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Yspoch
2009-11-13, 03:58 AM
Hi!

I would like to be enlightened about the balance of the spirit companion of the shaman class. I don't want to call it overpowered, but it seems to have a great value for the adventuring party i'm dming. But maybe i just don't see the bigger picture.

First I viewed the spirit companion as a little bit more than fluff for saying "It works like a normal ranged power from any other ranged class" (and maybe there lie's my confusion).

The advantages of the spirit companion:
* blocks path for enemies
* can only be hurt by "direct" damage (is unaffected by areapowers)
* if attacked, normally soaks up a lot of damage
* can't normally be killed by minions
* can use opportunity attacks (it feels like the shamen making opportunity attacks while staying safely behind the front lines)
* is not subject to opportunity attacks

The disadvantages/balancing aspects for the shaman to compensate:
?

Can you help me seeing the shaman class from a diffrent angle or something? I understand that every class has it perks and more power to them, but something about the spirit companion irks me (as a DM :smallwink:). Maybe there are one or more rules issues hidden there too.

Thank you in advance!

Jack_of_Spades
2009-11-13, 04:32 AM
The shaman is soft and made of meat. Hit it really hard.

Yspoch
2009-11-13, 04:39 AM
The shaman is soft and made of meat. Hit it really hard.

Well, the problem is not, that I couldn't kill him if I wanted to - we are playing "Pyramid of Shadows" and I try to play the inhabitants of that place like I think they would act and not as a superior well oiled battle machine.

It's just that i can't wrap my mind around the mechanical concept of the spirit companion. It's seems to be there, but not always "really" there. :smallconfused:

Tengu_temp
2009-11-13, 04:58 AM
Shaman has the worst healing from all Leaders and probably the worst damage output from all classes. I wouldn't call it overpowered - it's a low-tier class if anything.

Kurald Galain
2009-11-13, 05:04 AM
[The disadvantages/balancing aspects for the shaman to compensate:
It's less good at healing than the cleric. It's less effective at buffing allies than a warlord. It's less straightforward to play than either.

Mark Hall
2009-11-13, 10:27 AM
It's less good at healing than the cleric. It's less effective at buffing allies than a warlord. It's less straightforward to play than either.

Generally my experience, as well. While the shaman is an interesting class, and one I think I could have fun with, the fact that a number of turns consist of "I pop my bear, and have it do cool things for me" kinda limits it. I also think they need a lot clearer delineations of if the shaman or the spirit needs LOS and LOE on things.

TomTheRat
2009-11-13, 10:46 AM
Remember that when that spirit companion dies the Shaman loses a surge value of his life. Have a couple of Brutes take swings at it until he isn't quite so happy with it in the front lines.

The shaman in my game is pretty much validating everything said above me.

-The spirit companion is a great distraction
-The shaman's overall heal-throughput is less than that of other leaders
-The shaman is a challenging class to play effectively

I don't see any balance problems at all. Seriously: kill the spirit twice or 3 times in the same fight and the shaman will change his playstyle -fast-

Yakk
2009-11-13, 11:19 AM
The Shaman is (effectively) in "two spots at once".


* blocks path for enemies
So to other PCs.

* can only be hurt by "direct" damage (is unaffected by areapowers)
*nod* -- but the Shaman can be area blasted.

* if attacked, normally soaks up a lot of damage
It takes 10+L/2 damage to pop a shaman spirit (which gets easier at higher levels). When poped, the Shaman takes 5+L/2.

Note that Shamans tend to have poor AC - so Shaman spirits tend to be Brute fodder.

* can't normally be killed by minions
True. If this turns out to be a serious problem (where you have 9 minions swarming the spirit companion), remember that exceptional situations in 4e require the DM to make a call. As an example, allow multiple minions to do a combined attack dealing base damage + 1/2 damage from the 'extra' minions in order to overwealm the Spirit Companion.

* can use opportunity attacks (it feels like the shamen making opportunity attacks while staying safely behind the front lines)
The shaman isn't that safe; other than the immunity to status/area attacks, normal attacks can be made on the Spirit. The Spirit does soak 5+overflow damage, but it isn't painless.

* is not subject to opportunity attacks
*nod*

Remember that the Spirit Companion has to maintain line of sight with the Shaman. Try doing a double-team of attacks on both the Spirit Companion and on the Shaman, and watch the Shaman twitch.

nightwyrm
2009-11-13, 11:29 AM
I'm currently DMing a game with a Shaman in the party. What usually happens is the spirit gets sent to the front along with other party members and the shaman stays in the back. Time for a surprise attack from the rear. :smallbiggrin:

What I do find is that the spirit is very durable in heroic due to the damage negation. A lot of non-brute heroic monsters have problem dealing 10-15 damage in one single melee or ranged hit. I'm hoping this problem corrects itself in paragon as damage from monsters starts to outpace the damage negation.

Mando Knight
2009-11-13, 12:21 PM
Also note that mitigation factors for the spirit include that it can't flank enemies with your allies until you use an ability that lets it do so, since it's only a spirit until then.

Edge of Dreams
2009-11-13, 01:55 PM
Also, take into consideration that anything at least semi-intelligent should get a chance to realize they're not harming the spirit and change targets. How likely this is to happen depends on whether you see ineffective attacks as bouncing off the spirit or passing through the spirit.

Hzurr
2009-11-13, 04:29 PM
Well, the problem is not, that I couldn't kill him if I wanted to - we are playing "Pyramid of Shadows" and I try to play the inhabitants of that place like I think they would act and not as a superior well oiled battle machine.


A few things: 1st off, Pyramid of Shadows is a very difficult adventure if you play the inhabitants like they know what they're doing (and in some cases, they should act like a well oiled machine, and you may come very close to wiping out the party)

The Shaman is a facinating class, because although you don't have the healing of other leaders, or crazy damage; tactically, they are one of the most interesting classes.

A very good Shaman can use the Spirit companion to great effect. While they can't heal a single target as well as other leaders, sometimes the ability to provide healing to multiple party members at once can be more useful Especially if you have a larger party where your healing resources are strained. In larger parties having 4 smaller healing abilities (which you effectively get since you give one person a healing surge and the spirit companion gives the other a small bump), can be much more helpful than just giving more healing to only 1 person

The odd balance of "yes it's here, but no it isn't really here" duality of the spirit companion is very interesting. Yes, you'll never have crazy damage output, but this can be made up for in a number of situations:
- you need to keep a badguy pinned down, but he has an aura that will sap away at your defenders? Use the Spirit Companion.
- Reinforcements coming from a different hallway to flank you in the rear? Use your spirit companion to get in the way, and slow them down by a round or two.
- Getting the crap kicked out of you, and need to make a retreat? Use the spirit companion as a wall that will delay people so you can escape.
- Minions mobbing the wizard? Throw in a spirit companion in a position that will require the minions to provoke opportunity attacks!

Also note that all the above scenarios are completely independent of what powers you have.

I feel that if done correctly (which I really didn't see when I had a Shaman PC in the party), a Shaman can save the party's bacon on a regular basis, because you've effectively allowed 1 PC to be in two places at once; and one of them is immune to a large number of attacks and is easily replaceable.

greenknight
2009-11-13, 06:19 PM
Remember that when that spirit companion dies the Shaman loses a surge value of his life.

Are you sure about that? The Shaman does take some damage, but as far as I'm aware no healing surges are lost.


Have a couple of Brutes take swings at it until he isn't quite so happy with it in the front lines.

I find the opposite is true. Yes, the Brute might destroy the SC and do a little damage to the Shaman, but think about the damage that Brute could have caused against a different target. For example, doing 40 damage but only transferring 10 of that to the Shaman means 30 points of damage is wasted. Keep doing that and the party won't need anywhere near as much healing as it otherwise would.


Note that Shamans tend to have poor AC - so Shaman spirits tend to be Brute fodder.

Panther Shamans tend to have pretty good ACs, and Hide Armor Expertise (Primal Power) allows Constitution to AC (instead of Int or Dex) for Bear Shamans. The Resilient Spirit feat (also Primal Power) gives the SC a flat +2 to all defences including AC, and it's available from 1st level. Which means the SC could have a higher AC than anyone in the party, particularly at higher levels.

nightwyrm
2009-11-13, 07:22 PM
The shaman takes 5+half level when his spirit dies. The lose a healing surge thing is for summons.

As for their healing ability. They're not good at burst healing, but (at least for the protector shaman in my group) they're pretty good at providing a constant stream of low amounts of heals. The shaman in my group is constantly handing out small amount of hps and temp hps every round.

Shardan
2009-11-13, 08:33 PM
At low level, the companion spirit is incredibly hard to kill. at mid paragon level and up the companion can be taken down in one hit consistantly. My Dm was considering upping the damage my spirit could take to make it fairer on me but decided the feats and powers from Primal Powers finally made it fair for my Shaman.

Shaman has its own flaws to make up for the merits of the spirit companion. Its debuffs and buffs only last as long as the spirit does. the spirit dies, the buffs go away. the debuffs go away. The powers aren't as strong and the shaman is split between leader and controller without being great at either.

Yspoch
2009-11-14, 09:46 AM
Thank you all for your insights and opinions - I'll keep watching how things play out. :smallsmile:


A few things: 1st off, Pyramid of Shadows is a very difficult adventure if you play the inhabitants like they know what they're doing (and in some cases, they should act like a well oiled machine, and you may come very close to wiping out the party)

There have been some tight fights were they came close to losing one or more of their group but it hasn't happend as of yet. I've 5-7 players, most of them Level 6.

Tengu_temp
2009-11-14, 10:05 AM
Are you sure about that? The Shaman does take some damage, but as far as I'm aware no healing surges are lost.


I think that's what he meant by "a surge value of his life". He didn't say "a healing surge", after all.