Author Topic: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid  (Read 12380 times)

timmyd

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Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« on: January 28, 2013, 05:58:28 AM »
The Druid was one of my favourite classes in AD&D.

I've been uneasy with the "Druid" since it was first introduced in DW, however, I can't blame the designers alone. This incarnation seems to be the result of many editions of Dungeons & Dragons (and fantasy RPGs) in morphing the celtic druid into a tree-hugging shapeshifting naturalist.

I'd guess it started back in AD&D, where a Druid would gain shapeshifting ability at 7th level. Since then, every subsequent edition has made the class more and more about shapeshifting, while neglecting the other aspects of the druid.

- keeper of laws and history among the barbarians
- protector of sacred places and shrines
- ritual sacrifice to the gods and spirits (not just to "Gaia")
- nature-based sorcery

I asked the barbarian in the group about if/how his people view spirituality and what he described was basically druidism but we can't call it that because the "druid" is just an animist shapeshifter.

There has been so much love-on for the Druid, but I gotta express a dissenting opinion.

I know I don't have to allow or use the Druid in my game, but one of my players really likes it. I simply wish it wasn't called "druid".

Why not call the class "shapeshifter"?

noclue

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2013, 08:24:03 AM »
Why don't you just change the name for your game?
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER

noofy

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2013, 10:53:37 AM »
Yeah, what james said. Just change the name :)

The celtic archetype of 'druid' (in its bronze age guise) is far better encapsulated by the cleric anyways, especially with the multi-class dabbler moves.

Scrape

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2013, 07:21:34 PM »
You nailed one idea here: this game is inspired by all previous versions of D&D, while subverting some ideas in the process. Especially after games like World of Warcraft, the Druid is kinda cemented as a shapeshifting class in a lot of minds.

If that doesn't work for you, then you should absolutely write a custom class called True Druid for your game. Take what you like from the Druid and rewrite Ritual to include sacrifices and nature-based effects or whatever else you want. Give bonuses to Spout Lore for certain subjects and maybe even make a list of Vows similar to the Paladin, except explicitly natural/druidic. BOOM, True Druid born!

Scrape

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2013, 07:25:30 PM »
Also, I think the shapeshifting class fills a neat role and showcases some inventive mechanics, so I can see why they'd write it instead of another knowledgeable spellcasting class. You really could just reflavor the Cleric with new spells and gods if you wanted. The shapeshifting animist does something new, and I think they just called it Druid because of current popular perception in the gaming community.

Lucacc

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2013, 08:55:34 PM »
I dislike too the morph-concept; if i were to change the druid class keeping the animal flavour I would create a move that allow the druid to acquire certain animal features but still linked to a human frame. Instead of morphing in an eagle, just keep his sight; a wolf has keen sense and is tireless...so the druid who enters in communion with the animal spirit.
Each animal could have 2-3 strenght like the ranger pets and the druid just acquire them for some time.

timmyd

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2013, 09:19:20 PM »
Great replies, everyone.

After writing my post last night I reflected some more and realized that the Cleric could really be skinned as a druid with some minor flavor text changes to the spells.

Lucacc, you also provide a really cool idea for using the animal aspects instead of full shapeshifting - I love it.

If I do anything with the True Druid, I'll certainly share here.

skinnyghost

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2013, 07:18:33 PM »
I would love to see a True Druid vs. Druid in play because man, Druidic Civil War sounds so fucking cool I want to die of delight.

Quigley

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2013, 07:54:16 PM »
I like Lucacc's idea.

My issue with the druid is not so much the flavor.  I just think that morphing into any animal at any time is too potent for a level 1 character.  The ability to transmogrify into a mosquito is not far from the ability to teleport.  Mundane barriers like castle walls, prison cells, and pit-falls become useless.  Gotta get that idol, but you're afraid the floor is rigged?  Just send in pigeon man.

Rather than being a nature-loving, free spirit of the forest, the druid in my campaign has become the thief, assassin, and spy.  Got a campaign based on political intrigue?  No problem.  The druid just takes the form of a house fly and finds the bedroom of the local baron.  The druid morphs back to human and slits the man's throat.  Alternately, he becomes the literal "fly on a wall" and listens to all the plotting and planning.

For every physical barrier in the game, the druid has an animal form to solve it.  So my players start every encounter by sending in the druid.  The rest are just along for the ride.

Are there creative ways to curb this behavior?  Absolutely.  But then the game devolves into GM vs druid.  Can I just ask the player not to be so opportunistic?  Sure, but if I have to go to those lengths, it suggests to me something is a little broken.

noclue

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2013, 09:34:03 PM »
Gotta get that idol, but you're afraid the floor is rigged?  Just send in pigeon man.

Pigeon man's gonna be mightly slow trying to fly that idol out of there. Orcs eat pigeons don't they? ;)

Are there creative ways to curb this behavior?  Absolutely.  But then the game devolves into GM vs druid.  Can I just ask the player not to be so opportunistic?  Sure, but if I have to go to those lengths, it suggests to me something is a little broken.
Don't go great lengths. Just make the world fantastic. If the druid transforms into a housefly, then house spiders and swallows and cats and mice are all fantastical creatures. Give your spider the move "Capture flies in its web." Meanwhile, don't make it GM v. Druid. Make the party's lives fantastical too. They've just split the druid off. Make with some more GM moves.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2013, 09:40:12 PM by noclue »
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER

Johnstone

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2013, 10:20:53 PM »
If the move says "You have any innate abilities and weaknesses of the form" then why does a druid in the form of an insect still see and hear like a human, and not like an insect? That doesn't really follow the fiction, unless you are playing a super-hero game.

"Now that you are a bug, this is what the world looks like to a bug."

Just turning into an animal to fly up somewhere doesn't seem all that powerful though. The fighter could just tear the building down and getting up somewhere ceases to be an issue. But if the point of the move is to, y'know, role-play a guy who turns into animals, then he should actually get the experience of turning into an animal, as opposed to just transforming his body like malleable clay and getting temporary super-powers.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2013, 10:26:22 PM by Johnstone »

Quigley

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2013, 09:30:17 PM »
Pigeon man's gonna be mightly slow trying to fly that idol out of there. Orcs eat pigeons don't they? ;)
If a sparrow can carry a coconut...  Nah, he just morphs, flies to the idol, grabs it, then morphs into another flying form.  The idol is one of his possessions and melds into his new form.

@Johnstone

Senses for the animal form have to be similar.  Otherwise, memories and thoughts would be alien to it.  Yet the rules state, "You still use your normal stats...".

noclue

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2013, 10:33:00 PM »
GM has a job to do making the Druid's life interesting, thinking dangerous, and thinking offscreen. If you aren't making moves then, yeah, it's gonna suck. Make moves. I transformed into a Kodiak bear and became a massive gnoll killing machine for my 3 hold. Then I was some poor schmuck surrounded by gnolls.

Who says the idol just becomes a possession? Who says the Druid can just transform to human and back again unmolested? "That's a lot of transforms in quick succession. Sounds tiring. Roll con to Defy danger. Lets see if you transform back to human before the cat gets there." Who says you can just transform into a housefly? why has the Druid spent time studying a housefly's nature? Its a religious pursuit and the housefly is its totemic animal? Where is the GM in all of this? He transforms into a bird? Foretell imminent threat with the twang of bow strings. Make a move. Any move.
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER

noofy

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2013, 12:41:52 AM »
Noclue has wise words, heed them. All those provocative questions he suggests allow you build on the answers and work into the canon of your dungeon world.

'Oh so you studied houseflies for hours as an initiate? (Turns to another player) Who was it from your village that always bullied Aziz for being a 'disease vector'? Oh yeah, that's right, whatever became of them?'

Are you really looking for ways to enjoy playing / GMing the Druid 'as written' Quigley? I only ask, because it doesn't seem to be an issue for my group, though I admit that we don't power-game or work the system's rules wordings as hard as you seem to... Fiction first seems to make the game run smoothly for us.

Simply grabbing something not being your 'possession', that's just semantics. Heck, I could read that definition to only include 'the state of being controlled by a daemon or spirit' for instance. Change the rules, re-word them so that the move works better for your group. That's O.K! :)

Maybe Burning Wheel would be a better fit for your gang? Its storygame system encourages gaming the rules HARD.

At any rate, the Shape shifting move says:
Quote
The GM will also tell you one or more moves associated with your new form. Spend 1 hold to make that move.

Be a fan of the characters, but make as hard a (shapeshifting) move as you'd like y'know? So the housefly's moves could be:
*lay larvea
*Spread disease
*Bite and leave a sore
That sort of thing.

noclue

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Re: Shapeshifting animist is a poor substitute for Druid
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2013, 02:11:51 AM »
*buzz noisily in someone's ear.
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER