Stars are Right with Circle of Stars from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted navigate the stars to map out a discussion of the Circle of Stars for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. Way back when we cracked the case on Mythic Odysseys of Theros before the book was announced this particular druid option provided the crucial clue. Despite the obvious connection to the Theros setting it wouldn’t arrive as official 5E D&D content until Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Let’s get into it.
Storytelling through mechanics of 5E D&D
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything includes three Druid Circles for 5E D&D. One of them — Circle of Spores — originally appeared in Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica and the other one is the Circle of Wildfire explored further elsewhere on the site. I am a huge sucker for cosmic themed stuff like the Circle of Stars presents and coupled with my general disinterest in the Wild Shape feature makes this option for druid players very exciting.
“What about the dark places between the stars? Don’t you realize that’s where the good stuff is?”— Tasha, in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
Worth mentioning is how Circle of Stars does not leave me with the same impression as some of the other subclasses from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. There’s a strong vibe reminiscent of a niche variety of tabletop RPG detected in lots of these subclasses but I’m not feeling it here. More than one piece of content in the book makes me think 5E D&D is transitioning into a storytelling game and I’ve explored this idea deeper in the context of the Fey Wanderer Ranger Archetype, Path of Wild Magic Primal Path and College of Creation bard.
Those feelings are not to be found from the Circle of Stars. This druid subclass looks much more in line with standard 5E D&D character options in the sense there’s wonderful flavor baked into the description and evocative features but the latter remains focused on mechanics. There are far less interpretive features offering players a sort of tenuous control of story elements under Dungeon Master fiat and more traditional and recognizable relationships between features’ effects on the game itself.
We’ve still got several subclass options from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything to go and I hope the remaining ones leave me excited to play them more as I felt with the Rune Knight and Fey Wanderer. You’ll have to keep an eye on the site to find out. In the meantime if you’re interested in the specific Circle of Stars features and love this kind of cosmic stuff as much as I do here’s the breakdown along with some commentary:
Circle of Stars features
- Star Map. Your journey to the stars begins with an astral chart of your own design, which also functions as a spellcasting focus while providing two extra spells — guidance and guiding bolt. This is such a strong start to the subclass! Incorporating a physical object, encouraging players to flex their imaginations for how it looks and what it means to the individual druid and then granting very solid spell options checks all the boxes.
- Starry Form. The feature that unraveled the mystery of Theros! The second I first read the descriptive text all I could think of was Dryad of the Ilysian Grove from Magic: The Gathering. Transforming into a cosmic entity with awesome choices for how these powers manifest each time the feature is used makes this terrific. Druids are already highly versatile and this feature lines right up. One encounter a ranged blast attack might be the most useful while in another encounter a boost to healing capabilities makes more sense and finally a buff to spellcasting proves clutch under different circumstances. All from one feature! Nailed it.
- Cosmic Omen. There is tremendous value in repurposing components of 5E D&D and here we see the augury spell adapted into a class feature (sort of). Leaning further into the Star Map feature this one allows a druid to glean incredibly useful knowledge by studying theirs after a long rest. What the druid learns from this consultation translates into a reaction available until the next long rest. Depending on the roll of a die this reaction might provide a kind of super bless in the form of a d6 bonus for the druid and any creatures they can see or conversely a kind of super bane for creatures in sight. And not for nothing but this has one of the coolest sounding names for a feature in official 5E D&D. (Have you seen the amazingly awesome stuff we come up with?!)
- Twinkling Constellations. On the surface this features doesn’t look too impressive only because instead of providing a snazzy new ability it improves on the Starry Form. However, boy does it improve. Various components of those abilities get a boost and more importantly the druid can now change which benefit their Starry Form provides at the start of each of their turns — for free!
- Full of Stars. Another upgrade to the Starry Form, this time in the form of resistance to bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage. This is a very useful benefit but at the same time while I was okay with the previous feature improving an earlier one now I’m a little disappointed. This feels a bit like the designers ran out of steam for one thing. For another it’s just not very exciting or all that good both considering it’s a capstone feature and in comparison with other Circles. Circle of Dreams provides several powerful spells, Circle of Spores grants immunity to a bunch of conditions, Circle of the Land provides a sanctuary like effect, Circle of the Moon makes the druid a shapechanger and both Circle of the Shepherd and Circle of Wildfire give a powerful contingency. Damage resistance akin to a 1st level barbarian via Rage? Kinda lame. Useful, sure. But not exciting. Way to aim for the stars, WotC. The feature even mentions incorporeality — now that would be something.
Circle of the Stars druids overall are a little weird and now that I think deeper about it this option shares something in common with some others found in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. The subclass is designed around a pretty specific theme and one or more features simply improve on an earlier one in lieu of presenting a different sort of ability. Because those earlier features incorporate further options I can give it some leeway. There’s also something to be said for streamlining the player experience by building on and improving a smaller suite of features rather than adding additional ones especially for a full spellcasting class like the druid. At the end of the day I’m a fan of the Circle of Stars. What can I say? I love cosmic stuff. For a more eldritch take on a cosmic druid you might dig our own Circle from the Beyond, which we designed along with adventure hooks and new 5E D&D monsters inspired by a legendary froghemoth and the cult who carries out their insidious plans over at the Dungeon Master’s Guild here. All our stuff there — 50 Character Build Guides (with new monsters too!), three encounters and Abalor the Abhorrent (where the Circle from the Beyond is found) are all available as Pay What You Want titles.
*Featured image — A tiefling Circle of Stars druid as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]