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Matt-M-McElroy

Player’s Handbook 2: A Look at the Shaman

Posted on March 13, 2009 by Matt-M-McElroy

From the bright towns and darkened wilderness they come: mighty heroes intent on exploring dungeons, slaying monsters and battling evil.

The Player’s Handbook 2 offers Dungeons & Dragons players new options with new Races, Classes and more. This book introduces the primal power source, which draws on the spirits that preserve and sustain the world. Wizards of the Coast has offered up a handful of previews and excerpts on the Dungeons & Dragons website and a few lucky gamers out there have already received their pre-ordered copies of the book (some have even posted spoiler threads if you have the energy to dig through them).

Flames Rising was lucky enough to get an advance copy of the book for review and we are teaming up with a handful of other websites to explore some of the new options being made available to players of Dungeons & Dragons. Specifically we are going to be taking a look at the Shaman Class today. After our Look at the Shaman you will find a series of links to other sites examining other sections of the book.

The Shaman

“The spirits surround us, guide us, and hold all the knowledge of the world.”

The Shaman is a very primal character class, both in regards to their Power Source and how the characters interact with the world around them. Shamans are connected to powerful nature spirits and together they lead an adventuring party through battle.

Initially when I was looking at the new book I was wondering just how the Shaman was going to be different from the Druid. At first glance, I thought the two classes might have a lot of overlap. I found I didn’t need to “worry” too much about it. While both classes are primal type characters, the Shaman assumes the role of Leader and the Druid is a Controller. The classes may be allies and may share a bond with nature, but it is how they interact with spirits (and other members of the adventuring party) that set them apart.

When a character becomes a Shaman they acquire a spirit companion that guides them on their adventures. They must choose either a Protector Spirit or a Stalker Spirit. The default choices are bear and panther, but the book offers ideas on customizing the appearance and traits to better fit the character’s overall race and experiences (a Dragonborn might have a rage drake for example). While all Shamans have the powers call spirit companion, healing spirit and speak with spirits it is the choice of Protector or Stalker that determines if the character gets spirit’s shield or spirit’s fangs as an additional power.

Many of the Shaman Evocations call upon the spirit companion to either strike the Shaman’s enemies or to heal the character’s allies. My personal favorites are those that add bonuses to the Shaman’s allies such as the Level 2 Utility Evocation Spirits of Battle which “creates a zone filled with ancestral spirits that lasts until the end of the encounter. While within the zone, your allies gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls.” At higher levels the Shaman is quite powerful and an incredible ally to have in the party. For example, the Level 22 Utility Evocation Call the Dead affects dead allies in the burst and returns them to life.

One the things I like the best about the Shaman Evocations in this book is the bits of flavor text that start each entry. For example Lightning Panther Spirit (Level 3 Encounter) reads:

With a rumbling growl, a panther spirit appears and strikes your foe with lightning before it vanishes. Your spirit companion channels the panther’s swiftness to your allies.

These little bits of flavor add some great story potential to the character and offer players a chance to enhance descriptions of the character in action. Instead of just saying, “1d10 +Wisdom modifier lightning damage.” the player can describe the spirit’s attack with style. The entire book is full of great little bits of text like this that make it a fun read.

The Shaman Paragon Paths allow players to further refine their character in new ways and add a bit more customization to how that character interacts with the world around them. The Player’s Handbook 2 offers four Paragon Paths for the Shaman, each with three new Evocations.

  • The Disciple of the World Serpent is a defender of the natural order and uses the power of the World Serpent to battle creatures from beyond the mortal realm.
  • The Ghost Panther use a combination of stealth and cunning to strike at foes, even using the spirit world to teleport during battle.
  • The Great Bear Shaman is a protector of the weak and fearsome opponent to those that would harm the Shaman’s allies.
  • The Spirit Tempest channels the spirit winds to lash out at enemies and heal allies.

Naturally this is just a brief glance at the Shaman class features offered in the new book. There are many Evocations not covered in this review that will be a lot of fun to play around with as your character grows through their adventures. The Player’s Handbook 2 offers a lot of new material to explore. New Races, new Classes, Racial Paragon Paths and much, much more.

Matt M McElroy

Want to learn more about Player’s Handbook 2? Read on…

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2 Responses to “Player’s Handbook 2: A Look at the Shaman”

  1. CharlieAmra says:

    Great review! As a big fan of Greg Keyes Waterborn/Dark God and Fool Wolf tales, I have been wanting to play a character that communes with the spirits of the world and has a spirit in their “Mansion of Bones”. Looks like the 4e shaman will be my opportunity.

    Reply

  2. Wimwick says:

    Great review. I was wondering what this class was going to look like and how it would fit with the Druid. One question, does the class function like a ranger with an animal companion? Either you take an action or the Spirit Companion does? I’d love more insight into that aspect of the class.

    Reply

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