Holding high a gnarled staff wreathed with holly, an elf summons the fury of the storm and calls down explosive bolts of lightning to smite the torch-carrying orcs who threaten her forest.
Crouching out of sight on a high tree branch in the form of a leopard, a human peers out of the jungle at the strange construction of a temple of Evil Elemental Air, keeping a close eye on the cultists’ activities.
Swinging a blade formed of pure fire, a half-elf charges into a mass of skeletal soldiers, sundering the unnatural magic that gives the foul creatures the mocking semblance of life.
Whether calling on the elemental forces of nature or emulating the creatures of the animal world, druids are an embodiment of nature’s resilience, cunning, and fury. They claim no mastery over nature. Instead, they see themselves as extensions of nature’s indomitable will.
Druids revere nature above all, gaining their spells and other magical powers either from the force of nature itself or from a nature deity. Many druids pursue a mystic spirituality of transcendent union with nature rather than devotion to a divine entity, while others serve gods of wild nature, animals, or elemental forces. The ancient druidic traditions are sometimes called the Old Faith, in contrast to the worship of gods in temples and shrines.
Druid spells are oriented toward nature and animals—the power of tooth and claw, of sun and moon, of fire and storm. Druids also gain the ability to take on animal forms, and some druids make a particular study of this practice, even to the point where they prefer animal form to their natural form.
For druids, nature exists in a precarious balance. The four elements that make up a world—air, earth, fire, and water—must remain in equilibrium. If one element were to gain power over the others, the world could be destroyed, drawn into one of the elemental planes and broken apart into its component elements. Thus, druids oppose cults of Elemental Evil and others who promote one element to the exclusion of others.
Druids are also concerned with the delicate ecological balance that sustains plant and animal life, and the need for civilized folk to live in harmony with nature, not in opposition to it. Druids accept that which is cruel in nature, and they hate that which is unnatural, including aberrations (such as beholders and mind flayers) and undead (such as zombies and vampires). Druids sometimes lead raids against such creatures, especially when the monsters encroach on the druids’ territory.
Druids are often found guarding sacred sites or watching over regions of unspoiled nature. But when a significant danger arises, threatening nature’s balance or the lands they protect, druids take on a more active role in combating the threat, as adventurers.
A druid holds certain plants to be sacred, particularly alder, ash, birch, elder, hazel, holly, juniper, mistletoe, oak, rowan, willow, and yew. Druids often use such plants as part of a spellcasting focus, incorporating lengths of oak or yew or sprigs of mistletoe.
Similarly, a druid uses such woods to make other objects, such as weapons and shields. Yew is associated with death and rebirth, so weapon handles for scimitars or sickles might be fashioned from it. Ash is associated with life and oak with strength. These woods make excellent hafts or whole weapons, such as clubs or quarterstaffs, as well as shields. Alder is associated with air, and it might be used for thrown weapons, such as darts or javelins.
Druids from regions that lack the plants described here have chosen other plants to take on similar uses. For instance, a druid of a desert region might value the yucca tree and cactus plants.
Some druids venerate the forces of nature themselves, but most druids are devoted to one of the many nature deities worshiped in the multiverse (the lists of gods in appendix B include many such deities). The worship of these deities is often considered a more ancient tradition than the faiths of clerics and urbanized peoples. In fact, in the world of Greyhawk, the druidic faith is called the Old Faith, and it claims many adherents among farmers, foresters, fishers, and others who live closely with nature. This tradition includes the worship of Nature as a primal force beyond personification, but also encompasses the worship of Beory, the Oerth Mother, as well as devotees of Obad-Hai, Ehlonna, and Ulaa.
In the worlds of Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms, druidic circles are not usually connected to the faith of a single nature deity. Any given circle in the Forgotten Realms, for example, might include druids who revere Silvanus, Mielikki, Eldath, Chauntea, or even the harsh Gods of Fury: Talos, Malar, Auril, and Umberlee. These nature gods are often called the First Circle, the first among the druids, and most druids count them all (even the violent ones) as worthy of veneration.
The druids of Eberron hold animistic beliefs completely unconnected to the Sovereign Host, the Dark Six, or any of the other religions of the world. They believe that every living thing and every natural phenomenon—sun, moon, wind, fire, and the world itself—has a spirit. Their spells, then, are a means to communicate with and command these spirits. Different druidic sects, though, hold different philosophies about the proper relationship of these spirits to each other and to the forces of civilization. The Ashbound, for example, believe that arcane magic is an abomination against nature, the Children of Winter venerate the forces of death, and the Gatekeepers preserve ancient traditions meant to protect the world from the incursion of aberrations.
Druids are the caretakers of the natural world, and it is said that in time a druid becomes the voice of nature, speaking the truth that is too subtle for the general populace to hear. Many who become druids find that they naturally gravitate toward nature; its forces, cycles, and movements fill their minds and spirits with wonder and insight. Many sages and wise folk have studied nature, writing volumes about its mystery and power, but druids are a special kind of being: at some point, they begin to embody these natural forces, producing magical phenomena that link them to the spirit of nature and the flow of life. Because of their strange and mysterious power, druids are often revered, shunned, or considered dangerous by the people around them.
Some druids carry one or more items that are sacred to them or have deep personal significance. Such items are not necessarily magical, but every one is an object whose meaning connects the druid’s mind and heart to a profound concept or spiritual outlook.
“Even in death, each creature plays its part in maintaining the Great Balance. But now an imbalance grows, a force that seeks to hold sway over nature. This is the destructive behavior of the mortal races. The farther away from nature their actions take them, the more corrupting their influence becomes. As druids, we seek mainly to protect and educate, to preserve the Great Balance, but there are times when we must rise up against danger and eradicate it.”Safhran, archdruid