Wizards has posted the first three levels of the druid class and there’s some surprises. In line with the 4E philosophy of “classes should get their signature abilities right away”, druids can shapechange into animals right out of the box. It’s their most obvious, signature ability, but there’s some interesting design choices throughout the class.
Role: They fill the controller role, so the wizard won’t be quite so lonely any more. Unlike wizards, they have the potential to be effective in melee, depending on how many Beast Form powers they take.
Power Source: They draw on the Primal power source, like the barbarian. It’s not much of a leap to think that primal might be linked somehow to primordial — it’s something I’d consider houseruling into my own campaign, if it turns out to not be official.
Primary Stat: Wisdom is very primary to the druid. Races with a stat bonus in wisdom, and thus likely to be effective druids, include dwarves(!) and elves. Druids might be tempted to multiclass over to cleric (and potentially vice versa, although we haven’t seen how to multiclass into druid yet.)
It might seem a little strange that when the bear-shaped-druid is trying to claw your face off, his attacks and damage are still based off his wisdom. I consider it a reflection of how well he is connected to the Primal energy source. The wise druid has a deeper connection, and thus is able to make better use of his beat form.
Implements: Staffs and totems, of which totems are new. I imagine they might be something like holy symbols, but possibly not.
Wild Shape: The big draw of the druid is his ability to assume beast form. It’s an at-will minor action to switch back and forth, which is a pretty sweet deal. Also sweet is the option to shift one square when returning to humanoid form. The druid can change out of beast form, get out of melee, and still have actions left to do something useful with his turn. It’s some clever design.
Also clever is that the druid gets three at-will powers, but at least one and no more than two of them must be Beast Form powers that are only usable while wild-shaped. A druid still never has more than two at-wills to consider at any given time (three if he’s human), and every druid has something they can do in their wild shape.
Disappointingly, the actual beast form itself is pure colour. You can be a tiger, a lizard, a furry fanged blob, or a wagon (warforged druids only,) but it doesn’t have any mechanical effect. It seems like a sensible way to handle this would be to have something similar to the cleric/paladin Channel Divinity powers, based on beast rather than deity. It may be that something like this is, in fact, a part of the class, and they just haven’t included it in the preview. If it really doesn’t exist, it seems like an obvious opportunity for some houseruling.
Those are just my opinions on the druid — and I haven’t even playtested the class (yet). You can check it out yourself, assuming you’re a subscriber, and you can see what these other fine bloggers have to say about it:
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