I’ve talked repeatedly (every chance I get) about how much I love druids in Dungeons and Dragons. Not only that, I’ve spoken of and shared my home-brew druid circles with a number of folks on Twitter and a few other friends and gamers.
I wanted to take the time to go through it and share my thoughts behind it and how it looks in my mind’s eye and what I was thinking behind the scenes.
First a bit of (made up) History
In The One World, the lizard-folk were the first race, born from the dual being that is both the Earth God and Earth Goddess (Ometeotl). The lizardfolk were present before the Gods came into being and as such primarily venerate the earth and themselves. They do not consider themselves equal to or better than the four Gods that came later, but they know and remember: they were here first and before them was Ometeotl.
Being first to live in the world, the lizardfolk developed a deep connection to it and saw their place within the natural cycle. They revere nature and their part in it and this developed into a strong form of ancestor worship practiced in their culture. They honor and remember their ancestors among whom they include Ometeotl as their original ancestor (often referred to as Grandfather/Grandmother) and the spirits of the natural world with whom they are closely allied and view as distant cousins of a sort.
This makes the lizardfolk perfectly suited to have a shaman as the primary “religious” figure in their cultural lives. They revere and worship nature in it’s entirety of which The Gods are simply a more powerful part. There are clerics among them but that is less common and may be viewed as focusing on one aspect of the larger whole.
Lets get into the specifics of the Circle of Spirits starting with the 2nd level abilities.
Spirit Guide (2nd level)
You have found (or been found) by a spirit companion that joins you on your life’s journey. The spirit’s form or appearance may be determined by you or your backstory or by your Dungeon Master.
Your Spirit Guide connects you to the spirit world and enables you to commune with spirits, to see and speak with them. This allows you to offer thanks and praise and to ask boons that can benefit you and your party.
You can sense the presence of nearby spirits and at will you can see into the Ethereal Border up to 60’. You can communicate with spirits regardless of language though they are not compelled to obey your requests or even listen.
This is the introductory ability. It is the wellspring from which all the other abilities and mechanics are derived and provides vast role-playing opportunities. The ability to see and interact with nearby spirits allows not only combat benefits (I see you phase spider!) but role-playing. Requesting a boon from a forest Spirit, thanking the river spirit for letting you pass, there are as many possibilities as you can imagine.
Blessing of Spirits
Starting at 2nd level, you gain the ability request the aid of spirits and use them to influence the world around you. As a bonus action, you magically summon a Medium spirit to an unoccupied space you can see within 60 feet of you. The spirit creates an aura in a 30-foot radius around it, it doesn’t occupy its space, it is immobile, and it counts as neither a creature nor an object. As a Bonus Action you can request the Spirit move up to 60’ to a point you can see.
The spirit persists for 1 minute. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
The nature of the aura depends on the type of spirit you ask for aid:
Spirit of Fortitude- Often appearing as a bear or a mighty warrior, this spirit grants you and your allies its might and endurance. You and your allies who are in the aura when the spirit appears each gain temporary hit points equal to 5 + your druid level. In addition, you and your allies gain advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws while in the aura.
Spirit of Rejuvenation-This spirit often takes the form of a tree or majestic forest creature. At the beginning of your round any allies within the aura may save to remove any negative effects they are currently affected by. Characters making a Death Saving Throw do so with advantage. In addition if you cast a spell with a spell slot that restores hit points to anyone inside or outside the aura, each of your allies in the aura also regains hit points equal to your druid level.
Spirit of the Pack-Many spirits appear and increase the combat abilities of you and your allies. You and your allies have advantage on attack rolls against creatures in the aura if at least one ally is within 5 feet of the creature and is not incapacitated.
*If you have ideas for other spirits and effects work with your DM to create and put them into play.*
I ripped this ability strain from the Circle of the Shepherd. I mentioned in my last post how I didn’t think it fit the Shepherd thematically but how much I really liked it as a concept. I ported it into the Spirit Shaman and tweaked the descriptions.
By generalizing the names: (Fortitude, Rejuvenation etc) it falls to the player to fill in the details, thus creating a richer experience at the table. If the Spirit of Fortitude a mighty warrior, A great bear or perhaps an enduring mountain? This can be done for each of the spirits and more spirits can be created. A Spirit of Combat, a Spirit of Protection, of Travel, or Insight. Options are wide open.
6th level abilities or Break on Through to the Other Side
Ghostly Warrior (6th level)
Your Spirit Guide gains the ability to confer upon you the ability to physically interact with the Spirit World. You are able to touch, interact with and if necessary attack spirits and incorporeal creatures even while they are within The Border Ethereal. Weapons wielded by you can affect incorporeal creatures normally but lose this ability 1 round after leaving your hand.
This changes it up a bit. Your druid can now not only see and hear those spirits and creatures in The Border Ethereal but the Shaman can touch and harm them without crossing into the other world. This means the druid can damage ghosts (and similar creatures) normally. It has big implications for any creature that might use that space as a refuge or ambush point.
10th level ability or I Can See Right Through You Man
Spectral Form (10th level)
Your Spirit Guide is able to pull you partially into the the Spirit World, lessening the danger from the physical plane you are currently on.
As a Bonus Action your body becomes translucent as you fade from this world and you gain Resistance to acid, fire, lightning, thunder damage and damage from bludgeoning, piercing and slashing weapons that are non-magical.
In addition you can move through objects or other creatures as if they were difficult terrain. You take 5 (1d10) force damage if you end your turn inside an object or creature.
This effect lasts for one minute and recharges after a short or long rest.
This is a fun ability in which you become something of what you deal with, pulled partially into the Spirit World. I think this makes for immense RP value when you wildshape into a Spectral Bear! Not only are you a tanky-bear but you are a GHOST tanky-bear! You are the Guardian Spirit! Out of combat options could include entering a locked room, escaping a prison or presenting yourself as a spirit to to someone else for who knows what reason.
14th level ability or Here Hold My Beer.
Guide Magic (14th level)
You and your Spirit Guide have become so entwined that you can channel some of your power through it. Once per Long Rest you can assign your Spirit Guide the task of concentrating to maintain a spell or spell-like ability. You may act normally while your Spirit Guide does this, including casting another spell that requires Concentration.
Your Spirit Guide doesn’t make Concentration checks when you are distracted, interrupted or take damage. If necessary your Spirit Guide uses your Concentration modifier for checks made to maintain Concentration.
This is obviously a very powerful ability, but I feel like it fits well with the theme of the class. Asking a boon of or being granted a benefit by your strengthened relationship with your spirit guide. Perhaps the Guide won’t grant this benefit unless you perform some task for it? Put a local spirit to rest, appease a nearby river guardian or maybe honor your ancestors with food and drink whenever you eat?
I don’t know what having two concentration spells active at a time would look like (my folks haven’t tried this out yet) but I feel it must be reserved for later levels and would be a great surprise to the other players if the Shaman kept this secret until then.
OK that was a longer exploration than I intended. If you stuck around this long: Thank You. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on this configuration. What works? What doesn’t work and what would you do differently?
Feel free to comment here or find me on Twitter where I’m always talking about D&D. Or Trailrunning. Occasionally both at the same time.
Featured Image from Alex Shatohin https://alexshatohin.deviantart.com/