Lvl 1 Bear Shaman AC a problem?

mysticknight232

First Post
I'm looking at playing a Bear Shaman for our next adventure. We'll likely be starting at lvl 1. Given that the build is a Wis/Con build, my Dex/Int likely won't be higher than 11 or 12, meaning that my lvl 1 AC with leather armor would be AC 12 or AC 13 at the most. Will this be a problem? The Shaman is obviously a ranged leader...but will I need to worry about my spirit companion getting hit so often that I'll start to take dmg several times during an encounter? Not to mention that many of the Shaman's ranged powers have a range of 5 (non spirit melee powers), which makes me afraid that a random mob will just break away from the pack and start to aim for me and/or ranged mobs as well.

I'm looking for opinions from anybody and everybody as well as from players that have or are playing a Bear Shaman. I do realize that if I gave myself a 13 Str, I could take Armor Proficiency Chainmail at lvl 1 which is tempting...but I'd rather spend that feat on a Shaman feat to enhance the healing. Thoughts?

Thanks, and happy hunting!
 

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Mort_Q

First Post
Remember that the SC doesn't take damage per se. At that level, the baddies aren't going to be doing 10+ damage per attack that often.
 

mysticknight232

First Post
Remember that the SC doesn't take damage per se. At that level, the baddies aren't going to be doing 10+ damage per attack that often.

Yeah, that's definately one of my questions. I realize the SC will never die to a minion attack for example at that lvl...but can anybody tell me how often a SC will die during a lvl 1 encounter? I'm guessing it won't happen very often at all as dealing 10 points of dmg is hard for a mob...but Defense wins championships and an AC 12 or 13 is still pretty scary.
 

Eh, offense trumps defense mostly in 4e unless you're a defender, in which case you'd have adequate defense right off the bat anyway (AC at least). Still, an AC of 12 is pretty ugly.

Shaman are just plain squishy. They are probably the squishiest class in the game. Obviously its nice not to have to burn a feat on AC right off the bat. OTOH you can still do plenty of stuff and gaining a decent AC makes a lot of sense. Personally I think I'd go for chain. You'll get another feat at level 2 you can drop into expertise or one of the SC buffing feats.

As for the SC dying at level 1, its not all that likely. There are a few monsters that MIGHT be able to accomplish that, but chances are the DM isn't going to risk attacking the SC with them, he's more likely to go after something that will definitely feel the damage. Since the SC doesn't have to worry about AoEs of any kind you're actually pretty safe. I think I'd still want the AC, it really sucks to get focus fired on by a couple artillery monsters or ganked by a lurker.
 

OnlineDM

Adventurer
The party that I'm playing in has a level 1 shaman with an armor class of 13. We've only played through three encounters so far, but his defense hasn't been a problem. He's stayed out of combat with his spirit companion doing the dirty work of getting into the fray. The biggest damage the SC has taken so far is 8. He doesn't seem too concerned about taking a lot of damage.

Now, if we encountered some artillery baddies that wanted to focus on the shaman for some reason, that could spell trouble for him, but that's where the rest of the party is supposed to step up and take the artillery out (or at least draw its fire, stand in front of the shaman, etc.). I think it's fine for a PC who stays out of melee to have a low AC, at least at this level.
 

chitzk0i

Explorer
In my book, 13 Strength for chain proficiency is a must for con shamans. I don't like my characters to be that vulnerable.
 

Hejdun

First Post
I wouldn't worry about it. Level appropriate monsters have high enough attack bonuses to basically auto-hit everything but a character's highest defense anyways. At best you're talking about getting hit only 70% of the time instead of 90%. If your defender is doing his job, you should have plenty of surges left over when the day is over.
 

Jools

First Post
Agreed, they really need that 13 Strength for chain. Which is a shame as it really doesnt fit well thematically and you have to waste points into str. The bear shaman doesn't appear to be any stronger than the other two builds (which are both excellent) but has an inexplicably lower AC.
 

Herschel

Adventurer
In one group we're at level 9 and the dwarf shaman hasn't tried to buff his AC and he's just fine, rarely going down regardless of teh group we have around him (a couple of characters have changed).
 

Shin Okada

Explorer
Spirits Rarely die. Area and Close attacks don't damage the spirit. And the spirit does not provoke OA. Thus, the only attacks which may kill spirit is melee or ranged attacks directly target the spirit. And those attacks must inflict 11+ damage against a L1 Shaman's spirit to kill.

Putting Str 13 and taking 2 feats to increase your AC by, say, 3-4 and lowering your speed by 1 (in case of non-dwarf)? It seems to be a waste of feat slots.
 

Larrin

Entropic Good
I've played a 13 AC sorceror and I can say that a ranged character with low defenses can do okay. The Shaman has the benefit of his pet being a decoy. Basically you should assume any attack against you WILL hit, and choose your actions accordingly. You should be shamelessly hiding behind your team mates, while your pet is with them on the front lines. You pet will get attacked sometimes, but its often not the most effective move for the monsters/DM, it does static damage to you, and it just comes back the next round (ANYWHERE YOU WANT IT!), and it can't suffer any debilitating effects...why attack it?

Play it safe for the Shaman, but be brave with the pet and it will often work. Unlucky sessions will go worse for you than for others, but thems the breaks.
 

Shazman

Banned
Banned
This is why hide armor expertise was created, but then they realized that barbarians could get a very high AC with it, so it was nerfed into near uselessness. Personally, I'm okay with barbarians having a high AC. They do run into the middle of the fight and start hitting things, which means they get hit a lot. You play them a lot like a defender, so they should have defender level AC.
 

eamon

Explorer
I wouldn't worry about it. Level appropriate monsters have high enough attack bonuses to basically auto-hit everything but a character's highest defense anyways. At best you're talking about getting hit only 70% of the time instead of 90%. If your defender is doing his job, you should have plenty of surges left over when the day is over.


Not for AC. Common monster attack is level +5; both per the guidelines and in practice (as commonly below that as above). Common PC AC at level 1 is around 17; for most defenders, around 19. That means a level-equivalent enemy hits most people exactly 50% of the time - of course, some enemies will be overlevel, particularly at level 1 since there's no underlevel opponents :).

A shaman will thus be hit about twice as often as a defender, given the the same number of attacks - that does matter. As levels rise, you'll fall even further behind!

Of course, you can survive that, particularly by suffering fewer attacks in the first place. A shaman is not a front-liner; he shouldn't try to be. His spirit definitely can help - but eventually you'll get mobbed, and when you do, the shaman will die more quickly. It's not a huge risk, but it's a risk.

All bear-shamans should eventually get chain proficiency. It's a little risky to wait until paragon, but doable (you can take toughness for some extra hp, and of course you've got a decent Con and healing powers). You can probably get away with just 12 Strength and wait till paragon - but then you really do want Chainmail proficiency; even if you have 14 Dex by then that's a +4 to AC due to masterwork armors - for a single feat. And of course, 13Strength in paragon is 1 less point-buy than 14 Dex.
 

Mengu

First Post
I have a player, playing a panther shaman. His starting AC was a 16. I don't think I've missed his AC more than once or twice in 4 levels or so, but he hasn't been attacked much because he stays in the back (sometimes far back, since his companion can be within 20 squares), and in a party of 6, he is pretty safe there. Sometimes he'll walk up, just to soak some damage. When I catch him blasts I'll sometimes miss is Reflex or Will, but never his AC or Fortitude. His favorite item is the Armor of Sudden Recovery. Since I almost never miss him, he tends to get hit by ongoing damage, and he flips that to regeneration.

Shamans have hit points like everyone else, bear shamans even have the benefit of more surges. Low AC just means you won't be missed. I don't think it's that big a deal since this is par for the course.

I rarely attack the Spirit Companion. I'll provoke an opportunity attack from it to go somewhere else, before I try to take a swing at it. Sometimes I'm pressed for options and attack the stupid conjuration, but it's usually just an exercise in futility.

If you don't mind sinking a 13 into strength and slowing your speed a bit, chainmail is not a bad option. If you're a dwarf, this is certainly a good way to go, since the speed penalty really doesn't matter.
 

mysticknight232

First Post
Agreed, they really need that 13 Strength for chain. Which is a shame as it really doesnt fit well thematically and you have to waste points into str. The bear shaman doesn't appear to be any stronger than the other two builds (which are both excellent) but has an inexplicably lower AC.

I agree that they're not really any stronger, but find myself liking the Bear Shaman build simply because of the Protecting Strike power. I like my leaders to have a temp HP power at their disposal. Granting temp HP really cuts down on the number of true heals you need to grant...and with only 2/encounter at lvl 1, temp HP are really a solid boon.
 

mysticknight232

First Post
Spirits Rarely die. Area and Close attacks don't damage the spirit. And the spirit does not provoke OA. Thus, the only attacks which may kill spirit is melee or ranged attacks directly target the spirit. And those attacks must inflict 11+ damage against a L1 Shaman's spirit to kill.

Putting Str 13 and taking 2 feats to increase your AC by, say, 3-4 and lowering your speed by 1 (in case of non-dwarf)? It seems to be a waste of feat slots.

I didn't realize that Area and Close attacks didn't dmg the spirit. I assumed since they could be targeted as part of the SC power, they could be "targeted" by AoE and Close spells as well. That's really good to know and may change my outlook on this character. That's mostly what I was afraid of was my SC getting caught in a blast or burst. I figured that nobody in their right mind would target my SC just to try to deal 1/2 dmg to myself. Good info!
 

mysticknight232

First Post
I have a player, playing a panther shaman. His starting AC was a 16.

I'm just curious if you feel the extra dmg the Panther Shaman brings to the table is better than the temp hp granted by the protecting spirit at-will? I realize I could still put a 12 in con at lvl 1 and grant 1 temp HP with that power, but it just seems to me that a little extra healing is needed above and beyond the 2/encounter heals granted by Healing Spirit.

I also realize that the Shaman has some nice feats that grant additional HP when somebody spends a healing surge or uses their second wind, so if I went panther, I could augment some of my healing bonuses that way, either granting additional HP with a heal or granting temp HP with a heal.
 

Mengu

First Post
If you have a ranger (especially melee) and/or tempest fighter in your party, go panther, it's a no brainer. The extra damage from both the spirit, and powers like call to the savage elder can add up to +8 or +9 extra damage per attack. On an action point round, yields extra damage in the 30's. Once you bloody stuff, they go down real fast. This is good, because a lot of monsters get scarier when they are bloodied.

The way I look at it, Protecting Strike and Spirit's Shield enforce defensive play and lengthen combat, Stalker's Strike and Spirit's Fang encourage offensive play and shorten combat. So I'd always go with the latter option. The Shaman in my game is getting around 2 Spirit's Fangs attacks an encounter because monsters just aren't going to bother with it for the most part, and that's very good for extra damage.

He's got Vigorous Spirit and Strengthening Spirit, so the extra healing and THP options are there even with the panther shaman.

The choice is probably more of a preference of style, but I personally prefer the panther over the bear, and am happy that's what my player went with.
 

mysticknight232

First Post
If you have a ranger (especially melee) and/or tempest fighter in your party, go panther, it's a no brainer. The extra damage from both the spirit, and powers like call to the savage elder can add up to +8 or +9 extra damage per attack. On an action point round, yields extra damage in the 30's. Once you bloody stuff, they go down real fast. This is good, because a lot of monsters get scarier when they are bloodied.

The way I look at it, Protecting Strike and Spirit's Shield enforce defensive play and lengthen combat, Stalker's Strike and Spirit's Fang encourage offensive play and shorten combat. So I'd always go with the latter option. The Shaman in my game is getting around 2 Spirit's Fangs attacks an encounter because monsters just aren't going to bother with it for the most part, and that's very good for extra damage.

He's got Vigorous Spirit and Strengthening Spirit, so the extra healing and THP options are there even with the panther shaman.

The choice is probably more of a preference of style, but I personally prefer the panther over the bear, and am happy that's what my player went with.

I prefer offense to defense too and if I went Panther build, I could gain a better AC (my whole problem with the Bear build) and have generally higher dmg output at the expense of a single defensive at-will power. I think that sounds like a fair trade off. And like you said, gaining a bonus dmg against bloodied creatures is pretty nice and will make them fall quicker. I think my ultimate decision will be based on the final party build...but thanks to this discussion thread, I think I'm leaning more towards the Panther Shaman build and augment my healing with healing based feats. Equipment/Magic Items will come later so I'm not even thinking that far ahead yet, but I know several items will grant bonuses that way.
 

chriton227

Explorer
My wife and I just started in a game, she played a panther shaman for one session before switching to bear shaman. The party got torn apart the first session and the panther shaman just didn't have enough defensive buffs or healing. Since switching to the bear, we have been in much better shape. She took Bear Spirit Adept so the bear constantly gives +1 F/R/W to adjacent allies, she spams the temp HP at-will, and the extra HPs we gain from her spirit boon (+3 to second winds and to recipients of her healing power when adjacent to her spirit) has made a huge difference. At 1st level, that +3 is about another half-surge. The way we've been playing it (and I don't know if this is right or not, but it works for our GM) is that if both the primary target and the splash healing target for Healing Spirit are both adjacent to her SC, they both get the spirit boon bonus hit points. Coupled with the feat that adds her Wisdom Mod to the primary target of Healing Spirit, and at first level she was healing a surge+7 to the primary target and 1d6+3 to the secondary target. Healer's Armor is high on her to-get list too.
 

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