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Last revision: June 3, 2010
The Druid Handbook Part 2: The
Spirit of the Beast
Druids in Pathfinder, if any class needed
some optimization evaluation it is
them. Their previously premiere ability
has been seriously powered down,
leaving them with only a free beast
shape, plant shape and elemental body
spells as spell like abilities, the unique
opportunity to gain the ability to cast in
these forms, primary casting, animal
companion or domain option, good
skills, good saves, decent HP, some nice
skill bonuses, Wild empathy, woodland
stride, trackless step, resist natures
lure, poison immunity, alter self at will,
and resistance to aging effects. Yep,
Druids have it hard.
It is however completely legitimate to
wonder what niche the Pathfinder Druid
should be filling in your party, and
whether melee is still an option, how these changes have effected their ability score
purchase, and whether they should stick with animal companion, or jump on the domain
train. These are the points we will be discussing, along with all the Druid abilities, and
we will determine which options are good options, and what should be avoided.
Druids have so many abilities, but it can be difficult to know how to use them together to
create an effective whole. What does your Druid do with Wildshape in Pathfinder? How
does this work with spellcasting? What should be done with a Druids ability scores?
Another perplexing question is which Nature Bond to choose? The choice will largely
effect what your character can do well, and what they can't. Not a decision to take
lightly.
This is chapter 2 of a 3 chapter series. In this Chapter we will discuss the Druid type
I've named, "The Spirit of the Beast", this build is specifically made for melee combat.
Yes, he can still cast, but the numbers simply don't allow him to cast effectively like the
Wild Mystic. Not enough castings, not high enough DC's, and the feats aren't there.
However, casting remains a vital part of the whole.
Finally, we need to discuss tactics. The Druidic tactics from 3.5 will not work in
Pathfinder, so Pathfinder Druids must find new tactics to coordinate a large number of
very nice abilities to actually contribute in a meaningful way.
Chapter 1: The Wild Mystic
Chapter 3: Druid Spells examined
Colour Coding the Guide:
In this guide I will be Colour Coding your various options to provide opinion on each.
Red: Warning. This is a poor option and should be avoided. For spells, simply don't
expect to ever memorize these.
Orange: This is an OK option. I'm not recommending it, but it's not bad. For spells,
not an everyday memorization, but in the right circumstance, good to have.
Green: I recommend this option. It is a strong choice. For spells, this is a worthy
memorization option.
Blue: A must have. Your best possible option. For spells, this would be a "must have"
memorization in my opinion.
The Druid Class Abilities:
Nature Sense: A simple bonus to two class skills. Nature Sense is gained at level
1 and provides an untyped +2 bonus to Knowledge (Nature) and Survival. As we will
see later, the former is a very important skill for Druids, so this bonus is welcome.
Certainly both skills are very flavor appropriate for the class. Not a flashy power, but as
a free bonus, we will gladly take it. We may not be able to afford ranks in Survival, but
if we can do at least one level to kick in the Class bonus, we'll do that at least.
Wild Empathy: This is basically like getting a skill maxed out for free. Wild
Empathy, gained at level 1, is diplomacy for animals. The Druid uses his class level plus
his CHA bonus as the base, plus d20 for improving the attitudes of animals. Cha is not
going to be a strong ability for your Druid, and there is no "Class Skill" bonus, so you will
hardly be Dr. Doolittle. An appropriate skill for the class, and certainly worth a try when
confronted with potentially noisy guard dogs, or similar situations. Don't expect miracles
though.
Woodland Stride: At level 2, this provides the Druid the ability to move through
overgrown terrain without hinderment. This is important, as it essentially gives the
ability to move through natural difficult terrain without penalty, allows 5' steps and all
that good stuff. Personally, I've found natural difficult terrain comes up a reasonable
amount of times through a campaign, so although this remains circumstantial, you will
likely benefit from it a couple times.
Trackless Step: At 3rd level the Druid leaves no trail and cannot be tracked.
This is like a Pass Without Trace spell on all the time. Note that there is no contested
roll with the tracker, it's just total immunity. The 20th level Ranger can't hope to track
the 3rd level Druid. Not going to come up a lot, but worthy to note, if it does, it will
work.
Resist Nature's Lure: At level 4 this ability gives a +4 bonus to save against
the supernatural or spell-like abilities of fey. Yep, sounds just as circumstantial as it is.
I think in 80% of campaigns this will never see use. No big deal, it's a minor ability.
Venom Immunity: At 9th level the Druid gets total immunity from poison. Not
a bonus to save, total immunity. A Periapt of Proof against poison costs 27,000 gp and
takes up a magic item slot. Druids get the ability for free while still in single digit levels.
This is a big deal. Also note, the "Use Poison" ability would now be completely
redundant to you. Use poison all you want, and if you accidentally poison yourself, who
cares?
A thousand Faces: The Druid can change their appearance at will by 13th level
as if using the Alter Self spell. Note that we are not talking about the disguise self spell
here, Alter Self provides real changes with real bonuses. A 13th level human Druid can
simply choose to be in Dwarf form, gaining permanent Darkvision and a +2 Size bonus
to Str, or a Gnome to get permanent Low Light vision, small size, and a +2 size bonus to
Dex, or switch back and forth, or take another form. This is a good power. Note that
you cannot use it in conjunction with Wildshape.
Timeless Body: You gain none of the negative effects of aging by 15th level.
Aging doesn't come up in a lot of campaigns, though you can choose to be of different
age in some campaigns (Check with your DM.) Specifically the Wild Mystic might benefit
from being slightly older, taking some small penalties to physical stats while boosting
Wisdom (and CHA and Int), however, note that Timeless body won't make previous
penalties dissapear, it will prevent any new penalties.
Ability Scores
When we discuss ability scores for the Spirit of the Beast, we must remember the
Wildshape ability. Go ahead, peek ahead at Wildshape if you like, as I will discuss these
matters again there. Before you get Wildshape your physical stats will be important
because you will need to enter melee without wildshape. Once you get Wildshape, those
abilities maintain their importance, because you will be using them as a base for your
wildshape statistics. The Spirit of the Beast must be a warrior first, and caster second,
and this becomes more apparent than ever when we set our ability scores.
Being a warrior, Strength has to be your first priority. If you cannot back up your
attacks with a significant bonus to hit and damage, you will find your offense lacking,
and this should be the selling feature of the Spirit of the Beast. Dex and Con are also
important, for initiative and defense, but both take a backseat to Strength. Wisdom too,
cannot be ignored, because although you do not focus on casting, you need a decent
wisdom to do it at all. In fact, this becomes a serious balancing act for the entire build.
I would love to say not do dump Int or Cha, but this is a very ability dependant build,
and that may be luxury you simply cannot afford.
My attribute strategy would go like this. Buy Strength last. Start by dumping Cha
entirely. Dump Int too, but maybe an 8 will do. Then move to Wisdom, this is delicate,
but a 13 will cover you for 6 levels of casting, and a wisdom boost headband can get you
the other 6 levels you need for 9th level spells. Even a +2 headband gets you through
to level 9. Con and Dex need a 13 at least, in a higher point buy, I would go for 14.
Then whatever I have left goes into Str.
So the order of ability priority ends up being: Str, Dex, Con, Wis, Int, Cha.
If it was my 15 point buy, before Racial Modifiers, my Spirit of the Beast would have an
ability array that looked something like this:
Str: 16 (10), Dex: 14 (5), Con: 13 (3), Int: 8 (-2), Cha: 7 (-4), Wis: 13 (3)
That Strength is just that important that we need to make sure it is going to give us the
advantage we need in combat. Wildshape will give your strength a boost, but if you
don't start with an impressive Strength off the bat, you will find your combat ability
unimpressive, and that's kind of the whole point of the Spirit of the Beast.
Race
The most important thing in considering Race for this build is Strength. There is no race
with set ability scores that grants a bonus to Strength. This makes all these choices less
than optimal (yes, they are all still workable, but it's harder).
Also, we must remember that bonuses like Low Light Vision and Darkvision are of less
value. With Wildshape, we will be taking on the sensory ability of the animal/elemental/
plant form, and give up our racial sensory type. Also, once we can Alter Self at will, we
can just stay in a form that grants Darkvision or Low Light vision whenever we want it.
Human: Far and away your best choice. The flexible ability bonus can be put into Str,
and you don't have to worry about any ability penalties. Things like lack of special
sensory ability means less to a Druid than any other class, and the extra Skill point and
Feat will both be of incredible value.
Half-Orc: A decent choice for the Spirit of the Beast. You can put that flexible stat
bonus into Strength, and the Orc Ferocity works well with a class that can heal itself as a
standard action. The Darkvision is going to be helpful only really in the early levels, as
are the weapon proficiencies, so this isn't nearly as nice a choice as the human, but still
decent.
Half-Elf: The only real other "optimal" choice is the Half-Elf because it too can put the
stat bonus into Strength. The racial abilities really aren't doing you much good. Skill
Focus is always handy to have, but wasn't going to be a primary feat choice, and you are
not likely to multiclass either. Strictly inferior to the human, and probably inferior to the
Half Orc as well (though it's close), however, if you don't want to be human, this is an
OK choice.
The others: The other races are poorer choices as you won't get a bonus to
Strength. Obviously this makes the Gnome and Halfling especially poor choices indeed.
However, these choices can all be made to work with this build, but you face an uphill
battle.
Feats
As a Spirit of the Beast, your feats will be a little spread thin. Spellcasting is not your
focus, but you may very well want Augment Summoning anyways, however, that is a
two feat investment, so I wouldn't put it first on your list. Instead you need some feats
that are going to aid you in combat, as that is going to be your primary focus. Natural
Spell is going to be an absolute must at level 5, as you can expect to be Wildshaped
most of the time as soon as it becomes available.
Power Attack: for a penalty to attack you gain a bonus to damage of twice the
amount. Note that for Wildshapes where you have a single natural attack you will get
triple the to hit penalty as a damage bonus, and for Wildshapes with a secondary attack,
the trade is even. This is not always a feat you will want to use, it will depend on your
chance to hit in any particular combat, but since you will not be using an attack with the
continuous -5 on each subsequent attack, you can actually benefit more from this than
fighters can. Also, it opens the door to some nice other feats. Worth taking.
Cleave: A great feat for skirmishing, which is something you definitely want to do. If
you are Wildshaped into a form with a single tough attack, then Cleave is especially
tough.
Vital Strike: Also a great skirmish feat, and again very nice with the single attack
Wildshape forms. These creatures can have a lot of base dice for damage, which benefit
more from Vital Strike than the Greatsword wielding Fighter.
Improved Vital Strike: Like Vital Strike, this is a feat that shines for Druids. Often
Wildshaping into creatures with several dice of base damage, tripling those dice can
bring quite amazing results.
Improved Unarmed Strike: Useless for you (natural attacks are treated as armed
attacks), except to qualify for other feats, which aren't so useless.
Improved Grapple: You will often be Wildshaped into creatures as big as Huge, with
Strength size modifiers of +6 or so, and able to Grapple for free with a successful attack
(as per the grab ability). This is basically for the +2 and for the next step up the chain.
Greater Grapple: Just a way to really take advantage of Wildshaping with the Grab
ability. Pin the creature, then rip it's throat out. You have a 3/4 BAB, but with bonuses
for Size and Strength, you can make up for that and be a very good grappler indeed.
Spell Focus (Conjuration): Not a high priority out of the gate, but eventually you may
want to invest in this if you want Augment Summoning. Augment Summoning isn't a
must have for the Spirit of the Beast, but you will still be doing a fair bit of summoning,
and the bonuses Augment gives are nice to have.
Augment Summoning: This feat improves your summons significantly. A +4 Str bonus
isn't just a damage boost, it's also a +2 to hit, and that's on every attack the creature
has. The +4 Con is 2 hp/HD. This too makes a significant difference. As a Spirit of the
Beast, you will likely do a bit less summoning than a Wild Mystic, and casting isn't a
priority, however, this feat is still nice to have. I wouldn't work on getting it at low level,
but at higher levels I would try to fit it in.
Natural Spell: This is your level 5 feat. If you could take it at level 4 you would. This
feat makes Wildshape a combat viable ability, well worth a feat slot. It is also the
reason you are a better polymorpher than Wizards or Sorcerers.
Combat Casting: You are going to try to avoid casting on the defensive, as your
primary casting stat isn't great, and therefore neither is your concentration, but
sometimes you don't have the choice, and this can make a difference.
Improved Initiative: Tactically, initiative is a big deal in this game. Less important for
you, who probably won't be using as many spells, but still good to have.
Toughness: +1 HP per level is almost as good as 2 points of Con. Extra HP is always
welcome to pretty much any class. For you, Toughness is the difference between your
HP and the Fighters.
Heavy Armor Proficiency: Later on you will be wearing Ironwood armors. Honesty,
getting a "Wild" enchantment on Hide just isn't worth it. Ironwood Full plate armor is
going to be the best armor you can get, and assuming you aren't wildshaped all the
time, you will find that being proficient is a good choice.
Craft Wonderous Item: Specifically to ensure you have the correct Wisdom Bonuses
you need to progress your spellcasting. If there is any doubt in regards to the
availability of these items in your campaign, this is probably a good investment.
Feats from the Bestiary: Upon GM approval, consider these feats
as well...
Hover: Pretty much a necessity if you wish to do full attacks while flying.
Improved Natural Armor: Self explanatory right?
Skills
Although you have 4 skill points + Int/level and that might sound pretty good, expect to
be feat-starved. The reason is you have a few "must have" skills, so once you have
those...well, there just aren't many points left for the "nice to have" skills. I'm only
going to list the blue and green ranked skills, because there is more choices between
those than you have skills slots to spend unfortunately.
Knowledge (Nature): Firstly, you can only Wildshape into creatures you know, what
creatures you know is defined by this skill, so it is a must-have and a must-max.
Secondly, getting the most out of "Nature Sense" involves taking this as well. This is a
"max out" skill.
Perception: The most used skill in the game. This too should be maxed out.
Handle Animal: Also a must have. This allows you to "push" your summoned critters
as well as teach your animal companion tricks.
Fly: You will be doing a lot of flying, and your maneuverability isn't always going to be
all that hot, so this is really an important skill.
Single Dips: You can't afford a lot of skills - especially after what I've already listed.
However, a few "single level" dips into skills can provide you with some basic ability.
Climb, Swim, Survival and Heal are all decent choices for a quick "dip".
Favored Class
You are in melee, you sometimes need to tank to get advantage of full attacks, your AC
isn't quite as good as the party fighter, you are working off d8 HP. Yeah, a skill point
would be great, but there is only one choice here. With Favored Class going into HP and
the Toughness feat, you can have your HP where they need to be as a front liner.
Equipment:
Remember in Wildshape that you cannot speak (and therefore can't use spell trigger
items), and you may or may not be able to hold something like a metamagic rod. Your
equipment melds into your form, but equipment that has constant effects continue to
function (except for armor), so when purchasing magic items, those with constant
effects should be favored.
Wands: A great choice, especially at lower levels. First level wands are useful and
cheap. You won't be using Wands in combat much, but some out of combat options like
Cure light wounds wands are a good investment.
Also worthy of a special note is a wand of Mage Armor. You can't use it, but odds are
someone in your party can, whether through availability on a spell list or UMD. If you
buy this wand, you can have them use it on you for a 1 hour +4 Armor bonus. Much
cheaper than the "wild" enchantment on your armor.
Scrolls: Look at the spell list, if the spell is ranked orange, it's probably not a
candidate for a wand, but as a scroll it's probably a decent investment. Again, just be
aware these are out-of-wildshape use only.
Metamagic Rods: Not really something I'm going to worry too much about as a
Spirit of the Beast. You can't use them wildshaped, and you aren't doing all that much
casting in combat anyways. An extend rod for Magic Fang and/or Barkskin would
certainly be a decent investment though.
Armor: At low levels Hide armor will do the trick until Wildshape is the form of choice.
However, later on, you will want Darkwood Armor with the "Wild" enchantment for the
best AC possible. The Wild enchantment ain't cheap, so be patient. In mid levels, you
can live without it.
*Shields: As of the current rules, Shield bonus to AC translates into Wildshape,
however, Jason Bulmahn has confirmed that they are not meant to. As usual, your DM
is the final authority. A large wooden shield is probably still a decent investment just for
the protection it provides when you aren't wildshaped.
Weapons: Not worth the investment. By the time the party is collecting magic
weapons, you will be using tooth and claw.
Staves: Not worth it for you, pretty much universally. Remember, casting isn't your
primary function.
Wondrous Items and Rings: The obvious items are on the list like Rings of
Protection, Cloaks of resistance, Belts of Str (or better yet, all 3 physical stats), and
Wisdom boost headbands. Amulets of natural armor won't stack with the natural armor
from Barkskin, but do stack with the NA granted from Wildshape. Druids vestments will
be an economical way to get an extra wildshape in the levels where you could really use
an extra use (levels 5 through 7). Special note that a Monk's Robe is not so good
anymore, as Wis bonus is no longer transferred to AC.
Nature Bond
Good news, for the Spirit of the Beast, I recommend the animal companion as the
obvious choice. The headache you received when reading my suggestion for the Wild
Mystic can now go away at last. The Plant Domain has a couple abilities that would be
interesting, but nothing that gives the tactical advantage as your friendly animal
companion flank buddy.
So now we need to discuss options. My suggestion is to be open to changing animal
companions through your career. Certain animals "advance" at level 4, and others at
level 7 - so usually you are better off with an animal that advances at level 7 between
the levels of 1 and 3, then switch to an animal that advances at level 4 between the
levels of 4 and 6, then switch back at level 7. Make sense?
The options for animal companion are nearly endless, and I have every reason to believe
that the options will continue to expand as more rule supplements come out. I won't be
going through a creature by creature evaluation, because really, there are so many
options that aren't optimal. Instead I will give you the tools which to evaluate animal
companions for yourself, then I will highlight some strong options from the Main Book
and the Bestiary.
Picking your companion: The mini-guide
Offense: Offense is the highest priority in your animal companion. It's not just your
pal, it's part of your overall combat package. Your animal companions contribution to
combat is really part of your contribution, so it's important that it can contribute
effectively. This is not a minor class ability for you, so you must pick carefully.
1) "To hit": What is the animals "To Hit" chance? It will likely be lower than yours,
and this is expected and acceptable, but how much lower? If the animal fails to hit, then
it isn't contributing effectively. Since animal companions are fighting an uphill battle in
this area, it's important you consider it carefully.
2) # of attacks: Your animal won't have a terrific "To hit" chance, so increasing the
number of attacks is very important. Furthermore, if you have multiple attacks, then the
"Pounce" ability becomes very important.
3) Damage: This needs to be balanced carefully with number of attacks. A creature
with 3 weak attacks may fail to penetrate even the mildest DR. That makes the creature
ineffective. Therefore, Damage becomes a very real consideration. Damage of course is
not just the die type of the attacks, but also the Strength modifier. A Rhino may only
have one attack, but no DR is going to stop it. For creatures with lots of attacks,
increasing the damage of those attacks will increase in importance as you gain levels.
4) Combat Maneuvers: Trip is the best combat maneuver ability you are going to get
because it is not invalidated by size like grab can be. Your animal companions "trip"
CMB isn't going to be great, but it's an add-on. You are attacking for damage, but even
if you only have a 10% chance to land this ability, it will still be helpful.
Maneuverability: All the offense in the world means little if your Animal Companion
can't get into the fight. Therefore, maneuverability becomes a high priority, especially
since starting at mid levels, your own maneuverability becomes pretty good.
1) Flight: A huge bonus if your animal companion has this, but it's always a costly
ability to get. The animal companion choices with the best offensive abilities will not be
natural flyers, but it needs to be balanced with the animals who can fly naturally, as
flight is a huge bonus. You may get stuck "Air walking" your companion, but at least
consider the flyers first.
2) Land speed: If your companion doesn't fly, then land speed is quite important. I
would consider any land speed under 40' a significant disadvantage, and I would avoid
land speeds below 30' like the plague. Speeds of 60' + will often mean the Animal
Companion can out move you, which isn't always the best tactically either, so that's a
mixed bag. A land speed of 40' to 50' is right where you want it. A 30' move isn't a deal
breaker though, remember, with Share Spells you can cast longstrider on your animal
companion for a long duration 10' move boost.
3) Other movement types: If your companion can burrow, swim or climb, these are all
advantages. None of them are must haves, or even close to must haves (except in
weird campaigns - like aquatic campaigns), however, they are all nice to have.
Defense: Less important than you may think. Generally, you should expect if your
animal companion is targeted, it will be hit. The reason is because the AC is going to be
significantly lower than combat based PC's in your party, so if it's 5 less or 8 less, the
animal companion is likely going to be hit in either case. HP however, are your
companions ability to take that hit, and therefore are important. Remember that Animal
Companions are replaceable.
1) HP: Your most important consideration defensively. Your animal needs to be able to
take a hit.
2) AC: Less important than you may think. It's just not something you are going to
have at the level where your animal companion is defensively sound.
Advancing your companion: The hints.
Here's some advice for advancing your companion:
1) Ability increase: Every 4 levels your companion gets to increase an ability score. I
recommend an increase in Int to 3. This will give your animal companion the ability to
understand your verbal commands. No more need to "push" or use "tricks", instead
simply tell your companion to "flank on that guy", or "Try to grapple that guy". Handy
eh? The ability to purchase any skill is just a bonus. Once the Int is 3, it's going to all
be about Strength.
2) Feat selection: Remember combat is your primary focus. Power attack is going to
be especially important as levels increase, as it will occasionally be required as a way to
punch through DR. Toughness will give a nice HP boost, this is a good low level choice
too. Improved Natural attack and Weapon Focus are nice to haves, but don't rush to
grab them, they can be a mid or late level purchase. Remember for creatures with claw/
bite, that's only going to affect one choice. Once your animal companion gets an Int of
3, then they can select any feat they can qualify for - so Cleave, Vital Strike (if they are
one attack creatures), hover (for flyers) are all good choices.
3) Skill Selection: Acrobatics is key, as the animal will be a flanker. Fly of course is
important for any flying animal companion. Perception is always handy. Stealth is also
a very useful skill to have.
Tricks: Animal companions rely on "tricks" to determine what you can have them do.
Once you raise the Int to 3, then the animal companion should be able to understand
your language, and you should simply be able to tell it what you want it to do (though
you may want to rely on party members to direct your animal companion since you can't
speak when wildshaped), but until then, tricks are very important. As an animal
companion it will know additional tricks, but use Animal Handling to train more tricks.
Animals have a limit how many tricks they can learn based on their Int score. Here are
some tricks you definitely want your companion to know:
Attack: The first trick any animal companion should know. The animal companion is for
combat, so understanding an attack command is vital. Use the "Two" trick option where
you can have your animal companion attack undead and aberrations.
Defend: Having your animal companion seek to defend you without being commanded
to do so is going to be very handy indeed.
Guard: It won't be unusual for you to want to use your animal companion for guard
duty, especially if the animal companion has the benefits of "scent" which it very likely
will.
Track: Again, a great way to take advantage of the track ability.
Special abilities:
Link: Handle animal as a free action or push as a move action, +4 to handle animal
checks with your animal. This is gained at level 1 and that's when you want it. Later
on, the animal can understand language and you can have another party member shout
out suggestions in combat.
Share Spells: I don't know if there's a huge amount of self only Druid spells that you
are going to want to cast for your animal companion. Longstrider kind of sticks out as a
possibility, and someday, Shapechange - but in between, not much.
Evasion: Always a nice ability to have, and helps with the reduced HP of your animal
companion.
Ability score increase: A big deal, mainly because an increase in Int to 3 means that
your animal now understands language, which means that your party Wizard can
request your animal companion please assume a flanking position with the fighter, etc,
without requiring an animal handling skill. Adding to Str later on is always nice, but not
as dramatic.
Devotion: +4 to Will saves vs enchantment. Always a nice type of spells to gain a
bonus against, and Will is likely going to be a weak save.
Multiattack: Only useful if it has secondary attacks, but if it does, a nice offensive
boost.
Improved Evasion: The next level of evasion. Not a huge benefit, but still nice to
have.
Choices: I'll be evaluating the choices assuming you are not playing an aquatic
campaign. I'll specifically look at choices for level 1, level 4 and level 7.
Level 1:
Bear: A solid choice, we assume this is a baby bear (small size), with a +2 strength
bonus and 3 attacks per round, offensively this is solid. 40' move does the job. A pretty
straight ahead choice.
Cheetah: A slight decrease in offense, but you still get 3 attacks, a 50' speed, and a trip
attack.
Horse: Large sized creature, the hooves are secondary, but the bite is primary. Good
Str score and Con score as well.
Dire Bat: Worth mentioning as it begins with Blindsense and has a good flying
maneuverability. I'm not recommending it though.
Elephant (Bestiary): Offensively fairly solid with a +2 str bonus and good die types on
two attacks. Actually has a good AC (16) too.
Roc (Bestiary): Medium sized at level 1 and the advantage of a flyer. By far your best
offensive bet with a flying creature. A bit squishy though.
Level 4:
Ape: Receives a big bonus to Str (total 21) and an increase in die type for its 3 natural
attacks. Quite the beast at this level.
Snake, Constrictor: Also receives a nice Str bonus (total 23), and although it only has
one attack, being Large, it will occasionally gain the benefit of grab/constrict. Speed is a
problem - longstrider can help, but it's still going to hurt.
Level 7:
Tiger/Lion: A good choice for the level, granting the ever-important Pounce, large size
plus grab is a nice combo too.
Ankylosaurus: mix a good defense (AC is good) with a pretty good Strength and the
very nice stun ability. Single attack though.
T-Rex: A good attack, even if it's a single attack. A good companion to add Cleave and
Vital Strike feats.
Rhino: A good single attack that can be mixed with Powerful charge for a great single
attack. Mix with cleave for 2 great attacks.
Roc: Now large size, this is just a really impressive choice. Strength is great, as are 3
primary attacks. Grab ability for fun.
Let's look at the primary example at each level:
Level 1: The Horse
Str: 16, Dex: 13, Con: 15, Int: 2, Wis: 12, Cha: 6
Feat: Toughness
AC: 15 (+1 Dex, +4 Natural) - add barding for more AC
HP: 16
Attacks: +4/-1/-1 1d4+3, 1d6+1, 1d6+1
Level 4: The Ape
Str: 22, Dex: 16, Con: 14, Int: 3, Wis: 12, Cha: 7
Feats: Toughness, Power attack
AC: 17 (+3 Dex, +4 Natural)
HP: 28
Attacks (power attacking): +8/+8/+8 1d6+8/1d6+8/1d6+8
Level 7: The Tiger
Str: 23, Dex: 17, Con: 17, Int: 3, Wis: 12, Cha: 6
Feats: Toughness, Power attack, Weapon Focus (claw)
AC: 17 (+3 Dex, +4 Natural)
HP: 49
Attacks: +8/+9/+9 1d8+10/1d6+10/1d6+10 Grapple:CMB +12
Pounce, Rake, Grab
Wildshape:
First off, let's discuss how Polymorph spells work, then how Wildshape differs from
Polymorph spells, then look at the specifics of each ability the Druid gets.
Unlike in 3.5, where the only real difference between Wildshaping into an animal as a
level 4 Druid and a level 10 Druid was the size of form you could take, in Pathfinder, you
will get more abilities of the creature as you level up, so Wildshaping into an Eagle will
be different at level 10 than it was at level 4.
Polymorphing first of all, makes you look like the creature (+20 to disguise). Secondly,
you get the Size of the creature, thirdly, you get the natural attacks of the creature, and
fourth, you gain the base movement of the creature. Your items "meld" into the new
form, and armor bonuses are lost. Other items that grant permanent effects function as
normal.
Wildshaping works similarly to Polymorph spells, but there are a few notable differences,
pretty much exclusively in the Druid's favor.
1) First and foremost, Wildshape allows the "Natural Spell" feat which allows spellcasting
to take place when Wildshaped.
2) Secondly, Armor with the "Wild" enchantment can still provide an armor bonus in
Wildshape.
3) Wildshape has a duration of 1 hour/level. This is significantly longer than the
Polymorph spells
4) Using Wildshape does not provoke an attack of opportunity when used, no defensive
casting required
5) Being a Supernatural ability, Wildshape cannot be dispelled (though it can be
suppressed by an antimagic field)
6) When you wildshape into a creature that Swims or Burrows, you are able to breath in
these environments
7) This is obvious, but worthy of mention anyways: Wildshape doesn't use up valuable
casting slots.
The abilities of a Druid's Wildshape improve with level. The Natural attacks are always
gained, but more abilities are gained depending on the level of the Druid:
4th level: Wildshape as Beast Shape 1, 1/day. Small or Medium animal
6th level: Tiny or Large animal as Beast Shape 2, or small Elemental as Elemental body
1, 2/day
8th level: Huge or diminutive animal as Beast Shape 3, medium Elemental as
Elemental body 2, Small or Medium Plant creature as Plant shape 1, 3/day
10th level: Large Elemental as Elemental body III, Large plant as Plant Shape II, 4/day
12th level: Huge Elemental as Elemental body IV, Huge plant as Plant shape III, 5/day
1/day extra uses every 2 levels afterwards.
Lets go over the various abilities gained with Each form of Wildshape, and I'll go over
some form options for each. You will find a lot of animals bring very much the same
things to the table, so I'll cover the best choices. For example, Goblin Dog, Hyena and
Wolf all bring identical abilities to the table for Beast Shape I, and the Riding dog is just
worse (as it's slower), so listing all these creatures really makes no sense. Instead, I'll
list your "go to" forms for each, covering the various abilities you may want to access.
Beast Shape I: You aren't getting much here, but do get Climb, Fly (up to average),
or Swim at a maximum of 30 feet if the creature has this movement. Also, you get
Darkvision 60, Low-light vision, and scent if the creature had the ability. If you take the
form of a small animal, you get a +2 size bonus to Dex and +1 Natural Armor bonus. If
you take the form of a medium animal, you get a +2 size bonus to Str and +2 natural
armor bonus. This is where you say, "Do I ever want to take the form of a small
animal?", to which I reply, "No...never."
Form options to consider:
Dinosaur, Deinonychus This is your primary combat form for Beast Shape I. 4
attacks, count them 1, 2, 3, oh - sorry he's dead now...put that last one away. There
isn't even any running away for him, because you can chase him at a speed of 60'. Is
this worth considering at higher level? The Bestiary gives options for a large version of
this creature. If allowed, I would certainly recommend it with Beast Shape II.
Otherwise, just enjoy it right now. Welcome to Wildshape. Low light vision and scent as
well.
Leopard: The Deinonychus laughs at you for your silly little 3 attacks, but if you need to
do some climbing, this is your form. Get 3 primary attacks with a 20' climb, and 30' on
the ground. Low light and scent.
Squid: Your aquatic form. Swim speed is going to be 30' at this level. You get 2
natural attacks and low light vision.
Riding Dog: The main reason to take this form is that you can pretty much go
anywhere as a big friendly dog. You get a single attack and a 40' move, so nothing
really fantastic here otherwise.
Beast Shape II: Significantly better than Beast Shape I. Now the movements can
reach 60 feet (and Fly maneuverability up to good). Grab, pounce, and Trip are received
if the animal has the ability. If you take the form of a tiny animal, you get a +4 Dex, -2
Str, and +1 NA...LOL - just kidding! Tiny animal - that's a good one. If you take the
form of a large creature, and if you don't, what's wrong with you? You get +4 Str, -2
Dex and +4 NA.
Form options to consider:
Dire Tiger: Here's your standard combat form for this level. 3 primary attacks with
pounce, grab on all 3 attacks. The damage is pretty good on all 3. Speed 40' Low light
and scent. The regular tiger is only minutely worse (the bite does a tiny bit less
damage).
Dire Ape: No rend for you, but a large sized creature with 3 primary attacks, 10 foot
reach, a climb speed (30'), low light vision and scent. The reach is really the selling
point here.
Bat, Dire: You can actually become a flying mount, which is certainly handy. Also, you
can get a (good) maneuverability on fly (40'). A large creature.
Giant Octopus: 9 attacks. definitely a decent swim form. Add in grab on 8 of those 9
attacks. Damage ain't great - but so many attacks has me dazzled. If you need to
swim, a good choice.
Dire Wolf: For trip. That's really the main reason to take this form.
Heavy Horse: Specifically you may want this form for 3 reasons. First, you can get
barding for this form very easily. Second, you can carry a rider, which may be very
valuable if you plan ahead with another character, and third, you are going to be allowed
in pretty much any town or city. The form otherwise isn't too bad. You get 3 attacks (2
of which are secondary) a decent move of 50', low light and scent. Definitely a step
down otherwise from Dire Tiger.
Beast Shape III: You can now gain burrow up to 30 feet, 90 feet on other
movement types, Blindsense up to 30 feet, Constrict, Ferocity, Jet, Poison, Rake,
Trample and Web. (You won't find Web). For Diminutive animals, it's a +6 Dex, -4 Str
and +1 NA, for Huge Animals it's a +6 Str, -4 Dex, and +6 NA.
Forms to consider:
Elasmosaurus: A swim form with a swim speed of 50'. Can move on land as well at
20'. One attack only for 2d8 damage.
Stegosaurus: A bit slow at 30' but the tail does 4d6 + 1.5 Str for a solid hit (and vital
strike or cleave contender). Also includes a trip attack, so not bad at all.
Giant Squid: Swim at 60', Jet at 260'. 4 Decent attacks (one of which does 4d6), and a
grab/constrict attack.
Elemental Body I: Take a form of any of the 4 elementals (small size). This
includes Darkvision with every form as well as special movement types (like Fly(perfect)
and Earth glide). A size bonus of +2 to a variable ability score and a variable Natural
armor bonus. A few special abilities (like Whirlwind and Push) are also gained. The way
I read it, Natural spell should still work even if you are in the near-invulnerable whirlwind
form. However, this is a loophole, and I can't recommend it for gameplay. Generally,
these will be utility forms only.
Forms to consider:
Earth: A nice little form. Earth glide is handy, and you are getting a nice +4 NA bonus.
Not a form I would regularly take, but in a cave like environment, could be decent.
Fire: A Dex bonus is always welcome, and fire resistance is often handy. The burn
ability is situational, but occasionally nice to have. Nothing super here, but OK.
Air: If you need a fly (perfect) form, this will do the job. Not a powerhouse though.
Water: The Drench ability will be a very circumstantial power, but when you need it,
quite effective. Otherwise, this form isn't offering you too much.
Elemental Body II: As Elemental body I except the Elemental form is now
Medium. The Ability score bonuses move up to +4, and the Natural Armor granted
increases as well (by a straight +1 across the board). Defensively, a Dex bonus form
like Air Elemental should come out a bit ahead of the Elemental body I (by one AC). The
other forms will trade size bonus to AC to NA bonus to AC and come out even. In any
case, I'm using Beast Shape III as my primary combat form, but if you need to be
medium size...well then be a Leopard. Really, I wouldn't bother.
Elemental Body III: As Elemental Body II except now you are large size, you NET
+6 to ability scores (no longer a single stat - and some forms include a penalty), and NA
goes up by one again. Not a big improvement over EBII IMO.
Forms to consider:
Large Air: Really the main reason to take this form is the Whirlwind ability or for the fly
(perfect). However, the two decent slam attacks makes this not a terrible combat form
when the need arises.
Large Earth: Just as much bonus to Str as Beast Shape III, the same NA bonus too,
except the penalty to Dex is not as bad and you get a Con boost, so this is actually a
viable option for combat. 2 Slam attacks don't impress too much though, but mixed
with push, earth glide and earth mastery this is a situational combat form - a good
choice when Huge is just too darned big.
Elemental Body IV: Now you are huge, and you get some nice goodies. DR 5/-,
and immunity to critical hits and sneak attack. Natural Armor does not increase this
time (which will likely result in a net loss of AC for most forms), but ability score net
bonus is up to +10. Also, Air and Water elementals double their movement. That's a
really nice enhancement. Since Elder elementals are Huge, you might as well take the
Elder form.
Forms to Consider:
Air, Elder: You get fly at 100' (perfect) which is awesome. The Whirlwind ability works
on creatures of large size, and the two slam attacks aren't looking too bad. +4 Strength
isn't bad, +6 Dex and the NA bonus means AC shouldn't be too bad either. Overall, a
Solid form that will Carry you into the "fly" levels.
Water, Elder: Situational, and I'm not sure this is better than some of your Beast
Shape forms, but the swim speed is fantastic, and Vortex gets pretty nasty around this
size.
Earth, Elder: The Best Strength bonus you will get with Wildshape (+8) and the (+4)
con bonus is welcome as well. The two slam attacks are 2d10 each, which is OK.
Overall, you may find some of the Beast Shape forms still outdamaging this form, but
defensively, this form is a winner over them.
Plant Shape I: Not a very good ability, as you can turn into a Small or Medium
plant, which, after scouring the entire Bestiary, totals 4 forms. Every single one is a bad
option. Therefore, until more plant creatures are available, this is a wasted ability. I'll
go over why they are all poor options here:
Forms you shouldn't waste your time with:
Vegepygmy: Darkvision, Low light vision, 2x1d4 natural attacks. Nothing especially
wonderful here, and it's a very silly creature. (You decide if that's a bonus or not)
Basidirond: Low light vision and a 1d8 slam attack. The best feature of the form you
don't get with plant shape (the hallucination cloud). Not much here.
Violet Fungus: Here's a ripoff. Violet Fungus can be harvested to create a venom, but
they don't have a "poison" attack, so what you get are 4x1d4 attacks and a crappy
movement speed. The "Rot" ability will not transfer.
Yellow Musk Creeper: This may be the worst polymorph option in the game. Reduce
your speed to 5' and get a 1x1d4 attack. We're done. Nothing else translates. I wish I
had a ranking worse than red.
Plant Shape II: Still pretty bad choices, not as absolutely terrible as Plant Shape I,
but worse than your Beast Shape choices pretty much universally.
Forms not to consider:
Assassin Vine: You are going to be all but immobile (5' move) but you do get a singe
1d8 attack with 10' reach. The reason you may want this form is for grab and constrict,
however, you should note that Entangle does not translate.
Shambling Mound: It gets Darkvision, Low light vision, and 2 decent slam attacks (2d6
each) and both attacks have grab and constrict. Also, both attacks have 10' reach.
However, this isn't even as good as Dire Tiger, which you got levels ago.
Plant Shape III: Ohhhh you can get Regeneration...just kidding. In fact, there is
only one Huge plant form, and it's the Treant which is a crappy form, and since no Plant
creature in the Bestiary has regeneration, until more creatures are available, this is
horrible.
The good news: There's only one bad option with PSIII. The bad news: It's the
only option:
Treant: Sigh. No longer a good polymorph. You get 2 slam attacks for 2d6 each and
that pretty much covers it.
Playing a Spirit of the Beast:
The niche you are going to fill is one of front-liner. Like a Cleric you are a divine caster
who engages in melee, unlike a Cleric, you can expect to be the primary damage dealer
in your party. Your party fighter may out-defense you, but what you lack in defense you
make up for in offense.
Why not play a fighter instead? Straight up comparison of Fighter vs. Druid in melee,
unsurprisingly, expect the fighter to edge out ahead, but not hugely so. The Druid
choice is for other factors. The Druid can run circles around the party Monk, fly, swim,
climb, burrow, bring as many as 7 attacks per round to bear by level 4, and gets 9 spell
levels of casting. So when comparing to a fighter, expect less damage on a single hit.
Expect less AC, and possibly less HP too. Expect less ability on Combat Maneuvers, but
expect more attacks, more maneuverability, better sensory ability and more flexibility.
If those are your priorities, then that is why you would choose the Druid.
How does it stack up?
Let's consider a 5th level fighter. He's probably sporting the 18 Strength, he's got BAB
of 4, Full Plate +1, and a Greatsword +1. He's probably wearing a Ring of Protection +1
and has approximately 46 HP. His attack is +12 (+5 BAB, +4 Str, WF, +1 enhance, +1
Weap Tr) for 2d6+10 (+6 Str, +2 WS, +1 Enh, +1 Weap tr) Damage - that's 17 on an
average hit. His AC is 23 (10+ 9 armor, +1 enh, +2 Dex, +1 deflection).
So that's:
HP: 46
AC: 23
Attack: +12 2d6+10 (average 17)
Let's compare a 5 level Spirit of the Beast.
He's got the attribute spread listed above for the 15 point attribute buy. He's Human as
well. At level 4 he increased his Con to 14. He keeps a Greater Magic Fang up on
himself and his Ape animal companion all the time, he also casts Barkskin twice before
expected combats. He has a Ring of Protection +1, Wears a Large Shield +1, His feats
are Toughness, Power attack, and Dodge.
So when in combat, Wildshaped into a Deinonychus and flanking with his Ape companion
we're looking at:
HP: 45 (Druid) 36 (Ape) (Druid HP assumes average HP rolls, toughness, Con 14,
favored class bonus)
AC: 21 (Druid) 19 (Ape) (Druid AC 10+ 2 Nat, +2 Nat enh, +2 shield, +1 enh, +1 Def,
+1 Dodge, +2 Dex)
Attack: +10/+10/+10+5 (Druid) +10/+10/+10 (ape) (Druid +3 BAB, +5 Str, +1 enh,
+2 flank, -1 power attack)
Damage: 1d8+8/1d6+8/1d6+8/1d4+3 (Druid) average 41 1d6+9/1d6+9/1d6+9 (Ape)
average 37. Total average 78
Now, I've taken a number of liberties here. Certainly the fighter could get flank too.
Sometimes Barkskin may not be active, maybe Greater Magic Fang got dispelled, maybe
the Fighter is better optimized. We are also assuming full attacks, which at this level,
favors the Druid heavily.
However, look at the numbers, even considering the liberties, the Druid is faring well is it
not?
Now in one more level that Fighter is getting another attack (at -5). However, in one
more level that Druid is now taking a Dire Tiger form, and the Ape just got significantly
tougher. One level after that, the Ape turns into a tougher Tiger form, and now full
attacks aren't an issue, since both Druid and animal companion are pouncing.
So I guess my point is that there are a huge number of variables in play, but overall,
expect poorer chance to hit than the fighter, but only slightly so. Expect poorer AC
bonus, but only slightly so, expect lower HP, but only slightly so, and expect significantly
higher damage potential, and not just slightly.
I forgot about saves. Yeah, saves are better too.
When playing a Spirit of the Beast, start out with Hide armor, a Shield and a Scimitar.
With good physical stats and an animal companion, you should be capable in melee,
offensively you should be aces. Then start Wildshaping occasionally at level 4, and as
often as possible at level 5. Use spells for inter-combat healing or buffing, and in
combat for the occasional Summon spell to strengthen the odds.
Limitations: This build functions better than the Wild Mystic at low levels, it can really
hold it's own. Expect to feel like a king between levels 5 and 10. However, unlike the
Wild Mystic, expect a more serious decline in the higher levels. Wildshape just stops
getting better, and your animal companion advances in power more slowly than a PC.
Your spells are not providing many upper level buff options, and you just aren't getting
as many attacks per round in comparison to the other players that you used to get. This
build should remain viable right into high levels, but the real shine occurs in the single
digit levels. At the higher levels, expect to rely more and more on spellcasting, to which
you really aren't built towards.

Minat Terkait