Like barbarians, bards, rangers, and sorcerers, druids have only two published options for players to use. One of the things that inspired my homebrew material was dissatisfaction with such a lack of options–getting a binary choice doesn’t feel very good. Thankfully, there are a number of additional thematics and power sources the Player’s Handbook didn’t cover, so I imagine I can be introducing things for a long time.
For this class option, I again looked to previous editions for inspiration. The evil druid or “blighter” has long been a part of D&D, so I felt I would do my own take on the idea. It also incorporates a bit of a concern for nature Interestingly, when I suggested this archetype at various places online, a lot of people told me this was a bad idea and didn’t fit with what a druid would be. This attitude doesn’t make any sense to me–if you think a druid shouldn’t revere death, that’s one thing, but it’s been a trope in D&D and it doesn’t seem to take much imagination to see how one might reach such a conclusion. And if you wouldn’t allow druids like that in your world, that’s fine (though what would you do with a character with those motivations?), but that doesn’t mean you can say “Druids can’t be that in your world, either!” Strange.
Anyway, here’s a take on the druid that introduces a bit of darkness into the class.
Circle of Decay (Blighter)
Some druids reject the call to become guardians of natural life, instead seeking its balance in death and destruction. Nature renews itself through decomposition, they believe, and members of this circle have an affinity for plants and fungi that feed on the detritus of animal life. Unlike many of their brethren, these druids also see the undead as part of this natural cycle, learning to channel necromantic energies and even assume the shape of undead creatures as their power grows. Organized Circles of Decay are rare due to their dark powers being persecuted in many places, but these druids nevertheless believe they serve a valuable function. Colloquially, druids who follow the Circle of Decay are often known as “blighters” due to their wielding of rot and disease.
Blighter’s Shape: When you choose this circle, you lose the ability to Wild Shape into animal forms. Instead, you may use your action to assume the form of a plant or undead creature you have seen before. This feature is in all other ways identical to the Wild Shape class feature, including its limitations. (Although this gives you a few advantages over the normal Wild Shape, it’s also much less versatile.)
Blighter’s Touch: When you choose this circle, you gain the ability to strengthen your attacks with necrotic energy. As a bonus action, you can spend a spell slot. Your melee weapon attacks or natural weapon attacks deal an additional 1d4 necrotic damage for a number of rounds equal to the spell level of the slot expended. (Similar to the paladin’s Divine Smite but toned down because of the druid’s greater spell ability. Works during Blighter’s Shape, though.)
Circle Spells: Your connection to the forces of death and decay grants you additional spells. At 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th level you gain circle spells that are always prepared and do not count against the number of spells you can prepare each day. These spells are considered druid spells for you. (Reinforces the anti-nature / death thematic.)
- 3rd – darkness, ray of enfeeblement
- 5th – animate dead, vampiric touch
- 7th – blight, grasping vine
- 9th – antilife shell, cloudkill
Inescapable Destruction: At 6th level, your ability to channel negative energy becomes even more potent. Necrotic damage dealt by your druid spells and abilities ignores resistance to necrotic damage. (Borrowed feature, but it makes your Blighter’s Touch a bit stronger.)
Shadow Projection: At 10th level, you may call upon the powers of death to temporarily shed your mortal body, transmuting yourself into a spectral undead creature. You may spend two uses of Wild Shape at the same time to transform into a Banshee, Wraith, or similar creature at your Dungeon Master’s discretion (see Monster Manual for statistics). (More versatility for Wild Shape, like the Elemental Wild Shape feature.)
Blighter’s Command: As your strength grows, you gain greater command over the powers of decay. At 14th level, you may use your action to enchant a plant or undead creature at will. This feature otherwise functions identically to the spell crown of madness. (Some additional utility and control ability. Similar to what Greater Old One warlocks or Nature clerics get, though more limited.)
Any themes you’d like to see for this edition? Let me know and I’ll probably put something together.
Like this content? You can find this class option and other homebrewed material here.