Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Classes: Druids

Hands of the Yggdrasil

The Yggdrasil lives. Its vibrant but forbidding landscape is intimidating to all but the most accomplished yeoman, and even they avoid it save but for the most dire of circumstances. There are some, however, who feel an inexplicable connection to the Great Forest. Haunted by vivid dreams that begin sometime during puberty and rarely meshing well with their original societies to begin with, these misfits eventually succumb to wanderlust, leaving everything they have and everyone they know behind as they make their way to their new home. It is not an easy journey, and some perish without ever setting their eyes upon the Yggdrasil. In the end, only the strongest survive to attain the title of druid.

The vast majority of druids on Wune are true elves, and to them the connection with the Yggdrasil is neither unusual nor unwelcome- it is expected. They are the true children of the Yggdrasil, borne directly from it ages upon ages ago, and enjoy its blessings more so than any other people. Obviously, there is no long trek from faraway lands far to a new and alien home, but many trials await the neophyte druid nonetheless. Among the Shuu, druids are healers, protectors, magistrates and spiritual leaders; an initiate is given no latitude in shouldering these duties. Neither fools nor tyrants are suffered for long, but those who lack the capacity or drive to undertake the role permanently are never marginalized or mocked. In fact, their respect for both the office and the Yggdrasil itself often grow, and they continue upon another life path with no loss in zeal.

Even the Shuu do not claim to understand why the Yggdrasil has chosen others not of its womb to serve it as they do, though all but the most bigoted bow to her will and view those she has chosen in the same way they would view themselves. Still, this is cold comfort for half-elven druids, who are often shoehorned into becoming conduits between the two very different worlds of their parents. Those born into Shuu society are at first overjoyed to be treated as a person as opposed to an embarrassment, but are eventually dismayed to discover that their place is once again on the periphery of society, to be called upon only on the rare occasions that peaceful overtures need to be made to humans or some other creation of the Interlopers; those of Shuu blood being raised among humans (and that choose to return to human society to seek their fortune) are tolerated only so long as they keep their savage cousins at bay. Life is no easier for half-elves born of common elf stock, especially if they are being raised among said race, which has not produced a druid in generations. They often become intermediaries between not two but three very disparate worlds and the strain is enough to drive all but the most patient mad. It is no surprise then that the majority of half-elven druids to spend the majority of their time in wild shape, preferring to spend their time in the company of animals or druids who share their level of dedication.

The remaining Third Races are among the most well-adjusted non-Shuu druids. Both half-dragons and half-orcs have little trouble leaving their original worlds behind for the one offered by the Yggdrasil, and both enjoy embodying/personifying the savage side of nature. The only difference seems to be that the average half dragon eschews the use of wild shape, believing their natural form to be superior to all others, while half orcs enjoy being able to change shape when necessary, whether to avoid prejudice or to increase their options in combat.

The majority of the Second Races have trouble accepting the Great Forest’s will. None are more disquieted than halflings, who find it very hard to reconcile their religious traditions with a lifestyle that could be considered atheist. Most halfling druids prefer exile, continuing to wander on their own and returning to the Yggdrasil about once a season. Those that return to their people do their best to reconcile both sides of their life, tending to the dire animals and offering people hearth remedies when the clerics that usually do such things are unavailable. Dwarven druids do not attempt to find a happy medium between the Yggdrasil and a more mundane existence. Their inherent stoicism and stubbornness means that only those that are truly meant to become druids do so- all others list their way into an early grave, struggling in vain to force-fit themselves into regimented dwarven society. Those that become druids almost never return to their people, and rarely fair well even in the company of their fellow druids. Instead, they give themselves over body and soul to the Great Forest, meditating at a chosen spot for decades or even centuries until they physically merge with it as a woodbeard- a dwarven treant. Paradoxically, dwarven druids readily take to adventure, as their mental communion with the Yggdrasil means they are even faster than some true elves to take up arms in its preemptive defense.

Humans rarely become druids, but as with most vocations they pursue, once they decide to go ahead with it, they do so with reckless abandon. Almost every human returns to their people after their first pilgrimage to the Great Forest, and preaches its virtues with every bit of sincerity as a cleric preaches about their god (or godhood). Depending on the makeup and boorishness of the original community, said druid is either welcomed, tolerated as an alternative to a (or dismissed as another type of) cleric, or run out of town with the promise of execution should they return. This last scenario is common in areas that have suffered at the hands of true elves, where the average person assumes the druid “changeling” was kidnapped and ensorcelled by the savages at a young age.
In an adventuring party, only the ranger sees a druid as a true companion, the other classes mirror humanity’s outlook. Unless the party is entirely composed of Shuu, the druid will be a perpetual outsider, trusted by few. However, the ruthless practicality of the adventurer’s life will eventually change most of their attitudes for the better. Fighters and reavers enjoy the druid’s healing abilities and occasionally find their other magical abilities less ostentatious than those of wizards or sorcerers. Monks and paladins admire the informal code that druids live by, while the druid’s primal nature resonates positively with the barbarian. Bards, clerics, rogues, sorcerers and wizards usually lack common ground with the druid as a class and must find camaraderie with them as an individual. This is also the level upon which druids in turn see other classes, save for rangers and fellow druids. A lifetime spent seeing things through the lens of what is best for the Yggdrasil sometimes means the druid looks upon other classes as a farmer views new plant growth in his garden: beneficial entities are tolerated or even cultivated, while destructive ones are eliminated stem and root.

Druid Traits:

As the Druid entry in the SRD, save as follows.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Druids may not use any metal weapons or wear metal armor. Although they continue to be proficient with the club, dagger, dart, quarterstaff, scimitar, sickle, sling, spear and shortspear, these and any other weapons or armor the druid employs must be made out of materials other than metal. Wood is usually the medium of choice, and it is often treated with the ironwood spell to increase its effectiveness. Bone, stone, and other natural materials are also acceptable. A druid that wears a prohibited armor or wields a prohibited weapon or shield cannot cast any of their druid spells or use their druid supernatural or spell-like abilities while doing so and for 24 hours thereafter.

Evil, Good and Lawful Spells: A druid cannot cast spells of an alignment opposed to their own. The Yggdrasil’s alignment is considered neutral with respect to spellcasting.

Bonus Languages: Druidic is a special, non-verbal language that all druids automatically know. It is uses a combination of hand-signs and overall body language to converse. A druid cannot “speak” druidic if they are bound hand and foot, although they can understand it and respond verbally or through other forms of non-verbal speech (nods, shrugs, etc.).

Animal Companion: Much like wild shape, a druid can only choose an animal that they are familiar with as a companion. In game terms, they must choose an animal that appears on the list for random encounters for the region in which they live. Said animal must meet all the other requirements for an animal companion as listed for druids.

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