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What’s the best druid build in D&D? Can I get a Complete Beginners Guide to Druids?
Even if you aren’t willing to give up the benefits of civilization, you can be whoever you want to be while playing Dungeons and Dragons. So if you are tired of noise, air pollution, cell phones constantly ringing, and other irritations, and you sometimes dream of being a hermit who lives in the forest, you may love playing a D&D druid. Before you roll into the guide, check out our druid dice collection to get into character! After that, you can begin learning how to infiltrate your enemies.
What Are Druids?
Technically druidic is an ancient Celtic culture and religion, but since the earliest days of D&D we’ve known them as magical paragons of nature. Druids and their circles exist far outside the bounds of civilization, working to protect life, the flow of nature, and often the world as we know it. Druids are wise naturalists, living in harmony with the innate forces of the universe that common mortals barely notice or understand. Mechanically, druids are full spellcasters, but their “wild shape” feature allows them to flexibly fit into any number of roles. Druids are often able to “switch hit” into a DPS, tank, healer, spellcaster, or scouting role, occupying any role the party needs but master of none.
Some of the most iconic characters that would probably be druids in D&D include Radagast the Brown from Lord of the Rings, Poison Ivy and Beast Boy from the DC universe, Maui from the Disney movie Moana, and the classic Captain Planet.
Building a Better Druid
Druids are one of the more flexible full casters, and you can build them to focus fully on spellcasting, work them into tanks and frontline DPS fighters, or become the party healer and utility caster. However, you want to build up your druid, you’ll need to start with your ability scores.
Druid Ability Scores
Wisdom is your spellcasting ability score for druids and you’re going to want it to be as high as possible.
Next, many druid spells rely on concentration, which means you’ll want to prioritize Constitution as your second highest ability score. This will also make you far more survivable if you’re trying to serve more of a tank or DPS role for your party.
Past those two, Dexterity is usually the next priority to aid with your AC while you aren’t in a wild shape.
Strength, Intelligence, and Charisma are all unlikely to be useful for you, though pumping up Intelligence or Charisma can be helpful to aid some key skills, and there are some interesting combat druid builds that rely on a high Strength score.
You can choose any race but as a druid you’ll want particularly high Wisdom and Constitution scores and should consider races that gain bonuses to those scores. The following races are optimal choices for a druid character:
Hill dwarves get +2 Con and +1 Wis. This is one of the strongest options for “tanky” druids, as the boost to your Con combined with the free hit points from Dwarven Toughness will make you particularly chunky and survivable.
Base humans gain +1 to each ability score and the variant human gains +1 to two abilities of your choice (and a feat) which you can put into Wis and Con. Humans in both forms are strong contenders for more versatile “switch hitting” druids capable of a little of everything. Or for more focused niche builds that free feat is always useful.
Genasi get +2 Con and water genasi pick up +1 Wis. The aquatic aspects aren’t as useful to you as a druid (you can normally just wild shape into something that can breathe underwater) but it’s still not bad to get it without using the wild shape feature. You also strangely pick up resistance to acid damage which can oddly come in handy.
Lizardfolk gain +2 Con and +1 Wis. Lizardfolk have a ton of good minor abilities, but it’s their natural armor that makes them appealing for otherwise lightly armored builds. 13 + Dex from the lizardfolk natural armor is marginally better than the “non-metal” armors you’d normally have access to as a druid, so lizardfolk make a very appealing option if you want to be a bit more survivable.
Loxodon gain +2 Con and +1 Wis. The loxodon natural armor is unique in that it uses Constitution, which means you can focus entirely on Constitution and Wisdom and dump everything else. Consider loxodon especially if you’re focused on spellcasting or wild shaping and don’t plan on making any attacks in your natural form.
Simic Hybrids gain +2 Con and +1 to any other ability which can be Wis. Simic gain a bunch of redundant abilities to what you can already gain through wild shaping but consider taking the flat +1 AC bonus. Flat AC bonuses can be hard to find and it will help you push past the “no metal armor” limitation of druids.
Warforged gain +2 Con and +1 to any other ability score which you can make Wis. Their inbuilt bonus to AC makes warforged one of the absolute strongest options for druids, even if it is a strange flavor mismatch. Warforged aren’t in every setting though (they come from Eberron) so make sure your DM is cool with them before rolling one up.
Druids choose a specialization called a “circle” at 2nd level. This represents the druidic order you trained with and dictates a lot of your class abilities and bonus spells. Each circle has its own strengths and strategies so take some time to determine the path you want your druid to take:
Circle of Dreams
Dreams is an interesting mix, you gain a really strong healing power along with a free teleport ability and a strange tiny hut ability, all flavored around dreams and fey magic. The healing ability alone is enough to warrant taking the option, if you want a druid with both healing, mobility, and oddly useful utility, I highly recommend it.
Circle of the Land
Circle of the Land is the go-to option for spellcasting focused druids. You gain spell slots back on short rests and you gain a bunch of themed spells based on the “land” that you pick. If your goal is simply slinging a lot of nature spells, then this is usually the most useful option.
Circle of the Moon
Wild shape isn’t really designed for combat in most situations. The CR of the creatures you can transform into just isn’t on par with the things you’re fighting. Circle of the Moon fixes that and gives you a ton of wild shape focused features. If your plan is fighting the enemy in wild shape, circle of the moon is really the best and only option.
Circle of the Shepherd
This is the summoner druid, every ability they gain either summons a spirit or augments and buffs the normal druid summoning spells. Considering the kind of things that you can potentially summon; this circle can get pretty busted. The special spirit you can summon is a massive party buff and the critters you can manifest can really gum up the board. Grab this option if the idea of summoning a swarm of pixies and a magic bear sounds fun.
Circle of Spores
This circle strongly encourages you to get up close and personal with the enemy and turns your wild shape uses into fungus-based temporary hit points and poison damage melee attacks. This circle is one of the best options if you want to play your druid as a frontline DPS character. Put some points into Dexterity and whirl fungus laden death into your foes.
Circle of the Stars
This “unearthed arcana” circle replaces your beast wild shapes with an ethereal starry constellation form. It’s a mixed circle and depending on your constellation choices can make for a very strong healing druid or spellcasting focused druid. You also get some major damage resistances when you reach 10th level so it’s a decent contender for combat druids as well.
Circle of Wildfire
This “unearthed arcana” circle lets you exchange your wild shape for a destructive fire spirit buddy. There’s a surprising amount of subtlety in this circle, and it can be used effectively as a combat control class by creating areas of damage and safety and teleporting your allies to more advantageous positions. It’s also got a lot of features that deal raw damage or provide healing, making it a strong option for a DPS / healing focused druid.
This section will tell you how to protect your friends from danger. Xanathar's Guide to Everything includes a lot of new Druid circles which give additional healing options.
Druids don’t have many spells that buff their friends, but what they do have is the ability to quickly incapacitate enemies and heal wounded allies.
If your party is faced with a big monster that does lots of damage, cast Entangle on it. The monster will have to make a Strength saving throw to avoid being ensnared in plants that spring from the ground in a 20ft. radius.
Even if the monster makes the saving throw, the area around it will still be turned into difficult terrain. And if it is successfully restrained by the plants, this may give your friends a long enough reprieve that they can figure out how to kill it.
Another option to get out of harm’s way is to cast Fog Cloud. This will spread fog all around you, making it easy for you and your friends to slip away, unseen.
Druids are great at healing. If a wounded ally is standing near you, use Cure Wounds to get him back into shape. If he is too far away for you to touch, use Healing Word instead.
When the battle is over, use the Goodberry spell to conjure some food, providing nourishment and healing for your whole party.
The Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica opens up a new and interesting option with the Spore Druid. You should definitely check it out if you haven't already.
If standing back and protecting people is not your cup of tea (or ale, or mead, or, well, you get the picture), go attack the bad guys and beat them up.
At level 1, you can use Shillelagh to imbue your staff with nature’s power, allowing you to make attack and damage rolls using your spellcasting ability instead of Str. This only lasts for a minute. But if you’re lucky, the fight might be over by then. And if not, you can always run when it wears off!
The real fun starts at level 2 though. That is when you get the Wild Shape ability. Transform into a boar, constrictor snake, elk, or giant badger. Now rush to your enemy and bite or claw it to death. Take the Mobile feat to keep from getting hit with opportunity attacks while doing this.
An even better way to attack the enemy is to transform into a riding horse and let a fighter from your party ride you into battle. If the fighter has the Mounted Combat feat, he can redirect attacks away from you and onto himself. Meanwhile, you can use the Sentinel feat to get opportunity attacks against the enemies within your reach.
Druids for Utility
Druids are also great for non-combat scenarios, not just when fighting dragons. Use Wild Shape to turn into a weasel, spider, or rat to spy on enemies. Charm guard dogs or other animal guards using Animal Friendship or get information from the more intelligent animals using Speak with Animals. If the target is humanoid, druids can use Charm Person to achieve these aims instead.
Healing Spirit - Introduced in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything this spell can significantly amp up healing outside of combat. The best tactic for this is to have a choo choo train of the party running around in a circle with it.
Druid Armor and Weapons
Druids do not believe in wearing metal armor, including chainmail and plate. So, your dexterity AC modifier is important. If you are planning on wearing light armor, dexterity will be your second most important attribute.
If you are planning on wearing medium (hide) armor instead, your Dex AC modifier will max out at +2 (14 or 15 Dex). So, in this case, you may want to use ability rolls higher than 15 on something other than Dex.
As far as weapons are concerned, druids can use slings, spears, darts, staves, daggers, and many other types of weapons. But because of the Shillelagh cantrip, a staff is almost always your best choice.
Optional Druid Features
In Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything every class got a set of optional features that act like a sort of upgrade patch to fix issues and improve things that needed improving. These features are technically optional, but assuming your DM allows them, make sure to include these class features with your druid:
Using the optional features, the following spells have been added to the druid spell list:
Protection from evil and good
Aura of vitality
Cone of cold
Flesh to stone
As a straight up additional feature, druids get the find familiar spell now for free by spending a use of their wild shape. Familiars are incredibly useful in and out of combat and this is a major addition to the druid repertoire (especially if you’re going for the zookeeper pile of animal friends build). Take full advantage of this and don’t be afraid to use your new animal friend to distract your enemies in combat.
Another of the “versatility” features that many classes gained, this one lets you swap out a cantrip whenever you gain an ASI level. A genuinely nice feature to have if your play style has changed over time, or if one of your cantrips has become redundant with other features you’ve gained.
In conclusion - druids are awesome
The bottom-line is that druids are awesome, jack-of-all trades characters. If you’re a druid, you can stand back and heal, transform into an angry beast and slice the enemy to bits, befriend animals and find information, spy on foes, and more.
And besides, druids are fun to roleplay. They are instruments of nature, devoted to destroying undead, mindflayers, beholders, and other unnatural things, and always working to protect the earth against corruption.
We’ve discussed how to get the most benefits from being a druid. If you liked this article, please share it with your friends. And if you have any questions, comment below so we can all continue the discussion.
Better yet, tell us your stories of how you have played a druid. We want to keep the lore of the druid class alive, and the best way of doing that is to read the trials and tribulations of your character. What obstacles did you encounter? And how did you use the skills of a druid to overcome them?
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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