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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now here's a million dollar question

will she get along with Harsk or will she smack him up side the head with her massive morning star?


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Thank you so much Paizo and Crystal for this great character! I am cis but I love real diversity in my (Pathfinder) world.

As soon I get the right backstory and key characteristics, I can't wait to also roll my first trans character and play him or her.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Harsk is a dwarf. He probably knows what a rivethun is.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

So she plays the tambourine in the ACG band?

Also, did anyone else get a "Who are you?" flashback from "Comes the Inquisitor" episode of Babylon 5? "Who are you? Do you not have anything of your own? Anything that hasn't been given to you?"

Silver Crusade Assistant Software Developer

Although, it could be green obsidian. Which would make for a super sharp dagger but I'd assume the pommel would be made of different material and they kind of all look the same material. Crystal is more studied in such things and might provide a better answer. Stone or Obsidian. We have rules for both. =)

RPG Superstar 2014

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Female dwarven iconic?!? Ahhhhhhh! Squeeeee!

I hadn't paid much attention to the shaman previously, but this has given me all kinds of interest in trying it out.

The back story is elegant and engaging. Wonderful character, Crystal. She's a credit to her race and class, as an iconic should be.


7 people marked this as a favorite.

wait is this where the thread now becomes about her knee being exposed which leaves her dangerously vulnerable to skinning her knee if she receives the prone condition and how lack of proper knee armor would allow her patella to be easily be dislocated by a melee strike and how she might stub her toes on rocky ground which would interupt her spellcasting and hurble burble derple berp page 79 already


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Lamontius wrote:
and hurble burble derple berp page 79 already

don't cite page numbers as a third party because they change between printings


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Lamontius wrote:
how she might stub her toes on rocky ground which would interupt her spellcasting

dwarves never stub their toes on rocky ground, tree roots or furniture maybe but never rocky ground


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Lamontius wrote:

wait is this where the thread now becomes about her knee being exposed which leaves her dangerously vulnerable to skinning her knee if she receives the prone condition and how lack of proper knee armor would allow her patella to be easily be dislocated by a melee strike and how she might stub her toes on rocky ground which would interupt her spellcasting and hurble burble derple berp page 79 already

Umm, Shaman is a full 9 level caster, right? They dont need "sensible" outfits, they command reality to not skin their knees and it cowers in fear. Or perhaps she does skin her knee from time to time and she just sheds the old one and magics up a new one. 9th level casters aint gotta 'splain shtuff.


Garrett Guillotte wrote:
Lamontius wrote:
and hurble burble derple berp page 79 already
don't cite page numbers as a third party because they change between printings

of the thread


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Blackvial wrote:
Lamontius wrote:
how she might stub her toes on rocky ground which would interupt her spellcasting
dwarves never stub their toes on rocky ground, tree roots or furniture maybe but never rocky ground

and now I win the self-fulfilling prophecy award


Lamontius wrote:
Blackvial wrote:
Lamontius wrote:
how she might stub her toes on rocky ground which would interupt her spellcasting
dwarves never stub their toes on rocky ground, tree roots or furniture maybe but never rocky ground

and now I win the self-fulfilling prophecy award

not really because i was playing along the whole time

Webstore Gninja Minion

5 people marked this as a favorite.

Byootiful. I love me some dwarves, and their culture needed a bit more exploration. Love it!


As an aside, I like that she carries a censer. Considering how prevalent they are in real-world spiritual traditions, I'm surprised they don't show up more often in Pathfinder.

Are there stats for a censer in any products?


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Dennis Baker wrote:


Also, the familiar rocks!

I see what you did there.

This writeup has reminded me I need to do more with the shaman's familiar in my Wrath of the Righteous game.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I luvs her. She's a grand addition to the iconics. Glad to see a second trans character join the ranks, though I still wonder who the first one is.

Also Kolo, Dragon, Droogami and Feija's Fox Daji, should form their own iconic party.

EDIT: Thanks Orthos!

Shadow Lodge

DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:

I luvs her. She's a grand addition to the iconics. Glad to see a second trans character join the ranks, though I still wonder who the first one is.

Also Kolo, Dragon, Droogami and Feija's Fox should form their own iconic party.

The fox's name is Daji.

Scarab Sages Modules Overlord

4 people marked this as a favorite.

Excellent backstory, making the character, her class, and her race all more interesting.

Paizo Glitterati Robot

10 people marked this as a favorite.

Removed a post. Personal attacks like this are not OK here.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Crystal Frasier wrote:
inkyclouds wrote:
i want to know more about the tiny scroll on her familiar's back. basically, i just wanna know everything about this character.
Kolo still has trouble telling the past, present, and future apart, so Shardra made a little cheat sheet and note pad so it could keep track.

That is the cutest thing.

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Although the design is different, the mere club (also from New Zealand) is essentially a greenstone dagger.

Shadow Lodge

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I have to admit I have a skewed vision of the world thanks to the school system I attended. For a simple public school system in mid-west America we had a diverse culture. We were not a white or black school. We had foreign exchange students from all over the world. I was friends with homosexual kids, kids questioning their sexual and gender identity. I had a friend who was asexual. I just took it all in as if it were no big deal because that is what was there. I did not know how lucky I was to be exposed to that until I got out in the real world and found out how much hate was there. I seem to have always found the novels and comics that openly had homosexual and transgender characters. Again, just took it all in as, "hey that's world". I am glad that once again I have found (quite by accident I suppose) another place where all are welcome. Crystal you did an amazing job on the story, I love strong dwarven cultures. I love bread crumb trails, finding the meaning is so much more fulfilling than having it spoon fed to me. I would love to see you write a novel of Golarians dwarves, rivethun and all. And to everyone out there who has problems fitting in with the rest of the world... screw 'em, don't. You are who you are, you are a puzzle piece all your own, you don't have to fit into their picture. But you will fit into some one's picture some where, that's the point of being a real life iconic adventurer.


Dwarfs have the ability to change sex...huh.


so did I have it spoon fed to me drowblade


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Lissa Guillet wrote:
Landon Winkler wrote:
It's a tuatara (they're in Bestiary 4 and New Zealand).
Best line ever. =) True facts: Crystal and I both dated kiwis before we started dating each other. New Zealanders are very passionate about their homeland so we both got a lot of conversations about places they liked to go and the tons of interesting creatures there.

I only got to spend a week there, but it's definitely an amazing country.

I knew Lord of the Rings was shot there, but am still blown away by how much it just is a fantasy kingdom. The colors are a bit brighter, the plants are faintly alien, and I'm pretty sure traveling between any two points requires passing through a mysterious forest and a treacherous mountain pass.

Seriously, I think it's a law there or something.

Crystal Frasier wrote:
Yeah, Shardra's familiar was either going to be a tuatara or a weta (google it).

Weta familiar would be awesome! And only slightly less terrifying than the giant isopod.

I'd totally also take a ground bat familiar.

Cheers!
Landon

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

No offense meant Lamontius, there are things I don't get and have to have spelled out plenty. I typed faster than I could think.

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32

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Deleted a response to a post that had since been removed.

Dark Archive

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That's my new favorite Iconic picture. She's really cool looking, and I love her gear. The golden mask-faces are amazing, and I'm thrilled that she's got the good sense to wear some armor (even if drawing chain mail looks like a PITA)!

Censer, Morningstar, *amazing* familiar. Woo!

(Tuatara is one of my favorite 'you'll never see him again' DC characters, able to use his third eye to see into the future or past.)

Really like the story elements about voices from the earth / relics, the tuatara as her intermediary to the spirits, who had to learn the difference between past, present and future, etc.

Rivethun is an interesting word. Brings to mind 'riven,' or split, or straddling two worlds, which suggests the 'two-souls' concept.

Neat stuff!


7 people marked this as a favorite.
Lamontius wrote:

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.

Bingo. And you won't be the only one who has the epiphany.

Crystal, you've achieved something special here. You're leading people around corners - absolutely brilliant work.

Paizo Employee Customer Service She-Hulk

30 people marked this as a favorite.

Kolo plushies plz. Kthx. :)


8 people marked this as a favorite.

Crystal, that was absolutely superb.

And when the story got to this line, "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," I was grinning a wide and satisfied grin. Way to go, Shardra. And way to go, Crystal, with that nice, economic and effective bit of world-building.

You've made this trans woman very happy.

Thank you.

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Grathel wrote:
Dwarfs have the ability to change sex...huh.

Yeah, it seems like the rivethun tradition was able to create an alchemical solution that would be analogous to modern hormone therapy. It's neat!


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Katina Mathieson wrote:
Kolo plushies plz. Kthx. :)

SECONDED

Liberty's Edge Contributor

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Grathel wrote:
Dwarfs have the ability to change sex...huh.

Most sentient creatures do. Just an question of determination and resourcefulness.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:

Awesome. Just fabulous. I'm all glittery.

BUT

'Crystal Frasier, Contributor'

:(

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

Please tell me you're writing something soon.

This iconic was really something else.

Edit: Spelling


3 people marked this as a favorite.
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Also Kolo, Dragon, Droogami and Feija's Fox Daji, should form their own iconic party.

I'd play a Pathfinder Mystery Dungeon campaign. And we still have the hunter companion reveal left!


David Schwartz wrote:
Although the design is different, the mere club (also from New Zealand) is essentially a greenstone dagger.

I love this because, 1) I learned something and 2) The Wiki article takes pains to say you should not call this a club and then the next paragraph describes it as, "The Mere is a spatulate, leaf shaped, form of short club." Wikipedia, i love you :) You too Kolo.

Silver Crusade Assistant Software Developer

8 people marked this as a favorite.
Rubber Ducky guy wrote:


Please tell me you're writing something soon.
This iconic was really something else.

Trust me when I say she does not lack for writing assignments. ^_^


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Yeah it took me reading the comments to understand she was a trans character. It just seemed her parents were living in denial in having another daughter and just shunted her into "son" territory to try and not deal with the issue until she finally hit maturity and they couldn't avoid it anymore. I approve of the character, just did not get that it was a trans character until it was talked about in the comments.

Liberty's Edge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I have to wonder if the concept of Twospirit people of many indigenous American peoples didn't come into play here in terms of the iconic. Especially considering that Shamans get, well, two spirits.


At first I was all "urgh, dwarf iconic, boring." But hey, it's a realy great short story. Kudos.

And I can't wait for the shamans, they gon' rock.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Robert Jordan wrote:
Yeah it took me reading the comments to understand she was a trans character. It just seemed her parents were living in denial in having another daughter and just shunted her into "son" territory to try and not deal with the issue until she finally hit maturity and they couldn't avoid it anymore. I approve of the character, just did not get that it was a trans character until it was talked about in the comments.

... Holy s!@~! Robert Jordan's alive!


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Crystal Frasier wrote:
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 :)

The main problem here is that "leaving breadcrumbs" just lead me down the Bearded Dwarf Women trail.

I honestly, seriously thought you were going the Discworld route of all dwarves being raised as male with this one (until she was old enough to think for herself, like her sisters) until you explained it in the comments.

Silver Crusade Assistant Software Developer

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Lefty X wrote:
Jordan's alive!

Flying blind on a rocket cycle!?

Sorry, I absolutely could not resist that. >_<


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Yeah I think Discworld influenced why I read it the way I did and why I didn't get it.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

I have a new favorite iconic now.
I am just blown away.
Just, wow.

On a definitely related note, I'm certain Gorbacz and I just got a lot of company on the Crystal Frasier Fan Club Bandwagon. :-)

Silver Crusade Assistant Software Developer

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Rynjin wrote:

The main problem here is that "leaving breadcrumbs" just lead me down the Bearded Dwarf Women trail.

In any kind of artistic endeavor, the same path isn't going to necessarily lead two people to the same destination and that's actually ok. It definitely will resonate with people who have been through this process.


Robert Jordan wrote:
Yeah it took me reading the comments to understand she was a trans character. It just seemed her parents were living in denial in having another daughter and just shunted her into "son" territory to try and not deal with the issue until she finally hit maturity and they couldn't avoid it anymore. I approve of the character, just did not get that it was a trans character until it was talked about in the comments.

I had the same read. The first paragraph is written so that you need to identify gender primarily as a psychological identification rather than a physical one in order for it to read as the author intended. My opinions about that are neither here nor there, but I imagine the ambiguity of it may have been intentional.

Rules question: How does she handle the -2 penalty on disguise checks to be "Disguised as different gender"? Can I powergame my character's gender identity to optimize disguise? (mostly joking here, though it might come up at some tables)

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