Druids and Alignment

I have thought about druids and alignment for years. I understand the intent of druids being true neutral on the good/evil and law/chaos axis. However, how can one be truly neutral?

Is it that you have an opinion, but keep it to yourself? Is it that you are “chill” in all circumstances? How exactly does that work?

To me in the 9 point alignment system, trued neutral is a rock or clod of dirt, something without a mind or a will, and no desires.

The way druids play into this, I see them in my campaign as being one of the four types of neutral: chaotic neutral, lawful neutral, neutral good, or neutral evil.

This would play out for the different kinds of druids. All have some interest in the natural life of the plant and animal world, but each interprets it a bit differently.

Chaotic Neutral druids would let a forest grow and only animal trails created by the animals would be allowed. Attempts to impose order on their woods would be resisted. Would they be OK with undead? Probably not from the perspective of being natural creatures, but from a freedom perspective of it’s what is happening now.

Lawful Neutral druids would prefer a more orderly forest, perhaps more like a parkland and while the natural symbiosis of the creatures and plants in the forest would be allowed, it would be in a way that was most orderly and beneficial to the growth and spread of the wood. Orchards, crops, and other organized agriculture would be supported by these druids.

Neutral Good druids would encourage the spread of good plants, animals, and sylvan races. They would root out evil or massively harmful plants, or keep them in check.

Neutral Evil druids would encourage the spread of evil plants, animals, and sylvan races. They might be okay with undead in their forest. Bandits and humanoids that don’t harm their forest might be allowed to live there. Such druids might partake of human sacrifice to the darker elements of nature.

This gives us four branches of druidical teaching and allows for more than one set of limited numbers by level. Would there be variations on spells for groups of different alignment?

One could also make an argument for different sects of druids each with their own hierarchy. Perhaps two groups considered heretical or “off the rails” by the other group, each claiming to be the one true followers of druidical knowledge & teaching. How would spells and knowledge differ?

As per the AD&D Player’s Handbook only half-elves, halflings, and humans can be druids, and for halflings they can only be NPCs. In my campaign, I allow characters of any race to play a cleric, and would allow a halfling druid and even an elven druid. Elves are supposed to be nature lovers, why wouldn’t they have druids? I would have each race that would have druids have their own form of druidism. Perhaps at lower levels a druid of another race or alignment could perform the training, but beyond a certain level, it would require the specific teachings of the correct race and alignment for further advancement.

I can see halfling druids geared towards helping with crops and growing up hedgerows on the boundaries of their territory. Plenty of food and comfort.

Halfelf druids would follow one of their parents’ race’s style of druidism.

Elves would be geared towards maintaining their forests and keeping out intruders, perhaps more aggressively on the boundaries and more subtly closer to settlements. It would depend on your interpretation of elves.

Perhaps the intention of druids is to be like Switzerland in their fortified forest strongholds keeping all comers out or requiring them to all play be the same rules in this forest. But how can a druid be an adventurer, if they are neutral? Personal gain? At what point does adventuring lead a druid astray?

Would looting a dungeon be a neutral act? A dungeon has lain undisturbed for decades, centuries, or millenia. Wouldn’t disturbing the loot cause unbalance? Does the druid’s concern for neutrality and balance only concern nature? Would town life be abhorrent? Wouldn’t druids tend to be on the edges of civilization? Unless there was some massive city with a huge area of parklands, no druid would permanently settle in a city. Druidical worshipers would tend to be farmers and rural folk closer to nature than those in cities. This would also tend to be more of the population in a fantasy setting, since they tend to mimic pre-industrial, agrarian based civilizations.

I am trying to wrap my head around how a true neutral druid would function in various situations. What I envision is needed is something like Rick Stump‘s article at Don’t Split The Party,  Good Isn’t Stupid, or weak, or nice. I am sure there is a way to make better sense of it.

As with all player races and classes, the plan of your campaign needs to include them. For example, how has the presence of druids influenced wars, interracial relations, the growth and decline of forests, the spread of “civilization”?  If you have a fancy way of dealing with magic users, how do illusionists fit into that?  Even if you limit your players to the standard player character races, do they all fit in a way that makes sense? Or do you have a campaign that anything goes and you don’t worry about how much sense it makes? I have played in both kinds of campaigns and both can work, if the DM lets it work or makes it work, as the case may be. Even with a simple sandbox, relations and interactions between different races and classes, especially the cliquey classes like druids and monks.

This whole thing on druids and alignment has me thinking about druids and natural habitats for druids. So I’ll take that up tomorrow.

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5 thoughts on “Druids and Alignment”

  1. My take on neutral: you are neutral if to you, something other than the ‘war’ of the opposing alignments is the most important thing. If you’re lawful or chaotic (add as many more as you like), then fighting the enemy informs your every action. If you’re neutral, then the alignments might matter to you but something matters more. In the case of druids: nature. In the case of a neutral shopkeeper: money. In the case of slugs: eating leaves. etc.

    Naturally this is a very “Elric-ish” approach because it presupposes that either alignment is VERY important to most people and the world, or that the vast majority of people are neutral. YMMV

  2. That makes sense. It’s about deciding what the “hook” is for what is important to a given alignment or a given group within that alignment. I can see neutral being more you leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone. As long as you don’t mess with them and upset the “balance”, there will be no reason to band together and do something about it.
    Perhaps Neutral means that they are noncommital/apathetic/disinterested about anything except the one area where they are most interested, i.e. nature for druids.

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