For many years now, roleplaying games have used the term shaman to mean a lot of different things. Most often, the term is used to describe the spiritual leader of a primitive people or tribe. The shaman would commune with the spirits to beseech them for aid or guidance. The only problem with this was that it did not closely match any of the classes we have in the game. Until now.
In the early days of the Advanced Class Guide, the shaman joined the list of classes that would appear in the book. It seemed like a no-brainer, a hole in our assortment of fantasy concepts that needed to be filled. As with the other classes, figuring out which two classes the shaman would draw from turned out to be the tricky part. The shaman wanted a connection to the divine, a connection to nature, and a connection to some of the more dark aspects of magic. Although we finally settled on pulling mechanics and concepts from the oracle and the witch, the druid was also a very strong contender for adding parts to the class.
The first draft of the shaman gave us a class that had hexes like a witch and a new concept called spirits. These work a lot like oracle mysteries, but they are a little more limited. This is made up for by the fact that at higher levels you can commune with a second spirit each day. While the first is set when you take your first level of shaman, the second is “wandering”, meaning that you can change it each day when you prepare your spells. So while your primary spirit helps define your character and its personality, the second can become a sort of “flavor of the day”, giving you a choice of mechanical options and a way for you to shift your personality too!
The playtest told us a lot about the shaman. While the first draft of the class used the cleric spell list, we tried something radically different with the second draft, giving it an expanded version of the druid spell list. Neither quite met the needs of the class, which is why in the final version, you will find that the shaman has its own unique spell list. While much of this list is drawn from the cleric and the witch spell lists, there are a number of formerly druid-only spells finding their way into the shaman’s arsenal.
There are a number of other exciting changes for the final version of the shaman as well. We upped the number of hexes received to one every two levels, with the wandering hexes taking the place of the normal hex at 6th and 14th levels. To give you a wider breadth of options to choose from, the shaman now also includes a list of hexes available to all shaman’s regardless of their chosen spirit. While many of these will be familiar, there are a few new ones in here specifically tied to the shaman’s theme. Take a look.
Fury (Su): The shaman incites a creature within 30 feet into a primal fury. The target receives a +2 morale bonus on attack rolls and a +2 resistance bonus on saving throws against fear for a number of rounds equal to the shaman’s Wisdom modifier. At 8th and 16th level, these bonuses increase by 1. Once a creature has benefited from the fury hex, it cannot benefit from it again for 24 hours.
Shapeshift (Su): The shaman transforms herself into another form for a number of minutes per day equal to her level, as alter self. This duration does not need to be consecutive, but it must be spent in 1-minute increments. Changing form (including changing back) is a standard action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity. At 8th level, this ability works as beast shape I. At 12th level, this ability works as beast shape II. At 16th level, this ability works as beast shape III. At 20th level, this ability works as beast shape IV.
Of course, you will also find a number of fun new archetypes to play when creating a shaman character. There is the animist, who can communicate with the hostile spirits causing her allies discomfort and cause them to depart. You could play a possessed shaman, who allows the spirits to inhabit her body and can draw upon their knowledge. There is the spirit warden, who battles against undead spirits, using channel energy to send them to their final rest. Finally, there is the witch doctor, who can heal creatures like a cleric and can counter spells with a hex ability!
Well, that about wraps it up for the shaman. Next week, we will be previewing the last of the 10 new classes in the Advanced Class Guide, the hunter!