Thursday, 15th November, 2012, 04:01 AM #1
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Review of New Paths: The Expanded Shaman by Kobold Press
One of the great things about role-playing games is how they offer players the opportunity to be something greater, or perhaps stranger, than their normal lives allow. Whether gamers draw the inspiration for their characters from fantasy novels, Sci Fi movies, or from classical literature, RPG players are able to portray a wide range of amazing personas, limited only by the rules of game they play.
But even though players might be having their heroes quest about in some realm of fantasy, there are still many types of character classes which are actually drawn from historical references. Gladiators, alchemists, and assassins have historical precedents from our own Earth’s history, even if they are given powers and abilities which are supernatural or magical in a fantasy world.
For instance, Druids have been a part of fantasy novels and fantasy role-playing games for many years, making their first appearance in Dungeons & Dragons in the Player’s Handbook back in 1978. And with each new edition, the class has continued to evolve over time, right through the Edition Wars, and into very different incarnations in both Pathfinder and D&D 4E.
Last spring, Kobold Quarterly published a new core character class for Pathfinder based upon the Druid, but offering a more primal spontaneous spell caster instead of the original design. The new character class, called the Shaman, has been revisited and improved by the author, and released by Kobold Press as a supplement with new features and archetypes, creating a new way to play the Druid class with strange new powers from the spirits of nature!
New Paths: The Expanded Shaman
- Designer: Marc Radle
- Illustrations: Christophe Swal (cover); Rick Hershey (interior)
- Publisher: Kobold Press
- Year: 2012
- Media: PDF (16 pages)
- Price: $3.99 (PDF available from the RPGNow)
New Paths: The Expanded Shaman is a Pathfinder settlement offering a new core character class based upon the original druid design. The Shaman was first introduced in Kobold Quaterly #21 (Spring Edition), and this new expanded version includes new feats, additional animal spirit guides, and three archetypes to create a greater range for how this character class can be played. The author also includes two worksheets for spirit companions and wild shapes to help organize the player’s character sheets.
The production quality of New Paths: The Expanded Shaman is a very good, with solid writing and a decent layout which is quite useful for creating shaman characters. The information about the class and reference tables are easy to read, and presented in a format which is readily recognizable by any Pathfinder gamer.
The artwork in the settlement is also quite good, although owners of Kobold Quarterly #21 will undoubtedly recognize the interior art from the original article repurposed for this product.
Core Class: The Shaman
As previously mentioned, the core Shaman class is based upon the Druid class, although there are some major alterations to class features. Like Druids, shaman have powers like wild shape, wild empathy, and woodland stride (called woodland step), but gain all new class powers which give any more primal and primitive nature.
Shaman are spontaneous spellcasters, selecting their spells as a sorcery does from the Druid list. In fact there known spells and castings per day are identical to that of the sorcerer. For healing, shaman can choose to fill a known slot with cure spell, but also gain a “lay on hands” ability called Shaman Touch.
Shamans also gain special powers called totem secrets, gaining these powers at 1st and 3rd level, and then every 4 levels thereafter. The totem secrets are a selection of Su and Ex powers granted by the spirits of nature, and include gifts such as a form of danger sense (Sprit’s Warning), boons to saving throws, initiatives, and skill checks (Blood Divination), and the ability to auto-stabilize and heal when dropped to negative hit points (Spirits of Nature).
The Spirit Dance is a special ability graded to Shaman which grants short term boons to their spellcasting after channeling the ability for three rounds. The boon of the spirit dance include such things as increased effective casting level, use of a meta-magic effect, and increased caster level for overcoming spell resistance.
But one of the major differences between the Druid and the Shaman is the animal companion spirit. Similar to the druid’s animal companion, the animal spirit companion is a manifestation of nature any particular animal form which can be summoned and dismissed by the shaman. The spirit companions start as slightly “beefier” versions of common animal types such as badgers, bears, wolves, and owls, and then overlays a magical template which gives them additional powers as the Shaman advances in level, such as sharing spells and delivering touch spells, evasion, invisibility, and incorporeal-ness, among other abilities!
The author also includes archetypes for the shaman class which were not available in the Kobold Quarterly article. Archetypes for the Shaman class include the Elemental Shaman, the Primal Shifter, and the Witch Doctor.
The Elemental Shaman gains a few bonus elemental spells in addition to those selected as “known” by the shaman, as well as the ability to summon elementals as spirit companions, and even take the form of an elemental herself. On the other hand, the Primal Shifter casts fewer spells per day, but gains enhancements to their wild shape feature like healing when shifting, increased natural attacks and critical hit range. They also have a primal dance which grants short term boons to their wild shape rather than to their spellcasting ability. Finally the Witch Doctor is a Shaman which gains additional bonus spells to their “known” spell list to grant healing and to deal with both the dead and the undead.
New Paths: The Expanded Shaman offers three new spells and four new feats designed for Pathfinder, which Druids (and therefore Shamans), as well as other caster classes, may utilize. These spells include Elemental Blast for 6th level Druids/Wizards/Sorcerers, Rain of Fangs for 3rd level Druids, and River of Moonlight for 4th level Druids/Witches. Of the four new Feats, three of are specific to the shaman, benefitting the shaman’s touch and spirit dance features, while the last is usable by any class that gets the wild shape class feature.
Finally, the author also includes a spirit guide and animal shape specialize character sheets for easier reference when the shaman uses those features. Druids might also enjoy the latter sheet, as it organizes the abilities of the wild shape quite nicely into one single page.
Overall Score: 4.1 out of 5.0
New Paths: The Expanded Shaman is a very cool and interesting new take on the Druid class, and one which I think many Pathfinder players would definitely enjoy exploring, in almost any campaign setting. And it’s not just players will likely find this new character class inspiring, but game masters can create some very interesting NPCs to both challenge or aid a band of heroes in their quests. It’s not too far stretch to imagine a number of humanoid races, such as orcs, goblins, and bugbears, having a shaman as there tribal leader, ready to challenge the heroes with strange powers and unexpected abilities.
The price for this character supplement is very reasonable for all the content it contains, making this Kobold Press release well worth considering for any Pathfinder gamers’ virtual bookshelf.
So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming!
Editor’s Note: This Reviewer received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.
Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)
- Presentation: 3.75
- - Design: 4.0 (nice layout and a logical design; good presentation)
- - Illustrations: 3.5 (good cover; good interior art work but previously seen in other products)
- Content: 4.0
- - Crunch: 4.5 (well-crafted class; cool features; very crunchy)
- - Fluff: 3.5 (could have used more fluff; adequate for character design)
- Value: 4.5 (great price for all the content in this product!)
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