Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Druids

One of the overlooked idiosyncrasies that OD&D originated (and that AD&D maintained) is the notion that clerics could be any alignment but Neutral. In OD&D, this meant a choice between Lawful and Chaotic, with Chaotic clerics being in fact "anti-clerics" whose spells were in many cases reversed versions of their Lawful opposite numbers. When Eldritch Wizardry introduced the druid as a playable class (a "monster" version of them appeared previously in Greyhawk), we finally had a Neutral "cleric," complete with his own selection of unique spells.

Now, I like the druid and I find, particularly in a setting where Law and Chaos play an important role, the idea of a Neutral religious class is particularly appealing. In later AD&D, druids came to be more explicitly associated with the elements and elemental planes and I think this is an intriguing idea. I'm now toying with the notion that there are no gods associated with "natural" things, like the weather, the seasons, the oceans, fertility, etc. I'm even considering the possibility of having no god associated with death. Those things either have no divine patrons or else are associated with various elemental lords. The druids, in this scheme, would be mediators between the world of mortals and the greatly-expanded-in-conception natural world.

Foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of new school game design, but I think any version of the druid I create would be based more closely on the mechanics of the cleric, with some new abilities and, of course, spells swapped in to compensate for their loss of clerical staples like metal armor and turning undead. Eldritch Wizardry gives lots of food for thought here, as does Greyhawk, which calls druids "combination clerics/magic-users." I rather like that, given how the way I wish to tie clerics and magic-users more closely together conceptually. Still, I have to think on this some more. I've got the germ of some good ideas, but they're still pretty rough.

Once I've worked it all out in my head, I'll post my Swords & Wizardry-based version of the druid here.


  1. I look forward to seeing your druid. Even more, I'm glad you're going to do the typing for all those spells. :)

  2. In my campaign, druids worship a god and goddess. Much like modern wiccans. For the god, I created Cern. He is a version of Cernunnos, a celtic god associated with horned male animals. For the goddess, I created Danu, named after the Irish goddess of the same name and possibly the Celtic origin of the name of the Danube river.

  3. I really like this exegesis you wrote over on the lj feed:
    while druids are mediators with nature and clerics stand aloof from nature -- serving supernatural beings -- wizards attempt to control nature and bend it to their wills
    but there are 2 things I don't understand:
    1) is there any personification of "nature" that is not the gods? (if yuo're decoupling your gods entirely from nature, that seems like a decision with ramifications),
    2) is the "price of wizardry" you wrote about earlier Chaotic? If so, do wizards step on the Chaotic cleric's toes? If not, do you have (effectively) 2 flavours of Chaos going on?
    And an observation: this sort of druid seems potentially very separate from any idea of the shaman or the medium, unless the world-beyond-world they communicate with is the elemental planes. I find that separation novel and appealing, but I'm wondering what hook it leaves you with.

  4. Good questions. Here's my current thinking on the answers:

    1. Right now, I'm toying with Nature either being a completely impersonal force or being personalized through various elemental lords. The latter is truer to D&D's shared history, but the first one is creepier, which I like.

    2. The price wizards pay isn't Chaotic as such. Rather, it's a kind of "feedback" mechanism whereby reality/nature tries to eliminate the cause of its being warped/twisted, namely the wizard. Consider it, for wont of a better metaphor, reality's "immune system" attempting to destroy the wizard, whose magic is bending it into shapes it wasn't meant to go.

  5. re (2): Ars Magica's twilight seems perfectly adapted to this, but it's not D&D, so. I wonder if there's any mileage in considering the Vancian mechanic of forgetting and having to relearn spells to be an aspect of this (on which topic, Cone of Obliscence is just irresistible as a spell name).

  6. Re: Forgetting spells

    That's absolutely brilliant. I shall be stealing the idea.