The way of the Druids is one of balance; at their core, a Druid's duty is to protect and preserve nature. Having dedicated themselves to its protection, their deep connection with the natural forces of the world give them power over nature and natural beings, particularly plants, fire, lightning and woodland creatures. However, their duty does not stop at nature; the vocation of the Druidic Order is balance, and for this reason all Druids are True Neutral. Druids of the Druidic Order recognise that a balance between civilisation and nature must be kept; constructive and destructive forces are constantly kept in balance so that no one becomes too powerful. Druids of the Order recognise that if nature represents a threat to civilisation, civilisation responds with deadly force, for the will of humanity is terrifying when focused. They also recognise that if civilisation is allowed to run rampant, greed and evil will breed in men's hearts and nature will be trampled into the ground. While Druids love nature, they are dedicated to ensuring that civilisation does not overrun nature, and that nature does not overrun civilisation.
This places them in an interesting position; they are human, but they do not serve the common cause of humanity - civilisation. They are servants of nature, but they recognise that nature and civilisation can coexist. They act as "middlemen", between the beasts of the forest and the men of the cities. They act as wardens, protectors of the forest, and they exist as much to protect the common man from the terrifying beings of nature as they exist to protect nature from the inexorable progress of civilisation. This is why the Druidic Way espouses balance above all other things; they will apply pressure and make their presence known when nature is being exploited or the ambitions of a lord harm nature around them to an unacceptable extent; yet at the same time, they are vital in ensuring that the forests are safe, killing or leading away the most dangerous and deadly beasts and protecting the people from the true fury of nature. They preserve the balance, and in doing so ensure that neither nature or civilisation destroy one another.
Living amongst nature, the mind of a Druid is often very different from a normal person, and those who dwell in civilisation can find them very difficult to understand. While they may at first appear to be serene and calm, they can become like an animal when cornered, prone to fly into a fit of rage, possessed of cunning and tenacity, and willing to fight to the bitter end if they have no alternative. They have tough skins, like animals, and are often more at home with mute plants and animals than the complexity of social interaction.
Although it is well known that druids serve "balance" and "nature", few understand what this truly entails. It's true that lower-ranking Initiates simply use their powers as best they can to preserve the delicate balance between civilisation and nature. Full Druids, however, have a more important responsibility; those who attain significant power within the Druidic Order are under an obligation to protect the existential wellbeing of the world by redressing any imbalances created by mortals in the world. If left unchecked, these imbalance can create a schism with the spirit world, resulting in untold havoc. More information about the spirit world can be found on the page about the Deep Ethereal.
The Druidic Order
The druidic order follows a very strict hierarchy, all according to the natural balance. The more powerful druids are the keepers of the natural way, the protectors of nature and the preservers of the balance between law and chaos, nature and civilisation, good and evil. As such, to these whom positions of respect and authority are most bountifully endowed there can only be a limited number at any given time; a druid who wishes to rises above the station of Initiate must prove himself more worthy of the position than his predecessor.
The geographical regions, or Circles, with a druidic presence are as such:
- The Forests of Murthrid, Deepwood Circle
- The Forests of Murthrid, Manward Circle
- The Forests of Murthrid, Old Circle
- The Forests of Lurkmoor
- The Borderlands
Each of the Circles is a loose affiliation. Most druids have a peripheral affiliation with their Circle, it only being relevant when they come across another druid. There is no enmity between Circles, though druids trained within a particular circle are tied to it - they cannot, for example, become an Archdruid, Druid of the Council or Great Druid of any Circle but the one that they were trained within. Once per year upon the spring solstice, the Allthing is called at a designated meeting place; at the Allthing, druids from around the Circle discuss what they have seen and learned in their travels. Knowledge is shared, decrees are made, and possible threats to the balance are discussed. It is also at the Allthing that existing Druids may be challenged for their place and that the Ritual of Ascension is performed. Initiates are not required to attend, but the Council of Druids is. Besides the Allthing, any of the Archdruids or the Great Druid can call a meeting of the Council at any time to discuss matters of importance.
From the 1st to 11th experience levels, a druid is officially referred to as an Initiate. There are many of these throughought the Circles of Leng, and they make up the main body of the Druidic Order.
At the 12th level of experience are the Council of Druids, of which there is one in each Circle. Traditionally, there are only nine of these; in order for an Initiate to become a member of the Council of Druids, several things must happen. Firstly, they must reach enough experience to ascend to 12th level. While being 12th level does not automatically make you a member of the Council, and it is possible to be 12th level without being a member of the Council, attaining 12th level makes you eligible for membership. Different Circles have different rules regarding ascension, but in most cases the Council consists of only 9 Druids, and in order to become a Druid, you must challenge an existing Druid for his place at the yearly Allthing.
At the 13th level of experience are the three Archdruids - there are three to each Circle. Unlike the Council of Druids, they are not required to attend the Allthing, though if they do then they have the power to overturn the Council's decisions, and can only be opposed by another Archdruid. There can only be three Archdruids at any given time in a particular Circle. They can be challenged for their position in much the same way as a Druid of the Council, though they must be found first. Archdruids are treated with a great deal of respect, as they are considered to be the living manifestations of the will of nature. The defeated Archduid falls to the station of a Druid of the Council, if they live.
At 14th level at the very least is the Great Druid, of whom there is one in each Circle. Usually a reserved and little-seen figure, the Great Druid is usually more concerned with the preservation of the balance rather than with small-scale disruptions or the disagreements of the Council and the Allthing; they usually are only seen at the Allthing when a grave matter is being discussed. The Great Druid is not expected to be challenged, though it can be done if he can be found; often, it is the Great Druid himself who will choose an Archdruid suitable of challenging him, but more frequently the Great Druid will willingly pass on the mantle to another when he is ready to retire from his position, or will die of old age or adventure. The death of the Great Druid is a major event, sending shockwaves of turmoil through the Circle, especially given that with his death and the ascension of an Archdruid, the position of Archdruid becomes open, and as this is filled a new seat on the Council opens. A challenge of the Great Druid is always fought to the death.
As striders, wanderers and protectors of the forests, Rangers are usually affiliated with the Druidic Order. They share many similarities and similar goals to the Druidic Order, and their relationship is usually friendly, with most Rangers being honorary members of the Order. As Rangers spend more of their time on martial pursuits than dedication to nature, they do not gain druidic abilities until a fairly high level; in the case of a Ranger who is of high enough level to attain druidic abilities but has never had any connection with the Druidic Order, they must seek them out for training, although others - such as a dryad or other woodland spirit - can give them training. When they reach a high enough level to cast druidic spells, they will usually be sought out by the local Circle and offered training in the Druidic Way, since their close bond with nature has fulfilled the prerequisites to tap into the power of nature.
At its core, the Druidic Order and the Shadow Druids share the same connection with nature; they are servants of nature, and can draw upon the natural power that flows through all beings of Morus. However, their motives are very different. The Druidic Order preaches balance between constructive and destructive forces, between nature and civilisation, and they seek to protect both from each other. The Shadow Druids, on the other hand, have a far more chaotic view; they believe that civilisation is a blight, that its only purpose is to pervert the minds of men, to rape the earth and to despoil the beauty and sanctity of nature. They view civilisation and towns of all forms as being anathema, and the more extreme amongst them will do all they can to crush them. Affiliation with Shadow Druidic views varies within the Druidic Order - all Druids love nature and hate to see her wounded by Man, and many - especially those with more extreme views - inevitably end up seeing civilisation as a source of constant pain and damage to the beauty of nature. While many Druids may sympathise with the beliefs of the Shadow Druids, few hold beliefs that are extreme enough to take on the mantle of the Shadow Druid and actively work to bring down civilised society. Shadow Druids can be of any chaotic alignment, and are an exception to the rule that Druids must be True Neutral.
Simply put, while the Druidic Order seeks to keep the balance of all things intact, a Shadow Druid puts the preservation and reclamation of the wilderness above all else. The name "Shadow Druid" was adopted by the first splinter groups of the Druidic Order who held such extreme beliefs, a name they took on to represent what they perceived as the Druidic Order trying to "keep them in the shadows". As for the Druidic Order itself, its aims vary. Most Druidic Circles have at least some members with some beliefs that could be called Shadow Druidic, and for the most part the Druidic Order sees the Shadow Druids as having good intentions, but being fundamentally misguided in the belief that it is wise or even possible to topple civilisation. Where the agenda of the Shadow Druids endanger the balance - the more militant often do - the Druidic Order has no qualms with working against them. It is important to note that the Shadow Druids are neither large nor unified; the mantle of "Shadow Druid" is simply a term adopted by splinter groups of Druids who believe that the wilderness should be put above civilisation.