Druid’s Wildshape doesn’t strictly allow you to fly before level 8. And none of the loopholes on this list are going to be as free, versatile, and efficient as that landmark. But as I detailed before, Wildshape is so multi-faceted a mechanic that there are ways to get yourself in the air if that’s what you’re hoping for. Today we’re covering some edge cases for low-level druids looking wistfully at the sky!
Caveat: Get permission from your GM before attempting any of these tricks. Every campaign is different, and many of these won’t fit the aesthetic of an ultra-serious storyline. My goal here is not to “break D&D” as part of some silly thought experiment, but to simply honor druid’s versatility as a class.
Method #1: Take Aarakocra/Winged Tiefling as your race
This is the most obvious method, available during character creation. (Unless your GM bans those races, which many do precisely because they can fly.) Aarakocra are bird-people, and winged tieflings are an optional variant of the classic demonic race. Both are transparently designed to give the player instant flight options. Aarakocra even get a wisdom bonus, synergizing well with the Druid class. The main downside is that both flight options come with armor restrictions. Also you should be factoring in a lot more considerations than just flight into your racial choice. I went with Warforged for roleplay reasons, forcing me to be more creative with how I went airborne. Case in point…
Method #2: Ride a Familiar
Find Familiar is an incredible spell on Druid (or any other class, for that matter). For a mere lvl 1 spellslot, you get a permanent animal companion who brings most of the same perks to the table as Wildshape. Sadly, it’s not on the Druid spell list. My Druid took Magical Initiate to unlock it, though you can also get it for free with the “Alternate Class Features” variant in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Familiars bring a medley of useful mechanics to the table, I’ll probably write a whole article on this someday. But the one that matters for this article is that many forms (including the fan favorite owl) can fly. And as a druid, you can simply shapeshift into a flea and climb on its back!
Method #3: Summon Beast
In a similar vein, Summon Beast is a Druid spell added in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. You’d use it exactly like you would Find Familiar, just summon an Air Spirit. As a 2nd-level spell, you can get this as early as 4th level. Which isn’t as good as everything else on this list, that all unlocks at level 1, but it’s low-cost and a good backup option requiring no permanent character investments.
Method #4: Shape Water
Shape Water is another multi-faceted spell available to Druids. I know I’ll be writing a whole article about it eventually. The relevant use for this article is to essentially create a floating platform, since you can move the water in any direction (including up). Shape the water into a 5-foot hollow cube without a top, freeze it solid, and climb in. Assuming your GM accepts “hover in place” as a possible animation, you can now raise your ‘boat’ 5-feet every 6 seconds, letting you slowly ascend up to 3,000ft within the hour the spell lasts.
Method #5: Ballooning
But what if you didn’t want to take a feat or spell just to fly? Well, there’s an animal form in the real world with a unique behavior for taking to the skies! Baby spiders will release a single gossamer thread that catches the wind and carries them away. This behavior is called “ballooning” and it leaves you at the mercy of the air currents, so it’s situational. But if the skies are windy, theres nothing stopping you from quickly seeking greener pastures!
Bonus #6: Flying squirrel
I mentioned this one in an earlier article, but it’s worth reiterating here. Flying squirrels have a glide speed of 30ft/round, which is different from a ‘flying speed’ and therefore you can turn into one before level 8. Of course, you need to be higher-up than your destination to do this, but it’s an option worth remembering. Also if your destination is “straight down to the ground”, remember that any insect won’t take falling damage.
Bonus #7: Turbo-jumping
By default, jumping is not something druids do very well. Vertical or horizontal range is tied to strength, which is a dump stat. But you can pre-cast the jump spell and shapeshift into something with great strength (like a polar bear) to massively increase your jumping distance. This only really reaches ‘flying’ levels with the female steeder from Out of the Abyss, who can jump 270ft horizontally or vertically as a full movement action with this method. Beware of fall damage if you do this!
Again, doublecheck with your GM before trying any of these. But above all, don’t give up on your dreams of soaring through the air. When you’re a druid, the sky’s not even the limit!