Being the Beast: My Notes on Beast Form Druids

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A resource for Beast-form Druids



At some point you've looked at the Druid class and thought ... "hmmm ... I wonder ... could you get by and only be in beast form"? Admit it, you've done it. Ok, maybe you haven't. I've been looking at if for an NPC in a game I'm running so I'm digging into the details and plan on putting my notes here.

One note before you read this ... this assumes you're trying to build a druid who, nearly always, will be in beast form.

If you plan on splitting time, what's in here may not apply. This is more directed at folks spending 90%+ time in Beast Form. Seriously, re-read that last sentence. This is a guide about characters that are predominately wild-shaped. I’m sure there are other Druid things out there that are better, but this is directed purely at this one angle.

Drawbacks

Before you head down this path, you need to contemplate the drawbacks. There are several.

[INDENT]Ranged attackers.

Talking to your party.

Door handles.[/INDENT]
CLASS FEATURES

Primal Aspect

You're supposed to pick one of these; in fact you MUST pick one of these. In most cases it will also drive your secondary attribute that you boost each time.
[INDENT]Primal Guardian (Con instead of DEX or INT in light armor) ... for this you'll want WIS highest (18), ideally CON 16 and boost those two each time.

Primal Predator (+1 speed in light armor) ... and with some powers giving kickers, this is for the DEX folks.[/INDENT]
You could go with lower than 16 in your secondary. If you do you're probably not going to keep pace on AC with heavier armors so you might consider them in your feat selection, espescially if you're a Guardian or a hybrid. I'll talk about this more in the hybrid section, but if you aren't boosting CON or DEX constantly and starting with it pretty high, Hybrid might be a better option.


Wild Shape

[INDENT]Can't use attack, utility or feat powers that don't have the beast form keyword. One important point here is that you CAN use equipment (provided it isn't a weapon or wonderous) and racial powers. More on that later. Note that this also applies to PP powers so you're constrained to the Beast-form paragon paths.

Continue to gain benefit of equipment and implements you hold / wear.

Can not use properties or powers of weapons or wondrous items.

Can only do it once per turn[/INDENT]


Some relevant rules ...

Polymorph: [INDENT]http://www.wizards.com/dndinsider/compendium/glossary.aspx?id=76[/INDENT]

Wild Shape: [INDENT]http://www.wizards.com/dndinsider/compendium/power.aspx?id=5032[/INDENT]
RACES

Close-fit Races
The short version is, you want something with a good WIS. Beyond that, you probably want something that pumps CON or DEX as those are the two attributes that get you bonuses.

You're going to use WIS for everything. Unless this is a thematic build, you are looking for a race with a WIS bonus. After that, you're probably going to match your secondary with the choice you made for Primal Aspect. If your secondary doesn't add to one of those two, you're going to pick one anyway and make do.

One thing to mention, both of them give a bonus when you're wearing light armor. Nothing says you have to do that, though we all know adding on scale, chain, plate and shields add feats.

Note that Hybrids change things a bit; that's covered in the Hybrid section.
  • Elf (WIS, DEX) - Ideally suited to the Predator aspect with a cool racial ability. Great feat support.
  • Dwarf (WIS, CON) - Ideally suited to the Guardian aspect; the racial bonuses and second-wind benefits make this a great choice. Awesome feat support.
  • Human (WIS) - So you don't get a boost to your secondary; you do get extra feats and such to make up for it. The additional at-will can be pretty nice. Makes good hybrids.
  • Deva (WIS, INT) - Nice feat support, lacking in a boost to a secondary. Like humans you'll get to pick the direction you go but with the INT boost you could set yourself up for some feats more easily. Good option for hybrids … and Battle Intuition is pretty awesome.
  • Longtooth Shifter (WIS, STR) - If ever you wanted to go with heavy armor melded into your beast form, this is probably the best race to choose. Good feat support and nice racial, STR boost could also make some feats easier to snag ... nice hybrid.
  • Razorclaw Shifter (WIS, DEX) - Predator build, good feat support and nice racial.
  • Bladeling (WIS, DEX) - Ok racial, perfect stats for a predator build. Shifters and Elves have much better feat support.
  • Duergar (WIS, CON) - Ok racial for a porcupine, perfect stats for a guardian build. It's a dwarf who moves 6! Dwarves have better feat support though ...
  • Githzerai (WIS, DEX) - Good stats for a predator, nice racial but little feat support (NOTE: PH3 feats are in DDI now)
  • Kalashtar (WIS, CHA) - The bad side is, you don't get a bonus to either secondary. The good side is YOU GET TELEPATHY AND CAN COMMUNICATE IN BEAST FORM. Mechanically, this doesn't add to your in-combat DPR but it certainly does make it easier to be the wolf 24/7. CHA boost should open some feat options (including MC feats)
  • Wilden (WIS, CON) - good stats for a guardian, handy racial abilities w/ thematic coolness. Little feat support.

Other Races

  • In theory you could make anything into a Druid; reality is you're not boosting WIS you had better be boosting one of your secondaries (or both). Some special notes:
  • Tiefling - Crap stats, but bonus against bloodied foes. I could see someone shoe-horning a Blood Moon Stalker, though I wouldn't advise it.
  • Gnoll - Bonuses while bloodied, match to both secondaries.
  • Kobold - Match to both secondaries
  • Bullywug - Match to both secondaries
  • Revenant - Match to both secondaries
ATTRIBUTES

In general, I'd suggest you start with the following before racial modifiers:
  • WIS 16+ … this is your primary and most important. It’s really important. Like super important.
  • CON (Guardian) or DEX (Predator) 16
  • CON (Predator) or DEX (Guardian) 12
  • One other 12, one 10 and one 8

You may want to tweak some of these around for feat qualification (instead of two 12s, one 13 and one 11 if the game isn't going Epic, etc.)
You could feasibly pump WIS to 18 but that leaves you with three 12s (basically - could also do 13/12/11), one 10 and an 8. That's not a lot to work with ... but if you do you're probably putting some of that into STR just to get armor profs. A better idea might be starting with a 17 (19) WIS.

Essentially:

Predators
[INDENT]WIS 16+ > DEX 16+ > CON 12+ ... rest[/INDENT]
Guardians
[INDENT]WIS 16+ > CON 16+ ... rest[/INDENT]
Uncaring
[INDENT]There will be some of you that want to run a druid in heavy armor or qualify for some other feat chain that doesn't play nice with the CON/DEX attributes. You'll still pick CON or DEX as generally pretty high and advance it on up but it won't be fast enough to keep light armor on-pace.[/INDENT]
SAD
[INDENT]Hybrids and other options can drive to Single-Attribute Dependency. In those cases I'd start WIS at 16 or 17, then a bit of CON and use STR, INT for feat qualification.[/INDENT]
POWERS

A word about powers ...
  • I'm sure there will be more options in Dragon and Primal Power when it comes out. Right now, your options are limited.
  • Some of the powers are oddly written. The alternate-shape abilities (Skittering Sneak, etc.) are utility powers that are written that, according to the flavor text, should allow you to alternate different shapes while in beast form. Oddly, they don't have the Beast Form keyword, so by RAW you can't use them in Beast Form by the core rules. Most DMs will let this slide; unsure if this will be errata'd. This includes the alternate-shape ones and some of the utility buffs. At Paragon with Quick Wildshape this mechanically becomes easier, but can still be a pain.
  • Slashing Claws lacks the Beast Form keyword but has a range of "Melee Beast Form". As it is a buff for your in-beast-form abilities, I'd expect to see an errata on this.
  • Remember that you're going to be in melee. You have about ... 2 ... non-close or melee powers.


Specific Powers
I'm not going to color-code these since there are really so few (typically only 2 choices).

At-Wills
  • Grasping Claws - Basic attack, hit and slow
  • Savage Rend - Basic attack, hit and slide
  • Pounce - Basic attack on a charge, target grants CA - the CA is what makes this nice

I lean towards Savage Rend and Pounce; the slow from Grasping Claws seems nice but if he's beside you slow isn't going to do much. I'd rather generate CA or maybe reposition the bad guy.

Encounter 1
  • Cull the Herd - Charm and Psychic ranged power; a rarity for you
  • Darting Bite - Two attacks + shift; predator boost

I'd probably take the single-target ranged power just because it's nice to have ONE.

Daily 1
  • Savage Frenzy - Close burst 1, enemies only ... dazes and slows

Only one choice for you here, so that's the one you take. It isn't horrible and throws on some conditions.

Utility 2
  • Skittering Sneak - Turn into something small; stealth bonus
  • Fleet Pursuit - Speed bonus based on DEX

Skittering Sneak opens up some fun options out of combat. You probably don't need Fleet Pursuit either. If your DM is a purist, Skittering Sneak might be annoying to pull off.

Encounter 3
  • Battering Claws - Two attacks + slide
  • Predator's Flurry - Two targets, shift in between and dazes

Battering Claws does marginally more damage (d8 vs d6) but I like Predator's Flurry better for the daze

Daily 5
  • Hobbling Rend - Hit and slow
  • Primal Wolverine - Lower damage, hit and ongoing, plus start a damage aura
  • Roar of Terror - Fear and Psychic, one of your few blasts, dazes

Hobbling Rend does 2 dice of damage, but Primal Wolverine does 1 die + ongoing ... and it gives you an encounter hit-me-and-take-damage buff, so the Wolverine is my pick. Roar of Terror is nice, but before you take it you need to consider your party - it isn't discriminating and can daze them just as easily.

Utility 6
  • Utility 6 - Black Harbinger - Like skittering sneak, but you can be a raven and fly

Only one kinda core choice. Stalker's Eyes provides an alternative full-encounter buff but you'll have to bounce forms.

Encounter 7
  • Feast of Fury - Two targets
  • Latch On - Grab, Predator adds DEX to escape check

Predators might want to take Latch On for the kicker.

Daily 9
  • Entangle - You can't cast this in Beast Form, but it has a buff that applies to Beast Form
  • Feral Mauling - Gives a penalty to attack rolls
  • Primal Wolf - Knock people prone for the rest of the encounter and get a bonus against prone targets

Non-Bloodmoon Stalkers might consider Entangle for the expanded crit range. The bulk of beast form druids will be that PrC though, so they'll take one of the other two. The damage is very close on Feral Mauling and Primal Wolf (slight edge to Feral Mauling), but I like the knock-prone aspect of Primal Wolf. Very handy if you have CA-liking friends (Rogues, etc.)

Utility 10
  • Utility 10 - Armor of the Wild - Resistance to damage equal to CON

Even Predators are likely to have CON as their tertiary


Encounter 13
  • Claws of Retribution - Hit one guy with secondary that generates basic attacks; Predator boost
  • Expose Weakness - Hit and next attack targets weakest defense; Guardian boost

There aren't many beast form powers with druid aspect kickers, but this level has one of each. If you're not a hybrid, you probably pick the one that matches your aspect. All things being equal, Claws of Retribution generates extra attacks, and those are always good.

Daily 15
  • Revitalizing Pounce - Attack and remove all effects a save can end
  • Slashing Claws - See the note above; this one is written odd

If Slashing Claws works, it's all offense; the other provides a nice defense option. Pick based on your style.

Utility 16
  • Insect Plague - Turn into a swarm
  • Howl of the Wild - Close burst 5 healing

If you're going to be an animal and pretend to be a leader, Howl of the Wild is a healing power for you.

Encounter 17
  • Scavenger's Pride - Grab; Predator boost
  • Shifting Rake - Shift and hit; prevent target from moving

Scavenger's Pride does more damage and has a grab component; no question for Predators.

Daily 19
  • Lunge and Vanish - Attack and become invisible
  • Primal Bear - Hit, grab and potentially ongoing with an AC/Fortitude boost

Lungh and Vanish does better guaranteed damage, but Primal Bear's defense boost is an effect. If you sustain the grab for just one round, it wins in damage as well so is my pick.

Utility 22
  • Sky Talon - Bird form with better fly speed
  • Phantom Beast - Insubstantial and phasing after switching to beast
  • Unseen Beast - Invisibility after switching to beast form

Phantom and Unseen require you to switch forms to activate, and that's annoying. Sky Talon is written such that it would allow you to use your non-Daily attack powers in the bird form, which could actually be pretty nifty.

Encounter 23
  • Grasping Earth - You can't cast this in Beast Form, but it has a buff that applies to Beast Form (Predators)
  • Primal Roar - Psychic, Blast 5, enemies only; knocks prone
  • Strength of the Hunt - Hit and heal; Guardian allows ally to heal as well

If your party needs healing, this may be a simple choice for you. Primal Roar does get you some multi-target discriminating damage.

Daily 25
  • Ferocious Maul - Three attacks to prone, weaken and daze (plus damage)
  • Primal Tiger - Close burst 1, good damage, enemies only and generates more basic attacks

Ferocious Maul does damage automatically; the three attacks are to see what conditions you can bestow. It's better single-target for conditions. Against a mob, Primal Tiger is very cool ... plus it has better damage if that's what floats your boat.

Encounter 27
  • Feral Whirlwind - Close burst 1, enemies only
  • Leaping Rake - Shift and attack each enemy within reach during the shift + daze

Predators (esp. those that can shift easily through difficult terrain and the like) can generate more attacks w/ Leaping Rake, plus it dazes. More damage on the Whirlwind. Note that Leaping Rake says "within reach" so if you've got some way to increase your reach you can potentially slap more folks w/ the claw of doom.

Daily 29
  • Gaze of the Beast - Charm and Psychic, Dominate or Daze, ranged 10
  • Primal Archetype - One or two targets, bonus against bloodied creatures and a speed and attack bonus for the remainder of the encounter

By the time you get Gaze of the Beast I imagine you'll be facing things that are resistant to charms and the like. A rare ranged attack, it dazes on a miss. Still, I think I like Primal Archetype better.

I'm going to do some preliminary rankings here in a bit, but feel free to contribute.
FEATS
Beast related feats are easy, I'll list them below. For feats that grant powers, BEWARE ... you won't be able to use those in Beast Form.

Druid Feats
  • (Heroic) Primal Fury - Bonus to hit bloodied foes (Predator aspect only)
  • (Heroic) Primal Instinct - Allow ally to reroll initiative (Guardian aspect only)
  • (Paragon) Quick Wildshape - If for some reason you find yourself back as you originaly were, you can rectify the situation as a free action on your turn. This saves you an action, but you can still only do it once per turn. This is probably because you are bouncing back to use a power or ability you can't in Beast Form (or, possibly, use the door knob).


Beast Feats
  • (Heroic) Enraged Bear Form - Bonus to hit and damage while charging (untyped)
  • (Heroic) Ferocious Tiger Form - Bonus damage against foes granting CA (untyped)
  • (Paragon) Hunting Wolf Form - Perception and speed bonus (feat bonuses) – this is strictly better than Fleet Footed
  • (Paragon) Stalking Panther Form - Stealth and Initiative bonus (feat bonuses) – this is plain better than Improved Initiative
  • (Epic) Primal Aspect Form - Regen while bloodied


Those are all good enough to take. Add in Expertise (as a must) and a few defense feats (anywhere from 1-4) and you don't have much room left. Think carefully about the direction you want to go. Multiclass feats and the ones they open up will take a few more, any that will drive your various combos, etc. not to mention racial feats for races that have good support. For something as narrowly focused as a Beast-Form Druid, you're actually going to find you'll be tight on feats.

MULTICLASS FEATS
Ask your DM before taking a feat that grants a class-feature power from another class. Your DM might consider that a "power from a feat" and not let it work in beast form. If you've gone with one of the suggested arrays you aren't going to have much Cha or Int unless it was a freebie from your race and that's likely to limit you.

  • Bardic Ritualist (Int, Cha) - you likely won't qualify
  • Heart of the Blade (Int, Con) - Swordbond is pretty useless; this is just a dressed-up skill training.
  • Learned Spellcaster (Int, Wis) - Skill training + ritual casting (which you already have). Pass.
  • Soul of Sorcerery (Str, Cha) - The resistance is handy but you probably don't have the attributes.
  • Student of Malediction (Con, Cha) - Guardians may be able to qualify, though the CHA is a pain
  • Student of Artifice (Int) - Healing surge and single-skill training. Surge only useful if your DM deems this is not a feat-gained power.
  • Blade Initiate (Int) - Once per day for one encounter you get a defense bonus but have to use a blade. Since you have to have a totem in one hand, not likely to have a blade free.
  • Battle Awareness (Str, Wis) - Skill training plus a free basic attack once/encounter. Nice feat if you have the STR; latest compendium prints this as a feat power (which you wouldn't be able to use), so again ask your DM. If it is a feat power, this isn't quite as hot.
  • Inspiring Leader (Str, Cha) - Skill training and an encounter-boost to one ally spending an action point. You probably won't have the stats for this.
  • Ruthless Efficiency (Str, Dex) - Predators may have the stats for this, but it has low value other than a set skill training.
  • Sly dodge (Dex, Cha) - Predators could carry this off, does have a handy per-encounter defense against OAs.
  • Tactical Leader (Str, Int) - You probably don't have the stats for this; gives a skill training and action-point boost to an ally.
  • Two-Blade Warrior (Str, Dex) - Predators could manage this, has limited applications due to the restriction on weapon features that work in wild shape.
  • Arcane Initiatie (Int) - Skill training and a power you can't use in beast form.
  • Initiate of the Faith (Wis) - A set skill training and a per-day healing.
  • Pact Initiate (Cha) - Skill training and a power you can't use.
  • Sneak of Shadows (Dex) - Skill training and sneak attack 1/encounter.
  • Soldier of the Faith (Str, Cha) - Divine challenge 1/encounter and skill training; your attributes do not match.
  • Student of Battle (Str) - Healing 1/day and skill training; Shifters might manage this easily but there are better ways to get healing.
  • Student of the Sword (Str) - Skill training and 1/encounter attack bonus with a weapon (which you won't be doing) ... Battle Awareness is the one you want instead.
  • Warrior of the Wild (Str, Dex) - Hunter's Quarry 1/encounter, skill training ... predators may like this.
  • Acolyte of Divine Power (Wis) - Skill training, but another per-encounter power you can't use.
  • Arcane Prodigy (Cha) - If you can qualify (Kalashtar?) this is a fun per-encounter damage boost.
  • Bardic Dilletante (Cha) - There are easier ways to get a healing surge 1/day.
  • Berserker's Fury (Str, Con) - Guardians may be able to qualify for this; daily but the damage boost lasts the entire encounter.
  • Defender of the Wild (Str) - Skill training and a moderately useful marking ability. Not bad.
  • Disciple of Divine Wrath (Wis) - Skill training and oath of enmity 1/encounter (limited).
  • Spirit Talker (Wis) - Skill training and summon a spirit companion ... note that the spirit powers are listed as features, so these should work. Bonus points for getting your DM to let you make the spirit look like a little gnome (since you're the animal) and act like its familiar. Speak with Spirits (also a feature) lets you add your WIS to a skill check (or with a feat, an ally's skill check). This is good for an encounter power).

  • Divine Healer (Wis+) - Healing Word is a waste unless you're seriously power swapping; set skill training.
  • Divine Secretkeeper (Int, Wis) - Skill choice and ritual casting; you need ritual casting like you need a pet carrier
  • Hero of the Faith (Wis +) - Skill training & oath of enmity 1/encounter
  • Soldier of Virtue (Wis +) - Skill training and a 1/day touch of virtue; this may need to be sky blue



Lots of strong ones here. My favorites are Spirit Talker, Battle Awareness, Defender of the Wild, Hero of the Faith, Warrior of the Wild, Sneak of Shadows and Initiate of the Faith ... plus my new favorite Soldier of Virtue (Paladin). The Sorcerer and Barbarian ones with the nifty encounter or daily features are fun as is Sly Dodge. You will tend to avoid the others unless you have the stats and one to cherry pick a healing and a different skill (using Student of Battle, for instance).

Battle Awareness deserves special mention; D&DI now lists the Battle Awareness ability as a "feat power". If so, it's not so happy for the beast as you can't use those in Beast Form.

GENERAL FEATS

I'm not going to catalog them all, but I'm going to talk about them in general here. Let's start with the good news and the bad news.

GOOD NEWS: Your powers tend to do untyped damage (yay!). No worries about elemental resistance or anything! Awesome!

BAD NEWS: Your powers tend to do untyped damage (boo!). The traditional ways of monkeying around to get advantages just aren't going to be as useful to you. Since you can't use an implement to make all your attacks cold, for instance, you're generally going to be stuck with traditional non-typed feat chains.

[INDENT]Armor Proficiencies - If you're a Guardian who started with less than 16 CON, you may find your AC won't keep pace with heavy armor. You may want to consider Chain and above armor proficiencies.

Shield Proficiencies - Shields work in beast form. I know, it's odd. You can hold an implement in your off hand if you're using a light shield, so if you have the STR, consider a light shield.

Improved Initiative - As good as it is for everyone else; at Paragon you retrain this for Stalking Panther Form.

Hide Specialization - If you have the STR, you get this just because. Most druids will stop at Hide.

Psychic Lock - Most of your powers are untyped, but the few that have a damage type / keyword tend to be psychic. There aren't many, but it is something to consider.

Reserve Maneuver - If you're a Hybrid, this may be mandatory so you aren't wasting an encounter power.

Fighter Feats - Multiclass or Hybrids can take advantage of these. Wary Fighter lets you become more SAD, using Wisdom for Initiative bonuses. Hybrids love the new "Fighter Essentials" article.

Racial Feats - Deva have some nice resistances and good feat support, including one that lets you farm Wisdom. Githzerai have some great feats as well - and we know Elves and Dwarves are already feat-rich.[/INDENT]
EQUIPMENT

I'm not going to cover everything, but will instead primarily focus on the druid-focused and/or wild-shape-focused items.

Armor
  • Hunting Beast
  • Pouncing Beast (Leather, Hide) - Shift when you change forms ... and since you're not bouncing very often, not that useful
  • Predator (Leather, Hide) - Fort and will bonus
  • Hunting Beast (Leather, Hide) - Reflex bonus and an encounter shift ability
  • Bestial (Leather, Hide) - Bonus for chargers


Totems

I'm going to talk about these in general and not go into the specific differences for each level-variant.
  • Autumn Harvest - Deals extra damage to bloodied foes
  • Avenging Ash - Extra damage to constructs and objects with a fire daily.
  • Great Hungry Spirits - d10 crit dice and grants ability to your spirit companion on a crit; if you multiclassed into shaman, definitely something to explore. Also has a healing daily that works for multiple folks. The spirit-move property doesn't require you to use this one, so makes a nice secondary implement. For normal druids, not so much ... Shaman MC ones though like it more.
  • Oalian's Balance - Some likely pointless skill boosts and a healing daily
  • Summer Growth - Restrained on a crit, daily kicker to make a burst of difficult terrain. The kicker isn't that great but the restrained feature is nice on your secondary implement.
  • Watchful Spirit - Property is worded oddly; check with your DM. Perception bonus (which you probably won't need). Proptery isn't bad if you use it.
  • Winter's Grasp - Cold damage on a crit, weakened daily.
  • Pure Spirit - Healing kicker doesn't use a healing surge
  • Spring Renewal - Minor healing on a crit as a property, works as a secondary implement. Regeneration daily kicker.
  • Feral Spirit - On crit damage the target or someone adjacent to your companion.
  • Fickle Spirit - Bluff and Stealth bonuses, teleportation daily.
  • Enduring Vigilance - Some skill check bonuses against aberrations, teleportation daily.

Staves
  • Defensive
  • Expansion
  • Ruin
  • Earthroot
  • War Mage
  • Verdant Growth
  • Feyswarm


Other Gear Combos

You can use the powers and properties of equipment you wear or implements you wield, but not of weapons (unless you are using them as implements) or wondrous items. This means that the bulk of the gear combos (and gear-feat) that are available are ready for your use.

  • From RCanine - Instead of the Staff of Ruin, consider Staff of the Serpent and then Iron Armbands of Power.
PARAGON PATHS
Since we've established you're living the life of a beast, you only have three solid choices. Any others would give you powers and abilities you can't use in beast form.

Blightbeast http://www.wizards.com/dndinsider/compendium/paragonpath.aspx?id=348
[INDENT]Undead-themed, this adds necrotic damage to all of your attacks, gives you necrotic resistance and has a action point effct of an enemy-damaging aura. When you read this you probably cringed and thought ... "necrotic? really? ... but you also get the ability to bypass necrotic resistance, so it will be alright. This opens up a few combos for you. The damage isn't all turned to necrotic ... just the bonus damage. Some CON synergies too, so maybe more popular for Guardians or Hybrids who still pump CON.

Aerenal Half-Life: Eberron elves like necrotic and get a bonus to damage and, when spending an action point, to hit. Elves make good beasts, so good synergy here though the Blightbeast wants CON.

Dark Fury: Guardians who aren't Elves might chose to take Dark Fury instead. Similar damage bonus (no bonus to attack though). The nice thing is you can take this early and get the benefit during heroic for some of the psychic powers and it still works if you chose the blightbeast path later when everything turns necrotic.

Staff of the Lich: Per-encounter, immobilize someone for a round who you attacked with a necrotic power. You don't have to hit and this can be a handy second implement.

There may be some debate on whether or not this feature adds the necrotic keyword. Ask your DM. One option would be to Swordmage it up and grab an implement to be sure (Vampiric, say, which has the “all damage is necrotic” line on a property).[/INDENT]

Blood Moon Stalker http://www.wizards.com/dndinsider/compendium/paragonpath.aspx?id=266
[INDENT]Unhappy with the dead-dog, you want to be Cujo or perhaps Old Yeller. The real benefit of this path is the enhanced crit range at 16 (to 19-20). When you drop a foe you can use your second wind as a free action, which could be handy. Has some additional benefits when attacking bloodied foes.

Since you have an expanded crit range, you'll want more attacks and find equipment that keys off of crits. This is also a good PP for stacking up on the "versus bloodied" foes.

Swordmage Hybrid: You eat some powers, but you can pick up light and heavy blades. If you're pushing crits, you probably want the better crit options on the blades (and remember the Khopesh is an Axe and the Glaive is a Polearm ... check those lists for useful powers as well).

Rogue MC: Bear with me, this is a bunch of stuff. Swordmage or Sorcerer|Druid for light blade implements. Rogue MC for sneak attack. One of the daggers / shortswords / whatever make a Wraithblade. Crit and do sneak damage. Congrats, you're half a striker.

Autumn Harvest Totem: Extra damage to bloodied foes; stack them up.

Races ... Thematic fit for Shifter, Deva or even Gnoll. Honestly though, this is the default Paragon Path for Beast Forms.[/INDENT]

Sky Hunter http://www.wizards.com/dndinsider/compendium/paragonpath.aspx?id=269
[INDENT]Whereas the previous two have some in-combat things you can work with to create synergy, this one not so much. If you're looking for utility this one gets perception bonuses, flight and a fairly decent burst 5 daily attack. The action point benefit can be handy (free move).

I'm not as impressed with this one and haven't spent much time trying to find synergies. Seems flavorful, but weak in comparison. It's abilities emphasize movement and perception and the individual damage is low on each.[/INDENT]
EPIC DESTINIES

The best Epic Destiny for you might be one with a power that you can't use while in beast form. Something that boosts your WIS would be good.

Truth be told, most of the Epic Destinies you qualify for will work - they generally only have one power that you wouldn't be able to use in beast form. Some stand out though.


Demigod lets you boost your WIS and another attribute.

Eternal Seeker allows you to cherry pick powers. You'll be selecting Druid Powers or perhaps stances/etc.

Raven Consort could be fun for a Blightbeast.
HYBRIDS

Alright, let's be serious. If you're going to be a hybrid you're going to have some abilities that are mandated via the rules which you will not be able to use while wild shaped. I know, this is kinda against the basic premise we started with, but if you end up setting a few powers on fire you can some pretty funky capabilties via hybriding.

What I'm sharing below are not complete builds, just some specific combos and how you can tweak them for some fun benefits.

[INDENT]Hybrid Talent - Druids get wild shape; you'd need to go Hybrid Talent to pick up the Primal Aspect. If for some reason you don't care about the Primal Aspect (ie, your DEX or CON won't keep pace with armors for AC) then you could hybrid talent from the other class.

Hit Points / Surges - The Hybrid Druid value for hit points per level and surges are fractional; matching with another fractional class optimizes your staying power.
[/INDENT]

General Notes
  • You only get one at-will from the druid class. If you want a melee basic attack, that won't be Pounce (humans as the exception, naturally)
  • Channel Divinity is not worth the Hybrid Talent as it's a feat power (and you can't use that in beast form)
  • Bonus points for things that work right out of the gate and are not restricted to one classes powers (ie, sneak attack only works for rogue powers)
  • You can probably pick a decent utility that may not be as useful in combat but fine out of combat
  • Daily stances though could be nice to bounce into non-beast, activate the stance, bounce back next round. Note that you can't use weapons in beast form, so stances that have the weapon keyword may not continue to operate. Powers you can maintain are also good, or things that work close blast/burst since you'll likely be in the thick of it.
  • Your encounter is the hardest to find a fit for; you may just need to snag Reserve Maneuver at Paragon.
  • You can only have one polymorph at a time; sucks for Warden dailies.
  • Human Hybrids - Since you only get one at-will from each class, this has special value in that you can take multiple beast form at-wills AND you save a feat. Human Hybrids are nice.


The List
  • Avenger - You get to use a holy symbol, but the oath class feature only works with Avenger powers. You're also stuck with cloth armor and only a half-match on the fractional advance of HP/surges. WIS powers is a nice fit. Honestly, Cleric or Invoker are better.
  • Barbarian - The Rampage feature could be useful for a Blood Moon Stalker as it feeds off of crits. You also match on armor proficiency but not on the HP/surges.
  • Bard - Majestic Word and the untrained skill bonus could be handy. Also adds wands as implements, though there isn't much value in that.
  • Cleric - Holy symbol, armor match, fractional HP/surges and plenty of WIS-driven powers. Spiritual Weapon, Cascade of Hope. Later you can retrain some stuff around for Cloud Chariot. You can get some encounters that work close-in (where you'll be) and useful utilities. I like this option; you probably still pick a Primal Aspect as your Hybrid Talent.
  • Fighter - Half match on HP, combat challenge isn't too shabby. Hybrid Talent to get your WIS on OAs could be sweet since that will be your highest stat ... or one of the combat options ... or heavy armor. Rain of Steel could be fun, though you'll have to have a weapon that is also an implement (staff).
  • Invoker - You've got the expanded capability to use rods and the Covenant Manifestations are nice. You don't match up well with HP though, and most of your beast abilities will be in melee. The Manifestations of Wrath is pretty hot ... this would turn you into more of a glass-cannon kind of striker.
  • Paladin - HP / surges are inefficient, but you do get access to holy symbols. If you're not going to be able to keep up with high DEX/CON for your Primal Aspects, Hybrid Talent to pick up all weapon/armor profs could be awesome. Divine Challenge still works, though you may not care. Kalashtar, Humans, Longtooth Shifters could be good fits.
  • Ranger - Partial match on HP and though the flavor seems right, the restriction on Hunter's Quarry is way too limiting. Spitting Cobra Stance won't help since you won't have ranged basic attacks. Better as a multiclass choice and then spend a feat on Master of the Hunt.
  • Rogue - Like the ranger, you'd be better off multiclassing. You will have DEX for the powers, but likely not a good weapon to use.
  • Shaman - HP matches perfectly, but you don't get a new implement. You do get a healing power and WIS-based powers, which is nice. Hybrid isn't horrible, but MC is a better choice as that also gets the OA power of the spirit.
  • Sorcerer - Partial match on HP and you get daggers as an implement. The class feature only works on sorcerer powers though. Pass ... both the Sorcerer MC feats have nifty abilities on their own. If you really want to use a dagger, go Swordmage.
  • Swordmage - You may be burning some powers and you don't match on HP but you do open up lots of implements. This completely overshadows Sorcerers (Daggers are Light Blades) and you get a limited Aegis that works.
  • Warden - Good match on HP and the marking ability, though limited, still works. The Warden's Earthstrength is close to Primal Guardian, but you'd lose out on all those powers that provide additional benefits. At first glance this looks neat, but if you have the CON, you want the Primal Aspect for those secondary benefits. Wildblood though, feeds on Wisdom, and makes a much better choice if you're not going to be keeping up with CON or DEX. This might be awesome on a shifter or human; you would be snagging shield profs too, saving on feats. Sudden Roots, Wildblood Cunning ... all pretty awesome. Honestly, if you’re going to Hybrid, this is one of my favorites.
  • Warlock - New implements. CON synergy makes this more useful for a Guardian / CON-high powers. Good dailies in Armor of Agathys, Minions of Malbroge (both damage auras).
  • Warlord - Combat leader and inspiring word are solid. You can use your Hybrid Talent on Primal Aspect. HP/surges match well too, not a bad choice. Pincer Movement is one of those rare non-divine encounter powers you may be able to use easily. Stances and boosts (Scent of Victory, War Master's Assault) work too.
  • Wizard - HP/Surges don't match up, but you do get implements (orb, wand) and cantrips. Hybrid Talent for implement mastery is kinda pointless; Orb would be best but it only works on Wizard powers. Boo. There are some nice Orbs though.



Hybrids open up alot of nifty combinations ... things you couldn't do before, you can now. Some things that popped out to me just at first glance.

[INDENT]Paladin - Take the talent for full armor, leave Dex and Con a bit lower (useful you don't get those as a racial secondary) and you can use holy symbols ... Kalashtar, Longtooth Shifters, Humans possibly get the best benefit. Since you’ve got full armor, your attributes don’t have to be great to have a good AC.

Cleric | Druid w/ MC Shaman - Hybrid Talent is your choice. Start with Beacon of Hope since it boosts all of your healing, use the healing spirit power. The Rescue Laser isn't a bad Cleric at-will choice. You'll either ignore your encounter or have to bounce back to use it (Cause Fear, Command are nice). You can also use a holy symbol and two totems.

Warden | Druid w/ MC Shaman - Hybrid Talent on the Warden for Wildblood and the armor. You can wear hide, use a heavy shield and add your WIS to AC. You can mark someone each turn and throw out a spirit who can do OAs as well. If you take the Windrise Ports background, Battle Awareness looks fun. If your DM let's your spirit's OA work with Sudden Roots, that's a must-take feat and you're a pretty good close-in defender.

Warden | Druid w/ MC Fighter - Hybrid Talent on Warden again, then load up on the feats in Fighter Essentials. Good supplement there.

Holy Symbols (Cleric, Paladin, Avenger) - A Crusading or Disrupting Net or Bola can be used as a Holy Symbol, so with a MC feat in addition to your Hybrid you can add some effects to (basically) all your attacks. Holy Symbols also don't take any space, so there's no reason you couldn't roll out with a slot-less holy symbol and a couple of other implements. Bloodied-optimizers might like the Symbol of Dol Dorn; the Sun Disk of Pelor makes things Radiant; the Symbol of Power gives a save penalty; Symbol of Censure dazes on a crit; Brilliance blinds; Nonagon of Kol Korran allows an allow to swap a crit for a heal ... and more. Good stuff there.

Light Blades (Swordmage, Sorcerer) - Jagged, Frost, Flaming, Lightning, Spiderkissed, Goblin Totem, whatever, etc. You know the drill. Use it for the weapon itself or to drive a feat chain you don't ordinarily have access to (Frost-Cheeze)

Heavy Blades (Swordmage) - Similar to Light Blades. You probably don't want to get stuck with a 2-hander, but the Khopesh is a Heavy Blade / Axe and opens up. Heavy Blades also have options like Sunswords (radiant), Githyahki Silver Swords (psychic -> Pshychic Lock), Stout (CON-driven damage), Battlecrazed (for the Shifters), Rending (Combined with Blood Moon Stalker)

Rods - Rod of Hope Triumphant can generate a very small amount of temp HP.

Orbs - Some nice ones here ... Sanguinary Repurcussions or Crimson Committment for those builds built around Bloodied. Translocation Interference[/INDENT]
BUILDS
That's the reserved pages; feel free and add comments, advice and feedback while I'm formatting.
Post 8 and 9 appear to be the same, I did not read it all, but its a good overview.
Author of Aglarond 1-6(P1), and Co-author of Aglarond 2-4(2 round P3)


D&D Home Page - What Monster Are You? - D&D Compendium

The Staff of Ruin adds an item bonus to damage. I know everyone loves it, but wouldn't you get more mileage out of Staff of the Serpent and Iron Armbands of Power?
Blightbeast

...

There may be some debate on whether or not this feature adds the necrotic keyword. Ask your DM. One option would be to Swordmage it up and grab an implement to be sure (Vampiric, say, which has the “all damage is necrotic” line on a property).

How will this help? You can't use your druid implement powers through a swordmage implement.
How will this help? You can't use your druid implement powers through a swordmage implement.

Hybrids can do just that.
The Staff of Ruin adds an item bonus to damage. I know everyone loves it, but wouldn't you get more mileage out of Staff of the Serpent and Iron Armbands of Power?

My first pass on equipment is looking primarily at druid-focused items. I.e., I was looking just at the druid-specific items and not cross to other areas.

Any of the traditional or other combinations would work fine as long as they didn't have issues with the wild shape / polymorph rules.
Great guide. I am interested in some builds people may have.
Actually wild shape doesn't cancel your ability to talk unless the DM says so, same thing with door handles.
I'd get along more with people if they didn't jump onto a hyberbole every single time you say something they don't understand.

You know, Claw Gloves make the striker build of the druid that much more powerful. Prob lem is that the didn't give it the restriction of only once per turn, for the extra damage, making it easy to beat other strikers in damage.


For example this build:


====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
 level 8
Elf, Druid
Build: Predator Druid
Primal Aspect: Primal Predator
Background: Nelanther Isles (Nelanther Isles Benefit)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 13, Con 11, Dex 20, Int 10, Wis 20, Cha 8.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 13, Con 11, Dex 16, Int 10, Wis 16, Cha 8.


AC: 23 Fort: 17 Reflex: 22 Will: 22
HP: 58 Surges: 7 Surge Value: 14

TRAINED SKILLS
Nature +16, Perception +16, Athletics +10, Acrobatics +14, Stealth +13

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Arcana +4, Bluff +3, Diplomacy +3, Dungeoneering +9, Endurance +3, Heal +9, History +4, Insight +9, Intimidate +3, Religion +4, Streetwise +3, Thievery +8

FEATS
Druid: Ritual Caster
Level 1: Warrior of the Wild
Level 2: Enraged Boar Form
Level 4: Implement Expertise (staff)
Level 6: Powerful Charge
Level 8: Ferocious Tiger Form

POWERS
Druid at-will 1: Pounce
Druid at-will 1: Flame Seed
Druid at-will 1: Savage Rend
Druid encounter 1: Darting Bite
Druid daily 1: Faerie Fire
Druid utility 2: Skittering Sneak
Druid encounter 3: Predator's Flurry
Druid daily 5: Roar of Terror
Druid utility 6: Camouflage Cloak
Druid encounter 7: Latch On

ITEMS
Adventurer's Kit, Bestial Hide Armor +1, Boots of the Fencing Master (heroic tier), Claw Gloves, Horned Helm (heroic tier), Iron Armbands of Power (heroic tier), Ritual Book, Amulet of Physical Resolve +2, Staff of the Serpent +2 


First turn, walk in (speed 8) attack first creature with Predator's Flurry:
+12 vs Reflex, 1d6+9+1d6 poison and dazed, reroll attack with Elven Accurcy if neccesary.


Shift 5 attack second creature, as above.


Then AP charge the first creature:
+16 vs Reflex, 1d8+15+1d6 poison +1d6 (Horned Helmet) + 1d10


And for good measure finish off using your bestial armor:
+16 vs Reflex, 1d8+11+1d6 poison+1d10


And then I did forget the Hunter's Quarry, but hey who cares?


Granted, the poison does not always work, against undead creature's for example. But in return U have many multi attacks (like Darting Bite and Predator's Flurry) which all attacks get the 1d10 extra damage. Beat that rogue :P

Looks interesting - is that AV2?

Indeed it is Level 4 item, when you make an attack and have combat advantage, you'll deal an extra 1d10 damage. In beast form only though.

Sweet!

the actual wording is:


Property: When you're in beast form and an enemy grants combat advantage to you, your melee attacks deal 1d10 extra damage against that enemy.


It's actually part of an item set and the other items give you more mobility and darkvision and the set bonuses give you + on stealth and invisibilty first time you use wild shape.


A cool set, especially flavorwise (it is made by druids worshipping a panther god and your items resemble that of panthers), and good items, although there are better items overall.

I play a primal predator druid who mostly stays in beast form, and recently encountered monsters that hover outside my reach, leaving me pretty useless.  I'm still in heroic tier, can't fly, and have weak ranged attacks when in humanoid form.


Forced movement doesn't allow for vertical movement, so I can't use a ranged pull or slide power to bring down the hovering monsters.  It looks like the only way to ground them is to knock them prone, at range.  Grasping tide would work for things that fly without hovering, but what I've come across are stationary hovering monsters with long range attacks.


Anyone have tips on dealing with monsters that can fly (hover) out of melee range?  Preferably solutions that work in the heroic tier.


Anyone have tips on dealing with monsters that can fly (hover) out of melee range?  Preferably solutions that work in the heroic tier.



1) Utility 6:   Utility 6 - Black Harbinger - Like skittering sneak, but you can be a raven and fly
2) Wildshape
3) Encounter 7:   Latch On - Grab, Predator adds DEX to escape check
4) Gravity

Well don't know what race you are, but if you went with Elf, you could always use a Longbow. Just buy a magical one with a nice ability on it so you can knock him out of the air. Otherwise use you bow and stay 20 squares away.


Other options are taking one or 2 encounter powers that are ranged 10. (For example the level 7 1 that knock opponents prone.) And lastly you can relly on your party members to knock him out (Which may become problematic if they rely on you as the controller and that is mostly a controllers job , this might be the reason which I say my druid is a striker and has controller as a secondary role)

There aren't easy beast-form answers to flying dudes.


Step out and you get some options (weapons, powers, etc.)

I was surprised to see the Moon Stalker PP not mentioned here, (granted it is a racial PP).  One of the PCs in our current campaign is playing a Razorclaw Shifter Predator Druid spending the majority of his time in beast form.  He's looking at Moon Stalker vs Blood Moon Stalker, both seem good for the role.



I think the Moon Stalker lvl 11 encounter is outstanding, a minor action huge burst at +4 attack vs will = free damage.


Also +Wis mod to damage for you and your allies has some great synergy with my Barbarian who will be picking up Thunder Hawk and Oak Hammer rage soon. (Str +6 Con +6 Wis +6 for each attack on a prone target!)


On the downside he loses improved crits and the nice action point feature, and the level 20 daily is useless (though the DM might let him change this to d6s and useable in beast form)


Which do you think is better?

I don't know, I like the bloodmoon striker more I think. Some of the abilities of the Moonstalker only work when the target is prone, and the action point feature is cool, but very useless to the druid anyways (you shift alot anyways as a druid). Also the lvl 11 encounter is nice, but not very special. (if you want combat advantage there are alot of other ways you can get there).


Still depending on feat, power, party members and equipment, the Moonstalker can prove more useful then the Bloodmoon (like in melee heavy parties with characters which prone alot), but overal the Bloodmoon wins in durability and damage (From a striker point of view that is)

The scope of this was to discuss things that work primarily in beast form.  None of the powers in that Paragon Path have the beast form keywords, so you'd have to shift back into non-beast to use them.


 


There are plenty similar Paragon Paths; they just aren't the focus of this guide.

Battle Awareness is an awesome feat for the extra attack you gain once a combat and it opens a huge feat, polearm momentum.  Although this requires str 13 (in a typical 13 11 16 10 16 8 array) it provides a druid with savage rend and rushing cleats a huge hit in combat, as savage rend becomes a MBA that slides 2 and knocks prone (note the feat requires wis 15 and dex 15 so predator druids typically required)  You dont need the slow as much as prone can slow them down (though creatures with speed 5 or higher can charge more with a get up and charge then a slowed person can).  


This requires a polearm or spear however, so we have  to have a spear or polearm we can use.  


AV2 came out with the Alfsair spear, which is a spear and a totem, giving us either a 1 handed weapon (spear) that works with polearm momentum or some other combinations such as Urgrosh (which counts as a spear) if you want a defensive weapon or Greatspear if you want a good weapon when not in beast form or the new parrying dagger stuff from av2 with 2 weapon fighting.


 


Battle Awareness is an awesome feat for the extra attack you gain once a combat and it opens a huge feat, polearm momentum.




Interesting that polearm momentum just says "..use a polearm or a spear attack to..." and does not mention weapon attack, or "hit with a light blade or spear" like surprising charge does.


I wouldn't be surprised if there was resistance to this RAI or even just parsing what a spear attack means now that there is a spear implement for druids.  This does require 2 items and 2 feats, which doesn't make it seem super cheesy... but is a spear implement attack a "spear attack" or an implement attack through a spear shaped implement?


 


 

I discounted it in this guide because the compendium now calls this a "feat power" and thus something you can't use in beast form...  (though polearm momentum is nice regardless)


 


I need to re-validate things once I get a good long look at AV2

While it seems counterintuitive at first, how about a Druid|Warden hybrid, taking Armored Might (Earthstrength) as your hybrid talent, with the objective of going Blightbeast for your paragon path?


You eat an at-will and encounter power, but that shouldn't be an issue since you plan to spend most of your time in beast form anyway.


The scope of this was to discuss things that work primarily in beast form. None of the powers in that Paragon Path have the beast form keywords, so you'd have to shift back into non-beast to use them.


 


There are plenty similar Paragon Paths; they just aren't the focus of this guide.




Granted, the level 12 Utility and 20 Daily are virtually useless, but there is still some nice synergy here to be had.  Enter the combat, as a minor action, damage all enemies in a burst 5 at +4 to attacks, (finish some minions too) and get combat advantage, then change to beast form as a move, then charge as your standard to gain the +2 damage from ferocious tiger form.



Plus adding your primary stat  to damage whenever something is prone, for you and your allies is quite incredible, and works very nicely with one of the Druid dailies (save ends prone condition) as well as other party members. I think you could still make very good use of this PP whilst still spending 90% of your time in beast form.

Definitely - though would one of those spears, fighter multiclass and Pit Fighter be better?


 


On the Hybrid front - yes ... I think I mentioned that above.  Warden|Druid ends up with some powers you can't use in beast form, but CON and WIS to lots is fun.

On a side note though, I have looked over it several times and I can find little reason to train my herioc powers to the paragon ones for the striker version of the predator druid. Multi Attacks are just to awesome with Cat Claws and (what else you can think of) and Giving yourself combat advantage with daze is awesome aswell.


So can someone convince me otherwise?

have you seen Staff of the Serpent? it adds 1d6 poison damage to all your melee attacks. you have a ton of melee implement attacks. in addition you can take weapon focus [staff] for another damage boost.

I have never seen a super nova go off, but if it is anything like a Chevy Nova it sure will light up the sky! IMAGE(http://i994.photobucket.com/albums/af70/stranger_93/WorldofTanks.jpg)