Similar to the last post about Clerics I wanted to review and discuss the Druid options in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Druids are my favorite D&D class so I’ll have plenty to say, but I shall try to be succinct. Or at least less verbose.
Circle of Dreams
(Or I wish I was Fey)
Circle of Dreams feels pretty well put together to me. The Feywild and the creatures that dwell there are natural allies to good-aligned or neutral druids and sharing their power feels like a natural evolution.
Balm of the Summer Court – This is a pretty straightforward 2nd level ability: d6’s that heal and grant 1 Temp HP.
Why the 1 temporary hp? What is that really going to do for anyone? Forget the 1 hp and instead let the affected character regain the hp and re-roll to remove a negative effect they are currently under (Blinded, Exhaustion level etc). That feels more like supernatural healing.
Hearth of Moonlight and Shadow – Nice flavor ability that doesn’t have much active influence but allows essentially for uninterrupted rest.
I just had a thought: It could also be used to buff Stealth or Perception checks in a known space, thus making whatever space you choose as an ideal site to ambush enemies. Rogues would love this. Tag team!
Hidden Paths – This is a fun and flexible movement feature. Teleport 60′ as a bonus action OR teleport and ally up to 30′. This is super useful and could be a great way to populate the battlefield or escape from a cell.
Walker in Dreams – At the end of a short rest you cast Dream, Scrying or Teleportation Circle. This Teleportation Circle send you back to the last spot you had a long rest. Basically a WoW Hearthstone. It’s a nice ability I just wouldn’t tie it to the end of the short rest. Have the short rest recharge the ability otherwise you are resting in order to teleport out or use the Dream or Scry ability. I think it’s more evocative to be able to use the teleportation circle to quickly escape from enemies that are bearing down on you. Less exciting to take a break so you can port back to town.
Circle of the Shepherd
Ok I have not been shy of my issues with Shepherd Druids but it is mostly put together well. The issue for me is the Totem ability does not jive with the rest of the abilities. Let’s explore.
Speech of the Woods – Sylvan as a bonus language, Yes please! On top of that you get an always on Speak with Animals. You don’t know the spell for free or cast it willy-nilly, you just understand animals and they understand you. Bam! very nice and fitting with a protector of beasts.
Spirit Totem – Summon nature spirits to a spot and beneficial effects take place for you and your party members. One use per short or long rest with the following abilities listed:
- Bear spirit-temp hp = 5+druid level and Advantage on Strength checks and saves.
- Hawk spirit- Use your reaction to give Advantage to an ally’s attack. Advantage on Perception checks.
- Unicorn spirit-Advantage on checks to detect creatures in the aura and bonus hp when casting a healing spell.
I don’t have any issues with the ability, I really like it actually but I don’t think it fits the overall theme of the Shepherd Druid. This feels like a separate ability from another class that doesn’t really have to do with protecting and promoting the welfare of the creatures of the world. The flavor text at the beginning of the sub-class description talks about seeking aid from and communing with spirits but to me it feels like it was put there to explain this one ability.
I would take Spirit Totem out of the Shepherd Circle (and out it into a different sub-class such as Spirit Shaman, something that focuses on interacting with the spirit world). This would be a great place to give the druid an animal companion and perhaps expand on it a little. Whereas the Ranger can have one companion allow the Shepherd to have multiple so long as they don’t exceed the 1/4 CR cap. (1 CR 1/4 creature or 2 CR 1/8 creatures). That would allow the Shepherd to exploit that Animal Speech regularly and would foster a player playing a Shepherd surrounded by animals they care for/travel with.
Maybe have the CR cap grow as the druid levels? Much like wild-shape grows, a Shepherd druid could bond with beasts of increasing power as they advance? I actually really like that though it would need to be balanced so the advanced beast companion(s) don’t outshine the party.
Hmm Going to try writing this out to explore it.
Mighty Summoner – Beasts of fey summoned by your spells have increased hp and their attacks overcome immunity to non-magical attacks and damage.
This is perfectly fitting for a summoner/beast class. I like it.
Guardian Spirit – Your summons beasts and fey gain hp when it they end their turn inside your totem aura.
Again a solid ability for a shepherd to regenerate the beasts they summon. Assuming I moved the totem ability off this sub-class I would just have the regeneration occur when the beasts/fey are within a certain distance from you. Role-play that you are their care-taker and nearness to you strengthens and safeguards them.
Faithful Summons – When you are reduced to 0 hp or are incapacitated (can’t take actions or reactions) against your will Conjure Animals goes off as a contingency spell summoning 4 beasts of CR 2 or lower they automagically protect you from harm and attack your enemies.
This is perfect flavor and a nice defensive ability the enemies may not be expecting. Again I feel the intent of this sub-class is to be a guardian, advocate and companion for the beasts of the world and having them come to your aid, reciprocating your service to the natural world feels right.
As I stated at the beginning, Shepherd is mostly built around summoning and augmenting animals, remove the imperfectly placed totem ability, give them animal companions and boom, the class is complete.
Let me know what you think of my suggested changes. Did I make any sense? Did I miss the intention of an ability or the sub-class in general?
Discuss and share!