Shaman | fighting wild-men with woods magic

Tuesday TootG+ is closing closed. When it was alive things happened. Things unexpected. Great things. Whilst my creative output is only modest, I thought I’d hold something up into the living light, something that came about purely because G+ existed … This is a toot to G+.

1 to 4Background:
This class stems from a fleeting idea that I put up on G+; the idea of a shaman class that could take on characteristics/abilities from defeated foes. I had some good feedback, some based on ‘feats’. I can see how feats could work well with this idea, but feat-based systems are not really my thing, so I’ve made this. I wonder if I’ve strayed too far from the core idea, but in any event, this where the idea has led me.

This is a class designed for (1e) AD&D, being a fighting wild-men/women with woods magic. They are not so much in harmony with nature as attuned to it. They are effectively a martial subclass of druid, or possibly a barbarian-druid.

This class follows the druid path/restriction in the first edition PHB in all ways except:

  • The class is also open to half-humans (i.e. in addition to humans)
  • For those that believe in Demi-human level caps (like me) – Half humans are level capped at a level equal to their CHA score.
  • Instead of 15+ CHA they need 15 +CON to qualify (i.e. in addition to 12 Wisdom)
  • The druidic special abilities at 3rd and 7th level do not apply
  • There is no hierarchical level limit, and so no need to defeat a shaman of higher level to progress.
  • 12 HD (i.e. not 8HD)

They gain spells at the same rate as a druid, but they get a much smaller subset of the druidical spells to choose from (see tables below) :

There are four principle shamanic paths, each with an associated alignment restriction; these are:

  • Light & Leaf – Plant & Weather magics; alignment NG
  • Mud & Paw – Animal & Earth magics; alignment CN
  • Wet & Ash – Fire & Water magics; alignment NE
  • Blood & Mind – Life & Perception magic; alignment LN

Once the path is picked, it is set.

Shamanistic ability
At each level this class may absorb a race/species specific ability from a defeated foe.

Examples of the abilities that may be taken up by a shaman include: night/dark vision, acute sense of smell, water breathing, a venomous bite, a bear’s powerful hug, a rust monster’s corroding touch, a velociraptor’s talons etc.

Mechanic: The player must declare this ability acquisition shortly after the creature is defeated. Once the ability is taken up by the shaman it can’t be changed. If no ability is taken prior to formal levelling up, that ability slot is lost.

Clearly, there is a chance for some serious game breaking here, by overpowering the PC. Therefore, the gained ability should be approved/agreed by the DM, and ideally be level/challenge appropriate. Essentially, it should be a fair reward, without breaking the game,

As a suggested guideline, the shaman can absorb an ability from any defeated creature which has a HD up to their current shamanistic level +3. So, a 2nd level shaman can absorb an ability from creatures up to 5HD, and a 6th level shaman can absorb an ability from creatures up to 9HD, etc. Also, the ‘defeated’ creature cannot be a trivial creature like a goldfish or slug.

For example, a first level shaman does not have the shamanistic strength to adsorb a fire breathing property from an ancient red dragon, or at least at its full potency. Or, if the defeated creature is trivial, then there is insufficient property to be adsorb by the shaman. For example, killing a gecko would not give the shaman a climb wall ability. But a giant gecko is a different matter. Similarly, killing a stirge might give the ability to deploy a bloodsucking proboscis for a round or two, but not the ability to fly.

Clearly this is not a class to give to a ‘power gamer’.

Using the shamanistic ability:
Each acquired shamanistic ability is like a Vancian spell, so each acquired ability is regenerated at the same time the Shaman regains their spells, i.e. after 8 hrs rest.  So, a third level shaman might have three shamanistic abilities, e.g. climb like an ape, punch like an ogre and blink like a blink dog once per day. However, each time they use an ability, this is at the cost of one of their spell slots. So, if the Shaman has cast all of their spells that day, they cannot use any of the shamanistic abilities until they rest.

Shaman spells paths:
Below are the spells allowable under the four shaman paths:

Path of Light & Leaf – Plant & Weather magics; alignment NG

Path of Mud & Paw – Animal & Earth magics; alignment CN

Path of Wet & Ash – Fire & Water magics; alignment NE

Path of Blood & Mind – Life & Perception magic; alignment LN


Class Balance
Hopefully this class is appealing without being super appealing (as this implies it is overpowered). Ideally, apart from raw novelty, hopefully this class is no more appealing than any other class in the PHB.

The druidic powers are nerfed somewhat by lack of spell choice, but is buffed again a bit by a customizable ‘shamanistic’ monster property per level. The paths with the more aggressive spells, (or most clerical-like spells), have the fewest spell options. The most aggressive spell path also gives an evil alignment, which is not always appealing. The class  benefits from a high base HD (i.e. D12), but has the less-that-great weapon/armour choices of a druid, and fights as a druid. Therefore, it can soak up damage, but is not as good as a fighter at dealing damage out.

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InHotS the cover imageMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea.

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