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How can a captured druid be restrained so that he can't shapeshift to something that can slip his bonds (such as a small snake)? I would prefer minimum or no magic used. And what about natural-fibre ropes—if those count as "worn" items and simply melt into the druid's form when he shapeshifts, is there any way to prevent that?

The Druid in question is level 7 and has been captured by nomadic barbarians with only limited access to magic. They know he's a druid and know that druids can shapeshift. Tight rooms are out of question and the barbarians can't afford to use high level characters as guards, at least not all the time.

Clarification: I seek answer that is also believable, not only exploitation of rules.

I didn't think that reason why druid is captured is important, but I add short explanation:

Barbarians are seeking certain holy locations and they think druid knows them, so they need him as guide. They didn't plan to capture druid but managed to surprise him after he escaped from disastrous battle. (This is side plot which should give players hint about bigger picture).

I am not looking for a strict RAW answer, but a believable solution.

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8 Answers 8

Unfortunately, without access to magic that prevents the druid from shapeshifting, there's nothing magicless barbarians can really do except putting him in a windowless room, and he still might be able to break the walls.

One good solution to the problem is to beat him senseless (this works even with non-druids). Deal him nonlethal damage so he can't wake up and use his abilities.

Being the druid a druid, forcing him to wear metal armor will block his druidic capabilities for a while. This might prove harder than beating him senseless.

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Perfect Combination: Deal enough non-lethal damage to knock the druid out, help the druid don metal armor, then restrain him with basic ropes or chains. –  Phill.Zitt Apr 22 at 16:38
+1 for "this works even with non-druids"! –  Paul Z Apr 22 at 18:13
It’s worrisome that the best recommendation for dealing with a druid is the same tactic you would use to deal with the tarrasque. –  KRyan Dec 13 at 16:46

Zachiel has the best idea--beat the druid into unconsciousness and dress him in scale mail. But if the druid must be conscious...

Grapple Him

It might take a few guys, but there's no animal a Drd7 can turn into that will win grapple checks with a half-dozen Strength-focused barbarians. A Drd8 can turn into Large animals, and then it's a problem, but a group of beefy, sweaty barbarians dogpiling on the hippie should be sufficient for the Drd7 to be unable to escape. Remember the Dungeons and Dragons, 3rd Edition is a game that abstracts getting tired and relentless boredom; the barbarians can grapple that druid day and night without resting. Be sure to give them lassos (BE 34), and equip them with blunt arrows (RW 163, 165) in case the druid does escape in a form that flies.

Threaten Something

This is what the barbarians really do. It's easy, too. It takes only one wily barbarian to interrogate the druid and find out anything the druid values. Then the barbarians threaten to destroy it if the druid runs. Does the druid have a favorite tree, town, piece of gear, animal companion, grove, or whatever? The barbarians only have to say, "A tribesman is in place who will harm what you love if you escape." Even if the barbarians are lying (and while the skill Bluff isn't a class skill for barbarians, the skill Sense Motive isn't a class skill for Druids), is the druid willing to take that chance? And when everyone finds out the druid did take that chance, what does that say about the druid?

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Even if the barbarians are lying about a tribesman being in place, there's nothing stopping them from making a trip to destroy the sacred grove after the druid escapes (except possibly the druid himself standing guard). –  Brilliand Apr 28 at 20:52

How about, rare herbs found and prepared in the correct way deaden the druid's natural abilities. Or just keep him asleep for long periods of time and disoriented when he is awake.

Edit: C. Ross, I intentionally left this vague to be a suggestion for the OP to kinda run with. But in retrospect a more complete answer would be better.

The OP has tagged this as dnd 3.5. I don't have those books and the SRD has not real references to the barbarian's culture. In ADnD and 2e there were some references to barbarian's and their culture. Herbalism was mentioned as a non weapon proficiency for barbarians there and it would seem to fit in most cases. I would think it would be safe to assume that a nomadic clan of barbarians would have a shaman or healer with the herbal knowledge to create a concoction that would cause someone to sleep or at least be subdued. The rational is that as a healer sometimes patients need to sleep to heal faster.

I would also see no problem with the tribe having access to a rare plant that could be used to create a concoction that would prevent a druid from using their natural abilities. It could even be more general and affect a larger population such as shapeshifters in general.

One example in fiction comes to mind. In the Robert Jordan Wheel of Time books, there was a plant when used to brew tea would cause the drinker to loose their ability to connect to the "source" where they got their power.

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Abstraction Is Your Friend

Use rope and Escape Artist are abstractions. Thus, if you're restraining a prisoner or trying to escape bonds, knowledge of actual fisherman's knots or how to dislocate your thumb in order to escape handcuffs aren't necessary - you roll the dice, and assume your character has the relevant skills if they hit the DC.

But you're asking about a Druid's Wild Shape ability, and how it might be used to escape bonds. There aren't any rules for this that i'm aware of, but it's clearly reasonable that if the bonds are sized for a Medium creature and you shapeshift into a squirrel, then you could easily escape them. However, with that knowledge in mind, bonds could be designed to tie up someone who can shift form.

A wicker cage is a very low tech way to imprison something that can shift form, with guards to use spears or bows to discourage using natural weapons to damage it. Or, perhaps, a trap that relies on the tension of the ropes to stop a large weight being dropped on the druid (or similar deadly peril). Finally, they could find some way to stop the actual transformation - something which restricts the available space would stop the druid transforming into a larger creature, and some situation that made being smaller useless (a solid wooden cage/box?) would render the Wild Shape of little use. Really, measures used to contain animals are your best friend here in terms of theme.

To answer your second question, an idea occurs. Druids cannot wear or hold anything of forged metal without losing their druid class abilities - this includes wildshape/shapeshift. Simply drape the druid in chains, and by the letter of their class rules, they cannot change shape. Since Wild Shape is Su (Supernatural), a pair of antimagic manacles would do a similar trick.

And yes, as attended objects, which is roughly the best we can do to parse 'gear', any ropes or whatnot would meld into the new form. But not anything just sitting nearby(like cages, suspended anvils), only things 'carried' by the Druid.


Chains will work, because Druids carrying or wearing metal cannot use their druid abilities. RAW only mentions armor, but I believe it stands to reason, and makes sense in the game world, that being heavily coated in chains would work the same. Chains wrapped around the druid not working, but a pair of worked metal bracers working, would be RAW run mad over RAI and the idea of magic having some kind of in-world sense to it.

You could also design some cool method of keeping the druid captive, just to keep things interesting for your players and increase the potential for roleplaying in terms of difficulties of getting the druid out, or interesting escape attempts. (Wicker cage, small wooden box, ropes with suspended anvil/crossbow, sun-baked clay filled wagon)

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Please don't argue in comments. @Rakshasa, if you like this answer best, accept it regardless of what other community members think. I've done some edits to incorporate your "I don't particularly want strict RAW" thought into your question and Jack's justification of why chaining makes total sense from a game world POV in his answer, and have deleted the comments. –  mxyzplk Apr 28 at 2:03
The book describes the druid's loss of powers as based on a violation of their oaths. Thus it is entirely reasonable, and entirely internally consistent, for armor to work and chains not to: the druid never swore not to get chained up. For that matter, in terms of consistency, it works equally well with or without the stipulation that only armor the druid chooses to have on them violates their oaths, as this is simply a matter of how the oath was worded. (Though the RAW does indicate an oath which is violated by having armor placed on you by force. not chains, though.) –  Matthew Najmon Apr 28 at 16:05

Alot of it depends on how rough they want to be. In one campaign, my players rigged ropes so if the ropes slacked, a trap was triggered filling the room with mud (drowning/killing the druid), something they made very clear. In another they had a chair, sat him down and adjusted a lever. Then they told him that now the lever was adjusted to his weight, if it changed, up or down, the walls would slam shut, killing him in an instant. They lied like madmen, but with high enough Bluff-checks, the druid believed them and stayed in place. Knowledge is power.

Others put on metal armor on the druid as part of binding him and keep him in a room with no openings big enough to crawl out of. Sure, shapeshift into something, still doesn't mean you get out of the room.

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At Level 7, your druid will only be able to wild shape into Small and Medium creatures. Despite the name, "Small" isn't very small for an animal. An animal of this size would be roughly the same size and mass as a halfling, and they stand waist-high to a human.

Most of the effective "escape" animals are smaller than that. He might be able to turn into a really big boa constrictor, or a condor or something, but most birds and snakes should still be beyond his reach. Burrowing animals are right out; there simply aren't any that get that large. A dog could do a little digging -enough to bury some bones quickly- but they're not burrowers: trying to actually escape that way wouldn't get very fast or far, and certainly not very quietly.

Given that, I have to ask: how important is it for the barbarians to be able to move him? If portability is not a concern, they could dig a pit and put a screen over the top. Even a fairly loose screen should be able to contain any bird big enough to fit into the druid's repertiore, and while a snake might be able to fit through the screen, it wouldn't be able to climb to the top of the pit. Some branches lashed together should do for a screen, maybe with some heavy rocks over the ends (though the druid probably wouldn't be able to see them).

The problem with a pit is that you can't move it. Then again, this comes with its own built-in threat: all the barbarians have to do is walk away, and the druid is in some serious trouble. Given that, they might not need to move him.

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This answer is incorrect, since it depends on the idea that there aren't any small burrowing animals. The badger, from the MM1, is a small animal with a burrow speed: d20srd.org/srd/monsters/badger.htm –  DuckTapeAl Dec 13 at 3:15

The specific question of how do you detain a druid has been answered: Metal or magic.

While Metal may prevent some druid abilities, the argument between the GM and PC would be a bitter dispute over why they cannot shift and escape.

This addresses the broader question implied by the OP:

"How do I get a druid to help the barbarians to act as a guide to certain holy locations? Keeping in mind that the barbarians have taken him prisoner either intentionally or unintentionally, and may or may not be willing to use any means necessary to accomplish this task."

While chains may restrain him; they cannot force him to talk or help. When a familiar/companion is threatened; they still cannot force him to talk or help. The ultimate threat of limb and life; will still not persuade him to talk or help.

This does not address if the barbarians simply need his blood etc.

The question then becomes: Would the barbarians motives in traveling to the holy locations cause enough harm to the purpose the druid serves that the druid would be willing to give up his life for it?

  1. If the barbarians intents are hostile to the druids purpose then there may be nothing you can do to persuade the druid.

  2. If the barbarians intents are neutral / inline with the druids purpose then its a matter of appealing and convincing the druid.

  3. For pure theatrics, hilarity and 'realism': they tie the druid up but he escapes... again and again and again.

If the only goal of the barbarians is to tie up the druid... its kind of odd.

The real goal of the barbarians is to find the holy site.. .and what better way then if their guide willingly leads them there after being taken hostage.

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It is irrelevant if druid helps or even knows information as barbarians think. How to keep druid captured was my only problem, not flow of the campaign. –  Rakshasa Apr 26 at 18:35

Best bet I'd go with to restrain a druid, with low-magic solutions, would probably be a snug wicker/wire cage (depending on how metallurgic your barbarians are) with tight spacing between the bands, added with a guard animal watching over him. The animal could be conceivably trained to not allow any interaction or 'magical' movement (remember, initially, Wild Shape is a full-round action; it is very obvious that you are activating it).

The herbal knockout/de-magify idea is plausible, but with a thin window of opportunity: Venom Immunity at level 9. Until that point I'd recommend

  • 25g: Sleep-Smoke (Waterdeep, City of Splendors Pg 152 (Unconsciousness/ Unconsciousness)
  • 50g: Darkeye (Sharn, City of Towers; Paralysis)
  • 75g: Drow poison (Core; Unconsciousness)
  • 90g: Oil of Taggit (Core; 0/Unconsciousness and ingested)

Finally, whether mundane metallic chains/armor are enough to constitute a violation of druidic oaths is basically a DM call, especially if they are involuntary, though personally I could see a ruling that either which way of that they are violations, metal gear wouldn't be melded, and perhaps resistant of Wild Shape.

One final idea, it's a bit past the scope of the original poster, but, it would be well within conceivable that a tribe of barbarians that are faced with known magical threats would scrape together resources to create an Antimagic containment area. The Stronghold Builder's Guidebook has wondrous architecture, immovable magical items/effects on specific rooms or structures, that fall in this purview:

  • Prison of the Mind: Anyone who enters this stronghold space must make a Will save or fall victim to a feeblemind spell. Caster Level: 9th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, feeblemind; Market Price: 22,500 gp

  • Sigils of Antimagic: Caster Level: 11th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, antimagic field; Market Price: 66,000 gp

Both of these could be crafted by local tribal shaman.

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