DESIGNER’S DIARY 12: CLASSES OF CONFLICT – ANCESTRAL SHAMAN
When it comes to the Ancestral Shaman, there’s something we need to confess.
The Ancestral Shaman was essentially a bonus class. In other words, it wasn’t initially planned to be part of the book’s content.
There were multiple reasons for this decision: the design challenges posed by a spellcaster class, the significant increase in the planned page count due to spells, the difficulty of creating a unique caster within the context of Brutal Races, and the question of whether we needed a spellcaster at all.
However, a friend who joined the team later convinced us of the necessity of including a spellcaster and brought along some design ideas. Even then, as the main writers, we still didn’t have a clear idea for a caster class.
For Brutal Races, the natural candidate for a new caster was undoubtedly the Shaman. But let’s be honest, what is a Shaman in D&D? It’s essentially one of the subclasses of a Druid or a Cleric, or even a multiclass combination of these. Other spellcasters like Warlocks or various classes could be referred to as Shamans by tribal societies. A Shaman is more of a job title than a distinct class. That’s why we were clear from the outset that we didn’t want a Shaman.
The first idea that came to mind was a class called “Weapomancer.” This class would have the ability to telekinetically control any weapon from a distance and perform combat actions through these weapons. They could sacrifice spell slots to gain special strikes or enhance their weapons. It was likely going to be a half-caster class.
However, the Weapomancer was essentially still a warrior, just wielding weapons remotely. This sparked a debate about whether it was a spellcaster or not, and as you can see, it didn’t make it to the final cut.
Another concept was a class that stole the souls or life energy of defeated enemies to empower their spells. However, this class had only mechanics, and its thematic side didn’t quite fit the Brutal Races theme. It was more suited for an undead theme. Nevertheless, the mechanics were later used in the creation of the Ancestral Shaman class.
After much searching and debating, the idea of a character who could summon the aid of long-deceased ancestors came to mind. Upon further thought, we realized that it didn’t have to be limited to just warrior ancestors; spellcaster ancestors could teach them spells as well. This idea evolved into the Ancestral Shaman class. We created numerous generic ancestral entities, and the Shaman could access and learn spells or different abilities from them. Not only did this concept align well with the Shaman theme within Brutal Races, but it also offered a unique gameplay and mechanics experience, prompting us to diversify it further.
Naturally, the first subclass, as mentioned earlier, took on a resemblance to the Barbarian in Diablo 3. Named the Eidolon Summoner, this subclass would fight side by side with spirits it summoned, which took on a semi-physical form. It would become a formidable warrior and rely less on magic. It would need very few spirits that could teach spells and would communicate with spirits that provided more practical abilities. For the sake of clarity, you can think of the Eidolon Summoner as akin to a War Domain Cleric—a formidable mix of both classes.
The second subclass, the Dwimmer Spellbinder, would gain many more metamagic abilities through the control of enemy spirits. When it came to competing in the realm of magic, it could reach the level of Sorcerers and Wizards, becoming a potential powerhouse. In terms of role-play, it was a practical spellcaster who didn’t particularly care about the spirits it communicated with.
The third subclass, Ancestor Bonded, was essentially the default subclass. It leaned more towards support abilities and formed a deeper connection with Ancestral Spirits in role-play—a mystical character.
In summary, the Ancestral Shaman could take on a form similar to that of a Cleric or Druid if desired, due to its flexibility. However, most players would opt for a unique spellcaster format, which was the ultimate goal for all classes from the beginning. It is both suitable for the Brutal Races theme and introduces an entirely new class to the game!
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