Illustration by David Bircham

Half-Elf, All Druid, No Tree Hugging

Monday, April 20, 2009

When you think of characters in game-world fiction, what first comes to mind are the fighters, wizards, and rogues. Priests are fine if they're sufficiently powerful and conflicted, otherwise, not so much. Bards generally play second fiddle, you should pardon the expression, and paladins are seldom cast in starring roles. The druids, apparently, are too busy communing with nature to bother with fiction.

Since the publication of my first shared-world book, Elfshadow, in 1991, I've hit most of the character classes with the exception of the druid. Channa Ti, the protagonist of the Pathfinder's Journal fiction in the Legacy of Fire Adventure Path, is my first.

I started with a typical D&D druid—a serene mystic who dwells in emerald groves, nurturing the woodland creatures and healing hapless passersby with potions brewed from rare herbs and crafted from recipes learned at the feet of wise, benevolent elven mentors. And then I put him in a cage match with Channa and observed while she stomped him into organic fertilizer.

Sometimes the creative process takes interesting turns.

Once I started thinking seriously about druids, one of Tennyson's more famous quatrains came to mind:

Who trusted God was love indeed
   And love Creation's final law—
   Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shrieked against his creed—

Why should druids embody calm serenity and selfless love rather than "Nature, red in tooth and claw"? Surely some druids would be more closely attuned to nature's predators. This notion was central to Channa Ti's creation. To her way of thinking, "A paladin's noble steed must eat, but then, so must a crocodile."

Another inspiration came from Pathfinder's ingenious addition to the druid class: the Nature Bond, which allows druids to specialize in one of the domains—Air, Animal, Earth, Fire, Plant, Water, or Weather—rather than forming a partnership with a companion animal. Since Channa is a loner by nature and circumstances, this suited her perfectly. An affinity for water also gives her considerable value in a desert clime. An expert dowser, she occasionally pays her way as a "water witch." Her ability to sense a coming rain is highly valued in a culture that still mourns the passing of the Age of Prophecy and is always seeking some way to foresee the future. Finally, her affinity with water gives her skills that interest people obsessed with an ancient, sea-swallowed realm.

Nature Bond offers intriguing potential for character development and storytelling, not just for fiction, but also for campaign use. For those of you who've never played a druid—and I'm guessing that's most of you—the Pathfinder setting is a great place to start.

Elaine Cunningham

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Channa Ti David Bircham Druids Elaine Cunningham Legacy of Fire Monsters Pathfinder Journal
Sign in to start a discussion.