Baldur's Gate Wiki

The following text contains a systematic in-depth analysis of the Shaman class, written by HenryNY (talk) 13:06, April 7, 2020 (UTC), which assumes:

  • - Game referenced = BG2EE v2.5.16.6;
  • - Player party has one Shaman, unless otherwise stated.

Shaman - Technically, What Is Shaman?[]

Shaman is an Enhanced Editions class that combines a most gifted Sorcerer -style divine spellcaster with a Warlock -style dancing summoner in such a way that they may be either a spellcaster or a dancing summoner but not both at the same time.  While not dancing or attacking, Shaman can be an excellent party healer and supporter, capable of buffing, curing, healing, and reviving almost anytime anywhere (except where or when spellcasting has to fail).  From the point of view of role-playing, Shaman is a well-balanced class, offering a distinctively new way for completing the Baldur's Gate saga.
From the point of view of power-gaming (in the sense of min-maxing), Shaman is an overbalanced class.  On the one hand, Shaman is one of the two most gifted spellcasting classes in the game; on the other, their spellcasting potential is crippled by only being able to learn combat spells focused on weakening enemies, and is further crippled by having to live with the smallest number of spell slots among all spellcasting classes.  On the one hand, Shaman is the most gifted summoner in the game thanks to Shaman Dance; on the other, their summoning potential is crippled by having no access to any of the superior gating spells available to every other spellcasting class and even to Paladin.  On the one hand, Shaman is the only spontaneous healer in the game and a most talented party supporter; on the other, there is no way for them to learn restoration spells, which amounts to poking a big hole on Shaman's otherwise impeccable healing magic.  On top of all the crippling features is that Shaman as a spellcaster and the same Shaman as a spirit summoner are two separate beings that cannot directly interact with each other.  The game ensures the separation by enforcing a noticeable delay every time Shaman switches between spellcasting and dancing.  As a result, Shaman cannot directly support their own spirits except via equipped items, and Shaman's spirits cannot support their own summoner except by blindly attacking enemies using Shaman's line of sight.

Shaman - What Can Shaman Do?[]

(Please read in-game descriptions and wiki pages for an accurate list.  No need to duplicate one here.)

Shaman- What Can't Shaman Do?[]

1) Can't open most locks 2) Can't disarm any traps 3) Can't haste their own spirits 4) Can't overcome Magic Resistance on spell targets 5) Can't count on Shaman Dance in hardest battles 5.1) Can't command their own spirits 5.2) Can't directly support their own spirits 5.3) Spirits can't see except through Shaman's eyes 5.4) Spirits are vulnerable to Death Spell and instant-kill effects 6) Can't deal serious damage with any weapon 6.1) Can't specialize in weapon or weapon style 6.2) Can't overcome the default 1 APR limitation 6.3) Can't effectively improve THAC0 or damage by spells 7) Can't deal serious damage with direct combat spells 7.1) Combat spells are focused on weakening enemies 7.2) Has fewest spell slots among all spellcasting classes 7.3) Can't overcome the default 1 spell per round limitation 8) Can't put up top-tier defenses for hardest combat 8.1) Can't use heavier armor or regular shields 8.2) Can't recast Iron Skin under attack 8.3) Can't raise resistance to acid, magic, or poison by spell 8.4) Has very little illusion magic to help with combat 9) Can't grow much in power past level 20 9.1) Can't get more spell slots past level 17 9.2) Can't have Deva or Greater Elemental Summoning 9.3) Can't use Favored of the Spirits more than once per rest

Shaman - What Can Shaman Do Best?[]

1) Shaman Dance scales up with Shaman's level up to 20: can be (very) powerful 2) Shaman is the naturally best party healer and supporter (while not dancing) 3) Shaman's best offensive spells include Creeping Doom & Ethereal Retribution 4) Shaman can avoid competing with most others in weapon/gear selection

Shaman - A Few Facts[]

1) AC = can be as low as -15 persistently (unnecessary) 2) MR = can be as high as 55% persistently (if so desired) 3) Health = up to 134, can be lower/higher permanently 4) Total number of spell slots = 42 to 46 5) Total number of spells known = 43 to 52

Shaman - A Few Observations[]

1) Detect Illusion = a supposedly useful skill with virtually no practical use 2) Ether Gate = never needed except for facilitating an exploit near end of SoA 3) Best race = technically, half-orc 4) Alignment = be good to use Azuredge, be evil to use Human Flesh 5) Best weapon #1 = Firetooth +3 (highest DPS) or Azuredge (vs most undead) 6) Best weapon #2 = Staff of Arundel or upgraded Axe of the Unyielding 7) Temporarily losing 10 levels from level 31 has no significant impact 8) Wisdom score may be lower than 12 after character creation

Shaman = Sorcerer-Style Divine Spellcaster[]

1) Shaman vs Druid: Who Is the Weaker Spellcaster?[]

Considering Shaman as a Sorcerer version of Druid is a widespread misconception.  A related myth is that Shaman, being a Sorcerer-style spellcaster, must be a better, more powerful spellcasting class than Druid.
Here is an explanation for why the myth is a myth.
Sorcerer and Mage are essentially the same arcane spellcasters, who are identical in almost every aspect of a class except that they approach arcane magic in two fundamentally different ways.  If they enjoy learning as many of the arcane spells (close to 195 in BG2EE) as they can - at the cost of having to memorize spells before casting them, they are mages.  If they enjoy the freedom of casting spells without memorizing them - at the cost of limiting their spellbook to a small number (48 in BG2EE) of hand-picked spells, they are sorcerers.  Besides the freedom to spontaneously cast spells, Sorcerer also enjoys a few more spell slots to use per day (up to 10 more in the case of classic Sorcerer vs generalist Mage).  For advanced players who know how to wisely and most optimally pick a handful of spells to do more and better, playing Sorcerer in this game is meant to be rewarded with a significantly more powerful spellcaster at the cost of reduced flexibility.  That's why Sorcerer if well played represents the pinnacle of arcane magic in this game.
However, that's never the case with Shaman vs Druid.  Shaman and Druid are two different classes.  Shaman and Druid differ in almost every aspect of a class, except that Shaman has to learn 35 spells from the spell pool that is automatically unlocked for Druid.
As far as spellcasting is concerned, to fully appreciate how different they are, let's see what would happen if we could convert a level 31 Druid into a level 31 Shaman .  The most notable change would be that the total number of spell slots would be reduced by 17 at the very minimum.  Seventeen!  That's because Shaman has significantly fewer spell slots than Druid does, and also has no spell slot bonus from a high Wisdom score.  Other significant changes would include: losing access to 31 non-HLA spells, losing access to Deva and Greater Elemental Summoning , losing 30% resistance to fire, cold, electricity, and acid, losing poison immunity, losing both innate and HLA-based abilities of shapeshifting....  Due to the overall cost being so high, playing Shaman instead of Druid does not result in a net gain of power in spellcasting, let alone Shaman's reduced flexibility in spell selection.

2) Shaman vs Spellcasters: Who Has the Fewest Spell Slots?[]

Here is a comparison in number of spell slots at the 8 million XP level.  Note: Ring of Holiness grants its user 1 extra priest spell slot each level from 1 to 4.  If the protagonist is Shaman, however, there is no legit way to acquire the ring, so the ring is always ignored in counting spell slots here.
  • Shaman = 42 to 46 spell slots,
  • Mage, generalist = 47 to 56,
  • Sorcerer, Dragon Disciple = 48 to 57,
  • Cleric multi-classed = 55+,
  • Druid multi-classed = 56+,
  • Druid = 59+,
  • Cleric = 60+,
  • Mage, specialist (if not Edwin) = 56 to 65,
  • Sorcerer = 57 to 66,
  • Jaheira (Fighter/Druid) = 60 to 64,
  • Viconia (Cleric) = (with her unique ring) 68,
  • Edwin (Conjurer) = (with his unique amulet) 74 to 83,
  • Aerie (Cleric/Mage) = 99 to 108 spell slots.
As opposed to 42 to 46 spell slots that Shaman may have, every other spellcasting class has more spell slots. It is a real shame that Shaman, a class that often gets compared to Sorcerer, has so small a number of spell slots, making them vastly inferior to Sorcerer in spellcasting.
Compared to Druid, Shaman is also lagged behind Druid in acquiring new spells, which has a noticeable negative impact on Shaman's spell selection.  Use Pixie Dust for example.  Druid can start to use the spell at the XP level of 0.090 million and may find it useful at earlier stages of the game.  However, there are three significantly more useful spells at the same 5th spell level of Pixie Dust.  Without giving up on them, Shaman can only pick Pixie Dust either at the XP level of 1.875 million or at 6.750 million.  Thus, when Pixie Dust matters, Shaman shouldn't pick it; when Shaman may pick it, it no longer matters.

3) Shaman's Combat Spells: Good At Weakening Enemies![]

In general, Shaman's combat spells are good at weakening enemies, rather than outright killing them.
Of the 43 to 52 spells in Shaman's final spellbook, only up to 3 direct combat spells, as listed below, can do decent damage.  Note: all these spells are optional picks.  Also note: Shaman may pick Harm (level 6 spell), but in actual gameplay, it is never worth the trouble in getting it to work for Shaman.
a) Call Lightning (3rd level spell): Useful for making a kill in broad daylight.  Unfortunately, it's rarely usable, as very few battles are fought outdoors.
b) Implosion (optional HLA): On paper, it is an impressive spell, because it does up to 200 damage per strike, bypassing Magic Resistance.  In reality, for a weak target, it is a waste of a level 7 spell slot.  For a tough enemy, the actual damage is hard to predict and is often insignificant.  In harder battles, the spell slot and the spellcasting time can be better used for casting a spell with more predictable results (such as Energy Blades), or a spell with more helpful effects (such as Creeping Doom).
c) Energy Blades (optional HLA): On paper, it is an impressive spell, because it appears to allow a spellcaster to emulate a high-level fighter in their (Greater) Whirlwind Attack mode.  In actual gameplay, it's not that impressive.  The discs created by Energy Blades do slashing damage, will vanish if not used in 4 turns, and their electricity part of damage does not bypass Magic Resistance.  Tested: It took several casts of Energy Blades (total attack time > 10 rounds) for Shaman to take down the Demilich who could otherwise be destroyed with a 2H sword by Sarevok (effectively level 17 Fighter, unable to whirlwind; total attack time = 3 rounds).  Note: Energy Blades is not an upgrade for Melf's Minute Meteors (3rd level Mage spell); the latter is far more useful in actual gameplay.
Let's briefly go over the three truly useful, best combat spells available to Shaman.  Obviously, they are all intended for weakening enemies:
a) Creeping Doom (level 7) andInsect Plague (level 5): They are the best offensive spells that can be picked by Shaman from the spell pool automatically unlocked for Druid.  Creeping Doom is the level 7, more potent version of Insect Plague and can be used on most enemies and almost all super bosses.  If they hit, both spells will inflict spellcasting failure, which does not only affect dedicated spellcasters (liches and beholders included), but also other magic-using opponents such as paladins and dragons, and can prevent monks from activating spell-like combat abilities.  If they hit, they will even stop boss-level opponents (such as the Unseeing Eye and Irenicus ) from casting spells, as long as those opponents were designed for the initial release of BG2 (i.e., SOA).  In BG2EE, even though they hit, they can't stop truly powerful beings (such as Szass Tam , Abazigal , and Ravager ) from using spells or spell-like abilities, but they can at least mess up their combat routines.
b) Ethereal Retribution (optional HLA): It's the best Shaman-only offensive spell.  Creeping Doom (Insect Plague) requires a valid target, takes time to hit, and will immediately vanish if resisted.  Ethereal Retribution has no such limitations and can be used when Creeping Doom or Insect Plague can't.  It complements the effects from Storm of Vengeance .  And all these spells stack on top of each other.
At low levels, Shaman has two spells that may be considered powerful.  Unfortunately, Writhing Fog does not scale up with Shaman's level, and Spirit Fire scales up only to level 10.

4) Spirit Fire vs Fireball: An In-depth Comparison[]

Spirit Fire is a good example for demonstrating the overbalanced design of the Shaman class: on the one hand, it may appear that Shaman can be more powerful (Spirit Fire appears better than Fireball); on the other, the potential is always crippled (Spirit Fire is actually inferior to Fireball).
4.1)Spirit Fire (level 4 Shaman spell, 1D4 magic damage per caster level, up to 10D4) does 71% of the damage of Fireball (level 3 Mage spell, 1D6 fire damage per caster level, up to 10D6) at the same caster level.  As it does magic damage instead of fire, Spirit Fire is sometimes misinterpreted as a better version of Fireball.
4.2) Spirit Fire vs Fireball - Spirit Fire is a mid-level spell for Shaman, whereas Fireball is a low-level spell for Mage.  Spirit Fire has a casting time of 4, which may only be reduced to 3 with gear, whereas Fireball has a casting time of 3, which may be reduced to 0 with gear.  Spirit Fire may never be cast more than once in a single round by the same Shaman, whereas Fireball may be cast multiple times in a single round by mid- to high-level Mages or Sorcerers.  Spirit Fire's damage (up to 25 on average or 12.5 if saved) is not high against high-level enemies, and there is no way to improve.  Fireball's damage (up to 35 on average or 17.5 if saved), though not high either, can be improved by reducing the casting time to zero and/or by using the spell more than once per round.  An upgrade path for Fireball also exists, which leads all the way to Dragon's Breath at level 10.
4.3) Spirit Fire vs Holy Smite (level 3 Cleric spell for non-evil Clerics, paladins and Viconia) - Unlike Fireball, Spirit Fire comes with a secondary status effect, as it has 33% chance to inflict the Doomed effect on targets.  Since most enemies are evil-aligned, to be fair, Spirit Fire should be compared to Holy Smite as both spells do 1D4 magic damage per caster level and both come with a secondary status effect.  Holy Smite does 20D4 magic damage at caster level 20, whereas Spirit Fire tops out at 10D4.  Spirit Fire is never party friendly, whereas Holy Smite is harmless to those good- and neutral-aligned, and can be made harmless even if some party members are evil-aligned.  By default, Shaman can only cast Spirit Fire up to 6 times per day at the 4th spell level, whereas non-evil Cleric or Viconia can cast Holy Smite up to 9+ times per day at the 3rd spell level.  In BG2EE: ToB, Spirit Fire becomes obsolete, whereas Holy Smite becomes a most deadly combat spell in final chapters.
4.4) Spirit Fire vs Fireball in actual gameplay: At early stages, when enemies typically don't have much resistance to fire, Fireball is more powerful than Spirit Fire.  Later on, when Fireball's usefulness fades due to enemies' increased resistance to fire, Spirit Fire's usefulness also drops due to its low damage becoming insignificant against enemies' increased HPs and improved saving-throws.  When Fireball gets superseded by higher-level fire magic or replaced by other 3rd level spells, Spirit Fire may have been forgotten for long.
4.5) Conclusion: Spirit Fire, though a level 4 spell, is always inferior to the 3rd level spell Fireball.

Shaman = Warlock-Style Mass Spirit Summoner[]

1) Shaman Dance = Warlock-style Summoning Magic[]

What is Warlock ? Warlock is a class of arcane spellcasters who can use certain unique magic (collectively known as invocations, such as Eldritch Blast) without consuming their ability to use it.  Thus, they can use the same magic any number of times at will.  Shaman Dance is essentially that unique magic for a Warlock class.  However, games like Baldur's Gate don't have the notion of Warlock-style magic.  In these games, a weapon user is always able to swing a weapon without losing their ability to swing it, but a magic user may not use any magic (such as a spell or a scroll) unless they use the magic by consuming their ability (in the form of a spell slot, a special ability, a quick item, or an item charge) to use it.  For example, the magic in the Black Spider Figurine may not be used to summon Kitthix unless the user's ability to use the magic is consumed in using it.  If the user's ability to summon Kitthix via the figurine is not consumed in using the magic, the figurine would be usable for summoning (another copy of) Kitthix any number of times at will and would become an artifact of Warlock-style magic.  Since Shaman's ability to call for spirits via dancing is not consumed in dancing, the Warlock-style Shaman Dance is often misinterpreted as free summoning.
Shaman to Shaman Dance is Fighter to their proficient weapon type.  Just like Fighter can upgrade their weapon proficiency by adding 4 more points and become a grandmaster of their favored weapon type, Shaman can upgrade Shaman Dance three times to become a grandmaster of Shaman Dance at level 18.  Since there is no alternative upgrade path for Shaman Dance, the game automatically handles the upgrading on behalf of the Shaman at level 6, 12 and 18.  The spirits summoned via dancing are nothing but fully automated weaponized spirits meant to automatically attack nearby enemies on behalf of Shaman.  Just like weapons in Fighter's hands are blind, weaponized spirits are also blind.  In order to become fully automated, spirits are given Shaman's vision so that they can see enemies within their visual range through Shaman's eyes.  While Fighter uses weapons to attack enemies within the attacking Fighter's light of sight, Shaman uses weaponized spirits to automatically attack enemies within Shaman's light of sight.  (Note: While weapons in one Fighter's hands cannot attack the enemies that only exist in another Fighter's line of sight, if there are two or more Shamans in the same party, spirits summoned by one Shaman via dancing can see and attack the enemies within their visual range that only exist in another Shaman's line of sight.)

2) Shaman Dance: How Reliable?[]

If being "reliable" refers to how likely spirits can hit the enemies who have weapon immunities, it is not a real issue in actual gameplay, because virtually no enemies are immune to all the spirits (not even a Demilich is immune).  In a very rare case such as Magic Golems, just find an unusual way to deal with it.  For example, Shaman may summon a very weak creature, Nymph, to deal with mighty Magic Golems: one Nymph can kill two Magic Golems before unsummoned.
With the "Can spirits hit?" question out of the way, let's calculate how reliably Shaman Dance can be used to secure the help from spirits.  Assuming it's safe to dance, let's use P(L, X, Y) to denote level L Shaman's chance of getting X number of spirits in Y rounds of dancing. Then,
  • 2.1) At the start of BG1EE (level 1 Shaman)
P(1, 0, 4) = 63% ^ 4 = 15.6% => Chance to get 0 spirits in 4 rounds is 15.6% => Shaman Dance is noticeably unreliable.
  • 2.2) At the start of BG2EE: SoA (level 7 Shaman)
P(7, 0, 3) = 51% ^ 3 = 13.3% => Chance to get 0 spirits in 3 rounds is 13.3% => Shaman Dance is still not very reliable.
  • 2.3) At the start of BG2EE: ToB (level 16 Shaman)
P(16, 0, 2) = 33% ^ 2 = 10.9% P(16, 0, 3) = 33% ^ 3 = 3.6% => Chance to get 1+ spirits in 2 rounds is 89.1% => Chance to get 0 spirits in 3 rounds is 3.6% => Shaman Dance is significantly more reliable.
  • 2.4) High-level Shaman (level 20 or higher)
P(20 or higher, 0, 2) = 25% ^ 2 = 6.25% P(20 or higher, 0, 4) = 25% ^ 4 = 0.39% => Chance to get 1+ spirits in 2 rounds is 93.75% => Chance to get 1+ spirits in 4 rounds is 99.61% => Shaman Dance is reliable, though never guaranteed.

3) Restrictions of Shaman Dance[]

To a certain extent, Shaman Dance is how Shaman gets compensated for having fewer spell slots.  However, a lot of restrictions are placed on the use of the magic.  The biggest restriction is that while dancing, Shaman may not perform any other useful actions, including (not limited to): spellcasting, moving, attacking, looting, talking, detecting illusions, and so on.

4) Costs of Shaman Dance[]

Shaman Dance is not free summoning. The overall cost is always significant.
4.1) On dancing Shaman's part: to start dancing, the Shaman must stop doing anything else and must be immobile and take +4 AC penalty, thereby becoming a perfect vulnerable target for nearby enemies if any.  Meanwhile, the party effectively temporarily loses a spellcaster and a party healer.
4.2) On the Shaman party's part: to take advantage of Shaman Dance, the party typically has to progress at a slowest pace, has to protect the dancing Shaman in combat, and may easily become very crowded in a confined space.  Also, each spirit counts towards the hard-coded 5-summon limit, but unlike regular summons, those spirits can't be commanded in any way and also don't have their own visions.

5) Limitations of Shaman Dance[]

Shaman Dance becomes impractical in four major scenarios:
  • a) Fast-faced gaming (no time for dancing);
  • b) Unable to survive (too risky to dance);
  • c) Limited space (spirits blocking + limited line of sight);
  • d) Spirits not good enough (need to summon other helpers).
When fighting certain types of enemies (not necessarily the most powerful ones in the game), Shaman Dance may become impractical for various reasons.  Such enemies include (not limited to): dragons, beholders, and most super bosses.  Dragons can push all the spirits a full screen away, but not the dancing Shaman, thereby exposing the Shaman to the direct attacks from dragons.  Beholders ignore summons if they see party members, and higher-level beholders can dispel spirits at will.  Shaman Dance offers little protection against beholders.
In hardest battles, Shaman Dance may actually endanger the party.  Shaman has no control over how many spirits answer the call.  Past level 18, five spirits may show up during the dance.  Once the party summoning limit is reached, if the party needs a more powerful helper (such as Planetar ) or a different helper (such as Skeleton Warrior or Djinni), all the spirits must be unsummoned at the same time.  In combat, that can be very risky if the party is actively relying on the spirits for fighting dangerous foes.
Note: whenever Shaman is blinded, spirits lose sight of enemies.  Shaman Dance may continue but spirits won't be able to attack or fight back.  Note: if there are multiple Shamans in the party, spirits may use any Shaman's vision.
Also note: It is not unusual that a dialog may disrupt Shaman Dance, which is equivalent to casting Death Spell on all the spirits at the start of the dialog.

6) Shaman = Weaker Summoner than Druid[]

At low levels, Druid can conjure Fire Elementals noticeably earlier than Shaman.  They are more powerful than Shaman's low-level spirits.  At later stages, Druid can call for help from Deva and from Elemental Princes.  Combat-wise, Deva is Planetar 's weaker version and Elemental Princes are Planetar's shorter-duration variations.  Unlike everything summoned by Shaman, Deva and Elemental Princes are not conjured: they are summoned through a gate and are thus invulnerable to Death Spell or other instant-kill effects such as that from a vorpal weapon (Note: Shaman does have 10% chance to get helped by an Elemental Prince per cast of the Elemental Summoning spell, provided that the 5-summon limit has not been reached already.  But the chance is too low to have practical impact on gameplay).  In harder or hardest combat, when Shaman's spirits and summons can't be counted on, Druid can at least count on Deva and/or Elemental Princes for putting up a serious fight.

7) Special Use Cases of Shaman Dance[]

  • a) Dance until the summoning limit is reached and then (if necessary) haste everyone before resting for 8 hours.  Optionally combined with other measures (such as snares), Shaman Dance can help an exhausted party easily survive any number of sleep-interrupting attacks, effectively enabling the party to sleep anywhere other than Beholder-infested areas.
  • b) Dance at or near the spot where enemies are expected to spawn.  If this can be too risky, summon a couple of regular helpers before dancing so that the Shaman may abort dancing at any time without losing all the helpers.
  • c) Dance right next to the door that is about to be opened.  If there are enemies on the other side of the door, any spirit spawned behind the door will be attacked.  Once the door is opened, all the spirits will be able to immediately tank enemies and fight back.
  • d) In a dangerous dungeon, start dancing whenever the party stops moving.  Spirits provide a layer of defence for free.  Also, if Party Scout can't safely eliminate a thread while scouting, they can optionally lead the threat to the spirits.
  • e) In a complex dungeon area, dancing at a choking point can make spirits block nasty creatures (such as Vampires, Mummies, Ghasts, or Undead Golems), so that the party can attack them safely from behind spirits using ranged weapons or spells.
  • f) Shaman Dance is not spellcasting and thus is usable in Dead Magic Zones and Wild Magic Zones or when Shaman is inflicted with 100% spellcasting failure.
  • g) If a Dragon uses Entangle, dancing slightly out of the range of the Dragon's Entangle will enable spirits to tank the Dragon, which is normally impossible.  To be safe, the dancing Shaman must be able to survive the Dragon's Breath Weapon.
  • h) After the summoning limit is reached, if a group of summons needs to be sent to tank and attack dangerous magic-using enemies (as is likely the case with the 6th battle in Chapter 10), dancing right behind them will not immediately endanger the Shaman but will give the party up to 75% chance to get a spirit immediately after some or all those summons get killed.  This is much faster than using a summoning spell.

Shaman vs Druid: A Brief Comprehensive Comparison[]

  • 1) Level progression: Druid levels up faster than Shaman until temporarily stuck around level 14.  After hitting level 15, Druid will again level up faster until catching up with Shaman at level 21.
  • 2) Spellcasting: Shaman is a Sorcerer-style spellcaster with significantly fewer spell slots and less flexibility in spell selection, whereas Druid is a memorization-based spellcaster with new spells automatically unlocked at level up.
  • 3) Party support: while not dancing, Shaman is the only spontaneous healder in the game and thus is superior to Druid in healing, curing, reviving, and buffing up the party.
  • 4) Summoning: Shaman is the most gifted summoner thanks to Shaman Dance, but Druid is a more powerful summoner due to access to superior summoning magic.  Shaman has an unlimited supply of spirits, but unlike Druid, cannot count on their own summons in hardest battles.
  • 5) Direct combat: Shaman and single-classed Druid roughly tie with each other, as they both use low-damage spells, have similar weapon proficiencies, and share the default 1 attack (spell) per round limitation.  Multi-classed Druid is meant to be superior in direct combat, at the cost of significantly slowed spell progression until past the 6 million XP threshold.
  • 6) Character creation: Druid must have CHA >= 15, whereas Shaman has no such technical nonsense and can easily maximize STR/DEX/CON at character creation.
  • 7) Conclusions: Shaman and Druid are two different classes.  Although they have a shared spell pool that contains 66 spells (all are unlocked for Druid but only 35 may and must be learned by Shaman), they differ in almost every aspect of a class: racial restrictions, stat requirements, primary stats, stat bonus, armor restrictions, weapon restrictions, weapon proficiencies, alignment restrictions, class unique abilities, class unique resistance bonus, class unique immunity, level progression, spell progression, known spells, number of spell slots, dual- and multi-class options, stronghold eligibility, as well as HLAs.  On the class level, neither is superior to the other.

Shaman - Gameplay Suggestions[]

1) Play Solo[]

It may be okay to play Shaman solo at very low levels, such as in BG1EE, or in a story mode.  But it can be a most boring experience to spend a lot of time, possibly a few hundred hours, playing Shaman solo in BG2EE from SoA via Watcher's Keep to the end of ToB.  Here are a few most obvious reasons:
  • a) Shaman can't effectively handle locks and traps;
  • b) Roughly half of Shaman's class abilities will always be unusable;
  • c) Many battles at high levels can be too much a hassle or too big a challenge;
  • d) Regardless, there is no way to get the best out of Shaman in a solo game.

2) Play As Party Supporter[]

If the game is a talent show of another character, there is really not much to say other than that Shaman is a most gifted healer and party supporter.

3) Play As Party Leader (Protagonist /Gorion's Ward)[]

By the Forgotten Realm Wiki, Shaman is "a powerful primal leader who calls upon nature spirits for aid or guidance."  Shaman, as implemented in the game, is indeed a natural leader with a lot of class capabilities geared towards party support, and thus is best played by leading a decent party through thick and thin.  To assemble a full party, the first thing is to assemble a core team by filling up a few most important roles.
3.1) The Party Tank Role[]
By the Forgotten Realm Wiki, "Shamans are also more durable than their divine or martial equivalents, gaining through their connection to the wild a powerful capacity for enduring pain."  Shaman, as implemented in the game, is indeed at least as resilient as Jaheira (Fighter/Druid) if not more.  However, Shaman is a worst candidate for the Party Tank role.  The reason is simple: If this party leader dies, the game is instantly over.  Technically, the ultimate reason is that Shaman's class abilities are heavily geared towards helping others.  No matter how resilient, Shaman can never learn the best self-preservation "tricks" (such as Protection From Magical Weapons ) and thus can never achieve the survivability at Party Tank's level.
Party Tank has 3 jobs to do:
  • a) Intercept every incoming threat for the party,
  • b) make themselves the target of the oncoming attack, and
  • c) survive the attack, whatever that is.
Party Tank is not just a tank, or someone who can stay on the front line and survive a few hits.  At very lower levels, as in BG1EE or at the start of SoA, the distinction may not be evident, as anyone who is naturally stronger may appear able to take the role.  At higher levels, the distinction is huge.  If an unqualified tank is assigned the role, the party will sooner or later get punished because the "tank" will sooner or later fail to intercept threats and survive, not only failing the duty of Party Tank but also endangering the whole party.
3.2) The Party Thief/Scout Role[]
Party Thief or Scout has 5 jobs to do:
  • a) Detect and disarm traps
  • b) Scout
  • c) Pick locks
  • d) Set traps
  • e) Steal (if so desired)
Other than scouting and trap detecting in a very limited sense, Shaman can't do anything listed above.
3.3) The Party DPS Role[]
DPS stands for damage per second.  Party DPS has only 2 jobs to do:
a) Deal out any amount of damage needed to quickly end a threat and b) survive (so that this is not a suicide attack).
This role is only for someone who can quickly deal massive damage as needed.  At very low levels, as in BG1EE or at the start of SoA, this role may be unnecessary.  At high levels, Party DPS makes a huge difference.  Whoever gets assigned the role should adjust their gear, spells, abilities, and even the party formation accordingly.  Since their defenses are typically kept at the very minimum, the party should protect them at any cost.
3.4) The Party Healer Role[]
They are not just a mobile dispenser of free healing.  They have 6 jobs to do:
  • a) buff the party (to make them more combat ready),
  • b) heal the wounded (either partly, fully, or via regeneration),
  • c) cure the diseased, poisoned, or cursed,
  • d) remove negative status effects (confused, feared, stunned, etc.),
  • e) revive the dead,
  • f) restore the drained experience level and/or ability score.
While not dancing, Shaman can almost do everything listed above except for the last one.
3.5) Assemble A Shaman Party[]
As always, goals and constraints must be set before optimization can be done.  My Shaman party was assembled and optimized against these settings:
  • a) Goal = Have a Shaman lead a party through thick and thin
  • b) Game = Default installation of BG2EE, no mods
  • c) Difficulty = Insane (with 100% extra damage taken)
  • d) Protagonist = Half-orc Shaman, started new at level 7
  • e) No-death = The Shaman shall never die
As well as against these personal preferences:
  • f) Never use potions/scrolls for healing or buffing
  • g) Make best efforts to keep all companions alive
  • h) Always prefer a good fight
(Good fight means: give each and every opponent an equal opportunity to fight and destroy the party, as opposed to killing them preemptively or turning to cheats and exploits for killing them unfairly).
3.6) Assemble This Shaman Party[]
1) Party Leader = Shaman: Half-Orc, STR/DEX/CON = 19/18/19 => 22/18/20, Neutral Good (SoA) -> Neutral Evil (ToB).
2) Party Tank = Aerie .  Among 23 companions in BG2EE, Aerie is the only companion capable of tanking every powerful opponent in the game (from mighty Dragons, Hive Mothers , Demiliches, to Demogorgon , Ravager , and all the ToB super bosses) without assistance on any difficulty setting of the game.  If played well, she can tank for the party at any time anywhere, even where and when spellcasting has to fail and pre-battle buffing is impossible.  However, she is deceptively weak and naive (especially if recruited in Chapter 1), which probably has fooled many players.  On Insane difficulty with 100% extra damage taken, Aerie is technically the most durable tank and thus the best candidate for Party Tank.
3) Party Thief/Scout = Jan .  On Insane difficulty with 100% extra damage taken, this chatty fellow is not just the most durable thief and (unlike Nalia or Imoen) a real thief, but also a powerhouse who can trivialize a lot of battles and survive on his own.
Technically, Aerie + Jan can ensure every protagonist will have no problem finishing the game, thereby making other party members technically optional.  So, up to three party slots can be rotated among different companions.
4) Party DPS = Aerie (SoA) -> Neera (ToB).  If optimally played to harness her power towards destroying tough enemies, Neera can be far more powerful than every other companion (Edwin included).  However, it's not always cool to kill most powerful opponents with Wild Magic (too easy), so she was kept out of the party a bit too long and only earned enough XP to reach level 29 in the end.
5) Party Healer = Aerie -> Aerie + Viconia .  In this Shaman party, Viconia is the weakest party member against physical attacks.  After acquiring 100% Magic Resistance, she's excellent for tanking pure magic users such as Mages (Irenicus included), Priests, and regular Beholders, except for a small number of top-tier magic users such as Demiliches and Hive Mothers .
3.7) This Party's Non-Temporary Party Members[]
1) Shaman 2) Aerie 3) Jan 4) Cernd -> Sir Anomen -> Sarevok 5) Neera -> Imoen -> Neera 6) Viconia
3.8) This Party's Performance and Milestones[]
  • 5) This Shaman tried several different ways to defeat Firkraag without any help from the party at level 15, and ended up taking 108 fire damage from one hit and had to give up.  Convinced that Firkraag is way too much a hassle for Shaman.
  • 6) This Shaman, assisted by Jan and Viconia , relied on Shaman Dance for destroying 17 ambushing parties (including a party of two Liches and a Hive Mother party) non-stop without resting, on the 5th level of Watcher's Keep .  The only exception was: The Hive Mother, after all other Beholders were dead, unexpectedly mazed the Shaman and had to be destroyed by someone else (Aerie).
  • 7) Fought Demogorgon (widely considered as Gorion's Ward's most powerful opponent in this game) non-stop for more than a couple of hours, killed a total of 172 demon minions, and earned a total of 2.6 million XP, with no party member ever wounded.
  • 8) Defeated Amelyssan without rest or reload, without using quick items or item charges, without using the Wish spell, only 4 party members each slightly wounded once.  Thanks to the party's non-stop rapid interrupting attacks, Amelyssan did not get any chance to cast Time Stop.  At the end of the final confrontation, the party still had about 2/3 of firepower reserved and unused, and could fight Amelyssan all over again without resting.
  • 9) Never used healing potions.
  • 10) Never used potions for combat.
  • 11) Never used scrolls for combat.
  • 12) Never used wands.
  • 13) Never used Time Stop .
  • 14) Completed all companion quests or quest lines, except for Keldorn's and Nalia's .
  • 15) Failed to finish romance with Viconia in SoA.
  • 16) Couldn't finish Dorn's romance in ToB.
  • 17) Succeeded in changing Sarevok's alignment before halfway through ToB.
  • 18) Successfully convinced Hexxat to permanently stay in the game.
  • 19) Neera destroyed nearly 1 million gold pieces owned by the party.
  • 20) Jan did what he had dreamed of with the help of ... (what?!) and had a very happy ending.
  • 21) Highest 1-hit damage ever taken by the party was 181 from Zorl's Flame Strike on Aerie (Zorl: a Cleric in Temple Sewer).
  • 22) One close call was Jan's safety traps backfired dealing exactly 100 damage on this Shaman, in the Underdark Beholder's Lair.
  • 23) Last close call was this Shaman's alternate self hit him twice dealing 110+ damage, during Pocket Plane's 2nd Challenge.
  • 24) Personal opinion: The best companion is Sarevok, for in the end he is the only one who says something like "... but I'm still grateful for all you have done for me. I wish you well."
3.9) Conclusions[]
On Insane difficulty with 100% extra damage taken:
  • 1) This Shaman helped others stay alive numerous times and never died.
  • 2) This Shaman party is one of the strongest ever played.
  • 3) Shaman is indeed a very capable party leader class and a natural survivor.

4) Play Two or More Shamans in the Same Party[]

BG2EE allows players to have 2+ Shamans in a single party, with one treated as Gorion's Ward.  When the Shaman class is played this way, there are a few interesting things to note:
4.1) Multiple Dancers vs Single Dancer[]
As far as Shaman Dance is concerned, multiple Shamans act like a single Shaman in many ways, and every Shaman dances for every other Shaman.  If the Shaman Dance skill of every Shaman is at the same level, multiple Shamans taking turns dancing is essentially the same as a single Shaman dancing all the time, except that new spirits always show up right next to whoever summons them.  Additionally, a single Shaman dancing all the time is essentially the same as multiple Shamans dancing at the same time, except that the more Shamans join the dance, the more spirits may show up each round until the spirit summoning limit is reached.
As a result, spirits summoned via Shaman Dance won't vanish on their own, as long as there is at least one Shaman still dancing.
4.2) The Spirit Summoning Limit of Shaman Dance[]
Every spirit belongs to every Shaman, and every Shaman can only summon as many spirits as allowed by their individual skill level of Shaman Dance.  As a result, all the Shamans in the same party combined cannot summon more spirits than allowed by their individual Shaman Dance skills combined.  For example, if a party of 6 Shamans is freshly created to start playing BG2EE: SoA with, every party member must be a level 7 Shaman.  Since no party member can dance to summon more than 3 spirits, the party cannot have more than 3 spirits at any time.  Having more Shamans join the dance has no effect on the spirit summoning limit.
Note: The spirit summoning limit is tied to individual Shaman Dance skill levels; therefore, it is not the same as the hard-code 5-summon limit for the player party.
The current wiki page considers that as a bug, as if several low-level Shamans dancing at the same time should be allowed to break the limit of their individual Shaman Dance skills.  However, based on systematic analysis here, separating the spirit summoning limit of Shaman Dance from the hard-coded 5-summon limit of the player party is clearly a design feature that is in line with all other behavioral design features of Shaman Dance.  It may not be what everyone has expected, but no evidence exists suggesting that it is a bug.
4.2) The Vision of Summoned Spirits[]
Shaman's spirits can't see except through Shaman's eyes.  Spirits can and can only see enemies that are both within their own visual range and within a (nearby) Shaman's line of sight.  In the case of a single Shaman, they can and can only attack a target within the lone Shaman's line of sight and will vanish as soon as the Shaman moves.  In the case of multiple Shamans, spirits don't have to vanish after their summoner moves.  They can see and attack any target within their visual range if any Shaman nearby reveals the target for them.  In any case, no spirits can see or attack a target outside their visual range.
4.3) 2 Shamans > 1 Shaman + 1 Shaman?[]
Logically, two Shamans in the same party must be greater than the sum of two individual Shamans.  However, in terms of party optimization or gameplay satisfaction, that may not be true.  The ultimate reason is that the Shaman class lacks variations; thus, multiple Shamans in the same party will most likely magnify their weaknesses more than synergizing with each other.
To demonstrate the point, let's briefly compare Shaman to Mage.  There are 195 arcane spells in BG2EE, as opposed to a total of 83 spells available to Shaman.  Classes or kits that are solely built on top of the arcane spells include Generalist Mage, 8 different types of Specialst Mage, Wild Mage, Sorcerer, and Dragon Disciple.  Classes or kits that combine Mage with other abilities and/or classes include Bard and all sorts of dual- and multi-classed Mages (too many to list here).  Mage can have lots of variations, many of which are powerful; thus, multiple Mages in the same party can synergize with each other extremely well and can easily make the final party way more powerful than necessary.
In contrast, after removing the useless and least useful spells from Shaman's combined spell pool, there won't be many options left.  As a result, strictly from a technical point of view, all Shamans in actual gameplay are more or less duplicates or semi-clones of each other.  The Shaman class's weaknesses, such as inability to overcome Magic Resistance on spell targets, inability to overcome the default 1 APR limitation, inability to overcome the default 1 spell per round limitation, inability to summon creatures that are invulnerable to Death Spell, etc., will always stay no matter how many Shamans are created to join the party.  Furthermore, as the party size is limited to 6, the more party slots get occupied by Shamans, the more likely their weaknesses get aggravated.
4.4) Conclusions[]
Bringing a second Shaman into a Shaman party may immediately make Shaman Dance less restrictive, but multiple Shamans in the same party don't synergize as well with each other as certain other classes such as Mage, due to the fact that the Shaman class lacks variations.  Having more Shamans in the same party does not make summoned spirits (or Shaman Dance in general) more powerful and will not make their class-level weaknesses go away.