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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".


Health

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.


Later Levels:

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.


Vs. Classes

Martial

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.

Casting

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.

Combined/Summary

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?
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Your analysis is correct but one sided

You have accurately pointed out many of the advantages of the Moon Druid. It is true that it is one of, if not the strongest subclass in the game. But you have failed to account for some of the drawbacks that limit their output.

  • Low AC: Most beast forms have comparatively low AC compared to the martial characters in the party. The brown bear you have based most of your analysis on has an AC of only 11. Most attacks are going to hit so you need those HP to make up for it. Additionally you will be making lots of concentration checks for any concentration spell you cast before Wild Shape. Barkskin can help somewhat but AC16 isn't that high and it means you can't concentrate on spells like Moonbeam or Flaming Sphere instead.
  • No casting in Wild Shape: Yes the Druid is a full caster, but they have no access to this while in Wild Shape. You have a lot of option and heaps of resources but are limited by the action economy to only doing one thing at a time.
  • Weaker Spell List: Compared to the Wizard/Sorcerer spell list the Druid has a lower damage output for pure spell casting at most levels. Then compared to the Cleric they have access to fewer buffs and high level healing spells. I'm not suggesting this makes them weak, but they certainly aren't the most powerful full caster going around.
  • No decent cantrips: When the Druid is casting, they have to use spell slots to get a decent damage output. Their cantrips are very weak compared to other full casters and they have no options to add their casting mod to it unlike Warlock and Wizard.
  • Can't use combat feats: The Moon Druid is a strong melee character while in Wild Shape, but not as strong as Fighter or Barbarian. They have a low AC and can't access feats such as Great Weapon Master or fighting styles to increase their output.
  • Complexity: Playing a Druid can be overwhelming. With the wealth of options and abilities available it can be hard to make effective choices. It is not a class I recommend to new players. Unless they are really keen on the Wild Shape part.

Experience

I am currently playing a Drow Druid. In my party (level 6) we have a Champion Fighter, Rogue Scout, War Cleric, Evocation Wizard. I have been tracking the kills and damage output in combat since the start of our campaign. Early on, I was slightly in front as Wild Shape gives a huge bump at 2nd level. As the campaign continued however the Rogue quickly overtook me as she increased her damage output with additional sneak attack dice. After gaining Extra Attack at 5th level the fighter has also surpassed me in damage output. At 6th level and gaining a magic weapon the fighter in by far our highest damage dealer.

My typical combat strategy is to combo Moonbeam and Brown Bear Wild Shape (Polar Bear at 6th level). This is pretty good until I lose concentration, which usual happens in 1-2 rounds due to my low AC (lots of checks) and no proficiency in Con Saves.

One session our Cleric was missing and I was forced to drop Wild Shape to heal my allies. This is evidence of the "can't do it all" limitation of the 5e action economy. While I end most encounters with more HP or spell slots than most of my party I'm not able to use all of my abilities together.

Level 6

This opens up new Wild Shape forms for the Moon Druid for the first time. CR2 forms are a big step up from CR1 and will address the reduced power at level 5. The best damage combat form at this level is the Giant Elk. 4d8+4 damage against prone targets is nothing to be sneezed at. There are other great options such as Giant Constrictor Snake but they all suffer the same low AC.

However you only get one attack per turn and still have a low AC of 14. Meanwhile the wizard now has multiple castings of fireball, the fighter gets a second ability score increase and Cleric get a second use of channel divinity.

After playing at 6th level for a while I can say that my damage output still lags behind the fighter and rogue. This is mostly due to a lower to-hit modifier and a lack of extra attack. The additional hit-points of forms at this level make me a more effective tank, particularly now that I have enough spell slots to burn for healing. Combats usually involve me targeting a single enemy and tanking them out of the fight while the others deal with the rest.

Are they OP?

The Druid is likely the most versatile class in the game. They can be a competent healer, decent melee character or a pure damage spell caster. However they can't do it all at once and will never be quite as strong as a character that focuses on one area.

The Moon Druid Wild Shape is possibly OP at level 2. It is a huge bump in damage and HP compared to what others receive at the same level. It does tail off within a few levels though as other classes gain combat features. The bump at 6th level keeps you on par with other classes but is the last major improvement for a while.

Overall I'd say it is strong, maybe the strongest but not so much that it is OP. Any correction to weaken the class risks making it unplayable by taking away the flexibility that makes it so much fun to play.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, you state "Later levels the lack of magical attacks of your beast form becomes problematic, so you need to use both uses of Wild Shape for Elemental Wild Shape instead". You do know that "starting at 6th level, your attacks in beast form count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage" (PHB, 69)? \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Nov 28 '18 at 10:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Nov 28 '18 at 16:07

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