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New Paths #2: The Expanded Shaman (PFRPG) PDF

****½ (based on 3 ratings)

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The Spontaneous Druid

It's odd that the mystic druid must prepare spells ahead of time—so now he doesn't! The shaman is a nature and spirit-focussed spontaneous caster, with otherworldly new abilities and an animal spirit guide.

Welcome to The Expanded Shaman, a base class for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game that was first presented in Kobold Quarterly #21.

The removal of prepared spells makes this a more mystical and freeform nature-based caster, and the new powers and expanded wildshape and totem abilities mean that the Shaman is both flexible and powerful. Marvel at the new spirit dance, improved wildshape powers, and totem secrets, which grant additional powers beyond the ken of mere druids.

The Expanded Shaman includes much new material beyond the original magazine version, such as three new archetypes for the elemental shaman, primal shifter, and witch doctor, plus new feats and spells specific to the Shaman that make them masters of the spirit world and an expanded list of animal spirit guides. The Expanded Shaman includes a full 20-level character progression plus tracking sheets for animal spirit companion and wildshape forms.

Be a spontaneous Shaman! Get The Expanded Shaman today!

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Product Reviews (3)

Average product rating:

****½ (based on 3 ratings)

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The Much Desired Next Member of the Spontaneous Circle

*****

Anyone who knows me knows I love spontaneous casters. Immensely so. Given the option between two classes that use the same spell list, I will unwaveringly pick the spontaneous option over the prepared/Vancian option. Sorcerer over Wizard, Oracle over Cleric, every time. Imagine my delight when, mentioning my desire for a Druidic spontaneous counterpart, Liz Courts and Wolfgang Baur point me toward the Shaman. I buy it immediately.

And here I am, almost a year later, finally sitting down to write a review. Sorry for the wait, guys! And thanks to Marc Radle for giving me a solid nudge in getting around to it. I'd lose my head if it weren't screwed on....

Anyway, on with the show.

The Shaman is, at face value, a fairly simple concept class: it is a spontaneous counterpart to the Druid. It has the same hit die, BAB progression, and saves as the Druid, and the same spell progression and spells known advancement as the Oracle and Sorcerer. Honestly, if it had been that alone, bolted on to the Druid chassis (or added as an archetype, a fairly simple alternative option) I probably still would have bought it, though admittedly that's a less interesting alternative. Thankfully, it's not so simple as that. The Shaman has an array of newly-flavored and retooled abilities, similar in theme and design to the Druid but with a flair for the spiritual. That's the flavor behind the Shaman: whereas the Druid is empowered by the life and power and strength of nature, the Shaman operates through its spirit. They are intermediaries between the anima that dwells within all natural things, living and unliving, and draw their power from the wellspring of spectral energy that suffuses everything around them.

The shaman has the same alignment and armor restrictions as the druid, but a slightly more limited selection of available weapons - only simple, without the druid's handful of other weapons available. Likewise, they have the same restrictions on aligned spells that all divine casters must contend with. They are granted Sylvan as an available starting language, in addition to racial bonus languages, but do not receive it for free. No Druidic, interestingly enough, though I suppose that they are not technically Druids and therefore not in on the Big Druidic Secret, whatever it may be; those of you (like me) interested in tossing them all in the same pot can always tack that on for free in your home games.

In place of an Animal Companion, a Shaman receives a Spirit Guide: an animate nature spirit in the shape of an animal partner. There's a wide variety of available animal forms - 16 in all - extremely similar to the Druid's list, but with a few changes. Most notable is that each spirit is tagged with a "totem spell" - a bonus spell granted freely as an addition to the Shaman's spells-known list, unique to each Spirit Guide. The guides, despite being listed as simply animals, are actually all Magical Beasts. In addition to the standard companion benefits gained as the Shaman levels (Evasion, share spells, devotion, improved evasion, etc.), the Spirit Guide gets tricks like Invisibility, SR, Incorporeality, and a few Familiar traits like Share Spells, Deliver Touch Spells, and Scry on companion. It has a couple of unique abilities as well: Commune with Spirits, which allows an augury (later divination, then commune) for free with a minute-long trance, and Spell Summons, which once per day allows the Shaman a free casting of any Druid spell, even if not known by the Shaman.

Back to the Shaman him/herself. The next trick they pick up is Totem Secret, a nice little collection of abilities that can be selected at various levels across the spectrum. There's familiar shamanistic tropes in here, such as using entrails to perform divinations, speaking with animals, seeing ethereal and incorporeal creatures, creating a defensive armor out of local spirits, and calling out the anger of a region to attack a foe. The Shaman gets to choose a total of six of these abilities, the final at level 19, and there are twelve to choose from.

The Shaman picks up Woodland Step and Wild Empathy, which function exactly as they do for Druids, followed up by Shaman's Touch - a CHA/day minor healing ability that scales up along the cure line over levels - and, of course, Wild Shape.

After this though is the Spirit Dance. The Shaman can spend three rounds dancing, communing in a ritual with the Spirits, to augment their magical capabilities. The dance can empower spells by upping caster levels, adding free Metamagic, and boosting attempts against SR, and eventually gets multiple uses of the ability.

The class rounds itself out with Spirit Step, allowing ethereal jaunt (strangely not italicized in the PDF) for a few rounds a day, and Vision Quest, an astral projection or legend lore (again, not italicized) ability that while interesting requires 24 hours of uninterrupted meditation and fasting to perform, regulating it to offscreen downtime more likely than not, or frequent interruption by impatient GMs or party members. The class, perhaps most glaringly, doesn't have a capstone ability, though the Spirit Dance does become available as often as the Shaman wishes it at 20th. Given that all Pathfinder base classes are designed to have a unique ability at 20th level, this seems like a pretty notable oversight.

The PDF provides a trio of archetypes following: the Elemental Shaman, the Primal Shifter, and the Witch Doctor. The Elemental Shaman trades the Shaman's spirit theme for an elemental one, replacing the Spirit Guide with an Elemental companion and swapping several abilities for less nature-themed, more element-themed tricks, including an Elemental-based Wild Shape.

The Primal Shifter and Witch Doctor are two sides of the same coin, sacrificing one aspect of their class abilities to empower another. The Shifter significantly reduces their spellcasting ability, dropping down to a 6-level progression (as Bard) but gaining augmented Wild Shape capability in exchange, and exchanging Spirit Dance for Primal Dance, which empowers the Shaman's combat ability in Wild Shape. (A revised spells known/spells per day chart is included for the Primal Shifter.) The Witch Doctor is the opposite, gaining a very meager Wild Shape and enhanced spells-known availability, empowered Shaman's Touch, and Spirit Sense (an augmented detect undead that picks up astral, incorporeal, and ethereal critters as well) and Brew Potion as a bonus feat.

To round the whole thing off, three new spells and four new feats are provided. The elemental blast spell is a nice evocation, also available to Sorcerers/Wizards, that tacks some secondary effects onto each of the elemental options. Rain of fangs is just a cool sounding spell, and the description makes an awesome visual. River of moonlight is a nice mind-affecting spell that I imagine will get more use from the Witches that can cast it rather than Druids and Shamans, since there are so few non-animal focused mind-affecting spells on the druid list that few (Druids and Shamans alike) are likely to be focused around it much. Three of the feats are Shaman-specific (Improved Shaman's Touch, Practiced Spirit Dance, and Prolong Spirit Dance) but the fourth, Extra Wild Shape, will probably be as popular with Druids as it will be with Shamans, especially Primal Shifters.

All in all, the class is exactly what it advertises itself as: a spontaneous Druid. Honestly, that's what I came looking for, and the Shaman delivered. The lack of a unique capstone ability is a little disappointing, but the Spirit Guide is cool, and what of the class's abilities aren't immensely awesome are at least practical, though making the Shaman's Touch more along the lines of Lay On Hands rather than a cure SLA that lags a little behind the spells the Shaman can cast might have been a better option. Still, the class looks effective, has a few unique abilities that make it more than just a Druid with a spontaneous casting option, and a nice set of archetypes that offer some interesting twists on the class.

I'm going to rate this one at 4.5 stars... which it turns out is what the two reviews before me have rated it. Since they both went with "4 stars but we mean 4.5", I'll do the reverse, hopefully pulling the total rating up toward the more accurate representation. A definite recommend for the spontaneous casting lover looking for a nature-flavored alternative. Another well-done to the Kobolds.

Now someone point me at spontaneous Witches, Magi, and Paladins =D


More around a 4.5 actually...

****( )

Expanded Shaman marks the second book in Open Designs' New Paths series. Anyone paying attention is well aware of how well received the first installment (The Spell Less Ranger) was, and what type of pressure that places upon this book right off the bat. Question here then is, did Marc Radle have another bullet in the chamber? So let us take a look.

Weighing in at 16 pages, with 10 pages of new material, 2 sheets for tracking wildshape and a spirit guide, cover, OGL, credit and ad (which would not fully load in my version of this PDF). Artwork is handled by the talented Rick Hershey, as those familiar with his style can easily recognize from the cover. Formatting follows the dual column, portrait layout with very few editing issues (an occasional extra space, nothing severe), with embedded artwork and tables. My only complaint in regard to layout is that one particular table finds itself with a full page between it and the descriptive text meant to help one read it. Now, granted by now anyone who games should have no issues using the table, but the addition on the breakdown shows an acknowledgement that those new to the game might still need some help (and I applaud that thinking, as at one point we all needed some guidance), and it being so far after the table makes it almost counter-productive.

For those loyal readers of Kobold Quarterly yes, this is that shaman, expanded upon and re-introduced...for the rest of you, it's all here, so you are not missing anything (although I still recommend you start picking up KQ).

At first glance it is far to easy to dismiss this class as another variant druid, when it is far more. There are a few familiar concepts and abilities, but there is more than enough defining concepts as well. Take for instance the Totem Secrets. Essentially working the same as talents, with the PC gaining them at 1st, 3rd and every 4 levels after, we are given 12 to work with at this point. Of these 12, I would truly have a hard time as a PC deciding on what to pick as there are some really interesting abilities here that I would love to play around with...Invisibility, Protective Spirits, automatic stabilization from 0hp if on home plane, see the incorporeal, ethereal etc., Unleash a furious attack 1/day of spirits upon a target dealing force damage, lull into a trance to commune with the spirits and gain a +20 to one Int check...or my personal favorite out of them all, intestinal divination/sign reading – flight paths of birds, sand particles in the wind...a balanced game mechanic to do what we all imagine the shaman does. Very, very cool, with a nice array of bonuses depending upon what form of “reading” is done with this particular talent.

But fear not, there are more class abilities beyond the Totem Secrets, we have the Animal Spirit Guide, Wild Empathy, Woodland Step, Wild Shape, just to name a few before we get to the more class specific...Shaman's Touch – essentially the cure spells starting at light and working its way up progressively as you increase in level, Spirit Dance allows the shaman to call to the spirits to augment their magic via dance (pretty cool story driven concept actually), Spirit Step – shaman can go ethereal as if using ethereal jaunt, and Vision Quest where upon a shaman can release their spirit from their body for a time.

The Animal Spirit Guide, whereas is pretty class specific, felt a great deal to me like the druid's animal companion, and was one of the reasons I think I kept looking at the shaman looking for the similarities, and differences. 16 base statblocks are presented covering 24 different potential animals that the shaman can pick through, with choices ranging from predatorial birds to manta rays. The list felt more designed for the min/maxer to me, as almost every animal on the list is one with an attack, one would not see as a waste on a character sheet. When I think of shamans, and their guides, I think of the turtle, the rat, the mantis. Animals who, traditionally have been presented throughout fantasy as having something to teach. Not that I am entirely knocking the animals that are here, as they are decent choices, I just would have liked to have seen a few less “combat friendly” choices is all. The spirit animals of course come with their own list of cool abilities, being the very reason one wants them in the first place, lol. Everything from delivering your touch spells to acting as an intermediary to the spirit realm, going incorporeal and granting bonus spells. The options for the spirit guide in regards to abilities is pretty decent and gives plenty of options to handle a variety of builds.

We are given three archetypes, the Elemental, Primal and Medicine Doctor. The elemental, you guessed it, is more attuned to the elemental forces, and swaps out the animal spirit guide for an elemental one, as well bonus spells and their wild shape being one of an elemental. The primal gives up some spell-casting with a smaller quantity of spells daily in exchange for an enhanced wild shape (that comes with a built in healing that is freaking awesome), as well as primal dance – altering the spirit dance to augment the wild shape ability instead of spell-casting. The witch doctor goes the other route, diminishing their wild shape in favor of more spells and a closer relation to the spirits. The witch doctor and primal both have separate tables showing spell progression.

New spells come in the form of Elemental Blast – exactly what it says, Rain of Fangs – yeah, again exactly what it says, very cool visually speaking, and River of Moonlight – transfix opponents with a line of moonlight shaped by you as you choose, hanging before their eyes in the air.

We end with four new feats, Extra Wild Shape, Improved Shaman's Touch, Practiced Spirit Dance and Prolong Spirit Dance. The first two are pretty self explanatory, the practice feat allows you to pull off the 3 full round spirit dance in 3 move actions and requires you to take prolong, which extends the spirit dance an additional 2 rounds. I am assuming this wording means that the prolong spirit dance feat adds 2 rounds to the duration of the spirit dance's benefit, not the amount of rounds required to do a spirit dance in the first place.

The addition of the two additional sheets to add to a character sheet for the tracking of information for wild shape and the spirit guide are a flat out genius move, and a great way to help sell the idea of trying out the class to someone. Clear, concise and well organized, they would be an easy addition to any character portfolio, regardless of what sheets they are currently using.

So, final thoughts and tally...I liked the class, a great deal. And I owe Mr. Radle an apology, I stated early in this review that Rick Hershey handled the art, failing to mention the Radle piece from the interior. Editorial, it is close enough to perfect to not even merit nitpicking (lol), and the presentation is beautiful. I see from End's review that bookmarks were added, so I re-downloaded my copy to check, and I still have no bookmarks. Material wise, the class abilities have some nice surprises and new favorites for me, but I did think the spirit guides were missing something, more in their variety and the theme of them than anything else. I would have liked to have seen some more specific spells for the shaman class, as well as more feats, but I'm sure someone out there *cough* Owen *cough* will do something *cough* Bullet Point *cough* about that soon...sorry, had something caught in my throat there.

OK, so balancing my issues with the animal choices for spirit guide against the new options for abilities and over all flavor of the class, as well as the lack of bookmarks, I'm going to settle on a 4 star rating.

edit- I see in the comment threads that the Paizo version has the bookmarks, so I am willing to bet this has been addressed, and am raising my rating a full .5 star, settling at a 4.5 final rating


Spontaneous druidic spellcaster that could use some additional signature tricks

****( )

This pdf is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let's check this out!

The Shaman class, first premiered in KQ, finally gets its new path treatment after its predecessor, the spell-less ranger, has met with much critical acclaim -so, can the shaman stand up to it?

First, what is the Shaman? Basically, the class offers d8, 4+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort and will-saves, proficiency in light and medium armor and shields, but only non-metal ones and full spontaneous spellcasting from the druid's spell-list. Similar to the orcale, the shaman thus trades in variety for spontaneous flexibility. But is the class more than a spontaneous druid? Yes, he is! Shamans choose an animal spirit guide, essentially a nature spirit taking the form of an animal and improving over the levels, gaining up to 16 HD, (improved) evasion, the powers to share spells , become invisible and even incorporeal at higher levels. A total of 16 different sample spirit guide base-statistics are provided, ranging from obvious choices like the bird of prey to wolves, bisons and even manta rays, carps and stags, though honestly, I did miss e.g. the classic turtle. The spirit guides also grant the shamans a limited array of bonus spells
Shamans also get the equivalent of talents and may chose one at 1st, 3rd and every 4 levels after that one of them. A total of 12 different so-called Totem-secrets are provided, ranging from mundane speaking with animals to the ability to divine the future with entrails, gain bonuses by watching birds and carving marks in the dirt/stone to warning spirits and ones that can block incoming attacks and even unleash a tempest of damaging spirits. They can also enter a trance that prohibits them from taking actions for a couple of rounds, but enables them to gain a massive 20 bonus to an int-based check.

Basics like the woodland stride, wildshape etc. can also be learned by the shaman and they may also perform a spirit dance that enhances their magic for a short period of time after concluding their dance. The pdf also includes archetypes for the shaman, first of which would then be the elemental shaman, who can instead of animal spirit guides choose from one of 4 elementals and gets elemental wild shaping and improved elemental spells. The second archetype would then be the primal shifter, who only gets spellcasting up to 6th level and according to a new table, but can compensate this drawback by enhanced wildshifting and the option to utilize the primal dances to further enhance his melee capabilities with natural weapons. The final new archetype would then be the witch doctor, who is essentially a healer that is not as apt in wildshaping, but gets all the healing capabilities you could ask for.

The pdf also provides 3 new spells: Elemental blasts can do elemental damage (surprise), while rain of fangs does exactly as the spell promises and hails deadly fangs on enemies. Shamans may also transfix people in fascinating rivers of beautiful moonlight. The 4 feats grant extra wildshaping, an improved healer's touch and the options to shorten spirit dances and prolong their effects.
The bonus supplemental content is awesome: We get a one-page wildshape char-sheet and a one-page spirit guide char-sheet - both are clearly designed, easy to use and printer-friendly b/w - kudos for going the extra mile!

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column, full color standard and we get awesome pieces of original full color artworks, which is cool indeed.

EDIT: Bookmarks have been added.

I liked the shaman when it premiered in Kobold Quarterly and I like its new path treatment, that much to start: Honestly, we've been waiting for so long for a spontaneous class with access to the druid's spell-list and the shaman is a nice, balanced class that has some iconic talents and the dance-ability rocks. However, it took me some time to realize why the class didn't elicit that much excitement from me: The answer is simple - It takes a lot of druidic abilities, instead of focusing on the new ones. I would have loved to see more talents, spirit guides and spirit dance effects and perhaps rather an archetype that makes the class a spontaneous druid - you know, the make the classes identity feel more unique. As written, I consider it a good class, but one that could easily have become a truly unique and stellar one. Mind you, this is nitpicking at a high level. EDIT: With the added bookmarks, I'll update my review by 0.5 stars, for a final verdict of 4.5 stars on the shaman.

Endzeitgeist out.



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