Druid Handbook revived

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I am a druid! I have special abilities that are more powerful than your entire class!

This is the druid handbook, written by A Man In Black and Paradisio and currently maintained by A Man In Black. This version is a revival of a rewrite of Paradisio's rewrite of Yekoj's druid handbook. It's going up more or less piece by piece; until it's done, don't mind the mess.

Suggestions (or even total rewrites of sections, if you want) are greatly appreciated, and more is always coming. (I swear I'll get to finishing and formatting the spell section one of these days.)

Update status:
This book sat unupdated after Five Nations and Champions of Ruin were released, so updates have been a matter of backfilling.

Books I haven't incorporated:
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Champions of Valor
Cityscape
Complete Mage - Elemental companion?
Complete Psionic
Dragonmarked
Either of the Fiendish Codex books
Heroes of Battle (I have this)
Heroes of Horror
Magic of Eberron
Monster Manual IV (what an awful book)
Players' Handbook 2 (working on this one)
Races of the Dragon
Stormwrack
Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords
Unearthed Arcana (I really need to mention more of the stuff from this)
Weapons of Legacy
Pretty much any other Realms book after Champions of Ruin

Any advice on useful stuff from these books (or generous donations to the Poor Gamers' Fund) would be appreciated.


Last update:
More spell advice, Gharlane's wild shape corrections, added a link to a new Handle Animal guide, some corrections about Powerful Build, other miscellanea.

Previous update:
Added Aspect of the Dragon from Dragon Magic (and roundly rejected adding anything about the lame draconic bobcat or whatever it is). Added a ton of Spell Compendium stuff, as well as advice on Vigor and how to avoid becoming a curebot.


While I try to accommodate as many variations of D&D3.5, with varying amounts of non-core material available, I had to rewrite just about everything for the Polymorph errata. This guide will assume that you play with the Polymorph errata of Feb. 2006; if you don't, I suggest taking a look at the old version of this thread.

Acronyms:
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If there's no acronym, it's from the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, or Monster Manual.
5N - Five Nations
BoED - Book of Exalted Deeds
BoVD - Book of Vile Darkness
CAdv - Complete Adventurer
CArc - Complete Arcane
CD - Complete Divine
CoR - Champions of Ruin
CW - Complete Warrior
DMG2 - Dungeon Master's Guide 2
DMagic - Dragon Magic
Drac - Draconomicon
EbCS - Eberron Campaign Setting
ExHB - Explorers' Handbook
FF - Fiend Folio
FoE - Faiths of Eberron
FRCS - Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting
Frost - Frostburn
LEoF - Lost Empires of Faerun
LibMort - Libris Mortis
LoD - Lords of Darkness
LoM - Lords of Madness
MiniHB - Minatures Handbook
MM2 - Monster Manual 2
MM3 - Monster Manual 3
MoF - Magic of Faerun
MonOF - Monsters of Faerun
MotW - Masters of the Wild (non-updated 3.0 book)
OA - Oriental Adventures (non-updated 3.0 book)
PGtE - Player's Guide to Eberron
PGtF - Player's Guide to Faerun
PHB2 - Players' Handbook 2
PlHB - Planar Handbook
RoD - Races of Destiny
RoE - Races of Eberron
RoS - Races of Stone
RotW - Races of the Wild
Sand - Sandstorm
Sav - Savage Species
Serp - Serpent Kingdoms
Shin - Shining South
Spell - Spell Compendium
UE - Unapproachable East
XPH - Expanded Psionics Handbook - Note that nearly all XPH material is duplicated in the SRD.


In core, the druid is one of the front-runners for most powerful class, and the vast, vast majority of players will want to take all 20 levels. Druids are full casters drawing from a versatile spell list, can Wild Shape into any number of combat forms, get a handful of handy class abilities, and even have a decent skill list (and the skill points to use it).

Druids also benefit disproportionately from the addition of new material beyond core, as they benefit from the addition of monsters as well as the addition of the usual spells, feats, and prestige classes. (One would even say they benefit more from the addition of monsters; few prestige classes work well with druids, and they have relatively few feat slots.)

Druids fall into roughly three categories, largely defined by their feat choices. There are summoners, focusing on summoning and buffing animals and Elementals. There are Wild Shapers, using Wild Shape to fight effectively in melee. There are straight casters, relying on the damage-dealing and battlefield control spells to destroy or hamper enemies in combat (and the wealth of druid utility spells outside of it). Bear in mind that a straight druid can do all of these things quite effectively depending on the player's mood or the party's needs, as spell selection can change day to day and feats don't have to be used.

Some druids do sacrifice one or two of these three basic abilities, however, generally by multiclassing or going into a prestige class. These are described in a bit more detail at the bottom.

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STATS:

This is one of he two times a druid player will need to choose a specialty. Wisdom is going to be your most important stat, no matter what. After that, it depends on what you want to do.

Constitution is going to be important. While druids have naturally high fort saves, after the polymorph errata, your natural constitution is going to determine your HP, which is always important to any druid that plans to spend any time in melee.

Intelligence is handy if your druid is going to be called on to use his or her skills. A human with intelligence 10 or anything else with intelligence 12 will be able to max all the skills a non-skill-user will ever want, however. Intelligence is a tertiary stat.

Charisma will be a dump stat for most druids, but bear in mind that certain abilities gained with some of the exotic Wild Shape feats (or with Assume Supernatural Ability) can be based on charisma. Most druids will want to make this a dump stat.

Dexterity will be a dump stat for any druid starting at level 5 or higher, and won't be terribly important in any case. Strength won't be important for any druid, as melee druids will be relying on Wild Shape.

For those who play with age penalties, nearly every druid is going to want to be middle-aged (-1 on physical stats, +1 on mental ones). Higher age categories will impair your HP, but boost your spellcasting.

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RACES:

Druids are full casters with a major class ability that scales upward (Wild Shape) but without bonus feats. Thus the best choices for races will boost their casting attribute and/or give or duplicate feats, but level adjustments must be avoided at all costs. The existence of substitution levels does add a few new options, though.

When you're choosing a race for your druid, try and make sure you're not paying for abilities you won't be able to use in Wild Shape. Physical stat modifiers (save for CON boosts), innate Special Attacks, natural weapons, natural armor, and special movement modes all disappear, while you keep other abilities. Note that spell-like abilities are almost always Special Attacks, and lost while using Wild Shape. Type immunities are retained, however, making races like Volodni (UE) or Warforged (EbCS/RoE/MM3) much better than they used to be.

Human is going to be the best racial option for the grand majority of druids. Druids are feat-poor and don't generally benefit very much from racial abilities, as most of them disappear during Wild Shape. That said, there are a few good choices.

Strongheart Halfling (FRCS) is as good a choice as it ever is, because of the extra feat. The halfling druid substitution levels (RotW) are a mixed bag; the first sub level is an interesting tradeoff, replacing the first five spell levels of spontaneously-cast Summon Nature's Ally with the ability to spontaneously cast a range of useful mobility spells (including Freedom of Movement), but the fifth sub level is a Very Bad Idea, unless you have some sort of clever use of Wild feats.

Buomman (PlHB) grants you +2 to Wis (and -2 to Cha) at LA +0, but they have a racial vow of silence. Nonverbal Spellcasting (PlHB) makes up for this by allowing you to cast spells by grunting or singing or whatever, but you're still down another feat. (Note that if you start at 6th level or above, you can take Natural Spell and not worry about Nonverbal Spell, as long as you only cast spells while in Wild Shape.) Even then, not being able to talk to the party still sucks, at least until the party wizard casts Permanent Rary's Telepathic Bond. Buomman druids are, like all Buommen, unplayable until high levels, but fairly good after that.

Shifters (EbCS/RoE/MM3) are a great druid race, despite their somewhat less-useful attribute modifiers. At low levels, any Shifter with a natural attack shifting ability can be using the druid spells to enhance their natural attacks. Later on, your shifting bonus will stack with Wild Shape (Shifting is a supernatural ability, so you keep it in Wild Shape), which not only means stat bonuses, but also gives extra AC, new move types, or even possibly extra attacks. Dreamsight Shifters (RoE), in particular, give +2 Wis and Speak With Animals while shifting, but all of the Shifter traits give untyped bonuses to stats that still work while shifting, so any of them can work quite nicely. (Plus, it allows you to take, say, Improved Natural Attack (claws) or INA (bite) even if your GM won't usually allow you to take those for forms you can only take with Wild Shape. Then again, that GM might not allow INA to transfer to Wild Shape.) Shifters can also take Moonspeaker (RoE), one of the few good druid PrCs.
Beasthide, Dreamsight, Longtooth, and Razorclaw Shifter traits are good for druids, because those benefits stack nicely onto whatever animal form you might be using. Cliffwalk and Longstride are okay; it's nice to add a bit of land speed or climbing speed to a landbound form, but you can always take a monkey or bird form to completely outdo these traits. The other traits aren't so hot: Gorebrute forces you to use a somewhat ho-hum gore instead of your superior natural attacks, Swiftwing negates any claw attacks you might have and is rendered moot by flying Wild Shape forms, Truedive has too short a duration to be very useful anyway even if you couldn't turn into fish and mollusks, and Wildhunt can be replaced with any one of four different level 2 spells.
Taking Shifter also allows you to use the Shifter sub levels. The first Shifter sub level costs you your Animal Companion, but replaces it with a Beast Spirit that can buff you, buff your summons, cuts your summons to a standard action, and can eventually cast quickened spells for you. (All the bonuses make this an absolutely awesome choice for any sort of druid.) Most druids will want to avoid the fifth sub level, unless you're planning to specialize heavily in shifting. (The sub levels are in Races of Eberron.)
Dropping Wild Shape for Shifting enhancement at level five is an unusual choice, and I'll write a guide here for it at some point, honest.

Ghostwise Halflings (FRCS) bypass one of the main bugbears of Wild Shaping druids: communicating with the party. Their Speak without Sound ability is a supernatural special quality, so they keep it in whatever form they're in. Plus, being halflings, Ghostwise Halflings can take the halfling racial sub levels from Races of the Wild.

Half-orcs aren't usually very good at anything, but the half-orc druid substitution level for level 7 (RoD) gives Augment Summoning for the low, low price of one less use a day of Wild Shape, saving you the trouble of wasting a feat on Spell Focus (Conjuration). Plus, the first level gives you some free bonuses.

Xeph (XPH) druids can take psionic feats, and their Burst ability works even while Wild Shaped. Feats, preferably ones that give always-on benefits (or while-focused benefits, which amount to the same thing for a character in a non-psionic class), can give a Xeph druid some rather unusual boosts or abilities, like Psionic Fist and Unavoidable Strike, Speed of Thought, or Up The Walls.

Kalashtar (EbCS) make surprisingly good druids, because of their Mindlink ability. Their Mindlink ability (you definitely want to use the XPH version of Mindlink instead of the EbCS version, because of the much longer duration) allows them to communicate even while Wild Shaping, and they can take psionic feats to boot.

Warforged (EbCS/RoE/MM3) are an odd case. All of their various boosts are retained (except for their slam, boo hoo), because they're all special qualities and none of them are natural armor, movement forms, or boosts to strength or dexterity. (Warforged Scout (MM3) is similar, with the useful constitution boost traded for a useless dexterity boost.) This means that the innate armor ability doesn't go away, so Warforged can eke out a little extra AC and some light fortification in Wild Shape. The Warforged feats also don't go away as long as they aren't attacks; this means Spiked Body (RoE) and Jaws of Death (RoE) are both out, but Cold Iron Tracery (RoE), Silver Tracery (RoE), and the very sweet Ironwood Body (RoE) are all in.

Warforged aren't perfect, though; they have a racial Wisdom penalty, and if your DM rules that Wild Shaping into an animal form means that all of your nice physical Warforged goodies go away (which conflicts with the Polymorph errata but not basic common sense, assuming your Warforged druid doesn't turn into Warforged-y animal shapes) then Warforged is hideously suboptimal. This is discussed more in the "gross physical changes" section of the Controversial Options section.

For those who want to try something more exotic, there are a couple of options. There's the Anthropomorphic Bat (Sav), which gives flight and +6 Wis with no level adjustment. You'll be Small and will have a -4 Str penalty and a charisma penalty, though, so plan on spending your time out of Wild Shape casting Produce Flame and running away a lot. In the same vein, there's the Jermaline (MM2), which is LA +0, with massive Wis and dexterity bonuses. It's a Tiny, ugly Fey with penalties to Str, Cha, and Con, so it's not exactly suited to most games, though.

Maybe you want to play something a little more unusual, but not necessarily more optimized.

Goliaths (RoS) don't seem to have any druid-related traits (and have a pesky LA +1 to boot), but their racial substitution levels are handy, and their Powerful Build (which is no longer lost when Wild Shaping, after the Polymorph errata) is very handy for melee (especially grappling) druids. Their first racial substitution level becomes very handy when Earth Elementals start to be your best summons.

Half-Giants (XPH) are another odd choice for a druid, with their all-physical stat bonuses and LA +1. However, they keep Powerful Build when Wild Shaping, like Goliaths, and may also take psionic feats. As with Xephs, feats that give always-on benefits (or while-focused benefits, which amount to the same thing for a character in a non-psionic class) like Speed of Thought (XPH) make Half-Giant a somewhat worthwhile, if less than optimal, choice.

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SKILLS:

  • Concentration: Every single spell you cast will be in the thick of melee. Max this every single level.
  • Heal: Handy if you don't feel like taking the secondary damage from poisons.
  • Listen and Spot: Always a good choice, especially if the party doesn't have a ranger. Maxing out Listen also lets you use the spell Listening Lorecall (CAdv) to full effect.
  • Handle Animal: The usefulness of Handle Animal is going to vary from campaign to campaign. The rules as written mean that you'll need about a +10 in Handle Animal to teach your Animal Companion all of the useful tricks (assuming you take 10 on the rolls.) If you have a Horrid Animal or Magical Beast as an Animal Companion, you'll need to get this up to +14. For more advice on how to use Handle Animal, Arem K has a handy guide here.
  • Survival/Knowledge (Nature): Very important in any outdoors campaign.
  • Spellcraft: Unless the party doesn't have anyone to identify spells, you won't be using this a lot...until you get to epic levels. Epic spellcasting is almost entirely based on ranks in Spellcraft and Spellcraft checks.


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FEATS:

To blazes with Heinlein, it's time to specialize. Feats for a druid (and you won't get a lot of them; most druids only get seven) are going to be beefing up one of your three druidic specialties (summoning, Wild Shaping, and straight casting). There are a few generalist and must-have picks, but your options are wide open.

General:
  • Natural Spell - Allows you to cast while Wild Shaped. Every single druid will want this.
  • Ironwood Body (RoE) - A must-have for Warforged druids, assuming your DM allows it.
  • Manifest Druid (PGtE) - A flavor feat, with a handful of nice bennies (although the Sudden Empower for a first-level arcane spell is just weird).
  • Natural Bond (CAdv) - Helps out for multiclassed druids, somewhat. May offset the penalty for stronger-than-standard Animal Companions (ask your GM), which makes it a much better choice.
  • Track - Now that all the bonus feat loopholes are closed, this can be a handy feat if the party doesn't already have a ranger or barbarian.
  • Vow of Poverty (BoED) - Druids are fairly gear-independent, making this a reasonable choice. If you take it, Nymph's Kiss for the extra skill points (it's also good if you don't use Vow of Poverty) and Touch of Golden Ice for the Dex damage to evil creatures at low levels are good candidates for bonus Exalted feats.


  • Beast Totem (EbCS) - You choose a Chimera, Gorgon, or some much less cool Magical Beast as a totem beast, and get a situational save bonus. (Really, the other totem beasts suck. Don't pick them.) A lame dump feat so you can take...
    • Beast Companion (EbCS) - You get your totem beast as your Animal Companion.
    • Beast Shape (EbCS) - You can Wild Shape into your totem beast, with all Ex and Su abilities. Chimerae are melee monsters, Gorgons have AoE petrify. The others...just suck.


  • Child of Winter (EbCS) - You can cast animal-affecting spells on vermin and summon various vermin with Summon Nature's Ally. (Unfortunately, this is mechanically incompatible with Exalted feats.) Also, you can take...
    • Vermin Companion (EbCS) - So you can have a pet scorpion of your very own. The available vermin companions are by and large worse than the core animal choices, let alone the many nice non-core companions, but some players will want a bug for flavor reasons.
    • Vermin Wild Shape (EbCS) - So you can...uh...BE a scorpion. Or whatever. You lose your animal forms, but not your plant or Elemental ones, so you lose a bunch of power from about level 5 until level 12 where you get your plant forms. More on handy vermin forms below.


  • Aberrant Blood (LoM) - The lame entry feat into the much-overlooked Aberrant feats. It means a hit to Handle Animal and Wild Empathy, but you'll want...
    • Aberrant Reach (LoM) - +5' reach no matter what form you're in. (Some GMs might be iffy about this; more below in the Controversial Option on gross physical change feats.) More than worth the -1 to hit drawback.
    • Aberrant Wild Shape (LoM) - Wild Shape into Aberrations, although sadly with the usual Wild Shape restrictions on what special abilities you can gain from the new form. More on handy Aberration forms below.


Summoning:
  • Ashbound (EbCS) - Doubles the duration of summons and gives them an attack bonus. Bear in mind that it is incompatible with the Child of Winter feats, so you won't be able to get Vermin Companion or Vermin Shape.
  • Augment Summoning - It requires Spell Focus (Conjuration), which is nearly worthless, but every summoning druid will want Augment Summoning. It's just too good, plus half of the summoning feats have it listed as a prereq.
  • Beckon the Frozen (Frost) - +d6 cold damage on all your summoned critters' attacks. Good for summoning specialists. Just be careful; your BtF-enhanced summons will be vulnerable to fire. Not available if you bypass the Spell Focus (Conjuration) prereq of Augment Summoning, as the Spell Focus is specifically called out in this feat's prereqs.
  • Greenbound (LEoF) - Turns all your animal summons into plants, by applying the Greenbound template to them. (Greenbound is elsewhere in LEoF.) HUGE power boost in the short term (to the point of being near broken at low levels), but your animal buffs won't work on them. Conflicts mechanically with Child of Winter, as it only works on animal summons, not vermin ones.
  • Imbued Summoning (PHB2) - Essentially a free Quicken for low-level buffs on Summoned creatures. (Personally, I suggest Greater Magic Fang or the ridiculously good Venomfire.) It's not terribly useful on Spontaneously-cast Summons, though.
  • Initiate of Malar (PGtF) - Gives animal-only Augment Summoning for free, and also gives some pretty lame extra spells. You have to worship Malar, though, which conflicts mechanically with Exalted feats (seeing as Malar is evil and all) and thematically with Rashemi Elemental Summoning. (The Hathrans do not often teach their secrets to followers of Malar.)
  • Rashemi Elemental Summoning (UE) - You want this to turn your Air Elementals into Orglashes, so they can fire off huge Cones of Cold. Thomil Earth Elementals are also great for engulfing anything with bad reflex saves, especially spellcasters.


Which summoning feats to pick? Any serious summoning druid is going to want Augment Summoning (or the half-orc sub level or Initiate of Malar), which stacks with everything. It's pretty much a must-have for any druid who has the free feats. Ashbound and Beckon the Frozen aren't terribly strong, but stack with everything (including each other) and add nice little boosts.

The strongest feats, Greenbound and Rashemi Elemental Summoning, don't stack with each other, but offer the biggest boosts. Which one you'll want depends on what levels at which you'll be playing your druid. Greenbound is superior until level 11. For level 11 and 12, they're about the same. At level 13 and above, Rashemi Elemental Summoning pulls ahead, but not devastatingly so.

Greenbound is great at all levels, but starts to offer diminishing returns at level 11, when Elementals get good enough to be tempting and you get access to Animal Growth. You'll still want to summon Greenbound animals at those levels, but you're losing out on those opportunities.

Rashemi Elemental Summoning, on the other hand, has barely any effect until level 11 when you get access to Large Thomil Earth Elementals, and doesn't really come into its own until level 13, when you can summon Huge Thomil Earth Elementals and Huge Orglash Air Elementals.

Wild shaping/melee:
  • Multiattack (MM) - Many forms have secondary natural attacks. This makes them more accurate. Some GMs may disallow this because you don't always have the natural attacks, however. (This is assuming you're not a Shifter or something.) Probably only worth taking in a core-only game, though.
  • Improved Natural Attack (MM/EbCS) - Extra damage on a single type of natural attack. INA (bite) or INA (claws) is very handy, and counts as a Shifter feat if you're a Shifter.
  • Dragon Wild Shape (Drac) - Shapechange lite, only limited to small and medium dragons. If your GM is silly enough to allow it, by all means make it your 12th-level feat. (A list of useful Dragon Wild Shape forms is here.)
  • Exalted Wild Shape (BoED) - Free, if minor, bonuses while Wild Shaping, as the Celestial template can be applied to any animal form you can usually take. It also makes blink dog and Unicorn (as well as some other, mostly useless) forms available, all Ex and Su abilities included. You may be able to talk your GM into including Scent, Blindsense/Blindsight, and other Ex abilities of animal forms you can take. (The feat does say you get the Ex and Su abilities of forms you can take with this feat.) If this is allowed, this feat is much more useful. Note that this feat doesn't benefit your Plant, Elemental, or any other type of form you can take; just animals or the limited list of Magical Beasts.
  • Frozen Wild Shape (Frost) - This feat should just be renamed Twelve-Headed Cryohydra Wild Shape. You're stuck with the usual Wild Shape limitations on acquired abilities, so none of the other Magical Beasts with the cold subtype are worth using. (It might be worth taking Urskan form if you know you're going up against a Chillblain or White Dragon or something, though.) - This advice may be out of date.
  • Lion's Pounce (CD) - One of the few good Wild feats, a pounce attack is always handy. Don't overuse it, though, or you'll run out of Wild Shape uses.
  • Assume Supernatural Ability (Sav) - Totally broken feat, if used in in combination with Aberration Wild Shape or Frozen Wild Shape. (Even without those, there's any number of Plant forms with, say, Regeneration.) If you're a GM, don't say I didn't warn you. If you're a player, well, welcome to flavor town. Check the Shapechange thread to see what's worth taking.
  • Powerful Wild Shape (RoS) - This is pointless after the Polymorph errata. Powerful Build is a Special Quality, which is retained when Wild Shaping.


  • Improved Unarmed Strike - Some GMs will allow you to make all of your iterative attacks as unarmed attacks and then make all your natural attacks as secondary attacks. If you can do that, super, but don't expect to be allowed to have a karate-chopping bear in most games. In general this is just a prerequisite feat.
    • Improved Grapple - If you do a lot of grappling, you'll want this. A dire bear-shaped druid with Improved Grapple will win grapples with anything his size, and many things larger.


Shifter:
Shifter feats, from EbCS and RoE, deserve special mention. Shifters can shift while in Wild Shape, giving them stat boosts as well as extra attacks, extra senses, or extra move types. On top of this, many of the Shifter race-specific feats (mostly feats relating to natural attacks) work even when you aren't shifting, as written, making them extremely attractive to a druid.
  • Dreamsight Elite (RoE) - Grants See Invisibility while shifting. As good for a druid as it is for anyone else.
  • Great Bite (EbCS) - Grants x3 criticals with bite. May or may not apply when not shifting, as the feat refers to "fang" attacks.
  • Great Rend (EbCS) - Gives extra rend attack when you hit with two claws. Works even when not shifting.
  • Razorclaw Elite (RoE) - Gives you a limited form of pounce (two claw attacks only). Works even when not shifting.
  • Longtooth Elite (RoE) - Your bite attack deals a point of Con damage. Works even when not shifting.
  • Shifter Defense and Greater Shifter Defense (EbCS) - Grant DR 2/silver and 4/silver, respectively, while shifting. As good for druids as they are for everyone else.
  • Shifter Multiattack (EbCS) - It's Multiattack, but as a Shifter feat, so it increases your daily uses and duration of shifting.


Casting:
  • Extend Spell - A good choice to extend buffs. Also, ask your GM how this interacts with Creeping Cold (CD). Three extra turns of 3d6 damage (or better yet, a turn of 4d6, a turn of 5d6, and a turn of 6d6) isn't bad.
  • Energy Substitution (CArc) and Energy Affinity (MiniHB) - If you do a lot of blasting, you may want this. I'd recommend cold or acid, since most of the best and most popular druid blasts are fire or electric. If your GM is silly enough to allow Energy Sub (Sonic) (from Tome and Blood), by all means take advantage.
  • Empower Spell - Handy for druids who do a lot of blasting, but only druids who do a lot of blasting. Definitely choose this over Maximize Spell or Energy Admixture. (Leave those to Incantatrices and Blastificers.)
  • Fell Drain and Fell Weaken (LibMort) - These (ridiculously broken) feats are great for druids, with their variety of damaging spells. For best results, try pairing these with area-effect spells; Decomposition (CD) is a classy and effective choice.
  • Ocular Spell (LoM) - It turns touch spells into rays, and lets you cast two spells as a full action. Druids can't cheese it out quite as much as some classes, but this broken feat benefits them greatly.
  • Persistant Spell (CArc) - Reeeeeally expensive, but as usual it's an exceedingly powerful feat even for casters who can't abuse Divine Metamagic. Try it on Decomposition (CD), self-buffs, or whatever else you can find it applies to. Apparently Help Desk thinks it can work on touch spells; that's probably not a good idea to allow as a DM, but a ridiculously powerful option if it's allowed to you as a player.
  • Quicken Spell - A staple of high-level prepared casters. Quickened buffs are always a good choice.
  • Sculpt Spell (CArc) - Sculpt Spell is always handy for blasters, and Druids can do a bit of blasting. This can be handy to use on limited or weird areas of effect, to make them more useful.
  • Spell Penetration and Greater Spell Penetration - Druids are full casters, making these feats as useful as ever, especially if you don't focus on buffing up and slogging into melee while Wild Shaped.


  • Initiate Feats - First introduced in Player's Guide to Faerun Initiate feats add a new, domain-like power and add some spells to your spell list. Usually they're cleric-only, but a handful are available to druids. Remember, they often come with alignment restrictions, and in the Realms you can only take one. (Eberron initiate feats are more flexible, but oftentimes they aren't compatible for thematic reasons.)
    • Gatekeeper Initiate (EbCS) - This druid-only Initiate feat gives you Knowledge (planes) as a class skill, and gives a ton of great defensive spells, including Protection From Evil, Dimensional Anchor, and Mind Blank. A great pick, especially in high-level parties with no cleric.
    • Greensinger Initiate (EbCS) - Adds Bluff, Hide, and Perform to your class skill list, and adds a ton of handy enchantments (plus some oddballs) to your spell list. A great Initiate feat.
    • Initiate of Grummsh (CoR) - Not a great Initiate feat, but once a day you can quicken a Cure spell. That's worth something, right? Right?
    • Initiate of Malar (PGtF) - Mentioned above, this gives you a handful of mostly-useless spells and free Augment Summoning on all of your animal summons.
    • Initiate of Selune (PGtF) - This is one of the weaker Initiate feats, but it gives an improved version of Produce Flame, as well as a shield-typed AC buff, so it's not all bad.
    • Initiate of Shar (CoR) - This one takes you pretty far out of the usual druid specialties. It adds a couple of unusual skills (Bluff and Disguise) to your skill list, and gives both Disguise Self and a unique armor-type AC buff to your spell lists.
    • Nightbringer Initiate (FoE) - Adds the sneaky skills (Hide and Move Silently) to your skill list, and gives you access to Darkness, Deeper Darkness, and a handful of negative energy spells and spells to create or call natives of Mabar. Enervation is the nicest spell of the lot.
    • Warden Initiate (EbCS) - +2 to AC when in a forest, plus a handful of useful utility spells. Not as good as the other Eberron Initiate feats, but still a good feat.
    • Initiate of Nature (PGtF) - This has some somewhat handy spells (Briartangle, Mold Touch, and Tree Healing); Mold Touch plus a summoned Fire Elemental or used on a fire-breathing creature can do ridiculous amounts of damage. However, the big, all-but-broken draw is the granted power. Being able to rebuke animals is almost as good as 3.0 Animal Companions, and sets this feat apart from the other, more mundane Initiate Feats. Lilt had some ideas on how to (ab)use Initiate of Nature...

Show
Lilt wrote:
[Initiate of Nature] doesn't do much for a cleric because they're best off diving into multiclasses, but the ability to turn and rebuke animals is a fairly powerful one indeed, especially if you can snag a Greater Holy Symbol.

What does rebuking animals and plants mean? That means commanding 2 HD of animals and plants per class level, which is almost as good as old-school Animal Ccompanions!

Considering you'll probably be getting the feat at 9th level (6th being reserved for Natural Spell), that could instantly get 3 Brown Bears nigh-on-permenantly under your control and all suitable targets for Animal Growth.

Maybe grab a Shambling Mound that you can charge to uber constitution levels with Call Lightning, or a Tendriculos (9 HD, Regeneration 10, Huge, awesome grappler!).

Basically, if you invest in a Greater Holy Symbol then you can control it if you can wildshape into it.




Avoid:
  • Exalted Animal Companion (BoED) - Celestial animals make poor Animal Companions, as the minor benefits don't outweigh the cost of a feat and the penalty level for Animal Companion bonuses.
  • Extra Wild Shape (CD) - Only good for multiclassed druids or heavy users of Wild feats, and even then still not that great.
  • Feral Animal Companion (CoR) - Negligible boosts to your Animal Companion. Yawn.
  • Power Attack - Power Attack (along with Cleave, but don't bother with Great Cleave or Whirlwind Attack) requires that you take 13 Str, and eats up valuable feat slots you could be using on something else. Only take it in core-only games.
  • Primeval Wild Shape (Frost) - Not worth the feat slot or the in-combat action, even though you'll be fine for daily uses of Wild Shape by the time you'd want to take it.
  • Spellcasting Prodigy (FRCS/PGtF) - +2 Wis for the purpose of determining bonus spells. Whee. It wasn't very good for druids back when it still counted for spell save DCs, so it's a joke now.
  • Metamagic not mentioned above - Even without PrC prereqs to worry about, druids have far too many good feats to choose from to waste time on situational metamagic feats.
  • Wild feats not mentioned above - Besides Lion's Charge and Savage Grapple (which is mentioned below in the Multiclassing section), all the others totally suck. Just use Wild Shape or your spells. - This advice may be out of date, if other Wild Feats have been introduced since DMG2.


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Animal Companion:
Animal Companions don't talk, and they share buffs with you. In practice, this means that they're really only useful as partners in combat and/or fighting mounts.

Save for war-trained animals (of which there are few), your Animal Companion isn't going to be proficient with armor. Despite this, get them some masterwork or magical leather or padded barding; every little edge is worth it, and they take no penalties as long as there are no armor check penalties. Likewise, remember that your animals get feats from their bonus hit dice (but they don't get size increases).

This list assumes that size Medium or smaller is the ideal size for an animal companion, so that the companion isn't getting in the way of the rest of the party. Companions larger than Medium are marked as such. The best Medium Animal Companion is without a doubt Fleshraker Dinosaur, but if that is inappropriate for your game you'll probably want to stick with Riding Dog or Crocodile, or look into the alternate Animal Companion feats (like Exalted Animal Companion and Vermin Companion.)

The Horrid Animal Companions are particularly flavorful for a Gatekeeper druid in Eberron, although they are hardly prohibited to the other sects or a druid not from one of the Eldeen druidic sects. It would be exceedingly unusual for an Ashbound druid to have anything to do with Horrid Animals, though. (Implied by not explicitly stated is the suggestion that you could make any dire animal a Horrid Animal and take it as your Animal Companion at effective druid level -3. In that case, a Horrid Eagle is far superior to a Horrid Bat, and a Horrid Tortoise would be absolutely unstoppable. In general, Horrid gives much better bonuses than three levels of druid boosts.)

Sandstorm, Frostburn, and the Eberron Campaign Setting add new options for druid Animal Companions, and many creatures have an Animal Companion listing right there in the creature's listing. Players' Handbook 2 has a unified list, including errata for many previous choices.

  • Level 1
    • Riding dog - Make sure yours is trained for war, per the monster entry. Tough, relatively hard-hitting, can wear barding without wasting feats. Superior in every way to a wolf. Good mount (small druids only) and substitute low-level tank if you give it barding.
    • Heavy horse - Fast mount for medium druids. Large.
    • Swindlespitter Dinosaur (MM3) - Harasser with paralyzing AoE attack

  • Level 4
    • Fleshraker Dinosaur (MM3) - Pouncer/tripper/grappler with poison.
    • Crocodile - Grappler and general slugger. (PHB 3.5 and PHB2 confirm that this is a level 4 choice. The SRD lists it as available at level 1 for aquatic druids; the SRD is wrong in this case.)
    • Dire Bat - Flying mount for medium druids. Large.

  • Level 7
    • Brown Bear - Grappler. Not as good in a grapple as Giant Crocodile, but better-rounded and harder-hitting in a straight fight. Large.
    • Cave Anklyosaurus (MiniHB/PHB2) - A tough trampler that hits almost as hard as a Giant Crocodile. Large.
    • Giant Crocodile - Hard-hitting grappler. Huge.
    • Dire Eagle (RoS) - Flying mount for medium characters, for games where Horrid animals aren't available. Large.
    • Horrid Bat (EbCS) - Flying mount, replaces Dire Bat. Large.
    • Magebred Ghost Tiger (5N) - Hard-hitting and tough pouncer. It's only arguably better than Fleshraker. Large.

  • Level 10
    • Allosaurus (MM2/PHB2) - Hard-hitting grappler and quite passable trampler. (Not as good at trampling as the Dire Tortoise, though.) This is your ideal offensive choice at this level. Huge.
    • Bloodstriker Dinosaur (MM3) - An offensively- and defensively-balanced choice. (Don't mistake it for a game-balanced choice. It eats melee attackers alive.) It has tons of HP and decent AC, but can still deal respectable damage (especially with Powerful Charge). Plus, anyone who tries to attack it in melee will take a dozen damage per hit.
    • Dire Tortoise (Sand) - Trampler, unlikely-but-effective scout and mount. This is the ideal defensive choice at this level (bordering on being broken; many CR-appropriate foes won't be able to do much against it), with plenty of HP and AC. Huge.
    • Dragonhawk (5N) - Fast flying mount, with Blindsense and some fairly decent attacks. It's big enough to carry several party members, depending on encumbrance. Huge.
    • Smilodon (Frost) - Pouncer. It's not better than the Allosaurus, but it's better than a Ghost Tiger and marginally better than a Brown Bear in a straight fight.

  • Level 13
    • Dire Bear - Grappler and just generally mean brute. You could use it as a mount, I guess. Large.
    • Giant Banded Lizard (Sand) - Grappler and general combatant with poison, possible mount. Huge.

  • Level 16
    • Tyrannosaurus Dinosaur - Grappler and very stylish mount. Replaces Dire Bear. Huge.
    • Horrid Bear (EbCS) - Grappler, replaces Dire Bear where Tyrannosaurus is inappropriate. Large.
    • Dire Tiger - Pouncer, finally replaces Fleshraker Dinosaur (arguably). Large.
    • Roc (Sand/MM) - Flying mount for the entire party, replaces Horrid Bat (assuming size isn't an issue). Gargantuan.

  • Level 19
    • Horrid Elephant (EbCS) - Trampler, replaces Dire Elephant. Gargantuan.
    • Horrid Tiger (EbCS) - Pouncer, replaces Dire Tiger. Large.


Vermin Companion (EbCS) allows you to take a vermin companion instead of an Animal Companion. The vermin companion list is short and doesn't have many useful creatures on it, but some players may want to take the feat for flavor reasons, so here's some help.
  • Level 1
    • Monstrous Scorpion, Medium - Not actually very good, but the best of the mediocre choices available, if you must have a vermin companion as soon as you take the feat.

  • Level 4
    • Giant Praying Mantis - Flying mount. Not a great flier, but both a good combatant and a passable grappler.
    • Giant Wasp - Flying mount. Better flier and has poison, but only has one sucky attack.

  • Level 7
    • Giant Stag Beetle - Trampler/just-plain-attacker, and not a bad mount.
WILD SHAPE:

Just remember...

Druids are competent spellcasters, but a large amount of their power comes from Wild Shape, which gives them attack power, mobility, and durability. Even after the Polymorph errata, Wild Shape-using druids are still fearsome melee combatants, able to stand on the front line of the party.

Before everything else, read Haterkaze's advice on how to play a shapechanging character. While the bulk of the guide is for characters using Master of Many Form, the advice on talking to your GM and working with the party is very sound.

You may note the lack of an Elemental Wild Shape section. Elemental Wild Shape used to be useless, as animals and plants offer more-capable combat forms and utility forms. (Gharlane did an excellent benchmark test of Elemental versus animal forms, available here.) However, you now get the Elemental type traits (albeit not the Elemental type) when you use Elemental Wild Shape. This means you get Darkvision 60' and lots of sweet immunities. This will be better incorporated into the guide at some point.

More Wild Shaping strategy advice will be coming, but in the meantime... Once you have enough uses of Wild Shape and a long enough duration to stay in an animal form all the time, do so whenever possible. If communication is a problem, look for telepathic alternatives. Rary's Telepathic Bond, Lesser Telepathic Bond (XPH), and the Mindlink psionic power (XPH) can both solve the problem of your inability to speak. This, of course, goes doubly for Buommans.

The authors' favorite forms are in bold. These are the forms you're going to want to trade up to. In general, a plant form is better than an animal form when all other things are equal, because of the pile of immunities that come with plant form.

Wild Shapes come in a lot of forms, but generally fall into one (or more) of a handful of different roles. These roles include...

Grappler:
A specialty of the various varieties of bear and squid, and one of the most powerful Wild Shape strategies, as it maximizes your strengths (high Str, large size) while minimizing your weaknesses (generally poor AC). These forms are generally some of your best pure combat forms, whether or not you decide to actually grapple.

All of these forms have Improved Grab, and most of them have high strength, large size, and/or Abilities like Constrict and Swallow Whole.

Swallow Whole is a double-edged sword: yes, you're damaging the victim and keeping it from harming your friends or casting spells, but it can attack your very, very low gullet AC and do nasty damage. (If you get a chance to Swallow something with no light slashing/piercing weapon or natural attacks, go for it.) And never, ever, ever eat anything immune to acid. (Grapple checks, where noted below, don't include BAB. Just add your BAB to the grapple number listed below to get your grapple check total when in that form.)
  • Level 5
    • Crocodile - Grapple check: +4 - The grappler form of choice if Fleshraker is out of the question. Hard-hitting enough to be useful even outside of a grapple.
    • Fleshraker Dinosaur (MM3) - Grapple check: +3 - An absolutely OMG form, if it's allowed. Fleshrakers can charge, pounce, trip, pin, and poison, all in one round, and also has great AC to boot. You're going to see this role a lot in the other lists, and it remains awesome whenever you have to charge something, especially if it's medium-sized or smaller.

  • Level 8
    • Brown/Polar Bear - Grapple check: +12 - The quintessential grappler form, with strong attacks, fair AC, and a great grapple check. The bears are versatile enough to fight a crowd, then grab a tough foe and tear it apart in a grapple. (Choose Polar if you want to min-max every tiny bit; the two are identical with regard to Wild Shape save for the Polar Bear's swim speed.)
    • Dire Lion - Grapple check: +11 - If the Fleshraker isn't available, this is an interesting compromise between first-strike charger forms and slugger grappler forms like the Polar Bear. It isn't as hard-hitting as most traditional grappler forms, though.

  • Level 9
    • Cave Tyrannosaurus (MiniHB) - Grapple check: +11 - Not quite as hardhitting as Polar Bear, but this is your first form with Swallow Whole (which only works on Small or smaller foes, mind).
    • Smilodon (Sabre-Toothed Tiger) (Frost) - Grapple check: +11 - A marginal improvement on Dire Lion: x3 critical on bite, best attack is primary, claw attacks can start grapple.

  • Level 12
    • Dire Bear - Grapple check: +14 - Like the Polar Bear, only moreso.
    • Warhound Impaler (Lesser Battlebriar) (MM3) - Grapple check: +10 - This isn't the hardest-hitting or strongest grappler, but it can impale (Medium-sized or smaller) grappled foes on its thorns with a free-action grapple check, rendering them helpless. Not pinned, not grappled, but helpless. Plus, it has an AOE attack and tramples! Plant.

  • Level 15
    • Giant Banded Lizard (Sand) - Grapple check: +17 - Comparable to the Dire Bear in damage output, but has better grapple check and poisoned claws. It has terrible AC, though.
    • Ironmaw (FF) - Grapple check: +N/A - This isn't strictly a grappler, but it fights like one. Ironmaws have six tendrils with ridiculous reach, and a tendril hit can attach to a foe, pulling them within reach of the Ironmaw's so-so bite or OMG Engulf ability, which does fair damage and suffocates. Tendril hits also cause bleeding and Con damage. Did I mention the Ironmaw has great AC? The only drawback is the exceedingly low speed, which keeps you from staying in Ironmaw form all day. Plant.
    • Octopus Tree (FF) - Grapple check: +18 - Eight(!) Improved Grab attacks, Swallow Whole, great damage, and frightful presence. A top-tier grappler form. Too slow on land to spend all your time in this form outside of an aquatic campaign, and it isn't clear if it breathes water or air. Plant.
    • Tendriculos - Grapple check: +17 - The ultimate Swallower. Anything that can't make the DC 20 Fort save before cutting its way out will die. Plant.

  • Level 18
    • Dire Polar Bear (Frost) - Grapple check: +23 - The ultimate grappler form.
    • Tyrannosaurus Dinosaur - Grapple check: +17 - The core-only alternative to the Dire Polar Bear or Giant Banded Lizard. Isn't as tough or hard-hitting, but it's a heck of a lot more stylish, and it does have Swallow Whole.



Charger:
Bipedal dinosaurs and big cats specialize in charging into battle and dealing as much damage as possible as fast as possible. The best forms usually have pounce and rakes, but a few forms with a single powerful natural attack and the powerful charge ability are also worth using.

Not many charger forms are bolded as recommended; this is mostly because charger forms are a matter of taste. Big cats dabble in grappling and can only bring their rakes to bear when charging or grappling, bipedal pouncer dinosaurs hit slightly harder and don't grapple, triceratopses have the Triceratops Shuffle, and rhinos have one powerful gore that does double damage on a charge. If you use big cats and bipedal dinosaurs often enough, you may want Multiattack, and if you use horned chargers often enough, you may want Power Attack.

  • Level 5
    • Deinonychus Dinosaur (MM errata) - Nothing can compare to Fleshraker, but this is fine in a fight on its own merits.
    • Fleshraker Dinosaur (MM3) - An absolutely OMG charger form. Charge and you can pounce, trip, pin, and poison (and the poison is Dex poison, diminishing a foe's ability to use Escape Artist to escape). If it's available, use it!
    • Leopard - The core-only and no-dinosaurs alternative to the Fleshraker and Deinonychus. Not a dynamo, but decent in its own way.
    • Protoceratops Dinosaur (Sand) - A fairly decent rhino-style charger. A bit tougher and harder-hitting than Deinonychus, but not as good when it comes to stand toe-to-toe, and definitely not as good as the Fleshraker.

  • Level 8
    • Cave Triceratops (MiniHB) - The first form where you can try the Triceratops Shuffle. Charge a foe (doing double damage because of Powerful Charge), then Trample that foe and move away as part of the Trample move. Then charge again, and repeat. This isn't the best charger or trampler, but the combination is killer.
    • Dire Lion - The benchmark charger form, with Improved Grab on the side. Pounce on an enemy, grapple, and tear them apart. (Then again, though, if you think you can win the grapple easily, Fleshraker might still be a better choice.)
    • Megaraptor Dinosaur (MM errata) - This is harder-hitting than Dire Lion and doesn't rely on Rakes to deal damage (and is thus better in a toe-to-toe fight), but it doesn't grapple. Use it for charging and fighting foes you couldn't grapple anyway.
    • Rhinoceros - WHAM. One big nasty hit, especially when charging but even in a toe-to-toe fight.

  • Level 9
    • Smilodon (Sabre-Toothed Tiger) (Frost) - This is a marginal improvement on the Dire Lion. It has x3 critical on its bite, its best attack is primary, and its claw attacks can start a grapple). That said, you're unlikely to notice the difference between the two in practice.

  • Level 16
    • Dire Tiger - An incremental improvement on Smilodon and Dire Lion, and good for the same reasons.
    • Triceratops Dinosaur - The real deal when it comes to the Triceratops Shuffle. Charge, trample and move away, charge, trample and move away, repeat until dead. If you've got Power Attack, you're going to want to use it.


Trampler
A specialty of elephants, herbivorous dinosaurs, and Treants. Most tramplers are Large- or Huge-sized, and have a high-damage attack or two. Trampling is great for taking out mooks (including swarms!), but most of the tramplers can also do a decent job of slugging it out with individual larger enemies. When buffing, remember that increased Strength ups the save DC for your trample as well as your damage.

  • Level 8
    • Cave Anklyosaurus (MiniHB) - Large, 3d6+7, DC 18 - Awesome AC and its single attack is still quite effective, when trampling isn't practical.
    • Cave Triceratops (MiniHB) - Large, 3d6+6, DC 18 - As mentioned above, this is the first form where you can try the Triceratops Shuffle. Charge a foe (doing double damage because of Powerful Charge), then Trample that foe and move away as part of the Trample move. Then charge again, and repeat. This isn't the best charger or trampler, but the combination is killer.

  • Level 9
    • Diprotodon Dinosaur (Sand) - Large, 2d6+12, DC 22 - It tramples, doing a better job than the Cave Dinosaurs. Other than that, it's fairly unremarkable, besides the pathetically low AC.

  • Level 12
    • Warhound Impaler (Lesser Battlebriar) (MM3) - Large, d8+9, DC 22 - Besides rendering grappled foes helpless and blasting everyone nearby with an AOE attack, it also tramples. Not well, but it tramples. Plant.

  • Level 15
    • Dire Tortoise (Sand) - Huge, 4d8+12, DC 25 - Respectable trample damage, great AC, and it always gets a surprise round. An OMG form.
    • Elephant - Huge, 2d8+15, DC 25 - The first core trampler you'll get access to, but it's inferior to the non-core alteratives.
    • Grizzly Mastodon (MM2) - Huge, 4d8+18, DC 29 - A massively hard-hitting trampler, either in a trample or a melee. It isn't as tough as the Dire Tortoise, though.
    • Saguaro Sentinel (Sand) - Huge, 3d6+16, DC 27 - A compromise between Grizzly Mastodon (it's almost as strong) and Dire Tortoise (it's almost as tough). It doesn't trample as well as either, though. As a nice little bonus, though, it talks. Plant.

  • Level 16
    • Triceratops Dinosaur - Huge, 2d12+15, DC 28 - Not quite the trampler the Grizzly Mastodon is, but it can do the Triceratops Shuffle.


Defensive - I need to hit my books, because this section is out of date. Now, I need to check for high AC without worrying about Con.
Sometimes you just need to avoid or shrug off attacks. Maybe you're focusing on spellcasting, or maybe you just want to get away. These forms have high AC, sometimes paired with defensive abilities (which will need to technically be "Special Attacks", due to the limitations of Wild Shape). Note that this list doesn't include any non-core choices without AC of 20 or better or Con of 22 or better. (This means that there are few core defensive forms.) Exceptions are made for forms with exceptional special abilities.

  • Level 5
    • Desmodu Hunting Bat - AC 20, Con 13 - Your starter defensive form, with AC 20 and touch AC of 17. Doesn't hurt at all that it flies.

  • Level 8
    • Dire Bat - AC 20, Con 17 - This will be pretty much your only core defensive form for most of your career, if you don't have any access to non-core choices. AC 20, with touch AC 15, goes a long way.

  • Level 12
    • Ironthorn (Sand) - AC 24 - A massively tough form, and has ridiculously high-DC paralytic poison (along with decent reach and some mediocre grappling ability). Too slow to stay in this form all the time, though. Plant.
    • Legendary Eagle (MM2) - AC 25, Con 17 - A very evasive form, with a ridiculous touch AC of 21. Doesn't hurt at all that it's a fast flier.
    • Treant - AC 20, Con 21 - Plant immunities, decent AC, and fairly good Con, rounded out with decent attacks and okay trample. It's not great at one thing and there are non-core forms that eclipse it, but it's a versatile mid-level form. Plus, it talks! Plant.

  • Level 14
    • Legendary Wolf (MM2) - AC 24, Con 27 - A well-rounded defensive form, but not strong or large enough to be an impressive tripper or even much of a melee combatant.

  • Level 15
    • Dire Tortoise (Sand) - AC 25 - The Dire Tortoise is one of the toughest forms in the game, and it's nearly impossible to ambush to boot.
    • Saguaro Sentinel (Sand) - AC 22 - Plant immunities and great AC, paired with strong attacks and usably-strong trample. It hits, it takes hits, and it even talks. Plant.


Aerial:
Besides the obvious long-distance travel and scouting uses, druids who favor using their spells for offense will spend most of their time in aerial forms, not just because of the maneuverability but because of the high Dex for touch attacks, AC, and initiative checks. (Contrast this with grappling forms, where combat spellcasting is usually confined to buffs before or at the beginning of a fight.) Generally, they aren't as good in melee as the land- or water-bound alternatives, but maneuverability does come at a price.

  • Level 5
    • Desmodu Hunting Bat (MM2) - Speed 60 ft. (good) - Very good Dex and AC, and an odd wolf-like trip attack.
    • Dire Hawk (RotW) - Speed 80 ft. (average) - Faster than Desmodu Hunting Bat, but has slightly lower Dex and AC, and isn't as hard-hitting.
    • Eagle - Speed 80 ft. (average) - The best core-only flier at this level, but has mediocre AC and Dex, and abysmal attacks.

  • Level 8
    • Desmodu Guard Bat (MM2) - Speed 60 ft. (good) - Exactly like Dire Bat, only faster. A balanced flier form.
    • Dire Bat - Speed 40 ft. (good) - A typical aerial form, with good AC, good Dex, and a single, mediocre attack. Inferior to the non-core options.
    • Dire Eagle (RoS) - Speed 60 ft. (average) - Very strong for a flier, able to attack somewhat effectively or carry a party member or two. Compared to the other fliers, its AC and Dex aren't very good, but they're passable.
    • Dire Vulture (Sand) - Speed 80 ft. (average) - Inferior to the other choices for fliers, but not egregiously so, and it's handy if you need to fly and need a monstrously high fort save for some reason. Plus, its Stench ability can disable low-Fort enemies.

  • Level 12
    • Desmodu War Bat (MM2) - Speed 40 ft. (good) - A fairly hard-hitting attacker, large enough to carry party members. Only slightly less evasive than Legendary Eagle, but physically much stronger.
    • Legendary Eagle (MM2) - Speed 100 ft. (average) - Renders obsolete all the previous flying forms. Massive Dex means great AC and initiative checks.

  • Level 15
    • Dragonhawk (5N) - Speed 120 ft. (average) - A hard-hitting and fast flying form, large enough to carry your allies. Not as agile as Legendary Eagle, though. It has Blindsense you can pick up with Enhance Wild Shape, as well.


Aquatic:
Sometimes, you're going to have to spend some time in the water. These forms have swim speeds, and, unless noted otherwise, can breathe water indefinitely.

  • Level 5
    • Crocodile - Grappler (Grap +??) form. Same as the reasons above. Doesn't breathe water.
    • Squid - Grappler (Grap +??) form. Not as strong as crocodile, but has more attacks and breathes water.
    • Medium Shark - Utility form. Fast swimmer, decent biter.

  • Level 8
    • Polar Bear - Grappler (Grap +??) form. Same as the reasons above. Doesn't breathe water.
    • Giant Octopus - Grappler (Grap +??) form. Not as strong as polar bear, but has vastly many more attacks, Constrict, and water breathing.
    • Large Shark - Utility form. Speedy swimmer, but not terribly handy in a fight compared to the alternatives.

  • Level 15
    • Giant Squid - Grappler (Grap +??) form. Hard-hitting and awesome in a grapple. One of the best aquatic forms period.
    • Octopus Tree (FF) - Grappler (Grap +??)/utility form. Eight Improved Grab attacks, Swallow Whole, great damage, decent swim speed, and frightful presence. Still need to compare this to Giant Squid.

  • Level 18
    • Dire Polar Bear (Frost) - Grappler (Grap +??) form. Like the Polar Bear, only moreso. Doesn't breathe water.


Spy:
Sometimes you need to sneak in, all subtle-like. These forms will help you do that; nobody will ever be suspicious of a horse.

  • Level 5 - Dog, Riding Dog, Donkey, and Pony
  • Level 8 - Mule and Heavy Warhorse
  • Level 11 - Tiny Viper (use Venomfire (Serp) and it's the perfect assassination form), Cat, Rat, Hawk, and Raven
  • Level 18 - Legendary Horse (MM2) - One of the very few spy forms with some combat ability.


Tool-User
Medium-sized, more-or-less-human-shaped forms which can use your equipment normally instead of having it meld into your Wild Shape form. This is a hideously powerful strategy at high levels, but you need to drop all your stuff and pick it up again, meaning you'll need a long Wild Shape duration as well as time to prepare. (Many GMs will house-rule this controversial rule; see more below in the Controversial Options section.)

  • Level 5
    • Baboon - Str 15 Dex 14 AC 13 - It probably has better stats than your physical stats, and it has natural armor and a bite attack. All in all, not too bad.

  • Level 12
    • Vine Horror (FF) - Str 18 Dex 10 AC 18 - Inferior to Legendary Ape (except in that it can talk), but Vine Horrors are naturally intelligent and tool-using, so a strict GM may be more lenient. (Plus, spiffy plant-type immunities.) Useless at this level except as a tool-user. Plant.

  • Level 13
    • Legendary Ape (MM2) - Str 30 Dex 17 AC 19 - Massively strong and surprisingly tough, and has a full set of powerful natural attacks to go with any weapons you might have. It's still useful without the item-melding rule, because of high Str, powerful attacks, and rend.


Utility
Everything else. They may have useful or unusual in- or out-of-combat abilities, or otherwise deserve special mention.

  • Level 5
    • Swindlespitter Dinosaur (MM3) - AOE blinding poison attack (combine it with Venomfire from Serpent Kingdoms!), and may double as a spy form in certain areas. (MM3 says some cultures consider Swindlespitters to be sacred.)

  • Level 8
    • Dire Wolf - Has the strength and size to actually use trip ability, in those situations where tripping is possible but grappling isn't feasible. AC is fairly low, however.
    • Valenar Riding Horse (EbCS) - Long distance travel form, with its 80 ft. land speed. Plus, you can carry a party member.

  • Level 12
    • Ironthorn (Sand) - This tough form has a paralytic posion with an insanely high DC for the level. Use it to paralyze your foes.
    • Myconid Sovereign (MM2) - The Sovereign has a range of spell-likes that aren't really spell-likes. Handy ones you can use include telepathy spores, animate dead spores, and pacifying spores.
    • Warhound Impaler (Lesser Battlebriar) (MM3) - It grapples foes and makes them completely helpless. It has an AOE attack with decent damage. It tramples. It's just a handy, versatile form.

  • Level 15
    • Dire Tortoise (Sand) - The perfect form for while you're on guard duty. Yeah, other forms may get boosts to Spot, Listen, or Hide, but how many forms guarantee that you can't be ambushed? Always acting in the surprise round (even if you don't surprise your foes at all!) is a great ability.
    • Grizzly Mastodon (MM2) - At Str 35, this is almost the strongest Wild Shape form there is. Use it when Walls of Stone need to be pushed over, or you need to win a tug of war against the entire clan of orcs on your own.
    • Treant - Besides being a versatile combatant, Treants do double damage against objects. When you need to sunder an Unholy sword or break down a door, the Treant is the form for the job.
    • Yellow Musk Creeper (FF) - The Yellow Musk Creeper's Mind Puff ability makes enemies helpless at range. Plus, you can eat your opponent's brain, and then as long as you stay in that form, they will serve you until they die in two months.

  • Level 18
    • Dire Polar Bear (Frost) - Besides being a great grappler, at Str 39 this is the single strongest Wild Shape form you can get. (Can anyone find any that are stronger?) Use it when you need to lift a house off its foundations or break through an adamantine door.



Vermin:
A druid with the Vermin Wild Shape feat (EbCS), the 10th level wasteland druid substitution level (Sand), or Vestments of Verminshape (DMG2) can use Wild Shape to take the form of Vermin creatures.

More to come...


Aberration:
If you take Aberration Wild Shape (LoM), you can use Wild Shape to turn into aberrations, subject to the other usual limitations of Wild Shape.

This is another section still in development. As such, take the advice with a grain of salt. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

In the meantime, here's some advice on Aberration Wild Shape.
Generally, you can find more attacks with abberations than with animal forms, but usually at a lower Str. Many creatures with these attacks will have poison, grab, or both with them. Obviously, these forms get the most milage out of Greater Magic Fang, as usually 4+ of the attacks are with the same type of natural weapon. As was said above, having access to assume supernatural form makes abberation wildshaping stupidly good (a prime target for this feat would be the Beholder's Eye Ray ability, which nets all 10 rays for use). Another benefit of abberation wildshaping is the humanoid form many take, which makes using equipment much easier, and often will allow for speech.

And from the above list, some of my favorites are the cloaker for casting early on (if you don't want to waste a spell, fly up and moan), the rukanyr for it's multiple attacks and stun/poison, the darktentacles for it's insane grapple, and the lifeleech otyugh for it's grab and high stats.

  • Level 5
    • Rust Monster - Useful for sabotage, removing metal walls, etc.
    • Tako (OA) - Seven arms for weapons or Improved Grab/Constrict, aquatic, Multidexterity bonus feat.

  • Level 8
    • Cloaker - Area-effect moan, and goofy Engulf ability.
    • Ineffable Horror (Und) - Flight, grapple and blood drain.
    • Rukanyr (FF) - High AC at 7hd, one stunning attack, 3 poisoning attacks, 6 other claw attacks
    • Mimic - adhesive (auto-grapple, can trap weapons)

  • Level 9
    • Stonesinger (MM3) - High nat armour, burrow+climb speed, poison bite+6 claws, decent Str
    • Lifeleech Otyugh (MM3) - 4 tentacles+bite, imp grab+Constrict, high Str

  • Level 10
    • Hook Horror (MM2) - Imp Grab, power sunder, decent stats, climb speed

  • Level 11
    • Chuul - An alternative to Dire Bear. Lower grapple check and less damage in straight attacks because of lower Str, but its Constrict does comparable damage in a grapple, it can paralyze grappled foes, and it has better AC.

  • Level 12
    • Death Kiss Beholderkin (MonOF) - 10(!) tentacle attacks, each doing Con damage
    • Urophion (LoM) - 50' range melee touch attack that does strength damage and lets you drag the victim in to eat his brain. One of the best aberration forms.
    • Ocularon (FF) - Large 12HD, 90' fly speed (perfect) decent ac (21), imp grab w/ 4 tentacles, steal eyes and gain poison attack with those eyes
    • Darktentacles (MM2) - 12 attacks (up to 3 at a single square), can use weapons at lowered penalties, decent stats, imp grab w/ +16 racial bonus

  • Level 15
    • Athach - Human-shaped form, with high stats and a poison bite.
    • Deepspawn (PGtF) - Three "hands," great reach, good stats, lots of natural attacks, Improved Grab/Constrict
    • Delver - High AC and an acid attack that is exceedingly effective against metallic or stony foes.

  • Level 18
    • Nagahydra (Serp) - seven bites with potent poison, massive stats
    • Moonbeast (MM2) - 10(!) powerful attacks, plus Constrict AND bite on a grapple

  • Level 20
    • Chilblain (Frost) - A flier that deals respectable damage and has massive AC.
    • Maulgoth (FF) - Send enemies (or allies) to ethereal plane with a touch.
SPELLS:

All druids are full casters - don't forget this fact.

Because of their ability to cast Summon Nature's Ally spontaneously, Druids, like Clerics, are in a great position to prepping very powerful, very situational spells. No harm will come of prepping Sheltered Vitality, for example; if you don't run into any ability damage or death magic, you can just turn it into a SNA IV. Likewise, don't prep Summon Nature's Ally spells (unless you want metamagicked SNAs; you can just cast them spontaneously.
Note that many spells that were once Druid staples were nerfed in Spell Compendium. If a spell has multiple books listed, the Spell Compendium version is generally both the weakest and most current, and if a former druidic staple is missing, it may have been nerfed into uselessness in Spell Compendium.

Spell chains:
  • The Vigor chain (CD/Spell) vastly outperform the equivalent Cure spells as far as total healing goes, but is considerably less useful in combat because of the long-duration, slow-healing nature of the spells. It may be useful to prepare a Cure Light Wounds or a Bear's Endurance or two for emergencies, but make it clear to party members that your resources are best used for out-of-combat healing (usually Vigor or Vigorous Circle from a wand) and not in-combat healing (because of the greater spell level of druidic Cure spells), and that they will need to handle their own emergency in-combat healing (from potions and such). This will head off many potential misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

  • The Bite of the (foo) series, from Spell Compendium, are your new in-combat buff staples, since the Polymorph errata prevents you from using the Nature's chain of spells as self-buffs. If you're planning to throw up a quick in-combat buff while Wild Shaped, these are often your best bet, due to the variety and degree of bonuses they offer.


Any advice on staple druid spells would be much appreciated.

Recommended spells
  • 0 Level:
    • Create Water - Never run out of water. Plus, you can make a scrying pool.
    • Cure Minor Wounds - One point isn't a lot, but this can stabilize a dying ally.
    • Detect Magic - One of the most powerful and versatile zero-level spells, for any caster.
    • Guidance - Tell your Rogue to ask for "guidance" prior to every trap he attempts to disarms or UMD roll he has to make (outside of combat). That +1 bonus can be critical.
    • Light - Remember, you lose darkvision when you Wild Shape, even if your chosen form has it. (Obviously, this doesn't apply to situations where you're getting Ex special qualities of your form, as with Exalted or Dragon Wild Shape.)


  • 1st Level:
    • Aspect of the Wolf (Spell) - This is a fairly handy melee self-buff for early levels (instead of going the wooden club route with Shillelagh). At later levels, you can share it with your Animal Companion to help deal with the practical issues of traveling with a snarling bear the size of a bull elephant.
    • Babau Slime (Spell) - Great for grappling druids, and a general-purpose damage buff for any Wild Shaping druid.
    • Camouflage (CD/Spell) - +10 to Hide, and it works in any environment.
    • Endure Elements - A great travelling spell, and especially handy in any game that takes you into harsh environments.
    • Entangle - A best-in-class battlefield control spell.
    • Eyes of the Avoral (BoED) - Long duration, big Spot bonus.
    • Faerie Fire - Good for dealing with invisible foes.
    • Lessor Vigor (CD/Spell) - This spell actually outperforms Cure Light Wounds, especially out of combat. Wands of Lesser Vigor are great for healing between fights.
    • Magic Fang (PHB) and Silvered Claws (BoED) - Decent buff to help your Animal Companion bypass DR. Not very good for anything else.
    • Obscuring Mist - The next best thing to invisibility, when it comes time to get out of a fight. Cast Mist, walk 5 feet backwards, and run away in a different direction.
    • Omen of Peril (RoD/CD/Spell) - Poor man's Augury. Quite possibly the most versatile first-level divination in the game, and doesn't even have a costly component or XP cost, like many similar divinations.
    • Produce Flame - Fairly powerful attack spell. You'll probably be relying on this to attack until you get Wild Shape, and makes a decent buff (due to the way holding touch spells works) after you get Wild Shape.
    • Rot of Ages (DMagic) - lol no sneak attack 4 u. Too bad about the short duration, though.
    • Shillelagh - It's pronounced "shi-lay-lee." Dramatically increases club/quarterstaff damage (to the point where you'll actually want to wield a club or quarterstaff), and stacks with Spikes and Brambles. Decreases in usefulness after you get Spikes, until you're high enough level to Quicken it.
    • Spider Hand (BoVD) - Best. Scouting. Spell. Ever. Send out a nondescript spider to do all the scouting, with only negligible consequences if it dies? Yeah, I'll take that. It's not even an evil spell.
    • Twilight Luck (BoED) - +1 on saves is always handy, especially at higher levels. Just lay off the booze.
    • Wood Wose (CD/Spell) - Unseen Servant, only druidic. It just can't handle doorknobs.


  • 2nd Level:
    • Align Fang (Spell) - Handy for DR problems. It's a third-level spell in MiniHB.
    • Animalistic Power (PHB2) - Versatility over the animal stat buffs, traded for half the power. It's a style thing; either way is good.
    • Barkskin - Excellent for use while Wild Shaped, since your AC will often be pretty poor.
    • Bear's Endurance and Bull's Strength - As useful as it is for everyone. Bear's Endurance will be your main in-combat healing spell for low levels; just keep people alive until you can use Vigor.
    • Bite of the Wererat (Spell) - A variety of handy stat buffs, plus an additional bite attack for forms that don't have a natural bite.
    • Blinding Spittle (PGtF/Spell) - Absolutely broken. Blindness with no save, with a ranged touch attack at -4. Why do they keep reprinting this spell?
    • Blood Snow (Frost) - Only prep it during the winter or when in an arctic or otherwise frozen area, but d2 Con damage/round is awesome.
    • Brambles (CD/Spell) - Excellent weapon buff, especially coupled with Shillelagh.
    • Creeping Cold (CD/Spell) - A great attack spell, and replaces Produce Flame. If you can get away with it, Extend it.
    • Dessicate (Sand) - d6/level (max 5d6) on a single target, with a weird damage type that ignores DR and energy resistance. Can even cause dehydration (which is fatigue on steroids).
    • Embrace the Wild (CAdv/Spell) and Listening Lorecall (CAdv/Spell) - Hopelessly nerfed in Spell Compendium. Unless you really, really need Scent for something, Blindsight is just plain better, save for duration. Embrace the Wild is generally better because of the skill boosts, until you have 12 ranks in Listen, when Listening Lorecall's Blindsight kicks in. Either way, Blindsight is worth it, despite the higher spell level.
    • Gust of Wind - Very underrated utility spell. Clears fogs, blows away small foes, extinguishes torches, and disperses swarms.
    • Halo of Sand (Sand) - Yet another druid AC buff. This one is deflection, though, so it stacks with Barkskin and armor.
    • Kelpstrand (Spell) - I like to think of this spell as webshooters. This spell is excellent for tying down not-particularly-strong foes, and remember that you can throw multiple strands on one target. The low grapple DC and the slow scaling for multiple strands means that this spell goes stale quickly, however.
    • Lesser Restoration - Very handy for healing ability damage.
    • Luminous Armor (BoED) - An AC boost while you're Wild Shaping, plus light and another -4 for enemies to hit you in melee. Stacks with Barkskin, but not Wilding armor. Mind the Str damage, though.
    • Master Air (Spell) - Self-only flight, with short duration. Still handy, though.
    • Nature's Favor (CAdv/Spell) - Excellent (swift!) animal buff spell; cast it on your Animal Companion or summons. Technically better than Greater Magic Fang, but has a shorter duration and doesn't bypass DR. The Complete Divine version is even stronger, but the spell was nerfed in Complete Adventurer.
    • Resist Energy - Fairly handy when you know a certain type of energy damage is in the offing.
    • Share Husk (Spell) - A great scouting spell. Use it if Spider Hand isn't available.
    • Snake's Swiftness, Mass (Spell) - The lower-level, single-target version of this spell isn't anything special, but giving a free attack to all of your party members, plus your animal companion, plus any summons you have nearby is just too fun.


  • 3rd Level:
    • Alter Fortune (PHB2) - Fantastic spell. Great for emergencies (reroll a save!)
    • Arctic Haze (Frost) and Haboob (Sand) - Damaging and opaque fog. Useful as battlefield control. Tremor (Spell) can be used similarly, but it doesn't damage and doesn't block line of sight.
    • Attune Form (Spell) - Immunity from planar effects for caster level/3 characters. A handy spell for high levels, and much more useful than the lower-level Avoid Planar Effects (Spell) due to the longer duration.
    • Bite of the Werewolf (Spell) - Again, a variety of nifty stat buffs and a spare bite attack.
    • Blindsight (Sav/Und/PGtF/Spell) - 30' Blindsight. Who needs See Invisibility?
    • Call Lightning - Good damage, and gives you plenty of turns of attacks. The attack spell you'll be using when you get 3rd-level spells.
    • Crumble (Spell) - Think of this as druidic Knock. Lots of things won't stand up to a casting of this spell.
    • Cure Moderate Wounds - Should be self-explanatory.
    • Entanging Staff (CAdv/Spell) - Free action grapples with a +8 bonus. Great for when you're out of Wild Shape for some reason or if you're using a Spikes-enspelled staff as a Legendary Ape.
    • Forestfold (CAdv/Spell) - +10 on Hide and Move Silently checks in a natural environment of your choice.
    • Giant's Wrath (Spell) - An interesting alternative to Call Lightning. At early levels, the lack of a need for an attack roll, the lack of DR issues, and the greater number of uses per cast makes Call Lightning the better choice. At higher levels, though, the high strength of Wild Shape forms, the caster-level based damage bonus, and the lack of SR on Giant's Wrath helps it catch up.
    • Greater Magic Fang - Handy self-buff and good to share with your Animal Companion.
    • Poison - Con damage is always handy, and the DC scales upward as you increase in level. A much-overlooked spell.
    • Primal Form (Spell) - This spell isn't overwhelmingly powerful, but it's a versatile self-buff. Flight and swim speed are easy to get with Wild Shape, but this spell is available before plentiful Wild Shape uses, and you can choose on the fly among a melee buff, a defensive buff, or a source of flight.
    • Protection From Energy - A versatile, effective defensive buff. You'll rarely regret prepping it.
    • Remove Disease - Not something you're going to prep every day, but handy when you need it.
    • Sleet Storm - Handy battlefield control. Great for covering an escape. Not as good as Arctic Fog or Haboob, though.
    • Spiderskin (Und/Spell) - Barkskin, plus a save bonus against poison and a Hide bonus. Use it on the party sneak, or when you're fighting monstrous vermin or Yuan-Ti.
    • Spikes (CD/Spell) - Improved Brambles. Higher attack, better threat level; what's not to like?
    • Spritjaws (Spell) - I love this spell, and it's one of a druid's few good force spells. Throw this spell out there and it's a combination of Spiritual Weapon and Telekinetic Grapple. It damages and confounds enemies, doing an especially good job of pinning down spellcasters and incorporeal foes.
    • Stone Shape - Good for making your own entrance or exit. Great for throwing the GM a loop in a dungeon crawl.
    • Swift Lion's Charge (MiniHB) / Lion's Charge (Spell) - Pouncing is very handy, but this spell can start to eat up spell slots pretty quickly. A similar, overpowered spell named Lion's Charge is in Savage Species, and, while it isn't swift, it gives the Pounce ability for a duration.
    • Touch of Jubilex (BoVD) - Evil. A great early save-or-die. Whatever it is, in four turns, it'll be dead. Not something you can safely use repeatedly, though, because of the Corruption cost.
    • Venomfire (Serp) - Ridiculously broken spell at high levels. For level/hours, +d6/level damage with no cap added as an additional effect to a poisonous natural attack. Great for Fleshraker Wild Shape, or a poisonous breath weapon or AoE effect. This is such a great spell that it gets its own thread.
    • Vigor and Mass Lesser Vigor (CD/Spell) - Both can be better than Cure Moderate Wounds at low levels, but only outside of combat. It works when you can't summon Unicorns yet and you don't have that handy wand of Cure Light Wounds. Doesn't work with Extend Spell (see CD FAQ), but Mass Lesser Vigor does work with Persistent Spell.
    • Wind Wall - Another highly underrated spell, this stops archers, swarms, and foes size Tiny or smaller cold.


  • 4th Level:
    • Arc of Lightning (CA/Spell) - A decent no-SR spell, with damage competitive with that of a wizard or psion. It's a conjuration spell, so, that Spell Focus: Conjuration feat you had to pick for Augment Summoning might be useful.
    • Aspect of the Werebeast (RoE) - Nothing about this Shifter-only self-buff says it only works when you're in a humanoid form. Add +4 to two different attributes, and add Improved Grab, Pounce, or wolf-like Trip to whatever form you're in.
    • Bite of the Wereboar (Spell) - Useful stat buffs, a spare bite attack, and one of the better AC buffs around.
    • Blast of Sand (Sand) - Cone of Cold lite (cone, d6/level, max 10d6), only without the energy type. No SR!
    • Boreal Wind (Frost) - Does decent cold damage, has a fairly big AoE, blows enemies away, disperses fogs and swarms, and keeps going for multiple turns without concentration. Compares favorably even to Flame Strike.
    • Claws of the Savage (BoVD) - Got claws? This gives you a +2 enhancement bonus on them, and also gives increases your claw damage as if you were two sizes larger. It is an Evil-typed spell, though.
    • Enhance Wild Shape (Spell) - You can pick up plant forms early or get minor stat buffs, but the big bonus is the access to extraordinary abilities. Pick up the Blindsight of a Desmodu War Bat (MM2), or abuse Master of Many Forms (CAdv).
    • Flame Strike - Excellent damage and an AoE. Should replace Call Lightning as your attack spell of choice.
    • Freedom of Movement - Makes you immune to grapples, able to fight underwater, and immune to spells that impede movement. A very handy defensive spell.
    • Giant Vermin - Ridiculously powerful at high levels: at level 20 you can make a 40 HD monster.
    • Greater Luminous Armor (BoED) - As Luminous Armor, only +8 AC instead of +5. Again, mind the Sacrifice cost.
    • Hibernal Healing (Frost) - Self-only Heal...as long as you're in a frostfell area, anyway.
    • Last Breath (CD/Spell) - In Complete Divine, this is druidic Revivify, but with a caster-damaging side effect. In Spell Compendium, this is a no-level-loss Reincarnate that must be cast immediately. Both are useful as an emergency option.
    • Passage of the Shifting Sands (DMagic) - Druidic Gaseous Form, but with an actual move speed, the ability to blind people, and other bennies.
    • Scrying - The gold standard in sneaky divinations.
    • Sheltered Vitality (LibMort/Spell) - Immunity to ability damage or drain is situational, but very powerful when you need it. Cast this before fighting yuan-ti, giant vermin, undead, or anything else with a nasty ability damage or poison attack. The immunity to fatigue can also be handy for the party barbarian.
    • Superior Magic Fang (Drac/Spell) - GMF on all of your attacks. It's self-only, though.
    • Unholy Beast (CoR) - This is an odd one. It's a lesser, single-target Animal Growth...but with a Dominate Animal effect tossed in. Great for stealing Animal Companions, but still usable as a general-purpose buff.
    • Vortex of Teeth (Spell) - A spell that does force damage, and can tear apart anything that can'tget away. This makes a mess of anyone caught in Entangle.
    • Wall of Salt (Sand) - Not quite Wall of Stone, but effective for battlefield control and deterring pursuit.


  • 5th Level:
    • Animal Growth - Multiple animals (your pet and any summons running around) get bigger and get some nice bonuses. One of the best buffs in the game, let alone in core.
    • Anticold Sphere (Spell) - Immunity to cold and great protection from anything with the Cold subtype, with a nice long duration and an area large enough to protect the whole party.
    • Baleful Polymorph - Turn your opponent into something inoffensive. Toad and cat are both classy forms that offer no advantages to your target. Also handy for transporting oddly-sized Animal Companions or water- or air-breathing Animal Companions Pokemon-style, since, as a permanent spell, it's dispellable. (Classy tricks include polymorphing your Roc Animal Companion into a raven for cramped quarters, or polymorphing your T-Rex companion into a frog to go underwater.)
    • Bite of the Weretiger (Spell) - A very high str boost, a variety of other boosts, extra attacks, and free Power Attack.
    • Blizzard (Frost) - Instant battle ender. Great for buying some time to parley or obscuring your plans. Huge area of effect.
    • Call Lightning Storm - Call Lightning, only moreso. 5 dice of damage instead of 3.
    • Choking Sands (Sand) - Miasma, only less so. Alternately, nonpsionic Crisis of Breath. Good for shutting down a caster for a turn.
    • Cloak of the Sea (CAdv/Spell) - When you're underwater, it's Water Breathing, Freedom of Movement, and Blur, all in one neat little (long-duration!) package. A must-have for any underwater adventures.
    • Death Ward - Powerful, if conditional, defensive buff.
    • Owl's Insight (Spell) - A long-duration scaling boost to Wisdom with an unusual bonus type? Yes please.
    • Pancaea (Spell) - A broad-based restoration spell, removing pretty much any condition other than ability damage/drain, disease, or death.
    • Quill Blast (CD/Spell) - After the Spell Compendium rewrite, this once-broken spell is now not quite as hot. It still outperforms typical blasts for a couple of levels, but by level 9 blasting is probably not the most optimal thing to be doing. It is a really mean spell for a GM to use on the PCs, though.
    • Rejuvenation Coccoon (CD/Spell) - A decent out-of-combat Heal alternative.
    • Ice Shield (Frost) and Stoneskin - Excellent defensive spells (Ice Shield is stronger but has a shorter duration), but both are too monetarily expensive to use too often.
    • Tree Stride - Poor man's Teleport. Saves on overland travel time, but that's about it.


  • 6th Level:
    • Antilife Shell - Exceedingly powerful defensive spell. Anything living without SR just can't touch you.
    • Bite of the Wereboar (Spell) - Bite of the Weretiger only moreso.
    • Chasing Perfection (PHB2) - Handy as a self-buff, since it's hard to use magic items in Wild Shape. Won't be terribly useful to the rest of the party at level 13, though.
    • Dreamsight (Spell) - Ghostform for druids, although you'll need to protect your helpless body. 100 ft. movement as an incorporeal being will make you an awesome scout.
    • Drown (Und/Spell) - Save or dying (0 hp). Handy for capturing enemies alive. Not death magic, but obviously doesn't work on non-living creatures, water-breathers, or creatures with no lungs. This has replaced the repeatedly-nerfed Miasma (CD/Spell).
    • Energy Immunity (Drac/Spell) - Powerful, of a bit situational, defensive buff. Has a long enough duration to have it on all the time.
    • Enveloping Cocoon (Spell) - This will let you turn the save of any number of nasty spells (Miasma and Baleful Polymorph being the nastiest) into a Reflex save, essentially, or just tie up one enemy that doesn't have a light/natural weapon handy (including incorporeal foes).
    • Find the Path - Never, ever, EVER be lost.
    • Fire Seeds - Excellent trap spell when used to make holly berry bombs. Couple it with some sort of fire resistance or immunity and you have a killer emanation-from-yourself nuke.
    • Flames of Purity (CD) / Fires of Purity (Spell) - A hefty melee damage buff, plus Flame Shield lite. Note that, while this spell is three levels higher than Venomfire and only adds one point per caster level instead of d6, it's still a good spell. That's how silly Venomfire is.
    • Greater Dispel Magic - Unlike mages and clerics, druids very rarely lose caster levels, so this is often a worthwhile spell to prep.
    • Greater Scrying - Scrying without the long casting time and relatively short duration; the minor spells you can cast through the sensor aren't that useful.
    • Liveoak - Handy if you need a Treant to guard your camp or home. The casting time and casting limitations limit its general usefulness, though.
    • Mummify (Sand) - Save or die. Plus, it's not death magic.
    • Spellstaff - One extra spell slot, of whatever level you can cast. Clerics with Miracle have no reason not to duplicate this very handy spell.
    • Superior Resistance (Sav/Spell) - +6 on all saves, all day. Its utility is obvious. (Spell Compendium upped the level, but also the duration. It's still worth it, unlike the pounding Major Resistance took.)
    • Tortoise Shell (CD/Spell) - Basically, Greater Barkskin. Not as good as Greater Luminous Armor, but is natural armor instead of armor.
    • Valiant Steed (BoED) - Calls a Unicorn or Pegasus that serves you for an entire year.


  • 7th Level:
    • Constricting Chains (BoED) - Whatever it is, it's entangled and can't move. No save, no SR. Unless it has at least a +20 Escape Artist mod or a 34 Strength, it's staying stuck unless it wears down the chains with attacks (and half of that damage is in turn redirected to the chained target). Mind the Sacrifice cost, though (which doesn't take effect until the spell ends).
    • Cry of Ysgard (BoED) - Calls 2d4 defenders of Ysgard that serve for a year.
    • Death By Thorns (BoVD) - The Corruption cost is very painful, but this will take the target out of the fight, no matter what. Obviously an evil spell.
    • Heal - Its uses are obvious.
    • Rain of Roses (BoED) - Continuing Wisdom damage over an area, to evil creatures only. Great if you can limit the target's mobility, as the Wis damage doesn't allow a save.
    • True Seeing - Magic bullet for illusions, invisibility, and shapechanging.
    • Word of Balance (Und/Spell) - Somewhat unreliable because of the odd alignment restrictions, but very powerful when it works.


  • 8th Level:
    • Frostfell (Frost) - Caster level/20' cubes freeze, and anyone in this area rolls a Fort save or turns to ice (and still takes caster/d6 frostburn damage if they save). Think of it as shapable super druid Wail of the Banshee, with an extra heaping helping of awesome.
    • Leonal's Roar (BoED) - Druidic Holy Word, plus some sonic damage. Sweet.
    • Stormrage (Spell) - Flight, the ability to throw respectable lightning bolts, and immunity to projectile ranged attacks and wind effects of all kinds.
    • Word of Recall - A quick escape spell, and one of the very few teleportation spells available to druids.


  • 9th Level:
    • Nature's Avatar (CD/Spell) - Very, very powerful animal buff, and now a swift spell. Cast it on your Animal Companion, and go to town.
    • Shapechange - Broken spell, but you already know that. Ridiculously powerful, even if you don't abuse the Chronotyryn (FF) or Choker or Efreeti or Zodar (FF) or...well. You get the idea.
    • Summon Elemental Monolith (CArc/Spell) - This spell is more of a Spirit Shaman or Sorc/Wiz thing (because of the potential for Spirit Companion or Sonorous Hum or Familiar Concentration spell concentration abuse), but it can be useful for straight druids. The elemental monoliths are ridiculously powerful, especially given the very high save DCs of the whirlwind and vortex abilities of air and water monoliths.
    • Tsunami (Spell) - The fight is over. This spell will end anyone smaller than Gargantuan who can't immediately get out of the way of the 40-ft-high wave. The spell component is rather expensive, however.
    • Undermaster (Spell) - Awesome power indeed. This gives you a whole variety of great spell-likes, some of which aren't even on the druid list.


-----

SUMMONING:
Druids have the ability to spontaneously cast Summon Nature's Ally, making memorizing the spells pointless. Given the short duration of these spells and the disposable nature of summoned creatures, you're going to want to use them as distraction and cannon fodder. Speak With Animals is especially handy when you're summoning animals, as it allows you to direct them to flank, concentrate on particular foes, or do other useful things other than "attack closest foe or biggest threat."

  • Level 1:
    • Wolf - Not much worth summoning at this level, so the wolf is it.

  • Level 2:
    • Crocodile - Unless the foe is small enough to grapple, have it slap with its tail.
    • Hippogriff - A little less hard-hitting than a croc, but it flies and you can talk to it. No animal buffs, though. (Bonus style points for having it grapple a foe and fly up until the spell runs out.)

  • Level 3:
    • d3 Crocodiles - An ad-hoc swarm of crocs is great for shutting down spellcasters or other weaker, grappleable or low-AC foes.
    • Dire Wolf - Other than the low AC, this is an all-round combat superstar.

  • Level 4:
    • d3 Dire Wolves - Dire Wolves hit hard enough and have enough HP to make them useful in numbers.
    • Brown Bear - Hits hard enough to be on the front line, and grapples spellcasters and such. Oh yeah.
    • Giant Crocodile - Compared to the Brown Bear, it has one big bite instead of multiple medium hits, with better grappling to make up for the lesser damage. Whether you use this or Brown Bear is a matter of style.
    • Tiger - Another Brown Bear alternative. Slightly less damage in a straight fight and a slightly lower grapple check, but does more damage when charging or when in a grapple.
    • Unicorn - Summon Unicorns for on-the-spot healing. Three uses of CLW, a use of CMW, a use of Neutralize Poison, and at-will Detect Evil. Plus, it can bypass DR X/magic and is smart enough to talk to.
    • Yellow Musk Creeper (FF) - A very unusual summon, Yellow Musk Creepers are super-tough (good HP plus Regeneration), have Blindsight, and can use their Musk Puff ability to enthrall and devour anything with a bad Fort save. Just don't expect them to do any straight slugging, with their weak attacks, or keep up with fast-moving foes, due to their near-inability to move.

  • Level 5:
    • d3 Brown Bears (or Giant Crocodiles or Tigers) - A pack of grapplers can shut down many foes and outstrip even a single Polar Bear.
    • Large Elemental - This is where Elementals start to get good. Earth Elementals will be your general-purpose tanks (although Fire Elementals can fill this role equally well), and double as caster-killers if you have Rashemi Elemental Summoning (UE). Air Elementals are great for shutting down swarms of mooks, fliers smaller than they are, and casters, but aren't quite as hard-hitting as the other Elementals. (Remember, a Large or larger Air Elemental in Whirlwind form counts as a storm for Call Lightning and Call Lightning Storm.)
    • Rhinocerous - Very deadly if summoned with room to charge an enemy.

  • Level 6:
    • Huge Elemental - A single Huge Elemental is worth more than three smaller ones. Keep using this in the same way you used the Large ones.
    • Large Storm Elemental (MM3) - Think of it as a Fireball and a summon, all in one. Storm Elementals aren't quite the fighters the other Elementals are, but the first turn they are summoned, they do 12d6 damage to everything in 60 feet (plus 4d4 nonlethal to a single target) instead of attacking normally. Make sure you speak Auran to keep it from blasting your allies, or else be careful where you summon it.
    • Dire Bear - Tears casters to bits. Great for anything that can't handle its +23 grapple mod, not so great for anything else.
    • Elephant - Raw damage machine. Not as tough as a huge Earth Elemental, but hits very hard or tramples mooks.
    • Oread (FF) - Not a melee monster, but has an awesome array of spells, including Transmute Rock to Mud, Stone Shape, and Earthquake(!). Don't ever bother prepping Earthquake if you can just summon an Oread.
    • Pixie - Not much in melee, but can cast Dispel Magic (poorly but repeatedly) and Detect Thoughts for you.

  • Level 7:
    • d3 Huge Elementals - Greater Elementals are only marginally better than their Huge counterparts.
    • Huge Storm Elemental (MM3) - A Huge Storm Elemental is significantly better than even two or three Large ones.
    • Pixie (w/sleep arrows and Otto's Irresistible Dance) - You're casting a 7th-level spell to summon a creature that can cast an 8th-level spell (Otto's Irresistible Dance), then keep fighting after that. Do the math.

  • Level 8:
    • d3 Greater Elementals - A pack of Greater Elementals far outstrips any of the limited choices at this level.
    • Greater Storm Elemental (MM3) - Definitely better than a Huge Storm Elemental.
    • Sporebat (FF) - A very specialized choice, this is good for Enervating foes you can't otherwise hurt. Otherwise, they're pretty wimpy.

  • Level 9:
    • d4+1 Greater Elementals - Elder Elementals are marginal at best.
    • d3 Greater Storm Elementals - Think of it as spontaneous druidic Meteor Swarm, only it leaves Greater Elementals in its wake. A fun tactic: have them stagger their use of Thunder And Lightning to heal each other if they take damage.


Aquatic
If you're underwater, you might want to instead summon...

  • Level 1:
    • Porpoise - Not exactly a combat dynamo, but it's something. Blindsight is handy in the dark depths at the ocean's floor (I always wanted to use that line) or against invisible foes.

  • Level 2:
    • Crocodile - Just as good in the water as it is on dry land.

  • Level 3:
    • d3 Crocodiles - None of the other options are worth fiddling with.

  • Level 4:
    • Giant Crocodile - A great all-rounder, especially underwater.
    • Sea Cat - The underwater equivalent to the Brown Bear, only with Rend instead of Improved Grab.

  • Level 5:
    • d3 Giant Crocodiles - A pack of killer crocodiles is still your best combat summon.
    • Large Water Elemental - The Water Elementals don't become as dominating as their Earth equivalents on land, but Vortex shuts down spellcasters and mooks cold and DR 5/- frustrates lesser foes.
    • Orca Whale - Lacks the Improved Grab of the Giant Crocodile, but has Blindsight and more HP.

  • Level 6:
    • Huge Water Elemental - NOW we're talking. Huge size is when Water Elementals come into their own, and get the AC and HP to stand (swim?) on the front line while maintaining the ability to shut down lesser combatants with a Vortex.

  • Level 7:
    • d3 Huge Water Elementals - Greater Elementals only get marginal improvements over their Huge predecessors.

  • Level 8:
    • d3 Greater Water Elementals - Like Earth Elementals, but underwater, get it?

  • Level 9:
    • d4+1 Greater Water Elementals - For the same reasons you were summoning them last level.
    • Octopus Tree (FF) - The Fiend Folio strikes again. This critter has nine competent attacks, Improved Grab and Swallow Whole, a (mostly useless) frightful presence ability, Quickened spell-likes, and Regeneration to boot.


Greenbound:
If you took Greenbound (LEoF), things are a bit different. Obviously, you're going to want to summon animals, and the bonuses make multiple lower-level creatures, particularly grapplers, more powerful. As such, you'll spend a lot of time summoning d3 grappler creatures. Remember, you can still summon utility creatures like Unicorns or Pixies. They just don't benefit from Greenbound.

PROTIP: If you cast Speak With Plants, you can have your Greenbound summons cast Entangle or Wall of Thorns for you. Take advantage of this!

  • Level 1: Wolf
  • Level 2: d3 Wolves
  • Level 3: d3 Crocodiles
  • Level 4: d3 Dire Wolves
  • Level 5: d3 Brown Bears or Giant Crocodiles or Tigers
  • Level 6: d3 Polar Bears
  • Level 7: d3 Dire Bears
  • Level 8: d3 Dire Tigers or d4+1 Dire Bears or d3 Dire Rhinocerouses (FF)
  • Level 9: d3 Rocs


Vermin
If you took Children of Winter (EbCS), I recommend this list instead:

This list is still in progress.

  • Level 1:
  • Level 2:
  • Level 3:
  • Level 4:
  • Level 5:
  • Level 6:
  • Level 7:
  • Level 8:
  • Level 9:


Druids also have access to two other chains of summoning spells: Summon Desert Ally in Sandstorm, and Conjure Ice Beast in Frostburn. They're both more or less useless, not least because they don't summon animals (instead, both of them summon creatures with a template that turns them into constructs) and because druids can't cast the spells spontaneously. Optimal use of these two spell chains is easy: they suck, don't use them! (Try saying that advice in a Dr. Venture voice.)

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EQUIPMENT:
Yeah. I need to do more with this, and make it less out of date.

Note that Magical Locations, mentioned in DMG2 and later books, are nice for druids, since they don't go away when you Wild Shape. Garden of Nature's Rage (DMG2) gives a Wild Shape-specific boost, for what it's worth.

A Vestment of Verminshape (DMG2) lets you take vermin Wild Shapes. Vermin sort of suck, though.

Shifter Braid of Spellstrike (RoE) gives you a quickened buff of third level or less for 500 gp a use, if you're a shifter.

Wilding Clasps (MoF) and Wilding armor got a lot better after the Polymorph errata.

Mouthpick weapons (LoM) are silly but useful in Wild Shape.

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BUILDS OTHER THAN PHB DRUID 20

Druids, unlike many other classes, do just fine without ever touching a single multiclass dip, prestige class, or substitute level, and by and large, this guide assumes you're building a Druid 20. While that's probably the ideal build for versatility and pure power, multiclassing offers a few unusual options.

The most common variant uses a prestige class to improve on Wild Shape. Nature's Warrior and Warshaper (both CW) aren't usually worth the caster level hits on their own, but they're good suffixes for a build that substantially sacrifices casting for some sort of major Wild Shape power up. Master of Many Forms (CAdv) lets you Wild Shape into pretty much anything by the time you're done with all 10 levels, but you lose all your caster levels over those ten levels. (Arismir has written a full guide to MoMF here.) Similarly, Planar Shepard (FoE) gives you a series of thematic boosts, among them the ability to Wild Shape into any Magical Beast, Outsider, or Elemental from a chosen favored plane. Plus, it comes with full casting. (Tweedledope has written a full guide to this silly awesome class here.)

Another, relatively recently introduced, variation is the totally-Wild-Shape-free druid, by using substitution levels to replace Wild Shape with some other ability, usually ongoing combat buffs. Chief among these is Player's Handbook 2's Shapeshift, which exchanges Wild Shape for a simplified Wild Shape-like set of buffs, by transforming into generic animalistic forms. These are buffs on your natural stats rather than replacing your stats Polymorph-style, so your physical stats actually mean something, you can turn it on and off at will, you can pick what your form looks like, and you get it from level 1. On the other hand, Natural Spell doesn't work, you lose a ton of versatility, Small druids get boned in melee, and the forms aren't nearly as strong as plain old Wild Shape. Shapeshift isn't more powerful than Wild Shape for the vast majority of druids (save in the limited case of larger-than-Medium druids; GMs take note!), but it is much simpler. Rather than going into great detail here, I'm just going to link Arismir's handy guide.

Unearthed Arcana has a Wild-Shape-less druid variant, which trades Wild Shape for a bunch of random, not-terribly-amazing abilties taken from the monk and ranger. In addition to the fact that there's little synergy (Wis-to-AC for a class that can wear medium armor?), this variant is rather lacking in a coherent theme. While it isn't strictly bad, I can't recommend it.

Also subpar are both of the other Wild-Shape-less substitute levels, Aspect of the Dragon (DMagic) and the fifth Shifter druid sub level. Aspect of the Dragon burns up your Wild Shape uses far too fast at mid levels, and the Shifter substitute level is subpar compared to the claws or bite of a comparable Wild Shape form.



Still more to come

Substitute class levels
Class-based sub levels are dealt with in the races section, above. As for the rest, I'll get to it later.

  • Spontaneous Rejuvenation (PHB2) - This level, taken at first level, trades your ability to spontaneously cast Summon Nature's Ally for the ability to give the party Fast Healing. The downside is that, unlike the Vigor chain, you can't abuse metamagic, but on the upside, it doesn't draw AOOs and can be used in Wild Shape form without Natural Spell.
  • Planar Druids (PlHB) - This is a mixed bag. Resisting outsiders vs. resisting fey, immunity to planar effects instead of immunity to venom, and countering summons vs. A Thousand Faces are all very situational. It will depend largely on what you face in your games.
  • Champions of Valor sub levels - I don't have this book. Until I get it, there's a thread here.


Prestige classes:
Totally in progress. Still working on this one, and advice would be appreciated; it may be a tad out of date.
Druid 20 is good. While most of this guide assumes you're going for straight level 20 Wild Shaping druid, there are other options.

Good:
These prestige classes retain the druidic spellcasting and shapeshifting, possibly in altered or reprioritized form. You can fit these into a character who still plays essentially similarly to the basic Druid 20, and using them doesn't invalidate the bulk of the advice in this guide.
  • Moonspeaker (RoE), which is restricted to Shifter and may or may not be thematically incompatible with Eberron Initiate feats (ask your GM) trades off four levels of Wild Shape for a bunch of spell enhancement, particularly with shifting. Tealgorthan wrote an excellent guide for it, available here.
  • Planar Shepherd (FoE) - Borkedy borked borked broken. It turns your Wild Shape into Shapechange for any of a variety of Outsiders from your chosen plane (and bear in mind that demons, devils, and archons are all from the same plane in Eberron). Tweedledope has a quite handy guide to why this silly prestige class is crazy awesome and how to make the most of it, here.


Weird:
These prestige classes are dramatically different, and mostly beyond the scope of this guide.
  • Arcane Hierophant (RotW) - Wizard/druid blended class. I've never fiddled with this, and I don't think a guide has been written. (If someone has a guide, please point it out to me.)
  • Fochluchan Lyrist (CAdv) - Bard/druid blended class, with bardic music, bardic magic, and druidic magic. It really needs its own guide, which Iaimeki has written and can be found here.
  • Master of Many Forms (CAdv) - This slowly turns your Wild Shape into Shapechange lite. It's interesting, but it's a net loss of power because of the total lack of spellcasting over the course of ten levels. Haterkatze has updated his guide for the Polymorph errata, and it's available here.
  • Daggerspell Shaper (CAdv) - This isn't nearly as popular as its counterpart, Daggerspell Mage, but it does have potential. (This is assuming you allow it to advance maximum HD for Wild Shaping; by RAW it only advances duration, which makes it pretty useless).


Bad:
These suck.
This section has been removed, since pretty much all other PrCs suck. Basically, if it takes away caster levels or doesn't give you Wild Shape, don't mess with it. And don't ever, ever, ever take Blighter.

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CONTROVERSIAL OPTIONS

This is an incomplete section, mostly cut and paste out of notes. It's mostly up, here, to spark conversation.

There are lots of iffy-but-technically legal tricks with the druid, as well as the usual set of poorly-worded-and-thus-up-to-interpretation abilities, feats, items, and spells. As such, these strategies are based in these commonly-house-ruled rules or grey-area interpretations. As GMs are likely to close loopholes or disagree with grey-area interpretations, these strategies have been separated from the guide as a whole, since some of them invalidate more-generally-applicable advice.

As with anything but especially in these cases, talk to your GM before you make a character that relies on a certain interpretation in any of these cases.


One of the most infamous examples is the Alter Self/Polymorph Inheritances loophole. Rules of the Game (link goes here) and the FAQ (link goes here) clarified that the effects of Alter Self/Polymorph are each handled separately instead of as a unified whole, which means that abilities that aren't specifically removed as part of a change in form don't actually go away until the duration of that Alter Self, Polymorph, or Wild Shape effect expires. The most immediately obvious of the abilities you gain without losing when you change into a new shape are racial bonus feats.

The practical implication of this is that A Thousand Faces and Elemental Wild Shape are nearly unending fountains of bonus feats. For example, if you wanted Multiattack, you'd just turn into a troglodyte, then Wild Shape into whatever form you want while still retaining Multiattack from your ongoing session of Thousand Faces (Troglodyte). If you wanted proficiency in the longsword and longbow, boom, turn into an elf. This becomes especially abusive when you gain Elemental Wild Shape, which explicitly gives you all of the bonus feats of your chosen Elemental form, not just the bonus feats.

Another implication of the RotG/FAQ clarification is that immunities granted by type are kept despite changing into a new type. (This also comes up when your native type is Construct (Living) or Plant, in the case of Warforged or Volodni druids.) This means that high-level druids will often use Elemental Wild Shape to turn into, say, an Air Elemental, then use regular Wild Shape to turn into their favorite general-use form, gaining both all of the immunities attendant to being an Elemental and all of the feats of an Air Elemental, while enjoying the benefits of, say, Dire Polar Bear form.

Many GMs are likely to disallow any of these abuses, by simply treating changes in form as single effects with many aspects. (This interpretation means a new Wild Shape or other Polymorph-like effect cancels instead of overlapping another, per the text in the PHB about spells with similar but exclusive effects superceding each other according to the order cast.) In this case, taking a new form with Wild Shape negates all of the benefits of previous forms, be they feats, immunities, or whatever. Given the many possible abuses and extreme complexity of the strict rules as written, this simplifying house rule is exceedingly common.

Ongoing discussion of how Wild Shape and A Thousand Faces stack and interact is ongoing. (That thread is really old now.)

Does anyone know if this still works? It may be out of date.


Another controversial point is whether or not feats that are not special techniques but instead gross alterations of the character's body are kept while in alternate forms. (For example, the Mithral/Ironwood/Adamantine Body feats that Warforged can take, the Aberrant Feats in Lords of Madness, or the Draconic Heritage feats in Draconomicon. This controversy also extends to certain prestige classes, such as the Dragon Disciple and Acolyte of the Skin, but obviously that isn't as applicable to druids.) By the strict rules as written, they are abilities gained from class levels and should be kept no matter what form you're in, but some GMs aren't comfortable with Warforged druids Wild Shaping into Brown Bears with wooden plates in their skin, or Aberrant druids turning into Dire Lions with oddly extended limbs, for either mechanical or flavor reasons. As such, any time these sorts of feats are mentioned above, it has been noted as a controversial option, not necessarily useful or available in all games.


Another controversial "exploit" isn't actually a loophole or a grey area, simply a trick GMs are likely to disallow. Your items meld into your new form when you Wild Shape, but you can always drop them, then pick them up again after Wild Shaping and put them back on. By doing this, if you Wild Shape into a roughly humanoid, medium-sized form, you can keep all your equipment, including your armor and weapons. Given this, Wild Shape into a Legendary Ape (MM2) and kick some butt as an angry, super-strong ape while wearing all your usual armor and wielding your usual club. A Legendary Ape is even (arguably) close enough to humanoid for a Hat of Disguise to work, allowing you to look normal while actually having the strength and toughness of an ape. (Granted, you can't talk, but there's got to be a tradeoff, right?) If your GM does allow this, the tooluser forms in the Wild Shape section are the forms for which this technique is practical for a medium-sized druid.


Another controversy is more interesting in a historical sense than a practical one, as the spells involved are no longer so strong as to be must-haves. The spells Brambles and Spikes, both originally from Defenders of the Faith (and reprinted in Complete Divine) both make mention of "melee weapons with wooden striking surfaces." It was (and still is) a matter of some debate as to what constitutes a "striking surface"; does the edge of an Ironwood scimitar suffice? Does the head of an Bronzewood spear work? In practice, this controversy is easy enough to sidestep; instead of using some sort of weird Ironwood/Bronzewood/Bluewood/whatever slashing or piercing weapon, get a club (plus, it works with Shillelagh). You're usually not missing out on a lot of damage.


Druids of Mielikki and weapon proficiencies - Was this ever addressed after FRCS? Do we know for sure if druids of Mielikki are proficient in all weapons or not?

Monk's Belt and Wilding armor - Too lazy to write it now - Also mention speed reduction/armor nonproficiency penalties/etc. and Wilding armor

Karate bears - The interaction between IUS and natural attacks - this deserves a mention in the multiclassing/PrC section with monk1/druidX

Meditations on the difference between natural attacks and unarmed attacks - Again, mostly as a historical note, as few abuses are left.

-----

Thanks to Alansmithee, Arismir, Blibdoolpoolp, Encard, fnord, gamehag, Gharlane, Inkubus, Lilt, Part-Human2, PhoenixInferno, Sang-Drax, Sasu, Snow Savant, Tealgorthian, and everyone else that contributed advice. This sort of thing is always building on the work of others, so definite thanks to Uberling and Yekoj and everyone who contributed to their druid guides, as well.
Placeholder post
Anything here is random tidbits from my near-dead old hard drive. It might be good advice, or out of date, or duplicated elsewhere. Don't say I didn't warn you.

5th Level
Call Avalanche (Frost) - Low damage for its level, but has a large area of effect (10 ft/level radius) and buries Large or smaller creatures that fail a Ref save. Buried creatures slowly take nonlethal and then lethal damage if they can't get out of the snow.
Memory Rot (MoF) - Instantaneous spell effect that does permanent Int drain to the target each round until they make a Fort save. There appears to be no way except a successful Fort save to stop this, as this isn't a poison or disease and can't be dispelled.

6
entomb (drd 6, FB): can take out several enemies; even if it doesn't kill them it still keeps them from casting and does cold (and possibly con damage

7
Level 7: control weather, flesh to salt (mass), windwalk

- master earth (drd 7, MoF): greater teleport for druids
Rain of Roses (BoED) - Evil creatures in the huge AoE take Wis damage each round (no save) and are sickened if they fail a save. Especially great if you get a wizard to cast Solid Fog or a similar spell first.
Aura of Vitality (CD/PGtF)

Level 8
Mantle of The Fiery Spirit (Sand) - cast this one along with the frost version and become immune to both cold and fire.
Word of Recall (PHB) - druid's quick escape.
[*]Earthquake- while not combat friendly, this is a very tactical spell.
[*]Word of Recall - your only teleportation ability.


Level 9
[*]Regenerate - Excellent healing spell.
Storm of Vengeance (PHB) - really good in a war.


-----

As Arismir said, something on how druids can have synergy with other partymembers would be great, but difficult to write because druids can fill so many party roles.

So far it seems rogue is a natural fit, because druids can provide opportunities for sneak attacks: a grappled foe loses its dex bonus against anyone he's not grappling with, and a summon-based druid could easily provide flanking opportunities when he summons a bunch of Nature's Allies. Grapplers generally won't work together with ranged attackers, because they have 50% chance to hit their ally.

Another druid would also work well, because one of them could cast Animal Growth and the whole furry bunch would benefit. Besides, druids can fill many roles in a party, they could focus on different aspects.


-----

Wyrmfang Amulet (Drac) 2500 - Ignore X/magic DR with natural attacks
Sharkskin armor (RoF) instead of studded leather

-----

Still need to add Hound of the Gloom (LoM)

Also, I totally forgot to even check the Lords of Madness for new abberations. Quickly glancing through, there's a 12HD pouncing, grabbing, poisoning creature (hound of the gloom, only 22 str though) and a roper-like creature that looks very interesting (can extract brains, and tentacles that do 2d8 strength [with a save])

-----


Druid PrCs:
Nature's Warrior
Warshaper
Moonspeaker(!) - -3 levels of wild shape, for awesome casting. Bears special mention!
Vermin Keeper (Und)?
Beastmaster (CAdv)

Daggerspell Shaper (CAdv) - Grappling forms (w/Savage Grapple) only - halfling monk1/druid5/DSshaper2/Nature'sWarrior1/DSshaper8/druid3 - Vine Strike and Wracking Touch spells in CAdv - This assumes that DS Shaper advances the hit die cap

Mention Arcane Heirophant, Beastmaster, and Blighter (I guess) in passing

Arcane Heirophant (RotW), Fochluchan Lyrist (CAdv), and Master of Many Forms (CAdv) are beyond the scope of this guide - Any links for handbooks on them?

Unusual druid specialties:
Grappling
Shifting - Warshaper/INA/Braid of Dire Shifting/Shifter sub level stacking.

Controversial:
IUS and nat attacks
Monk's Belt
Druids of Mielikki and weapon proficiencies

Mention brambles/spikes on bronzewood bludgeoning weapons.

If you can get your hands on it, a Dragonhide, Bluewood (UE), or Wildwood (RotW) breastplate (or full plate, if you get Armor Proficiency (Heavy) from somewhere) is better than leather armor. Wild Shape Amulets (MoF) are also good for those who can swing a Wis-boosing ioun stone. (Just get rid of it at level 17...which happens to be when you get Shapechange.)

A note for possible future optimization: the halfling druid sub level (RoE) at 5th level opens up access to tiny dragon forms, in combination with Draconic Wild Shape. I couldn't find any interesting tiny dragon forms, but maybe someone else can. If you can stomach not spontaneously summoning for a while, the first halfling sub level might be worth it, too...who doesn't want spontaneous Freedom of Movement?
I dug this out of an old, defunct hard drive, at the same time as the password for the WOTC forums. I noticed the creaky old Yekoj thread has been linked everywhere as the Druid Handbook, when Paradisio and I put a lot of work into updating it.

I couldn't find any way to search for it, so a link to the old thread would be appreciated. Likewise, I've been out of the D&D loop for a while, so any advice on wildshape forms, feats, equipment, companions, spells, or whatever. I know there's the Polymorph errata that gets rid of the once-dominant equipment-wearing Legendary Ape and abuse of high-CON forms, so that's going to be incorporated immediately.

Any other advice?
Does anyone know if shifting works with post-errata Wild Shape? MM3 is unclear; "Shifting 1/day" is listed as a SA, but "Shifter traits" are listed as SQ.

Also, are there any good cold-typed Magical Beast forms besides Twelve-Headed Cryohydra, particularly in later books?
I applaud you efforts in updating this.

For those who play with age penalties, nearly every druid is going to want to be middle-aged (-1 on physical stats, +1 on mental ones) and every druid level 7 and above is going to want to be venerable (-6 on physical stats, +3 on mental ones).

I'm not so sure that Venerable is a good idea anymore. +3 to mental stats is nice, but -6 Con is a killer (often literally). Middle-aged is certainly still good, though.
I applaud you efforts in updating this.

I'm not so sure that Venerable is a good idea anymore. +3 to mental stats is nice, but -6 Con is a killer (often literally). Middle-aged is certainly still good, though.

Noted, and it'll fixed be in the next update. Thanks for the heads-up.
In Surreal's index, there's a Shapeshift (PHBII alternate class feature) Druid guide. The Planar Shepherd (from Faiths of Eberron) is disturbing, and a handbook has been written.
High level druids get the bonusses but not the minusses of old age, forgot the name of this ability but it still makes old druids very scary.
In Surreal's index, there's a Shapeshift (PHBII alternate class feature) Druid guide. The Planar Shepherd (from Faiths of Eberron) is disturbing, and a handbook has been written.

Links? I'm a bit out of the loop.
Well, I've done the first pass working on Polymorph stuff, and added a bunch of links. I found the new Shapeshift druid guide (which I'll just summarize and link, since it's pretty straightforward), but not the Planar Shepard guide.

Does anyone know if Wild Shape and Shifting still work together? If not, I've got a bunch to rewrite.
http://boards1.wizards.com/showthread.php?t=482636

Just about everything is in there.
High level druids get the bonusses but not the minusses of old age, forgot the name of this ability but it still makes old druids very scary.

Timeless Body (Ex)

After attaining 15th level, a druid no longer takes ability score penalties for aging and cannot be magically aged. Any penalties she may have already incurred, however, remain in place.

Bonuses still accrue, and the druid still dies of old age when her time is up.

:D
I dunno if you're still looking for the link for the previous Druid Handbook, but it's under my sig
High level druids get the bonusses but not the minusses of old age, forgot the name of this ability but it still makes old druids very scary.

It's a little hard to abuse, unless you get to 15th level then stand around twiddling your thumbs, waiting to get old.

I dunno if you're still looking for the link for the previous Druid Handbook, but it's under my sig

I actually saw it in your sig in one of the older threads, so thanks for helping already!
I'm working on a real update for the rest of the Polymorph errata bubbles and spots, as well as for Spell Compendium and PHB2 (the only newer books I have). In the meantime, I recovered a bunch of notes, so I added them to the thread unedited. Hope someone can find a use for them.

Still looking for:
A Dragon Magic Wild Shape-replacement thingie guide
A Shifter non-Wild-Shaping druid guide
An Arcane Hierophant guide
Cold-typed Magical Beasts worth using besides Urskan and Cryohydra
Any ZOMG druid stuff from newer books
Well, I tossed up a quick update. Not perfect, but there's new formatting and a bunch of stubby beginner sections. I'm working on it.
Rapid Strike & Improved Rapid Strike feats (Draco) grants extra iterative attacks for high BAB for type Elemental, Dragon, Plant, Magical Beast or Aberration with paired natural weapons.

2 notable aberration forms for Aberrate Wild Shape are
Chilblain (20 HD, FB)
Julajimus (16 HD, MMII)
for their natural attacks and special abilities/qualities.

You keep your type with Wild Shape now and it works on Constructs and Undead since it's no longer based on Polymorph. The Undead Wild Shape feat (LM) is obsolete.
Keep it up, I hope you do better than I :D
Mast
Harzerkatze, re-writed the guide, pretty much what you are doing here =)

updated Master of Many Forms Bible + official wild shape rules:
http://boards1.wizards.com/showthread.php?t=639448

Nice guide A Man in Black!
Well, we have decided natural bond doesn't work after all, so you will probably want to remove that.

I think most of the buffs are probably worse after the errata (what with the animal spells not working on the druid now) than the "bite of the X spells" which actually seem pretty good, and still function on both you and the companion. On the other hand, most of these buffs stack with the animal only spells (which seem to be either morale or luck) so I think you could actually have a pretty impressive druid that relies mostly on buffing their animals.

Natures Favor + Nature's Avatar + Bite of the Werebear = ouch :D

Anyways, I've basically been forced to play a druid in a campaign i'm in at this point so I'm actually thinking about writing my own guide again since I think it would be useful for myself... so I hope you don't mind the competition.
You might want to put each section and subsection within sblocks for readability. Yeesh. Seriously long posts.
Good spell:

I don't know if anyone's mentioned this yet, but I was looking through the PHBII and saw the spell As the Frost, and it's amazing.

It turns the caster into an outsider, gaining type bonuses, and you get immunity to cold, DR10/magic and piercing, and an AOE frost aura that deals damage every round and slows those damaged by it. It's really nice, if only for the DR. What I think is cool about it, though, is that you can very, very easily share this with your animal companion, making those near you take damage twice, and save from the slow effect twice. In addition, your animal companion is now an outsider, making it easy to alter-self them (provided you have enough use magic device) into something intelligent. Nice?
The druid in the game I'm running used that spell..once. But someone went down and he is the backup healer in the group. But he couldnt go heal the guy because he would have killed him with his cold damage.
The druid in the game I'm running used that spell..once. But someone went down and he is the backup healer in the group. But he couldnt go heal the guy because he would have killed him with his cold damage.

There is a time and a place for everything. If your expected to heal, dont cast it, obviously. The spells power cant be denied when you can safely wade into melee, cast this spell, and share it with your companion. Its damage, control, and buffing in one spell.
Well, we have decided natural bond doesn't work after all, so you will probably want to remove that.

I think most of the buffs are probably worse after the errata (what with the animal spells not working on the druid now) than the "bite of the X spells" which actually seem pretty good, and still function on both you and the companion. On the other hand, most of these buffs stack with the animal only spells (which seem to be either morale or luck) so I think you could actually have a pretty impressive druid that relies mostly on buffing their animals.

Natures Favor + Nature's Avatar + Bite of the Werebear = ouch :D

This is going in the guide. I still haven't incorporated Spell Compendium material yet.

Anyways, I've basically been forced to play a druid in a campaign i'm in at this point so I'm actually thinking about writing my own guide again since I think it would be useful for myself... so I hope you don't mind the competition.

I've got a better idea, I think. Why don't I stick this on the CharOp wiki that someone has hosted so we can both work on it (as well as get help from anyone else passing by), then just post the updates here whenever they look good?
Or how about I just post revised material here and you update it?
A quick thought, regarding material from the spell compendium: there's a nifty little level 1 (!!!) spell called Aspect of the Wolf that transforms your tyoe into animal for 1 minute/level (I think). It has other irrelevant consequences.

The bonus is that, of course, you can, now, cast all those nifty spells that last for hours/level and/or those that target an animal on yourself AND share them with your animal companion...

Using the rule stated on PHB (don't know which page, it's in the magic section), a spell only checks for valid targets at the moment you cast it.

For spells that have shorter durations, Quickened Aspect of the wolf can be very good, also, specially for wildshaping-melee druids:

1st round) Quickened Aspect of the wolf, Wildshape into animal with massive strenght
2nd round) Nature's Avatar + Bite of the Werebear + move
3rd round) distribute assorted cuddlings among your foes as you wish

So, with this spell you're no longer limited to buffing your animal companion or other animals controled by iniate of nature, but you can do it to yourself and share them!

What do you guys think about this tactic? Is there a way to improve it? Is a 2-round delay worth the beneficial effects?
Or how about I just post revised material here and you update it?

Or that.

A quick thought, regarding material from the spell compendium: there's a nifty little level 1 (!!!) spell called Aspect of the Wolf that transforms your tyoe into animal for 1 minute/level (I think). It has other irrelevant consequences.

The bonus is that, of course, you can, now, cast all those nifty spells that last for hours/level and/or those that target an animal on yourself AND share them with your animal companion...

Using the rule stated on PHB (don't know which page, it's in the magic section), a spell only checks for valid targets at the moment you cast it.

For spells that have shorter durations, Quickened Aspect of the wolf can be very good, also, specially for wildshaping-melee druids:

1st round) Quickened Aspect of the wolf, Wildshape into animal with massive strenght
2nd round) Nature's Avatar + Bite of the Werebear + move
3rd round) distribute assorted cuddlings among your foes as you wish

So, with this spell you're no longer limited to buffing your animal companion or other animals controled by iniate of nature, but you can do it to yourself and share them!

What do you guys think about this tactic? Is there a way to improve it? Is a 2-round delay worth the beneficial effects?

I'm going to playtest this with my home group and see how it works out.
I've been able to get one heck of a body count with Murderous Mist. Even if someone saves they're made permanently blind. Brutal! Lava Missle isn't bad either.

I think boa consticter is also worth mentioning as a summon. It's great for taking out an inconveniantly placed guard.
Maybe this has been stated somewhere, but I couldn't find any reference to it:

if you play with a DM that lets you abuse the stacking forms of wildshape (elemental) to get feat abuses, then you could, abuse it at mid levels easily.

In spell compendium there is the spell enhance wildshape, which, in one of it's forms lets you grab the extraordinary special qualities of the animal form you wildshape next.

So, around level 8, cast the spell, wildshape into a desmodu guard bat (MMII), grab the awesome blindsight 120', get flight with a large form that has 5 foot face - meaning it's wing span is about 10 feet, a VERY important thing when in dungeons/underground; next time you face something big, do not dismiss wildshape - stack another use of wildshape to get your favorite fighting form, wich now has 120' blindsight - and will have, for the next hours...
I've been able to get one heck of a body count with Murderous Mist. Even if someone saves they're made permanently blind. Brutal!

What book?

I think boa consticter is also worth mentioning as a summon. It's great for taking out an inconveniantly placed guard.

Spells with verbal components aren't usually terribly useful for stealth, sadly.

if you play with a DM that lets you abuse the stacking forms of wildshape (elemental) to get feat abuses, then you could, abuse it at mid levels easily.

In spell compendium there is the spell enhance wildshape, which, in one of it's forms lets you grab the extraordinary special qualities of the animal form you wildshape next.

So, around level 8, cast the spell, wildshape into a desmodu guard bat (MMII), grab the awesome blindsight 120', get flight with a large form that has 5 foot face - meaning it's wing span is about 10 feet, a VERY important thing when in dungeons/underground; next time you face something big, do not dismiss wildshape - stack another use of wildshape to get your favorite fighting form, wich now has 120' blindsight - and will have, for the next hours...

Why not use Embrace the Wild and embrace the Desmodu Guard Bat? This seems to be overly complex to do something that there's already a spell to do.
Consolidated Spell List

According to that list, murderous mist is a 4th level druid spell from the spell compendium page 145
Why not use Embrace the Wild and embrace the Desmodu Guard Bat? This seems to be overly complex to do something that there's already a spell to do.

Embrace the Wild has been significantly revised; you're now restricted to a few pre-defined sensory choices.
Embrace the Wild has been significantly revised; you're now restricted to a few pre-defined sensory choices.

Oh wiwwy? That's too bad... curse you SpC!!
Yup, Embrace the Wild was seriously BALANCED in spell compendium... Now you have to sweat to get blindsight 120'... and that's the way I have to grab it. I don't know if there is an easier way to do it...

Overall, I find that the druid is now a class that forces you to do a lot of "tricks" like these to get serious power, and, like everyone states around this board, was substantialy nerfed...
New update. I consolidated the various commentaries on multiclassing, PrCs, and sub levels into one section, which is currently being rewritten. There's still plenty of work to be done, especially with Spell Compendium and the Wild Shape section.

Any advice on good defensive, Aberration, or Cold-subtype Magical Beast forms post-errata would be greatly appreciated, and it would help to know about any Druid spells nerfed in Spell Compendium (I already know about Quill Blast and Embrace the Wild.) Also, lastly, where the heck is the Greater Holy Symbol from?
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