Author Topic: The Druid Handbook  (Read 88763 times)

Offline Mooncrow

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The Druid Handbook
« Topic Start: November 11, 2011, 10:38:54 AM »
Much thanks to Blade2718 for the original handbook, and allowing it to be moved over and modified.

The Druid Handbook


Because Druids and Druid derivatives are so popular and powerful, I think that BrilliantGameologists should have its own Druid Handbook.  I had some time on my hands so I figured "Why not me?"  I must confess that I am no expert on the topic, that I stand on the shoulders of giants, and that this is primarily a recompilation effort.  Much of the material presented will be derived from sources from the Wizards of the Coast d20 Character Optimization forums, including but not limited to:
Dictum Mortuum's "CO Project: The Quickstart Druid
A Man In Black's "Druid Handbook revived"
Dead Weasel's "Alternative Class Features III"
Lord_of_Rivendell's "Revisiting Spells for the Optimized Druid"

This should not be considered an authoritative guide.  I welcome any collaboration and polite feedback.  Thanks for reading!

(Feedback and suggestions can go in this thread)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Class Features and Alternatives
3. Skills, Skill Tricks, and Feats
4. Spellcasting
5. Animal Companion
6. Wild Shape
7. Equipment
8. Controversy and Miscellany
9. Appendices

Color Code:
Blue = great option, highly recommended.
Green = a good option, though either less powerful or more limited than a blue
Black = an average option, not terrible, but either of very limited use or very weak.
Red = a bad option, do not take.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2012, 10:21:01 PM by Mooncrow »

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The Druid Handbook
« Reply #1: November 11, 2011, 10:39:02 AM »
Druids are guardians of nature, able to call down the wrath of the natural world, befriend wild animals and take on their aspects, yadda yadda yadda.  You didn't come for a flowery description of druids, though given time I could come up with one.  We're here for the crunchy bits that matter to many players.

Attribute Distribution
  • Strength: Not a priority, unless you are a melee combatant early in your career and you need the extra damage.
  • Dexterity: Not a priority, unless you are a melee combatant early in your career and you need the extra AC
  • Constitution:  This is a very close second to Wisdom for your most important stat, as it determines your HP in both native and alternate forms.  It also modifies your Concentration skill.
  • Intelligence:  Not a priority, but good to have.  This class has 4+Int skill points, and there aren't too many skills that you would need to keep at maximum, anyway.
  • Wisdom:  This your first priority stat, as it determines bonus spells, spell DCs, and highest spell level known.  It also modifies several important skills.
  • Charisma:  Not a priority, unless your character concept requires a strong social ability.  It also modifies your Wild Empathy ability.

Party Role(s)
The Druid's variety of class abilities allow for an equally diverse number of roles in the party.
  • Primary Melee: Medium armor, shield proficiency, and several good weapons make you a good candidate for front line work.  Greater emphasis on physical stats will become necessary at lower levels, while animal forms will predominate at the later levels.  You also have a number of spells that enhance your damage or boost your defense.
            Sample Builds:
  • Primary Ranged: Your only projectile weapon is a sling, which doesn't allow for iterative attacks.  Elves and Outsiders have the advantage with natural access to martial weapons.  You have several spells, though, that can be used at range such as produce flame and fire seeds.
            Sample Builds: Druidic Avenger 12
  • Primary Skillmonkey/Stealth Expert: Your high Wisdom and access to Listen and Spot as class skills also make you a good scout.  Wild shape further enhances this, allowing you to take the form of innocuous wildlife like songbirds.  Access to Diplomacy also lets you be the party's face.
            Sample Builds:
  • Primary Healer: Though not as obvious a choice as the Cleric, you still have access to healing spells, can use healing wands, and can summon unicorns to heal for you.
            Sample Builds:
  • Primary Buffer: Your best buffs apply to your animal friends, but everyone benefits from barkskin.
            Sample Builds:
  • Primary Caster: Summoning is a natural strength for you, and your have a variety of damage-dealing and control spells to choose from.
            Sample Builds:

Racial Selection
I won't waste time with every racial option, just highlight some interesting options.  Most unlisted races either clearly suboptimal or simply mediocre.
  • Human: With their racial feat and racial bonus skill point, Humans are the perennial favorite.
  • Strongheart HalflingFRCS: Small size and a free racial feat.
  • Ghostwise HalflingFRCS: Trade the standard +1 to saves for a supernatural form of telepathy to make it much easier for you to communicate with your allies while wildshaped.
  • Anthropomorphic BatSS: Huge bonus to Wisdom and blindsense are an attractive package.
  • DragonbornRotD: Good for a Constitution bump.  The magic really happens when you start creating Dragonborn from obscure races, like...
  • BuommanPla: Bonus to Wisdom, but a vow of silence.  Note that the racial vow of silence buommans have is waived should you opt to undergo dragonborn transformation.  Like plastic surgery, but better, because it also gives you a Constitution bonus.
  • Half-orc: There are great half-orc druid substitution levels, so this race bears mentioning.  Unearthed Arcana has a Desert Half-Orc that trades Strength for Constitution, and doesn't penalize Cha, making it a superior choice if the variant race is allowed in your game.
  • ShiftersECS/RoE/MM3: At low levels, any Shifter with a natural attack shifting ability can be using the druid spells to enhance their natural attacks. Later on, your shifting bonus will stack with Wild Shape (Shifting is a supernatural ability, so you keep it in Wild Shape), which not only means stat bonuses, but also gives extra AC, new move types, or even possibly extra attacks. Dreamsight Shifters (RoE), in particular, give +2 Wis and Speak With Animals while shifting, but all of the Shifter traits give untyped bonuses to stats that still work while shifting, so any of them can work quite nicely. Plus, it allows you to take, say, Improved Natural Attack (claws) or INA (bite) even if your GM won't usually allow you to take those for forms you can only take with Wild Shape. Shifters can also take Moonspeaker (RoE), one of the few good druid PrCs.  Beasthide, Dreamsight, Longtooth, and Razorclaw Shifter traits are good for druids, because those benefits stack nicely onto whatever animal form you might be using.  Taking Shifter also allows you to use the Shifter sub levels. The first Shifter sub level costs you your Animal Companion, but replaces it with a Beast Spirit that can buff you, buff your summons, cuts your summons to a standard action, and can eventually cast quickened spells for you. (All the bonuses make this an absolutely awesome choice for any sort of druid.) Most druids will want to avoid the fifth sub level, unless you're planning to specialize heavily in shifting.
  • KalashtarECS: Their mindlink ability (you definitely want to use the XPH version of mindlink for a much longer duration) allows them to communicate even while Wild Shaping, and they can take psionic feats to boot, like Speed of Thought.
  • JermalineMM2: Tiny Fey with penalties to Str, Cha, and Con are offset by LA +0 with massive Wis and dexterity bonuses.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2011, 11:40:10 AM by Mooncrow »

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The Druid Handbook
« Reply #2: November 11, 2011, 10:39:27 AM »
Standard Class Features
"I am a Druid, I have special abilities that are more powerful than your entire class!"  'Nuff said.

  • Spells: Spellcasting is one corner of the trifecta that is Druid.  The fact that it will receive its own section in the guide should attest to its awesomeness.
  • Bonus Languages: I only mention this because Druid is the only class that adds an automatic language (not to be confused with bonus languages), Druidic.  This language is usually the major stumbling block for players wishing to enter the Fochluchan Lyricist prestige class.
  • Animal Companion (Ex): At first glance, you'd wonder what makes your animal companion so awesome, but you realize how very useful an obedient animal can be for you.  Especially after you buff it into an engine of destruction.  This will also get its own section, review the different companions you can get.
  • Nature Sense (Ex): Sort of like the ugly sweater your grandmother gives you: love her, hate the gift.
  • Wild Empathy (Ex): Animal Diplomacy.  But it's a lot harder to get an animal to be helpful, because the check is harder to modify.
  • Woodland Stride (Ex): While it's not exactly a medal-winner in its own right, it helps you if you have to be the scout.
  • Trackless Step (Ex): Nice if you're being followed, but...that's about it.
  • Resist Nature’s Lure (Ex): If you're facing a lot of Fey, it's okay, but otherwise it's just a step along the path toward...
  • Wild Shape (Su): This is the reason you picked Druid.  It's own section is later, but suffice it to say that this is where the Druid's Real Ultimate Power comes from.
  • Venom Immunity (Ex): At least we won't have to worry about assassins...
  • A Thousand Faces (Su): Free disguising is good, but true seeing has been available for a while.
  • Timeless Body (Ex): Say goodbye to aging penalties!  If you're starting at this level, feel free to age yourself to venerable for the extra untyped +3 to mental stats.


Alternate Class Features
Many of these abilities are situational, so I won't rank any of them.  Decide which ones you like best for yourself.

Alters Armor/Weapon Proficiencies
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Alters Spellcasting
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Alters Animal Companion
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Alters Nature Sense
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Alters Wild Empathy
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Alters Woodland Stride
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Alters Trackless Step
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Alters Resist Nature's Lure
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Alters Wild Shape
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Alters Venom Immunity
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Alters Thousand Faces
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Wild Reaper VariantDragon 311 - this version changes a lot of things, and it's one of the few upgrades to the base druid chassis.
Alters:
Wild Shape - forms must be carnivorous or omnivorous animals that eat carrion.  No plant or elemental forms.
Spells - A much larger list of spontaneous casting, several of which are very nice.  Spontaneous castings is delayed until 3rd level
Animal Companion - same rules as wild shape
Poison Immunity - traded for disease immunity
Turn Undead - At 12th level, the Wild Reaper gets Turn Undead - qualifying the druid for DMM
A Thousand Faces - traded for a +4 bonus to saving throws against death effects and level drain
Fast healing 1 - gained at 16th level, increases to fast healing 3 at 20th
Ability damage healing 1 - gained at 17th level, increasing to ability damage healing 2 at 20th
Timeless Body is delayed until 19th level
« Last Edit: August 16, 2012, 08:25:37 PM by Mooncrow »

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The Druid Handbook
« Reply #3: November 11, 2011, 10:39:46 AM »
Druid Class Skills
  • Concentration: Because you'll probably be casting in melee after you get wild shape, you need to max it out. Even if you use wild shape forms as a defensive form for casting (such as a high AC flying form), it would be a major risk to not max this out.
  • Craft: Unless you want to fulfill a certain requirement, don't get this. This skill, however, has some use. To create a bogun with the beget bogun spell, you need to make a craft (basketweaving or weaving) check of 12. If the little critters appeal to you, get 2 ranks in craft (basketweaving or weaving) skill and take 10.
  • Diplomacy: With this you can even be the party's face if need be. You can also use it to haggle and get a discount on items.
  • Handle Animal: Important due to the synergy with animals and your animal companion. You need a total score of +20 to make the most of this skill, which means that you need to spend ten ranks more or less (assuming you take 10 on its use). Get 5 ranks if you want the synergy bonuses. See The Handle Animal Guide for more information on how to make optimal use of this skill.
  • Heal: Not much here. If you feel like it, you can spend 5 ranks and take 10 to use some of the skill's functions.  10 ranks lets you remove exhaustion, nausea, and sickness with healing lorecall.
  • Knowledge (Nature): It's your only knowledge, so it would be best to max it.
  • Listen: Spend at least 12 ranks in this skill to make use of the listening lorecall spell.
  • Profession: You make more money adventuring, anyway.
  • Ride: Only useful if you want to use your animal companion as a mount. Still, only a few ranks are needed.
  • Spellcraft: It's usually a good idea to max it or at least keep it high. If you are going to play in an epic campaign, you must max it, as you'll need it for epic spellcasting.
  • Spot: This usually comes with listen. Spend a few points if you feel like it or your party is in need of a scout.
  • Survival: Get 5 ranks for the synergy bonus. You can max it out, it's a skill with druidic feel. You can get the track feat to benefit most from it.

Cross-Class Skills
  • Balance: Getting it to 5 ranks will make sure that you won't be flat-footed when you are balancing. Also you'll be able to use balancing lorecall to a greater effect.
  • Knowledge: Try to get one rank in each other subdivision of Knowledge.
  • Use Magic Device/Use Psionic Device: If you have ranks to spare, invest just one here.
  • Autohypnosis: It has wisdom synergy and a synergy bonus from concentration, so you can get it at high levels without investing many ranks. It has cute functions, too.

Skill Tricks
Introduced in Complete Scoundrel, tricks provide little abilities that are usable once per encounter but are not deemed as powerful as a feat.  Each trick has skill prerequisites and requires
two ranks to learn.
  • Listen to This: Useful if you are going to be the party's scout.
  • Swift Concentration: Druids have enough concentration-duration spells to make this skill trick a good buy.

Feats
Feats are a very limited resource, barring embrace the dark chaos/shun the dark chaos cheese.
  • General Druid Feats
           
    • Natural Spell:  This is the reason Druids rock so hard.  You can wild shape into an itty-bitty sparrow and rain Empowered Maximized fire seeds on your opponents.  You can cast produce flame while fighting in melee as a dinosaur.  The potential is limited only by your book collection and imagination.
    • Animal Devotion - some nice powers, especially for melee druids - scaling sacred/profane Str bonus, scaling sacred/profane base speed bonus, or flight.  Usable multiple times a day with the Wild Reaper variant.
    • Initiate of NaturePGtF: This feat allows you to rebuke animals and plants. You have the ability to control HD per class level, of which no one creature can be more than 1/2HD per class level. Combined with the animal buffing spells you receive, it's a reasonable choice.  Oh, right- it adds briartangle, mold touch, and tree healing to your spell list, too.
    • Ironwood BodyRoE: A must-have for Warforged druids, assuming your DM allows it.
    • Manifest DruidPGtE: A flavor feat, with a handful of nice bennies (although the Sudden Empower for a first-level arcane spell is just weird).
    • Companion SpellbondPHBII: extends the range of your Share Spell ability from 5' to 30'.  Very useful for those who don't use the companion as a mount.
    • Natural BondCAdv: Helps out multiclass Druids with their animal companions. May offset the penalty for stronger-than-standard Animal Companions (ask your GM), which makes it not just good, but borderline cheese.  But hey, whatever he's allowing...
  • Summoning Related Feats
           
    • Augment Summoning: +4 bonus to strength and dexterity is a good bonus, but the problem is that it requires a useless feat, spell focus (conjuration). Luckily for us, there are ways around that (like initiate of malar or the 7th half-orc substitution level).  Still, it's worth taking no matter what if you're going to be doing summoning.
    • Greenbound SummoningLEoF: At low levels, this is insanely powerful, enough that you'll get dirty looks at your table.  Once you hit 9th level and get animal growth, its relative power drops quite a bit though. 
    • Rashemi Elemental SummoningUE: Lets you turn your air elemental summons into orglashes with 3/day cone of cold and earth elemental summons into thomils that engulf.  This is very nice way to keep your summons relevant at higher levels when the animal summons begin to fall off.
    • AshboundECS: Doubles the duration of summons and gives them a luck bonus to attack.
    • Beckon the FrozenFrost: +1d6 cold damage on all your summoned critters' attacks. Pretty weak compared to the other summoning feats, but ok if you're looking to squeeze out every last drop of damage from your summons.  Not available if you bypass the Spell Focus (Conjuration) prereq of Augment Summoning, as the Spell Focus is specifically called out in this feat's prereqs.
    • Imbued SummoningPHB2: Buy a Summoner's TotemMiC instead. 
    • Initiate of MalarPGtF: Gives animal-only Augment Summoning for free, and also gives some pretty lame extra spells. You have to worship Malar, though, which conflicts mechanically with Exalted feats (seeing as Malar is evil and all) and thematically with Rashemi Elemental Summoning. (The Hathrans do not often teach their secrets to followers of Malar.)
  • Wild Shape Related Feats
           
    • Dragon Wild ShapeDrac: Another great feat, a must have at level 12. You get all supernatural and extraordinary abilities of the dragon you wild shape into. Note that dragons normally speak and can cast spells, so you probably don't need natural spell, but a consensus is needed here.
    • Bestial ChargeCC - great for those druids who love melee combat; get pounce on all your forms, or a +3 attack bonus on forms that already have pounce, and the ability to change direction during a charge.
    • MultiattackMM: Many forms have secondary natural attacks. This makes them more accurate. Some GMs may disallow this because you don't always have the natural attacks, however. (This is assuming you're not a Shifter or something.) Probably only worth taking in a core-only game, though.
    • Improved Natural AttackMM: Extra damage on a single type of natural attack. INA (bite) or INA (claws) is very handy, and counts as a Shifter feat if you're a Shifter.
    • Exalted Wild ShapeBoED:  Free, if minor, bonuses while Wild Shaping, as the Celestial template can be applied to any animal form you can usually take. It also makes blink dog and Unicorn (as well as some other, mostly useless) forms available, all Ex and Su abilities included. You may be able to talk your GM into including Scent, Blindsense/Blindsight, and other Ex abilities of animal forms you can take. (The feat does say you get the Ex and Su abilities of forms you can take with this feat.) If this is allowed, this feat is much more useful. Note that this feat doesn't benefit your Plant, Elemental, or any other type of form you can take; just animals or the limited list of Magical Beasts.
    • Frozen Wild ShapeFrost: This feat should just be renamed Twelve-Headed Cryohydra Wild Shape.
    • Assume Supernatural AbilitySS: Totally broken feat.  If you're a GM, don't say I didn't warn you. If you're a player, well, welcome to flavor town.
  • Spellcasting Feats
           
    • Extend Spell: A good choice to extend buffs.
    • Energy SubstitutionCA and Energy AffinityMini: If you do a lot of blasting, you may want this. I'd recommend cold or acid, since most of the best and most popular druid blasts are fire or electric. If your GM is silly enough to allow Energy Sub (Sonic) (from Tome and Blood), by all means take advantage.
    • Empower Spell: Handy for druids who do a lot of blasting, but only druids who do a lot of blasting. Definitely choose this over Maximize Spell or Energy Admixture. (Leave those to Incantatrices and Blastificers.)
    • Ocular SpellLoM: Turns touch spells into rays, and lets you cast two spells as a full action. Druids can't cheese it out quite as much as some classes, but this broken feat benefits them greatly.
    • Persistant SpellCA: Reeeeeally expensive, but as usual it's an exceedingly powerful feat even for casters who can't abuse Divine Metamagic. Apparently Help Desk thinks it can work on touch spells; that's probably not a good idea to allow as a DM, but a ridiculously powerful option if it's allowed to you as a player.
    • Quicken Spell: A staple of high-level prepared casters. Quickened buffs are always a good choice.
    • Sculpt SpellCA: Sculpt Spell is always handy for blasters and controllers, and Druids can do a bit of both. This can be handy to use on limited or weird areas of effect, to make them more useful.
    • Gatekeeper InitiateECS: This druid-only Initiate feat gives you Knowledge (planes) as a class skill, and gives a ton of great defensive spells, including Protection From Evil, Dimensional Anchor, and Mind Blank. A great pick, especially in high-level parties with no cleric.
    • Greensinger InitiateECS: Adds Bluff, Hide, and Perform to your class skill list, and adds a ton of handy enchantments (plus some oddballs) to your spell list.
    • Initiate of GruumshCoR: Not a great Initiate feat, but once a day you can quicken a Cure spell. but the one time it saves a life, you'll be praising Gruumsh all night long.
    • Initiate of MalarPGtF: Mentioned above, this gives you a handful of mostly-useless spells and free Augment Summoning on all of your animal summons.
    • Initiate of SelunePGtF: This is one of the weaker Initiate feats, but it gives an improved version of Produce Flame, as well as a shield-typed AC buff, so it's not all bad.
    • Nightbringer InitiateFoE: Adds the sneaky skills (Hide and Move Silently) to your skill list, and gives you access to Darkness, Deeper Darkness, and a handful of negative energy spells and spells to create or call natives of Mabar. Enervation is the nicest spell of the lot.
    • Warden InitiateECS: +2 to AC when in a forest, plus a handful of useful utility spells. Not as good as the other Eberron Initiate feats, but still a good feat.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2012, 10:20:22 AM by Mooncrow »

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The Druid Handbook
« Reply #4: November 11, 2011, 10:40:02 AM »
Druids are full casters, no matter how much you beat things up with your bare paws.  Your ability to escape from danger or create danger for your opponents is, at least, partially dependent on what spells you have available.

0th Level
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1st Level
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2nd Level
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3rd Level
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4th Level
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5th Level
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6th Level
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7th Level
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8th Level
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9th Level
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Summon Nature's Ally
Druids have the ability to spontaneously cast Summon Nature's Ally, making memorizing the spells pointless. Given the short duration of these spells and the disposable nature of summoned creatures, you're going to want to use them as distraction and cannon fodder. Speak With Animals is especially handy when you're summoning animals, as it allows you to direct them to flank, concentrate on particular foes, or do other useful things other than "attack closest foe or biggest threat."
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« Last Edit: December 14, 2012, 08:05:13 PM by Mooncrow »

Offline Mooncrow

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Re: The Druid Handbook
« Reply #5: November 11, 2011, 10:40:20 AM »
    Animal Companions

    The second leg of the druid Triad of Power, the Animal Companion is a vital part of what makes a druid.  A properly built companion can function as almost another party member (or even make the poorly optimized fighter cry, depending on your group :p), but the key to getting the most out of your furry (scaly/feathery) friend is choosing a role for them and stick to it.  Companions aren't druids themselves; they can't do everything :p  So, what are the roles that companions can do well?

    Grappler - best served by a pet with all-around good stats, the grappler gets into the thick of things.  Yes they do some damage, but more importantly, they lock down one or more of the enemy, while serving as a barrier to others.  This is really valuable if you spend a lot of time dungeon crawling, or fighting in places without a whole lot of space.  Crocodiles, bears and some of the dinosaurs make the best grapplers.

    Pouncer - the pure damage dealing option.  Pouncers all do full attacks on a charge, and often a few extra attacks as well.  The downside is that most of them are pretty fragile and they require a fair amount of space to do their thing.  But when properly buffed up, a pouncer can put serious hurt on the bad guys.  The alternate method is the Charger - they usually have one big attack and Powerful Charge for double damage.  If they have trample, they can charge in, trample, move away as part of the trample, and then charge back in (the infamous Triceratops Shuffle, as it's known).  It requires even more room though, and it's a bit too conditional for my tastes.  For pouncers, look for the big cats and raptor dinosaurs for the power.  For chargers, look for the horned dinosaurs and rhinos.

    Mount - You're no paladin, but that doesn't mean you can't use your companion for a mount.  Now, I do think it's a waste to just use your companion for a mount.  While it is an easy way to get flight, there are other ways to get that - there aren't a lot of ways to get another loyal-unto-death combatant.  If you're going to go the mount route, make sure it fits with your own combat style.  Being mounted means that it's easy to take advantage of Share Spell, so you could, for example, grab a lance, and charge in on a Charger to do all sorts of ridiculous damage.  There are lots of companions that work as mounts - just make sure it's one size larger than you.

    Dire Tortoise - it doesn't really fit in with the other categories, but it's still incredibly good.  Huge HP, great AC, good trample, and an auto-surprise round make for a surprisingly effective pet.  I've never been disappointed by this guy.

    Now that you know what role you want to focus on, it's time to pick out your companion. 

    To level up, or change companions?
    Probably the most frequently asked question.  Do you swap out your pet every three levels, or let it gain the bonuses from leveling?  Generally speaking, it's better to swap them out.  There are exceptions, but most of the time, you gain more from a higher level base pet.  Now, if you do stick with the same pet, there are a couple advantages.  1. it will end up with higher AC - most base animals tend to stay in the 14-17AC range, regardless of level.  2. you get to select its feats. 

    Most of the time, that's not enough to make up for the increased damage, number of attacks, increased size, etc.  The exceptions:  Fleshraker - it's good enough that it can last you pretty much your whole career, and if venomfire is allowed in the campaign, it's hands down the best selection all the way to 20.  Magebred Bear/Ghost Tiger - the boosts this template give you, combined with the generally poor selection at level 10 means that it's worth it to hang onto them until at least 13 and possibly until 16.  Dire Tortoise - it's base stats are so high, and it's so unusual, that if you like it, it can serve until 20 without any problem.

    On to the lists!

    Level 1
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    Level 4
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    Level 7
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    Level 10
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    Level 13
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    Level 16
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    Level 19
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    [/list]

    Further Companion optimization
    First of all, if you're playing in a very High-Op game, go ahead and grab the Fleshraker, toss venomfire on it, and don't look back.  The combination is too incredible not to take if that's the direction your group is going. 

    Now with that out of the way, let's look at some of the more generally applicable tips.

    Get some barding!  Even if they're not trained for it, getting your companion some barding with no Armor Check Penalty is a relatively cheap and easy way to increase it's survivability.  And remember, just because you can't wear metal armor, there's nothing that extends that restriction to your companion.  And a set of +1 magic armor lets you attach armor crystals from MiC, and other goodies. 

    The Warbeast Template from MM2 should also be available if you have a decent amount of downtime between adventures.  It's an awesome template: +3 Str, +3 Con, +2 Wis, +1HD, +10 Move, armor proficiency, plus a few other minor benefits.  In fact, it's so good that I've never had a DM that actually allowed it in-game :p  Best of luck to you on that, though!

    Magebred/Horrid template: while it's never explicitly stated, it's implied in the ECS that the Horrid template can be applied to any dire animal at a -3 level adjustment.  If so, it opens up a lot of cool choices.  The two main things to look for are animals with 1. multiple primary attacks 2. high HD for the level.  There are a ton of benefits to this template, and I highly recommend it.  Magebred is trickier - on one hand, ECS flat out says "No Magebred Animal Companions", but then 5N comes out and explicitly gives us magebred bears and tigers.  Talk to your DM and find out how they rule it, and if you can get magebred, it's an awesome addition as well. 

    For those more serious about getting better companions, there are some more options to consider:
    Feats:

    Aerenal BeastkeeperRoEb: At first glance, this feat seems pretty cool; adds baboon to your list of allowed companions and treats it as +3 levels.  Except, the baboon is really terrible, so sadly this option is a waste.
    Exalted CompanionBoED: this feat expands your companion list a bit, and more to the point, lets you get an animal with the celestial template.  The DR, SR, and energy resistance are nice, but what really makes the template worthwhile is the bump up to 3 Int.  At 3 Int, your companion has actual intelligence and doesn't need to worry about tricks or anything like that.
    (click to show/hide)
    Wild CohortWeb:  A second, slightly weaker companion for the cost of one feat isn't a bad trade.

    Natural BondCAdv: to echo what I said above, a liberal reading of this feat could potentially give you and extra 3 effective levels to your companion progression.  Unlikely to fly unless your DM is familiar with Char-Op though.

    A 1 level BeastmasterCAdv dip: you trade one level of spellcasting and wild shape progression for +3 to your effective level for animal companion.  Let me make it clear - this is a bad tradeoff from an overall optimizing point of view!  However, if you have a concept that wants to rely on the companion as much as possible, it's not the end of the world.  No more than one level though!  The rest of the abilities are rubbish. 
    [/list]
    « Last Edit: August 31, 2012, 07:16:13 AM by Mooncrow »

    Offline Mooncrow

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    Re: The Druid Handbook
    « Reply #6: November 11, 2011, 10:40:34 AM »
    Wild Shape
    And now, the third part of the Triad of Power - Wild Shape.  Powerful forms come from almost every supplement, and with so many different forms available, take advantage of the opportunity to specialize!

    Grappler
    A specialty of the various varieties of bear and squid, and one of the most powerful Wild Shape strategies, as it maximizes your strengths (high Str, large size) while minimizing your weaknesses (generally poor AC). These forms are generally some of your best pure combat forms, whether or not you decide to actually grapple.

    All of these forms have Improved Grab, and most of them have high strength, large size, and/or Abilities like Constrict and Swallow Whole.  Swallow Whole is a double-edged sword: yes, you're damaging the victim and keeping it from harming your friends or casting spells, but it can attack your very, very low gullet AC and do nasty damage. (If you get a chance to Swallow something with no light slashing/piercing weapon or natural attacks, go for it.) And never, ever, ever eat anything immune to acid. (Grapple checks, where noted below, don't include BAB. Just add your BAB to the grapple number listed below to get your grapple check total when in that form.)

    Charger
    Bipedal dinosaurs and big cats specialize in charging into battle and dealing as much damage as possible as fast as possible. The best forms usually have pounce and rakes, but a few forms with a single powerful natural attack and the powerful charge ability are also worth using.

    Not many charger forms are bolded as recommended; this is mostly because charger forms are a matter of taste. Big cats dabble in grappling and can only bring their rakes to bear when charging or grappling, bipedal pouncer dinosaurs hit slightly harder and don't grapple, triceratopses have the Triceratops Shuffle, and rhinos have one powerful gore that does double damage on a charge. If you use big cats and bipedal dinosaurs often enough, you may want Multiattack, and if you use horned chargers often enough, you may want Power Attack.

    Trampler
    A specialty of elephants, herbivorous dinosaurs, and Treants. Most tramplers are Large- or Huge-sized, and have a high-damage attack or two. Trampling is great for taking out mooks (including swarms!), but most of the tramplers can also do a decent job of slugging it out with individual larger enemies. When buffing, remember that increased Strength ups the save DC for your trample as well as your damage.

    Defensive
    Sometimes you just need to avoid or shrug off attacks. Maybe you're focusing on spellcasting, or maybe you just want to get away. These forms have high AC, sometimes paired with defensive abilities (which will need to technically be "Special Attacks", due to the limitations of Wild Shape).

    Aerial
    Besides the obvious long-distance travel and scouting uses, druids who favor using their spells for offense will spend most of their time in aerial forms, not just because of the maneuverability but because of the high Dex for touch attacks, AC, and initiative checks. (Contrast this with grappling forms, where combat spellcasting is usually confined to buffs before or at the beginning of a fight.) Generally, they aren't as good in melee as the land- or water-bound alternatives, but maneuverability does come at a price.

    Aquatic
    Sometimes, you're going to have to spend some time in the water. Forms with this notation have swim speeds and unless noted otherwise, can breathe underwater.

    Tool-User
    Medium-sized, more-or-less-human-shaped forms which can use your equipment normally instead of having it meld into your Wild Shape form. This is a hideously powerful strategy at high levels, but you need to drop all your stuff and pick it up again, meaning you'll need a long Wild Shape duration as well as time to prepare. (Many GMs will house-rule this controversial rule; see more below in the Controversial Options section.)

    Level 5
     
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    Level 8
       
    (click to show/hide)

    Level 9
       
    (click to show/hide)

    Level 12
       
    (click to show/hide)

    Level 13
         
    (click to show/hide)

    Level 14
       
    (click to show/hide)
    Level 15
     
    (click to show/hide)

    Level 16
     
    (click to show/hide)

    Level 18
     
    (click to show/hide)

    Misc.
    Everything else. They may have useful or unusual in- or out-of-combat abilities, or otherwise deserve special mention.

    (click to show/hide)

    To do list:
    Abberations, Vermin, Exalted
    Still quite a bit of work to do in this section; some of the stats are off, and I still need rate them.
    « Last Edit: August 15, 2012, 08:37:31 PM by Mooncrow »

    Offline Mooncrow

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    Re: The Druid Handbook
    « Reply #7: November 11, 2011, 10:40:53 AM »
    Equipment

    Armor
    There are a couple different ways you can go with druid armor - you can either go the dragonhide or ironwood route, and enchant them with the "wild" property, or just grab a monk's belt (or robe if you have access to Pathfinder gear) and a wilding clasp.  For more fun , buy your wizard a wand of mage armor and have him cast it on you prior to going into battle.  Personally, I prefer the second option; yes you miss out on a few nifty armor options, but the +3 for wild so that it can be useful all the time is just painful.
    (click to show/hide)

    Shields
    (click to show/hide)

    Weapons
    (click to show/hide)

    Arms
    (click to show/hide)

    Body
    (click to show/hide)

    Face
    (click to show/hide)

    Feet
    (click to show/hide)

    Hands
    (click to show/hide)

    Head
    (click to show/hide)

    Rings
    (click to show/hide)

    Shoulders
    (click to show/hide)

    Throat
    (click to show/hide)

    Torso
    (click to show/hide)

    Waist
    (click to show/hide)

    Relic
    (click to show/hide)

    Other
    (click to show/hide)

    Magic/Legendary Locations
    (click to show/hide)
    « Last Edit: November 14, 2011, 02:10:10 PM by Mooncrow »

    Offline Mooncrow

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    Re: The Druid Handbook
    « Reply #8: November 11, 2011, 10:41:31 AM »
    Venerable Dragonwrought Kobolds
    There have been several suggestions that Venerable Dragonwrought Kobolds are "teh ub4r" and need to take the top spot as far as optimized races go.  As a practitioner of practical optimization, this is a bit more juice than we need to squeeze out for most campaigns.  Games that involve not just high-level, but theoretical optimization will lend themselves better to +9 mental stat boosts for a feat.  Furthermore, any class that benefits from high mental stats can benefit from being a VDK, so it isn't a Druid-specific optimization either.

    With that said, if your campaign demands nitrous just to keep the game moving or you are dying to play an ancient kobold shaman, by all means do so.  But don't expect to change this author's mind about the Druid-specific utility of the VDK.

    Prestige Classes

    Moonspeaker
    Arcane Hierophant
    Planar Shepherd
    Fochluchan Lyricist
    « Last Edit: November 12, 2011, 12:07:17 AM by Mooncrow »

    Offline Mooncrow

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    Re: The Druid Handbook
    « Reply #9: November 11, 2011, 10:42:19 AM »
    Reserved

    Last reserve - feel free to post.

    There's still a lot of formatting and cleaning up to do, but all of the info is over here now.

    Current project:  a complete list of Animal Companions and their rating. 
    « Last Edit: August 07, 2012, 08:12:45 PM by Mooncrow »

    Offline cru

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    Aberration Wild Shape
    « Reply #10: December 15, 2011, 06:21:55 AM »
    The Aberration Wild Shape feat from Lords of Madness allows a druid to wild shape into an aberration. According to an article on the WotC site, in Eberron, the Aberrant Dragonmark feat can be used instead as a prerequisite for this feat.

    Aberration forms have a wild array of special attacks. Some of the most interesting forms are listed below:

    Name+ReferenceSizeHDACStatsAttacksMisc
    Tentacle Spider (SoX)medium31611/17/144x touch +4 (dex poison) + biteRanged entangle
    Fiery Sandhogmedium41715/12/124 bite +5 melee and 2 claws +0burrow, climb
    Tako (OA)medium41720/15/128 attacksAquatic, Improved Grab, Constrict
    Dustblight (Sand)medium52020/17/12Bite +8 (1d8+5), 2 claws +6 (1d3+2)Burrow 30 ft.
    Rust Monster (MM)medium51810/17/13corroding touch attack, weak biteCorrode metal
    Dolghast (MoE)medium61719/14/132 claws +8 (1d6+4), bite +3 (1d6+2)Con damage
    Vivisector (MM5)medium72115/18/142 claws +8 melee (1d8+2), sting +4Poison DC15 1d6/1d6 str, fly
    Cloaker (MM)large81921/16/17Tail +8 (1d6+5), bite +3 (1d4+2)Fly 40 ft., Moan, Engulf
    Ineffable Horror (Und)large51819/13/162 slams +7 (1d4+4)Fly 60 good, grappler with con drain
    Mimic (MM)large71519/12/172 slams +9 (1d8+4)Adhesive, Crush
    Rukanyr (FF)large72221/7/2410 attackspoison, stunning attack, climb
    Squamous Spewer (Drac)large82219/13/176 bites +10 (1d10+4)Roar (fear)
    Dharculus (PlH)medium822+12/14/206 tentacles +8 (1d4+1)Improved grab, ethereal bite
    Otyugh, Lifeleech (mm3)large92127/16/234 tentacles +14 (1d8+8) and biteConstrict, improved grab
    Stone Singer (mm3)large92120/10/18Bite +10 and 6 claws +8DC 18, 1d4 Dex/1d4 Dex
    Hook Horror (mm2)large102224/17/142 claws +13, bite +8Improved grab, power sunder, rending bite
    Chuul (mm)large112220/16/182 claws +12 (2d6+5)Improved grab, constrict, paralysis, aquatic
    Darktentacles (MM2)large91819/15/1712 slams or 12 weaponsImproved grab, Constrict, 15 ft reach, swim
    Death Kiss Beholderkin (MoF)large121616/14/1610 tentacles (1d4+3) @ 20 ft reachImproved grab, Blood Drain
    Chwidencha (DotU)large122422/17/204 claws +15 (1d6+6), PounceImproved grab, climb/burrow
    Ocularon (FF)large122118/15/174 melee tendrils, 1 ranged touchImproved grab, poison, steal eyes, death throes
    Thoon Elder Brain (mm5)large122626/14/308 tentacles +17 (1d6+8+2d6 acid)Dual action (!), acid burn, fly
    Urophion (LoM)large122419/13/166 ranged touch, 1 bitedrag, extraction, strands
    Delver (MM)huge152427/13/212 slams (1d6+8+2d6)Corrosive slime (vs stone and metal)
    Athach (MM)huge141726/13/21with melee weapons + bitePoison
    Madcrafter of Thoon (mm5)huge102030/12/26Bite +16 (2d8+15+4d6 acid)
    Five-headed Terror (mm3)medium152113/18/155 bites +16 (1d6+1+poison), Pouncevenomfire target
    Nagahydra (SK)huge182030/14/207 bites (2d6+10+poison)swim, poison 1d12 con
    Moonbeast (MM2)huge181730/15/2110 rakes (4d6+10)Constrict, improved grab, Bite
    Chilblain (Frost)large203528/17/24tail and 4 clawscold aura, frost touch
    Maulgoth (FF)huge203929/25/274 tentacles and biteconstrict, improved grab
    « Last Edit: January 17, 2012, 06:20:32 AM by cru »

    Offline cru

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    Vermin Wild Shape
    « Reply #11: December 15, 2011, 06:25:37 AM »
    Ways to get access to vermin forms

    Vermin Shape (ECS 62) feat
    require: druid5, nongood, child of winter
    benefit: lose access to animal forms, get access to vermin forms

    Wild Shape (Waste Vermin) (Sandstorm 47)
    10th level druid alternative class feature
    lose one wild shape use per day, gain access to "waste" vermin forms

    Vestment of Verminshape (DMG2 273)
    20000 gp, get access to vermin forms, no strings attached

    City-Shape (Cityscape web enhancement)
    5th level druid alternative class feature
    slower size progression (max. large), can shape to both animals and vermin; lose plant shape, gain swarm shape

    Spider-Shape (DotU 58)
    5th level druid alternative class feature
    lose animal forms, gain monstrous spider forms (only the spiders from MM (?))

    Vermin forms are generally weaker and less numerous than animal forms. Giving up animal forms is a very high price to pay and a flavor decision. Some notable forms are listed below:

    NameSizeHDAC/touchAbilitiesAttacksMisc
    Giant Cockroach (Ud)M420/1621/18/161 melee, stench (DC15 vs nausea)40, climb
    Giant Bee (SRD)M314/12--fly 80 good
    Monstrous Crab (Storm)M316/1015/11/122 melee, improved grab (+6), constrict 2d6+220
    Dire Maggot (LiM)S619/1313/15/121 melee+poison40, climb
    Lesser Knell Beetle (MM3)M620/1118/12/183 melee, rend, trample (2d8+6/DC17), shake the earth40, burrow
    Giant Stag Beetle (SRD)L719/923/10/171 melee, trample 2d8+3/DC1920
    Sword Spider (MonoF)L517/918/10/149 melee, impalement, poison20, climb
    Spitting Spider (DotU)L718/1222/17/183 melee; ranged touch (spit), dex poison, pounce40, climb
    Large Monstrous Crab (Storm)L618/921/11/122 melee, constrict, improved grab (+13)20
    Monstrous CrabL719/1122/14/212 melee, constrict, improved grab (+14), powerful claws40, swim
    Giant Praying Mantis (SRD)L414/819/8/152 melee, improved grab (+8)fly 40 poor
    Giant Wasp (SRD)L514/1018/12/141 melee+poisonfly 60 good
    Monstrous ToebiterL1018/1026/13/203 melee, poison, improved grab (+12), blood drain20, swim
    Knell Beetle (MM3)L1224/926/10/233 melee, rend, trample (4d6+12/DC24), shake the earth50, burrow
    Chelicera (MM3)M1219/1414/19/123 melee, improved grab, blood drain30
    Tangle Terror (DotU)M1222/1414/19/181 melee+poison; web 8/day, mad.webs (confusion)30, climb
    Leechwalker (MM2)M1312/1018/11/162 melee+wounding, improved grab (+4), blood drink30, swim
    Widowmaker (DotU)L1324/1220/17/221 melee+poison; improved grab (+9), blood drain30, climb
    Bonespear (FF)L1527/1222/17/193 melee, 2 ranged, poison, attach, drag, horns40
    Huge Monstrous Crab (Storm)H1222/825/11/142 melee, constrict, improved grab (+19)30

    SRD vermin: http://www.d20srd.org/indexes/monsters.htm
    Wizards monster list: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/lists/monsters&tablefilter=vermin
    searchable list: http://www.imarvintpa.com/dndLive/FindMonster.php
    « Last Edit: December 18, 2011, 05:42:35 AM by cru »

    Offline cru

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    Miscellaneous
    « Reply #12: December 15, 2011, 06:31:01 AM »
    Gargantuan wild shape (via Megalodon Empowerment)
    (click to show/hide)

    Non-core Summon Nature's Ally
    (click to show/hide)

    Prestige Class option:
    (click to show/hide)

    To be updated in OP:
    riding dog: superior to wolf in every way except speed
    updated spells: http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=1354.100

    From wiki: http://coboard.wikia.com/wiki/Druid
    -how to summon faster
    -equipment?

    How to qualify for druid PrC/Feats as a non-druid
    (click to show/hide)

    Notable plant forms:
    Thunderspiker
    Night Twist (MM3)
    Elder Viper Tree (Expedition to Demonweb Pits)
    « Last Edit: December 30, 2011, 05:43:31 AM by cru »

    Offline gorfnab

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    Re: The Druid Handbook
    « Reply #13: December 15, 2011, 11:30:08 PM »
    Other Druid Variants
    Metal Master - Drg #311
    Sidhe Scholar - Drg #339
    Storm - Drg #328
    Urban - Drg #317
    Totem - Drg #335
    Wind Walker - Drg #311
    Winter Warden - Drg #311
    Focused Animal - Drg #347
    Environmental (Druid weapon list) - Drg #331

    Offline nijineko

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    Re: The Druid Handbook
    « Reply #14: December 18, 2011, 05:12:55 PM »
    thank you for this thread.

    as a side note, but related: would you be interested in mentioning methods of qualifying for druid prestige classes without using druid at all? the bear warrior and the shapechanger (OA 3.0 prestige, updated to 3.5 in dragon 318) both of which grant wildshaping specifically, without requiring it as a prerequisite.
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    Offline Bastian

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    Re: Miscellaneous
    « Reply #15: December 19, 2011, 06:56:18 AM »
    Wild Shape
    Druid 5
    Ranger variant 5 (UA)
    Monk variant... Dragon???
    Abolisher 1, ecl 7, Lords of Madness
    Lion of Talisad 3, ecl 8, Book of Exalted Deeds
    Moonspeaker 5, ecl 13, Races of Eberron
    Landforged Walker 5, ecl 10, Eberron: Secrets of Xen'Drik - "plants shape", see text
    Mulhorandi Divine Minion: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/mb/20050209a
    The OA prestige class Shapeshifter (updated in Dragon 318) gains Wildshape based off character levels instead of levels in the prestige class.

    Edit: Savage Vampires (Dragon mag 348) also get Wildshape as a Druid of 10 plus half their HD (note that they have an LA of 6).
    « Last Edit: December 20, 2011, 12:25:54 PM by Bastian »

    Offline nijineko

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    Re: The Druid Handbook
    « Reply #16: December 19, 2011, 12:17:22 PM »
    Doesn't that mean prestige only if you have no Druid levels? Afb, I'll check later
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    Offline Bastian

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    Re: The Druid Handbook
    « Reply #17: December 19, 2011, 05:05:20 PM »
    Doesn't that mean prestige only if you have no Druid levels? Afb, I'll check later
    There is no requirement that the character be a non-Druid. Why do you ask/What gave you that impression?
    « Last Edit: December 19, 2011, 06:02:48 PM by Bastian »

    Offline nijineko

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    Re: The Druid Handbook
    « Reply #18: December 19, 2011, 11:53:24 PM »
    Ah, sorry. Slight miscommunication on my part. You are correct, can be druid. My point was simply that those two prestige are ways of gaining wildshape  without being a druid. 
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    Offline cru

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    Re: The Druid Handbook
    « Reply #19: December 30, 2011, 05:45:17 AM »
    added shapechanger and savage vampire to the how-to-get-wildshape list
    bear warrior gets a different ability