Druids have long been known as the potentially strongest class in d20 games, Pathfinder included. While the latter game does tone them down some, it more tries to counter their dominance by bulking the other classes up more than it nerfs this one. But for all its strengths, there’s still a lot the druid can’t do. Divine Favor: the Druid, by Open Design, aims to give nature’s defender more versatility.
Divine Favor: the Druid is a nineteen-page PDF. While I can’t hold it against Open Design too much, it’s something of a shame that there’s no printer-friendly or ePub options available, though the PDF itself is laid out quite nicely, allowing for copy and pasting and having full, nested bookmarks.
The book’s introduction covers some of the basics of the druid class, talking about their wild shape abilities, their spellcasting, and viable feats for them. It’s a good overview, but didn’t feel as holistic in the ones in the Advanced Feats series, which analyzed every portion of the classes they covered.
Two variants for wild shape are given next, one which allows the druid to turn into multiple animals, the other of which allows the druid to become some sort of actual swarm. At first I thought there abilities were similar enough that they should have been one, but there was a subtle distinction that I overlooked. The first power lets the druid become an actual set of singular animals that need not remain contiguous, whereas the second one is a swarm that stays together. It allows for some interesting ideas on what the druid can become (though as alternate class abilities, you can’t choose both).
Unfortunately, this is where I noticed some errors creeping in. The nature’s multitude alternate class ability functions as per beast shape II…except when you use it to become a small animal at 6th level; then it’s as per beast shape I. It’s a minor problem, but it is a problem, and it’s the sort of problem that happens again and again throughout this book.
A single variant option for animal companions continues with the theme of multiplicities of animals, as the flock companion lets you have several animals of a given type.
Nine new druid archetypes are presented, divided into three overarching categories: moon druids (archetypes for full, new, and phasing moons), the greenmen (green wardens who have power over unnatural creatures, and forest children who have power over natural creatures), and elemental shamans (one archetype for each classical element).
It’s unfortunate that these archetypes are the weakest part of the book. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with them per se (though the air elemental shaman’s bonus language is wrong, and its elemental transformation power is poorly explained), but rather most of them seem like slight variants of the other. The elemental shaman archetypes, for example, are one archetype with four slight variations between them. Ditto for the moon druid archetypes, and even the greenmen archetypes. You can see why the book put these into three categories – these are really just three archetypes, with a few changes between them.
The five new domains do a pretty good job of presenting some new options for clerics and druids. Where they utilizes spells from the Advanced Player’s Guide, alternate spells from the Core Rules are provided in parenthesis in case you don’t have the APG. I can appreciate the sentiment there, but it seems like a wasted effort since the APG is in the Pathfinder SRD now. Oddly, they then mention that several subdomains from the APG are applicable here…and then don’t reprint the alternate subdomain power, but do reprint the alternate spells (with, I should add, no parenthetical alternates; and in a few cases, leave out an alternate domain spell or two).
Five new animal companions are presented next. These are in animal companion stat blocks only, with no monster stat blocks or even exposition on what exactly these creatures are. I’m unfamiliar with brain oozes and green slugs…this really feels like an afterthought that was added to fill up space. There’s nothing truly wrong, here, but nothing makes these creatures anything more than stats on a page.
Ten new feats close out the book. Some of them are inspired, such as Healing Tongue, which allows a creature to lick you for a successful Heal check. Most of the others, however, seem fairly lackluster, such as Primeval Counsel, which gives you a +2 to some knowledge checks when in a natural area.
Overall, Divine Favor: the Druid seems like a product that underlines how a book can be good without being great. It’s never poor – though I wish that the small errors I kept seeing had been caught before it released – but it never goes the extra mile to really make what it presents unique, or give any context to show where this can fit into your game. It shows you what its got and walks away. These alternate options for the druid aren’t bad, but as a book they, like nature itself, are rough around the edges.
[4 of 5 Stars!]