Pathfinder - The Shaman Handbook
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I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
The Shaman is a divine spellcaster, and can work as a Blaster (depending on your choice of Spirit), Healer, and Support. The Shaman is slightly less durable than the Oracle due to lack of shield proficiency, and isn't particularly suited to melee combat.
Shaman Class Features
Hit Points: d8 hit points makes you durable for a primary caster, but don't go drawing fire.
Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB, but Shamans are full casters, so you really don't need it.
Saves: Will is the Shaman's only good save, and with a dependency on Wisdom for spells, a Shaman should have excellent Will saves. Be sure to put resources into Dexterity and Constitution to boost the Shaman's poor saves.
Proficiencies: Simple weapons give you plenty of options to supplement your spells, and medium armor will give you a decent AC. Unfortunately, the Shaman doesn't get proficiency with shields. Because the Shaman's AC won't be great, expect to spend most of your time fighting at range.
Skills: 4+ skill ranks and a few good options. Four ranks will cover all of the Shaman's Knowledge skills, plus Heal.
Spells: Works just like a Cleric, but with a different spell list. Access to your full spell list without needing to actually learn spells makes the Shaman very versatile, and gives you a lot of really great options.
Orisons: Orisons are fantastic, reliable, and versatile.
Spirit (Su): The Shaman's Spirit defines the Shaman's character theme, and offers a collection of interesting abilities and unique hexes. For help selecting your Spirit, see my Shaman Spirit Breakdown
Spirit Animal (Ex): The Spirit Animal is a familiar, but it can also deliver hex spells which work as a touch attack. Your Spirit will give your familiar a buff of some sort, but very few of them provide a meaningful improvement over how useful a familiar is on its own.
Spirit Magic: Much like Cleric Domain spells, this adds an extra spell slot per day, but with very limited options. Be sure to consider your Spirits' spell lists when selecting your primary Spirit and your Wandering Spirit.
Hex: Hexes are fantastic, and Shamans get their own list, plus access to the entire list of Witch Hexes. This offers an enormous set of great options. For help selecting Hexes, see my Shaman Hex Breakdown.
Wandering Spirit (Su): Adds quite a bit of versatility to the Shaman, and allows you to select a Spirit for its Spirit Animal and Hexes, then switch to another for its abilities and spell list.
Wandering Hex: Get a free Hex that you can change every day from your Wandering Spirit.
Manifestation (Su): Varies.
The Shaman is a straight caster, and doesn't have the melee capacity of a Cleric, which makes Shamans very SAD.
Str: Dump to 7 unless you want to carry a spear or something.
Dex: Needed for saves and AC.
Con: Needed for saves and HP.
Int: Only needed for skill ranks, but I wouldn't drop below 10 unless you're Human.
Wis: Your spellcasting stat.
Cha: Required for several Spirit abilities.
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Because the Shaman is a primary caster, Wisdom is essential. Other abilities are negotiable.
Dwarf: The bonus to Wisdom and all of the Dwarf's racial defense are great. The Charisma penalty can be annoying for some Spirit abilities, but it's not likely to break your build. The Dwarf favored class bonus gives your Spirit Animal some extra natural armor, but because the Spirit Animal is a familiar, it generally shouldn't be somewhere which might involve being attacked.
Elf: Despite the decent spellcasting abilities, the Elf has very little to offer the Shaman.
Gnome: Small size helps with Shaman's mediocre AC, the bonus to Charisma helps with some Spirit abilities, and the Gnome's favored class bonus grants extra Hexes.
Half-Elf: The flexible ability bonus is nice, and you can find a way to make use of the Half-Elf's other racial abilities by using some alternate racial abilities. The biggest draw is the Half-Elf favored class bonus, which allows you to learn spells not normally available to the Shaman. This opens up a lot of fantastic options.
Half-Orc: Just as good as the Half-Elf, but you get Darkvision by default and different racial bonuses.
Halfling: Similar to the Gnome, but the Halfling favored class bonus makes your Spirit Animal better. Unfortunately, the favored class bonus doesn't specify what happens when your effective level exceeds 20, so it's likely that your favored class bonuses will be wasted at high levels.
Human: As usual, humans are fantastic at everything. The Human favored class bonus is the same as the Half-Elf and Half-Orc, allowing you to learn Cleric spells which aren't normally available to the Shaman.
- Diplomacy (Cha): Your only social skill. Shamans don't need Charisma for anything, so you probably won't be good at this.
- Fly (Dex): One rank is plenty.
- Handle Animal (Cha): Without an Animal Companion or Mount, this is largely pointless.
- Heal (Wis): With high Wisdom, Shamans can be excellent at Heal, and Heal is fantastic supplement to your magical healing. Don't put in too many ranks: You need to hit a total +24 modifier to guarantee the best result from the Treat Deadly Wounds option, and you get your Wisdom modifier, +2 from a healer's kit, another +1 from surgeon's tools, and you can get Healer's Gloves for 2,500gp for another +5.
- Knowledge (nature) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills in the game.
- Knowledge (planes) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills in the game.
- Knowledge (religion) (Int): One of the most important Knowledge skills in the game.
- Ride (Dex): Without an Animal Companion or Mount, this is largely pointless.
- Spellcraft (Int): Great for identifying spells and magic items, but don't go too crazy with it because your Intelligence can't keep up with a Wizard.
- Survival (Wis): Situational.
- Light Crossbow: Decent ranged damage.
- Longspear: The only simple weapon with reach.
- Morningstar: Your best bet if you don't want reach.
Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order.
- Hide: Your starting armor
- Breastplate: Your armor of choice.
- Masterwork Buckler: No check penalty, and it doesn't take up a hand. For 165 gold, the Mithral Buckler is one of the cheapest AC bonuses in the game, and it's easy to enhance.
Multiclassing and Prestige Classes
The Shaman is a full caster, so multiclassing is rarely a good option unless you have a very specific build in mind.