The New Deal Druid

Go to the Pathfinder: The New Deal index

With the cleric out of the way, you’ll be delighted to learn that my desire to make changes to any other character class is minimal to say the least. However, there is a little to be said about the druid, and in particular their wildshape ability.

The current house rules for druids are extensive: there’s a different progression of class abilities, they gain access to cure spells at lower levels, and I’ve introduced two 2nd edition inspired powers at high level… with a wave of my hand I want to sweep all of that away. N0ne of those changes are fundamental, and getting rid of them makes things easier for us all. Wildshape is a little more complicated than that.

Firstly, Wildshape lasts one hour per druid level in the standard rules. In the house rules, druids can remain in the chosen form indefinitely. Secondly, the official rules limit the number of times per day a druid can wildshape. In the house rules druids can wildshape at will, but it’s very dangerous for them wildshape more than their level normally allows. Although I’m not too fussed about the extended duration of wildshape, I am going to make a case for wildshape-at-will. Let me explain:

Wildshape for Iourn druids is at the core of their beliefs. Gaining the ability to wildshape is a coming-of-age event for all druids. They become one with the natural world in way they never have before, and this overwhelming assault on the senses is intoxicating. Novice druids are often tempted to spend more and more time in their animals forms, risking more and more transformations. Each successive wildshape could be their last one, as they could become stuck in their animal form forever.

The following is an account of the way these rules currently work. They’ve already been modified to fit more closely into the Pathfinder rules. The following text can be added onto the end of the existing Wildshape entry in the Core Rules:

Wildshape on Iourn: The number of times each day that a druid can Wildshape is actually the number of times the druid can freely wildshape with no chance of dire consequence. The first wildshape each day beyond the safe limit imposed by the druid’s level functions normally. However, the druid must make a special level check to revert to his original form. The check is 1d20 + the druid’s level + the druid’s Wisdom modifier. The DC of this check is 21. If the check succeeds then the druid reverts to his original form normally. He may then (if he chooses) attempt to Wildshape again. However, each additional Wildshape attempt adds a cumulative +2 to the DC of the level check to revert to his own form.

If the level check fails then druid is stuck in his creature form until dawn the following day. At this point he can make another level check (at +2 to the DC of the previous check) to revert to his original form. If he fails again then he remains stuck for another day, before he can try the check again (at an additional +2 to the DC). He continues making checks at an increasing DC each dawn until he either succeeds or fails four successive checks. If four checks are failed then the druid remains in his creature form forever and may take on the mentality and nature of the creature as time passes.

The Three Tests

These rules aren’t part of an archetype. I don’t think they’re significant enough for that. They are simple additions to the way Wildshape works on Iourn. Let’s run through the three tests and see how leaving these house rules out affects things:

Narrative Integrity

I think that Wildshape defines the way that druids act and think within the setting. I consider this house rule fundamental to that. Wildshaping is a drug to druids, and some simply cannot stop doing it. It’s flavourful, and adds to the druid’s mystique. Experience tells me that it isn’t particularly overpowered. In past campaigns, those PCs playing druids have tried to avoid making use of these rules as failing a saving throw puts them at a  significant disadvantage.

What is more, these ‘rules’ been established in game. It’s never been at the forefront of an adventure, but it is a welcome piece of background colour that helps to make Iourn unique. I really like this house rule, and I think the setting and the druid is richer for having it.

Games Without Miniatures

No problems here. The wildshape rules don’t require the use of a combat grid.

Our Preferencess

In this situation, I don’t think the two versions of wildshape are created equal. I much prefer the house rule over the written rules for narrative reasons. This isn’t a purely mechanical thing like Spell DCs. I would be interested to hear from all of you on this, but particularly those who have played druids in the past.

Go to the Pathfinder: The New Deal index

8 thoughts on “The New Deal Druid

  1. Hey Neil

    I agree that the additional wildshapes are nice and flavourful, but I don’t think there is enough danger of becoming stuck in the animal form. I ran a game on Iourn using all of your houserules and among the PCs was a druid.

    The first problem was that the following day after wildshaping beyong her capabilities, the party would pull together every buff, re-roll and bonus that they could muster so that failing the check was extremely improbable. Previously it was a will save if I remember rightly, so this was quite easy to do. I would say that if you do keep this rule, you would need to specify that this check cannot be re-rolled due to a spell or special ability and that no bonus’s can be added to it i.e. level + Wisdom and nothing more.

    The second problem is that at higher levels, it is still too easy to pass. A druid of level 13 and a wisdom of 22, has a 95% chance of success. The probability of such a character failing four successive checks even with the increasing DC is 1 in 1523.

    Then what if the unlikely event happens and Arvan is stuck with the mind of a gerbil. The party would undoubtably try and use a wish or others magics to try and reverse the condition. If this is possible then it makes failure meaningless. If it is not possible, then the story will be irrevocably changed. For a long-term character this would be anti-climactic and a touch unsatisfying.

  2. Interesting points there.

    I think that replacing the Will saving throw with a level check goes a long way to mitigating some of the problems you mentioned. Most buffs apply to skill checks, saving throws, ability checks or attack rolls… a level check is none of those things, so few abilities would apply. Not sure how many abilities in Pathfinder allow you to re-roll the d20, but even then it probably isn’t a level check that you can re-roll.

    However, Owl’s Wisdom would still work… so you could buff the druid with a +2 bonus. That could be avoided by making it a straight level check and not affected by the druid’s wisdom…. in the same way that a spell penetration roll is a straight level check and not affected by the spellcaster’s intelligence.

    If that was the case, and you’re rolling a straight 1d20+your level then a 13th level druid would still need to roll an 8 or more on a d20 to avoid being stuck. You also have to consider that by 13th level the druid can wildshape 5/day safely anyway, and can hold each form for up to 13 hours. I would still question, how often a druid really needs to wildshape during the day.

    Regarding what would happen if a druid does fail the saving throws and become trapped… well, that’s a old question that has dogged D&D for many editions. It’s the same as the save or die mechanic, fumbling one saving throw can remove your character from the game in a hugely anticlimatic manner. As a GM I avoid putting PCs in a situation where that might happen needlessly and without drama. If the PC is willing to do it to themselves, I have less sympathy.

    Although Wish or Miracle could probably be used to reverse this effect, it’s not within the scope of the standard list of things that Wish can do. Reversing this would be a “greater effect” as defined in the spell description. Getting an NPC to cast such a spell on behalf of the party would be amazingly difficult, and if the party has access to the spell themselves then the chances are that the druid never failed the check in the first place, or can already wildshape at will.

    I think you have a point regarding how easy the DC. As for the consequences of failure…. it’s likely to take a number of days for a druid to fail all those saving throws, and even he did then he would still retain his mind for a time afterwards (the length of time is kept deliberately vague as it’s at the GM’s discussion). Within the context of the game, there’s a lot of mileage in roleplaying the degeneration of druid’s intellect and personality into his animal form. Given how infrequently it’s likely to happen I see this more as an opportunity than a problem. But I’ve not had to deal with it in an actual game.

  3. You are right – roleplaying a druid reaching animal intelligence sounds great. I kind of hope that it happens to Arvan now.

    Because Nicos can cast miracle (and Elias can bankroll the costs) this would now mean that Arvan could wildshape as often as he wanted without consequence to him, even in the extremely unlikely event that he failed four saves.

    I have just noticed that in pathfinder, level 20 Druids can wildshape at will anyway. So I guess that as long as the probability of failure is addressed by making it a function of level only, and re-rolls are explicitly excluded, it looks reasonable to me.

  4. We’ll have to look at just how much Elias can bank-roll! I think using Miracle and Wish aren’t necessarily a univeral solution to all problems. I would imagine that for a cleric to make a “powerful request” then the requets would need to be closely tied to the portfolio of their god. Which in the case of the Church of Fire’s remit for ‘second chances’ might actually be fine.

  5. Hey, hey, hey! You hope that happens to Arvan? We’ll see how Nicos copes with a flamestrike, now immunity to fire has changed.

    I don’t know if extra wildshaping has been over-used by other druids, but Arvan has only done it once – the first ever time. It was exhilarating but terrifying and he hasn’t dared try it since.

    I’m happy with it as a house rule, but I agree with Steve’s maths – it is too easy to pass the test. A straight caster level check without the Wisdom bonus makes it very risky for inexperienced druids, which seems appropriate.

    I don’t think you should rule out re-rolls and wishes. If you have special powers that can influence fate, magic etc, they should be able to affect wildshaping. It’s not such a special case that the normal rules don’t apply.

  6. I agree. Keep the house rule, but make the check a flat level check (with no Wisdom modifier) at the same DC. That should work over all.

    Regarding Wish and Miracle: it’s not that I’m want to make a special case for Wildshape. It’s just that I think if you limit the use of wish to strict literal reading of the spell description (and if you don’t, you’ll go mad) then restoring the mind and body of a druid who has ‘gone native’ in this way is beyond the general powers of Wish, and falls under the category of asking the spell to provide a “greater effect”.

    So yes, these spells could rerverse the effect, but it wouldn’t be as part of a simple casting, and there could be unforeseen consequecnes if the wish wasn’t worded properly.

  7. I agree with you Neil on Wish and Miracle. It’s the blanket, “cannot be affected by other powers”, that Steve suggested that I don’t like. Your reading of Wish and Miracle works for me.

  8. I guess that with a straight caster level check there are very few other spells and abilities that can influence it anyway. I was only pushing to ban other powers from influencing it because I have seen it heavily abused when GMing for a druid. In 3.5 when a moderate level party pooled enough abilities they could make the probability of failure negligible. Perhaps that won’t be the case in pathfinder. I guess we can just see how it plays out. As you say – its not like Arvan tries it very often.

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