[RPG] way to replace druid spells in D&D 3.5


I am planning a character who is a lvl 1 druid with the shape-shift variant from PH2. He is human and has the following feats: Sacred Vow, Vow of Poverty, and Intuitive Attack. I'm not a big fan of spells and was wondering if there was a way to get rid of the druid spell casting. I'm not going for power cause the other members of the party cover the combat need, I am looking to make a flavorful role-playing character.

Best Answer

Consider a different class with wild shape

Druids are spellcasters. It is, in reality, both their strongest and most defining class feature. Wild shape is very powerful, and very iconic, but it still lags behind spellcasting. Even if a druid variant were found without it, there are better ways to handle a non-spellcasting wild-shaper.

Unearthed Arcana (also on the SRD) offers a ranger variant that trades the combat styles for wild shaping, and Dragon vol. 324 offers the wild monk. Both are limited relative to the druid’s wild shaping, but they both reference the druid class feature. Ask your DM to allow you to swap those for shapeshifting, as the druid gets, and you’re golden (note: the shapeshifting is a major loss of power relative to wild shape, even the weaker forms of wild shape offered by ranger or monk). The ranger, of course, still has spellcasting; there is a spell-less ranger in Complete Warrior (note: it, too, is awful for you from an optimization perspective).

Both wild monk and wild-shape ranger work, and have better features than a druid-ignoring-the-spells. Furthermore, both qualify for the master of many forms prestige class in Complete Adventurer, which is a pretty solid prestige class revolving around wild shape, getting you around a lot of the limitations of the monk or ranger versions of that feature. It doesn’t work with shapeshifting, though (nothing does, since shapeshifting was introduced pretty late in 3.5e, in a supplement that Wizards didn’t want to make books dependent on).

Or a class with something like wild shape or shapeshifting

The totemist from Magic of Incarnum is a pretty middle-of-the-road class (Tier 3), power-wise. It’s also got the ability to shape the claws, fangs, hide, wings, and so on of a variety of magical beasts. If you’d like to tear into your foes with the four arms of a girallon, the wings of a pegasus, the tentacles of a kraken, and the heart of the Tarrasque, the totemist is for you. And incarnum is very different from spellcasting (though still very magical).

Be warned, however, that Magic of Incarnum is a very poorly organized book. Incarnum isn’t actually a very complicated system, but it is a pretty hard system to learn. Shneeky the Lost’s Incarnum Reference Guide can be invaluable for figuring out how it works.

Note, however, that this all may be very low-power

More than you might be imagining. The character you are proposing will be extremely weak:

  • Druids are extremely powerful, but that’s mostly because of their spellcasting. You don’t want to use those.

  • Wild shape is also very powerful, but you’re replacing it with vastly-weaker shapeshifting. On a regular druid, this is a reasonable, balancing nerf. On a spell-less druid, though, it’s very rough.

  • Vow of Poverty is crippling. A druid, being extremely powerful and flexible, is actually one of the best candidates for keeping that vow, but nevertheless a druid would still rather break the vow and waste the feats rather than keep it. The vow is that bad. And that’s a regular druid—a shapeshifting, spell-less druid is not in nearly so strong a position.

  • If you take my advice, note that though better than nothing (as in the druid-ignoring-spells), monk and ranger are still on the weaker side of classes. With wild shape, they are much-improved, but shapeshifting probably isn’t good enough. See our Q&As on optimizing monk and making a tier-3 (middle of the road) ranger.

  • Totemist is better, and again like druid does somewhat better without items than most classes. However, even a totemist would vastly prefer having magic items over the meager benefits provided by Vow of Poverty.

If you are doing this intentionally, as a challenge, or to play with players who also make very weak characters, or as a way to bring the druid down, that’s fine (though I think you’re badly overshooting the mark). If you made these choices thinking, however, that this series of choices is going to be powerful or even anything but extremely weak, however, I invite you to revisit these decisions. Unfortunately, 3.5e is not a balanced game, and not everything works as advertised. Vow of Poverty is a big one. Shapeshifting is less so (it’s still pretty good, and wild shape was probably overpowered), but it is definitely a big step down in power. And spells dominate everything in the game. If the game materials gave you the impression that non-magic was an equally-powerful option, I’m afraid you have been misled. It is not.

Also, regardless, consider Nemesis and stalker of Kharash

Nemesis is an exalted feat that gives you unparalleled senses for your favored enemies. Stalker of Kharash is a Book of Exalted Deeds prestige class for rangers that offers “favored enemy—evil” at 2nd level. Taking nemesis for all evil creatures ever is extremely potent. Considering the other features of the stalker, including scent, it is a very good choice for an exalted, but wild, character. Working it into any of these builds is worth the effort.

For more on stalker, and on the ranger in general should you go the wild ranger route, I direct you to Forrestfire’s excellent answer to the aforementioned Tier-3 ranger question. And if you really insist on sticking with Vow of Poverty, I have written up builds for a wild character with Vow of Poverty, using monk/totemist and using ardent/totemist.

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