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Meet the Iconics: Shardra Geltl

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Today we introduce the next of the new iconic characters from the Advanced Class Guide: Shardra the shaman. Shardra will also be a playable character in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Wrath of the Righteous set due for release in February 2015.


Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

It's a sorry lot for a proud dwarven daughter to be raised a miserable dwarven son, but everyone receives one lot in life, and Shardra Geltl never knew to expect better. Childhood was kind, her sisters loved her, her brother protected her, and always she had the whispers of tools and books to keep her company. Adolescence, though, came bearing heavy burdens. Her siblings moved on with their own lives, replaced by harsh teachers and taskmasters. She weathered a staggeringly awkward first kiss as her childhood best friend grew into a handsome lad, followed by a painful arranged engagement to a lovely girl from the neighboring Dechl clan. But the mines and refinery of Xolgrit fed the war machine of Rolgrimmdur far above, and militant efficiency demanded all citizen-soldiers accept and excel in their roles, no matter how miserable.

But Shardra still had the whispers to keep her company on lonely nights.

Books quipped bits and pieces of their tales, bowls jabbered gossip shared over breakfast, and picks stammered the poems of the rocks they clove. And while the odds and ends of Xolgrit kept her company, the stones of the Old Road, carved long ago by dwarves still hunting for the sky, sang legends. More and more often, the shy dwarf slipped away to wander the crumbling paths, learning the deeds of her ancestors away from the clamor of duty and expectation. She assumed the whispers were her friends, there to keep her safe and offer respite from the dull ache of life. Then one "trustworthy" stone crumbled beneath her feet, dropping her into darkness.

The fall was short. Her arm met stone with a wet crunch, but the ache from the shattered bone faded away as the whispers rose in deafening song. All around stretched an ancient cavern. Hot springs bubbled across its floor, while mosaics and beaten gold masks decorated the walls. Mundane beasts and fantastic creatures wandered past, unperturbed by her presence.

A single tuatara waddled forward as she cradled her limb. It borrowed a tongue from the whispers and spoke. "What are you?"

"I—" She opened her mouth to speak, borrowing too from those old, quiet chants. And although the whispers had a word for all things in creation, they had no words for the expectations of others. "I don't know."

From that day on, the whispers poured themselves through Shardra's reptilian friend, speaking louder and more clearly with a mouth to form the words. She soon named the creature Kolo—an old dwarven word for the beauty in everyday things—and told Kolo of Xolgrit and Rolgrimmdur, and of the beauty of the stars in the night sky, and how to tell past and present and future apart. And Kolo taught her how to speak to spirits and borrow their favor to mend her broken bones, and of dwarven faith from long before they mingled their worship with the deities of the surface world. It taught her how to glean deeper secrets from the artifacts of the dead, and how to greet the Ladies of Crag and Ember—powerful elementals who laid claim to the hot springs and the surrounding tunnels. Most precious of all, Kolo taught her of the rivethun—dwarves who drew great power by embracing the disjunction between their bodies and souls—and she learned to brew the alchemical tinctures her past sisters used to quiet the rages of adolescence and bring their minds and bodies into harmony.

As Shardra's mystical skills and budding femininity began to show, her parents lamented their loss of a son and the addition of yet another dowry. Their irritation changed to joy as their daughter's dealings with the spirit world guided Xolgrit's miners to rich new veins of ore and long-lost treasure troves. The Geltl clan's fortunes reversed as Shardra's confidence, skills, and womanhood blossomed, and eventually clans from Xolgrit and beyond offered handsome brideprices.

Shardra's gifts attracted more than suitors, however. Lonely spirits and treasure hunters alike came to Xolgrit hoping to profit by the young shaman's insight. Neither settled peacefully into the community's rigid order. The string of lootings, possessions, drunken brawls, hauntings, and soured beer drew the attention of Rolgrimmdur, and the city-state dispatched a squad of soldiers—under the command of Captain Itcel Dechl—to put down the ragtag mercenary gangs squatting in town. Shardra herself turned her magic on its source, driving the spirit invaders back to the hot spring and demanding the Ladies of Crag and Ember keep their subjects under control.

Unsatisfied by her easy victory over a band of drunken thugs and grave robbers, Captain Dechl and her soldiers traced Shardra's path through the Old Roads, and eventually claimed the sacred shrine (and the wealth covering its walls) as a cultural treasure for Rolgrimmdur. The elemental Ladies raged at the presumption, swearing in turn to reduce Xolgrit to rubble. Both sides declared the dwarf maiden a traitor and cast her aside as they charged into battle. Shardra lashed out, seizing control of an earth elemental and using its might to collapse the ancient shrine.

With nothing left to fight over, the opposing armies fled.

Lacking any evidence of Shardra's actions but burning with frustration, Dechl used what remained of her authority to accuse the spirit-talker of heresy. Although friends and family staunchly defended her innocence, Shardra took the allegations as a chance to act on plans that had grown increasingly tempting. She left Xolgrit and her tutors, childhood friends, and family by paths only the stones remembered. Shardra reached the surface a guarded but curious woman, more interested in stories of the long dead than the bickering of the living. With Kolo the crag tuatara at her shoulder, Shardra now wanders the world, uncovering lost treasure and listening to the tales it has to tell. Permanent ties still chafe, even ones as shallow as a favor owed or an unpaid tavern bill, but her heart softens toward any who wander. Despite her love of the world's vast mysteries, a small part of the shaman yearns for the joy and companionship she once felt with her sisters, and Shardra corresponds with her family often, ever watchful for any discovery that might provide an excuse to write or visit her distant, glittering home.

Crystal Frasier
Contributor

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Iconics Meet the Iconics Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Shaman Wayne Reynolds
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16 people marked this as a favorite.

Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.

Silver Crusade

I love the shaman class, but was expecting another race besides dwarf. She looks cool, though!

Silver Crusade

Just saw that she's supposed to be transgendered. Interesting.


16 people marked this as a favorite.

Awesome! Representation like this makes me proud to support Paizo and makes me feel like I'm actually welcome to play the game.

Andoran Contributor

41 people marked this as a favorite.

Shardra Geltl: Great Iconic, or Greatest Iconic?


6 people marked this as a favorite.

Love itttttttttttttttt!

She's probably my fav iconic now. The story, the design, that familiar...

Knocked it out of the park, Crystal!


32 people marked this as a favorite.
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Shardra Geltl: Great Iconic, or Greatest Iconic?

As a trans person who plays Pathfinder, Greatest. Thank you Crystal and anyone else involved in her creation!

Cheliax

Female Dwarf, awesome! I like the way this was written, good job Crystal my second favourite ACG backstory so far (You lose only to the Crowe ) !

And, as always, Wayne Reynolds delivers. Hat is kinda...ostentatious,but it looks nice!

Silver Crusade

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

Awesome. Just fabulous. I'm all glittery.

BUT

'Crystal Frasier, Contributor'

:(

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Well done! Well done indeed!

Andoran Contributor

16 people marked this as a favorite.
Gorbacz wrote:

Awesome. Just fabulous. I'm all glittery.

BUT

'Crystal Frasier, Contributor'

:(

No tears, Gorbacz. It means I have more time to write!


Not bad. Interesting choice of race for Shaman.
For some reason, Dwarves always come across to me as being far too cosmopolitan to be Shamanic.

Cheliax

3 people marked this as a favorite.

I do not understand the daughter-as-son thing at all


I'll admit, I did a double take for a moment on reading the first half of the first paragraph, wondering if it was clunky word useage or a misreading on my part...but nope, fortunately, it was neither!

Well done Paizo!

Andoran Contributor

9 people marked this as a favorite.
Lamontius wrote:

I do not understand the daughter-as-son thing at all

Shardra's parents thought she was a boy, and raised her as their son.


20 people marked this as a favorite.

Reading the entries on the new ACG iconics has made me want to get back into Pathfinder, but this one is head and shoulders above what I was expecting.

Dwarf trans lady? Awesome. Ancient and still influential tradition of the non-binary rivethun? Also awesome. Parallel between Shardra's internal gender-identity conflict and the conflict between Xolgrit's influx of spirits and mercenaries? The awesome cannot stop.

If you don't think this is the tightest s@&# ever, get out of my face.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Lamontius wrote:

I do not understand the daughter-as-son thing at all

She's transgender. It seems like she was amab (assigned male at birth), was raised as male, and later transitioned in some way. Crystal could probably explain better.

Edit: Ninja'd by Crystal herself. Looks like I did read that correctly.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

To clarify then, she was born Biologically male and took an alchemical mixture just like that NPC in Wrath?

Cheliax

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Lamontius wrote:

I do not understand the daughter-as-son thing at all

Shardra's parents thought she was a boy, and raised her as their son.

How did they think that? What happened? Is this like in WotR, where there was a biological change due to magic? What am I missing?

Paizo Employee Project Manager

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Lamontius wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Lamontius wrote:

I do not understand the daughter-as-son thing at all

Shardra's parents thought she was a boy, and raised her as their son.
How did they think that? What happened? Is this like in WotR, where there was a biological change due to magic? What am I missing?

Crystal can probably explain it better, but...

She's a woman because she identifies as a woman. However, physical characteristics at birth, before she was able to speak and express who she was, led her parents and others to identify her as male.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Arivia wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Shardra Geltl: Great Iconic, or Greatest Iconic?
As a trans person who plays Pathfinder, Greatest. Thank you Crystal and anyone else involved in her creation!

+1. Great job, Crystal!

Andoran Contributor

26 people marked this as a favorite.
TerminalArtiste wrote:
Lamontius wrote:

I do not understand the daughter-as-son thing at all

She's transgender. It seems like she was amab (assigned male at birth), was raised as male, and later transitioned in some way. Crystal could probably explain better.

Edit: Ninja'd by Crystal herself. Looks like I did read that correctly.

Golarion doesn't have the term "transgender," just like it doesn't really have the term "homosexual." Instead, just like historical Earth, it has a vast variety of third and fourth genders varying between cultures. Dwarves have "rivethun," which is a catch-all for feminine trans women and intersex folk, but other cultures will have other words.

Beside,s what's the fun in spelling everything out? Leave enough breadcrumbs and let people know the joy of finding their own way :)

Andoran

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

I'm very glad to see this. I must admit, I didn't expect the transgender iconic to be a dwarf, though. Still a very interesting character all around. And very nice art.

Shadow Lodge

9 people marked this as a favorite.
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Beside,s what's the fun in spelling everything out? Leave enough breadcrumbs and let people know the joy of finding their own way :)

Or they just get confused and frustrated. I know I would have been still sitting here going "Bwuh?" even after your and Jessica's hints if some of the other posters hadn't blatantly spelled it out.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Jessica Price wrote:
Lamontius wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Lamontius wrote:

I do not understand the daughter-as-son thing at all

Shardra's parents thought she was a boy, and raised her as their son.
How did they think that? What happened? Is this like in WotR, where there was a biological change due to magic? What am I missing?

Crystal can probably explain it better, but...

She's a woman because she identifies as a woman. However, physical characteristics at birth, before she was able to speak and express who she was, led her parents and others to identify her as male.

Possibly an intersex birth? Such as in the recent episode of Masters of Sex, which has as one of it's plots Master's attempt to prevent the parents from premature gender assignment of a child born with both male and female features?

Andoran

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Jessica Price wrote:
Lamontius wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Lamontius wrote:

I do not understand the daughter-as-son thing at all

Shardra's parents thought she was a boy, and raised her as their son.
How did they think that? What happened? Is this like in WotR, where there was a biological change due to magic? What am I missing?

Crystal can probably explain it better, but...

She's a woman because she identifies as a woman. However, physical characteristics at birth, before she was able to speak and express who she was, led her parents and others to identify her as male.

What else are parents to do in Golarion? How would you identify an infant if not by, uh, physical characteristics? And why would that make things bad: "It's a sorry lot for a proud dwarven daughter to be raised a miserable dwarven son"?

That sounds like it was bad for her parents to raise a male-equipped person as male. Did they fight her on changing to female once she spoke up or something? Just seems odd like a sentence is missing or something unless it is covered a lot more in a dwarf book or something.

Cheliax

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Jessica Price wrote:
Lamontius wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Lamontius wrote:

I do not understand the daughter-as-son thing at all

Shardra's parents thought she was a boy, and raised her as their son.
How did they think that? What happened? Is this like in WotR, where there was a biological change due to magic? What am I missing?

Crystal can probably explain it better, but...

She's a woman because she identifies as a woman. However, physical characteristics at birth, before she was able to speak and express who she was, led her parents and others to identify her as male.

Okay.

But as adolescence hits her in the write-up, the words "femininity" and "womanhood" come up...annnnnnd...dammit, I just realized even as I'm typing this that I'm taking those words to mean the appearance of only physical and biological traits...

...I think I get it now.

Andoran Contributor

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Stratagemini wrote:
To clarify then, she was born Biologically male and took an alchemical mixture just like that NPC in Wrath?
Lamontius wrote:
How did they think that? What happened? Is this like in WotR, where there was a biological change due to magic? What am I missing?

She looked like a boy as a child, before she could talk or understand the difference between genders, so her parents raised assuming she was. "Biologically male" is actually a fairly wibbly-wobbly descriptor, once you've studied enough biology, but yes: she did have enough outward male characteristics that she was mistaken for a boy.

And unlike Annevia from WotR, Shardra's tinctures aren't a magical cure that immediately fix everything. They simply set her body on the right track to grow and develop like most other women.

Andoran

Lamontius wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Lamontius wrote:

I do not understand the daughter-as-son thing at all

Shardra's parents thought she was a boy, and raised her as their son.
How did they think that? What happened? Is this like in WotR, where there was a biological change due to magic? What am I missing?

I believe she was born, biologically speaking, male, but self-identified as female. Therefor, she is female, albeit... "disjuncted", I believe, would be the word that the post used.

The references to alchemical tinctures put me to mind of modern day hormone blocking treatments that delay the onset of puberty for transpersons, which help to minimize the physical differences between the sexes that emerge during that time period. In effect, it prevents them from becoming more of something they do not believe they are or should be.

Cheliax

And here I was, embarrassed that I can't hear any voices at all. But now I am left feeling very bad for (and worried about) an entire new class that listens to the voices in their heads. [shudder]

===================================================================

OOG looks potentially fun. I'm curious to see how Shardra is written and plays.

Andoran Contributor

25 people marked this as a favorite.
Perram wrote:
I'm very glad to see this. I must admit, I didn't expect the transgender iconic to be a dwarf, though. Still a very interesting character all around. And very nice art.

I got my pick, and I very much wanted the dwarf shaman as our transgender iconic. Partially because trans people have a long history of spiritual traditions and partially because dwarves are a very traditional race, but we never really spell out what their traditions are. This seemed like a fun way to point out that "traditional" doesn't mean "hates everything."

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Very nice story but does anyone else think she looks a lot like that female dwarf from dragon age awakaning?


Love it. Great addition to the Iconic roster.

I'm curious what her shaman spirit is. Lore (since she's so interested by history and tradition)?

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4

Very nice. Shades of Lord Fanny from The Invisibles, which, whether purely coincidental or intentional homage, makes her all the more awesome.

Andoran Contributor

10 people marked this as a favorite.
Charlie D. wrote:

What else are parents to do in Golarion? How would you identify an infant if not by, uh, physical characteristics? And why would that make things bad: "It's a sorry lot for a proud dwarven daughter to be raised a miserable dwarven son"?

That sounds like it was bad for her parents to raise a male-equipped person as male. Did they fight her on changing to female once she spoke up or something? Just seems odd like a sentence is missing or something unless it is covered a lot more in a dwarf book or something.

Her parents didn't necessarily do anything wrong, but sometimes it's possible to do nothing wrong and still fail your child. And later on it mentions that their worst reaction was essentially "great, ANOTHER dowry to pay." Obviously they still love their daughter.

Andoran Contributor

3 people marked this as a favorite.
DankeSean wrote:
Very nice. Shades of Lord Fanny from The Invisibles, which, whether purely accidental or intentional homage, makes her all the more awesome.

No. Expressly no.


Athel wrote:

Love it. Great addition to the Iconic roster.

I'm curious what her shaman spirit is. Lore (since she's so interested by history and tradition)?

I'd guess stone, considering her familiar's appearance and certain parts of the story.

Cheliax

reading the line again about 'rivethun' and the alchemical tinctures, it is a bit more clear, now

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4

Crystal Frasier wrote:
DankeSean wrote:
Very nice. Shades of Lord Fanny from The Invisibles, which, whether purely accidental or intentional homage, makes her all the more awesome.
No. Expressly no.

No offense intended; more in the sense that 'transgendered shaman' made the association for me, not in the sense of '90's understanding of gender identity makes a character come across as a glorified drag queen'. (Obviously I do not get that feel from Sharda at all.)

Andoran

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Charlie D. wrote:
That sounds like it was bad for her parents to raise a male-equipped person as male. Did they fight her on changing to female once she spoke up or something? Just seems odd like a sentence is missing or something unless it is covered a lot more in a dwarf book or something.

As part of a highly traditional society they carried on with how they were expected to. From the sound of it Shardra was too shy to assert herself and correct her parents. That is one of the downsides of such a rigid society. Once she finally grew confident enough to do so, her parents appear to have accepted her in the typical stodgy dwarven fashion. Grumbling complaints as they go along.

Spoiler:
Remember, dwarves are a race of tsunderes! :)

Andoran Contributor

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Athel wrote:

Love it. Great addition to the Iconic roster.

I'm curious what her shaman spirit is. Lore (since she's so interested by history and tradition)?

Her spirit is Lore, although Kolo keeps trying to talk her into earth.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

You'd guess it's a dwarven thing, like people in China right now (I think) prefer male children to females for various reasons. Reading the story you'd see that having a male already means you receive dowry instead of giving it out, a big bonus right there from the get go. Add to that the usual dwarven cliches and society (mining, fighting, etc) it makes more sense that they would prefer a boy. But she was raised properly and cared for anyhow. Make it up as you will I'd say.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

This is amazing. I am really inspired to roll up a rivethun dwarf at my next character creation.

Personally I would be interested in seeing a gender and sexuality of Golarion book. Its really interesting to see these topics and how they fit into the lore.

Paizo Employee Assistant Software Developer

10 people marked this as a favorite.

It's hard to correct your parents. You believe they know what's best for you. You look up to them. As you get older you start to form your own opinions. And eventually they won't have an explanation when you ask them why beyond, well that's how things are.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Athel wrote:
I'm curious what her shaman spirit is. Lore (since she's so interested by history and tradition)?

I imagine her spirit is stone, since she spends an awful lot of time hearing whispers from things made of stone. Also her spirit animal looks like it's made of earth and stone, as per that spirit's description.


Crystal Frasier wrote:
Athel wrote:

Love it. Great addition to the Iconic roster.

I'm curious what her shaman spirit is. Lore (since she's so interested by history and tradition)?

Her spirit is Lore, although Kolo keeps trying to talk her into earth.

and my amazing power to misinterpret subtext strikes again.


TerminalArtiste wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Athel wrote:

Love it. Great addition to the Iconic roster.

I'm curious what her shaman spirit is. Lore (since she's so interested by history and tradition)?

Her spirit is Lore, although Kolo keeps trying to talk her into earth.
and my amazing power to misinterpret subtext strikes again.

Maybe Earth/Stone could be her 4th level wandering spirit? That seems like a compromise Kolo could be happy with. :)

Andoran Contributor

10 people marked this as a favorite.

Fun side note: We determined that Kolo is a Deep Crag Tuatara, an offshoot of reptiles separate from snakes and lizards and looking distinctively more primordial. On the surface they're fairly rare, but in the darklands there are several species that have adapted and flourished. Deep Crag Tuataras are camouflaged to blend in with their rocky environments, making Kolo look like it's made of stone.

Cheliax

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Kolo Tuatara? The Liverpool and Cote D'Ivoire footballer is her familiar? Sweet!

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Tuataras are pretty awesome.

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