Pathfinder - The Druid Handbook
I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.
- 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: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.
The Druid is among the most powerful and versatile classes in the game. With a pet Defender/Striker, a diverse spell list, and the Wild Shape ability, the Druid can fill nearly any role in the party except the Face.
The two biggest decision points for the Druid are Nature Bond (Animal Companion vs. Druid Domain) and Wild Shape. While Nature Bond is an either/or decision, Wild Shape is a Yes/No decision: Being good at polymorph effects like Wild Shape requires planning from level 1. If you plan to use Wild Shape, read my Practical Guide to Polymorph.
Druid Class Features
Hit Points: d8 hit points is hard in medium armor, and it's even harder if you plan to use Wild Shape heavily, but the Druid has some healing ability which can supplement low hit points.
Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB.
Saves: Good Fortitude and Will saves, but Druids often have issues with Reflex saves.
Proficiencies: Medium armor, shields, and a very small set up weapons, and you can't use metal armor or shields.
Skills: 4+ skill ranks and very few useful skills.
Spells: The Druid has access to a lot of very unique spells not available to any other full caster.
Spontaneous Casting: Summoning spells aren't always useful, and it's nice to not need to prepare them, but Summon Nature's Ally is extremely limited.
Chaotic, Evil, Good, and Lawful Spells: Limiting your spells by alignment can annoying, but rarely causes issues. I think the most annoying example is prohibiting good-aligned casters from casting Infernal Healing, which is the Pathfinder equivalent of 3.5's Lesser Vigor, which quickly became the basis for all out of combat healing in 3.5.
Orisons: Fantastic and versatile.
Bonus Languages: Druidic for free is nice, but I have never seen it come up in a game. The Druid doesn't get access to Comprehend Languages or Tongues, so access to additonal languages at start might be useful.
Nature Bond (Ex): The Druid's Animal Companion is likely the first or second thing which comes to mind when you think of a Druid. Animal Companions are powerful, versatile, and can fill major holes in the party's abilities. If you don't need an Animal Companion, or if your party is already over-crowded, you might consider a Domain in order to boost your spellcasting abilities. For help with Animal Companions, see my Practical Guide to Animal Companions. For help with Druid Domains, see my Druid Domain Breakdown.
Nature Sense (Ex): Situational.
Wild Empathy (Ex): Very situational, and it's the only thing that Druids have which needs Charisma.
Woodland Stride (Ex): Very situational.
Trackless Step (Ex): Very situational.
Resist Nature's Lure (Ex): Very situational.
Wild Shape (Su): Free polymorph that doesn't eat your spells per day. Be sure to read my Practical Guide to Polymorph if you plan to make use of Wild Shape.
Venom Immunity (Ex): Useful at high levels when poison becomes more common.
A Thousand Faces (Su): Too little, too late.
Timeless Body (Ex): Very rarely has an effect in a campaign.
Your abilities are greatly influenced by whether or not you plan to use Wild Shape. Wisdom is always your primary concern, but your focus on Strength and Dexterity change depending on Wild Shape..
Str: A bit of strength is essential if you plan to use Wild Shape, and a little bit can help if you plan to use thrown weapons or a bow.
Dex: Essential for your AC and bad Reflex saves, and helpful if you plan to use Wild Shape.
Con: Hit points are always important, especially if you plan to use Wild Shape.
Int: The Druid skill list is sparse, and unless you particularly need some of the Druid's skill you can usually afford to dump Intelligence.
Wis: The Druid is primarily a spellcaster, so Wisdom is key. However, because they're not a save or suck caster, they don't need go all-out on their spellcasting ability like a Wizard does.
Cha: Dump to 7.
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Wisdom bonuses are fantastic, but bonuses to physical ability scores are great for Wild Shape users. Because polymorph effects normalize to small or medium before applying ability modifiers, small races' strength penalties won't go away when you use Wild Shape. As such, small races tend to work better for high-dexterity forms like snakes.
Dwarf: Bonuses to Constitution and Wisdom make the Dwarf a fantastic choice for the Druid, and the Dwarf's other racial traits offer some useful bonuses in other areas. The Dwarf favored class bonus offers extra uses of first-level domain powers, but don't let this influence your decision regarding Nature Bond; first level domain powers taper off very quickly.
Elf: Useful as spellcasters, but their ability modifiers don't work especially well for the Druid. The Elf favored class bonus provides bonus natural armor during Wild Shape, which is certainly tempting, but not enough to make the Elf a particularly good choice.
Gnome: The Gnome has nothing but a Constitution bonus to offer the Druid.
Half-Elf: Versatile, but nothing specifically great for the Druid. The Half-Elf favored class bonus is terrible, so take the Elf bonus if you want to use wildshape.
Half-Orc: Excellent for Wild Shape builds. The Sacred Tattoo alternate racial trait combined with the Fate's Favored trait helps with the Druid's saving throws (especially Dexterity), and the Half-Orc favored class bonus grants bonus natural armor while using Wild Shape.
Halfling: Your best bet for small, sneaky Druids. With a bonus to Dexterity and a Penalty to Strength, dexterity-heavy Wild Shape forms like snakes work best for Halflings, but being small also makes it easy to stay safe in the back and focus on casting spells or using a bow. The Halfling's favored class bonus adds to your Animal Companion's saving throws, which can help protect it from effects which target its relatively weak saves.
Human: Fantastic for any build, and you might consider the alternate human traits which give you +2 to two ability scores if you want to use Wild Shape and don't need an extra feat. The Human favored class bonus is garbage.
- Climb (Str): Too situational.
- Fly (Dex): One rank is plenty.
- Handle Animal (Cha): Helpful for training and handling your animal companion, but you likely won't need to maximize it.
- Heal (Wis): A fantastic supplement to magical healing, and with the Druid's Wisdom you can reliably hit the DC 25 to treat serious wounds and heal bonus damage with only a few skill ranks and some cheap items.
- Knowledge (geography) (Int): Very situational.
- Knowledge (nature) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
- Perception (Wis): The most rolled skill in the game, and with high Wisdom the Druid is fantastic at Perception.
- Ride (Dex): Useful if you plan to ride your mount, but Druids aren't built for Mounted Combat, so you don't need more than a few ranks.
- Spellcraft (Int): Situational, and Intelligence isn't an important ability for Druids.
- Survival (Wis): Situational.
- Swim (Str): Too situational.
- Aspect of the Beast: The benefits are poor and can be easily replace by low level spells or items.
- Natural Spell: A common choice for Wild Shape users, and for good reason. Dropping out of Wild Shape to heal yourself can spell your death, so this lets you remain in your nice safe animal form while still casting spells.
- Planar Wild Shape: The Celestial/Fiendish templates add DR and energy resistance, both of which can dramatically improve your durability. You don't get a ton of wild shape uses per day, but they last for hours per Druid level, so you can generally go a whole day on one use of Wild Shape, especially if you have Natural Spell so that you can heal without reverting.
- Powerful Shape: Fantastic if you like forms which use abilities like Grab, Swallow Whole, and Trample.
- Quick Wild Shape: Wild Shape out of combat. It lasts for hours per level.
- Shaping Focus: Tempting if you want to multiclass into something like Natural Weapon style Ranger to improve your combat abilities, but you can probably get a lot more from spells than from multiclass levels.
- Wild Speech: The biggest problem with Wild Shape is communicating with your party. This greatly resolves that issue.
- club: Scimitar is better.
- dagger: Carry a few for utility and throwing.
- dart: Decent thrown weapon.
- quarterstaff: Cheap, and you can use it as a double weapon at low levels to roll for 20s. That sounds like a bad idea, but it's annoyingly effective.
- scimitar: The best weapon available to the Druid.
- scythe: Two-handed weapons aren't usually a good idea for Druids.
- sickle: Scimitar is better.
- shortspear: One-handed and you can throw it when you get sick of using it.
- sling: Just throw something.
- spear: Two-handed weapons aren't usually a good idea for Druids.
Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order.
- Hide: Possible starting armor, but you may be able to afford Leather Lamellar.
- Heavy Shield: Weapons aren't important to the Druid, so you can afford to drop your weapon to get a free hand with which to cast spells. With only medium armor, a heavy shield is a much-needed boost to AC.
- Lamellar (leather): Roughly equivalent to Hide, but it won't inhibit your movement speed. Unless you have 18 Dexterity (unlikely) Lamellar will get you just as much AC as Hide.
- Stoneplate: If you don't use Wild Shape and you really need some AC, pick up Heavy armor Proficiency and a suit of Stone Plate.