D&D Druid 5e Guide
Published on August 15, 2021, Last modified on March 17th, 2023
In this post, we will be examining the D&D 5e druid’s class features and how you can optimize your druid through choosing your race, background, ability scores, subclass, feats, and spells.
Willian Murai - Wizards of the Coast - Lifespring Druid
What is a Druid in D&D?
In Dungeons & Dragons, the druid is a class of character that is deeply connected to nature and its power. Druids in 5e are a full-caster class, meaning their class features revolve around the spells they learn. In D&D 5e, druids draw their magical abilities from the natural world, and can shape-shift into animal forms, read weather patterns, and communicate with animals and plants.
What do you get when you cross a cleric with a hippie?
Druids are a really cool support class with tons of versatility. Want to sneak like a rogue? Turn into a giant spider. Want to tank and deal damage like a barbarian? Turn into a brown bear. Want to heal and buff the party? You’ve got spells for that.
Druids can wear many hats in an adventuring party but have limited resources to do them all. Ensuring you’re keeping an eye on your spell slots and Wild Shapes will be key to playing a successful druid.
A druid’s main class feature is shapeshifting (called “Wild Shape”) into beasts that they have seen before. This ability gives the druid a ton of utility, both in and out of combat, as they are able to transform into an animal like a bear for tanking damage or a spider for climbing to hard-to-reach places.
Beyond their Wild Shape feature, druids are a great spellcasting class as they have access to spells all the way up to 9th level. This, combined with their Wild Shape abilities, allows them to be versatile with healing, tanking in combat, and utility outside of combat.
To help balance the pure awesomeness that is Wild Shape, most of the beasts you can transform into have a low Armor Class and hit points, meaning they are easy to hit and kill in combat.
Their spell list is also a bit weaker than sorcerers/wizards as they don’t have access to the big damage spells like fireball. This lack of damage spells extends to their cantrips, so early levels can feel like a bit of a slog if you find yourself running out of Wild Shapes.
When creating your druid 5e character, it’s important to remember the nature-focus of the class, especially when determining your ideals, bonds, and flaws.
Druids are deeply connected to nature and gain their magical powers from nature itself or from a nature deity. They have a mystic spirituality and may serve gods of wild nature, animals, or elemental forces. Druids believe in preserving the delicate balance of nature, opposing those who promote one element over others or harm the ecological balance. They protect sacred sites and combat threats to nature when needed. When creating a druid character, consider their connection to nature and their motivation for adventuring.
Playing a Druid
Druids in D&D 5e have a unique set of abilities and spells that allow them to fill a variety of roles in gameplay. Here are some aspects that druids should focus on:
- Spellcasting: As a primary spellcaster, druids have access to a wide range of spells that can be used for offense, defense, and utility purposes. They also have a unique set of spells compared to arcane or divine casters that focus on nature, animals, and elemental forces.
- Wild Shape: The most iconic feature of druids is their ability to transform into animals. This allows them to gain new abilities and tactics, as well as providing them with an additional pool of hit points to draw from. Druids should focus on using Wild Shape strategically, based on the situation at hand. It’s important to note that most of the time, Wild Shape isn’t going to be an offensive tool in combat (unless you’re playing a Circle of the Moon druid).
- Environment Interaction: Druids have a deep connection to nature, and as such, they should focus on using these elements to their advantage. They can use spells and abilities to control the terrain, summon animals to aid them in combat, or communicate with plants and animals for information or assistance.
- Support Role: While druids can deal damage, they really specialize in spells and abilities that are focused on supporting the party. They can heal allies, provide buffs and debuffs, and control the battlefield better than most other caster class. In exchange for these powerful abilities, druids don’t gain access to many of the potent damage-dealing spells that other arcane casters get. So druid players will have to come to grips with the fact that they won’t always be able to take the offensive option.
- Party Expecations: Their affinity for nature makes druids a unique class to roleplay. In a party of non-nature-based adventurers, druids may be expected to be able to talk with animals and divine signs from the nature around them. These expectations can make it necessary to take sub-optimal spells, like speak with animals so that you can fulfill your expected role in the party.
Druid 5e Guide Rating Scheme
This guide is meant as a deep dive into the DnD 5e druid. For a quick overview of other 5e classes, check out our Guide to DnD 5e Classes.
The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your druid. This color coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.
- Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
- Orange is an OK option
- Green is a good option
- Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
- Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized
So if you’re ready, grab your granola, conjure some animal friends, and let’s get into it.
Making sure you’re choosing a race that synergizes with the druid’s unique abilities is important.
If you’re looking to make a quick choice and just playing with the Basic Rules or Player’s Handbook, the wood elf race is your best option. You get +1 to WIS, +2 to DEX, Fleet of Foot which increases your movement, Mask of the Wild which helps you hide in nature, and all of the benefits of the elf race.
If you’re not limited by source, the best race choices for druids are as follows:
- Aarakocra: Both the EEPC and MotM versions of the aarakocra are wonderful choices. Not only do you get synergistic ability scores, but the aarakocra’s ability to fly means you won’t have to wait until 9th level to soar into the skies.
- Eladrin: Eladrin have access to Fey Step, which provides extraordinary ability to cast misty step a number of times per day. The MotM version allows you to choose your ability scores so they suit your druid and upgrades your Fey Step so you can cast it a number of times equal to your proficiency modifier per day. Seeing as druids don’t normally gain access to this spell, this is a huge upgrade to their battlefield movement.
- Firbolg: Not only are firbolg incredibly thematic druid races, they have perfect ability score increases, the ability to talk with animals and plants, can turn invisible, and gain some other nifty spells as well.
- Goliath: Seeing as the MoTM goliaths can choose their racial ability scores bonuses, their survivability upgrades can now help the normally fragile druids stay in the fight more easily.
- Kalashtar: Kalashtar provide the ideal ability score increases for druids, so their a good choice for Eberron campaigns.
- Lizardfolk: The lizardfolk’s Natural Armor allows you to have a starting AC of 13 + DEX, which is normally unavailable for druids because they can’t wear metal armor. Both the VGTM and MotM provide relatively good ability score increases, though the VGTM only provides +1 to WIS, while the MotM version can provide +2.
- Loxodon: On top of a decent boost to your AC, you get a solid spread of ability score increases, advantage against charmed and frightened effects, and a trunk that can be helpful when you’re not Wild Shaped.
- Shadar-kai: Similar to eladrin, this elf subrace provides misty step with some rider effects and the MotM version allows you to choose your ideal ability score spread.
For more help choosing a race for your druid, view our Druid Races Guide.
Druids get Ability Score Increases (ASI) at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level. Any druid would do well to prioritize WIS over the other Ability Scores, as it’s by far their most important stat.
Once WIS is maxed, the decision is between CON and DEX based on your playstle and which Druid Circle you choose.
STR: This is a definite dump stat. If you need to be strong Wild Shape into a bear.
DEX: Seeing as the only armor druids have access to is light or medium, DEX is your primary means of defense (it’s better to be missed than hit with some extra HP). DEX also plays into AC, Initiative, the all-too-common DEX saving throw, and the very important Stealth skill.
CON: CON is secondary to most druids as they can always Wild Shape if they need extra HP. The exception to this is if you are playing a Circle of the Moon druid who will cast a concentration spell and then get in close in a Wild Shape form. If that sounds like your type of build, stack CON over DEX.
INT: Don’t bother with INT.
WIS: Druids cast spells with their WIS, so pump this as high as you can.
CHA: Druids shouldn’t try to focus on social skills outside of WIS-based ones. If you must, the overall effectiveness of the character will suffer.
There are a variety of backgrounds that could be fitting for a druid character. Seeing as backgrounds are mostly a flavor pick, don’t worry about the power level of each option. Feel free to choose whichever option you think is best:
- Hermit: A druid who has spent years living in isolation in the wilderness may take the Hermit background at character creation. This background grants proficiencies in the Medicine and Religion skills and the herbalism kit. It also provides a feature that reflects your druid’s discovery of a primal force of nature, which is quite fitting.
- Outlander: A druid who comes from a nomadic or tribal background may have the Outlander background. This grants proficiencies in the Survival and Athletics skill and an instrument of your choice. It also provides the feature Wanderer, which allows the character to navigate wilderness with ease and scavenge food off the land.
- Folk Hero: If your druid has a reputation as a protector of the natural world, you may want to choose the Folk Hero background. This grants proficiencies in the Animal Handling and Survival skills, as well as on artisan’s tools of your choice and land vehicles. It also provides the feature Rustic Hospitality, which allows the character to find shelter and support among common people in rural areas.
- Sage: A druid who is a scholar of the natural world may have the Sage background. This grants proficiencies in the Arcana and History skills and two languages of your choice. It also provides the feature Researcher, which allows the character to find information on a particular topic by consulting with other scholars.
Hit Points: Druids have a middle-of-the-road d8 hit dice, better than the sorcerer or the wizard. A decent AC, powerful healing spells, and extra hp from Wild Shapes, paired with their decent hit dice allows druids to tank a relatively high amount of damage.
Saves: Proficiency with INT and WIS saves is rough. WIS saves come up a bit in later levels but INT saves are very rare and it is also one of your dump stats.
Weapon/Armour Proficiencies: Light armor, medium armor, shields, and simple weapons is fine for someone with the druid’s skillset.
Skills: Druids aren’t known for their diverse skillset. They can only choose two of the following eight skills.
- Animal Handling (WIS): Animal Handling as written is a trash skill. If your DM is lenient with the rulings it might be a worthwhile skill for druids to pick up but otherwise avoid this.
- Arcana (INT): Arcana is one of the more important INT-based skills. Seeing as INT is a dump stat for druids, avoid this if you have another Arcana specialist in your party.
- Insight (WIS): Insight is great for social interactions since it can give you a ton of information on the person you are trying to convince or manipulate.
- Medicine (WIS): The Medicine skill is made fairly obsolete by the druid’s spell list.
- Nature (INT): Nature is an important INT skill. If nobody else in your party has it, it makes sense for the druid to know what’s up when you’re out in the woods.
- Perception (WIS): We’ve said it before, Perception is the best skill in D&D. Getting proficiency and expertise in this can help make up for your low WIS score.
- Religion (INT): Depends on your campaign, but this is usually much less likely to come up than Arcana or Nature.
- Survival (WIS): Similar to Nature. If you don’t have another savvy woodsman in your party, it is your duty as a druid to pick this up.
Druidic: A secret language that only other druids can know is cool and has the chance of coming up a couple of times in a campaign.
Spellcasting: Druids cast their spells with WIS and they are considered a full caster class. 5e druids know, and can therefore prepare, any druid spell that they are of a high enough level to cast. If that wasn’t good enough, some druid Circles provide “Circle Spells” which are always prepared for free. The druid’s spell list consists of a great mix of healing, support, battlefield control, and damage to make for an extremely well-rounded caster from the get-go. Druids can use any item crafted from nature, such as a yew wand, as their spellcasting focus.
Wild Shape: Wild Shape is a versatile ability that can make your druid effective in just about any situation. Whether you find yourself in a combat, stealth, exploration, or survival situation, there are ways to put Wild Shape to use. As we say in the business: “There’s a Wild Shape for that.” Check out our Wild Shape 5e Guide for more information on optimizing your druid’s Wild Shape.
Wild Shape Tracker
My friend Andrei created a Wild Shape Tracker for all of you animal-loving druids. This tool allows you to choose your Wild Shape, manage your HP, and roll ability checks, attack rolls, and damage. You can check it out via the link below:
Wild Companion: Seeing as druids don’t gain access to find familiar, this is a great tool to allow your nature-loving druid to have an animal companion. There are a couple of interesting differences between this and the spell, the best of which is it allows you to ignore the 1hr casting time, making it a viable option to perform in combat. Second, while casting Find Familiar lasts indefinitely, it doesn’t when cast through Wild Companion. You only get the familiar for an amount of time equal to half your druid level. Because this uses the same resource as Wild Shape, you must take into consideration the best times to use Wild Companion:
- When you are performing a short rest and are at higher than 2nd-level
- When you are a Circle of the Moon druid and want to use the familiar to give the Help action while you wail on baddies as a grizzly bear
Outside of these circumstances, Wild Companion can end up competing with Wild Shape which is a core druid feature. If you want to have an animal companion permanently, it would be worth taking the Magic Initiate feat and picking up the Find Familar spell.
Druid Circle: At 2nd-level druids get to choose their Druid Circle. A druid’s Circle completely defines how the build plays, so choose the one based on a playstyle you might enjoy the most.
Check out our Druid Subclass 5e Guide for an in-depth look at all of the Druid Circle options.
- Circle of Dreams: The Circle of Dreams uses magic drawn from the Feywild to heal others. While all druids have decent healing capabilities, this Circle is more heavily focused on the craft.
- Circle of Spores: Masters over life and death, Circle of Spores find beauty in decay. They use spores and fungi to improve your combat prowess, poison your enemies, and control the body of dead enemies.
- Circle of Stars: Draw power from the stars of the night sky. Druids following the Circle of Stars can channel the constellations through themselves with their Wild Shape to improve the abilties.
- Circle of the Land: Circle of the Land focuses on the caster nature of the druid. They get access to extra cantrips, can regenerate spell slots on a short rest, and get access to a larger spell list. Their features beyond 6th-level are particularly impressive, but they get extra spells as they level up, thanks to the Circle Spells feature.
- Circle of the Moon: The Circle of the Moon specializes in the art of the Wild Shape. Druids following the Circle of the Moon get access to more powerful Wild Shapes and make them more versatile in combat.
- Circle of the Shepherd: Commune with spirits of the forest and summon them to aid you in combat.
- Circle of Wildfire: The Circle of Wildfire druids knows that fire is a natural part of the forest’s lifecycle. Wildfire druids walk a fine line between destruction with fire and healing with magic.
Timeless Body: Not sure if aging more slowly will come into play during your campaign. Really the biggest threat of aging in 5e is creatures with Horrifying Visage, which can age your charcer 1d4 x 10 years if you fail your save by 5 or more.
Beast Spells: This is meh if you’re not a Circle of the Moon druid, but is amazing if you are a Circle of the Moon druid.
Archdruid: Unlimited Wild Shapes is pretty good if you’re not a Circle of the Moon druid. This is the best thing since sliced bread if you are a Circle of the Moon druid.
Druids already have tons of utility and prowess in combat, but some feats available in a variety of sources can go a long way to further strengthen their core class features. These are the most common feats for druids to choose:
- Fey Touched: A free casting of misty step plus another spell from the Divination or Enchantment schools is hugely tempting for druids. Support druids will want to choose bless, while more offensive druids can pick up dissonant whispers.
- Magic Initiate: The best way for druids to pick up a familiar (even better than the Wild Companion feature from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything). Plus, you can grab a couple more potent offensive cantrips.
- Telekinetic/Telepathic: These two feats can add some versatility to the druid’s Wild Shape. If you want to get down and dirty, Telekinetic allows you to Shove enemies with your mage hand as a bonus action. On the other hand, Telepathic allows you to communicate while Wild Shaped.
- Observant: Add +5 to your already strong passive Perception and nothing will ever get by your druid unseen.
- Resilient/War Caster: If you’re worried about loosing concentration on your spells, these feats are solid defensive pickups. Resilient is best for spell-focused druids who will be casting from a distance whereas War Caster is better for Wild Shape-focused builds like Circle of the Moon druids.
Our best feats for 5e druids guide breaks down all of the feats in D&D 5e into tiers and analyzes them for the druid class. If you’re looking to customize your druid further, check out our guide to find the best feats for your character!
It’s dangerous to roam the wilderness without the proper gear! In this section, we’ll provide an overview of the best equipment to get your druid suited up.
At character creation, druids will want to pick up the following starter equipment:
- Wooden shield
- Leather armor, explorer’s pack, druidic focus
Wielding a shield is a no-brainer for druids. Not only does it boost your AC, but you’re really not likely to use a weapon which means your second hand will be free to cast spells. If you’re planning on using shillelah to transform your quarterstaff and run into melee, you’ll want to consider picking up the War Caster feat so you can continue to cast spells without issue.
Upgrading Your Armor
Druids have a unique stipulation that they cannot wear armor or wield shields made of metal. This means the best armor you can hope to get is studded leather, which gives you 12+DEX AC. If you’re on a budget and your DEX modifier is lower than 2, go for hide armor, which provides the same AC but can’t receive a DEX bonus of greater than 2.
Druids are a primary caster class that gets access to a unique mix of nature-based, support, and healing spells. Below, we’ll break down the druid’s most iconic spells in these categories. If you want to see when we suggest picking up these spells for the average druid build, check out our druid build example at the end of the guide.
That said, druids have access to tons of spells and we can’t mention them all here. If you’re looking to stock your spells before heading out into the wilderness, check out our guide to druid spells!
|Speak with animals
|Pass without trace
|Commune with nature
|Mass cure wounds
Best Multiclass Options for Druids
Multiclassing is always an opportunity cost, you have to determine if taking a level of another class is worth what you will lose from the original class. Many factors come into this decision, with the main factor being how long your campaign will run and, ultimately, what level you will be playing until. With Druids and other full casters, you want to avoid taking more than 3 multiclass levels, or else you won’t be able to get access to 9th-level spells.
Another thing to take into consideration is the additional class’ primary ability scores. Druids are WIS-based casters and you want to be able to use their high WIS to synergize with the additional class.
With that said, Druids are an extremely versatile and well-rounded class. There are very few cases in which dipping into another class actually benefits Druids.
Barbarian: If you are going to be using your Wild Shape as primarily a utility feature this isn’t a great choice because you can’t cast spells while raging. If you are going into Circle of the Moon and want to improve the effectiveness of your Wild Shapes, a one-level dip into Barb gives you amazing survivability and a bonus to damage. Keep in mind that you can’t concentrate on spells when raging, so the common practice of casting a concentration buff then going into Wild Shape will be unavailable.
Monk: Monk is a decent one-level dip for builds looking to increase their AC with unarmored defense. Druid’s max AC with mundane armor is 19. The math is hide armor (12) + DEX (up to 5) + wooden shield (2). Seeing as Druids need WIS for spellcasting and already use DEX for AC, there isn’t an additional ability score requirement to maximize your build for unarmored defense and end up with an AC of 20 by the 3rd tier of play. While the extra +1 to AC late in the game may not seem like much, it can be effective if you’ll be carrying a staff instead of a shield or using Wild Shape in combat because the unarmored defense AC buff extends to animal forms.
Cleric: This is usually the class of choice when you want a caster with heavy armor, unfortunately, Druids can’t wear heavy armor. Really, the only choice out of the Cleric Domains that meshes with Druid builds is the Life Domain to improve the Druid’s healing capabilities. A three-level dip will net your Druid some great staple Cleric spells and improved healing capabilities.
Ranger: Rangers and Druids have a lot of synergies that can make for a flavorful combination, but not a very powerful one. With the addition of TCoE’s optional features, dip into Ranger is slightly more attractive than before. A one-level dip nets you Natural Explorer which can trivialize exploration in the wilderness, an expertise-lite for a proficient skill, and Favored Foe. Favored Foe isn’t even very useful because you won’t be improving your Ranger level so the damage won’t scale.
Druid 5e Build Example
In this section, we will provide an example build for a druid in D&D 5e that’ll take you from levels 1-20. This build will highlight key abilities, spells, and strategies that can be used as you level up. As there are near-infinite ways to make a druid and to keep things simple, this example build only takes into account information found in the Basic Rules and Player’s Handbook. Therefore, it is meant to serve as a starting point for players new to druids.
We’ll be creating a wood elf Circle of the Land druid that really leans into the nature theme of the druid class. They will have plenty of damage options, but will also sport healing, buff/debuff, and battlefield control spells that make them incredibly versatile.
For spellcasting, you’ll notice that we focus a lot on nature/elemental spells that are unique to druids. These spells are meant as more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule. Seeing as druids change out known spells for any on the druid spell list at the end of a long rest, you can swap out a spell if it’s not working for you.
If you want to view the character sheet on D&D Beyond, click the button below:
Sources Used in This Guide
- BR: Basic Rules
- GotG: Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants
- SotDQ: Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
- ERLW: Eberron: Rising from the Last War
- EEPC: Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
- EGtW: Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
- FToD: Fizban's Treasury of Dragon
- GGtR: Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica
- MotM: Monsters of the Multiverse
- MToF: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
- MOoT: Mythic Odyessys of Theros
- PAitM: Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse
- PHB: Player's Handbook
- SAiS: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
- SCoC: Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
- SCAG: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
- TCoE: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
- TTP: The Tortle Package
- WBtW: The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
- VRGtR: Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
- VGtM: Volo's Guide to Monsters
- XGtE: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything