Ill Winds Over Verbobonc
This article borrows heavily from the excellent article titled Power Groups: Druids of the Old Faith, written by Eric Menge. The article may be accessed here.
Within the sparsely settled regions of the Flanaess, amidst deep forests, arid deserts, forlorn wastelands, and rugged hills and mountains, the touch of the organised religions remains light. In such lands, it is not uncommon to find holdouts of humanoids and giants worshipping their own pantheons of often savage deities and, more rarely, depraved cults spring up dedicated to evil gods, demon lords, and archdevils. However, in these lands the common folk tend to cleave to the traditions and spirituality of the Old Faith, and to these rustic souls, it is the druid who serves as their intermediary with the sometimes hostile elements and often predatory creatures of the land.
Originally an ancient Flan system of belief derived from observance of the seasons and propitiation of those deities that govern them, the Old Faith existed undiluted for many centuries across the Flanaess. It was heavily influenced by the husbandry of the elven peoples, who sought to foster a respect for the natural world among the Flannae. Beory the Oerthmother was then, as she is now, the central goddess of the Old Faith, and upon her surface the four gods of the seasons wrought their work: Ehlonna, the Spring Maid; Obad-Hai, the Lord of Summer; Berei, the Lady of Autumn; and Nerull, the Winter King. And above them all travelled Pelor, who symbolised the sun, keeping time to ensure the vicissitudes of the seasons.
Later, the tenets of the Old Faith found great appeal amongst early Oeridian and Sueloise immigrants who arrived in these lands in the wake of the Twin Cataclysms. For the most part, the cultural cross pollination that occurred with the inter-mixing of these peoples resulted in the adoption of the traditions of the Old Faith within the framework of the pantheons that these folk already used.
Among the combative Oeridians, Procan, god of the sea, stood on a greater footing than the adopted Beory, who was seen as a harsh, treacherous mistress. According to the Oeridian legends, Procan created the Velaeri to assume custodianship of the the natural world: Atroa, the Bringer of Spring; Sotillion, the Summer Queen, Wenta, the Harvest Daughter; and Telchur, Master of the North Wind. The oldest of the Velaeri, Velnius, Lord of the Sky, came to perform the same role as Pelor among the Flannae.
Although the Suel adopted the Old Faith in much smaller numbers, those who took it to heart substituted their own gods as well. While once again Beory was adopted on a matter of fact basis, to the Sueloise congregations of the Old Faith it was Lendor, the Prince of Time, who was overseer of the cycle, as indeed he was the creator of all aspects of creation to them. Beneath his purview, old Suel gods were given new purpose, while others were easier fits. Vatun, the North God, was a natural choice as overseer of winter, while Phyton the Woodshaper was easily adapted to that of autumn. Bralm, the Flying Lady, became the uneasy personification of spring, while Llerg, the Great Bear, found himself the unlikely custodian of summer.
As civilisation has grown across the heartlands of the Flanaess, the Old Faith has faced many challenges from the more organised and hierarchical religions that have come to dominate much of the land. Many thorps and villages that once existed in pastoral harmony with nature have swelled into towns and cities, with all the opportunities that such large settlements afford. Increasingly, folk turn from the old ways in search of gods more relevant to their adoption of trades and crafts over working with the land. In many lands the congregations of the Old Faith shrink in numbers, and fearfully they ask the druids what is to be done. No few older druids have chosen not to act at all, believing that the cycle will correct itself through famine, disease, and war. However, some younger druids have chosen to lift the profile of the old ways, travelling the land and working with allied bards to fill the hearts of the people with reverence for the Oerthmother and the cycle. Others have taken a more martial route, choosing to be active in showing the people that there is still power in the Old Faith, and that the custodians of the land and their congregations are not people with whom the organised faiths should trifle.
The Old Faith is a hierarchical mystery cult in nature, with a distinct pecking order throughout each of the nine geographical regions of the Flanaess. Would-be druids enter the Old Faith as aspirants, chosen by the local grove for their enthusiasm as well as proficiency as healers, foresters, and the like. These folks serve the grove, and are observed closely to discern their aptitudes and potential. Those who prove suitable are then eventually invested as ovates, they assist more senior druids much as acolytes assist priests. Above the ovates are the Nine Circles of Initiation, also known as the Mysteries of the Old Faith. As they matriculate through the mysteries, an initiate is generally assigned to a true druid, though they might be loaned out to others as needs be. To gain access to greater mysteries, the initiate must pass many trials designed to test their wisdom and understanding of the lore, as well as proficiency in divine magic and the arts of shapechanging.
Above the Ovates and the Initiates are those with the title of druid (sometimes called a true druid), who holds responsibility for a grove or a megalithic circle. These worthies typically oversee a significant area and report to their superiors, the archdruids, either with the beginning of each new moon or the turn of the season, at the discretion of said archdruid. Only three of these archdruids exist in any one of the nine geographical areas of the Flanaess at a time, and they in turn answer to a great druid.
Beyond that august rank stands that of the legendary grand druid, who oversees the entirety of the face of the Oerthmother. Assisted in the duties of protecting the body of the goddess in the Flanaess by the nine great druids, it is anyone’s guess as to how many more regions of Oerik or the continents beyond hold others of a similar rank. Finally, within the circles of the OId Faith it is whispered that even beyond the grand druid there stands another body — the shadowy Hierophants of the Cabal. These legendary druids are of such power that even archmagi would be fools to gainsay their power. These hierophants exist in a liminal place among the hierarchy of the Old Faith, willingly subservient to the directives of the grand druid but in practice free to act in whatever manner they deem appropriate to preserve the balance. Their existence is but vague rumour to all but the most knowledgeable of people.
The ranks of archdruid, great druid, and grand druid are determined by challenge. Challenges must be made and resolved on the equinoxes and the solstices, and a druid may only challenge the rank directly above their current one. The challenge is determined by the incumbent but must involve some sort of contest between they and the challenger. Common challenges include riddles, races, wrestling while in wildshape, or chess-style games, but any form of challenge is possible as long as both contestants face the same danger. If successful, the challenger ascends in rank and cannot be challenged that season while the incumbent is reduced to the challenger’s rank. If a druid dies while holding a rank determined by challenge, the druid of the next higher rank sets the challenge and all claimants must compete with each other. If this happens to the Grand Druid, Beory sets the challenge, providing details of this through divinations and visions.
At present, the Great Druid for the region of the Western Nyr Dyv (also known as “Old Ferrond”) is Hildefer Paravis (Paravis being Ancient Suloise for “the Feathered”). She makes her home in the central-east vastness of the Gnarley Forest, where she is on excellent terms with the rangers, swanmays, and fey. She is known to use her thousand faces ability to take a variety of guises. Her favorite is a half-elven bard who travels throughout the lands on the border of the Gnarley, carrying news while collecting tales to preserve the oral history of the region. Until this year Hildefer held the rank of archdruid, but she won the challenge against the former great druid at the summer solstice, when she collected more fireflies (1,526 to be exact) in a single night.
As her first act, Hildefer has reclaimed several megalithic circles in and around the Gnarley Forest. She has ordered the druids to cull back the bracken and restore the menhirs to their former glory. This activity has attracted a lot of attention among the fauna and fey of the Gnarley, who have been gathering at these points. The Greyhawk militia is watching these events carefully for fear that she make take a strong stand against their incursions into the ancient forest. So far, Hildefer has been content to reclaim the old places of power and to watch those who enter her forest. Her most noted servant and ally is, Hrudek, Archdruid of the fringe lands of the Gnarley and Welkwood, where he keeps a careful eye onthe expansion of Dyvers, the Viscounty of Verbobonc, and the Fey Kingdom of Celene in addition to warily watching the despoiled lands once claimed by the Temple of Elemental Evil.
It should be noted that outside the ranks of the Old Faith, it is not unknown for others to come into the way of the druid, and their powers are indistinguishable from the formal training offered by the Nine Circles of Initiation. In practice, the only difference is the lack of standing they will have in the hierarchy of the Old Faith, and the fact that they will not know the druidic language. It is not uncommon for elven followers of Rillifane Rallathil, Solonor Thelandira, and Aerdri Faenya to develop druidic powers, though these folk are typically incorporated into the formal religions of those deities. Halfling followers of Yondalla have been known to develop along similar lines, and enjoy similar outcomes with their mother faith. Among the gnomes, druids sometimes emerge among the followers of Baervan Wildwanderer. Centaur and dryad druids are common among their peoples, and not at all uncommon among other fey folk, though these peoples tend to integrate into the wider congregations of the Old Faith. Even orcs have been known to develop druidic traditions dedicated to Luthic and other, more obscure members of their pantheon, at least within the bounds of the Gnarley Forest and the Pomarj.
Concerning Ranks and Levels
A good many of those who train to be aspirants (1st level) never quite develop the magical potential or master the abilities necessary to become druids, and instead pursue the vocation of Adept, striving to work for their local druids in whatever capacity they might best serve. Indeed, it is not at unusual for aspirants to come from the ranks of families with a tradition of practising the road of adept, such as village wise women, woods-wise healers, and the like. It is also not unusual for aspirants to develop some potential and then move on to other walks of life. However, once an aspirant moves on to ovate (2nd level), they have officially dedicated themselves to the mysteries of the Old Faith, and they will then eventually matriculate through the nine circles of initiation (3rd through 11th levels), before reaching the rank of true druid (12th level and higher). Many druids are content to rest on their laurels at that point, choosing not to advance through the higher ranks of the hierarchy, but should they wish to do so they may challenge for archdruid at 13th level, great druid at 14th level, and grand druid at 15th level. The hierophants of the cabal are said to have an informal hierarchy all their own, but it is unknown to all save themselves.
It should be noted that losing a challenge does not cause level loss, but rather means instead that rank has been ceded to another in the druidic hierarchy of the Old Faith
Neutral good, lawful neutral, neutral, chaotic neutral, or neutral evil.
The druid’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Jump (Str), Knowledge (nature) (Int), Listen (Wis), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Spellcraft (Int), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis), and Swim (Str).
Skill Points at 1st Level
(4 + Int modifier) ×4.
Skill Points at Each Additional Level
4 + Int modifier.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency
Druids are proficient with the following weapons: club, dagger, dart, quarterstaff, scimitar, sickle, shortspear, sling, and spear. They are also proficient with all natural attacks (claw, bite, and so forth) of any form they assume with wild shape.
Druids are proficient with light and medium armor but are prohibited from wearing metal armor; thus, they may wear only padded, leather, or hide armor. (A druid may also wear wooden armor that has been altered by the ironwood spell so that it functions as though it were steel. See the ironwood spell description) Druids are proficient with shields (except tower shields) but must use only wooden ones.
A druid who wears prohibited armor or carries a prohibited shield is unable to cast druid spells or use any of their supernatural or spell-like class abilities while doing so and for 24 hours thereafter.
A druid casts divine spells, which are drawn from the druid spell list. Their alignment may restrict them from casting certain spells opposed to their moral or ethical beliefs; see Chaotic, Evil, Good, and Lawful Spells, below. A druid must choose and prepare their spells in advance (see below).
To prepare or cast a spell, the druid must have a Wisdom score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against a druid’s spell is 10 + the spell level + the druid’s Wisdom modifier.
Like other spellcasters, a druid can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. Their base daily spell allotment is given on Table: The Druid. In addition, they receives bonus spells per day if they have a high Wisdom score. They do not have access to any domain spells or granted powers, as a cleric does.
A druid prepares and casts spells the way a cleric does, though they cannot lose a prepared spell to cast a cure spell in its place (but see Spontaneous Casting, below). A druid may prepare and cast any spell on the druid spell list, provided that they can cast spells of that level, but they must choose which spells to prepare during their daily meditation.
A druid can channel stored spell energy into summoning spells that they haven’t prepared ahead of time. They can “lose” a prepared spell in order to cast any summon nature’s ally spell of the same level or lower.
Just like clerics, the druid can prepare a number of orisons, or 0-level spells, each day, as noted on Table: Druid under “Spells per Day.” A druid prays for and memorises orisons in the usual manner. However, those selected will not become exhausted after being cast, so may be cast again later that day. This means that all orisons known may be cast far more often than 3.5 rules allow. A druid may cast a given orison a number of times each hour equal to their class level, after which it takes their magical conduit to their god’s power a small time to regenerate. In a manner of speaking, the magical energy gone into the orison is not exhausted, but it could be considered fatigued for a little while.
Chaotic, Evil, Good, and Lawful Spells
A druid can’t cast spells of an alignment opposed to their own or their deity’s. Spells associated with particular alignments are indicated by the chaos, evil, good, and law descriptors in their spell descriptions.
A druid’s bonus language options include Sylvan, the language of woodland creatures. This choice is in addition to the bonus languages available to the character because of her race.
A druid also knows Druidic, a secret language known only to druids, which she learns upon becoming a 1st-level druid. Druidic is a free language for a druid; that is, they know it in addition to their regular allotment of languages and it doesn’t take up a language slot. Druids are forbidden to teach this language to nondruids, except to a select number of organisations that boast rangers and clerics who are closely allied with the druidic faith.
Druidic has its own alphabet.
Animal Companion (Ex)
A druid may begin play with an animal companion selected from the following list: badger, camel, dire rat, dog, riding dog, eagle, hawk, horse (light or heavy), owl, pony, snake (Small or Medium viper), or wolf. If the campaign takes place wholly or partly in an aquatic environment, the following creatures are also available: porpoise, Medium shark, and squid. This animal is a loyal companion that accompanies the druid on her adventures as appropriate for its kind.
A 1st-level druid’s companion is completely typical for its kind except as noted below. As a druid advances in level, the animal’s power increases as shown on the table. If a druid releases her companion from service, she may gain a new one by performing a ceremony requiring 24 uninterrupted hours of prayer. This ceremony can also replace an animal companion that has perished.
A druid of 4th level or higher may select from alternative lists of animals. Should she select an animal companion from one of these alternative lists, the creature gains abilities as if the character’s druid level were lower than it actually is. Subtract the value indicated in the appropriate list header from the character’s druid level and compare the result with the druid level entry on the table to determine the animal companion’s powers. (If this adjustment would reduce the druid’s effective level to 0 or lower, she can’t have that animal as a companion.)
Nature Sense (Ex)
A druid gains a +2 bonus on Knowledge (nature) and Survival checks.
Wild Empathy (Ex)
A druid can improve the attitude of an animal. This ability functions just like a Diplomacy check made to improve the attitude of a person. The druid rolls 1d20 and adds her druid level and her Charisma modifier to determine the wild empathy check result.
The typical domestic animal has a starting attitude of indifferent, while wild animals are usually unfriendly.
To use wild empathy, the druid and the animal must be able to study each other, which means that they must be within 30 feet of one another under normal conditions. Generally, influencing an animal in this way takes 1 minute but, as with influencing people, it might take more or less time.
A druid can also use this ability to influence a magical beast with an Intelligence score of 1 or 2, but she takes a -4 penalty on the check.
Woodland Stride (Ex)
Starting at 2nd level, a druid may move through any sort of undergrowth (such as natural thorns, briars, overgrown areas, and similar terrain) at their normal speed and without taking damage or suffering any other impairment. However, thorns, briars, and overgrown areas that have been magically manipulated to impede motion still affect them.
Trackless Step (Ex)
Starting at 3rd level, a druid leaves no trail in natural surroundings and cannot be tracked. They may choose to leave a trail if so desired.
Resist Nature’s Lure (Ex)
Starting at 4th level, a druid gains a +4 bonus on saving throws against the spell-like abilities of fey.
Wild Shape (Su)
At 5th level, druids gain the ability to turn themselves into any Small or Medium animal and back again once per day. Their options for new forms include all creatures with the animal type. This ability functions like the alternate form special ability, except as noted here. The effect lasts for 1 hour per druid level, or until they change back. Changing form (to animal or back) is a standard action and doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity. Each time you use wild shape, you regain lost hit points as if you had rested for a night.
Any gear worn or carried by the druid melds into the new form and becomes nonfunctional. When the druid reverts to her true form, any objects previously melded into the new form reappear in the same location on her body that they previously occupied and are once again functional. Any new items worn in the assumed form fall off and land at the druid’s feet.
The form chosen must be that of an animal the druid is familiar with.
A druid loses their ability to speak while in animal form because they are limited to the sounds that a normal, untrained animal can make, but they can communicate normally with other animals of the same general grouping as their new form. (The normal sound a wild parrot makes is a squawk, so changing to this form does not permit speech.)
A druid can use this ability more times per day at 6th, 7th, 10th, 14th, and 18th level, as noted on Table: The Druid. In addition, they gain the ability to take the shape of a Large animal at 8th level, a Tiny animal at 11th level, and a Huge animal at 15th level.
The new form’s Hit Dice can’t exceed the character’s druid level.
At 9th level, a a druid becomes able to use wild shape to change into a magical beast. By virtue of their arcane physiology, it is more difficult than shapechanging into animals and even plants. Initially, they may change into a small or medium magical beast and back, following the same rules as those provided above. At 12th level, they may do so a second time per day, and at 18th a third. At 15th level they gain the ability to also shapechange into a large magical beast.
At 12th level, a druid becomes able to use wild shape to change into a plant creature with the same size restrictions as for animal forms. (A druid can’t use this ability to take the form of a plant that isn’t a creature.)
At 16th level, a druid becomes able to use wild shape to change into a Small, Medium, or Large elemental (air, earth, fire, or water) once per day. These elemental forms are in addition to their normal wild shape usage. In addition to the normal effects of wild shape, the druid gains all the elemental’s extraordinary, supernatural, and spell-like abilities. They also gain the elemental’s feats for as long as they maintain the wild shape, but they retains their own creature type.
At 18th level, a druid becomes able to assume elemental form twice per day, and at 20th level they can do so three times per day. At 20th level, a druid may use this wild shape ability to change into a Huge elemental.
Venom Immunity (Ex)
At 9th level, a druid gains immunity to all poisons.
A Thousand Faces (Su)
At 13th level, a druid gains the ability to change their appearance at will, as if using the disguise self spell, but only while in their normal form. This affects the druid’s body but not their possessions. It is not an illusory effect, but a minor physical alteration of the druid’s appearance, within the limits described for the spell.
Timeless Body (Ex)
After attaining 15th level, a druid no longer takes ability score penalties for aging and cannot be magically aged. Any penalties they may have already incurred, however, remain in place.
Bonuses still accrue, and the druid still dies of old age when their time is up.
A druid who ceases to revere nature, changes to a prohibited alignment, or teaches the Druidic language to a nondruid loses all spells and druid abilities (including their animal companion, but not including weapon, armor, and shield proficiencies). They cannot thereafter gain levels as a druid until they atone. (see the atonement spell description). As mentioned above, a very few organisations closely allied with the Old Faith do not incur the wrath of the nature gods if they are taught the druidic language.
Animal Companion Basics
Use the base statistics for a creature of the companion’s kind, but make the following changes.
The character’s druid level. The druid’s class levels stack with levels of any other classes that are entitled to an animal companion for the purpose of determining the companion’s abilities and the alternative lists available to the character.
Extra eight-sided (d8) Hit Dice, each of which gains a Constitution modifier, as normal. Remember that extra Hit Dice improve the animal companion’s base attack and base save bonuses. An animal companion’s base attack bonus is the same as that of a druid of a level equal to the animal’s HD. An animal companion has good Fortitude and Reflex saves (treat it as a character whose level equals the animal’s HD). An animal companion gains additional skill points and feats for bonus HD as normal for advancing a monster’s Hit Dice.
Natural Armor Adj.
The number noted here is an improvement to the animal companion’s existing natural armor bonus. For instance, a wolf animal companion to a 5th level druid has a natural armour bonus of +4.
Add this value to the animal companion’s Strength and Dexterity scores.
The value given in this column is the total number of “bonus” tricks that the animal knows in addition to any that the druid might choose to teach it (see the Handle Animal skill). These bonus tricks don’t require any training time or Handle Animal checks, and they don’t count against the normal limit of tricks known by the animal. The druid selects these bonus tricks, and once selected, they can’t be changed.
A druid can handle her animal companion as a free action, or push it as a move action, even if she doesn’t have any ranks in the Handle Animal skill. The druid gains a +4 circumstance bonus on all wild empathy checks and Handle Animal checks made regarding an animal companion.
Share Spells (Ex)
At the druid’s option, she may have any spell (but not any spell-like ability) she casts upon herself also affect her animal companion. The animal companion must be within 5 feet of her at the time of casting to receive the benefit. If the spell or effect has a duration other than instantaneous, it stops affecting the animal companion if the companion moves farther than 5 feet away and will not affect the animal again, even if it returns to the druid before the duration expires.
Additionally, the druid may cast a spell with a target of “You” on her animal companion (as a touch range spell) instead of on herself. A druid and her animal companion can share spells even if the spells normally do not affect creatures of the companion’s type (animal).
If an animal companion is subjected to an attack that normally allows a Reflex saving throw for half damage, it takes no damage if it makes a successful saving throw.
An animal companion gains a +4 morale bonus on Will saves against enchantment spells and effects.
An animal companion gains Multiattack as a bonus feat if it has three or more natural attacks and does not already have that feat. If it does not have the requisite three or more natural attacks, the animal companion instead gains a second attack with its primary natural weapon, albeit at a -5 penalty.
Improved Evasion (Ex)
When subjected to an attack that normally allows a Reflex saving throw for half damage, an animal companion takes no damage if it makes a successful saving throw and only half damage if the saving throw fails.
Rationale and Explanation of Changes
Another class that got a little screwed over in 3rd edition. To give them a more even footing with other classes, I have amplified their wild shape ability (though not so strenuously as that provided by Pathfinder), given them several practical skills that make sense given their outdoor existence, and updated them with the orison rules as well.
- Druids gain Climb and Jump as class skills. Their hard lives in the wilderness require a certain facility for physical activities such as climbing trees and jumping across creeks.
- Henceforth, druids will adhere to the orison rules as per the Pathfinder rules, with a small modification. A druid prays for her spells and memorises orisons. However, those selected will not become exhausted after being cast, so may be cast again later that day. It does take an hour for that link between the druid and their divine source to regenerate, though, so unlike Pathfinder they must wait to cast them again.
- Finally, druids gain the ability to shapechange into magical beasts in addition to animals, plants, and elementals. Magical Beasts are not aberrations; they have their place in the natural world so a druid should have access to them.