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Class Struggles

Spirit Shaman
The spirit shaman, introduced in Complete Divine, is a divine spellcaster who interacts mainly with spirits. Unlike the druid, whom they are closely related to, and with whom they share a spell list, the spirit shaman is more focused on the needs of those around them, rather than nature itself. They are competent and aggressive spellcasters who can fire volleys of flame and lightning at their enemies while being able to tend to the wounds of their allies.

The spirit shaman, unlike the shaman introduced in Oriental Adventures is loosely based around the shamans and medicine men of the First Nations people. Many of the abilities that spirit shamans learn are based on the purported powers of the holy men of tribes such as the Ojibwe, Lakota, Navajo and many others.

Spirit Shaman Strengths

  • Full access to druid spells.
  • Powerful abilities that manipulate spirits.
  • High Fortitude and Will saving throws.

Spirit Shaman Weaknesses

  • Low Reflex saving throws.
  • Reliance on dual ability scores for spellcasting.
  • Must select a small number of spells they can cast from each day.
  • Many class abilities don't affect non-spirit creatures.

Playing a Spirit Shaman
Spirit shamans are not physical characters. Their reliance on light armor and simple weapons combined with their average attack bonus and hit dice mean that they are not likely to wade into the thick of combat. Instead, they rely on their spellcasting and their large number of class abilities to deal damage to their enemies.

A spirit shaman character will want both a high Charisma and a high Wisdom score. Both are required for their spellcasting, and many of their supernatural class abilities are Charisma-based. Besides that, they will probably want fairly good scores in both Dexterity and Constitution to help them survive longer.

What separates the spirit shaman the most from other classes is their unique approach to spellcasting. Each day, the spirit shaman bargains with denizens of the spirit world to retrieve a small number of spells from the druid spell list. They can then cast those spells spontaneously. This means that spirit shamans are not truly practiced or spontaneous spellcasters, but a mix between the two. A spirit shaman character will need to make certain that they retrieve a good mix between offensive, defensive and curative spells each day.

Race Suggestions
There are many races that can excel as spirit shamans. The issue is that as a class with a very unique flavor, not many races truly fit in. With some minor choices, you can create a spirit shaman character that feels real and not just thrown together.

Needless to say, humans make for good spirit shaman characters. Not only can they make excellent use of the bonus skill points afforded to them, but the extra feat can also be very welcome, especially since so many feats can be useful to a spirit shaman (see below).

The keen senses and deftness of the elf also makes for a perfect fit. Their bonuses to Listen, Search and Spot checks make them more difficult to be ambushed, and their bonus to enchantment spells coupled with the class's high Will saving throw and the spirit shaman's generally higher Wisdom score mean that they'll likely always be in control of themselves. What's more, if they should happen to fall prey to an enchantment spell, their follow the guide ability will give them a chance to shrug it off. Finally, the elf's weapon proficiencies are a welcome addition to the meager list provided to the spirit shaman and give them some more options for when they must fight physically. On the downside, their lower Constitution score means that the character will be easier to put down, so such a character should focus on not being in the line of fire.

The halfling is also an excellent choice. They have a higher Dexterity score, and their lower Strength isn't a huge hindrance. Their small size makes them more difficult to hit, which can be a boon. Bonuses to several movement based skills can help them get around, and a bonus to their saving throws can always be beneficial. Finally, the bonus they receive to making attacks with slings and thrown weapons can help them be effective in combat without having to expend their spellcasting abilities.

Aasimars (from the Planar Handbook) have a level adjustment, but their bonus to Wisdom and Charisma are extremely useful to a spirit shaman character. Their energy resistance can help them to survive against magical attacks. Their spell-like ability is less useful however, so overall, this race is a good choice, but could be better.

The killoren (Races of the Wild) aren't an obvious choice, but they are interesting all the same. Not only do they have enhanced survival-based skills, but their aspects can provide them with another outlet for their abilities. The aspect of the destroyer can give the killoren spirit shaman an offensive ability that works on creatures largely outside of the scope of their class abilities.

The neanderthal (Frostburn) combines high physical abilities with low maneuverability and intelligence. They also possess bonuses to Listen, Spot and Survival checks, which is always useful. A neanderthal spirit shaman can be a leader of their people and a more physical interpretation of the class.

Although the uldra (Frostburn) has a level adjustment, they also have a number of abilities that make them quite useful as spirit shamans. Not only do they have a higher Wisdom and Constitution, but they also possess a small number of spell-like abilities that aren't available on their normal spell list. In addition, their ability to deal extra cold damage can be useful if they ever need to get into melee combat.

Feat Suggestions
Spirit shamans have a number of feat options available to them that can make them incredibly powerful. One important note: because spirit shamans technically 'know' all of their spells (and are restricted only by the number of unique spells they can cast per day) the extra spell feat (Complete Arcane) can't provide them with any benefit.

Getting More Variety
The biggest drawback of the spirit shaman is the limited number of spells they can retrieve for casting each day. Thankfully there are some feats that can help mitigate this, all from Complete Divine.

The easiest of these feats is spontaneous summoner, which lets the character spontaneously cast summon nature's ally spells a small number of times per day. By taking cross-class ranks in Knowledge (Religion), the spirit shaman can also qualify for spontaneous healer or spontaneous wounder by 5th level. A neutral spirit shaman can qualify for all three feats, allowing them huge versatility by always having the ability to cast a summon nature's ally, cure or inflict spell on the fly without using up a retrieved spell slot.

Spirit Abilities
Dragon Magazine #343 introduced three feats that can benefit a spirit shaman by improving their class abilities. Extended spirit form can allow them to remain incorporeal for much longer than ordinary. Spirit spell allows them to maximize all spells they cast for a single round. Finally, the extra divine power feat allows them to increase the daily uses of one of their abilities such as spirit form, spirit journey and chastise spirits.

Supernatural Abilities
Tome of Magic includes a few feats that can provide metamagic-like effects to supernatural abilities. Of these, three of them can help the spirit shaman by improving their class abilities. Empower supernatural ability can allow chastise spirits to deal more damage and be more difficult to resist. Enlarge supernatural ability can double the range of their abilities. Finally, extend supernatural ability can allow them to use their spirit form for much longer.

Unlike druids, spirit shamans are not restricted against using heavy armors. A spirit shaman who wants to take a more martial path can easily take armor proficiency (medium) or armor proficiency (heavy).

Spirit shamans are also adept at metamagic spells since they can retrieve spells with the feats already applied to them. A magic-focused spirit shaman should take a couple of metamagic feats in order to maximize their potential with much less of a downside than a true spontaneous spellcaster would suffer.

Weapon finesse can help a spirit shaman without a high Strength score land hits more often. In addition, the weapon focus feat can also improve their ability to connect with their attacks, and help them to rely less upon spellcasting.

Multiclass Suggestions
Spirit shamans are in a unique position that they really want for little. Although they can multiclass, it may not be in their best interest to do so.

The ranger is a great way to splash in a little martial prowess into your spirit shaman. Their high base attack bonus and Reflex saves augment your shaman's weak points and both the combat style feats and the favored enemy bonuses can be useful, especially if you select a favored enemy that's also a spirit.

Without the monastic training feat, you won't be able to effectively multiclass spirit shaman with the monk, but the cost is well worth it. The monk's many abilities work well with the ones provided by the shaman. The biggest problem that you'll encounter is that the mid-level attack bonuses provided by both classes mean that this combination will end up with a very low attack in total, but it's offset by higher damage and the ability to easily meet the prerequisites of the sacred fist prestige class (Complete Divine).

The barbarian class can provide a spirit shaman with powerful offensive melee abilities, some added armor proficiency and at higher levels, damage reduction. This multiclass combination is likely going to put the spirit shaman in harm's way, but higher hit points and a liberal use of cure spells should help to offset any damage the character might take.

The totemist (Magic of Incarnum) provides a number of abilities through their meldshaping abilities. Soulmelds like the behir gorget can provide the character with some very powerful abilities that won't take up the character's daily spells. In addition, the class's higher Reflex saves help offset the spirit shaman's lower ones.

Prestige Class Suggestions
Much like multiclassing, spirit shamans aren't necessarily required to multiclass. There are some choices though that can make for interesting results though.

Stormcaster (from Stormwrack) can provide the spirit shaman with a number of sonic and electricity based attacks along with most of their normal spell progression. The downside is that the character will need to take cross-class ranks in Knowledge (arcana) in order to meet the prerequisites. The low hit die provided by the class will make the character much more fragile, but thankfully their storm-based abilities can help them destroy enemies at a safe distance and even turn away some ranged attacks.

The lord of tides (from Sandstorm) is one of the near-perfect spirit shaman prestige classes. Their survival abilities can help the character survive in the harsh environment of the desert, but their real power comes from the ability to manipulate the water in the bodies of their enemies. They also learn to summon elementals and travel to the inner planes.

Walker in the waste (also from Sandstorm) is an interesting choice for an evil spirit shaman. The character doesn't need to work hard to meet the prerequisites of the prestige class. The ability to create powerful desert creatures and create desiccated environments couples with their eventual apotheosis into a dry lich turns them into a powerful force to be reckoned with and a powerful enemy to boot.

The combat medic (Heroes of Battle) is a different take for the spirit shaman. By focusing on curative magic they can turn themselves into powerful healers who also happen to have access to a bevy of offensive spells. One of the greatest abilities comes at the final level of the class when they learn to spontaneously cast heal spells. Not only can it free up a retrieved spell every day, but it allows them to cast the spell spontaneously as a 6th level spell instead of retrieving it as a 7th level spell.

Another near-perfect prestige class choice is the holt warden from Complete Champion. Trading up the ability to manipulate spirit creatures for plants. The class allows them to spontaneously cast spells from the Plant domain, perform a ritual to heal allies and provide refreshment to those around them. In addition, they learn a number of druid-like movement abilities along with full spellcasting advancement.

New Material

New Feats
Although there are a small number of feats created specifically for spirit shamans, the class doesn't receive much support beyond that. Included here are some new feats for spirit shamans along with a new magical item.

Consecrate Spirit [General]
You can destroy the bonds that a spirit uses to anchor itself to a corpse.
    Prerequisites: Chastise spirits class ability, knowledge (religion) 4 ranks.
    Benefit: You can effect corporeal undead creatures with your spirit shaman class features as if they were spirits. The save DC for these abilities (if any) are decreased by 4.
    Normal: Only undead creatures that are incorporeal are considered spirits.

Extra Retrieval [General]
You can retrieve an extra spell.
    Prerequisites: Spirit shaman level 4th.
    Benefit: You can retrieve one extra spell per day at any level up to one lower than the highest level of spell you can currently cast. For example, a 4th-level spirit shaman gains the ability to retrieve an extra 0-level or 1st-level spell. Once selected, the level of the extra spell retrieved never changes.
    Special: You can gain this feat multiple times. Each time, you gain an extra spell retrieval at any level up to one lower than the highest level of spell you can currently cast.

Unbind Spirit [General]
You can pierce the protections around constructs and interact with the spirits that control them.
    Prerequisites: Chastise spirits class ability, knowledge (arcana) 4 ranks.
    Benefit: You can effect construct creatures with your spirit shaman class features as if they were spirits. The save DC for these abilities (if any) are decreased by 4.

New Magic Item

Ghost Shirt: This thin linen shirt has been enchanted to protect the wielder against arrows. It provides the wearer with DR 5/magic against ranged attacks.
    Moderate abjuration; CL 18th; Craft Wondrous Item, protection from arrows or spirit shaman; Price 28,980 gp.

The History of the Ghost Shirt
The ghost shirt was used by the Lakota Sioux in the late 1800s. Created by an offshoot of the Ghost Dance Movement, warriors wore these shirts to protect them from gunfire so they could resist the oppression of the Americans. The ghost shirts did not work, and the many of their wearers were massacred at Wounded Knee.

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