DnD 5e - The Druid Handbook
I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
Temporary Note: Xanathar's Guide to Everything was recently released. I plan to update my handbooks to reflect the new content, but I have not gotten around to picking up a copy of the book yet. Once I have the book in hand, I will post updates reflecting the new content. In the mean time, thank you for your patience!
Druids are a very versatile class. Moon Druids emphasize Wild Shape, making them excellent Defenders, Scouts, or Strikers depending on what form they take. The Druid spell list allows them to serve as Controllers, Strikers, Support casters, and Utility casters. Land Druids lack the Moon Druid's ability to dive into melee, but gain improved spellcasting capacity, and retain the ability to use Wild Shape for scouting.
Druid Class Features
Hit Points: d8 hit points is good for a full caster.
Saves: Two mental saves. Intelligence is a dump stat for Druids, so even with proficiency it won't be a great save.
Proficiencies: Medium armor and shields should give you a decent AC, but since you can't use metal armor the best you can use is Studded Leather and a shield for a total of 14+dex. Your weapon proficiencies really don't matter.
Druidic: This will probably never matter unless your DM specifically writes something into the campaign to use it.
Spellcasting: The Druid's spell list includes a lot of really fantastic options which are only available to the Druid (and a handful which are only available to Druids and Rangers). The Druid has many of the best area control effects, like Entangle and Spike Growth, and a lot of unique damage spells like Call Lightning. However, Druids don't have the healing options of the Cleric, and lack many utility options available to Clerics and Wizards.
Wild Shape: Unless you're a Circle of the Moon druid, Wild Shape is a utility option. Turn into a small animal to scout, but turning into an animal to go into melee is not likely to end well since your available forms are so weak. See my Practical Guide to Wild Shape for specifics on how to make the best use of Wild Shape.
Druid Circle: See "Subclasses - Druid Circles", below.
Timeless Body: Almost certainly no effect on the game.
Beast Spells: Fly around as a bird and shoot spells at unsuspecting foes.
Archdruid: Like Wild Shape, this is much better for the Circle of the Moon Druids, who can switch back into an animal form at the beginning of every turn, thereby making themselves extremely difficult to damage. For other Druids, this just means extra utility.
Subclasses - Druid Circles
- Circle of the LandPHB:
- Bonus Cantrip: Druids get one less cantrip than other full casters, so this sets the Land Druid on par with everyone else.
- Natural Recovery: This provides a bit of sustainability to the Druid which was missing in previous editions. It's not quite as important to the Druid as Arcane Recovery is to the Wizard, but it's still fantastic.
- Circle Spells:
- Arctic: Several excellent area
control spells. Unfortunately, half of the options address
similar needs and require Concentration, so it's hard to use
the spells in conjunction.
- 3: Hold Person and Spike Growth are excellent crowd control/area control options. However, both require Concentration.
- 5: Sleet Storm is medicore, and given the choice between Sleet Storm and Spike Growth, I would pick Spike Growth every time. Slow is still good. And again, both require Concentration.
- 7: Ice Storm combines well with other area control effects, and Freedom of Movement allows your allies to move through your area control effects more easily. You already have Land's Stride, so Freedom of Movement doesn't help you much.
- 9: A useful divination, and a good source of damage not normally available to Druids.
- Coast: Coast starts off very
strong, but most of the spell options will only rarely see
- 3: Mirror Image is among the best defensive options in the game, and Misty Step is a fantastically useful means of getting around. Neither are available to Druids normally.
- 5: Both are very situational.
- 7: Both are situational.
- 9: Scrying is very situational, but Conjure Elemental is pretty great. Summon a Fire Elemental and set fire to entire encounters.
- Desert: A good mix of different
options with different applications, and a couple of spells
not normally available to Druids.
- 3: Blur is a decent defensive option, and Silence is occasionally useful for stealth and for disabling spellcasters.
- 5: Most groups will ignore the consumption of food and water until you very suddenly can't get any. Fortunately, you can typically survive a day to prepare Create Good and Water, so having it constantly prepared isn't helpful. Protection From Energy is considerably more useful.
- 7: Both are every situational.
- 9: Both excellent area control options.
- Forest: Nothing really spectacular.
- 3: Barkskin is a fantastic buff, though it's not as important since Land Druids don't fight in Wild Shape. Spider Climb is situational, and seems a bit silly consider you can turn into a spider.
- 5: Call lightning is one of my favorite Druid spells. The damage per round isn't spectacular, but the ability to repeatedly shoot lightning bolts makes it an extremeley efficient use of spell slots. Plant Growth is situational.
- 7: Both options are situational, but Divination isn't normally available to Druids.
- 9: Commune with nature is a nice divination, and Tree Stride is a decent way to get around, but can't compete with real teleportation.
- Grassland: Some excellent buffs,
several of which aren't normally available to Druids, but big
parts of the spell list are situational.
- 3: Two excellent options for stealth and infiltration. The effects remain in place when you use Wild Shape, so you can turn invisible, turn into an owl, and fly around almost undetectable.
- 5: Daylight is situational, but Haste is one of the best buffs in the game if you have martial characters around to make use of it.
- 7: Both options are situational, but Divination isn't normally available to Druids.
- 9: Dream is situational, but Insect Plague is excellent area control.
- Mountain: Solid options all the way
up the list.
- 3: Spider Climb isn't very useful since you can turn into a spider, but Spike Growth is one of my favorite area control spells.
- 5: Lightning bolt is a decent damage option, though somewhat difficult to bring to bear against crowds of enemies. Meld with Stone is very situational.
- 7: Stone Shape is insanely useful, and Stoneskin is a great buff so long as you have enough gold to pay the component cost.
- 9: Passwall is extremely useful, and Wall of Stone is great area control.
- Swamp: Starts off very strong,
but the higher-level options are bad.
- 3: Two good options, neither of which are available to Druids.
- 5: Water walk is very situational, but Stinking Cloud is fantastic area control.
- 7: Both options are very situational.
- 9: Scrying is situational, but Insect Plague is excellent area control.
- Underdark: Lots of fantastic
options, many of which aren't available to Druids normally.
- 3: So I heard you like spiders. Web is good area control.
- 5: So I heard you like strange gases. Stinking Cloud is good area control, and Gaseous Form is a great escape/infiltration form.
- 7: Greater Invisibility is fantastic, and Stone Shape is ridiculously useful.
- 9: Cloudkill is estremely lethal, but it's hard to hit the same target more than once. Insect Plague is excellent area control.
- Arctic: Several excellent area control spells. Unfortunately, half of the options address similar needs and require Concentration, so it's hard to use the spells in conjunction.
- Land's Stride: Situational.
- Nature's Ward: Situational, but it's a broad spectrum of passive defenses.
- Nature's Sanctuary: Near-immunity to two types of creatures. By now you should have 20 Wisdom, and beasts and plants both tend to have low Wisdom saves.
- Circle of the MoonPHB: Circle of the
Moon allows the Druid to use Wild Shape as a combat form. Depending on the
composition of your party, this may allow you to take the place of your party's
Fighter-equivalent, filling space as a Defender and Striker. However, in most
parties the Druid is taking the place of the Cleric-equivalent, so you may
need to drop out of Wild Shape in order to cast spells from time to time.
- Combat Wild Shape: Moving into Wild Shape as a swift action means that you can transform, move, and attack in the same turn. This makes it much easier to pick the right form for a combat since you don't need to guess before the fight starts. It also means that when you get knocked out of Wild Shape you can quickly get back into Wild Shape, often without taking damage to your real hit points.
- Circle Forms: This allows you to take some decent combat forms. See my Practical Guide to Wild Shape for a compilation of possible forms.
- Primal Strike: At this point you're going to run into a lot of things which resist non-magical weapons, so this is very important.
- Elemental Wild Shape: Fire Elemental is a flaming murder machine that you can use from now until you hit 18 and can turn into a Mammoth. It does take both of your Wild Shape uses, but if you're successful at setting everything on fire quickly, you may be able to avoid enough damage to stretch this through several fights.
- Thousand Forms: This is a 2nd-level spell, and the problems it solves can be solved better by Wild Shape.
Wisdom is everything for the Druid. Moon Druids use their Wild Shape form's ability scores and hit points, so physical ability scores are essentially wasted on the Druid.
Str: If you're in melee, you should be an animal. And if you're an animal, you're not using your own Strength score. If you can't be an animal but you're still in melee, cast Shillelagh.
Dex: A bit for AC while you're not in Wild Shape is nice, but not super important.
Con: A bit for hit points is nice, but even the Moon Druid will spend most of their time burning through Wild Shape hit points, which don't rely on your Constitution at all.
Int: Only needed for Knowledge skills. Dump unless you want Knowledge skills.
Wis: The Druid's spells are powered by Wisdom.
|Point Buy||Standard Array|
Wisdom bonuses are crucial, but since nothing grants a +2 bonus to Wisdom you will need to settle for +1. Moon Druids don't need Strength or Dexterity since theirs will be replaced by their Wild Shape forms, but Land Druids may want some Dexterity for AC.
AarakocraEEPC: A bit of Wisdom and flight are great.
AasimarVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid. It's unclear which, if any, of the aasimar's racial traits work while wildshaped.
- Fallen: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Protector: Wisdom bonus.
- Scourge: Nothing useful for the Druid.
BugbearVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid.
Dwarf: Dwarfs are very durable.
- DuergarSCAG: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- HillPHB: Even more durability, and a Wisdom bonus.
- MountainPHB: Strength is useless to Druids.
DragonbornPHB: Nothing useful for the Druid.
ElfPHB: Bonus Dexterity helps a bit with AC.
- Drow: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- High Elf: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Wood Elf: Wisdom bonus, and Mask of the Wild works while in Wild Shape.
FirbolgVGTM: Wisdom and a bunch of nature-themed innate spellcasting.
GenasiEEPC: Bonus Constitution never hurts.
- Air: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Earth: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Fire: Fire resistance applies during Wild Shape, and the bonus spells could be nice for a Land Druid.
- Water: Bonus Wisdom, and Acid Resistance applies during Wild Shape.
Gnome: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- ForestPHB: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- RockPHB: Nothing useful for the Druid.
GoblinVGTM: Nimble Escape is tempting, but bnot enough to make the race viable.
GoliathVGTM/EEPC: Nothing useful for the Druid.
Half-Elf: The abilities work great, and bonus skills are always nice, but Variant Human is strictly better.
- AquaticSCAG: Only if you're in an aquatic campaign.
- DrowSCAG: Faerie Fire is great for handling invisible creatures, but druids have enough area control options that Darkness isn't a huge draw.
- High/Moon/SunSCAG: Druids have plenty of great cantrip options, so a single wizard cantrip won't do much for you.
- Keen SensesSCAG: The sidebar describing half-elf variants specifices that you can take Keen Senses in place of Skill Versatility, or a trait based on your elf parentage. Keen Senses give you a single fixed skill, and you're giving up proficiency in any two skills. It should be immediately apparent that this is a terrible trade.
- WoodSCAG: Mask of the Wild works very well for a Druid, especially if you have Stealth proficiency.
- VanillaPHB: Druids don't do a lot with skills.
Half-OrcPHB: Savage Attacks works in wild shape, but that's not enough.
HalflingPHB: The Dexterity increase provides a helpful AC boost, and Ghostwise is a fantastic option for druids.
- Ghostwise: A small wisdom bump is great on any druid, but Silent Speech is especially interesting. It doesn't rely on your physical shape, and wild shape doesn't change the languages you know, so you can still use Silent Speech to communicate with your allies while in wild shape, though it appears to be one-way since the ability specifically says "speak telepathically to" rather than "with".
- Lightfoot: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Stout: Nothing useful for the Druid.
HobgoblinVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid.
HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.
- Vanilla: Many of the ability bonuses are completely wasted on the Druid.
- Variant: Put the bonuses into Constitution and Wisdom. Feats aren't particularly helpful for the Druid, but Land Druids might like Elemental Adept, and Moon Druids can make good use of Mobility in some forms. Use the bonus skill to pick up a knowledge skill.
KenkuVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid.
KoboldVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid except Pack Tactics, which may be enough to make the kobold and interesting moon druid.
LizardfolkVGTM: Durable and wise. The lizardfolk's traits make it durable enough to survive falling out of wildshape a few times as a moon druid.
OrcVGTM: Aggressive works in wild shape, but that's not enough.
TabaxiVGTM: Feline Agility works in wild shape, but that's not enough.
Tiefling: Nothing helpful for Druids.
- FeralSCAG: Nothing helpful for Druids.
- Devil's TongueSCAG: Nothing helpful for Druids.
- HellfireSCAG: Nothing helpful for Druids.
- VanillaPHB: Nothing helpful for Druids.
- WingedSCAG: Nothing helpful for Druids.
TritonVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid.
Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Animal Handling (wis): Basically useless.
- Arcana (Int): One of the most important knowledge skills.
- Insight (Wis): Great for a Face, but many Faces don't have good enough Wisdom to back this up.
- Medicine (Wis): Use magic.
- Nature (Int): An important knowledge skill.
- Perception (Wis): The most rolled skill in the game, and you have the Wisdom to back it up.
- Religion (Int): One of the most important knowledge skills.
- Survival (Wis): Situational.
Druids don't get a lot of great options with skills, but since they need so few ability scores they can afford a bit of Intelligence to back up Knowledge skills, and they have the Wisdom to back up important skills like Insight and Perception. Unfortunately, Druids dodn't get any Face skills so even if you put some resources into Charisma the Druid will never be an effective Face.
- AcolytePHB: Insight, a Knowledge skill and two languages, but with no conversation skills the languages don't help the Druid much.
- CharlatanPHB: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- City WatchSCAG: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Clan CrafterSCAG: History and Insight are both fine skills for the Druid, but the other benefits don't do much for you.
- Cloistered ScholarSCAG: Two Knowledge skills and two languages, but with no conversation skills the languages don't help the Druid much.
- CourtierSCAG: Needs too much Charisma.
- CriminalPHB: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- EntertainerPHB: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Faction AgentSCAG: Insight and your choice of a wide range of helpful skills, plus two languages.
- Far TravelerSCAG: Two skills from the Druid skill list, one language, and a useless game set or instrument.
- Folk HeroPHB: Animal Handling and Survival make sense for a Druid, but they're not very good and the other proficiencies are even worse.
- Guild ArtisanPHB: Insight is the only useful bit.
- HermitPHB: Medicine isn't a terribly useful skill, but Medicine and Insight both capitalize on your Wisdom and the Herablism Kit allows you to make healing potions.
- InheritorSCAG: This would be fine if Survival weren't such a situational skill.
- Knight of the OrderSCAG: A Face skill and a worthless game set or instrument proficiency.
- Mercenary VeteranSCAG: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- NoblePHB: History is the only useful bit.
- OutlanderPHB: Survival is the only useful bit, and it's not very good.
- SagePHB: Two knowledge skills, but the languages aren't helpful.
- SailorPHB: Perception is the only useful bit.
- SoldierPHB: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: Very customizable, and includes several options which you can make work for the Druid.
- UrchinPHB: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Uthgardt Tribe MemberSCAG: The flavor makes sense for a Druid, but the proficiencies are mechanically useless.
- Waterdavian NobleSCAG: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- AlertPHB: Going first isn't terribly important for anyone but Rogues.
- AthletePHB: Awful.
- ChargerPHB: If you want to charge, Wild Shape into a goat.
- Crossbow ExpertPHB: Druids don't use weapons.
- Defensive DuelistPHB: Druids don't use weapons.
- Dual WielderPHB: Druids don't use weapons.
- Dungeon DelverPHB: Druids aren't well-equipped to handle traps.
- DurablePHB: You can heal magically.
- Elemental AdeptPHB: Druids get a lot of spells which deal elemental damage, so Land Druids might get a lot of mileage out of this.
- GrapplerPHB: Helpful if you really like the constrictor snake and octopus forms, but Wild Shape forms become obsolete after a few levels, and there currently aren't enough forms which grapple to justify this.
- Great Weapon MasterPHB: Druids don't use weapons.
- HealerPHB: Use magic.
- Heavily ArmoredPHB: All heavy armor is metal, which means that you can't use it.
- Inspiring LeaderPHB: You don't have the Charisma to back this up.
- Keen MindPHB: Awful.
- LinguistPHB: Use magic.
- LuckyPHB: Good on anyone.
- Mage SlayerPHB: Too situational.
- Magic InitiatePHB: Druids know their entire spell list, and you get plenty of prepared spells. You might want some spells from other classes, but there's nothing that the Druid absolutely needs.
- Martial AdeptPHB: Not useful enough with only one superiority die.
- Medium Armor MasterPHB: Studded LEather is the best armor available to Druids, and it's light.
- MobilePHB: All of the effects apply while you're in Wild Shape. Forms like Goat and Elephant which have a useful Charge or Pounce effect become immensely more useful when you can safely move away and set up for another round of charging.
- Mounted CombatPHB: It's hard to play a mounted character without a special mount ability of some kind.
- ObservantPHB: Perception is a great skill for Druids, and the +1 Wisdom is nice if you have an odd Wisdom score.
- Polearm MasterPHB: Druids don't use weapons.
- ResilientPHB: If you were going to be good at a save, your class would have given it to you.
- Savage AttackerPHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn.
- SentinelPHB: Great if you want to be a Defender, but many Wild Shape forms offer the ability to trip foes on a hit, which greatly reduces the utility of this feat.
- SharpshooterPHB: Druids don't use weapons, and don't have enough spells which use attack rolls to justify this.
- Shield MasterPHB: Druids don't use sheilds enough to justify this.
- SkilledPHB: More skills never hurt, but Druids don't really need them.
- SkulkerPHB: Sniping is for Rogues.
- Spell SniperPHB: Druids don't use weapons, and don't have enough spells which use attack rolls to justify this.
- Tavern BrawlerPHB: Druids don't fight using Unarmed Strikes.
- ToughPHB: Unfortunately this doesn't apply to Wild Shape forms, so you won't really see any meaningful benefit.
- War CasterPHB: Useless until you hit level 18 and pick up Beast Spells.
- Weapon MasterPHB: You get all of the weapon proficiencies that you need to function.
Druids really don't need weapons. Instead, turn into something with claws.
- Leather Armor: Free starting gear.
- Shield: You need one hand for a spell focus, but since you don't need weapons there's no reason to not carry a shield.
- Studded Leather Armor: The best armor you can get.
This is not a comprehensive guide to every available spell, as that would be an exercise in madness. The following is a brief compilation of the most notable spells available to the class. Spells available via Magic Initiatie are also excluded; for suggestions for Magic Initiate, see the "Feats" seciond, above.
- GuidancePHB: As long as you're not conentrating on something with a long duration between fights, you should be constantly throwing this on your allies. Your Rogue should have Guidance for every skill check they make while searching, sneaking, handling traps, etc.
- Shape WaterSCAG: This is as abusable and versatile as Prestidigitation. Freeze a solid 5 foot cube of water and drop it on someone. Pour water into a lock, freeze it, and allow the ice expansion to break the lock. Put a dome of ice over something you're protecting. The uses are numerous and fantastic.
- ShillelaghPHB: Stuck in melee? Out of Wild Shape uses? Don't use your dumped Strength score: use a magic stick!
- Cure Wounds / Healing WordPHB: The Druid is most likely to replace a Cleric in the party, so you need to have healing spells available.
- GoodberryPHB: Not useful in combat, but more healing per spell slot than Cure Wounds.
- BarkskinPHB: 16 AC will exceed the AC of almost every worthwhile Wild Shape form, even with 20 Wisdom and the Monk's Unarmored Defense. As long as you can commit your Concentration to Barkskin, it's a fantastic option for AC.
- Barbarian: Barbarian is a common choice for Moon Druids due to Unarmored Defense and Rage. However, for a single-level class dip, you only get two rages per day and +2 damage, which isn't a ton. Two levels won't get you much because many Wild Shape forms have access to abilities which grant you Advantage. Three levels is tempting for Primal Path and a third Rage per day, but you're giving up an entire CR step, which will provide considerably more damage than Rage. Primal Path offers some good options in Berzerker's Frenzy and Totem's Totem Spirit: Bear. Frenzy allows you an extra attack as a Bonus Action, dramatically improving your damage output, while Totem Spirit: Bear grants you resistance to common weapon damage types.
- Cleric: Clerics are also Wisdom-based, and many of the Cleric domains offer some fantastic abilities at level 1, including some helpful spells.
- Monk: The better option for Unarmored Defense if you're only going for a single level. However, Barkskin will exceed the AC of almost every Wild Shape form, even with 20 Wisdom.
- Paladin: Two levels for Divine Smite and Fighting Style (Defensive) can be a good option for moon druids. Many of the Paladins abilities (including Aura of Protection at 6th level) work while wild shaped, but spending that many levels outside of your class likely won't pay off since you're giving up so much offensive potential by increasing your wilf shape options.