A shaman (pronounced: /ˈʃmɑːnSHAY-man[1] or: /ˈʃɑːmɑːnSHA-man[1]), sometimes called a spirit shaman, is a powerful primal leader who calls upon nature spirits for aid or guidance. Shamans, much like clerics or warlords, are often leaders or healers, though they lead most often by example and through wisdom than through inspiration or charisma. Shamans are also more durable than their divine or martial equivalents, gaining through their connection to the wild a powerful capacity for enduring pain.[2]


Constantly aware of spirits that others cannot see, shamans fit unevenly into society, even compared with others who draw on the same power, such as druids or wardens. Within their native cultures shamans are highly valued as healers, storytellers, and spiritual advisors. Outside, shamans are still valued, if only for the power they wield, channeling into allies to empower and heal them while striking down the enemies of nature.[2]

Shamans gain their power through alliances with these powers of the "spirit world" and act as intermediaries between them and the corporeal inhabitants of the visible world. In this manner, shamans can be compared to clerics, who similarly serve as agents of the gods. The analogy is not perfect however and the relationship between shaman and spirit is less one of worship and service to a greater power than one of mutual benefit and bargaining, similar in some ways to the pacts formed by warlocks, though generally with fewer of the moral complications. However, shamans do feel beholden to the spirits they work with and generally associate themselves with spirits that share similar goals and methods, whether those be malevolent or benign in nature. Most shamans, for their part, feel no particular pull to the forces of good, evil, law, or chaos, sharing this indifference with druids. However, shamans are not beholden to such neutrality in the way druids are and their constant interactions with civilization makes them more open to moral extremes druids would find abhorrent.[3]

In order to form their alliances with the spirit world, shamans go through a series of initiation ceremonies passed on by older, more experienced shamans, after which they are sometimes sent on a journey through the world to obtain the personal experience and wisdom required of shamans. All shamans, regardless of the exact background they come from, gain a lesser nature spirit as an ally and companion at the end of their training as well as the ability to channel their primal patron's power through a totem.[4]

Shamans are most commonly from rural cultures with tribal affectations. Even amongst more civilized communities of humans or the nomadic halflings, among whom such tribal traditions are most common, shamans are bound to be found however. Similarly, half-orcs are a common racial background for shamans. Shamans are far more rare amongst races such as the Tel'Quessir, dwarves, or gnomes, who rarely form the tribal communities in which shamanic traditions commonly thrive.[3]


Generally speaking, shamans rely more upon the power of their capacity for judgement, willpower, and awareness than they do upon force of personality or charm the way that a cleric or bard might. Shamans are also very often highly intelligent and are capable of great endurance, making up for their lack of training in hide or heavier armors,[2] though a few shamans are exceptions to this rule and train themselves in the use of shields.[3] Shamans are trained in the use of simple weapons as well as the more advanced longspear, but little else, and rely on their spirit companion for their most powerful attacks. Regardless, all shamans are both extremely durable and capable of great wisdom, an unusual combination.[2]

All shamans draw upon the primal power of the Prime itself, using powers known as evocations. These evocations allow shamans to strike with deadly power, call upon spirit companions, or heal and empower their corporeal allies. Many shamans use powerful totems as implements while channeling this energy, thereby making their evocations all the more power. To help them draw on this power, shamans are capable of communicating with nature spirits, in a way far more direct than most other corporeal beings are capable of, opening their mind to the invisible spirits that pervade existence and to which most people are unaware.[4]

The abilities of a shaman depend greatly upon what kind of spirit companion the shaman is gifted by their primal patron. Some shamans take on a spirit in the form of bear or a similarly durable beast as their companion, who grants a boon to a shaman's healing power. Other shamans choose instead a panther or beast of similar cunning and stealth, making a shaman and their ally's attacks more deadly while acting in a way similar to a ranger's corporeal companion.[4]

Because of their constant contact with spirits, many shamans learn to both shield themselves against spirits and take advantage of their weaknesses. Shamans are constantly aware of the spirits around them and can direct their own primal power into a force to push back and chastise malign spirits. Shamans of more experience can extend this protection to their allies, using their own spirit allies as wards against the malign ones. Similarly, powerful shamans are capable of physically evicting spirits from the bodies of beings they have possessed or strip them of their abilities. These abilities extend not only to true nature spirits but sometimes to fey, elementals, or insubstantial undead as well.[5]

Many shamans also learn to acquire spirit-like abilities for themselves. Some master the ability to actually transform themselves into nature spirits, using this ability in much the same manner as a druid or warden might use their wildshape abilities. Some shamans also learn, either in addition to or instead of, to "walk" through the spirit world, transplanting their body and soul from the corporeal, physical world to that of the spirits. Others learn to cheat death, bargaining for some small bit of immortality with the nature spirits. Some truly powerful spirit shamans permanently become nature spirits, forsaking their corporeal body for one in harmony with the natural rhythms of the natural world.[6]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Frank Mentzer (January 1985). “Ay pronunseeAYshun gyd”. In Kim Mohan ed. Dragon #93 (TSR, Inc.), p. 28.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 118. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 David Noonan (May 2004). Complete Divine. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 14. ISBN 0-7869-3272-4.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, James Wyatt (March 2009). Player's Handbook 2. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 119. ISBN 0-7869-5016-4.
  5. David Noonan (May 2004). Complete Divine. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 16–18. ISBN 0-7869-3272-4.
  6. David Noonan (May 2004). Complete Divine. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 17–18. ISBN 0-7869-3272-4.
Primal Spellcasters
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