Category Archives: Druids

Review – Rob Kuntz’s Dark Druids

Rob Kuntz’s Dark Druids was on sale a few weeks back. It arrived at the end of April. Since my submission to the 2015 One Page Dungeon Contest involved druids – The Dire Druids of Delver’s Deep, I waited until after I completed my submission to read this module. My planned postings got sidetracked, since I jumped on board the White Star bandwagon.

This module clearly states on the cover below the illustration: “For use with 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons(R)”. Unlike others, it is not afraid to say this and also acknowledges that the name of the game is a registered trademark. It is one of three modules currently available from Chaotic Henchmen Productions.

The blurb from the back cover explains what this module is all about: “Dark Druids includes complete descriptions and maps for an outdoor area and a three-level adventure site, and is easily adaptable to most campaign settings. It also includes an outline for further adventuring, a selection of new monsters, spells, and magic items, plus Robert J. Kuntz’s historical context and commentary on this module’s relationship to his campaigns of the 1970’s”

This module is designed for levels 8-12, so it is not a low power adventure. It has the general look and feel of a module from back in the day. The cover can serve as a screen and includes the 1st and  3rd level of the dungeon. The 2nd level is on the last page of the module. This 56 page module has more maps for the outdoors area and illustrations to compliment the text.

After a forward and author preface, there is a section on Using the Module that discusses party composition and challenges, preparations before play, and how to read and interpret the module text. There is a player introduction, which is a lot of text to read. Lastly there is a half page of rewards and additional party resources.

After a page for the GM introduction, there are just over three and a half pages with the outdoor map, starting text, and key to the outdoor map.

The dungeon’s three levels are detailed on pages 9 through 35.

There are seven appendices, A through F.

A – Deals with further adventuring against the drak druids.

B – Is an article about a Dark God.

C – Discusses changes in this version of the module from the 2006 version published by Creations Unlimited.

D – Lists the 16 new magic items in this module.

E – Details four new monsters.

F – Describes the dark druid variant class.

The module was well sealed in cardboard and bubble wrap and sealed with scotch tape in a clear plastic magazine sleeve.

I like the look and feel of this. The maps are well done and easy to read. The text itself is laid out well and easy to read. However, the “Read-aloud text” is in italics. For some rooms this text is the first part of that room’s description, but for others it is later. Thankfully, while not like some italics fonts that I sometimes have trouble distinguishing from the normal font, there is nothing else to set it apart. When actually running this, it would be very easy to miss a key detail. If I were to run this module as written, I would have to use different colored highlighters and ink to note the important parts. I find this to be more of a concern as my eyes age.

When not in a live game situation and no pressure, it is definitely easy to read. There is a lot of information here, it is dense.

It is something that would require a lot of streamlining to run in a con setting. In a con setting it is bigger than can be handled in the average 3 or 4 hour session. There is enough in here, that it would take one massive marathon session to complete the entire module in one go. I can see this easily taking many sessions depending on the focus of the players, and the decisions and rolls they make.

One can easily place this on a list of possibilities, when players get to that level, and fit it into the campaign. AD&D is not that much different from OD&D and modern clones, that this could easily be used in nearly any OSR game. There is a lot in here, that it will take more than a casual reading to catch all that is in here. This could easily be part of a behind the scenes activity that builds up to this module, or it could be a new stand-alone threat. Because this is so dense, I have not managed to read the whole thing carefully, but I like what I see.

This is an interesting concept and ties in with my articles on druids.

2015 One Page Dungeon Contest – My Submission

I said that I was going to submit something to the One Page Dungeon Contest (OPDC) this year, and I was beginning to wonder if I would make it happen.

Last weekend, the title I had for the dungeon finally gelled and the idea for it came together much more smoothly than I had hoped.

I wanted it to be about Druids, since I got on a kick and had a few articles about druids a few weeks ago.

Druids and Alignment

Druids and Their Environment

Druids and Undead

I also ordered Roberts Kunt’s module Dark Druids and when it came a week ago, I realized that I didn’t want to read it until I put together my idea for the OPDC.

I had determined that I would consolidate my notes and make this one page dungeon this weekend no matter what. I had to further get it nearly 100% today, since +Roy Snyder’s DCC game picks up after a hiatus of a few weeks, and I made a commitment to be there.

So without further ado, I present my submission to the OPDC – The Dark Druids of Delver’s Deep. I went “old school” on the OPDC and used the one page dungeon template by +Michael Shorten, AKS Chgowiz. He has links to his dungeon and wilderness templates on his old blog.

There are 36 listed submitted dungeons/adventures so far – at the time of this writing, minus my submission.

Druids and Undead

Druids in First Edition AD&D do not have the ability to turn undead. Other than physical combat or druid spells, druids are just like anyone else when it comes to undead.

I have always ran druids as written in AD&D to not have any turning ability, or anything else that makes them stand out from other classes, when it comes to undead.

However, my recent articles on Druids and Alignment and Druids and Their Environment, have me thinking about all aspects of druids.

Since druids are nature priests who rely on their connection with nature and the right kinds of leaves for their magic, and undead, which for skeletons and zombies at least, are unnatural magical creations, it seems to me that druids should have some ability or spell to deal with such unnatural creatures.

More powerful undead are creatures created by their own force of will, being attacked and killed by similar creatures, or creatures of or connected to the negative material plane.

The only druid spell dealing with the dead is reincarnate, the one spell no player wants to try, or end up a badger, or other non preferred animal or demi-human race. Reincarnation only affects humans and demi-humans that have been dead less than a week, and it requires touching the body. So only very freshly killed and animated corpses would be affected. Once an undead is dispatched, one would rarely, if at all, decide to reincarnate the corpse.

I even reviewed Unearthed Arcana to make sure there are no other first edition druid spells dealing with the undead. There is the first level cleric spell, invisibility to undead. I can see that being used by a druid, but only being effective in a natural environment, i.e. not a dungeon, tomb, temple, or city.

One idea I had is a druid power, perhaps for 3rd or 4th level druids, to “banish abomination”, which would include magically created creatures that are not born that way. So skeletons, zombies, homonculi, golems, clones (as per the Magic User spell), and similar magically created creatures.

The effects of this power could be to stop the unnatural creatures from approaching them or their designated area of protection. The limitation is that it would require the druid to be in a natural environment with some form of natural life. Thus an underground cave system or cavern with cave life forms, would suffice, but a mine, dungeon, tomb, city, or graveyard would not be a natural setting, unless it is an old abandoned area and the plant and animal life is taking over, like many “lost” jungle cities. This could affect all unnatural creatures within so many feet or yards per level.

My thought was for it to be 100 feet or yards per level of the druid. So it could be a moving point centered on the druid, so that a druid could pass through a swarm of such creatures, or it could be centered on a location, like a dryad’s tree, or a holy grove of oaks, or the druid’s home.

Higher order undead that seek to destroy life, would be a challenge for a druid. Life hating, level draining undead may not have a reason to cross a forest or swamp. An ancient barrow in the midst of a forest might have wights, but they are limited to the barrows and the druid wouldn’t go there without good reason.

Druids with an evil bent and keyed into the dark, corrupting powers of nature, might be into creating skeletons and zombies and have ways of controlling them. Unless skeletons and zombies are controlled by an evil cleric, the creating druid would have control of them. If they lost control of their creations, how would they get control back? There is a plot hook for a band of evil druids who have a device that lets them control created undead. Perhaps they have a cleric among them. Maybe a dual-class cleric/druid?

This makes me curious how other editions of D&D dealt with this, as well as other clones and rules. I have OSRIC, and of course, it sticks to AD&D. I have PDFs of many other rule sets, but as of yet, have not checked them for how they handle druids and undead.

I don’t recall any articles in Dragon magazine on this topic, but I haven’t read it since I got rid of my collection nearly 25 years ago.

I am also curious how other DMs/GMs have home-ruled on this.

I have never played a druid, but have one player in my campaign with a druid, but I have ruled that it is by the book on matters of undead where druids are concerned. I am not by the book on alignment for druids, so now I am wondering why I am this way with undead. It won’t affect game play, if the ability to affect undead by druids is for higher level druids, other than one NPC druid the party helped with a few skeletons. I can just retcon that it was a test from the druid for her further assistance, and payment for training the party druid (which it was). The players don’t even have to know.

These three posts on druids have me wanting to do more in the outdoors/wilderness in my campaign. At least I have ideas for where to go with things if they never make it to the ruined city.

Druids and Their Environment

As nature priests, druids will frequent places where they are most needed to focus on maintaining an existing balance, or restoring balance in nature.

I have this image of druids being in forests and encouraging the spread of the forest, seeking to make the old growth forest spread. I can see in the right circumstances, a druid working with woodcutters to cut the specified trees at the right intervals to enhance the growth of the forest or enable a certain section of the forest to better fulfill a certain need.

I briefly researched mistletoe since our Wednesday night game set in a subtropical island archipelago had a druid in the party for a short time. Mistletoe grows in almost all climates around the world. In reality, a quick perusal indicates that nearly every continent and clime have mistletoe. There is a desert variety in Arizona.

Holly grows from the tropics to temperate zones, and oak trees occur from cool temperate to tropical regions.

This means that for a druid to function, there have to be some sort of plant life to support the material component needs for spells of the druid.

This would make an arctic or sub-arctic druid very rare, unless your world have a type of mistletoe, holly, or oak that grew in sub-arctic regions. There are a few ways around this limitation.

  • The simplest is that druids living or operating in these regions would have a large supply of leaves before going to such an extreme location. Regular means of re-supply would be needed.
  • There is a thermal vent from hot springs, geysers, or some moderately active to very active volcanic processes.
  • There is a cave or region with some form of light to support photosynthesis. Light from lichens, mosses, insects, or types of rocks could generate this light.
  • Some form of druidic sanctuary that through the power of the druids has enabled an oasis hidden in the ice to survive. This could lead to a hidden group of druids, or a lonely hermit druid sent to maintain this far off location.

In the typical desert of sand and/or rock and heat, a druid or group of druids would tend to encourage the growth and enlargement of oases. This would tend to have one druid in each oases, other than large oases in hidden valleys or canyons off the trade routes. Smaller oases would tend to have a single druid regularly checking the oases in his care.

Mountainous regions would tend to not have druids above the tree line. At least, they would not live above the tree line, and would only go their as a patrol or to get to another region under their care, and only with the appropriate supply of mistletoe, holly, or oak leaves.

Beaches or islands without trees or shrubs of the appropriate family of plants would be another source of limitation for druids.

What this leads us to conclude, is that druids will not be found very far from shrubs or trees, since the right kind of leaves are needed for their magic. This means that any druid found more than 100 miles or so from a known forest/source of leaves is either an NPC on a special mission, or a PC or NPC adventurer, or there is a secret or little known druidical area or nature sanctuary nearby. Other reasons could be the druid was teleported far away, or is under a geas or quest, etc.

Of course, one can get around some of these limitations by developing an ice oak that grows in the frozen areas and supports ice mistletoe. There could be sea oaks that grow under the ocean with sea mistletoe. Druids could live in undersea caves and encourage the growth of kelp forests. Sea elves could have their own form of druid. A half-elf with one parent a sea elf could be such a druid.

How do druids fit into your campaign word?

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.