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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    pygmybatrider's Avatar

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    Jun 2017

    Default Shaman Class - The Master of the Elements (updated 10/10/18) (PEACH!)

    Hi all,

    I've started a new thread for this class as all the feedback in the previous one applied to old editions of the class that are now out of date, and it was confusing to read through chronologically.

    This is going to be a lengthy post, as over the last month or so this class has been my baby (a bit on the nose, given that my first son is due any day now!) - it's getting nearly daily edits and has been constantly revised and refined. I have done some pretty thorough play-testing and numbers crunching (to the extent that my less-than-stellar maths brain can, anyway), and shoved it down as many people's throats as I can, both online and at my table, to get as much feedback as humanly possible.

    I'll detail the overall design intent for the class as a whole and each subclass later on, as well as some notes and thoughts on each feature. This is mostly for my own benefit, but if you have questions about or want to see the thought process behind a particular ability, you'll probably find it in the wall of text.

    Before we dive into that, the long and short of it is that although I feel like the class is in a pretty good place at the moment, I have thought that several times along this journey and been way off the mark. Any thoughts or insight into mechanical features, wording, balance, complexity or errors would be very much appreciated.

    The current version of the Shaman can be found on the homebrewery here: http://homebrewery.naturalcrit.com/share/HyNDsQM5Q

    Or as a PDF file here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1tJW...ew?usp=sharing

    Now, onto the boring stuff! Red text indicates particular areas that I am uncertain about and on which I would greatly appreciate any insight/advice that you might have.

    Design Intent and Inspiration

    I first drafted up the Shaman in response to a request from one of my players. He has played a Restoration shaman since the days of vanilla, and loves the class both thematically and mechanically. He wanted to play a class that recreates the "raid healing" feel of an MMO healer. In WoW, tanks maintain threat, DPSers DPS, and healers heal. In contrast, 5E healing feels more like whack-a-mole, where you're simply picking allies up from 0 in the next round. This just feels less fun and interactive for a support player, and I wanted to remedy that in the shaman's design.

    I myself haven't played WoW since vanilla, but I did play an Elemental shaman back in the days when really only Restoration shamans were a viable endgame option. The basic rotation was - stand still, drop a fire totem, cast Chain Lightning, and then cast Lightning Bolt until Chain Lightning was off its cooldown. Boring, but effective, and a playstyle that I still remember very fondly.

    Finally, I never played one myself, but Enhancement shamans were (depending on the patch) considered the one-time kings of vanilla PvP. Their defining feature - Windfury Weapon - enchanted their weapon to give them a 20% chance of making three (!!!) extra attacks, at increased power. And yes, Windfury Weapon could proc off itself - making for some ridiculous highlight videos on youtube.

    In the early days of WoW, shamans were seen as the Horde counterpart to the Alliance-exclusive paladins. After initially drawing up shamans from a bardic full-caster base, I quickly dropped the idea as it got out of hand trying to balance a competent melee subclass on top of a full caster base. It then seemed natural to build shamans from a paladin base - for both the aforementioned thematic reason as well as letting Elemental and Restoration shamans fill the as-yet unfilled niche of blaster-focused and support-focused half-casters.

    Of all the classes in the PHB, Clerics and Warlocks probably do the best job at giving a character a base class that can be transformed into nearly any role they want - blaster, healer/support, tank, melee DPS. This was something that I wanted to mechanically reflect in the shaman. By giving the base class very few defining features - essentially the shaman chassis itself only offers Lightning Blast, Shocks and Totems, besides some minor fluff - I was able to create a distinct flavour and playstyle for each of the specialisations (forgive the Queen's English here - I chose to Americanise all the spellings in the public release just to stay consistent with official published content).

    I definitely want shamans to be balanced not only against themselves but against the other base classes in the PHB. Most features have direct parallels to a similar feature from the paladin - e.g. Shock Spells to Divine Smite, Totems to Auras - and it is the paladin chassis that I have chopped and changed to build the shaman. I am aware that the paladin is one of the strongest base classes in 5e, and have specifically aimed to set the overall raw power level of the shaman slightly below that of the paladin.

    Totems

    Totems are the shaman's answer to paladin's auras. Paladin auras are always on, and usually always useful. Some auras (looking at you, Aura of Protection!) are literally game changing for parties with the right makeup.

    Totems are designed to trade some of that power and permanence for utility and adaptability. They are (quite easily) killable, on a strict 1-minute (essentially 1 combat) time limit, and until level 14, cost an action to place. I have gone back and forth between making them a bonus action from level 1, or making it a later upgrade. My player was (still is) adamant that they should be a bonus action from the beginning - but I believe that the greater choice and versatility of shaman totems still needs a larger cost to offset their benefits. I personally had no problem using my first turn to set up whichever totem suited the combat from levels 1-7 as both Elemental and Enhancement, and I rarely took part in a combat where a totem wasn't used - unless I was fairly confident we could steamroll whatever was in front of us in a single round.

    As a DM, most of my baddies will ignore a totem unless they have seen its effects. They might ignore a Fire Nova totem the first time, but after it explodes on them, they will try and attack the next totem that gets summoned.

    Totems scale at cantrip levels. As a general rule, buff/debuff/control totems scale by range, damage totems scale by damage dice, and defensive totems scale by uses. The "must summon a different totem before you can summon the same one again" rule is mostly to prevent the abuse of defensive totems like Resistance, but given how weak it is at the moment, I am tempted to remove it. That would also be a welcome boost for Elemental shamans, who are pretty much always going to want their Searing Totem.

    I have tried and failed to find an amount of totems summoned per long rest that isn't severely limiting or too big as to be basically limitless. I have instead decided to try and limit totem's power levels so that it really is no big deal to summon them as many times as you want.

    Level 1 Totems notes:

    Earthbind Totem has gone back and forth between a few iterations. It's currently a 10 foot drop in walking speed, with no save. In past revisions it has summoned difficult terrain, been a 5 foot drop in speed, or forced a Strength save or be restrained. The problem has been working out how to balance it with other features and spell effects. I think it is okay at the moment.

    Fire Nova Totem has actually been a lot of fun in practice. For something that takes two actions to set up and could potentially be killed in between, it is surprisingly useful for taking out groups of weak enemies. Totemic Mastery still gives it an opportunity to be killed, as it cannot be exploded on the same turn it is summoned.

    Resistance Totem has gone through several changes as well, and it is probably the single totem with which I have the most problems. It's been hard to find a scaling amount of damage AND uses that keeps it relevant across a shaman's entire career. I thought I had found the perfect match in proficiency + Wisdom DR, Wisdom mod times before being destroyed, until I thought of the potential multiclassing abuse. At the moment, I think it's too weak until level 5, and then starts to balance out. Nobody is going to use their action and reaction to absorb 2-3 damage from one ally. I am just hitting a brick wall with how to fix it. Maybe that's okay in the long run, but it would be nice to offer a defensive boost that's useful at early levels.

    Tranquil Air Totem has been fine for me and my table. If you're concentrating on a spell, or you want to set up a lightning battery, or you really just don't want to get hit, it's a nice option to have up your sleeve.

    Level 7 totems were designed to be more passive in comparison to the mostly active benefits granted by level 1 totems.

    Fire and Frost Resistance Totems originally granted everybody within range the relevant resistance, then one person, and now in their current form give resistance to anybody in range at the cost of a reaction. I am happy with these, as I don't think they will last very long in any fight where they will be overly useful.

    Grace of Air and Strength of Earth Totems are ability-scores specific versions of a paladin's Aura of Protection, while also providing a boost to the relevant ability checks as well. I thought this would make them more useful in out-of-combat situations, like trying to climb walls, cross rope bridges, etc - and as a class, shamans tend to have little utility outside combat.

    Level 14 totems were designed to give more specific boosts in combat - but simply to offer more options, rather than overpower their level 1 counterparts.

    Falling Rain Totem looks at first glance to be a straight upgrade to Earthbind, but it creates difficult terrain for everybody. Useful for area denial if you cast it and then project it using your bonus action, or for setting up a lightning turret, or for giving a farmer's crops some much needed relief during a rest.

    Totem of Wrath is a minor boost to damage for everybody. I played a level 14 Enhancement shaman in a one-shot that had the GWF style and liked to use this totem in conjunction with the Savage Attacker feat. It just felt good. This replaces Flametongue Totem, which granted one ally an additional 2d6 fire damage per round, which I felt was too strong for a totem.

    Spirit Link Totem is a straight copy of a Redemption paladin's Aura of the Guardian. I would rather this totem be able to move the damage to any willing creature in the area, but I am worried that might be too strong in a party with, say, two barbarians. This replaces Grounding Totem from the previous draft, which was essentially a free Counterspell at a higher DC and the cost of a bonus action and reaction, which I felt was too strong for a totem.

    Tremor Totem changed from removing one effect with a reaction to passively granting advantage on saving throws against those conditions. I am not sure whether Stunned is too strong a condition to give this benefit to, but it has rarely (never) come up in my games.

    Shock Spells

    In a nutshell, shamans are designed to be more chaotic than paladins, and I think their Shock spells accurately reflect that.

    Shock spells are less consistent than Divine Smite, providing less damage, and a rider that usually involves a save. After playtesting, I felt that whenever the rider kicked in, I wouldn't notice the damage drop, as I still got a prone baddie, or a DoT, or some forced movement. But if they made their save, you were really ruing the fact that you just expended a spell slot for 1d6 damage per slot level.

    I am happy with all of the current iterations of the Shock spells. I gave Enhancement shamans an additional d6 to their Shocks to try and keep pace with Divine Smite. I think that the increased range is a good trade-off for damage for Elemental and Restoration, but Enhancement still needed more oomph.

    I have thought about adding a fifth Shock spell - so that no shaman will end up with all Shock spells learned. Something along the lines of the following, to help with tanking, which was semi-supported in vanilla, and is currently not-supported in WoW or in this class:

    Thunder Shock: You blast the target with a loud crash of thunder. They take an additional 1d6 thunder damage, and must pass a Wisdom save against your spell save DC. On a fail, they have disadvantage on all attacks against a target other than you. They can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of their turns, ending the effect on a success.

    This, plus the use of defensive totems, plus the potential addition of the Protection fighting style, could make a pretty handy Enhancement tank.

    Elemental

    For Elemental shamans, I wanted to recreate the playstyle I experienced in vanilla WoW - essentially, a lightning turret. They are very much a one trick pony, as every feature relates to doing more damage with their spell attacks, either through Searing Totem, Lightning Blast, or both. I don't think this is a bad thing, given that they have a large bank of combat options already through totems, and their damage output is always behind that of an Agonising Blast warlock.

    Riders from Shock spells not sticking is a pain for Elemental, but their expanded spell list provides them with a lot of useful options for ranged damage dealing - directly competing for those spell slots. Elemental is probably the subclass I am most happy with, and think is in the most polished state.

    Enhancement

    Enhancement shamans were designed to take advantage of mobility. A combination of Frost Shock, spells like Zephyr Strike, and totems like Earthbind mean they can zip in and out of melee range to deliver their weapon strikes. The subclass is designed to work for all fighting styles - TWF, 2-handers, and sword and board.

    Windfury Weapon has gone through a few ideas, from just being on a 20, to being a d20 you roll separately to your attack roll (fun, but in the end I think too complex), to being an actively triggered ability Wis-mod times per long rest. I am undecided at the moment - if I leave it how it is, it is chaotic and inconsistent and a rare chance to proc, but has potential for abuse. A barb 2/champ 3/shaman 7 could make 3 attacks at advantage, critting on a 19-20 AND getting an extra attack, and adding potential Shock spells on top of that. Add in a self-Haste or Bloodlust, and, well.

    On the other hand, making it a bonus action attack screws up TWF, and making it a 'free' attack Wis-mod times per rest will probably end up with more Windfuries than otherwise - although at least half of them won't already be crits. I do like that Windfury can activate on someone else's turn - from opportunity attacks etc.

    Primal Empowerment is a small THP buff that I think blends well into the enhanced-warrior theme. I am not 100% happy with the flavour text of Spirit Wolves, but I am happy enough with the effect.

    Overall I do really like Enhancement in it's current form, but there are a few questions I have about this subclass that I don't have about the others. As I write this I am more inclined to add the tank-shock spell and Protection style to allow for a more defensively oriented character.

    Restoration

    Restoration shamans were the original focus of the class - the whole reason I started this journey. After giving them Healing Surge at level 3, and having the level 11 and 15 features key off it, I wanted to make Chain Healing key off spell slot healing, to basically give them the best of both worlds. In this specific instance, I have consciously erred on side of overtuning the power level of the healing/support features as I plain and simple think that healing as presented in the core 5e books is lackluster. My player just hit level 11 and is loving life at the moment. Water Shield originally also offered Wisdom to AC, and that made it unscathed through multiple layers of feedback, but once we found out that it in practice it gave the shaman 24 AC (half-plate + shield + 5) for 10 minutes a day, it got cut pretty quickly.

    Interestingly, I think Restoration shamans benefit just as much, if not more, from taking Extra Attack instead of Empowered Lightning. I hadn't noticed this until one of my players pointed it out - and I'm okay with it. Swing, swing, heal, sounds like the definition of fun, interactive healing, and is at its heart no different to Lightning Blast, heal.

    Restoration shamans seem to get the most out of totems, too. Whereas an Enhancement shaman will likely try to find ways to set up totems before initiating combat if it all possible, and an Elemental one will usually set up their Searing Totem on the first turn, Restoration shamans can totem away while healing with BAs all the way through. I have seen all 8 totems that my player has available to him used several times throughout the last month's sessions, and the look of glee on his face when he works out a strategy is priceless.

    New Spells

    Ghost Wolf is a level 1 Misty Step without the teleportation. I am not too worried about it being 40 ft vs 30 ft, or 1st level vs 2nd level, as shamans don't get this spell until 2 levels after full casters get Misty Step, and any Bard that was going to steal it would just steal Misty Step instead and take 0 opportunity attacks instead of however many at disadvantage. It was originally the level 6 class feature but I struggled to find a real clear use for it outside of combat.

    Lightning Shield is a level 2 no-concentration buff spell to yourself or an ally that grants 1d8 lightning damage as a reaction to being hit, a maximum of 3 times. I tried to balance damage against Fire Shield as a level 4 spell - which is 2d8 an unlimited amount of times in a 10 minute period, and offers other small advantages as well.

    Astral Recall is designed as an oh-crap button. A self-activated Death Ward that doesn't need to be pre-cast but can't save you from an instant-kill. Regent cost might be doubled to 1000gp, or moved to 5th level, or both.

    Bloodlust is essentially a shaman's capstone spell. Up to 3 targets get double speed and one extra attack - stolen from Haste, without the AC and Dex save boost. 2d12 unresistable damage when the spell ends is designed to be the drawback, but there have been other ideas in previous editions. Damage was doubled if the spell ended early due to concentration breaking. Allies lost the benefit of the spell if they didn't attack anybody in a round. I haven't had any experience at 17th level so I really have no idea how powerful this is. As a level 14 Magical Secret I imagine this would be a must-pick for most Bards, which is a problem. I could potentially see this becoming a totem as a class feature, perhaps gained at level 18 instead of an extra Shock spell.

    If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! Once again, for anyone who takes the time to read and comment, I really appreciate it. Homebrewing is hard work, and you really want to try and get it right for yourself and for your players!
    My 5E homebrew thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...omebrew-Thread

    Including:

    • Path of the Reaver Barbarian (kill all baddies with TWF!)
    • The Bulwark Martial Archetype (become a human shield!)
    • The Sporting Wizard (because magic is for sissies!)
    • Headhunter class (poison your weapons, scalp your enemies!)
    • Mesmer class (Int-based melee, extra reactions!)
    • Shaman class (thunderbolts and lightning!)

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Halfling in the Playground
    Join Date
    Sep 2018

    Default Re: Shaman Class - The Master of the Elements (updated 10/10/18) (PEACH!)

    Overall I think this is really well made. It's pretty hard to make a full conversion from a full warcraft class to a DnD class so kudos there! I like the themes and that it is basically balanced to match the paladin. Since there is a lot of reading to do I havn't considered all possible builds and lategame potential but one that thing that strikes me is that enhancement seems a lot stronger than elemental (enhancement seems to be balanced, but the elemental path initially feels pretty lackluster).

    I assume you would build your character as follows: Elemental takes empowered lightning, while enhancement takes extra attack.

    * Enhancement shamans effectively gets more hp, fighting style an extra spell level on their shocks and has two attacks.
    * Elemental has a weak cantrip (half range of firebolt and less damage) can add wisdom modifier to damage (similar to red dragon sorcerer) and can use his bonus action to deal an extra d4 damage.

    If you do the math, the enhancement shaman deals a lot more damage than the elemental shaman even if the elemental shaman uses shocks and the enhancement shaman doesn't. The only real benefit is that the elemental shaman has 60 ft. range, but this is not a big issue for the enhancement shaman since he can use ghost wolf to engage and disengage from combat.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    pygmybatrider's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2017

    Default Re: Shaman Class - The Master of the Elements (updated 10/10/18) (PEACH!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackflight View Post
    Overall I think this is really well made. It's pretty hard to make a full conversion from a full warcraft class to a DnD class so kudos there! I like the themes and that it is basically balanced to match the paladin. Since there is a lot of reading to do I havn't considered all possible builds and lategame potential but one that thing that strikes me is that enhancement seems a lot stronger than elemental (enhancement seems to be balanced, but the elemental path initially feels pretty lackluster).

    I assume you would build your character as follows: Elemental takes empowered lightning, while enhancement takes extra attack.

    * Enhancement shamans effectively gets more hp, fighting style an extra spell level on their shocks and has two attacks.
    * Elemental has a weak cantrip (half range of firebolt and less damage) can add wisdom modifier to damage (similar to red dragon sorcerer) and can use his bonus action to deal an extra d4 damage.

    If you do the math, the enhancement shaman deals a lot more damage than the elemental shaman even if the elemental shaman uses shocks and the enhancement shaman doesn't. The only real benefit is that the elemental shaman has 60 ft. range, but this is not a big issue for the enhancement shaman since he can use ghost wolf to engage and disengage from combat.
    Hey mate, thankyou for taking a read and pointing out your concerns! Isn't it the nature of things that other people see what we don't - Elemental was the subclass I was most happy with!

    On reflection I can definitely see what you are talking about. In my playtesting experience, the set-up turn where you summon Searing Totem has really been a momentum killer as well.

    I could see the subclass progression shifting to something similar to this:

    @ Level 3, you gain Searing Totem, and level 7 ability (upgrading d8 die to d10) shifts here as well. Both Enhancement and Restoration also gain two features at level 3, so that would fit in with the pattern.

    Bend Lightning moves from level 11 to level 7, to match the Arcane Archer's Curving Arrow feature that it was copied from anyway.

    Then add in a new level 11 ability - maybe Improved Searing Totem, adding your Wisdom modifier to Searing Totem damage.

    The damage is still in line with an Agonising Blast Warlock:

    @ 3 (16 Wis/Cha: Shaman is doing 1d4 (avg 2.5) on their first turn, then 1d10+1d4 (avg 8) after that. The Warlock is doing 1d10+Cha (avg 8.5) from the start.

    @ 5 (18 Wis/Cha): Shaman is doing 2d4 (avg 5) on their first turn, then 2d10+2d4+Wis (avg 20) after that. The Warlock is doing 2d10+2xCha (avg 21) from the start.

    @ 11 (20 Wis/Cha): Shaman is doing 3d4+Wis (avg 12.5) on their first turn, then 3d10+3d4+2xWis (avg 33.5) after that. The warlock is doing 3d10+3xCha (avg 26.5) from the start.

    Turn 1: Shaman: 12.5, Warlock 26.5
    Turn 2: Shaman 46, Warlock 53
    Turn 3: Shaman 79.5, Warlock 79.5

    The Shaman obviously pulls ahead from there, unless the totem gets destroyed, which pushes him further back. A Hex spell throws things way back in the Warlock's favour, adding an additional 10.5 damage per round, meaning a Shaman will always be behind.

    @ 17 (20 Wis/Cha): Shaman is doing 4d10+Wis (avg 27) on their first turn (totems are now a bonus action to summon), then 4d10+4d4+2xWis (avg 42) after that. Warlock is doing 4d10+4xCha (avg 42) from the start.

    Shamans will crit on a 19-20, Warlocks still have Hex.

    Still seems mostly fine to me, but will probably feel much more powerful at the table than the current version. What do you think?
    Last edited by pygmybatrider; 2018-10-12 at 02:09 AM.
    My 5E homebrew thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...omebrew-Thread

    Including:

    • Path of the Reaver Barbarian (kill all baddies with TWF!)
    • The Bulwark Martial Archetype (become a human shield!)
    • The Sporting Wizard (because magic is for sissies!)
    • Headhunter class (poison your weapons, scalp your enemies!)
    • Mesmer class (Int-based melee, extra reactions!)
    • Shaman class (thunderbolts and lightning!)

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