Historically speaking, the druids were a class of high-ranking professionals in a number of ancient Celtic cultures. For the most part, they are remembered as priests of their respective religions, but it is important to note that they performed a wide range of other roles that included but were not limited to doctors, judges, and lorekeepers. Unsurprisingly, this meant that they were very well-educated, but it is believed that they had a doctrine that forbade them from writing down their knowledge, with the result that we now know them from the perspective of people from other cultures rather than their own.
Said druids didn’t have a particularly close relationship with nature. Yes, they worshipped aspects of the natural world. However, the same can be said for their counterparts in just about every other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world. Yes, the Romans considered the Celts to be barbarians. However, while there were some ancient Celtic cultures that were less sophisticated, the Gauls were settled, prosperous, and skilled with a number of valuable crafts, which made them worth conquering in the first place. Instead, druids managed to pick up much of their modern associations with nature thanks to the revival that happened under Romanticism.
Regardless, those who are planning to play a druid in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition should know that they aren’t just nature-themed magic users. In part, this is because druids can head into battle with a shield, a suit of armor, and a superior selection of weapons so long as none of those items contain metal in them. However, it should also be mentioned that druids are very versatile in that they can heal, inflict damage, and even tank for their parties. Generally speaking, druids will do better by focusing on one particular field, but it is by no means impossible for interested individuals to build themselves a jack of all trades.
Here are some suggestions for building the best druid possible:
Druids should prioritze their wisdom, dexterity, and constitution while deprioritizing their strength, their intelligence, and their charisma. First and foremost, wisdom is the single most important ability score for a druid because it is the one that powers their spell-casting. As a result, while it is possible to build a druid with low wisdom, said druid will be semi-functional at best. Second, dexterity is important because of its impact on AC, meaning that a higher dexterity makes for a long-lived druid. Sure, druids can put on armor to protect themselves, but at the end of the day, their class restrictions in this regard mean that they should have a supplement for their AC for the best results. Third, constitution has a similar importance to dexterity. This is because constitution determines a character’s hit points, meaning that a higher constitution also makes for a longer-lived druid. Interested individuals can choose whether they want a higher dexterity or a higher constitution because both serve the same aim without either one being the clear better option.
As for strength, intelligence, and charisma, these ability scores are useful, but none of them can be considered critical for a druid. For example, strength is very useful for a fight, but if someone is planning to play a fight-oriented druid, chances are good that they are going to fight while transformed, meaning that their own natural strength won’t matter one bit. Likewise, charisma is nice to have because it makes it easier for the druid to interact with other people as well as other entities. However, unless they are playing on their own, chances are good that they won’t have to be the face of their party. Out of these, intelligence is perhaps the most important because it makes more skill points available. On top of that, it is tied to a number of skills such as nature, arcana, and religion that are common in druids.
Skills and Feats
There are a number of skills and feats that druids should consider getting. First, perception is the single most often-used skill in D&D, thus making it an obvious choice particularly since it synergizes well with a druid’s high wisdom. Second, both arcana and religion are often-used knowledge skills, meaning that they are both worth some investment, while nature and insight are very druidic-feeling skills. As for feats, interested individuals should pick them based on the direction that they want to go for their druid. For instance, if they are planning to use their magic to do damage, they might want to look into Elemental Adept because so many of their attack spells will be elemental in nature. Meanwhile, Mobile is useful for those who want to capitalize on their wild shape as much as possible. Besides these, interested individuals should also look into feats that are always useful, with examples ranging from the wisdom-boosting Observant to the universally sought-after Lucky.
Druidic circles serve as the equivalent of druidic subclasses. First and foremost, the Circle of the Moon is the most powerful because it is what lets interested individuals get good use out of their wild shape for combat, so much so that these druids can actually serve as tanks for the rest of their parties if need be. On top of that, while the initial choices for wild shape are useful but not particularly exotic, more and more choices will become available later on, including some that can be very fun for the player and very frightening for their enemies. Finally, the Circle of the Moon has an ability that means that these druids can continue casting with no issues whatsoever while they are in their wild shape, which can be both very amusing and very useful.
Having said that, not everyone is going to want to play a wild-shaped druid, meaning that other circles are still very much in the running. For example, the Circle of Spores is an interesting choice with some nice offensive options as well as some unusual necromantic capabilities. Better still, these druids gain condition immunities as well as other exotic capabilities that can enable them to do quite well in combat later on. Meanwhile, the Circle of the Land is a classic choice, though interested individuals should examine the special spells of the subtypes before choosing. The Underdark is a solid option, not least because it comes with some pretty nasty combat spells as well as the very useful Stone Shape.