Let’s Make a Druid
Pathfinder has been the tabletop game of choice for my longest-running group. One of my favorite activities is creating characters. I love theory crafting, pouring through source material, and setting limits. While I’ve made many, many characters, once class I haven’t touched is druid. The first character I ever made, back in a D&D Second Edition, was a druid. I don’t remember much from that character, except that I had a double-scimitar (think Darth Maul lightsabre, but scimitars). Since that, I haven’t done much with druids, which I think is a shame, because it’s a fascinating class that ticks many of the boxes I look for in a character. I love characters with options, that require a bit of mastery to play. Many characters I like the most are multi-classed, mixing spellcasting with melee combat. Some classes, though, provide all this out-of-the-box. From the core book, both cleric and druid satisfy my demands. I hold, still, that cleric is the most powerful class. I had this belief in D&D Third Edition, and I carry it forward into Pathfinder and D&D Fifth Edition. That’s a topic for another post, though.
All of my characters come from a concept. Sometimes the concept is really straight forward: I want a “realistic” fighter. I want a “proper” Eldritch Knight. Sometimes, the concept is more story based, as is the case with this druid. I read a story about a moose in Alaska that ate some apples which had fermented, and wandered into a town drunk. I thought, “that would make a fun animal companion!”, and thus the idea for a druid. The full backstory for the character will be around here somewhere. For now, I’ll spend the rest of this post focusing on the build.
Drunk moose. Drunk… spirit moose! OK, now we’re getting somewhere. As I fleshed out the story, and spoke with a friend about druid, I liked the idea of dipping one level in barbarian, then continuing with druid. That one level gets me quite a bit: d12 hit dice (and max at first level!); +1 BAB; +10 movement speed; and rage. The biggest downside is a delay in spellcasting, but I think it’s a fair trade-off. Considering the build is equally focused on spellcasting and melee combat, the rage will provide an additional resource where spells and standard attacks may not be sufficient. Obviously, druid will be our favored class.
Barbarian 1, Druid X
Druid’s aren’t reknown for being particularly skillful, but they get some great class skills. Of note, we get Handle Animal, Heal, Knowledge(Nature), Perception, and Survival. At 4+INT skill points, we can reliably grab most of these. Throw a point of two into Fly, Climb, and Swim, and between having a great strength, and wild shape, we can deal with whatever obstacles those skills require.
Handle Animal Heal Knowledge (Nature) Perception Survival
Pathfinder has no shortage of races to choose from. For most of my builds, I try to stick to the “basics” provided in the Core Rulebook, but I also allow myself the Advanced Race Guide races. For this build, though, mostly due to the backstory/concept, I went human. We’ll opt for a bonus HP each level in druid, for our favored class bonus.
Human gets a bonus first level feat, then all characters get a first level feat. I tend to make characters for whatever level our campaign is at, and for now that’s 8th level. That gives me five feats total. At fifth level, I’m taking Natural Spell. Since I’m a melee bruiser, I’m interested in Power Attack, Vital Strike, Toughness, and Powerful Shape, but I can’t get the last one just yet. Druids are fantastic summoners, and it’s very tempting to pick up Augmented Summons. For this build, though, it’s a two feat investment for a strategy I won’t be using much. For first level, I went with Toughness and Power Attack. As a first level barbarian, those two feats give me a lot of staying power. As a druid, my BAB won’t progress as strongly, but in wild shape it can give me a lot of damage. Combined with vital strike, certain shapes will give me a single, “two-handed” attack for a significant amount of damage at a good attack bonus.
Thematically, I’ve opted for the feat Spirit’s Gift. It fits my drunken spirit moose concept perfectly.
That leaves level 7. The aforementioned vital strike could be a great option. There’s also furious focus: for a single, two-handed power attack, remove the power attack penalty. Since we’ll be taking advantage of our animal companion, there’s also the option for teamwork feats. Animal companions get feats, too, and there are a few in particular that would work very well: Shake It Off would give us both +1 on all saves; Improved Spell Sharing would let me share buffs better; and then there are the charges. These interested me. I need to step back briefly to consider the animal companion, so we’ll leave our feats in an undecided state for now.
Bonus: Toughness Lvl 1: Power Attack Lvl 3: Spirit's Gift Lvl 5: Natural Spell Lvl 7: ???
By now it should be clear this is not really a min-max guide. There are plenty of guides that exist already for that sort of build; I’ll link a few I’ve referenced below. In those guides, animal companion choses are pretty clear: take a wolf/dire wolf if you want to be a trip artist; take a big cat for superior damage; take one of any number of dinosaurs for superior options. No where is a moose mentioned, because they’re not “optimal.” That’s fine. I don’t want optimal, I want drunken spirit moose.
Moosen start off pretty bland. They don’t get any special attacks, they’re medium size, an average AC, an average attack, and relatively low damage. At level 7, they get significantly better: large size; better AC; better damage, and powerful charge. For this build, I’ll focus on charging. Both I and the moose will charge hard into whatever enemy we want to focus first. With some of the team work feats alluded to above, we can emphasize significant bonuses and improvements to charging.
If I wanted to change this to a more optimal build, I’d probably go for an axe beak. It could be the in-universe thematic equivalent of a moose. Qwark.
Feats, Completed This Time
In addition to my feats, I get feats for my animal companion. At character level 8, I’m a 7th level druid, which means my animal companion gets 3 feats, with a 4th coming next level. The charge feats I’m considering would be 3 feats minimum: 2 teamwork feats, and then Coordinated Charge. The requirements for Coordinated Charge are 2 teamwork feats, and a BAB +10. My animal companion, of any flavor, won’t have that until level 17! That’s a bit of a downer, but there are some other interesting ones that lead up to it nicely. Distracting Charge would give either my moose or me a +2 to hit against the target of a charge. Intercept Charge could provide significant defensive benefits, though neither my moose nor I are particularly defensive oriented. Shake It Off would give Moose and Me +1 on all saves while we’re adjacent. And Improved Spell Sharing helps with buffing. The one thing about ISS though is the requirements are a bit… odd. It seems to be intended for use by a class that can share their teamwork feats, but I think a discussion with a DM can resolve the issue.
Druid: - Bonus: Toughness - Lvl 1: Power Attack - Lvl 3: Spirit's Gift - Lvl 5: Natural Spell - Lvl 7: Improved Spell Sharing Moose: - Lvl 1: Toughness - Lvl 2: Weapon Focus (Gore) - Lvl 5: Improved Spell Sharing
Looking forward slightly, next level we each get another feat.
Druid: - Lvl 9: Powerful Shape Moose: - Lvl 8: Improved Natural Attack (Gore)
Since we’re wild-shaping, we don’t need to worry too much about armor and weapon. We can get the benefits of a shield, so we’ll want a decent one of those. Ring of Protection (+1) is a standard, and I’ll also opt for a Cloak of Resistance (+2). We’re a bit MAD (multi-attribute dependent), wanting high strength and wisdom primarily, with good dexterity and constitution still. I’ll take a Headband of Inspired Wisdom (+2), and a Belt of Physical Prowess (Strength and Constitution +2). In exchange for a weapon, I’ll pick up an Amulet of Mighty Fists (+1). Finally, because wild shape is so important, we’ll pick up Druid Vestments, which give us an extra wild shape use per day.
Headband of Inspired Wisdom, +2 Amulet of Mighty Fists, +1 Cloak of Resistance, +2 Druid Vestments Belt of Physical Prowess (STR/CON), +2 Ring of Protection, +1 Heavy Wooden Shield, +1 Scimitar
I have a mundane item pack I generally pick up as well, which includes things like a mirror, fishing hooks, and the like. Normally it’s all in a Handy Haversack, but since I’m shapshifting so often, for the druid that’ll shift to a Polymorphic Pouch.
Also, a Ring of Eloquence is a solid buy, to allow for discussion which shapeshifted.
Druids have a lot of spell options. We’re a melee fighter, so many of our spells will focus on buffing, debuffing, and control. We can also include some out-of-combat utility. There are too many options to list, and again, guides already exist that go through every spell and analyze them. Here are the spells that I’ll consider regularly:
Level 1: - Entangle [Control] - Faerie Fire [Control][Debuff] - Frostbite [Buff][Damage][Debuff] - Goodberry [Utility] - Longstrider [Buff] - Magic Fang [Buff] - Mudball [Damage][Debuff] - Thorn Javelin [Damage][Debuff] - Thunderstomp [Control][Debuff] Level 2: - Barkskin [Buff] - Lockjaw [Buff][Control] - Natural Rhythm [Buff][Damage] - Resist Energy [Buff] - Sickening Entanglement [Control][Debuff] - Stone Call [Damage][Debuff] - Vine Strike [Control][Damage][Debuff] - Whip of Spiders [Damage][Debuff] - Wilderness Soldiers [Control][Damage] Level 3: - Call Lightning [Damage] - Earth Tremor [Damage][Control][Debuff] - Fey Form I [Utility] - Fungal Infestation [Debuff] - Greater Magic Fang [Buff][Damage] - Greater Thunderstomp [Control][Debuff] - Spike Growth [Control][Damage][Debuff] - Thorny Entanglement [Control][Damage] - Vermin Shape I [Utility] Level 4: - Aspect of the Stag [Buff][Damage] - Cape of Wasps [Buff][Damage][Debuff] - Echolocation [Buff] - Freedom of Movement [Buff] - Grove of Respite [Utility] - Slowing Mud [Control][Debuff] - Spike Stones [Control][Damage][Debuff] - Strong Jaw [Buff][Damage]
I’ve never played this build! I’m sure it could use some modifications. The emphasis on choosing a moose over other animal companions could be a serious hinderance. I think the general play would go like this: buff self, sharing the buffs with my animal companion; enter melee combat, preferably by charging at a target with my animal companion; throw around control and debuff spells as necessary.
This is very much a first draft, but I think it could be a fun one!
|Prometheus Guide to the Druid|
|Treantmonk’s Guide to Druids|