The final character class that was prohibited for natives in Domains of Dread was the druid. Here the justification was that Ravenloft's patchwork world model was not suited for a single world spanning fraternity of caretakers for the Earth. And once again, this produces its own counter argument--many worlds beget many traditions. So which domains might have inherited a druidic tradition from their world of origin, or might have acquired one in the time since?
Starting with the low-hanging fruit, the druids of Forlorn were the only ones not changed into goblyns when the domain crossed into Ravenloft. They have been fighting the corruption for generations ever since, divided along strategic and ethical lines into the Oak faction--who seek to restore balance by bringing in good creatures--and the Rowan, who seek to exterminate evil. As of Gaz1, the Oak has more power, but as killing goblyns is much easier than recruiting fey, the Rowan might be easier to join. Of course, one might imagine that Oak druids would travel far abroad looking for recruits, and might take students to pass down their druidic lore to along the way. At the very least, the Forfarian druidic tradition should also be available in expatriate communities in nearby domains, such as Hazlan and Barovia.
The wildest reaches of this land are home to savage elves who live amid nature as part of it. While their warriors may vary between the more civilized rangers and the completely feral barbarians, their spiritual leaders are almost certainly going to be Druids. They aren't likely to share their druidic secrets with non-elves, but it's possible that some of these secrets have found their way to the feral "bitterkinder" halflings who also prowl the region--survivors of a village massacred by the Black Rose to create his "vampiric kender" servants. A PC from either background might be an outcast, or might have actually been instructed to go abroad for some purpose within the community.
Another elf subrace may also hide druidic secrets in the easternmost parts of Darkon. The reclusive elves of Nevuchar Springs have reputedly been tending their rune covered tree-shrine for hundreds of years. Before the Grand Conjunction, the tree stood on the Misty Border, half in and half out of the fog at the fountain headwaters of the Vuchar River. It's possible that their nature magic has special ties to the Mists, making them truly unique among all the druidic traditions listed here. Getting them to share such lore with outsiders would be hard, but the arrival of the Nocturnal Sea brought with it the encroaches of civilization, which can lead to strange alliances. Appalled to suddenly be part of a thriving port after the grand conjunction, they might even be seeking to build another shrine at the new furthest edge of the Mists, wherever that may be.
Gaz3 says the druids in Mordent are mostly members of the Church of Hala, "keeping the true extent of their knowledge secret from their neighbors." This is curious considering that the druid class is unheard of in Falkovnia (Gaz2), suggesting that any Hallowed Witches in the many, many hospices there qualify for this VRA prestige class using other means (Cleric of Hala?). While there's certainly room here for a DM to rule that Gaz2 was in error and the entire Church of Hala espouses druidic teachings, another way to read the text is that the church in Mordent hides within it a secret druidic sect the other domains don't share. It's even possible that the "neighbors" the druids hide their lore from include the other Hala worshipers themselves. Of all the other "hidden faces" the Hospices of Hala has masked over the years, a secret society of druids might be the most benign.
Druids are actually the first class listed in Gaz3 for this wilderness, which makes sense when a strict interpretation of the rules would allow a druid to be immune to lycanthropy while in Wild Shape, and--even if afflicted--to resist lycanthropic change by remaining in wild shape in the presence of a trigger. Note that these rules depend somewhat upon what edition you play--clear it with your DM before taking point with a werewolf! Assuming your DM approves some of these interpretations, the roles for druids in Verbrek are myriad. One might imagine that afflicted druids might have a strong presence at Duskpeace Lodge among those who are trying to control the beast within, or that they might offer druidic training as an alternative to Duskpeace's Moonchild prestige class. Daring druids with the right feats might be able to impersonate lycanthropes and gather critical information from among the werewolves, or even brave the Circle itself! Of course, proving yourself one of the pack is much easier when you are actually evil, so beware of NE druids who have embraced the savagery of the wilderness, whether or not they are lycanthropes.
As I've said before, this is the third in a series of three articles inspired by Classes of the Damned, which tried to do an end-run around the class prohibitions of Domains of Dread by creating three altered classes. But I think it spoke too rashly when he argued that these mysterious proto-druid "caretakers" had been exterminated from Tepest. Sure, hags are the natural enemies of druids, and the Three Hags ruling Tepest have a lot of power stacked in their favor, but the primary religion of Tepest is still the worship of Belenus, a NG sun god from the Forfarian pantheon who can sponsor NG and TN druids as easily as he sponsors misguided LG zealots. Even if the hags managed to kill everyone of a druidic bent in one generation, more are sure to spring up like weeds for as long as the mother faith remains alive. That mother faith remains strong as of Gaz5, and might be inclined to welcome an upsurge of laid-back nature-children after so many xenophobic inquisitors.
Belenus is also revered in the Shadowlands, where vast tracts of uncharted wilderness are just begging for druidic care. And they might be less likely to be persecuted if they viewed the ruler Elena with characteristic druidic neutrality, insofar as she doesn't detect evil as much as she detects strong emotion towards her. Of course, the darklord might still view them as heretics and try to destroy them, but that's hardly different from many other domains, except for having a lot more space to hide in. Outlaw druids worshipping the same God as the darklord might give an interesting religious counterpoint to any other outlaws they encounter in the wilderness. The Book of Shadows describes one such outlaw band, the followers of the Red Wolf. A druidic circle allied with such a group might give them the resources to truly fight the darklord and win.
8. Sri Raji:
Most of the things that make Verbrek a good place for druids work for Sri Raji as well. A druid could run through dense jungle, make peace with the ferocious animals, ignore the stings of vermin, and duke it out with the Stalkers in wildshape without contracting lycanthropy. The Rajian (i.e. Hindu) pantheon has many, many more members than the two mentioned in the RLCS, and deities like Prithvi (earth), Rudra (animals) or Aranyani (forest) might have druids among their worshippers--a little research into Hindu mythology could go a long way toward making a character that is far from a cookie-cutter druid. Of particular note is that the river goddess Saraswati is primarily a goddess of knowlege, and would have shrines at the City and University of Tvashtri, where druid followers could access one of the greatest repositories of knowledge in the Land of Mists.
Like with the previous two articles, I like to throw in a final suggestion for unusual but workable bonus domain that might foster a given character class. Most people would imagine that Saragoss wouldn't actually have any natives at all, that everyone there hails from somewhere else. But even if that were true, this domain could make a great "second origin" story for an outlander druid reborn into the Ravenloft setting, as the druid's unique powers allow them to survive and even leave the domain easier than any other class. Imagine a doomed party working in vain to restore their ship, living on goodberries and getting warnings from the far-stretching sargosso seaweed. As her last teammate succumbs to tragedy, the druid gives a heavy sigh, abandons the half-repaired ship in the shape of a bird or fish, and departs into the Mists. Or if that druid chose to remain, those same abilities make her well adapted to surviving and thriving in Saragoss, and perhaps finding a student among the crews.
Matthew Barrett has been playing and writing for Ravenloft for over twenty years, starting with the Kargatane's Book of S series (as Leyshon Campbell). This article draws inspiration from J. W. Mangrum's article "Classes of the Damned," in the Kargatane's Book of Sorrows.
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