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Meet the Iconics: Keskodai

Monday, May 15, 2017

The countdown to Starfinder is on! We're highlighting the iconic characters and core classes that appear throughout the pages and covers the Starfinder line. Today we meet Keskodai, the iconic mystic!

Illustration by Remko Troost

For those inducted into the faith of Pharasma, the Lady of Graves, death is not an ending, but a doorway: an entry into a new existence and way of being. The shirren Keskodai understands this transition well, and greets it with the joyful reverence it deserves—an outlook that's not always comforting to the patients in his medical bay.

Keskodai grew up in the burning deserts of Fullbright, the side of tidally locked Verces that's always turned toward the sun. Though cosmopolitan, his hometown of Takoris was primarily shirren, having been an early satellite settlement of the original shirren colony on that world. The child of a priest of Hylax, the Forever Queen, Keskodai grew up steeped in the values of friendship and diplomacy, and felt a deep connection to the divine, yet chafed at the idea of serving the same god as his parent. Exactly which god he'd serve instead remained unclear, until the coming of the Gray Shakes.

Believed to be the result of a biotech experiment gone wrong at the local university, the plague called the Gray Shakes burned through the city like a wildfire, turning shirrens' chitin gray, rotting off their antennae, and eating away at their telepathy and motor function, leaving them awake but unable to communicate until they finally expired. In the weeks it took the local government to find a cure, thirty percent of the city's shirren population died.

In the midst of this horror, a young Keskodai first encountered priests of Pharasma, black-robed beings of all different races who'd come at news of the plague. Somberly, the Pharasmins walked among the afflicted, offering magical healing where they could and comfort to those too far gone, whispering to them of the Cycle of Souls and the new worlds that awaited them. The beauty of their ministry moved Keskodai, and he quickly joined their hospice work, leaving home to study at a temple in the Ring of Nations once the plague was safely contained.

After years as an initiate, Keskodai returned home a full priest of Lady of Graves, ready to tend to his people. He quickly fell in love with two members of his congregation, a female-host couple, and the three soon joined arms in marriage. Yet as much as he loved his community and his partners, a part of him remained unsatisfied. That part of every shirren that thrills at choice and decision-making began to wonder: Had he made the right choice in coming home? In choosing a life so similar to his parent? How could he know if he wanted this when there was still so much out there that he'd never experienced? The desire to explore continued to grow, until at last, after the birth of their first son, he and his partners sat down and made a plan. He would leave and see the galaxy, taking their child with him to expose him to the same new experiences. Once the child was old enough to leave his cradle-jar, Keskodai would decide whether he'd seen enough to return in good conscience, in which case both of them be welcomed with open arms. If not, the child would return alone.

In his effort to see as many worlds as possible, Keskodai took to signing on with freelance adventurers and starship crews, particularly those headed out beyond the edges of the solar system. While quite capable in combat, he prefers to act as the ship's medic, trusting that his mercenary companions will give him plenty of opportunities to employ his goddess-granted magic in patching up the broken or blessing them on their journey into the Great Beyond. The cheerful manner in which he talks about death often initially disturbs those under his care, yet anyone who spends much time with the shirren quickly learns that his even-keeled, fatalistic approach to life and death doesn't make him cavalier about it: for him, to give less than his best effort in healing his friends would be to risk them dying before their appointed time—a loss for him, and a grave failure in his duty to his goddess.

As with many shirren, Keskodai is a team player, always ready to throw in to help others, and a social butterfly who loves meeting new people. A crewmate once called him "the galaxy's friendliest death priest," and he wears the badge with pride. Though quite fond of option bars and other artificial means of stimulating his choice centers, he's careful not to let himself overindulge... usually. More often he satisfies his need for independence by customizing his gear—though he doesn't consider himself vain, Keskodai is intensely proud of the aesthetics of his gear, his collection of trophies, and his mustache (which he thinks lends him an air of gravitas). His greatest pride, however, is his son Chkoresk, still in his larval stage. Like many shirren parents, Keskodai constantly carries Chkoresk—affectionately nicknamed "Chk Chk"—around in a heavily fortified cradle-jar designed to let Chk Chk learn about the world from relative safety. While Chk Chk isn't old enough to speak yet, his telepathy only good enough to grant brief blasts of childlike emotion, Keskodai holds conversations with him regularly, with Chk Chk tapping on the glass to communicate his answers.

Though Keskodai is generally as easygoing as he appears, he still has his demons. The Gray Shakes tragedy left him deeply distrustful of certain types of research and technology, and he's constantly torn between his faith in individual freedom and his desire to protect the community through heavy government regulation. Worse, he's come to love the life of a wanderer and the friends he's made along the way, and deeply fears the day when Chk Chk grows old enough to return home, and Keskodai has to choose whether to head back to Verces with him, or continue on alone.

James L. Sutter
Creative Director

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Tags: Iconics Keskodai Meet the Iconics Mystics Remko Troost Starfinder
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2 people marked this as a favorite.
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Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
What I am trying to find is ... if I were to abandon the "default" setting, could they be reflavored as "psionics"?

You don't even have to abandon the setting to run a mystic as psychic.

And you don't have to play a mystic, or even a spellcasting class, if you want your character to have some noteworthy level of psychic power.

Psychic Theme confirmed?


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Krombopulos Michael wrote:
Ventnor wrote:
I wonder is there are seedy option dens in Shirren settlements where choice-addicted shirren go to do things like make role playing game characters or build LEGOs.
Or shirren that seek out professional "doms", not as a sex thing, but for brief respites from the pressures of having to make their own decisions and choices.

i wonder if Shirren can even experience choice paralysis actually. Or would they just open up a few color sliders in MS Paint and go into seizures?


@Torbyne That's what I'm thinking...AWESOME. Psychic Soldiers with cybernetics and laser eyes FTW


Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Krombopulos Michael wrote:
I wonder if fidget spinners and gadgets would be popular with shirren?

I think they would consider it weird. They would not understand why other races might dread and avoid making choices or have a device make a choice for them.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Torbyne wrote:
Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
Lord Fyre wrote:
What I am trying to find is ... if I were to abandon the "default" setting, could they be reflavored as "psionics"?

You don't even have to abandon the setting to run a mystic as psychic.

And you don't have to play a mystic, or even a spellcasting class, if you want your character to have some noteworthy level of psychic power.

Psychic Theme confirmed?

Sounds like it. ;)

Paizo Employee Managing Editor

9 people marked this as a favorite.
James Sutter wrote:
Adam Daigle wrote:

Psst... minor correction: Kostchek

Fun fact: It's only Kostchek in the core book because we told Judy, "Dude, regardless of how awesome it is, we can't have a shirren named Kostchtchie in the core rulebook." :D

In fact: Kostchtch! Kostchtch has no regrets about their choice of name... though they might had some cultural misunderstandings about humans' ancient history. *waves appropriate arms dismissively*

Also, if you think shirren courtship is complicated, consider sedoretu, and the Oankali.


Judy Bauer wrote:
James Sutter wrote:
Adam Daigle wrote:

Psst... minor correction: Kostchek

Fun fact: It's only Kostchek in the core book because we told Judy, "Dude, regardless of how awesome it is, we can't have a shirren named Kostchtchie in the core rulebook." :D

In fact: Kostchtch! Kostchtch has no regrets about their choice of name... though they might had some cultural misunderstandings about humans' ancient history. *waves appropriate arms dismissively*

Also, if you think shirren courtship is complicated, consider sedoretu, and the Oankali.

I'm 227 years old, and this is the first time I've lived outside the insular society of my birth. I don't think shirren courtship is complicated so much as . . . intriguing.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Torbyne wrote:
Krombopulos Michael wrote:
Ventnor wrote:
I wonder is there are seedy option dens in Shirren settlements where choice-addicted shirren go to do things like make role playing game characters or build LEGOs.
Or shirren that seek out professional "doms", not as a sex thing, but for brief respites from the pressures of having to make their own decisions and choices.
i wonder if Shirren can even experience choice paralysis actually. Or would they just open up a few color sliders in MS Paint and go into seizures?

I don't think Shirren would experience choice paralysis. Paralysis means they are not making choices. And making the choice is what gives them pleasure. They basically bypass the Paradox of Choice entirely.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
Ventnor wrote:
I wonder is there are seedy option dens in Shirren settlements where choice-addicted shirren go to do things like make role playing game characters or build LEGOs.

So we have option bars, regular Bars, and virus bars...damn it how are we supposed do the traditional way you start a RPG if all the PCs go to different bars. ;)


John Kretzer wrote:
So we have option bars, regular Bars, and virus bars...damn it how are we supposed do the traditional way you start a RPG if all the PCs go to different bars. ;)

Go to a bar that sells computer viruses, legos, and poison? Specialty bars are probably a thing, but general bars would probably get more business since they can have chains of bars all throughout known space. Catering to your every vice.

Scarab Sages

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Modules, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Ventnor wrote:
I wonder is there are seedy option dens in Shirren settlements where choice-addicted shirren go to do things like make role playing game characters or build LEGOs.

Holy *bleep*, new headcanon!


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
John Kretzer wrote:
Ventnor wrote:
I wonder is there are seedy option dens in Shirren settlements where choice-addicted shirren go to do things like make role playing game characters or build LEGOs.
So we have option bars, regular Bars, and virus bars...damn it how are we supposed do the traditional way you start a RPG if all the PCs go to different bars. ;)

Replace taverns with Spaceport lounges or Starfinder Society hostels?

Lantern Lodge

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Torbyne wrote:
John Kretzer wrote:
Ventnor wrote:
I wonder is there are seedy option dens in Shirren settlements where choice-addicted shirren go to do things like make role playing game characters or build LEGOs.
So we have option bars, regular Bars, and virus bars...damn it how are we supposed do the traditional way you start a RPG if all the PCs go to different bars. ;)
Replace taverns with Spaceport lounges or Starfinder Society hostels?

For all we know, there could be a chain of bars called Thorax's that have scantily clad shirren, vesk, and lashunta serving 'antennae' that are actually spiced, roasted, leg meat of some commonly ranched, giant insect. Of course, the sexiest waitress would be the kasatha who can carry more trays than anyone while - get this - not wearing a scarf to cover her mouth, but rather just a simple, high collar - very risque!


I like him. :)

Shirren are looking like a very fun race to play.


Ok, but point of order, I'd like to know more about Shirren reproduction, more specifically, why Keskodai has only one kid.

Like, I'm no biologist, but a three-gender/sex system would seem to me to be evolved so that the hosts can carry the burden of the eggs after fertilization, implying that there is a lot of them. Having one egg at a time just seems like the host is an extraneous adaptation, especially considering that they are an evolutionary offshoot of what amounts to a non-adaptive Zerg or Tyranid equivalent.

The way I see it, Kesk might have only one child for purely social reasons. Maybe Shirren heavily regulate their own reproduction, especially on colonies, to make sure they don't overtax local resources.


SquirmWyrm wrote:
Ok, but point of order, I'd like to know more about Shirren reproduction, more specifically, why Keskodai has only one kid.

Maybe like some insect species they're cannibals, and like some shark species they eat each other in the womb?

Maybe Chk Chk is already level 2-3 and needs to figure out where to put all those new skill points and that's why he's with his father wandering the cosmos trying find just the right combination.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
SquirmWyrm wrote:

Ok, but point of order, I'd like to know more about Shirren reproduction, more specifically, why Keskodai has only one kid.

Like, I'm no biologist, but a three-gender/sex system would seem to me to be evolved so that the hosts can carry the burden of the eggs after fertilization, implying that there is a lot of them. Having one egg at a time just seems like the host is an extraneous adaptation, especially considering that they are an evolutionary offshoot of what amounts to a non-adaptive Zerg or Tyranid equivalent.

The way I see it, Kesk might have only one child for purely social reasons. Maybe Shirren heavily regulate their own reproduction, especially on colonies, to make sure they don't overtax local resources.

A three partner system of reproduction's best evolutionary advantage would be its contribution to biodiversity. More likely than not, the Swarm as individuals, if it is a controlling hivemind, lack the normal individual compulsions of reproduction that normal species evolve with (i.e. a biological urge to breed with another individual that doesn't have a similar genetic code to you). A three partner system for generating an organism's genetic code would be a quick and easy biological way around this. Similarly, the fact that shirren don't often produce multiple offspring could also be from their origins. It's better to have a bunch of individual hive soldier produce a quantity of offspring than only a few hive members who are specially designated for reproduction to produce the same overall number of offspring. That said, keep in mind that not every evolutionary development exists because it is "beneficial". Traits exist because they didn't prevent the organism in question from exiting the gene pool so to speak. If I have a weird adaptation, (i.e. I have vestigial antennae) and I can pass that trait on, it passes on. No concern for utility.

Note: I feel like I should clarify in advance that I don't have vestigial antennae.

Dark Archive

SquirmWyrm wrote:
Like, I'm no biologist, but a three-gender/sex system would seem to me to be evolved so that the hosts can carry the burden of the eggs after fertilization, implying that there is a lot of them. Having one egg at a time just seems like the host is an extraneous adaptation, especially considering that they are an evolutionary offshoot of what amounts to a non-adaptive Zerg or Tyranid equivalent.

Maybe they pick the three best-formed larvae, and each parents gets one from the union? Perhaps even one (or more) of the parents take on a full-time parenting role, and raise 'the litter,' while parents who have other roles, such as careers, or adventuring, taking up a lot of their time, get only a single larvae to raise? (And presumably are expected to send some money back to their homebound co-parent(s), with the larger brood to support.)

Liberty's Edge

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Archmage Variel wrote:
That said, keep in mind that not every evolutionary development exists because it is "beneficial". Traits exist because they didn't prevent the organism in question from exiting the gene pool so to speak. If I have a weird adaptation, (i.e. I have vestigial antennae) and I can pass that trait on, it passes on. No concern for utility.

This is true on a generational level, but not an evolutionary one.

Consider cave fish. All over the world, fish that find their way in to lightless caves eventually evolve to be white and blind. Why? What evolutionary advantage is there to being white in an area where there is no light to see by? Ditto for blindness... the fish can't see anything whether they are blind or not. So why wouldn't the ability to see just 'pass on' from generation to generation?

The answer is that everything has some degree of 'utility' involved. The pigments which give a fish coloration take energy to produce. Thus, a fish which has an adaptation causing it to produce less of these pigments will have an advantage in a lightless environment... it doesn't suffer the usual drawbacks of being unpigmented and has more energy than the other fish. Ditto for eyes, which require energy to grow and function... first naturally blind fish that comes along is going to have an advantage over all the others. If food is low, the white/blind fish are going to need less of it and have more energy available to get to it first... making them more likely to survive.

Thus, an individual with a mutation that caused them NOT to expend energy growing and maintaining a vestigial antenna (or doing so with a smaller one) would likewise have an advantage and in the long run push the vestigial antenna out of the gene pool.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Judy Bauer wrote:
*waves appropriate arms dismissively*

"I wave my appropriate arms dismissively" is SO my new go-to conversation ender.

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quibblemuch wrote:
Judy Bauer wrote:
*waves appropriate arms dismissively*
"I wave my appropriate arms dismissively" is SO my new go-to conversation ender.

I think I would prefer to modify it to be more universally accepting of alien physiologies and say, "I wave my appropriate appendage dismissively".


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Ashanderai wrote:
quibblemuch wrote:
Judy Bauer wrote:
*waves appropriate arms dismissively*
"I wave my appropriate arms dismissively" is SO my new go-to conversation ender.
I think I would prefer to modify it to be more universally accepting of alien physiologies and say, "I wave my appropriate appendage dismissively".

And, when referring to aliens, I would certainly agree. But, anatomically speaking, anything on *my* body that requires the noun "appendage" instead of "arm" is, I assure you, not appropriate to wave. Dismissively or in any other fashion.


Perhaps males and females make one egg per host at a time, but a host can have 8-10 eggs at once. Which means the swarm reproduce via... orgy?


TheGoofyGE3K wrote:
Perhaps males and females make one egg per host at a time, but a host can have 8-10 eggs at once. Which means the swarm reproduce via... orgy?

If they choose to.

Dark Archive

John Kretzer wrote:
Ventnor wrote:
I wonder is there are seedy option dens in Shirren settlements where choice-addicted shirren go to do things like make role playing game characters or build LEGOs.
So we have option bars, regular Bars, and virus bars...damn it how are we supposed do the traditional way you start a RPG if all the PCs go to different bars. ;)

And all the Vesk are probably hanging out at the fight club bar, wrassling and stuff... We are gonna need a big bar, with slot machines and virus dispensers and option tree gizmos and a fight ring in the middle! Oh yeah, and drinks!


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Set wrote:
And all the Vesk are probably hanging out at the fight club bar, wrassling and stuff...

Gator wrasslin' done right.


Set wrote:
John Kretzer wrote:
Ventnor wrote:
I wonder is there are seedy option dens in Shirren settlements where choice-addicted shirren go to do things like make role playing game characters or build LEGOs.
So we have option bars, regular Bars, and virus bars...damn it how are we supposed do the traditional way you start a RPG if all the PCs go to different bars. ;)

And all the Vesk are probably hanging out at the fight club bar, wrassling and stuff... We are gonna need a big bar, with slot machines and virus dispensers and option tree gizmos and a fight ring in the middle! Oh yeah, and drinks!

The first rule of Fight Club: tell everyone about Fight Club.

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Cole Deschain wrote:
Set wrote:
And all the Vesk are probably hanging out at the fight club bar, wrassling and stuff...
Gator wrasslin' done right.

Sometimes you wrassle the gator, sometimes the gator wrassles you.


Set wrote:
Cole Deschain wrote:
Set wrote:
And all the Vesk are probably hanging out at the fight club bar, wrassling and stuff...
Gator wrasslin' done right.

Sometimes you wrassle the gator, sometimes the gator wrassles you.

Vesk girls know what they want.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
thecursor wrote:
Set wrote:
Cole Deschain wrote:
Set wrote:
And all the Vesk are probably hanging out at the fight club bar, wrassling and stuff...
Gator wrasslin' done right.

Sometimes you wrassle the gator, sometimes the gator wrassles you.

Vesk girls know what they want.

I now have a new character idea: a ysoki soldier who tries to impress the vesk woman he's in love with by wrestling bigger and bigger opponents.

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