Making Your Own Druid Circle
You may decide that you want to create your own druid subclass that best fits your campaign. Before embarking on this task, you want to be sure that no existing druid subclass meets your design goals. One of the greatest flexibilities offered in 5e class design is how open it is to reflavor the features. If there is a subclass that can meet your mechanical needs and stylistic vision, it is best to simply use that and save a lot of time in designing, writing, and playtesting.
If, however, you find that no existing subclass achieves the fantasy or has the mechanics to match your vision, this section will guide you toward making a druid subclass that fits the 5e D&D model. The guidelines will help you create the features for your subclass and detail how you should balance the class to fit within the official options and those offered by Therin Creative and similar content creators.
Please note that despite the guidance offered herein, your subclass may need further tuning. Be certain to spend the time to playtest your subclass.
The druid is a primary spellcaster with limited fighting capability. It has decent weapon choice with the spear and scimitar and can wear light armor and hide by default, but can wear any nonmetal medium armor, such as those made from dragon scales or other exotic hides. Of spellcasters, the druid has the greatest range of spell options. While they specialize in battlefield control, they have access to recovery, direct damage, zone damage, buffs, and debilitating effects, and even have a number of charms and illusions.
A druid is a spellcaster regardless of any feature offered by its subclass, and needs to be designed and balanced as such. A druid should tap its broad range of spells to cover most scenarios. The druid is best when in the middle ranks of the party so that it can target its spells freely, adapting to the immediate needs of its group.
The druid has a d8 Hit Dice. This provides a cushion against incoming damage, but doesn’t generally permit druids to endure difficult fights when directly attacked. It lacks the AC and magic defenses to enhance its staying power, but a druid can often afford to raise Constitution more than its peers.
Druids specialize in skills to navigate and survive in wilderness environments. They have good armor and decent weapon proficiencies, but the best options require custom crafting or exotic materials, leaving many druids with studded leather armor.
Ability Score Improvement
The druid uses standard progression for the Ability Score Improvement (ASI) feature (4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level). Since druids only need Wisdom, this allows druids to increase another ability of their choice or pick up feats without compromising their core talents.
The most important aspect of the druid class is its access to spells. The druid is a full spellcaster and will have access to powerful spells at each level. The druid spell list is diverse, giving it a plethora of tools to draw from. It can hinder enemies with spells like entangle and ice storm, aid allies with buffs, healing, and recovery, and even summon creatures to aid in combat or exploration. It also has a range of utility offerings to overcome environmental or social challenges.
No matter what features a Druid Circle adds, a druid is a powerful spellcaster. The druid spell list should not be underestimated.
This is a side feature for the druid, focused mostly on out-of-combat utility or positioning in combat. While the druid can transform into many different forms, the druid is a spellcaster at its core, and shifting into animal form is an auxiliary tool in its kit. Certain subclasses may seek to expand on this feature.
Druid Circle Features
Druid Circles grant features at 2nd, 6th, 10th, and 14th level. This pattern is common among full spellcasters as it fills in the gaps left when gaining a new spell level.
Building a Druid Circle
Once you understand the class chassis, you’re one step closer to building a subclass. You’ll also want to review existing subclasses to get a feel for their design and balance. This section will aid you in understanding what your subclass features should accomplish.
Before starting on the formal work to build your subclass, devise its theme and role. What is your subclass’s purpose? What roles does it fill in an adventuring party? How are its mechanics interesting and unique? Why would a player choose your subclass?
Let’s start by looking at some existing druid subclasses.
Circle of the Land. The Land druid is a more basic spellcasting druid that primarily offers always prepared spells and a few traditional druid perks for being in the wilds. Players choose this circle to play a streamlined spellcaster with a terrain theme, often working with their DM to pick a relevant environment for the campaign.
Circle of the Moon. Druids of this circle use the Wild Shape feature to engage in combat and gain abilities beyond other druids. Its ability to transform into stronger beasts gives it more options, further enhanced when it can turn into a standard elemental. Players choose this circle because they want to utilize the transformation of Wild Shape to a greater degree, and enjoy playing in animal or elemental form.
Circle of the Shepherd. This Druid Circle focuses on summoning spells, and bolstering the creatures conjured or summoned by them. It also grants the character a more spirit-focused feel. Players choose this circle to empower their conjuration spells and provide some beneficial effects for their allies.
Circle of Wildfire. This flashier Druid Circle adds a new use for its Wild Shape resource to summon a minion. Its features focus on this minion and it gains additional fire-themed spells. Players choose this circle because they want the wildfire spirit and the added spells of the subclass.
Circle of Embers. The Circle of Embers is a more combat-oriented subclass. It engages in close combat while weakening its foes. Players choose this circle to be the avenger druid that uses nature to overwhelm its enemies.
Each druid subclass expands on what a druid can do, adding new spells or options, but at its core, each is a druid, able to wield a variety of powerful spells to overcome the challenges before it.
Building the Subclass
This guide covers building a Druid Circle consistent with official published material. Each Druid Circle expands the class in a thematic direction, often by either enhancing the core druid kit or expanding it to include a new tool. The druid is among the most versatile of classes in D&D. As such, you will find that you can take the subclass in a lot of directions with different features; the subclass design for the druid is also versatile.
Subclass features are granted at 2nd, 6th, 10th, and 14th level. Except for 2nd level, each Druid feature level should only grant one subclass feature. Consult the Druid Circle Features table for when you should grant features.
There are exceptions for the rule of only granting a single subclass feature:
- Ribbon features are frequently weak on their own, so in certain cases you may grant a second, minor feature, which could be another ribbon feature.
- The feature has some complex interactions that are much clearer when separated. Often this is indication that something should be cut, but in rare cases, it makes sense to split a feature for comprehension.
- You are expanding an existing feature in a minor way. Sometimes it’s better to include the enhancement in the core feature, and at other times it could be a note in another feature.
Druid Circle Features
|Identity Feature, Utility or Spell List Enhancement Feature
2nd-level [Your Druid Circle] feature
This feature is the crux to establish your subclass’s identity and theme. It should either enhance the druid’s core kit in a substantial way or expand the druid’s kit in a new direction, often consuming one of the druid’s base resources, such as Wild Shape uses.
What you do with this feature depends on what roles you want to predispose your subclass toward or a central gimmick in its playstyle. This is the most likely feature where the druid will get a power boost, so you want to tune it well to prevent the druid from being too powerful compared to its spellcasting peers – the druid is already a strong spellcaster with control, blasting, and summoning. If your enhancing the druid’s spell list, you might increase the druid’s power in that feature, so beware of double-dipping power increases when building the features; make sure to review your druid’s power budget holistically with all features considered.
2nd-level [Your Druid Circle] feature
This feature isn’t included in every subclass. Its purpose is to add or augment proficiencies, such as adding a new language or making the druid better with a certain skill or tool. In certain cases, such as with the Circle of the Moon, you may replace this feature with a second Enhancement feature that supports an Enhancement Identity feature. You want to use a second feature when your Identity feature becomes complicated and wordy, but the new feature should be distinct in its function.
Spell List Enhancement Feature
2nd-level [Your Druid Circle] feature
This feature adds one or more spells to the druid, and these spells should be always prepared. This is a feature you use to ensure the druid has access to thematic spells for the subclass. You don’t need this feature for every Druid Circle, particularly if the circle offers a choice of options with its Identity feature.
The simplest version is to use Circle Spells feature, such as with the Circle of Spores or Wildfire, which can include a cantrip, or a list akin to the Circle Spells feature, as in the case of the Circle of the Land. A more complex design is to build a feature around a specific spell, such as done with the Circle of the Star’s use of the guiding bolt spell.
If you include spells outside of the Player’s Handbook, it is recommended that you offer alternative spells from it so groups without the referenced book can utilize your content without additional work on the DM’s part. If the spell is one you created for the subclass, include its description after the subclass (or an appropriate section for a compendium of content).
|1st-level spell, 1st-level spell, cantrip (optional)
|2nd-level spell, 2nd-level spell
|3rd-level spell, 3rd-level spell
|4th-level spell, 4th-level spell
|5th-level spell, 5th-level spell
Druid Pool Features
6th/10th/14th-level [Your Druid Circle] feature
Druid subclass features don’t have the rigidity of other classes. Most of the features are oriented toward utility or traversal options or adding minor defensive layers. In some cases, the features will enhance the Identity feature, allowing it to be competitive with other aspects of the druid’s core kit, or they will expand the druid’s repertoire to include new spells or similar functions. This grants you a lot of latitude in designing the subclass, and can prove to make it harder to design an interesting and balanced Druid Circle.
Basically, if your Identity feature should scale, you’ll want to add one or more Enhancement features with the later level features. If your Identity feature inherently scales with level, you want to focus on Defense and Utility features. If you Identity feature doesn’t scale or doesn’t offer power, then you should consider adding an Expansion feature or even augment part of the core class kit with an Enhancement feature. Often, Utility features are granted at 6th level unless the Identity feature is enhanced. A Defense feature at 14th level is nearly universal, with some subclasses enhancing the Identity feature in a way to create a defensive niche.
Druid Pool Feature options include:
Defensive. With this feature, you expand or enhance the defensive ability for the class.
Enhancement. This feature improves upon part of the class or subclass kit. It can be as simple as a boost in uses or damage or even add a new layer or decision to another feature.
Expansion. The point of an expansion feature is to add something new to the class. Examples include adapting a class feature from a different class, such as the Extra Attack feature.
Utility. The feature grants new options that augment movement or skills. In some cases it can grant the casting of a spell to bolster noncombat pillars of play.