Among the various editions of D&D, Pathfinder e Warhammer, who made the best Dryad? We find out in this article, along with some ideas for themed adventures!

Our column "Who did it better" continues, after two chapters dedicated to Bulette and Goblin. As always, this column is absolutely semi-serious and stages a playful competition. Also, it's all based on my personal taste, so if you love the version of a monster that I hate, that's totally normal and fair.

This time we are comparing a monster that any of my players (level permitting) knows they will encounter in every campaign: the Driade. So let's see which edition of d20 System did this month's monster better.

La Dryad: this unknown

Wooded, fascinating, tied to trees. The Dryads are a Elf easy to use and a certain charm. I am one of those monsters (who knows why, eh!) Towards whom the first approach of the party is not usually violence.
I am a monster that works well at low levels as a character for some roleplay match or as a magical and elusive opponent in the woods.
I personally use them like representatives of nature (of a specific forest) and I often use them as a way to probe how the party wants to relate to the forces of nature.

Dryads have a priority: the tree to which they are related, and they will do whatever they can to protect it.
Halfway between the spirit of the woods and the eco-terrorist, Dryad, with its specific lore and special abilities, offers even at the lower levels a taste of the magical world.
Then yes, it also offers great romance options, which never hurts.

On a philological level, the Dryad is obviously inspired by the homonymous creature of the gods Greek myths: a supernatural figure representing trees and wooded nature. The quality of being tied to the tree is actually more specific to Hamadriads, which Paizo used to create another voice of Bestiario! As a rural subject (i.e. as an excuse to draw naked women in the forest), dryads have been extremely popular in art from their inception to the present day. Indeed, we could say that after all the illustration of the manuals is just another canvas on which to continue to represent them.

On the other hand, illustration, even for commercial purposes, is art. And it's time to see how this art has developed over the various editions!

Sorry for the tiny picture, but that's all you can find on the first edition Dryad of D&D
Sorry for the tiny picture, but that's all you can find on the first edition Dryad of D&D

D&D first edition: the Dryad of the first Monster Manual

The format of the first Monster Manual did not discount anyone: each monster has its own tiny box in which to be depicted. No exception. Except for the Gorgone and several furry werewolves.

The Dryad of the first edition is shy, leaning shyly from behind a tree. She wears a weird dress (the low resolution of the images doesn't help with that camel toe in evidence) and lots of jewelry. And here the questions begin: how did you get those jewels? Any trade? Did a charmed adventurer give them to you? Did she collect them from some corpse or did she make them and are they really nothing but acorns and intertwined tendrils?
This Dryad looks quite civilized, so she probably looted them from some unfortunate adventurer like all civilized monsters do.

Extreme Makeover: Dryad Edition

The Dryad is so civilized that the tree has been furnished
Let's take a moment to reflect on this: the tree has been furnished. The tree that is physically part of her (or another tree, which would make her a sadist). In theory, if we understand correctly, she has carved out a sitting room in what is currently a part of her.
Moreover, it is not even a top in the furniture: door visibly lower than her where it must enter bent double and then climb a staircase without a handrail (and risking d6 from falling). All this to get to a charming window (note the Venetian blinds that she has taken the trouble to sculpt from her own body) that will be more or less at pelvis height.

I think they said to the designer more or less these words: “Dryads are magical women who live in trees”. And he thought it best to make her a tree house.
And then, with that Rob Liefeld foot it won't even be easy to climb stairs.

Rating: 3 /10. Suspicious and potentially psychotic.
The Dryad by AD&D
The Dryad by AD&D

AD&D: Advanced Dryads & Dryads

There is an air of emancipation in the air. Emancipation from the tree. In fact, the Dryads have gone from not being able to go beyond 36 feet (I want to hope that when they wrote 36 "they meant feet and not inches, otherwise there are the extremes for the kidnapping of Folletto) to having a good 360 yards of autonomy! If I understand these barbaric systems of measurement, they have more or less tripled their range! 

Males with Charisma 16, be careful when you leave the house!
Yes, because the Dryads, even in the previous edition, have the dubious gift of being able to throw Charm, but only on males of remarkable charisma. To catch them and make them disappear forever.
Let's face it, there are worse ways to lose character!

Never go to dinner with a Dryad!

The Dryad of the second edition of Advanced Dungeon & Dragons is a marked improvement: goblin in proportions and facial features, with beautiful hair that looks like a clod of grass. 
The color palette is very delicate and nuanced, giving her clothes a touch of lightness and ineffability.
The bundle of flowers in her arms resembles her hair: has she just cut it and is now creepily cuddling it?

Adding another touch of horror is her diet: herbivorous
Given that using the term "herbivore" instead of "vegetarian" gives it an animalistic touch, but how do we reconcile the fact that it is a spirit of the trees, and only eats plants? Is it an over-predatory creature? Like a cat or a shark? Or maybe she has made the leap in quality, and feeds on her fellow men like a cannibal? Can you see the girl grazing the grass?
I just realized that bundle of grass in her arms could be her hair, but it could also be her snack. 
Ok, I wanted to give this Dryad a high mark, but her eating habits make me disgusted.

Rating: 6/ 10.
La Driade in the third edition of D&D
La Driade in the third edition of D&D

D&D 3e: a fantasy pin-up

The third edition presents a Dryad with strong magical connotations.
It is certainly one civilized creature, with time and the desire to get clothes, choose jewels and take care of your look.
We see it emerging from a patch of grass. Fantasy weed, seen how those weird stems come up.
La magic of this elf is very subliminal. In fact, if it weren't for the pointed ears and the leaves that flutter around it, we could mistake it for a generic pin-up. Instead it is a fantasy pin-up.

The leaves are a very nice idea to indicate to the reader that the Dryad is in the autumn phase, and has decided to coordinate clothes, make-up and hair for the season. However, in the text block they specify that dryads bind to oaks, and those aren't oak leaves!
He's not betraying his oak with other trees, is he?

Rating: 8/ 10. A classy Dryad.
The Dryad in D&D 3.5
The Dryad in D&D 3.5

D&D 3.5: 100% more wood

In the third edition, Dryad makes a breakthrough.
Increase your challenge rank by two, gain spells such as Suggestion, Tree Shape ed entangled at will (and we all know what a pole in the ass is entangled).
The Dryads of this update try to make us forget that they once fascinated adventurers and then make them lose track, and they conduct a fine propaganda operation by telling us that at most Charmano adventurers only to make them fight against worse adventurers.

Personally, I really like the path they have chosen to take with this Dryad. Feminine, but alien. The slightly disproportionate and lanky shapes, the head with the features of a third edition elf: it is the attempt of a Elf who lives in the trees to look attractive to adventurers passing through the forest. I always like it when the distance between Elves and inhabitants of the material plane is highlighted.
I also like that it is completely vegetable, with a skin that reflects well the texture of the wood and foliage per hair. Notice the fineness of the navel made like a hole in the bark.

This Dryad loses a vote, however, for the effect escher girl: bust and pelvis oriented frontally towards the reader, hips and pubis oriented by three quarters. But oh well, with magic you can fix (or justify) more or less everything.

Rating: 9/ 10.
Warhammer FRP D&D 4e Dryad
The Dryad of Warhammer FRP D&D 4e

D&D 4e: Treant with the sill

What happened to you honey?
Have bad game designers upset you?
In the fourth edition, the monster designers abandon the previous lore on Dryads and decide to copy even even Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Lore, physical appearance, ability. Full-blown freebooting, rather than working on the fee they set themselves.

The Dryad in question is the female counterpart of the Treant: a woody humanoid form with random vines around the body. He stomped towards likely adventurers as he raises a hand to gut someone with his claws. In theory it could present itself to the PCs in the form of a pleasant elf or eladrin (!), But that is an illusory veil that reveals a mini-Treant without even magical powers.

Rating: 3/ 10. Magic and beauty traded for freebot Warhammer.
The Dryad in Pathfinder
The Dryad in Pathfinder

Pathfinder: fashion nudism

Given the disastrous rendering of Dryad in Fourth Edition, at Paizo they decided to make a new Dryad. To do this, however, they needed a Bestiario, and to justify the existence of a Bestiario they had to invent a role-playing game.
So it went, trust me.

The Dryad of Pathfinder it's a cheeky elf, painted in warm and lively tones. Observe her while, lying in an absolutely natural pose, observes with amusement a bird chirping resting on her hand. The pose, the smile and the look reveal a joyful and lively creature of the woods.
I really like how they made her red hair made of leaves: a disheveled but stylish mop, with the always appropriate locks attached to cover the nipples.

This Dryad is from meat, and is keen to let us know by showing as much as possible. The digital brushstroke with which the complexion was rendered is rough and gives solidity to the subject, as well as remotely recalling a woody texture. On closer inspection, the girl seems to be wearing a belt, or worse still, underwear, made of wreaths of flowers and intertwined branches. I leave it to you to imagine the comfort.

In any case, the illustrator is keen to point out that the illustrated Dryad is not naked because it is a wild spirit of untouched nature. In fact, the complicated shoes she wears, with reticulated knee-highs, are a clear indication that she knows very well what Golarion's tailoring and footwear company are. His nudity is therefore to be interpreted as one fashion statement.

Rating: 10/ 10.
The Dryad in D&D 5e
The Dryad in D&D 5e

D&D 5e: few leaves and angry look

I really like the Dryad of the fifth edition, for the opposite reasons to those for which I like that of Pathfinder.
Ethereal, cold, determined. We mustn't piss off this Dryad.
In many ways, the design of this creature recalls the version of the 3.5: long-limbed and woody body, but in imitation of a humanoid.
I really like the hair done in the crown and the poncho of leaves that wraps it. This Dryad knows what civilization is, but she has decided not to adapt to it.
The pose chosen to depict her is in its own way very effective: standing as she walks slowly, but confidently towards her opponents. The pissed-off face of someone who just caught the party's Halfling Thief pissing on his oak.

If we ignore the fact that he may be using his own leaf hair as a cloak (a reference to the Dryad ofAdvanced?) this Dryad definitely hits the mark.

Rating: 10/ 10.
Pathfinder 2's (Loves) Dryad
The (Loves) Driade by Pathfinder 2

Honorable Mention # 1: (Loves) Dryad by Pathfinder 2

I admit, I am disappointed.
There is no drawing of the Dryad in the Bestiaries currently published by Pathfinder 2.
Money down the drain.
In order to systematize the monsters by bringing them together in thematic groups, the Dryads have been united in a single family of nature spirits from Greek mythology: Nymphs, Naiads, Hamadryads and Dryads. Unfortunately in this way, for reasons of space, they reserved the illustrations for the Naiad and the Amadriade (aka Dryad Queen).

Let's go see how they did it, but she won't get a grade as she isn't expressly a Dryad.
Here they said to the designer: "Make a tree fairy!" and he replied: "Ok, Poison Ivy fantasy coming soon!".
I find it to be a little inspired design. She is essentially an elf dressed in plants. A bodice-dress of leaves, stockings and gloves of roots. I personally find it banalotto and, again, uninspired. I would be curious to understand if these items of clothing are made by her or grown on her.

The pose with which the Dryad has been depicted convinces me little: the right leg has a strange fold, the arms are in a pose that balances the legs little. Will he be hopping on the spot? Does she balance on one foot while growing plants on her palm? Also the proportions do not encroach on me that much: it looks like the upper body is bigger than the lower one, as if they were drawn separately.

The Dryad in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
The Dryad in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

Special Mention # 2: The Dryads in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

Imagine your party's Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is going to Bretonnia (bad idea). Imagine he chooses to cut through the Laurelorn Forest (another bad idea).
Then imagine that in the dark forest he hears a woman's voice and deviates from the path to help her (another bad idea).

This is what you are faced with before rolling the initiative.
Fierce, woody, ruthless. This is a forest keeper you don't want to piss off.
The design of this Dryad is effective: from a distance it could be mistaken for a woman (and before pulling the initiative it really seemed so!), But now the aggression and the dangerousness of the creature are palpable. The two hanging heads are not a mere grim dark touch, but serve to infer information: we know that she likes to kill to protect her woods, and that she keeps the heads of the unfortunate as a memento or an intimidating strategy.
This is character design done right!

The story of the Dryad in Luca Enoch's Gea comic is a great starting point!
The history of Dryad in comics Gea by Luca Enoch is a great starting point!

Ideas for adventure

The ideas for adventure could not be missing.
I didn't want to cover the "Ecoterrorist Dryads" plot, because I think they represented it well in the side quest Kingmaker, and even better in Where the water flows, the eighth volume of Gea by Luca Enoch.

  • The Babysitters. The way through the forest is the one that will allow the army to come to battle early and unseen. The PCs are sent as vanguards to negotiate passage with the Dryads residing in the woods. The negotiation will include quests and tests of different types: in fact, the Dryads have a bad habit of making others do what they do not want to do. During the crossing, the PCs must ensure that the Dryads do not permanently seduce / kidnap the unwary warriors, and that the military does not do anything to piss off the Dryads.
  • The activist. A famous bard has decided to take the field to avoid the demolition of the sacred wood. She has climbed the most majestic tree and refuses to come down. His presence helped to mislead public opinion. The point is that the Dryads can't stand her: her music is annoying to them and makes all the birds escape. The PCs will have to mediate between the Bard and the Dryads for the protest to take effect, but they may also receive a tempting offer to unleash the two factions, break the opposing front, and have the lumberjacks win.
  • It was the Dryads! The PCs have been stationed for a couple of days at a village inn on the edge of an ancient wood. In these two days, they made the acquaintance of Bordo, a guy who every time he does something that annoys the village exclaims "The Dryads made me do it!". Upon close inspection, Edge actually appears to be under the effect of some spell. If the PCs get to the bottom of the story they will find that the Dryads plead innocent. In fact, Bordo has been cursed by a completely different creature who wants to pit Dryads and villagers against each other. Will the PCs be able to unmask the Hag guilty of the crime?
The cover image is by sketcheth and you can find it Thu