Unearthed Arcana: Druid Circles and Wild Shape Analysis

This week the D&D Team provides three new Druid Circles and an optional rule for gaining different beast shapes for Wild Shape.

Circle of Dreams

These Druids have a strong connection with the Feywild and are tied to two of its courts, the Summer Court and the Gloaming Court. They use their powers to heal, protect and grant boons to their allies.

  • Balm of the Summer Court. That’s a pretty solid feature, in my opinion. You get an amount of d6s and you can use them to heal your allies. But wait, there’s more! For every die used to heal an ally, that ally gains that many temporary hit points. Also they gain and 5 feet of movement for every die spent on them. This feature is tied to the Summer Court which fits its flavor nicely.
  • Hearth of Moonlight and Shadow. How useful this feature is depends on the play style of each group, which isn’t necessarily bad. It pretty much helps the party rest in unfriendly places by making them more difficult to spot and giving them the ability to spot enemies more easily. This feature is tied to the Gloaming Court. The +5 to Perception checks is nice and I really like the idea of making light from flames not visible from outside of the protected area.
  • Hidden Paths. You can teleport up to 30 feet to a spot you can see. You can also use this feature to teleport an ally. This costs your action if you want to use it on an ally. However, if you want to use it on yourself, each foot of teleportation costs 1 foot of your movement. This means that if you want to teleport less than 30 feet, you can also use the remaining feet of your movement to move normally. The drawback is that you can only use it once every 1d4 rounds. Teleportation is always nice.
  • Purifying Light. That’s interesting. Whenever you cast a healing spell using a spell slot, you can use a spell slot of the same level to cast Dispel Magic on the healed creature. If the spell targets more than one creatures, you can use this feature more than once spending that many spell slots. You can use it three times between long rests. Brought to you by the Summer court. So this lets you cast one extra spell during your turn in order to remove a probably harmful effect from an ally. The thing is that we don’t know how exactly Dispel Magic works for spell slots of level 1 and 2.

Overall this is a really good Circle. However, I want to mention one thing. Three of the four features give the player the extra chore of tracking dice, rounds or number of uses. This can cause problems for the player because they will have to track them but also potentially for the DM if that player does a bad job at tracking them and forgets when and how many times they have used them.


Circle of the Shepherd

While most Druids care about protecting nature, the Druids of this Circle is especially interested in protecting animals. They manage to do that by using animal spirits, summoning animals to their side and granting boons to their allies.

  • Spirit Bond. You can summon a spirit and, depending on its type, you and your allies are granted some boons. You can gain the benefits only if you are in its 30-foot radius. It resembles the Totem Warrior Barbarian (even the spirit list is almost identical) but your allies also are affected in this case.
    • Bear Spirit. You and your allies gain an good amount of hit points and also advantage to Strength Checks and Strength Saving Throws. That’s a pretty solid bonus.
    • Hawk Spirit. You and your allies gain advantage on ranged attack rolls against targets inside the spirit’s aura. That’s the weakest of the three. The enemies have to be inside the aura in order to gain this advantage. And, usually, at this distance many characters switch to melee, at least in my experience. But most importantly it doesn’t fit the theme of the Circle, which is summoning animals to fight alongside you, because it doesn’t grant any bonuses to them, unlike the other two spirits.
    • Wolf Spirit. Like the Bear Spirit, the Wolf Spirit grants two bonuses. The first one is advantage on all ability checks to detect creatures in the aura. That’s good enough. The second one is that whenever you cast a healing spell using a spell slot targeting anyone(inside or outside of the aura), any ally inside the aura gets healed for an amount of hit points equal to your Druid level. The amount of healing done may be a bit too much. But that’s why it’s considered playtest material.
  • Beast Speech. That’s pretty much the Speak with Animals spell but it is always active. It fits the flavor of the Circle perfectly.
  • Mighty Summoner. You increase the Hit Dice of the beasts you summon by 2 and also their natural weapons are considered magic. That looks good. But when I checked the Druid spell list I was a bit disappointed. The spells that let you summon beasts are Conjure Animals and…nothing else really. While you get spells that let you control beasts, they are not affected because the beasts aren’t summoned. This can be a problem. Well, at least flavor wise it fits well with the theme of the Circle.
  • Guardian Spirit. You gain the benefits of a Death Ward spell every morning and it lasts  24 hours. It’s quite useful since it can save you and even the whole party from difficult situations.
  • Faithful Summons. When you are reduced to 0 hit points or are incapacitated against your will you gain the benefits of the spell Conjure Animals cast with a 9th level spell slot. They are affected by both Spirit Bond and Mighty Summoner. I believe this feature can be more useful in the situation where you are incapacitated. That’s because, in order to get to 0 hit points, the Death Ward spell from the Guardian Spirit feature must have ended first. So Faithful Summons will trigger when you get to 0 hit points for the second time in a day. And let’s also keep in mind that there’s a chance that you will be beast shape.

This isn’t a bad Circle. Personally, it wouldn’t be my first pick. I like the theme however and hope that, after a bit more work, it will make me like it more.


Circle of Twilight

The undead do not follow the natural cycle of life and death. The Druids of this circle seek to restore the balance by destroying undead and bringing life back to places tainted by them.

  • Harvest’s Scythe. This is like the Balm of the Summer Court feature of the Circle of Dreams. But this time you get a number of d10s that you use when you want to increase the damage of a spell. The type of the damage generated by these dice is necrotic. Also, if you kill a creature with a spell that has been boosted this way, you or an ally within 30 feet of you regains 2 hit points per die spent or 5 if the creature was undead. This is a very good feature and fits the flavor perfectly.
  • Speech Beyond the Grave. This one lets you cast Speak with the Dead without material components. It also makes sure that you and the target understand each other. And of course fits nicely the theme of the Circle.
  • Watcher at the Threshold. Not much to say. You get resistance to necrotic and radiant damage. Moreover, you grant advantage to death Saving throws to your allies, while not incapacitated. Another really good feature.
  • Paths of the Dead. You can cast Etherealness once every short or long rest. I’m not sure with the wording. Is it a free spell or does it just let you cast it? Flavor wise I don’t know how much it fits.

Overall, Circle of Twilight is pretty good. It has really good features mechanic and flavor wise.


Optional Rule: Wild Shape Forms

Apart from the new Druid Circles, we are presented with an optional rule on how to learn new forms for the Wild Shape feature.

At level 2, when you get your Wild Shape feature, you choose three beast shapes from either the Temperate or Tropical list, depending on where your Druid grew up. After that, every time you level up you have to pick from the list you chose at level 2. It should be mentioned here that some of the beasts are marked as available only for the Circle of the Moon.

In addition to the free beast shapes you gain when you level up, there are two more ways that can get you extra shapes. These ways can even get you more exotic beast shapes, like a dinosaur or a saber-toothed tiger.

The first way to get a new wild shape, which also is the less risky of the two, is by observing the beast you’re interested in for at least an hour. During that time you have to stay within 150 feet of it. Then you have to succeed an Intelligence(Nature) check with a DC equal to 10 + the beast’s challenge rating. If you want to get advantage on the roll you can spend an hour studying a scholarly work about the beast. This can turn quite interesting, especially if you decide to rely on the work of Volothamp Geddarm.

The second way is riskier. You can attempt to interact peacefully with the beast you’re interested in for 10 minutes. During that time you have to stay within 15 feet of it. Then you have to succeed in a Wisdom (Animal Handling) check with a DC equal to 10 + the beast’s challenge rating. This time, in order to get advantage on the roll you have to spend at least a minute petting the beast. This can lead to pretty dangerous or hilarious situations, depending whether you’re the Druid who’s getting chased by an Allosaurus or one of the other party members watching the Druid getting chased.

You can also “cheat” a little by either observing the beast using divination magic or make it a bit more friendly with a spell like Animal Friendship.

I like this optional rule. It makes clear how you can get more beast shapes and also can lead to interesting side quests.

You can read the full article here and download the PDF here. And don’t forget, the survey about the Cleric Divine Domains can be found here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.