Beginning with a tale of yore, my first dungeons and dragons character Schmuckley Shillelagh, and eventually continuing with observations on the evolution of the druid through its many incarnations, this tiresome, long-winded series of articles is a tribute to the class of characters known as the Druid.
My fascination with the druid began in an unlikely way. Watching a television show from the 70s, M.A.S.H. at one point, the shows funniest character when asked his religion on a military form responds that he is a druid. He was my favorite character, played by Alan Alda, who has gone on to become one of my least favorite actors, but as a child I idolized his flippant form of cutting humor, barbed with truth, so I went to the encyclopedia, and found that druids were an ancient religion who worshipped trees, namely the oak.
Do not worry if your job is small
And your rewards are few.
Just remember that the mighty oak
Was once a nut, like you.
This poem was taped to the wall in my childhood bedroom, left over from a birthday card perhaps, and between the druids, and this poem, I became a tree hugger. It was only natural that my frst d&d character should be a druid.
At the beginning of seventh grade, after a year of trying to learn dungeon mastering with my friends, junior high brought me in contact with a new friend who had learned to play with his older, wiser brother. He had a tackle box of lead figures and stacks of books to prove it, including notebooks full of house rules. He also wanted to be the dungeon master, and I was only too happy to oblige as we formed a new larger group of friends throughout our first year of middle school. Roge was a great friend, and a great dm, a little stiff at times, but very smart and earnest. Eventually the group would divide its time between him and I as the dungeon master, until I eventually became the full time dm. I looked him up on the internet one time and he was pastor of a small church in a rural town around here.
Roge was lucky enough to dm the Dragonlance campaign for us, but that was a year or two later, and my character was the duelist Alec Le Font. His ability to parry the death blow was legendary and he also was a disguise expert – before there were skills! Another famous Roge campaign was our Star Frontiers game, where I played Yossarian the Yazarian, a goggle wearing flying monkey man mechanic or something. One additional coolness factor of this game was that we played through the 2001 and 2010 adventure modules when they first came out, like right after we saw the movie 2010, which also corresponded to around the time 2001 was released on beta-max or laser disk or some other incredible new technology. Anyway it was big, and fun in a weird way. Fodder for later tales of yore, all, but for now we must discuss the druid.
Schmuckley Shillelagh was a druid who lasted for a year or so of regular play, and which saw him raised to seventh level. He wielded a scimitar, because they were awesome, and he wore a tray that held potted plants, like a beer seller at a ball game. schmuckley’s specialty was plants, and his token move was to hurl a potted plant at an enemy and cast the spell entangle. by this means he brought verdure and growth to the dankest of dungeons. I used to imagine all the different species I would power-plant through the use of entangle.
Schmuckley disdained the use of metal armor, and even metal weapons in fact, except for the scimitar whose curved blade is sickle-like. He carried a sling for the occasional ranged attack, and kept a staff, or walking stick at hand. The scimitar sheathed until attacked. His cudgel was useful for his namesake spell Shillelagh.
The druid was neutral, and attempted to maintain the balance between law and chaos, good and evil. Schmuckley would not kill an unthinking animal if it could be helped. Nor would he set fires to living plants, to y comrades chagrin whose usual answer to all problems was to set bigger and bigger blazes. I was literally protecting the forests of this fantasy realm. Schmuckley came to hate the use of fire due to these barbarians he travelled with.
Other spells of note include Goodberry, once the Unearthed Arcana came out and Heat Metal. The aforementioned Shillelagh was great in conjunction with Faerie Fire which Schmuckley was using long before drow made it popular.
As he grew in level, Call lghtning became a favorite, and Tree was better the Feign Death. Produce Flame, Warp Wood, and Obscurement were a lot of fun to use.
This was the druid I grew up playing, and he formed the foundation of a lot of ideas, including a life-long love of trees, and for the look and smell of mistletoe. Protecting the innocent and the neutral, by means of heating metal, warping wood, and calling down the lightning, calling woodland beings, and handing out healing berries (that keep!) to allies in need. Schmuckley had no animal companion, but would befriend the natural creatures through every area he passed.
He would speak with owls whenever possible and would sniff the ground to learn of its passers-by. Schmuckley loved fresh soil and believed it to be a healing agent. He would astound villagers with his knowledge by proving it with a demonstration. He would find a child with a recent bee sting and make a mud pack. It would draw the stinger out as the mud dried, proving the healing qualities of good fresh soil.
He never turned into a bear that I recall because he had other offensive tools like Flame Blade, but he was known to turn into a bluebird or a fox a time or two before he was retired (it was my turn to DM the Temple of Elemental Evil) to live out the life of a hermit in the bole of a great oak tree in the center of a grand old forest.