Pathfinder - The Druid Handbook
Last Updated: April 11th, 2018
I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.
The Druid is among the most powerful and versatile classes in the game. With a pet Defender/Striker, a diverse spell list, and the Wild Shape ability, the Druid can fill nearly any role in the party except the Face.
The two biggest decision points for the Druid are Nature Bond (Animal Companion vs. Druid Domain) and Wild Shape. While Nature Bond is an either/or decision, Wild Shape is a Yes/No decision: Being good at polymorph effects like Wild Shape requires planning from level 1. If you plan to use Wild Shape, read my Practical Guide to Polymorph.
Druid Class Features
Hit Points: d8 hit points is hard in medium armor, and it's even harder if you plan to use Wild Shape heavily, but the Druid has some healing ability which can supplement low hit points.
Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB.
Saves: Good Fortitude and Will saves, but Druids often have issues with Reflex saves.
Proficiencies: Medium armor, shields, and a very small set up weapons, and you can't use metal armor or shields.
Skills: 4+ skill ranks and very few useful skills.
Spells: The Druid has access to a lot of very unique spells not available to any other full caster. Their unique mix of buffs, support, and area control options is difficult for other classes to match, and many of their buffs have durations measured in 10 minutes/level, hours/level, or even days/level so you can easily stretch spell slots throughout the day.
Spontaneous Casting: Summoning spells aren't always useful, and it's nice to not need to prepare them, but Summon Nature's Ally is extremely limited.
Chaotic, Evil, Good, and Lawful Spells: Limiting your spells by alignment can annoying, but rarely causes issues. I think the most annoying example is prohibiting good-aligned casters from casting Infernal Healing, which is the Pathfinder equivalent of 3.5's Lesser Vigor, which quickly became the basis for all out of combat healing in 3.5.
Orisons: Fantastic and versatile.
Bonus Languages: Druidic for free is nice, but I have never seen it come up in a game. The Druid doesn't get access to Comprehend Languages or Tongues, so access to additonal languages at start might be useful.
Nature Bond (Ex): The Druid's Animal Companion is likely the first or second thing which comes to mind when you think of a Druid. Animal Companions are powerful, versatile, and can fill major holes in the party's abilities. If you don't need an Animal Companion, or if your party is already over-crowded, you might consider a Domain in order to boost your spellcasting abilities. For help with Animal Companions, see my Practical Guide to Animal Companions. For help with Druid Domains, see my Druid Domain Breakdown.
Nature Sense (Ex): Situational.
Wild Empathy (Ex): Very situational, and it's the only thing that Druids have which needs Charisma.
Woodland Stride (Ex): Very situational.
Trackless Step (Ex): Very situational.
Resist Nature's Lure (Ex): Very situational.
Wild Shape (Su): Free polymorph that doesn't eat your spells per day. Be sure to read my Practical Guide to Polymorph if you plan to make use of Wild Shape.
Venom Immunity (Ex): Useful at high levels when poison becomes more common.
A Thousand Faces (Su): Too little, too late.
Timeless Body (Ex): Very rarely has an effect in a campaign.
Your abilities are greatly influenced by whether or not you plan to use Wild Shape. Wisdom is always your primary concern, but your focus on Strength and Dexterity change depending on Wild Shape..
Str: A bit of strength is essential if you plan to use Wild Shape, and a little bit can help if you plan to use thrown weapons or a bow.
Dex: Essential for your AC and bad Reflex saves, and helpful if you plan to use Wild Shape.
Con: Hit points are always important, especially if you plan to use Wild Shape.
Int: The Druid skill list is sparse, and unless you particularly need some of the Druid's skill you can usually afford to dump Intelligence.
Wis: The Druid is primarily a spellcaster, so Wisdom is key. However, because they're not a save or suck caster, they don't need go all-out on their spellcasting ability like a Wizard does.
Cha: Dump to 7.
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Wisdom bonuses are fantastic, but bonuses to physical ability scores are great for Wild Shape users. Because polymorph effects normalize to small or medium before applying ability modifiers, small races' strength penalties won't go away when you use Wild Shape. As such, small races tend to work better for high-dexterity forms like snakes.
Dwarf: Bonuses to Constitution and Wisdom make the Dwarf a fantastic choice for the Druid, and the Dwarf's other racial traits offer some useful bonuses in other areas. The Dwarf favored class bonus offers extra uses of first-level domain powers, but don't let this influence your decision regarding Nature Bond; first level domain powers taper off very quickly.
Elf: Useful as spellcasters, but their ability modifiers don't work especially well for the Druid. The Elf favored class bonus provides bonus natural armor during Wild Shape, which is certainly tempting, but not enough to make the Elf a particularly good choice.
Gnome: The Gnome has nothing but a Constitution bonus to offer the Druid.
Half-Elf: Versatile, but nothing specifically great for the Druid. The Half-Elf favored class bonus is terrible, so take the Elf bonus if you want to use wildshape.
Half-Orc: Excellent for Wild Shape builds. The Sacred Tattoo alternate racial trait combined with the Fate's Favored trait helps with the Druid's saving throws (especially Dexterity), and the Half-Orc favored class bonus grants bonus natural armor while using Wild Shape.
Halfling: Your best bet for small, sneaky Druids. With a bonus to Dexterity and a Penalty to Strength, dexterity-heavy Wild Shape forms like snakes work best for Halflings, but being small also makes it easy to stay safe in the back and focus on casting spells or using a bow. The Halfling's favored class bonus adds to your Animal Companion's saving throws, which can help protect it from effects which target its relatively weak saves.
Human: Fantastic for any build, and you might consider the alternate human traits which give you +2 to two ability scores if you want to use Wild Shape and don't need an extra feat. The Human favored class bonus is garbage.
- Climb (Str): Too situational.
- Fly (Dex): One rank is plenty.
- Handle Animal (Cha): Helpful for training and handling your animal companion, but you likely won't need to maximize it.
- Heal (Wis): A fantastic supplement to magical healing, and with the Druid's Wisdom you can reliably hit the DC 25 to treat serious wounds and heal bonus damage with only a few skill ranks and some cheap items.
- Knowledge (geography) (Int): Very situational.
- Knowledge (nature) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills.
- Perception (Wis): The most rolled skill in the game, and with high Wisdom the Druid is fantastic at Perception.
- Ride (Dex): Useful if you plan to ride your mount, but Druids aren't built for Mounted Combat, so you don't need more than a few ranks.
- Spellcraft (Int): Situational, and Intelligence isn't an important ability for Druids.
- Survival (Wis): Situational.
- Swim (Str): Too situational.
- Aspect of the Beast: The benefits are poor and can be easily replaced by low level spells or items.
- Natural Spell: A common choice for Wild Shape users, and for good reason. Dropping out of Wild Shape to heal yourself can spell your death, so this lets you remain in your nice safe animal form while still casting spells.
- Planar Wild Shape: The Celestial/Fiendish templates add DR and energy resistance, both of which can dramatically improve your durability. You don't get a ton of wild shape uses per day, but they last for hours per Druid level, so you can generally go a whole day on one use of Wild Shape, especially if you have Natural Spell so that you can heal without reverting.
- Powerful Shape: Fantastic if you like forms which use abilities like Grab, Swallow Whole, and Trample.
- Quick Wild Shape: Wild Shape out of combat. It lasts for hours per level.
- Shaping Focus: Tempting if you want to multiclass into something like Natural Weapon style Ranger to improve your combat abilities, but you can probably get a lot more from spells than from multiclass levels.
Spell Focus (Conjuration): Very few of the Druid's
Conjuration spells call for saving throws.
- Augment Summoning: Druids can spontaneously cast Summon Nature's Ally, which is a good fallback option when you're not sure what else to do with your turn. Augment Summoning makes your summons more threatening.
- Wild Speech: The biggest problem with Wild Shape is communicating with your party. This greatly resolves that issue. However, you can also cast Beastspeak.
- club: Scimitar is better.
- dagger: Carry a few for utility and throwing.
- dart: Decent thrown weapon.
- quarterstaff: Cheap, and you can use it as a double weapon at low levels to roll for 20s. That sounds like a bad idea, but it's annoyingly effective.
- scimitar: The best weapon available to the Druid.
- scythe: Two-handed weapons aren't usually a good idea for Druids.
- sickle: Scimitar is better.
- shortspear: One-handed and you can throw it when you get sick of using it.
- sling: Just throw something.
- spear: Two-handed weapons aren't usually a good idea for Druids.
Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order.
- Hide: Probably the only armor you'll ever wear until you
can cast Ironwood. If you plan to be on the front lines of combat, you should be
doing it in Wild Shape, so your armor usually doesn't matter.
- Breastplate: Once you can cast Ironwood, take the time to use Shape Wood to make yourself a wooden breastplate and use Ironwood to make it usable as armor. Ironwood lasts days per level, so you can easily cast it before you go out adventuring and not worry about it.
- Full Plate: Only useful if you plan to invest heavily in your AC. You can use Shape Wood and Ironwood to make wooden armor, and you can get Heavy Armor Proficiency whenever you're ready.
This section won't address every spell on your spell list, but it will point out some especially notable options. For a complete list of spells, see the SRD Spell Index.
- Guidance: Use this before any skill check that can wait long enough for you to cast it.
- Entangle: Excellent area control. If you can keep foes in the area, they will eventually become entangled, so this remains useful well into high levels.
- Faerie Fire: The lowest-level option for dealing with invisible enemies. Unfortunately it allows spell resistance, which can be a problem against some foes, but it will get you through low levels easily.
- Goodberry: At days/level duration, you should be pre-casting this on any day on which you're not actively adventuring. Extend the spell with a rod. Use your higher-level spell slots. If you're not planning to use a slot, put it into Goodberry. Organize the berries into labeled bags or jars, and eat the oldest ones first. Creatures can get up to 8 points of healing per day, which is better than a charge off of your wand of cure light wounds, and it removes the need for pesky things like trail rations. If your DM starts complaining about where you're getting all of these berries, plant some berries and cast plant growth. Put a bunch of berry bushes in boths and cart them around in wagons. Buy a farm. You're a druid, do some botany.
- Longstrider: The speed increase will offset the speed lost to medium armor, and at hours/level duration it will last all day. The effect still works while in Wild Shape, which can be helpful for slow forms or for when you need to quickly cover a lot of ground.
- Magic Fang: At hours/level duration this remains an important buff for your animal companion at least until you get Greater Magic Fang. The +1 to attacks and damage is great, but bypassing DR/magic is the biggest draw.
- Obscuring Mist: A helpful escape option, but it doesn't benefit much from a high caster level or a high save DC, so it's fine to get a cheap scroll for emergencies.
- Barkskin: One of the best AC buffs in the game for several reasons. First, it's an "Enhancement Bonus to Natural Armor". "Natural Armor" bonuses and "Enhancement Bonuses to Natural Armor" are two totally separate types of AC bonus that stack with each other despite the confusing names. This is why both Barkskin and Amulets of Natural Armor stack with normal natural armor, but don't stack with each other. Think of it like an enhancement bonus to your manufactured armor. Two chain shirts won't stack, and making your chain shirt +1 twice won't stack either. For most recipients, Barkskin is an uncommon bonus type, so adding Barkskin presents an easy AC boost. With 10 minutes/level duration you can usually get through an adventuring day on one or two castings per recipient, especially if you extend the spell (I recommend a lesser metamagic rod).
- Beastspeak: Being able to speak while in Wild Shape may save you the trouble of dropping in and out of Wild Shape just to communicate with your party members.
- Resist Energy: An extremely important defensive option, though not always necessary.
- Warp Wood: This only affects "small" wooden objects, and can only warp or unwarp them. Unless you specifically need to warp numerous objects, Wood Shape is strictly better.
- Wood Shape: Useful for all the same reasons as Stoneshape, but wood is considerably more portable. Shape wooden doors to bypass locks. Shape wooden scraps to improvise tools. Sabotage wooden weapons. Get creative.
- Call Lightning: While the damage per bolt is unremarkable, the appeal is the ability to continue the effect with no action for minutes per level, meaning that you can cast it before going into a fight and use it as a good fallback option if you're short on other resources. The range is good enough that you can remain at a safe distance and wear foes down before they can get close to you.
- Dominate Animal: Too situational. Animals tend to have terrible will saves, so Charm Animal will usually suffice.
- Greater Magic Fang: All of the appeal of Magic Fang, but with the option for a larger enhancement bonus or to affect all of a creature's natural weapons. If you like to Wild Shape into multiple forms, getting +1 to all of your natural weapons means that you're covered all day and don't need to worry about picking a form with the right natural weapons. If you prefer forms with single attacks, it might be best to stick to normal Magic Fang until the additional bonus is worth the higher-level spell slot.
- Protection from Energy: Similar to Resist Energy, and which to use is a complicated question.
- Stone Shape: Fantastically useful as a utility option, but remember that it doesn't work on worked stone like dungeons or castles.
- Plant Growth: Welcome to 5th-level. Time to upset the agricultural economy.
- Resinous Skin: DR 5/slashing for 10 minutes/level. A good companion to Barkskin, but slashing is the most common weapon damage type.
- Ball Lightning: Two or more balls means that you can split this up between multiple enemies or focus on single enemies to quickly wear them down. Separating the damage also means that enemies are more likely to fail at least some of the saving throws to avoid the damage.
- Bloody Claws: Bleed effects normally aren't great, but dealing half your caster level in bleed damage means that you're doing a huge amount of damage.
- Greater Flaming Sphere: A solid way to spend your move action every turn, and the ongoing damage will help even if you miss.
- Greater Aggressive Thundercloud: Like a flaming sphere that can fly, and you can stun creatures. Unfortunately, the stun effect only works on the first hit and the sphere's speed is poor. It's basically ball lightning, but you trade multiple balls for the stun effect.
- Spike Stones: Hours/level duration and it applies damage per square with no save. This is an absolutely fantastic way to impede foes which can't fly.
- Animal Growth: Throw this on your Animal Companion.
- Greater Call Lightning: The additional damage and 5 extra lightning bolts really doesn't seem like enough to justify making this 5th-level.
- Wild (+3): Extremely expensive, but keeping your armor bonus to AC while you're in Wild Shape will give you a significant defensive boost. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how this interacts with magically shaped wooden armor, so you may need to buy armor made of stone or dragonhide. Your GM might allow you to use Shape Wood and Ironwood before permanently enchanting a suit of armor, but I can't find any official rules for doing so.
- Protection: A helpful AC boost for any character, but especially useful for druids because the bonus persists in Wild Shape.
- Extend: A lesser rod works really well for a lot of your low-level spells like Goodberry, Barkskin, and Magic Fang.
- Cure Light Wounds: A crucial source of healing for your party.
- Mage Armor: You can't use it on your own, but if you have a friendly arcane caster they can give you a hefty armor bonus for an hour at a time. This is a crucial defensive option while you're using wild shape until you can afford Wild armor.
- Amulet of Natural Armor: Cast Barkskin.
- Beast-bond Brand: Too situational. There just aren't many spells with range: personal that will be helpful for your companion.
- Belt of (Some Ability Score): Wild Shape users will want to emphasize this heavily, but druids who don't fight in wild shape can probably forgo this.
- Circlet of Wisdom: Your casting ability is still important, even if you're emphasizing Wild Shape.
- Cloak of Resistance: Too crucial to forego.
- Polymorphic Pouch: Useful for accessing wands, scrolls, potions, and material components while you're wildshaped.