Unearthed Arcana: Druid Circles and Wild Shape Breakdown

I guess if you’re going to call any class even obliquely harvest-holiday-themed, druid is a good one. Accordingly, this week’s Unearthed Arcana offers three new druid circles and a variant Wild Shape rule. Whatever else might be said, they took more risks with new mechanics this time than last week, and so even if I wind up disliking it (spoiler: I won’t), it’s useful as suggestions for what’s “in-bounds” for third-party design. Third-party designers get read the Riot Act for venturing too far outside the borders that Smith & Wesson Mearls & Crawford lay out in official releases, you know? Anyway, let’s get to it.

Oh, and in case you’re new around here, I have done some writing about druids before. The link points to the last article in the series, with directory links to the earlier ones.

Gobble-ins, Centaurkeys,and Thanksgiving One-Shots

Happy American Thanksgiving, everybody! I expect most people are reading this on Thursday, because they are drinking as often as possible on Wednesday. This is going to be a hard holiday for a lot of people, and I bet bars and liquor stores are looking forward to Black Wednesday. Let’s assume for a minute that you are woefully hungover and are reading this from your smart device while praying to the porcelain gods. First, I feel your pain, and suggest you pop some alka seltzer and make yourself an egg cream. Second, double up on the mashed potatoes, heavy on the butter. Third, let’s talk about a Thanksgiving themed one-shot you can run while everyone is barely keeping it together.

The Druid Class, Part Six

Over the course of five articles on the Druid class, we’ve seen a radical shift in theme. They began as monsters, and developed into relatively staid nature-based spellcasters, dedicated to ethical principles of Balance and, perhaps, tormented into inaction by uncertainty on how to maintain it (okay, I’m guessing, but active True Neutral alignment is just So. Weird). They became nearly-feral beast-mutant (not really) Action Heroes, who rely on shapeshifting, animal companions, and the like to kick ass and take names in large quantities. The next iteration doubled down on either shapeshifting or animal companions, depending on whether you favor the Player’s Handbook 2 or the Essentials line. The shapeshifter class has, in fact, done precisely what it said on the tin, if not in the way you might have expected.

 

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five)

The Druid Class, Part Five

In last week’s article, we saw the likely zenith of the Druid class’s power, relative to the other classes in the game. Of course, we have two more editions to get through, so if I’m wrong, I willow someone an apology. Possibly Mike Mearls, since it’s his hand at the elm. The 4e Druid is not at all disappointing on potency, but it is a radical shift in theme and style. The 4e Essentials Druid, on the other hand, is there for anyone who pines for the Druid of earlier editions.

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four)

The Druid Class, Part Four

As with… most of the history of D&D, really, the 3.0 Druid is in some regards a huge break from the baby-steps of evolution that took place in the class from OD&D through 2e. The shift is thematic as well as mechanical, turning away from the Druid’s Celtic roots and increasing the overall Action Hero! quotient. I don’t see this as a bad thing; if they hadn’t done so, the Druid would feel out of place with the rest of 3.x.

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three)

The Druid Class, Part Three

Last time, I picked apart the 1e Druid class and its Unearthed Arcana update. Now I’m moving on to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition – the earliest edition I’ve personally run or played. Superficially, the 2e Druid is so similar to the 1e Druid that it’s tempting to gloss over a comparison entirely. I’d miss a chance to talk about this class in eye-bleeding detail, though, and who wants that? Perish the thought. Also, there’s the Complete Druid’s Handbook and Skills & Powers iterations.

(Part One, Part Two)

The Druid Class, Part Two

In my previous post on druids, we looked at how OD&D established a baseline for the class. Today, we’ll see that 1e doesn’t stray far from that, until we get into Unearthed Arcana’s revision of the class. The 1e version starts us off with some new descriptive text, spelling out the intent of the class as what the druids might have been like in a medieval fantasy version of our world in which they survived the Roman conquest.

The Druid Class, Part One

Now that I’ve said all I can think to say on the Bard class, let’s break down the Druid – a class most often defined in its contrast to the Cleric. Like the Bard, the Druid’s history goes back to OD&D – but the Druid is presented as a type of monster. That note of Druids as potential antagonists surfaces again, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.