How do you make your nature-aligned characters more compelling than “Radagast, but with a bow?”


Advice


I've got a longer write up about my difficulties with nature-themed characters over here, but this has been a struggle with me for some time. Nature tends to be portrayed as "gray-side," meaning that there's no easy good/evil or law/chaos dichotomy to fuel conflict. That in turns means that it's hard for me to roll up a nature-themed protagonist: What exactly am I supposed to be struggling against?

So help me out here. How do you go about making a ranger or a druid with meaty plot hooks? And from the GM's side, how do you allow such a character to become central to a campaign's conflict?


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When I played 5e my Druid player backstory was that he had an apothecary in the town that sold natural medicine that he made himself that was destroyed by the local mafia when he refused to pay for protection.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

In my Age of Ashes campaign one of my players is playing a druid of the Green Faith that was raised by a Crow that may (or may not) have been a permanently wildshaped druid. His 6 Charisma means he does not relate to people at all, but he excels when dealing with animals. I created a new feat for him to use his Nature skill instead of Diplomacy when using Wild Empathy to reflect this. His character's goals are to determine more about his history and to fight against the enslavement of animals (farming, etc.).


Depending on the exact details of your Campaign, modern protests and work in safeguarding or improving the natural world provides some decent background options about fighting uncaring or deliberately malicious forces.

Additional conflict can be developed if the reason for natural destruction has some good benefit. E.g Evil Campaign where your character wants to extend wilderness damn the consequences.

The main advantage of a centrally located philosophy is that you can position yourself against most directions.

It does require a world with that aspect built into it though so mileage may vary.


"You kill what you eat, you eat what you kill."


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

just don't be a hermit who lives alone never talking to people.

maybe you have a past connected to a local community, and even have a well worn path up to your home where you provide basic medicinal services, before something shoved you along your way.

you can also be a balance seeker, where the big bad is ultimately throwing a lot of systems out of whack and so you're investigating on behalf of another druid what's going wrong.


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DRD1812 wrote:

I've got a longer write up about my difficulties with nature-themed characters over here, but this has been a struggle with me for some time. Nature tends to be portrayed as "gray-side," meaning that there's no easy good/evil or law/chaos dichotomy to fuel conflict. That in turns means that it's hard for me to roll up a nature-themed protagonist: What exactly am I supposed to be struggling against?

So help me out here. How do you go about making a ranger or a druid with meaty plot hooks? And from the GM's side, how do you allow such a character to become central to a campaign's conflict?

I don't understand the premise.

Are you asking how a neutral character could become embroiled in a good-evil war, or are you asking how a nature-themed character could be embroiled in any war?

1. Neutral characters can hate good or evil just as much as good or evil characters. For example, one can have this philosophy: "It's good to help people, and it's necessary to help yourself, but the vast majority of the time you don't have to choose, and good and evil characters have too simplistic a view of the world." The neutral character would fight against good or evil, whichever is threatening to unbalance the universe.

2. Nature is not idyllic. Nature-themed characters can very well be lawful (respecting the rules of nature), chaotic (rejecting the rules of humankind), good (promoting harmony between various factions of nature), or evil (promoting dominance of an aspect of nature). For example, a lawful evil nature-themed character could be a strong proponent of natural selection. "The weak deserve to be eaten." A desert ruler seeks to expand his desert kingdom and if the puny humans starve to death because their fragile crops can't handle a little heat, it's just natural selection at work.


One of my players was an apothecary who was ran out of town when the plague hit. The PC spent a long time living in the woods until they were eventually discovered by a druidic sect and allowed to join their ranks. Before the start of the adventure, they were tasked with investigating the forest around a certain village, where strange things had apparently been occurring.


I've been pretty fascinated with Druids that aren't treehuggers since archetypes for them started popping up in PF1. I'd one day like to play an Urban Druid who's more concerned with wild dogs, rats, and crows than the denizens of the forest traditionally associated with druids.

Of course, I'd need a pretty generous GM to allow that given the anathema introduced in PF2. -_-


Personality traits beyond "I like nature" is pretty much the answer. From a player side, having a personality trait like holding deep grudges or being naturally protective of inherently curious give ways for the GM to prod you along. Make an enemy who ticks off the character, or one who threatens beloved NPCs, or who are engines to unravel.

One of my PF1 Druids is goal-oriented, short-tempered, with a deep respect for traditions and a powerful hatred of devils, aberrations, and undead. The GM knows they can get him to go along with basically anything if the enemy antagonize him or his friends or is a devil aberration or undead, or if they are disrespecting his traditions.


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DRD1812 wrote:
]So help me out here. How do you go about making a ranger or a druid with meaty plot hooks? And from the GM's side, how do you allow such a character to become central to a campaign's conflict?

Well, Rangers are friggin' easy.

Maybe you defended your little rural community from monsters, bandits, and other stuff, only... guess what? You failed. You lived. Your town died. If you can't make a character out of that, I got nothing for ya.

Maybe you're part of an order of rangers (or even just skillful roughing it types in general) and you're starting to have issues with how they do stuff.

Maybe you used to be a bandit and you're trying to turn over a new leaf.

Maybe you got thrown out of your community for being <insert stupid prejudice here>.

Maybe you're desperately searching for help for your little rural community.

Maybe you're a scout in the employ of whoever the local government is.

And guess what? Druids are friggin' easy.

Maybe you defended your little rural community from monsters, bandits, and other stuff, only... guess what? You failed. You lived. Your town died. If you can't make a character out of that, I got nothing for ya.

Maybe you're part of an order of druids (or even just skillful roughing it types in general) and you're starting to have issues with how they do stuff.

Maybe you used to be someone with a casual disregard for nature and then a Druid saved your life, and you're trying to turn over a new leaf.

Maybe you got thrown out of your community for being <insert stupid prejudice here>.

Maybe you're desperately searching for help for your little rural community or patch of wildland.

Maybe you're a spiritual adviser in the employ of whoever the local government is.

Or, PF2 being PF2, just pick a background and work that sucker.

You don't need alignment to drive conflict- and as it happens, the alignment handcuffs are off of druids, rangers, and just about everyone else now.

GM-side, "how do you allow such a character to become central to a campaign's conflict?"

The same way I allow someone's goblin bard who likes singing about hedgehogs, or their single mother fighter who just wants to get home to her kids alive, or their wizard who just wants to be left alone to stud magic in peace, or their cleric of the god of beauty to become central to a campaign's conflict.

I worry less about their job title, and more about who they are.


I don't know of this'll help..

But I have a Leshy who is either going to be an Alchemist or a playtest class soon.

but the leshy will be one of sevreal other ones created by some mythical forest that whinks in and out of existance. Said leshytachi purpose will be to undrestand the world and find out what is worth keeping and what must be removed for the sake of the origin forest.

This lets you hook into almost any main plot and group because you found something to look into and people to filter the perceptions for the forest's ultimate decision aeons from now.

Or it could become part of the main plot and your leshy can end up joining or going against the group, etc.

It could easily turn into the big bad's red herring could be a horror item for the forest or something.

also said forest doesn't even need to be real if your GM is specific to some sort of plot or canon of their own. THen its just a leshy with dilusions or a random cult mindset


Also, the druid in the podcast Dice Will Roll is a good example of a nature themed character heavily invested in the plot. She has a personal vendetta against the BBEG, is heavily invested in taking care of her best friends, and frequently is spurred to action by antagonizing NPCs making her angry. Also,

minor Dice Will Roll spoiler:
At one point she does say she is going home, thinking she has done enough, and the GM uses the opportunity to introduce the Grim White Stag of Erastil into the narrative persuading her into sticking around. Both the GM and player were in on it.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I think the original Werewolf RPG has tons of nature-aligned characters with a wide variety of interesting motivations.


One of the best things PF2 has done for the druid is abandon the stupid TN thing. A wider range of available alignments allows a whole spectrum of interpretations of how nature should be interacted with and cared for.


Paradozen wrote:

Personality traits beyond "I like nature" is pretty much the answer. From a player side, having a personality trait like holding deep grudges or being naturally protective of inherently curious give ways for the GM to prod you along. Make an enemy who ticks off the character, or one who threatens beloved NPCs, or who are engines to unravel.

One of my PF1 Druids is goal-oriented, short-tempered, with a deep respect for traditions and a powerful hatred of devils, aberrations, and undead. The GM knows they can get him to go along with basically anything if the enemy antagonize him or his friends or is a devil aberration or undead, or if they are disrespecting his traditions.

I can also attest to how well this works. My curmudgeonly old dwarven druid operated on a fairly similar premise. Half the reason they participated in the campaign was because he both hated our foes for "muckin' about with what they ought not" and because they pitied the rest of the party.

Also occasionally a villain would make the mistake of insulting their rhinoceros.

Liberty's Edge

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Firstly, you can, as others note, give them personal stuff that has little to do with 'nature'.

Secondly, it depends on what you mean by 'nature', which can cover a lot of ground. Nature can easily be about preserving the balance between man and nature, but it can also be about destroying or banishing those things deemed 'unnatural', which depending on setting can include quite a few of the enemies you face (undead are certainly unnatural, aberrations may qualify, extraplanar creatures on the Prime Material may qualify as well). Or it can mean that you're focused on defending your particular community, or a particular aspect of nature. It can mean a lot of things and you get to decide what.

Arachnofiend wrote:

I've been pretty fascinated with Druids that aren't treehuggers since archetypes for them started popping up in PF1. I'd one day like to play an Urban Druid who's more concerned with wild dogs, rats, and crows than the denizens of the forest traditionally associated with druids.

Of course, I'd need a pretty generous GM to allow that given the anathema introduced in PF2. -_-

Uh...not really. That sounds textbook Animal Order, frankly. It's harder to do a Wild Order who's city focused without the GM being in, but even that is doable with a reasonable GM.


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I think you're suffering from blinders imposed by genre convention. It's kinda the same thing when we have people who think that all paladins and clerics have to be religious zealots/sticks in the mud.

Currently I'm theorycrafting a wild order desnan druid who's main thing is flitting betweeb various desnan holy sites and maintaining them so that people have places to interact with nature in a way that doesn't harm nature either. In many regards, it still holds the idea of harmony that gets tacked onto druids, but theres also plenty of ways to motivate the character, and interesting ways they can engage with the rpg world.

My best suggestion is to say toss out what you think you know about the class and don't be held back by expectations. Also remember that druids, just like any other "religious" character, have personalities and goals beyond their faith and devotion.

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