DnD 5e - The Druid Handbook
Last Updated: December 1st, 2019
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.
I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
Druids are a very versatile class. Between their available archetypes, they're able to serve mixes roles as scouts, strikers, blaster, support casters, and controllers. Their spell list has a lot of unique options, and there is a strong emphasis on area control spells, and most of the Druid's best spells require Concentration. By spellcaster standards, this makes the Druid relatively simple to play because you so rarely need to track more than one ongoing spell effect, but it certainly doesn't make them less fun or less powerful.
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 for most builds, and even in builds that rely on weapon you'll be using a club.
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 DreamsXGtE
Circle of Dreams offers a few utility options and some healing, but most of the options are lackluster or highly situational.
- Balm of the Summer Court: A pool of healing which you can use as a bonus action. It's largely redundant with Healing Word, but at the very least this saves you a prepared spell.
- Hearth of Moonlight and Shadow: Situational, and there are tons of other options available that solve the same issues better. For example, Rope Trick will allow the party to climb into an extradimensional space with an invisible entrance. Still, if you don't have a wizard in the party this is nice to have while camping in dangerous places like dungeons.
- Hidden Paths: Excellent range, it works as a Bonus Action, and you get a decent number of uses per day. It's especially nice because Misty Step isn't available to druids.
- Walker in Dreams: Dream and Teleportation Circle aren't on the Druid spell list, but Scry is. The unique version of Teleportation Circle is a nice way to get yourself and your party back to a known safe point, but generally you can do that by other means like walking.
Circle of the LandPHB
If you want to emphasize the Druid's spellcasting, this is the way to do it.
- 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: Varies by circle.
- 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 use.
- 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.
Circle of the ShepherdXGtE
Circle of the Shepherd offers excellent options for the Druid to support their party and to summon more powerful creatures with Conjure Animals and Conjure Fey. If you enjoy summoning creatures and buffing your allies, this is a great option. If you want to focus on other aspects of druid spellcasting, Circle of the Land is a better choice.
- Speech of the Woods: A free language and constant Speak with Animals. Not always useful, but wonderful for a Druid to have.
- Spirit Totem: Powerful and versatile, and as a bonus action it's usable without cutting into your spellcasting.
- Bear Spirit: If your party is on the defensive, this is a good way to get some temporary hit points onto your allies. If you have a grappler in the party or if you're facing an enemy that grapples your party, Advantage on Strength checks is fantastic. However, the temporary hit points only apply when you first create the spirit, so its effectiveness diminishes quickly in most cases.
- Hawk Spirit: Your go-to option in most cases. As a back-line spellcaster, you can use your largely ignored Reaction to grant Advantage on attack rolls. If you have a rogue in the party, that means an easy way to get Sneak Attack. For other characters it's just a nice buff that you can grant once per round.
- Unicorn Spirit: If you're taking a short rest and haven't already expended Spirit Totem, use this before your rest to get some extra healing. The spell you cast doesn't need to be anything fancy: It just needs to be a leveled spell that restores hit points. Goodberry works, for example. As a DM I would rule that creatures can only receive the bonus healing once per spell cast, so you can't use this in conjunction with Healing Spirit to get a superpowered healing spirit.
- Mighty Summoner: One of the biggest problems with summoned creatures is their inability to overcome damage resistance to non-magical attacks. This solves that issue, and also makes your summoned creatures slightly more durable so that you get some more mileage from your Conjure X spells.
- Guardian Spirit: With this and Mighty Summoner, you can make Conjure X spells last for an exceptionally long time.
- Faithful Summons: At this level CR 2 creatures aren't likely to win a fight for you, but they might keep enemies at bay long enough for your party to come to your rescue. The language is fairly clear that you can't trigger this willingly, so unfortunately you can't tell your allies to beat you unconcious to get free summons.
Circle of SporesGGtR
Circle of Spores is strong, and brings a lot of really powerful offensive options to the druid, in addition to a splash of undead. The circle features use your Reaction and Bonus Action almost exclusively, which means that you're left to use your Action for normal druid things like casting spells. Symbiotic Entity, the only circle feature which uses an Action, provides a massive pile of temporary hit points, allowing even the most frail druids to take several hits before dipping into their normal hit points.
- Circle Spells: Almost everything on the spell is useful frequently, and you get a handful of options which aren't on the Druid's spell list.
- 3: A fantastic debuff and a very situational utility option.
- 5: The logic behind why Circle of Spores druids can raise undead is a huge stretch, but Animate Dead is great regardless. Having four human skeletons is useful at any level because they're expendable and easy to use as bait without feeling sad about killing an innocent person. Gaseous Form is great too for a variety of sneaking and exploratory purposes.
- 7: A decent single-target damage spell that works really well on plants, and a mediocre, unreliable debuff.
- 9: Two excellent offensive options.
- Circle of Spores: When you first get this, a free 1d4 damage is a really nice boost to your damage output. The damage scales very slowly, so it won't be especially threatening at high levels, but consider how infrequently most druids get to do something with their Reaction this is a fantastic improvement to your action economy. Find allies who make numerous attacks (fighters, etc.) to stun-lock enemies for extended periods of time. The range is short, unfortunately, so make sure you have a tanky ally between you and whatever is trying to kill you.
- Symbiotic Entity: Someone finally wrote a way for druids to thrive in melee without turning into an animal! Cast Shillelagh on a club or a quarterstaff, grab your shield, and go clubbing. The 10 minute duration may be enough to get you through several fights if you move quickly, and even if you're not walking around swinging a weapon, 4 temporary hit points per class level is a massive pile of hit points.
- Fungal Infestation: You're limited to small or medium beasts and humanoids, which means your best hope is for a wolf or something to die right next to you. It's cool that you can activate this as a Reaction, but 1 to 5 CR 1/4 zombies aren't going to do a whole lot. Best case scenario: whatever you're fighting spends a few of its attacks on the zombie instead of you and your allies.
- Spreading Spores: This creates an additional area in which enemies can take the damage from your Halo of Spores. You activate this as a Bonus Action, but after that creatures take the damage without you spending your Reaction. You lose the ability to use Halo of Spores as a Reaction, unfortunately, and the ability curiously doesn't exclude you from the damage, so be careful not top drop it on yourself. Cast something like Entangle to keep enemies from moving away quickly, then throw your spores on top of them.
- Fungal Body: A nice list of condition immunitites. You can still take poison damage, which seems odd, but I'm never going to complain about condition immunities.
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.
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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.
DwarfPHB: 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.
- DrowPHB: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- EladrinMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- High ElfPHB: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Sea ElfMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Shadar-KaiMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Wood ElfPHB: 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.
Gith: Githzerai is a decent option, but the Intelligence option is wasted.
- GithyankiMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- GithzeraiMToF: Wisdom, some spells which aren't on the Druid spell list, and Mental Discipline likely works while in 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 and Relentless Endurance both work in wild shape, which makes you slightly more lethal and more durable. The Orcish Fury racial feat is tempting because Relentless Endurance will trigger reliably while you're in Wild Shape, but remember that natural weapons used by animals are neither Simple nor Martial weapons, so the feat's second bullet doesn't apply while your using Wild Shape. Unfortunately, those are the only useful things that the Half-Orc brings to the Druid, so they only work for Circle of the Moon, and you'll always lag behind on spellcasting.
HalflingPHB: The Dexterity increase provides a helpful AC boost, and Ghostwise is a fantastic option for druids.
- GhostwiseSCAG: 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".
- LightfootPHB Nothing useful for the Druid.
- StoutPHB 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 important for most Druids, but Land Druids might like Elemental Adept, Moon Druids can make good use of Mobility in some forms, and Spors Druids can get a lot out of feats. Use the bonus skill to pick up a knowledge skill.
KenkuVGTM: You get the critical Wisdom increase, and a Dexterity increase helps with the Druid's notoriously terrible AC. The extra skill proficiencies don't play especially well to the Druid's skillset, but like the Cleric you can easily fill in for a rogue with the right skills and background.
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.
LocathahLR: The only useful parts are the Dexterity increase and the free skills. There are a few things that look interesting for a Circle of Spores Druid, but you can get those things from other, better-suited races.
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.
- AsmodeusMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- BaalzebulMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- DispaterMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- FiernaMToF: A bit of Wisdom, but the spells are better-suited to a Face, and druids don't make great faces.
- GlasyaMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- LevistusMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- MammonMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- MephistophelesMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- ZarielMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Variant: FeralSCAG: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Variant: HellfireSCAG: Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Variant: VanillaPHB: Nothing Nothing useful for the Druid.
- Variant: WingedSCAG: Nothing useful for the Druid.
TortleTP: Wisdom is already great, but the Tortle's Strength is largely wasted. Natural armor is great, too, but it may be unnecessary for caster druids, and Moon druids spend most of their time wild shaped and can't benefit from it.
TritonVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid.
VerdanAcInc: Bad ability spread.
Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid.
Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica aren't typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game.
Races of Eberron
BugbearERLW: See above.
ChangelingERLW: Bad ability spread, and druids can already turn into stuff.
GoblinERLW: See above.
HobgoblinERLW: See above.
OrcERLW: See above.
KalashtarERLW: A good Wisdom increase, and you may be able to speak telepathically while you use Wild Shape.
ShifterERLW: It's unclear if you can use Shifting while using Wild Shape, which negates most of the reason why you would want to play a shifter. If you're not going to use Wild Shape, you're probably fine. If you're considering Circle of the Moon, talk to your DM first.
- Beasthide: Bad ability spread.
- Longtooth: Bad ability spread.
- Swiftstride: Bad ability spread.
- Wildhunt: The ability scores line up well, and the Wildhunt Shifting Feature gives you Advantage on ability checks which include the ability check made with Dispel Magic.
WarforgedERLW: The flexible ability increase goes into Wisdom, and with a pile of resistances and immunities and a bonus to AC, you may have a solution to the Druid's notoriously poor AC.
While the design intent for Dragonmarks was that they would offer some innate spellcasting for everyone, every dragonmark includes an expanded spell list which is arguably a more significant benefit than most of the provided racial traits. Because the expanded spell options are such an important part of the dragonmarks, if you're not playing a spellcaster you're giving up a huge part of your racial traits, which makes it exceptionally difficult to justify playing a dragonmark character who can't cast spells.
Dragonmarked DwarfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.
- Mark of Warding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked ElfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.
- Mark of Shadow: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked GnomeERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.
- Mark of Scribing: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.
- Mark of Detection: The ability increases are fantastic, and nearly every one of the dragonmark spells is a new addition to the Druid's spell list.
- Mark of Storm: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW: Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.
- Mark of Finding: The ability scores are great, but most of the spells are already on the Druid's spell list.
Dragonmarked HalflingERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.
- Mark of Healing: While the ability score increases are good, the spellcasting does very little to help you. The Druid can already cast nearly every interesting spell on the dragonmark spell list.
- Mark of Hospitality: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked HumanERLW: Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.
- Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
- Mark of Handling: The ability scores are great, but most of the spells are already on the Druid's spell list.
- Mark of Making: The Intelligence increase is largely wasted, but the flexible increase can go into Wisdom, and the dragonmarks spellcasting adds a lot of new options. Only one of the dragonmark spells is already on the Druid's spell list.
- Mark of Passage: Good ability score increases, and all but two of the dragonmarks spells are new to the Druid's spell list. Druids lack options to teleport any distance, and while that capability can often be replaced by Wild Shape, turning into an owl won't always get you of a bad situation.
- Mark of Sentinel: Good ability score increases, and access to both Sheild and Shield of Faith provide ways to address the Druid's notoriously poor AC. A circle of spores druid could do very well with Mark of Sentinel's additional defensive options.
Races of Ravnica
CentaurGGTR: Centaurs are built really well for melee combat, but most of those traits go away with Wild Shape. Even if you avoid Wild Shape, using Shillelagh to enhance your melee weapon is usually a better option for druids than relying on Strength.
GoblinGGTR: See above.
LoxodonGGTR: Excellent ability cores for the Druid, and a handful of useful passive benefits. The Loxodon's Natural Armor is Constitution-based, so you can safely dump Dexterity and be incredibly durable.
MinotaurGGTR: Nothing useful for the Druid.
Simic HybridGGTR: Fantastic and versatile, but probably not a great choice for a Moon Druid because Animal Enhancement goes away in Wild Shape.
VedalkenGGTR: A Wisdom increase and Tireless Dispassion are the only interesting parts of the Vedalken.
- 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.
This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: Very customizable, and includes several options which you can make work for the Druid.
- Uthgardt Tribe MemberSCAG: The flavor makes sense for a Druid, but the proficiencies are mechanically useless.
This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the backgrounds recommended in the "Quick Build" section of the class description, as well as other backgrounds which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. The possibility of custom backgrounds also means that it is literally impossible for me to provide comprehensive analysis of every potential background in existence.
- 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: You'll do more damage with spells.
- Defensive DuelistPHB: Druids don't typically use weapons, and their only Finesse weapon is the dagger. Elf druids might get proficiency in rapiers, but that's not much better and if you're brave enough to go into melee you're probably using Shillelagh.
- Dual WielderPHB: If you want an extra attack as a bonus action, Polearm Master is a better fit for the druid.
- 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 (especially fire), 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: The best two-handed weapon druids get is a greatclub.
- HealerPHB: Use magic. Healing Spirit is the best source of hit point restoration in the game, and it's a 2nd-level spell.
- 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. Circle of Spores Druids are the best candidate for Magic Initiate: Adding Booming Blade (or Green-Flame Blade), Swordbust, and Mage Armor or Shield from either the Warlock or the Wizard spell lists will provide a significant boost to your capabilities in melee combat.
- 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. The additional point of Dexterity to your AC only matters if you can wear half-plate, and you can't because half-plate is metal.
- 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 generally don't use weapons, but polearm master works with quarterstaffs, and you can use Shillelagh with a quarterstaff, so Polearm Master isn't a totally terrible idea for a Circle of Spores druid. However, since Shillelagh also consumes your Bonus Action you'll want to cast it ahead of time to make sure that your Bonus Action is available to hit things.
- 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 typically use weapons, and don't have enough spells which use attack rolls to justify this.
- Shield MasterPHB: Druids don't have enough Strength to make the Shove option useful.
- SkilledPHB: More skills never hurt, but Druids don't really need them.
- SkulkerPHB: Sniping is for Rogues.
- Spell SniperPHB: Druids generally don't use weapons, and they 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 for everyone except Circle of Spores 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. If you do need a real weapon, carry a club or a quarterstaff and cast Shilleagh. The damage will meet or beat anything else you're proficient with, and it makes your attacks use your Wisdom instead of your Strength or Dexterity.
Armor is a difficult prospect for the druid. Despite proficiency in medium armor, the best armor you can actually wear is Studded Leather, at 12+Dex. With a shield and high Dexterity that may be enough, but Druids benefit very little from Dexterity so it may be hard to justify investing your Ability Score Increases. Most druids can realistically expect to have an AC of at most 16 with 14 Dex, Studded Leather Armor, and a shield.
- Leather Armor: Free starting gear.
- Hide: As much AC as studded leather, and it costs much less. You may want to upgrade to Studded Leather if your Dexterity exceeds a +2 bonus, but otherwise Hide is perfectly fine.
- Shield: You need one hand for a spell focus, but since you probably don't need weapons there's no reason to not carry a shield.
- Studded Leather Armor: The best armor you can get, but only an improvement over Hide if you have at least 16 Dexterity.
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 Initiate are also excluded; for suggestions for Magic Initiate, see the "Feats" section, above.
- Control FlamesEEPC / XGtE: Notably omitted from the function of Control Flames is the ability to create or extinguish them. Druidcraft and Prestidigitation both grant the ability to light or snuff out small flames. Control Flames will let you spread them, change their color, etc., but if you want to light a torch you need to use flint and tinder like a commoner, and if you want to extinguish flames I hope you were smart enough to learn Shape Water instead. In fact, forget Control Flames: go learn Shape Water instead. It's a better spell.
- Create BonfireEEPC / XGtE: This spell is fantastic for the druid. It matches the damage of Produce Flame, it can do ongoing damage if enemies stay in place or moves into the square, and the Druid has very few spells which require Concentration at low levels so the Concentration requirement isn't a significant hurdle like it is for the Warlock. If you position yourself well, you may be able to use this with Thorn Whip to repeatedly pull enemies into the square for additional damage. This is a great introduction to area control spells, which is fantastic because the Druid's options for area control are some of their best spells.
- DruidcraftPHB: This spell is profoundly disappointing. It does almost nothing, and the things it does are nearly useless.
- FrostbiteEEPC / XGtE: Low damage for a cantrip (d6-based), but the big appeal is Disadvantage on the target's next weapon attack. Unfortunately, it works on Constitution saving throws, and those tend to be relatively high compared to other saving throws.
- GuidancePHB: As long as you're not concentrating 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.
- GustEEPC / XGtE: If this scaled somehow I would be interested. If it had more options, I would be interested. If had better range, I would be interested. But as it stands this spell is almost totally useless.
- InfestationXGtE: Constitution saves tend to be high, which is this spell's biggest problem. The damage is low but fine, and the forced movement is enough to make it useful by forcing enemies to move around in dangerous places or move out of a grapple despite your lack of control over the direction.
- Magic StoneEEPC / XGtE: At low levels, a spell attack dealing 1d6+Wisdom will be more damage than any of your other cantrips. But every other damage cantrip will match it at level 5, and without Extra Attack to let you throw more stones you'll never get more than 1d6+5 damage. On top of that, casting Magic Stone consumes your Bonus Action, so it's difficult to use in conjunction with other options. Your best bet is to get three NPCs to stand behind you, pull rocks out of your hand, and throw them at enemies while you use your action to do literally anything else.
- Mold EarthEEPC / XGtE: You know what else can do this? A shovel. Sure, shoveling will take a long time, but you get at most 3 cantrips (5 with Circle of the Land), and if you can replace a cantrip with a mundane item it's probably a bad cantrip. The only important function is to create difficult terrain, but you're limited to two ongoing effects, which means you only get two 5-foot squares. And, again, you could do that with a shovel. You're about as likely to use this in combat as you are to use a shovel, too.
- Poison SprayPHB: This highest damage die for cantrips, at least until Toll the Dead came along. Poison spray has serious problems: 10 ft. range, and it works on a Constitution saving throw, so enemies will frequently resist it.
- Primal SavageryXGtE: More damage than you can get out of any other Druid cantrip except Poison Spray, but no function beyond damage. If you're building for melee without Wild Shape, you need to consider this against options like Shillelagh, Thunderclap, and any ranged cantrip that works on a saving throw rather than an attack roll. Primal Savagery will beat out Shillelagh at level 5 unless you're getting a second attack from something like Polearm Master. A Circle of Spores Druid with Polearm Master and Shillelagh will deal more damage than Primal Savagery, but only until 17th level and only while running Symbiotic Entity.
- Produce FlamePHB: The Druid's go-to damage cantrip, it notably also allows you to hold the flame and carry it around as a light source. You should be able to light fires with it even though that function isn't specified in the spell's text. You are holding a flame large enough to cast twice as much light as a candle, after all.
- Shape WaterEEPC / XGtE: 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. Build a small bridge in 5-foot segments. Block a hallway. Freeze a door in place. The uses are numerous and fantastic. If you have a barrel of water and this cantrip, you have a solution to most problems. Honestly the fact that this spell is so much better than its other elemental equivalents (Control Flames, Gust, and Mold Earth) is a good indication of just how awful those spells are.
- ShillelaghPHB: Stuck in melee? Out of Wild Shape uses? Don't use your dumped Strength score: use a magic stick! Shillelagh is a neat spell, and it's a popular option for clerics (via multiclassing or Magic Initiate) so that they don't need to devote ability score increases to Strength or Dexterity. However, it's not a great option for most druids. Druids never get Extra Attack, so the most damage you can ever get from melee attacks is 1d8+5 (avg. 9.5), which will be matched by Produce Flame at 5th level (2d8, avg. 9). As much as I love the idea of a druid standing in melee with a magic staff and a shield, it's just not a practical option. However, the Circle of Spores Druid may be an exception. Symbiotic Entity provides a boost to weapon attack damage which may keep Shillelagh viable as far as 11th level, at which point you should consider Thunderclap for your melee needs.
- Thorn WhipPHB: The damage is fine, but the real appeal is the pull effect. 10 feet may not seem like much, but its enough to pull enemies off of ledges, to pull low-flying enemies into melee, to pull enemies into an area control effect like Create Bonfire or Wall of Fire, to pull enemies out of a grapple, or in a pinch you can pull an ally out of a dangerous location (albeit at the price of some friendly fire).
- ThunderclapEEPC / XGtE: Damaging every creature within 5 feet of you is great if you're in melee facing numerous enemies. Even with Extra Attack you will deal more damage with this against three or more foes than you could with a weapon. See my article on Melee Cantrips vs. Extra Attack for a breakdown of the math comparing melee cantrip spells to normal martial attacks.
- Absorb ElementsEEPC / XGtE: A fantastic defensive option at any level, this will save your life when you encounter an unpredictable source of elemental damage like as a trap or a spell. The bonus damage on your next attack is largely useless, but it still feels cool when you use it.
- Beast BondEEPC / XGtE: Interesting, but druids don't have something like a beast companion which would signfiicantly benefit from this. You could cast Conjure animals and combine it with this, but I don't know if that's worth the spell slots.
- Create or Destroy WaterEEPC / XGtE: The ability to magically create water has many uses. Few of them are combat-related, but combined with Goodberry and an appropriate plant, this allows you to be fully self-sufficient.
- Cure WoundsPHB: More healing than Healing Word, but the action economy is considerably worse. Save this for when you need hit points and you're either out of hit dice or don't have time to rest.
- Detect MagicPHB: Someone needs to have it in every party.
- Earth TremorEEPC / XGtE: Not nearly enough damage, and being prone isn't enough of a problem in 5e. If the base damage was tripled I might consider this a decent spell, but I would probably still use Entangle instead.
- EntanglePHB: A great are control spell at any level. Strength saving throws tend to be low for any creature that isn't a gigantic Strength-based brute, so it's easy to restrain even high-level enemies. However, it requires Concentration so you can't easily combine it with things like Create Bonfire.
- Faerie FirePHB: The lowest-level option to deal with invisible creatures. Hopefully you won't run into any at 1st level, but but it's important to have some way to deal with invisibility just in case.
- Healing WordPHB: More important than Cure Wounds, especially at low levels. As a bonus action you can heal an unconscious ally enough to get them back into the fight, and you still have your action for Vicious Mockery.
- GoodberryPHB: Not useful in combat, but more healing per spell slot than Cure Wounds. Players: Dump all of your spell slots at the end of the day into Goodberry so you have a giant bag of healing to use between combats the next day. DMs: Limit your players to 10 active berries at a time specifically to prevent them from doing what I just suggested.
- Ice KnifeEEPC / XGtE: Not enough damage, and you not only make an attack for the primary damage, but the targets also get saving throws to totally avoid the splash damage.
- LongstriderPHB: A helpful buff for highly-mobile characters, and with an hour-long duration it can be a great use of low-level spell slots once your 1st-level spells start lagging in combat.
- Speak with AnimalsPHB: Its function is obvious enough that it probably doesn't need exploration, but Speak with Animals is probably the most druid-y spell a druid can cast. Just be warned: animals aren't very smart, so their ability to convey useful information may be hampered despite removing the speech barrier.
- ThunderwavePHB: With the exceptin of Gust, this is one of your very few options for pushing enemies away from you. It's especially appealing if you can push an enemy into an area control effect, but otherwise it's not a good go-to option for damage output in combat.
- 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. However, since it's a Concentration spell you'll run the risk of the spell ending any time something hits you, and 16 AC isn't high enough to keep you safe if you're drawing a lot of fire. If you're not fighting while in Wild Shape, skip Barkskin. 14 Dexterity, Hide armor, and a shield get you 16 AC, and Barkskin provides a minimum value for an AC and doesn't interact with any bonuses of any kind, including shields and magic items.
- DarkvisionPHB: Darkvision is a significant tactical advantage, and with an 8-hour duration this is a fantastic way to get it.
- Dust DevilEEPC / XGtE: The one-minute duration means that you can spend a lot of time pushing enemies around. The damage is puny, so you'll need to combine this with other area control effects to do any meaningful damage. Unfortunately, Dust Devil requires Concentration so it's hard to combine with other effects like Create Bonfire.
- EarthbindEEPC / XGtE: Technically situational, but at high levels flight becomes a defining tactical option. If you can fly and your enemy can't, you often win the fight be default.
- Enhance AbilityPHB: Versatile, and Advantage on ability checks can have a huge impact if you cast this in time to be used for multiple checks.
- Faerie FirePHB: The lowest-level option to deal with invisible creatures. Hopefully you won't run into any at 1st level, but but it's important to have some way to deal with invisibility just in case.
- Flame BladePHB: This spell is awful. If it worked like Shadow Blade it would at least be usable, but as it's written it's immediately worse then Produce Flame. 3d6 damage (avg. 10.5) barely exceeds 2d8 (avg. 9), and Produce Flame will scale without costing higher-level spell slots.
- Flaming SpherePHB: An interesting but sometimes difficult option, Flaming Sphere combines area control and regular damage output, but monopolizes both your bonus action and your Concentration for the 1-minute duration. In small areas where enemies can't easily get away from the sphere, it can be a reliable source of ongoing damage while also helping control a 15x15 area. However, the sphere only applies damage when it rams a creature or when a creature ends its turn; in the intervening time creatures can run past or even directly through the sphere unharmed.
- Gust of WindPHB: Potentially a great way to shove enemies around, but at 15 ft. per round enemies will frequently be able to walk back the distance they were pushed without issue. Your best bet is to push enemies into area control effects, but since Gust of Wind requires your Concentration you may have trouble creating effects to use.
- Healing SpiritXGtE: 1d6 healing for a whole bunch of people every round for up to a minute. Use this out of combat and have everyone run through the spirit's area, and you can get 10d6 healing on a dizzying number of people. Even if you ignore vertical movement and the ability to move the spirit, you can heal everyone who can fit into a circle whose radius is up to their speed by having creatures move in then dash out to their original position. Creatures need only enter the spirit's space to get the healing. If you're not abusing this to restore hit points, you're honestly not trying hard enough. Better still, the healing goes up by 1d6 per spell slot past 2nd, so you can double the healing by using a 3rd-level slot. Obviously you don't want to use this during a fight because the healing isn't fast enough, but at high levels this is both cheap and effective enough that hit point damage almost stops being a limiting factor on how much you can do in a day.
- Heat MetalPHB: Against nearly any humanoid in metal armor, this spell is a death sentence. The damage will be slow, but disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks makes martial characters (the ones typically in metal armor) basically useless.
- Hold PersonPHB: On off button for humanoids, and they don't need to be in metal armor for it to work.
- Lesser RestorationPHB: You won't need it all the time, but everyone needs it eventually.
- MoonbeamPHB: It's easiest to compare Moonbeam to Flaming Sphere
- Pass without TracePHB: A +10 bonus in a game where most characters max out at +11 is huge. The bonus is enough to offset problems like a fighter in full plate armor. But remember: this is not invisibility. You can't cast this and crouch down in plain view and magically disappear. I hear that mistake being made constantly on podcasts. A +10 bonus doesn't negate line of sight rules. You still need cover or something.
- Protection from PoisonPHB: Situational, but if you know you're going to be facing enemies that deal poison damage you would be a fool not to bring this along. The Poisoned condition can be very problematic, and if you're facing it repeatedly (Troglodytes, Yuan-ti, etc.) you should be prepared for it.
- Spike GrowthPHB: 2d4 damage every 5 feet, and it's every time the creature "travels", not every time the creature moves. So if you push or pull the creature, they take damage. A 20-foot radius sprea is a fairly large area, too, so you can easily affect whole rooms or long stretches of hallway.
- Warding WindEEPC / XGtE: A decent buff for melee druids, including both Circle of the Moon and Circle of Spores. Making the area around you difficult terrain makes it hard for enemies to move toward or away from you, and disadvantage on ranged weapon attacks keeps enemies with ranged weapons from picking you off from afar while you're closing the distance.
- Call LightningPHB: Technically situational, but the situation is "whenever you're outside or in a room with a high ceiling", which is a pretty common situation. With a 10-minute duration, you can produce a total of 100 bolts of lightning, each dealing 3d10 (or more) damage in an AOE. The cloud itself is immobile, but the lightning bolt's range is measured from your own position, and nothing about the spell specifies that there needs to be a clear line from the cloud to the target location. You can also activate the lightning bolt effect while in wild shape, which means that you can turn into something sneaky like a rat or a small bird and go unnoticed while raining lightning on your foes.
- Conjure AnimalsPHB: The lowest-level "Conjure Creature" spell, Conjure animals can be a powerful tool. At low levels, a single CR 2 creature is a significant increase yo your party's combat capabilities. However, like other Conjure Creature spells, the DM decides what animals you summon (you get to select the CR, just not the specific animal), which means that you need to trust your DM to give you something helpful.
- Daylight: Situational.
- Dispel Magic: Every party needs someone who can cast Dispel Magic, and since it's not DC-dependent the Bard is just as good as everyone else.
- Erupting EarthEEPC / XGtE: This is probably the closest the Druid gets to fireball. But it deals 2/3 as much damage and has a quarter the surface area, so it's clearly for a different purpose: You're using this spell for the difficult terrain. The damage is enough that you won't regret casting it instead of a cantrip, and even at higher levels it's a great way to place some difficult terrain. The difficult terrain effect is nearly permanent, so if you have time you can use this to set up ambushes and choke points which can define encounters against anything that can't fly.
- Feign DeathPHB: Very situational.
- Flame ArrowsEEPC / XGtE: This is a waste of a spell slot. It amounts to at most 12d6 damage, which is a tragic waste of a 3rd-level spell slot. If you somehow manage to hit one target with all 12 arrows, you'll do more damage than Fireball. But you have to somehow hit with a bunch of arrows or pass them off to someone who will, and following the typical attacks vs. AC progression means that a player will hit something like 60% of the time, which means you're getting 60% of the maximum damage, so something like 6d6 or 7d6. At that point, Erupting Earth is better.
- Meld into StonePHB: Very situational.
- Plant GrowthPHB: Situational. Outside of normal adventuring activities, the ability to enrich land to double crop yields is very useful. But DnD is a game primarily about adventuring, and the option to make an area of plants overgrown is the more important option. In most cases, Entangle will work fine, but Plant Growth doesn't expire, so those plants remain difficult to walk through until someone clears the plants.
- Protection from EnergyPHB: An excellent defensive option, but you may be doing alright with Absorb Elements.
- Sleet StormPHB: This is not good enough for a 3rd-level spell slot.
- Speak with PlantsPHB: Situational.
- Tidal WaveEEPC / XGtE: Being knocked prone typically isn't a problem in 5e because standing is costs so little. However, being knocked prone while flying causes you to fall, potentially taking a bunch of damage. This spell notably doesn't require that it be cast on the ground or on top of a body of water. You could cast this in mid-air, or even wholly underwater. Using it mid-air seems like a good way to counter multiple flying enemies.
- Wall of WaterEEPC / XGtE: Warding Wind also causes Disadvantage for ranged attacks and it's both a level lower and it follows you.
- Water BreathingPHB: Situational, but crucial when you need it.
- Water WalkPHB: Usually flight is a better option than walking across a liquid. The spell notably doesn't allow a saving throw, so you can use this on hostile creatures underwater to force them to surface.
- Wind WallPHB: Extremely situational.
- BlightPHB: Not enough damage for a spell slot this level, and Constitution saves tend to be high.
- Charm MonsterXGtE: A great nonlethal way to deal with enemies. It doesn't require that the target be able to understand you, but otherwise has the same complications which Charm Person does: the target is only friendly toward you, and when the spell ends they know that they were charmed.
- ConfusionPHB: I've hated Confusion since 3rd edition. It's unpredictable, unreliable, and makes combat take twice as long as it would normally. It's great that it's an AOE, and you might be able to make creatures attack their allies, but there are too many points of failure for it to be a reliable option.
- Conjure Minor ElementalsPHB: The same CR range as Conjure Animals, but a spell level higher. You could argue that elementals might be more useful than animals since elementals can often do things like move through solid stone or light things on fire, but you're still totally beholden to the DM's whims. You might need an earth elemental and get a magmin or something. The spell isn't limited to vanilla elementals; any creature of the Elemental creature type qualifies.
- Conjure Woodland BeingsPHB: The same CR range as Conjure Animals, but a spell level higher. Fey are interesting creatures with a wide range of capabilities, so your DM is free to give you any number of options which may be either perfectly suited to the situation or totally useless.
- Control WaterPHB: All of the effects are situational, and there are some weird edge cases like using the Flood option on a puddle or a full bucket where U
- Dominate BeastPHB: Beasts tend to have poor Wisdom saves, and there is rarely a better way to handle a potentially hostile creature than by dominating it. This spell can trivialize an entire creature type, which is impressive for a spell at this level, and the scaling is good enough that using a higher-level spell slot is appealing if you encounter a sufficiently powerful beast that you could reasonably drag it through a few encounters. Even if the spell ends prematurely, beasts aren't especially smart and they might view the creatures which you were forcing them to fight as enemies and continue fighting them, or they might simply flee if they are injured. Beasts rarely fight to their last hit point unless they're defending their young or something. They're animals, not zealots.
- Elemental BaneEEPC / XGtE: Druids depend heavily on damage types covered by Elemental Bane, especially fire damage, but devoting your Concentration to this means that you can't concentrate on many of the Druid's best spells.
- Freedom of MovementPHB: Nice, but situational.
- Giant InsectPHB: This spell is really good, but I still hate it because the best way to use the spell is to keep a bunch of bugs in jars to use with the spell so that you're not dependent on whatever bugs happen to be within 30 ft. of you, and I just can't bring myself to write "I have jars full of bugs" on a character sheet. But if you're not me, and you don't mind the mere concept of willingly interacting with bugs, this spell is good. In practice it's very simiilar to Conjure Animals, but you can choose the creature you want by targeting an appropriate bug. Spiders are good for crowd control, scorpions have blindsight, wasps are good for flying enemies, and centipedes are numerous enough to block big sections of a battlefield, and their damage is as good as the giant wasps' so if you don't need flight they're a great way to bog down enemies with no AOE options. Also: Spiders aren't instects. They could have called this spell "Vermin Growth" or "Giant Vermin", but I think 5e is trying to get away from the word "Vermin", which was a creature type in previous editions.
- Grasping VinePHB: This is not nearly good enough for such a high-level spell, and requiring Concentration and monopolizing your bonus action makes it nearly useless. Your best bet is to combine it with something that produces difficult terrain like Erupting Earth to keep a creature stuck inside a 30-foot radius, but there are simply too many failure points to make this even remotely reliable. Without the ability to produce useful combos, this is a weak and unreliable crowd control effect. If this was a 1st-level spell, I think I would still prefer Entangle. Granted, Entangle is really good, but the fact that Grasping Vine is 4th-level and worse than Entangle really highlights just how weak it is.
- Guardian of NatureXGtE: This is a challenging spell. The benefits are great, but the duration is short and the spells effectiveness depends heavily on how you're built. Primal Beast is clearly intended to be the scary offensive form, but a druid making Strength-based melee attacks is a poorly built druid. Great Tree is the better option: advantage on Dexterity- and Wisdom-based attacks covers important options like daggers, but also covers anything you can use with Shillelagh. The temporary hit points will help compensate for your poor AC, and the area of difficult terrain will help you keep enemies in convenient melee range.
- Hallucinatory TerrainPHB: Situational.
- Ice StormPHB: This spell is terrible. Two types of dice for no readily apparent reason. Two types of damage, which makes sense but is still annoying. Compare is to Erupting Earth: ice Storm's AOE is much bigger (20 ft. cube vs. 20 ft. radius cylindar), but it does an average of just 3 more damage, and the difficult terrain only lasts until the end of your next turn so it's nearly pointless.
- Locate CreaturePHB: Situational, but very powerful when you need it.
- PolymorphPHB: Fantastic and versatile, but also very complicated. See my Practical Guide to Polymorph for detailed advice on how to get the most out of Polymorph.
- Stone ShapePHB: Where Transmute Rock is a gigantic sledge hammer, Stone Shape is a scalpel. You're able to finely shape relatively small quantities of stone nearly however you choose, and a 5-ft. cube of stone is enough to get quite a lot done. However, the wording is itentionally limiting: Everything you do with a specific casting must occur withing a 5-ft. cube; you don't just get a 5-ft. cube worth of stone with which to perform shenanigans.
- StoneskinPHB: Expensive, but really good. Barkskin is Stoneskin's only competition, and resistance to weapon damage types will be more effective than 16 AC.
- Wall of FirePHB: An absolutely fantastic area control option.
- Watery SphereEEPC / XGtE: If you just want to restrain creatures, cast Entangle. The primary appeal here is the ability to restrain the target, then drag them around for the spell's duration.
- Antilife ShellPHB: Helpful against melee enemies with short reach, which includes a large portion of the Monster Manual even at high levels.
- AwakenPHB: Neat, but extremely situational.
- Commune with NaturePHB: 3 miles isn't an especially large range, and druids don't ger ritual casting, so you have to burn a spell slot for this. You might get some useful information, especially if you're in a totally new place, but if you're in a new place expecting to ancounter major fiends or undead you might be better served by a spell which would protect you from them.
- Conjure ElementalPHB: Finally a Conjure spell which lets you select the creature! Elementals can do some useful stuff, and the CR of the elemental matches the spell level which means that the summoned elemental will remain reasonably useful in combat as you gain levels. However, this spell is not without problems: You need to choose an area that "fills a 10-foot cube".
- ContagionPHB: Sage Advice nerfed this spell really hard. The originally rules as written applied the effects of the disease immediately, but the current Sage Advice Compendium states that the disease doesn't take hold until after the target fails three saving throws. That means you need to both hit them with a melee spell attack and wait at least three turns to maybe get the effect of the spell. Absolutely garbage. Hopefully they'll rewrite the spell in errata some day, but I wouldn't count on it.
- Control WindsEEPC / XGtE: A downdraft is a great way to deal with groups of flying enemies since falling prone while flying causes the target to fall. But there are other options like Earthbind which can also handle flying enemies with a much lower-level spell slot, though admittedly Earthbind only affects one target and they won't take falling damage.
- GeasPHB: Very situational, and 5d10 psychic damage (avg. 55) is often little more than a minor annoyance thanks to 5e's generous healing rules. A creature waks up at full hit points, triggers the damage, then spends a few hit dice to recover. The fact that the damage doesn't scale with spell level further compounds the problem; when you're casting 9th-level Geas to permanently affect a creature, the creature is probably going to shrug off the damage and go about their lives slightly annoyed by a minor daily annoyance.
- Greater RestorationPHB: A crucial healing option; someone needs to have this in every party.
- Insect PlaguePHB: Combining both ongoing damage and difficult terrain, Insect Plague is a good area control option, further improved because you can place it in the air or underwater, rather than on the ground. However, the radius isn't big enough to prevent a creature from escaping if its willing to spend its action to Dash, so look for other ways to force the creature to stay inside the sphere like shoving, tripping, or casting Wall of Stone.
- MaelstromEEPC / XGtE: A great area control effect. The damage isn't much, but it covers a 30-foot radius circle in difficult terrain, so creatures at the center of the square with 30-foot speed need to Dash just to reach the edge of the effect. If you can force creatures to stay in the area somehow (knock them prone, push/pull them, restrain them, etc.), you can get a lot of damage out of one spell slot.
- Mass Cure WoundsPHB: You never want this to be a good option. It's your best bet when you need to revive a dying ally that you can't reach, but even then Healing Word is typically sufficient.
- Planar BindingPHB: Situational and very difficult to use. Druids can't cast Magic Circle, so you need to ask a friend for help or stumble across one in the wild. You also don't get high-level summoning options like Gate, so the best things you can bind are Fey and Eelementals summoned via Conjure Elemental and Conjure Fey. Plus, there's the 1,000gp consumable material component.
- ReincarnatePHB: Back in 3.0, the Reincarnate list was much weirded. You could reincarnate people as badgers. 5e's version is exclusively options from the PHB, which is much more useful but way less fun. This is a good option if your party can't get Raise Dead for some reason, but keep in mind that changing races will probably wreck the target's build.
- ScryingPHB: In previous editions druids could use any still pool of water for Scrying, and as much as I miss that bit of flavor it was a bit unfair. Scrying is a spectacularly powerful option, and if you know enough about major chracters you can use to repeatedly spy on them to learn things which you might otherwise be totally unable to learn.
- Transmute RockEEPC / XGtE: In previous editions, this was two spells, and if you were quick you could transmute mud to rock, then back into rock once enemies had sunken into it. Now that combination is specifically prohibited, but transmuting rock to mud is still a decent combiantion. Adventuring frequently takes you to places with stone flopors and ceilings like caves and castles, and even if you don't use this to restrain enemies, you can use it for things like walking through walls, collapsing structures, or generally just ruining anything made of stone. It affects a 40-foot cube, which is enough to do a horrifuingly large amount of structural damage.
- Tree StridePHB: In a forest this can be a helpful way to quickly travel short distances, but It's not nearly as effective for short distances as Misty Step, it's not good for long distances (you can go about a mile total if all the trees line up perfectly and you run a little bit during your turns), and you're totally limited by the position and species of trees.
- Wall of StonePHB: Wall of Stone useful defensively for creating instant cover, and you can use it to segment off portions of a fight to isolate enemies from their allies, or to put a barrier between your allies and problematic enemies. The ability to make the effect permanent also means that with repeated castings you're able to build structures with it, provided that you can meet the "merge with abd be solidly supported by existing stone" requirement.
- Wrath of NatureEEPC / XGtE: This would be a great spell if you could guarantee that you were in an area with trees, grass, and loose stones every time you fought something. But you can't do that, and forests are a relatively small portion of most worlds' environments.
- Bones of the EarthEEPC / XGtE: If you're inside somewhere with a low enough ceiling that you can pin enemies against the ceiling, this is great. Otherwise it's borderline useless.
- Conjure FeyPHB: Fey are powerful creatures with a wide variety of abilities, but remember that the DM selects which creature you summon, so you can't guarantee that you will summon something useful. Also, be very careful to maintain Concentration for the duration of the spell. Losing control of your summoned fey could be a serious problem if things are already going badly for you.
- Druid GroveEEPC / XGtE: Not the sort of spell you cast often while adventuring, but the fact that you can make it permanent makes it a really cool spell to cast when you retire from adventuring.
- Find the PathPHB: Situational, and often difficult to use, but still very interesting. The hardest part of using the spell is finding an object from the place you want to go. Once you've solved that problem, Find the Path merely gives you directions. It doesn't avoid hazards and it doesn't point out traps, so be wary of traps and ambushes along the way.
- HealPHB: One of the best healing options in the game, especially during combat.
- Heroes' FeastPHB: The duration is instantaneous, but the effects of eating the feast last 24 hours, and that's definitely not confusing. Jokes aside, you should cast this spell every day. Poison is a common nuisance, and while fear isn't as common it's still a problem, but advantage on all Wisdom saving throws is simply too good to pass up. On top of those already amazing benefits, 2d10 extra hit points is a small but still helpful boost to your party's durability. Note that these extra hit points aren't temporary hit points, so you can still add temporary hit points on top of your boosted hit point maximum.
- Investiture of FlameEEPC / XGtE: A solid offensive option, the damage for being adjacent to you is easy to apply if you're grappling (easily accomplished by many Wild Shape forms) or to use to encourage enemies to run away and potentially draw opportunity attakcs, and using Wild Shape doesn't end the effect so you're free to turn yourself into a flaming owl, fly into position to use the line of fire effect, then fly to safety.
- Investiture of IceEEPC / XGtE: Largely similar to Investiture of Flame, but you trade ongoing fire damage for an area of difficult terrain around you. You also trade Investiture of Fire's line for a cone of the same length, but in exchange for the broader AOE you lose a little bit of damage.
- Investiture of StoneEEPC / XGtE: The earthquake effect is mostly useless, but the other effects are fantastic. Resistance to weapon damage types is fantastic for a class with notoriously low AC and only d8 hit points. Circle of the Moon druids will find it especially useful since the effect continues while in Wild Shape, allowing you to remain in Wild Shape longer before running out of hit points. The difficult terrain point may not seem especially useful, but until this level the majority of the Druid's spells which create difficult terrain do so by scattering rubble which this spell conveniently allows you to ignore.
- Investiture of WindEEPC / XGtE: A 60 foot fly speed is considerable, and disadvantage on ranged weapon attacks against you means that the only easy way to hit you is with spells or something. Of the investiture spells, this is easily the best option for Circle of the Land Druids who generally can't risk being close enough to use Investiture of Flame/Ice offensively (except possibly while flying around as a fire/ice breathing owl), and who need to avoid being attacked too much to use Investiture of Stone.
- Move EarthPHB: Extremely situational, but by this level you might have a permanent base of some sort, and the ability to reform the terrain in an area that you frequent can be very helpful. Flatten arable land for farms, roads, and buildings. Dig trenches for irrigation as a moat. Redirect the flow of rivers, or reshape lakes and ponds. Create safe harbors by lowering land adjacent to water enough that ships can sail in. Combined with Stone Shape, Wall of Stone, and some naturally occurring local stone you have everything you need to build yourself a castle.
- Primordial WardEEPC / XGtE: In most cases, Protection from Energy is sufficient because most creatures can only dish out one type of non-weapon damage. However, if you're facing a spellcaster or something horrifying like Tiamat, you'll want to cover all the bases. This spell notably omits resistance to Necrotic, Psychic, and Radiant damage, which is a crucial vulnerability to understand before depending on Primordial ward, and it's also a great data point when explaining how useful it is to be able to deal those damage types.
- SunbeamPHB: An efficient use of a spell slot, giving you the equivalent of Lightning Bolt every turn. The blinding effect is great, too, but Constitution saves tend to be high, so think of it more like an added bonus on top of the damage rather than as a core component of the spell.
- Transport via PlantsPHB: The duration is only one round, but "any creature" means that you can queue up a small horde of creatures and charge them through into the entrance plant by having them all run into the center then run away from the exit in the space of a single round. The spell doesn't specify that creatures must exit into an unoccupied space, which opens up further room for abuse. You can feed as many creatures through the plant as you can physically squeeze through, so it's basically a magical clown car tree gate thing. Oh, an it goes to any sufficiently large plant on the same plane of existence, so you can transport between planets (provided that there are suitable destinations in your setting) or to less far-off places like the Underdark even without having been there before.
- Wall of ThornsPHB: Casting Wall of Fire at a 6th-level spell will do almost as much damage, and Wall of Fire affect creatures within 10 ft. of the wall so it's much easier to apply the damage. However, fire damage is commonly resisted and aside from the damage there is little preventing enemies from moving through a Wall of Fire. Wall of Thorns' damage will be less commonly resisted, it blocks line of sight, and moving through it costs 4 times as much movement as normal. If you add difficult terrain with something like Erupting Earth, it's profoundly difficult to get out of or through the wall, and if you can push or pull enemies into the wall somehow they'll have a lot of trouble getting out of it.
- Wind WalkPHB: Transport Via Plants is your go-to travel option, but if you're scouting an area from the air or if there are no suitable plants, a 300 ft. fly speed is a great way to do it. That's 10 times as fast as most players can walk, so you can cover huge distances in the spell's 8-hour duration.
- Fire StormPHB: Imagine a fireball that you got to cut up and shape in 10-foot cubes. That's essentially what Fire Storm is. It's a decent blast spell, but it doesn't do nearly enough damage for a spell of this level.
- Mirage ArcanePHB: This is a difficult spell. The affectable area is huge, the distance is Sight (go climb a mountain on a clear day), and the effects of the illusion are tangible enough that you can physically interact with them, including picking up sticks or stones. But it's unclear how far that goes: Can you burn the illusory wood to keep yourself warm? Can you smooth over difficult terrain in the same way that you can make smooth terrain difficult? Could you place stairs in the side of a clear cliff face? How far up and down does the effect stretch? The closest we have is these two tweets which indicate that you have a lot of leeway, and that the effects are real enough that a creature could drown in illusory water, brun in illusory lava, and climb illusory trees. Your DM will be the abiter of exactly what you can get away with, but the spell itself is a wildly versatile toolbox.
- Plane ShiftPHB: Combination travel/banishment in one spell. You can easily replicate teleportation by casting Plane Shift twice to get where you want to be on the same plane. You can also banish a creature to a plane where they'll be really unhappy, like a living creature banished to the plane of fire, or a demon banished to Celestia. The spell requires a Charisma save to resist, and many monsters have terrible Charisma saves because they're horrifying monstrosities.
- RegeneratePHB: Too situational to select as a spellcaster with a limited number of spells known. DnD doesn't have injury rules which lead to limb removal except in very specific circumstances, so it's not like characters are losing fingers and toes despite spending potentially years being sliced and diced by all manny of oponents.
- Reverse GravityPHB: If used under the right circumstances, this spell is a death sentence for many creatures. If affected creatures can't grab onto something, they don't get a save. If they can't fly and can't fight at range, they're floating targets for up to a minute. If you're facing creatures of larger size than your party members, you can place the cylindar slightly off the ground, dragging tall enemies into the air while your allies duck below the bottom of the cylindar.
- WhirlwindEEPC / XGtE: Casting this spell is a commitment: enemies won't just walk into the whirlwind, so you'll need to spend your Action every turn to move it. Hopefully you're in close enough quarters that you'll be able to hit multiple enemies each turn, but they'll probably figure out that a 30-foot tall tornado isn't something which they want to stand by. Once you have a creature in the whirlwind, the victim is making ability checks to get out rather than a saving throw or a skill check, so even creatures with high Strength or Dexterity may need several attempts to escape. And even when they do escape, they're hurled between 30 and 180 feet in a random direction. Unfortunately it looks like hitting objects won't hurt them, but you can always go pick them up again on your own turn if they're close enough.
- Animal ShapesPHB: Essentially a worse version of Mass Polymorph, the size, creature type, and CR limitations gives you few good options. The current published highest-CR creature or Large or smaller size is the Giant Scorpion at CR 3, which isn't a great option for combat at this level. You could use this for scouting by turning into something like rats or spiders, but if you just want to fly around quickly Wind Walk is better.
- Antipathy/SympathyPHB: Difficult to use because it targets a single type of creature, but if you're facing a homogenous group of enemies you can greatly hinder them with either option. Even against single creatures, using Sympathy to force an enemy to approach one of your party members (sympathy on a paladin to attract a lich) can force enemies into a situation which will end in their death.
- Control WeatherPHB: Very situational, and kind of a pain for the DM. Go to your setting's arctic equivalent, and raise the remperature to "Unbearable Heat" for 8 hours. That certainly won't cause horrifying and potentially irreperable ecological damage that the DM will need to either totally disregard or track in some unpleasant fashion for the duration of the campaign.
- EarthquakePHB: Unless you're specificlally trying to destroy buildings, this spell is too subject to the DM's whims to be reliable. The fissues are the only part of the spell which can reliably harm enemies who aren't inside a collapsing building, and you have no control over where they appear.
- FeeblemindPHB: Wisdom-based and Charisma-based casters are extremely vulnerable to Feeblemind. Even creatures who cast spells as a supplement to their other abilities can be seriously inhibited by suddenly being less intelligent than many animals.
- SunburstPHB: Good AOE damage in a big area, and the blindness rider is really nice, but it's on a Constitution save, and Constitution saves tend to be high.
- TsunamiPHB: Push everything you're fighting away from you at 50 ft. per round, and prevent them from escaping unless they make Strength (Athletics) checks. The creatures aren't restrained or anything so they can still use ranged weapons and cast spells, but then again you're also free to shoot at them as they're carried off, and you're not holding your breath. If you have allies who can throw up area control effects like Wall of Fire or Blade Barrier, you can use this to force enemies through those effects.
- ForesightPHB: This is, without a doubt, the best buff in the game. With an 8-hour duration you can throw it on the lucky recipient and watch them laugh their way through nearly any challenge for a full day worth of adventuring.
- ShapechangePHB: The best polymorph spell for targeting yourself. The ability to change forms while still under the effects of a single casting makes you fantastically versatile, allowing you to change forms to suit the situation at a moment's notice. However, it takes an action to change forms so you want to avoid doing so in combat. Generally you should have a few go-to combat forms, but avoid any creature that has spellcasting in its stat block, as losing the creature's spellcasting will typically reduce the creature's CR considerably. If you're ever unsure what to pick, pick a dragon. It's hard to go wrong with a high-CR dragon.
- Storm of VengeancePHB: For a 9th-level spell with a cool name and an exciting description, this spell is terrible. The effects replace each other every round rather than adding on top of each other, so you need to consider each effect individually. The only meaningful damage is the lightning bolts in round 3, and notably that's also the only damage which affects objects. I can't guess why hailstones large enough to deal as much damage as a greatsword somehow can't affect objects, but I suppose 2d6 damage to a castle for one round isn't going to do more than annoy some masons. The wind and cold damage from rounds 5 through 10 are the bulk of the spell's effect, but the damage is pitiful and you can get the wind effect from other spells. The only case I can think of where this spell is useful is if you want to murder a small community of peasants in ramshackle houses at incredible distance.
- True ResurrectionPHB: The Druid's first and only conventional way to raise the dead. Previously your best option was Reincarnate, which was fine but unpredictable. Ideally you want to rely on the lowest-level available option for raising the dead because the material components are so expensive, but the Druid doesn't get much choice. If you don't want your friend coming back as a different race, you'll need to drop 25,000gp to do it or find a cleric.
Keep in mind that Druids are prohibited form wearing metal armor. Before multiclassing, consider how that might affect your armor options.
- 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 Berserker'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. The Monk is an unusually good option for Circle of Spores: unarmored defense will exceed the maximum AC you could expect otherwise, and Martial Arts adds an extra attack to apply the poison damage from Symbiotic Entity.
- 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 wild shape options.
- Warlock: A single level and the Great Old One patron grants telepathy, which is useful for druids who spend a lot of time in wild shape. However, high-level parties which include a wizard may prefer Telepathic Bond.
Example Build - Hill Dwarf Druid (Circle of the Land)
I don't trust trees. They've always seemed shady.
This is a "Staple Build". This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible. If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start.
Circle of the Land is often decried as boring because it adds more spellcasting, but no new features. Hill Dwarf is often overlooked because it's a fantastic option for clerics and little else. Combining the two gives us a mechanically robust (if somewhat dull) druid.
We will assume the point buy abilities suggested above.
Hill Dwarf. A bit of Wisdom and a whole pile of durability are a great combo. Wood Elf is a great candidate, too.
Skills and Tools
Nature is among the most iconic of druid skills, and in many campaigns it will be very useful. Animal Handling also fits thematically, but you can go an entire campaign without needing it even as a Druid, so take Perception instead.
Druids really only need high Wisdom. Other ability scores are helpful defensively, but even then you can often get more out of a feat. If you're feeling brace enough to explore beyond the SRD, consider exploring feats once you hit 20 Wisdom.
|Level||Feat(s) and Features||Notes and Tactics|
|1|| || |
For your starting equipment, take a wooden shield, a quarterstaff, leather armor, an explorer's pack, and a druidic focus.
In leather armor with a shield, your AC is 15, which is respectable but no invulnerable. Upgrade to Hide as soon as possible for the extra AC, but even then your AC is only 16 so you need to be cautious.
In combat, your go-to option is Produce Flame. Keep your shield in hand for the AC, but otherwise hang back and throw fire. Out of combat, cast Guidance at every possible opportunity.
|2|| || |
Wild Shape gives you some melee options. If you need to jump into melee, a CR 1/4 creature is still a threat at this level if enemies aren't focusing their attention solely on you. Turn into a wolf and bite some people.
Druidcraft gives you some general magic utility options that are a bit less numerical than Guidance.
|3|| || |
Nothing happens at this level except 2nd-level spells.
|4|| || |
4th level boosts a bunch of your existing capabilities. Wild Shape improves, making Ape our new go-to combat option. More Wisdom improves our spellcasting, and we get another cantrip.
|5|| || |
5th level is normally a lot of fun, but all that the Drud gets is 3rd-level spells. Druids don't get fireball, but you do get Call Lightning. Call Lightning is your go-to combat option whenever you're somewhere that you can cast it (outside, usually).
|6|| || |
Occasionally useful, especially if you like to drop Entangle on yourself.
|7|| || |
Nothing at this level except 4th-level spells.
|8|| || |
Wild Shape maxes out at this level, but your spellcasting is still your go-to option in combat. Once in a while you might need to turn into a beast so that you can wade into melee, but most of the time you should rely on spellcasting.
|9|| || |
Nothing at this level except 5th-level spells.
|10|| || |
Some nice passive defenses and another cantrip. By this level you probably have all the cantrips you care about, bur more cantrips is always nice.
Nothing at this level except 6th-level spells, and cantrips get a damage increase.
|12|| || |
We already have maximum Wisdom, so it's time to consider other ability scores. Constitution is a great candidate for the bonus hit points, but if you're willing to use feats you might consider Tough instead.
Nothing at this level except 7th-level spells.
|14|| || |
At this level you've largely left beasts behind, but there are a handful of high-CR beasts and plants which may pop up occasionally.
Nothing at this level except 8th-level spells.
|16|| || |
With 20 Constitution and the Hill Dwarf's bonus hit points, you have as many hit points as a fighter.
Nothing at this level except 9th-level spells, and cantrips get their last damage increase.
|18|| || |
Beast Spells gives you a taste of Archdruid. You can now turn into something like a bat or a small bird and fly around in combat with dramatically improved mobility while still casting most of your spells. Keep in mind that even if a material component doesn't have a cost listed you will still need to return to human form to provide it. Your DM may allow you to carry a focus while in beast form, but I think the intent of the feature is that you cannot do so.
|19|| || |
Your last ability score increase, but by now you don't really need it.
|20|| || |
Now that Wild Shape is free, you should think of it like a permanent buff. Being an animal provides all sorts of mobility options, not to mention the big pad of extra hit points. If you're not in Beast Form and you have an unused Bonus Action, you should be turning yourself into a beast.