While druids are the least played D&D class (according to D&D Beyond’s statistics), they are powerful and can be very rewarding to play. If you know how to build them effectively and play them well.
In this guide, Dungeon Masters (DMs) and players alike will find advice, help, tips, and tricks to effectively build, play, and work with a druid player character (PC) at your table.
Everyone can learn something from this 5E druid guide. So come on in, take a peek, and you might just learn something new!
Druid 5E Class Overview
So you want to play a druid. Great choice!
Druids have been a part of D&D since the 1st Edition but originally started as a sub-class of clerics. This makes them one of the oldest classes, but they finally became their own class in 2nd Edition. Now they are a staple of the game and still played in 5e, almost 60 years later.
Druids have always been a class that is deeply entwined with nature. They tend to the land and listen to the flora and fauna that call it home. They are passionately defensive of natural places and will stand up against its destruction while accepting that nature can be cruel unto itself.
They are a mainly casting class but don’t underestimate their fighting ability. They have many weapon proficiencies and typically have high Constitution stats, so they are beefier than your average wizard.
Druid Class Features
Starting at Level One, your druid has certain features.
Their hit points are relatively easy to understand:
- 1d8 per druid level
- 8 + Con for the first level.
- Hit Points to Start at Higher Levels: 1d8 (or 5) + Con per Level above first.
Druid Starting proficiencies include:
- Armor: Light and medium armor, shields. Some druids may abstain from using metal armor.
- Weapons: Clubs, daggers, darts, javelins, maces, quarterstaffs, scimitars, sickles, slings, and spears.
- Tools: Herbalism kit.
- Skills: Choose two from Arcana, Animal Handling, Insight, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Religion, and Survival.
- Saving Throws: Wisdom and Intelligence.
- Languages: Druidic.
Druidic is one of your starting class features. This is similar to Rogue’s Cant in that it is a class-specific language that only those in the know can understand. You do not need to roll anything to recognize and understand Druidic, but your party members will.
Spellcasting as a druid is a bit different than other classes. They have a much larger spellbook than you might expect, and there are unique attributes to how you can use spells.
Druid spells work off the preparation system. That means that you know all of your spells, but you have to set time aside to prepare them for use. Some DMs may be more strict about components, so you should also pay attention to collection and preparation time.
Druids can prepare as many spells as their Wisdom modifier plus their level. For example, a Level 9 druid with maxed Wisdom could prepare 14 different spells across their different spell slots.
Druids can also cast ritual spells if they have the time and components. The spell must be listed as a ritual, and you must take the time to cast it. Spells that can be cast as rituals will come with a listed casting time and can take anywhere from one action to ten minutes to complete.
Druids may also have a spellcasting focus. Focuses replace the need for material components with a spell. The only exception is when there is a particular cost, like how Revivify spell requires diamonds collectively worth at least 300 gold pieces.
Druidic focuses tend to be made of natural materials and reflect where the druid has come from. For example, a druid may have a yucca wand since they are from a desert region.
Your spellcasting modifier is Wisdom. This means you’d calculate your spell save DC and your spell attack modifier with your Wisdom score and proficiency.
For example, if your druid has maxed out their Wisdom by Level 8, their spell save DC would calculate as follows: 8 + 3 + 5 = 16 DC.
Your spell attack modifier is simply proficiency added to your Wisdom modifier. You use this to direct different attacks or spells onto a target.
Druids, like other classes, have a fascinating culture. They have different relationships with gods than many other classes and hold different materials in renown.
Druids sometimes worship gods in conjunction with nature and their protected lands. Some druidic circles are affiliated with certain nature gods, but those practices are considered the Old Faith and ‘folk magic.’
Druids can worship the gods of various settings while also maintaining their relationship with nature, which can also open the door to different personal relationships. You could even design a druidic cult that your character is a part of.
Druids also hold many natural phenomena, flora, and fauna from their region in renown. For example, some groups may view the yew tree as particularly sacred and magical. Druids from these groups may use yew wood in their focuses, weapons, and even clothing.
However, the most defining feature of druidic culture is their relationship to nature and partnerships therein. These are commonly called Circles and have a significant impact on how your druid character handles.
There are so many great D&D druid circles you can choose from for your druid. All of them have different aesthetics and interpretations to choose from. Each one will give you a different feeling druid and additional circle features.
Many of the circles here are not included in the basic Player’s Handbook druid class pages. However, they are still great options and can be fun to work with as a player and a DM.
Druids who join the Circle of the Land are stewards of the land itself. They guard ancient knowledge and secrets against those who would destroy it. They protect ancient sites, like historic groves or ritual locations, and their magical abilities reflect the land they are sworn to.
Circle of the Land offers several different kinds of perks for druids. It is the first Circle included in the Player’s Handbook and one of the two options provided on D&D Beyond for free as well.
Upon choosing this Circle at Level 2, you get several perks. These are mostly made up of extra spells.
You receive an extra cantrip of your choice. You also get access to an ability called Natural Recovery. You can regain spell slots equivalent or rounded up to half of your druid levels during a short rest. None of them can be 6th level or higher, and you have to have a long rest before you use this feature again.
Once you reach the 3rd druid Level, you can access an expanded spell list. This gets even larger as you level up even more.
These spells are tied to the biome where your druid is from or where they started training as a druid. Something else impactful could have happened to them in the biome selected.
|3rd Level Spells
|5th Level Spells
|7th Level Spells
|9th Level Spells
|Hold Person Spike Growth
|Sleet Storm Slow
|Freedom of Movement Ice Storm
|Commune with Nature Cone of Cold
|Mirror Image Misty Step
|Water Breathing Water Walk
|Control Weather Freedom of Movement
|Conjure Elemental Scrying
|Create Food and Water Protection from Energy
|Blight Hallucinatory Terrain
|Insect Plague Wall of Stone
|Barkskin Spider Climb
|Call Lightning Plant Growth
|Divination Freedom of Movement
|Commune with Nature Tree Stride
|Invisibility Pass Without Trace
|Divination Freedom of Movement
|Dream Insect Plague
|Spider Climb Spike Growth
|Lightning Bolt Meld Into Stone
|Stone Shape Stoneskin
|Passwall Wall of Stone
|Darkness Melf’s Acid Arrow
|Water Walk Stinking Cloud
|Freedom of Movement Locate Creature
|Insect Plague Scrying
|Spider Climb Web
|Gaseous Form Stinking Cloud
|Greater Invisibility Stone Shape
|Cloudkill Insect Plague
The next feature for Circle of the Land druids is gained at Level 6. Land’s Stride allows players to move through difficult terrain without the extra movement cost.
You can also pass through non-magical plants without being slowed. On top of all that, you also have advantage on saving throws against magical plants.
Your next Level up for your Circle of the Land abilities comes at Level 10. You cannot be charmed or frightened by elementals or fey and are immune to poison and disease.
At the 14th level, animals and plants are less likely to attack you. They can sense your affinity for nature. If they want to attack you, they have to make a Wisdom save against your spell save DC. They are immune to this effect on a successful save for the next 24 hours.
The Circle of the Moon is a circle for the more nomadic druid who takes comfort in the darkness. They are at home under the open night sky and away from most societies. They find their way into the darkest places in the forest and the furthest reaches of the wilderness and are truly one with the wild.
This is the second and only other option in the Player’s Handbook and heavily features Wild Shape improvements that no other Circle can offer.
The first perk is Combat Wild Shape. You can now use Wild Shape as a bonus action, not a full one. That means you can use your regular action to do something else in a fight and
On top of that, you can use a bonus action to expend one spell slot and gain 1d8 hit points for every level. For example, if you used a 3rd Level spell slot, you could regain 3d8 worth of HP.
You can also get better Wild Shape forms at Level 2. You can turn into creatures with even higher challenge ratings, with a CR of 1 for your 2nd Level Wild Shape.
At Level 6, you can turn into a creature with a CR as high as your druid level, divided by three and rounded down.
Also, at Level 6, your druid has access to Primal Strike. This feature allows your druid’s attacks in Wild Shape to count as magical. This is an excellent skill when you are going up against an enemy with resistance to non-magical attacks.
Level 10 also brings new skills to a Circle of the Moon druid. You can use two uses of Wild Shape to take the form of an elemental. You can be an air elemental, a fire elemental, an earth elemental, or a water elemental.
The last level up comes at Level 14. Thousand Forms is a feature that allows a Circle of the Moon druid to cast the spell Alter Self at will. This is perfect for this class and will give you the chance to be a master of disguise.
The Circle of Spores is a Druidic Circle about mushrooms, fungi, and decay. They typically believe that the world is one big cycle of life and decay and that there is beauty in fungal life.
This Circle appears in the expansions Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. It is the first of several Circles this druid guide 5e will cover that are not available in the basic player manuals.
When you choose this Circle at Level 2, you get the starting features Halo of Spores, Symbiotic Entity, and the spell Chill Touch.
Halo of Spores means that invisible, necrotic spores surround you. These spores are harmless until you choose to have them attack someone when they come within ten feet of you. The damage dice gets larger every time you get a new Circle feature.
At Level 2, you have a 1d4. At Level 6, it upgrades to a 1d6. The die increases to a 1d8 at the 10th level and then again to a 1d10 at Level 14.
You also get access to Symbiotic Entity. You can channel magic into your spores. You can use an action and expend a Wild Shape use to awaken them. This gives you four temporary HP for every druid level you have.
You also get two significant benefits while it is active. When you deal Halo of Spores damage, you can roll the damage die a second time and add that to the total. Your melee weapons also deal an extra 1d6 necrotic damage every time you hit.
These effects last for ten minutes or until you lose your temporary HP. If you use Wild Shape again, you’ll also lose these benefits.
At the 6th level, you get a new feature called Fungal Infestation. You can infest and animate a course. If a medium or smaller beast or humanoid dies within 10 feet of you, you can use a reaction to animate it with 1 HP.
The creature uses the Zombie stat block in the Monster Manual and stays up for one hour. It will obey you and take melee attacks. You can use this a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier.
Level 10 gives you another Circle feature. You can seed an area with deadly spores using your Symbiotic Entity feature. You can send spores up to 30 feet away from yourself, and they will be a swirling 10-foot cube.
When a creature moves there, they take your Halo of Spores damage unless they pass a Constitution save against your spell save DC. They cannot take damage more than once per turn, and you cannot use your Halo of Spores reaction.
At Level 14, your body has become imbued with the power of your spores. You can no longer be frightened, blinded, deafened, poisoned, and any critical hit counts as a normal attack instead. The only exception to the critical hit rule is when you are incapacitated.
The Circle of the Shepherd is about stewarding and defending the creatures, big or small, of the world. They see animals as their charges and that it is their sacred duty to take care of them.
They are enemies with hunters and tend to spend a lot of time in Wild Shape, far away from society. This Circle is found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and has even more druid spells that you could hypothetically use.
At Level 2, you get the feature Speech of the Woods. You can converse with beasts and many fey and gain proficiency in Sylvan. In addition, beasts can understand your speech, and you can decipher their noises and motions.
This doesn’t make these animals your friends, but they can convey what they have seen, or you can negotiate for their friendship. For example, you could bribe a squirrel with an acorn to get them to reveal the location of a specific tree.
You also get a move called Spirit Totem. You can call nature spirits to help you and influence the world around you. To reap the benefits, you have to stay in the range of the spirit, which is 30 feet. You can also move it 60 ft. as a bonus action. There are three basic animal spirits you can summon.
- The Bear Spirit grants you and your allies stat boosts and temporary HP. The HP is 5 + your druid level, and your allies gain advantage on Strength saving throws. Again, you have to stay inside the range of the spirit to get the benefits.
- The Hawk Spirit gives bonuses for better attacks. When a creature makes an attack roll, you (the player) can choose to provide the attacker with advantage. On top of that, all allies and yourself have advantage on Perception checks while in the aura.
- Finally, the Unicorn Spirit gives other protection bonuses. You first have advantage on all checks while trying to detect a creature. Additionally, each time you cast a spell that heals, creatures of your choice also regain hit points equal to your druid level.
At Level 6, any creatures or fey you summon are stronger. They appear with more hit points than usual: two more additional druid level hit points for each one they originally had. They also have magical attacks to get over specific immunity or resistance to magic attacks.
At Level 10, your Spirit Totem can also defend creatures that you summoned. When a called being ends its turn in the range of the Totem’s aura, it gains HP equal to half of your druid level.
Level 14 gives you the feature Faithful Summons. If you are reduced to 0 hit points or are incapacitated against your will, you gain the benefits of Conjure Animals as if you cast it at the 9th level.
This spell summons four beasts of your choice with a CR of 2 or less. They appear within 20 ft of you and will protect you. You can give them small commands, but they will automatically defend you if you cannot tell them what you want them to do.
These beasts last for one hour or until you dismiss them. It is not a concentration spell, and you cannot use it until you complete a long rest.
The Circle of Stars is a perfect Circle for anyone who is a fan of astronomy, astrology, or cartography. These druids are fascinated with the stars and are at home under the night sky. They lean into the mysterious side of things.
The Circle of Stars is found in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, and there are some mighty Level 2 boosts you first get.
Star Map and Starry Form are emblematic of this Circle and the overall aesthetic.
Star Map is a feature that is primarily useful on a utility level. You have created a Tiny star map that you can consult and use as a spellcasting focus. While holding it, you know the Guidance cantrip and have other spell-related bonuses.
You also have Guiding Bolt prepared, and it does not count against your total spells prepared. You can cast Guiding Bolt without spending a spell slot. You can do this as many times as your proficiency bonus and regain all uses on a long rest.
There is a genuine chance that you could lose the map during an adventure, or it could be destroyed. Fear not; you can perform a ceremony and make a new one. It will take one hour, and you can magically create a replacement. It destroys the original map entirely, and you have a new version.
Tasha’s Cauldron has a table suggesting different forms. You could roll to decide what it looks like, or you could pick what your map looks like from the group.
Here are the options:
- A scroll covered with depictions of constellations.
- A stone tablet with fine holes drilled through it.
- A speckled owlbear hide, tooled with raised marks.
- A collection of maps bound in an ebony cover.
- A crystal that projects starry patterns when placed before a light.
- Glass disks that depict constellations.
The second half of your Level 2 Circle boosts the feature Starry Form. You can spend a use of Wild Shape to take on a vivid, celestial form. Your joints appear like little stars, and there are thin connections that connect them like your bones.
You retain your stats and become light. You shed bright light for 10 feet and dull feet for another ten feet beyond that. You can stay in this form for ten minutes or until you dismiss it, are incapacitated, die, or use the feature again.
When you activate this feature, you pick a constellation that appears on your body. Each one will give you different benefits.
- Archer: As a bonus action immediately after activating this form, you can make a ranged spell attack and throw a star arrow that targets one creature within 60 feet of you. A hit deals 1d8 + Wisdom.
- Chalice: Whenever you cast a spell that restores HP, you or one other creature within 30 ft. can regain HP equal to 1d8 + Wisdom.
- Dragon: When you make an Intelligence or Wisdom check or a Constitution save to preserve concentration for a spell, you can treat any rolls of 9 or lower as a 10.
The 6th Level feature for the Circle of Stars is called Cosmic Omen. You can consult your star map for omens. Roll any die and see if it is evens or odds. Until you finish your next long rest, you can choose to activate a reaction based on the roll.
If you rolled evens, you get the Weal omen. Whenever a creature within 30 feet is about to make an attack roll, a saving throw, or an ability check, you can roll a d6 as a reaction and add the number to the total. You can give this bonus to your allies!
If you rolled odds, you get the Woe omen. This is the inverse of the Weal omen. You can instead subtract the d6 from the total of their roll. This would be a tremendous strategic advantage if inflicted on enemies.
You can use this reaction as many times as your current proficiency bonus and regain all uses after a long rest.
The Circle of Stars Level 10 feature is called Twinkling Constellations. The damage die for the constellations that can appear on your Starry Form improve.
The 1d8 for the Archer and the Chalice becomes 2d8. Additionally, you can hover and have a flying speed of 20 feet while the Dragon constellation is active.
Finally, you can change which constellation is active at the start of each turn. You can make the constellations work for you and give your party the best boosts possible.
At Level 14, you unlock the final Circle of Stars upgrade. It gives your Starry Form its final boost and makes you resistant to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. You become partially incorporeal.
The Circle of Wildfire is just as feral and erratic as the name implies. They believe that destruction is the start of creation and promotes late growth. Think of the mighty sequoia tree that has to let its seeds burn to let them grow.
This Circle is found in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, and you’ll need to get a hold of that sourcebook to use it.
The key to making the Circle of Wildfire effective is that your druid bonds with a wildfire spirit. These are primal beings of creation and destruction. As you grow in power, you’ll kindle similar power in your companion, and they will reward you as well.
When you join this Circle, you form a bond with the spirit, and they will give you access to certain spells. Some of these spells usually are not available to druids, such as Revivify.
You will always have these spells prepared, and they do not count against the number of spells you can prepare after each day. This spell list will increase as you level up, following the chart below.
|Burning Hands Cure Wounds
|Flaming Sphere Scorching Ray
|Plant Growth Revivify
|Aura of Life Fire Shield
|Flame Strike Mass Cure Wounds
You also gain the feature Summon Wildfire Spirit. This allows you to call the spirit that you have bonded with. As an action, you can spend one use of Wild Shape to bring it to the Material Plane.
They will appear within 30 feet of you in an unoccupied space. All creatures besides yourself must make a Dexterity saving throw to avoid taking 2d6 fire damage. This is contested against your spell save DC.
The spirit is friendly to you and your party and will obey you. They will use the Wildfire Spirit stat block and use several player proficiencies and statistics. You can choose what your spirit appears as, aesthetically speaking.
When in initiative, the spirit will take their turn right after yours, taking the Dodge move by default. You can command it to take other actions from the stat block, and if you are incapacitated, the spirit will act of their own free will and move as they want.
The spirit will remain on the Material Plane for one hour until they are reduced to 0 hit points or if the druid dies.
The Level 6 feature is called Enhanced Bond and will make your Wildfire Spirit even stronger.
If your Wildfire Spirit is summoned while you cast a spell that deals fire damage or if you cast a healing spell, you gain a bonus. This is equal to one die from the spell.
For example, if you could heal an ally for 2d8, you could roll another d8 and add that to the final total. You can also choose to cast spells that don’t affect yourself from your spirit.
At Level 10, you get a new feature called Cauterizing Flames. You can summon fire that can heal, or it can incinerate.
When a Small or larger creature dies within 30 feet of yourself or your Wildfire Spirit, a flame emerges from the corpse. It remains there for a minute. When a creature enters that space, you can choose to extinguish the fire and deal damage or heal.
This is either 2d10 + your Wisdom of healing or damage. You can use this move as a reaction and as many times as your proficiency bonus. Once you complete a long rest, you regain all of the uses.
Your final Circle of Wildfire feature is called Blazing Revival. Your bond with your spirit is unbreakable, even unto death, and they can save you.
Once per long rest, if you reach 0 HP and your spirit is within 120 feet of you, you can drain your spirit’s current HP and regain half of your own. You rise to your feet and can continue fighting.
Druids who are a part of the Circle of Dreams have a strong connection to the Feywild. They usually work with good-aligned fey to protect natural places, bring dreaminess to the Material Plane, and give others rest and respite.
This Circle appears in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
Starting at Level 2, you get the feature Balm of the Summer Court. You are given blessings from the Summer Court and have a pool of fey power that you can use to heal allies with.
The pool is a number of d6s equal to your druid level. If an ally is within 120 feet and can be seen, you can spend a number of these die and heal them. There is also an additional number of temporary HP equal to as many dice you used.
For example, if you spent 3d6s to heal an ally, you would tally up the d6s. Then, on top of that, your ally would get three temporary HP.
At the 6th level, you can channel the Gloaming Court (also known as the Unseelie Court) to help guard your camp. This feature is called Hearth of Moonlight and Shadow. You can touch a spot at the start of rest, and a 30-foot radius sphere appears. Total cover will block the sphere.
While your party rests in this sphere, you gain +5 to Dexterity and Wisdom checks. Additionally, all light from a campfire or any other source inside the sphere is not visible outside of it.
The sphere lasts until the end of the rest or until you leave it.
Hidden Paths is a very fun feature that allows your druid to teleport using secret fey pathways. Using a bonus action, your druid can teleport up to 60 feet into an unoccupied space you can see. You could also use this ability to transport another creature 30 feet.
You can use this ability for as much as your Wisdom modifier, with a minimum of once, and you regain use after a long rest.
The Circle of Dreams Level 14 feature is called Walker in Dreams. It allows you to travel mentally or even physically through dreamlands.
After a short rest, you can cast one of the following spells without using a spell slot or components:
- Dream (where you are the messenger)
- Teleportation Circle
Teleportation Circle has other bonuses. Instead of connecting to an established teleportation circle, it will instead take you to the last place you took a long rest, as long as it is on the same plane that you are currently on.
The spell fails if you aren’t on the same plane as the last resting place, but it isn’t wasted.
Druids have a massive spell list, even by D&D 5e standards. The 5e druid has many utility spells, but Circles will also give your character a different set to add that may or may not include combat spells.
This list covers the Player’s Handbook’s complete druid spell list from page 208. There are plenty of other spells your druid could have access to in other sourcebooks. More on that further down; for now, let’s get into the list!
Cantrips are spells you can cast at will, which do not take up a spell slot. They are great utility spells, and some classes even come with combat abilities that are cantrips. Eldritch Blast for 5e, in particular, has a reputation as being one of the most powerful and effective cantrips.
Check out our post on Shillelagh 5E, and see why we think it’s a great cantrip!
The list of basic druid cantrips are:
1st Level spells are the next tier of power and have more extensive effects. From this level on, these spells require spell slots to cast.
The druid 5e 1st Level spell list is:
- Animal Friendship
- Charm Person
- Create or Destroy Water
- Cure Wounds
- Detect Magic
- Detect Poison and Disease
- Faerie Fire
- Fog Cloud
- Healing Word
- Purify Food and Drink
- Speak with Animals
The DnD druid spell list for 2nd Level spells is:
- Animal Messenger
- Beast Sense
- Enhance Ability
- Find Traps
- Flame Blade
- Flaming Sphere
- Gust of Wind
- Heat Metal
- Hold Person
- Lesser Restoration
- Locate Animals or Plants
- Locate Object
- Pass without Trace
- Protection from Poison
- Spike Growth
D&D druids can cast the following spells at the 3rd level:
- Call Lightning
- Conjure Animals
- Dispel Magic
- Feign Death
- Meld Into Stone
- Plant Growth
- Protection from Energy
- Sleet Storm
- Speak with Plants
- Water Breathing
- Water Walk
- Wind Wall
4th Level druid spells are:
- Conjure Minor Elementals
- Conjure Woodland Beings
- Control Water
- Dominate Beast
- Freedom of Movement
- Giant Insect
- Hallucinatory Terrain
- Ice Storm
- Locate Creature
- Stone Shape
- Wall of Fire
5th Level druid spells include:
- Antilife Shell
- Commune with Nature
- Conjure Elemental
- Greater Restoration
- Insect Plague
- Mass Cure Wounds
- Planar Binding
- Tree Stride
- Wall of Stone
- Conjure Fey
- Find the Path
- Heroes’ Feast
- Move Earth
- Transport via Plants
- Wall of Thorns
- Wind Walk
7th Level spells are increasingly terrifying and intimidating. These are where you start playing with the rules of physics and causing all kinds of environmental hazards that enemies have to deal with.
- Fire Storm
- Mirage Arcane
- Plane Shift
- Reverse Gravity
8th Level spells are only a step below the most powerful spells in the world of D&D. They can cause devastating weather and mass destruction.
- Animal Shapes
- Control Weather
Once you unlock 9th Level spells, your druid is a mighty caster. 9th Level spells are tough to break or resist and can be perfect tools in combat or as a utility tool. Though there are fewer of them, they are potent, and any of them are a good choice.
The 9th Level spells available to a D&D 5e druid are:
- Storm of Vengeance
- True Resurrection
This list includes the specific spells used in the Player’s Handbook and other reference materials, but you can pick so many different spells.
For example, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything opens the spell list even more than before and allows certain wizard and cleric spells to find their way into the druid spell list. These can give your druid a completely different feel or give them better healing when there are no other healers in the party.
On top of these expansions, there are also expanded spell lists offered by Circles. These are specifically tinted for a Circle’s overall aesthetic and themes and may even feature spells that other druids can’t access.
If you aren’t finding spells to fit your character, it’s worth a shot to go through other sourcebooks and pick from their new lists and see what your options are.
You could even homebrew spells with your DM if you’re really at a loss!
Building Your 5E Druid
If you want to optimize your druid build, you need to take specific measures, starting from the beginning of creation to the highest levels. Everything from your character’s race to their background can impact how they handle during gameplay.
In general, there are no wrong races to pair with the druid class. However, some work better thematically, and some work better in statistics.
For example, harengon (also known as a rabbit folk) would make sense for a druid from a grassland region or who wants to look out for prey animals. A firbolg might also be a great choice because of their society’s proximity to nature and naturally nomadic culture.
Alternatively, if you chose Circle of the Wildfire, you may want to select a race that has a long history of working with fire. Dwarves may be a good choice since Dwarven society is entrenched in forging.
Thematically speaking, wood elves are an excellent choice for anyone who wants to channel a prominent Lord of the Rings aesthetic since they are closer to nature than most elves. This makes them the most popular choice for the druid class, according to D&D Beyond’s character sheet statistics.
If you want to optimize your character for the best overall dice results, it’s a different story. Statistically speaking, you should choose a race that boosts the statistics you use the most.
Hill dwarves, in particular, are a good choice. You get an additional +2 to Constitution from being a dwarf and then another +1 to Wisdom from the hill dwarf variant.
Humans may also be a good choice. Humans receive an additional +1 to all ability scores, and you get an extra language. This is perfect for a traveling druid who has met and interacted with all kinds of different races.
Forest gnomes may not have relevant stat boosts like these other races, but they have race features that pair nicely with druid power sets. Natural Illusionist is a great way to earn another cantrip on top of the rest of the list, and Speak with Small Beasts can be a fast way to get animal communication without using a spell slot.
Wood elves are another excellent choice for druids. Elves receive a +2 to Dexterity, a well-needed boost for the weapons druids are proficient in. Wood elves also gain an additional +1 to Wisdom.
Backgrounds are crucial for your characters and can give them much-needed stat boosts. Not only that, they are perfect leaping-off points to build a compelling backstory.
The Hermit background, in particular, is recommended by the Player’s Handbook, but other backgrounds can also be practical. Not only do these give helpful features, but they can also give your character backstory weight.
For example, the Sailor background would work well if you have a Triton druid specializing in aquatic animals and creatures.
Alternatively, the Outlander background would work nicely if your character is a nomad, wandering the hills of your setting and if you want to lean into the socially uncomfortable druid with a low Charisma score.
Of the basic backgrounds included in the Player’s Handbook, the best ones for druids are:
- Folk Hero
- Guild Artisans
These backgrounds will boost specific stats that druids use and already have high stats. They also have the best opportunity for storytelling and pair well with druids of all different backgrounds.
You should also look into other backgrounds from the various 5e expansions. These could open up a whole new world for backstories and give your druid a particular flavor.
Your six ability scores are the crux of your character. These will determine whether your party wins or loses, whether you live or die, if you can solve problems, and if your spells are effective. Choosing the best stats for your class is vital to making a playable character.
You need to have a high Wisdom score to play a druid effectively. Wisdom is the spellcasting modifier, after all. However, the Constitution stat is also essential and is recommended by the PHB to be your next highest stat.
Since druids also have weapon proficiencies in small melee and ranged weapons, you should choose a higher Dexterity modifier or prioritize boosting it as you level up.
Intelligence is another score that druids should improve during a campaign. Intelligence is one of their proficient save modifiers, giving them some much-needed boosts and preventing specific spell effects.
Feats are another great way to flavor your druid and give them unique storytelling beats. Some of these feats allow you to learn a new skill from an experienced NPC, and others can be granted when you hit certain checkpoints.
Many feats are based on combat skills, but you can also use them for utility reasons. For example, the Skilled feat gives you an additional proficiency in any three skills or toolsets.
You could even work with your DM to design custom feats that meet your character’s needs. These could be anything you want and fit whatever goals you have for your character.
While you can gain some feats through storytelling means and milestones, the quickest way to pick up a feat is by using a feat instead of an attribute increase. This is an option at certain levels (more on that later), and you have to decide if losing the stat boost is worth it for the feat you want.
Your druid’s backstory can be whatever you want, but if you’re building a character from the ground up, you might not know where to start.
Here are some questions to help get you started:
- Why is your druid drawn to nature?
- What began this bond? Did a significant natural event inspire them?
- What is their long-term goal as a druid?
- Do they have any specific enemies? Why did this animosity start?
- Have they witnessed any significant environmental events?
- Have they ever lost faith in nature and their Circle? What caused this?
- Are they a loner, or are they in a larger community?
- Has your druid always wanted to be an adventurer?
- What is their favorite natural place, or what is the most beautiful natural thing they have ever seen?
All of these questions will help you build a compelling druid backstory. A solid backstory will not only make your DMs life easier, but it can also make it easier for you to make decisions and figure out how your druid would react to certain situations.
The biggest thing is making sure your character can move forward. You can set out a clear character arc or work with your DM to find stories that your character can get invested in.
There’s not too much to keep track of starting at Level one. As long as you follow the Player’s Handbook and other manuals to get your starting features organized, you’re all set.
You can enjoy yourself and work your way onto Level 2! Talk with your DM about what type of leveling system you will use: milestone or XP.
At the 2nd level, you gain access to your Wild Shape ability and choose your Druidic Circle. You also get another 2nd Level spell slot.
The D&D Druid Circles are varied and fit all different kinds of characters. We talked about circles in more detail above, so let’s move on to essential class boosts.
Wild Shape is the feat that druids are best known for. This skill allows you to take the form of different animals, and the types change as you level up. You take on many of the attributes of these animals.
You keep your Charisma, Intelligence, and Wisdom scores, along with your proficiencies. You take the other statistics for that type of animal. You also take on the beast’s HP total, and when that pool is depleted, you turn back into your regular form.
Racial bonuses, feats, and other bonuses also are retained, but with a caveat. If your new form cannot do the action, you cannot. For example, if you turn into a wolf, you
At Level 2, you can use this spell twice per rest (short or long) and take the form of animals that do not have a flying or swimming speed. They also have to have a challenge rating of ¼ or lower.
You can stay in this form for ½ of your druid levels in hours. For example, if you’re level 2, you can remain in Wild Shape for a single hour. At level 6, you can stay there for three hours.
You cannot cast spells in Wild Shape until the 18th druid level and can only speak as much as the form you’ve chosen.
Wild Shape 5e is very interesting to work with for character moments. You can choose if your character’s gear will melt into them, if the equipment will drop to the ground, or if the load will stay on the creature.
Level 3 has a relatively simple upgrade. It is entirely concentrated on your spellcasting ability.
At Level 3, you get access to another 1st Level spell slot and two 2nd Level spell slots. You can prepare all kinds of new spells this way!
At Level 4, you get a whole host of upgrades, including a Wild Shape improvement, more spell slots, and an Ability Score Improvement.
The Wild Shape improvement allows you to take on forms that have a swimming speed, like a crocodile. The CR of your beat form can also rise to ½.
You gain an additional cantrip and two 3rd Level spell slots.
On top of all this, you can choose to take an Ability Score Improvement or a new feature. If you select the new feat, you choose a new feature. If you select an Ability Score Improvement, you can instead take two extra points in a stat of your choice or spread the two points to two different stats.
Moving up to Level 5, there is not too much to level up with. You gain access to two 4th Level spell slots, and your proficiency bonus is now +3.
At Level 6, you get a new Druid Circle feature and a new 3rd Level spell slot.
Each Druid Circle has its boosts, so carefully refer to your Circle’s rules.
Level 7 gives you access to your first 4th Level spell slot.
Level 8 has a lot of new boosts! You get a Wild Shape improvement, an additional spell slot, and the option for an Ability Score Improvement or a new feat.
The Level 8 Wild Shape improvement allows you to take on the form of any creature that has a CR of 1 or less. This means you can become flying creatures for the first time! Some Circles have their own rules about Wild Shape, so refer back to those for other potential boosts.
The additional spell slot is for the 4th level, and you can now have two spell slots there.
On top of all of that, you can choose a new Ability Score Improvement, or you can select a new feat.
At Level 9, two critical things happen.
First, your proficiency bonus is increased to +4.
Second, you get two new spell slots. One is in the 4th level, and the other is new in the 5th level. You can take your first 5th Level spells at Level 9!
Halfway to Level 20! Being halfway has some great perks. Not only do you get your next Druidic Circle feature, but you also get new spell slots!
You get another cantrip and a second 5th Level spell slot.
Level 11 does not come with other statistical boosts, but you get access to your first 6th Level spell slot.
Reaching Level 12 gives you another chance for an Ability Score Improvement or a new feat.
Your proficiency bonus increases to +5 at Level 13. In addition, you receive your first 7th Level spell slot.
At the 14th level, you get another Circle feature and no other bonuses.
Level 15 gives you access to your first 8th Level spell slot. 8th Level spells are the second most powerful spells in the game, so this is a significant milestone for your character.
You are ¾ of the way to Level 20 at this point, and your character may have been an adventurer through a long journey or many obstacles.
You once again have access to an Ability Score improvement, or you can choose to take a new feat instead.
At Level 17, your proficiency bonus is maxed out at +6, and you get your first 9th Level spell slot. These are the most powerful spells and can warp and bend reality.
This level comes with two very unique skills and another spell slot. Beast Spells is a spellcasting ability improvement that allows you to cast while still in Wild Shape. Timeless Body is a druid feat that allows your character to age slower.
Beast Magic is an essential feature for the druid class because it finally allows your character to cast spells while they are in an animal form.
Timeless Body is one of the few aging-related features in D&D 5e. For every ten years that pass, your character will age only one. This could mean dramatically different things depending on your character’s race.
Here’s a handy chart to show what the lifespans would turn into for various races:
|Timeless Body Lifespan
|More than 700 years
|7000 years, at least
|Between 205 and 500 years
|100 years, maximum
|100 years, maximum
|Between 120 and 150 years
As you can see, this modified aging has the opportunity to let short-lived races live just as long as their party members, and then some, or it can extend another race’s lifespan to the point that they have seen almost 10,000 years of life.
Finally, you also receive another Level 5 spell slot.
On Level 19, you get your last option for an Ability Score Improvement. Like previous times, you can put two points into a stat or spread it with one point into two different stats. You cannot go over 20.
You are also given another Level 6 spell slot.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to Level 20. You have officially made it to the end of the leveling system present in handbook D&D 5e. This comes with a significant boost.
You can be classified as an Archdruid, a known master of Druidic magic. You can use Wild Shape as often as you want to. There is no limit on the feat anymore.
You also gain another 7th Level spell slot, and your proficiency stays at +6.
Playing a druid can come with its own set of challenges, especially if you’ve never played one before.
Building your character alongside the setting will make sure your character is fully involved and engrossed in what is going on.
If your table uses a homebrew setting, don’t be afraid to get involved and ask questions. Quiz your DM about what the environment is like and the region’s culture around nature. These can help you figure out your druid’s place in the world.
Sometimes, the aesthetics and other content relating to your druid’s Circle don’t quite fit your vision. Other times, you want particular animals to appear that are symbolic of your character’s childhood.
Whatever the case, flavoring your druid creates a complete character and gives you concrete details to play off of. Not only that, flavor details are perfect for getting your fellow party members involved and setting up fun RP opportunities during downtime.
When in doubt, turn to your DM for advice and help. Sometimes, they can give you advice or even help you construct fun obstacles that will provide you with a chance to shine.
If you are having trouble, reach out. Your DM’s job is to make sure that everyone is having a good time and that the team is working together. You need to bring up problems or questions sooner rather than later.
Your party should also work together to overcome challenges, and you could always ask for a chance to step up and try your hand. Who knows, maybe all it took was a green thumb!
Above all else, take advantage of your features and use them. Druids are defined by their abilities, and Wild Shape, in particular, can be underutilized, especially at lower levels.
These features don’t only have to be used in combat, either. You can break out abilities in downtime or during RP moments as well. Offer up your skills to other party members if they need help or if you think it might create a memorable moment.
While playing as a druid is very important, DMs can find themselves at a loss of how to DM for how to nurture your druid PCs properly. This section is full of tips and tricks for how DMs can give their druid players a better experience at the table and let them stand next to other classes.
Be sure to check out our Wild Shape 5e Druid guide for more helpful information!
The biggest thing is to build puzzles and encounters that druid characters can use their features in. Let them have a chance to shine and stand out.
Whether this means making your players have to talk to rats in your urban fantasy story or making them navigate a sentient forest in a rural fantasy, you need to let your druids work and complete problems.
Druid characters, in particular, suffer from the same issues that rangers often do. They are not given a chance to stand on their own and help the party in their way. Druid and ranger players have the same complaints and can leave the table less satisfied than players with other classes.
This is most commonly because the DM doesn’t set up challenges that druids can work with. Other times, it can be because of the setting itself. Cities do not typically have many green spaces, which can be challenging for a nature-focused class.
The next big step is to work with your player. If they want to see a specific kind of puzzle, you should include it.
Look into their character’s backstory. If there is a significant natural event or feature that is important to them, you should work to include it. This is especially true for backstory elements relating to family and other fundamental events.
While it may take you some extra time and care, your players will thank you later, and it will give you a well-rounded story.
Player actions don’t mean anything if they don’t get a chance to see the impact their choices have. These can be positive or negative, but your druid should get the opportunity to see the literal environmental impact of party movements.
For example, if a player used Fireball and didn’t make sure the coals were out, you could use this opportunity to show how devastating a wildfire could be to a location. Your druid might even tap into some previous trauma, and you can get a beautiful character moment amid other party RP time.
Your party could also find an environmental disaster they inadvertently caused and have to spend a session cleaning it up.
This will not just help your druid player, but it can also be impactful for everyone else at the table. This will make these creations feel more natural and blend the party priorities together. It may also encourage more party bonding.
Have Fun Playing or Dming for a Druid!
Playing a druid and DMing for one doesn’t have to be complicated. A well-made and effective druid is a joy to play and epic to see in action. All it takes is a clear understanding of the class, some elbow grease, cooperation, and time. Happy playing!