Inspired by a question by Stephanos and tempered by the PEACH process at GiTP, I am asking for a comparison to Circle of the Land druid sub classes for this Druid proposed sub class, homebrew, since my answer to Stephanos just didn't satisfy me. As with Stephanos' idea, this sub class combines a raw fire elemental focus with an increase on melee engagement by the Druid, but it does not benefit from the spell recovery feature of other Land Circle druids. The theme is flame (forest fires) and regrowth. It also does not try to do as much as the other model in terms of using XGTE spells.

Is it balanced, or underpowered, as compared to the Land Circle druid sub classes?

This subclass, as with all PHB sub classes, was put together with Multiclassing not being an assumption.

Circle of Flame

Fire burns the forest. Out of the ashes comes new growth. Druids who choose the Circle of Flame balance between destruction and regrowth. Wind spreads forest fires, cleansing a greater area. Lightning starts forest fires when it strikes a dead tree. From fiery death grow new beginnings. Druids in the Circle of Flame believe that everything will burn one day, to be re-born again.

Circle of Flame spells (always prepared)

at level 3 Scorching Ray, Gust of Wind
at level 5 Revivify, Lightning Bolt
at level 7 Grasping Vine, Fire Shield
at level 9 Control Winds, Flame Strike

Only You

When you choose the Circle of Flame at level 2, you gain the fire bolt cantrip.

Heart of the Flame

At 2nd level, as an action, you can expend a use of your Wild Shape feature to awaken the primordial spirits of Fire rather than transforming into a beast form. While this feature is active, you gain the following benefits:

  • Add your Wisdom Modifier to your AC

  • Add Fire damage equal to your Wisdom modifier to your melee attacks

  • You can use your reaction to heal yourself, or an allied creature within 10 feet of you, for 1d4 hit points. This healing increases to 1d6 at 5th level, 1d8 at 11th level, and 1d10 at 13th level.

    These effects last for 1 minute, or until you are reduced to 0 hit points.

Heat of Battle

Starting at level 6, the druid gets an Extra Attack when taking the Attack action.

Flaming Soul

At level 10 you gain resistance to fire damage. While concentrating on a spell that does fire damage, you gain +2 to your armor class.

From the Ashes

Starting level 14, as a reaction, you can absorb fire or lightning damage dealt to yourself, or to a single friendly creature within 30' of you. You, or the friendly creature (whomever was subjected to the damage) instead heals for the amount of damage taken. This feature refreshes on a short or long rest.

If I have missed the balance point here, where did I miss and by how far?
One of the issues I've had with playing druids is that a lot of their spells require concentration. A weakness for this sub class is that by engaging in melee more often than a pure spell caster, the chance of concentration being lost would appear to increase.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you tell me what PEACH stands for? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2019 at 22:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical Please Evaluate And Critique Honestly IIRC, I'll go and check at GiTP if I got a word wrong. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2019 at 22:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical Here is a definition \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2019 at 22:26

3 Answers 3


Heart of the Flame breaks system assumptions.

This character breaks the AC economy. Specifically, using Wild Shape, it can add its Wisdom modifier (almost certainly +5, given time) and another possible +2 (if concentrating on a fire spell) to its AC, on top of whatever its standard AC base is. Druids normally may have somewhat weak AC, but there are ways around that, like taking a level in monk, or being a tortle. Adding +7 to any reasonable AC source makes you nearly unhittable, due to bounded accuracy.

The ability to costlessly use your reaction to heal would be utterly game-breaking, except for the fact that it only lasts a minute. It's still a large block of healing. Specifically, even at 2nd level, it's 10d4 healing, twice per short rest, without using any long rest resources. The fact that you're using your reaction to do it, without specifying anything to react to, is kind of odd too. Perhaps you meant that to be "in reaction to taking damage" or something?

The combination of Extra Attack at 6th level and adding your Wisdom modifier as fire damage to melee attacks is pretty significant for suddenly turning yourself into a melee build, especially with that cranked AC. It makes the addition of fire bolt kind of lackluster. If anything, your attack cantrip is going to be shillelagh.

It gets even worse if you allow multiclassing. The most significant part happens at 2nd level, which makes this a heck of a dip for any sort of high-Wis melee build. Sure, it's tied to Wild Shape uses, but at second level, you get two of those per short/long rest, and generally, a minute will see you all the way through a battle.

As for how to fix it... Well, first, the healing needs to be dialed back. Make it a reaction to the target being injured, rather than something you can just use whenever, and it gets a lot better. Second, the AC system is broken. It needs to be converted to the 5e form of "here's another way to determine your AC" (like, say, crib directly from the monk, or "like hide armor, but use Wis mod instead of Dex mod") rather than being a flat AC boost. The +2 AC from Flaming Soul can probably be left like it is. +2 on the top is pretty significant, but it's a very specific case.

Addendum: I also address a specific case - that of the bladesinger, which also gets casting stat as a bonus to AC, in a similar setup. Specifically, the bladesinger needs it more, and is less abusable. For HP, the Druid has 8+con/+1d8 hp. The Wizard has 6+con/+1d6 hp. The Druid gets light/medium/shield armor proficiencies (no metal) Wizard gets no armor proficiencies by default. Bladesinger gives light armor proficiency, but straight-up doesn't work if you're wearing medium armor or carrying a shield. As far as base AC, the bladesinger is going to start with a pre-buff AC of 13+dex (mage armor or chain shirt). The standard druid starts out with hide+shield of 14+dex(max 2) but can get significantly better with certain specialty armors. Moreover, the bladesinger must be elvish. The druid can be anything... including races that have their own AC calculations (like the tortle, who get +2str/+1wis, and have a base AC of 17+shield, while ignoring dex altogether, or the lizardfolk, who are +2con/+1wis, and get 13+dex+shield). People argue over whether bladesinger is too much. This feature is more than that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This sub class is built with zero consideration for multiclassing, as were the PHB ones. I'll put that point into the question. Also, wild shape is a finite resource, but I'll revisit the healing piece. It might be over the top ... Can you recommend a way to adjust or adapt that feature, or, should it just go away since AC increase reduces damage taken? Since no spell recovery happens, as levels go up the ability to regen healing spells is lost. But I didn't state that up front. (thanks for the answer) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2019 at 21:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast it still breaks certain chunks of the economy, with its OP levels of short-rest healing and massively inflated available AC. Beyond that, if you want to say "this is intended for a campaign without multiclassing" that's one thing, but "I just didn't pay attention to that part" seems insufficient. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Jan 15, 2019 at 21:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Wild shape is a semifinite resource. You get two uses per short rest. That's still a lot more than most forms of healing, especially at that level. I'll see what I can do about a suggestion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Jan 15, 2019 at 21:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ didn't pay attention is IMO not a fair comment. The designers explicitly did not build any of their sub classes with multi classing as a criteria, and MC is an optional, not basic rule. The objective of this question is comparison to the other land circle druids. That is a limitation in scope that is deliberate. I explicitly do not want it compared to Moon druids either. (Though I wonder if once per long rest might be a better idea for Heart of Flame .... now that you mention it) I'll be revising the proposal at the GiTP link in a day or two, so your points are very welcome. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2019 at 21:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I should point out that the Heart of the Flame AC boost is in line with the Bladesinger Wizard path, being "casting stat to AC" bonuses. Bladesinger is restricted to light armour only, but being a Druid subclass this is already limited to comparable (if worse) armours, though Wisdom is an overall more powerful stat than Intelligence. Whether Bladesinger is balanced is a whole other discussion, though. This does turn the Druid into a solid gish, and a better one than Moon does due to high AC. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sarah
    Jan 15, 2019 at 23:48

I don't know that I would call this class Archetype on the whole "overpowered", but there are a few features that may have unfortunate interactions with other 5th edition features, or are otherwise in need of some examination.

Heart of the Flame: Healing

This feature can't be used. Normally, in 5th edition D&D, actions performed as a Reaction require a very specific trigger. Your feature, as written, has no trigger specified, meaning this feature isn't usable at all.

If you want this ability to be usable "at-will", you should consider making it a Bonus Action instead. Alternatively, if it's intended to be used in reaction to damage, then it should be specified as such. One of these rewordings will solve this issue:

When you or a friendly creature within 10 feet of you takes damage, you can use your reaction to heal them for 1d4 hit points. This healing increases to 1d6 at 5th level, 1d8 at 11th level, and 1d10 at 13th level.

You may use your Bonus Action to heal you or a friendly creature within 10 feet of you for 1d4 hit points. This healing increases to 1d6 at 5th level, 1d8 at 11th level, and 1d10 at 13th level.

I also have concerns about the quantity of healing that this can put out. My recommendation is to convert this to Temporary hitpoints instead, meaning you are able to "shield" your allies from damage without this feature being able to remove the between-combat hit point economy.

Heart of the Flame: +Wisdom to AC

I would put a check on this feature. One reason that Bladesingers are allowed to add Intelligence to their Armor Class comes, in part, from the fact that no other feature in the game (that I am aware of) permits +Intelligence to a character's Armor Class, and on top of that, Wizards are normally not granted proficiency in Medium Armor or Shields (both of which are granted to Druids).

A druid in this subclass could hit an AC of 24 starting at level 8, if they gain access to a non-metallic Half-Plate type of armor, which allows 15 +2(from DEX) +2(from Shield) +5(from WIS). That's very high for that level, and doesn't include bonuses from magic items.

You're also going to want to keep an eye on the fact that as a Druid, you also natively gain access to the Shillelagh spell, meaning that in melee combat, you get to add your Wisdom modifier to both your Attack/Damage (twice in the case of damage!) and your AC.

For now, I'm not going to advise you change it: ultimately, this feature is limited by only being used for two minutes per short rest, in nearly identical fashion to the Bladesong (which also gets 2 charges per short rest). But it is definitely something to keep an eye on.

Flaming Soul: +AC

Like above, just put a check on this feature. This subclass is capable of achieving a very high AC compared to other spellcasting classes even without taking Multiclassing into concern, and if this character does gain proficiency in Constitution Saving Throws, either through Multiclassing or through the Resilient feat, it could be extremely difficult to break this character's concentration.

Playtesting should be done to reveal whether this character is prohibitively difficult to hit at various levels of play.

Everything else

Everything else looks fine. I am going to include a few other notes though:

Heat of Battle

By RAW, I do not believe there is any interaction between the Multiattack feature your wild shape forms gain, and this feature, since Multiattack is considered its own action.

From the Ashes

On an especially hard-hitting spell, this could heal for a lot of damage. I would consider changing this to a long-rest refresh rather than short-rest, but given that it still can't be used more than once in a single fight, it's not a massive concern.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It does need play test, and maybe the level 10 add on ought to be "While concentrating on a spell that does fire damage, add your wisdom modifier to the damage" ... play testing would need to see how this works out. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2019 at 19:43

As others have said, the AC boost and healing of Heart of the Flame are somewhat overpowered for 5E

This would be my counter proposal:

Heart of the Flame

At 2nd level, as an action, you can expend a use of your Wild Shape feature to awaken the primordial spirits of Fire, shrouding yourself in a corona of flame rather than transforming into a beast form. While this feature is active, you gain the following benefits:

  • Add Fire damage equal to your Wisdom modifier to your melee attacks

  • Inflict Fire damage equal to your Wisdom modifier on any opponent that hits you with a melee attack

  • You can use a bonus action to heal yourself, or an allied creature within 10 feet of you, for 1d4 + your Wisdom modifier hit points. This healing can be used once per use of Heart of the Flame. This increases to 2 times at 5th level, 3 times at 9th level, and 4 times at 15th level

    These effects last for 1 minute, or until you are reduced to 0 hit points.

After all, fire is rarely hard to hit, it is just dangerous to do so. As for the healing, this suggestion might still be too much. But I was thinking that it could be attributed to fire burning bright and quick.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This gets at a core issue, good options, thank you. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 16, 2019 at 3:37

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