How to Play a Druid in 5e, Photo Sketch of a Woman and Wolf

How to Play a Druid in D&D 5e

The Druid in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is a fun class to play as simply for its theming. It offers a variety of options for players to overcome obstacles and roleplay opportunities.

But, what is the Druid about? What core features define it? How does its spellcasting work? And, what does it mean to play one?

This beginner’s guide on how to play a Druid in 5e outlines the basics you need to know when starting a campaign with a character in this class.

Let’s start things off with the basics of playing a Druid in 5e.

Basics of 5e Druids

How to Play a Druid, Photo Sketch of a Woman Sitting on the Roots of a Tree with a Face
Druids in 5e are a playable class with a connection to nature & a focus on wielding magic for the betterment of the natural world

Druids in 5e stand as magical wardens and guardians of the natural world. They represent this connection through the use of magic and their various class features.

The most important thing to remember when playing a Druid in 5e is they have a deep-seated bond with nature. It’s the defining roleplaying aspect of the class.

Playing a Druid means playing a character with a magical connection to the natural world.

As such, when learning how to play a Druid in 5e, you need to understand that each element of the class has some place in the preservation of nature. This may be directly at odds with civilization or may lead to cultivating methods for towns and cities to grow and flourish alongside nature.

From a mechanic standpoint, Druids are spellcasters. They use a variety of spells and magical abilities to aid them and their allies during their adventures.

The core feature of Druids in 5e, aside from spellcasting, is Wild Shape. Primarily, this lets Druids turn into various beasts, but it also fuels many subclass abilities.

Which background you choose for your Druid usually represents a sort of recluse or isolated character. Often, your character has deep ties to the natural world, secluding themselves from civilization to reach enlightenment or grow close to nature in some way. That said, your Druid’s backstory is up to you to determine how and why they have their deep, maybe supernatural bond with nature.

D&D 5e Druids & Metal

Druids in 5e may use some metal weapons but they won’t wear armor made of metal.

Honestly, Druids have a weird relationship with metal. But, it makes sense when you take a bit of the history of the class into context.

First off, the Player’s Handbook has a line that explicitly states "druids will not wear armor or use shields made of metal" (Source: DnD Beyond | Druid Class). This line seems to cause a bit of confusion due simply to the weapon proficiencies Druids get.

Druids in 5e gain proficiency in a number of metal weapons: clubs, daggers, darts, javelins, maces, quarterstaffs, scimitars, sickles, slings, and spears. Now, many of those could be made with stone or other materials (clubs, maces, spears, etc). But, scimitars and sickles are usually made of metal.

But, when you look at their armor proficiencies, you’ll find the above line referencing metal armor and shields: Light armor, medium armor, shields (druids will not wear armor or use shields made of metal).

This all raises the question: if Druids can use metal weapons, why can’t they wear metal armor?

Well, it’s more of a "won’t" than a "can’t" but you get the idea.

Now, I haven’t played the older editions of D&D. But, I found a quote from the 2nd Edition Complete Druid’s Handbook through a Reddit post on the r/dndnext subreddit:

Most of the weapons permitted to druids of a particular branch resemble tools used in herding, hunting, and farming, or hold symbolic meaning to the druid. For instance, the curved scimitar and khopesh represent both the sickle used in the harvest and the crescent moon, which stands for birth, death, and rebirth in the cycle of Nature.

Source: 2nd Edition Complete Druid’s Handbook

Basically, if the tool has a use in agriculture or other sort of task, Druids can use it even if the tool is made of metal.

Primary Ability Scores for Druids in 5e

Photo Sketch of an Old Man in Robes and Holding a Staff
Wisdom is the most important Ability Score for Druids in 5e as the class uses it as their Spellcasting Ability

The primary Ability Score for 5e Druids is Wisdom as this class uses it for their spellcasting and other class features. Dexterity and Constitution are the next best two stats to prioritize as the rest don’t often help Druids.

Honestly, it’s as simple as that.

Wisdom is the most important Ability Score when playing a Druid in 5e. The class uses Wisdom as its Spellcasting Ability, so you’ll want a decent score in this stat for a higher Spell Save DC and to hit Spell Attack Bonus. And, it fuels the various class and subclass features.

So, what’s the second most important stat for playing a Druid in 5e?

Dexterity and Constitution are really the only decent Ability Scores after Wisdom for Druids.

While they become less important for Druids while in their Wild Shape form, Dexterity and Constitution do the most work. Dexterity improves a Druid’s Initiative Bonus and Armor Class. Meanwhile, Constitution gives your characters more Hit Points and improves their ability to succeed on Concentration checks.

The thing is, you won’t even use these while Wild Shaped.

When you use Wild Shape you take on the physical stats, that is Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution, of the creature you turn into. So, you may use your Druid’s Dexterity at the start of combat for Initiative, but you’ll most likely use whatever beast’s stats you turn into.

That said, Strength, Intelligence, and Charisma are all easily less important.

Druids have little to no use for Strength because you’ll usually use a beast’s stat. Intelligence may be good if you want to play a more scholarly or knowledgeable Druid, but it won’t benefit any of your class features. And finally, Charisma doesn’t benefit any Druid features and would be purely for helping in social encounters.

In the end, Wisdom is the most important Ability Score for Druids. Dexterity and Constitution are the next best stats that benefit a Druid most after that. And, you can dump or leave Strength, Intelligence, and/or Charisma as your lowest scores.

Druid Class Features

Photo Sketch of a Cloaked Man in Side Profile with an Eagle Flying Behind Him
Wild Shape is the 5e Druid’s core, defining class feature

The various class features of 5e Druids emphasize their connection with the natural world and how they interact with it. That said, their primary features include Wild Shape and Spellcasting.

5e Druids actually don’t get that many class features. This is mostly due to the fact they are one of D&D’s spellcasting classes. These classes usually get fewer features because they get incremental improvements to the number and level of spells they may cast.

That said, the defining Druid class feature is Wild Shape. More than likely, you want to play a Druid in 5e for the ability to turn into animals either for roleplaying purposes or for the variety of options to overcome obstacles and hazards.

And, of course, Druids get a variety of subclass features to differentiate playstyles and add variety to the class.

We’ll get to the subclasses a bit later. First up, let’s look at the core class feature for Druids: Wild Shape.

Wild Shape

Wild Shape is the core class feature for the Druid in 5e. It allows Druids to take on the form of various beasts in 5e and fuels other subclass features.

The main reason to play a Druid in 5e is to have the ability to turn into the various beasts of the world. This confers a variety of benefits and gives Druids a wealth of options for overcoming obstacles during your game.

Page 66 of the Player’s Handbook has the full description of the Druid’s Wild Shape feature. But, here is a basic rundown of it:

Starting at 2nd level, you can use your action to magically assume the shape of a beast that you have seen before. You can use this feature twice. You regain expended uses when you finish a short or long rest.
You can stay in a beast shape for a number of hours equal to half your druid level (rounded down). You then revert to your normal form unless you expend another use of this feature. You can revert to your normal form earlier by using a bonus action on your turn. You automatically revert if you fall unconscious, drop to 0 hit points, or die.

  • Your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the beast, but you retain your alignment, personality, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. You also retain all of your skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the creature.
  • When you transform, you assume the beast’s hit points and Hit Dice. When you revert to your normal form, you return to the number of hit points you had before you transformed. However, if you revert as a result of dropping to 0 hit points, any excess damage carries over to your normal form.
  • You can’t cast spells, and your ability to speak or take any action that requires hands is limited to the capabilities of your beast form. Transforming doesn’t break your concentration on a spell you’ve already cast, however, or prevent you from taking actions that are part of a spell, such as call lightning, that you’ve already cast.
  • You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them if the new form is physically capable of doing so. However, you can’t use any of your special senses, such as Darkvision, unless your new form also has that sense.
  • You choose whether your equipment falls to the ground in your space, merges into your new form, or is worn by it.
Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules: Druid

Basically, when you use the Wild Shape Druid feature, your character takes on the physical aspects of the beast you transform into while maintaining their mental faculties. You can’t speak or cast spells while Wild Shaped, but you don’t lose concentration on and may take repeat actions from a spell you cast prior to transforming.

That said, there are a few restrictions on what you may turn into. The Beast Shapes table outlines these restrictions.

Wild Shape Table

Beast Shapes
Level Maximum CR Limitation
2nd 1/4 No flying or swimming speed
4th 1/2 No flying speed
8th 1 None

Now, this is the default rules for Druids using their Wild Shape feature. The Circle of the Moon has a subclass feature that expands what a Druid may turn into using Wild Shape. But, that’s an exception to this table.

Druid Spellcasting

Druids count as one of D&D 5e’s Full Caster classes, getting access to the maximum number of spell slots and primarily relying on magic during their adventures. They use Wisdom to calculate their Spell Save Difficulty Class (DC) and Spell Attack Modifier.

As one of 5e’s spellcasting classes, Druids have access to a variety of spells. That is, the class often relies on their spells as their primary method for combat and adventuring. A few exceptions exist as with the focus on Wild Shape for Druids of the Circle of the Moon, but even then, you’ll often rely on your spells for most encounters.

Druids get a set number of Cantrips based on their level. 1st-level Druids start with two Cantrips, the gain one more at 4th-level, and they get one more at 10th-level. Normally, you can’t switch out Cantrips as a Druid. Once you pick one, you’re stuck with it. That said, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduced an Optional Class Feature that allows Druids to change out a Cantrip at specific intervals.

You follow the same methods as other spellcasting classes for your Druid’s Spell Save DC and Spell Attack Bonus. And, 5o calculate your Druid’s Spell Save DC and Spell Attack Bonus, use the following formulas:

Druid Spell Save DC = 8 + Wisdom Modifier + Proficiency Bonus
Druid Spell Attack Bonus = Wisdom Modifier + Proficiency Bonus

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules: Druid

So, the higher your Wisdom stat, the harder your spells are to resist and the higher chance you have to hitting with spell attacks.

Druids also have the ability to cast spells ritually following the normal rules. If a spell has the (ritual) tag, you may cast it without expending a Spell Slot at the cost of adding 10 minutes to the Casting Time.

Preparing Spells as a Druid in 5e

Druids prepare a list of spells from their available list according to their Wisdom modifier and Druid level. They can switch out their list of prepared spells after finishing a long rest.

Like how Clerics prepare their spells, Druids technically have access to the entirety of their spell list. That said, they may only prepare a certain number of spells on any given day.

Use the following formula to figure out how many spells your Druid may prepare per day:

Number of Prepared Druid Spells = Wisdom modifier + Druid level

For example, a 3rd-level Druid with an 18 Wisdom Ability Score (+4 modifier) may prepare seven spells per day.

The best part is Druids may change up their prepared spells after finishing a long rest. Each spell they want to change to requires one minute per spell level of concentration or meditation. But, Druids can switch out their entire list of prepared spells every day if they want to.

Druid Spellcasting Focus

Druids may use a spellcasting focus following the normal rules. The difference is they must use a special version of a focus called a Druidic Focus.

The usual spellcasting focus rules apply to Druids as well. They may use a spellcasting focus to forego many Material spell component requirements excluding those with monetary values attached.

That said, they must use a Druidic Focus instead of the typical spellcasting ones.

Druidic Focuses function in the same was as regular spellcasting focuses. Honestly, the difference is the roleplaying aspect for Druids. These types of focuses are made of natural materials with often symbolic meaning or representation.

The Player’s Handbook lists examples of Druidic Focuses including:

  • Sprig of mistletoe or holly
  • Totem incorporating parts of a sacred animal
  • Wooden staff made from a single, living tree
  • Yew or other special wood wand

Basically, a Druidic Focus can be anything made of natural components, either plant or animal, that has some spiritual significance.

5e Druid Circles (Druid Subclasses)

Photo Sketch of an Elf Woman Casting a Spell with a Magic Circle
The Druid subclasses in 5e are known as Circles; each Druid Circle represents some element of nature

Druid subclasses in 5e are called Circles. Each Druid Circle represents some aspect of the natural world and dictates how a Druid interacts with it.

The main theme of the Druid Circles is they each represent a tie with nature. Most of them are fairly secular, representing the land itself or the various beasts, while others are more supernatural, representing a natural connection with dreams or the cosmos.

While each subclass alters a character’s playstale to varying degrees, the core idea for Druids remains the same; a deep, sometimes spiritual bond with the natural world.

The Druid Circles available to play as in D&D 5e are:

  • Circle of the Land (PHB)
  • Circle of the Moon (PHB)
  • Circle of Dreams (XGtE)
  • Circle of the Shepherd (XGtE)
  • Circle of Spores (TCoE & GGtR)
  • Circle of Stars (TCoE)
  • Circle of Wildfire (TCoE)
List of D&D Abbreviations for easy sourcebook reference

Let’s go a little more into detail of how each of these subclasses differ from each other. I’ll also give my opinion on why you would want to choose each one depending on the playstyle.

Circle of the Land
Circle of the Land Druids have a supernatural connection with a specific biome type of the world. These Druids gain additional spells related to their chosen region. Land Druids put more emphasis on their spellcasting, so play this subclass if you like the idea of having a connection to a specific region and focus more on casting spells.
Circle of the Moon
Circle of the Moon Druids place much more focus on using the Wild Shape feature, expanding the range of beasts they may transform into. Since Moon Druids have a wider range of available Wild Shape options, play this subclass if you want to utilize the class feature to the fullest extent.
Circle of Dreams
Circle of Dreams Druids have a mystical connection to the fairy realms. They don’t really alter your Wild Shape in any way, but they focus on resting and changing how you may use both short and long rests during your game. Play a Dreams Druid if you want to play a powerful healer with interesting options for your rests.
Circle of the Shepherd
Circle of the Shepherd Druids emphasize the use of summoned spirits and creatures to aid and support your adventuring party. The core subclass feature for this Circle involves a variety of summoning options with varying abilities to help you and your allies in combat. Play a Shepherd Druid is you like having a bit of variety in combat and want to lay a summoner-type character.
Circle of Spores
Circle of Spores Druids turn your Wild Shape feature away from transforming into beasts. Instead, your character may surround themself with damaging, fungal spores while staying in humanoid form. Play a Spores Druid if you want to deal consistent damage in combat while retaining the ability to cast spells.
Circle of Stars
Circle of Stars Druids prioritize their spellcasting and use of magic-like subclass features. These Druids use constellation imagery to invoke ideas of reading star maps for predicting the future and drawing power from the cosmos. Play a Star Druid if you want to prioritize spellcasting and wield a variety of star-inspired, supernatural abilities.
Circle of Wildfire
Circle of Wildfire Druids represent the cycle of destruction and rebirth as the result of natural fires. Druids belonging to this Circle actually get a Wildfire Spirit as a companion. Play a Wildfire Druid if you want a companion without using the Optional Class Features rule for Druids in Tasha’s.

Playing a 5e Druid FAQ

Photo Sketch of a Woman Merging with Wood

What Spells Should a Druid Have?

The spells a Druid should have in 5e depends on how you want to play your character. Druids have a number of spells great for exploring the world, supporting their allies, or hindering the enemies in combat.

Druids have a variety of great spells available to them. Many of them are fantastic at controlling the battlefield, making movement more difficult for their enemies or holding them in place. That said, Druids also have a good number of healing and damaging spells they may prepare. So, the spells you should have as a Druid in 5e is entirely up to how you want to play your character.

Can a Druid Turn Into a Dragon?

No. Druids in 5e can not turn into a dragon through the use of Wild Shape. Wild Shape does not allow Druids to turn into creatures belonging to the dragon monster type.

It’s a simple as that. Druids in 5e can’t turn into dragons with Wild Shape because the feature allows only the transformation into creatures belonging to the beast creature type…unless you’re a high-level Moon Druid. Then you can turn into an elemental.

Can a Druid Turn Into an Owlbear?

No. 5e Druids can not turn into an owlbear with Wild Shape. Druids may only turn into beasts or elementals for those who follow the Circle of the Moon. Owlbears belong to the monstrosity creature type.

Same reasons apply here as to why Druids can’t use Wild Shape to turn into a dragon. Owlbears belong to the monstrosity creature type. Meaning, they aren’t a beast, in the strictest of definitions, and are excluded from Wild Shape.

Is Charisma Important for a Druid in 5e?

No. Charisma is not an important Ability Score for Druids in 5e. Druids have no need for Charisma for their class features.

None of the Druid’s class features, even including those from subclasses, use Charisma. You could make an argument that Charisma helps in communicating with animals or plants, but that’s more for social encounters and not directly beneficial for spellcasting or class features.

Is Dex or Con Better for a Druid?

Dexterity and Constitution are both great options as secondary stats for a Druid in 5e. Neither is explicitly better than the other as they both offer different benefits depending on how you want to play a Druid.

Dexterity helps Druids improve their Armor Class and Initiative bonus. Constitution improves a Druid’s hit points and makes succeeding Concentration checks easier. Either is a good secondary Ability Score for Druids in 5e.

Can Druids Use Familiars or Animal Companions?

Druids typically can not summon familiars nor do they get an animal companion. By default, Druids lack access to the find familiar spell and usually don’t have the ability to find a beast companion. That said, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything has an Optional Class Feature that grants Druids the ability to summon a companion in a similar way and the Circle of Wildfire has the ability to summon a Wildfire Spirit.

Find familiar isn’t included in the Druid spell list nor does the class (usually) get a feature similar to the Beast Master Ranger subclass feature Ranger’s Companion. So, normally, Druids don’t get a familiar or animal companion.

That said, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything includes a Druid Optional Class Feature that allows them to summon a familiar. The same book also includes the Circle of Wildfire Druid subclass that has a feature for summoning a spirit companion. So, you have ways to obtain a companion for your Druid now. Just know these options come from a separate sourcebook.

How Many Times Can a Druid Wild Shape in 5e?

A Druid 5e may use Wild Shape two times per rest until they reach 20th-level. At 20th-level, Druids gain the Archdruid feature which lets them use Wild Shape an unlimited number of times.

It’s honestly as simple as that.

Druids in 5e can use Wild Shape twice per rest (meaning both short and long rests) until they reach 20th-level when they can then use it as much as they like.


Summary on How to Play a Druid in 5e

That covers the basics on how to play a Druid in 5e.

The Druid class is one of D&D 5e’s spellcasting classes which places an emphasis on a connection with the natural world. Their core class feature is Wild Shape which primarily lets Druids turn into various creatures of the beast monster type but also fuels other class features. Finally, each Druid subclass, called Circles, represents a different aspect of nature from animals to connections through dreams to the energy of the cosmos.

Which is your favorite Druid subclass? Do you prioritize spellcasting or Wild Shape when you play a Druid? Leave a comment below!

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