First Look: The Raven Totem Path (Shaman Subclass)

Loren SmallDeep Dive, Game Dev, Game DevelopmentLeave a Comment

a raven flying

As we gear up for our exciting Kickstarter launch, I’m thrilled to begin our series of first-look posts. These posts are designed to give you an exclusive glimpse into the various facets of our game. Today, we’re diving deep into the first Totem Path to be fully publicly revealed – the Raven Totem.

Please note, all material presented here is a work in progress and subject to change.

A World Without Magic: The Realism of Born from Ice

Before we embark on our journey with the Raven Totem, it’s essential to understand a fundamental aspect of “Born from Ice” – its rootedness in the real prehistoric world of Earth. Unlike traditional 5e settings abundant with magic and spells, “Born from Ice” does not include magic within the game mechanics. This realism brings a unique flavor to the game, as it challenges players to rely on their wit, physical prowess, and spiritual connections rather than magical spells.

But just like our real world, there are plenty of people who believe in magic, and try to find ways to connect with it. Let’s see how someone following the Raven Totem Path might do that.

The Raven Totem Path

3rd Level: Spirit Journey

With the assistance of a hallucinogen that you must imbibe, you are able to go on a journey to what you perceive to be the spirit world in search of knowledge. This trip to the spirit realm lasts 2d8 hours, during which time you have the Drugged Condition.

After the Drugged Condition ends, you return from your journey. You gain 1 level of Exhaustion, and roll a d6 to determine the journey’s result. On a 1-3, your result is negative, and on a 4-6, your result is positive. Roll a d20 to receive a result from the Spirit Journey Table that matches your d6 positive or negative roll.

You have one use of Spirit Journey, which recharges after a Long Rest.

Positive Spirit Journey Table
d20 RollResult
1-3Heightened Senses: Your senses are sharpened by the experience, granting Advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks and initiative rolls for the next 24 hours.
4-6Guidance from Ancestors: You receive guidance from an ancestor spirit, granting you Advantage on one Skill check of your choice within the next 24 hours.
7-9Healing Boon: A benevolent spirit bestows Healing energy upon you; regain Stamina Points equal to your level + your Constitution modifier + your Proficiency Bonus.
10-12Premonition: You receive a brief, cryptic glimpse into a possible future event related to one of your allies. You may choose to tell one ally about this premonition, granting them Advantage on one Skill check of their choice in the next 24 hours.
13-15Vision: You encounter a significant creature, place, or object in the spirit realm related to your current quest; gain a clue or insight related to your quest from the GM.
16-18Prophecy: Receive information about a future event from the spirits; you can ask up to three questions, and the spirits will provide you with truthful answers, though they might be cryptic or difficult to interpret (such as a short phrase, a cryptic rhyme, or an omen). This effect doesn’t take into account any possible circumstances that might change the outcome, such as player character choices or the loss or gain of a companion.
19Spiritual Empowerment: You are granted an increase in power from the spirits, gaining one additional use of one of your class features or abilities for one week. Your GM chooses which feature or ability is empowered.
20Blessing of the Spirits: A spirit blesses you; you may choose to automatically succeed at one Ability Check or Attack Roll within the next 24 hours.
Negative Spirit Journey Table
d20 RollResult
1-3Unsettling Nightmare: You experience a vivid nightmare that leaves you shaken; you suffer Disadvantage on Ability Checks for the next 24 hours.
4-6Lingering Fear: You encounter a terrifying spirit that instills fear in you; you have Disadvantage on Saving Throws against fear for the next 24 hours.
7-9Cursed by a Spirit: A malevolent spirit curses you; you have the Cursed Condition for the next 24 hours.
10-12Lost in the Spirit World: You become disoriented and struggle to find your way back, suffering a physical toll on your body; gain 1 additional level of Exhaustion.
13-15Spirit Drain: A spirit drains your life force, temporarily reducing your maximum Stamina Points by 2d6.
16-18Confusion: The vision overwhelms your mind, leaving you unable to focus; suffer Disadvantage on Intelligence or Wisdom checks for 2d8 hours.
19Lingering Hallucinations: The hallucinogen’s effects linger, causing you to experience brief but disruptive hallucinations, imposing Disadvantage on Perception checks for 2d8 hours.
20Confusing Visions: Your journey is filled with strange and confusing visions that offer no guidance or insight. No benefit or drawback.
3rd Level: Spirit’s Authority

3rd Level: Spirit’s Authority

People seek the guidance of the spirits and ancestors, and your word brings the authority of the spirits with it. When you complete a Spirit Journey, for the next 24 hours you have Advantage on Charisma (Persuasion) and Charisma (Intimidation) checks

6th Level: Raven’s Insight

Your connection to the spirit world also helps you understand the people of this world. As an Action, you can spend a minute observing a creature or object, and the GM will provide you with a piece of useful information or a hidden detail about the target. You can use this ability a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum 1), and you regain all expended uses after completing a Long Rest.

10th Level: Spirit’s Wrath

Your reputation as a shaman precedes you, granting you a commanding presence in the eyes of others. You can exploit this advantage, invoking the fury of the spirits against your enemies. As an Action, you can choose a number of creatures equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum 1) within 60 feet that understand you are a shaman with a connection to the spirit world. As you threaten them with the wrath of the spirits if they oppose you, each target must succeed on a Wisdom Saving Throw (DC = 8 + your Proficiency Bonus + your Wisdom modifier) or suffer cognitive dissonance, taking 4d6 psychic damage and becoming Frightened of you for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the Saving Throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the Frightened Condition on a success. Once you use this feature, you cannot use it again until you complete a Long Rest.

14th Level: Spirit Journey (Improvement)

When rolling to find whether you had a negative or positive Spirit Journey, you now roll a d10 instead of a d6. On a 1-3, your result is negative, and on a 4-10, your result is positive.

The Raven Totem: A Bridge Between Realms

Shamanism and Spirituality

In “Born from Ice,” the Raven Totem is not just a subclass; it’s a profound connection to the natural and spiritual realms. Ravens, in various cultures, have been seen as messengers and symbols of transformation, and the Raven Totem in our game embodies this deeply. Followers of this totem are seen as visionaries and spiritual guides, drawing wisdom from the land, their ancestors, and the natural world. This connection fosters a unique understanding of the environment and its mysteries, setting the stage for gameplay that is as much about exploration and discovery as it is about survival and conflict.

The Spirit Journey: A Core Mechanic

At the heart of the Raven Totem is the Spirit Journey. This is a unique mechanic where the player, through the ingestion of a hallucinogen, embarks on a journey to what is perceived as the spirit world. This journey, lasting 2d8 hours, leaves the player with the Drugged Condition and results in either positive or negative outcomes, determined by dice rolls.

The Risk and Reward

The Spirit Journey is a gamble. It comes with the risk of negative consequences like unsettling nightmares, fear, curses, or even physical exhaustion. However, the rewards can be equally significant, offering heightened senses, guidance from ancestors, healing boons, or even prophecies.

Role Play Opportunities

This mechanic opens up vast opportunities for role-playing. The GM can craft scenarios where the party must protect the shaman in the real world while they journey through the spirit realm. It’s a dynamic that invites creativity and allows for the introduction of more fantastical elements in a setting grounded in realism.

Reflecting Shamanistic Practices

The concept of the Spirit Journey is a direct reflection of real-world shamanistic practices. Shamans have historically been seen as intermediaries between the physical and the spiritual. The use of natural hallucinogens to enter trance states and communicate with the spirit world is well-documented across various cultures. In “Born from Ice,” this practice is brought to life, allowing players to experience these ancient rituals in a game setting.

Beyond the Journey: Other Raven Totem Abilities

The Raven Totem path offers more than just the Spirit Journey. As players advance, they gain abilities that deepen their connection to the spiritual realm and enhance their influence in the physical world.

Leadership and Social Authority

At higher levels, the Raven Totem grants abilities like Spirit’s Authority, where the shaman’s words carry the weight of the spirits, and Raven’s Insight, allowing the shaman to glean hidden details about people or objects. These abilities emphasize the role of the Raven Totem follower as a spiritual leader and advisor in their community.

Growth and Power

As the Raven Totem follower reaches the pinnacle of their path, they gain formidable abilities like Spirit’s Wrath, where the shaman’s reputation becomes a weapon, and an improved Spirit Journey, increasing the chances of positive outcomes. These abilities highlight the growing mastery of their Spirit Journeys, as well as the fear and respect that a shaman commands from those they encounter.

Animism and the Role of Spirits

“Born from Ice” is deeply rooted in the concept of animism, where every object, place, and creature has a spirit. This worldview is central to the game’s setting and is vividly brought to life through the Raven Totem. Shamans, as intermediaries, engage with these spirits, seeking their guidance, wisdom, and sometimes facing their wrath. This interaction adds a layer of depth and complexity to the game, as players must navigate not just the physical challenges of the prehistoric world but also the whims and desires of its spiritual inhabitants.

But Is it Real?

In “Born from Ice” we tread the fine line between what’s perceived as real by the characters and what we, as modern players and game masters, understand about reality. When it comes to the Raven Totem Path, it’s crucial to distinguish between these two perspectives.

Within the prehistoric setting of our game, the experiences of the Raven Totem follower, their Spirit Journeys, and the effects they experience are deeply real to them and their community. The clans and tribes of this world don’t have the scientific understanding we do; their reality is interwoven with spirituality and the power of belief. When a Raven Totem follower undergoes a Spirit Journey, whether induced by hallucinogens or deep meditative states, their experiences are not mere figments of imagination to them or their peers; they are profound, real encounters with spirits, ancestors, and the forces of nature.

And with this power of belief so ingrained within culture, it carries social weight that translates to power and influence for those who dare attempt to wield it.

This distinction is what makes playing the Raven Totem Path in “Born from Ice” a unique and fascinating experience. It allows players to delve into a world where belief, perception, and the power of the human mind play a pivotal role in shaping reality. The game becomes a playground for exploring ancient human beliefs, their understanding of the world around them, and how these beliefs influenced their interactions with nature and each other.

Concluding Thoughts

As we continue to reveal more about “Born from Ice” in the coming weeks, we invite you to join us on this journey back in time, to a world born from ice, shaped by humanity’s earliest struggles, triumphs, and spiritual quests.

Stay tuned for more insights and previews, and don’t forget to follow our Kickstarter page. We are planning to launch in March, so get ready to join us in bringing this awe-inspiring world to life!