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My curiosity continues after asking When did Artificers make their first appearance in D&D, and how do they differ between editions? based on the initial question regarding Warlocks by aaron9eee:

A quality answer would have more than just a release date, and would ideally cover what makes each edition's version different from other editions.

When did Druids make their first appearance in D&D, and how do they differ between editions?

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1975—Original D&D, but not playable

The original Greyhawk supplement included druids, but they weren’t playable characters. They had a shape-changing ability.

1976—Original D&D, as cleric subclass

To the major class of clerics there is also a new subclass, the DRUID. These are similar to the monster of the same name as described in GREYHAWK (Supplement I)

(Eldritch Wizardry, pg. 1, emphasis original)

(Notably, Eldritch Wizardry goes on immediately thereafter to note that “monster” here means what we would today call a “non-player character.”)

The 1976 druid has many familiar spells—produce flame, heat metal, call lightning, control winds, and so on. And they do gain the ability to shape change “Upon reaching the 5th Circle.” The description emphasizes a connection to nature and a requirement to revere and protect nature, and they must be true neutral. The prohibition on wearing metal armor was found even this early, as did the association between druids and “curved blade” weapons, with sickles and scimitars both getting mentioned.

1978—Advanced D&D 1e, again as cleric subclass

Similar to the Eldritch Wizardry druid, the druid found in the AD&D 1e Player’s Handbook was a cleric subclass. Still true neutral, still prohibited from metal armor, etc. Their weapon choices were particularly limited, though again the scimitar makes an appearance. In a lot of ways, the AD&D druid seemed to be a kind of halfway point between magic-user and cleric, being able to wear armor but not the best stuff, getting both attack and healing spells but not at the same levels, etc. etc.

1984—BECMI D&D, as a cleric option

The “C” of BECMI, the Companion Set, introduced rules for levels 15th through 25th as well as several new character classes, including the druid. Clerics of 9th level could become druids, and by adhering to a code of conduct got some special “druidic” spells and powers.

1989—AD&D 2e, “priest” subclass

In its second edition, AD&D made both clerics and druids subclasses of the “priest” class, and thus the two are quite a bit more similar to one another than they were in OD&D or AD&D 1e.

2000—D&D 3e, independent class

The 3e druid was very similar to the druid of 3.5e and 5e, but was notably hampered in a number of ways, and was stated to be among the chief reasons for eventually pushing for the “3.5 revised edition.”

2003—D&D 3.5e, independent class

The D&D 3.5e druid is largely an extension of the D&D druid as it had long been, really right back to 1976. Many of the same spells were there, as was the emphasis on shape changing with the wild shape ability. Like AD&D 2e, the cleric and druid shared similar spell progressions, and were the two original divine “full-casters.”

A big new development was the animal companion—in 3e, druids could get an animal companion by casting the correct spells and performing the correct rituals, but it was a complicated, cumbersome process, and not really called out as an important druid thing, just one more spell you might cast. Making the animal companion a core class feature for the druid allowed Wizards to tighten up the language and make it easier to use.

In D&D 3.5e, druids are one of the “Big 5,” the most powerful classes in the game. This came primarily from its spellcasting—“full” spellcasting, as also found on the cleric and wizard, is incredibly dominant in this edition. But wild shape and the animal companion were also extremely powerful features—even if it was a distant third in terms of a druid’s abilities, the animal companion could often out-fight entire characters of other classes.

2009—D&D 4e, independent class

Despite being a core class in AD&D 1e and 2e, as well as D&D 3e and 3.5e, D&D 4e did not get a druid class until Player’s Handbook 2 was released in 2009. In 4e parlance, the druid was a “primal” “controller” class. Primal referred to its power source, being all about natural magics and the like as usual, and controller referred to its party role, being battlefield control through the use of area effects and minions. Wild shape returned, and between that and the general trend for Primal classes to be a bit tougher than others, the druid was somewhat more comfortable in the thick of things than a typical controller like the wizard.

While minions were a big part of how the 4e druid controlled the battlefield, it did not have a constant animal companion as the 3.5e druid had.

However, Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, an “Essentials” product, offered the “Sentinel” subclass for the druid. Almost an entirely different class, the sentinel is a leader rather than a controller, and does get an animal companion—but no wild shape.

2014—D&D 5e, independent class

A new edition, a new Player’s Handbook, and a new druid, since it was once again a core class. The 5e druid is extremely similar to the 3.5e druid... taken piecemeal. The introduction of Druidic Circles and the placement of druid class features into one circle or another meant that, even though all the features are there, no one druid can have all of them. And actually, not all the features are there, because the 5e druid has no animal companion—that feature is now the exclusive province of the beastmaster ranger.

Otherwise, though, the druid is still full spellcaster, still nature themed with many of the same spells, and still has wild shape. The Circle of the Moon druid, in particular, is again among the strongest classes in the game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I wonder if you'll have premade answers for the rest of the classes XD \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Mar 10 at 22:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ One notable thing I remember from AD&D2: Each class had different XP thresholds for levels, and the Druid was the first to reach level .Also at some higher point (lvl 13?) the druid actually lost XP and had to re-gain it. \$\endgroup\$ – Willibrord Mar 11 at 13:07
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Druid first appeared in Eldritch Wizardry as a PC

(OD&D supplement III(1976))

That book was a supplement to the Original D&D game. Druids were a sub class of cleric - but Druids were originally a monster/NPC in the Greyhawk Supplement, 1975, before they were a PC class. I have covered some of that here.

You had to roll at least a 14 Charisma to qualify as one, but only a minimum of 12 Wisdom, yet you got no spell casting boost for that Charisma. Part of "why" is in the leadership elements of Charisma. This in part can be traced back to 1) how little anyone actually knows about druids and 2) the little that was known being that they were leaders in their societies. From Greyhawk, we see the original NPC/Monster Druid (p. 34) (excerpted and edited)

DRUIDS: ... priests of a neutral-type religion, and as such they differ in armor class and hit dice, as well as in movement capability, and are combination clerics / magic-users. Magic-use ranges from 5th through 7th level, while clericism ranges from 7th through 9th level. Druids may change shape three times per day, once each to any reptile, bird and animal respectively, from size as small as a raven to as large as a small bear. They will generally (70%) be accompanied by numbers of barbaric followers fighters), with a few higher-level leaders (2-5 fighters of 2nd-5th levels) and a body of normal men (20-50).

The origin was as a combined magical / clerical leader of barbarians / berserkers. With loyalty and morale checks being a thing in OD&D and AD&D, being charismatic was deemed more important for the "less civilized" society of the original Druid than for the "civilized" Cleric.

The iconic "scimitar as druid sword" and the spell heat metal originate in Eldritch Wizardry's pages. They are both still with the class.

This relationship as a sub class of cleric held true for AD&D 1e, however the Basic Game (and BX) did not include them. (Companion added them).

A significant change for Druids / Clerics in AD&D 1e was bonus spells awarded for higher wisdom scores, and some higher level spells-up to 7th level. Druids could not turn undead but were able to change shape into animal form beginning at 7th level (as original (EW) Druids could at 6th level). The minimum charisma score was bumped up to 15 from 14.

AD&D 2e saw changes in Clerics and Druids: Priest was the class and both Clerics and Druids were the choices within that class. Beyond that, they maintained the same general character concept, and had spells up to 7th level. Weapons limitations remained from AD&D 1e.

D&D 3e/3.xe found Druids to be one of the top Tier 1 classes; they were no longer a sub class of Cleric. (Similarly, Bard was no longer a sub class of Rogue). As I never played one then, my observation of the significant change is that a key upgrade was the ability to cast up to 9th level spells. The game system changed quite a bit; this edition really brought Druids some love.

D&D 4e I can't speak to, beyond fitting the general "controller" role in a party.

D&D 5e: Druids can fit into either a solid spell caster (Land Circle) whose spells are excellent for support - a lot of them require concentration. While all Druids can change into Wild Shape beginning at second level, the emphasis on wild shaping (Moon Circle) allows that sub class access to significantly larger and more powerful beasts than the other circles, and can wild shape into elementals at level 10.

Additional circles added in Xanathar's Guide (Shephard, Dreams) expand the "feel" of the Druid class beyond the original choices. Spells up to 9th level, and a captstone ability for unlimited changes into wild shape, round out the current state of the Druid.

It is a well rounded class who can be played as a pure caster, has significant elements of controller and summoner as levels go up, and can also contribute substantially to melee combat if the Moon Circle is chosen (and still remains a full caster).

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