In the PHB-vs-SRD series.
As a result of my cleric article, I’m restrictive in terms of what I want my cleric to look like relative to what D&D classically puts into the cleric. Druids, warlocks and clerics are somehow related: when I redefined clerics to be concerned with the powers of good and evil (note to self: start referring to them that way), I left the powers of nature very much up for grabs. D&D allows clerics of nature. I’m flat up rejecting that, except inasmuch as the clerics of nature will look like an exorcist or a templar. So let’s talk about what that means:
The druid is a bit of an odd duck. It’s the specialty-priest qua specialty priests; it was a cleric with a radically different spell list and whose granted power (turn into an animal instead of turn away the undead) upended normal design. Oh, and particularly uniquely, their weapon and armor proficiencies are subtractive: they cannot use metal armor or certain styles of arms lest they lose their powers, a restriction absent even from the wizard this time around.
The PHB gives us two forms of druid, the circle of the land (spellcasting, with granted spells specific on terrain type) and the circle of the moon (shapeshifting). I have to assume ‘moon doesn’t exist later, so I’ll stop talking about it now 🙂
I actually really like the 5e druid as it is designed. It reigns in most of the worst excesses of the class, in particular because you cannot shapeshift and spellcast simultaneously until very late in the game. This is important because for shapeshifting to feel right, it should be a total statistic replacement; that means that for a druid to be built correctly, the druid should have a strength of 8 and as low a dexterity as they think they can get away with. If those statistics matter for exploration, they can always shapeshift into a more appropriate form to take advantage of them. Even in the case that these dump stats are used defensively — dexterity for saves and armor class — you’ll hopefully be in the back ranks. The restriction on which CRs of beast you can shift into ensures you’ll never even try to use wildshape offensively; that’s what your attack cantrips are for.
Of course, that raises an interesting question. If you can’t cast while wildshaped, why did we bother sticking the wildshape ability on a full caster? I can’t really answer that. I feel like it would have worked much better on the Oath of the Ancients paladin or even the ranger. D&D can’t do that, of course: the druid wildshapes. But if you stop and think about it for a second, it’s kind of weird. I want a lot of druids in my world; they just make sense as a class. But I’m not sure I want every first level acorn-acolyte able to take the form of a badger (or giant centipede): that seems to make the miraculous mundane.
Still, the druid is tightly designed. It doesn’t really represent anything in the fiction except for itself; it’s a D&Dism that is without external referent in the same way that the cleric is, but that’s okay.
Warlocks have the opposite problem.
I feel like they’re not as well designed as the druid, and I feel like they don’t have as obvious a place in the world to inhabit. They’re followers of fiends — except for, say, Asmodeus — those are clerics. That’s weird, right? I think that’s weird. In the PHB, they’re also Cultists of Cthulhu and Fangirls of the Fairies. I don’t have a problem with that in the least, actually, but I do think it presents us with an interesting insight: they’re witches. Congress with powerful beings of good and evil, beholden to a specific source of power, curses, spellcasters with weird powers.
And witches, of course, are just wicca — priests of an order older than the current one.
They’re druids, in other words.
Oh, okay, they’re not literally druids of course. Don’t be silly. The spell lists are different. And druids get a per-short-rest ability to turn into animals, while warlocks… just… have per-short-rest spells and granted powers which tend to be rarer and per-day.
Oh, and they cast with charisma (like the paladin!) and are arcane casters (which doesn’t mean anything this time around, since bards can heal and there’s no arcane spell failure).
Hum, this could get complicated.
Now, it’s not all fun and games; the warlock as written is laser-focused on the Eldritch Blast cantrip. I think it’s a mistake that that cantrip even exists, thanks to its irresistible force damage and multiple beams per round. And since the spell lists are different, there’s a few other little niggles — like casting goodberry once per short rest. But we’ll get there.
The druid of the land
There’s more overlap than you might think! The druid gets 2 wildshapes per short rest — for the first half of its career, the warlock gets 2 spells per short rest. Now, the warlock’s spells are almost certainly better than the druid’s wildshape, but the druid’s spells are almost certainly better than the warlock’s invocations. There’s a sort of tradeoff there, in particular since so many of the warlock’s invocations center around scouting, seeing in the dark, and so forth (okay, yes, and then a few combat ones to enhance, sigh, eldritch blast).
And there’s more. The druid of the land has the wizardlike “natural recovery” feature — recover half your level in spells. It’s not spells per short rest, but it isn’t entirely not that, either, since it certainly enhances staying power. They both get pact powers at 1st/2nd (I’m willing to overlook that 😉 ), 6th, 10th and 14th level.
Here’s how this is going to go:
The witch is a caster similar to the warlock. In a game using the witch, I advise you do NOT use the warlock or the druid classes at all — the witch fills either niche.
In fact: Take a warlock. It is a wisdom-based prepared spell caster now. It is a spell preparation (not a “spells-known” caster), with witch levels + wisdom bonus prepared spells. It uses the druid spell list (usually; see below). Spells granted as a result of a pact (whether from the Circle or from the Pact) are considered prepared witch spells.
Your pact can be that of the Druid (Pact of the Land), Cultist (Pact of the Fiend), or Runecaster (Pact of the Ancients).
The Pact of the Land:
As the druid circle of the same name. Selecting this pact gives you medium armor proficiency and proficiency in druidic weapons.
Natural Recovery needs slight modification to function correctly: It simply gives you one-half your character level in slots, of spell levels you already had available, rounded _up_ — and is available at first level, which is also when you get your cantrip.
The Pact of the Fiend:
As the warlock pact of the same name. Selecting this pact replaces your spell list; your spells are drawn from the warlock list.
Special note: Eldritch Blast is in a weird place right now. I imagine it’s intended to be SRD content, but it technically isn’t yet. I’m sort of okay with that, frankly.
The Pact of the Ancients:
The giants from the north brought their mountain-gods with them. Though the new Church of the Bleeding God has pushed the creatures of the caves and the woods back and sanctified farm and keep, you keep to the old ways. They do not speak of fiends or celestials, undead or the tenuous nature of the soul. Instead, they handle blood, iron, and fire; the wolves of winter and the full bellies of summer.
You might venerate the entire pantheon of the old gods, or you might have a specific totemic champion.
Expanded Spell List
The Ancients give you access to an expanded list of witch spells. The following spells are added to the witch spell list for you and are available when you prepare spells.
class level : spell list
1st : healing word, comprehend languages
3rd : augury, magic weapon
5th : call lightning, glyph of warding
7th : divination, fire shield
9th : creation, legend lore
At 1st level when you select this pact, you gain you proficiency with medium armor and shields.
At 6th level, when you make a strength-based melee weapon attack for the first time on your turn, you may declare the attack “reckless”. You have advantage on it, and all attacks against you are made with advantage until the start of your next turn.
Starting at 10th level, you have resistance to lightning damage and thunder damage. While you do not have resistance to cold damage, you are unaffected by wintery conditions down to -50 degrees Fahrenheit that are not spells or attacks. Your voice carries 300 feet, even in a hurricane.
Starting at 14th level, you may cast the symbol spell as a standard action with no material components once per long rest.
You may also craft magical items at double the normal speed.
As per druid; you gain 2 uses of wildshape per short rest. Each time this invocation is taken, add 3 forms. The forms must be of beasts with challenge rating 1/8 your level or fewer; you must be level 4 to take forms with swim speeds, or level 8 to take forms with flight. You may alter your selected forms with 30 days of downtime in a suitable environment.
In general, you can gain one daily casting of a spell which is of the highest level you can cast for the cost of an invocation. If it is 2 levels below what you can cast and isn’t attack-y, you can probably do it at will.
You can brew healing potions at cost. You can also brew potions which affect the drinker with a spell you can cast. While the potion exists, your spell slot is tied up in it; the potion turns into dirty water 1 hour after you regain the spell slot.
You also can brew “finalized” potions which are shelf stable using normal magic item creation rules at double the normal speed.