“Remind me next time not to save you!” ~ Kagome (Inuyasha, 2004)
The shrine maiden or miko, in ancient Japanese culture, is a young virgin consecrated to a deity, and who serves at a Shinto Shrine. Existing not only in Eastern, but Western cultures as well, these female shrine maidens fulfilled the role of soothsayers, spirit mediums, prophets, and shamans. Not only were these women called upon to protect their shrine, they also acted as intermediaries to their god or gods to which the shrine was devoted.
Comparable to the sibyls of ancient Greece, the miko in Japan have stories that date back thousands of years, and were famous seers, consulted by everyone from peasants, samurai, shogun, and even the Emperor himself. Their powers ranged from acting as mediums for the dead to speak to the living, exorcising demons to cure disease and madness, and offering protective talismans against all manner of evils.
But more recently, miko have been portrayed in manga and anime, often displaying amazing martial arts techniques and blasting foes with all manner of titanic powers. Chances are most D&D gamers have seen examples of miko in series such as Yu-Gi-Oh, Sailor Moon, and Inuyasha. While these modern Shrine Maidens bear only a small resemblance to the traditional stories of miko, they still represent an interesting take on a strong female religious role.
And so taking cues from both the ancient tradition and modern anime, Shrine Maiden by Oath Brothers has defined a new Leader Class with a definite Asian theme for use in D&D 4e campaigns.
- Designers: William Russell (lead), Ed Allen, Heather Green (editor)
- Illustrators: Chris Reinhardt, Zellychan
- Publisher: Oath Brothers
- Year: 2009
- Media: PDF (31 pages)
- Cost: $5.00 (available at RPGNow.com)
Shrine Maiden is a complete new Character Class and sourcebook from Oath Brothers for use in D&D 4e Campaigns. The Shrine Maiden Class comes with new class features and an array of powers, called mahou, ranging from 1st to 30th Level. There are 17 new Feats, 6 Paragon Paths, and a new Epic Destiny all associated to the Shrine Maiden Class. Additional materials include two new mundane weapons and 15 new Magic Items based around Eastern culture, along with two new Deities that can be added to existing pantheons for use with Shrine Maiden Characters.
The production quality of the ebook is fair, with a decent layout, and good power and item descriptions. While the artwork is somewhat lackluster, it is not the main reason most Gamers tend to buy an ebook, and the volume of content more than makes up for the absence of fancy illustrations.
At an early age, shrine maidens take up vows of purity and chastity and enter into a life of devotion and service. While many shrine maidens spend their lives as protectors of a shrine, others travel the world, acting as ambassadors of their shrine wherever they go.
Shrine maidens are occasionally used as messengers. Also, shrine maidens are often included in military actions, especially retaliatory actions after an attack on a holy site. Shrine maidens are often engaged in battles against fiendish creatures that seek to defile sacred ground.
As the name implies, shrine maidens are typically female. Shrines that also use males in this role use the more neutral term “shrine guardian” instead.
In the way that the Authors designed this Class, the Shrine Maiden is a very capable Leader, possessing a varied arsenal of healing powers called reiki, as well as the Channel Divinity and Ritual Casting capabilities of a Cleric. However, they did not stop there and added quite a few Controller features allowing them to hinder enemies while bolstering allies.
The end result was that the Authors created a new class that is far more powerful than other classes of similar type. And there are several powers and abilities that may fit nicely into an anime or manga theme, are actually quite beyond the scope of powers granted by any other class, and simply overpowered.
For instance, there are two Class Features possessed by Shrine Maidens, in addition to Channel Divinity and Healing Reiki, which make them far superior to Clerics or Warlords in every way: Sanctified Mind and Body and Sign of Virtue (Purity).
The first, Sanctified Mind and Body, is a complete immunity to disease and domination effects thrown at Shrine Maidens by opponents of equal or lesser level. While disease and domination effects are not overly common, a blanket immunity to any power can be overpowered in the right circumstances.
The other ability, Sign of Virtue (Purity), is a two square aura that grants allies a bonus to their defenses against powers that would cause an ongoing effect that a save would end. Admittedly, this would most likely have the effect of bolstering the weak Non-AC Defenses, which many DMs and Players feel are too weak compared to monsters’ attacks, especially in the Paragon and Epic Tiers. But similar powers by other leader-types are only Encounter abilities, and this effect is a constantly functioning ability.
Other powers or mahou granted to the Shrine Maiden are on par with some of the best controller powers granted to that group, and make the class unbalanced when added to its already substantial leader capabilities.
As an example, there is a Daily 9th Level Ranged Area Burst called Cessation which not only causes decent damage, but imparts an effect that renders the enemies in the burst incapable of using any damaging powers until a save ends the effect. There are several other Ranged Area Burst attacks in the Shrine Maiden arsenal that deafen opponents, remove or ignore marks, and even dominate foes while doing potent damage.
One power in particular, called Repelling Mantra, which is a Level 23 (short) Ranged Encounter power is particularly concerning. This single target power is described as “Your thunderous words of ostracism send the target from your presence.” – and has the effect of hurling the opponent away using a massive 20 square push. While this is certainly fitting for a manga-themed Character Class, it is vastly overpowered with respect to almost any other class ability.
What was even more disconcerting was to find that the Authors had created a Magic Item (Staff) with a daily power that could hurl all opponents within 10 squares of the Shrine Maiden with that same massive and overpowered 20 square push.
The Paragon Paths offered for the Shrine Maiden also have a few unbalanced powers in them, making them far superior to “official release” ones. Long range (15 square) teleports and strong pushes (10 squares) are should not be common powers, granting far too much control and mobility for a leader-type character class.
Overall, the Shrine Maiden by Oath Brothers is in need of a strong editor to bring this Leader Class back onto line with its sister-classes: the Cleric, Warlord, Bard, and Shaman. The ideas and concepts that the Authors tried to convey were more in keeping with manga-style combats than standard D&D 4e combats, and most table-top map tiles could barely contain the pushes and teleports generated by this Character Class. Other leaders and controllers grouped with a Shrine Maiden would simply be overshadowed by her array of mahou.
However, there are some very good ideas in this Character Class, and the Authors efforts to add additional material such as Paragon Paths, Feats, and Magic Items makes this a product with a great deal of potential. With some work and careful balancing, the Shrine Maiden could make a well-rounded leader-type with some exciting controller capabilities. But in its current incarnation, the Shrine Maiden is simply too overpowered for any campaign, save one based upon a manga or anime.
So until next blog, I wish you Happy Gaming!
Editor’s Note: This Blog’s Author received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.