D&D 3e/3.5e/d20The forum for conversations specifically related to the rules and procedures of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, 3.5 Edition, or any fantasy game using the d20 system or a variant thereof (commercially published or not).
PHB2 Player's Handbook 2
DMG2 Dungeon Master's Guide 2
MIC Magic Item Compendium
SpC Spell Compendium
RC Rules Compendium
EPH Expanded Psionics Handbook
MoI Magic of Incarnum
ToM Tome of Magic
ToB Tome of Battle
WoL Weapons of Legacy
CAdv Complete Adventurer
CArc Complete Arcane
CCha Complete Champion
CMag Complete Mage
CPsi Complete Psionic
CSco Complete Scoundrel
CWar Complete Warrior
RotW Races of the Wild
RoS Races of Stone
RoD Races of Destiny
RotD Races of the Dragon
Storm - Stormwrack
CS - Cityscape
LM Libris Mortis
LoM Lords of Madness
SS Savage Species
Minis Miniatures Handbook
UA Unearthed Arcana
PlH - Planar Handbook
MoP - Manual of the Planes
BoED Book of Exalted Deeds
BoVD Book of Vile Darkness
HoB Heroes of Battle
HoH Heroes of Horror
ECS Eberron Campaign Setting
RoE Races of Eberron
MoE Magic of Eberron
FoE Faiths of Eberron
OA Oriental Adventures
FRCS Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting
PGtF Player's Guide to Faerun
ShS - Shining South
UE - Unapproachable East
SM - Silver Marches
F&P - Faiths and Pantheons
web - Wizards of the Coast web site
DR Dragon Magazine
I'm going to use the old traditional 3e handbook color code to rate the various options that the Shaman has available:
RED: These are bad options. Avoid them if you can. BLACK: These are unremarkable options. If you like them, go for it they won't hurt, and they might be fun or flavorful. But they aren't going to make an especially powerful character on their own. BLUE: These are good options. When in doubt, these are safe bets. BLUER: These are amazing options. If you're at all interested in their content, do what you need to get them.
Abbreviations: Change Log:
7/2/2012 - posted draft, omitted Source Abbreviations and web links
9/13/2012 - Revised Animal Compnaions
10/15/2012 - Restructured domain listings
The Shaman's a prepared divine caster, along the lines of the Druid or Cleric. But instead of putting on the full plate and whacking things with sticks, or turning into a bear and chewing on things with its mouth, the Shaman is all about taking off its gloves and beating its enemies with its fists. Basically, the Shaman is to the Monk what the Cleric is to the Paladin or the Druid to the Ranger.
WHAT DOES A SHAMAN DO?
As a divine caster, the Shaman has the flexibility to rewrite its tactics and abilities on a daily basis. And with its deep spell list, the Shaman can cover a variety of roles.
That said, there are a few things the Shaman spell list is designed to do well. These can be altered and manipulated through domain choices, prestige classes and items, but they're the groundwork every Shaman starts from:
SUMMONER: The class has full access to the Summon Nature's Ally line of spells, providing some of the meatiest tactical summons available. These can function as battlefield control, damage dealers, and tactical scouts. The Shaman also has unique access to the Spirit Ally line of spells, which provides easier (but more expensive) access to a variety of long-term fey, dragon, elemental, and undead summons than the Wu Jen's Spirit Binding counterparts. DIVINER: The Shaman's spell list shares many divinations with the Cleric and Wu Jen spell list, as well as several of its own. Combined with the Shaman's summoning spells, it's not hard for a Shaman to approach a dungeon with foreknowledge of more or less what's inside. HEALER: No, this isn't a role a whole lot of players want to define their characters, and it's not a great use of daily spells prepared. But bad things happen to player characters, and it is genuinely useful to have a character on hand who can patch those things up. MELEE: The Shaman gets unarmed combat like a toned-down Monk, plus bonus feats and an animal companion like the Druid. You might remember the fights about the viability of a Monk UMDing wands of Polymorph to hold its own in melee. The Shaman plays a lot like that, except it doesn't have to UMD those wands. With the appropriate domain choices, the Shaman can also pick up the highlights from the Cleric and Druid spell lists.
Several other aspects of casting are difficult for the Shaman to effectively do straight out of its default spell list (blasting, illusions, mass debuffs, necromancy), but there is little that cannot be patched between Summon Nature's Ally, Spirit Ally and the Shaman's domain choices.
Chassis: Somewhere between a Cleric and a Cloistered Cleric, but with more frequent food poisoning and headcolds.
Spellcasting: The Shaman casts a lot like a Cleric, with few differences (a couple extra low-level domain slots, starting at ECL 11). The base spell list is a lot like a core Cleric's, but without explicit splatbook support to multiply its options. I'm going to break the spell list down later on.
Domains: The Shaman gets two domains at level 1 and a third at level 11. These come with fairly useful base abilities and often provide spells that aren't available through the Shaman's base spell list.
Animal Companion: Like the Druid's. It's like having a second character as a class feature, plus it shares your spells. More on the options here later.
Bonus Feats: Improved Unarmed Strike at level 1, with five additional combat feats provided throughout the shaman's progression. The Oriental Adventures options tend to be better than the ones post 3.5-update, but they're feats nothing to complain about.
Unarmed Strike: Improved unarmed strike with slightly improved base damage, increasing to 2d6 at level 18.
Spirit Sight: See Ethereal creatures. Not a powerhouse ability, but useful it combats Blink and in an ongoing campaign, you'll probably run into something that can go Ethereal sometime. (Especially with the Shaman's summoning on the table.)
Turn or Rebuke Undead: It's sed at a slight penalty, so that's a bit of a drag. But it works just fine for Divine and Domain feats, and can be somewhat covered with magic items.
Spirit's Favor: Divine Grace by another name. Divine Grace is awesome. The "other name" part is a mixed bag it stacks with Divine Grace (from Prestige Paladin or similar), but it doesn't qualify for Serenity (the Dragon Magazine feat which would key everything Saves, Turning, Spells off the Wisdom stat).
ON THE SHAMAN AND 3.5
In Dragon Magazine #318, James Wyatt partially updated the Shaman to 3.5. For the most part, this guide assumes that update is in play.
The two places in the guide where I diverge from that update are the Animal Companion and Spirit Ally's HD cap. On the AC, leaving the 3.0 Animal companion mechanics was presumably an oversight, so the most reasonable translation is to keep the mechanic identical to the Druid's. On Spirit Ally, it and Spirit Binding were printed in Oriental Adventures with HD caps higher than the Planar versions of the spell. In the Dragon Magazine update, they were dropped to the same HD cap as their Planar Analogs. After that update, Spirit Binding was reprinted with its initial limits. Since Ally and Binding Spells have an established parity, I'm treating that as maintenance of 3.0 Spirit Ally's HD caps, as well. If that rubs you the wrong way, the only bits of advice affected by the presumed reversion are the age categories of Lung dragon suggestions.
Strength: Good for a melee build. For a Shaman whose offense rests on its casting, totally unimportant. Dexterity: More is better for initiative and AC, but it isn't required. Constitution: Get it high. The Shaman has small hit dice and low Fortitude, but has quite a few class features that encourage running into melee. Intelligence: This isn't particularly valuable. A human Shaman can keep Concentration and Diplomacy capped out with 5 Intelligence, and there aren't a lot of other useful skills on the Shaman's list. Knowledge Devotion can flip this into a valuable ability, though, Wisdom: This one is required. It's your casting stat and your first priority. Charisma: Higher is preferred. Nothing bad is going to happen to a Shaman if Charisma's low, but every charisma boost comes with several valuable benefits: Better saves, more turning, better use of Divine Feats, better Diplomacy, better handle animal.
Aasimar Bonuses to Charisma and Wisdom, Outsider type (useful for polymorph and weapon proficiencies) and a variety of other benefits. With LA buyoff, the base race is superb. Without LA buyoff, the Lesser Aasimar (PGtF) or level 0 Savage Aasimar (web) are also quite good. Anthopomorphic Animals (SS) Obligatory mention; huge wisdom boosts and some rare benefits like built-in flight. These are way more powerful than the other options, and you can reasonably expect to see a ban. Dragonborn of Bahamut (RotD) Template-like race strips other races' features and adds its own (Con bonus, Dex penalty and either flight, a breath weapon or sensory abilities). The stat rearrangement is nice, and added to something with strong abilities and weak features like the Buomman (PlH), it gets even better. Dwarf The abilities are a bit of a wash, but you'll probably want the Dream Dwarf (RoS) or Gold Dwarf (DMG) subraces to shift the penalty over to Dexterity. Stability and save bonuses are each useful, but low speed isn't fun. A mixed bag overall, but still better than most. Elf Losing Constitution is bad, no matter how many things Dex applies to. The weapon proficiencies and Elf domain can justify it for an archer, but you'll almost always want to avoid Elf races. Gnome Small size and Constitution are a good mix. Half-Elf The abilities just aren't notable. Halfling Small size, dexterity and save bonuses are nice for any Shaman that stays out of melee (unmorphed, anyway). Nothing stellar, but a solid choice. Half-Orc Bad abilities and the stat shuffle is just a bad deal. Hellbred (FC2) Summon evil creatures regardless of alignment (useful for versatility in Spirit Ally spells) and a Con bonus, poison Save boost and charisma-friendly bonus feats at the cost of a dump stat. I suppose you could take the perception version instead, but unless you're really jonesing for Mindsight, it's not so hot. Hengeyokai (OA) The 3.5 update dropped their LA to +0. Alternate form is a useful ability, but not worth losing Wisdom and giving up other, better, racial selections. Human Extra feats are always useful, and the skills don't hurt. As usual, one of the best options. Jermlaine (MM2) Another obligatory mention, due to +6 wisdom bonus, tiny size and LA +0. You aren't going to want to take one into melee without some morphing, but it's a powerful race, despite its Constitution penalty (very possibly too powerful). Kalashtar (RoE) - The big draws are the PP and mindlink PLA. The PP is most useful for Psychic Theurges, but you could get some use out of it with Hidden Talent. The PLA isn't particularly useful on its own, but it opens Metamorphic Transfer access at ECL 10, which is basically ridiculous for a class with Polymorph (and there's no way a Shaman won't hit the wisdom requirement). Kokobokuru (OA) Bonus to an ability Shamans like, a penalty to one that's not particularly important, plus bonuses on most saving throws. Better than the core Dwarf, but losing Stability and Intelligence hurts compared to the Dex-penalty Dwarven subraces. Mortif (DR#313) - Death-touched race, which is basically plane-touched, but without the lesser versions. Still, Outsider type, +4 Charisma and +2 Wisdom are nice, but the Con penalty and 1 LA keep it from the front line. Without buyoff, don't bother. Nezumi (OA) Excellent speed, Constitution boost, useful skills and a fort bonus against common effects. An overall solid racial choice for casting and armed-combat builds, but by RAW, its Claw/Bite attacks make it a unintuitively terrible option for unarmed combat. Shifter (MM3) Penalties to Charisma suck, but access to the Moonspeaker prestige class can make up for it. Spirit Folk (OA) No clearly powerful abilities, but quite a few circumstantially beneficial bonuses. Typically a bad race. Strongheart Halfling (PGtF) Small size and a bonus feat; fantastic for any Shaman who doesn't plan on wading into melee unmorphed. Vanara (OA) The 3.5 update stripped them of their Wisdom bonus losing the race's major draw. As it is, the stat shuffle is about a wash, and the abilities aren't notable. Zenythri (MM2) Charisma penalty and 1 LA, but bonuses to most of the stats an unarmed combat Shaman is going to want to buff and nice resistances. Without LA buyoff, the Lesser Zenythri (PGtF) is also very nice for melee-focused Shamans, but the default race isn't worth the level.
All ratings here assume Unearthed Arcana's Level Adjustment buyoff is in effect. If it's not, don't bother with any LA; it comes at the cost of caster levels, animal companion and miscellaneous class features.
Divine Minion (web) LA +1 to +2. Limited Wild Shape, Outsider type and Fear Immunity. With LA buyoff, it can be a pretty sweet deal. Without LA buyoff, it's usually not worth it. Draconic (RotD) LA +1. Bonuses to Strength, Constitution and Charisma, plus claws and other minor benefits. With LA buyoff, it's not shabby at all. Without LA buyoff, skip it. Feral (SS) LA +1. This is just silly for a melee Shaman. Or even a non-melee Shaman. If you use this, you should almost be ashamed. Lolth-Touched (MM4) LA +1. Huge bonuses to Strength and Constitution and fear immunity. Fantastic with LA buyoff; not worth it otherwise (Polymorph really cheapens physical stats). Half-Fey (FF) LA +2. Flight, ability bonuses and a bunch of utility SLAs. Without LA buyoff, the 2 LA and Con hit hurt much more than they help. Phrenic (EPH) LA +2. Some nicely scaling PLAs, PR and a [negligible] PP pool. Red without LA buyoff. Saint (BoED) LA +2. Bonuses to every ability you care about, some absolutely ridiculous defensive powers and miscellaneous benefits including Outsider type and boosts to damage and DCs. Still worth considering without LA buyoff.
Generally speaking, two Shamans' domain choices will be the biggest differences between their casting abilities. Domains are typically where a Shaman stakes out a specialization and grabs the abilities to do it well.
Oriental Adventures Domains:
Ability: 1/day add Shaman level to an attack. Spell Highlights: L1 Divine Favor, L4 Divine Power, L5 Righteous Might, L8 Giant Size, L9 Shapechange Comments: All those gamebreaking, persistable and share spell-able gish spells in one handy package.
Ability: Reroll 1/day Spell Highlights: L4 Freedom of Movement, L6 Mislead, L7 Spell Turning, L8 Surelife. Comments: Useful abilities, useful spells past the mid-levels. A solid domain with some decent defensive spells.
Ability: All Knowledge skills class skills, divinations at +1 CL Spell Highlights: L2 Detect Thoughts, L9 Foresight Comments: The Shaman already has quite a few divinations, so this doesn't add much new to the spell list. What it does add is a more practical use of the Knowledge Devotion feat.
Ability: Freedom of movement around magic effects. Spell Highlights: L3 Fly, L4 Dimension Door, L5 Teleport, L7 Greater Teleport, L8 Phase Door Comments: The same as its PHB version, and just as useful gives almost all the mobility options that most characters need in one bundle. Keep an eye on the Dragon Magazine tweak Longstrider for Expeditious retreat.
Ability: Bluff, Disguise and Hide as class skills Spell Highlights: L1 Disguise Self, L2 Invisibility, L3 Nondetection, L4 Confusion, L6 Mislead, L8 Polymorph Any Object, L9 Time Stop Comments: Also same as the PHB version and equally useful lots of utility powers and high-powered high level options.
Ability: Rebuke spirits. Done at full class level, so that's nice. Spell Highlights: None Comments: The spirit control is highly campaign-dependent, and the spell selections are all drawn from the Shaman list. The domain is still useful for drawing the most versatile spells on that list, but it isn't giving the Shaman anything new.
Ability: Death's crappy death touch power Spell Highlights: L1 Ghost Light, L3 Animate Dead, L4 Wall of Bones, L9 Wail of the Banshee Comments: Grave domain will make a Shaman into a necromancer on its own, but it won't make the Shaman into a good necromancer. Consider combining Undeath (SpC) and Deathbound (SpC) for better results.
Ability: Crappy DR power that you'll forget about midway through L1. Spell Highlights: L3 Magnetism, L4 Rusting Grasp, L5 Wall of Iron, L6 Blade Barrier, L8 Repel Metal or Stone, L9 Iron Body Comments: A good array of useful (though not game-breaking) non-Shaman spells. Iron Scarf wasn't great, but the 3.5 update made it awful for Shamans (attack roll became Int+Base attack).
Ability: Rebuke plants and animals. Done at full class level. Spell Highlights: L4 Elemental Ward, L6 Transport via Plants, L8 Animal Shapes, L9 Shapechange Comments: Good bit of utility, spells from outside the Shaman's list. As Animal command becomes less useful, the spell lists good options emerge.
Ability: Swim speed Spell Highlights: L4 Control Water, L5 Ice Storm, L7 Acid Fog, L8 Horrid Wilting Comments: A bit blasty, and many abilities are highly campaign dependent (Water Breathing, Control Water, Master of the Rolling River, Swim speed), but only one spell is drawn from the Shaman's list, and very little about the domain is bad.
Ability: Martial Weapon Proficiency and Weapon focus. But limited options. Spell Highlights: L4 Divine Power, L6 Blade Barrier, L7 PW:Stun, L8 PW:Blind Comments: Has quite a few spells not included in the Shaman spell list, but is worse than Hero in most appreciable ways. Unless going for Ordained Champion or a non-Elf/Outsider archer build, probably not worth dealing with.
Ability: Gain a static but hefty insight bonus to a skill check Cha times/day. Spell Highlights: L9 Foresight. Comments: Overall, a boring domain with weak low-level spells. Skip it.
Ability: Calm Emotions 1/day and Small Diplomacy bonus. Spell Highlights: L6 Heroes' Feast. Comments: Community doesn't add much to the Shaman's list. It was largely gutted with the DR#318 update. Spell Compendium's Family domain does about the same thing, but with more nonstandard spells and powers.
Ability: CL boost on Divinations Spell Highlights: L9 Foresight. Comments: These are spells you'll use and a CL boost that will be applicable, but most of the domain's benefits are already available to the Shaman. If you want a divining domain, pick Oracle.
Ability: Grant resistance bonus against fire for a few minutes per day. Spell Highlights: L4 Wall of Fire, L6 Fire Seeds, L9 Internal Fire Comments: Blasting domain. No spells overlap the Shaman's, but most are mediocre.
Ability: +4 attack and damage 1/day Spell Highlights: L9 Implosion Comments: Spells derived from Shaman domain or focused on breaking stuff. Even ignoring the normal hate given to breaking stuff, you could probably do it better with a weapon.
Ability: 1/day add Shaman level to a save. Spell Highlights: L8 Surelife, L9 Antipathy Comments: Few unique powers; the ability is useful, but the Shaman's saves are already pretty reliable. Skip it.
Ability: Healing spells at +1 CL Spell Highlights: None. Comments: Weak abilities, no unique powers, further nerfed with DR#318 update (which brought Mass Heal up to 3.5 speed)
Ability: Grant DR against Stone. The DR isn't bad, but it's incredibly niche. Spell Highlights: L3 Stone Shape, L5 Wall of Stone, L7 Statue Comments: Spells don't overlap the Shaman's list, but also don't offer anything new.
Ability: Woodland Stride without the name. Spell Highlights: L4 Control Plants, L5 Tree Stride, L8 Animate Plants Comments: The Shaman gets jealous of the Plant domain. Still, only one spell shared with the Shaman list. Keep an eye on the Dragon Magazine update (Changestaff for Animate Plants).
Spell Compendium Domains:
One of the Shaman's few bits of splatbook support was a Spell Compendium, which adds SpC's Cleric domain options to the Shaman's list (as well as unspecified other spells prospectively addressed at the end of this post).
Ability: Minor bonus to concentration and spellcraft. Spell Highlights: L2 Silence, L3 Anyspell, L6 Anyspell, L7 Limited Wish, L9 Disjunction Comments: Amazing domain. Almost everything scales wonderfully and provides considerable utility; even the minor skill boost ability is very useful at low levels. First rate.
Ability: Caster level boost with summons and calling spells Spell Highlights: L3 Summon Monster III, L4 Lesser Planar Ally, L5 Summon Monster V, L6 Planar Ally, L7 Summon Monster VII, L8 Greater Planar Ally Comments: Fantastic boost in versatility (see here for Summon Monster breakdown), spells you'll use consistently and an ability that's useful for the Shaman's SNA and Spirit Ally spells as well. Excellent domain.
Ability: Improved Initiative Spell Highlights: L3 Haste, L4 Freedom of Movement, L6 Contingency, L8 Foresight, L9 Time Stop Comments: Useful ability, powerful spells not found on the Shaman list, excellent domain.
Ability: +10 ft speed. Spell Highlights: L3 Blur, L4 Haste, L8 Greater Blink, L9 Timestop Comments: Powerful spells not normally available to the Shaman. Plays up Monk aspects.
Ability: +1 on opposed checks Spell Highlights: L1 Remove Fear, L2 Zeal, L4 Divine Power, L5 Righteous Might, L8 Moment of Prescience, L9 Greater Visage of the Deity. Comments: Direct competition with Hero (OA), but less friendly to the Persist tactics that make it work. But a competitive runner-up. Remove Fear is neat for shutting down Dread Witches with Fear suppression rather than immunity.
Ability: Create 3*CL undead instead of 2*CL Spell Highlights: L7 Avasculate L8 Avascular Mass L9 Wail of the Banshee Comments: Nice ability when combined with the Undeath domain. High level powers are a good sort of blasting.
Ability: Bluff and Intimidate as class skills. Spell Highlights: L1 Magic Fang, L2 Resist Energy, L3 Greater Magic Fang, L4 Voice of the Dragon, L7 Dragon Ally, L8 Mass Suggestion, L9 Dominate Monster Comments: The social skills and Voice of the Dragon are good for a party face, and open demoralization tactics. Magic Fang is useful with animal summons. Very useful, but be sure to match it with a domain that provides something besides Enchantments at higher levels.
Ability: Bluff is a class skill, +1 CL to ability drain and negative levels Spell Highlights: L1 Disguise Self, L2 Ray of Enfeeblement, L4 Vampiric Touch, L6 Magic Jar, L7 Limited Wish, L8 Simulacrum, L9 Wish Comments: Some seriously powerful spells especially at high levels. The CL boost is probably supposed to work on ability penalties, since that's all the domain offers.
Ability: CL boost on Illusions Spell Highlights: L1 Silent Image, L2 Minor Image, L3 Displacement, L6 Mislead, L7 Project Image Comments: High utility little overlap with Shaman list, but two Phantasmal Killer spells that are almost completely useless. CL boost doesn't do much for the bulk of the Shaman's spells.
Ability: Add Charisma to saves (again) for a few rounds per day. Spell Highlights: L1 Divine Favor, L3 Lesser Visage of the Deity, L5 Righteous Might, L6 Visage of the Deity, L9 Greater Visage of the Deity Comments: Excellent Persist fodder. A bit confusing with the Shaman's fluff, but let's ignore that. Beside the upper-mid-level overlap with the Shaman's spell list, it's a compelling choice. Its major downside is that it partially competes, but doesn't compare well, with Hero.
Ability: CL boost on Divinations Spell Highlights: L3 Divination, L4 Scrying, L5 Commune, L7 Greater Scrying, L9 Foresight Comments: Strong divinations at reduced levels are advantages that you can expect to use daily. Of the Divination domains, this is the best. Notably available from a Divine Oracle dip.
Ability: Can search for portals like secret doors. Spell Highlights: L3 Dimension Anchor, L4 Dimension Door, L5 Teleport, L6 Banishment, L7 Etherealness, L8 Maze Comments: Questionable ability with the Shaman's crappy search skills, but an excellent spell selection that scales well into higher levels.
Ability: Rebuke reptiles Spell Highlights: L1 Magic Fang, L3 Greater Magic Fang, L4 Poison, L5 Animal Growth, L8 Animal Shapes, L9 Shapechange Comments: For a weird racial domain, this is a really good option. It's fantastic for animal summoning (where DR/magic is a pain in the ass and Animal Growth dominates), for unarmed combat (where Poison's high DC is handy) and for all the utility Shapechange can provide. Even better if your group isn't hep to any paleontology past about 1910 (treating Dinosaurs as reptiles would be a big help at high levels).
Ability: 1/day tank Wisdom to boost Strength for one fight Spell Highlights: L1 Rhino's Rush, L4 Shout, L5 Righteous Might, L6 Song of Dischord, Comments: Wrath targets a variety of defenses (AC/HP, Weapons/Reflex, Will/Mind Immunity) and can get good use out of its low-level spell slots (Rhino's rushing is always useful). Not the greatest domain, but a robust baseline to add onto other options.
Ability: Wis to AC for a few rounds per day. Spell Highlights: L3 Clarity of Mind, L5 Mass Sanctuary, L7 Word of Balance, L8 Protection from Spells Comments: Nothing bad here, some handy abilities. The neutral holy word rounds the options out nicely for a neutral Shaman.
Ability: Stonecunning or Stonecunning bonus. Spell Highlights: L2 Darkness, L5 Passwall L9 Imprisonment Comments: Not much overlap with the Shaman list, some useful utility powers.
Ability: Boost Charisma by 4 1/day. Spell Highlights: L1 Charm Person, L3 Suggestion, L5 Charm Monster, L9 Dominate Monster Comments: Useful ability; Enchantments are a mixed bag they're very powerful effects and are useful for a variety of purposes, but they're often resisted, they overlap each other and they overlap the Shaman's existing powers.
Ability: Turn Fire creatures, Rebuke Cold creatures Spell Highlights: L1 Chill Touch L3 Sleet Storm, L4 Ice Storm, L5 Wall of Ice, L9 Obedient Avalanche Comments: The power is highly campaign-dependent. The powers make decent battlefield control (already an area where the Shaman's quite capable due to SNA, but they're useful spell selections regardless). Chill Touch is nice at low levels, due to its interactions with unarmed strikes.
Ability: Aura of Morale bonus v. Fear. Spell Highlights: L1 Remove Fear, L5 Valient Fury, Comments: All decent buffs, but a huge amount of investment against one type of attack (which is just negated with a level 1 spell)
Ability: Skill Focus (Craft) and CL boost on creation spells Spell Highlights: L2 Wood Shape L3 Stone Shape, L5 Wall of Stone, L8 Forcecage Comments: Good utility, good Battlefield. Avoid it unless you need the Skill Focus for some reason, but if you do, it's not bad.
Ability: CL boost on creation spells Spell Highlights: L2 Minor Image, L6 Heroes' Feast, L7 Permanent Image, L9 Pavilion of Grandeur Comments: Illusions and Heroes' Feast don't hurt at all. Good for utility and defense
. Darkness (SpC):
Ability: Blind-Fight Spell Highlights: L2 Blindness/Deafness, L3 Blacklight, L4 Armor of Darkness, L5 Darkbolt L6 Prying Eyes Comments: Power words lose momentum at high levels, but the lower-level spells are nice, and Blind-fight isn't a rare prerequisite.
Ability: Spell Focus (Enchantment) Spell Highlights: L1 Command, L3 Suggestion, L4 Dominate Person, L5 Greater Command, L7 Mass Suggestion, L9 Monstrous Thrall. Comments: All about enchantments. As mentioned before, that has its own advantages (they're very powerful effects with lots of uses) and disadvantages (common immunities, redundancy with some of the Shaman's existing spell options).
Ability: Lightning Reflexes Spell Highlights: L2 Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, L3 Suggestion, L6 Greater Dispelling Screen, L8 Greater Planar Ally Comments: This one's all over the place. Its specific powers aren't normally available to the Shaman, bu
t their effects don't differ too much from the standard list.
Ability: Point Blank Shot Spell Highlights: L9 Antipathy Comments: The main draw is the bonus feat, which is more or less necessary to pull Shaman archers together at low levels. The spells aren't stunning, but you can probably find a use for them.
Ability: 1/day Dodge bonus to self and nearby allies, relies on a decent Charisma mod. Spell Highlights: L2 Shield Other, L6 Heroes' Feast, L8 Protection from Spells, L9 Prismatic Sphere Comments: Like a more useful Community that doesn't give up the concept.
Ability: Uncanny Dodge Spell Highlights: L7 Vision, L8 Mind Blank, L9 Foresight Comments: Uncanny Dodge is accessible with a level 2 Shaman spell, and the domain's distinct spells don't come online until very high levels. It's not a bad domain (you'll use its Spells and save slots that would otherwise go to Warning), but there are better options.
Ability: 1/day reroll damage, take better outcome. Spell Highlights: L4 Resilient Sphere, L5 Wall of Force, L7 Forcecage, L8 Telekinetic Sphere, Comments: Crummy ability, but the Force control powers hit some weaknesses that the Shaman is normally not able to exploit with SNA. Workable domain especially as a level 11 option.
Ability: Gain small bonus on attacks and defenses against one opponent per day. Spell Highlights: L2 Scare, L3 Bestow Curse, L5 Righteous Might, L8 Antipathy, L9 Wail of the Banshee Comments: This is a usable domain almost every spell can see daily use, but nothing here is particularly attractive on its own.
Ability: Natural Bite Attack Spell Highlights: L4 Enervation, L8 Bite of the King Comments: This is all about the Bite and Enervation spam. Both are useful, but there isn't much versatility here.
Ability: Large bonus to Dispel Spell Highlights: L3 Detect Thoughts, L9 Imprisonment Comments: Great granted ability, terrible spell options (most either overlap with Shaman list or are crazy situational, and the effects are redundant).
Ability: If you fail against most mind effects, reroll in the subsequent round. Spell Highlights: L4 Freedom of Movement, L8 Mind Blank Comments: Most of the spells are pretty situational, but the ability, Freedom of Movement and Mind Blank are useful enough. Pretty average.
Ability: 1/day add class level to Charisma for a round. Spell Highlights: L1 Charm, L2 Invisibility, L3 Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, L4 Planar Ally Comments: The first few levels of spells have some pretty serious utility. By level 11, the domain is still mostly going to be filling up with Invisibilities.
Ability: Once per day grant a creature a huge resistance bonus on its next will save. Spell Highlights: L1 Lesser Confusion, L2 Detect Thoughts, L3 Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, L4 Modify Memory, L7 Antipathy, L8 Mind Blank Comments: Some handy divinations, no overlap with Shaman list until the level 9 slot. Everything is generally useful, but not wildly divergent from options already available to the Shaman.
Ability: Proficiency and Weapon Focus in a hammer. Spell Highlights: L4 Rusting Grasp L5 Wall of Iron, L6 Blade Barrier, L8 Iron Body, L9 Repel Metal or Stone Comments: This is a bit more practical than the OA version. A little strange in that it flipped the level 8 and 9 spells the switch is marginally advantageous, due to save DCs.
Ability: Breathe underwater for a few minutes per day. Spell Highlights: L4 Freedom of Movement, L5 Wall of Ice Comments: Unsurprisingly, useful for an oceangoing campaign, almost useless for a campaign set on land.
Ability: Appraise, Intimidate and Sense Motive as class skills Spell Highlights: L1 Command, L4 Stalwart Pact, L6 Zealot Pact, L7 Renewal Pact, Comments: Intimidate and Sense Motive are nice on Charisma-heavy builds, allowing Demoralization and better play as the party face. The spells are nice in terms of action economy, but casting all of them daily is going to become a noticeable hit to the Shaman's experience.
Ability: Extend Spell Spell Highlights: L3 Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, L6 Heroes' Feast, L9 Time Stop Comments: The ability is often necessary to pull off an early-game Divine Metamagic, Time Stop is fantastic and while many of the other spells are options that a Shaman will be able to use on a daily basis. So despite the redundancy in the list, Planning is one of the more appealing options.
Ability: Reroll any natural 1 on a save. Spell Highlights: L3 Heroism, L4 Divine Power, L7 Greater Heroism, L9 Mass Charm Monster Comments: Useful built-in power, the spell selection isn't bad (though the level 1 and 2 options fall out of use quickly). Usable.
Ability: CL bonus on Abjurations. Spell Highlights: L3 Recitation, L7 Righteous Wrath of the Faithful, L9 Greater Visage of the Deity Comments: A lot of stinkers, and the good spells persist. That would leave most of the domain spell slots open for something else.
Ability: Rebuke Oozes Spell Highlights: L1 Grease, L3 Poison, L4 Rusting Grasp, L5 Black Tentacles, L9 Implosion Comments: Cool power, great low-level spells. But even Black Tentacles doesn't age well enough to drag up to the level 8 slots. Consider pairing the domain with something that scales well for spell levels 6+.
Ability: Rebuke Spiders Spell Highlights: L1 Spider Climb, L2 Summon Swarm, L3 Phantom Steed, L4 Giant Vermin Comments: Fun ability and very nice low-level powers. High levels don't have as many useful spells, and Giant Vermin takes a while to mature. Not a strong domain, but cool filler especially in low levels of vermin-friendly campaigns.
Ability: Electricity resistance Spell Highlights: L2 Gust of Wind, L4 Sleet Storm, L5 Ice Storm, L8 Whirlwind Comments: Some nice battlefield control powers. Sleet Storm is especially useful to a Shaman. But nothing game-altering.
Ability: Extra Turning Spell Highlights: L2 Desecrate, L3 Animate Dead, L4 Death Ward, L7 Control Undead Comments: Useful for the turn undead attempts alone. Also happens to have the key spells for a necromancer wannabe. Probably want to pair it with a domain that has more reliably casted low-level slots
Ability: Don't mind the rain. Spell Highlights: L2 Binding Winds, L4 Ice Storm, L6 Cloudwalkers, L8 Whirlwind, L9 Greater Whirlwind Comments: Nice control-oriented powers. Can expect to usefully fill domain slots. The ability is the sort of niche nonsense that most people don't even track. Overall, it's a decent domain.
Ability: Calm Emotions 1/day, Small Diplomacy boost Spell Highlights: L6 Heroes' Feast, L8 Magificent Mansion. Comments: Almost identical to the updated OA Community domain. This technically overrides it. The takeaway is the same here it doesn't add much to the Shaman's list.
Ability: Fear Immunity Spell Highlights: L1 Sleep, L3 Deep Slumber, L8 Power Word: Stun, L9 Weird Comments: Quite a bit of redundancy with the Shaman's default abilities. But the sleep powers/fear immunity are powerful at low levels. Scales very poorly.
Ability: Great Fortitude Spell Highlights: L4 Greater Magic Weapon, L8 Protection from Spells Comments: The spells aren't all redundant with the Shaman's list, but they aren't all that powerful. Likewise, the ability is somewhat useful, but it's not great. Skip it if Fabricate's utility is the appeal, at least Craft (SpC) has those cool fantastic machines.
Ability: Turning bonuses Spell Highlights: L2 Bless Weapon, L5 Holy Sword Comments: Most spells are undead-specific or redundant with the Shaman's list. In an Undead-heavy campaign, you could probably find a use for all the spells. Otherwise, this domain wastes a lot of spells on really half-assed blasting.
Ability: Enlarge for rounds equal to class level. Spell Highlights: L4 Vampiric Touch, L6 Heroes' Fest, L8 Bite of the King Comments: The ability doesn't work well with Shamans who would be able to use it effectively. It's interesting for straightclassed unarmed Shamans, but poor overall.
Ability: CL bonus on Illusions Spell Highlights: L1 Silent Image, L3 Minor Image, L4 Minor Creation, L8 Irresistible Dance Comments: Take Illusion instead.
Ability: Minor bonus on Appraise, Open Lock, Sleight of Hand Spell Highlights: L2 Entice Gift, L3 Knock, L8 Phantasmal Thief Comments: A bit of utility and an interesting enchantment. But you can get either better elsewhere.
Ability: Add Charisma to athletics and stealth rolls for a few minutes each day. Spell Highlights: L4 Freedom of Movement, L8 Word of Recall, L9 Foresight Comments: Most of the spells are rubbish and the ability isn't great. If you want FoM and Foresight, take Time instead.
Ability: Small penalty to Wisdom skills and saves, 1/day boost to Wisdom skills and saves. Spell Highlights: L1 Lesser Confusion, L2 Touch of Madness, L4 Confusion, L5 Bolts of Bedevilment, L8 Maddening Scream. Comments: These enchantments lack the out-of-combat applicability of Charm, Suggestion and Dominate effects, but share their common immunities. The spells here will be applicable daily, but are unreliable.
Ability: Minor bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy and Sense Motive Spell Highlights: L2 Detect Thoughts, L6 Probe Thoughts, L7 Brain Spider, L8 Mind Blank Comments: Mind reading is nice, but making it nearly every spell means losing out on versatility very quickly. Mind blank is nice, but not nice enough to salvage this
Ability: Turn Lycanthropes Spell Highlights: L1 Faerie Fire, L4 Fear, L8 Animal Shapes, Comments: Some unique powers, and a couple that complement the Shaman's weaknesses well. But since most of this mantle is singlemindedly focused on combatting Lycanthropes, in most campaigns, it's going to be more miss than hit.
Ability: Grant allies small morale bonus to just about everything for a few rounds 1/day. Spell Highlights: L1 Divine Favor, L5 Greater Command Comments: Nothing too compelling. Most of the abilities are already on the Shaman spell list at the appropriate levels.
Ability: Crappy smite, only gets attack bonus against dwarves and elves. Spell Highlights: L1 Cause Fear, L4 Divine Power, L5 Prying Eyes Comments: Up to level 13, this domain's spells are ones you could expect to use daily (though Cause Fear doesn't scale at all), but the upper half of the spell progression tends toward options that are either weak or replicated in the Shaman list. Combined with the ability, it's workable, but notably subpar.
Ability: Immunity to Diseases Spell Highlights: L2 Summon Swarm L4 Poison, L6 Curse of Lycanthropy Comments: The spells are regularly usable, but not particularly impressive. The ability is redundant with the Shaman spell list. Skip it.
Ability: 1/day healing from below 0 HP Spell Highlights: L1 Charm Person, L6 Heroes' Feast, L8 Polymorph Any Object Comments: At low levels, the ability is fantastic and Charm Person is a great power to know. Edging toward mid-levels, it doesn't age so well. Polymorph Any Object salvages Renewal for the endgame, but you'd probably be better off retraining to something better around ECL 5.
Ability: 1/day deal max damage against someone who harmed you. Spell Highlights: L6 Banishment, L7 Spell Turning Comments: A weak ability and only two good spells doesn't make for an appealing domain. In its favor, Shield of Faith's scaling bonus makes it a decent filler for some of the low-level domain slots (more than a lot of crappy domains), but that just makes the domain usable, not good.
Ability: Scribe Scroll Spell Highlights: L5 Lesser Planar Binding Comments: Scribe Scroll's not a bad ability, but most of the spells are pretty niche, Lesser Planar Binding's nice, but 6 HD at a time aren't going to salvage this.
Ability: No AC penalty while prone. Spell Highlights: L3 Deep Slumber L4 Slow L6 Waves of Fatigue L8 Waves of Exhaustion Comments: The ability makes me smile, and the low level spells are great. Unfortunately, the domain doesn't scale well at all. Very nice at levels 1-3, not so much later on.
Ability: Minor debuff with a touch attack. Spell Highlights: L4 Enervation, L5 Feeblemind Comments: Enfeeblement alone isn't going to save this.
Ability: Detect Thoughts as a free action Spell Highlights: L7 Magnificent Mansion, L8 Mind Blank Comments: Cool ability, but not a character-maker. Most of the spells are very weak. The mansion is sweet, but this is not a good domain.
Ability: Compulsion DC bonus Spell Highlights: L1 Command, L4 Fear, L5 Greater Command, L7 Grasping Hand, L8 Mass Charm Monster, L9 Dominate Monster Comments: Enchantments are very powerful until immunities become common, but this doesn't get its better enchantments until that point. Grasping Hand has a very low grapple mod, and Fear isn't enough to salvage this.
Ability: Appraise as a class skill, Skill Focus (Appraise) Spell Highlights: L1 Alarm, L5 Secret Chest, L9 Antipathy Comments: Not a lot going for this one. It has some abilities you can expect to use, but not that you'd get excited to use.
I'm not going to discuss this in full, but I will discuss the spells which are useful to prepare often, as well as the spells which are unique to the Shaman class (or difficult to obtain elsewhere):
Cure Minor Wounds Automatic Stabilization at low levels. Detect Magic Always a good thing to detect. At high levels, it's about as much use as you're going to get from a level 0 slot. Read Magic Increasingly useful at high levels, but you'll rarely need more than 2 prepped at a time.
Cure Light Wounds Not useful to prepare past very low levels, but useful to have on your spell list (Wands of CLW are your friend). Detect Chaos/Evil/Good/Law Utility divination. Works well at higher levels. Doom Useful debuff at low levels, scales poorly. Obscuring Mist Always a solid tactical spell choice, which remains useful at higher levels. Protection from Chaos/Evil/Good/Law Defensive bonuses and mind control prevention. Shield of Faith Nice scaling deflection bonus to AC. Saves a lot of GP. Speak with Animals Shamans don't have the Handle Animal skill, but they primarily summon animals. Consider persisting this. Summon Nature's Ally I Discussed in post #4. Trance (OA) Shaman-only. Persistable. Identify spirits, curses or magical effects within 120 ft. (Spirits are discussed in post #5) Weapon Bless (OA) Shaman/Sohei only: if you can specify an enemy while casting it (10 minute time), the blessed weapon gains a +5 enhancement on its first attack/damage against that enemy. I'm sure you can think of ways to abuse it.
Ancestral Vengeance (OA) Shaman-only. Crappy blasting. Supposed to be decent against undead, but they're technically immune, Pay attention to the 3.5 update (slight damage increase to non-undead, SR:No). Augury Can't go wrong with this divination. Bull's Strength Strength bonus for you and your companion or the party Commune with Lesser Spirit (CArc) The lesser version of this spell is pretty bad. Wait for the greater version for an actually useful divination. Create Spring (OA) Shaman-only. 6 gallons of fresh water per hour permanently squirt from the earth. Not something you'll want to prepare for a dungeon, but definitely a spell you'll be spamming in your off-days. May be a plot-breaker. Discern Shapechanger (SpC) Identifies shape-shifted creatures. Probably not something you'll want to prepare, unless the situation warrants it. Level dropped per 3.5 update. Invisibility to Spirits (OA) Shaman-only. Allies cannot be perceived by Spirits for 10 minutes per level (spirits get saves). Effect ends if anybody affected touches or attacks a spirit (including spells). Ghoul Touch Touch spell, which combines nicely with Unarmed Strike combat, also targets the save neglected by Hold Person/Rebuke. Hold Person Single person save-or-die. The repeated saves, Mind Effect tag and specific creature type are limiting, but it's a game-ender. Know Motivation (OA) Shaman-only. Persistable. Each round, find the driving motive of one creature within 60ft (will negates). Protection from Spirits (OA) Shaman-only. Deflection and resistance bonuses against spirit effects, and prevents spirits from approaching the spell's recipient. For what this means, see the discussion on spirits in post #4. Rebuke (OA) Shaman-only. Will save or stun for 1d4+1 rounds. A strong single-target game-ender without Hold Person's type requirements or Mind Effect tag. Worth preparing regularly at low levels. Summon Nature's Ally II Discussed in post #4. Warning (OA) Shaman/Sohei spell. Grant Uncanny Dodge plus perception bonuses for 10 minutes per level.
Bestow Curse Big penalties, touch range works nicely with Unarmed combat specialists. Blindness/Deafness Spend a standard action for a very good chance of debilitating a target. Better for utility than Ghoul Touch (the competing Fort Save-or-Lose at this level) Detect Curse (OA) Shaman-only. Probably not something you'll use more than once per campaign (if that often). Don't prep it. Dispel Magic Not too flashy, but one of the best spells in the game. Always worth a slot or two (even past its CL cap). Invisibility to Enemies (OA) Shaman-only. A creature cannot be observed by hostile creatures with intelligences over 4. That's cool, but the limitations make it more a utility spell than a tactical option (short-duration, single-target, will saves for all hostiles). Levitate Immunity to non-fliers, plus utility functions. Magic Circle against Chaos/Evil/Good/Law Defensive numeric bonuses, plus mind control immunity for a good duration, also affecting close allies. Worth preparing for a very long time. Magic Vestment Extend this and never have to pay for more than +1 numeric bonus to armor again. Mental Strength (OA) Shaman/Sohei spell. Note: Errata'd down to +4 resistance bonus. Bad duration, bad stacking. Skip it. Mental Weakness (OA) Shaman/Maho-Tsukai spell. Instead of hoping something fails a save so that it's slightly more likely to fail another save, shoot to disable in the first place. Possess Animal (OA) Shaman-only. Temporarily possess an animal. This is pretty strictly limited by range, duration and its specifically animal targets, but it could be a useful utility power. Protection from Energy If you know what element's going to get you, this is a good translation of spell slots to HP. Substitution (OA) Shaman-only. Split damage with an idol of a deity or spirit (which has a material cost). The HP-per-gp value isn't great, so you won't want to use this regularly, but 100 temporary HP that stack with temporary HP are worth the occasional splurge. Summon Nature's Ally III Discussed in post #4. Tongues Shamans often have good Diplomacy and multiple language-dependent effects (enchantments, summons and divinations). It's not the most interesting spell to prep, but not having will hurt in quite a few fairly common situations
Air Walk Flying is good, and this lets someone in the party fly (basically) with a good duration. Prep it. Chaos Hammer/Holy Smite/Order's Wrath/Unholy Blight Against outsiders of the appropriate alignments, they aren't bad blasting spells (they deal a decent amount of damage and the tagalong effects often are a good deal in terms of action economy); against non-outsiders (especially with mixed alignments), they're not so hot. Dismissal Useful for blasting outsiders, until the Outsiders get plane shift. Then it's just inconveniencing. Divination Powerful all-purpose divination. Gives your DM a chance to feel clever. Dream Sight (OA) Shaman-only. Your spirit wanders off incorporeally, using your normal senses. Cannot perform actions other than movement and observation. Your spirit travels 100 ft per round for minutes per level a good range of very accurate divination. Fatigue (OA) Shaman/Sohei/Maho-Tsukai spell. This level 4 spell was replaced by a cantrip. Make your own conclusions. Lesser Spirit Ally (OA) Discussed in post #4. Polymorph This spell is crazy. You'll want to prepare it. I won't go into details, but these two threads give a pretty good rundown on how shapeshifting powers can be effectively used: Complete Polymorph Thread) and MoMF bible (not Polymorph, but a class using similar mechanics). Keep in mind that it can be shared with the animal companion. Reanimation (OA) Shaman/Wu Jen spell (Shaman has access 6 levels early). Dead creature is brought to limited life for days/level at no XP/gp cost. The creature can't take standard actions, use magic items or cast spells, so this isn't a combat-relevant ability, but it can make an interesting utility power. Reincarnate Raise the dead on a budget. Cheap and available early, but it might **** certain builds up if used on PCs. Remove Fatigue (OA) Shaman/Sohei only. Wasn't this folded into Lesser Restoration? Don't prep it ever. Snake Barrier Shaman-only. Invisible barrier does crappy damage to reptilian creatures passing through. Doesn't affect dragons, per the 3.5 update. Spell Immunity Useful if you know there's a specific hole in your defenses. Summon Nature's Ally IV Discussed in post #4. Sustain (OA) Shaman/Sohei spell. Party can ignore food and drink-based constraints. Pretty niche, but it could be useful.
Advice (OA) Shaman-only mind control ability. Like Suggestion, but with more room to bull****. The one-round casting time makes it a candidate for Rapid Spell. Baleful Polymorph Single-target Fortitude-based "Save or turn into a Toad." Immunity to Polymorph effects isn't common. Added in 3.5 update. Blood of Fire (OA) Shaman/Maho-Tsukai only. Flavorful, but terrible blasting. Commune with Greater Spirit (OA) Shaman/Wu Jen/Niche-Shugenja spell. Play 20 questions with any spirit. Spirits sharing your alignment dont' get a save. Slight XP cost, but it turns the awful level Lesser version into a powerful divination effect. Control Winds High utility, excellent battlefield control, especially in conjunction with Control Weather. Dispel Chaos/Evil/Good/Law Blast enchantments away or Save-or-Plane Shift for extraplanar creatures of a particular alignment. Or it works as an overpriced, under-durationed Shield of Faith. Disrupting Weapon Common unintelligent undead monsters tend to have high HD, but this can plausibly be useful against intelligent undead especially if you're cranking CL. Added in 3.5 update. Possess (OA) Shaman-only. Temporarily possess any creature. The 1-round casting time and vulnerability of the caster's body can make it tactically tricky, but it's still both a solid save-or-die and Enchantment-like ability without the Mind Effect tag. Raise Dead Not a spell you'll ever want to prepare, but **** happens. Scrying Spy on things with your brain. Excellent utility. Slay Living Touch attack save-or-die. Works nicely with unarmed combat builds. Summon Nature's Ally V Discussed in post #4. True Seeing Negates the entire school of illusion spells, plus gives the scoop on shapeshifters.
Dispel Magic, Greater Not flashy, but one of the most reliable spell choices in the game. Once Dispel's CL cap renders it useless, you'll almost always want a couple of these. Find the Path Very practical divination. It's all about trivializing dungeons. Harm Serious blasting that works well with unarmed combat. Or Undead-healing, if you're into that. Heal Healing worth casting. If you don't want this every day, it'll be a miracle. Plane Shift Either transportation or Will Saveor-die that plays well with unarmed strikes. Either way, it's worth prepping. Spirit Ally (OA) Discussed in post #4. Stoneskin The duration is good and the gp cost isn't prohibitive at high levels, but you probably won't want to prep it daily Wands of Lesser Vigor are just cheaper HP recovery than this is prevention. Summon Nature's Ally VI Discussed in post #4. Vulnerability (SpC) Reduce DR. Try to be too well prepared to need it, but know it's there. Wind Walk If you don't have teleport and you have places to be.
Blasphemy/Dictum/Holy Word/Word of Chaos Crank your CL to make bad things happen. These are poster children for broken casters. Control Weather Crazy strategic control. Combines nicely with Control Winds, but requires a bit of forethought. Ethereal Jaunt Stage an ambush,make a getaway, fight ethereal monsters, whatever. Always useful. Repulsion Battlefield control and defense forbidding enemies from approaching you is almost always good. Resurrection Slightly more versatile Raise Dead. More expensive; don't prep it, but know it's there. Scrying, Greater Spy on people from afar for hours at a time instead of minutes. Also cast some very low-level divinations at them. Summon Nature's Ally VII Discussed in post #4.
Antimagic Field Use it offensively, use it defensively, share it with your companion if you prepare it, you're sure to find a use. Compel (OA) Permanent alignment reversal. Has a bunch of reliability problems (Will negates, SR: Yes, Mind Effect, Close range, 1 round casting time), but it's a really cool power. Dimensional Lock Useful control power limit the valid dimensional travel options in a small radius. (Needs to be combined with other BC effects to really shine.) Added in 3.5 update. Greater Spirit Ally (OA) Discussed in Post #4. Spell Immunity, Greater Quick patch for holes in your defenses, good duration, high-level-appropriate effect. Added in 3.5 update. Summon Nature's Ally VIII Discussed in post #4.
Astral Projection In even the least abusive use, this allows you to have adventures without risking your life or gear. Gate No risk, solve any problem/fight. The experience cost is the closest thing it has to a balancing factor. Heal, Mass Essentially reset your party to the start of a fight. Miracle Do anything. Maybe experience cost, maybe not. Prep it. Summon Nature's Ally IX Discussed in post #4. True Resurrection Not a spell slot you're going to want to prepare, but one you'll want to have available.
The Summon Nature's Ally line of spells are some of the most useful spells available to the Shaman both in terms of combat ability (where they provide some of its best spell-based damage output and battlefield control effects) and in terms of utility (where they can provide temporary transport or scouting with a variety of mobility modes and senses).
Because they require digging through multiple books to use at all, and they require some pretty in-depth looks into multiple books to use effectively, I'm going to break SNA down on a level-by-level basis.
Combat: The Wolf is robust with a decent control ability, and the Eagle has the best damage-per-round (remember the dive maneuver). In aquatic environments, the porpoise has high damage and excellent combat awareness. Outside Combat: The Owl, Small Viper and Porpoise have very good perception skills, the Wolf has scent and track, and the Monkey and Octopus provide appendages that can effectively manipulate objects. Options:
Dire Rat: Distinguishing ability is a disease nobody cares about. Climb speed, scent and decent skills for its level don't hurt, but summons last a short enough time that you're usually better off summoning a specialist in one of the abilities. Eagle: +16 spot, fast flight and three attacks. Excellent utility and good DPS. Don't forget the Dive attack option. Monkey: Fast climb, variety of skills and thumbs. One of the best utility options, but isn't going to help anyone in combat. Octopus: Ink Cloud on its own is about appropriate for a level 1 slot. The improved grab and tentacley utility are just gravy. Owl: Fantastic perception skills, especially in the dark. For anything resembling a combat scenario, the Eagle's going to be a better option. Porpoise: Excellent perception skills, high swim speed, 120ft blindsight and a formidable slam make it a reliable option for low-levels in aquatic environments. Obviously, on land, that doesn't hold so well. Snake, Small Viper: Excellent skills, mobility modes and scent make it a useful utility form. The Poison DC is rather low, even with Augment Summoning, but 1d6 Con damage is still a rather powerful effect for the spell's level. Wolf: High speed, 2 HD and trip make it a powerful combat form for its level, and Scent+Track gives it a role outside combat. Skills are fairly lackluster, though,
Hippocampus (Storm): Decent perception skills, good HD and an intelligence high enough to take orders. Note that the Hippocampus replaces Wolf, which makes it a bad option in all but specifically aquatic campaigns. Snake, Small Viper (MM) CE Multiple movement modes (climb, swim) and scent. Excellent poison, if it works. Monstrous Centipede, Medium: Good climb speed, but otherwise nearly useless. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Monstrous Scorpion, Small: Terrible combatant, and it doesn't do much else better than the spider. Skip it. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Monstrous Spider, Small: Spider webs are amazing, even if they can only affect Medium and smaller targets. climb speed and tremorsense are useful too. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat.
Combat: The hippogriff and Dire Badger are competitive for melee abilities, but the hippogriff will usually win out. The Squid is the first decent grappling option, but is limited by its aquatic tag. Outside Combat: The Dire Badger digs tunnels through anything softer than solid stone; the Dire Bat and Hippogriff can act as flying mounts; the Small Air and Earth elementals bring excellent mobility skills, along with the intelligence to take complex orders. The Dire Bat and Medium Shark have useful perception abilities. The Ooze Paraelemental can burn through most barriers, as well as move with a decent swim speed. Options:
Bear, Black: High strength, three natural attacks and decent HD, but very little advantage over the Dire Badger or Hippogriff. Its perception abilities aren't bad. Crocodile: Improved Grab is good, but on a medium creature, it's pretty niche. Passable damage, swim speed and perception, but nothing special. Dire Badger: Sturdier than the black bear, but can only match the bear's offense after taking damage. Notable in its burrow speed and in the tunnel it leaves while burrowing. Dire Bat: Large flying monster with blindsense and excellent perception skills. Passable in combat, but really more of a utility summon. Elemental, Small: Weak combat summons, but they have 4 Int, making them able to converse and understand complex orders. The Air elemental's flight and the Earth elemental's earth glide are invaluable for scouts. The Water elemental's swim speed isn't bad, but its utility is shown up by the Ooze paraelemental. The Fire elemental is all about damage, but it is too small and weak to fill the role efficiently. Fetid Fungus (MM5): Area of sickness and Blindsight are nice; its more direct combat abilities and skills are basically awful. Hippogriff: Large, with fast flight, three attacks and high strength. The hardest-hitting damage-dealer at this level (don't forget dive maneuvers), plus whatever utility you can manage with a short-term flying mount. Paraelemental, Small (MoP, per DR#347): The Ooze paraelemental deals 40 acid damage to wood and metal per round enough to burn through an inch of adamantine. The Ice paraelemental has a respectable damage output for its level, especially when summoned in bulk. The Smoke paraelemental's more limited mobility and weak blasting pale beside the Air elemental. The Magma Elemental's defining feature is its strength, and it isn't that strong yet. Shark, Medium: Generally inferior to SNA1's Porpoise, but the Keen Scent ability can be useful if you're searching for blood. Snake, Medium Viper: Not much meaningful advantage over SNA1's Small Viper. You'll usually be better off summoning one or more of the small versions instead. Squid: Good grapple and utility abilities (ink cloud, Jet) make it a somewhat interesting alternative to the porpoise. If not grappling, SNA1's Octopus does basically the same things for cheaper. Wolverine: Like the Dire Badger, but with lower defensive stats, track and a climb speed instead of the tunnels. You'd probably be better off with the badger or a wolf.
Sea Snake, Medium (Storm) CE The poison's still nasty, but more Small sea snakes would probably be a better bet; Replaces Medium Viper Giant Ant, Worker: Terrible combat summon, but its mindlessness and climb speed can make it a circumstantial alternative to a wolf tracker. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Monstrous Centipede, Large: Crappy poison, almost always worse utility than the Dire Bat. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Monstrous Scorpion, Medium: Multiple attacks and the poison still has a chance of working, but it's not a great combat form, and the spider's better utility. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Monstrous Spider, Medium: Webs affect large and smaller creatures. That's most of the opponents you're probably going to run into. This is an excellent control summon with a lot of staying power (touch ACs don't raise much) and decent utility (Climb speed and tremorsense 60ft). Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Spider Swarm: Nice poison, distraction and tremorsense from a level 2 summon. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat.
Combat: The Dire wolf provides a strong tripper and the Lion provides a strong charger and the first compelling land-based grappler. Outside Combat: The Giant Owl has excellent perception skills and large flight; the Satyr has good stealth and passable social skills; the Thoqqua makes an excellent scout with its burrow speed, tremorsense and intelligence; the Ape's large size and opposable thumbs are useful wherever a Barbarian is. Options:
Ape: A bit bulkier than the hippogriff, but not notably better than it in melee. The Climb speed is its one notable trait. Dire Weasel: The Constitution damage is interesting, but the weasel is fragile enough that the effect basically won't ever happen. At least it has a good way of drawing attention to itself though. Dire Wolf: The Wolf's trip ability, but with a modifier that's actually going to win. Decent damage and the same utility as the wolf. Eagle, Giant: Bulkier than the Hippogriff, and comes with a high spot modifier and evasion. Probably not worth the higher-level slot for combat purposes, though. Lion: Pounce means high reliable damage output and Large size+Improved Grab adds a strong control element. Not much for utility, but a strong melee option. Owl, Giant: Better senses than the Giant Eagle, but no Evasion. The senses are probably what you're summoning a giant bird for anyway. Satyr (without Pipes): The first core fey. The intelligence and skills make it interesting, but it doesn't bring much new to the table. Shark, Large: Your new aquatic combat summon. Lots of hit dice and high damage potential. Snake, Constrictor: Has the same problems as SNA3's crocodile on a similar framework. Unless the Climb speed is a dealbreaker, one or more crocodiles are probably better options. Snake, Large Viper: Bigger, but again, not a huge advantage over the small viper (or 1d4+1 small vipers). Storm Elemental, Small (MM3): Perfect flight 40ft and its blasting damage stays more or less appropriate for a level or two. Thoqqua: Fast burrow, 6 Intelligence, tremorsense and lots of fire damage. Not a good combat summon, but if it somehow gets caught scouting, it can at least hurt whatever catches it.
Dire Eel (Storm): Slightly better combatant than the Large shark, though it lacks the shark's senses. But Dire Eel replaces Dire Wolf, so it's not a good option unless you plan on being underwater for your whole campaign. Sea Snake, Large (Storm) CE Not much reason to use this instead of multisummoning the smaller versions; Replaces Large Viper Giant Ant, Queen: A bit fragile, but a scent, mind immunity, large size and improved grab. A useful summon to have in reserve. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Giant Ant, Soldier: Terrible grappler, terrible damager; don't waste your time. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Monstrous Centipede, Huge: The first half-way decent grappler; the climb speeds nice and the poison isn't bad to have, but don't expect either to be very useful. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Monstrous Spider, Large: Breaking out might still be a bit tricky for characters without Escape Artist ranks, but the Medium Monstrous spider (one or more) is usually a better option, economically. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Triton: Summoning rules strip its most valuable racial trait (SNA IV), but at worst, it's an outsider from a low-level SNA. Accessed through the Moonspeaker Prestige class.
Combat: The Giant Crocodile is the first really exceptional grappler, the Tiger provides high charge damage/pounce and the Brown bear provides a compromise between the two. Yellow Musk creepers are just dirty, but their save DCs are rather low. Outside Combat: The Unicorn's SLAs provide healing and several alignment effects, and its skills provide something resembling a crappy ranger. The Xorn is an even better earthbound scout than the Thoqqua. Options:
Arrowhawk, Juvenile: Some rogue-like skills, a variety of immunities and resistances, perfect flight and an electricity ranged touch attack. A bit better than the small air elemental as a scout, but much higher-level. Not a hugely compelling option of its own. Bear, Brown: A middle ground between the Giant Crocodile's grapple and the Tiger's damage per round. Bloodthorn (FF): Really low Hit Dice and attack/grapple for its level, but 4 attacks, large size, improved grab, and Constitution damage with a successful grapple. It's not a staple of the Shaman's summons, but when it's applicable (grappleable creatures with low ACs), it's excellent. Crocodile, Giant: Massive grapple modifier and a swim speed. Deinonychus: Weaker than the tiger, but better perception skills and speed. And much better jump, if that matters. Very low hit dice for a combat summon at this level. Dire Ape: Strong, but less damage output than the big cats, and no other exceptional skills. Dire Boar: Doesnt have much but hit points and damage, and its damage is pretty bad. Dire Wolverine: Decent damage output, but not as much as the big cats, and not much else. Low hit dice for its level. Elemental, Medium: Still too small and too few HD to be useful in combat. The Small elementals are almost as good for utility purposes, and are much cheaper. Paraelemental, Medium (MoP, per DR#347): Same as the Elementals; the Small versions provide the same utility, and neither version can expect to survive combat. Multiple small versions are better for most jobs, whether it's stacking chill metal damage or acid damage. Salamander, Flamebrother: Good stealth skills and decent damage. The grapple modifier's way too small to ever pull off the Salamander's grapple abilities. Sea Cat: Like the Dire Ape, but with more Hit Dice, better damage and a swim speed. The best aquatic damage dealer of the level, if it can pull off full-round attacks (a less unreasonable expectation with summons than characters). Shark, Huge: Lots of hit dice and huge size. The combination of endurance, blindsense and blood-smelling is its main draw. Snake, Huge Viper: The poison scales poorly, and is the only reason you'd summon this at all. Tiger: The best charger at this level, but only marginally better than SNA3's Lion. The Lion is usually a better use of resources; or 1d3 Lions, depending how lucky you feel. Tojanida, Juvenile: Decent roguish skills and damage output, various resistances/immunities, good swim speed and an awesome ink cloud, but too fragile to use as a combat summon, and too low of modifiers to use in place of a higher-HD animal or elemental. Unicorn: Lots of useful Supernatural abilities and SLAs, various immunities, good perception skills and half-way decent damage. Too low of HD to expect longevity as a front-line fighter though. Xorn, Minor: Earth glide, tremorsense, four attacks and all sorts of crazy resistances and immunities make it a useful scout and a workable melee option. Yellow Musk Creeper (FF): Spore-based compulsion to force creatures to enter 's Creeper's space. When Creatures are inside, Yellow Musk creeper deal intelligence damage each round, until creature either turns into mindless plant zombie or dies. Also blindsight and regeneration.
Magic Circle Against Evil (continuous) [Su]
Detect Evil (at will, free action) [CL 4]
Cure Light Wounds (3/day) [CL 5]
Cure Moderate Wounds (1/day) [CL 5]
Neutralize Poison [CL 8]
Dire Barracuda (Storm): Worse than the Sea Cat in close combat and the Huge Shark for general use. But it replaces the Dire Boar, so you might as well pick it up as an option at least its speed and sprint might have some niche uses. Sea Snake, Huge (Storm) CE These snakes are outliving their usefulness; Replaces Huge Viper Giant Praying Mantis: This doesn't compare well at all to the giant crocodile. But the flying aspect of a grappler can be useful. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Giant Wasp: The Giant Owl shows it up, from a lower-leveled spell slot. A mindless large flyer might be occasionally useful, but it's going to be niche. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Locust Swarm: The distraction DC is low, but swarms can be very useful, and flight is always a plus. A bit of a tossup, overall. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Monstrous Scorpion, Large: The same level as the brown bear, this doesn't compare well. Constrict and tremorsense are nice though. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat.
Combat: Giant Constrictor becomes the new powerful grappler, Dire Lion becomes the new charger, becomes the new middle ground. The Griffon provides passable aerial combat, and some higher-level versions of utility summons (elementals, outsiders) start to hold their own. Outside Combat: The Janni makes a good scout, the Elementals and Tojanida improve enough as combatants that they start deserving the higher-level summons. Options:
Arrowhawk, Adult: Roguish skills are getting pretty good, but the electricity ray is still really bad damage. Bear, Polar: Like the brown bear, but with bigger numbers and a swim speed. Neither is a bad thing. Still hugs the middle ground between the big cats' damage and the reptiles' grapples. Dire Lion: Like the Tiger with bigger numbers. This is the default damage/charging option at this level. Elasmosaurus: A bit of a step up from the Huge Shark in terms of raw numbers, but you'd probably be better sticking to the lower-leveled shark (or 1d3 sharks). Compared to the shark, losing Blindsense and Keen Scent hurts, but being able to survive on land makes it more versatile (and in that context, its numbers are quite nice). Elemental, Large: These are starting to catch up to the animals numerically. The Elementals aren't the most powerful brutes yet, but they make some interesting utility/combat hybrids and don't make the Shaman jump through hoops to direct them around. Some of the special attacks like Whirlwind and Vortex are becoming reliable. Fossergrim (FF): Fey with pretty good social skills and constant true strike while attacking enemies in water. Crazy niche, but it's there. Griffon: The best damage from a flying summon. Less powerful than the Dire Lion, but way more usable at high levels. Janni, Genie: Change size, Ethereal Jaunt, telepathy, flight, high intelligence and decent skills can make it a useful scout. Kind of a crappy combatant, though. Paraelemental, Large (MoP, per DR#347): These are notable for their bizarre iterative natural attacks. Between its damage output and general robustness, the Ooze Paraelemental becomes a decent melee option, if you don't mind melting your enemies' gear. And an excellent melee option if you enjoy it. Rhinoceros: The Dire Lion is a better charger. The Rhino's better at punching through DR, but if that's what it's being used for, the damage isn't going to be meaningful anyway. Satyr (with pipes): As before, plus area mind control effects, but at a really terrible DC. Use the lower-level version. Snake, Giant Constrictor: Huge snake with Improved grab, constrict and a hefty grapple modifier. This is exactly what you want your grapplers to look like. The movement modes are also nice. Storm Elemental, Medium (MM3): It's more efficient to summon multiples of the Small Storm Elementals; let them heal each other while they let their blasts out. Nixie: Decent Wild Empathy and aquatic hide, but as a 1 HD creature coming out of a 5th level spell effect, it has some serious deficiencies (in both survival and skill ranks). Tojanida, Adult: Developing its roguish skills fairly well, and its attack routine isn't awful. You'd still probably be better summoning a small water elemental or flock of Huge Sharks for whatever you're doing, though. Whale, Orca: A bit better combatant than the Huge Shark. But not worth the higher level of summons.
Invisibility (self-only, 3/day) [CL 12]
Speak with Animals (3/day) [CL 12]
Create Food and Water (1/day) [CL 7]
Ethereal Jaunt (1 hour) [CL 12]
Charm Person (3/day) [CL 4]
Water Breathing (1/day) [CL 12]
Carrion Crawler: Horribly low HD and very low save DCs on its Paralysis ability. But Paralysis is a strong ability with a good duration, and the CC can force a lot of saves. Despite the HD, this summon is useful to spam attacks, waiting for a low Fortitude roll. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Centipede Swarm: Inconsequential distraction and poison DCs, no flight. At least Tremorsense is nice, but you could get it better from an elemental. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Elementite Swarm (PlH): Swarms with their respective elements' main traits. A swarm summon is a unique effect and their stealth skills tend to be very good. These replace Large Elemental summons, but since the Elementals still aren't the melee powerhouses that the Huge versions become, it's a fair trade. Giant Stag Beetle: Not just a dumb brute, a dumb weak brute. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Ichthyosaur (Storm): Worse than SNA4's Huge Shark in almost every way. Ichtyosaur replaces the Rhinoceros, which might at least see occasional use. This is a terrible summon.
Combat: The Oread is the star of earthbound combat, with all sorts of large-scale control abilities available each round. At this level, the Dire Bear is the best all-around melee option, though Elementals and Paraelementals are starting to be serious threats and the Girallon has very high damage potential against niche targets (no DR and low mobility). Outside Combat: Oreads can manipulate stone to do pretty much anything. Elementals and Xorns have been souped up a bit to be combat-relevant (Elementals especially), pixies have their permanent invisibility. The Baleen Whale reintroduces 120ft blindsight without sucking as a combatant. The Spriggan's a lot like a 5th level rogue, but with at-will SLAs to catch things on fire and break them. Options:
Dire Bear: Very powerful melee summon. Little special going for it in terms of noncombat abilities. Elemental, Huge: Now that these have more hit dice than you and higher base attack than the party fighter, they're developing into strong combat summons as well as their movement-based utility roles. Elephant: All-around of crappy in combat compared to the Dire Bear, but it's Huge and it's strong there's a good chance of utility purposes. Girallon: Very high damage output, but relies on full attacks. If you think you can get it those, a fantastic option for DPS. Otherwise, forgettable. Megaraptor: Worse combatant than the Dire Lion, in a higher-level slot. Octopus, Giant: Low-HD grappler with a crappy grapple score. The other abilities are still nice, but could come from SNA1's Octopus without much loss. Oread (FF): Earth glide and some very nice SLAs. Paraelemental, Huge (MoP, per DR#347): Their high hit dice plus weird iterative natural attacks are starting to give them a notable edge. The Smoke paraelemental's passive inhalation damage on top of its normal damage output is starting to get scary. Pixie (no special arrows): Constant invisibility, useful SLAs, but seriously 1 HD? Don't expect it to weather combats against anything other than dumb bruisers. Salamander, Average: Still fragile, with low grapple and lagging skills. Spriggan (FF): Decent rogue skills, sneak attack, large/small size, SLAs. Storm Elemental, Large (MM3): Still a lackluster melee option, but its blasting improves enough that it's worth using a Large over a medium Storm Elemental. And worth remembering that the Storm Elemental is a valid subject for Rashemi's orlash template (for even more blasting). Viper Swarm (FF): The only swarm on the default summoning list. But pretty awful distraction and poison DCs. Whale, Baleen: Weaker combatant than the Huge Water Elemental, but 120ft blindsight and Gargantuan size. Xorn, Average: Still low HD, but enough attacks and resistances to be decent in combat if the situation demands. Plus the resistances, skills and various abilities that make it a decent earthgliding scout.
Greater Invisibility (Self-only, Constant) [Su]
Lesser Confusion (1/day) [CL 8]
Dancing Lights (1/day) [CL 8]
Detect Chaos (1/day) [CL 8]
Detect Evil (1/day) [CL 8]
Detect Good (1/day) [CL 8]
Detect Law (1/day) [CL 8]
Detect Thoughts (1/day) [CL 8]
Dispel Magic (1/day) [CL 8]
Entangle (1/day) [CL 8]
Permanent Image (1/day) [CL 8]
Stone Tell (at will) [CL 14]
Charm Monster (3/day) [CL 14]
Soften Earth and Stone (3/day) [CL 14]
Spike Stones (3/day) [CL 14]
Stone Shape (3/day) [CL 14]
Transmute Mud to Rock (3/day) [CL 14]
Transmute Rock to Mud (3/day) [CL 14]
Earthquake (1/day) [CL 14]
Move Earth (1/day) [CL 14]
Produce Flame (at will) [CL 8]
Scare (at will) [CL 8]
Shatter (at will) [CL 8]
Archelon (Storm): Worse than the Huge Water Elemental in almost every way. It replaces the Megaraptor, which might be useful once in a while. Skip this noise. Bralani Eladrin: Awesome flight (in whirlwind form), very well-rounded social and social skills, some useful SLAs (Cure Serious, Gust of Wind, Blur, Charm Person, Wind Wall), a variety of immunities/resistances and constant Tongues. Available through the Moonspeaker prestige class. Monstrous Centipede, Gargantuan: Surprisingly few HD for its size (but appropriate for the spell slot); best grapple modifier at this level. Somewhat lacking for other benefits. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Monstrous Scorpion, Huge: Starting to become somewhat intimidating as a grappler, but its hit dice are relatively low. Tremorsense is useful for utility. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat.
Combat: Dire Tiger is a new charging monster, Tyrannosaurus is the new grappler; Elementals and Paraelementals are getting crazy as they break 20 HD. The Storm elemental's blasting becomes pretty respectable again. Outside Combat: Arrowhawk and Xorn stealth skills are getting pretty good, and their mobility is quite high. The elementals (with associated mobility modes) are becoming downright scary, and Xorns have all sorts of skills and utility abilities at levels that make all the noncasters jealous. Options:
Arrowhawk, Elder: Has gotten pretty good at being a scout, but is still very weak in combat. Still more a utility summon than anything (but now it does that job well) Dire Rhinoceros (FF): All-around worse at melee than the Dire Tiger. But absolutely crazy hit points, if that matters somewhere. Dire Tiger: Same principle as the other big cats, but bigger. Elemental, Greater: As the Huge elementals, but more so. They're getting way ahead of the player characters in HD. Djinni, Genie: A bit worse than the Janni as a scout, but a different array of SLAs. Invisible Stalker: Weak combat summon, but the highest Tracking modifier available through the SNA line. Kelp Angler (FF): 100ft Blindsight, SLAs, swim speed, 4 attacks and Improved Grab. Low HD and Grapple keep it from being a great combat summon, but it's pretty robust (regeneration , and a bunch of immunities) and all the SLAs are useful. Paraelemental, Greater (MoP, per DR#347): These are all getting to be respectable damage-dealers. The Ooze elemental especially (and auto-destroying gear is still awesome) Pixie (with Sleep Arrows): Like the normal pixie, but with a sleep effect that will never work. If you're summoning pixies, summon more of the low-level version and spam the hell out of Entangle and Dispel (even at this level, magic items often have low caster levels). Squid, Giant: Strong aquatic offense (attack and grapple) and good utility (ink cloud, jet, high speed), but relatively fragile in terms of HD. Storm Elemental, Huge (MM3): Wraps a Huge elemental summon in with a blast. A pretty good burst of damage with a rather tough save. (24d6+8d4) and decent melee abilities after that. Plus, it's a candidate for full-CL Cones of Cold via Rashemi Elemental summoning. Triceratops: Worse charger than the Dire Tiger, little other use. Tyrannosaurus: The new grappling reptile (I know; I don't care), with swallow whole. Whale, Cachalot: If you're using a whale instead of an elemental, it's for the Blindsight or the size. The Cachalot isn't a slump in combat, but SNA6's Huge Elementals show it up. Xorn, Elder: Four attacks at Base Attack 15, plus Ranger skills? This is just here to make the fighter cry. Not great damage output, but excellent scouting abilities.
Invisibility (self-only, at will) [CL 20]
Create Food and Water (1/day) [CL 20]
Major Creation (1/day) [CL 20]
Persistent Image (1/day) [CL 20]
Wind Walk (1/day) [CL 20]
Gaseous Form (self-only, 1/day) [CL 20]
Dispel Magic (3/day) [CL 11]
Entangle (3/day) [CL 11]
Confusion (1/day) [CL 11]
Displacement (1/day) [CL 11]
Caller from the Deeps (Storm): Some flashy abilities, but it really boils down to a grappler with a bad grapple modifier. Since it replaces the Elementals right when they start getting awesome, it's really not something a Shaman wants on its summon list. Hellwasp Swarm: Has decent intelligence and the potential for a bizarre sort of possession (though with a short duration). At worst, that's an interesting utility ability to have on hand. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Monstrous Spider, Gargantuan: If you're summoning this, it's for the web. This web is notable in being able to entangle colossal targets, but you can expect it to be broken with a standard action; multiple lower-leveled spiders are actually better. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Nymph: Normally Shamans have to wait for SNA9 to get a 7th level spellcaster. The Nymph comes early, and comes with some decent skills and a passive save-or-lose (low DC, but no action cost). Available through the Moonspeaker Prestige Class.
Combat: The Sporebat can fly and cast Enervation every other round. The Roc is a superb grappler and decent damage option. Salamanders and Tojanidas finally have the Base Attack and Size for their improved grabs to be somewhat functional. Outside Combat: Salamanders and Tojanidas have lots of skills, and the size/BA/HD to survive being dragged into melee. Options:
Dire Shark: Improved Grab and Keen Scent are cool, but in combat, this is about on par with SNA6's Huge Water Elemental; it's definitely not matched with 1d4+1 of them. And in utility, SNA2 can ape the Keen scent power. Roc: Gargantuan Flyer with Snatch. Beside its transportation and utility purposes, this is the best grappler available. And still don't forget the Dive maneuver. Salamander, Noble: It's like a Fighter, but with more attacks, more skills and SLAs. Improved Grab (Huge-), Large Size and Constrict make it a decent grappler as well. Sporebat (FF): Flight, plant traits, constant Concealment and silence, (Su) Enervation every other round. Storm Elemental, Greater (MM3): Multiple Huge elementals are better options for pure blast damage. The high HD can be circumstantially useful though. Tojanida, Elder:Lots of skills and enough size for Improved Grab to see some use. Ink Cloud's still useful and the base attack is still hilarious.
Burning Hands (3/day) [CL 15]
Fireball (3/day) [CL 15]
Flaming Sphere (3/day) [CL 15]
Wall of Fire (3/day) [CL 15]
Dispel Magic (1/day) [CL 15]
Enervation (every 2nd round) [Su]
Lillend: Comes with 6th level bard spells and some useful SLAs (the stars are: Hallucinatory Terrain, darkness, charm, knock). Available through the Moonspeaker Prestige class. Mosasaur (Storm): Marginal improvement over the Dire Shark. Water Elementals will still be more useful in almost any situation. Adding this to the SNA list requires dropping the Noble Salamander, and all its abilities. You don't want to do that. Monstrous Centipede, Colossal: The first colossal summon. Nice. Its abilities aren't all that hot, but it has a better grapple modifier than the Scorpion (if the modifier's all that matters). Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Monstrous Scorpion, Gargantuan: Scorpions are the stars of high-level vermin summons. Improved Grab, plus Constrict, plus multiple attacks, plus tremorsense, plus constitution poison make it a very nasty combat summon. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat.
Combat: Elementals and Paraelementals have big numbers and good mobility, Octopus Trees have some useful SLAs. Most of the rest is probably going to be ignored in combat. Outside Combat: Elementals get tougher; the Celestial Charger's 7 Cleric levels are always applicable somehow; everything else is terrible. Options:
Elemental, Elder: Still have hilarious numbers of hit dice, though there's no huge change since SNA7's Greater Elementals. Grig (with fiddle): 1/2 HD are you ****ing kidding me. DCs and effects are too limited to matter. Kelpie (FF): Crappy combatant, crappy skills. But it's there. Emotion can be a useful SLA, but it really depends how the 3.5 translation is handled. Octopus Tree (FF): Lots of attacks with mediocre improved grab, interesting SLAs and Regeneration. Be sure to notice Quicken SLA as a feat. Paraelemental, Elder (MoP, per DR#347): With 24 HD, these things' iterative attacks are getting hilarious. The Ooze paraelemental is still the star, but the Smoke paraelemental also has strong damage output for its mobility. Pixie (with Sleep and Memory Loss Arrows): Same as the prior pixies, but with another arrow that will never do anything. Dreadful. Use a lower-level summon if you want the SLAs. Unicorn, Celestial Charger: Not nearly level appropriate, but it doesn't hurt to have another set of actions dropping Obscuring Mists, Air Walks, etc.
Disguise Self (3/day) [CL 9]
Entangle (3/day) [CL 9]
Invisibility (self-only, 3/day) [CL 9]
Pyrotechnics (3/day) [CL 9]
Ventrillquism (3/day) [CL 9]
Detect Thoughts (at will) [CL 7]
Charm Person (3/day) [CL 7]
Emotion (3/day) [CL 7]
Diminish Plants (at will) [ CL 14]
Entangle (at will) [ CL 14]
Obscuring Mist (at will) [ CL 14]
Plant Growth (at will) [ CL 14]
Warp Wood (at will) [ CL 14]
Call Lightning (3/day) [ CL 14]
Turn Wood (3/day) [ CL 14]
Wall of Thorns (3/day) [ CL 14]
Monstrous Scorpion, Colossal: If you're using a 9th level spell to summon a dumb brute monster, this is what it should look like. The best grappler by far (as if anyone still cared) and a very nasty poison. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Monstrous Spider, Colossal: The Poison DC is low and webs don't improve much with size; even if you want to summon a spider, you're probably better off with multiples of a lower level. The grapple's good, but if you're interested in grappling, use the Scorpion; this summon's a bit of a flop. Tremorsense is nice, though. Accessible through the Child of Winter feat. Plesiosaur (Storm): Big and grappley, but a terrible monster to add to your list for two reasons: 1. For a grappler to do anything, you'll have to find enemies who go into an aquatic environments at ECL 17+ without Freedom of Movement or Cloak of the Sea. Good luck. 2. It replaces the Celestial Charger Unicorn, which can at least occasionally be useful. And there are its low hit dice, but they're not the pressing issue.
Spirit is a Subtype proposed in Oriental Adventures, and more thoroughly defined in Complete Divine. The gist is that it's made up of creatures with:
Astral form (as from Astral Projection)
Spirit Subtype (mostly creatures in Oriental Adventures, but includes a variety of other weird options like Nagas and Rakshasas)
HOW DOES SPIRIT ALLY WORK?
The Spirit Ally spell line is phrased almost identically to the 3.0 Planar Ally spells. They weren't updated in the 3.5 release, but I am going to endorse treating them as if they were this doesn't necessarily make them any stronger or weaker than they would be under Oriental Adventures' phrasings, but it makes them less DM-dependent.
For reference, here's the value of the exchange of services outlined in the Planar Ally spells:
"A task taking up to 1 minute per caster level requires a payment of 100 gp per HD of the creature called. For a task taking up to 1 hour per caster level, the creature requires a payment of 500 gp per HD. A long-term task, one requiring up to one day per caster level, requires a payment of 1,000 gp per HD.
A nonhazardous task requires only half the indicated payment, while an especially hazardous task might require a greater gift. Few if any creatures will accept a task that seems suicidal (remember, a called creature actually dies when it is killed, unlike a summoned creature). However, if the task is strongly aligned with the creatures ethos, it may halve or even waive the payment."
HOW IS THAT USEFUL?
The spells can be costly prohibitively costly even, for high-HD Spirits without an ethos aligning with their task. So the best way of using it is, naturally enough, to call creatures with appropriate ethics. But when that's not possible the cost is often still, a good deal, when compared to the price of magical items of the Spirits' SLAs, or when accounting for abilities that can't otherwise be readily purchased.
It's also useful because it essentially uncaps the options the Shaman brings to the table. If you need an effect, odds are you can dig around monster books and find a spirit with that ability (or a spirit who can summon another creature with that ability). Using Spirit Ally efficiently, the Shaman basically has the means to do whatever the hell it likes.
WHICH SPIRITS ARE USEFUL?
I'm including a list of the spirits that I find especially useful for one reason or another. There are certainly more, if you're willing to dig around in splatbooks. Or if you're willing to just throw the Ghost template on a creature you want and to call that a day.
Ghost [Template, Any] Turn most creature types into valid targets for Spirit Ally, and tack on some powerful abilities to boot. This template is going to be your best friend.
Grig [1/2 HD, NG] Entangle, Self-invisibility and a high Hide score. Rime Sprite (web) [1/2 HD, CN] Utility SLAs like Minor Image, Entangle and Obscuring Mist, and excellent flight/swim.
Pixie [1 HD, NG] Permanently invisible, flight, Entangle, Permanent Image and Detect Thoughts. Possibly Irresistible dance and Sleep/Memory Loss Arrows. Vargouille [1 HD, NE] Good stealth skills for its HD, area paralysis (low DC) and create more Vargouilles.
Elemental, Small Shadow (ToM) [2 HD, N] Inexpensive incorporeal scout with Blindsense and an accommodating alignment. Elemental, Small Taint (ToM) [2 HD, CE] Move action dimension door 3/day, weak taint attack Nat, Einsaung (OA) [2 HD, CG] Ethereal Jaunt, Passwall, Divination, Invisibility, Levitate, Polymorph, Possess Paraelemental, Small Ooze (MoP) [2 HD, N] Very strong acid burns through Metal and Wood, swim speed 50 ft.
Gaki, Jiki-Niku (OA) [3 HD, CE] Invisibility, Passwall, Fine Insect form Nereid (Storm) [3 HD, CN] High-level spell effects for its HD (Control Water, Control Currents, Wall of Ice), swim speed and some Doctor Doolittling. Thoqqua [3 HD, N] Tremorsense and fast burrow make it an excellent scout on land.
Nat, Hkum Yeng (OA) [4 HD, N] The same main draws as the Einsaung Nat, but with a more accessible alignment. Ethereal Jaunt, Passwall, Invisibility, Levitate, Possess Animal, Dispel Magic, Detect Thoughts. Sirine (MM2) [4 HD, CN] Charming song, Intelligence damage, Polymorph, Greater Invisibility, Fog Cloud. Spectral Steed (Ghost) [4 HD, NE] Incorporeal with high speed and negative level attacks. Earth Whisper (RoS) [4 HD, NE] Incorporeal Elemental with at-will Stone Shape and a Dex damage attack. Also access to Wall of Stone and some Supernatural mind effects with lowish DCs.
Redcap (MM3) [5HD, CE] Not particularly stunning initially, but it gains HD and abilities very quickly, and fluff-wise, anything involving murdering fits strongly within the Redcap's ethos (so it should be very affordable). And murdering is pretty much what D&D characters do. Quell (LM) [5 HD, LE] Incorporeal undead with the ability to turn divine casters off, and decent scouting skills.
Deadwood Revenant (DR#357) [6 HD NE] Incorporeal, Bestow curse and Entangle at will, passive debuffing aura, decent stealth skills, enchantment SLAs. Nymph [6 HD, CG] Passive blinding aura, 7th level Druid casting and at-will stun attack. Fire Bat (MM2) [6 HD, NE] 120ft Blindsense and decent scout skills make it a workable scout. Or just a party-wide HUD. Taunting Haunt [6 HD, CN] Incorporeal, Force creatures to say the opposite of what they mean, SLAs like Fear, Glibness and Invisibility.
Rakshasa [7 HD, LE] Good social skills, high resistances, spells like level 7 Sorcerer. Naga, Banelar (SK) [7 HD, LE] Constitution poison, 6th level in both Wizard and Cleric casting. Oread (FF) [7 HD, LN] Burrow speed and some decent SLAs like Charm Monster, Transmute Rock to Mud, Transmute Mud to Rock, Earthquake, Stone Shape, Move Earth, but a tight timeline before it has to get back to its mountain. Crypt Chanter (LM) [7 HD, CE] Incorporeal with Dazing/Enthralling/Negative Level music, good scout skills and create spawn. Useful scout, mass-disabler and story-breaker.
Oni, Common (OA) [8 HD, NE] Big, strong, and with SLAs that make it a pretty good fighter (Fly, Invisibility, Polymorph) Bane Wraith (HoH) [8 HD, CE] - Extraordinary ability to learn information about nearby creatures and every creature that they love, appears corporeal, pretty good at scout/intimidate skils; otherwise fairly standard incorporeal undead. Breathdrinker (MM2) [8 HD, CE] Free action invisibility, Paralyzing Gaze, Constitution Damage attack and fast perfect flight. Elemental Weird, Lesser (DR#347) [8 HD, N] Commands other elementals of the same type (low save, but no limits on HD or daily uses). The earth version has ridiculous 90ft burrow. Galeb Duhr (MM2) [8 HD, N] Tough, with 300ft Tremorsense, SLAs like Stone Shape, Passwall and Wall of Stone. Nature Spirit, Large (OA) [8 HD, N] Cast any Wu Jen spell from a chosen element 1/day, Shapechange 5/day, decent scout skills.
Shimmerling Swarm (MM3) [11 HD, CN] Swarm, passive area fascinate effect, perfect flight, Very strong hide/scout abilities. Dreamfane (web) [11 HD, N] Incorporeal, invisible to creatures that cannot dream, decent PLAs (the big ones are Dispel Psionics, Crisis of Breath and Death Urge), gaze attack of large penalty to rolls.
Astral Deva [12 HD, G] Variety of SLAs, Change Shape, Flight and Stun. Shirokinu-Katsukami (OA) [12 HD, LG] Variety of SLAs like mind control, healing, Raise dead, invisibility, astral projection; Improved Grab
Hebi-No-Onna (OA) [14 HD, LE] Spells as a 14th level Sorcerer (Wu Jen list), command snakes, hypnotic gaze. Dragon, Juvenile Li Lung (OA) [14 HD, N] Medium dragon with fast burrow, swim speed, invisibility, plane shift and a deafening aura.
Elemental Weird (OA, Frost) [15 HD, N] Spells as an 18th level Sorcerer with a few domains, Supernatural Pool of nasty effects, Free Action divinations Siabrie (web) [15 HD, CN] Excellent flight, top-notch Druid SLAs, nasty touch attack, high UMD.
Dragon, Juvenile Chiang Lung (OA) [16 HD, LN] It's a large dragon, plus fast swim, divinations, invisibility, plane shift and massive-scale Cause Rain and Control Water. Dragon, Juvenile Tun Mi Lung (OA) [16 HD, NE] Large dragon with very fast flight, high strength, invisibility, plane shift, Hurricane winds and air/water immunities.
Rakshasa, Ak'Chazar (MM3) [17 HD, LE] Excellent Social skills, Rebuke Undead, Spells as 12th level Sorcerer, SLAs like Animate Dead, Control Dead and Magic Jar, High resistances. Dream Vestige (LM) [17 HD, CE] Incorporeal, aura of desecration, tendrils of Intelligence Drain, Frightful Presence, self-spawn and good scout skills.
Nagahydra (SK) [18 HD, N] Hydra-like combat with 7 heads, Con poison and 15th level Sorcerer casting. Brine Naga (web) [18 HD, NE] 14th level Sorcerer casting from Sorcerer and Druid lists, move action area sicken, high strength poison, nauseates attackers in melee.
Spirit of the Land (MM2) [20 HD, N] Incorporeal, a bunch of at-will Druid SLAs.
Ragewalker (MM3) [22 HD, NE] Command living spells, force nearby creatures to Rage, some serious blasting SLAs. Dragon, Adult Chiang Lung (OA) [22 HD, LN] Huge dragon with fast swim, divinations, invisibility, plane shift and massive-scale Cause Rain and Control Water. Dragon, Adult Tun Mi Lung [22 HD, NE] Huge dragon with very fast flight, hurricane-force winds, plane shift, invisibility, air and water immunities.
Dragon, Mature Adult Li Lung (OA) [23 HD, N] Huge Dragon with fast burrow, swim speed and deafening aura. Dragon, Adult T'ien Lung (OA) [23 HD, LN] Huge Dragon with fast flight, high strength, Control Weather, Invisibility and Plane Shift.
Naga, Faerunian (SK) [24 HD, CE] Colossal Naga with spells as a 21st level Sorcerer, fast flight, Constitution poison, and awesome grappling.
With spirit ally, you generally aim for an ability at the lowest HD possible, to get the most bang for your buck. With spirit binding, you generally aim to get an ability at the highest HD below the HD cap, to get the most bang for your spell slot.
By clicking on the table headings, you can sort by whatever information is most relevant.
SLAs (Most notable: Ethereal Jaunt, Hold Monster, Invisibility, self-Polymorph)
Alternate form (various small animals), Black Fog cloud (poison effect and obscured vision), good stealth skills
SLAs (Most notable: Invisibility, Control Weather, Plane Shift)
Dragon, Yu Lung
Plane Shift, Blindsight, Swim 90ft
Dragon, Chiang Lung
Invisibility, Plane Shift, Alternate Form (humanoid), Frightful Presence, flight 100ft, Cause Rain, SLAs (Most notable: Divination, Control Weather, Control Winds, miles-radius Control Water, self-Polymorph, Major Creation)
Dragon, Li Lung
Invisibility, Plane Shift, Alternate Form (humanoid), Frightful Presence, flight 150ft, burrow 45ft, swim 40ft, tunneling, Deafening aura (no save), SLAs (Most notable: Earthquake, Move Earth, Wall of Stone, Disintegrate)
Dragon, Lung Wang
Invisibility, Plane Shift, Alternate Form (humanoid), Frightful Presence, swim 60ft, Command fish and reptiles, Breath weapon, Capsize, SLAs (most notable: huge-radius Fog Cloud, Solid Fog, Suggestion)
Dragon, Pan Lung
Invisibility, Plane Shift, Alternate Form (humanoid), Frightful Presence, flight 100ft, swim 60ft, Command fish and reptiles, constrict, minions (wrong-doing humans), SLAs (most notable: Major Image, Charm Monster, Silent Image, Mirage Arcana)
Dragon, Shen Lung
Invisibility, Plane Shift, Alternate Form (humanoid), Frightful Presence, flight 100ft, swim 40ft, command fish and reptiles, vermin cannot approach, SLAs (most notable: Control Weather)
Spells (18th level Sorcerer, plus 2 domains), Pool of Nasty Effects and Elemental summoning, Free action SLAs (Foresight, True Seeing, Contact other Plane, Greater Scrying, Detect Thoughts); Air, Earth, Fire and Water varieties
120ft blindsight, regeneration, flight, decent scout skills, light things on fire
300 ft Tremorsense, SLAs (notable: Stone Shape, Passwall, Wall of Stone)
Spells (18th level Sorcerer, plus domains), Pool of Nasty Effects and Elemental summoning, Free action SLAs (Foresight, True Seeing, Contact other Plane, Greater Scrying, Detect Thoughts); Air, Earth, Fire and Water varieties
SLAs (most notable: Ice Shape, See Invisibility, Wall of Ice, Entomb), Ice Glide, Perfect flight 120ft, Tremorsense, dies if it leaves its Iceberg, oddly strong social skills
Passable scouting skills, Beguiling song, drowns after leaving a specific body of water
Summon concealing cloud of fish, Control Water, Swim 60ft, Decent scouting and bluffing skills
Paralyzing glance, good scouting and bluffing skills, Detect thoughts
Incorporeal, Dazing/Enthralling/Negative level music, Create Spawn, good scout skills
Incorporeal, Aura of Desecration, tedrils of Intelligence drain, Frightful presence, self-spawn, good scout skills
Incorporeal, Wisdom damage, Negative levels to 0 Wis creatures, Create spawn
Incorporeal, decent scouting skills, deactivate divine casters with turn undead check (more quells make success more likely)
SLAs (most notable: Control Weather, Hallucinatory Terrain), flight
Decent stealth and spot, light things on fire
Bile Wrapped in Beauty
Constant Reflective Disguise, acid damage to anything touching it - especially weapons
Sleeping Blossom Sprites
Swarm, perfect flight 40ft, good scout skills, Deep Slumber swarm attack (10 HD cap)
Touch turns creatures to sand (decent Fort DC), SLAs (most notable: Shapechange, Control Winds, Whirlwind, Control Weather, Wall of Stone, Word of Recall, Greater Dispel, Faerie Fire), Perfect flight 120ft, regeneration, high UMD
SLAs (most notable: Minor Image, Entangle, Obscuring Mist), Perfect flight 80ft, swim 60ft, Marginal scouting and diplomacy skills
Passive Charm aura, kill wildlife in circle - +150ft radius per week, passable social skills, marginal scouting
Grant +10 insight to someone's perform or craft skill, subsequently can impose -10 penalty and subject suffers from uncurable supernatural disease if creative craft or perfom not executed daily, marginal social and scouting skills
Quick note: Divine feats rely on spending daily Turn Undead attempts. These can get expensive fast (especially Divine Metamagic and domain feats). These attempts can be inexpensively increased with Reliquary Holy Symbols and Nightsticks or Extra Turning.
Able Learner (RoD) This is mostly to make Handle Animal more affordable. But other spinoff skill options like Tumble, Bluff or Intimidate don't hurt either. Animal Devotion (CCha) Flight, strength-increases, speed boosts and a Constitution poison attack, all from one feat. Eats turn undead attempts for multiple daily uses. Assume Supernatural Ability (SS) This is a cheesy way to abuse Polymorph. It can be ridiculously powerful, Polymorph is abusable enough without it. Domain Spontaneity (CDiv) - Spend Turn attempts to spontaneously cast domain spells. Both covers for misjudged spell preparation and allows Domain spells to be accessed from regular Shaman spell slots. Extra Turning It's a good feat (it fuels Divine/Domain feats after all), but it can be purchased inexpensively in the form of Nightsticks. Minor Shapeshift (CMag) A variety of minor benefits as long as a polymorph spell is prepped. The high point is at will temporary HP as a swift action. Persistent Refusal (FC2) Resave against an ongoing effect. Your saves are good; if you have to use this, there's a good chance you'll be able to. Often useful. Summon Elemental (CMag) Summon elementals at will. The elementals are too small to be useful in combat, but the various mobility powers and endless supply of weak mooks make it a strong utility power. Surrogate Spellcasting (SS) Another feat aimed toward Polymorphing, but this one is more reasonable. It allows casting in morphs that wouldn't normally be able to. Touch of Healing (CCha) Heal to half-HP at will. Save some resources on party-wide healing. Bluntly, it's a weak feat, but it isn't unjustifiable in games with unreliable access to inexpensive healing wands.
Ashbound (ECS) Automatically extend summons, nicely stacking attack bonus. Augment Summoning Bonuses to the two stats you care about most with SNA spells. Beckon the Frozen (Frost) Summoned monsters gain the cold subtype and extra 1d6 cold damage per attack. The damage is easily blocked by cold resistance, but will adds up nicely especially at low levels. Child of Winter (ECS) Add a bunch of Vermin to Summon Nature's Ally options. Spiderwebs, swarms and colossal vermin are very nice; the rest is pretty lackluster. Divine Defiance (FC2) Spend a Turn attempt to counterspell as an immediate action. Plays to the Shaman's potential strengths (through CL boosts and/or Inquisition domain), and adds a robust use for its immediate actions. Divine Metamagic (CDiv) Use turning to cheapen metamagic. This is like buying high spell levels without investing levels for it. Divine Spell Power (CDiv) Use a Turn attempt to boost caster level. Greenbound Summoning (LEoF) Summoned animals gain the Greenbound template (plant type, nice SLAs, decent DR, tremorsense, ability and grapple bonuses). If using Greenbound, Endarire some useful stat rundowns here, so summon stats don't need to be constantly recalculated. Rashemi Elemental Summoning (UE) Summoned air and earth elementals gain the orglash or thomil templates (for Cones of Cold and engulf attacks, respectively). Spontaneous Summoner (CDiv) Cast Summon Nature's Ally spells spontaneously several times per day. Provides flexibility to choose niche and utility spells without compromising combat capability. Also makes a Shaman qualify for Ashbound.
Extend Spell Extending durations means saving spell slots and possibly combat actions.
Persist Spell (CArc) Bring fixed-range buffs up to 24-hour durations. The steep spell level jump doesn't work well with the Shaman's built-in spell list, but plays nicely with some of the Shaman's domains
Imbue Summoning (PHB2) The Shaman's a good summoner, but it doesn't have a whole lot of useful buffs to imbue, and the Summoner's Totem does the same thing very inexpensively. Invisible Spell (CS) Insanely good if it makes summons invisible (as the quality, not the spell), otherwise pretty mediocre due to the relative subtlety of the Shaman's spell list. Ocular Spell (LoM) Store two spells in to cast as a Full round action later, making it excellent for action economy; also fixes range on spells, making them Persist-worthy. Quicken Spell Extra actions. Almost every prepared spellcaster can make good use of Quicken, especially since, as a 3.0 class, it doesn't have much in terms of built-in Swift spells. Rapid Spell (CDiv) Most of the Shaman's distinct spells and summons have 1-round casting times, which hurts it gives opponents a chance to disrupt the Shaman's casting and gives the summons 1 less action per combat. This solves that problem. Twin Spell (CArc) Doubles effects of spells. Twinning Summons is especially handy. The feat's expensive on its own, but that's what Divine Metamagic is for.
Blind-Fight** Deal better with miss chances. Not a great feat, but it's likely to get some use. Choke Hold* (OA) Knock creatures unconscious on a successful pin (very short duration). The fortitude save and short duration limit its use. Combat Expertise* Useful prerequisite, but the Intelligence requirement isn't always easy for Shamans to manage until the level 8+ bonus feats.
Improved Combat Expertise* (CWar) Uncaps Combat Expertise. This probably isn't an ability you're going to use often. Marginal benefits, if it ever sees any use. Improved Trip* One of the best tricks a melee build can have. Acts as a control effect, effectively increases attack bonuses and costs opponents' actions.
Combat Reflexes** Required for anything resembling AoO-based tactics, and prerequisite for Robilar's Gambit.
Robilar's Gambit (PHB2) Gain AoOs against creatures who try to attack you in melee. If you can crank your defenses, hit hard enough and hit often enough, this becomes a winning trade.
Defensive Strike* (CWar) Attack bonus after being attacked while making a total defense action. That requires weak prerequisites and bad tactics on the parts of both the character with the feat and its enemies. Defensive Throw* (CWar) AoO against Dodge target who misses you in melee. Heavy prerequisites, but a very useul power. Deflect Arrows* Individual ranged weapon attacks aren't particularly threatening. Not a useless filler feat, but a poor choice in the place of something more powerful. Dodge* Waste of a feat. Only useful in qualifying for more powerful abilities. Earth's Embrace* (CWar) The 3.5 version is powerful at very low levels, but scales very poorly. Grappling Block* (OA) AoO when a weapon attack would otherwise hit you. Very strict requirements, specific to one increasingly rare type of offense. Overall, a weak feat option. Great Throw* (web) Place opponents in a square you threaten on a successful trip and automatically deal unarmed damage. With size increases, this becomes a potent control/damage effect. Holy Warrior (CCha) Bonus damage for Shamans with the War domain. Especially useful with multiple attacks (usually either with Snap Kick unarmed strikes or Rapid Shot). Improved Grapple* If you want to grapple, this is a feat you're going to use it's a good bonus and it drops the attack of opportunity involved.
Scorpion's Grasp (Sand) Shamans make excellent grapplers. This is like Improved Grab, without the size restrictions and Improved Grab is a strong ability for grapplers anyway.
Improved Natural Attack Extra damage with unarmed strikes. Rather meaningful damage increase with the natural damage and size increases available at high levels. Iron Will** This can be bought for gold at the Otyugh Hole (CSco), and improves a save that the Shaman should already expect to succeed in. Karmic Strike* (CWar) The prerequisites can be problematic, but if they're met, this is one of the best of the Shaman's bonus feats. Kiai Shout** (CWar) Between the HD cap, daily limit, fear/mind effect tags and the Shaman's lack of other fear-stacking effects, this isn't a feat the Shaman uses well. Unlike the Shaman's other weak bonus feat options, this is not a common prerequisite.
Greater Kiai Shout** (CWar) A powerful ability, but by the time the Shaman qualifies, its descriptors and HD cap are even more crippling.
Knowledge Devotion (CCha) Turn Knowledge skills into attack and damage bonuses. If you take the Knowledge Domain, and make attack rolls often, this is awesome. Without the Knowledge Domain, it's still good, but a bit less universally applicable. Law Devotion (CCha) Spend Turn attempts for large bonuses to attack or armor class. Activated as a swift action. Point Blank Shot/Rapid Shot The Shaman has the tools to be an effective archer; these are the feats required to excel at that job. Snap Kick (ToB) Either one extra unarmed attack per round, which is good, or one extra unarmed strike after each melee attack, which is amazing. Stunning Fist*/** For a Monk, this ability has some serious limitations. For a Shaman, with few daily uses and late qualification, this feat is very weak.
Anchoring Blow (DR#304) Spend a stun use to Dimension Anchor a target of a melee attack. Dimension anchor is both more reliable and an effect that is strangely omitted from the Shaman's spell list. Falling Star Strike*/** (OA) Tough qualification, few uses, targets a tough save, faces frequent immunities: overall, nearly useless. Freezing the Lifeblood*/** (CWar) Tough qualification, few uses, targets a tough save, faces frequent immunities: overall, nearly useless. Pain Touch*/** (CWar) Slightly improve Stunning Fist. This is a case of throwing good feats after bad. Unbalancing Strike*/** (CWar) Crappy benefits, requires Stunning Fist to use.
Superior Unarmed Strike (ToB) Looks like a decent feat, but with the 3.5 Shaman update's damage progression, it's useless. Travel Devotion (CCha) Spend Turn attempts for swift action movement. Especially useful for melee Shamans. Zen Archery (CWar) For shaman archers, this consolidates required abilities. Usually more valuable at high levels than early on (Some dexterity is still required to qualify for Rapid Shot).
*Bonus Feats from Oriental Adventures Shaman
**Bonus Feats from Dragon Magazine Update
Companion Spellbond (PHB2) Share spells at a distance. The Shaman has access to some excellent buffs. Sharing them is almost always a good strategy, but the 5ft range makes that difficult. This patches the range limitation. Exalted Companion (BoED) The Celestial template is valuable enough to justify the lost level (no need for Handle Animal checks or pushing the companion, overcome DR/magic without relying on a Pet Collar of Mighty Fists, the various passive defenses), the Blink Dog has incredible utility and the Unicorn's SLAs are just good to have. Asperi can be interesting with the Shaman's access to weather control. Natural Bond (CAdv) Patch a few lost Animal Companion levels. Can debatably also add three effective levels (beyond normal Shaman advancement) to one of the a higher-level animal option.
Concentration As a caster, you max out Concentration without asking questions. Especially with the Shaman's relatively frequent 1-round casting times. Craft The Shaman doesn't have any abilities which make notable use of the craft skill. Maybe with one of the Craft/Creation domains. Diplomacy The Shaman will typically have high Charisma, and this is a powerful skill. Almost always worth the investment. Heal Valuable for stabilization at low levels. At high levels, that's rarely needed, and spell slots can cover the majority of its functions. I recommend starting with high ranks and gradually using skill retraining (PHB2) to shift the ranks elsewhere, starting around ECL 5. Knowledge (Arcana) A useful knowledge skill, but often one that somebody else will have maxxed. If you have Knowledge Devotion or no party Arcanist, you'll want to maximize this; if you don't, you'll still want to dabble, but it's not pressing. Knowledge (Religion) Bonuses to turning, and probably a skill you're expected to crank up as the party's divine caster. Invest some skill points here, especially if you're using Knowledge Devotion. Knowledge (Spirits) This is both highly relevant to the Shaman's abilities and a skill that members of other classes are unlikely to invest in. Put full ranks here. Spellcraft Identify spells. Useful if you want to know what's ever going on (and who doesn't?)
Handle Animal You need at least 1 rank to direct your animal summons at all, and you'll probably want to reliably hit the DC 25 threshold for pushing an animal. Ride Sharing spells with your animal companion requires a constant maximum of 5ft distance. That's not something which can be maintained with the D&D initiative system, unless you revert to trickery. Riding the companion is an excellent sort of trickery. Speak Language Be absolutely sure you can communicate with your summons. Aquan, Auran, Draconic, Giant, Ignan, Sylvan and Terran are all potentially useful. Retrain when you can afford regular castings of Tongues. Tumble For characters who hang out in melee, enemies' attacks of opportunity are the difference between playing by the tactics you want and playing by the tactics they want. Tumble lets you make the calls.
Skills from Domains:
Appraise (Pact, Wealth) Really niche. While it can be useful to have a party member who knows what things are worth, the Shaman probably isn't going to have the highest intelligence or the most outside bonuses. Bluff (Dragon, Envy, Trickery) With high Charisma, and decent skill points, Shamans can make good party faces. This is one of the necessary skills. Five ranks are also needed for Diplomacy and Intimidate synergies. Disguise (Trickery) Incognito is often fun, but it's relatively niche even Shamans with high social skills are probably not going to need ranks. If disguises are a big enough part of your campaign to warrant heavy investment, you'll probably want the Second Impression skill trick (CSco). Hide (Trickery) With their light armor and various utility spells, the Shaman can make a decent sneak, making Hide worth a bit of investment. But without perception skills, move silently or trapfinding/disabling abilities, it's probably not going to capably fill in as party scout. Intimidate (Dragon, Pact) For the social use and demoralization. Demoralization is always a powerful ability especially with the Shaman's Charisma but I'm not going to dedicate the space to break it down here. See Caedrus's Fear handbook for most of the relevant details. Knowledges (Knowledge) Can fuel Knowledge Devotion, and often required for prestige class qualification. Also useful for Diplomancers trying to eke every last Diplomacy bonus possible. Sense Motive (Pact) With their high Charisma scores, certain shamans can play the party face. This is typically a skill that goes with that role. Survival (Travel) Not a particularly useful skill on its own, but often required for Druid-based prestige classes.
Collector of Stories (CSco) Bonus on knowledge checks. Doesn't stack well with skill-boosting items, but it's generally a good deal. Distracting Taunt (DR#357) Ready an action or AoO to use a Bluff check to disrupt spellcasting within 20 ft. Counterspelling or actually making an attack is usually a better option, but since this costs no daily resources, it can be well worth 2 skill points on a Shaman with Bluff ranks. Ecstatic Fervor (DR#357) Reduce Concentration DC when interrupted while casting. With all the Shaman's 1 round casting times, this is likely to come up a couple times, even if you try to avoid it. False Theurgy (CSco) Shamans with bluff ranks can trick other casters into thinking they're casting a different spell than they are. Especially useful with illusion effects (make Disguise Self out to be a Polymorph, make an Image out to be a summon, make an Invisibility out to be a teleport, etc.) Healing Hands (CSco) Cheap healing at low levels. Very useful at very low levels, a waste of 7 skill ranks later on. Very useful ability in low-level campaigns or when allowed to use skill retraining rules on skill tricks; not so much otherwise. Magical Appraisal (CSco) If you'd get Appraise ranks for some reason anyway (prestige class requirements, etc.), it's cheap identify for a very small number of skill ranks. If you wouldn't have Appraise ranks anyway, just buy an Artificer's monocle. Rhetorical Flourish (DR#357) Reduce penalty for rushed Diplomacy check to -5. Swift Concentration (CSco) Maintain concentration as a swift action.. The Shaman doesn't have many spells where this applies, but it's cheap and it's very often useful.
The Shaman treats prestige classes a bit differently than the similarly designed Cleric because the Shaman has class features to lose. For a prestige class to be worthwhile, it has to advance spellcasting, an animal companion, a third domain and bonus feats, or provide enough to the Shaman to compensate. This makes Shaman builds a bit pickier in terms of where their levels are spent.
I've given a rundown on prestige classes that are either noteworthy or ubiquitous (every Shaman player is going to have access to Oriental Adventures and the DMG, and is probably going to be able to give each of them a look).
Bone Knight (5N) - Trades animal companion progression and a caster level for a spooky skeleton horse and immunities. Unless you're getting shapechange from a domain, Bone Knight can be a good deal in the long run, but getting up to the immunities and 9th level spells hurts. Church Inquisitor (CDiv) Shaman 3 [with Inquisition domain]. Gain Knowledge Devotion with no CL loss on a dip. (Since you need to already have the Inquisition domain to get in, you aren't gaining anything by not trading it out for KD). Nice dip for a counterspeller. Contemplative (CDiv) Shaman 10. Extra domains at levels 1 and 6, various minor passive defenses and minor healing powers. "Cleric domains" aren't specified, but are normally treated as the default if that precedent holds, Contemplative could grant access to the Magic domain (and subsequently Dweomerkeeper). Excellent dip, but the delayed animal companion progression hurts for anything more. Divine Oracle (CDiv) Shaman 5. Oracle domain at level 1, improved divinations and various defenses like Evasion, Uncanny Dodge and (Ex) Foresight. Prerequisite feat can be met with a few gp spent on a visit to the Frog God's Fane (CS). Losing the animal companion progression is a poor trade for more than 1-4 levels. Dweomerkeeper (web) [special]. Requires the Magic domain, which is not typically available to Shamans (Contemplative or Seeker of the Misty Isle might help, though). The arcane spell requirement can be met by a Shaman with the Spell domain (Anyspell's domain slot fillers are arcane). Elemental Archon (F&P) Shaman 5 [with Knowledge Domain]. One level gets a slew of disposable mephit underlings and raises a few skill caps (most notably Handle Animal and Survival) and grants Wild Empathy, which is useful for qualifying for further dips in Druid and Ranger PrCs. A handy and thematic dip, even if it's nothing to base a build around. Hierophant Shaman 13. This is the DMG's big, high-level class that's apparently supposed to be the big capstone for a divine caster. It also happens to be terrible. It does have a couple uses: providing multiple daily high-level Domain spells via the Hierophant's Spell-Like Ability feature and cranking caster level up for aligned word spell abuse. Either way, it's not a class that most builds are going to want to touch, and if they do, not before ECL 19 (when animal companion, unarmed damage and spell level progressions are essentially finished). Lion of Talisid (BoED) Shaman 6. Full spellcasting on the Druid's chassis. This class has lots of goodies Fear Immunity, Scent, Wild Shape, pounce, free action haste, and it advances the animal companion throughout. Very good class. Loremaster Shaman 7. The main appeal here is use magical device and the possibility for a quick bonus feat for a high-Int Shaman. The skill focus feat can be covered with a few gp and a trip to the Frog God's Fane (CS) instead of a feat slot, but frankly the Loremaster doesn't give the Shaman much especially for melee-friendly builds. Malconvoker (CSco) Shaman 5 [with Summoner domain]. Two levels drops the alignment restrictions on summoning spells and grants access to the Planar Binding line of spells. Both of those are very valuable, though they don't clearly justify the lost caster level. The rest of the abilities rely on Summon Monster spells, which the Shaman uses quite poorly (even with Summoner domain). Moonspeaker (RoE) Shaman 8. Shifter-only. Improves summoning, increases versatility from summoned and called creatures (adding outsider options to each), grants wild shape, provides passive numeric defenses, improves shifting. Does not advance animal companion, but justifies it well. Ordained Champion (CCha) Shaman 4. A 3-level dip gives melee Shamans an extra domain, a turning-based smite, potential bonus feats and a very flexible version of spell channeling. No animal companion and a lost caster level keep Ordained Champion from being an outright improvement for a Shaman, but it can be worth some dabbling. Paragnostic Apostle (CCha) Shaman 5 [with Knowledge domain]. Advances turning and Bardic Knowledge. Selection of benefits each level, mostly increasing CL to various abilities and requiring a certain number of Knowledge ranks. The class doesn't advance animal companions or bonus feats, but it's often a valuable dip for anything that qualifies. Planar Shepherd (FoE) [special]. Requires Wild Shape as a class feature. That will typically mean levels in Lion of Talisid or Moonspeaker. A 1-level dip into OA's Shapeshifter can also cover it (the dip loses a CL, but in this case, it's worth it).
Prestige Paladin (UA) Shaman 6. 2-3 level dip. Divine Grace (qualifies for Dragon Magazine's Serenity feat), Aura of Courage, a Fortitude save bump and a special mount Psychic Theurge (web) [special]. PT requires a dip into Ardent (CPsi) and the Practiced Manifester feat (CPsi) to use effectively. Its biggest draws are the Freedom and Time domains, which provide access to two sets of invaluable magical abilities that aren't typically available to the Shaman teleportation and personal action economy abuse. Sacrifices the Animal companion and requires quite a few levels' investment. Sacred Fist (CDiv) Shaman 5. If you follow the text-trumps-table RAW, Sacred Exorcist is a full base-attack/full divine casting class with 10 levels of the monk's unarmed damage and speed enhancements thrown into the mix. This can strike newbies as too good of a trade to pass up, but because it costs animal companion progression and bonus feats (and Divine Power will already account for a melee Shaman's base attack), it's not particularly beneficial. Without the text-trumps-table ruling, it's just a trade down. Seeker of the Misty Isle (CDiv) Shaman 5. Another class with a differing spell progressions in table and text entries. If it's full casting (per the text), has an excellent chassis (2 good saves, good skills) and it grants two powerful domains (Travel and Magic). But at the cost of the Shaman's animal companion and bonus feats, and with the hassle of adding Survival to the Shaman's skill list (while still gaining anything from the bonus domain), it's not going to be a good option often. It could make a useful alternative to Contemplative for Magic domain access in a Dweomerkeeper build (where the companion's progression is going to be tanked anyway). Shapeshifter (OA) Shaman 7. Loses too many caster levels to invest more than one level. But one level gives Wild Shape with a HD cap based on character level (per the 3.5 update), making the CL loss somewhat justifiable when used for entry into Wild Shape classes, such as the Planar Shepherd. Singer of Concordance (RotD) - Easy qualification and nice wisdom-based abilities. Long-term level investment isn't all that great, because it comes at the cost of Animal Companion progression, but a short dip for the Dragon, Knowledge or Magic domains can be very worth a couple levels of companion advancement. Skypledged (RotW) - Shaman 7 [Raptoran only]. Cast spells from the Cleric and Druid spell lists. The number of spell levels cast this way is dependent on caster level, but that's not a hard statistic to raise. Doesn't advance Animal Companion, but does have its own useful class features (Wind storm powers, huge air elemental shapeshifting) and full casting. Thaumaturgist Shaman 7 [with Summoner domain]. This seems to be the most often-overlooked core prestige class, but it's the best of them for the Shaman, and the only one that can somewhat justify giving up a bonus feat or animal companion progression. Thaumaturgist is all about taking summons and Planar ally spells (already some of the best tools at the Shaman's disposal) and making them better. Void Disciple (CDiv) Shaman 7. Loses quite a few caster levels. In return, grants a powerful divination effect, and the ability to grant temporary feats. It's not a bad class on its own, but beside specific niche abuses of temporary feats, it adds little to the Shaman, and pays a steep price to do so.
The Shaman's animal companion is one of the best things it has going for it: the companion brings a second set of actions to the table each round, it's often a powerful melee character in its own right, and most notably, it can share every buff spell that the Shaman casts. Consider what that means with a high-caster level Divine Power, Polymorph, Giant Size or Shapechange, then feel free to giggle maniacally.
ON THE ANIMAL COMPANION AND 3.5:
Though the Shaman's Animal Companion was not explicitly updated to the 3.5 version of the class feature, it functioned identically to the Druid's in 3.0, and the mechanics underlying its older implementation were removed. I believe the most reasonable use of the ability in a 3.5 game is direct mimicry of the 3.5 Druid's Animal Companion mechanics, rather than porting in the 3.0 Animal Friendship mechanic which was removed due to fiddliness, unreliability and a high potential for abuse.
THE SHAMAN'S ANIMAL COMPANION
Brixashulty (RotW) Medium goat thing with a decent framework. Gore attacks include a decent bull rush with a fair chance of knocking the recipient over. The bull rush is useful for early-game AoO builds. Dinosaur, Swindlespitter Dinosaur (MM3) Area poison attack (blindness/Con) and good skills (including an unusually high Sleight of hand). Powerful in combat and in utility. Excellent companion choice. Dog, Riding Trip, Scent, slightly higher numbers than the wolf in Strength, NA and Perception. This is the baseline combat option at low levels. Giant Bee (per web) - A flying mount for a small character. Terrible combat ability and skills, but sturdy for its level, and with good mobility and speed. A situational - but potentially very useful - option. Hyena (per Sand), scent Ironically a better mount for a small rider than the riding dog, due to its higher speed. But the riding dog has better skills and AC. Monstrous Spider, Medium (per web) Spider webs are awesome, climb speed is awesome, tremorsense is awesome. Gets skills and feats if you keep it around. Plant (DR#357) Gain a generic Plant-type creature companion, with a variety of alterations which may be selected each level in place of the standard scaling mechanism. Tends to be mechanically weaker than the default companions, but gets a lot of weird special abilities to choose from (though its numbers stay low). Porpoise One fewer hit die than the Shark, but much better abilities for aquatic campaigns 120ft blindsight, crazy speed, higher base damage and better perception abilities. Serval (Sand) Low-level charging cat. Small size, pounce, scent and excellent skill bonuses; for its level, the Serval is the king of damage output. Squid Aquatic-only, but comes with some excellent abilities like Improved Grab (any size), Ink Cloud and Jet. More nuanced than the porpoise, but a compelling alternative. Tressym (LEoF, per Sand) Highly intelligent (12!) flying cat thing, good perception, great stealth, scent, poison immunity. The intelligence makes it one of the best utility options of any level.
Ape Large, high HD, high strength, multiple natural weapons, utility abilities like a climb speed and scent. It's a robust (if not stellar) choice that's practically built to mock the Fighter. Dinosaur, Fleshraker(MM3) This companion is notoriously crazy. It does pretty much everything pounce, grab (without size caps), poison, trip, rake, and does it with good speed and high HD for its level. Don't be surprised if the Fleshraker is nerfed, discouraged or banned. Dire Badger Mediocre combat stats. But the Dire Badger burrows through anything softer than solid rock, leaving a tunnel behind it. Excellent choice for a dungeoneer's utility companion. Dire Bat Large flyer with 40ft blindsense, good maneuverability and perception bonuses. Dire Eagle (RoS) Large flyer with higher speed, spot and HD than the Dire Bat and better feats and attacks. Loses out on blindsight, maneuverability and non-spot skills. Almost a toss-up between them. (NOTE: PHB2 includes this in its level 7 companions list, but it isn't clear if this is an error or stealth-errata. As a level 7 option, the eagle is much less attractive.) Leopard The baseline for DPS at this level. It's a solid step up from an advanced Serval, but medium size and middling strength are severely limiting for Improved Grab. Good enough skills to show up the Bison. Climb speed is also useful. Shark, Large Between its Large size, big piles of HD, blindsense and super-scent, the shark just has too many advantages over an advanced porpoise to ignore.
Bear, Brown A bit of a compromise between the Dire Ape's damage and the Giant Crocodile's grapple. Respectable (if not first-rate) damage output, as well as a rather high grapple modifier for its level and decent base speed. Solid choice. Bear, Magebred Brown (5N) Like the Brown bear, but with bonuses to Natural Armor, Strength and trick capacity. Requires an origin from Breland. Crocodile, Giant The first really excellent grappler. Improved Grab on a huge monster with high strength, excellent base damage and a swim speed. Dinosaur, Cave Ankylosaurus (Minis) Huge natural armor and a trample that still deals respectable damage at level 7. Starts as a decent option for a cautious player, but scales poorly. Notably decent hit dice and constitution for its level (useful for Polymorph purposes). Dire Ape If mobility weren't a limitation, the ape would dominate the level in terms of damage output. But without many teleport spells on the Shaman's list, the Ape ends up being a strong, but still second rate, combat choice. High potential for utility, though. Dire Wolf The first tripper with a decidedly advantageous modifier. It's not going to come close to the tiger's damage output, but it's a potentially useful choice as a tracker and battlefield controller. Swarm, Locust (per web) Overall, this is a weak option, but it's also a flying swarm companion. And that's pretty neat (even if it doesn't ever get skills). Tiger The default charger of this level. High damage output (including mobility), fairly strong improved grab and useful senses. The tiger has better damage and control than the advanced fleshraker, but still can't compete with the sheer pile of offensive abilities that the fleshraker puts out at once. Tiger, Magebred Ghost (5N) Like the Tiger, but faster, stronger, armoreder, dextouser and able to learn more tricks. Requires an origin from Breland.
Bear, Polar Weaker than the advanced Brown bear, but has a swim speed. You're probably going to want the Brown bear instead. Dinosaur, Allosaurus (MM2) Huge with Improved Grab, Swallow whole, trample and five attacks in a round. Variety of perception modes, high speed and above-average HD make it a solid combat companion. Dragonhawk (5N) Huge flyer with Blindsense, five natural attacks and excellent strength to back them up. Snake, Giant Constrictor Huge grappling beast ; Its Constrict, skill bonuses, scent and mobility modes make it preferable to crocodiles for pure grappling-based damage and control. Whale, Orca Better skills, damage, HP and perception modes than the Huge or advanced Large Sharks, despite having lower HD. This is going to be the default aquatic summon for this level.
Dire Bear High damage and grappling in the same build. Outclassed in both respective specializations by big cats and snakes, but a solid middle ground choice. Horrid Lion (ECS) A bit less powerful than the advanced tiger (especially magebred), but with extra acid damage. For pure damage per round, take it; but the tiger is still usually more useful. Octopus, Giant Lots of utility, and can grapple creatures of any size, but its grapple mods are fairly disappointing for this level. Even in aquatic campaigns, you'll probably want to stick with the constrictor.
Dire Elephant (MM2) Gargantuan, with 20 HD, 40 base strength and a bizarre climb speed. Justifiable by just the scale of the thing. Dire Shark Beats out the Orca as an aquatic companion by merit of its big handfuls of extra HD. And Improved Grab/Swallow Whole, which is always fun. Dire Tiger Enough HD to blow even the Magebred Ghost tiger out of the running for a charging companion. The new standard in DPS. Giant Squid Like the Giant Octopus, but with a grapple modifier that's salvageable at its level. Worryingly low HP though. Monstrous Centipede, Colossal (per web) - Honestly, it's a bad companion choice. But it's also a Colossal companion choice. That alone is pretty neat. Monstrous Scorpion, Gargantuan (per web) - The best grappling companion, and 20 HD. Tyrannosaurus Rex The best of the core grapple options, lackluster damage, but Swallow Whole is too awesome to pretend not to love. Roc (per Sandstorm) Gargantuan flyer. Good speed and feats. Considering its Snatch feat, this makes an excellent grappling option
Horrid Tiger (ECS) As the advanced Dire Tiger, but with fistfuls of Acid damage dice and slightly smaller saves/grapple mods.
And because I've seen a complete list of Druid animal companions asked several times, I'm going to include that index in a spoiler:
After Magic Item Compendium's stacking rules, listing numeric boosts that you want here is a bit of a waste of space. Buy items that make the raise the specific numbers you want to raise (Wisdom, Constitution, Resistance bonuses, various AC boosts, etc.).
After that, these are the specific items and enhancements that a Shaman will usually want to look through.
Unarmed Strike Its scaling leaves it the best weapon with a built-in proficiency. It also automatically works with touch spells like the Duskblade's spell channeling (CArc) and is the intended method for many of the Shaman's bonus feats.
Longspear A reach weapon that doesn't cost a proficiency. With Steadfast boots, it's a competitive option in melee even without considering its feat-wise cheapness.
Longbow Probably the best weapon to select from the War domain granted ability. Usually the best weapon for archery builds.
Light Crossbow A simple way to contribute to damage at low levels without using spell slots or entering melee.
Heavy Crossbow Slightly better damage than the Light Crossbow, but you seriously don't ever want to reload this thing. Pass it up.
Warning (MIC) +1 bonus. Sizable bonus to initiative. Inexpensive and very worthwhile. Eager (MIC) +1 bonus. Minor boost to initiative and damage in the first round. Initiative (OA) Minor Initiative boost. Expensive, but worth it at high levels. 20,000 gp. Sizing (MIC) For non-unarmed strikers using Polymorph, this keeps your weapon appropriate for your form. Sudden Stunning (DMG2) Add Charisma-based Reflex saves or stuns to your attacks as a swift action. Shamans don't have a lot of built-in competition for their swift actions, and already have a variety of reasons to boost their Charismas up. Spellblade 6,000 gp. Choose a spell to automatically counter and to recast as a free action whenever it's stymied. Dispels are never bad spells to choose. Wounding +2 bonus. Constitution damage means damage that scales with HD, that saps the targets' most important saves and that isn't subject to damage resistance. Collision (EPH) +2 bonus. Flat addition to damage. Flat additions are multiplied by damage multipliers and crits and rarely resisted overall about as good as straight damage increases get. Holy/Unholy +2 bonus. Whichever of these is more appropriate for your campaign is usually going to be fairly reliable damage.
Fortification (DMG) +1 to +5 bonus. Reduce the chance of unlucky rolls or precision damage doing you in. Death Ward (MIC) +1 bonus. Immediate Death Ward 1/day. Energy Immunity (MIC) +2 bonus. Immediate Energy Immunity 1/day. Ghost Ward (MIC) +1 bonus. Armor enhancement applies against touch attacks. Soulfire (BoED) +4 Permanent Death Ward as an armor enhancement.
Raptor's Mask (MIC) 3,500 gp. Inexpensive blindness immunity and spot bonus. Shadowy Diadem (DM) 4,400 gp. 3/day concealment and immunity to energy drain for a minute as a swift action. Circlet of Persuasion (DMG) 4,500 gp. If you want to get good at Turning Undead (or other things) or to play up your Diplomacy skill, this is an inexpensive and fairly flexible boost. Circlet of Mages (MIC) 5,000 gp. Flexible low-level spell retention. Good value. Helm of the Righteous War (CC) 5,000 gp. +2 Initiative and spot. Sacrifice Turn attempt to pinpoint enemies within 10 ft. Phylactery of Undead Turning (DMG) 11,000 gp. Big boost to level for Turn undead modifiers. If you're using it for its purpose. Circlet of Rapid Casting (MIC) 15,000 gp. Automatically quicken low-level spells, some flexibility in the levels quickened. Quite a bit cheaper than a rod of metamagic quicken.
Third Eye Dampening (MIC) 2,500 gp. Minimize numeric effects of a spell or SLA affecting you 1/day. Corsair's Eyepatch (MIC) 3,000 gp. 3/day See Invisibility as a swift action Third Eye Clarity (MIC) 3,000 gp. 1/day negation of a scary disabling effect Eyes of Truth (MIC) 5,500 gp. 1/day True Seeing as a swift action. Blindfold of True Darkness (MIC) 9,000 gp. Blindsight 30ft. Third Eye Concentrate (EPH) 10,000 gp. +10 concentration. Third Eye Sense (MIC) 24,000 gp. Throw your point of observation to a place the Shaman is familiar with, or a place which is obvious. Works very nicely with the Shaman's divinations, and stands a good chance of winning a Shaman a surprise round.
Necklace of Natural Attacks (SS) 300 gp. Enhance the necklace like a natural weapon to add its enhancements to your unarmed strike. The cheapest source of a weapon enhancement for an unarmed combat build. Chronocharm of the Horizon Walker (MIC) 500 gp. Move land speed as a swift action 1/day without provoking AoOs. Hand of the Mage (DMG) 900 gp. Mage Hand at will, general utility item. Reliquary Holy Symbol (MIC) 1,000 gp. 2-3 dirt cheap Turn Attempts. Hand of Glory (DMG) 8,000 gp. Wear an extra ring, use Daylight and See Invisibility 1/day. Ankh of Ascension (MIC) 9,000 gp. Sacrifice a spell slot to gain +4 CL for a round.
Ephod of Authority (MIC) 800 gp. Count as one level higher for turning (not rebuking). Not fantastic, but there really isn't much going on in the Torso slot. Tunic of Steady Spellcasting (MIC) 2,500 gp. +5 Concentration bonus. Least Iron Heart Vest (ToB) 3,000 gp. Learn an Iron Heart maneuver level 3 or lower. Wall of Blades can be handy, if cranking attack. Bolt Shirt (MIC) 5,000 gp. Teleport 60ft as a move action 1/day.
Ghost Shroud (MIC) 5,000 gp. The Shaman's two schticks are incorporeal creatures and beating monsters with its fists. The odds aren't bad that it will eventually have to beat an incorporeal creature with its fists. Robe of Mysterious Summons 10,000 gp. If your Shaman has Arcane Spell slots or a way to cast Arcane Spells (through Spell Domain, Alternate Spell Source, Geomancer, whatever), spontaneously casting Summon Monster can dramatically increase its versatility, even if it's just a few times per day.
Healing Belt (MIC) 750 gp. Inexpensive self-healing for low levels. Belt of Battle (MIC) 12,000 gp. Extra Actions are brilliant. Too brilliant. It's not unlikely that this item will be banned. Monk's Belt (DMG) 13,000 gp. You have the unarmed strikes, you have the feats, now take the AC bonus and watch Bruce Lee turn green. Belt of the Wide Earth (MIC) Spontaneously cast teleport 2/day.
Cloak of Elemental Protection (Minis) 1,000 gp. Immediate Energy resistance 1/day. Shadow Cloak (DotU) - 5,500 gp. Immediate short-range teleport when attacked 3/day, plus minor deflection. Mantle of Second Chances (DMG2) 6,000 gp. Reroll 1/day. Minor Cloak of Displacement (DMG) 24,000 gp. Constant 20% miss chance. Cloak of the Bat (DMG) 26,000 gp. Fly and polymorph into a bat for up to 7 minutes at a time, whenever needed. Phoenix Cloak (MIC) 50,000 gp. Perfect flight, in case Air Walk just isn't cutting it.
Bracers of Blinding Strike (MIC) 5,000 gp. +2 Initiative and Haste 3 rounds per day. Bracelets of Spell Sharing (DMG2) 60,000 gp. Share a personal-range spell with an ally, but cut the duration in half (not too crippling at all with Persist abuse). With some options like the Hero domain, it gets crazy.
Least Shadow Hands (ToB) 3,000 gp. Learn a Shadow Hand Maneuver level 3 or below. Shadow Jaunt helps cover for the Shaman's relative lack of teleportation abilities.
Least Ring of the Diamond Mind (ToB) 3,000 gp. Learn a Diamond Mind maneuver level 3 or below. Mind Over Body covers for a low Fort save quite nicely 1/combat. Ring of Enduring Arcana (CM) 3,000 gp. Increases CL v. Dispels by 4. Ring of Counterspells (DMG) 4,000 gp. Automatically counter a spell of 6th level or lower (Greater Dispel is always a good choice). Stormfire Ring (MIC) 4,000 gp. Faerie fire with some minor damage 5/day. Ring of the Beast (CC) 8,000 gp. Treat Summon Nature's Ally spells as 1 level higher (to a maximum of your highest-level spell slots). Ring of Spell-Battle (MIC) 12,000 gp. You know about all casting going on around you, but the big draw is a 1/day redirection of a detected spell to any creature within 60 ft of you; this could steal buffs, redirect attacks, whatever. Ring of Mighty Summons (CM) 14,000 gp. Halves duration of summons, maximizes HP 3/day. Ring of Greater Counterspells (DMG2) 16,000 gp. Like the standard ring, plus counter a spell as an immediate action 1/day. Ring of Blinking (DMG) 27,000 gp. Blink on command. Ring of Negative Protection (MIC) 36,000 gp. Immunity to Negative levels. Ring of Freedom of Movement (DMG) 40,000 gp. Somewhat spendy, but amazing protection against many of the effects that can otherwise shut characters down especially if focusing on a melee build.
Anklet of Translocation (MIC) 1,400 gp. Short-range swift teleportation 2/day Steadfast Boots (MIC) 1,400 gp. Bonuses against being moved, treat weapon as readied against charge. Least Slippers of the Setting Sun (ToB) 3,000 gp. Learn a Setting Sun maneuver level 3 or below. Counter Charge is quite useful for a melee Shaman. Quicksilver Boots (MIC) 3,500 gp. Move as swift action 2/day Boots of Big Stepping (MIC) 6,000 gp. 60ft teleport as a Standard action 3/day. Does not require line of effect. Boots of Speed (DMG) 12,000 gp. Haste for 10 rounds daily. Boots of Temporal Acceleration (MIC) 43,000 gp. Temporal Acceleration for 2 rounds 1/day.
Domain-Focused Holy Symbol (CC) 350 gp. Add 1 to CL or DC on selected domain-themed spells. Handy Haversack (DMG) 2,200 gp. Carry stuff easily. Talisman of Undead Mastery (MIC) 3,000 gp. Increase level for turning effects several times per day. Heward's Fortifying Bedroll (CM) 3,000 gp. Doesn't help the Shaman regain spells any faster, but fewer hours comatose and unaware is always a good thing. Summoner's Totem (MIC) 3,100 gp. Quicken a spell targeting a creature as a swift action after summoning it. Especially useful with Magic Fang access. Wand of Substitute Domain (CCha) 4,500 gp. Temporarily alter domain choices. This spell is normally restricted to Clerics, so it would require investment in UMD, a cleric dip, Miracle or fiated spell list expansion beyond the SpC. But if it is usable, this wand can provide a tremendous amount of versatility to the Shaman by essentially granting it access to all domains in Oriental Adventures and the Spell Compendium. Rod of Defiance (MIC) 7,312 gp. All undead creatures within 30 ft are treated as having 4 fewer HD for Turning and Rebuking purposes. This is a huge benefit for any Shaman with an interest in either. Nightstick (LM) 7,500 gp. Gain 4 additional Turn Undead uses. Use for Divine feats, other turning pools or even to actually turn undead, if that's your thing. Because these are based on the Extra Turning feat, they stack with themselves. Domain Draught (DMG2) 8,000 gp. Temporarily gain access to a Cleric domain. Expensive, and only lasts 24 hours but introduces some interesting strategic elements. Scepter of the Netherworld (MIC) 9,000 gp. Extra 3 levels for Turning or Rebuking. Rod of Undead Mastery (MIC) 10,000 gp. Control twice as many HD of undead as you otherwise could. Great for necromancy-friendly Shamans. Domain Staff (CC) 36,000 gp. Spontaneously cast a spell from one selected domain by expending an appropriately-leveled divine spell slot 1/day. Spells must be available on the Shaman list or on the lists of any Shaman domains. Strand of Prayer Beads (specifically Bead of Karma) (DMG) 20,000 gp. Large caster level boost for 10 minutes per day.
Mind if I steal a link to your 5th post there for the Wu Jen Handbook?
But as a heads-up, I favored the lowest-HD monsters possible for a given ability; with Bindings, you might want to go through some of the compound entries (Elementals, Nats, etc.) to pick the bigger versions instead.