Druids love forests, true - but they love the arctic tundra, tropical rain forests, broad savannas, and fungi caverns of the Underdark, too. This 128-page accessory expands the living world of the druid in the AD&D 2nd Edition game, bringing new homes, character kits, personalities, spells, magical items, herbal lore, and a hundred details on druidic society, sacred groves, and high-level aspirations.
This book has it all - don't leave the woods without it!
The Complete Druid's Handbook (1994) by David Pulver tackles the problematic situation of the druid in AD&D. Along with the paladin, druids have always been a challenge for many players to play effectively; true neutral isn't necessarily an alignment that comes easily to a lot of players, and the druid is one of the few classes that requires player characters to duel a NPC in order to advance to high levels.
This supplement takes on the challenge head-on with six chapters and several appendices that cover mechanical expansions for the class (such as new spells, variant druids, variant races, and a number of druidic kits), and roleplaying advice to help both with individual characters and with the vast druidic hierarchies to which these characters belong. The advice helps neutral characters justify why they should adventure with non-neutral companions, advice that's often needed.
"That Giant Spider Can Control Mold!" PHBR13 starts out with the fascinating topic of druids from non-forest environments. There are arctic druids, desert druids, jungle druids, swamp druids, and more. One of the most interesting variant druidic branches is the gray druid, an underground and cavern-based variant who can shapechange into a giant spider and control jellies, molds, and fungi. I'm not sure if it's effective in everyday adventuring, but it's extremely handy in dungeons or the Underdark. This approach is indicative of the book as a whole; it's a nice mixture of imagination and solid advice.
"Why Is That Woman Covered with Bees?" Probably because she's a hivemaster, one of the 14 druidic kits in this book. In additon to that one, though, there are some particularly good ideas in this section: a lost druid, bitter and evil due to having lost their lands to destruction and who now plot devastation and revenge; pacifist druids, who survive through negotiation and diplomacy; outlaw druids, hunted for their actions. All good stuff. Even better, kits are generally well-balanced, with mechanical hindrances to match the mechanical benefits, and there are even kits that are focused entirely on flavor, offering no mechanical changes at all.
Pulver really gets this section right. Not all of the kits are scintillating for player characters - you may not find the "village druid" out adventuring, but instead at home focusing on the village's agriculture - but that's forgivable and understandable. This is a solid and useful section.
The Druidic Order Summons a Moot. Chapter 3 and 4 cover druidic orders and roleplaying. The concept of a druidic order is one that's generally foreign to most players; I suspect that most druids in a AD&D game operate independently until they reach high levels, and then suddenly they have to fight someone to advance. Chapter 3 gives context and meaning to the druidic order, breaking down its organization, goals, and responsibilities. Druidic "bans" are also introduced, where druids who sin against the order are exiled. And of course this section houses rules for the infamous druidic challenge.
Interestingly, this book also gives information about the Shadow Circle, a tolerated group of fairly evil druids who see nature as a hostile, cleansing force. This gives DMs an easy method for using druids as antagonists without bringing in Order politics.
The roleplaying chapter is exhaustive, giving the advice you'd expect about the True Neutral alignment, and then following this up with excellent sections on faith, responsibilities, and concrete strategies for holding to druidic responsibilities. It's good, solid, practical advice that can easily make playing a druid much more fun. But there's much more in this book: New spells, new magic items, herbal magic, and features of sacred groves are all discussed in detail. The section on groves is particularly interesting, providing a myriad of plot hooks, along with rules for adding permanent and unusual magic effects into groves or standing stones.
The Complete Druid's Handbook is fun to read, packed with good (and balanced!) new rules, and it can help players who are faced with an unusual class. While most of the information applies to AD&D, the section on sacred groves and the superb roleplaying advice translate well into other editions of the game, if not into other fantasy games altogether. This book is one of the stand-outs in the Complete series.
About the Creators. David Pulver is a Canadian freelance author and game designer with over 50 roleplaying game credits to his name. He has written extensively for Steve Jackson's GURPS, along with games for TSR, Guardians of Order, White Wolf Publishing, GDW, West End Games, and ICE.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.