Kickstarter Alert-Interview with Matthew Yarro and Druids Secrets of the Primal Circle

New kickstarter alert! Matthew Yarro has a new Kickstart project for DnD 5e! Druids Secret of the Primal Circle. Check out our interview with him here and check out the kickstarter here:

Why a whole book about druids?

First, because it’s never been done. Despite all the published material for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons – both official and from third-party publishers – no one has taken a deep look at the druid in a long time. A book of this caliber hasn’t been compiled since 3rd edition, so in a way, it was long overdue.

  Second, because druids are an enigmatic class that deserves this sort of resource. A druid is capable of filling just about any role in a party. While that diversity is a strength of its own, it doesn’t lend itself to a well-defined place in a group nor in a campaign. When you think of a cleric, a barbarian, or a rogue, each of those characters immediately brings certain elements to mind—fighting the undead, raging in combat, and stealthing through danger. In the case of a druid, however, that just wasn’t there. Additional questions needed to be answered. This resource provides the answers to those questions and helps players and GMs better understand the role of a druid in the game.

Are druids your favorite class or do you have another that is your favorite?  Why?

During the infrequent times I get to be a player, I favor gish characters, particularly those that tend toward wizardry. However, my very first 5th edition character was a druid. I was intrigued by the class that seemed capable of doing everything, and more options in a character are definitely my style. Sadly, that character died at level 5. If I could do things over, I’d certainly run that character differently knowing what I know about the game now. In fact, I might ask the DM for a redo of that final battle…

What’s in it for players?

I think players will be most excited for the new archetypes. The book contains more than 10 subclasses, each one developed from a fascinating aspect of druidic lore. Some examples are: the Circle of the Primal Guardian allows the druid to summon an elemental companion; the Circle of Dread allows a druid to Wild Shape into abominations; the Circle of Bloodlines druid can Skinwalk into other races; and of course, the Primal Circle which has traded its Wild Shape ability for enhanced spell casting. Each archetype is tied into the overarching lore surrounding druids. So, they’re not just additional subclasses with different features, there is history to each one.

Perhaps the most unique addition to player content is the new class: the dire druid. These characters are essentially martial druids that slowly transform into a specific animal, taking on qualities of both humanoid and beast. 

   And of course, there are also tons of new druid-centric spells, magic items, and special materials. This resource really supercharges the druid class to be better at what it does best–protecting nature!

What’s in it for GMs?

A whole world. Seriously. We created an entire setting for groups to explore, filled with new, interesting enemies and challenges. It’s called the Netherelm, a world that draws an inordinate amount of energy from its echoes and the Elemental Planes. That overlap creates an environment where certain creatures thrive – creatures that druids cannot tolerate. Due to its unique planar geometry, it is rife with portals, so it can be connected to any other setting. In fact, the world’s history involves extensive contact with multiple worlds on the Material Plane – perhaps even yours.

Besides the setting, there are dozens of new monsters and NPCs to use as adversaries for your party. These monsters aren’t random creations but are all themed around the history of the Netherelm and the conflict between druids. There are two factions, the Shadow Court and the Gloomstar Council, which have sworn oaths to destroy the druids and the lands they protect. There are the ominous Dhurge, numerous fel fey, and shadowy abominations to challenge PCs.

   Of course, if you’d rather have allies, we created a system for druid councils. These councils form a massive organization with multiple tiers through which your characters can advance. The councils provide a ready-made source of information, assistance, adventure, and even patronage. Perhaps your characters will rise through the ranks and become leaders themselves.

   Two more items GMs will be interested in are the expanded uses for the Druidic language and eldritch foraging. Druidic only has a few sentences in the PHB. We saw an opportunity to expand on this cool feature, so we included Druidic marks as a way for druids to leave messages, warnings, and valuable information to one another.

   Eldritch foraging is a method through which characters can locate specific natural materials in the wilderness that enhance their spellcasting abilities or empower their allies with helpful magic. For groups that take advantage of downtime activities, these items can provide extra rewards that aren’t quite as strong as a true magic item, but can make a difference when the time is right.

What is your favorite part of the project for a Player?

The new druid archetypes, and the new class. Of course, some players may prefer the large selection of new spells and magic items. Regardless of your preference, I don’t think there’s a player out there who doesn’t enjoy having additional character options.

What is your favorite part of the project for a GM?

The history and lore that gives new meaning and purpose to the druid. A GM could run several entire campaigns based on the lore presented in this book. Or, if a whole campaign is more than you are looking for, the lore we’ve created could form one arc of an ongoing campaign, or it could easily be dropped in as a single encounter or side quest. In short, the part I’d like best as a GM is the ready-made stories, with supporting monsters and NPCs already crafted, that I can weave into any size adventure I like. Those things are true whether or not a player decides to run a druid character. 

When is the Kickstarter?

Our goal is to launch on 15 June 2021.

What is your MSRP for a physical book and the digital product?

The price for a physical book will be $49.95. It has well over 200 pages of material – possibly more than 300 pages. We have yet to determine the pricing for a PDF.

What are you design inspirations for this project?  Did you draw on one area of folklore, media, or just random ideas you had?

We drew inspiration from real-world history, some untapped concepts from older games, and our own gaming experiences. As the project continued, we found more and more ideas coming out as we explored the possibilities further. When you really dive into one aspect of fantasy in such a thorough manner, your creativity begins to feed itself on the topic, creating new combinations and inferences that don’t exist elsewhere. I suppose you could say the project was self-perpetuating once we truly set to work. We actually cut a fair amount of material, if that gives you an idea of how much we had to work with.

What is your favorite part of this gaming system and what is one flaw you want to change?  Why?  How does this book emphasize or fix that?

The real strength of 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons is that it’s easy to learn, easy to play, and easy to run. That’s why we now have more gamers than ever. The drawback to that streamlined design is the lack of detail. Some players have complained about missing the extremely nuanced character-building options in some past editions. This book definitely adds more options for players and GMs, not just for characters, but for setting development and campaign progression. If you want your PC to grow not just in class levels, but politically and socially, too, you now have that option.

What’s next?

We have two projects on the horizon. One is for all gamers – of any tabletop RPG. The other is another D&D 5e-compatible product that can be used in conjunction with Druids: Secrets of the Primal Circle, or used as a stand-alone location for your adventuring party.

Where should people follow you on the internet?