Meet the Iconics—Zova

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Today we introduce the latest Pathfinder iconic character, courtesy of the upcoming Ultimate Wilderness—Zova the Shifter!

By the time she'd come of age, Zova had long known she didn't fit in with the Clan of the Moon.

Although Zova's parents loved her and supported her in all ways, she was still the only daughter among four siblings, and while she got on well with her brothers, she often felt left out. As Zova grew older, her parents' Desnan teachings intrigued her, yet she felt a stronger kinship to the animals of the world than to the night sky above. In training for the hunt, Zova reveled in the act of stalking and pouncing like the animals she so empathized with, but she found herself impatient with her mother's preferred method of hunting with the bow and struggled to train her own archery skills. In time, when her friends began to flirt and pursue romantic trysts, Zova realized that while she valued and greatly enjoyed the company of those friends, she felt no drive to find such a romantic partner for herself. Increasingly she found herself restless, curious about the world beyond the Cinderlands. She'd seen illustrations and heard stories of the vast oceans, glacial wonderlands, and above all else the wonders of the deep forest, but paintings and tales could not sate her curiosity. Where the Clan of the Moon's territories in the arid west of the Cinderlands seemed to contain all the necessities of life for everyone she knew, Zova longed for the color green.

Zova's parents saw it coming, of course, well before she made clear her intention to travel the world and seek its wonders. They worried for her safety, but they also knew that of all their children, Zova's passion for life, her respect for the natural world, her keen perception, and her almost uncanny knack for getting the upper hand in a fight made her the best suited to leave the proverbial nest. Despite her awkward place in the clan, she still loved her family and adored her home, and promised to return as often as she could—and to bring stories of marvels from her adventures when she did.


Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

She had no real plan or timetable to follow as she left the Cinderlands, knowing only that she wished to travel west, toward the oft-glimpsed lands of vibrant green she'd long been lured by. Whenever she felt homesick, Zova found she need only look to the sky to feel at home, knowing she gazed upon the same sights her family did. The moon was always there, a welcome and soothing constant in her life. As days turned to weeks, Zova found that nature itself was a more than adequate surrogate family, and more besides. Though she had always felt alone in crowds as a child, watching everyone else interact with each other, here in the natural world she felt like she belonged. The animals of the world were as companionable as anyone as long as they were treated with respect—and certainly more diverse and interesting as a whole than the people she'd known up to that point!

The Storval Rise presented Zova her first significant challenge. She knew of its existence, but had never seen the massive cliffs with her own eyes. Standing atop them, the sweeping expanse of greenery below seemed to taunt her—so near, yet so far. The carefree antics of falcons as they swooped out over the cliff filled Zova not with jealousy, but with inspiration. If only she could fly, she could join them in their graceful exits from the Cinderlands! But as she watched the falcons hunt and play, she felt her own perception grow keen, like a kinship with the raptors was waking in her vision. As if using a falcon's eyes while gazing down the cliffside, Zova found that she could pick a treacherous but navigable path down the cliffs. She did not marvel at this—she accepted it with simple pride.

Despite her keen eyesight, Zova's descent was fraught with peril. She nearly died thrice on the climb (twice to near falls, once to a redback rattlesnake she accidently stepped upon and was only just able to calm before it bit her), but late that night, as the waxing moon rose, she finally set foot into the Ashwood. Lit by the moon, the forest's greens appeared almost black, yet Zova reveled nonetheless. Here was the world she'd dreamed of, a realm that she had to imagine back home in the scrubby Cinderland hills. For the remainder of the night and well into the next day, Zova sprinted and explored, climbed trees and delved into tangles of roots, hunted and played and delighted until she finally came to a toppled statue along the banks of a rushing river. She made camp in the shelter formed by the oversized statue's moss-draped chin, and soon collapsed into exhausted sleep.

When she woke, it was deep night once again. The now-full moon's light filtered through the canopy in pale beams, and while the ground was hard and the air was cool, it was the peal of an unearthly howl that had roused Zova from sleep. The howl was unlike anything she had ever heard—plainly the cry of an alpha wolf, yet carrying within it tones of malevolence and cruelty that felt far too human. Truly frightened for the first time in her life, Zova staggered to her feet and took her bow in hand, only to find campsite surrounded by a pack of the largest wolves she had ever seen.

For the first few moments, Zova's arrows held the strangely aggressive pack at bay, but as the fight wore on, it became apparent to the wolves that Zova was no predator of note. Her arrows missed more often than not, and those lucky few that scored hits were only glancing blows. As she fought, Zova did her best to empathize with the wolves, only to realize in horror that a stronger will than her own imposed upon them. When the wolves finally overcame all fear of her archery, Zova threw aside her useless bow and reached for her knife—only to find she had lost it at some point during the previous night's enraptured frolic through the woods. The wolves closed in, and Zova feared her journey was about to come to a sudden end.

Again that malignant howl scarred the night, and Zova could feel a presence approaching through the tangles. As the wolves closed their circle around her, she found herself hoping that the wolves would kill her before whatever hateful thing they obeyed arrived to finish the job. When the first wolf struck, she frantically swiped at it with her hand, a desperate attempt of self-preservation. For a few moments, she couldn't understand what had caused the wolf's yelp of pain and its sudden retreat. The other wolves had frozen as well, as if confused—a confusion that Zova felt as she looked down at her bloodstained hands... only to see that they were now bloodstained talons.

The will to survive rose in Zova, and with a snarl, she went on the offensive. She lunged at the next wolf, slashing across its snout with the birdlike talon that, a moment before, had been her hand. Again and again she cut and clawed, and the wolves, unsettled by her transformation, fell back. Zova became the predator, and as the last wolf fled, she held high her talons and cried out in triumph.

That cry was answered by the selfsame hateful howl. The master of the wolves had come. Zova whirled, raised her claws in a challenge, and froze in fear. What had emerged from the darkest part of Ashwood was neither person nor beast—nor was it strictly alive. A ghostly form, seemingly shed from moonlight itself, crouched in the air above, a towering man-wolf with orange eyes, fur that shimmered and wavered in unfelt wind, and teeth and claws of all-too-solid razor-sharp bone. Yet what the thing said was the crowning horror.

"Welcome, sister..."

Zova didn't attempt to fight. She whirled and fled, never looking back as the mad howl of the ghost wolf pursued her. She clambered onto the toppled statue, sprinted across its brow, and plunged from its crown into the churning river below. Perhaps it was the current's speed that saved her, or perhaps it was the ghost's inability to pursue, or maybe it was just luck. Whatever the cause, Zova washed ashore a mile downstream, barely alive—but alive she was.

Zova never returned to the Ashwood. Those to whom she's told her tale smirk in disbelief—not from claims of an encounter with a ghost wolf (for many parts of Varisia host stranger terrors than ghosts or werewolves), but that she had escaped to tell the tale at all. The legend of Loper, the ghostwolf of Ashwood, has frightened many listeners, for in most of these tales the victims are lucky just to survive. Zova never revealed to anyone the two words Loper spoke to her that night, yet she feels that in those two words lies the explanation of her escape. She vowed to some day return to Ashwood and solve this mystery—preferably in the company of a group of adventurers, for a faithful pack brings so much more to a fight than can a lone predator!

Until that day, Zova travels from town to town, exploring her growing power as a shifter and the confusing nature of adventuring party dynamics. Her protective nature is augmented by the compassion she feels for these all-too-often orphans, for she knows she is not the norm among her traveling companions in having a family who loves her and a home she can some day return to.

Yet on nights when the moon rises high and unwelcome dreams torment her sleep, Zova can't help but wonder—are those she calls her brothers really her brothers at all?

James Jacobs
Creative Director, Pathfinder

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Iconics Meet the Iconics Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Shifters Ultimate Wilderness untitled Wayne Reynolds
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Sovereign Court

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Intriguing write up. I want to know more about the mysterious Zova.

Well done!

Grand Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Huzzah!


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Glad to see the Shoanti get some love, but was secretly wishing that the new member of the Iconics came from Arcadia....

An enjoyable read nonetheless, and I'm looking forward to seeing the pregens :)


Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


Glad to see the Shoanti get some love, but was secretly wishing that the new member of the Iconics came from Arcadia....

An enjoyable read nonetheless, and I'm looking forward to seeing the pregens :)

Of course, as a fantasy technophile, I'm feeling the lack of Numerian iconics...


I'm just glad we get more Shoanti. ;)


1 person marked this as a favorite.
The Sideromancer wrote:
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


Glad to see the Shoanti get some love, but was secretly wishing that the new member of the Iconics came from Arcadia....

An enjoyable read nonetheless, and I'm looking forward to seeing the pregens :)

Of course, as a fantasy technophile, I'm feeling the lack of Numerian iconics...

To be fair Numeria is a particular enough kind of place that to have an iconic from there would take a particular kind of class. One that might not fit so well into most Pathfinder stories.

Sovereign Court

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Loving family
Asexual
Cool mystery

This is great!

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Yay!


Reminds me of the Sorceress from Masters of the Universe...

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
GeraintElberion wrote:

Loving family

Asexual
Cool mystery

This is great!

After finally getting to read it fully I second this, awesome backstory.

Dark Archive

I had wanted her to be Arcadian and not Shoanti, but she's cool nonetheless!

I like the tie to the Loper. It's cool that she's already got a nemesis of sorts that ties her to the setting.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

Great backstory though I was hoping she was from Arcadia.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

9 people marked this as a favorite.

Yay! Glad to see folks are enjoying Zova's story... whew!

Spoiler:

(And I understand folks wanting to know more about Arcadia, but this isn't the right place to do a sudden lore-unload of Arcadia stuff. That would have made the "Meet the Iconic" less about Zova and her story and more about Arcadia... that would have defeated the purpose of having the post be about a character and would have overshadowed her, and I didn't want to overhsadow her. That, and she was a Shoanti from day 1 when we did the art order from Wayne anyway, so at least in my brain, the idea of her being anything else never crossed my mind.)


Nice job on the story. Very cool.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

The art looks good, as usual of course, can't wait to see the rest of the book.

Is that a cloak made of feathers or is she getting wings?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Dragon78 wrote:

The art looks good, as usual of course, can't wait to see the rest of the book.

Is that a cloak made of feathers or is she getting wings?

It's a cloak.

Usually. ;-P


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Awesomesauce. :-)


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I really like the character and story, but isn't it the tiniest bit weird that she has talons on her hands? Talons go on the feet! There are rules, this isn't Vietnam!


2 people marked this as a favorite.

She got dirty toenails.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
WatersLethe wrote:
I really like the character and story, but isn't it the tiniest bit weird that she has talons on her hands? Talons go on the feet! {. . .}

A decent number of dinosaur species had talons on their hands.


Love this one. Zova has one of the most fascinating iconic character stories. Although the mini is going to be tough to paint, I can't wait to give it a go.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

A very cool tale! Looking forward to a preview of the class itself.


So... shifters are closely related to lycanthropes? I thought that they would be a "relative" of druids and their Wild Shape ability.

Well, at least she didn't get an unhappy childhood, that's good to hear ^_^

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
JiCi wrote:
So... shifters are closely related to lycanthropes? I thought that they would be a "relative" of druids and their Wild Shape ability.

That's assuming that Loper calling her 'sister' involves a connection between shifters and lycanthropes (which it indeed might).

It could also suggest that Loper was a Shoanti, before he was a lycanthrope or ghost.

Or he was a Shifter, before or during being a lycanthrope.

Or that they are actually related! (Least likely. 'Luke, I am your father!' is kind of played out.)

I like that her story highlighted some of her abilities. Eagle vision, for instance, right from the outset. A hint of Wild Empathy, negotiating a cease-fire with that angry snake. And then the talons, but not until she had possibly gained a level of experience?

Will that short bow be part of the basic weapon proficiencies for Shifters, or was her training special (purchased as a feat?). A decent ranged weapon would be useful for a character whose primary attack mode is stabbing things with her hands. Some things you just can't (or don't want to!) get close to for hand-stabbing...


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

Well that "sister" comment does add a lot of questions.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Yay more Ace Iconics! :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Who is this "Loper" and where can I read more about him?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Set wrote:
JiCi wrote:
So... shifters are closely related to lycanthropes? I thought that they would be a "relative" of druids and their Wild Shape ability.

That's assuming that Loper calling her 'sister' involves a connection between shifters and lycanthropes (which it indeed might).

It could also suggest that Loper was a Shoanti, before he was a lycanthrope or ghost.

Or he was a Shifter, before or during being a lycanthrope.

Or that they are actually related! (Least likely. 'Luke, I am your father!' is kind of played out.)

I like that her story highlighted some of her abilities. Eagle vision, for instance, right from the outset. A hint of Wild Empathy, negotiating a cease-fire with that angry snake. And then the talons, but not until she had possibly gained a level of experience?

Will that short bow be part of the basic weapon proficiencies for Shifters, or was her training special (purchased as a feat?). A decent ranged weapon would be useful for a character whose primary attack mode is stabbing things with her hands. Some things you just can't (or don't want to!) get close to for hand-stabbing...

The point of her archery stuff is that she's NOT good at archery. Read into that as you will for now, I guess. :P

Paizo Employee Creative Director

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Nate Z wrote:
Who is this "Loper" and where can I read more about him?

Loper's a bad guy from Ashwood in my homebrew. When Ashwood got imported/sold/relocated to Paizo by me for inclusion in Golarion, the implication was that Loper, the big bad of the woods, came along with it, but until this Meet the Iconics entry he's not been mentioned in the setting. Whether or not I do something more with him in the future... time will tell, but for now, this Meet the Iconics is the only place to read about him.


Captain collateral damage wrote:
Yay more Ace Iconics! :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

Who are the other ones?


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
The NPC wrote:


Who are the other ones?

There was word of god a while back that one of the original 11 was Ace but they weren't saying who. I don't follow things closely enough to know if their identity had been revealed.

As for Zova, we only really know that she's Aro, (I wouldn't mind her just being Aro, as someone who is mostly Aro but not Ace himself).


Set wrote:
JiCi wrote:
So... shifters are closely related to lycanthropes? I thought that they would be a "relative" of druids and their Wild Shape ability.

That's assuming that Loper calling her 'sister' involves a connection between shifters and lycanthropes (which it indeed might).

It could also suggest that Loper was a Shoanti, before he was a lycanthrope or ghost.

Or he was a Shifter, before or during being a lycanthrope.

Or that they are actually related! (Least likely. 'Luke, I am your father!' is kind of played out.)
{. . .]

Or it could be that Loper was lying, or being sarcastic . . . .


Dragon78 wrote:
Well that "sister" comment does add a lot of questions.

A "brotherhood" refers its members as "brothers" and "sisters".


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

True, Loper could have been lying or being sarcastic.

Dark Archive

Chakat Firepaw wrote:
The NPC wrote:


Who are the other ones?
There was word of god a while back that one of the original 11 was Ace but they weren't saying who. I don't follow things closely enough to know if their identity had been revealed.

The Starfinder Android, whose name I forget, was asexual, IIRC.

As for the original Iconics, Ezren would be my first guess, based on exactly nothing but my gut.

It's a big gut, 'though, so I trust it knows what it's talking about. :)


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Reiko is also Ace.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Does "ace " mean asexual in this context? I thought the first person using it was using it like "cool" or "rad."

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Nate Z wrote:
Does "ace " mean asexual in this context? I thought the first person using it was using it like "cool" or "rad."

Ace is shorthand for Asexual, yes.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Rysky wrote:
Nate Z wrote:
Does "ace " mean asexual in this context? I thought the first person using it was using it like "cool" or "rad."
Ace is shorthand for Asexual, yes.

Thanks. :)


Captain collateral damage wrote:
Reiko is also Ace.

I know she was stated to be gender fluid, but was she stated as being asexual?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

What is gender fluid?

I thought they said one of the original 11 was transgender?


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

One of the ACG iconics is transgender, I wasn't aware that one of the originals was?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Class Deck, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Dragon78 wrote:


I thought they said one of the original 11 was transgender?

At one point they suggested it, but (if I recall correctly) decided it would be too much of a retcon for established characters, and rather than just tack it on to an existing character they decided to build a character (the iconic shaman) as trans from the ground up. (no pun intended, because she's a dwarf)


Dragon78 wrote:

What is gender fluid?

I thought they said one of the original 11 was transgender?

As it is written:

'denoting or relating to a person who does not identify themselves as having a fixed gender.
"the actor, DJ, and artist identifies as gender-fluid"'

Shadow Lodge

Is this really the only blog about Ultimate Wilderness? Are previews as well as public play testing just gone now, never to be seen again?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber
Dragonborn3 wrote:
Is this really the only blog about Ultimate Wilderness? Are previews as well as public play testing just gone now, never to be seen again?

Book doesn’t come out for another two weeks. We’ll have more previews before then.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion Subscriber

Yeah, but usually we have at least two previews(for hardcover books) before PDFs start shipping for subscribers.

Shadow Lodge

And since you can already order the book(the product page no longer says preorder) it's a bit late even for that, don't you think? I'm beginning to think they don't wants us knowing anything(mechanics wise, like say an aspect Shapeshifter can get) about new books beforehand and that is something I don't want to be true.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Dragonborn3 wrote:
And since you can already order the book(the product page no longer says preorder) it's a bit late even for that, don't you think? I'm beginning to think they don't wants us knowing anything(mechanics wise, like say an aspect Shapeshifter can get) about new books beforehand and that is something I don't want to be true.

It’s not. And you can still preorder, the street date is the 15th.

And the fact that subscribers are already talking about the mechanics further nixes that thought.

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