New: D&D Circle of the Sun Druid
As we continue in our subclass additions for Dungeons & Dragons, we come to one that has been attempted in the past by others: the Circle of the Sun. When I first looked at druids I was surprised that there was no official Circle of the Sun from Wizards of the Coast, as the sun is such a critical part of nature and the natural cycle of life. This is why shamanistic traditions that worship the sun treat it with reverence, and this is why I decided to try my hand at it.
The Circle of the Sun, much like the Circle of the Land, is a caster-centric subclass: you will have some bonuses when you are in beast shape, but not many, as your aim as a sun druid is to use your magic to purge evil from the land.
Circle of the Sun: Theme and Inspiration
Sun worship is not particularly common - lots of pantheons have a sun (hence the Light Domain), but from a shamanistic perspective (where the druids come into play in D&D) there are very few. Among these there are common motifs: the sun as the ruler of both the upper and the lower world (as it rises above the land and descends into the underworld every day) being the primary element. So this will factor into the subclass, as the light of the sun brings order and harmony to both the worlds above and below.
The sun is also seen as a preserver of life, keeping a lidless eye on the world. So the concept of a defender, preserver, and illuminator will play a factor into the spells and abilities of the class.
And finally (and this will come as no surprise) the concept of fire being a means of showing the power of the sun is prominent, with flames burning throughout rituals that are performed by the religion. For Meso-Americans this took many forms, and for this subclass we took this insight to mean that the fire elements of the subclass should be varied, filling many roles in and out of combat for the druid.
So with that - let's talk about the Circle of the Sun.
Circle of the Sun: Mechanics
You can find the details of the subclass here, easily printable for your game master to consider if desired thanks to the team at Homebrewery. Much like the Circle of the Land you gain the Natural Recovery ability at 2nd level, and you also gain extra spells because of your affinity for the light of the sun. You also gain the Firebolt cantrip, giving you slightly higher cantrip damage output than other druids.
Your additional spells always do two things for you: added damage to help you purge the world of evil, and defense or sight-enhancing spells. This means the sun druid will always offer two things to the party: protection from lurking threats and ranged damage support.
At 6th level you have perhaps the weakest of the abilities, radiating light while in beast shape. This means that while you are in beast shape you can see what is near you, and you can remove darkness (including magical darkness) around you. It's a niche ability that you may not use every day, but when you need it, it is good to have.
At 10th level your connection with the rising sun enhances your ability to see during the day, and you find that radiant and fire damage is less harmful to you as you embrace the power of the sun. While radiant damage is rather rare, fire damage is very common, so you gain a useful defensive benefit from this spell (and allows your allies to be a shy bit more cavalier with their Fireball spells and the like, which I guess is a plus? I guess?).
And to cap off at 14th level, your power level increases as the sun reaches its zenith. This is perhaps the most niche ability I have designed so far, but I really like it from a theme perspective: for 1 minute (at noon) your power spikes: you gain advantage on all attacks. Also, while the sun is up (sunrise to sunset) your hit points for your beast shapes is increased equal to your druid level. So while you will be lackluster at night (which is a shame, because a decent number of fights happen at night), you will be more survivable and more powerful during the day. And if you can time that boss fight for a "high noon showdown," you're in business.
I love how this class embraces the power of the sun and its light in various ways. It is a way to see in the dark, to purge darkness and dark forces, and allows light to conquer darkness when the sun is at its height. A lot of its bonuses are situational: are you underground? Are you in a dark forest? Are you fighting near midday, or will you be traveling during that time? And that may frustrate you at times.
But that's part of what makes this subclass so flavorful: you get so many unique and awesome abilities that allow you to shine (hehe, see what we did there? Okay), and even if you don't get to use them all the time, it could make specific encounters more memorable because you got to use your unique powers. So I recommend reminding your game master, when you get these niche abilities, that you have them. Remind him or her that your power is greatest around noon, so you'd like to wait to enter the goblin camp until right about noon, and then go in there and unleash the might of the sun against them.
In the next post we will be leaving the druid and looking at our first fighter build: a bodyguard that excels at mitigating damage being dealt to the rest of the party.
Until next time,