I know what you’re thinking; “But Jeff, you already have a homebrew about the dragon shaman. It’s a barbarian subclass, remember?”
I do, imaginary reader. But, I’m not really happy with it. The dragon shaman is such a cool class from 3.5e, it deserves to be more than just a subclass, losing much of what made it interesting and different. The dragon shaman was always this cool mix of tank, party face, “okay” damage, and light healer. All of that is difficult to put into a subclass (I might have seen better results with a paladin subclass, but even then I think a full class is necessary to really make the dragon shaman shine).
Originally, I had a lot of difficulty with the full-class attempt (which is the reason why I started looking at subclasses). I found that same difficulty on this attempt. Most (read: all) of that difficulty came from designing proper subclasses for the dragon shaman class. For a time, I made every kind of totem dragon its own subclass. So when you hit the appropriate level, you’d chose red dragon, or silver dragon, or copper dragon, or blue dragon, or whatever, the same way a paladin chooses their oath or a wizard chooses their arcane tradition. But that resulted in a lot of bloat, and I had difficulty figuring out proper features for each dragon type that justified the many subclasses.
When I considered that, I realized that I could probably reduce the number of subclasses to 2, one for chromatic dragons and one for metallic dragons. This made it much easier to distinguish between the two, as metallic dragons already have built-in similarities; they all get some kind of second breath weapon, and they can all transform into other creatures. Metallic dragon shamans, therefore, get similar features. Chromatic dragon shamans, by comparison, get features which highlight the aggressive and violent natures of chromatic dragons, such as a Frightful Presence, and the ability to reset their breath weapon when they reach 50% HP (something inspired by 4e monster mechanics).
The features the two subclasses do share still highlight the differences between dragon types and chromatic and metallic dragons. The skills, for example, granted by chromatic dragons tend to be more aggressive, like Intimidation, Athletics, and Deception. The skills granted by metallic dragons, by comparison, lean more towards knowledge and passiveness; Persuasion, History, and Insight. There is some overlap here as dragon types are all different, but in the end chromatic dragon shamans tend to be more aggressive with features focused on damage and combat, while metallic dragon shamans have features that help them a bit more with social encounters or beating opponents in ways besides out-right killing them.
The core features give you a “draconic breath” which is identical in concept to the dragonborn’s breath weapon, eventually out-competing it by a bit at lvl 20. Note that the name difference is on purpose; a dragonborn dragon shaman can use their draconic breath and their breath weapon. I felt it would be unduly punishing if they were forced to pick between one or the other. One is their own natural ability, and one is bestowed upon them as they attempt to walk the path of the dragon.
The Dragon Scales AC bonus will need to be closely monitored for balance. Right now, at lvl 17 a dragon shaman’s AC will cap at 21 (with half-plate, a shield, and a Dex of at least 1). That’s slightly higher than most other medium-armor classes, which tend to cap at 19, but identical to Defense Fighting Style fighters and slightly lower than a maxed-out barbarian AC. Again, we’ll playtesting will be needed to determine if this needs to be changed.
If you were a fan of my barbarian subclass, or the dragon shaman of 3.5e, I hope you’ll give this new class a shot. If you prefer the barbarian subclass, you can still find it on DmsGuild and here at Geeks New England.
Anything I release through Geeks New England for D&D will be available completely for free, though you can donate to any project I upload at the “pay what you want” price on DMsGuild if you’d like. If you dislike DMsGuild for one reason or another, feel free to download from any other provider.
Version 2.0 11Jun2018
- Taken flight.