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

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Tags: Iconics Meet the Iconics Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Shaman Wayne Reynolds
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I could understand inclusiveness for the sake of inclusiveness to be a bad thing if people were being retconned to be one thing or another. Such things could create roleplaying hurdles.

But that isn't what happened. Also Shardra is trans, which means from a roleplaying perspective she is female. You could retcon every iconic to be trans* and it wouldn't/shouldn't affect how people roleplay them or their current personalities.

Grand Lodge

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Marcus Robert Hosler wrote:

I could understand inclusiveness for the sake of inclusiveness to be a bad thing if people were being retconned to be one thing or another. Such things could create roleplaying hurdles.

But that isn't what happened. Also Shardra is trans, which means from a roleplaying perspective she is female. You could retcon every iconic to be trans* and it wouldn't/shouldn't affect how people roleplay them or their current personalities.

“You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?" And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.” ― Junot Díaz

And what happens is that the people who have never had any problem finding their own mirrors feel threatened that there might be a mirror or two that's not reflecting them, and try to make sure that all the mirrors in society point back toward them - prevent other mirrors from being made if possible, break them if necessary.


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There are certainly problems with inclusiveness for the sake of inclusiveness or with tokenism, but they pale in comparison to the problem of not being included at all.
Actual inclusion without political motives is preferable, but history suggests that it's not likely to become common until the representation has become normalized by more intentional inclusion.


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Hmm...

Soo... not at all surprised no one mentioned that we have an Iconic who's family isn't dead, or evil, or demonic, or cast her out or something like that. In fact, we have an iconic who left her family because they were willing to fight to support her and she didn't want to get them in trouble.

The Exchange

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I am with you that tokenism is bad, but that is not what is happening here. a writer made her because they were drawn to the character, not because they felt the need for her to be a token character.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

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I still haven't seen a cogent explanation for why realizing you lack Group X in your lineup of sample characters that are supposed to be representative of your readership, and then adding a character from Group X, is supposedly a bad thing. You've said that that isn't the issue, but also typed out in ALL CAPS how the Mighty Meep interview explained that Paizo added a trans iconic partially because we haven't ever had one and that was somehow a bad thing.

Being a minority across several axes, people deciding to include your because they finally realize they've be excluding you is nowhere near as bad--as insulting, as depressing, or as dehumanizing--as people legitimately discriminating against you. Sometimes people may do it for shallow or selfish reasons, but it still feels better to see okay-ish token representation than to being ignored completely or be openly mocked. The two instances are so vastly different they don't even compare.

Mostly, I'm just confused what you're arguing about. You've added 20+ posts talking about what you AREN"T arguing about, but I'm still unclear what you're asking or debating, and don't want to assume.


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Crystal Frasier wrote:
Mostly, I'm just confused what you're arguing about. You've added 20+ posts talking about what you AREN"T arguing about, but I'm still unclear what you're asking or debating, and don't want to assume.

I think he is questioning the apparent lack of bigotry in Golarion.

It seems like everyone in Shardra's back-story accepts her a female. No one in her back story is one of those "other people's gender experts" that seem to run rampant in our own world.

Although, now I am wondering. Is bigotry evil in Golarion or just the product of low mental scores? Malice vs ignorance, or both?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Marcus Robert Hosler wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Mostly, I'm just confused what you're arguing about. You've added 20+ posts talking about what you AREN"T arguing about, but I'm still unclear what you're asking or debating, and don't want to assume.

I think he is questioning the apparent lack of bigotry in Golarion.

It seems like everyone in Shardra's back-story accepts her a female. No one in her back story is one of those "other people's gender experts" that seem to run rampant in our own world.

Although, now I am wondering. Is bigotry evil in Golarion or just the product of low mental scores? Malice vs ignorance, or both?

Golarion is intentionally far less intolerant than present or past Earth was. Which is not to say that there aren't many cases of intolerance, it's just that for the most part the majority of populace gives far less of a flip about things like what race/species you are and what's going on in your bedroom.


Marcus Robert Hosler wrote:
Although, now I am wondering. Is bigotry evil in Golarion or just the product of low mental scores? Malice vs ignorance, or both?

Careful. History is full of good, smart people who were uninformed or misinformed and therefore prejudiced. When you start thinking only bad, stupid people are bigots, that's when it gets you.

Dark Archive

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Marcus Robert Hosler wrote:
Although, now I am wondering. Is bigotry evil in Golarion or just the product of low mental scores? Malice vs ignorance, or both?

I think there's room for both.

In Cheliax, both racism and sexism exist as excuses for treating people like crap peddled by the church of Asmodeus. By teaching people that it's okay to hate halflings, or elves, or look down on women, it's teaching people to section off anything decent or humane about themselves, by painting some people as 'other' and acceptable to be inhuman towards. First they came for the tieflings, and nobody cared. Then it was the elves, and they're kind of elitist and oh-so-superior anyway, so, whatever, and then the halflings, which, eh, they were never really good for anything but servants, and now it's those backwards Mwangi in Sargava and Shoanti in Korvosa... The circle of 'Us' that we are supposed to be nice to and treat like people gets ever smaller and tighter, and the circle of 'Them' that we don't have to treat like people grows to include everyone, until, as is the plan from Hell itself, the people of Cheliax don't even regard their neighbors as fellow humans, worthy of respect.

In the Erastilian church, on the other hand, there are a few who interpret the tenet to marry off and join the community and raise families as somehow codifying 'a man's role' or 'a woman's role,' and get all worked up about unmarried folk or women wandering off to be adventurers. That's less evil, and more ignorance, IMO. Erastil's no more or less concerned about a young woman going off to become an adventurer, instead of lending her skills to the community and settling down and raising a family, than he is about a young *man* doing the same thing. It's not that they are skipping out on a gender role, it's that they are skipping out on the community. Less 'Get back here missy and make babies!' and more 'Get back here you ingrateful little punk and take care of your grandma!'

But, as with pretty much anything else, add 'IMO' to the end of every sentence that begins with a capital letter.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

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Nemo_the_Lost wrote:
Marcus Robert Hosler wrote:
Although, now I am wondering. Is bigotry evil in Golarion or just the product of low mental scores? Malice vs ignorance, or both?
Careful. History is full of good, smart people who were uninformed or misinformed and therefore prejudiced. When you start thinking only bad, stupid people are bigots, that's when it gets you.

Yeah, intelligent and charismatic individuals make some of the most pernicious and damaging bigots out there.


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Thank you, Crystal. This made my day. Sadly, I don't have nearly as much time for gaming as I used to but reading this lifted my spirits something fierce.

Lantern Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Samy wrote:

I think the thing that bugs me about Shardra is that it's not explicitly stated that she's trans. It's subtext that one can choose to pick up on, but I think the text is hedged enough that one can also choose the interpretation that she's not trans.

I mean, I would never have even thought she was trans if I hadn't read this thread. All I took home from the text was that she was born biologically female but her parents tried to raise her as a male, and that her awakening was just her asserting her original biological gender. Which is an interesting enough angle in itself. And frankly, that's the way it still reads to me.

I'm fine acknowledging that officially, apparently her genitalia actually changed. But the picture I have painted in my head so far, she's not trans, she just had messed up parents.

sarcasm:
Messed up parents?!?! But those don't exist!!! All parents are endowed with the wisdom of the ages since birth. To even imply otherwise is offensive to me in every way possible. I cannot believe you would even waste the digital letters to make such an audacious and self-righteous comment. Such an idea is a complete waste of my time, and I can't believe this discussion board thread exists at all, given its potential to incite ideological rhetoric like this!

Way to be a jerk, Samy. Now I am going to go back to what I was doing before, thinking only about things that line up with my own personal ideology, because ATLAS SHRUGGED.

Paizo Glitterati Robot

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Removed some derailing posts and responses containing sniping/back and forth, and the replies to them. Guys, some of the topics touched upon here really either belong in Off Topic/Gamer Talk (relative to real world issues) or the Campaign Setting forum (since some of this discussion is about general Golarion related topics). Let's keep this topic on track and about the above blog post.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Thanks, Chris.

Anyway, I'm really digging the parallels in the art between Shardra and Kolo.

They're looking in the same direction, and Shardra's mace is held in the same pose, in the opposite direction, matching Kolo's tail. And her mask thing ives her a similar profile to the shape of Kolo's skull.


Ehh, the presence of arcane magic among dwarves still rubs me the wrong way. Dwarves are supposed to shun that kind of crap!

Liberty's Edge Contributor

Calybos1 wrote:

Ehh, the presence of arcane magic among dwarves still rubs me the wrong way. Dwarves are supposed to shun that kind of crap!

Shaman are divine casters.

Silver Crusade Assistant Software Developer

Removed another derailing post. Keep it on topic, please.


Crystal Frasier wrote:
Calybos1 wrote:

Ehh, the presence of arcane magic among dwarves still rubs me the wrong way. Dwarves are supposed to shun that kind of crap!

Shaman are divine casters.

I thought the shaman was a combination of oracle + witch... and the witch, of course, is arcane.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

Calybos1 wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Calybos1 wrote:

Ehh, the presence of arcane magic among dwarves still rubs me the wrong way. Dwarves are supposed to shun that kind of crap!

Shaman are divine casters.

I thought the shaman was a combination of oracle + witch... and the witch, of course, is arcane.

And Oracles are divine casters. And the Shaman specifically is a divine caster.


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Kittyburger wrote:

“You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?" And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.” ― Junot Díaz

And what happens is that the people who have never had any problem finding their own mirrors feel threatened that there might be a mirror or two that's not reflecting them, and try to make sure that all the mirrors in society point back toward them - prevent other mirrors from being made if possible, break them if necessary.

Amazing quote. Thank you. Filing that one away for later use.


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This post makes me marvelously happy. As has been mentioned by a variety of other people, it's inclusive in a way that deliberately permits some interpretation; it doesn't condemn Shandra's parents or make them out to be non-supporting in the end; it's inherently positivist across a very broad spectrum and that's fantastic.

People who are bothered by 'tokenism' really need to thrash their way through the frequently-repeated statements by the devs and authors that Golarion is far less bigoted and far more inclusive. In that sense, Shardra is not a token but is a representative of an extant and perceived-to-be-normal part of Golarion's population.

As she should be!

Therefore, Paizo's decision to give that population some attention shouldn't be diminished by claiming that it is in any way political. It's a part of the game's setting.

Paizo Employee Customer Service Dire Care Bear Manager

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Flag it and move on, but please do not perpetuate thread derailments.


none of the core or advanced iconic characters ever got this much love

Dark Archive

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Calybos1 wrote:
Ehh, the presence of arcane magic among dwarves still rubs me the wrong way. Dwarves are supposed to shun that kind of crap!

Tolkien dwarves, perhaps, but Norse-inspired dwarves were *fantastic* crafters of magical equipment (including Thor's hammer and Odin's spear, items far beyond what the gods themselves could craft!) and powerful enchanters and shapeshifters.

Thematically, ignoring Tolkien, dwarves would be more likely to be Vancian-style spellbook toting rune-Wizards than elves, who would be more likely to be innate Sorcerers, whose magic is all raw untrained instinct and born in their blood.

Liberty's Edge

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Blackvial wrote:
none of the core or advanced iconic characters ever got this much love

I dunno, I think it's just not specific to their Meet The Iconic threads. There are several Ask [This Iconic] threads in the Off-Topic Forum, for example. The Merisiel one is nearly 4000 posts, for example (though I believe that one's the highest).

Dark Archive

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Merisiel is pretty chatty.

The Ask Harsk thread suffers from his tendency to mutter unintelligibly, even when typing on a messageboard...

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Set wrote:

Tolkien dwarves, perhaps, but Norse-inspired dwarves were *fantastic* crafters of magical equipment (including Thor's hammer and Odin's spear, items far beyond what the gods themselves could craft!) and powerful enchanters and shapeshifters.

Thematically, ignoring Tolkien, dwarves would be more likely to be Vancian-style spellbook toting rune-Wizards than elves, who would be more likely to be innate Sorcerers, whose magic is all raw untrained instinct and born in their blood.

I imagine dwarves as being able to embrace solid magics, but not 'ethereal' magics.

That is, enchanting an axe being something they can get behind. Or moving a stone. But none of this wishy-washy charm-spell BS where you can't even see if it is working.

I also like the idea of the Master Craftsman feat for dwarves: a 200-year old blacksmith who can churn out impenetrable armor and flaming swords, but couldn't cast a magic missile to save his life.


Ross Byers wrote:
flaming swords,

you mean axes right?

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Blackvial wrote:
Ross Byers wrote:
flaming swords,
you mean axes right?

Depends who he's selling to. Dwarves like axes, hammers, and picks, but those humans in the valley down the mountain sure pay a pretty penny for flaming swords. And they need to buy grain from somewhere if the brewery wants to stay open.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

i think the stereotype of dwarves not embracing magic is one that should be retired, i find it annoying and tiresome.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

captain yesterday wrote:
i find the stereotype of dwarves not embracing magic is one that should be retired, i find it annoying and tiresome.

I agree. I'm just saying there can and should be a cultural component to which spells and forms of magic a race gets behind.


Set wrote:
...The Ask Harsk thread...

How did I miss this?!


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Necromancer wrote:
Set wrote:
...The Ask Harsk thread...
How did I miss this?!

Well, as a ranger he has high ranks in Stealth, he's in a favored terrain, and he has Hide in Plain Sight. Also, dwarf, so he's below your eyeline.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Ross Byers wrote:
captain yesterday wrote:
i find the stereotype of dwarves not embracing magic is one that should be retired, i find it annoying and tiresome.
I agree. I'm just saying there can and should be a cultural component to which spells and forms of magic a race gets behind.

ok total agreement there, i also am a fan of the ancient smithy that doesnt need magic to craft like your example above. Another example is Bruenor crafting Aegis-Fang:)

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