I've been looking at the Moon Druid, and I'm seeing a lot of repeat issues concerning their resources, their health, and their sustainability. Are they too strong in comparison to other classes? If not, what am I missing?
To make things simple, I will focus on the level 2-6 range, as level 2 is where the Moon Druid is considered strongest, and level 6 is where they're often considered to be "plateauing".
From my understanding, Moon Druids, as early as level 2, can shift into CR 1 beasts, which include the 34 health Brown Bear, which can make two attacks per turn (+5 to hit, 9 damage per hit). This is in addition to all of the abilities and health of a full caster Druid.
For comparisons sake, a player with 14 Constitution and an average hit die roll (halfway between a 1d8 and a 1d10, or rolling 5 on average) will have:
Average Character Health Per Level
- Level 1: 11 HP
- Level 2: 18 HP
- Level 3: 25 HP
- Level 4: 32 HP
- Level 5: 39 HP
- Level 6: 46 HP
- Level 7: 53 HP
- Level 8: 60 HP
Not only does the Moon Druid Brown Bear form have as much health as a level 3 character, but the Druid form will also have roughly the amount of health of an average level 2 character. Combined (52 HP), they effectively have as much health as a level 7 character.
Additionally, the Druid will be able to Wild Shape multiple times per day. At twice per short rest and estimating about 1.5 short rests in a day, this roughly translates to about 5 or so uses, granting an effective bonus of 170 HP if combat is spread throughout the day, or 68 bonus HP before needing a short rest.
And this is at level 2.
Even when Moon Druids are known to "taper off" around level 6, they gain access to a 60 health creature while having around 40 HP themselves. At this point, the full casting potential of the Druid kicks in, allowing access to spells like Call Lightning, Sleet Storm, and other spells that few other classes/builds gain access to.
Many of the beast's features include abilities or attacks that completely overshadow other melee classes, such as the Brown Bear's Multiattack, allowing them to attack twice (+6 to hit, 9 damage avg.) when a Fighter at the same level can only attack once (roughly +5 to hit, 8.5 damage avg.).
A comparable feature for the Fighter, Second Wind, can heal an average of 9.5 HP per short rest at level 4 with a Bonus Action. The Moon Druid can use Wild Shape, twice per short rest, for a total of 68 HP before needing the same short rest, which also uses a Bonus Action. Even after including a Fighter's superior AC, I doubt that many Fighters can mitigate over 70 damage before a Short Rest.
A Barbarian, who has Rage for doubling the efficiency of their HP, would effectively have twice as much HP as other characters, assuming all damage they took was mitigated by Rage. With a 1d12 and a +3 Con modifier, a level 2 Barbarian would have about 25 real HP, and with Rage we're talking about an effective 50 HP. This is the same as the Druid's combined health with the Brown Bear form, but Barbarian's HP has to be rationed for the entire day.
At level 6, this value does increase dramatically, with about 63 HP, or 126 effective HP with Rage that they can absorb within a day. At this level, that's two uses of a Druid's Wild Shape, or effectively, the resource equivalent of a Short Rest.
At level 6, a Druid can take as much punishment in a Short Rest as a Barbarian can take in a whole day.
It's difficult to compare Moon Druids against other casters, since it can't cast during its signature form. However, with its full casting capabilities, it's a clear choice in casting power over half-casters, like the Arcane Trickster, Eldritch Knight, Ranger or Paladin. The easiest casting build to compare it to is probably the Druid Circle of Dreams, which, like the Moon Druid, has no passive abilities that work directly with casting spells and having the same spell list/slots.
In terms of casting, Moon Druid's only weakness is the fact that its melee form cannot cast, and is just as good of a caster in every other instance. Most casters would not want to be in melee range while Concentrating on a spell, and the Druid's spell list consists heavily of Concentration spells.
Since you would not want to be in both melee AND casting a spell (in most circumstances), the fact that the Druid can't cast while Wild Shaped is less of a hindrance than it appears. There are not many circumstances where a Druid would want to cast a spell while also wanting to be Wild Shaped (maybe to cast Healing Word while fighting, but Healing Word loses effectiveness at higher levels).
Power wise, their Druid Form alone is somewhere between the effectiveness of an Eldritch Knight for the lower limit, and a "Gish" type caster (like a College of Swords Bard or a Bladesinger Wizard) for the upper limit.
Moon Druids are as effective as the strongest martial classes in melee combat, and at least as effective as a caster as half-casters, if not more.
My goal is to make Moon Druids utilize all of their resources, and to not overshadow other players. When the Wizard has run out of resources and is resorting to Cantrips at the end of the day, I also want my Moon Druid having to do the same.
But before that, I want to understand how much of a change is needed to bring the Moon Druid to that level, or whether it's warranted at all.
- Is my analysis of Moon Druids correct?
- Are they more powerful than other characters?
- And if it can be quantified, by how much?