A shaman (pronounced: /ˈʃeɪmɑːn/ SHAY-man or: /ˈʃɑːmɑːn/ SHA-man), sometimes called a spirit shaman, was a powerful primal leader who called upon nature spirits for aid or guidance. Shamans were often leaders or healers, though they led most often through wisdom and experience.
As they were constantly aware of spirits that others could not see, shamans fit unevenly into society, even compared with others like druids or wardens who drew from the same power. Within their native cultures, shamans were highly valued as healers, storytellers, and spiritual advisors. Shamans were still valued to outsiders, if only for their powers to empower and heal allies while striking down the enemies of nature.
Shamans gained their abilities through alliances made with the powers of the Spirit World. Similarly, they acted as intermediaries between them and the corporeal inhabitants of the Prime Material plane. While these relationships were somewhat similar to those between clerics and deities they were formed for mutual benefit rather than devoted service. They were not dissimilar to the connections formed between warlocks and their patrons, though there were often fewer moral complications.
Shamans felt indebted to the spirits with whom they worked. As such they generally associated themselves with spirits that shared similar goals and methods, whether they were malevolent or benign in nature. Most shamans felt no particular pull to the forces of good, evil, law, or chaos, however they were not beholden to neutrality or emotional detachment as was the case with some druids.
Shamans most commonly arose in rural cultures with tribal affectations. They could be found among more civilized communities of humans, half-orcs, giants, or the nomadic halflings that practiced these traditions. They were far more rare amongst races such as the Tel'Quessir, dwarves, or gnomes, who rarely practiced shamanism or formed the tribal communities.
In order to form their alliances with the spirit world, shamans went through a series of initiation ceremonies passed on by older, more experienced shamans. Afterwards they were sometimes sent on a journey to obtain the acquire experience and wisdom required of shamans. Regardless of the exact background they come from, each shaman gained a lesser nature spirit as an ally and companion at the end of their training. At this point they were also empowered with the ability to channel their primal patron's power through a totem.
Shamans did not typically wear hide armor or any armor that was heavier, though some of them made exceptions to train themselves in the use of shields. Shamans were trained in the use of simple weapons as well as the more advanced longspear, but little else in the way of weaponry.
Generally speaking, shamans relied more upon their judgement, willpower, and awareness than they did upon force of personality or charm. They were often highly intelligent and capable of great feats of endurance.
All shamans drew upon the primal power of the Prime itself, using powers known as "evocations". These evocations allowed shamans to strike with deadly power, call upon spirit companions, or heal and empower their corporeal allies. Many shamans used powerful totems as implements to increase their power while channeling this energy. To aid their efforts, shamans opened their minds and directly communicated with the nature spirits of which so few were actually aware.
A Shaman's abilities greatly depended upon what kind of spirit companion was gifted to them by their primal patron. Some shamans took on a spirit companion in the form of bear or similarly durable beast, which granted a boon to a shaman's healing power. Other shamans chose instead a panther or beast of similar cunning and stealth, increasing the deadliness of both their attacks, as well as those of their allies. Shamans often relied on their spirit companions when using their most powerful attacks.
Because of their constant contact with spirits, many shamans learned to both shield themselves against spirits as well as understand their weaknesses. Shamans were constantly aware of the spirits around them and could direct their own primal power into a force that pushed back and chastise malign spirits. More experienced shamans extended this protection to their allies, using their own spirit allies as wards against malevolent ones. The more powerful shamans were capable of physically evicting fey, elemental, and even undead spirits from any bodies they possessed beings and stripping them of their abilities.
Many shamans also learned to acquire spirit-like abilities for themselves. Some mastered the ability to actually transform themselves into nature spirits. Other shamans acquired the power to "walk" through the spirit world, transplanting their body and soul from the corporeal, physical world to that of the spirits. Some shamans even learned to cheat death, bargaining with nature spirits for some small bit of immortality. Some truly powerful spirit shamans permanently become nature spirits themselves, forsaking their corporeal body for one in harmony with the natural rhythms of the natural world.
- Eric L. Boyd (1997). Powers and Pantheons. (TSR, Inc), p. 4. ISBN 0-7869-0657-X.
- Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 118–135. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- David Noonan (May 2004). Complete Divine. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 14–18. ISBN 0-7869-3272-4.
- Frank Mentzer (January 1985). “Ay pronunseeAYshun gyd”. In Kim Mohan ed. Dragon #93 (TSR, Inc.), p. 28.
- Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 118. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- David Noonan (May 2004). Complete Divine. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 14. ISBN 0-7869-3272-4.
- Ray Winninger (September 1995). Giantcraft. Edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 26, 41–42. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.
- Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 119. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
- David Noonan (May 2004). Complete Divine. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 16–18. ISBN 0-7869-3272-4.
- David Noonan (May 2004). Complete Divine. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 17–18. ISBN 0-7869-3272-4.
- slade, et al. (April 1996). “The Wilderness”. In James Butler ed. The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier (TSR, Inc.), p. 18. ISBN 0-7869-0391-0.