Druid without Metal

Why Druids Don’t Wear Metal Armor: D&D 5e Lore

This article about why Druids don’t wear metal armor in D&D 5e contains affiliate links that will add gold to our coffers!

Iron, a vital component in both life-giving blood and life-ending swords, has played an intriguing role in folklore, which has carried over to tabletop roleplaying games. From ferrous daggers to monsters like the Iron Golem, this material has at least one fascinating mechanic in Dungeons and Dragons: Druids will not don armor or shields made from it. This rule, as it were, applies to all metals.

The Short Answer

The quick response for why this simple rule exists can be found across several editions of Dungeons and Dragons:

In AD&D 1e, metal armor interfered with a druid’s metaphysical spellcasting abilities. Where a Wizard derives spellcasting from books and would have no spellcasting without it, a Druid has limited or no spellcasting when impeded by metal armor.

In 2nd edition, the manual attributes this rule to a Druid’s connection with nature—metalwork is artificial and would sever a Druid’s link to the natural world.

In D&D 3.5e, it is explained that Druids take ancient oaths in which they commit to not wear metal armor, which “interferes with the pure and primal nature that they attempt to embody,” with the punishment of losing or suppressing their druidic powers. 

Finally, in 5th edition, Wizards of the Coast released the following Sage Advice Compendium, which states that Druids choose not to wear unnatural armor, much like how vegetarians choose not to eat meat. This allows Druids to avert their association with civilization—it is simply part of their identity.

All of these answers may adequately be integrated into a campaign in terms of worldbuilding, storytelling, roleplaying, and mechanics, but these aren’t the only possibilities! Below, I’ve provided a myriad of reasons why a Druid may avoid metal and how a player and Dungeon Master could incorporate these ideas into their campaign.

First, a Note on Metals

While the rules as written seem to only apply to a Druid’s preference of armor, the sentiment of avoiding metal can leach into other aspects of metal use. A player should decide for roleplaying and storytelling purposes to what degree their character would avoid metal. For instance, Druids already lack an affinity toward commerce and derive most of their goods from the surrounding land. A player may ponder:

  • Would a Druid avoid metal coins beyond what is necessary to accomplish their goals? 
  • Are some metals more ethically-sourced than others in terms of environmental impact? 
  • Could naturally-occurring (unforged) metals be utilized? 
  • As some spells use metal spell components, are there alternative component options?

At the end of this article, the reader can find an appendix with most metals found in Dungeons and Dragons, their uses, and how a Druid might respond to the metal-based on its practices, uses, and environmental impact. 

Reasons Why Druids Don’t Use Metal

Apply these ideas to your campaign as appropriate. If you are playing a Druid, read through these reasons and decide for yourself how far your character will take avoiding metal. Make these reasons your bonds and flaws, and remember to roleplay them!

1. Metal Hurts Fey Creatures

Druids are long-known to be friends of the fey, conjuring such whimsical creatures with a 6th-level spell slot. According to old folklore, iron, with its anti-magic properties, burns the skin of fairies and severs them from their magic, perhaps as a symbol of fading magic in an increasingly industrialized world. Superstitious people have buried daggers under their threshold, nailed horseshoes to their walls, and kept iron daggers handy in case of fey appearances. 

This idea extends beyond folklore. In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, fairy-creatures identified as elves have copper-based blood, which is highly vulnerable to iron and burns their skin, as iron is impervious to enchantment. The presence of iron disrupts their magic abilities, such as navigation, telepathy, and glamour, which brings the elves into a frenzy. 

Additionally, since their introduction in 2013, fairy-type Pokémon are weak to steel-type!

Canonical to 5th edition, cold iron, mined from deep underground and forged at lower temperatures to preserve its properties, is known to be particularly effective against fey and the eladrin. Cold iron manacles were often kept on hand to prevent fey creatures from teleporting. A Druid with a strong fey heritage, like an elf, firbolg, hobgoblin, and so forth, may actually be hurt by wielding metal or may suffer from their anti-magic properties.

It is more likely that a Druid feels a geas or obligation to prohibit association with metal weapons and armor in solidarity with their fey friends.

Which Subclasses This Applies To: 

While any Druid subclass could use this as a reason to avoid metal, the following circles may be more inclined:

Circle of Dreams may be particularly disgusted by iron for the reasons stated above. With their strong ties to the Feywild, they are likely aware of the way iron hurts the fey and shun all industrialization as a result.

Circle of the Shepherd similarly communes with spirits of the fey and may be compelled by force therefrom to avoid metals and perhaps make it part of their mission to reduce metal around sacred fey locations. 

2. Druids Wish to Maintain a Connection to Nature

With their leather armor, wooden quarterstaffs, and primal spellcasting, Druids choose to utilize naturally-grown materials to reinforce their relationship to the cycles and seasons of the natural world. As “extensions of nature’s indomitable will,” Druids are an “embodiment of nature’s resilience, cunning, and fury.” Believing in the power of balance to preserve nature, these agrarian sentries possess an apparent unity with the forces of the land, and therefore often are or desire to be caretakers of the wilderness.

Due to these inclinations and sources of power, Druids may eschew all things worked by the hands of man that come with a price of detriment to the land. Mining carves out mountains of its precious resources; meteorites shred the landscape and ruin natural habitats; gold is a testament to the greediness of and environmental havoc by humanoids. 

Thus a Druid would rather avoid metalwork and commune with the nature that provides them with purpose and power.

Which Subclasses This Applies To: 

While any Druid subclass could use this as a reason to avoid metal, the following circles may be more inclined:

Circle of Land are tied to the terrain where they reside and see the direct result of mining, forging, and using metals—from stripping the land to gather and sell precious ores to using contemporary industrial farming techniques that removes the connection the farmer has to their land, to loss of life and communities from war-forged destruction at the hand of catastrophic metal blades and cast-iron cannons. The toll of worked metal to the land can provide a Druid of this circle with ample reason to avoid the material.

Circle of the Moon, as guardians of the wilds, find similar reasons as the Circle of Land to avoid metal: arrow and sword drop innocent creatures for sport; the axe deforests and leaves beasts displaced. The wilderness in its natural state does not need metal creations of humanity, so why would a Druid Circle of the Moon use such tools and armors? 

Circle of the Shepherd Druids act as wards for the spirits of nature and prevent humanity from encroaching on the habitats, rights, and health of these beings. While stopping the hunter from unnecessarily killing creatures and preventing warring territories from trampling the land, these Druids might find themselves disgusted with the unnatural weapons of humanity that seek to destroy their flock.

Circle of Spores Druids may already have a tenuous link to fungi and lichen that alter the cycles of life and death. By donning unnatural armor where microscopic bacteria have no power, a Circle of Spore Druid loses that symbiotic connection to the spores, which act as your armor and shield, in a way.

3. Metal Represents the Hubris of Man

As civilizations enter the Iron and Industrial Ages, people who benefit from the mechanical creations of the time tend to forget about their mystical deities and rely on the forge to improve their conditions. Druids who serve a deity of nature may find this behavior contrary to their gods’ objectives, as believers dwindle in heart and trample nature underfoot. 

In recorded history, the Catholic church claimed victory over pagan gods by utilizing the lightning rod (or iron church bells, often impervious to lightning damage), which tamed and controlled the power of Thor, Odin, and Zeus. A magnetized needle, floating on a calm bowl of water, would provide a navigator with directions upon the sea, negating the need to cry to the gods or look to the stars.

When eternal promise can be bought with a few metal coins or an ease of burden can be attributed to a new tool, serving a god becomes superfluous and inefficient. Only to the eyes of a Druid outside of this mechanized world will the burden of progress be evident. 

Which Subclasses This Applies To: 

While any Druid subclass could use this as a reason to avoid metal, the following circles may be more inclined:

Circle of Stars has secrets of the cosmos that predate most civilizations. Druids of this circle who serve deities may find metalwork items preposterous and void of true power, as they have seen the works of the cosmos’ hands. These Druids know that machines will break and weapons will rust, but the library contained within a Druid Circle of Stars is eternal.

Circle of Moon Druids may serve deities such as the Moonmaiden Selune, who is known to have cycles, shifting moods, and changing goals. This goddess favored lycanthropic creatures, who are vulnerable to silvered weapons (note silver as a metal). Where Druids have similar polymorphic abilities to werebeasts, they might have a similar distaste for metal creations of man, and their goddess may commission them to cleanse themselves of the substance to be more in-tuned with their animalistic nature.

Circle of Dreams brings magic and joy to the downtrodden through fey-like powers. However, as tools allow man more time to become enlightened in themselves, mysticism subsides, and magic’s whimsy declines. When people stop daydreaming, the Druid Circle of Dreams loses power to the industrialization of humanity. Therefore, these Druids may shun all metal works and hope to bring some element of fantasy back into the lives of modernity-plagued humanity. 

Circle of Wildfire recognizes danger when humanity attempts to wield the power of the gods, like with the lightning rod example above. Where wildfire allows destruction to forge a path for new creation, humanoids that attempt to control the elements prevent nature from taking its natural course, assuming they have better plans in mind. This often leaves nature suffering from a lack of vital nutrients and necessary cleansing. Circle of Wildfire Druids shun man-made metal tools and sow the wild powers of nature instead.

4. Metal Provides Unnatural Power That Rivals Nature’s Strength

Druids may be wary of approving of tools that rival nature’s predominance as embodiments of nature’s powers themselves. With metal machinations, mankind may cut down forests and beasts carelessly; with magnetized compasses, man has no need to commune with the stars for guidance. Mankind becomes less reliant on nature with the right tools, and that weakened dependence translates into man controlling nature, and thus the Druid.

To preserve the scope of nature’s power, a Druid may take an oath against condoning and utilizing metal except where necessary, but even handling a few metal coins may require a process of cleansing to keep true to one’s oath.

Which Subclasses This Applies To: 

While any Druid subclass could use this as a reason to avoid metal, the following circles may be more inclined:

Circle of Spores Druids view the natural cycles of life and death as proprietary to the microbes they commune with. Discovering that, with an iron filament, an electric spark could revive the dead leaves a sour taste in a Druid’s mouth. Who gave humankind the right to mechanically toy with life energy? A Circle of Spores Druid would avoid metal in defiance of man’s power to alter life and death, a virtue that belongs to the spores that alter the universe.

Circle of Stars Druids have tracked the constellations and stars since the dawn of time. When gifts of the galaxy fall from the heavens, it is an event worthy of a megalithic site. However, humanity has found it beneficial to open and mine the meteorite for precious metals. This is an abomination in the eyes of the Druid. Where stars anciently forged iron within their proverbial hearts, so now this iron pumps in our blood from our hearts. We do not need to smelt it into breastplates; this is but a sanctimonious affront to the cosmos, as man attempts to wield the power of nature for themselves.

Circle of Land Druids recognize that with each tree torn down and stone removed, there is a loss of primal secrets whispered in Druidic between nature. Friendship is found within nature, and as it dwindles, so does the power of a Circle of Land Druid. In solidarity with this losing battle, a Druid of this circle may take an oath to keep forged weapons and tools out of their sanctuaries.

Appendix of Metals

Below are several metals found within the realms of Dungeons and Dragons, how they are used in campaigns, and what sort of sentiment a Druid may feel toward them. Some may be more atrocious than others, but some properties and uses may surprise you! 

A Druid who is required to wield an iron rod for the spell Plane Shift may feel necessary to sacrifice something to the nature spirits to feel balance again; a Dragonborn Druid may make it their mission to confiscate all objects made of the metal Arandur, as they contain elements of dragon blood. Use the following table to determine world-building and roleplaying for your campaign!

Adamant: A jet-black and brittle metal ore found in lava flows. When forged, it can create the strong alloy adamantine. According to Volo’s Guide to All Things Magical (1996), adamant protects against magical and natural flames and is immune to elemental effects. This mineral was often used to etch inscriptions and designs on various items, which is one use a Druid may have for it.

Adamantine: An alloy of adamant and other metals used for weapons and armor. It can be magically enhanced and is often used by the drow elves. This alloy is found naturally in meteorites, anomalous earth nodes, and places of extreme radiation in the Underdark, where the mineral adamant is naturally forged with electrum and silver when entering the atmosphere. Druids who find the alloy naturally forged may be more willing to use it. The 9th level Wizard spell Invulnerability requires a dagger of this material.

Arambarium: A rare metal like polished silver kept secret by an isle clan who exclusively mine it. This metal amplifies magical effects, as the supply is really a preserved fist of a dead primordial. Druids may have issues with this bizarre metal, as it comes from a dead god and is not at natural.

Arandur: A naturally occurring blue-green metal found within igneous rocks that requires refinement and forging, typically done by gnomes. Weapons, armor, and shields made from this metal are resistant to forces, including elemental and magical force. The tempering process requires blood from red or blue dragons to prevent the material from becoming brittle, so this method may be particularly abhorrent to Druids, especially Dragonborns.

Brass: Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc and is common among the markets for decorative items, mechanical parts like gears and locks, musical instruments, armor and weapons, buildings, dining ware, and magic items. Some cities use brass currency, and the spell Find Familiar requires a brass brazier. However, the Druid optional class feature in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Wild Companion, removes the need for this material component.

Bronze: An alloy of copper and tin used in construct creatures, adventuring equipment, armor and braziers, toys, buckets, and magic items. Some Horns of Valhalla are made from bronze, and bronze is often present in coinage. The spell Alarm requires a tiny bell worth 1 gp, which is typically made from bronze.

Celestial Steel: A metal originating from the Upper Planes used to forge sentient relics like the Sword of Zariel. It is also found in the form called Solanian truesteel, which is a fine iron in Mount Celestia. Unless their deity specifically awards a Druid with armor or weapons of this material, it is likely best left alone.

Cold Iron: An iron mined deep underground that requires a tempering process of low heat. This metal is highly effective against fey creatures and Eladrin. Paladins prize their holy avenger blades made from this material, and cold iron manacles were often used to prevent fey creatures from teleporting.

Copper: This pure metal is often the least valuable currency in most places and is used as a standard weight. This soft material is easy to forge and weighs the same as steel. Copper is a spectacular neutralizer used as a mordant in dyeing. It will nullify the efficacy of holy water if it’s used as a container. Copper is used in mundane and magic objects, as plates for scribes, and the spells Detect Thoughts, Gentle Repose, Message, and Sending require copper as components. Druids could see copper as a necessity but might prefer finding an ethically sourced option for spell components.

Darksteel: A valuable, durable, and lightweight alloy of Star Metal (from meteorites) treated with specific oils, the process of which was closely guarded by the dwarven Ironstar clan. The metal behaved similarly to steel when forged and easily took on enchantments. While mined and forged anciently, secrets of Darksteel may be in the Candlekeep libraries. Because Star Metal did not originate from the land, a Druid might feel more comfortable using armor or weapons from this material, though finding items made from the rare ingots of Dwarven strongholds may be difficult.

Dlarun: Also known as icesteel, this non-natural ivory-like metal was kept secret by halflings and used for decorative items, weapons, and armor. This material is not suited for enchantment, but Druids may find it more acceptable as armor, as it is composed of a heated mixture of clay from certain river beds. After being heated until white with flakes, the ash is mixed with specific oils, formed into the desired item, then processed in a kiln using a proprietary formula of fuel. While described as a metal, an argument could be made that this material is more akin to terracotta, and thus an acceptable substitute for metal armor and weapons. According to Volo’s Guide to All Things Magical, Dlarun jewelry allowed its wearer to see through illusions and negate some psionic effects.

Electrum: An alloy of silver and gold, Electrum is used as a currency worth 5 silver pieces (or 1/2 of a gold piece). Spells like Leomund’s Secret Chest that require rare materials can use this metal, and some magical jewelry can be created using this alloy. While Druids may find currency necessary, Electrum may not be their currency of choice, depending on its composition of metals and how ethically sourced it may be. 

Gold: The default currency throughout the lands, gold is a pure precious metal, resistant to all acids, and highly conductive. When refined and magically enchanted, gold can become as hard as steel and used for armor and weapons. Gold holds enchantments well but is twice as heavy as steel. Typically, gold coins are gold alloy-plated wooden disks, and natural gold found in ore deposits is far heavier. A Druid may find this more acceptable than carrying full gold taken from the ground, as less metal is present in a gold-plated coin. Furthermore, Arcane Lock, Summon Elemental, Summon Celestial, and Levitate require gold components, which a Druid may see as necessary.

Hizagkuur: An Underdark rare metal found in clay clumps. Apart from Dwarven artisans and master smiths, few know the scrupulous methodology for extracting the metal from the mud and forging it correctly. The green-gray flecks of ore found in the clay turned silvery after being properly processed and weighed the same as steel. This process involved specific steps that would result in a muddy mess if done improperly. When painstakingly crafted, hizagkuur could be used for safeguards, vaults, locks, and chests, as it reflected magical energy at the caster. Depending on a Druid’s reason why they avoid metal, they may find that using items of hizagkuur is harmful to them, especially if they see the Underdark as a place that has no connection to their natural surroundings.

Infernal Iron: Found in the Nine Hells, this metal is used to forge hellish weapons, magic items, war machines, and currency. There are at least two ways to think about Infernal Iron: 1. Cold Iron was typically used to hurt fey and fiends alike, so this iron derivative may be less effective against fey friends; or 2. Fiends use Hellfire weapons made from Infernal Iron to send their victims to the river Styx, disrupting the natural cycle of life and death. Thus Infernal Iron should be avoided and destroyed at all costs.

Iron: As a common metal, Iron is used in a myriad of weapons, armor, items, magic items, mundane items, and so forth. The spells Heat Metal, Hold Monster, Hold Person, Move Earth, Antimagic Field, Enlarge/Reduce, Flaming Sphere, and Reverse Gravity require iron in different forms. Create Homunculus jewel-encrusted dagger;  As the lore of Iron consists of using the metal to ward off or harm fey creatures, a Druid may wish to avoid it if possible and find alternative material spell components for casting these spells.

Mercury: Also known as quicksilver, Mercury is a heavy metal that is typically used by arcanists. Maddening Darkness, Symbol, Tenser’s Floating Disk, and True Polymorph require Mercury as a spell component, and some portals are made of pools of the liquid metal. Since this metal must be mined and processed, Druids may find it unappealing to their naturistic characters and try to avoid it unless ethically sourced.

Mitral/Mithril: Dwarves called this material “truemetal” and they mine the silver-black mineral from the Underdark and certain mountain ranges. When forged using a process similar to steel, the metal took on a shining silver-blue sheen and weighed half that of steel. Armor and weapons are typically made from it. Because mining Mithril permanently scars natural landscapes, pollutes air and water, and harms wildlife habitats, a Druid would be keen to avoid using the material.

Orcslayer: Known also as blood-metal, this steel alloy is toxic to Orcs. While the creation process is now lost to history, one sage protested its use, as it could lead to developing weapons that target other races and result in genocidal conquests. Copies of this Treatise Against Blood-Metal can be found in Candlekeep, Cormyr, Sembia, and Waterdeep libraries. Druids, especially of Orc lineage, would find this metal abhorrent, and they may protest steel due to its violent nature.

Platinum: This rare silver-white metal is used as a currency with a value of 10 gp. Elves of Myth Drannor used this material to craft enchanted arrowheads, and the spells Warding Bond, Mordenkainen’s Sword, and Summon Aberration require Platinum as a component. Like Gold, a Druid might see Platinum as necessary.

Silver: A precious metal used in currency, weaponry, armor, jewelry, and magic items, Silver is notably used in defeating shapechangers, vampires, wraiths, and wights. The spells Alarm, Dispel Good, Magic Circle, Protection from Evil/Good, Astral Projection, Soul Cage, Sanctuary, Chain Lightning, Ceremony, See Invisibility, Telepathy, Guards and Wards, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion, and Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound require Silver at least, and some require Iron as well. While Circle of the Moon Druids are also shapechangers, they may find Silver particularly distasteful, never mind its environmental detriment from mining. 

Star Metal: Found within meteorites fallen from the cosmos, this extremely rare material can be alloyed with common metals to make durable weapons and armor ideal for enchantments. Some Druids may find Star Metal acceptable, as it did not come from the land around them, and others may think it abominable, as it is even less natural than ore mined from the mountains.

Telstang: Developed by gnomes, this alloy of metals, also called truesilver and the “trusty metal,” is used by several races in the Sword Coast region. Composed of copper, mithril, platinum, and silver, an item created from this material is brittle, but once forged, its shape cannot be altered, nor could anything that came in contact with it. Therefore, Telstang prevents the effects of paralyze, polymorph, disintegrate, spider climb, and petrify. Bracers, buckles, and jewelry are often made from this material, while weapons and armor are avoided. Because its parts are mined and forged, a Druid might opt to avoid using items of this material.

Terracotta: While not necessarily metal, this clay-based material is noteworthy in the discussion of Druids, as it can provide an alternative to metals at the discretion of the character. Used for urns, masks, magical constructs, clay warriors, shingles and tiles, pottery, and similar items, this material is easily shattered by force. Still, it could be used as a substitute for some metal material components, like chests and lockboxes.

Tin: Used in alloys for bronze and pewter, this metal is worked by a tinsmith and is used for small items, such as planar tuning forks, etchings, and castings. The spell Plane Shift requires a forked metal rod, possibly made from Tin. Upon the Elemental Plane of Fire, tin was mined by slaves under an Efreeti (genie) master. Tin mining may be problematic for a Druid.

Whitesteel: This rare non-precious metal is equivalent to our Tungsten. Alloys of Whitesteel could result in strong weapons and armor, but deposits of this mineral are difficult to find. With the problematic environmental effects mining has on the land, a Druid would likely avoid items of Whitesteel, particularly armors and shields.

Zardazik: A rare reddish metal used to create weapons when alloyed with other metals. When a Zardazik weapon first comes into contact with blood, the weapon becomes intangible to the creature whose blood it touches, and is no longer affected by spells like Heat Metal, Enlarge/Reduce, and so forth. The ore of this metal is found in mountains, mines, and sandy fissures. Druids may see the metal as problematic for the environmental effects of mining it.

Other Metals: 

These share similar properties to the metals listed above.

  • Lead
  • Pewter
  • Aluminum
  • Nickle
  • Cobalt

Note: Mordenkainen’s Private Sanctum requires a thin sheet of lead, and Summon Construct requires a lockbox of metal.

6 thoughts on “<b>Why Druids Don’t Wear Metal Armor</b>: D&D 5e Lore”

    1. Thank you Daniel! I tried to think of more reasons why Druids don’t wear armor, but I came up short, I fear! If you have other ideas, I’d be happy to explore them!

  1. I never had problems to avoid metal armor. But what about weapons? Druids are allowed to use daggers/Knives and sickles. And while knives can be easily made out of bone or stone I have never seen a sickle that was not made of metal. So what about that?

    As a compromise I would assume, that pure metal is allowed (as silver, gold or even the pure ore) but not such things as alloy or reworked/artificial things like steel. I also had a situation where a DM would not allow the druid to shape while having a silver dagger equipped. So if you want to shape then you should avoid that probably.

    1. This is a great question. It looks like just metal armor and shields are taboo according to the rules since AD&D, so I guess you’d have to look for an explanation of why it would exclude weaponry. A sickle has been known for its purposes in foraging and gardening, so I can see the connection to nature there. Maybe it’s the fact that weapons are more “tools” than means of protection. I think discovering why your Druid doesn’t mind using metal weapons would be fitting to the ethics or history of the character.

  2. I prefer looking at the subject another way: Metal is not associated with a negative theme like ‘civilization’ or as bane upon nature but, instead, seeing it as Sacred. Certain metal tools are used to harvest sacred plants because these plants warrant sacred tools but enshrouding oneself in the Sacred is an insult to the Divine. Fits the hubris theme. Hiding yourself with a Sacred element is akin to disguising yourself as a divine being.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top