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Pathfinder - Shaman Spirits Breakdown

Disclaimer

I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. 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.

Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.

Spirits

Battle

Battle is the obvious option for a front-line combat Shaman.

Spirit Magic Spells: Several excellent options, including some fantastic low-level buffs whcih remain useful throughout your whole career.

  1. Enlarge person: An essential buff for many frontline characters.
  2. fog cloud: Decent area control.
  3. magic vestment: Saves you the cost of buffing your armor and shield.
  4. wall of fire: Great area control.
  5. righteous might: Fantastic buff, despite the short duration.
  6. mass bull's strength: By this level anyone who needs an enhancement bonus to Strength should have a belt.
  7. control weather: Situational.
  8. earthquake: Good, but troublesome to use at the table.
  9. storm of vengeance: This is a weird spell. It's hard to time, it's hard to use, and it's hard to not do just as much damage to your party.

Hexes: A couple of decent combat buff options.

Spirit Animal: Unless you take Improved Familiar to get something that can fight, your familiar should never need AC.

Spirit Ability - Battle Spirit (Su): A decent buff, and it scales a bit as you level. Unfortunately, you won't get many rounds per day.

Greater Spirit Ability - Enemies' Bane (Su): Bane is fantastic when it works, but its versatility is limited. This allows you to pick whatever bane fits the current encounter, which means that it will always apply. You can probably expect to have 4 or 5 uses, which should be enough that you don't need to be careful about saving uses.

True Spirit Ability - Paragon of Battle (Su): The duration is too short for Deadly Juggernaut to get you anything useful, and by this level you should be permanently enlarged if you want to be enlarged at all.

Manifestation: The ability to move and make a full attack in the same turn is the holy grail of melee combat. The other bonuses are nice, but situational.

Bones

Bones adds some great save or suck and save or die spells, as well as a couple of effects to control undead.

Spirit Magic Spells: Almost all of the options are good, and some excellent AOE save or die options are include.

  1. Cause fear: Not very good, and it stops functioning very early.
  2. false life: Temporary hit points with hours/level duration.
  3. animate dead: Pet zombies!
  4. fear: AOE panic. Not the best save or suck effect, but if you can force enemies into a corner they become coup de grace bait.
  5. slay living: Decent single-target damage, but it doesn't scale well.
  6. circle of death: AOE save or die.
  7. control undead: Fantastic way to handle mindless undead, and to expand your collection of undead servants.
  8. horrid wilting: Decent single-target damage, but at this level you can use save or die spells with the save DC.
  9. wail of the banshee: AOE Save or die.

Hexes: A few decent options, but nothing that you absolutely need to have.

Spirit Animal: A constant 20% miss chance is great, and with constant concealment, your Spirit Animal can hide wherever it wants.

Spirit Ability - Touch of the Grave (Su): Inflict Light Wounds is better, but you can use it as free healing for yourself and your undead buddies.

Greater Spirit Ability - Shard Soul (Su): DR is great, but by this level most enemies will have the ability bypass DR/magic. The spike burst is a cool ability, and it's nice when you get mobbed be enemies.

True Spirit Ability - Shedding Form (Su): Fantastic both offensively and defensively.

Manifestation: Bleed and Stabilize are fairly pointless at this level, but animate dead for free is a great way to get an army, and Power Word Kill with a 50% hit point cap is extremely powerful.

Flame

Flame is one of the better elemental Spirits. The spell list is fantastic, and includes several excellent Blaster and Controller spells. However, the poor Hexes and abilities offset how fantastic the spell list is.

Spirit Magic Spells: Almost all of the options are fantastic. This spell list turns the Shaman into a viable Blaster.

  1. Burning hands: Poor damage, but it's a first-level AOE blast.
  2. resist energy: Essential at any level.
  3. fireball: Excellent AOE damage.
  4. wall of fire: Great area control.
  5. summon monster V (fire elementals): Very limiting.
  6. fire seeds: The holly berries option is insane. Charge eight berries, then some time in the next hour or two, drop them in the other guy's square, and step back out of the 5 foot blast radius. Trigger all 8 for for 8d8 plus 8 times your caster level. The acorn version is bad.
  7. fire storm: Excellent AOE damage, and 4d6 ongoing fire damage.
  8. incendiary cloud: The damage isn't great, but this is still a great area control spell.
  9. fiery body: Fantastic buff.

Hexes: Gaze of flams is a great utility, but the other hexes are all situational or bad.

Spirit Animal: Immunity to fire is pretty great, but the constant light really hurts your familiar's ability to serve as a Scout.

Spirit Ability - Touch of Flame (Su): Decent and reliable, but the damage doesn't scale well and the user per day depend on Charisma.

Greater Spirit Ability - Fiery Soul (Su): A bit of resistance and a cone of fire with poor damage.

True Spirit Ability - Elemental Form (Su): Assuming that you are built to survive in melee, suddenly becoming a Huge elemental can be a great option for you. The elemental's Burn effect is largely pointless, but the fire elemental is still one of the better options for Elemental Body.

Manifestation: More energy resistance, and free metamagic on fire spells. The metamagic feats are only +1 spell level, but free metamagic is still fantastic.

Heavens

The Heavens spirit provides a great mix of utility and offensive options, allowing the Shaman to serve as a Blaster and a Support.

Spirit Magic Spells: Lots of good options across all spell levels.

  1. Color spray: Excellent save or suck at low levels, and it remains viable far longer than Sleep.
  2. hypnotic pattern: Good crowd control.
  3. daylight: Situational.
  4. rainbow pattern: Good crowd control.
  5. overland flight: With hours/level duration, you should cast this every day and never touch the ground except to sleep on it.
  6. chain lightning: Good multiple-target damage.
  7. prismatic spray: Excellent, though somewhat unreliable.
  8. sunburst: Poorly written and difficult to interpret.
  9. meteor swarm: Very flashy, but not as powerful as it should be for a 9th-level spell.

Hexes: Lure of the Heaves is the only thing that you really need to have.

Spirit Animal: This is somewhat comical. I can just imagine the Shaman waving around his pet frog trying to get a look at the stars, and the frog attempting to use its fly speed to very slowly escape. In all seriousness, this is a decent ability. 5 feet of flight isn't much, but any flight at all is very useful.

Spirit Ability - Stardust (Sp): Like a mediocre version of Glitterfust. You can't hit invisible creatures with it, which is a shame because invisible creatures are the best target for this.

Greater Spirit Ability - Void Adaptation (Su): Darkvision is fantastic, and the Darkvision spell isn't on the Shaman's spell list. The other bits are very situational.

True Spirit Ability - Phantasmagoric Display (Sp): Prismatic Wall and Prismatic Spray are fantastic, if somewhat unpredictable.

Manifestation: That bonus to saving throws is amazing. I'm not sure what a Star Child is, but I'm sure that it's super cool.

Life

If you want to play a heal-bot, this is absolutely the way to do it.

Spirit Magic Spells: Lots of important healing spells for handling problems which go beyond hitpoint loss.

  1. Detect undead: Very situational.
  2. lesser restoration: Essential for handling ability damage.
  3. neutralize poison: Situational.
  4. restoration: Costs gold to use, but handles even more problems the Lesser Restoration.
  5. breath of life: The most important healing spell in the game. Prepare this every day.
  6. heal: Full healing in one spell for almost any character.
  7. greater restoration: Fixes nearly everything.
  8. mass heal: Situational, but sometimes your party is really bad at having hit points.
  9. true resurrection: Hopefully you never need to cast this.

Hexes: Enhanced Cures is the best option, and can be replaced by a Wand of Cure Light Wounds.

Spirit Animal: Fast healing is fantastic because it allows you to heal completely between encounters. Pick up Improved Familiar to get something that can handle itself in a fight, and let your familiar take a few hits before it retreats to recover between fights.

Spirit Ability - Channel (Su): Channel Energy isn't great, and you only get 1+Cha uses per day. Still, I suppose it's free healing for the whole party without dipping into your spells.

Greater Spirit Ability - Healer's Touch (Su): This means that you can spend even fewer skill ranks on Heal to get the magic +24 modifier for Treat Serious Wounds. The ability to stabilize big groups of creatures is very situational.

True Spirit Ability - Quick Healing (Su): Free Quicken Spell for any Cure spell. Absolutely fantastic, especially when combined with the Enhanced Cures hex. Channel Energy is a bit situational, but if you position yourself well it's a great to heal your whole party.

Manifestation: With all of those immunities, you will be very difficult to kill.

Lore

The Lore Spirit is provides some good Divination options, but doesn't allow the Shaman to serve as a Librarian like a Lore Oracle can because it doesn't provide additional Knowledge skills as class skills.

Spirit Magic Spells: Some excellent divination and utility options, but many of the divinations are situational.

  1. Identify: Invest in Spellcraft.
  2. tongues: Situational.
  3. locate object: Situational, but very important for talking to all of the weird creatyres which adventurers encounter.
  4. legend lore: You need to be reasonably close to the target to find it, so you can't just cast Locate Object and locate the Lich's phylactery, but this can be very good for finding items lost among debris and such.
  5. contact other plane: This can very powerful, and because you don't need Intelligence or Charisma for spells, the penalties for failure aren't really important.
  6. mass owl's wisdom: The only thing that this really gets you is bonuses to your party's Will saves.
  7. vision: How often do you think you are going to need to cast Legend Lore in combat? With the exception of the possible days/weeks casting times for Legend Lore, you really shouldn't need this.
  8. moment of prescience: Fantastic and very versatile.
  9. time stop: One of the most powerful spells in the game, and it's not on the Cleric/Oracle spell list.

Hexes: A couple of decent options, but Arcane Enlightenment is the only thing that you really need to have.

Spirit Animal: Familiars acts on their controller's initiative count, so I'm not sure how the Initiative bonus works here. The bonus to Stealth is nice, but hardly necessary.

Spirit Ability - Monstrous Insight (Su): Spending a standard action on this really hurts, especially as you grow in level and the bonus becomes less important.

Greater Spirit Ability - Automatic Writing (Su): Divination is a fantastic spell if your GM is creative enough to give you a good response. Getting to use it several times per day can give you a ton of information.

True Spirit Ability - Perfect Knowledge (Ex): Tongues is situational, but good to have. The +10 bonus to Knowledge skills will be hugely helpful for overcoming your lack of Intelligence compared to a Wizard.

Manifestation: Combined with Perfect Knowledge, the Lore spirit now guarantees a result of 30 on any knowledge check before considering your skill ranks or intelligence. On top of that, you get Wish once per day for free. Wish is the best spell in the game, and is only limited by its material component, which the Lore Spirit allows you to bypass.

Nature

The Nature spirit has the unique ability combine a Familiar (your Spirit Animal) and an Animal Companion into one pet. This is a unique and potent combination, but doesn't come into play until 17th level. Until that point, the Nature Spirit is bland and lacks any sort of interesting options.

Spirit Magic Spells: Most of the options are bad or situational.

  1. Charm animal: Very situational.
  2. barkskin: Excellent buff with hours/level duration and good scalid.
  3. speak with plants: Very situational.
  4. grove of respite: A nice option for camping.
  5. awaken: Awaken introduces a lot of complicated subjects to the game. Have a long, detailed discussion with you GM about what you plan to do with it before you start awakening critters.
  6. stone tell: Situational.
  7. creeping doom: Excellent combination of summoning, area control, and crowd control. Your spell DC should be good enough that the swarms will deal quite a bit of damage with their poison.
  8. animal shapes: If your party can make good use of it, this can be a really cool way to turn everyone into something cool.
  9. world wave: Very situational, but not on the Cleric/Oracle spell list.

Hexes: Friend to Animals is the only option which is even remotely interesting.

Spirit Animal: Very situational, but it becomes more helpful when you gain the Greater Spirit Ability and your Spirit Animal becomes an Animal Companion.

Spirit Ability - Storm Burst (Su): This can be a good debuff if you use it on a strong melee combatant, but you will usually be better off using real spells.

Greater Spirit Ability - Spirit of Nature (Su): Situational. You should actively avoid using this.

True Spirit Ability - Companion Animal (Su): Your Spirit Animal is now a fusion of a Familiar and an Animal Companion. This amounts to a very intelligent, capable, and durable pet.

Manifestation: Turn yourself into a plant for all of the excellent immunities.

Stone

Spirit Magic Spells: Very few good spells.

  1. Magic stone: Awful.
  2. stone call: Mediocre area control with a splash of damage.
  3. meld into stone: Very situational.
  4. wall of stone: Fantastic utility.
  5. stoneskin:
  6. stone tell: Very situational.
  7. statue: You can do some weird stuff to use this to protect yourself in combat, but it's fairly situational.
  8. repel metal and stone: Decent area control.
  9. clashing rocks: Good combination of damage and crowd control.

Hexes: A couple of decent options, but nothing that you absolutely need to have.

Spirit Animal: DR is great, and very few enemies will be able to bypass DR/Adamantine.

Spirit Ability - Touch of Acid (Su): Decent and reliable, but the damage doesn't scale well and the user per day depend on Charisma.

Greater Spirit Ability - Body of Earth (Su): DR is great, and very few enemies will be able to bypass DR/adamantine. The burst effect is cool, but the damage doesn't scale well.

True Spirit Ability - Elemental Form (Su): Assuming that you are built to survive in melee, becoming a Huge elemental can be a great option for you. Earth Elemental is one of the best Elemental Body options.

Manifestation: More energy resistance, and free metamagic on lightning spells. The metamagic feats are only +1 spell level, but free metamagic is still fantastic.

Waves

Like most water-themed options, the Waves spirit is bad. Filled with situational options and few real solutions to adventuring in/on/around water, the Waves Spirit contributes very little of any importance.

Spirit Magic Spells: Mostly situational options.

  1. Hydraulic push: Situational.
  2. slipstream: Longstrider is better.
  3. water breathing: Situational.
  4. wall of ice: Excellent utility, and a save or suck option is written into the spell.
  5. geyser: Interesting area control with a bit of damage, but the area is small and the damage is poor.
  6. fluid form: Improve your reach by 10 feet and get DR 10/slashing.
  7. vortex: Decent area control, but only works underwater.
  8. seamantle: Very flashy, and the bonuses to AC and Reflex saves are great.
  9. tsunami: A bit of damage, and some excellent area control. Throw it at groups of enemies.

Hexes: A few very good options.

Spirit Animal: Your Spirit Animal is a Familiar, and Familiars are not built to draw attacks of opportunity. If you need an animal to breath underwater, pick a Familiar which can breath underwater.

Spirit Ability - Wave Strike (Su): Situational, and the damage is nonlethal.

Greater Spirit Ability - Fluid Mastery (Su): The swim speed is situational, and the cone effect doesn't do a lot of damage.

True Spirit Ability - Elemental Form (Su): Assuming that you are built to survive in melee, becoming a Huge elemental can be a great option for you. The water elemental isn't the best option because a swim speed is situational, but it's still a decent combat form.

Manifestation: More energy resistance, and free metamagic on lightning spells. The metamagic feats are only +1 spell level, but free metamagic is still fantastic.

Wind

Despite a surprisingly good list of Hexes, the Wind Spirit is mostly terrible. It contains no flight options until you get 9th-level spells, and most of the abilities are lousy damage effects or situational utility effects.

Spirit Magic Spells: Mostly situational options, and for some reason you don't get Fly.

  1. Alter winds: Situational, but if you're really smart you can use it to your advantage for airborne combat.
  2. gust of wind: Situational.
  3. cloak of winds: The penalty to ranged attacks is nice, but the other benefits are very situational.
  4. river of wind: Weak area control.
  5. control winds: Allows you to prevent enemies from flying.
  6. sirocco: Nice area control effect. A little bit of damage, knock things prone, and make them fatigued.
  7. control weather: Situational.
  8. whirlwind: Excellent crowd control.
  9. winds of vengeance: A very flashy buff with a good fly speed.

Hexes: A few very good options.

Spirit Animal: Your Spirit Animal can no longer be stealthy, and it has paltry energy resistance.

Spirit Ability - Shocking Touch (Su): Decent and reliable, but the damage doesn't scale well and the user per day depend on Charisma.

Greater Spirit Ability - Spark Soul (Su): A bit of energy resistance, and a weak blaster ability. The damage of the line of sparks isn't fantastic, and lines are hard to use, but it will probably do more damage than you could do with a weapon.

True Spirit Ability - Elemental Form (Su): Assuming that you are built to survive in melee, suddenly becoming a Huge elemental can be a great option for you. However, the Elemental Body spell description does not specify the ability to polymorph into a Lightning Elemental, so I don't know if you gain any of the Lightning Elemental's special abilities. The hours/level duration means that you can spend the whole day as an elemental.

Manifestation: More energy resistance, and free metamagic on lightning spells. The metamagic feats are only +1 spell level, but free metamagic is still fantastic.