Wizards of the Coast’s recent track record for tinkering with Dungeons & Dragons hasn’t exactly been stellar, but credit to the company, it hasn’t stopped trying. Of course, trying to improve the Druid character class is a lot less controversial than attempting to erase D&D’s beloved Open Gaming Licence, but these potential changes actually seem for the better.
Druids, which are basically Clerics whose powers are over nature instead of divinely given, are apparently D&D’s least-played character class of the choices in the game’s primary Player’s Handbook. So in preparation for the upcoming OneD&D, WotC is playtesting new and rejiggered abilities for the Druids that sound easier to use and more fun, as described by rulesmaster Jeremy Crawford.
First off, Druids will be able to Wildshape at level one instead of level two, to frame the ability as a core tool in the class’ identity. More significantly, the rules for Wildshaping have been immensely simplified; instead of needing to track down the stats for the creature you want to transform into, there are three simple categories: Animal of the Land, Animal of the Sky, and Animal of the Sea. Each category has one simple stat block no matter which specific animal you chose, depending on your Wisdom stat. Within those categories, it sounds like the sky (and land, and sea) is the limit, because Druids can even choose to become animal hybrids, and at later levels cast spells in their Wildshape forms or not spend actions on rapid transformations in and out of them. There’s a great deal more detail, as well as information on the Circle of the Moon subclass of Druids, in this video (via Polygon):
Crwaford doesn’t say that this upgrade was inspired by the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves movie, whose first trailer included an instantly iconic scene of the Druid tiefling Doric Wildshaping into an owlbear, but considering he pointedly mentions that you could shapeshift into an owl and bear hybrid, the movie surely had something to do with it, right? Technically, under the current D&D 5th Edition rules, Druids can’t transform into owlbears because they’re classified as monsters, not animals, which the current form of Wildshape is limited to. But the animal hybrid ability seems specifically designed to allow players to become owlbears (among other things, like elementally-tinged animals like a Phoenix, or a thunder wolf). All that other stuff is nice and fun and probably good, but as usual, they had me at owlbear.