Firbolg Druid Guide

Most RPG players, especially long-time players, have their own particular go-to character build. Maybe it’s just a broad category – spellcasters, tank, etc. – or maybe it’s a specific race/class combo (“I only play tabaxi rogues”), but many players have just a few preferred lanes they stay in.

But it is fun, once in a while, to move outside that comfort zone. The rogue-only player in your group might decide to try a paladin, the reliable tank player decides to switch it up and play a wizard, and so on.

With that in mind, we can take a quick look at a particular race/class combo you’ve likely never tried, or even had in your party. And while it’s an uncommon choice, it’s one that has quite a bit of potential and is worth considering for your next one-shot or new campaign for D&D 5E – the Firbolg druid.

What is a Firbolg?

The Firbolg – or Fir Bolg – were a people described in Irish myths from the Middle Ages. They were supposedly early inhabitants of Ireland, who were ultimately overthrown by the Tuatha De Danann. The Tuatha De Danann would be later defeated by the invading Milesians (the modern-day Gaels) and pass into myth as the basis for Irish faerie legends.

Firbolg have been present in D&D since all the way back in 1st Edition, though with no connection to the historical roots of the name. Rather, they were presented in Monster Manual II as one of the minor giant races, depicted as similar to large Vikings.

In this depiction, Firbolg were described as roughly 10’ tall but looking otherwise human – a description which endured up through 3rd Edition. In 4th Edition, Firbolg were given a connection to the Feywild and took on a less human aspect.

In D&D 5E, Firbolg have kept a non-human appearance, being described as having broad noses and long, pointed ears, with a covering of fur that can range from red to gray to brownish tones and even light blue. As is the case with a few other playable versions of formerly large-sized creatures, Firbolg in 5th Edition have shrunk down to a max of about 8’ tall, making them Medium. They live approximately 500 years.

Firbolg Culture

In terms of culture, Firbolg tend to live in cloistered communities, usually based around clans, deep within forests or mountains. They prefer an insular existence, staying out of the politics and other affairs of the other races.

Firbolg rarely leave home or have contact with the broader world, preferring to stay home and act as nature’s hidden stewards and protectors. They often use their magic to help conceal their presence in an area, acting only when the balance of nature is threatened – and even then, they generally prefer indirect, subtle ways of defusing such threats in favor of direct conflict.

The Firbolg have no specific religion or deity as a society. Rather, they hold a deep reference for nature itself which drives their cultural mission to act as guardians of the wilderness in which they live.

Firbolg do not, amongst themselves, have much use for names any more than the animals of the forest do. When dealing with outsiders, they often adopt an Elvish name or whatever nickname an acquaintance has placed upon them.

Generally peaceful and strongly clan-oriented, a Firbolg will rarely leave home on his own accord. Player character Firbolg are generally those that have been banished, separated from their kin, or whose clan have been wiped out or otherwise lost in some way. They might also, of course, have been sent out by their clan for some specific purpose.

The specific abilities have shifted somewhat over the different editions, especially in the transition from monster to playable race which first occurred in 3rd edition. That said, Firbolg in 5E have a set of racial abilities that have kept the general flavor of Firbolg from previous additions.

The stats of a Firbolg as a playable race are as follows:

Ability Score Increase: +2 Wisdom, +1 Strength

Movement: 30 feet

Size: At between 240 and 300 lbs., and between 7 and 8 feet tall, Firbolg are Medium.

Speed: The base walking speed of a Firbolg is 30 feet.

Languages: Firbolg can speak, read, and write Giant, Elvish, and Common

And below is a rundown of the racial abilities previously referred to:

Firbolg Magic: A Firbolg character can cast Detect Magic once per long or short rest, using Wisdom as their spellcasting trait. They can likewise cast a version of Disguise Self, which allows them to appear up to 3 feet shorter than normal. This also can be cast only once per short or long rest.

This version of Disguise Self not only allows the Firbolg to blend into society by appearing as a more common and familiar race but is useful in their role as guardians of the wild as well. Firbolg can hide their own existence by appearing only as other races when “redirecting” intruders or threats to the balance of nature (frightening away a group of poachers by appearing as some fearsome form of undead, for example).

Hidden Step: Once per short or long rest, a Firbolg can turn invisible as a bonus action until the start of their next turn (or until they either attack, make a damage roll, or force another creature to make a saving throw).

It’s easy to see this spell could have benefits in combat. You could move into a flanking position detected or place yourself secretly in the path of an advancing enemy to set up an opportunity attack. Hidden Step also aids the Firbolg in its nature-steward role by allowing it to disappear into the wilderness when needed.

Powerful Build: Like the Loxodon and Goliath, Firbolg have Powerful Build ability, which lets them calculate their carrying capacity and push/drag/lift as though they were Large instead of Medium.

Speech of Beast and Leaf: Firbolg can communicate to a degree with plants and animals, though the communication is only one-way – they can understand the Firbolg, but not the other way around. This gives the Firbolg advantage on all Charisma checks to influence beasts and plants.

Obviously, most normal plants can’t act in response to speech, however persuasive. This ability doesn’t give trees or bushes the ability to move, for example. A Firbolg might convince a fast-growing ivy to change the direction of its spread, but he couldn’t cause flowers to bloom before their time.

Plant creatures, of course, are another matter. Kelpies, vegepygmies, treants, and the like can all understand a Firbolg. Even those plant creatures whose low intelligence normally precludes language can understand – and potentially be persuaded by – the Firbolg.

Delving into the Druid

Druids have been a character class since the very beginnings of D&D, and at their core they’re much the same as they always were. Those who’ve never played one (or been around someone playing one) might simply think of them as “nature priests” – and while that’s not a totally unfair label, let’s look at druids in a little more detail.

Druids in history were elite members of Celtic society, being not only religious but also legal and scholarly authorities. Far from being nature worshippers, the Celts actually had a number of specific gods the druids would have served, though nature and natural imagery – from oak trees to mistletoe – played heavily into their spiritual life, and the secrecy of Druidism saw their rites -and especially their training – conducted secretly out in nature, well away from populated areas.

This, combined with later “neo-druidism” that came into fashion in the 18th Century, crafted the modern image of a druid as a priest of nature itself.  This continued into their induction into D&D 1st Edition, where they were a subclass of cleric who simply worked from the divinity of nature itself (though there’s no reason a druid can’t worship nature gods, as well).

The basics of the druid are readily available in the Players Handbook – they’re a spellcasting class of middling combat ability, and a set of class abilities centered around their connection with nature (most significantly Wild Shape).

The most significant feature of druids in D&D is their connection to nature. Not only to their spells and abilities run in a decidedly natural vein, but druids are expected to revere nature and especially the balance of nature, protecting it over other, man-made concerns. Which brings us to the question:

Why do Firbolg and Druid Work?

To start off, the mantra of the druid is almost indistinguishable from that of the Firbolg – to protect and cherish nature from anything that would upset its balance. On that basis alone, this race and class seem made to be matched with each other.

But there’s more than that. First and most obviously, Firbolg get a +2 bonus to Wisdom, the primary stat of druids. And their ability to influence animals and plants also plays directly into the druid’s mission and can be a potentially powerful ability in the right settings.

In fact, with just a few correct build choices, the druid can be an ideal class for a Firbolg, one which works both in terms of character bio as well as the more technical game aspects. And on that note, what are the best build choices for a Firbolg druid?

How to Optimize a Firbolg Druid

One of the ways to improve a Firbolg druid is to optimize Speech of Beast and Leaf by buffing Charisma and/or obtaining the Persuasion skill. Consider either the Actor or Inspiring Leader feats in your build or choose a background like Guild Merchant that will give you the Persuasion skill. The Skilled feat is also an obvious way to get Persuasion.

A number of other backgrounds offer Persuasion, though not all of them fit with the nature and culture of the typical Firbolg – Knight or Courtier, for instance, seem like strange backgrounds for a being of the forest. That said, a creative bio can always be constructed between you and your DM.

An additional feat worth considering is Mobile. When combined with Hidden Step, it would not only increase the ground the Firbolg would cover while invisible, but when used to move up to attack an opponent, it would prevent opportunity attacks from that opponent for the rest of the turn.

When it comes to choosing a Circle, a few choices stand out for Firbolg. The Circle of Dreams (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything) is an obvious choice for a race like Firbolg that already have a touch of the Fey about them. And both the healing power of the Balm of the Summer Court ability and the secretive movement of the Hidden Pathways ability blend well with the Firbolg’s natural abilities and cultural mission.

Circle of the Shepherd (also from Xanathar’s Guide) is another option that builds on the Firbolg’s own abilities, allowing actual two-way communication with beasts and even some fey. Circle of the Land (Player’s Handbook) likewise blends nicely with the Firbolg’s culture and skills.

Another Circle from the Player’s Handbook is a less obvious choice. The Circle of the Moon is geared toward protecting the wilderness but is about doing so in a more confrontational way than the Firbolg normally favor, and in ways their natural skills are less suited to.

Other Circles are available in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything – the Circle of Spores, Circle of Stars, and Circle of Wildfire. While they can each make a powerful druid build, none of them truly build on the Firbolg’s natural talents nor do they particularly fit with the average Firbolg’s nature. Still, each character is an individual, and with a race as suited to the druid class as the Firbolg, you can find a way to make any build work.

Time to Try Out a Firbolg Druid!

Druids aren’t the only reasonable choice for a Firbolg. Clerics, in particular, benefit from both the Wisdom and Strength bonus of the Firbolg – and if you want to keep it “in theme”, you can always stick with a Nature god.

Rangers, for natural reasons, are another good choice. And while the +1 Strength bonus could help with a more combat-oriented character like a fighter, Firbolg don’t offer much more to this class – though Hidden Step could have combat uses.

The other combat-heavy classes, paladin, and barbarian, have the same issues, plus they’re out of sync with the personality of Firbolg in general (though there are exceptions to every rule). A +2 Wisdom would be quite a benefit to a monk, though Dexterity is such an important trait in that class a Firbolg would only make sense if they came to the table with a great natural DEX roll.

Beyond this, Firbolg don’t bring much to the other class options. But within their lane, especially in the nature-oriented classes of druid and ranger, Firbolg are a fabulous and under-used choice.

FAQ

What is the best class for a Firbolg?

Such questions are always a matter of opinion, but in terms of pure game mechanics there are some that seem definitely preferential. Clerics are actually quite promising for Firbolg, benefiting from both the Wisdom and Strength bonuses (and a god of Nature would fit right in for a Firbolg in terms of flavor). The druid is another great choice benefiting from the Wisdom bonus. Their abilities (and Strength bonus) make for an impressive ranger as well. Beyond these, nothing seems particularly “made” for Firbolg, though the Strength bonus is at least a little help for “heavy” classes like fighters, paladins, and barbarians. The Wisdom bonus works with a monk as well, but only if your DEX is already decent.

Photo of author
Written By Jake Morley

D&D Enthusiest and RPG Nerd

Recommended Reading