Druids in Shadow World.

The recent discussions on Druids here on the blog seemed a relatively easy assignment. I hadn’t given a lot of thought to Druids and generally argued for a more distinctive Druid by making them either a semi-spell user or even an Essence based profession. For me the Druid was just a new name on a predictable template already covered by Clerics, Animists and Rangers.

However, several comments and some googling made me start thinking about Druids quite a lot…

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An arch-druid in his judicial habit.

Who were the Druids?

There is not a lot of first-hand knowledge of the Druids, but it’s generally believed they were: “philosophers, teachers, judges, the repository of communal wisdoms about the natural world and the traditions of the people, and the mediators between humans and the gods.” So, in some respects this sounds a lot like a Cleric or Priest, and in RM terms, a Channeler. But there are other descriptions of Druids that evoke a more mysterious and perhaps even sinister aspect. Then, while reading this description,

Druids, like numerous cultures both prehistoric and modern, were fascinated by the movements of stars and other celestial bodies. This implies that they were still using Neolithic monuments such as Stonehenge to track different astronomical alignments.

I was struck by a thought. While the Druid profession was missing in the original RM, the Astrologer was not. The Astrologer is an odd profession–I certainly thought it was cool when I first was introduced to RM, but the concept seems curiously unfinished. First, I think star-based spell lists are a very setting specific idea and the the lists themselves were incomplete with very few actual spells on each list. Assuming some fixes to the Astrologer lists, a great Druid concept would consolidate the Druid base with the Astrologer base lists. That would make the Druid interesting and unique while still retaining some the cool factor that the Astrologer promised. In this scenario I see possible Druid Base Lists as:

  1. “Far Voice” But a rewritten combination of Astrologer “Far Voice”, “Way of the Voice” & “Starsense”
  2. “Visions” A combination of Astrologers “Time Bridge” and “Holy Visions”
  3. “Starlight”. Original Astrologer but needs some fixing.
  4. “Druidstaff”. Either the original RMC I version, Hurin’s version or my BASiL list “Talisman”.
  5. “Natures Forms”. Original Druid list.
  6. “Stone Mastery”. Original Druid list.
  7. “Weather Mastery” type list as an alternate.

These six Base lists make a Druid very distinct from other Professions, especially the Animist and Ranger, by dropping the Animal and Plant control spells. To me this still feels like a “naturalist” spell user but in a more raw and visceral way. There is a nature and elemental angle to the class with “Starlight” and “Stone Mastery” and a touch of a Seer with “Visions”. Plus the elemental spells and the Druidstaff gives the Druid combat and offensive ability. “Far Voice” allows the individual Druids to communicate across vast spaces with each other–providing them a network of information.

I was pretty satisfied with this new Druid concept and would have left it alone…but I kept thinking about Druids and Shadow World. Shadow World has an organization that aligns quite well with a Druidic concept: The Earthwardens. In SW canon, the Earthwardens helped heal and rebuild the shattered planet. They built great earthworks, megalithic constructions, circles, henges, and passages, while nurturing civilization back from the brink. This is a familiar tale–not unlike legendary figures in our own history: Hermes, Thoth, Quetzalcóatl, and other “bringers of civilization” that were steeped in hermetic traditions.

While it’s not implicitly stated or clarified, the Earthwardens were using “proto-magic”; early Essaence before it was divided into the individual realms. The Earthwardens built structures on Essaence Foci–basically “Earthnodes” and “Leylines” often associated with Druidic tradition. While the Earthwardens esssentially disappeared during the Interregnum, it’s conceivable that their knowledge was passed down through a secret tradition and organization: The Druids.

So putting it all together we have an organization/profession that utilizes “proto-magic” and “Earthnodes” and is the repository of ancient traditions and wisdom. To me, that sounds a lot like what many people would think of for a fantasy Druid archetype. What types of spell powers are proto-magic? Luckily, I don’t have to write a bunch of new spells–just adopt the Arcane Magic lists as Druid base lists! In fact, Rolemaster Companion I has every thing we need: earthnodes, arcane magic and Druids! The base lists would be:

  1. Bladerunes. A great utility spell list that gives the Druid weapon enchanting ability and replaces the list “Druidstaff”.
  2. Earthbloods Ways. Obviously, this is easy to convert to Shadow World’s versions: Essence Flows and Essence Foci.
  3. Entity Mastery. I would make some changes and eliminate the homoculous spells, but I like the idea of a Druid commanding Golems and Elementals.
  4. Ethereal Mastery. Not sure about this one, but I like the concept of Astral Projection for Druids.
  5. Mana Fires. Feels very Allanon’ish and Druids should be “Wielders of the Secret Flame”.
  6. Shapechanging Ways. Gives the Druid the connection to Flora and Fauna.

The Arcane lists in RMC I are right on point for Druid spells and work well as inherited knowledge of the Earthwardens. With these lists, Druids tie into SW history and make a kick-ass profession with unique powers.

So what do you think? Druid/Astrologer or Druid/Arcane? I like them both, but Druid/Arcane fits my SW campaign. You can read my amended history of the Earthwardens in this file (inspired by page 5 of Rolemaster Companion I)

Rolemaster Profession Review: What’s up with the Druid?

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The Druid Allanon

I was busy writing a Spell Law related blog but we are powering along discussing professions so here we go with Druids!

First off, Peter covered all the bases with his overview of Druid spells in his last POST. I was going to go over the various RMC spells he discussed, but I’m sure I did it back in the day when working on BASiL and it sounds like he hit the nail on the head. For the most part, the first few RM Companions seemed like an attempt to power up various RM professions: Animists into Druids, Warrior Monks became High Warrior Monks, Mages became Archmages, semi spellusers expanded to include Beastmasters, Paladins and Warrior Mages etc.

Per recent blogs here on on the RM Forums, I think it’s clear that the real differentiation between professions is: the general classification of Non, Full or Semi; and the “base” lists of each class. There has been lots of debate and parsing of profession skill costs but in reality it doesn’t much matter after 6-8th level. By then, most core skills have peaked out their contribution bonus and stats, magic and professional level bonuses carry the weight. So let’s take each of these in turn:

General Classification of a Druid. One argument someone could make for a more martial animist is just to make the Druid a semi-spell user. That way you avoid the seeming duplication of the Animist-Druid dynamic and bestow better combat abilities on the Druid. By doing so you don’t have lean so heavily on overpowered/unbalanced combat spell lists to bridge the gap. Of course, this might depend on your vision of a Druid (we’ll get to that), and it steers very close to the Beastmaster and Ranger but it’s clear that much of the RM communities loves lots of Professions, no matter how similar they might be.

Base Lists of the Druid. Looking at the lists from the companions it’s hard to justify playing a regular animist! Peter has pointed out some problems with the Druid spells, and Hurin will be suggesting his own versions but for me the problem is not the lack of offensive/combat spells for the Animist–it’s that most Animist spells basically suck in general.

So what might a Druid look like? Perhaps the most well known fictional Druid from early RPG is Allanon from the Elf-Stones of Shannara. Allanon was a Druid more in the line of Gandalf, with wizardly power, understanding of Old Magic (technology) and Lore. If you compare Allanon to our western mythology, “Druid” is more of a title and not a class trope. Allanon is basically a Loremaster with lost knowledge and power.

Another concept for a Druid is a spellcaster that specializes in natural magic–this could also include elemental magic. So really there is no reason why a RM Magician can’t be called, or be part of organization, that calls themselves “Druids”. Magician spells of Wind and Water contain plenty of spells to affect weather or the natural world around them. From the outside, this could seem very “Druidic”. I see no issues with a Druid that is an Essence user.

A third way to look at the Druid is it’s professional realm designation. Druids are Channelers. By definition that implies that Druids powers come from or are granted by a God or pantheon. A Druid isn’t going to be granted offensive spells and combat acumen by a god that is a pacifist. If your vision of a Druid is a “combat nature priest” then their God should reflect that. Do you really need to parse out skill costs for all of these slightly different “Nature Channelers”: Clerics (of a nature god), Animist, Druid, Beastmaster, Ranger, Shaman and maybe even a Witch?

I take a diametric view of this situation–each profession isn’t a different set of skill costs and base lists; as Channelers, each represents a servant/priest of a specific God or type of God:

Cleric/Priest (nature aspected God). A general priest with a mixture of general Cleric lists and Animist/outdoor lists.

Animist: A Priest of a very nature oriented god or a local god. Spells focused on Flora And Fauna.

Druid: A Priest of a Elemental God or temperamental god of nature. Spells of Wind, Air, Weather and perhaps Earth.

Beastmaster: A Priest of a Animal God or Totem style god. Animal Control and Bonding.

Ranger: A “Holy Warrior” type of a nature god, or an outdoors man that has loyalty to a nature god. Survival and Weather spells.

Shaman/Witch: like Hedge Wizards they may serve a local god or ancient elemental god. Grab bag of spell lists.

I see variations of Druids that are Essence users, semi-spell users and even just “re-badged” Rangers! If a GM is willing to be flexible with spell lists, it’s easy to create a Druid that meets your concept or setting.