D&D 5e: Elf Druid Guide
D&D 5e: Elf Druid Guide
In today’s article, we see how best to combine two very old things: elves and the practice of druidism. JRR Tolkien’s philosophy when writing The Lord of the Rings was that age was proportional to power; the older something is, the more powerful it is. Elves can live for hundreds of years, and it is said that druidism predates the practices of bards, clerics, and wizards by a wide margin. But will this combination give us a character who has aged like wine or like milk?
Both the Elf race and the Druid class can be found in the Player’s Handbook. Click here to pick up your own Player’s Handbook!
How to Make an Elf Druid
You can randomly generate your stats using the “4d6 drop the lowest” method described in the PHB or you can take the standard array of 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8. As expected, your main stat priority will be Wisdom followed by Constitution. As a full caster, you need to be able to cast spells well and be able to maintain concentration on them during a fight.
The most no-brainer choice for an elf druid is the wood elf, as it gives you an increase to your Wisdom score, which is essential no matter what type of druid you choose to be, and proficiency with a handful of very useful weapons. It also gives you Mask of the Wild which allows you to hide when only lightly obscured by natural environments; this isn’t incredibly useful but it is a flavourful ribbon ability that lends itself well to the theme of being a druid.
A strong runner-up in the subrace department is the sea elf. As the wood elf, its namesake is literally a reference to nature, but more importantly, they can communicate simple ideas with any beast that has an innate swimming speed. Is this useful? Perhaps situationally. Is it perfect for a druid? I’d say so. Sea elves also come with a handful of weapon proficiencies but honestly, tridents and nets aren’t quite as sexy as longswords and longbows. I think nets are pretty underrated, but equally, longbows are more or less the best-ranged weapons in the game…
Subclass (Druid Circle)
My go-to druid circle is nearly always Moon because of how durable it is, but that’s not necessarily a good choice for an elf. The new circles added in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything are rather interesting for how they effectively replace the Wild Shape feature with an entirely different mechanic (either a transformation or a summoned minion) but none of them necessarily favor the elf race’s strengths.
My favorite combination is to have an elf druid following the Circle of Dreams (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything), for a few simple reasons. First, this circle has a few features that relate to Stealth and Perception, two things that elves are already good at. With this subclass, you can easily make a character who outplays the enemy by moving silently or even instantaneously using teleportation. The essence of an elf druid is someone who employs tactics that befuddle the enemy and, while not overwhelmingly powerful, has great potential to flip an encounter on its head. The second reason is more related to role-play, which I will expand on in the relevant section.
How to Play an Elf Druid
Druids are very customizable, but your playstyle comes down to one choice: do you want to focus on Wild Shape or spells? Like I said before, I love the Circle of the Moon for how it makes you ridiculously durable. Being able to turn into massive beasts from an early level and let those temporary bodies just absorb most of the damage you take is great fun.
If you don’t want to be an unusually furry barbarian though, your main role as a druid is battlefield manipulation. Using spells like entangle at lower levels and wall of fire at higher ones, you can force enemies to move how you want them to and force them to waste movement and actions just protecting themselves rather than attacking your friends.
Druids are also capable healers and have access to a variety of buff/debuff spells like jump, faerie fire, enhance ability, and so on, meaning that their role in combat is very much a supporting role. That doesn’t mean you can’t get your share of the glory in battle, but it does mean that you’ve not got quite as much firepower as a fireball-slinging wizard. My suggestion is that the sheer damage numbers you see from arcane classes like wizards are equal in satisfaction to the joy of a cleverly-placed moonbeam or wind wall.
How to Roleplay as an Elf Druid
The Player’s Handbook states the following about druids:
“Whether calling on the elemental forces of nature or emulating the creatures of the animal world, druids are an embodiment of nature’s resilience, cunning, and fury. They claim no mastery over nature. Instead, they see themselves as extensions of nature’s indomitable will.”
This, I think, is the key to distinguishing an elf druid from an elf warlock or elf cleric. While the latter explicitly serves a god and the latter breaks ties with traditional divinity, the druid is somewhere in the middle. They gain power from nature itself, through a special relationship with the land, sea, or sky. For an elf druid specifically, as opposed to any other druid, this might imply a deep connection with their racial history – in standard D&D lore (that of Faerun, Toril, the Forgotten Realms, etc) the elves were excommunicated from the Feywild where they once made their home. Druidism might be a method of reconnection with that distant past. The Feywild is itself an exuberant exaggeration of the Material Plane and could be seen as an essential source of nature, joy, and the elvish soul. This is why I suggested earlier to go with the Circle of Dreams; it’s as close as you can get to a “Circle of the Feywild” in the way it draws on the fey courts for power. The PHB goes on to state:
“The ancient druidic traditions are sometimes called the Old Faith, in contrast to the worship of gods in temples and shrines.”
For a human, ancient might mean a few thousand years. For an elf, ancient is numbered in the tens of thousands. This might mean that your elf druid doesn’t consider The Old Faith that old at all, or it might mean that their traditions are unfathomably old compared to the human conception of druidism. Your character might not be aware of how old others consider their faith, or they might be intensely protective of their traditions.
They might want to share their beliefs as much as possible. For which you might enjoy creating a few proverbs to share when the mood strikes you or they might be secretive and suspicious of those outside their order.
The role-playing experience of being a druid who comes to learn about the outside world or one who learns to open up could be quite fascinating.