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A druid and his hound totem.

Totems are animals that serve as familiars to Druids. Totems are bound by the soul to their respective Druids and are crucial to casting a variety of Elemental spells that are unique to the Druid class.

Totems can become linked to a particular Druid in several ways. The most commonly known are the following:

One possessing an affinity for the Elemental magics (ex. one well-practiced in the Elemental school, one possessing the blood of a forest spirit) may unconsciously bond with a particular animal over a long period of time if they are together long enough. The Druid may not always be aware that this is happening and might only discover that they have been bound to their Totem by accident. Those especially adept in the Elemental school can perform a ritual to bind themselves to a particular animal at will.

The souls of a Druid and a Totem may also be bound together by an outside force, such as a forest spirit. These manual bindings can be extremely physically taxing for both parties, especially if it is a forced binding. It is not uncommon for participants to pass out or go into shock afterward. 

The process of bonding gives the Totem magical properties, increased sapience, and heightened levels of awareness and connection to the natural world. This may allow them to provide information about the environment to their Druid companion. Likewise, the Druid’s level of magic and awareness of nature are heightened.

Once bound, a Druid feels a great deal of closeness and affection for their Totem, and seldom like to be far from them. Totems feel similarly about their companions. As their very souls have merged together, the Druid and Totem can sometimes experience negative symptoms from being too far apart, or if one has been hurt or affected somehow. These symptoms include emotional stress, severe depression, and even physical weakness or illness.

The soul-bond between a Druid and a Totem may be broken if the two spend too much time apart, the Druid completely loses their ability to cast Elemental magic, or the bond is manually broken by the Druid or an outside party.

The process of breaking a Druid-Totem soul-bond is very painful, and almost always leaves both the Druid and the Totem with physical and/or mental illness for the rest of their lives. Druids that have broken their bonds with their Totems have described carrying an “emptiness” in their heart that they cannot fill up again, and have a hard time even considering acquiring another Totem. For this reason, Druid-Totem pairs often remain together for life.

Druid-Totem pairs are not usually telepathically linked or able to understand one another’s speech, but they often have an empathetic link that allows them to sense each other’s feelings. This can be effective way for a Totem to alert a Druid to potential dangers in an area. However, it is entirely possible for some Druid-Totem pairs to become telepathically linked, as every pair is different. Telepathic bonding is much more likely to occur if the souls were bound gradually. It is also possible to make a Totem’s speech understandable to a Druid via the spell, Commune with Animal Familiar.

In some cases, a Totem may act as a liaison between a magical being (ex. a forest spirit) and the Druid. This means that they can essentially serve as a mouthpiece for the magical being and channel magic from the being to the Druid.

If the Totem is already magically linked to something or someone, the bonding process indirectly links the Druid to that other bond. For example, if a Totem is magically linked to a particular forest, the Druid it bonds with shall become bound to the forest and experience negative symptoms from being too far from the forest or if the forest is affected.