D&D (2024) How should the Shaman be implemented in 1DnD?


He Mage
Re the reallife terms Druid and Bard.

There are forumers who are highly knowledgeable. @Ruin Explorer and @Marandahir come to mind. I defer to whatever they say about Celtic cultures generally.

Druid remains obscure. Their historical identity remains educated guesses. Some aspects seem clear enough. Their social function is probably moreorless the same as Irish Catholic priests: mainly a religious community leader, with moral authority to resolve social conflicts within a community, separate from a secular leadership. The military was the secular authority, moreorless "knights" and nobles but without the horse culture. Aspects of the historical druid religion are only glimpses, with some of the important evidence coming from descriptions by hostile foreigners. They were a caste, a specific priestly family. They are probably polytheistic, and reputed to read clouds for omens. The term "druid" became the term for any kind of Non-Christian "witchcraft", thus obscuring what the original beliefs and practices actually were. Apparently, members of the caste who were ordained to serve as a druid were forbidden to fight in the military, but supported the military religiously.

The three main cultural institutions are the knights (sotospeak), the druids, and the bards.

More is known the about the historical bard. They are remarkably both academic scholars and shamanists. Several reallife colleges today come from historical bards. The mythologically accurate bard derives from narratives relating Taliesin understood to be the original bard and "Merlin" whose composite identity includes the historical records about a reallife Brittonic bard, Myrddin. Merlin is a bard, not a "wizard" per se.

D&D relevant tropes include the skills to divinate and even control fate. The blessings by means praising poetry and the curses by means of satirical poetry, are methods for changing fates. Shapeshifting is a bardic ability, probably relating to shamanistic trances when the bard takes on such identities. In D&D, the Druid does "wildshape", but this is actually a historical bard concept. The slot 9 Shapechange spell derives from a story about Taliesin who gets involved in a shapeshifting duel. Also the bard is known for enchantments inflicting various mental effects.

Many of the Norse shamanic traditions relating to the vǫlva and seiðr find analogues in the Celtic bard. Unlike the Norse, the Celtic bardic traditions about the convoluted ingredients and timings of magical potions, evidence a kind of protoscientific worldview relating to Hellenistic magic. In the Norse traditions, all magic comes from the minds of persons.

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He Mage
Right, I understood that. I just think it's the worst of both worlds. You're going through all the effort to change the term, but you're not actually disassociating from the old term.

I mean, do you think "Indianistic" is an improvement that would satisfy Native Americans?
To be fair. To describe the Indigenous of the Americas as if in India, is plainly incorrect.

The scholarly term shaman(ist) accurately describes the actual shamans as well.

The problem is appropriation, not misinformation. The appropriation is a problem, because the unique traditions of the actual shamans get lost among the very many ethnicities that also preserve shamanistic traditions, but these other traditions are also unique and quite different from the actual shamans.

I agree scholars do well to come up with an alternative technical term. If you have a proposal in mind, please share!
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He Mage
So shaman was an option in 2nd Ed as well and it is closest to what I think people talk about when they talk about a shaman class where they got the ability to summon forth different spirits that gave them either new spell lists or a unique ability when ever they were summoned.

I really liked a 3rd Ed 3pp shaman where you got a rather tiny spell list but as you grew in levels you picked up more spirits who gave you access to a new list of spells and a new channel divinity option.

Imagine a class that looked like the 5e cleric but you could only ever prepair a number of spells equal to half your level but every three levels you got a new set of granted domain spells and an new channel divinity option by bonding with a new spirit.
Maybe rename the D&D Shaman class tradition, "Summoner".

The 5e Summoner might be a class or subclass.


He Mage
The Summoner would probably specialize in a particular creature type.

As I see it,

The main divisions are between aster, ether, and matter.

The Astral Plane is made out of "aster", the stuff of thought. With regard to the alignment dominions, Astral includes the Good Celestial dominions and the Evil Fiend dominions. (There are also other dominions unrelated to the alignments.)

The Neutral dominions (LN, N, and CN) lack a 5e term. Maybe call them "Primordial". The Neutral creature type is something like proto-elementals, the "idea" of cosmic elements. Ethically, they are about Lawful group-ism versus Chaotic individualism. But in the formation of the cosmos, they correspond physically to L wave versus C particle, and L holism versus C atomism. Practically speaking, the Elemental Chaos and the Neutral Primordial dominion are roughly equivalent. In other words, where the Astral conflict between Law and Chaos interact, is also where the Material Plane begins to come into formation.

The Primordial creature type also includes any creatures of the Astral Plane who are unaffiliated with an alignment dominion.

Note, the Aberrations are also made out of thought stuff, and in this sense are aster. However, they are the thoughts that are kept unexpressed because they are unhelpful to the formation and perpetuation of reality. Aberrations are typically "Evil" in the sense of absolutely destructive to reality. But "Good" can from Aberrations too. When reality itself starts to fail, and new ideas become necessary to save reality, these "Good" paradigm shifts also come from thoughts that were previously kept unexpressed among the Aberrations.

So far, the Astral creature types that a Summoner class can summon are Celestial, Fiend, Primordial, and Aberration.

The Ethereal Plane is made out of "ether", the stuff of force. Reallife force is remarkable because it is physical yet lacks matter. In D&D, this Ethereal force is the stuff that all creation is made out of. Even the four elements of plasmic Fire, gaseous Air, liquid Water, and solid Earth, are ultimately made out of involuting packets of the "fifth element" ether. As an elemental substance, ether is called Quintessence. Quintessence literally means the "fifth substance". The "five elements" are more specifically four states of matter plus immaterial force. Compare the reallife of physics of fundamental forces. Matter itself is ultimately made out of force. Gravity is an example of Quintessence. Quintessence is element that keeps the stars and planets in orbit around each other.

In D&D, the "spirit world" is made out of the physical but immaterial ether. When describing "spirit" as a kind of substance, it is the same thing as ether, and the same thing as D&D "force", relating to the Force damage type, force constructs like Unseen Servant, Shield, Tiny Hut, Wall of Force, plus force effects like Fly and Telekinesis. The quasi-real illusions and things made out of magical energy are likewise made out of immaterial force. All of this is the stuff of ether.

Analogous to the way Astral Plane includes Celestial and Fiend, the Ethereal Plane includes Fey and the Shadow. Fey and Shadow are like different frequencies of ether. Fey and Shadow creatures pass thru each other without any awareness of or interaction with each other. The Fey is where the Positive Energy energizes the frequency of the aster. The space-time fabric of Feywild is intensely energized and sensorily heightened. The Shadow is where this energy eventually dissipates. The space-time fabric of Shadowfell is low energy and unraveling. Vampiric energy is an attempt to persist by preying on the dim energy remaining in others.

It is a common turn of phrase − but technically improper − to refer to "Negative Energy". Properly, the Negative Plane is the absence of any energy. Positive Energy contrasts Negative Void. The Shadowfell compares to being in the event horizon of a blackhole where everything is contained and disintegrating. The Undead creature type properly refers to creatures that find a way to escape this event horizon. But it is common to refer to any Shadow creature as if Undead, whether they have actually ever lived or not.

Positivity and Void are principles that even preexist any Astral thoughts.

The Ethereal Plane includes the Fey, the Shadow, and the everyday frequencies in between. If it is necessary to distinguish these intermediate frequencies of ether that are neither Fey nor Shadow, one can use the element term Quintessence. In the context of the Elemental Planes of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, the Plane of Quintenssence is the Fifth Elemental Plane. When D&D uses the term "Ethereal Plane", it typically refers specifically to the Elemental Plane of Quintessence.

The Four Elemental Planes are "exclaves" of the Material Plane. They are matter and part of the Material Plane but not connected to it. These elements are something like the building blocks made and used to build the Material Plane out of them. These building blocks are produced directly under the influence of Astral thoughts, but as matter gain an existence that is independent from thoughts. The Elemental Planes are something like a byproduct of the process of creation.

So far, the Ethereal creature types that a Summoner can summon include Fey, Shadow (aka Undead), and Quintessence (the fifth element being force).

The Material Plane includes the creature types Elemental (the four elements being states of matter), plus the creatures types that are made out of matter, Ooze, Plant, Beast, and Humanoid. Giant and Dragon are special creature types relating to the materialization of the Material Plane. Giants are Elementals who are native to the Material Plane and pioneer it. Dragons are embodiments of the principle of animate life and manifest as amalgamations of Beasts and Elementals. Giants and Dragons exhibit Humanoid sapience.

Note, part of the Ethereal Plane is inside the Material Plane. For example, gravity is Quinessence that entangles matter. For those who can see ether, gravity resembles a faint transparent aura around objects that makes things look slightly fuzzy, and across distance gravity resembles an atmospheric haze where things are paler and pastel in color and eventually less visible. This Material Plane Ether is called the Border Ethereal, sometimes called Near Ethereal or Shallow Ethereal. It is the Ether that emanates and surrounds matter. This is where Ethereal spirits, including nature beings and other outofbody mental projections, pass thru the material world unobserved by most Material inhabitants.

The Deep Ether is the forces that are entirely unconnected to the Material Plane, and instead entangle Astral Plane, where the thoughts of logic and emotion shape these ether forces at a whim.

In sum, the three main planes of the Summoner are Astral, Ethereal, and Material. The summoner has affinity and contact with the creature types within the respective plane. These three planes likewise correspond to a "soul". The part of the soul that entangles the Material Plane is the "lifeforce" (also called ki), that entangles the material body and forms an aura around it. Part of the soul is "spirit" (also called psyche) that can travel the Ethereal outofbody. And part of the soul is "mind" that can exist as a thought construct within the Astral Plane.
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New Publisher
Sorcerer, with an origin having to do with contact with the spirit world?

Seems like a summoner type to me....I'm going to look at the 3e book from green ronin, brb....


Yeah, if there were a dedicated Summoner class, Shaman would be an obvious subclass of that. Otherwise, I would call it a subclass of Druid that's focused on burning uses of Channel Nature to summon/empower a permanent spirit companion.


Spirit Channeler - 3rd Level
You can use a bonus action to summon an incorporeal spirit in an unoccupied space within 30ft of you, which persists until it is reduced to 0 hit points, or until you dismiss it as a bonus action. The spirit takes the form of a Medium beast, plant, or humanoid of your choice. You also choose whether it is Elemental, Fey, or Undead, which changes features of its stat block.

The spirit is friendly to you and your companions, and obeys your commands. It shares your initiative, but always acts after your turn. As a bonus action, you can command it to take an Action, which can be one in it's stat block or some other action. It can move and use reactions on it's own. If you don't give it commands, it uses it's move and actions to avoid danger.

Your spirit companion is normally intangible and incorporeal, and can neither affect nor be affected by anything on the material plane. If you expend a use of your Channel Nature feature as part of the bonus action you use to summon or command it, you can empower the spirit for 1 minute, or until it drops to 0 hit points. While empowered, it can attack and be attacked or targeted by spells, and it can manipulate physical objects.

If your Spirit Companion drops to 0 hit points, it disappears. When you summon a spirit companion, you can summon a new one, or the same one as before. You can only have one spirit companion at a time, however.

Greg K

The scholarly term shaman(ist) accurately describes the actual shamans as well.

The problem is appropriation, not misinformation. The appropriation is a problem, because the unique traditions of the actual shamans get lost among the very many ethnicities that also preserve shamanistic traditions, but these other traditions are also unique and quite different from the actual shamans.

I agree scholars do well to come up with an alternative technical term. If you have a proposal in mind, please share!
When I studied anthropology, we were taught that shamanism was a general classification, but when referring to a specific cultural tradition, we were taught to refer to practitioners by their cultural title and be specific in their actual practices of their tradition.
Also, despite what a few people posters have stated, we were taught shamanism was not limited only to the practices of indigenous/ non European people nor were all indigenous/non-Western European practices considered shamanistic.

Greg K

Third is voodoo. Collect a piece of hair or similar with an unarmed or beast attack, and you can channel nature to make a voodoo doll. Damaging the doll auto-damages the target. (Possibly up to a maximum before the doll is destroyed).
No. That is not voodoo,. The voodoo doll is a Hollywood misunderstanding (?) of the Nikisi N' Kondi, a Kongo protective power figure. The Nikisi N' Kondi, which made its way along the African diaspora is used to record and enforce contracts by ensuring that the individuals involved did not break the contract or bring harm to a contract's participant.

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