Walking with Spirits
A Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 Edition Spirit Shaman Player's Guide
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Guide Information - The Intent and the Rating System
The Walking with Spirits
guide is not intended to be the only way to play the spirit shaman class found in the Complete Divine
supplement, but it is very much written as a strong path to follow for some measure of success. Thus it should be understood that the guide is a template of sorts and that there is no one "right" way to portray this class. Speaking of the spirit shaman itself, it is a notably odd soul among the dedicated spellcasting archetypes, one not quite as powerful as the infamous druids, clerics, and wizards of the edition, but comfortably capable of performing well with even limited effort. Its real novelties come in its actual class features, methods of spell retrieval, and general spellcasting flexibility, making it more dynamic than some of its competition, but such dynamism creates added complexity and some measure of weakness. However, thanks to the strengths it does have and with basic optimization, the spirit shaman can shed the majority of its weaknesses and linger around the low threshold of power known to the aforementioned "Big Three" classes, and thus remaining relevant to a party at all levels.
But one might reasonably ask why to ever play a spirit shaman over its closest relative, the druid, and the answer is that the spirit shaman is a spellcaster first and foremost and with the secondary role of taming and dealing with spirits - a term that is both very vague and very specific at times. It relies upon its spellcasting flexibility, diverse recovery method, and metamagic biases to get by, yet in the end it still pales in comparison to the druid in sheer power because it lacks both an animal companion and Wild Shape, leaving it primarily with thematic choices.
The spirit shaman is an animist, even totemic, and outright shamanic class in name that views the world as full of many souls and spirits, some good, some bad, and many indifferent. Spirit shamans are tied to nature on a personal level and their experiences are notably introverted; they are the priests of the wild world and much like clerics, commune more directly with it on a personal level, bargaining for their power. Unlike clerics, spirit shamans are not so much religious as they are spiritual; they live
their beliefs and do not carry out the same rigorous rituals or practices for the sake of consistency or tradition or fellowship, let alone to appease deities or godly powers. Instead, to quote the Complete Divine
section on the matter, "The typical spirit shaman, like a druid, pursues a mystic spirituality of transcendent union with nature rather than devoting herself to a divine entity."
As such, if you are looking for a "soul of the wild" type character who focuses on the magic of nature, the spirit shaman embodies it in totality. Spells and mysticism are their forte and they see it everywhere, be them a tribal from the depths of the steamy jungle who exalts the jaguar spirit to the wayward priest alone in the wilderness who learns from every stone and every tree.The Rating System - Spiritual Guidance
Following in the footsteps and conduct many handbooks before this one favor, I will be using a color coding scheme to identify more (or less) favorable options for aspiring Spirit Shamans.Gold:
By not taking something labeled gold you're likely holding your character back from its full potential. These options are just that
good of a choice. Ratings of this quality can easily define major portions of the character and can be wicked game changers. You should always
consider gold suggestions.Blue:
Great choices are rated with this color. These choices are likely to always be of your benefit to your character and although your mileage, as always, varies with your campaign, Dungeon Master and play style, many of these selections are almost always bound to benefit your character at little to no cost. Blue suggestions should always reasonably worth their consideration.Black:
This color denotes an average choice. It isn't outstanding - maybe except for few niche builds or where better options are limited - but it isn't terrible either. Sometimes black choices are prerequisites to better things that greatly outweigh the prerequisite. These choices are not placing a handicap on your character, but they are also not likely making the most beneficial choice, making them purely average. You should consider black suggestions based on your character and goals.Purple:
A below average selection is rated purple. This feature, be it a feat, a class, an alternate class feature, etc, is either too situational to ever be useful most the time or is just a poorly written and or functioning mechanic. Other times it is prerequisite for your character that is just plain undesirable, making them only worth their weight if they open up blue or better selections. You should avoid choosing purple suggestions unless they have a distinct and decided benefit to your character in particular.Red:
A negatively impacting or severely below average choice is always rated red. Whatever is rated red in this guide is safer to avoid as these selections will usually hamper the character more than help them. There are
rare occasions where a red rating can be of use, but these are entirely specific to a certain build, character, or even just a scenario. You should always avoid red suggestions unless you have a near perfect idea of how such an option can and will benefit your character reliably.Introduction - Animism, Shamanism, and TotemismOverview
Spirit shamans are an optional class provided with the Complete Divine
supplement book, one that takes a role between cleric in druid, in part dealing with matters found in both. While described very little, they are defined by what they have access to rather than what they are in themselves. Their archetype is based upon the fundamentals of sages, guides, seers, holy men, and priests as known in "primitive" societies rather than more "civilized" European style fantasy. They consort with the spirits of nature, living and dead, to gain knowledge and power.
Because the name "shaman" is so broad, it is best to understand the spirit shaman as a class representing any form of animist, totemist, or shamanic practice, who uses meditation, trances, and often altered states of consciousness to reach out into the "other", the "spirit world", and commune for the purposes of divination to healing. There they channel, speak to, do battle with, and align for or against beings of spiritual existence, creating agreements and concessions. For spirit shamans, the world around them is alive; stones, flames, storms, trees, animals, all have souls and embodiment of some power, many ruled over by a pervasive existence that inhabits them all, though there are many categories of entity from the most mundane to the tremendously grand. Regardless, they consort with a number of them and even have their own personal guide to lead them through the world beyond the flesh.
Whereas some archetypes enslave or manipulate these forces, the living and dead alike, spirit shamans are considered aspects and adherents to nature; they do not regularly command
an earthquake so much as they ask
of the earth to tremble and it answer's their call. This is largely governed by alignment, but as their design and theme goes, spirit shamans are agents of nature and not so much manipulators of it. However, as spirit shamans can be any alignment, this can vary wildly for better or worse.
Continued, in the context of the game, the shaman sees both worlds at once to an extent, the Material Plane and that of the Astral and Ethereal Planes, and gains their spells through interacting with them and those forces of supernature, of which are almost exclusively up to the Dungeon Master. So little is understood or known about the spirit shaman class in this regard that it becomes potentially worrisome territory, for the exact text described below from the Complete Divine
;"When a spirit shaman meditates to regain her daily allotment of spells (see below), she sends forth her spirit guide to bargain with the spirits and retrieve knowledge of the specific druid spells she will be able to use that day."
While it affords great, thematic, flavorful roleplaying opportunity between the spirit shaman, their spirit guide, and the spirits they consort with, it unfortunately is not as clear cut or direct as other classes who simply are granted their powers outright. Realistically, they might only be able to bargain with certain spirits for certain spells and might even fail to convince them! Or, contrarily, the guide knows the way and means to do so without much interference. Both understandings are not foreign to the matters of the underlying themes described above, some souls being troublesome and difficult to work with but others open and freely giving, but be aware, very aware, that a spirit shaman is more vulnerable in this regard than many others if the Dungeon Master is the sort who does note and care about such details.
Continued, as a personal recommendation I stand by the belief that the spirit shaman's guide is fully capable of navigating the perils of the spirit world and acting on behalf of the spirit shaman to ensure success as there are no outlined rules for failure or consequence, as noted above, only those implied
by the word choice of "bargain". This are no stated rules basis for any other understanding and as such, mechanically speaking, there exists no specific chance for failure that a spirit shaman should fret over.Animism
A spirit shaman who delves heavily into animism is of the belief that spirits inhabit all things, albeit predominantly those of nature. They see the world around them as living and breathing, alive even if the beings inhabiting them are dead, and that the loss of life and transition into death is simply another side of the same coin; that the worlds of the physical and metaphysical overlap, with few, rather no, hard and fast lines dividing them.
So pervasive is this understanding that a spirit shaman might not readily understand the perceptions of life and death by others, let alone anyone who does not see them as part of some greater operative cycle, similar or identical to the druidic wheel of life, death, and rebirth. Rather what matters more to the spirit shaman is what the spirit's intent is. Is it a giver of great boons and worthy of fear and respect? Is it a mundane, unassuming, simple thing that can be easily befriended or encouraged to act? Is it a malevolent entity which cannot be persuaded, moved, or changed and must be chastised or cast out?
Regardless of the above, a spirit shaman with a special emphasis on animism would reasonably favor spells with the [Air], [Earth], [Fire], and [Water] descriptors, as well as magic that affects animals or plants.Shamanism
It is said that the practice of shamanism is that it is a technique of "religious ecstasy", one steeped in walking between worlds, dimensions, planes, and entering into the politics of supernatural affairs to stabilize the mundane, material world. For a spirit shaman who focuses upon the shamanic element, they are the diplomats and "goers between" of the physical and metaphysical existences, often to persuade and represent the mortal, living world and convey the messages of the spirits back to the people they watch over. Many ills or failings are viewed as a terrible imbalance caused by one over the other and that a great order must be established between them, that balance is maintained.
For many deeply shamanic practices, the requirement of a spirit journey, often to the brink of death, is expected or even normal. It arises from a need to bond with and understand the realm of the spirit rather than that of the material and that to be a healer of their people, they too must know illness - even if it is mortal, supernatural illness. This process is often a crisis of some sort the shaman has faced, often at the behest or guidance of their mentor or for others, at the command of a powerful spirit who tells them what must be done in order for them to come to fruition in their power.
Unlike other incarnations of spirit shaman, a shamanic soul is more a diplomat and representative to their people. A heavy emphasis on the Diplomacy skill and Charisma would not be out of character for them, neither would attempts to find alternatives to outright conflict. However, that is not to say if roused such a spirit shaman would lack great power, rather that they just prefer to be a mediator, which can prove difficult with a the druid's spell list. [Good] aligned spells might be more common than expected, too, especially where the idea of appeals to peace are concerned.Totemism
Whereas other spirit shamans are likely to arise from animism or traditionally shamanic practices, some learn their ways through adherence to a totem. This totem need not always be a physical object or fixture, at times it is a spirit that is symbolized by such things, but the majority are broad symbols of sacred ideals or figures of power. In some ways a totem can be understood as a shrine which grants access to the divine and spiritual, while in other ways it is merely the spirit guide itself who manifests in various metaphorical signposts to lead the spirit shaman along.
Such totemic souls follow guardian spirits, some of whom are the protectors of peoples, places, nations, lineages and many others, while others are far more esoteric and specific to the point that they never reveal themselves. Many choose their followers purposefully and with the expressed purpose of advocating their own ideals and goals, similar to a deity. For a spirit shaman, being cast into the world as a ward of a powerful spirit and doer of their deeds could be anything from a liberating to terrifying in experience depending on their patron and how that guide manifests to them.
Spirit shamans of this archetype are very likely to choose more narrow, specific options for their path that represent a theme and ideal than others. They might practice personal taboos about what magic they will cast or limit themselves to only certain spells and styles of combat to appease their totemic spirit guide but obviously vary greatly from one to another; a spirit shaman who is guided by the elk spirit might choose magic that focuses on mobility, Charisma, and enchantment, while one who follows the wolf might be a summoner that only calls canines and sports a knack for imparting beneficial spells to allies.Class Overview - Shamanic Qualities
The platform, the chassis of the class, for the spirit shaman class is a tried and true one, shared with the druid and cleric. In its favor it has the added benefit of having none too many dead levels and several unique effects that no other class innately duplicates. What usual expected abilities the spirit shaman does lack tend to be made up through spellcasting and if not, through prestige classes. However, the unfortunate reality is that the weakest components of the class are
its iconic features, of which have very limited application outside their specific band of influence; it is no secret those creatures they are best pitted against are uncommon.Ability Scores
As a primary and full spellcasting class, a spirit shaman is not biased in favor of mundane methods of attack. While it can do these things relatively well and predominantly at far lower levels, it pales in comparison to its competition that are the cleric and druid in these matters as it lacks regular access to Divine Power
and Righteous Might
as well as all of what comes with Wild Shape as those classes progress.
Perhaps to the surprise of some, a spirit shaman can still
function as several unrelated builds, which all have varying results of effectiveness, but to the shock of none the strongest are those that capitalize on its magical ability over anything else. Thus the class can always remain relevant in ways those without said spell access might not be.Strength
The least useful ability score for nearly all spirit shamans, the sole time this value ever eclipses any other is if they character is focusing upon melee combat and is in the frontline... and with no intentions of acquiring the means to shapeshift or anything similar. As one can figure, there are very, very few spirit shamans of this kind and one of their most notable abilities, Spirit Form, utterly negates any regular advantage or ability without the use of specific magic items and feats. Typically, a score of 8 in Strength is no real, measurable loss for a spirit shaman, though a 10 could suffice as well if a penalty must be avoided for some reason.
Yet for spirit shamans looking to perform said talent, spells like those from Bite of the Weretiger
line are essential, as is the feat Ability Enhancer, as they increase base ability scores for melee combat and provide natural weapons; all of which are superior to the regular armament a spirit shaman regularly has.Dexterity
While an ability score a spirit shaman would like to have higher than not, namely for increased initiative bonuses, Dexterity is not heavily valued and is at best a quaternary ability score. At lower levels its value is increased, for its contribution to Armor Class and Reflex saving throws, but it soon loses more and more value due to little synergy with the class beyond mattering only for Spirit Form's touch attack. A score of 10 to 12 would be safe for Dexterity, given it loses potency as added magic comes into play with levels.
While not impossible to play a dexterous spirit shaman, again much of the reliance for doing so stems solely from spellcasting and follows the same metric as a Strength focused spirit shaman, using the same tactics and tricks, although more easily achieved at lower levels and with less costly spells. The trade in turn becomes that as the character grows in power, so do these once sizable benefits become less potent and fewer in number.Constitution
Despite having respectably sized Hit Dice for a spellcasting class and a strong Fortitude save, the spirit shaman is in need of as many hit points as it can reasonably have. While not as frail as a wizard or sorcerer in this category, it lacks the shapeshifting protection of its parent class of the druid to bolster its defenses and the plethora of magical options the wizard has through various spells and prestige classes. Granted this ability score is highly valued, it must compete with Charisma, an ability score generally more powerful for its role. Most often, a score of 12 to 14 in Constitution would be ideal with higher being better if it comes at no penalty.
A spirit shaman cannot reasonably protect themselves due to having poor choices of armor until several levels are gained, primarily thanks to Luminous Armor
,Halo of Sand
, and related spells. Between this and lacking Wild Shape, or alternate forms through other spells as noted for the two other physical ability scores, the idea of "defending the party" with their own body is not ideal. While obviously doable thanks to the potent and plentiful magic a spirit shaman has, other classes perform this far better and far sooner on.Intelligence
While it is possible to completely neglect Intelligence as an ability score for a spirit shaman, it is best to avoid reducing it to a negative number if only so there is no penalty to the skill points per level earned. It has minimal long term influence on the spirit shaman outside of skills and offers no other benefit beyond them. At most it is safe to reduce it to a minimum of 8 in most circumstances, though a 10 to avoid a penalty is not wholly unreasonable, especially for the pursuit prestige classes if one plays a non-human.
Reasonably the only ability score a spirit shaman gains no actual benefit for, a high Intelligence lends nothing of use to any actual play style and thanks to the wide variety of magical alternatives if time is available, a spirit shaman gains nothing of note outside of Knowledge skills. As such, no niche exists unless one wishes to use a second party feat to transition to Intelligence for determining spells per day and maximum spell level using the feat Academic Priest.Wisdom
For the spirit shaman, this ability score determines primary spellcasting ability, of which is spells per day and the maximum level of spell that can cast. No less, it affects a number of desirable skills and drives the extremely important Will saving throw. As a consequence, this makes Wisdom an ideal candidate to maximize but only when Charisma is not neglected. As it goes, a spirit shaman desires this score to be the highest of their attributes... to a point, at which it becomes a matter of diminishing returns, realistically needing not to be any higher than 20 before epic level play. Starting with a 16 to 18 in Wisdom will allow the best opportunities possible.
While there are indeed ways to build the entirety of the archetype around Wisdom with a select few feats, although notably third party for the Lost Tradition feat, a spirit shaman reasonably needn't do so unless they intend to eschew a number of their class features as they are based on Charisma. The downside is, by not emphasizing Wisdom beyond what is specifically needed for casting the most potent magic available, a spirit shaman loses on the skill front and the Will saving throw.Charisma
The second most important attribute for spirit shamans in normal cases is Charisma, for not only does it drive a number of class features, improves a particularly useful band of skills, it too determines the difficult class of saving throws against the spirit shaman's spellcasting and class features. While it is
possible to neglect this ability score, it is safer for for most to prioritize it as second, or alternatively make it the focus of their archetype. A range of 14 to 16 is a safe band for this ability score.
Unlike Wisdom, Charisma can be a mighty option with a single feat from a relatively common second party book thanks to the Dynamic Priest feat. With this singular choice, a spirit shaman has only the singular ability score of Charisma for bonus spells per day, maximum spell level, difficulty classes for saving throws, and class features. Outside of this option, Charisma is secondary because a large number of spells the spirit shaman will cast do not rely on having difficult saving throws, or have none at all in the case of beneficial magic, and the ability score by itself offers nothing outside of Diplomacy attempts and Wild Empathy.Alignment
There is an obvious bias for the spirit shaman to remain neutral, at least on one axis, and a far more strange reason to avoid being Good-aligned due to an exceptionally minor interaction with their Detect Spirits ability. The real mechanical reason to vary in alignment at all as a spirit shaman is for the matter of prestige classes. As a whole however, there are no such limitations or compulsions to abide by any particular alignment.
Despite this, it should be noted that according to the Complete Divine
, "Spirit shamans, in keeping with the indifference of the spirits, tend toward some measure of dispassion."
and that "Unlike druids, they are more tribal than solitary, and involve themselves in the affairs of their fellows."
Of which suggests most are neutral in some regard.d8 Hit Dice
A staple of the divine classes, the spirit shaman's d8 Hit Dice are wonderful for a spellcaster, being sturdy enough to survive some incoming damage and coming at no cost to the rest of the class and its archetype. As noted prior need be, much like a druid but to a lesser extent, a spirit shaman can
endure the fray, but lacks the numerous defenses of shapeshifting to be anywhere near as successful without specializing in offensive and defensive empowering magic.Medium Base Attack Bonus
Shared with the cleric and druid as being far from full attack bonus progression, a medium attack bonus is certainly not as weak or scholarly as one might expect for a spirit shaman given their forte is not physical combat. While they do receive abilities that enhance their combat prowess these improvements are almost exclusively limited to doing battle with spirits and thus again, spellcasting is the answer to overcoming this weakness. In large, a spirit shaman's medium attack bonus this will go ignored in the majority of cases.Good Fortitude and Will, Poor Reflex Saving Throws
The two most important saving throws are granted to the spirit shaman and for all the reasons one imagines. A strong Fortitude save means the spirit shaman is not quite nearly as vulnerable to the classic weaknesses of magic-user types and can survive in melee if such a place is their desire, but the strong Will save and some later features make them difficult to disorient and disrupt. As well, both of these saving throws tie strongly with desired ability scores, further increasing the likelihood of their effectiveness when compounded together.
Despite this, a spirit shaman's poor Reflex saving throw is, by and large, a meaningless weakness in most cases as at worst they will suffer damage. Fortunately, the spirit shaman has reasonably large Hit Dice to survive such an attack in most cases and a plethora of magical defenses it can call upon as well as some prestige classes that assist in negating these concerns.Skill Points (4 + Int Modifier)
For a divine class not dedicated to skills, spirit shamans gain a reasonable number of skill points with which to perform their role and the appropriate skills to do so, but are far from heavily invested in them. As in most every other sense, the archetype is on par with the druid in this regard and as expected of a spellcasting class, truly only reliant on Concentration and Spellcraft to be successful. Regardless, it should be noted that spirit shamans do indeed have access to a number of other regularly useful skills, most notably Diplomacy, Spot, and Listen, in addition to Knowledge (Nature) and Survival.Weapon and Armor Proficiency<EDIT SECTION NEXT>
Perhaps to the surprise of some, the Spirit Shaman is not a pathetic combatant in the slightest and has a fair range of weapons to opt from. Diverse as they are, they reflect the Spirit Shaman as a "primitive" sort of individual and one who has tribal knowledge and a life steeped in the outdoors. While there is a distinctive lack of armor heavier than light, the Spirit Shaman can bear metal weapons without penalty, unlike a druid, and may also wield a shield to further protect themselves.
Among their selection the most potentially useful are the sling and shortbow, the former thanks to early use of the Magic Stone
spell and the latter because it enables a minor archery approach between casting spells. In either case, Spirit Shamans succeed best when out of the fray of melee, given their highest ability scores are likely Wisdom and or Charisma, rather than Strength and Constitution. Should one opt for close quarters combat with them, the club, hand axe, shortspear, and longspear effectively cover the usual variety of damage types they would need be concerned about.Divine Spellcasting
There is one sole weakness to the Spirit Shaman's divine spellcasting and that it is split between two ability scores, those Wisdom and Charisma. The former of the two is significantly more important than the latter as it governs the Spirit Shaman's bonus spells per day and the maximum level of spell that can be cast while the latter exclusively determines the saving throw difficulty. While thematically appropriate given the class relies upon heavy introspection, spirituality, and understanding, along with communication, force of personality, and emissary status, it is problematic for making the class further Multiple Attribute Dependent (MAD) than it needs to be.
While a Spirit Shaman can outright ignore their Charisma score and function through a multitude of buffing spells, summons, and even some blasting spells, in addition to classic "No Save, Just Lose" type spells, there is no real way around this weakness in most games. The only way to adjust the spellcasting to one score or the other require added supplements or optimization trickery. In the end, this split of ability scores for casting spells is the
definitive weakness of the class.
A purely spellcasting Spirit Shaman can survive just fine by prioritizing Wisdom, then following with Charisma and Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, then Strength.Spell List
The Spirit Shaman uses the druid's spell list, which while surprisingly versatile, is biased strongly toward battlefield control, buffing, summoning, and a select few damaging spells. While not nearly as strong a list as the cleric or anywhere near that of the wizard, the Spirit Shaman as a more dedicated magician and can up the ante quite well. As always, expanding the spell list seldom hurts, but it is not nearly as much a priority as one might initially assume.Spells per Day
Not only does the Spirit Shaman gain standard, not delayed, progression on spell levels as a cleric, druid, or wizard does, it too gains a sizable amount of spells per day. As said before, spellcasting is the forte and strength of a Spirit Shaman and it shows, being well ahead of the sorcerer and only behind in the long run by one
9th level spell per day at 20th level against them, all with the luxury of changing their spells every day if they so wish.Spells Retrieved per Day
There is only one true weakness to the Spirit Shaman's method of spell use and that is the fact that it is limited to retrieving, understand it as "knowing", so many spells per day at each level. While a fairly universal problem for any spontaneous spellcaster, the Spirit Shaman has the fairly unique knack for being able to change these out daily when it regains spells. They are a fair middle ground between prepared and spontaneous casting.Metamagic and Spirit Shamans
Despite being a spontaneous spellcaster, a Spirit Shaman's method of spell access - using the spirit guide to acquire them daily and calling from the druid's list - allows an unusual added benefit with metamagic. While one must choose to apply it when they bargains for the spells, there is no
increase in casting time to the spell. This is a great advantage of having a hybrid approach as they do.Spirit Guide
Perhaps one of the most bizarre elements of the Spirit Shaman but absolutely appropriate is their "not-familiar" in the form of the spirit guide. It combines a multitude of useful abilities, namely being able to concentrate on spells at later levels, with the fact that it can neither be accosted nor harmed, let alone destroyed or dismissed, meaning its benefits come at absolutely no cost to the character. To quote the Complete Divine
itself on the matter, "Unlike a familiar, a spirit guide is not a separate entity from a spirit shaman. She is the only one who can perceive or interact with her guide. It exists only inside her own mind and soul."
It is not made clear how the spirit guide behaves outside of its listed traits, stating it neither lacks speech or can speak. Between this lacking, and that it can only be interacted with by the Spirit Shaman and exists solely in their mind and soul, one can assume it is whatever the Spirit Shaman imagines it to be in portrayal.Alertness
The spirit guide bestows upon the Spirit Shaman the Alertness
bonus feat, a minor victory if any, but its true power lies in the fact that it is a sort of separate, independent personality to interact with. It has its own defining qualities, which range from "Humor and Trickiness" to "Love and Protection" and is mostly a roleplaying element. As with retrieving spells, this could be far more powerful or simply a class feature with extra words and metaphorical baggage depending upon the Dungeon Master. If it acts as an added mouthpiece of the Dungeon Master and is another personality and non-player character to interact with and learn from, it can easily become gold
; knowledge is power and having a free source of it shouldn't be underestimated. By print however, this is a flavor feature.
One should note that the Spirit Shaman's list of potential spirit guides is far from all inclusive and contrarily quite limited, namely to animals. As the spirit guide is an enormously important roleplaying and flavor feature of the Spirit Shaman, it is encouraged that an aspiring Spirit Shaman work with their Dungeon Master to create their own if none fit appropriately while using the Complete Divine
content to act as a template and rule to follow for them. Appropriate alternatives are of course other animals appropriate to the Spirit Shaman's origin, elemental beings, the dead who are likely honored ancestors, or even some fey creatures in remarkable circumstance.Wild Empathy (Ex)
A staple of nature themed classes, this is either absolutely useless - say when a Spirit Shaman seldom encounters animals - or tremendously useful, such as through manipulating and acquiring animal allies alongside Handle Animal checks and spells. A Spirit Shaman has full access to the druid's list of spells, meaning commanding and guiding an army of allied beasts, followers and summons alike, is not out of the question or even that difficult. In the majority of games however, Wild Empathy will see very, very little use and may at most avoid or ease maybe a handful of encounters over the course of an entire campaign.Chastise Spirits (Su)
One of the signature abilities of the Spirit Shaman, rather than having the power to Turn Undead, a similarly themed ability, they are able to create a small area of effect that deals direct damage to spirits. A reason not to neglect the ability score of Charisma, this is a useful feature to have when confronting incorporeal undead, fey, elementals, astral projections, among minor others if only for the fact it can be made to be a free spell to contend with them, but on a day to day basis of traveling the world, this is unlikely to see much use; significantly less than Turn Undead and far, far less if Divine Metamagic is involved.
It is imperative to note that this power has not only a small area and emanating from the Spirit Shaman, but that it also affects friendly spirits, not just enemies. The reason this is so important is that the saving throw difficulty class against it is not particularly low, meaning it stands a fair chance of inflicting its full damage and can do great devastation to numerous spirit-based creatures in short order.Detect Spirits (Sp)
The spirit guide enables the Spirit Shaman to detect spirits as the spell Detect Undead
, with the obvious limitations involved. While not particularly powerful, its means to at-will be called upon and detect friend and foe alike is potentially very useful and makes fighting incorporeal foes far less difficult. If your game features many spirits, this easily becomes a blue
ability as no other can do this as easily or as reliably as the Spirit Shaman. Strangely, so long as you are any alignment but Good-aligned, this will never nave any consequence either.Blessing of the Spirits (Sp)
This is an incredible defensive ability for the Spirit Shaman that costs only a small amount of time, ending only when dismissed or dispelled. Not only appropriate to a class the deals extensively with beings that often possess or manipulate their foes, it is useful in most any circumstance. The first component, the bonuses to Armor Class and saving throws are negligible, but the second and third aspects are enormously powerful and come into play very early for the class.
For all intents and purposes thanks to the second aspect a Spirit Shaman is immune
mental control or manipulation that is ongoing, read effectively longer than a single turn, so long as they are protected by the Blessing of the Spirits; the same can be said for possession of their body. As long as the threat is some form of control or possession, provided the Spirit Shaman does not dismiss their ward or have it dispelled, they are utterly indifferent to these dangers, with the example being the infamous Dominate Person
spell. This is understandably, in conjunction with good Will saving throws and later class features, one of the elements that makes the class extremely difficult to compel against its will.
The last component of this feature has some unusual interactions, in that while it prevents summoned creatures from assaulting the Spirit Shaman, it isn't clear on what can bypass this restriction. For while Protection from Evil
allows Good-aligned creatures to bypass the ward, one hasn't an easy parallel for what this does when the effect only targets spirits. There are two simple ways to understand it; either summoned creatures, regardless of type barring alignment, cannot attack the Spirit Shaman, or any summoned creature that is not a spirit can attack the Spirit Shaman.
The most reasonable interpretation is that it bars all summoned creatures from attacking, except for those of the Spirit Shaman's alignment. This is the best outcome for a number of reasons, namely that if the Spirit Shaman so much as attacks the summoned creature, this element of the ward goes away, meaning it has a trade off, and that it has the most obvious written standard about it. In the end, how this functions is left to the Dungeon Master of the game and not the Spirit Shaman.Follow the Guide (Su)
The Spirit Shaman's spirit guide affords them a second chance against an enchantment spell or effect. Granted it is on the following turn and not immediately relevant, it does allow the Spirit Shaman a chance to not be forced to act against their will. This feature is the one fallback to prevent obeying a Suggestion
spell to dismiss their Blessing of the Spirits, which can have devastating results as one imagines, or a Command
spell to drop a crucial held item. This remains relevant until spells as Mind Blank
and their ilk manifest much later in the game.Ghost Warrior (Su)
The aforementioned means to better fight in direct combat against spirits, this class feature is a nicety rather than a necessity. The majority of Spirit Shamans will not be frontline combatants or directly engaging with hostile spirits, using their magical spells and Chastise Spirits abilities instead, but it does afford the much needed means to if it comes up or is part of the character in question. The one, true benefit for any Spirit Shaman is the retention of normal Armor Class against incorporeal foes, something that could be the difference between life and death.
The druid spell list is well known for having many improvements to Armor Class, making it almost assured a properly prepared Spirit Shaman is never going to be legitimately touched by a hostile soul unless by sheer chance. Meaning negative levels and ability damage or drain are far less likely to threaten them.Warding of the Spirits (Sp)
One would assume this is a direct upgrade for the Spirit Shaman over their Blessing of the Spirits defensive powers, but in truth this is more utilitarian and far more circumstantial. Limited to a single use per day, this is very much an ability prepared ahead of time to face a foe between its long casting time and bias more towards trapping and binding spirits. Because it specifies a time limit, one already included in the spell normally, it can be understood this is meant to replace the regular times involved with the spell. As one imagines, with the numerous durations specified in it, this becomes a mess in short order.
The simplest reading of this ability is a once per day Protection from Evil
that only applies to spirits, functioning identically otherwise in all aspects except that it only ever takes a single minute to prepare it and that any of its durations are only ever ten minutes per Spirit Shaman level. The positive is that this is the least complex or evolved reading of the spell and offers the most benefit in small trade-offs, such as making for a far superior trap in short order.Spirit Form (Su)
The perhaps defining ability of the Spirit Shaman other than the Chastise Spirits ability, the Spirit Form is an amazing balance of offensive and defensive power. Spirit Form can be infuriating for a Dungeon Master, in that Spirit Shaman gains everything and loses almost nothing, balanced solely by the fact they can only perform this ability for a minute per day and with very few, very sparse added uses per day later on.
The benefits gained essentially obsolete any opponent who does not have a Ghost Touch
weapon, cannot cast force descriptor spells, and or lacks positive or negative energy magic, and grants the Spirit Shaman the means to fight with impunity as they deem fit for the duration; it is very
unlikely a Spirit Shaman will encounter foes who can overcome the benefits of incorporeality on any regular basis. So for the most part, the Spirit Shaman is essentially untouchable to those without magic weapons and spells, while those who do have these means will miss at least 50% of the time.
Legitimately few things can prevent the Spirit Shaman from circumventing them while in Spirit Form, being able to walk through walls as it were now and more or less fly, and that the Spirit Shaman can more or less become "invisible" to enemies with some trickery by using the environment and objects to hide in. The downsides? The Spirit Shaman has a pitiful Armor Class unless their Charisma was kept high and their Strength score is effectively nullified. This does worrying things to melee heavy Spirit Shamans who obviously favor Strength, but with some magic items and feats, one can ignore that weakness as well. As it stands however, the Spirit Form acts as an opportunity to barrage foes with little effective retribution or recourse other than waiting out the Spirit Shaman's ability in most cases.Guide Magic (Su)
The Spirit Shaman's spirit guide takes over a spell or spell-like ability which has the duration of Concentration. For one this allows the Spirit Shaman to forever have Detect Spirits active passively, which is a minor but now entirely free passive ability in essence, and then the obvious benefit of combat related spells being essentially duplicated, many of which can be extremely dangerous with the right play involved, even more so when one realizes the spirit is more or less impossible to interrupt.
Everything from a humble Animate Fire
spell, to the more potent Wall of Fire
, or even an Elemental Monolith
as well as Tsunami
spell can be effectively duplicated by this feature. While limited in options, what spells it can duplicate in many cases are bombastic and not to be trifled with.Recall Spirit (Sp)
This class feature is a useful one not just to the Spirit Shaman, but the party at large, with the major losses being that it must be accomplished in one round from the target's death and that it functions once per week. While very standard fare, it is thematically appropriate, useful whenever it can be done, and quite cost effective, with the added bonus of imposing no level or Constitution loss. In short, if the Spirit Shaman can resurrect an ally with this power, they should.Exorcism (Su)
In virtually all circumstances the need to force a spirit or demon out of a creature will never be relevant to the entirety of a campaigns, Spirit Shaman included or not, but this ability is not only free, it is unlimited, asking only for a full-round action each time in exchange. Thus, as can be deduced, this is highly circumstantial but assured to work with sufficient time and pose very little challenge or issue in doing so. This ability obviously improves to blue
status when there are more creatures with possession based abilities involved than normal as it removes one of their greatest advantages.Weaken Spirits (Su)
Far more useful to a Spirit Shaman and their party than the previous incarnation as Chastise Spirits, this ability essentially renders the creatures effected "mortal", notably that if it is incorporeal that it can no longer avoid damage and move through objects. The removal of damage reduction and spell resistance are niceties, though at this point in an adventure the Spirit Shaman and their allies are likely quite capable of overcoming those defenses. Still, an improvement as it is, its greatest strength is that for little cost or effort it can be applied.
The most useful method of employing this talent of the Spirit Shaman is to open with it once the offending spirits are within range, making the duration as long as possible, and then attempting to either destroy them with powerful magic or added uses of Chastise Spirits, of which can do particularly large amounts of damage in short order. Both are resource intensive in their uses per day, but there is no better way to make a fight against them short; at minimum a Spirit Shaman should consider choosing this to soften the spirits up so their allies can do most the work from there against weakened foes.Spirit Journey (Sp)
Amusingly the "Plane of Spirits" is never defined for the Spirit Shaman, making this more or less an improved Shadow Walk
with the lone downside that only affects the Spirit Shaman and no one else. In many ways this is the "slip-away without dying" ability for the class and generously provided once per day in addition. Fortunately, perhaps unfortunately, one hopefully will never have so many total deaths of their party that a flat-out retreat is needed so often, but Spirit Journey serves as a swift means to return to safety or a point of importance in short order.Favored of the Spirits (Sp)
While this is the Spirit Shaman's ultimate way of avoiding death, its limitation to ability point and hit point damage is what greatly weakens the potential for them, as well as its cost at a not so minor 1,000 experience points. Avoiding an assuredly killing blow is very useful, but at this point damage from hit point loss or ability scores is not as likely as instantaneous death or incapacitation, followed by death. In its favor it cannot be dispelled, only dismissed or discharged (by use), while against it, it is unlikely to ever trigger and comes far, far too late to be relevant to the Spirit Shaman and their adventures.Spirit Who Walks (Ex)
There are numerous benefits and drawbacks associated with eschewing the humanoid type for another, fey being a particularly rare one to gain. Yet, at this level of play, it is a trivial matter for virtually all foes to overcome and the rest of the class feature itself conveys a very minuscule benefit in Damage Reduction 5/Cold Iron. It is no secret that the Spirit Shaman is strongest when it has prestige classed off into other archetypes, but this capstone ability defines why it is almost essential to do so.Sidebar - Spiritual Lore
The word "spirit" is referenced numerous times throughout the Complete Divine
and this guide regarding the Spirit Shaman just as one would imagine it need to. However, there is no simple definition for all of the creatures it encapsulates and despite being such a potentially broad range of beings, they are in fact quite narrow and more or less the largest limiting factor of the Spirit Shaman's overall power. This does not mean the Spirit Shaman is worthless in a setting with few spirits, but their power is far more noticeable when they are many rather than few.
So it should be noted the following creatures are considered spirits for the purposes of the Spirit Shaman's class features; incorporeal undead, fey, elementals, any creature in an astral form or body, any creature with the suptype of spirit, any spirit folk or telthor creature, and any creature created by spells as Dream Sight
or Wood Wose