So you want to be a druid.
Druids have an elemental opposition to metal, language, and spells. The overwhelming majority of classes deal with those three. Druids set themselves against the concept of concept, the arching spires of cities, the parched, mellow scent of illuminated tomes. They fascinate specifically because they cannot be described, because we will never understand why they conduct mighty wars against zondervozes and civilization.
Ours is a bloodless, cool understanding, born of schools, letters, and math. We can conceive of the concept of druidism, and that is what damns us, because we know of no other way to elucidate understanding except through concepts. We can never understand the thirst quenched by fresh blood, the sticky, buttery flavor of wolf marrow roasted by wildfire, the pleasure in a packmate’s warmth while tucked away in a small burrow dug under fresh snow.
To understand druids more fully, we can turn to philosophy. There is a curious parallel in the pinnacle of symbolic thought and the utter depths of druidism, a concordance at the point where everything and yet nothing is understood.
A sign, as we think of it, is composed of three parts: a sign-vehicle, an object, and the interpretant. The sign-vehicle is the object which we see: smoke, a pedestrian crossing sign, four letters that spell rose. The object is the thing signified by the sign-vehicle: fire, people cross the street here, a flower. The interpretant is the connection between the sign-vehicle and the object, the translation which allows us to understand what the sign-vehicle is saying.
The following statement is to be treated as a metaphor and not fact, for one cannot describe nega-philosophy with philosophical terms.
Druids have no need for sign-vehicles. For druids, there is only the interpretant and object, intertwined. Understanding the existence of a molehill and what it means are the same thing. There is no ambiguity in the interpretation of natural signs.
This is why druids are excellent trackers and why they can tell at the very first opportunity if civilized people have intruded into druidic territory. Archdruids can even detect the skunky stench of wizard magic, and smell the faecal musk of philosophy.
This is also how druids can have absolutely no idea how a street works and get killed by traffic. Though druids rarely venture into cities anyway.
Druids are not limited to this natural knowledge, either, because druidism is not a casting off of knowledge (it’s very hard to forget things) but rather an accumulation of itself that gradually overwrites all unnatural impulses. This is why druids can venture into a city and claim asylum from unnatural horrors infesting their forest, and why some druids operate openly in civilized areas, because they understand how to work in the grey areas of the law. And yes, these druids are damned, but when the cities fall, there will be no need for literacy or concealment.
This unique universalism of signage druids possess can also extend to other creatures.
“When they vocalize their grunts and spit their black spittle, there is no ambiguity of their intent. They harness some primeval part of our brains, dredging up the cold, unmistakable tonnage of instinct. They don't need to speak our language or read our minds. Our intentions are already printed on our face and in our movements.”
- Arnold K, from this post.
However, druids have one weakness, and that is the unnatural.
Magic is unnatural, yes, but has rules. If it possesses rules, it can be broken.
No, what druids fear, what we all fear, is the intrinsic corruption of what is real. The unperceivable other manifesting as tangible perversion, as madness and howling through blood-drenched nebulae and stars with thin, lisping cilia that whisper things beyond our ken.
Soft, warm things with sucking fur look at us with inverted eyes and chew on their intestines, suckling the fluid of reality from their wounds, fattening, growing mandibles and muscles that can vocalize in our aural range, preparing to enter our world, ambassadors of the end of days.
Because druids are nature, they have no defense against its fundamental perversion. This has led to the only real schism between druids, with some believing that civilization can at least seal these wounds, and some holding that civilization causes them. And schism is also unnatural, so all druids feel this pain (except for archdruids). It lodges like a splinter, and festers in parts of the brain not locked away yet.
You wish to play something set against civilization and the very concept of itself?
Excellent. Kill me, and ascend.
GLOG Class: Druid
Offered up with fresh deer kidneys and happiness to Spwack, Lexi, and Madilynn, all of whom joined me in gorging on the carcass of proofing.
A: +1 Nature Dice, +3 Symbolism Dice, Biome, First Biome Commune
B: First Biome Union, Second Biome Commune
C: Second Biome Union, Third Biome Commune
Your Nature Dice is your d4 “spellcasting” dice. It never expires and will never abandon you unless you gain any other sort of spellcasting dice. (wizard, bard, warlock, sorcerer, etc) When you use your ND to affect natural things, roll your ND plus all of your Symbolism Dice and consult the relevant table to determine the power and duration of the generated effect.
Please note that these ND effects are not “magical” in nature, are therefore not affected by antimagic fields, can only be produced by manipulating natural (e.g, non-magical and unrefined) substances, and cannot be “unnatural” effects. For example, a heart attack or encouraging someone’s skin fungus to grow overwhelmingly is a natural effect. So are roots strangling a person. Mutations and people turning into trees are not natural effects.
You may only have one ND effect active at any given time.
For damaging effects consult the following table:
X damage/Y rounds is equivalent to X damage per round for Y rounds.
1: Up to 20 damage/1 round
2: Up to 8 damage/2 rounds
3: Up to 4 damage/3 rounds
4: Up to 4 damage/2 rounds
5-7: Up to 2 damage/3 rounds
8-10: Up to 1 damage/4 rounds
For effects that change natural things rather than damage, please consult the following table:
X size/Y distance is equivalent to affecting a thing of X size or less around Y distance away.
1: Redwood size/line of sight
2: Whale size/pond distance
3: Elephant size/whale body distance
4: Horse size/crocodile body distance
5-7: Dog size/human body distance
8-10: Bunny size/armspan distance
Your Symbolism Dice are what hold you back from the true power of druidism. They are d4’s, and represent your attachment to filthy things like cooked meat, math, and language. Whenever you roll doubles while using your ND, remove any SD’s that show the doubles. Whenever you roll triples while using your ND, remove an SD permanently. If you roll quadruples, remove one SD permanently and remove all SD from the ND’s effect. If you roll two doubles, remove all SD’s that form a pair with another dice.
The permanently removed SD have character effects:
- The first SD lost is metacognition and the like. Things like philosophy, complex math, metaphorical devices, and any arcane and scientific knowledge are now alien to you.
- The second SD lost is language and math. You can no longer conceive of counting or speaking, but you may communicate perfectly well nonverbally.
- The third and last SD lost is symbolic thought itself. A rose is a rose, nothing more or less. To lose this SD, you must embark on a long spiritual journey involving lethal hallucinogens, fire, fasting, and ritual combat with a powerful animal. If you succeed, you become unfettered from all the chains that previously bound you to civilization. If you fail, you will be killed and eaten.
Your Biome is where your first forged your link with nature. You will gain different communes and unions based on its climate and ecology and a perk unique to that biome.
Perk: You can cause any sort of fungus or slime mold or mold that you’ve eaten to spontaneously grow over a duration that you set by touching a surface.
First Commune: Fungi
First Union, Second Commune: Fungi, Flora
Second Union, Third Commune: Flora, Water
Perk: You can replicate any sort of natural noise you've heard at a volume of your choice coming from an area you can see for an indefinite duration.
First Commune: Fauna
First Union, Second Commune: Fauna, Flora
Second Union, Third Commune: Flora, Earth
Perk: You can survive on nothing but sunlight if necessary.
First Commune: Water
First Union, Second Commune: Earth, Wind
Second Union, Third Commune: Wind, Flora
Perk: When you are viewed against a heavy background of snow, rain, or fog, you are invisible to sentient creatures.
First Commune: Fauna
First Union, Second Commune: Fauna, Wind
Second Union, Third Commune: Wind, Flora
Perk: You can superheat the moisture in living plant matter by touching it. The longer you maintain contact, the hotter it becomes.
First Commune: Flora
First Union, Second Commune: Flora, Fire
Second Union, Third Commune: Fire, Wind
Perk: You can hibernate under a thick layer of soil for up to 100 years.
First Commune: Flora
First Union, Second Commune: Flora, Earth
Second Union, Third Commune: Earth, Water
Huitatlauhco (Lightning Canyon):
Perk: You can ground lightning strikes without any danger to yourself.
First Commune: Wind
First Union, Second Commune: Water, Lightning
Second Union, Third Commune: Lightning, Water
Communes are your ability to communicate with the various natural forces, being flora, fauna, fungi, those in-between creatures, earth, wind, water, fire, and lightning. When you commune, you may choose to either initiate a conversation of sorts with the selected biota/force or view the world through the biota/force’s perspective.
Senses for all biota and elements:
Fauna: Taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing, space
Flora: Touch, sound, light patterns, space, growth patterns, soil nutrients
Fungi: Touch, vibrations, nutrients, space, light patterns, growth patterns
Fire: Vibrations, light, growth patterns, flammability, space
Water: Space, sound, displacement, dissolved material, boundaries, temperature
Wind: Space, sound, distance, passengers, weather
Earth: Vibrations, hollow spaces, differentiated material, displacement, liquid content
Lightning: Conductivity, objects near point of contact, magnetism, object resistance, electric rhythms/biorhythms
When using an ND to commune with different creatures, consult the following table:
X duration/Y senses/Z distance represents communing with a creature/natural force of up to X duration utilizing up to Y of its senses at Z distance.
1: Any duration/all senses/any natural thing you’ve touched
2: 1 day/4 senses/any natural thing you’ve touched in your current biome
3: 1 hour/3 senses/any natural thing touched within 2 miles
4: 10 minutes/2 senses/any natural thing touched within 1 mile
5-7: 1 minute/2 senses/line of sight
8-10: 3 rounds/1 sense/touching within line of sight
Unions represent your ability to become one with the forces of nature and shapechange into either a creature or a natural force. Your physical characteristics, including HP, Str, Con, and Dex, may change while you unite. If you are reduced to 0 HP or less while uniting, Save versus your character’s Con. On a success, you change back into your normal form with the HP you had before you transformed. On a failure, you change back into your normal form and keep your current HP.
You may only unite as a biotal (flora/fauna/fungi) that you’ve either shared a meal with or killed and eaten. To transform into an elemental form, you must be reduced to 0 HP directly by that element and survive.
The duration and power of your union is represented by the following table:
X HD/Y rounds/Z damage represents transforming into a form of up to X HD for up to Y measures of time. Z damage only applies when dealing direct damage in elemental forms. One can only transform into elemental forms on certain better rolls.
1: 4 HD/1 day/10 damage
2: 3 HD/1 hour/6 damage
3: 2 HD/10 minutes/3 damage
4: 1 HD/5 minutes
5-7: 1 HD/1 minute
8-10: 1 HP/6 rounds
Archdruids are creatures beyond mortal ken. They can be killed (all natural things can be killed) but they cannot die of old age or natural disease. The best thing to kill an avatar of nature is another avatar of nature, or an artillery shell.
Archdruids differ from regular druids in that they can deal damage to creatures based on symbolism and higher thought. They can cause cancers and heart attacks, yes, but they can also give wizards aneurysms using the wizard’s MD as damage or cause a creature to forget what words are. These are the most imminent of their tools, though, because what has more power - a burst appendix or a glacier?
Archdruids can commune with any natural thing, and may compel any creature they commune with to obey them. They still must follow the requirements for unions, though.
You can only become an archdruid by killing one. If you have any SD left and attempt to challenge them, they will rot you from within.
Well, this was a class a long time in the making. I worried at the negative spell dice casting mechanic for weeks, and thanks to Spwack, finally pinned down some averages based off Python that gave me a framework of sorts to finally kludge the abilities around.
I used a negative casting mechanic because I feel that the central conceit of the druid is self-imposed limits rather than the “well, you’re going to explode eventually” take of GLOG wizards and similar casters, and based said mechanic off of d4’s for two reasons: to give players a way to mechanically progress without having to level up and to make doubles and triples more frequent.
The first glance I had at this was with d6’s, which change the tables math and frequency of doubles but most importantly dramatically lower the prevalence of triples. My fix for that was simple: remove one SD per template gained, which might work well for another sort of negative casting class, but not druids, which I wanted to have a more natural progression based around using central abilities.
The usage tables are completely untested. The power scaling for abilities will be adjusted, thankfully, I have a druid player in my campaign already. The effect of these abilities is limited by the creativity/flexibility of the person using them, so I encourage you to modify these tables as necessary to suit your players.
This class will require a lot of rulings to be made. I encourage DM’s to adjudicate each situation as its own as opposed to slowly building up an “acceptable” framework of usage via stare decisis. (Of course, I’ll probably be disobeying this principle myself occasionally. Rulings not rules.) The reason why? Druids thrive on adaptation, and while guidelines to their power usage would make the class a bit more intuitive, it’s not supposed to be. Druids are a very different psychological construct to play, and have no set code of conduct, like the animals they strive to emulate. Putting yourself in the “purge the city, live the instinct” state of mind is, to me, part of the fun of playing the druid.
The biggest source of conflict I foresee is the debate on what is “natural”. Depending on what rules your campaign world has, if any, “natural” could be a definition only accessible to the DM. I’d encourage any DM’s running this druid to take them aside and enlighten them on any “natural” parts of their campaign world that conflict with common sense.
I’m not remotely a scientist of any sort, so my take on the various “senses” of biota and mineral conglomerates/energy forms could benefit from some enlightenment. I hope that each different thing offers enough options to make it a viable source to commune with, even lightning.
Archdruids aren’t intended to have many limits. They’re going to be the most powerful mortal casters in both the short and long run in my setting. If you want wizards to be more powerful in the short or long run, I’d tune down the lowest results on the ND tables. Archdruids are also able to do more or less whatever they want, only limited by other archdruids or challengers. They don’t have much reason to cooperate with non-druid parties and might be best suited as NPC’s or questgivers, depending on your campaign.
Biomes are flexible and don’t have hard lines unless you’re running a hexcrawl. They’re more for flavor than actual mechanical utility.Take a tundra druid into a desert, though.
I’m most proud of how I executed the concept I had of this class. It’s my favorite finished project so far.