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This is part of a series of posts derived from my continued experiences with a group of players. I'm consolidating their feedback into one post
The Shaman has undergone some pretty significant changes over the course of the playtest, and our Shaman has integrated those fairly effectively. With the transition to the druid spell list a the biggest (and most appropriate) change, the class has become more flavorful than it was before.
Our Shaman picked the Nature line, and as a result pumped his AC to quite formidable levels for his level 1. He took a reach weapon and was decent (not great) in melee combat, and mostly used his spells for support. At this point, and up to level 5, he had the cleric spell list, and he did use their incredible buff spells to great effect. By the time he reached level 15, however, he was using the druid spell list, and his output was reduced considerably.
He was 1 level from gaining his incredible animal companion, so we did some testing with that: having a shaman companion + druid companion made for a truly spectacular creature. At level 16 you expect some strength, but the pet was truly out of hand - 40 AC, 350 HP, share spells, huge and pounce on the charge. Combined with improved Grab, the pet was an incredible battlefield controller, and the Shaman was just along for the ride.
The shifting of spirits is flexible and powerful, but does have drawbacks (see below).
The class is an excellent blend of oracle and witch, but the druid spell list is appropriate from the flavor. Honestly, the druid spell list is just the right amount of toned-down that the class needs to not overshoot its derived classes.
Hitpoints, Saves and BAB are all appropriate. Skills is higher than what I'd expect, but with the druid spell list I think it's appropriate and I wouldn't change it.
With the huge array of features, it's very easy to get lost. This is in no way a class for beginners, unless you completely ignore the ability to switch spirits. Like the brawler, an encyclopedic knowledge of features is required to unlock the Shaman's full potential.
Some of the spirits are far more powerful than others. This is inevitable, but in my opinion battle, nature and life should be toned down. I hate saying things like this, but explain all the features in Shaman and why they might be too strong would require a post 3 times the size. I encourage people to read through the class and take note on what could grow out of hand given combination with existing feats and features (particularly when combined with cleric levels - thank goodness this class doesn't stack with oracle)
This is I think my least favorite class in the Advanced Class Guide, and I give it a 4/10. It's not because the class isn't balanced: I think that almost all flavors of this class are about as strong as an oracle or witch. It's because the huge bulk of features, and the ability to switch between them, rewards those who keep track of all the features. This kind of mechanic doesn't encourage use by casual players, and I think that's something to avoid.
In the hands of the right players, and with friendly and helpful DM's, this class can be quite flavorful, however.
Do you think allowing PCs to shift features of a class on the fly will be a drag on play time in an actual game? This is a significant issue for the shaman and even more of one for the Brawler. Even as an experienced player with all the pertinent sources accessible on hand, does it have the potential to cause significant game time delays?
I haven't played a shaman yet or seen one played. I'm curious about the role of the shaman and how much you miss being able to swap out spells for cures? As described, your experience seems to see the shaman as primarily a combat character, is that right? I like some of the abilities as I understand them from reading the class, but I think I would seriously miss being able to swap and use cure spells on the fly. Any thoughts?