Way of the Druid is a 65-page supplement by DM Conclave, containing 5 new circles and a lot of extra content, all about druids.
The content is divided in 8 chapters, with an extra appendix. The first chapter contains information about how the members of druidic circles are organized, from Initiates to the Hierophant. The second chapter contains lore about each of the 5 new circles introduced in this supplement, while their mechanics are outlined in chapter 3.
The rest of the chapters contain additional content such as backgrounds, a number of herbs and herbal recipes, items and equipment specifically for druids, and new druid spells. Finally, the appendix contains stat blocks for some giant insects.
Editing and Layout
The editing and layout are well done. I didn’t notice any grammar or syntax mistakes, and the page layouts are fine – there are a few instances where the text is a bit wonky, but overall no complaints. I am curious why the lore and the mechanics for the druid circles are in separate chapters – I think it would be more cohesive to have them together – but this isn’t an actual issue.
For the most part, the art is quite good, consisting primarily of digitally-enhanced photos. There are plenty of fitting nature-themed pieces. However, there are a couple of cases where the art doesn’t fit thematically, or is of quite lower quality than usual. I can’t complain much about it though, as I know how difficult it is to find good art in prices that can be afforded by smaller creators.
Let’s get to the main attraction. We have 5 new druidic circles to play with: the Circle of Iron, the Circle of the Brood, the Circle of the Arachnids, the Circle of the Sea, and the Circle of the Elements. As mentioned earlier, each has their own piece of lore, explaining how they came to be in the Forgotten realms, and what their current activities are.
Circle of Iron
The Circle of Iron is a very interesting concept in terms of lore. These are druids that actually use metal tools and weapons in defiance of the cultural taboo around them, believing that it is acceptable to do so in order to defend the natural order. As expected, they are shunned by most other druids.
While I really like the concept, I was disappointed by the mechanics of the class. They get proficiency with heavy armor and martial weapons, but that’s the extent of their ability to use metal tools. I expected them to lean more towards the Fighter (e.g. extra attacks and such), especially since they’re also called war druids, but all their features revolve around raw control of metal – moving, transforming, and manipulating it.
On its own this isn’t bad, since it’s just different from my preconceived notion of a druid of iron, but the actual mechanics are – in my opinion – overtuned and too open-ended. They allow almost complete manipulation of very large amounts of metal and quite a long range, which can open opportunities for the players to break the game.
Circle of the Brood
The Circle of the Brood is the second druid archetype, revolving primarily around the use of insects. They can wild shape into giant insects, act as hosts for insect swarms in their own bodies, and more. They have some interesting lore, and their mechanics are also pretty good.
Circle of Arachnids
The Circle of Arachnids is also quite nice; as expected, they deal with poison, spiders, scorpions, et cetera. However I do think there has been an oversight here: the level 14 feature is a quite powerful attack, whose effects can only be removed through Greater Restoration. My issue is that as it is written, you can use this feature any number of times with no restrictions, which seems very very powerful. Of course perhaps that was the intent, but then my issue would be with the balance of the feature.
Circle of the Sea
The Circle of the Sea is, to be honest, a bit underwhelming. Their lore is fine, as with the other circles, but their mechanics are lacking. On their own, each one looks alright – but compared to other druid archetypes, their total level of power falls far behind, even without taking into account the somewhat niche specialization.
Circle of the Elements
Finally, we have the Circle of the Elements, which deals with the four primordial elements: fire, water, air, and earth. This archetype is quite well made, and though the features are generally simple, they help the subclass have a cohesive and straightforward theme.
Besides those circles, whose members tend to congregate in different locations and circumstances, there are also three druidic organizations that are mentioned: the Emerald Enclave that we already know in the Forgotten Realms, the Hive which mostly deals with extraplanar or unusual threats to nature, and the Shadow Circle which aims to completely destroy civilization and bring a total return to nature. Each has about a page of lore dedicated to them, outlining their main history, beliefs, and goals, adding some more flavor to the supplement.
The druidic circles and factions take up only the first half of the supplement; the rest contains some additional content. In particular, we first have three new backgrounds for characters with some interesting ideas, the Nature’s Bulwark, the Lorekeeper, and the Scavenger.
We then have a quite extensive number of herbs, 48 of them, as well as information about where they can be found, the type of plant they are, and how they can be used and what their effects are. I really like this part; each herb can be useful in certain circumstances, with some of them having some quite potent effects that will be worth the effort to obtain them – or the cost to buy them.
This chapter also contains recipes for various potions, ointments, et cetera, which I appreciate even more. The herbs and recipes take up a significant number of pages, but I see this more as a positive; it’s a lot of content, especially if you like to give your players the ability to craft things on their own.
After that, there is a segment with more adventuring gear and items, ranging from mundane items to legendary artifacts. There are some interesting ideas here, with alternative natural materials being used instead of metal in armor and shields, as well as some elemental artifacts.
Finally, we get 9 new druid spells, one of each spell level and with various effects: some offensive, such as Volcanic Eruption, and some with more esoteric effects, such as Spirit Guide and Treespirit.
After that, we also get an appendix with statblocks for three types of giant insects to be used for the Circle of the Brood, with 4 variants for each of them with different CR.
Overall, Way of the Druid is a well-made supplement with a lot of interesting content. Despite some of my apprehensions concerning certain mechanics, I believe it is well worth it if you like Druids.
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