Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Next up in the Preview series is the Shaman, a Primal Leader.

Right off the bat, I love the Companion Spirit. What has always attracted me to the Druid, even though I seldom took advantage of it, is the idea of animal companions, and the companion spirit fits with the whole idea of a totem for the shaman.

Only a few of the powers, the at-wills, focus on the companion, but all in all, it has a really nice feel to it; ever since we saw a bard (of all things) use a summoned animal to good effect, I've liked the idea of using them for combat, and not just spies or scouts.

What bothers me about the other powers, though, is the focus on healing. Not just healing, per se, but also temporary hit points and regeneration -- over all, the shaman has more healing and its ilk than the cleric, even down to the Healing Spirit power, similar to what the cleric, paladin and warlord have, to allow an ally to use a healing surge.

Perhaps this is my own issue, seeing healing as the realm of the cleric, with bit parts by other players. Yes, the 4e cleric is better balanced, no matter how you build him: healer, warrior and bane of the undead. And perhaps the vision of shaman brings to mind someone who heals the mind and soul, and thus it fits that they provide in this role, but I think you'd be hardpressed to find someone who didn't answer "cleric" to "who is the party's healer?" If that has officially changed, I want an announcement of some sort.


MailPari said...

There was totally an announcement.
It's on page 16 of the player's handbook where they list Clerics and warlords as leaders, and explain that it's their role to heal.
Warlords are not Fighters, Artificers are not Wizards, Bards are not Rogues, and Shamans are not Druids. They're all healers.

I love it, because players like me, would never play a pious religious character, but I might play a temperamental artificer, or a wild bard.

And there is no longer the "Who will be the cleric" argument, because someone will be a Shaman.

It's all the new role of "leader" and clerics might still heal us best, but now we can survive without one.

Griff said...

I was halfway through my own write up when I came to get a link and *poof* - my stand in job was nullified.

I agree with the obvious stepping on the cleric's toes here, but I actually like it. I think Shaman and I think spiritual leader and healer. If any class should fix those aches and pains, it should be the Shaman.

The cleric should be converting the heathens by mace and bringing the favor of the gods to his fellow believers (or allies).

But then what does the Paladin do?

Are we on a slippery slope?

Crwth said...


If Clerics, Warlords, Artificers, Bards and Shaman are all healers, then why do we have the title Leader? If that's what a "leader" does, then why not just call a spade a spade?

I see where you're coming from with the pious/religious path, and providing a healing path that doesn't rely on it. While healing has traditionally (pre-4e) been a divine act, I suppose that, with the healing surges, healing is an internal event, spurred by external forces -- divine, primal, arcane or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

they are called leaders as they do more than just healing, they also buff, provide movement and other beneficial things. The clerics so popular "lance of faith" at-will, deals a bit damage and also provide a character a +2 bonus to hit on their next attack. take a look, theres loads of non-healing powers for the different leader classes.
something i really like about 4.0 is the fact that clerics are not mandatory healbots anymore. Yes, they could be played as so much more, but that would be frowned upon as they need a healer.

Anonymous said...

i'd like to say that, as a person who has played 3rd and 3.5 edition (having started on my 10th birthday), i have felt extremely betrayed by most of 4th edition. having learned about this Shaman class though intrigued me, and the first thing i asked was "does he have healing?" because in my mind a Shaman should be a healer, and i felt better about the loss of the Druid to know that there is a Shaman class.

i have been actually quite enjoying playing Clerics in 3.5, and feel that they arn't just healers anyway. they are very powerfull, versatile, and customizable characters, capable of doing almost anything. i especially like playing Sorcerer/Cleric/Mythic Theurges. they can be great at espionage, combat, diplomacy, healing, and getting rid of those nasties. my best character created to this date was a Drow Vampire Sorcerer/Cleric/Mythic Theurge with a single level of Barbarian.

but i'm getting off topic. my point is, to say that the Shaman steps on the toes of Clerics as a healer is both rediculous and ignorant, and shows a very inside-the-box attitude about the game. you give up the fun if you don't experiment after all, and having a party that includes both th eCleric AND Shaman wouldn't be too far-fetched at all in my opinion!

Alexandra Erin said...

I realize this is an oooold post but I'm reading your archive and enjoying it.

What's interesting to me is how much healing candy Clerics ended up getting in Divine Power, between a Cure Serious Wounds utility and Domain feats that let them tag temporary hit points onto at-wills (other divine characters can take that, of course, but they won't have it in addition to the Cleric's healing), the Healer's Mercy channel divinity feature, and some of the heal-heavy Paragon Paths.

I'd previously thought of that in terms of WOTC giving people who preferred old school healbot Clerics the ability to make a more heal-centric build... now that I'm thinking about the Shaman, it could also be a matter of reasserting the class's supremacy.

Crwth said...

No worry about the old post - it looks like we're getting new readers, and old posts are still getting insightful comments!

I was playing with the Character Builder this week, planning my cleric up through 30th level with all of the existing material in the Compendium, and my cleric-as-healer build does seem to do okay as he goes, especially with the Divine Power additions. Since the hybrid rules have come out, I've also been warming to the multiclassing possibilities in 4e, and have considered trying a cleric/shaman hybrid to really max out the healer role.

I don't begrudge Anonymous's exploration into the expanded (or, at least non-stereotypical) roles, but I still have that desire for my favorite class to stand out in its stereotypical role, above any others.

OrcSmash said...

I am quite pleased with the Shaman class. I am a devout agnostic (har har) and i love playing the healer class, but the thought has often occurred to me that, in general, the healing duty falls to the cleric or paladin classes, both very rooted in religion.

Don't get me wrong: I recently started playing a paladin and love everything about him. On the rare occasions that i play with a druid, they are too busy savaging orcs in beast form to notice that the party needs healing. And warlords and artificiers tend to not actually do the healing, but to almost go "ok, now you can heal yourself."

A shaman sort of embodies the native, natural sort of spiritual guide that, instead of rapid praying over the party's campfire, simply sits down and thanks the Great Spirit for the outcome of the day. And the shaman's peace and balance role can hopefully deter the party from the inevitable "let's burn down the tavern!!!" approach.

But I mostly enjoy the concept of waving around a feathery staff and chanting over totems as opposed to a "Spanish Inquisition" style cleric role. And don't forget the satisfying feel when you vaporize a kobold with a bolt of lightning.

I have played both 3.5 and 4th edition D&D, but i prefer 4.0 for its Powers feature, among other things. I think a Shaman could be a much-needed break from the divine in D&D, and lean more toward the spiritual.

Griff said...

I'm still conflicted over the Shaman (and other classes that step on the toes of each other, ie. Warlock, Warlord, Barbarian).

On the one hand, I want to say that these pseudo-classes can be done simply by roleplaying as such. You want a barbarian? Roll up a fighter and give him some totems etc... A warlock/witch? Do a druid/sorcerer type.

On the other, I get hung up on class names. A lot. If I want to play a sorcerer I don't want to play a wizard without a spellbook.

I want distinctive classes that I can tune to my character concept. I find that 3.5 (and the new Pathfinder RPG) did a much better job of this than 4e. There were a multitude of classes, and quite a bit of overlap, but everyone felt unique or distinct. In 4e, there are a multitude of classes and power sources, but everyone seems blended together. The classes give you a title, but it's the roles that are what give you your distinctive specialty. Too bad there are only four roles.

I guess I've grown to appreciate the shaman for the exact reasons that Orcsmash has said. It has good flavor.

Tim said...

I'm just getting back to D&D (I last played 2nd Edition), and so I have to start with a pretty fresh view because so much has changed. That's cool.

Anyway, our party needs a healer, so I started looking around and found this Shaman class. Good healing, decent buff/blast powers.

But wait? The spirit companion does pretty much all the fighting? This is exciting! It means that your Shaman can have lousy Strength and still do decent melee damage! I've never like Clerics because you either give them high Wisdom for healing/powers, or give them high Strength/Dex/Con so they're usable fighters. Or, you give them an average of each which means they pretty much suck across the board.

With the Shaman, you give them high Wisdom and decent Con, and you're pretty much done. All the combat powers are Wisdom based. Seems pretty awesome, because your character has a high primary stat and can still melee.

Plus, the spirit companion blocks enemies but not allies. 4th Ed is more tactical than the 2nd Ed I remember, so any little movement/tactical grid-based skill seems pretty powerful.

And, the damn thing doesn't die easy, only when it takes 11 damage (1st level) from one attack. Anything else it brushes off. Even when it does die, you only take 6 damage (1st level). And, you can re-summon it as a minor action.

Now, I'm just messing around with creating a Shaman PC; I haven't played one yet. Has anyone, and are my observations true? Thanks.

Crwth said...

Having written this 8 months ago, I've had time to appreciate the Shaman a little more -- I still feel an affront about it stealing some of the healing spotlight from the cleric, but while making a few characters for this next campaign (to fill in any gaps not claimed by the other players), a shaman was one of them.

Alas, I went with a hybrid character, so won't be taking the shaman for a spin quite yet.

I agree that the spirit companion adds an interesting element to things. I wonder how it would have done...

Anonymous said...

I still don't what the big deal is. Clerics do more than heal. The beauty of 4E is that there is no longer a reliance on healing from one character. Bravo.

Frankly so what if Bear Shamans are good at healing. They have entirely different mechanics and playstyle. The other Shaman builds are nothing like the Cleric either and imo are much more fun to play especialy the Stalker spirit.

thejadedfool said...

Well I am a noob at this having not played regularly in nearly 20 years... but I have been playing again recently... And I am playing a Dwarf Bear Shaman... and I can say that the difference between a Shaman and Cleric are HUGE... Can I heal?? Yup... can I march up into the fray and join the melee battle... I wouldn't suggest it... lol... I tried it a couple times and it was not pretty... Nopw I hang back and let my Spirit Companion get up in the mess... =)

Anonymous said...

also you just have to think about your history. in real life a shaman was literally a tribe healer who used the deities and herbal remedies to banish evil spirits and cure the sick. not to sound opinionated, but it sounds to me like they finally got it right, and that you just need to be a little less quick to judge. plus leader roles show supporting qualities and by looking at all the primal classes, it only makes sence to make the shaman a leader.

Shadowjim said...

Well I recently saw the "shaman King" series and guess what... wanna give shaman a try, although the idea of sitting back while my spirits blasts my enemies sounds a bit boring..
Personally I still dont like much 4e: It's ALL about ROLES. In 3.5 we could be a party of wizards or rogues or shamans and still survive pretty well. In the new-tactical-4e you need leader stiker controler defender... Hope that the 4e will surprize me

PS: what if it plays only 1 person and a dm??? 4e doesnt allow you to play alone. It FORCES you to have a group and some meatshields :P