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DnD 5e - The Druid Handbook

Last Updated: April 18th, 2019

Disclaimer

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.

Temporary Note: I am currently waiting to include content from the Wayfarer's Guide to Eberron. According to Dragontalk (the official D&D podcast), it's in a semi-finished state and is still subject to change, which could mean that character options in the book will see major changes before final publication. Once the book is complete, physical copies will be released and I will update to address the new content.

Introduction

Druids are a very versatile class. Moon Druids emphasize Wild Shape, making them excellent Defenders, Scouts, or Strikers depending on what form they take. The Druid spell list allows them to serve as Controllers, Strikers, Support casters, and Utility casters. Land Druids lack the Moon Druid's ability to dive into melee, but gain improved spellcasting capacity, and retain the ability to use Wild Shape for scouting.

Druid Class Features

Hit Points: d8 hit points is good for a full caster.

Saves: Two mental saves. Intelligence is a dump stat for Druids, so even with proficiency it won't be a great save.

Proficiencies: Medium armor and shields should give you a decent AC, but since you can't use metal armor the best you can use is Studded Leather and a shield for a total of 14+dex. Your weapon proficiencies really don't matter 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.
    • 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: Relocating your Halo of Spores means that you can throw it around in combat without risking your own safety by walking within 10 ft. of something that may have reach meeting or exceeding 10 ft.. The fact that you can activate this as a bonus action makes it especially appealing. 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.

Abilities

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.

Cha: Dump.

Point Buy Standard Array
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 10
  • Dex: 13
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 8

Races

Wisdom bonuses are crucial, but since nothing grants a +2 bonus to Wisdom you will need to settle for +1. Moon Druids don't need Strength or Dexterity since theirs will be replaced by their Wild Shape forms, but Land Druids may want some Dexterity for AC.

AarakocraEEPC: A bit of Wisdom and flight are great.

AasimarVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid. It's unclear which, if any, of the aasimar's racial traits work while wildshaped.

  • Fallen: Nothing useful for the Druid.
  • Protector: Wisdom bonus.
  • Scourge: Nothing useful for the Druid.

BugbearVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid.

Dwarf: Dwarfs are very durable.

  • DuergarSCAG: Nothing useful for the Druid.
  • HillPHB: Even more durability, and a Wisdom bonus.
  • MountainPHB: Strength is useless to Druids.

DragonbornPHB: Nothing useful for the Druid.

ElfPHB: Bonus Dexterity helps a bit with AC.

  • Drow: Nothing useful for the Druid.
  • EladrinMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
  • High Elf: Nothing useful for the Druid.
  • Sea ElfMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Nothing useful for the Druid.
  • Wood Elf: Wisdom bonus, and Mask of the Wild works while in Wild Shape.

FirbolgVGTM: Wisdom and a bunch of nature-themed innate spellcasting.

GenasiEEPC: Bonus Constitution never hurts.

  • Air: Nothing useful for the Druid.
  • Earth: Nothing useful for the Druid.
  • Fire: Fire resistance applies during Wild Shape, and the bonus spells could be nice for a Land Druid.
  • Water: Bonus Wisdom, and Acid Resistance applies during Wild Shape.

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.

  • Ghostwise: A small wisdom bump is great on any druid, but Silent Speech is especially interesting. It doesn't rely on your physical shape, and wild shape doesn't change the languages you know, so you can still use Silent Speech to communicate with your allies while in wild shape, though it appears to be one-way since the ability specifically says "speak telepathically to" rather than "with".
  • Lightfoot: Nothing useful for the Druid.
  • Stout: Nothing useful for the Druid.

HobgoblinVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid.

HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

  • Vanilla: Many of the ability bonuses are completely wasted on the Druid.
  • Variant: Put the bonuses into Constitution and Wisdom. Feats aren't particularly helpful for the Druid, but Land Druids might like Elemental Adept, and Moon Druids can make good use of Mobility in some forms. Use the bonus skill to pick up a knowledge skill.

KenkuVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid.

KoboldVGTM: Nothing useful for the Druid except Pack Tactics, which may be enough to make the kobold and interesting moon druid.

LizardfolkVGTM: Durable and wise. The lizardfolk's traits make it durable enough to survive falling out of wildshape a few times as a moon druid.

OrcVGTM: Aggressive works in wild shape, but that's not enough.

TabaxiVGTM: Feline Agility works in wild shape, but that's not enough.

Tiefling: Nothing helpful for Druids.

  • AsmodeusMToF: Nothing helpful for Druids.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Nothing helpful for Druids.
  • DispaterMToF: Nothing helpful for Druids.
  • FiernaMToF: A bit of Wisdom, but the spells are better-suited to a Face, and druids don't make great faces.
  • GlasyaMToF: Nothing helpful for Druids.
  • LevistusMToF: Nothing helpful for Druids.
  • MammonMToF: Nothing helpful for Druids.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Nothing helpful for Druids.
  • ZarielMToF: Nothing helpful for Druids.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Nothing helpful for Druids.
  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: Nothing helpful for Druids.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Nothing helpful for Druids.
  • Variant: VanillaPHB: Nothing helpful for Druids.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Nothing helpful for Druids.

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.

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 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.

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.

Skills

  • 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.

Background

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.

Feats

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: Druids don't use weapons.
  • Defensive DuelistPHB: Druids don't use weapons.
  • Dual WielderPHB: Druids don't use weapons.
  • Dungeon DelverPHB: Druids aren't well-equipped to handle traps.
  • DurablePHB: You can heal magically.
  • Elemental AdeptPHB: Druids get a lot of spells which deal elemental damage, so Land Druids might get a lot of mileage out of this.
  • GrapplerPHB: Helpful if you really like the constrictor snake and octopus forms, but Wild Shape forms become obsolete after a few levels, and there currently aren't enough forms which grapple to justify this.
  • Great Weapon MasterPHB: Druids don't use weapons.
  • HealerPHB: Use magic.
  • Heavily ArmoredPHB: All heavy armor is metal, which means that you can't use it.
  • Inspiring LeaderPHB: You don't have the Charisma to back this up.
  • Keen MindPHB: Awful.
  • LinguistPHB: Use magic.
  • LuckyPHB: Good on anyone.
  • Mage SlayerPHB: Too situational.
  • Magic InitiatePHB: Druids know their entire spell list, and you get plenty of prepared spells. You might want some spells from other classes, but there's nothing that the Druid absolutely needs.
  • Martial AdeptPHB: Not useful enough with only one superiority die.
  • Medium Armor MasterPHB: Studded Leather is the best armor available to Druids, and it's light.
  • MobilePHB: All of the effects apply while you're in Wild Shape. Forms like Goat and Elephant which have a useful Charge or Pounce effect become immensely more useful when you can safely move away and set up for another round of charging.
  • Mounted CombatPHB: It's hard to play a mounted character without a special mount ability of some kind.
  • ObservantPHB: Perception is a great skill for Druids, and the +1 Wisdom is nice if you have an odd Wisdom score.
  • Polearm MasterPHB: Druids 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 melee druid.
  • ResilientPHB: If you were going to be good at a save, your class would have given it to you.
  • Savage AttackerPHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn.
  • SentinelPHB: Great if you want to be a Defender, but many Wild Shape forms offer the ability to trip foes on a hit, which greatly reduces the utility of this feat.
  • SharpshooterPHB: Druids don't use weapons, and don't have enough spells which use attack rolls to justify this.
  • Shield MasterPHB: Druids don't use sheilds enough to justify this.
  • SkilledPHB: More skills never hurt, but Druids don't really need them.
  • SkulkerPHB: Sniping is for Rogues.
  • Spell SniperPHB: Druids don't use weapons, and don't have enough spells which use attack rolls to justify this.
  • Tavern BrawlerPHB: Druids don't fight using Unarmed Strikes.
  • ToughPHB: Unfortunately this doesn't apply to Wild Shape forms, so you won't really see any meaningful benefit.
  • War CasterPHB: Useless until you hit level 18 and pick up Beast Spells.
  • Weapon MasterPHB: You get all of the weapon proficiencies that you need to function.

Weapons

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

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.

Druid Spells

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.

Cantrips

  • 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.
  • Shape WaterXGtE: This is as abusable and versatile as Prestidigitation. Freeze a solid 5 foot cube of water and drop it on someone. Pour water into a lock, freeze it, and allow the ice expansion to break the lock. Put a dome of ice over something you're protecting. The uses are numerous and fantastic.
  • ShillelaghPHB: Stuck in melee? Out of Wild Shape uses? Don't use your dumped Strength score: use a magic stick! 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 the Druid. 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.

1st-Level Spells

  • Cure Wounds / Healing WordPHB: The Druid is most likely to replace a Cleric in the party, so you need to have healing spells available.
  • GoodberryPHB: Not useful in combat, but more healing per spell slot than Cure Wounds. 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.

2nd-Level Spells

  • 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.
  • 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.

3rd-Level Spells

  • 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.

5th-Level Spells

  • 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.
  • 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.

Multiclassing

  • 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.

Abilities

We will assume the point buy abilities suggested above.

Base Increased
Str 8 8
Dex 14 14
Con 14 16
Int 12 12
Wis 15 16
Cha 8 8

Race

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.

Background

Feats

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.

Levels

Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics
1
  • Druidic
  • Spellcasting
  • Cantrips Known:
    • Guidance
    • Produce Flame

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 (CR 1/4)
  • Circle of the Land
  • Bonus Cantrip
  • Druidcraft

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
  • Circle Spells

Nothing happens at this level except 2nd-level spells.

4
  • Wild Shape Improvement (CR 1/2)
  • Ability Score Improvement (Wisdom 16 -> 18)
  • New Cantrips Known:
    • Any

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
  • Circle Spells

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
  • Land's Stride

Occasionally useful, especially if you like to drop Entangle on yourself.

7
  • Circle Spells

Nothing at this level except 4th-level spells.

8
  • Wild Shape (CR 1)
  • Ability Score Improvement (Wisdom 18 -> 20)

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
  • Circle Spells

Nothing at this level except 5th-level spells.

10
  • Nature's Ward
  • New Cantrips Known:
    • Any

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.

11

Nothing at this level except 6th-level spells, and cantrips get a damage increase.

12
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 16 -> 18)

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.

13

Nothing at this level except 7th-level spells.

14
  • Nature's Sanctuary

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.

15

Nothing at this level except 8th-level spells.

16
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 18 -> 20)

With 20 Constitution and the Hill Dwarf's bonus hit points, you have as many hit points as a fighter.

17

Nothing at this level except 9th-level spells, and cantrips get their last damage increase.

18
  • Timeless Body
  • Beast Spells

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
  • Ability Score Improvement (Dexterity 14 -> 16)

Your last ability score increase, but by now you don't really need it.

20
  • Archdruid

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.