Salutations, nerds! Today we’re going to be talking about druids in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons and I don’t know about you but I don’t tend to run into them as often as I do some of the other classes so brace yourselves for an adventure, because I’m learning a lot this time right along with you. Druids are the nature class. Devoting oneself to the wild is not a whim, it’s a lifestyle. I know in 5E D&D they kind of swerved away from this, but once upon a time druids were so devoted to the natural order of things they weren’t even allowed to wear metal on their person, so often you’d find them in armor made of bone or ironwood instead of steel. Druids are promoters of growth, defenders of the wild and they can even take the shapes of animals. With all that going for them, it’s a shame they don’t get as much attention as some of the other classes available. I mean, I get it, kind of. They’re not the best class mechanically, and you can always play an Oath of the Ancients paladin, after all. So today, I’m going to try to convince you (and convince myself) to go druid and give it a shot.
What makes druids so mysterious
I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of us probably love secret societies. I mean, why not? What’s not to like about clandestine meetings and secret handshakes? Druids kind of get that to the extreme.
That’s right, I’m talking about Druidic. Thieves cant, sure, but druids are more positive than that.
Nobody? Come on, that was funny! Ah, well, anyway druids have a secret language all their own that is only ever taught to other druids, complete with its own alphabet for passing along secret messages about the wild. In fact, people often use the Ogham (a written language from medieval times used as an alphabet for the Irish language) to represent Druidic in their games.
And basically it looks an awful lot like one line crossed with a bunch of other hash lines, and it’s pretty cool looking. I have to imagine the reason it gets associated with druids so often is because it’s easy to carve into a tree since there are no curves, just straight lines.
The trick is druids can read it, and let each other know about the dryad grove about a mile north of the trail, while other travelers might just wander on past it and never know it was there. Or blunder into it and come out with a lot of splinters. It’s kind of a 50/50 depending on the party in question.
Druids are as mysterious and unknowable as the wilds they tend to and protect. Which brings me to my next point.
Tranquility of the grove
Druids are very chill with each other. They are not so chill with outsiders. It’s hard to imagine a party of druids having much friction with one another because for the most part, being a druid isn’t about amassing personal power. They all share the goal of protecting the wild. However, a party full of druids is a perfect set up for nature vs. progress story.
When cities get too large and start pushing against the woods, cutting down trees and cultivating the wild, that’s when the talons and fangs come out. Mind you, I’m not in favor of completely villainizing progress, after all it is what’s good for the people for the most part, but that’s what makes this such an excellent basis for a conflict.
Neither side is inherently wrong, and this leaves you room to have a lot of moral dilemma and grey areas. It’s an excellent opportunity to really humanize the people of the settlement running afoul of their local druid population, and even though sometimes there won’t be any choice but to come to blows, there’s also plenty of room for compromise.
What the grove can do for your players
Ah, druids as villains. I should really say antagonists, because any way you turn it wanting to preserve nature is a pretty admirable thing to do. That said, like in the above example I can definitely imagine an adventuring party running afoul of some druids pretty easily. I mean, after all, we the players have a tendency to just roll through places with no regard to what our campfire is doing to the environment, and if a dryad decides it’s going to give us the smackdown we’re probably going to decide it was just eager to die and finish the job.
Not every party is going to run afoul of nature, especially one with a druid or a ranger in it, but it’s an easy enough matter to set the urban sprawl of a settlement against a druid’s grove and put your party in a situation where they have to either negotiate between them or take a side.
Imagine if you will a splinter cult of druids who want to promote overgrowth and become the aggressors. What if their goal was to bring the world back to nature and they eschewed everything man made? That would certainly become a problem after a while and it would be an excellent reason to use a lot of plant monsters.
So, have you ever used druids as antagonists? Do you play one? Have reasons why they’re awesome that you want to share? Please let me know in the comments below, and as always, stay nerdy!