"History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man!"
- – Blue Oyster Cult, Godzilla
"I am the queen of every hive. I am the fire on every hill. I am the shield over every head. I am the spear of battle. Who but I am both the tree and the lightning that strikes it?"
- – The Butcher
Pre-christian Celtic priests often associated with nature and divination. And human sacrifice. Don't forget the human sacrifice. In modern times druidism has been revived under the new-age movements minus human sacrifice. In fantasy druids are often powerful magicians or cleric variants who get their powers from communing with nature, more like historical shamans.
They are a mysterious bunch. No one knows who they are, or what they are doing.
Druids in Real Life
The Druids were the priestly class of the ancient Celts. It should be noted that we know incredibly little about the original, ancient Druids, their practices, beliefs or religion. This is because they refused to write anything down, instead relying on memorization, something that they were very good at [this was actually a rather common approach to record keeping for ancient cultures, the ancient Indians (as in actually from India) had the same mindset]. Most of the information we do have on Druids comes from the Romans, who the Druids were enemies of, and thus must be taken with a grain of salt. The Druids were not just the religious leaders of the Celts either; they also functioned as the advisors to tribal leaders, were poets and entertainers, and even acted as legal experts, judges and arbiters in disputes. Training to become a druid could take somewhere close to twenty years. It should be noted that the druids were not exactly 'nature worshipers'/animists the way they are depicted in most fantasy settings; they had sacred groves of oak-trees that they worshiped at, but they were pagan priests, not shamans; they worshiped a pantheon of various gods, not spirits of the natural world. Their Roman enemies had similar mindsets and even similar religious sites revering the gods in the natural world. The Druids died out in Continental Europe once the Romans conquered Gaul, and later would be wiped out in England as well, only surviving in Ireland and Scotland and a few parts of Wales. Once Ireland and Scotland converted to Christianity, they died out there as well (the tale of St Patrick driving all the snakes out of Ireland is actually thought by some to be poetic hyperbole of him converting all the druids, since there's no real evidence snakes ever lived on that island in the first place), with one exception; Bards. Basically, one of the original duties of the druids was reciting, composing and memorizing poetry, laws, stories, and history, as well as advising chieftains and kings. Bards were a subset of druids that specialized in exactly that while ignoring most of the religious or ceremonial stuff. When the regular druids died out, the bards remained, even after the coming of Christianity, albeit reduced in status to pure entertainers.
Druids in D&D
Druids have long been a staple class of D&D where they are known for their shapeshifting abilities, being able to turn into various animal forms, and being hilariously broken in 3.5e. Using this ability might incur the Familiarity Question, so make sure to run this by the DM prior to playing a Druid.
Druids although (then) always statted as Neutral-aligned usually ended up tracking with "the good guys" since, even if their official thing is all about "preserve nature", the fact that bad guys in D&D tend to messing around with necromancy or summoning fiends tends to make for at least "enemy of my enemy is my friend" alliances.
This has led several designers to Restore Teh Balance and propose druidical antagonists. We mean, beyond making them werebeasts or undead banshees or some shit like that, those don't count. Read on.
Druids in BECMI
The Druid first appeared in the Companion Set for Dungeons & Dragons now-BECMI; here, it was a kind of prototype prestige class, rather than a class in its own right. When a Neutral aligned Cleric reached 9th level, they could make a decision to either continue as a cleric or to devote themselves to the powers of nature, becoming a druid. This presented them with a bunch of new character restrictions, mandating that they live in the wilderness and forbidding them from using metal weapons or armor. In return, they could advance from their starting level of 10 to level 36, and gained access to new spells castable only by druids, in addition to casting all of the spells they had learned as common clerics.
Druids in AD&D
Druids in AD&D are grouped under the "Priest" class, like the cleric, though this is similar to the bard, ranger, and paladin in that it has some very restrictive prerequisites to even enter the class: You need a Wis score of at least 12 and a Cha score of at least 15, you need to be True Neutral (unless you were a 2e priest of the Earth Mother of the native american pantheon, in which case you had to be Neutral Good), and you need to be a human or a half-elf - because apparently, elves are too much of a race of tree-huggers to harness the magic of nature.
As is now tradition, these druids are banned from using metal armor and most traditional weapons. They also gain access to a few spheres of influence with direct relation to nature (All, Elemental, Healing, Plant, Weather) with a minor dip in the Divination sphere (though the Player's Option: Spells & Magic splat removed the druid's access in Divination for full access to the Sun Sphere). They also lost the ability to turn the undead, but gained quite a bit: the ability to talk to creatures, and resistance to charms by animals. They gained the now-trademark "Wild Shape" ability at level 7, but get to heal a bit of damage in exchange to being restricted to being only real-world creatures, meaning that you can't be a dinosaur or a dire creature or anything that'd be remotely cool (you might be wondering if actual characters in-universe would understand the distinction between animals a druid can change into and ones they can't. well, good for you).
The other grand thing the druid had was the big hierarchy. See, there are a fixed number of druids that can exist in the world, and after level 11 you become subject to these restrictions. The only way to level up is to either find a new region who needs a new druid to fill the vacancy or fighting a druid and taking their place in some sort of ritual combat. Apparently by level 15, you'll become the only druid of such a power level as you just replaced the previous druid of this level. Beyond this are a ton of new spell slots, normal shapeshifting, and the ability to enter and live in other elemental planes. This hierarchy also serves as the equivalent of the other classes just gaining a couple followers and their own new HQ, where as you have your secretive hippie order and your big imposing fortress is instead replaced with a natural grove.
Unearthed Arcana recognised the market for druid players who still wanted to hang out with a post-15th level party. This allowed such to start over on the Hierophant track, 16-23rd level.
Then came the 1990s and Second Edition. As with the other classes, there is indeed a Complete Druids' Handbook which, on top of explaining the hierarchy in further depth and providing kits, also has some special variant druids that were based on biomes and were separate from the kits. It also included a deeper look at the culture of the druids (considering that they are a secretive organization), herbology, and how they would fit into the bigger picture.
2e is when was introduced the When Good Druids Go Bad trope. Forgotten Realms has the Shadow Circle, which are militant anti-city druids who want to violently destroy all forms of civilization.
Druids in 3e & PF
3rd Edition Druids started out okay but then 3.5 unwisely introduced the feat Natural Spell. This let them be massively buffed bears who can summon more bears whose own stats have been buffed into the stratosphere out of their eyes while farting lightning, pissing acid, shitting explosive berries, and breathing fire that does irresistible damage. Hence, the C.o.D.-Zilla meme. Truly macho, macho men - so why play a fighter, unless you have a thing for brushing bear pelts.
3e went wild-boar hog wild on evil druids, also. Its Blighter was an anti-druid dedicated against nature, that even the misanthropes among the real druids had to oppose. Eberron has two baddies: the Circle of the Ashbound believe (falsely) that arcane magic harms nature and that destroying magical items and users is good for nature - long story short, it involves their founder killing a lich who'd been screwing around with nature and then noticing nature bounced back really well afterward - and the Children of Winter, social darwinists who believe that "Winter is coming!" and launch eco-terrorist attacks on civilization to winnow out the weak and ensure only the strong will be left to keep everybody from dying out during the "winter phase" of Eberron's life-cycle.
Out in the d20 wild-west Scarred Lands has druids as servitors of the Titans, as opposed to clerical servants of the gods; in that setting most druids are evil, and against nature as well, leaving only Denev's druids to Save Da Erf. We might also mention Arcana Unearthed's various classes serving The Green or The Dark despite not being called "Druid".
In Pathfinder Druids were easily most nerfed class by far. Shapeshifting only adds to your ability scores instead of replacing them, so you need to actually build for melee to be good at it. Animal companions now advance completely differently (and somewhat slower), no longer being an advanced animal but completely arbitrary collection of HD and special abilities where different types of animals just get a different set of natural attacks, movement and ability scores. This also closes an exploit where more powerful animals gave a penalty to effective druid level that could be negated by taking a feat that boosts your effective druid level up to your HD to get powerful ACs easily. With the release of Bestiary 2, Druids gained one new power they didn't have in 3rd edition: By wildshaping into a giant hippopotamus with a 4d8 bite attack, turning the normally terrible Vital Strike feats (which double or more your weapon damage at the cost of preventing full attacks and denying you multiple attacks that would get that and other bonuses multiple times) into something that does more damage than a direct hit from modern artillery.
The Shaman class introduced in D20 Past is the Druid in all but name. It manages to be even crazier by keeping its many class features and gaining a bunch of bonus feats and new class features. In addition to the Druid's normal abilities, it gains potion brewing, the ability to take control of magical beasts as an evil Cleric controls undead and merge with its animal companion to form a single huge beatstick with crazy offense that can still cast spells.
Unlike d20 Modern's other casting classes, there's actually multiple routes to take after taking all 10 levels of Shaman. One could take levels of Ecclesiarch for more spells and the ability to command humans instead of just magical beasts. Alternatively, one could take levels of Wildlord to continue advancing their animal companion and gain a few more nature abilities.
Druids in 4e
4th edition seriously worked to fix the CoDZilla problem. Because of this, druids didn't appear until the second Player's Handbook. Here, they became a Primal Controller class, with the nebulous "old faith" and vague "cleric but not" status of earlier editions replaced with a coherent faith and a new set of pseudo-deities to worship; the Primal Spirits.
These druids don't have the animal companion of editions past, and summoning as an option was changed up, with no powers along that lines until the subsequent Primal Power with a distinctive array of summons and conjurations. The biggest change is to their shapechanging; whilst Wild Shape remains their key feature, being an at-will power that lets them turn into any animal, the original use of it is gone - wild shape is mostly cosmetic. Instead, druid powers are split halfway between mystical effects like calling lightning bolts, teleporting and making trees eat your enemies, and special attacks for the druid's beastform with a variety of ways to maul face. This allows you to build your druid with a focus on either nature magic, being a shapeshifted killing machine, or a blend between the two. Nature's Balance, one of the class' features, even indicates such is necessary by letting you get three at-will powers instead of the typical two (four for the PHB human druid), with the caveat that you have at least one at-will for both humanoid and beast forms.
The druid has a pseudo-subclass mechanic in the form of Primal Aspect, similar to those of any other class. Depending on which Aspect your druid chose, you get a certain bonus when not wearing heavy armor and certain affiliated powers are more potent.
- Primal Guardian lets use Con to determine AC. This not only consolidates some stats for you, powers keyed to this aspect tend to be the closest to the default controller role with a lot of forced movement.
- Primal Predator added +1 speed to your wild shape. This was generally regarded as the offensive aspect, which tended to key more off Str and Dex than Con.
- Primal Wrath added +1 to attack with cold, fire, lightning, and thunder powers. For baffling reasons known only to the Seeker, this Aspect had absolutely no feat support. It's as if WotC promptly forgot about it after publishing Heroes of the Elemental Chaos.
- Primal Swarm Aspect added a ridiculously fast-scaling damage reduction when in beast form, which made it arguably the strongest tank aspect for the druid.
The Essentials books also gave the Druid two variant classes that focused on different aspects of the Druid as a class. The Protector from Heroes of the Feywild was a more Wizard-like Druid, gaining cantrips in the form of Primal Attunement in exchange for losing Ritual Caster and exchanging Wildshape for "Primal Growth", an Encounter power that acted as difficult terrain and had other benefits based on the Druid Circle selected: Renewal (The Predator-equivalent) gave anyone who spent a Healing Surge near it extra HP while Shelter (The Protector Equivalent) made it not count as difficult terrain for allies. The other key aspect of this class was making all Dailies become Summon Nature's Ally powers, summoning different creatures depending on both level and Circle. Heroes of the Forgotten Lands gave the Sentinel, a more martial pet-centric Druid who followed the later Essentials classes of being almost mono-builds. The only major choice you get is the Acolyte of the Seasons feature, which determines a few bonuses as well as which pet you get: Spring (Wolf), Summer (Bear), and Wastes (Living Zephyr). You get an Encounter power called Combined Attack which lets you hit and then let your pet hit as well as taking the Cleric's Healing Word power.
Druids in 5e
In D&D 5th edition, buff spells had been changed and the Druid no longer gets an animal companion; however, this is quickly brushed aside when players realize that they can wildshape into a bear at 2nd level (as a bonus action) thanks to the Circle of the Moon. Druid subclasses are called Circles, and there are two in the player's handbook and 5 more in later material, plus a few in Unearthed Arcana.
- Circle of the Lands druids are the ones who focus on the 'traditional' druid as a protector of wild lands. These druids get extra spells depending on which type of land they choose- Arctic, Coast, Desert, Forest, Grassland, Mountain, Swamp, and Underdark. Their attunement to nature also allows them to regain spell slots on a short rest once per day (which no other druid can do), ignore difficult terrain, be immune to poison and disease, and eventually make it difficult for creatures of the natural world to attack them.
This subclass is often unfavorably compared to moon druids, but in fact the two subclasses serve very different roles (though the Moon druid is indeed incredibly OP at it's role), as most druid circles do; the Land druid in particular is the well-rounded generalist caster and is a good way to ease a player into the somewhat complex mechanics of playing a druid.
- Circle of the Moon druids are those who dream of the glory days of the CoDzilla and went for the subclass that focuses on the druid's most famous feature- Wild Shape. Moon Druid abilities are all focused on improving one's Wild Shape, although this time they at least have the sense to keep druids from casting spells in Wild Shape (at least until level 18).
This subclass serves the role of Tankius Maximus the Chonklord. Good tank. Great tank. Best tank. Trust us, we know our tanks, and none of them are better than this tank. Just look at the amount of meat they can slap on their bones every round at max level. Yuge.
- Circle of Dreams druids are connected to the Feywild and are best friends with good-aligned Fey, since they share the same goal of protecting the magic in nature. Druids of this circle have powers related to healing, shelter, and dreams, with a side of being able to travel like the Fey do.
This subclass serves the role of support healer.
- Circle of the Shepherd druids are conjuration-masters/pseudo-Shamans. These druids protect and heal beasts and nature spirits, and can call upon them in turn for some help and neat bonuses.
This subclass serves the role of minion master.
- Circle of Spores followers are essentially Nurgle druids, who take power from the cycle of life, death, and decay. They're creepy but generally okay folks as long as you don't have a problem with mushrooms. They were first printed in the Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica and associated with the green/black Golgari Swarm, but they can fit in any setting.
This subclass serves the role of a constant stream of damage, though at max level they become almost as brokenly hard to kill as moon druids.
- Circle of Stars druids are astrologers, who take their power from the sky instead of the land. Their wildshape can instead turn them into one of three constellations- the Archer (shoots magic arrows), the Chalice (buffs healing), and the Dragon (helps you maintain concentration and gives skill check bonuses), and they get a bunch of divination powers.
This subclass... is the arcana cleric of druids. It's sort of a grab-bag of abilities with no clear role in mind.
- Circle of Wildfire druids do not, contrary to first appearances, just want to burninate all the things- they represent fire as part of the natural cycle. Forest fires may be dangerous, but they clear up the forest floor, kill pests, and even promote seed germination, and that is what these druids devote themselves to. As such, while these druids have standard fire spells, they're also good healers. Their main draw is that they can summon a Wildfire Spirit to burn foes or revive friends. Whether WotC intends to ever release water, air, and earth themed druids remains to be seen.
This subclass splits the difference between the dreams and spore druids in terms of role.
Unearthed Arcana adds the undead-fighting Circle of Twilight, and Exploring Eberron adds the Circle of the Forged, which focuses on creating and exploring the potential of the Warforged.
Broadly speaking, the Druid subclasses in 5e take one broken part of what the Druid used to be able to do (shapeshifting, spells, summoning) and give it back, thus ensuring that all the broken parts can't be assembled together in one character.
|Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Classes|
|Player's Handbook 1:||Cleric - Fighter - Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Warlock - Warlord - Wizard|
|Player's Handbook 2:||Avenger - Barbarian - Bard - Druid - Invoker - Shaman - Sorcerer - Warden|
|Player's Handbook 3:||Ardent - Battlemind - Monk - Psion - Runepriest - Seeker|
|Heroes of X:||Blackguard - Binder - Cavalier - Elementalist - Hexblade - Hunter|
Mage - Knight - Protector - Scout - Sentinel - Skald - Slayer - Sha'ir - Thief
Vampire - Warpriest - Witch
|Settings Book:||Artificer - Bladesinger - Swordmage|
|Others:||Paragon Path - Epic Destiny|
|Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Classes|
|Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Warlock - Wizard
|Tasha's Cauldron of Everything:||Artificer - Expert - Spellcaster - Warrior|
|Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft:||Apprentice - Disciple - Sneak - Squire|
|The Classes of Pathfinder 1st Edition|
|Core Classes:||Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
|Alchemist - Antipaladin - Cavalier |
Inquisitor - Oracle - Summoner - Witch
|Arcanist - Bloodrager - Brawler - Hunter - Investigator |
Shaman - Skald - Slayer - Swashbuckler - Warpriest
|Kineticist - Medium - Mesmerist |
Occultist - Psychic - Spiritualist
|Ultimate X:||Gunslinger - Magus - Ninja - Samurai - Shifter - Vigilante|
|The Classes of Pathfinder 2nd Edition|
|Core Classes:||Alchemist - Barbarian - Bard - Champion - Cleric - Druid |
Fighter - Monk - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Wizard
|Advanced Player's Guide:||Investigator - Oracle - Swashbuckler - Witch|
|Secrets of Magic:||Magus - Summoner|
|Guns and Gears:||Gunslinger - Inventor|