Friday, April 1, 2022

D&D Class Breakdown: Druid

For new players, it can be hard to choose your first class. For veteran players, it can be hard to choose a class and not fall into stereotypes everyone's seen a thousand times. So now I'm going to deconstruct the 5E Player's Handbook classes (Sorry Artificer, you'll come later) and talk about what works, what doesn't, and some interesting ways to play the classes. 

I won't be going into game mechanics as much as I'll be going into roleplay. 

Let's talk about Druids! 

What is a Druid? 
Originating in northern Europe, the druids were an esoteric order of clerics, sages and holy men who revered nature. Believed to be responsible for ancient monuments like Stonehenge, the druids ruled early Europe until the encroachment of Christianity in the early 1200s. 

Despite their absorption by early Christians, several druidic traditions have survived till modern day. Ever wonder why we have a Christmas tree when they make no appearances at the nativity? Druid winter solstice tradition. Why is Halloween sometimes called All Hallow's Eve? Druid new year. Why is the Easter Bunny a thing? Druid fertility ritual.

Druids are cool. 

In the Game
Druids in Dungeons and Dragons are the sworn protectors of the wild, wherever that may be. They guard vast areas of untamed wilderness, from mountain ranges to deep oceans. Their communion with nature gives them magic to control plants, animals and the elements to their whim, even being able to shapeshift their bodies into more primal forms at will. Earlier editions require them to eschew forged iron in favor of naturally formed weapons. 

Most druids in game are based out of forest regions, some species of elf, and are either militant defenders of nature or free spirited hippie children. Mostly these tropes sidestep the problematic issue that may come up by playing a druid, that being their ties to paganism and the negative light Christianity tends to shine on pagan beliefs. Druids in the game are usually played as more specialized magic users that look great in green than they are spiritual leaders. 

Because the game druid and the historic druid are usually only vaguely connected by name, problemization is rare on the ground. Druid orders do still exist to this day, so sensitivity should always be adhered to for those in the group who may keep to the old ways, but as long as players aren't mimicking direct druidic practices they're usually safe from offense. 

Breaking the Trope
The PETA/Love child trope is fun and is not offensive, but as usual here are some ideas for some different ways to play the druid to change it up in the game. 

Primal Druid
The archetypical druid is usually either played as having an average knowledge of civilization or a naivete to how civilization works but what if in connecting to the wilds the druid lost their connection to civilization and became more of a primal entity? Think along the lines of Tarzan or Mogoli, where the druid doesn't see themselves as an elf or a human but now sees themselves as one with the natural forces, and has no interest with  being part of the civilized world aside from their occasional collaborations with other heroes to accomplish their own greater good. 

The Evil Druid
The druid sees the destruction wrought by civilization and has taken it upon themselves to erase this plague from the earth, as they would any invasive species. Probably better for a BBEG in a campaign, the evil druid has a lot of mileage to be explored as a character. Will adventuring let them see the good in civilization, or will the bard's antics be what sets the druid over the edge? 

Druid of the Desert/Mountains/Jungle/Ocean/Beach/Plains
Like I said earlier, most players put druids home somewhere in a disingenuous forest, possibly because of the origins of the real life druids in Europe. While that's fine, there are still so many other biomes the druid could be the protector of. It should be noted that you may want to find out where your game is taking place so that your ocean druid doesn't end up spending the entire campaign in the mountains and becomes beyond useless. 

Druid of the Underdark
Forgotten Realms fans are aware of the vast network of interconnecting caves that form the Underdark, a place of untold horrors and where danger waits around every corner. What if a druid decided to become a master of this subterranean nightmare, cultivating giant spiders like some druids do wolves? While this might seem like a dark character a true guardian of the Underdark wouldn't care about politics, just the simple justice bestowed by those too foolish to survive. 

Famous Druids

Keyleth (Critical Role)
Of course we've got to throw in the Critical Role shout out. Keyleth explores the world as part of a ritual to become the chief of her tribe, learning to master the elements along the way. Her actress Marisha Ray says that she wanted to base a character after Avatar: The Last Airbender and came up with her elemental mastery as an homage to Avatar Aang's journey. 

Beast Boy (Teen Titans)
The beloved green changeling has a special affinity to animals, and therefore respects and tries to protect all the animals he can. Beast Boy has even gone so far as to become vegan, stating "I've been most of those animals you're eating". His respect for nature and ability to transform into any animal at will makes him as much a druid as anyone else who claims the title. 

Poison Ivy (DC Comics) 
On the opposite side of Beast Boy's altruism is the deadly Poison Ivy. Having access to the Green, an energy that encompasses and controls all plant life, Poison Ivy wages war on those who would try to harm her beloved plants. She's the evil druid archetype I mentioned earlier, only Poison Ivy doesn't care   as much about animals as she does for flora. 


Check out the other D&D Classes as well: BarbarianBardCleric, Fighter

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