Totems, Totems, Totems! – Wizards Previews the Shaman

The first three levels of the Shaman are up for Insider members over at Wizards site and I have to say it looks pretty interesting and gives us four options for the Leader slot once the PH2 comes out (Cleric, Warlord, Bard and Shaman).

I happen to play an Enhancement Shaman in World of Warcraft named Nomac. You can follow the link over to the Armory if for some reason you want to take a look at his stats. Anyway, that made me extra interested to see what the Shaman for D&D was going to look like.

The first thing I saw was that their only implement is Totem. This made me smile and think “Yeah, everyone is going to be saying that they are like WoW even though they won’t be”. And, to make it clear, the D&D Shaman does not drop totems to buff his allies. So, in that sense they are different.

A big feature (and difference from the WoW Shaman) of the new Shaman class is the Spirit Companion. Shaman can summon a companion and will make some of their attacks through that companion. These companions are different than those used by the Beast Master Ranger however in that the companion moves when the Shaman moves and simply has the same movement rate as the Shaman, where as the Beast Masters pet has its own set of statistics.

What ends up being interesting (and amusingly a bit WoW-like) is that many of the companion’s attacks “buff” adjacent allies after a successful hit. For example one at-will power causes all allies (and the Shaman, Shaman don’t seem to hate themselves the way Warlords do) to gain +1 AC until the end of the Shaman’s next turn. Other attacks buff in a similar way.

As a Leader, the Shaman will of course be expected to heal and of course they have an Encounter power that can be used twice/encounter (three times at higher levels) that heals party members. What makes this a bit different is that unlike the Cleric or the Warlord the Shaman does not roll extra dice to add to the healing surge that the targeted ally is spending. Instead, the Shaman rolls bonus dice and heals a different target that is adjacent to their companion for that much life.

Two things struck me when I read this. The first was that it could be really rough when fighting a solo that is wailing on the Defender (as he could use all the healing he can get) and the second was how it kind of gave it a “chain heal” kind of feel. For those that don’t know, Shaman in WoW have been traditionally good at group healing. The one nice thing about this is that a Shaman could heal the rogue with the main part of the heal and then throw the Defender (who might be running out of surges) a couple dice of healing to help them stay afloat.

Overall the Shaman seems like a really interesting class that could help shake up some combat tactics in D&D games. I also like that the Shaman get a very flavorful class ability that helps them with Skill Checks (the spirits guiding their actions) though I wonder how this encounter ability is meant to work in skill challenges that take place over long periods of time (thus are not really encounter-based).

So, is the Shaman for D&D like a WoW Shaman? Not really, but some of the feel ends up being the same and I find that interesting and not surprising. Players are coming from WoW to D&D these days rather than the other way around and it certainly behooves Wizards to take that into consideration. Still, the class won’t play the same as a WoW Shaman but if players enjoy the “buffing” aspect of a WoW Shaman they might enjoy playing one in D&D.

Feel free to comment, I would love to hear your opinions!