D&D’s mystical, nature-loving druids are one of the most flavorful and thematically rich classes available to players. Characters of any race can make effective druids, both mechanically and thematically.
Here we’ll cover some of the races that are a particularly good mechanical or thematic fit for a druid character.
Customizing Your Origin
Due to the optional Customizing Your Origin rules in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (pages 7 and 8), some of the mechanical considerations we cover here may not be relevant to every campaign.
This is particularly true of racial stat bonuses – if you’re playing with these rules, then you should aim to gain a +2 bonus to wisdom, regardless of which race you’re playing.
Additional racial stat bonuses should be placed in either dexterity or constitution.
If you’re using a full Custom Lineage, then you can choose a feat instead of receiving the abilities of a specific race. Your best options here will vary depending on your archetype and build.
When choosing a feat, consider whether you primarily plan to fight in melee in Wild Shape or focus more on spellcasting.
Firbolgs are practically synonymous with druids. If you want to play a firbolg, then the first class you’ll consider is druid; if you want to play druid, then one of the first races you’ll consider is firbolg.
Firbolgs have tons of thematic overlap with druids – both are reclusive nature-guardians that live in harmony with the forests.
Firbolgs’ +2 bonus to wisdom is fantastic for druids whose main casting stat is wisdom.
Their +1 bonus to strength is less useful as strength isn’t retained during Wild Shape.
Firbolgs’ Powerful Build ability may have some synergy with Wild Shape – by shapeshifting into larger creatures and receiving the size category upgrade from powerful build, you may be able to access some of the benefits of the larger size categories at relatively low levels.
Powerful Build. You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.
Volo’s Guide to Monsters, p107
Firbolgs Magic, Hidden Step, and Speech of Beast and Leaf are all great thematic fits for a druid. Because druid is a spellcasting class though, these features all have some overlap with spells that druid can already access.
These features add less utility to a druid than they would, for example, to a barbarian.
Forest gnomes may be far smaller than firbolgs, but they share a ton of flavor with them. Forest gnomes are also magical forest-dwelling recluses that hide from civilization using illusion magic.
Forest gnomes, however, have no mechanical synergy whatsoever with the druid class. Their bonuses are to intelligence and dexterity. Intelligence is useless to druids.
Wild Shape and Shillelagh greatly lessen the usefulness of dexterity, but dexterity is still one of the more important stats for druid.
Forest gnomes learn Minor Illusion, a useful cantrip that druids don’t ordinarily have access to.
Their casting ability for this cantrip is intelligence, a common dump-stat for druids, but this only affects the DC of an investigation check made to discern whether the illusion is real.
There are many uses for Minor Illusion where the illusion itself doesn’t need to stand up to direct scrutiny, so the cantrip may still be worth casting.
Of D&D’s elves, wood elves are the most reclusive and the closest to nature. They’re also the only ones that receive a bonus to wisdom, druid’s most important stat.
Any of the elf subraces are a good thematic fit for a druid but none more so than wood elves.
Elves’ unique throughline is their timelessness. While many of D&D’s other races have comparable lifespans to elves, elves’ thematic flavor centers around their long lives.
Their desire to engage in druidic care for the forest may stem from their perception of time.
Trees that live for hundreds or thousands of years may hold more value to an elf than fleeting mortals do.
Elves may be capable of tending to a forest’s rhythms as expressed in centuries, rather than just the rhythm of yearly seasons.
Wood elves’ stat bonuses lend themselves well to druid characters. Wisdom is druid’s most important stat, and a +1 bonus to it is welcome. Wood elves’ +2 bonus to dexterity is nice but unexciting.
None of wood elves’ abilities have particular mechanical synergy with druid over any other class.
Of the dwarf subraces, hill dwarves are the most likely choice for a druid character. Hill dwarves are more likely to live on the surface, in forested land. They also receive a wisdom bonus, which is beneficial for druids.
Mountain dwarves are a less obvious choice but may provide more of a twist on a druidic fantasy. Mountain dwarves are more likely to come from snowy evergreen forests.
They may have a hardier, more survival-focused attitude to druidism and nature than other druids.
Mountain druids’ bonuses aren’t great for druids, but they do receive two +2 bonuses, which can be powerful if you’re playing with the Customizing Your Origin rules from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Chromatic dragons are all deeply tied to their preferred habitats, and green and black dragons have a particular affinity for the forests and swamps that many druids call home.
Because of this, dragonborn with these ancestries may feel called to a druidic life.
Chromatic dragons are typically evil creatures in the Forgotten Realms setting. While this doesn’t necessarily apply to dragonborn of chromatic ancestries, chromatic dragonborn might make a good choice for an evil-aligned druid.
Standard dragonborn, from the Player’s Handbook, have no druid-relevant bonuses, but a new variant of dragonborn was added in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. This allows players to choose their stat bonuses.
Halflings are typically associated with sociability and the comforts of civilization. That said, many halflings live in the rural communities and adventuring bands that produce occasional druids.
Ghostwise halflings, in particular, live in isolated communities far from civilization. Ghostwise halflings also lend themselves most mechanically to druid with their +1 bonus to wisdom.
Orcs and Half-Orcs
Orcs and half-orcs are excellent thematic fits for a druid. These characters are tied to the wild forests and swampland. They’re often shunned from civilization and forced out to the wildest places of the world.
Orcs and half-orcs are also deeply passionate and spiritual beings, driven by their cultural traditions and beliefs. Particularly in the Eberron setting, orcs and half-orcs make up some of the oldest and most significant druidic orders.
Both orcs and half-orcs receive a +2 bonus to strength and a +1 bonus to constitution. These bonuses aren’t great – the +2 bonus to strength, in particular, is mostly useless for druids.
In the Eberron setting though, half-orcs with the Mark of Finding instead receive a +2 wisdom bonus and a +1 to constitution.
Orc’s Aggressive and Powerful Build abilities, as well as half-orc’s Relentless Endurance, work well with a Wild Shape focused druid build.
Half-orc’s Savage Attacks ability may be useful in Wild Shape if you’ve transformed into a creature that has hands and can use melee weapons; otherwise it doesn’t apply to Wild Shape.
Genasi are a great choice for a range of druidic twists. The elements are a part of nature, and the different elemental genasi subraces can work to inform how you characterize your druids.
Water genasi are the most obvious choice for a genasi druid. Water, in all its forms, is fundamental to life.
Your character can have ties to changing weather and rain that nourishes the forest and the rivers and streams that run through it. Water genasi are also amphibious, and their forests could easily be forests of kelp.
Water genasi gain a bonus to wisdom, which makes them the best fit for druids mechanically.
Fairies & Harengon
Fairies and Harengon are new Feywild-dwelling playable races, added in Wild Beyond the Witchlight.
Fey and fey-associated creatures seem, at first glance, to be a good fit for a druid. While fey do live in forests and they are creatures of the forest, their fantasy is of mastery over the forest.
Druids act as stewards of the woodland and as agents of nature’s will. Fey creatures drive that will, creating spaces in the woodland that are twisted echoes of human civilization.
Fey creatures are also less likely to be associated with stewardship and care – fey are often capricious and thoughtless.
These characters can still make fantastic druids. This conflict may also result in more complex characters than, for example, firbolg druids whose race and class fantasies align nearly perfectly.
Both fairies and harengon get to choose their ability score bonuses, which means both can receive a +2 bonus to wisdom.
Fairies’ Fairy Magic ability has a lot of overlap with spells that druid can already cast.
Their Flight ability becomes less useful at 8th level when druids can use Wild Shape to transform into creatures with a flying speed. Harengons’ racial traits may be more useful to a druid.
Warforged druids might seem like a silly idea, but hear me out. Warforged are artificially created beings that don’t originate in nature at all.
Warforged druids seem impossible, and that’s what makes them thematically compelling.
This combo of class and race immediately evokes a host of questions about your character’s history. Was your character built as a nature-protector, or were they called to druidism despite their programming?
Golems and other magical automata have a well-trodden history of nature-affinity in fiction. TV Tropes even has a page on nature-loving robots!
This archetype includes characters ranging from the eponymous hero of the 2008 Pixar film WALL-E to Minecraft’s poppy-bearing iron golems.
You can also take a slightly different tack with your warforged druids, particularly in homebrew settings.
The bulk of a warforged’s body under their armor is actually made of wood!
Their metal exoskeleton primarily functions as armor, and swapping this out for more natural materials like stone or hardwood is a relatively small thematic change.
This can allow you to play these automata as creatures originating in forests and nature, perhaps created by druids or fey.
Mechanically, warforged don’t particularly lend themselves to being druids over any other class. They receive +2 to their constitution and +1 to another ability score of their choice, which can be placed in wisdom.
These ability score increases are good but not great.
Warforged also gain +1 to their amor class from Integrated Protection. For druids, this can either be lackluster or very powerful depending on DM ruling.
If your DM rules that Integrated Protection doesn’t function during Wild Shape, then it won’t grant you its AC bonus during the periods where you’re most likely to be taking hits.
If your DM rules that Integrated Protection does function during Wild Shape, then it becomes one of the only ways to permanently increase your AC during Wild Shape, making warforged one of the best race choices for druids focused on melee combat.
I’d suggest allowing Integrated Protection to function during Wild Shape. A +1 bonus to AC is strong but not gamebreakingly so.
Shifters are Eberron-specific wilds-dwellers and have a ton of overlap with the core fantasy of druids. Shifters can shift, gaining a more bestial appearance and gaining combat bonuses.
Counterintuitively, you can shift while you’re in Wild Shape. Just because you’re already an animal, that doesn’t mean you can’t look even more animalistic.
This means you can still shift to gain AC, temporary hitpoints, extra damage, and even move-speed while in Wild Shape.
Shifters’ stat bonuses don’t include a bonus to wisdom, making them underwhelming for druid. That said, the ability to shift while in Wild Shape is strong enough to make shifters an excellent mechanical choice anyway.