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[WIP] Walking with Spirits - A Spirit Shaman Guide
« on: March 10, 2018, 04:22:02 PM »
Walking with Spirits
A Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 Edition Spirit Shaman Player's Guide

<Discussion Link to be Added>

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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Totemism
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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, Barkskin,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.

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.

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.

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.

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
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.

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 to any 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.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2019, 12:16:13 PM by Argent Fatalis »

Offline Argent Fatalis

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Re: [WIP] Walking with Spirits - A Spirit Shaman Guide
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2018, 01:07:58 PM »
Races - People of Spirit
There are a great number of races that can perform well as Spirit Shamans, with the largest determining factor among them being the specific type of Spirit Shaman they play well to. It should be obvious that a race which provides a bonus to Charisma rather than Wisdom more heavily favors a Spirit Shaman who relies on their class features and the difficult of saving throws, while one that grants a bonus to Strength and penalty to Intelligence is attempting to go down the path of a ghost warrior. No matter the exact choice, some races are superior to others in the context of the Spirit Shaman.

It needs be noted that there is no intent for this guide to be all inclusive with regards to race and it will be biased most in favor of those races both optimal and flavorful. Any regular, familiar optimizer can easily springboard well beyond these suggestions and choose a selected, groomed race for the Spirit Shaman that provides the exact qualities they wish and with the absolute best set of ability scores; most aspiring readers are not such people and are only looking for guidance or suggestion.

Conventional Races
The conventional races are those that are common fare among most tables, your elves, dwarves, halflings, among others and are not too obscure. At most appearing in a specific campaign setting, but being otherwise conventional and welcome to most tables. They are iconic and typical of the genre and should raise minimal issue with most parties and tables, being only derivatives of typical races at absolute most.

Dwarf, Dream
+2 Constitution, -2 Dexterity
The dream dwarf is an unusual but most appropriate Spirit Shaman if at the very least for the fact they can see incorporeal creatures at all times. A druidic and shamanistic people, often dwelling on the matters of the "Earth Dream" and who ally strongly with all aspects of nature, dream dwarves favor the earth above all others but see its connections everywhere and everything. This provides them with a minor bonus to divination and earth descriptor spells and that they stand betters chances of swaying earth creatures in conversation. Short of this, dream dwarves are not particularly exceptional Spirit Shamans, but they do have every reason to pursue the class.

Elf, Wild
+2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence
The wild elves, perhaps of any elf subrace, have the most reason to become Spirit Shamans for they live in the most primal of allegiances to nature and are for most intents and purposes, animals among elvenkind, wearing furs, skins, and plant material while living in tribes. They are born hunters and gatherers who seek to be one with their wild origin and have eschewed the frailty and weakness of other elves. However, they gain no benefits in favor of the Spirit Shaman short of the fact that they have no Constitution penalty. Their one advantage is that they are a common race, in terms of core material to the game, and are thus one of the best elven candidates and mentioned solely for that reason alongside their flavor and theme. If one must be an elf and a Spirit Shaman, there are few better choices.

Half Orc, Desert
+2 Constitution, -2 Intelligence
A people of the grit and wasteland, it is little surprise a Spirit Shaman might arise among their people to guide and direct them, born of the mysteries of the desert and its many hallucinations and trickery. Being able to see beyond just the physical might be the difference between life and death for a tribe and no other half orc line has anywhere near the same potential for this. As with the other more traditional races, the half orc has every reason to be a Spirit Shaman and ally to nature and its spirits, but they make for such poor choices the sole reason to do so is for flavor.

Halfling, Strongheart
-2 Strength, +2 Dexterity
Between being smallfolk and gaining a plethora of benefits from this, in addition to some added ones native to halflings, they make for exceptional Spirit Shamans, particularly in that they are of a warrior bent and are swift to defend their homeland against threats others of their kind would rather flee. However, what makes them so exceptional is that they gain the bonus feat of the human and have generally better attributes, between their small size and ability scores, that ensure they are the most successful of the base races for Spirit Shamans.

There is very, very little the human does poorly in terms of class. Their added skill point can easily offset Intelligence penalties and the bonus feat allows them earlier, if not just smoother, access into various prestige classes or feat combinations. It should go without saying too that many human societies are still "primitive" in some regard and consort with magic on a less pantheistic or deific scale, making consorting with spirits and nature quite regular fare among their tribes. If all else fails, the default Spirit Shaman is most likely a human.

Exotic Races
The exotic races are those that are outside what amounts to the core material of the game, usually supplement books, but do include the products of the magazines of the edition. No less, they might be and almost assuredly are very unusual races, some hailing from the planes in bloodline and origin, while others are just obscure or unlikely to be found among a regular adventuring party, let alone at a table. It is fair to assume that these races are your most optimized of choices and most likely to receive some form of resistance.

Aasimar, Lesser
+2 Wisdom, +2 Charisma
The so-called lesser aasimar are truthfully wonderful Spirit Shamans, having appropriate ability scores, bonuses to Spot and Listen checks, a minor but useful spell-like ability with Daylight, and a smattering of resistances to acid, cold, and electricity elemental damage types. In addition, it is made quite clear these planetouched souls abide by the cultures and people they were raised among much rather than any specific line or heritage, making them as flexible as a human character. While this begs the question of, "Why would an aasimar become a Spirit Shaman?" one must recall the various Planes of Existence and the Cosmology of the Great Wheel, namely those of Arborea and the Beastlands, where the celestial forces of nature arise. It is not unreasonable that their bloodline arises from one of these places and they are innately drawn to those things spiritual and natural.

Axani, Lesser
+2 Intelligence, +2 Wisdom
A people of cold, at times utterly indifferent personality, the axani are the children of order and law. They are surprisingly direct diplomats and shrewd in noticing details gaining bonuses to Diplomacy and Spot, no less, they can settle an argument or threat with inherent magic through Calm Emotions and have some minor defenses against elemental powers of cold and sonic nature. As souls seeking order and balance in the world, it comes to be little surprise that the way of the Spirit Shaman would speak to them - creating a balance between the physical and metaphysical. While their Intelligence bonus would regularly go to waste, it can be instead used to offset a penalty and ensure a greater focus on Charisma; their Wisdom bonus working automatically in their favor.

Perhaps the one improvement to the default human race so long as essentia and incarnum are involved, an azurin has great reason to become a Spirit Shaman. For them, they themselves are a spirit made physical, incarnated, and the lines between soul-stuff and body are very blurred and few if present at all. Their inherent supernatural aptitude in these matters grant them a point of essentia all while keeping the much sought after bonus feat of traditional humans though they lack the bonus skill points. Perhaps the one weakness of the azurin is that they are so enormously biased toward extreme alignments, a philosophy that does not sit well with the Spirit Shaman archetype.

Celadrin, Lesser
+2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution, +2 Charisma
What makes the celadrin such potent Spirit Shamans is their large array of bonuses with the sole weakness of having a Constitution penalty. Retaining all the traditional elven bonuses, celadrin gain the benefit of fire resistance, a common threat especially at low levels, a strong bias towards Charisma checks through a Perform bonus and a scaling benefit to Diplomacy and Wild Empathy too, finished with the Scorching Ray spell-like ability, making them strong competitors for those who feel the need to play an elf. As with traditional elves, they live alongside nature and in it, making them just as likely to become Spirit Shamans, though with an underlying favor and interest in spirits of fire.

Feytouched, Lesser
+2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution, +2 Charisma
While the penalty to the Constitution score of the feytouched hurts them, there is little question as to why one member would so much as become a Spirit Shaman; they are a spirit in themselves, one of the fey. Protected against many dangerous spells and effects, as well as gaining great added bonuses against mind-affecting magic, their pursuit into the living world of the unseen is not only a pursuit of understanding, but one internal. A feytouched Spirit Shaman is quite likely to perceive themselves as simply a wielder of their latent power and with rightful command over nature. Mischievous and mysterious over many other races, they are perhaps most similar to the planetouched in understanding of their persona and mindset.

+2 Strength, -2 Dexterity, +2 Constitution, -2 Intelligence
If there ever were a people to create early religion and spirituality or embody it best among the human races as to what a Spirit Shaman is, while believing every detail of it, the neanderthal would be such a race. Largely animist, it is said they view the world where every animal, every plant, every stone, every river, among countless others has an embodying and ideal spirit. No less, they commune with their ancestors, often worshiping and venerating them, accounting in totality for why such a race would be viewed as the "perfect" embodiment of the Spirit Shaman. They hold very minor benefits however, but do have the potential to act as reliable ghost warriors and melee archetype Spirit Shamans, holding minor bonuses to some useful weapons of the class and skills associated with it. Their climate tolerance does well in campaigns where the cold is a persistent element.

The raptorans at first glance offer very, very little to the Spirit Shaman, other than their deep ties to the Plane of Air and the elemental forces at work there, thematically they are a people who revere nature, namely all that which is flight and sky. As a race they cast air spells slightly more powerfully and gain, with time, freeform flight - an ability not to be ignored. Unlike other Spirit Shamans who would consort with many elemental spirits if need be, the raptorans neglect them and instead gain access to the tremendously powerful Skypledged class, which is gold. It affords the Spirit Shaman the means to cast spells off both the cleric and druid's spell list, but with the minor limitation of no earth, fire, or water descriptor spells.

+2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence, -2 Charisma
The "weretouched" have every reason to become Spirit Shamans as they are a people bound by tribal, instinctive interests, and the grandeur of nature, all while being touched by the supernatural in their bloodline, that which ties them to both worlds at once. They are oft totemic and follow guides and forces of nature's will, most frequently that of the spirit of the beast within them. While they have exceptionally poor ability scores and a racial ability that relies upon many feats to be efficient, they are redeemed by one fact alone; the Moonspeaker prestige class, which is of gold quality. It offsets their racial penalties, provides a number of direct improvements to the Spirit Shaman's class, such as by incorporating Wild Shape and empowering summons - while it so too introduces a number of useful spells and creatures to call on.

Templates - Attuning One's Own Spirit
As with the exotic races the application or inclusion of a template is unlikely at many tables or at least certain to raise some brows. Yet, the Spirit Shaman as a class is not one of those who need function with them, faring very well without and assuredly better if the prospect of Level Adjustment buy-off is not permitted. This said, one should only ever consider a template for two reasons on a Spirit Shaman, first is that it has no long-term affecting on caster level (meaning it has a +0 LA, or a +1 or +2 LA if they can be bought off), and second that it provides beneficial increases to the Spirit Shaman's realm of interest, namely the Wisdom and Charisma ability scores.

Divine Minion (+1 or +2 LA)
While an odd choice for a Spirit Shaman at first glance, if one removes the campaign specific lore, this template essentially grants an immense number of animal forms and possibly the most superior version of Wild Shape to date. It can be done as a free action and as an 11th level druid, with the added benefit of no specific restrictions, granting the outsider type and fear immunity. In most cases the purpose to adopting this template, usually the +1 LA version since that is intended to only allow one form, is to qualify for druid prestige classes, such as the infamous Planar Shepherd, which is gold. The thematic reason, the heart of the matter, for taking this template is so you can turn into the form of your spirit guide or the animals who you exalt.

Feral (+1 LA)
+4 Strength, -2 Dexterity, -4 Intelligence +2 Wisdom
There is only one weakness to the Feral template and that is the fact that it reduces the Spirit Shaman's Charisma score. For any ghost warrior archetype, one who intends to get into the fray themselves, this template is blue. For a Spirit Shaman it grants everything from mildly useful Darkvision, to powerful claw natural weapons, to sizable amounts of Natural Armor, and more, but most notably Fast Healing, all of these qualities scaling. Granted they do not overcome the weakness of one's Strength score being negated by Spirit Form, but with the correct magic items and feats, a Spirit Shaman can ignore those and fight both in body and spirit.

Magic Blooded (+0 LA)
-2 Wisdom, +2 Charisma
This template is useful to a Spirit Shaman mostly for allowing them to shift around penalties and bonuses, where they might not need more Wisdom and would rather increase the difficulty class of saving throws against their spells and expand the potency of many class features. A Spirit Shaman with a racial bonus to Wisdom can easily consider this route so as to not need worry about such details, likely gaining a net increase, especially as at a certain point, Wisdom as an ability score offers diminishing returns since it does not grant ever more scaling to new spell levels and there are only so many bonus spells truly needed. For those with such opportunities and fortune, this is a blue option.

Phrenic (+2 LA)
+2 Intelligence, +2 Wisdom, +4 Charisma
There are a number of reasons this psionic template melds very well with the Spirit Shaman, not the least of which is the fact that it directly improves the two most valuable ability scores and allows one the Spirit Shaman would like to be high to be offset. As such, this has tremendous synergy by adding another layer, primarily attacking powers but some defensive ones and all of which are Charisma based, with the Spirit Shaman's desire for more Wisdom and Charisma in raw. The boon of power resistance, read spell resistance if transparency is involved, adds another defensive ward that few enemies will efficiently penetrate between all the others native to the class.

Saint (+2 LA)
+2 Constitution, +2 Wisdom, +4 Charisma
Were it not for the requirement of playing by exalted Good-aligned expectations this template would utterly trump that of the Phrenic one, for it provides the most diverse array of bonuses to the Spirit Shaman. Not only thematically aligned, at least were good Spirit Shamans are concerned, it provides a Wisdom bonus to Armor Class as insight, increases the saving throw difficulty class of all magical abilities, to include spells, immense Fast Healing, grants some damage reduction and resistances, a handful of immunities, a double strength aura of Magic Circle against Evil and Globe of Invulnerability, et cetera. Thematically, a saintly Spirit Shaman is more or less a paragon of the good nature spirits, such as those referenced earlier in Arborea or the Beastlands.

Shadow (+2 LA)
A shadow Spirit Shaman is an unusual soul, one dabbling in the darkness and flitting to and for. While still an immensely powerful template, granting ongoing total concealment in anything less than broad daylight or a Daylight spell, it offers very little beyond this short of a few novel options like Fast Healing, a bonus to movement speed, a bonus to saving throws, and damage reduction. Its real use is that it allows a Spirit Shaman to go and act essentially unseen and unknown, as well as being virtually impossible to stop or dissuade without extremely powerful magic.

Spirit of the Woods (- LA)
This immensely powerful spirit is not listed as something for the Spirit Shaman to take on for themselves regularly, but as a potential ally to seek out. Drifting souls in the Ethereal Plane, they are the champions of nature's will, her fangs and claws, and dwell among the spiritual realm of the environment they inhabit. A Spirit Shaman, thematically and mechanically, has every reason to attempt to bargain with and ally themselves with such a spirit, encouraging it to inhabit their animal allies or summons, where it provides enormous boosts to ability scores, Natural Armor, a trio of skills, and spellcasting as a 7th level druid. Should the battle be in the ghostly realm alone, it can assume any animal form it wishes, which is no small feat. The sole reason this template is so much as mentioned is that if there were any class to consort with nature's spirits, its warrior souls no less, the Spirit Shaman is the one - even possibly venerating the spirit so that it might be its spirit guide or its source of magic.

This requires not only a Dungeon Master's approval, but seeking out a potentially hostile and dangerous soul. Such a quest is befitting of a Spirit Shaman, perhaps even their initiation into the class and being brought into the lore of it. As with the Telthor, this is far more useful to the Spirit Shaman as an ally and means of motivation than a template to adopt.

Telthor (+2 LA)
There is no real reason a Spirit Shaman would not aspire to gain the Telthor template, that which renders them a fey spirit and protector of the land. It provides them with the much sought after incorporeal qualities they desire and essentially is a full time Spirit Form with the glaring weakness of suffering a point of damage every minute they are outside the place which they are bonded with. Were it not for this, a Spirit Shaman would have little reason not to assume becoming a spirit full time. As nature's defenders and as souls bound to the land, their magic and purpose is clear with regard to becoming Spirit Shamans.

It is more likely, given Telthors are the souls of slain people and animals, that a Spirit Shaman learns from them and perhaps even keeps them as their guide. They might well be the spirits that introduce the Spirit Shaman to their quest and those that lead them along until it is time for them to continue forth and into the world as an adventurer rather than a student.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2018, 08:49:31 AM by Argent Fatalis »

Offline Argent Fatalis

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Re: [WIP] Walking with Spirits - A Spirit Shaman Guide
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2018, 01:57:58 PM »
Feats - Shamanic Specification
There are two true paths of feats for aspiring Spirit Shamans to pursue, one based deeply in summoning and marshaling allies of nature, the other deeply invested in magical improvement and the fundamentals of metamagic. Other archetypes exist in these, such as those who focus on improving their magical buffs or even some of their class features, but few are so valid. This owes itself to the one obvious truth that Spirit Shamans are all about their magic as a class, functioning at their best when resources are dedicated to improve them. One should note as well that Spirit Shamans, as with many other classes, are feat starved and have little flexibility in their selection of feats; they must be chosen wisely and part of a dedicated approach for the archetype in mind.

Ability Enhancer
For the Spirit Shaman that pours great investment into transmutation spells that improve ability scores, this is a reliable feat to call upon, if only to eek out further power locked away within the spell. Increasing all of the improved ability scores by +2 can have tremendous effect on spells like Animal Growth, Animalistic Power, Bite of the Werewolf and its line, or that of others which affect multiple attributes and or multiple targets.

Ability Focus
Even for those Spirit Shamans who neglect their Charisma and thus in part their Chastise Spirits ability, such a talent of the Spirit Shaman is much more likely to succeed than the average spell, out pacing the difficulty class by twice as rapidly. This makes it of relatively low priority for their use, even more so when they are so limited on feats and biased towards improving their spellcasting itself through metamagic or summoning.

Animal Defiance
By itself a strange choice for a Spirit Shaman, but it has two noteworthy uses beyond the fact that it is not unreasonable such primal sages hold unnatural sway over beasts. The first is that it enables access to the Animal Control feat, allowing a buffing and or summoning Spirit Shaman to retain permanent animal allies in far greater, far more useful number, and second that it is a turning effect. This is notable at some tables a Dungeon Master might allow this to power Divine Metamagic, but such are likely few in far between. By itself it is of little actual use and is largely a gateway for a Spirit Shaman who wishes to consort with and align by beasts.

Animal Control
Functioning identically to the mass unliving armies of necromancers, a Spirit Shaman can just as easily lord over beasts. Between doing so with summoning spells and recruited animal allies, a Spirit Shaman can amass a number of combatants to fight in their stead, empowering them with beneficial magic and even inspiring them to fight where they would not regularly. This in some ways gives more combatants to the battle, but none of them as likely powerful or useful as say an Animal Companion.

In the eyes of some Dungeon Masters the Spirit Shaman by itself cannot qualify for Ashbound without the Spontaneous Summoner or the far superior Versatile Spellcaster feat, among other rarer feats that allow them to spontaneously summon nature's forces, but should they manage to do so the power of this feat is welcome. Alternatively, another reading is that of which recognizes a Spirit Shaman as a true spontaneous spellcaster, to which they are technically and so qualify automatically, thus negating the need for either of the listed feats. Regardless, this feat is gold quality for any Spirit Shaman who specializes in calling upon the forces of nature in battle to act for them and especially so if they do indeed qualify as a spontaneous spellcaster as they should. This stems not from the luck bonus granted, which is much more noticeable at lower levels, but that the feat grants the Spirit Shaman's choice summons a doubled duration without an increase to spell level.

Augment Elemental
For those who seek out the elemental forces and conjure them this is an average improvement to their power and ability. The more elementals a Spirit Shaman calls out to and aligns with, the more powerful this feat becomes in turn. In general, a Spirit Shaman failing to specialize in such a technique is likely to have or see little result for their efforts and have spent one of their few feats on an asset that offers only limited reward. Contrarily, if a Spirit Shaman focuses almost exclusively on elemental spirits, this feat becomes blue.

Augment Summoning
There exists only one reason this feat is not rated higher for a summoning Spirit Shaman and that is because it comes with the tax of the Spell Focus (Conjuration) feat, which does quite little for any summoner, to include the Spirit Shaman. Yet, should they be a shifter, they gain this feat for free as part of the Moonspeaker class, which is gold for summoning focused Spirit Shamans. By itself however, this feat is often a necessary evil for the archetype of the spirit caller to play out most successfully with its called and conjured allies.

Beckon the Frozen
There are many reasons to call on creatures of elemental nature, even those who rarely are such sorts, and a Spirit Shaman is not unfamiliar to this. Yet, these allies are not quite as powerful as they should be, at most gaining immunity to cold and dealing a paltry amount of cold damage with its natural weapons. Outside of the Plane of Water, places of the Frostfell, and other rare circumstances, there would be no point to need such specialized companions at the cost of a feat; even dedicated conjuring Spirit Shamans haven't a reason to take this option.

Bonus Essentia
Should a Spirit Shaman so have access to the powers found in Incarnum and the means of Midnight Metamagic, this otherwise useless feat takes on a new life and role. There it assists a Spirit Shaman in essentially further discounting their metamagic alterations even more efficiently. Sadly, without gestalt or extremely specific builds to capitalize on this, it is of no real use or benefit.

Born of the Three Thunders
Not all Spirit Shamans seek out mastery of storm and lightning, but for those that do? The power to diversify their electricity based damage into the sonic spectrum is a nice added benefit, made complete by forcing victims of the attack to save against a stunning effect and then being knocked prone. It combines the raw wrath of nature in damage, but the far more important control element of denying enemies their turn and casting from their hands any object, as a weapon, they might hold, further delaying them. However, such power of the storm is so great that it too dazes the caller - something avoided best by the Quick Recovery feat.

Chain Spell
The druid spell list that the Spirit Shaman calls upon has a number of of spells that favor mass buffing or mass attacks however, it is not particularly the forte of the Spirit Shaman to follow this path. While they can do better than most in this regard, having a great number of spell slots, the downside is, is that they are so limited to the spells they may cast per day and that the Spirit Shaman must cast the metamagic enhanced one as it is the version of the spell "known" to them for that day. In essence, it reduces their few total known spells for that level, all in addition to having a large offset of three slots higher than normal.

Child of Winter
A highly unorthodox choice, as few Spirit Shamans seek out and align with vermin and insects, or practices interest in death and decay, its study grants the means to affect vermin with druid spells as though they were animals. No less, such a Spirit Shaman can even employ Wild Empathy against them, among other minor talents. Notably, it opens up many insects, some quite dangerous for their level, to the Spirit Shaman's list of allies to call using Summon Nature's Ally. While not a powerful feat or one many souls will gravitate toward, it performs well for what it is meant to do.

City Magic
While it is a strange notion that a speaker of nature alive and long since passed on would dwell in a city, the power of so called "city magic" should not for a moment be underestimated. While only rated as purple for most games as a great amount of the combat will not transpire in a city, rather the wilderness or dungeons, the feat itself is very strong in such an environment. Essentially creating damaging spells for the Spirit Shaman that are, in at least half, utterly irresistible damage, all without a spell level adjustment. If a Spirit Shaman so focuses upon dealing spell damage with their magic and spends much if not all of their time in a city this feat is gold.

Consecrate Spell
For the Good-aligned Spirit Shamans focusing upon damaging spells, the option to consecrate their magic and render half of it effectively irresistible is a lucrative option, no less a thematic one such as smiting their foes with the pure power of the divine wild and its noble spirits. In trade, this benefit comes solely at the cost of adjusting the spell one level, making it flexible enough to stay relevant, especially in conjunction with other feats as that of Versatile Spellcaster, but not exceptional as dealing damage through magic is a notoriously weak use of it. Likewise for an evil Spirit Shaman, the benefits of Corrupt Spell - Consecrate Spell's counterpart - hold much the same.

Cloudy Conjuration
While merely an average choice for a Spirit Shaman, a free round of save-less sickening cloud effect created by allies of nature upon their appearance into the world is still a minor boon. It reasonably drops in potency and power as the penalties become ever more negligible and more foes become immune, it still has a lifelong application for those dedicating themselves to summoning. Uniquely, this effect is flexible in its positioning, being in the Spirit Shaman's square, adjacent to them, or adjacent to their target, if any.

Dderwydd Chymdeithas Initiate
Yet another way for a Spirit Shaman to acquire knowledge in the practices of religion or the Planes, but with even greater benefit; more spells added to their list, those of which are not regularly known to them. This single throw of a stone strikes two birds, granting a number of useful transportation spells, disguise spells, and even divination. The sole weakness it faces against the Education feat is that it must choose its skills to be added, but gains utilitarian spells in return; if a Spirit Shaman has no reason for them all and needs more magical flexibility, this is the superior option.

Dynamic Priest
While called from an obscure book this one feat, available only at first level, allows a Spirit Shaman to cast entirely off of their Charisma score. For those who wish to focus upon their class features and their spells' saving throw difficulty class, this feat is absolutely mandatory to prevent the split between attributes, those Wisdom and Charisma. For those Spirit Shamans who haven't a reason to focus upon their Charisma above all else, and would like to preserve one of their few feats, this is best avoided and the split retained.

Earth Spell
For those involved in metamagic trickery which includes Heighten Spell, there are few better ways to capitalize on the effect than to grant additional effective levels and bonuses to caster levels. Spirit Shamans benefit greatly from this, in that they are not nearly as limited in their spell selection as most divine spellcasters; they cast spontaneously and thus are not going to waste any "prepared" spells on a spell heavily modified by metamagic they might not need or want. No less, as a thematic angle, drawing from the power of the living earth, not fire, air, or water is most appropriate.

Easy Metamagic
Should a Spirit Shaman so invest themselves in metamagic it is all but mandatory they begin to pair their acquisitions with the Easy Metamagic feat to offset the spell level costs. Because the feat in itself is categorized as a Metamagic type feat, it creates synergy with requirements for metamagic feats or those that benefit from them, as with the Moonspeaker. While it applies to only one form of metamagic at a time and cannot reduce their cost to anything below +1, a Spirit Shaman dedicated to metamagic has few other uses for their feats.

This sole feat is the Spirit Shaman's entryway into countless prestige classes it desires as many of them hold various Knowledge based requirements. As the Spirit Shaman is not a "knowing" class otherwise as a wizard might be, this feat is otherwise red asset if not used to explicitly gain access to prestige classes. Yet of many archetypes, a Spirit Shaman would likely be so educated, having been mentored throughout their time as an apprentice to another Spirit Shaman as well as whatever knowledge spirits would bring and teach.

Energy Substitution
An effectively mandatory feat for a Spirit Shaman dabbling in metamagic and damaging spells, it is the gateway they seek, rather need, to remain effective and relevant throughout their adventures. Many creatures hold resistances and immunities that cannot be breached regularly otherwise, making a Spirit Shaman with out this feat and dealing spell damage largely useless. Because Spirit Shamans can apply their metamagic to whatever spells they wish when their guide bargains for them and they call from the druid list which has a large number of damaging element based spells, it grants them the desired flexibility.

Entangling Spell
Assuming a Spirit Shaman can reduce the spell level increase of +2 for a spell of this kind, it is a no-save added benefit to their magic. Given the druid spell list has a great number of very large, very widely effecting spells that deal some amount of damage, so long as the Spirit Shaman's foe suffers any of it, they are entangled for one turn. This allows not only damage to be dealt, but battlefield control, especially with spells that deal their damage over time and only allow for partial saves. Such a Spirit Shaman could, in theory, repeatedly immobilize an entire army unless they repeatedly dispell the effects of the primal magic on them, causing them to suffer the damage and other penalties time and again.

Explosive Spell
As the Spirit Shaman has inherited the druid's spellcasting list, one of the most common saving throws other than Fortitude found among them is the Reflex saving throw. While universally the weakest and least efficient means of effect, as it very rarely does anything but inflict damage, an Explosive Spell affords a Spirit Shaman some semblance of very minor battlefield control while so too promising added damage. As these spells often apply to large areas, a clever Spirit Shaman who has specialized in metamagic can toss foes around and break their ranks. Yet, this comes at several costs, the first is that it adjusts the spell by two levels, the second that it only works on a failed saving throw, and the last that it is most efficient or useful against swathes of grouped enemies, rather than limited targets. On an open battlefield however, one outdoors or in a very narrow area with ongoing saving throws? Potentially devastating.

Extend Spell
A number of druidic magics the Spirit Shaman calls upon are effects which act over time, several of which scale in power and favor being so fused with further metamagic. At a paltry change to the spell slot level needed, by one only, this feat provides a Spirit Shaman with added flexibility that ranges from damage over time, healing over time, or long duration buffing spells. While it too can function for summons, it is advised against those are many summoning feats and features provide its effects automatically, though the Extend Spell's metamagic can indeed be combined with them.

Fell Drain
For those spells that deal their damage or effects over time and have an area of effect, the power to impose negative levels without saving throw is tremendous to a Spirit Shaman who makes great use of metamagic. This creates potentially miserable and horrific area spells when combined with the Black Lore of Moil feat and spells as Blood Snow, Decomposition, or Thin Air, which weaken, damage, and drain the Spirit Shaman's foes so long as they suffer any damage from the spell. While limited to living creatures, it has the potential to deny large areas and quickly kill or debilitate anything daring into them. For any Spirit Shaman not dedicated to this path of inflicting multiple penalties through area spells, this feat is purple.

Flash Frost Spell
Thanks to the power of the Snowcasting feat, a Spirit Shaman versed in the ways of frost and cold can create a very large area denied of efficient movement with any spell they know that has an area. While far stronger at lower levels than higher levels, its minimal spell level adjustment of +1 and power to be added to any number of spells the Spirit Shaman knows in conjunction with Snowcasting makes for an expedient way to prevent foes from not only moving out of an area, preferably one that does ongoing damage, but inflict greatly increased damage over time. A Spirit Shaman without the aforementioned feat, the benefits are situational at best and thus purple.

Gatekeeper Initiate
While it duplicates a number of effects relatively native to the Spirit Shaman, it does indeed provide them with more versatile spells added to their list, a number of which are particularly useful, in addition to boosting defenses against aberrations and providing knowledge in the Planes. For any Spirit Shaman not pursuing the way of a Planar Shepherd or dealing with planar magic at large, there is little reason to pursue this however, better spending resources elsewhere.

Greenbound Summoning
Enormously out of proportion for its cost, the sole thing that keeps this feat from being essential to every Spirit Shaman who summons the forces of nature is that it loses potency as the adventure continues; nothing else compares otherwise. What it does exactly? It provides a very powerful template that turns its animal summons into durable, resilient plant creatures with improved Armor Class, Damage Reduction, Fast Healing, an added attack, multiple ability score increases, and most notably Entangle at-will and then Wall of Thorns once per day. If a Spirit Shaman summoner is unlikely to ever reach high levels, where buffing spells for animals are many times over more common and vastly more powerful than those of plant-beings, this is always a gold option.

Greensinger Initiate
The better of the two options to begin down the road to Planar Shepherd as a Spirit Shaman, the skills it provides are notoriously weak and offer little to them, but the spells are profound and much unalike the rest of the druid spell list. A number of enchantments, namely charms, as well as a few added defensive spells, it can persuade foes other than beasts to turn aside, or even turn to, the Spirit Shaman's cause. By itself, even without the ultimate end goal of acquiring a planar interest, the feat provides a slew of useful and even dangerous social or urban spells that can turn humanoids, later monsters, from foes into allies, a talent much unexpected of one who consorts with the world's powers.

Heighten Spell
A staple of metamagic trickery in conjunction with reducing the costs of the adjustments, this talent holds just as true for a Spirit Shaman as it does for others who master in metamagic. While lacking Divine Metamagic, a Spirit Shaman who specializes in their spellcasting would be hard pressed not to combine Heighten Spell with Easy Metamagic among other reductions to cost to create potent magic outside its appropriate level.

Icy Calling
A Spirit Shaman is no figure unfamiliar to summoning, let alone unlikely to be unknown in the coldest, most desolate, and primitive regions of the world. However, this feat's benefit of increasing the Strength and Dexterity scores of summoned creatures is of the enhancement bonus variety, one that does not stack with the much more useful Augment Summoning in half. The one advantage it grants is that a summoned spirit has the maximum number of hit points, greatly increasing their combat effectiveness. The weakness of it all? The Spirit Shaman must summon these creatures in an exceptionally cold environment, one they are not likely to have readily available.

Imbued Summoning
A staple of advanced summoning, this feat is essentially mandatory for a Spirit Shaman that wishes to call up allies of nature and impart beneficial spells on them efficiently without wasting actions. However, it comes at the price of quickly expending spells of 3rd level or lower and is limited to touch range casts. Note that there are two readings of this feat, one that allows the Spirit Shaman to impart any beneficial spell that meets the criteria, as in all of those from the druid list which they have, and the other which narrows it down only to what spells they have access to of those criteria for that specific day. It is assumed the latter is most likely in the majority of games, but if not so true and not so limited this feat improves to black quality and only if the +1 adjustment can be reduced.

Initiate of Nature
While of questionable status, specifying clerics or druids only, accessing this feat for a Spirit Shaman allows them to rebuke or command animals and plants. As with previously mentioned feats that provide these effects, this is a swift means to establishing an army of nature to follow the every whim and command of a Spirit Shaman on their journey. No less, some readings of this feat allow it to act as a stand in for Turn Undead, thus enable the longed for Divine Metamagic, but each further understanding away from the intent is unlikely to be accepted, if the feat is allowed at all in the first place. The added spells it provides to the list of a Spirit Shaman are, as for a druid or cleric, very minor and too situational to be of much worth.

Initiate of Obad-Hai
This feat truly only bears mention for the most unfortunate of souls who are not considered to actually cast Summon Nature's Ally spontaneously. It provides a Spirit Shaman a way to do so unquestionably, as well as Cure line spells, all in one feat. Interestingly, one understanding of this feat is that it also provides a Spirit Shaman the means to both forms of Spontaneous Casting as seen with both the cleric and the druid, thus it can cleverly used to avoid "preparing" Cure or Summon Nature's Ally spells ever again, further freeing up the limited spell slots the class suffers from.

Invisible Spell
A metamagic feat with massive ramifications well beyond what was ever likely intended, this is perhaps the one most useful form of metamagic for a Spirit Shaman who dares dabble in it at all. At its most simple, it turns any visual effect associated with the spell, invisible and undetectable except by means of Detect Magic, See Invisibility, and True Seeing. For the cost of one spell slot higher, this allows a soul of the wild to conjure invisible allies to battle beside, rain down invisible lightning storms, conjure invisible walls of stone or earth, create fields of invisible flames or sheets of ice, among many, many more. It is a form of battlefield control in addition to whatever the spell's regular effects are, forcing foes to fight what they likely cannot see or really engage against, or perhaps not even immediately recognize they are under attack.

Lord of the Uttercold
As with other spells that do not adjust the level of the Spirit Shaman's magic, such feats are essential if they wish to deal damage efficiently with their spell slots and ignore the defenses of many creatures in the process. One simple way for a Spirit Shaman to do this is to take the Snowcasting feat to add the Cold descriptor to spells of their choosing, then apply the benefits of the Lord of the Uttercold feat, then apply them both to another feat as to a Born of the Three Thunders feat, essentially creating extremely difficult to resist spells that strike with many different elements together. The consequence for this feat? Its negative energy component renders it ineffective against undead, creatures instead aided by it.

Midnight Metamagic
An efficient means for a Spirit Shaman with a pool of essentia to offset the cost of long term, heavily modified or expensive metamagic spells, this appeals to a narrow band of potential users, but is best paired with adjustments such as spells to be extended with long durations so that they might last an adventuring day or those most adjusted. Do note the essentia investment is once per spell involved, making them very much "fire and forget" in the hands of a Spirit Shaman, though the essentia is freed up after their use, making this most useful or powerful in the hands of gestalt characters.

Practical Metamagic
While obviously inferior to Easy Metamagic, the two separate sources can be combined, with the most noticeable downside being that a Spirit Shaman is required to acquire the Dragonblood subtype. While there are some races offer such benefit, infamously kobolds, Silverbrow humans are the most applicable and least likely to rouse suspicion.

Quick Recovery
Only of real interest to Spirit Shamans who plan to make frequent use of Born of the Three Thunders feat, this knack allows the Spirit Shaman the talent to shake off dazes and stuns that most would need suffer through each turn. While in general this is a nice benefit to shake off some of the worst effects and easily do so with a strong Will save as normal for Spirit Shamans, it is not particularly critical to their journey. For those who do face many stunning or dazing effects, especially those with the Born of the Three Thunders metamagic, this is a gold feat.

Quicken Spell
One of the very few ways to increase total spell output per round, it is maximized in conjunction with feats or abilities that reduce spell level adjustments for the Spirit Shaman. While not as potent in prospect as it is say for a wizard, owing to the fact Spirit Shamans have a far weaker list, it can be combined with their strengths to achieve similar end goals. Relatively inexpensive, its real cost comes in the depletion of magical resources, of which the Spirit Shaman has more than average of.

Rapid Spell
The Spirit Shaman is an adept spellcaster who already needs choose what spells per day they need know, unlike a druid. This said, a Spirit Shaman benefits significantly more since they cannot spontaneously convert their few known spells per day into summoning spells, making this a stronger choice than it would be otherwise, especially if the +1 adjustment can be reduced. No less, this improves other spells with long casting times as well, though that usefulness is few and far between. It is a purely average option without a reduction in its cost.

Rashemi Elemental Summoning
When combined with the Augment Elemental feat, this already powerful option for a Spirit Shaman becomes even that much more potent and easily reaches gold status. It essentially opens the way and clears the path for an elemental spirit focused Spirit Shaman to do as they will with their conjured creatures of the type by adding templates to some of their creatures, who then in return often engage with mighty Cone of Cold spells before easily closing to melee. This feat only becomes stronger with time by favoring elementals, which a Spirit Shaman gains increasing access to as they grow in power.

Repeat Spell
Should a Spirit Shaman be keen enough to combine the effects of a Repeat Spell with some means to entrap opponents or prevent them from efficiently functioning in its area, this form of metamagic effectively doubles its potency. Without such opportunity, specialization to reduce its +3 cost adjustment, and clever use, it is a particularly weak option. An interesting note for those Spirit Shamans who summon beasts and other allies of nature, a Repeat Spell can quickly double the number of fielded allies, but its cost must be reduced to be effective and relevant.

Reserves of Strength
For the cunning soul who has acquired Quick Recovery, all penalties or drawbacks of this feat are utterly and totally eliminated on average, allowing a Spirit Shaman to not only shake off the would-be ill effects. In return for the potential few turns disabled, at absolute worst case, the spellcaster in question may increase their caster level for the spell by +3. As one can imagine with the correct defenses in tow and an adequate set-up of feats offer tremendously powerful spells fired off with little to no drawback.

Searing Spell
At the mere cost of one level of adjustment all of the fire spells cast may overcome the usual weaknesses of resistance and immunity. For a Spirit Shaman choosing to wield fire in particular over other elemental sources, this is an essential feat despite its higher slot requirements. For all others, even those dabbling heavily in metamagic, this feat is red and best avoided if only for the fact there are far better magical damaging options which are more versatile and flexible.

The Frostfell is a place bound to see the rise of Spirit Shamans, one where the land and its great beasts are both alive in the flesh and spirit. A Spirit Shaman taking this feat may add the Cold descriptor to spells and if they so wish, use a move action to increase their caster level by +1 through adding snow and ice as a voluntary component to the spell. The real power of this feat lies in combining the Cold descriptor to any spell they wish to cast, namely those that allow them to apply more metamagic to any one effect. For the Spirit Shaman lacking in snow or damaging spells, this feat is obviously of much less value at purple.

Spontaneous Summoner
This feat only bears mention for those unfortunate Spirit Shamans who are not considered to be true spontaneous summoners or spellcasters. Despite this going strongly against the intent of their class, possessing this feat explicitly allows them to spontaneously call allies with the Summon Nature's Ally line of spells as a druid does. As a feat by and in itself, it is exceptionally weak and limited to a pitiful number of uses per day based on Wisdom score alone.

Summon Elemental
A feat that grows in power alongside the Spirit Shaman, it becomes much more relevant if they have devoted all of their assets into allying with elemental spirits. If so, this feat is of the listed normal fare at a rating of black, but for all other summoners who lack the associated elements of pursuit in other feats, the power of this drops below the expected, as while it allows the Spirit Shaman an at-will ally to summon, the combat prowess and utility afforded is weak at best without heavy investment. It does however, offer a small increase of +1 to the caster level of all summoning spells.

Twin Spell
An immensely powerful boon for any Spirit Shaman, the key to manifesting the magic most efficiently is to dedicate everything that one can into reducing the cost of the adjustment, which sits at a great +4. Even reducing the cost by half through the means of Easy Metamagic and Practical Metamagic help pay for the increase in level, with any further reductions from there streamlining the power held in it. While it does not create more potent spells, it casts more spells per turn and chiefly comes to aid in capitalizing on the action economy.

Versatile Spellcaster
A Spirit Shaman, even one relatively low in Wisdom, has a large number of spells at their disposal and many of such slots become obsolete with time - namely those lower level magical arts. This is a supremely effective way to gain more spells per day of magic the Spirit Shaman would actually wish to use by allow them to convert the excess spell energy on up to the next highest level. There is also one infamous aspect of this, that which was never intended originally and is of dubious in nature; it allows the Spirit Shaman to cast any spell from the entire druid list, although this goes strongly against the intent of how the spellcasting is retrieved and managed.

Prestige Classes - Following the Way
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Requirements: Non-Chaotic, Non-Aberration, Knowledge (Dungeoneering), Knowledge (Nature), Track, Wild Empathy
Benefits: Will Saving Throws, Favored Enemy (Aberrations), Wild Shape
Consequences: -2 Caster Levels (1st, 3rd)

For any Spirit Shaman wishing to acquire Wild Shape to further their ends, a slight edging into the waters of the aberration hunting Abolisher is an option. As a whole this line is dedicated, quite clearly so, to the destruction and eradication of those things Far Realm, many of whom are opponents by their design to the works of nature. While not particularly powerful in doing so, losing two caster levels - which is the forte of the Spirit Shaman - it does afford at least simple requirements of entry and a single level to acquire the shapeshifting powers. For some this might be worthwhile, though generally not, and for most the intense focus against aberrations is unlikely to ever be relevant. In a world full of such beasts, this prestige class improves but to black rating up until 5th level and only if then the Spirit Shaman has want or need of Wild Shape.

Bane of Infidels
Requirements: Non-Good, Intimidate, Knowledge (Nature), Knowledge (Religion), Iron Will, Leadership
Benefits: Strong Fortitude and Will, Minor Benefits
Consequences: None

While predominantly aimed toward non-players in an adventure and primitive cultures at that, a Spirit Shaman acting as a leader and religious guide could well become a Bane of Infidels if sufficiently motivated to practice xenophobia above all else while commanding a large number of subordinate followers. However, while there are a number of flavorful abilities and no loss of spellcasting, the class itself offers nothing in particular to a Spirit Shaman unless they are finding ways to amass numbers of regular mundane supplicants.

Combat Medic
Requirements: Non-Evil, Concentration, Heal, Combat Casting, Dodge
Benefits: Minor Benefits
Consequences: Prerequisites

While restoring the wounded is very much a talent a Spirit Shaman can adopt for themselves, it is an inefficient use of their time and number of spells devoted to druidic interests and pursuits. No secret to the initiated as well, healing magic is a notoriously weak pursuit in the heat of battle and a Spirit Shaman stands to gain little at any level from this path. Worse yet, it calls upon a selection of precious, limited feats, of which are notoriously bad and useless to any proficient, skilled spellcaster. Lastly, it takes up precious levels to achieve ends that could be better spent on a more offensively oriented class archetype, which would help avert damage by simply putting more out, or more typically, manipulating the field of strife.

Requirements: Knowledge (Religion), Roleplaying Requirement
Benefits: Strong Will, Domains (1st, 6th), Spell Resistance, Outsider Type
Consequences: None

To embody some ideal of life and the afterlife, nature and supernature, is one of the supreme callings of a Spirit Shaman who truly wishes to unravel the mysteries of existence and lead a life of closeness to it. For such an enlightened experience, the Spirit Shaman is awarded the ability to call upon even more magic - often that unknown to her regularly - as well as become a being of effective perfection. Immunity to aging, disease, and poison, added defenses against the waywardness of the mind, and ultimately the reality of becoming a creature more than merely mortal through their pursuit, there is nothing offered here that a Spirit Shaman could not make great use of. Perhaps most notably is the reality of having more spells at whim and the granted domain powers, two legendary feats usually known only to the cleric. One might even note a Spirit Shaman could well classify for the way of the Contemplative by virtue of their Spirit Guide, who in many cases consorts directly to the patron of their belief or the belief system they revolve around.

Divine Oracle
Requirements: Knowledge (Religion)
Benefits: Strong Will, Domain, Evasion (All Armors), Divination Enhancement, Surprise Immunity
Consequences: Prerequisites

At the minor price of focusing one's self greatly upon the subject of faith at large in religion, a curious Spirit Shaman can become a master diviner and understand, rather know, the world before it so much as happens. Between being granted access to more spells and domain spell slots, the ability to evade Reflex saving throws much as swifter allies can, glean twice as reliably information known only to the aspects of chance or fate through the spirits, and ultimate never suffer a round of surprise, there is no sufficient reason a Spirit Shaman should not pursue this realm of expertise. Perhaps, just perhaps only, would they do better with other prestige classes, but few can compete with minimal consequence as the way of an oracle and seer.

Earth Dreamer
Requirements: Knowledge (Nature), Spellcraft, Earth Sense
Benefits: Strong Fortitude and Will, Minor Benefits
Consequences: None

What is most novel of the Earth Dreamer and its relation to the Spirit Shaman is not that it makes wonderful sense for one who sees and knows the names and persons of animals and elements, but that it names the reality that such a path of prestige can be adjusted to fit the other elements of air, fire, and water. By itself, it provides an array of minor novelties such as tremorsense, friendliness to earth elementals, or the ability to move unimpeded through the ground, but more importantly it provides and does not take; if only offers the Spirit Shaman more options. No less, if one were so inclined, one could align themselves with several different elements and collect a number of their benefits using the aforementioned adaptations, something both lucrative and thematic for a class which loses many of its most novel features past the 10th level.

Frost Mage
Requirements: Arcane Spellcasting (1st), Knowledge (Arcana), Frozen Magic
Benefits: Strong Will, Bonus Spells (Specific), Bypass Cold (Resistance, Immunity)
Consequences: -1 Caster Level*
* = This can circumvented by certain trickery using some feats or prestige classes that enable arcane spellcasting.

While few Spirit Shamans go out of their way in such strange manners to claim the power of the cold for their own in its fullest, clever disciples may have noticed the underlying themes and powers of cold magic. With the talents of a Spirit Shaman and their interests in metamagic, a great number of spells never meant to belong to the domain of ice can be crafted in such a way to benefit. For one who dabbles in such doings, this is perhaps one of the most spectacular ways to remove a great number of weaknesses or immunities to their talents they can manage, short of the usual defenses of anti-magic and spell resistance. What the Frost Mage offers most notably, that which is spoken to here, is the ability to utterly ignore cold resistance or immunity.

Requirements: Arcane Spellcasting (2nd), Knowledge (Arcana), Knowledge (Nature)
Benefits: Strong Fortitude and Will, Spell Versatility, Minor Benefits
Consequences: -3 Caster Levels*
* = This can circumvented by certain trickery using some feats or prestige classes that enable arcane spellcasting.

While one of the most thematic options for a Spirit Shaman to adopt, the Geomancer's way sadly offers all too little to them. It comes at the great cost, likely without some clever activity, of reducing the most potent weapon in the inventory - magic itself - for flavorful options. Unfortunately none of said options are all quite good, though one might note the ability mix the benefits of arcane and divine spellcasting is a nice boon, it is almost certainly not worth the cost to do so. All the more upsetting is that the themes of the natural world are all quite minor, many of them eclipsed by the spells the Spirit Shaman has by themselves or the magical items they have collected. One would be unwise to choose this path for anything but theme.

Requirements: Female, Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, Neutral Good, Knowledge (Local), Ethran, Leadership, Roleplaying Requirements
Benefits: Strong Fortitude and Will, Leadership Bonus, Spontaneous Casting, Spontaneous Metamagic, Penalty Aura, Circle Magic
Consequences: None

There are few, do note very few at that, options available to a Spirit Shaman that are unabashed improvements to all of the interests of their archetype of the wise sage and magician, but to women who become Hathrans, those expansions of power are made quite real. There are two tremendous, perhaps reasonably obscene benefits that arise from this path as a true ally of the natural world and its spirits; the first that they may cast any of their magic freely and spontaneously without limit and that of freely applying metamagic to it thanks to the combined result of the Spirit Shaman's unusual spellcasting technique. Not content to end there, a Spirit Shaman Hathran may organize and dabble in circle magic, improving their magical potency greatly and in synergy with the details noted before, all while being able to commune with spirits on whim, turn aside challenges and attacks by those of regional association, and recruit far more competent and dangerous allies.

Requirements: Monstrous Humanoid, Giant, Goblinoid, "Primitive Humanoid", Non-Good, Knowledge (Arcana), Spellcraft, Survival
Benefits: Full Base Attack Bonus, Strong Will, Bonus Spells (Sorcerer/Wizard List), Gaze Attack
Consequences: None

While the list of those able to become Hexers is most narrow, the Spirit Shaman is one such aspirant who can succeed to great extents. What this path is most notable for is its gaze attack that can inflict varying penalties to foes in relatively close range, but it holds a far, far greater secret in its bonus spell selection; they may learn any sorcerer or wizard spell known at any level of spell they may cast. While this is but five spells, a Spirit Shaman who has become a Hexer may greatly branch out their spell selection, performing some of the most well known cheats of the arcane kind. Meanwhile, the hexing gaze offers a fairly reliable deterrent against weaker enemies who might think the Spirit Shaman a lucrative target, most notably the means to charm them turn after turn if they fail a saving throw.

High Elemental Binder
Requirements: Concentration, Knowledge (Arcana), Knowledge (The Planes), Bind Elemental, Craft Wondrous Item
Benefits: Strong Will, Elemental Companions, Elemental Binds
Consequences: -1 Caster Level

A novel concept and execution, a Spirit Shaman who consorts strongly with the elemental spirits of nature has great reason to further expand down that path by becoming a High Elemental Binder, one who infuses their weapons, armor, and even bodies with the fury of nature. More notably, such an individual can call and command one, then two, three, and finally four elemental allies to fight for them, who escalate up to sizes as large as Huge, all without any consequence or negative outcome should they be defeated or banished. As such, a Spirit Shaman has reason to take interest in adding them to their collection of allies and companions summoned and called, though they may now too wield that energy for themselves; to a less important extent.

Holt Warden
Requirements: Any Neutral, Knowledge (Nature), Survival, Roleplaying Requirements
Benefits: Strong Fortitude and Will, Domain (Plant), Spontaneous Casting (Domain), Spell-like Abilities, Regain Spells, Minor Benefits
Consequences: None

For a Spirit Shaman deeply ingrained in the very depths of the wilderness and its life, one who speaks to it in every sense and finds union and community both natural and supernatural in it, there is perhaps no better option at large than the Holt Warden; it is perhaps the most go-to option available if one wishes not to specialize. Granting additional spells per day from the Plant domain, the domain itself, and spontaneous casting of those spells, it frees up some of the Spirit Shaman's interests, adding only to them later by providing free divination-like effects and the communal use of the Heal spell. Adorned with added minor features, such as those known regularly to the druid, it is headed by a notably unique ability to impart a small Wisdom bonus, but more importantly grant an additional spell, or spells, per day to the Holt Warden and their allies. In essence, it trades nothing and stands to gain everything.

Landforged Walker
Requirements: Warforged, Knowledge (Geography), Knowledge (Nature), Survival, Skill Focus (Knowledge (Nature)) or Ironwood Body
Benefits: Strong Fortitude, Resistances, Immunities, Fortification (50%), Plant Shape, Minor Benefits
Consequences: -1 Caster Level

While it might be uncommon for a Spirit Shaman to be of warforged origins, the call to become one with nature and find some level of spirit and soul in it is not. This path among many is mostly for flavor, something very much in line for a character who is qualifying, but still useful enough that the lone penalty is a dip in caster level. Livable, although not ideal, it offers a few peculiar options that are uncommon to a spirit shaman, namely resistances to cold and electricity, an immunity to polymorph, partial fortification and then ultimately the ability to Wild Shape albeit only into plant forms.

Lord of Tides
Requirements: Divine Spellcasting (2nd), Survival, Scorpion's Resolve, Roleplaying Requirements
Benefits: Strong Fortitude and Will, Elemental Summons, Elemental Portal, Minor Benefits
Consequences: -1 Caster Level

While not limited to the realm of sea alone, a Spirit Shaman of this type gains the ability to summon, control, and command a small added number of elementals per day. While they too gain the ability to inflict some desiccation damage with a spell-like ability and slowly burrow through the earth, the real powers they learn are those over elementals and to the planes of them. While they afford no such protections against them or around them, they offer a spirit-bound soul to focus more upon one of the areas of specialization that some might take. Thus if one is interested in elementals and playing with the primordial forces this is one of the better options to do so, even if limited.

Master of Radiance
Requirements: Ability to cast Daylight, Any Nonevil, Knowledge (Nature), Knowledge (Religion)
Benefits: Strong Fortitude and Will, Minor Benefits
Consequences: -1 Caster Level

In any world plagued by the unliving, who are mere shells of their former selves now as some sort of shambling horror, this option proves most lucrative for a Spirit Shaman. Someone who can set the dead to rest, then attend to their spirits, this option is really only for such cases. Otherwise it offers round after round of very moderate spell damage based ability due to the uses of its aura, which are most potent when correctly applied. While not worthwhile generally because of its few benefits gained at the loss of a caster level, a Spirit Shaman who embodies the spirit of the sun or flame would do well to at least consider this option because of its symbolic nature.

Master of the Yuirwood
Requirements: Any Nonevil, Elf or Half-Elf, Knowledge (Nature), Survival, Alertness, Track
Benefits: Strong Fortitude, Uncanny Dodge, Charisma to Saving Throws, Specific Teleportation, Minor Benefits
Consequences: None

While it comes at the price of being a race which sadly does not align well with the ways of a Spirit Shaman generally, such an option is noteworthy outside of this in that it effectively has only an alignment requirement and the ability to track. What it offers in return is teleportation circles and locales that can take the wanderer far and wide, as well as their allies. More notably it loses none of its spellcasting prowess and stands to gain Charisma to all saving throws, a benefit not easily ignored as it helps add yet another layer the ally of the woods needs against enemy magic.

Moon Guardian
Requirements: Divine Spellcasting (3rd), Any Good, Lycanthrope, Roleplaying Requirements
Benefits: Full Base Attack Bonus, Strong Fortitude and Reflex, Minor Benefits
Consequences: -2 Caster Levels

What makes this way so terrible is that it fails to understand both the nature of lycanthropy in the world itself and the rules surrounding it. Because a moon-blessed, or even moon-cursed, Spirit Shaman would gain the added levels of their new form, this path is essentially obsolete and would only further serve to weaken their already damaged progression. While it offers a nicety in the way of natural magic so one can cast in their true beast form as well as their hybrid and humanoid forms and the benefit to change faster or control their shape better, it offers little beyond that. A poor list of skills, few skills at all, and the added loss of magical power makes it far less attractive than it could be.

Requirements: Divine Spellcasting (2nd), Shifter, Knowledge (Nature), Knowledge (Religion)
Benefits: Strong Fortitude and Will, Improved Summoning, Improved Summon Nature's Ally, Wild Shape, Planar Ally, Gate, Minor Benefits
Consequences: None

All that is asked of a Spirit Shaman who wishes to become aligned with the mystic powers of the moon is to be born a child of it and study into the religion of their people as well as that of others. What it grants in return is tremendous amplification of summoning power in duration and quality, the improvement of one's shapeshifting talent to the point it becomes inherent, the regularly unknown powers of Wild Shape, and ultimately the startling powers of manipulating the Planes. What capstones it all is the final line of spells added from the Planar Ally line and then, most importantly, the Gate spell; a spell that can and does change the very face of battle. While much a lifelong commitment for a Spirit Shaman, there are few worthwhile options for them in their base class left when this choice first becomes available. It is definitively one of the best summoning archetypes available and with good reason.

Mystic Wanderer

Paragnostic Apostle

Planar Shepherd

Primal Scholar


Seeker of the Misty Isle

Sentinel of Bharrai





Walker in the Waste

Verdant Lord
« Last Edit: June 16, 2018, 03:52:35 PM by Argent Fatalis »