Dropping the Druid – How A Level 8 Druid Can Do 182 Damage In One Turn
Druids are an unusual class in the world of D&D. Back in the days of yore, in the days of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, they were the nature-based magic user, channeling their power through the great outdoors, although relatively useless in an interior environment. Over the years, they seem to have lost something of their potency. Now they are shapeshifters, with a few outdoors spells, but, I have to admit that (from a personal perspective), I never saw them as anything more. You may or may not agree with that sentiment.
That being said, what would your reaction be if I told you that a level 8 Druid can do more damage with a single attack than anything else in the D&D version 5 core books? It’s unbelievable, right?
What if I said we could use physics to prove it?
So, this article actually started as a conversation about whether Druids maintain their density when they shapeshift. The idea being that they become incredibly dense creatures if the Druid chooses to morph their equipment into their beast form (an option that is open to them), and then turn into a badger. I mean, badgers are really dense anyway, so that would give them a density similar to high carbon steel.
However, the rules clearly state that the Druid gains the animal attributes, including armour class and, with natural animals, armour class can be seen as a close representation of density. It’s not quite, but it is a close concept.
So, mentally going along the same lines, this was the idea…
How To Make A Level 8 Druid The Most Damaging Level 8 Thing In The D&D Universe
The reason we were discussing density to begin with is down to whether we can use the Druid to create a bullet. If the Druid transforms into a bird, travels full pelt – as fast as it can go – and then transforms into a badger at the last minute then would it be able to do extra damage due to an increased density? Would it be like a war hammer hitting someone in the chest?
The problem with Speed in D&D
Well…no. This is, unfortunately, not really the case due to the attributes remaining the same. Badgers are heavy, but getting enough speed would be impossible. If you take the distance in feet per 6 second round you are looking at Hawk only traveling 7 miles per hour, and the fastest animal I could find (a pegasus, although there are undoubtedly faster) only does 10mph.
So, instead, let’s take a different approach, what if we took real-life speed? The Wolf, for instance, would run 50mph and not 5mph. The Great Eagle would travel 80mph and not 9mph (if based on a golden eagle).
D&D speeds are meant for combat scenarios, and although there are travel rules, there aren’t sprint details for large animals. We’re going the absolute fastest possible so will use the real speed.
The Base Idea (The Base Jump)
The base idea is this –
We need to get the Druid moving as fast as possible and hit with as much force as possible.
For this, we are going to make our Druid level 8. This means the Druid can transform into anything with a challenge rating of 1, and also allows the Druid to change into something that can fly. This is vital.
In the rules, it doesn’t state how long it takes to transform into beast form, so we shall assume it takes 6 seconds and, since a Druid can use it twice in between rests we will assume it can transform between its two forms without being Druid in between (you know what I mean). This is ultimately down to the DM if this is the case, but hey, I’m a nice DM.
Attempt #1 – Linear
So, we’re going to do an experiment, and launch a shapeshifting Druid at a target. For this, we will give them a run-up, of 1000 meters. The run-up is a bit arbitrary, but we’ll use it anyway.
Over this distance, the Druid will need to fly full pelt, of which the fastest beast is the Great Eagle. Apparently, a Great Eagle is faster than a hawk, so we are taking the top speed of a Bald Eagle. We are also assuming a transformation space of 6 seconds. This works out as the below –
Now, if the Eagle flies around a bit there is no reason why it can’t reach top speed. The 1000m is more an arbitary measurement as it can fly back on itself. Hurtling towards the Enemy it will need to begin changing at 204 meters into a Dire Wolf.
Realistically, from that moment on, it will be decelerating. Wind resistance for a semi-transformed Dire Wolf is beyond my level of maths, but it will start a parabolic curve, and we’re probably looking at 40mph or half of what it was. The transforming Giant Eagle/Dire Wolf hybrid will still have some aerodynamics, but realistically it will still lose a lot. This is 17m/s.
Next, we need to look at the weight of a Dire Wolf. Now, this varies, but I found a source on the Forgotten Realms wiki suggesting 800lb. This would be 363kg. That feels about right, so we’ll use that as a benchmark.
We can now calculate the Newtonian force of launching a Dire Wolf this way. For this we will use the traditional formula:
Force = Mass (kg) x Acceleration (m/s^2)
When calculating that we can note that the force of a Dire Wolf, when travelling this way, is approximately 6171 Newtons.
To add a comparison, a Greatsword does 2D6 damage, and can be swung at around 15 m/s. This is based on a paper called “Impact Analysis of Medieval Weapons“, using a Claymore as an example, and the “True Speed” (page 7). The Greatsword weighs 6lb according to the Player Handbook. If we use the standard formula then we will not find an accurate force, due to the shape of the edge on the sword. The folks above worked this out as 12,332 Newtons of force, and they use a far more complex formula than our simple one and it can be found on Page 3 of the same document.
The Dire Wolf has the strength of roughly 0.5x that of the Greatsword which is incredibly poor. This means, assuming the that force and damage are correlated it would be only 1D6, for an average of 3 or 4 damage. In theory, it could do 6 damage, but that would be a really lucky hit.
This trumps the Dire Wolf’s standard Bite that does an average of 10 damage per turn. We can do better than this though.
Attempt #2 – Gravity Assisted
Since the Dire Wolf’s weight is a constant in this scenario, we need to look at how to speed it up because, to be honest, launching it like that just won’t do.
There also isn’t always going to be a Wizard, Warlock, or Sorcerer in the party, so we need to do it without magic. This can be done, and you can probably see where this is going.
What if we changed the direction of the approach? What if the Dire Wolf came from above?
This time the transformation is at the top of the drop. The drop can be as high as it needs to be to reach terminal velocity (around 1,500 feet traditionally). Now, terminal velocity for a Dire Wolf is another thing that is difficult to work out, so we need to make a few assumptions here. Firstly, we are going to assume wind resistance is the same as a really heavy human and one lighter human stuck together. Using a Terminal Velocity calculator online we can see that two humans who, together, weighed the same as the Wolf would reach 258mph. This is 115m/s.
Now, when we calculate the Newtonian force, we see that a Dire Wolf falling will hit with 41,745 Newtons worth of force. This is a hell of a lot more, and, when using the same calculation with the Greatsword (equating Greatsword damage to the Newton force behind the Greatsword swing) we can hypothesise that 41,745 Newtons is around the 3.3x that of the Greatsword. This could be 3x 2D6 damage, or an average of 21 damage (42 on a lucky roll).
Now we’re getting there. Of course, we can probably do better still…
Attempt #3 – Power Dive
There is one more option. What if the eagle drove itself towards the ground in a power drive, and the Dire Wolf transformation was just at the last minute?
So, now we’re not looking at terminal velocity, but rather the assisted velocity of a diving bigger-than-human-size Eagle.
For this we are going to remove the wind resistance. This is not perfect, but it is the best we can do with the tools that we have. Assuming the maximum an eagle can fly is 10,000 feet, we can then use the Splat Calculator (an online tool for working out maximum descent without wind resistence from certian heights) to get a meters-per-second speed for a descending Great Eagle/Dire Wolf of approximately 363kg (the weight of a Great Eagle varies on source between 250kg and 500kg, none of which are official sources, so we shall take the Dire Wolf weight for the calculations)…(we also don’t know where the Eagle shifts into the Wolf on the journey).
Without any form of wind resistance, and diving at 10,000 ft, our Druid should be able to reach a whopping 442.72 m/s or 989mph. That is REALLY fast. Yes, our Druid will break the sound barrier.
By the time the Dire Wolf has been transformed and hits its target it will be doing a total of 160,446 Newtons worth of force. That is a grand total of 13x more powerful than the Greatsword, and will do 13x 2D6 damage. This is an average of 91 damage. Alternatively, it could do as much as 182 damage. That is a tonne of damage from one hit.
Of course, dropping the Druid will also be an instant kill for said Druid, so think really carefully before you do.
Conclusion: Comparing to Other Damage
There is no weapon, outside of a magic one, that will do that much damage, and no modifier that big. This means that if we want to compare to other sources of damage we need to look at magic. Is there a spell that will cause that much damage in D&D?
The most damaging spell in the game, that I can find, in one turn, is Meteor Swarm. It’s a 9th Level spell that does 20D6 + 20D6 damage. It needs a Wizard needs to be Level 17.
So no, no damage will compare in the game to the Druid bomb at Level 8…or 9…or 10…or up to Level 17. Dropping a Dire Wolf on someone from a height will do more damage, assuming you begin the descent as a Great Eagle to really build up speed.
Of course, as noted before, this will probably kill the Druid, so you need to be 100% sure that you want to do it. There is also a high chance of missing, and the descent would still take enough time to give the creature fair warning. That aside – dropping a Level 8 Druid is the best attack in the game.
Wow, this was a nerdy article, but it was fun to work out. There are a lot of flaws, but without a PhD in physics I don’t think I will ever really get there. It’s a finger in the air though and an interesting concept.
I don’t really have a huge amount of questions to ask at the end of this article – only, what do you think about dropping the druid as a weapon? Let me know in the comments below.