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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StrangePackage wrote:
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.

A lot of cultures placed gender variant people in the role of mystics or otherwise associated us with the supernatural, and a little bit of Shardra's inspiration was pulled from Native American traditions, although she is more inspired by Mesoamerican culture. The goal was to draw inspiration from several traditions with copying (or cheapening) any of them.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Lissa Guillet wrote:
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. ^_^

Heh. What Lissa said.

I'm happy to keep Crystal writing as long as she can. And I'm in a position to make that happen. So... yeah.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Rhatahema wrote:
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)

She's a woman, so she would only take the –2 penalty when she's disguising herself as a man.


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Shardra is a great iconic... and Kolo, well, I'm going to petition our NZ VOs to adopt the awesome Kolo as our official mascot.


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Lissa Guillet wrote:
Lefty X wrote:
Jordan's alive!

Flying blind on a rocket cycle!?

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

NO NO NO NO NO. DO IT LIKE THIS.

JORDAN'S ALIVE!?!?!?!?!??!????!?!???!!

Contributor

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Orthos wrote:
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.

I saw Scott Thompson one year in Seattle when he was doing a comedy tour. Scott is openly gay. Most of the audience at that particular show was gay. Scott was hilarious, and I only "got" about 50% of what he was saying... but the rest of the audience was laughing at all of it.

I'm not gay, so I didn't "get" all the jokes Scott made. I'm not part of that community, so I don't get the context of some things they say.

My mom's not a gamer, so she doesn't "get" my gamer lingo or gamer jokes. She's not part of the gamer community, so she doesn't get the context of some things we say. But she likes baseball.

I'm not interested in baseball, so I don't really "get" baseball-related humor or understand the hype and excitement about pro baseball. I'm not part of that community, so I don't get the context of some things. My mom does, though.

I'm not transgender, nor is my mom, nor (I'm guessing) are you. so we don't really "get" some of the hints and cues that transgender people use to describe themselves and each other. We are not part of that community, so we don't get the context of some things.

In all of these cases, my mom and I accept that some of the conversation is going over my head. But we don't--and you shouldn't--let ourselves be frustrated by it. There's a whole world of information we don't understand, and can't expect to learn it all.

But it's nice for me, my mom, or you to be curious about what we don't understand and want to know more. And if you don't have time to learn that specific context, it's okay to enjoy the other parts of the story without that context. (Just as Gulliver's Travels is a strange and entertaining group of stories that you can enjoy even if you don't realize that the author was using the stories to satirize politics and other topics.)

In particular, Orthos, I appreciate that you were interested enough in Shardra's story that you wanted to understand it better.

Contributor

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Anyway, great job, Crystal! :)


James Jacobs wrote:
Rhatahema wrote:
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)

She's a woman, so she would only take the –2 penalty when she's disguising herself as a man.

Maybe i have a power gaming problem... is there a way to be genderless (Maybe an Android character?) and split it as a -1 to pass as either gender? Could actually be a fun character to play though, just not getting the concept of multiple genders being in the same species.


StrangePackage wrote:
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.

Honestly, I was wondering if they were going to mention that somewhere when I first saw the playtest. It's a very nice piece of relatively obscure cultural trivia to highlight like this.

Shadow Lodge

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Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
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 :)

First off...love it. I would classify it as probably just a *little bit* too light a touch -- but on the other hand it gets to have a commentary thread for any clarification, which a lot of stories don't get to have. (I run into that same dilemma in my writing *all the time* so I get it, and no criticism should be implied.)

Secondarily though, as a transwoman I would really love to see some of the details of transition spelled out at some point. This backstory wasn't the place to do that, but from a "I want to convince my GMs to let me play with some of this stuff in game" standpoint I need more crunch. Which has so far been steadfastly avoided in the stuff I've been able to read. Sigh.

And now I'm very interested in seeing the different ways different Golarion societies handle third and fourth genders. Well done!


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
insert terrific extended analogy here

Very well stated, SKR.

Enough so that I wish I could like it twice.


Rhatahema wrote:


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)

She doesn't need a disquise. From Crystal's write-up:

Quote:


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.

Her body and her mind are in harmony now.

Shadow Lodge

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Sean K Reynolds wrote:
-stuff-

Yeah I fully admit I'm pretty oblivious when it comes to these sorts of things. In addition to being just plain bad on riddles and obscure wording and any other sort of speech pattern that isn't straight-up blunt and obvious. To borrow from Roland of Gilead, "I'm not very good at thinking around corners". (For example, I like making riddles especially in game, with players using divination and such, but I suck dreadfully at being on the other end of it. I make a point of allowing INT checks and other things for clues because I know how hard it is for some people to figure out anything that isn't written out in plain obvious wording.)

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Crystal Frasier wrote:
Ambrosia Slaad wrote:

Shardra is now my favorite Iconic! Great job, Crystal!

Crystal Frasier wrote:
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.
So... will we get stats for tuatara familiars soon-ish?
Bestairy 4. Also available here.

Huh. Darkvision.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

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Rhatahema wrote:
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)

Mulibrous Tincture

Spoiler:
Mulibrous tincture is an alchemical mixture of plants, fungi, and distilled reagents brewed primarily by dwarves, halflings, and humans. A single dose of the minty elixir is sufficient to relieve menstrual pains for 1d4 days, and grants the imbiber a +1 alchemical bonus to saves against pain for one hour. Many noblewomen believe the tincture also slows the aging process and extends their fertile years, though with mixed results.

Consuming two doses of mulibrous tincture a week for more than two weeks in a row causes stomach upset and food cravings; imbibers must make a DC 12 Fortitude save each day or be sickened for 24 hours. Once the imbiber has successfully saved against the tincture’s effects two days in a row, they may continue drinking it without further ill effects. Consuming mulibrous tincture twice a week for more than four weeks begins to dull masculine features, and causes a masculine-bodied being to take on increasingly feminine features. After two months, a masculine-bodied imbiber no longer suffers any penalty to Disguise checks to appear as the “opposite” sex. After four months, the imbiber instead takes a –2 penalty to Disguise checks to disguise themselves as a man.

The transformational effects of mulibrous tincture wear off at half the rate they developed, though sufficient long-term use makes the transformation effect permanent (GM discretion).

Alchemical Component Five doses of mulibrous tincture may be added as a material component for the alter self spell, extending its duration as per the Extend Spell feat

Cost 2gp/dose

Grand Lodge

Crystal Frasier wrote:
Shardra Geltl: Great Iconic, or Greatest Iconic?

Aren't you a little biased?

Transgender shaman is interesting, though. A lot of ancient cultures saw transpeople as being liminal, and a lot of ancient trans culture involved them being treated as shaman.

Also, isn't one of the existing iconics also rumoured to be trans? My money is on Seoni. I don't remember why, though.

Too bad she didn't have a tincture that would make her not-a-dwarf

Shadow Lodge

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Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Crystal Frasier wrote:

Mulibrous Tincture

** spoiler omitted **...

THANK YOU!!!!

Dark Archive

pH unbalanced wrote:
And now I'm very interested in seeing the different ways different Golarion societies handle third and fourth genders. Well done!

I would expect it to vary wildly by culture and race.

For instance, ever since first reading about Corellon Larethian in 1st edition AD&D being androgynous and kinda/sorta both the 'father' and 'mother' of the elven race (until that Sehanine Moonbow retcon nonsense, anyway), I'd always pictured elves as not having any sort of gender role concept.

Dwarves, on the other hand, have often had staunch stuffy traditionalism as their racial 'hat.' (That being said, there's no reason *at all* that their 'stuffy traditionalism' has any relationship to any stuffy traditionalism seen among humans. Perhaps dwarven teens choose a gender, and it doesn't necessarily have any bearing on their physical gender, and it's only a point of contention if they later change their mind, since they are then viewed as inconstant and unreliable...)

And that's kind of cool, since, if a player *wants* to explore the concept of a character that is defying traditional roles (as the Barbarian Amiri is doing), perhaps even serving as impetus for why they are adventuring in the first place, it's useful to have some races / cultures that aren't all open-minded about that sort of thing. (Even with Amiri, her write-up is careful to state that the gender roles she was flouting were embraced by her specific 'Six Bears tribe,' and weren't necessarily standard among other Kellid tribes!)


Aspel wrote:

Also, isn't one of the existing iconics also rumoured to be trans? My money is on Seoni. I don't remember why, though.

I think the popular guess was Damiel for access to alchemical...stuff, mutagenic...stuff, and a general lack of gender-based information.


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"Crystal Frasier wrote:
Mulibrous Tincture

You just had to follow up great fluff with the crunch to back it?... I'm with Gorbacz on the "contributor" title.


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Abyssian wrote:
Aspel wrote:

Also, isn't one of the existing iconics also rumoured to be trans? My money is on Seoni. I don't remember why, though.

I think the popular guess was Damiel for access to alchemical...stuff, mutagenic...stuff, and a general lack of gender-based information.

I seem to remember a thread awhile back where Ezren (Is that how its spelt? the iconic wizard, right?) was said to be the iconic in question. There was a piece of art linked showing a magical transformation from one gender to another.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Torbyne wrote:
Maybe i have a power gaming problem... is there a way to be genderless (Maybe an Android character?) and split it as a -1 to pass as either gender? Could actually be a fun character to play though, just not getting the concept of multiple genders being in the same species.

You might have a problem, yes.

I would rule that a truly genderless character (note, androids are not genderless) would suffer a –2 penalty to disguise itself as male OR female. Your GM might rule differently, of course.

Shadow Lodge

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Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Abyssian wrote:
Aspel wrote:

Also, isn't one of the existing iconics also rumoured to be trans? My money is on Seoni. I don't remember why, though.

I think the popular guess was Damiel for access to alchemical...stuff, mutagenic...stuff, and a general lack of gender-based information.

I'd always heard Reiko bandied about as the most likely -- based mostly on the artwork, I think.

I don't try to guess though. When zie wants us to know, zie'll tell us.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Ross Byers wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Ambrosia Slaad wrote:

Shardra is now my favorite Iconic! Great job, Crystal!

Crystal Frasier wrote:
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.
So... will we get stats for tuatara familiars soon-ish?
Bestairy 4. Also available here.
Huh. Darkvision.

Yup. 'Cause they kinda have darkvision in real life. With what is sort of a third eye. Just one of the many reasons tuataras are one of my favorite animals.


@Torbyne & pH unbalanced: it's been a while. I get the feeling that we're all remembering the ones that we felt had the best argument for plausibility. pH, zie will, zie will.


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James Jacobs wrote:
Torbyne wrote:
Maybe i have a power gaming problem... is there a way to be genderless (Maybe an Android character?) and split it as a -1 to pass as either gender? Could actually be a fun character to play though, just not getting the concept of multiple genders being in the same species.

You might have a problem, yes.

I would rule that a truly genderless character (note, androids are not genderless) would suffer a –2 penalty to disguise itself as male OR female. Your GM might rule differently, of course.

Yeah, it might be best to try the character outside of a PFS set up. Thinking about it more the penalty to disguise isnt such a big thing but playing a genderless android/gynoid/robot is an intriguing idea. Plus it would let me call most enemies "meatbag" and just in general channel my inner HK-47.

Silver Crusade Assistant Software Developer

Aspel wrote:

Also, isn't one of the existing iconics also rumoured to be trans? My money is on Seoni. I don't remember why, though.

My money's always been on Ezren. We actually have a pic of Ezren's gender being changed in one of the books.


pH unbalanced wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:

Mulibrous Tincture

** spoiler omitted **...

THANK YOU!!!!

Wasn't there also a potion of gender, or some such, that Wes wrote up in a discussion thread a while back? Maybe closer to what Anevia used? Think I prefer this tincture, though, from a roleplaying POV. And from an analogy to real life point of view.

Nice item, Crystal. You're on a roll.


KSF wrote:
pH unbalanced wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:

Mulibrous Tincture

** spoiler omitted **...

THANK YOU!!!!

Wasn't there also a potion of gender, or some such, that Wes wrote up in a discussion thread a while back? Maybe closer to what Anevia used? Think I prefer this tincture, though, from a roleplaying POV. And from an analogy to real life point of view.

Nice item, Crystal. You're on a roll.

there is always the cursed belt that changes your gender


Even though she's been raised a man and that's apparently a thing among dwarves. What about the whole thing with beardless dwarven males being considered mad?


AWWwww POOP...they kept the damn familiar :(


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thunderspirit wrote:

Very well stated, SKR.

Enough so that I wish I could like it twice.

You could like it, then unlike it, then like it again?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Cthulhudrew wrote:
thunderspirit wrote:

Very well stated, SKR.

Enough so that I wish I could like it twice.
You could like it, then unlike it, then like it again?

Hmm...

Nope, not nearly as productive as I'd hoped it would be.


Abyssian wrote:
Aspel wrote:

Also, isn't one of the existing iconics also rumoured to be trans? My money is on Seoni. I don't remember why, though.

I think the popular guess was Damiel for access to alchemical...stuff, mutagenic...stuff, and a general lack of gender-based information.

Like other posters, I've heard it's Ezren (Wizard) as well, but I would absolutely love it if it was Damiel. He's hands down my favourite iconic, and him being trans would make me even happier.

Liberty's Edge

In_digo wrote:
Abyssian wrote:
Aspel wrote:

Also, isn't one of the existing iconics also rumoured to be trans? My money is on Seoni. I don't remember why, though.

I think the popular guess was Damiel for access to alchemical...stuff, mutagenic...stuff, and a general lack of gender-based information.
Like other posters, I've heard it's Ezren (Wizard) as well, but I would absolutely love it if it was Damiel. He's hands down my favourite iconic, and him being trans would make me even happier.
Meet the Iconics wrote:

Damiel took to alchemy immediately, reveling in the idea of transmutation—the changing of one thing into another, by means chemical or arcane. “Alchemy,” he was fond of proclaiming to his friends, “is pure magic, even when it isn’t.” Within a few short years, the brilliant and studious Damiel had learned enough from his instructors that they set him loose to pursue his own studies, becoming advisors and respected colleagues rather than true masters.

Yet he had learned more than just strange formulae in Iadara. As cheerful and innocent as it seemed on the surface, Damiel’s obsession with what he called “the Change” went beyond the simple curatives of an apothecary, beyond even the magical and explosive concoctions of those alchemists trained for battle. In his eternal quest to understand his theories better, Damiel gave himself literally to his studies, and began to use his concoctions on his own flesh, striving to unlock the full potential of his body. What emerged from those long, sleepless nights was someone new. Someone dangerous.


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Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
Excellent backstory, making the character, her class, and her race all more interesting.

Seconded. To add to that, I'll say this is something that I personally find very interesting to explore, and isn't often enough in fantasy settings. Not transgender identity specifically, but different views and approaches and ideas on identity- sexual, racial, cultural- in a world where there are many species and races of sentient beings living together in harmony and disharmony.

Obviously, we can only approach such things from the singularly human mindset we have, but it's still neat when authors take creative opportunities to try and showcase some different approaches, instead of just having, for instance, dwarves = short, hairy humans, elves = graceful, long-lived humans, etc.

It's probably my Anthropology background that makes that so interesting to me, but I appreciate what Crystal is doing here specifically, and what Paizo has done in a more general sense in a lot of the- well, risks isn't exactly the best term- strides, maybe, that they've taken.

Plus, this piece is very well written, to boot. :D

Editor-in-Chief

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Abyssian wrote:
Aspel wrote:

Also, isn't one of the existing iconics also rumoured to be trans? My money is on Seoni. I don't remember why, though.

I think the popular guess was Damiel for access to alchemical...stuff, mutagenic...stuff, and a general lack of gender-based information.

We had a lengthy discussion about Damiel in the lead up to defining our new iconics. While Damiel made an okay option if we wanted to retcon one of the existing iconics into a transgender character, it would be a retcon. Also, if you read Damiel's backstory, you'll see he's not necessarily a nice person, and that he's on pretty shaky mental footing. That's not the way we wanted to represent our first transgender iconic.

Rather, than trying to shoehorn an iconic into a role, we opted for a specific, strong, and positive characterization. Something Crystal has achieved here brilliantly.

All that being said, alchemists would make strong choices for characters with similar backgrounds. You'll see why when the Advanced Class Guide debuts.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Torbyne wrote:
There was a piece of art linked showing a magical transformation from one gender to another.

That was the girdle of opposite gender in the ACG. That is, a curse.

Editor-in-Chief

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Ross Byers wrote:
Torbyne wrote:
There was a piece of art linked showing a magical transformation from one gender to another.
That was the girdle of opposite gender in the ACG. That is, a curse.

Exactly.

And obviously problematic.

It's something we've addressed additively and will share more on soon.

Paizo Employee Developer

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Blackvial wrote:
there is always the cursed belt that changes your gender

Calling that belt a "cursed item" is indicative of the time in which it was originally written.

"Hur, hur. You got turned into a woman. Now you have boobs. Hur, hur."

Were it not for the sake of backwards compatibility and honoring as much of the history of the hobby as we could, I imagine the girdle would have been switched to a normal wondrous item, or removed from the game altogether.

Contributor

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It is a cursed item, and it is one because it changes your gender whether you want it to or not. It doesn't give the wearer a choice. And it "appears" to be another item, and therefore is trying to "trick" the person who puts it on (thinking it's a belt of giant strength +2 or something like that).

A belt that permanently turns the wearer into a human is a cursed item, even if a half-orc who desperately wants to be human would love to have such an item.

But let's not digress this very positive thread with a discussion about whether or not a particular item should be considered cursed.


Similar issues have arisen for characters in the past (often as a result of the reincarnation spell).

I had my own solution for it here: Cosmetic Alteration Spells

In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have called the higher level versions 'cosmetic', since it can truly change physical gender and that's not just a cosmetic thing.


F. Wesley Schneider wrote:
Abyssian wrote:
Aspel wrote:

Also, isn't one of the existing iconics also rumoured to be trans? My money is on Seoni. I don't remember why, though.

I think the popular guess was Damiel for access to alchemical...stuff, mutagenic...stuff, and a general lack of gender-based information.

We had a lengthy discussion about Damiel in the lead up to defining our new iconics. While Damiel made an okay option if we wanted to retcon one of the existing iconics into a transgender character, it would be a retcon. Also, if you read Damiel's backstory, you'll see he's not necessarily a nice person, and that he's on pretty shaky mental footing. That's not the way we wanted to represent our first transgender iconic.

Rather, than trying to shoehorn an iconic into a role, we opted for a specific, strong, and positive characterization. Something Crystal has achieved here brilliantly.

All that being said, alchemists would make strong choices for characters with similar backgrounds. You'll see why when the Advanced Class Guide debuts.

I do remember the Mythic version of the Alchemist looking like a gender-flipped Damiel from the artwork. I think that was part of why everyone thought he might have been a transgender iconic. The apparent breast growth on the picture kinda sold it to some of us.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

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My intent was not to derail the thread into a discussion of the girdle of opposite gender. Just to point out that an involuntary change of gender in art does not necessarily indicate that an iconic is transgender any more than art of that iconic being stabbed indicates that they are dead.


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@Wes: good on you and on Paizo for refusal to make it a negative thing. Amongst the many, many reasons why I enjoy the Paizo community.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

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Sean beat me to it, but yeah: The girdle of opposite gender is a cursed item, because if you're part of the 99% of the population who isn't gender variant before you put it on, you suddenly have to deal with what it's like to have your body actively fighting against you.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
But let's not digress this very positive thread with a discussion about whether or not a particular item should be considered cursed.

Yes please. There's already another thread partially devoted to that topic. Please not here.

Silver Crusade Assistant Software Developer

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Ross Byers wrote:
My intent was not to derail the thread into a discussion of the girdle of opposite gender. Just to point out that an involuntary change of gender in art does not necessarily indicate that an iconic is transgender any more than art of that iconic being stabbed indicates that they are dead.

Not wanting derail but as is often quoted in my community, "If you aren't transgender before, you will be after." Which is usually followed by a "Be careful, be true, but be sure.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

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F. Wesley Schneider wrote:
Abyssian wrote:
Aspel wrote:

Also, isn't one of the existing iconics also rumoured to be trans? My money is on Seoni. I don't remember why, though.

I think the popular guess was Damiel for access to alchemical...stuff, mutagenic...stuff, and a general lack of gender-based information.

We had a lengthy discussion about Damiel in the lead up to defining our new iconics. While Damiel made an okay option if we wanted to retcon one of the existing iconics into a transgender character, it would be a retcon. Also, if you read Damiel's backstory, you'll see he's not necessarily a nice person, and that he's on pretty shaky mental footing. That's not the way we wanted to represent our first transgender iconic.

Rather, than trying to shoehorn an iconic into a role, we opted for a specific, strong, and positive characterization. Something Crystal has achieved here brilliantly.

All that being said, alchemists would make strong choices for characters with similar backgrounds. You'll see why when the Advanced Class Guide debuts.

Wes and I had a very long discussion about which iconic to go with (and I really appreciate being a part of that discussion), and touched on Damiel for a while. It would have been nice to have a trans man character after the excellent representation trans women got with Annevia, but we were worried about Damiel's past making it look like we were painting all trans men as sociopaths. In the end, we settled on the shaman because of the religious role of gender-variant people in many different historical cultures.

I especially appreciate that our first trans iconic was intentionally trans from the outset, rather than being retconned in later. I also appreciate that Paizo felt accurate representation was important enough that they not only sought out a trans woman to write her, but a trans historian (not to toot my own horn too much).

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