One D&D Druid Declawed
Along with the playtest of the Paladin, we have a new playtest of the Druid! These channelers of nature and wild shapeshifters are one of the toughest and most complex classes in the game. Let’s take a look at the changes, the opportunities, and my thoughts on the new Druid! If you have not checked out the review of the Paladin, you can find it by clicking HERE!
Welcome to the Nature Channel
Druids belong to the Priest class group along with Clerics and Paladins. Where the latter have Channel Divinity feature, Druids have the new Channel Nature feature. Channel Nature is available at first level and offers a few perks. It starts with two uses , and you regain one use of Channel Nature after a Short Rest, and regain all uses after a Long Rest. It starts with allowing the Druid to use their Wild Shape by using an Action. Now a level one Druid can start going beast mode right off the bat. There are a lot of changes to Wild Shape and those will be discussed further in the article. So what other uses does Channel Nature provide?
So what other uses does Channel Nature provide? At second level, you can expend one use of Channel Nature for the ability Healing Blossoms. As a Magic Action, you choose a point up to 30 feet away from yourself and spectral flowers appear in a 10-foot radius. You roll a number of d4s equal to your Wisdom modifier, and you distribute the total value as healing to any injured creatures in the area.
Another ability at second level that a Druid can use Channel Nature for is Wild Companion. As a Magic Action, you cast the Find Familiar spell without material components. When you cast Find Familiar this way, the casting speed is reduced to a single Action instead of 1 hour, and the creature type of your summoned pet is Fey. Your familiar disappears when you finish a Long Rest.
The spell itself has had some adjustments from the 5e version as well. When you cast Find Familiar, you choose the Celestial, Fey, or Fiend creature type. You also choose an environment from Air, Land, or Water. The famliar will resemble a tiny animal of your choice that is native to the environment, and will be a creature of your chosen type. Both choices will determine certain aspects of the Otherworldly Familiar stat block, included as part of the spell. You can now use your reaction to order it to attack, otherwise it will take the Dodge Action. Your familiar acts immediately after your turn, and you can channel your spells with the range of Touch through it using its reaction. Your familiar must be within 120 feet to use this Reaction.
I like the utility the familiar brings to spells that require you to touch an ally or enemy to use, but instead channel it through the familiar. I have not experimented with using familiars often, so it would be interesting to play a Druid with a familiar.
A Walk on the Wild Side
Let’s talk about what has been the signature feature for the Druid in 5e: Wild Shape! In this playtest, Wild Shape is available at first level through the Channel Nature feature. There are a lot of changes so let’s go over briefly what the current edition’s Wild Shape does first.
In 5e, Wild Shape allows you to take the form of a Beast type monster from the Monster Manual up to a specific Challenge Rating (CR). You take on the physical traits (Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution) of the Beast, while keeping the mental traits (Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma) of your character. Then take note of your current Hit Points before changing, and use the Hit Point of the Beast they turn into as long as they are transformed. All of your Actions are now replaced with the available actions of the form you’ve assumed. You are unable to cast spells while transformed, but retain features that state they are allowed to be used while in your Wild Shape. When you drop to zero Hit Points in your Beast form, you change back to your character. Any excess damage that your Beast form would have taken are deducted from your character’s Hit Points.
Now let’s take a look at the playtest Wild Shape. There are three stat blocks within the Druid Class that will be referenced for when a Druid takes the Wild Shape action.
The appearance you take is up to you, but always uses one of these three stat blocks. Where the 5e Wild Shape feature requires managing multiple stat blocks of various Beasts under different restrictions, this playtest keeps the information under the Druid features streamlined to three options.
The consistency is a nice touch from a design perspective, and is easy to reference! Each animal stat block feels unique and feels aligned with what you would expect creatures of that type to have. That said, I feel some of the excitement of turning into a favorite beast that had unique features is gone. Choosing Animal of the Land in the form of a Constrictor Snake sounds cool, but the player loses the Constrict Action which does both damages and restrains a creature.
Another loss to Wild Shape is being able to be a frontline member who takes damage, or tanks. Since this playtest states to continue using the character’s Hit Points, there is no change to the character’s durability. Maybe this fits more in beast-like behavior where there will be more hit-and-run tactics instead of being a body between the enemy and your allies.
I like the simple design in this Wild Shape, but I feel this is a feature that should push some more boundaries in the design, making a Druid feel the excitement of being a Beast! I think adding Temporary Hit Points when using Wild Shape would bring back some of the excitement of being a tank. Additionally, adding an additional choice of unique actions to each Wild Shape can help differentiate the different transformations and immerse the players more. An example would be when choosing to Wild Shape into an Animal of the Land, choose one of the following; Constrictor, Poisonous, Pouncer, or Tough. Each one would provide an additional Action or Feature to the animal and can add some meaningful choices for a player.
Fire Bird and Thunder Wolf Under the Moon
The Druid class is focusing on Wild Shape as its key feature. The Circle of the Moon subclass featured in this playtest is looking to crank Wild Shape to eleven! At third level the Circle of the Moon grants the following:
- Abjuration Spells. While you’re in a Wild Shape form, you can cast any spell you currently have prepared from the Abjuration School, provided the spell doesn’t require a material component.
- Quick Attack. You can use Unarmed Strike as a Bonus Action.
- Swift Transformation. You can use your Wild Shape as a Bonus Action or Magic Action, but no more than once on a turn.
The playtest is carrying over the use of Wild Shape as a Bonus Action from the 5e version of the subclass. The biggest change is allowing the use of Abjuration School spells while transformed. Some spells have had their schools updated to Abjuration. Cure Wounds and Healing Word join spells like Resistance, Lesser Restoration, and Pass Without Trace in this school of magic. This further increases the type of support magic available to cast while in Wild Shape. I like introducing this option at earlier levels through this subclass The Druid gains a feature at seventeenth level that allows them to cast any prepared spells while in Beast form, but the Circle of the Moon fast tracks access to support and healing spells!
Druids that selected this subclass in 5e were quite popular because of their ability to turn into elementals, and this playtest has not forgotten that! At sixth level, Circle of the Moon Druids get the feature, Elemental Wild Shape. When using Channel Nature to Wild Shape, you choose one of the following damage types: Acid, Cold, Fire, Lightning, Thunder. While transformed, you gain Resistance to the chosen damage type and your Bestial Strikes may deal the chosen damage type instead of Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing. Instead of being elementals, you get to be an animal imbued with the elements! You could be a Fire Eagle, a Thunder Wolf, or an Acid Owlbear! There are lots of flavorful opportunities here, and you get those opportunities earlier than in 5e.
At tenth level, your Wild Shape deals an additional 1d6 of the chosen damage type when attacking with Bestial Strikes, increasing to 2d6 at seventeenth level. While I like this design, I’m sad I cannot actually be an Air Elemental or Fire Elemental with all of the features from those creatures’ stat blocks. Similar to how I feel about Wild Shape as a whole for the Druid, I feel there is an opportunity here to make these changes a bit more enticing.
Are Druids Tamed or Unleashed?
Druids can be powerful spellcasters with strong Primal Spells, and they can be durable tanks with Wild Shape. At least, they could in 5e... This playtest Druid does not feel as powerful on the wild side. Although continuing to use the character’s current Hit Points when entering Wild Shape is easier to track, the loss of being a durable frontline tank will alienate fans of that playstyle. I feel that the Druid has been declawed a bit, but some testing is required to see how much of a nerf these changes truly are.
The changes between the 5e Druid and this playtest Druid are pretty big, but overall I think the design direction is easier to move forward with. The 5e Druid is cool and has a lot of hidden versatility behind it. The player needs to research monster stat blocks that can be utilized if they want to use Wild Shape, they need to track what abilities and features are available while in Wild Shape, and also keep track of their prepared spells. There are a lot of moving parts on the 5e Druid…
This new playtest version of the Druid does make finding all of this information easier with stat blocks found in the class. The ability to flavor the Druid feels more expressive, which I love. But overall, I like it but don’t love it. I do not believe that one needs to really love the new Druid to call it a success, but if there are enough people that feel as I do, a future redesign of the class will feature additional quality of life changes!
What are your thoughts? Comment below! And click HERE to read the changes to the Druid for yourself!