ of an animal just by showing compassion. It has happened before.