The Circle of the Shepherd Druid knows this: there is safety in numbers.
For Druids who like to summon and buff allies, the Circle of the Shepherd is the clear pick. These adventurers commit themselves to protecting those who cannot protect themselves. In return, they will never find themselves without company despite their distaste for life in cities and towns.
So gather up with the rest of the pack as we explore what it means to be a part of the Circle of the Shepherd.
- 1 What is the Circle of the Shepherd Druid?
- 2 Role in the Party
- 3 Circle of the Shepherd Druid Abilities
- 4 Speech of the Woods
- 5 Spirit Totem
- 6 Mighty Summoner
- 7 Guardian Spirit
- 8 Faithful Summons
- 9 Connections
- 10 Is the Circle of the Shepherd Druid Good?
- 11 Conclusion – Circle of the Shepherd Druid
What is the Circle of the Shepherd Druid?
As with most Druids, the Circle of the Shepherd is closely tied with beasts and fey creatures found in nature.
These Druids view protecting these creatures as their solemn duty. This responsibility may very well be what spurs a Circle of the Shepherd Druid to adventure in the first place! After all, it is important to know the world beyond their home if they want to protect it.
As the Circle of the Shepherd Druid ventures into the world, they bring their charges with them.
With the ability to summon and strengthen the spirits of nature that they protect, these Druids never walk alone.
Role in the Party
The Circle of the Shepherd Druid is a summoner.
This means that the Druid will want to position themselves safely in the backline to maintain concentration on their summoning spells.
Because the Circle of the Shepherd Druid’s abilities are so focused on buffing their allies, they aren’t likely to use many of the class’s AoE control spells like Entangle which also require concentration.
Staying in the backline to maintain concentration on their summons and offer healing is where the Circle of the Shepherd shines most!
Circle of the Shepherd Druid Abilities
The Circle of the Shepherd Druid’s abilities are hyper-focused on buffing their allies.
To get the most value out of most of their abilities, you will want to pay close attention to positioning in combat. Where you and your allies (summoned or otherwise) are standing is to getting the most use out of your Spirit Totem.
As you gain levels in the Circle of the Shepherd, your ability to buff your summons just gets better and better.
Speech of the Woods
When taking the Circle of the Shepherd at 2nd level, you gain the Speech of the Woods ability.
This gives some fun flavor and can lead to some interesting roleplaying moments, but it’s not a particularly useful ability beyond that.
With this ability, you can speak, read, and write Sylvan, which is the language of the Fey.
Additionally, beasts understand you and you can better understand their behavior/mannerisms. It’s a type of constant Speak with Animals.
Though it’s worth noting that this doesn’t mean that the animals will always be friendly. However, a bit of food can go a long way in making a new friend!
The other ability that the Circle of Shepherd Druid gets right out of the gate is Spirit Totem.
The Spirit Totem is how you provide some awesome buffs to yourself and any allies within the Totem’s 30-foot radius. The exact nature of the buffs depends on whether you summon a Bear, Hawk, or Unicorn Spirit with this ability.
The totem is summoned as a bonus action and manifests in a point within 60 feet of you that you can see. On your turn, you can use a bonus action to move the Spirit Totem up to 60 feet to another point that you can see.
The Spirit Totem resembles the creature that you choose when you summon it, but it does not count as either a creature or object. It is, instead, an incorporeal spirit that sheds a 30-foot aura around it.
This spirit lasts for 1 minute or until you are incapacitated.
Spirit Totems are incredibly powerful, but you will want to use this ability wisely as you only get 1 per short or long rest.
When you summon the Bear Spirit with the Circle of the Shepherd’s Spirit Totem, you give your allies the strength and endurance of the bear.
Every creature of your choice that is within the Bear Spirit’s aura gets temporary hit points equal to 5 + your Druid level. Additionally, all creatures in the aura gain advantage on checks and saving throws using their Strength score.
Of the three options, this will almost certainly be the one that you use the most. Being able to give temporary hit points to all of your allies and summons is incredible. Being able to drop this Spirit Totem right out of the gate at level 2 is a major draw to the Circle of the Shepherd!
Choosing to summon the Hawk Spirit with your Spirit Totem grants your allies the predatory instincts of the hawk.
If an ally is targeting a creature that is within the Hawk Spirit’s aura with an attack, you can use your reaction to give them advantage. Additionally, allies within the Hawk Spirit’s aura have advantage on any Perception checks that they make.
Being able to give advantage on attacks is incredibly powerful. Because this uses your reaction, you can only use this ability for one attack. It makes the Hawk Spirit a little more situational than, say, the Bear Spirit, but is still very useful in those situations.
If you’re fighting an enemy with a high Armor Class or if they may try to escape, giving your heavy hitter advantage can be a make or break decision!
The Unicorn Spirit is the defensive option for your Spirit Totem.
With this option, you and your allies have advantage on ability checks made to detect creatures in the spirit’s aura. For particularly tricky enemies, this can greatly skew the fight in your favor.
But the Unicorn Spirit Totem really shines with the bonuses that it gives to your healing abilities.
Using a spell that requires a spell slot to heal a creature lets you also heal all of your allies in the Unicorn Spirit Totem’s aura for an amount equal to your Druid level. It’s worth noting that the target of your healing spell to trigger this effect does not have to be in the Spirit Totem’s aura.
The Mighty Summoner ability is an all-around buff to the effectiveness of your summons.
At 6th level, beasts or fey that you summon have more hit points. Each of these creatures gains 2 extra hit points per Hit Die that they have.
Additionally, your summon creatures’ attacks count as magical when overcoming immunity and resistance.
There’s not a lot to elaborate on here, but it’s a very solid buff considering that it affects all of your summons.
At 10th level, your summoned creatures benefit from your Circle of the Shepherd Druid’s Guardian Spirit ability.
Any beast or fey that you summon that ends its turn in the aura of your Spirit Totem regains hit points equal to half of your Druid level.
It’s difficult to overstate the impact that this has on keeping your summoned creatures on the field. Particularly if this is used in conjunction with the Circle of the Shepherd Druid’s Unicorn Spirit Totem, it can be seemingly impossible to drop your summoned creatures.
The biggest weakness at this level, however, is that most of the creatures that you will be able to summon are starting to become noticeably weaker than most enemies that you are facing.
You can summon a ton of them (twice as many when using Conjure Animals as a 5th level spell), but there is only so much strength in numbers. Don’t get me wrong, your horde can still certainly contribute to your party’s damage output. But at 10th level they start to become more valuable as extra hit points between your party and the enemy.
With that said, being able to have them continually recovering hit points throughout the fight helps them stay useful as they naturally start to take on a new role as “meat shields” in combat.
So what if the worst happens and an enemy breaks through your wall of summons and manages to bring you to 0 hit points?
That’s where your Circle of the Shepherd Druid’s level 14 ability, Faithful Summons, comes into play.
Hopefully this is an ability that you won’t get to show off very much, but it’s very nice to have!
With Faithful Summons, when you are reduced to 0 hit points or are incapacitated, you immediately get the benefit of Conjure Animals cast as a level 9 spell. This means that four beasts with a CR of 2 are immediately summoned within 20 feet of you.
These creatures will protect you from further harm and attack your enemies unless they receive other commands from you. For enemies that are inclined to continue attacking an unconscious character with the intent to kill them, these creatures make it far less advantageous for them to do so.
While the creatures can’t get you back on your feet, they can make it far easier for your party members to help you out.
This casting of Conjure Animals lasts for 1 hour as normal, but it is special in that it doesn’t require concentration. If you are so inclined, you can summon even more allies once you’re back on your feet!
This creature can only be used once between long rests, but if you are dropping in combat that often then there may be other problems!
It may take a little bit of finesse to work the Circle of Shepherd Druid into the party. You will definitely want to work with your DM to develop a reason why a Druid from the typically reclusive Circle of the Shepherd would be adventuring with the party.
The Circle of the Shepherd Druid is ultimately concerned about protecting those under their care.
They may set off on their adventure with the goal of protecting their furry friends back home, but perhaps they begin to view the party as charges as well. As they get to know each other, the Circle of the Shepherd may view it as a sacred duty to protect their new friends at any cost.
Is the Circle of the Shepherd Druid Good?
I am admittedly of two minds when it comes to the Circle of the Shepherd Druid.
On one hand, this class doesn’t really start to pop off until they start getting spells that summon creatures.
Conjure Animals was the go-to for a long time (and is still largely the bread-and-butter spell for this subclass), but you couldn’t cast it until you hit 5th level. With Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, you can now take the Summon Beast spell upon reaching level 3 which helps you to start getting more value out of your Spirit Totem ability slightly earlier.
But once the Circle of the Shepherd Druid starts popping off, it’s ridiculously strong until later levels. Sending a pack of wolves (with pack tactics) to tear enemies apart can make “level-appropriate” combat a joke.
A Quick Rant…
However, having been the DM in a party with a Circle of the Shepherd Druid, I admittedly find myself with a bit of lingering frustration at this class.
As with any summoner-type character, combat will either be made hilariously short or painfully long and drawn out. It can take some time to find a balance in building encounters that will be engaging for all of the players while still letting the Circle of the Shepherd Druid show off their abilities.
So, yes, I would ultimately have to say that the Circle of the Shepherd Druid is good. However, this comes with the caveat that the Druid player takes a vested interest in working with their DM to keep the game fun for everybody. Otherwise, this class has a major risk of causing burnout in the group.
If you are playing a Circle of the Shepherd Druid, please make it a point to know what you are doing on your turn in advance. If you don’t do this, the action in combat can quickly come to a screeching halt and the other players will likely start to get frustrated or distracted.
Conclusion – Circle of the Shepherd Druid
So there you have it: The Circle of the Shepherd Druid subclass from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything!
This is one of the most interesting Druid subclasses, in my opinion. It requires a very responsible personality on both the part of the character and the player to work right.
For those who choose to take on this responsibility, they will never find themselves lacking allies!
And speaking of having friends to help you out…
Don’t forget to check out our Complete Druid Guide for D&D 5e! It covers everything you need to fully channel the power of nature on your adventures!