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Offline Nobody

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Redefining Shamans
« on: March 28, 2005, 01:07:58 AM »
OK, first, this is my first idea submission of any kind, so i hope that you all like my contribution.

I was thinking of redefining the term Shaman. Let me explain. Normally a wizard or mage has internal mana that he uses up in order to cast spells. He can cast them anywhere with equal effect, not considering environmental factors.

However, What if you casted a spell that would give you greater magical power within a certain area. We see this often when one travels to elemental plains of their own power. But say that just by living in a single area for a very long time, that you could gain a greater magical influence over that area. A lifetime might only create a minor influence over the area of a small hut. But over the course of a hundred lifetimes?....

What if a Shaman was actaully a mage or wizard who had, through some rite of passage, recieved the previous Shaman's influence over an area, which had been handed down for generations. This presents a very interesting conflict in my opinion. Great power at the cost of freedom.

Even an inexperience shaman might be able to match a powerful wizard on his own turf. A wizard might have to be a lot more careful about which village he picks a fight in. A Shaman might have almost no name outside of his local area, despite having great power. A small village Shaman could give a large army a pretty hard time despite having few men, and few high-quality weapons.

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Offline Ancient Gamer

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« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2005, 03:40:29 AM »
Your idea is cool, but I would be careful with the power level of the Shaman. If an inexperienced Shaman could stall an army and give an archmage trouble, then a powerful Shaman would be an awesome force indeed.

Now I'd guess that MOST villages and cities would want a Shaman and then armies and archmages would become useless. There would be godlike Shamans everywhere...

Downplay the power level and you have a cool and workable idea.
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Offline Anteaus

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Redefining Shamans
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2005, 05:43:24 AM »
Good and Interesting Idea, I think that Ancient Gamer is right, downplay the power and you have someing great here.....please hold...incorperating into world....task completed.

Thanks for the Idea.
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Offline Nobody

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« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2005, 09:41:47 AM »
Well i was using extreme examples. The scenario i described would take untold generations (hundreds maybe?) to bring about that kind of power, and honestly, the likelyhood that any place would exist for that long in a stable system is highly unlikely. It would be a very rare thing indeed. But i have yet to do any balancing, so it has to be worked out.

But that is a good point. What do you think is an acceptable power level. How many generations would produce how powerful a shaman?
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Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2005, 11:08:21 PM »
Balancing can be tough.  The specifics of how to balance shamans against wizards would depend on the specifics of the game world. Namely, you need to consider the stability of the areas, the length of time areas are inhabited, population density, the proportion of magic-users to non-casters, the proportion of shamans to wizards, and the incrementing effects of the system used (levels, et alia). Also, you need to consider things from a metagame perspective. That is, how much power do you want to give a player in the form of a starting shaman, but who could inherit vast amounts of power from her predecessors. Players are not likely to want to play someone without a strong inheritance.  Also, a character that is powerless or nearly so outside of the home territory isn't as much fun to play when the group invariably wants to leave the shaman's little grove. How are you going to determine how much inherited power a pc shaman would gain?  In addition, the older & more powerful shamans will have greater numbers of prospective replacements, further reducing the likelihood that a pc will inherit that vast amounts of power.  Such prospective replacements are also more likely to have previous power on their own, to better compete for the small number of truly choice spots.  This makes it more likely that someone who is already a powerful mage will inherit the power of an old area, assuming that your system allows such.
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Offline Minsk

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« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2005, 06:35:38 AM »
Interesting ideas, Nobody. Time for me to add a pair of cents!

 I've always had the notion that shamans gain their powers from some kind of natural source, much akin to druids. Perhaps he gains his power from the nature itself, or from the surroundings, if one lives somewhere more... urban.

 This could be one reason why shamans are more powerful in their own lands (their hood  :lol: ). After a large time of living in the land, they're more attuned to the world around them and can more easily tap into the nature for their powers. If what you suggested occured and the power was passed down generations, then the attunity (hope that's a word) would remain and the shaman's sphere of influence could continue to grow.

 This has much potential to make for interesting NPCs. PCs won't work as well as its easily assumable that the PCs will be travelling abroad. Perhaps the shaman would have a minimum power everywhere he went, and staying in one area for a while (say, a week) would increase his power temporarily. Once he would leave, the affect would dissipate. Only the shaman's home area would have a permanent influence on the shaman.

Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2005, 10:17:25 PM »
One of the Midian writers, Ceekay, had an idea for shamans along the "attunement" angle.  Unfortunately, he never finished the write-up.  His idea was that a shaman could attune himself or herself to portions of the natural environs around the shaman.  For example, an Orck shaman living in the mountainous Highlands could attune himself to the stone & wind, but his Lowlander counterpart could attune herself to wood, leaves, dirt, or rivers.  Mechanically, this would grant certain bonuses to related spells & effects, such as more damage from the Razor Wind spell for a shaman attuned to wind or leaves. It's a facinating idea, especially as he was going with an Orck & Ogre mindset, but he got hung up on the exact game mechanics of it...

This could be tied into the idea of inheriting the previous shaman's power, and would make each shaman more individual, as there would be different environmental influences with each area to be attuned to the shaman.  It also provides a bit more structure, and allows the shaman a bit more freedom of movement than a straight area-of-effect for their home place of power.
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Offline Ancient Gamer

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« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2005, 06:34:18 AM »
I struggled for a long time with the aspect of Shamans in my setting. To find a niche unique for them is somewhat troubling. The DnD Druid is fairly close, as is the tribal witchdoctors of primitives and Orcs.

I finally arrived at three distinct types of Shamans; Spirit Shaman, Shaman-Priest and Shaman of Nature. Here is a quick and dirty description of those three:
Spirit Shaman: These are Shamans that worship the spirits of the ancestors. They keep small statuettes in their lodges and huts, and they ensnare lost souls. They are good for battling undead spirits and divination as their magic is soul aspected. They use foci such as carved statuettes and voodoo dolls.
Shaman-Priest: These are Shamans that worship the chaos entities. They wield ceremonial daggers and masks of eppipphon(Eppi-pfoN), a chaos metal with mutilating effects, and sacrifice raped virgins to their sinister lords. Their magic is elemental and chaotic as they tap into the forces of Chaos for their spells. Their masks are their focus.
Shaman of Nature: These are Shamans that attune to a specific essence of nature, a "Mekhros". More powerful Shaman have several Mekhros and may have a particular powerful mastery of a certain Mekhros. These Shaman use animal charms and amulets made of their chosen Mekhros to connect more strongly, achieve more powerful effects. They do not shapechange or such, but can inherit animalistic traits such as speed and strength from prolongued use of their Mekhros.

I think Nobody/Rupert's idea was terrific. I will certainly endow both Spirit Shamans and Shamans of Nature with a limited version. Ceekay's idea was also of interest for the Shamans of Nature. I must think about this.
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Offline Nobody

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« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2005, 07:13:52 AM »
I always thought that attunement was more of a druid trait. And of course, i am assuming that this is not the same as a wizard who specializes in an elemental spell-type. Personally i like to find a reason why a druid is called a druid and not a witch, and why a shaman is called a shaman and not a mage. Although you may also hae a ready-made niche for druids as well.

PC shamans are probably not workable. You would have to have a unique plot-line (not to mention unique players) indeed to pull that one off. And I think that Ancient Gamer may also be onto a point. The term Shaman (in this case) does not determine the kind of magic used, nor the source of its power. It simply defines attunement to a location. You could have multiple kinds of Shamans.

Also, it has yet to be determined exactly WHY a shaman is more powerful on home turf. It may be that Minsk has the best idea concerning source. Or maybe there should be some other reason.

Any ideas?

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Offline Ancient Gamer

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« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2005, 08:59:13 AM »
Ah, as for source I use this. Druids are clearly apart in regards to that:

<explanation, system specific>
Druids gain their magics from the Divine, the Gods of Nature. A Druid is a kind of a Priest, not something else! He is NOT drawing power from the land, but from the divine essence that reside within his lands. In my setting that essence is clearly different from the essence of the stones and the trees, the earth and the air. There are other priests as well; Bishops, Ceremony Masters, Reverends, Mullahs, etc... based on the religion and location.

A Mage/Witch/Warlock/Witchdoctor/etc is a mage, using whatever spells he has at his disposal. His magics come from rift channelling, the manipulation of essences* through the use of incantations, gestures, dances, ceremonies, foci, songs, blood and so on. The different titles indicate gender, powerlevel, rulership and field of specialty. There are drastic changes from a Warlock to a witch of the Shievren.
</explanation, system specific>

Then there are the Shamans. I agree with Rupert: They are largely unsuitable for play. The reason might be their unique ties to their location but also their social role. Shaman Priests might have been playable, if I were to have an "evil type group", but I learnt to avoid that long ago.

A strong connection to the "home turf" is a cool idea, but also one that makes Shaman characters even less desirable to play. I much prefer your "inherited local powers" AND retaining the ability to perform magics, albeit not world rattling ones, outside the home territory.

*The 6 essences are the 4 elements + black essence(that which tear apart and kills) and white essence(that which keep together and creates life)

---------

Why the Shaman is stronger at home:
As the Shaman utilize his magic, he draws upon the power of the surroundings. If he is to make his skin hard, he calls to the stones, asking for their "Mekhros" (my term) to protect him and steel his skin against harm.

At home the spirits of the earth and the stones* know him. They are his friends. If he calls to an oak, the oak readily help him, even go out of its way to boost his magic. When the Shaman needs an animal companion, the entire forest might answer his call, so he better be careful to specify who he wants.

When he is away this changes. He is still able to contact the forest and earth spirits, and the animal souls. But now the rules have changed. To them he is a stranger, might even be an intruder. He has either got to force them to co-operate, which will alienate them in the future, or he has to convince them.

A logical continuation of this is that the older an area is, the more ancient and powerful, rich on animal and spirit life, the more power will be available to the Shaman of Nature. So if the Shaman and his ancestors have lived in the area a long time, their magics will be powerful indeed.

Edit: Removed some gibberish.
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Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2005, 10:47:21 PM »
That's a possible whole new slant on the issue, Ancient Gamer.  It could be a litteral inheritance of power.  That is, you don't just inherit from your shamanistic predecessor, you must inherit from a parent or older sibling.  This will limit the number of powerful shamans (being an additional limitation), give the shaman's an additional strong tie to the area (it's their own inherited land, rather than just the seat of power), and can have further effects on the game world.  Even if you don't want to have shamans as the ruling nobility, this tradition (mystically enforced) could be the historic & cultural antecedent that later became whatever form of nobility you have.  It could be that in one powerful ancient family, one child inherited the magical power, and another the secular.
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Offline Dragon Lord

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« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2005, 07:55:20 AM »
All very good

Personally I have always thought of shamans as a kind pseudo-priest of the ancestors, much along the lines Kinslayer has suggested.

Generally they do not (and indeed cannot) cast powerful spells, although they might certainly have minor spell casting abilities. Instead their power is mainly spiritual, in the very literal sense that they have the ability to commune with the spirits around them. These would certainly include both the ghosts of their own ancestors and the local nature spirits.

The important thing to remember here is that the shaman cannot command or control any but the most minor of these spirits, so his real power is in the relationship he has with the larger spirits, the agreements he has with them, and the favours (if any) they owe him or his family.

Obviously then, a shaman whose family has been in an area for a long time will be more powerful since he may have inherited many such deals.
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Offline Nobody

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« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2005, 09:17:38 AM »
EGAD, Thats Brilliant! Deals with the undead spirits. What a great idea. It of course means that you have to understand how the spirit world operates in your system.

Of course... the pay-off for the Shaman would be more than obvious. But what would the spirits get in turn? There would be some trade-off, no? What in the world would undead spirits want in return. Hmm.

This is a whole fascinating topic of its own. I think that i might have to split the thread. This is too good to keep under the heading of "Redefining Shamans". I mean, it really is a separate topic.

However, please keep the ideas coming. Just cause i split the thread, does not mean that this one is dead. In fact, quite the opposite.

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Offline Ancient Gamer

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« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2005, 09:35:50 AM »
Deals with the dead and otherworldy spirits are the domain of spirit shamans in my setting, among other things.

The thread is getting kind of fragmented with this new twist. The Shaman would not any longer gain its power from surrounding nature, but from the dead. Mighty shamans would dwell near graveyards and ancient tombs... Sounds like you need to take steps to distinguish them from necromancers :wink:
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Offline MoonHunter

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« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2005, 11:08:54 AM »
It sounds like your "shaman" is really a bound geomancer.  Rather than a general geomantic spell caster, whos power comes from the manipuation of the world, your spell caster draws energy/ mana and so on from the world around it to effect the world (or empower other spells it might have). This binding grants greater access to the power of the place and manipulation of the place, but it also limits their abilities when they are not close to their land.

So your geomancer sees the power in terms of the local earth spirits (use of the law of personification). Unless these spirits actually have personalities, this is just a way of forging a relationship/ association with this innate energy form.  Most inanimate spirits are fairly dull and unresponsive (if they were active and responsive, they would be the spirits of alive/ animated things).

So your geomancer has a vested interested in the land it is bound to. That makes sense, you need to cultivate your powers and cultivate the lands to go with your power.

The term Shaman does imply dealing with spirits. So why do these shamans limit themselves to the spirits of the land, when they can also access the spirit of the plants, the spirits of the animals, and the spirits of the people in their land? If these people are not shamans, but geomancers.. who draw upon the land for power... then it makes sense that they are not dealing with the powers.
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Offline Ancient Gamer

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« Reply #15 on: March 31, 2005, 12:06:02 PM »
I am uncertain whether you were adressing me, but since mine was the previous post, I'll answer as if such was the case.

I have not fully described my Shamans here. My nature Shamans has the powers of spirits of the earth, the wind, the animals, the plants, and all such things. Nevertheless it was interesting to learn a new term; geomancer.
 
In effect my shamans might be considered bound geomancers, or bound shamans, as they slowly develop mastery of their Mekhros and possibly other Mekhros. I am a low magic kind of guy and my system+setting reflects that. But they do HAVE access to other Mekhros (as is my chosen name the essence/spirits of nature and animals).

Very nice description of deals with the dead in the other thread btw.
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Offline Nobody

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« Reply #16 on: March 31, 2005, 04:47:19 PM »
I think that ancient Gamer has a good point. This may be exactly why i split the thread. The idea was originally that a Shaman would have location-centered power passed down for generations. The longer the society, the more powerful the Shaman. So maybe we should try and think of why a shaman would gain power in such a manner. Specifically:passed down generations, and location-centered.

One thought would be that Shamans, upon death, literally become one with their successor, and that they gain some natural strength by being near their home. In turn, the successor gains that strength, however slight it may be. This could be marked by an amulet or a special piece of jewelry. Maybe the power of that predecessor becomes most powerful if he approaches the place where he originally recieved the power, or the jewelry.

So Moonhunter, why would this geomantic theory be location-centered? Or able to be passed down? Why not draw power from any tree wherever it is? Lets make one up.

Maybe the specific type of magic that the shaman uses soaks into the land around them, which in turn, opens up a free-er flow of geomantic power to him. But how would that be passed down?

And if it can't, so what? But lets try to see what we can come up with.

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« Reply #17 on: March 31, 2005, 05:20:40 PM »
I don't have a lot of time, so I'll just quickly describe my thoughts.

New theories of generational and location centred power inheritance:
1: The soul of the Shaman is reborn into an infant within the local area (Quasi Dalai Lama theory). "The Shaman has always been, will always be".

2: The Shaman's soul is sacred, like a force of nature, and can only be found within the Ancestors' Cave (Cannot be removed from the area, for it is taboo; a crime punishable by death). There it dwells within an ancient, dust and cobweb covered ceramic urn. Whenever a new Shaman has been found through election, contest or something else, he must enter the Caves to gain the forefathers' knowledge (or even be possessed). (Lots of plot possibilities (adventurers accidentally find the urn and complications occur. OR: raiders have captured the sacred urn. OR: something else resides within the urn. OR: upon the last shaman's death something went terribly wrong and now the Shaman is haunting the Caves. And so on.)

Both of the aforementioned theories presume that if the host leaves the local area, the connection is temporary lost, rendering the host without his soulgained abilities.

Edit: Added last paragraph
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Offline Kinslayer

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« Reply #18 on: March 31, 2005, 11:45:37 PM »
I like the possession angle.  One could rip from Stargate for further ideas. The reason shamans get more powerful with each successive generation is simply that the possessing entity just gets better with practice, like everyone else does.  However, since he, she, or it, continues through many mortal lifetimes (by taking over the "new" shaman's body), the original shaman can become quite powerful over time.  

The reason a shaman is less powerful outside of the area, is because the true seat of power resides within it. This can be in the form of a magic jar type gem (holding the essence of the true shaman), or can be from the crashed remains of the spaceship that actually powers the shaman's spellcraft (any sufficiently advanced technology...), or can be the fetish that binds the shaman's ghost to this plane.  

By having a single intelligence be the true shaman for all of the successive generations, you can add an additional political subplot.  As they are all ancient, tied to their own areas, and presumably know one another (or will come to do so over enough time), the shamans may oppose one another, or may band together into different factions. As they must maintiain the premise that each new shaman is only inheriting the power of the previous--instead of being possessed by an ancient spirit--such politicking must be done surreptitiously.  Also, since they are bound to their areas, it must also be done via unknowing proxy... such as the pc's.
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Offline Dragon Lord

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« Reply #19 on: April 01, 2005, 09:12:06 AM »
OK - the possession angle is nice and MoonHunters' geomancers are certainly an interesting idea but neither is quite what I was trying to get at, so some explanation is probably in order.

Basically a village shaman deals with two (very) broad types of spirits: ancestral spirits and nature spirits. Each has different desires and is therefore dealt with in a different manner

Ancestral Spirits

These are the ghosts of the dead who hang around to aid their descendants (i.e. the local villagers). They are not (or perhaps more accurately are not considered to be) undead as such, rather hey are much loved relatives who "transcended the mortal coil" or whatever is largely irrelevant, they are still family and therefore still valued.

It is important to remember that a long established village may have A LOT of these, all of them willing to aid the villagers in any way they can - after all the villagers are their children (or grand-children, or great grand-children, or great-great grand-children, etc).

These are, of course, by far the easiest spirits to deal with since they already have an interest in the villages' well-being. All the shaman needs to do is convince them that his request(s) will aid the villagers (i.e. the spirits' own descendants).

Nature Spirits

These are the spirits of the natural world (or possibly personifications of natural phenomena, which is very close to what MoonHunter suggested). They embody the "natural" magic of the forest, the stream, and the spring as well as the life force of animal or plant.

These spirits have interests more closely associated with their own nature. Thus the lord of birds would want to protect all bird life, the spirit of the forest would wish to see more trees (and by inference less tree felling), etc. A village might gain the favour of such spirits, and thus their aid, in return for agreeing to further these concerns (e.g. the bird lord might require that those he favours never eat the flesh of birds).

If these spirits are powerful enough to be useful and their demands are not too restrictive, it may be worth considering. Negotiating such deals is part of a shamans' job since it is only the shaman who is able to directly communicate with the spirits. A shaman who has successfully negotiated several such deals could have several nature spirits at his disposal, as long as the agreements have been maintained of course.

Note that in areas where such spirit deals are traditional, a shaman might "inherit" many such deals.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2008, 09:54:46 AM by Dragon Lord »
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Offline Strolen

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« Reply #20 on: June 05, 2005, 08:55:56 AM »
As far as the power of the Shaman and why they are weaker beyond the realms of their territory. (I will just ramble as I usually do. These thoughts rest upon what was already discussed.)

I like the general angle that the spirits are bound to a certain place, their homeland. Shamans and their culture would be very family/clan orientated and they would have many established rituals that bind them to certain times and certain areas to gain the most potency. This might be more out of tradition and is a psychological impact of being a shaman more then actually being a physical limitation of the power. This gives the possibility of having the power 'in great need' somewhere else but still limits  any normal shaman to a localized power base.

So the power itself. As I read I was imagining generation after generation of people that have power inbued in the land. I was thinking that an old culture would have a wide area of power while a younger, or recently moved or created tribe, would have a lesser power base. I was thinking that only the greatest warriors who have been blessed by the current shaman (which would be a great honor) are allowed to stay and protect their people after death. As these spirits accumulate, each spirit acts as like a link on a chain expanding the area where they have influence. A new tribe might only have a few hundred feet of useable power while others may have miles and miles because of the amount of honored protectors bound to the people and land.

If the shaman knew this was possible then perhaps they can use this by purposely 'planting' spirits strategically. Agreements on the placement would have to be made prior to the person's death and if something was changed you have the chance of an upset spirit.

So that is my take on the ancestors and their power, but then you have the animals. These are the lesser powers that I think would be able to travel with the Shaman as they depart their normal area. The ancestors are linked to their land and their people but the animals have freedom and can bring with them their own raw power that the shaman will be able to draw upon. This power is much weaker, obviously, than the ancestor's power and is limited to the type of animal that it is.

I think a Shaman's power should definately rest upon the shoulder's of tradition and ancestors. With this tradition also comes the usage of hallucinary drugs!? To see the spirit world and interact with them they must burn 'herbs' or smoke a pipe or eat some kind of root to enter the spirit world to ask their favors. I think that is much of the charm and personality of a Shaman, how they must be 'altered' to interact with their 'powers.' It makes them much more interesting and defines them better. Nothing like having a Shaman in your party eating dried plant roots that take him into the spirit world and out of your plane of existance so he must be guided everywhere because his grasp of the physical is disrupted, and then him having an animated discussion with a spirit that nobody else can see.

Flying Squirrel – Strolenati Guild
Grothar Rockfury - Dwarvish Guild
Minor Minion - Cartographer's Guild
Level 3
STR: 5 | END: 2 | CON: 3 | DEX: 2 | CHA: 2 | INT: 6
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