Introduction

DnD Druids are known for a few things: casting nature-themed magic, having an animal companion (in this edition, sadly relegated to an optional class feature), and turning into animals to fight. Circle of the Moon focuses on the last one of those and turns Druids into the most versatile martial characters out there while still giving them full spellcasting. Of course, they can’t use those features at the same time until very high levels, but that still makes for an incredibly powerful character.

The lion’s share of your power comes from your versatility and bulk in melee combat. While other, more traditional Defenders may have a high AC and tricks to reduce incoming damage, you instead just put on health bars like rain coats and wear through them as needed. While this can make a character feel very strong, it means that your playstyle has to shift dramatically if you’re unable to Wild Shape, often to something you’re not very optimized for. Luckily, with the right spell selection, you can make sure to stay relevant no matter what the needs of the moment are.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses 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. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Circle of the Moon Features

  1. Combat Wild Shape: Moving into Wild Shape as a bonus 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 significant damage to your real hit points.
  2. Circle Forms: This allows you to take some decent combat forms. See our Practical Guide to Wild Shape for a compilation and analysis of possible forms.
  3. Primal Strike: You’re going to run into a lot of things which resist non-magical weapon damage types, so this is very important.
  4. Elemental Wild Shape: Fire Elemental is a flaming murder machine that you can use from now until you hit level 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.
  5. Thousand Forms: This is a 2nd-level spell, and the problems it solves can be solved better by Wild Shape.

Circle of the Moon Ability Scores

No change from standard Druid, although we can focus less on defenses. We spend even less time in our regular body than most druids, so we can afford to have Dexterity and Constitution hang out at a 14 and put the extra points in Intelligence so we can be slightly useful for Nature checks like Druids are supposed to be.

Str: Dump unless you plan to take the very-popular multiclass into Barbarian.

Dex: You shouldn’t be using your own Dex most of the time.

Con: You also shouldn’t be using your own Con most of the time, but when you are it’s probably to cast something with Concentration.

Int: Take some to be useful for knowing things about Nature.

Wis: Your spellcasting is powered by Wisdom.

Cha: Dump

Point BuyStandard Array
Str88
Dex1413
Con1414
Int1212
Wis1515
Cha810

Circle of the Moon Races

Since we try not to spend a lot of time in our own body, some of the particulars of it aren’t super important. The wording on Wild Shape means that we get to keep skill proficiencies while shifted, though, so races with skill proficiencies are great. Also, any ability which isn’t a spell but doesn’t require your anatomy functions normally, so things like Halfling’s Lucky, Brave, etc or Bugbear’s Surprise Attack work great.

Circle of the Moon Feats

Skill Expert needs a discussion . While it’s true that Skill Expert is a good way to increase your Athletics checks while shapeshifted, you can’t replace any of the attacks in a Multiattack action with grapple/shoves the same way you can with the Attack action, so this really only starts getting good at level 9 when you can be a Scorpion and need to keep things from getting out of your claws. Tyler and I disagree on this part though. He would interpret the rules for Wild Shape as using the set DC for breaking grapples as built into the monster stat block, but this doesn’t make sense to me given that we already have a way to adjudicate targets breaking grapples from players. For monsters, it makes a lot of sense to reduce DM rolling and speed up combat, but it would be strange to have one character’s grapples work differently than another character’s. Talk that through with your DM before looking into this.

Circle of the Moon Weapons

Nothing different than any other Druid.

Circle of the Moon Armor

Walk out in hide armor because it’s free, put on studded leather instead if you ignore this build guide and increase your Dex past 15.

Multiclassing

This section briefly details some obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn’t fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.

If you’re playing this as a frontline character, unsurprisingly, you can get a lot of good out of a 3-level dip into some martial classes. Barbarian is very popular for a number of reasons. Rage damage applies on each multiattack hit, so you can conceivably do much more of it than a character should, especially at low levels. If you go Totem and choose bear, you can get resistance to all damage which makes those animal hit points last twice as long, or choose wolf to grant advantage to your party and put on a shape with a ton of HP to provide it for as long as possible.

Fighter also has several great options. Echo Knight can let you be two dire wolves at the same time. Because you’re the one making the attack, if something walks away from your Echo, your bite can make it prone on a failed save. Battle Master provides great utility as both Superiority Dice and Wild Shape recharge on Short Rest, incentivizing your group to let you recharge resources and then keep doing things like using Trip Attack (the maneuver) on the first hit of a multiattack so you get advantage on the rest.

Monk would let you apply Unarmored Defense and Martial Arts while Wild Shaped. We care less about high AC than other subclasses because we get access to much beefier forms sooner, but there can still be value there. Martial Arts is a little strange. Taking the Multiattack action is not the Attack action, so it won’t let you the bonus action attack or Flurry if you take at least 2 levels in Monk. Also, strictly speaking, “Unarmed Attacks” don’t include attacks named Bite, Claw, Hooves, etc, so even if you make a single attack, it’s entirely possible that none of these parts of Martial Arts would work.

Example Build – Moon Sailor

Building on the discussion above about the usability of racial traits, all of a Stout Halfling’s abilities work while in Wild Shape. We get a lot of attacks while being several animals because of Multiattack. Let the fumble protection do its thing after our brief transformations.

Abilities

As described above

BaseIncreased
Str88
Dex1414
Con1415
Int1212
Wis1515
Cha88

Race

Stout Halfling. Tyler and I are again in disagreement about what “You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them if the new form is physically capable of doing so,” means.

Lucky and Brave obviously work while in an animal form, but poison resistance is less clear. Tyler is of the opinion that, since your Stout Halfling body is physically resistant to poison, changing your body into a house cat would remove that poison resistance. I think that no part of the ability specifies that it relies on anatomy, so you get to keep poison resistance. I guess that’s up to DM determination since WotC has never clarified.

Halfling Nimbleness should also work while transformed since it doesn’t depend on your physical form, so feel free to walk into a Huge Giant’s space while you’re a Large beast.

Background

Sailor. We love the Perception proficiency to go with our high Wisdom, and Athletics is great for maintaining grapples when transformed based on my interpretation discussed above. We take the variant feature Bad Reputation and flavor it as people being grateful that we never run from a real fight.

Skills and Tools

Druid gives us Nature, Survival and Herbalism Kit proficiencies, and we get Perception and Athletics from the background as mentioned above.

Feats

Level 4 gets us Telekinetic

Level 8 caps Wisdom to 20

Level 12 gets Bountiful Luck

Level 16 gets Resilient (Con)

Level 19 gets us Mobile

Levels

LevelFeat(s) and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
1Cantrips:
– Guidance
– Produce Flame

Spells Prepared:
– Detect Magic
– Entangle
– Healing Word
– Ice Knife

Druidic 
We haven’t been blessed by the moon yet, so we have to stick to shooting blasts of flame in combat (for some reason they look like frisbees when thrown). Out of combat, we have Guidance which you’re probably sick of hearing about how good it is on this website. With that said, if you’re always there to be the primary Defender, take Shillelagh instead of Produce Flame and wonder how your staff ended up with all these heart and wing motifs on it.

With only two spell slots per day, we prepare Detect Magic since it can be cast as a ritual and Entangle so we don’t forget to take it later. If you want to use a leveled spell to deal damage, Ice Knife is more average damage to a single target than Thunderwave and much easier to use. More than likely, both slots will go into Healing Word to stand people up.

For starting equipment, take the shield, a quarterstaff in case you need to Shillelagh it (or just to walk with), and the free armor/pack/focus. The focus which is definitely a wand that we’ve carved a crescent moon into the end of to represent our dedication to the Circle we’re choosing at next level.
2Spells Prepared:
– Goodberry

Wild Shape

Combat Wild Shape

Circle Forms
Now we can defeat people in the name of the Moon. Until level 6, we’re going to spend a lot of time as a Dire Wolf for all the reasons discussed in the Practical Guide to Wild Shape. Between its proficiency in Stealth and Perception, its Keen Hearing and Smell, and our own high Wisdom, we make an excellent Scout. A sailor Scout, if you will.

There are other options you can use in combat, but getting your DM to agree to letting you have seen a deinonychus is maybe a hard sell. If you can, though, it uses all those multiattacks I called out that Lucky (the racial trait, not the feat) is great for protecting to deal a ton of damage.
3Spells Prepared:
– Hold Person

Ice Knife -> Flaming Sphere
Technically we could already do this last level, but sometimes you’re going to run into strong things that are more likely to fail a Wisdom save than a Strength save. By “this,” I mean putting restrained/paralyzed on someone, then going in and murdering them with Multiattack. If we can get a Hold Person to stick through the target’s next turn, we can potentially get 3 automatic crits on something in one turn thanks to the Deinonychus’s Pounce. A paralyzed target will automatically fail the strength save to fall prone, thus guaranteeing the bonus action bite.
4Cantrip:
Shape Water

Spells Prepared:
– Enhance Ability
– Healing Spirit

Telekinetic (Wis)
Mage Hand and Shape Water are two utility powerhouses as far as Cantrips go. Telekinetic also gives you something to do with your bonus action every round if you’re not doing other things with it like moving your Flaming Sphere around.

Enhance Ability can be used for practically anything, including Strength on yourself to grapple in Wild Shape better or more typical things like advantage on Dexterity while sneaking or Wisdom while scouting. Healing Spirit, meanwhile, is sort of like Mass Healing Word but slower. It’s good for getting several nearby people up in one round for a single spell slot, something that’s still valuable at this level. Just cast as a bonus action and drag people through it with your movement and Action. Flavor it to look like a little black cat to encourage your party members to touch it.
5Spells Prepared:
– Protection from Energy
None of the 3rd-level Druid spells are super great, so mostly this level is spent looking longingly at level 6.
6Spells Prepared:
– Tidal Wave

Primal Strike

Circle Forms
You know what else the moon controls? Tides.

Finally, a new chapter in our transformation abilities. Expect to spend a lot of time as a cat or elk with magical appendages. 
7Spells Prepared:
– Wall of Fire
So, we already have the capacity to turn into a Giant Constrictor. Now we can first summon a Wall of Fire and then hold something 10 feet away from it while we sit 15 feet away from it. Snakes don’t typically cook their meals, but that doesn’t have to stop us.
8Wis 18 -> 20

Spells Prepared:
– Stoneskin
Polymorph
Polymorph is great if your current transformation isn’t enough and you just need something more magical to help you and your friends overcome the challenge of this week’s ep- session. Stoneskin is there for a very similar reason, but you’ll obviously want to cast it before you Wild Shape. Fortunately, thanks to Wild Shape being a bonus action for us, you can do both in one turn.

We spend this level being a Quetzalcoatlus in combat and enjoying the incredible safety of Flyby unless we’re the party’s Defender and they’re expecting us to stand in the front.
9Spells Prepared:
– Mass Cure Wounds
We’re still a divine caster and this spell is still a great way to fix the problem of more than one person dying at once. Druids don’t get Mass Healing Word, unfortunately.

This is also the level we start being a Giant Scorpion. Now you can grab two enemies and hold them up to the Wall of Fire you’ve dropped.
10Elemental Wild Shape

Spells Prepared:
– Summon Draconic Spirit
In the Practical Guide to Wild Shape, Tyler talked about tactics for doing Fire Elemental things. You should definitely do that if you don’t want to roast things in your pincers instead. But, sometimes, you should first summon a friend to help you with an especially challenging fight. Nothing stops you from saying that your Draconic Spirit looks like a guy in a tuxedo, mask and tophat. 
11Spells Prepared: 
– Heal
A staple for anyone who can take it.
12Feat:
– Bountiful Luck

Spells Prepared:
– Heroes’ Feast
Now we also have something to do reliably with our reaction. Many things start to have very scary save-or-sucks at this level and being able to let our friends borrow some of our moon cosmic power.
13Spells Prepared:
– Reverse Gravity
Reverse Gravity is a death sentence for anything that can’t fly. If you cast it where there’s nothing to grab, they don’t even get a save of any kind. It’s almost like they’re being pulled by… the moon?
14Spells Prepared:
– Fire Storm

Thousand Forms
Thousand Forms is nice if you’re out of Wild Shapes, can’t rest, and need to do one of a few specific things right now. Fire Storm is nice for being a big pile of very aimable damage.
15Spells Prepared:
– Feeblemind
Now we can banish someone’s intellect to the shadow realm. Wait, that’s not right.

This is also the level where we can start turning into a giant crocodile or a brontosaurus. Man, the power creep towards the end is real.
16Feat:
– Resilient (Con)

Spells Prepared:
Animal Shapes
We’re mostly grabbing Resilient for the proficiency at this point, but that proficiency will be applied to whatever huge Con score we get from our chosen form.

I’m not going to do a better job of explaining Animal Shapes than Bea did. I will say, though, that you should definitely encourage each of your friends to come up with what their transformation sequence looks like. Maybe they all come out as different color variations on the animals.
17Spells Prepared:
– Foresight
No concentration required, so just slap this Holy Grail of a spell on and enjoy winning for a whole day.
18Spells Prepared:
Shapechange

Timeless Body

Beast Spells
Honestly, I probably wouldn’t ever cast this because it’s not Foresight.

Beast Spells is awesome, though. You can now do some of your tricks without dropping form, allowing you to Healing Word people up with no concern at all for Wild Shape uses.
19Spells Prepared:
– True Resurrection

Mobile
Mobile is a great addition to your enormous arsenal of moon-related sticks, jewelry, and compact mirrors (for scrying, of course). All parts of the feat should apply while Wild Shaped; the extra movement is excellent for carrying things while grappling them as movement costs double when you do, Dashing shouldn’t really come into play but it’s nice to have if you prepare some different spells that make big areas of difficult terrain you then plan on charging into, and the ability to walk away from things is excellent. Claw two things, grab them both, tail a third thing and walk away to roast your prizes safely on your Wall of Fire.
20ArchdruidThis is easily among the best capstones in the game. Now, as a Moon druid, you can Eternally be any animal you’ve seen (still can’t do animals you Make Up), and you can cast way more spells while in the forms. This is a little anti-synergistic because, now that you have infinite uses of wild shape, you mind way less dropping out of it to cast and then bonus action shifting back, but it still feels really good, which most class capstones don’t.