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

That was something else I meant to say in my praise. It was, I don't know, refreshing? a relief? exhilarating? to read something like this that was actually written by someone who is trans. For me at least, it really shows, and really resonates as a result. Most especially in those first two paragraphs, up through "But Shardra still had the whispers to keep her company on lonely nights," which plays not only to the setup of her shamanism, but also to Shardra holding onto her identity.

So thank you Paizo for creating a space in which something like this could happen, and for giving Crystal this opportunity.

Editor-in-Chief

12 people marked this as a favorite.
Crystal Frasier wrote:
(not to toot my own horn too much)

If anyone wanted to toot their own horn a bit more with a link to any awesome Shardra fan art they might have concocted today, I think the door's open for that.

(Hint, hint, madam.)


Follow-up to what I said earlier, rephrase masterfully by SKR, and then unexpectedly brought to mind by Rynjin...

I had mentioned my initial misread of the opening line, but the breadcrumb discussion and analogy just hit me like a left hook...and I am not sure if it is a good thing or not that the dead horse trope of all dwarves being bearded did not come to mind, but as I viewed this post from my cell phone at first I saw something in the art that I have been having trouble unseeing.

The lit area of her face (where she is not shaded by her headdress) was on initial glimpse vaguely mustache-esque. Which was almost snark-worthy at first, but then made me sad after the full read and grok.

Silver Crusade Assistant Software Developer

7 people marked this as a favorite.
F. Wesley Schneider wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
(not to toot my own horn too much)

If anyone wanted to toot their own horn a bit more with a link to any awesome Shardra fan art they might have concocted today, I think the door's open for that.

(Hint, hint, madam.)

You mean this one?

Shadow Lodge

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
TheAntiElite wrote:
The lit area of her face (where she is not shaded by her headdress) was on initial glimpse vaguely mustache-esque. Which was almost snark-worthy at first, but then made me sad after the full read and grok.

Oh sweet Torag -- Dwarven electrolysis! Now that's some pain.

Proof positive that Shardra is the toughest iconic yet.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

13 people marked this as a favorite.
pH unbalanced wrote:
TheAntiElite wrote:
The lit area of her face (where she is not shaded by her headdress) was on initial glimpse vaguely mustache-esque. Which was almost snark-worthy at first, but then made me sad after the full read and grok.

Oh sweet Torag -- Dwarven electrolysis! Now that's some pain.

Proof positive that Shardra is the toughest iconic yet.

Shocking grasp and a leather strap to bite down on. Shardra's prime stat is obviously Con.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Crystal Frasier wrote:
F. Wesley Schneider wrote:


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...

Wow, thanks for the information guys! I didn't think we'd find out whether or not our speculation was accurate (or at least, not this soon).

I (and probably many others) appreciate the effort everyone at Paizo puts in to give members of the LGBTQ community a positive image.

And actually, my favourite character to date is my FtM Alchemist. Sadly, that Serpent's Skull game got put on hold...

Liberty's Edge Contributor

23 people marked this as a favorite.
F. Wesley Schneider wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
(not to toot my own horn too much)

If anyone wanted to toot their own horn a bit more with a link to any awesome Shardra fan art they might have concocted today, I think the door's open for that.

(Hint, hint, madam.)

Lissa ninja'd me on this, but yeah... I'm not only the creator of Shardra, I'm also a fan.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Crystal Frasier wrote:
pH unbalanced wrote:
TheAntiElite wrote:
The lit area of her face (where she is not shaded by her headdress) was on initial glimpse vaguely mustache-esque. Which was almost snark-worthy at first, but then made me sad after the full read and grok.

Oh sweet Torag -- Dwarven electrolysis! Now that's some pain.

Proof positive that Shardra is the toughest iconic yet.

Shocking grasp and a leather strap to bite down on. Shardra's prime stat is obviously Con.

Some enterprising soul could make a fortune with the jolt cantrip.


15 people marked this as a favorite.

Shardra and Alahazra can be hat buddies.

Editor-in-Chief

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Lissa ninja'd me on this, but yeah... I'm not only the creator of Shardra, I'm also a fan.

*Spams "favorite" button*

Dark Archive

Cool character story, Congrats Crystal. I will say that I had trouble understanding the first part. But it is an interesting character.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

14 people marked this as a favorite.
The NPC wrote:
Shardra and Alahazra can be hat buddies.

They have the same longsuffering haberdasher, and hang out across the street together once a month while their headwear gets tuned up.


6 people marked this as a favorite.

The combination of subtlety, character background choice, and general community reaction really makes this the most positive Pathfinder iconic. Very cool.

...warm and fuzzy...


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Danubus wrote:
Just saw that she's supposed to be transgendered. Interesting.

She is? Holy crap, I kept thinking they were just raising her as a boy (like Bridget in the Guilty Gear series). I don't know why I failed to put two and two together like that.

Dark Archive

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Personally I'd find the symmetry of Damiel also being trans appropriate, retcon or not. Just think about what their meeting would be like. Elf/Dwarf, male/female, the two of them would make for a fascinating character study.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

That's just about my favorite familiar.

And I love Shardra. I'm surprised no one has mentioned it yet, but not only is she our first transgender iconic, she's also the first one to have a surname!


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

Well, that's just about the cutest thing I've ever read at Paizo.com


pH unbalanced 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.

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.

I am whatever I need to be for my mission.


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Great backstory, Really enjoyed it. gotta say I find it really amusing that her parents main response was "Great ANOTHER dowry"

Liberty's Edge Contributor

5 people marked this as a favorite.

Dwarves love and support their family, but are cynical and practical. Gotta express that cultural charisma penalty somehow :)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

7 people marked this as a favorite.
F. Wesley Schneider wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
Lissa ninja'd me on this, but yeah... I'm not only the creator of Shardra, I'm also a fan.
*Spams "favorite" button*

That's cool... but the Godzilla Crystal drew for me is still better. ;-)


14 people marked this as a favorite.
Barwickian wrote:
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.

Yes that is why I asked the questions

Not to be obtuse
Not to be contrary
But because I want to learn and overcome misconceptions I do not not even necessarily realize that I had in the first place

Liberty's Edge Contributor

8 people marked this as a favorite.

That's why I'm happy to answer questions. Trust me, I will let you know if I'm angry :)


Detect Magic wrote:
Her familiar looks much bigger than "tiny". Looks like it could bite a chunk out of ya, unlike this little guy. Is this thing some sort of improved familiar?

A cat is size Tiny; as a lizard familiar is also size Tiny, I'm guessing that we'd be talking "red tegu" (or at least "bearded dragon" like the one at the link) rather than "fence swift."

Kolo doesn't look any bigger, to me, than a cat or a red tegu. Especially considering that Shardra—being a dwarf—is likely a small, compact lady.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

With all due respect to SKR's post, I do not share his perspective

I am not going to let something go over my head or sit by while having little to no idea of what is being discussed or presented

If there are good people available to share their knowledge, experience and perspective with me on a subject that I want to know more about, then I am going to ask, in many cases because within the first few seconds or minutes I already realize that I had a preconceived notion or viewpoint which is erroneous

Ugh I hate when I have to use five dollar words on here


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber

You totally almost stole my name! :P "Shadram" has been the name of my shaman character(s) for a very long time. At least now Pathfinder has a class to allow me to create the character properly.

Love the character you've created, though. My favourite of the new iconics.


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

Oh darn. I would have loved to see Wayne Reynolds draw a weta.


Crystal Frasier wrote:
pH unbalanced wrote:
TheAntiElite wrote:
The lit area of her face (where she is not shaded by her headdress) was on initial glimpse vaguely mustache-esque. Which was almost snark-worthy at first, but then made me sad after the full read and grok.

Oh sweet Torag -- Dwarven electrolysis! Now that's some pain.

Proof positive that Shardra is the toughest iconic yet.

Shocking grasp and a leather strap to bite down on. Shardra's prime stat is obviously Con.

This cheered me up faster than making someone believe that Seelah and Quinn have a bonus to movement due to extra calf muscle.

(Also it feels more appropriate to crack a joke after someone else does so from within the group first)


2 people marked this as a favorite.

also just a shout out to WAR that the art is completely sick
like so sick that I have to call the CDC
hi5 WAR


Looking closer at Shardra's picture, her eyes seem to be partly looking up, and partly as if she's rolling them back as if to say "It's one of those threads* again..." and sighing.

Either that or her headdress is slipping. It does looks heavy enough.

*: Paladin alignment; Fighter/rogues/monks underpowered; Is this evil?; Summoner OP!; Sex and sexuality in Pathfinder/Golarion; Do these feat/powers stack?; etc.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

Adam B. 135 wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
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.
Yeah, Shardra's familiar was either going to be a tuatara or a weta (google it).
Oh darn. I would have loved to see Wayne Reynolds draw a weta.

If only I had a spare couple hundred dollars...

Silver Crusade Assistant Software Developer

No she's just listening to the spirit behind you and to your right.


Let's see...

She was born and raised male, but self-identified as female. As she aged, Shardra began behaving more femininely, to the point where others eventually accepted her as female. Then, her spirits/tinctures eventually made her physically female as well.

Did I get it right?


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I guess Pathfinder really does have something for every body...

;P


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Lemmy wrote:

Let's see...

She was born and raised male, but self-identified as female. As she aged, Shardra began behaving more femininely, to the point where others eventually accepted her as female. Then, her spirits/tinctures eventually made her physically female as well.

Did I get it right?

see page 1

WELCOME TO THE PARTY, PAL


Adam B. 135 wrote:
Crystal Frasier wrote:
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.
Yeah, Shardra's familiar was either going to be a tuatara or a weta (google it).
Oh darn. I would have loved to see Wayne Reynolds draw a weta.

I wonder if Ben Wootten drew any in his work on King Kong. Some of the bugs in the bug pit seemed like wetas. That is, like six-legged nightmares.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

See what now?


Lamontius wrote:
see page 1

I did. What's not clear to me is if she's went through some sort of physical transformation.


Lemmy wrote:

Let's see...

She was born and raised male, but self-identified as female. As she aged, Shardra began behaving more femininely, to the point where others eventually accepted her as female. Then, her spirits/tinctures eventually made her physically female as well.

Did I get it right?

Almost. The acceptance came after she returned from her sojourn in the ancient cavern, and after she'd started using the tincture.


Lemmy wrote:
Lamontius wrote:
see page 1
I did. What's not clear to me is if she's went through some sort of physical transformation.

She did.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Lemmy wrote:
Lamontius wrote:
see page 1
I did. What's not clear to me is if she's went through some sort of physical transformation.

srsly my droog read the first page of comments

what cleared it up for me (along with some help from Jessica Price) was the line about the rivethun:

Crystal Frasier wrote:
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.

not to mention that in Dwarven, as was mentioned, that "Rivethun" is probably the closest approximation to "Transexual", but with a whole lot more lost in translation, in terms of spirituality and such, articulated by peeps a lot better with words than I am


KSF wrote:
Lemmy wrote:
Lamontius wrote:
see page 1
I did. What's not clear to me is if she's went through some sort of physical transformation.
She did.

Ok. Thanks for the clarification.


So what exactly happens if Shardra puts on a girdle?...Yes, THAT girdle.


Gambit wrote:
So what exactly happens if Shardra puts on a girdle?...Yes, THAT girdle.

Her body reverses its expressed genetalia? I never thought the girdle made you a complete opposite, changing body hair and hips, shoulders any more than necessary to accommodate the big switch. Makes it more of a curse to me if you are still obviously the person you were before putting the thing on, no going incognito until you find a remove curse scroll.


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Gambit wrote:
So what exactly happens if Shardra puts on a girdle?...Yes, THAT girdle.

read the rest of the thread, that landmine already got disarmed without anyone stepping on it


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Lamontius wrote:
Barwickian wrote:
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.

Yes that is why I asked the questions

Not to be obtuse
Not to be contrary
But because I want to learn and overcome misconceptions I do not not even necessarily realize that I had in the first place

+1.


Lemmy wrote:
KSF wrote:
Lemmy wrote:
Lamontius wrote:
see page 1
I did. What's not clear to me is if she's went through some sort of physical transformation.
She did.
Ok. Thanks for the clarification.

Crystal also provided details about the tincture that Shardra used. It's very similar to real world hormone replacement therapy.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Yes, basically Shardra's original puberty was preempted by the alchemical solution she began drinking, and switched over the a more common female puberty.

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