When building and playing a desert druid Circle of the Land in DnD 5e, consider the following:
- Try lizardfolk, Arakocra or Loxodon
- Backstories of arid desert life—mystical origins
- Use animal forms with a desert theme
- Bonus Desert Spells
- Complementary Druid Spells
Desert druids in DnD 5e are mysterious spellcasters connected to a vast, arid land. They are specialists at survival and play a supportive role in any group. Like other druids, this character is connected to the lifeforce of a particular land and climate. However, they aren’t surrounded by lush vegetation and fluffy animals. They’re version of nature is scarce, sacred and built for survival.
When playing the Circle of the Land, I like to thematically lean into my land as a backstory. Therefore, I choose animal shapes and spells that fit the desert and compliment my abilities.
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Try lizardfolk, Arakocra or Loxodon
Firstly, I want to play a race that could fit into this climate thematically. Plus, I want someone that comes with unique abilities to explore nature and carry a high Wisdom stat.
Lizardfolk can fit this desert theme as an offshoot of their swampy cousins, making their homes in a sacred oasis. They come with a +2 Constitution/+1 Wisdom and several survival abilities. As lizards are scaly and coldblooded, they make for fantastic desert dwellers. Check out more about lizardfolk here.
The birdlike Aarakocra fit the desert as well—like raptors of the American West. Plus, they come with a +2 Dexterity/+1 Wisdom bonus and the ability to fly. We could even go Egyptian with this character and pull from that pantheon for character inspiration—Raa, Isis, Horus, Thoth.
A Loxodon desert druid could pull inspiration from North African arid locations. They come with a +2 Constitution/+1 Wisdom bonus. In other words, they are sturdy and wise, taking their time with thoughtful action. With abilities like Powerful Build, Natural Armor and Loxodon Serenity, this is a sturdy druid.
Backstories of arid desert life—mystical origins
To me, this druid is one of the most mysterious variants—as the desert carries a cosmic, mysterious feeling. Therefore, this druid’s backstory can be highly sage-like. Plus, I’ll remember the strong survival element this druid brings as an expert in desert living.
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My origins could be of a traveling merchant or simply a vagabond living in the wild. Maybe I’m a part of a traveling community who migrates during the dry season. On the other hand, I could be a loner who escaped any semblance of civilization to wander the desert alone. In this case, I could really lean into the Wisdom score and play out a deep thinker.
This character could also work as a king’s advisor—especially if you go for the Egyptian theme. Druids can read signs of the land’s well-being, advising on crops and oncoming natural disasters. Also, they could lean into their Wisdom score in an advisor role.
Finally, some of my bonus Circle of the Land spells give me a “plagues of Egypt” vibe—if I want go a little dark side with this character.
Use animal forms with a desert theme
The desert is an interesting place for life. Lizards, eagles, burrowers, snakes and scorpions are common in these terrains. Try these transformations to keep with the theme:
- Giant Eagle: One of the strongest flying transformations, giant eagles coast on warm air currents and bring the heat in combat.
- Crocodile: A powerful swimming transformation that bite and hold its breath. We can think of the Nile for this inspiration.
- Giant Hyena: A beefy beast who has strong tanking capabilities at higher levels. Inspired by the North African deserts.
- Giant Owl: another flyer who has stealth capabilities and desert connections
- Giant Poisonous Snake: This transformation gives me extra reach and a venomous bite. Plus, I can paint my transformation as a diamondback rattlesnake.
- Giant Spider: A high-level beast transformation, the giant spider can climb up walls and create webs. Then, I can learn the location of any creature in contact with the web. Again, I’m poisonous in this state.
- Lion: The king of the jungle, complete with Pack Tactics and Pounce. This high-level transformation is more aggressive and functional tanking option.
Bonus Desert Spells
Being a Druid Circle of the Land means I gain bonus spells that are ready to use. These spells reflect my desert background and are always prepared. Plus, they don’t count against my total spells learned.
- Blur: (Level 3) Gives me a magic hallucinatory veil that grants disadvantage on attacks against me. Remember, blindsight and truesight can see through this spell.
- Silence: (Level 3) Create a 20-foot cube of pure silence. Creatures inside are immune to thunder damage but are also deafened.
- Create Food and Water: (Level 5) Generate 45 pounds of food or 30 gallons of water. Now, your whole party has food and water to spare in the desert.
- Protection From Energy: (Level 5) Touch a willing creature and grant them protection against fire, cold, lightning, acid, or thunder damage for 1 hour.
- Blight: (Level 7) Necromantic energy absorbs the water from a target. Now, the target must make a Constitution saving throw or take 8d8 necrotic damage. On a successful save, target takes half damage. Plus, plant monsters have disadvantage on the saving throw and take maximum damage (64).
- Hallucinatory Terrain: (Level 7) Create a 150-foot illusion that transforms the surrounding environment. Typical rules of illusions apply to this spell. Therefore, Investigations and encounters can change the nature of my invented terrain.
- Insect Plague: (Level 9) A 20-foot sphere of biting insects deal 4d10 piercing damage to foes who fail a Constitution saving throw. Plus, this sphere stays on the field.
- Wall of Stone: (Level 9) Create a 6-inch thick stone wall composed of 10-foot-by-10-foot slabs. However, you can create 3-inch thick 10-foot-by-20-foot panel, if you choose. This creative spell is perfect for emergency shelters and field manipulation.
Complementary Druid Spells
Now that I know my freebie druid spells, I’ll choose other druid spells to complement my build. A few I would suggest are as follows:
- Druidcraft: Create a small natural effect, such as a gust of wind or blossoming of plant life. In the desert, this could be a creative and interesting set of abilities.
- Infestation: Taking from my later plague-inspired spells, I can deal 1d6 poison damage to those who fail a Constitution saving throw. Plus, the target moves in a random direction for 5 feet.
- Produce Flame: I can create a small flame for light, heat or an attack. If I throw this fireball as a spell attack, I deal 1d8 fire damage.
- Cure Wounds: Heal 1d8 + Wisdom modifier damage for anyone I touch. Mostly, this is a practical spell that works well with a supportive build.
- Create or Destroy Water: Create or destroy 10 gallons of water. I can use it to rain down on 30 feet of fire or dissipate 30 feet of a fog cloud. Mostly, I’ll use this as an early-level survival spell and field effects.
- Earth Tremor: Cause a tremor within a 10-foot radius. Creatures inside this radius must make a Dexterity save or take 1d6 bludgeoning damage and fall prone. Loose earth or rocks in the setting can create difficult terrain.
- Animal Friendship: Make an animal buddy with Intelligence of 4 or less. Lasts for 24 hours.
- Dust Devil: Conjure a swirling dust devil within a 5-foot cube of air I can see. Any creature within 5 feet of the dust devil must make a Strength saving throw. On a fail, they take 1d8 damage and are pushed 10 feet back. As a bonus action, move the dust devil around the field. Plus, it can pick up sand, gravel and loose dirt to obscure vision in a 10-foot radius around the dust devil.
- Lesser Restoration: Heal blindness, paralysis, deafness or poison.
- Moon Beam: A 5-foot radius, 40-foot tall cylinder of silver light falls to earth. Creatures who cross this light or start their turn in the light make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed saving throw, deal 2d10 radiant damage. Shapeshifters have disadvantage on this saving throw and revert to their normal form. Plus, I can move this beam up to 60 feet around the map.
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