In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, the Dryad is a fey creature based upon the Dryad of Greek mythology. They are tree spirits with the forms of beautiful (albeit woody) women who benevolently protect forests and woodlands.
The dryad was one of the earliest creatures introduced in the D&D game.
Dungeons & Dragons (1974-1976)
The dryad was one of the first monsters introduced in the earliest edition of the game, in the Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set
(1974), where they were described as beautiful tree sprites, each a part of their own respective tree.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977-1988)
The dryad appears in the first edition Monster Manual (1977), where it is described as a beautiful, alluring tree sprite always found near her oak tree.
The dryad was detailed in Dragon #87 (July 1984), in the "Ecology of the Dryad".
The hamadryad appeared in Dragon #101 (September 1985).
Dungeons & Dragons (1977-1999)
This edition of the D&D game included its own version of the dryad, in the Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set
(1981 & 1983). The dryad appears as a player character class in Tall Tales of the Wee Folk
in the "DM's booklet" (1989). The dryad was also later featured in the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989-1999)
The dryad appears first in the Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (1989), and is reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993).
The hamadryad appeared again in Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix II (1991), and later in Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Three (1996).
Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 edition (2000-2002)
The dryad appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2000).
Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition (2003-2007)
The dryad appears in the revised Monster Manual for this edition (2003).
The mistling dryad template for the Eberron setting appeared in Forge of War (2007).
Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008-)
The dryad appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2008), including the briar witch dryad
Dryads resemble highly beautiful human or elven women only made out of smooth, brown-green wood, and with grass and leaves for hair. They can step into and out of trees, and can perform localized teleportation by entering one tree and then magically appearing out of another nearby one.
Dryads work, along with some other Fey, to protect and preserve the forests they inhabit and so any who desecrate them incur their wrath. Although ultimately protectors of whole forests, they do have individual trees to themselves. If a dryad leaves the vicinity of her tree for too long, she will die. They also sometimes aid adventurers and can prove useful as a source of information.