Iconic Evolution: Amiri

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Illustration by Wayne Reynolds

It's been 12 years since famed artist Wayne Reynolds designed the core iconic characters we've all come to know and love. When we knew a second edition was on the horizon, we asked him to update them for the new era of Pathfinder. Last summer, Paizo's publisher and chief creative officer Erik Mona met with Wayne at Paizo's Gen Con booth to discuss his creative process. Check out this short video of their conversation for a glimpse into the mind of Pathfinder's most iconic visual artist and the first official look at the iconic barbarian, Amiri!

Each week, we'll take a look at a different updated iconic with Erik and Wayne, so stay tuned.

Mark Moreland
Franchise Manager

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Tags: Amiri Barbarians Classes Iconic Evolutions Iconics Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition Wayne Reynolds
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joshua neeley wrote:
Yaaaaaaasssss! I think the design Wayne Reynolds expounded on above makes complete sense! I'm also super glad he didn't cover her abs up. Super excited to see my favorite iconic....SEONI!

What abs?

I think part of the problem is that her arms, with all their clothing, are bigger than her waist. I like the idea of the feral look, the expression on her face is perfect and amazing, but she still looks fragile rather than powerful.

It's all well and good saying you don't envision her as a 'typical musclebound barbarian', but there are limits - you can't have a strength score high enough to be an iconic barbarian without some visible bulk. This Amiri looks like she would struggle to lift that sword if it was made of polystyrene foam.

Amiri's lack of visible muscle definition has always been a problem for me. A svelte / athletic build for a warrior woman? Sure. That's fine - but no official Amiri I've seen looks athletic. She always looks like a model posing in the real Amiri's place.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Furyou Miko wrote:
joshua neeley wrote:
Yaaaaaaasssss! I think the design Wayne Reynolds expounded on above makes complete sense! I'm also super glad he didn't cover her abs up. Super excited to see my favorite iconic....SEONI!

What abs?

I think part of the problem is that her arms, with all their clothing, are bigger than her waist. I like the idea of the feral look, the expression on her face is perfect and amazing, but she still looks fragile rather than powerful.

It's all well and good saying you don't envision her as a 'typical musclebound barbarian', but there are limits - you can't have a strength score high enough to be an iconic barbarian without some visible bulk. This Amiri looks like she would struggle to lift that sword if it was made of polystyrene foam.

Amiri's lack of visible muscle definition has always been a problem for me. A svelte / athletic build for a warrior woman? Sure. That's fine - but no official Amiri I've seen looks athletic. She always looks like a model posing in the real Amiri's place.

"Struggling to lift that sword" is a key element to Amiri's backstory though. She wasn't strong enough to wield it until she tapped into her rage.


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She already seemed lacking in strength for what her score was. She has an 18 strength, that's the top 0.8% of humans. I have never seen someone who goes around in the gym with nearly this lack of muscle tone, and she is stronger than most of them! The new Amiri looks like she has a 10 strength and a meth problem. She doesn't even look like a healthy kind of thin, or a healthy whiteness like you would expect from a northern Russian or an Alaskan native. My girlfriend, an alaskan native herself, finds this kind of whitewashing of the character highly offensive as it makes Amiri a charicature, much like blackface. It causes people to assume alaskan natives to be paler than the driven snow, when in reality they vary from as dark as this guy to as pale as this girl


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Stratagemini wrote:
Especially considering how much exposed skin she has and how much time she spends outdoors, she should at least have a bit of a tan?

Some people just don't tan. Like you could stake me out nude in the desert for a week and at no point would there between an intermediate state between "pale" and "horribly sunburned" (admittedly I would reach the latter state within an hour.)


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Captain Morgan wrote:
Furyou Miko wrote:
joshua neeley wrote:
Yaaaaaaasssss! I think the design Wayne Reynolds expounded on above makes complete sense! I'm also super glad he didn't cover her abs up. Super excited to see my favorite iconic....SEONI!

What abs?

I think part of the problem is that her arms, with all their clothing, are bigger than her waist. I like the idea of the feral look, the expression on her face is perfect and amazing, but she still looks fragile rather than powerful.

It's all well and good saying you don't envision her as a 'typical musclebound barbarian', but there are limits - you can't have a strength score high enough to be an iconic barbarian without some visible bulk. This Amiri looks like she would struggle to lift that sword if it was made of polystyrene foam.

Amiri's lack of visible muscle definition has always been a problem for me. A svelte / athletic build for a warrior woman? Sure. That's fine - but no official Amiri I've seen looks athletic. She always looks like a model posing in the real Amiri's place.

"Struggling to lift that sword" is a key element to Amiri's backstory though. She wasn't strong enough to wield it until she tapped into her rage.

Nonetheless, she's still supposed to be strong without the rage. She may need the rage to wield the giant's weapon properly, but that's because it's a giant's weapon, not because she's a weakling.

Shadow Lodge

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PossibleCabbage wrote:
Stratagemini wrote:
Especially considering how much exposed skin she has and how much time she spends outdoors, she should at least have a bit of a tan?
Some people just don't tan. Like you could stake me out nude in the desert for a week and at no point would there between an intermediate state between "pale" and "horribly sunburned" (admittedly I would reach the latter state within an hour.)

I wish it took an hour. :(


The new Amiri is level 1 and 15 years old. The PF1 Amiri is level 10 and 22 years old. I'm not a fan of the new one, but honestly I was not a great fan of the old one either. But, having played Amiri in the Kingmaker computer game, the new one fits better.

Silver Crusade

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Darkon wrote:
She already seemed lacking in strength for what her score was. She has an 18 strength, that's the top 0.8% of humans. I have never seen someone who goes around in the gym with nearly this lack of muscle tone, and she is stronger than most of them!
There’s never been a mass requirement relative to Strength score in Pathfinder or DnD. A Human can naturally at level 20 have a Strength score of 25, they’re not required to have any set weight or build.
Quote:
The new Amiri looks like she has a 10 strength and a meth problem.
I’ve honestly last track of the “she’s pale and has rings around her eyes and not skinny so therefore she must be on meth/other drugs” comments made, like that body type is unnatural or soemthing -_-
Quote:
She doesn't even look like a healthy kind of thin, or a healthy whiteness like you would expect from a northern Russian or an Alaskan native.
A healthy... whiteness?My girlfriend, an alaskan native herself, finds this kind of whitewashing of the character highly offensive as it makes Amiri a charicature, much like blackface.Wut? Amiri’s always been white.
Quote:
It causes people to assume alaskan natives to be paler than the driven snow,
... she’s not from Alaska/fantasy equivalent thereof? I’m sorry I don’t understand this one.
Quote:
when in reality they vary from as dark as this guy to as pale as this girl

Um, yes? She’s fantasy Russia-ish plus Conan-ish, and in real life Slavic areas have people who’s skin tones run the gamut.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Darkon wrote:
My girlfriend, an alaskan native herself, finds this kind of whitewashing of the character highly offensive as it makes Amiri a charicature[sic], much like blackface. It causes people to assume alaskan natives to be paler than the driven snow, when in reality they vary from as dark as this guy to as pale as this girl

So, as someone born and raised in Fairbanks, and who lives here still?

Amiri's pigmentation looks about like mine. I have enough body hair that I look darker with my shirt off and with my five o'clock shadow, but...

She's not an Erutaki, or a Varki, she's a Kellid. If we're lining up fantasy ethnicities, Kellids are friggin' Cimmerians in terms of what they're meant to channel.

They're not meant to be a reflection on the Unangan, or Gwich'in, or Koyukon, or Han, or Ahtna, or Dena'ina, or Tanana, or Yu'pik, or Cu'pik, or Aluutiq, or Tlingit, or Haida, or Eyak, or Inupiat, or any other group native to this state, and borrow no cultural aspects worth mentioning from any of them except for a broader subsistence lifestyle.

Liberty's Edge

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The idea that Amiri, who is explicitly Kellid, who are not and have never been intended to appear anything but Northern European, being pale is somehow 'whitewashing' is bizarre and odd to me.


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Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I've got to take the "Meth-Ghoul Amiri" side of things. I also don't know why you would have thick leather and fur all up your arms and legs and then a "hey, please stab me in the abdomen!" costume with no protection there.


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Jhaeman wrote:
I've got to take the "Meth-Ghoul Amiri" side of things. I also don't know why you would have thick leather and fur all up your arms and legs and then a "hey, please stab me in the abdomen!" costume with no protection there.

Some people just want to show off their sick abs. Unfortunately those got lost in the update so its just silly now.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Jhaeman wrote:
I've got to take the "Meth-Ghoul Amiri" side of things. I also don't know why you would have thick leather and fur all up your arms and legs and then a "hey, please stab me in the abdomen!" costume with no protection there.

The tummy window bothers me too. (I don't share your Meth-Ghoul opinion.) However, Amiri has always had that tummy window thing going on-- that isn't a change. In general I think she's actually got a little less exposed skin than she did back in the day.

I'm not sure if this is much of a defense, but making weird choices on which parts of the body to armor doesn't seem as gendered as you'd think for the Iconics-- seems to be more based on class than anything else. Consider the bloodrager, a descendant of the barbarian. Crowe takes this principle even further than Amiri. Dude has what looks like metal plating on his arms and legs while going completely bare-chested.


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I mean, I don't really like the exposed midriff look in anything, particularly anything that's wearing armor for the purposes of "not dying when you get into swordfights".

However, it is an incredibly common fantasy trope and I guess some people like it.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

At least you don’t travel with an Iroran who believes his bodily perfection must be displayed 100% at all times.

Silver Crusade

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If my remembrances is correct the reasoning for the tummy window is due to her weapon type, no restrictions in movements to allow for full turns and thus heavy wide swings for her sword.


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Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Uh huh, sure.


Cimmerian doesn't seem right, they're supposed to be gaelic/celtic. It sounds like you want Hyperborea if not Nordheim


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From my perhaps limited ynderstanding the Kellids are a Cimmerian analogue and the Iobarians were more Celtic analogue...

Liberty's Edge

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Ouch, this illustration is definitely going for the strung out drug addict look. Maybe she is doing crystal to give her strength to rage?

The previous version looked a lot better. That version at least looked like she went outside and worked out. If this is the direction for the new iconics, I am not looking forward to seeing them.


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Are we really going to describe everything not "sun-bronzed goddess" as "drug addict"?

Is that really where we're going here?

Dark Archive

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I'm becoming disturbed by people who keep insisting pale and disheveled looks like drug addicts as well :P Both because it isn't just true AND that while it is true that people in north can have tanner skin as well, Amiri doesn't really look out of the place either.

Liberty's Edge

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Having dealt with someone who had a drug addiction issue. They have issues taking care of themselves as well as the place they live. The bags under the eyes / glazed eyes as well as degeneration of apparent health and increased aggression were definitely there. Thus, the above illustration brings out reminders of drug addiction.

Now, someone who through lack of experience in having dealt with drug addiction may not see this as signs but they definitely can be.

Silver Crusade

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Being pale and having bags under your eyes can come from numerous things, like me who sleeps 4 hours a day during the week and then sleeps 6–10 hour on Saturday and Sunday and who works opening shift so not a lot of time in the sun.

The “increased aggression” is because she, ya’know has a clas mechanic literally called Rage. But sidestepping that you’ve taken very minor things that numerous people have and auto-labeled “drug addict” when there’s many more obvious signs of such a thing rather than just being pale and aggressive.

Silver Crusade

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Cyouni wrote:

Are we really going to describe everything not "sun-bronzed goddess" as "drug addict"?

Is that really where we're going here?

Looks that way -_-

Dark Archive

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Rysky wrote:
Being pale and having bags under your eyes can come from numerous things,

And one of those things is "you just happen to have bags under eyes" :p Turns out even if you sleep well, don't smoke or drink, you can still have them.


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I remember a lot of publicity shots of Keira Knightly in King Arthur, "woad" notwithstanding - she looks pale, underfed and feral. As HERE or HERE. Having lived with and worked alongside folks with addictions or substance ab/use issues they have run the gamut from "healthy looking" to "unhealthy looking". Physiology is amazing.

Like Rysky, I don't sleep a lot during the week and invariably have bags under my eyes. So does my son, who stays up late reading every night. He's fairly healthy looking apart from that while I might look a little undernourished, mostly because I have an insane metabolism coupled with a fairly constant physical activity cycle.

It's nodda toomor and it's nod druks. She's a lean, mean, pale, unkempt, possibly hungry, more than likely pissed off, killed-her-own-clanfolk-after-they-betrayed-her fighting machine.

Unless it is drugs. Maybe ritual ingestion of mushrooms - maybe a dose of fly agaric insufficiently prepared? ;p

But this is far from saying Amiri looks like she has a substance abuse issue. And as a pale person who is thin and has dark rings under my eyes I'd say such a balnket supposition speaks to a certain stereotype that can be harmful to civil society - thin pale folks with dark rings under eyes = drug addicts. Ouch. Didn't realise they carried swords around. Or equating the same "look" with being Undead. Double Ouch. If you have the stomach for it, watch Ghosts of the Civil Dead and maybe recalibrate your intolerances.


I'm just sadface about the difference between the sketch as shown on the link to the YouTube and the final treatment - seems half of her face tattoo was removed. I know the original didn't have it, but it looked great. ;_;

Silver Crusade

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OCEANSHIELDWOLPF 2.0 wrote:
I'm just sadface about the difference between the sketch as shown on the link to the YouTube and the final treatment - seems half of her face tattoo was removed. I know the original didn't have it, but it looked great. ;_;

*nods*

I can understand though, it might’ve distracted/cluttered too much. Plus since Iconics are supposed to be easy Refs to refer to when commissioning art I can see why that got removed, tats are an obscene pain on characters when arting.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Tarik Blackhands wrote:
Jhaeman wrote:
I've got to take the "Meth-Ghoul Amiri" side of things. I also don't know why you would have thick leather and fur all up your arms and legs and then a "hey, please stab me in the abdomen!" costume with no protection there.
Some people just want to show off their sick abs. Unfortunately those got lost in the update so its just silly now.

She's got abs though, you can see them in the image? Like that line in the middle doesn't just happen, you can even see the line where her lower abs meet her obliques. You have to hack a lot of orcs to get those abs.


Squeakmaan wrote:
Tarik Blackhands wrote:
Jhaeman wrote:
I've got to take the "Meth-Ghoul Amiri" side of things. I also don't know why you would have thick leather and fur all up your arms and legs and then a "hey, please stab me in the abdomen!" costume with no protection there.
Some people just want to show off their sick abs. Unfortunately those got lost in the update so its just silly now.
She's got abs though, you can see them in the image? Like that line in the middle doesn't just happen, you can even see the line where her lower abs meet her obliques. You have to hack a lot of orcs to get those abs.

Pah, line. If you're going to be sacrificing armor for the sake of showing off your rocking abs, those abs better be rocking. 6 pack minimum and any sling bullets sent your way better be rebounding off it!


OCEANSHIELDWOLPF 2.0 wrote:
I'm just sadface about the difference between the sketch as shown on the link to the YouTube and the final treatment - seems half of her face tattoo was removed. I know the original didn't have it, but it looked great. ;_;

The original picture of Amiri always had a facial tatoo, even though the angle of the head makes it hard to see and the colors are washed. But you see it much better when her left profile is shown.

So the final treatment is really close to the original art, at least on this part ...

On the armor subject, sorry but the " I don't protect my belly because I need mobility at my waist to use my weapon" is total BS !! Medieval age is full of fighters using heavy two-handed weapons and they used them with any kind of armor. Even full plate armor has the torso/belly protection in several parts to give you some mobility in this part.

There is only oneargument that could justify wearing an armor like the one Amori has is gladiatorial combat where some templates impose some restriction on your armor for balance reasons.

Liberty's Edge

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Skinny, pale, and with crazy eyes is the stereotypical 'drug addict' look. I don't think anyone is necessarily prejudiced or irrational for feeling that this version of Amiri matches that look to some degree.

I just also think that there are other good explanations for all those things (especially the crazy eyes), and frankly think someone asking 'What's she on?' and receiving an answer of 'Nothing, she's just like that.' in regards to Amiri is a perfectly valid in-universe conversation to have happen.

Liberty's Edge

Re-looking at the new version once more, I definitely see the closeness to some drawings of Conan in his youth. Definitely fits the Kellids = Cimmerians idea (and I 100% believe that Gorum is Crom or at least shares a very similar mindset, and Gorum was listed as a deity of Kellid origin)


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The smaller sword probably makes it easier when she uses it to cut her own hair.


OCEANSHIELDWOLPF 2.0 wrote:
From my perhaps limited ynderstanding the Kellids are a Cimmerian analogue and the Iobarians were more Celtic analogue...

That's sort of odd as the Cimmerians where explicitly written as direct predecessors to Irish and Scottish people by way of Gaels in Howard's "The Hyborian Age" an essay intended to keep his world internally consistent.

It makes sense though, as very few depictions of the world of Kull/Conan stick closely to the source material. It's a game of fictitious haplogroup telephone. That, and since much of Conan's appearance is derived from what are essentially Frazetta self portraits, then Vallejo self portraits and then Schwarzenegger movies, you end up with a combination of Italian, Peruvian and Austrian which looks nothing like the original intent. An ironic fate for a fantasy race that specifically had no genetic mixing with other groups since re-evolving from apes. Directly from apes apparently, very weird.

Regarding the "drug addict" stuff. I think that impression wouldn't be so common or strong had this been the first appearance of the character. If you look at the old and the new design as a progression of the same character, it looks like something pretty bad happened to her. I think the impression wouldn't be as strong without the comparison to the old.

Silver Crusade

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Noir le Lotus wrote:
On the armor subject, sorry but the " I don't protect my belly because I need mobility at my waist to use my weapon" is total BS !! Medieval age is full of fighters using heavy two-handed weapons and they used them with any kind of armor. Even full plate armor has the torso/belly protection in several parts to give you some mobility in this part.

Oh I’m aware. I was just repeating what I remembered was the reasoning for the art being that way as Amiri is a Barbarian in light armor who slings a BFS, not necessarily a justification of “Yeah that’s totally how it works.”


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I assumed the darkness around her eyes was something like kohl to reduce snow blindness.

Silver Crusade

Hill Giant wrote:
I assumed the darkness around her eyes was something like kohl to reduce snow blindness.

I hadn’t even thought of that, makes sense.


ErichAD wrote:
OCEANSHIELDWOLPF 2.0 wrote:
From my perhaps limited ynderstanding the Kellids are a Cimmerian analogue and the Iobarians were more Celtic analogue...

That's sort of odd as the Cimmerians where explicitly written as direct predecessors to Irish and Scottish people by way of Gaels in Howard's "The Hyborian Age" an essay intended to keep his world internally consistent.

It makes sense though, as very few depictions of the world of Kull/Conan stick closely to the source material. It's a game of fictitious haplogroup telephone. That, and since much of Conan's appearance is derived from what are essentially Frazetta self portraits, then Vallejo self portraits and then Schwarzenegger movies, you end up with a combination of Italian, Peruvian and Austrian which looks nothing like the original intent. An ironic fate for a fantasy race that specifically had no genetic mixing with other groups since re-evolving from apes. Directly from apes apparently, very weird.

Regarding the "drug addict" stuff. I think that impression wouldn't be so common or strong had this been the first appearance of the character. If you look at the old and the new design as a progression of the same character, it looks like something pretty bad happened to her. I think the impression wouldn't be as strong without the comparison to the old.

Interesting. Never really enjoyed Howard's writing myself, but I had always assumed Cimmeria to be analogous to Cymru and Hyboria to Hibernia.


Howard is one of those authors with interesting ideas and poor execution. It's hard to know if it's the type of publications he wrote for, or the limits of his own skills. Some of his writing is quite good, like Beyond the Black River, or The Hour of the Dragon, but there's quite a bit of garbage like Jewels of Gwahlur that sort of rambles on and uses thin characters as a backdrop for Conan.

I've heard that Cimmeria was named for Cymru as well, but there's no direct reference to it in his writing like there is to Ireland and Scotland. None I know of anyway.


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How about we reference Kellids as presented in Paizo material, then?

From the Inner Sea Guide:

"Kellids are a brawny, dark-haired folk who bear the scars and weathering of rough lives spent in the open. Their eye color tends toward black, blue, or steel gray, and their flesh is generally deeply tanned."

I know the term used here is "generally", but I would imagine that Amiri, as a wilderness character, probably should be out in the sun quite a lot.


I'm a fan of her face and facial expression. The rest I don't like.


Do the Iconics age? Or can they age? Amiri here is supposed to be a level 1 Barbarian, but she was also a level 1 Barbarian about 10 years ago.

Do various incarnations of various ages of the Iconics exist, at least for art purposes? Like if we need a version of Amiri who is fighting a lich or a big ol' dragon, is it going to be this one or an older more experienced one? Or do all versions of Amiri represent whatever level she would be when she's doing whatever she's doing?


PossibleCabbage wrote:

Do the Iconics age? Or can they age? Amiri here is supposed to be a level 1 Barbarian, but she was also a level 1 Barbarian about 10 years ago.

Do various incarnations of various ages of the Iconics exist, at least for art purposes? Like if we need a version of Amiri who is fighting a lich or a big ol' dragon, is it going to be this one or an older more experienced one? Or do all versions of Amiri represent whatever level she would be when she's doing whatever she's doing?

Normally they don't.

And mostly it wouldn't really make sense - if they're used to illustrate an AP, as they often are, it's rare that enough time passes for noticeable ageing. What might be weirder for a PF character is that they're shown wearing the same gear.

Silver Crusade

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magnuskn wrote:

How about we reference Kellids as presented in Paizo material, then?

From the Inner Sea Guide:

"Kellids are a brawny, dark-haired folk who bear the scars and weathering of rough lives spent in the open. Their eye color tends toward black, blue, or steel gray, and their flesh is generally deeply tanned."

I know the term used here is "generally", but I would imagine that Amiri, as a wilderness character, probably should be out in the sun quite a lot.

Looking through the art Kellids are usually presented as tanned or paler than an Ulfen with no inbetween (see the Kellid section in Inner Sea Races).


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TriOmegaZero wrote:
At least you don’t travel with an Iroran who believes his bodily perfection must be displayed 100% at all times.

Ok great, now you've got the idea of Iroran nudists stuck in my head. Especially ones who think they are significantly more impressive than they really are. Someone with no muscle tone and a hairy back thinking they're a Greek God, and letting it all hang out.


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Iconics, like Super Heroes, don't age or Change clothes/gear. That would defeat the purpose of them being instantly recognizable.
There are some interesting permutations like their mythic versions or scifi versions, but generally they are supposed to look like that all the time.
And honestly, the not aging thing is something that PC's Can probably relate to. The typical AP takes you an insame amount of Levels in a super short time period - levelling has nothing to do with age.


Rysky wrote:
magnuskn wrote:

How about we reference Kellids as presented in Paizo material, then?

From the Inner Sea Guide:

"Kellids are a brawny, dark-haired folk who bear the scars and weathering of rough lives spent in the open. Their eye color tends toward black, blue, or steel gray, and their flesh is generally deeply tanned."

I know the term used here is "generally", but I would imagine that Amiri, as a wilderness character, probably should be out in the sun quite a lot.

Looking through the art Kellids are usually presented as tanned or paler than an Ulfen with no inbetween (see the Kellid section in Inner Sea Races).

Could you point out some of those "paler than an Ulfen" depictions? I confess that off the cuff I cannot remember a single one of that kind.

Silver Crusade

magnuskn wrote:
Rysky wrote:
magnuskn wrote:

How about we reference Kellids as presented in Paizo material, then?

From the Inner Sea Guide:

"Kellids are a brawny, dark-haired folk who bear the scars and weathering of rough lives spent in the open. Their eye color tends toward black, blue, or steel gray, and their flesh is generally deeply tanned."

I know the term used here is "generally", but I would imagine that Amiri, as a wilderness character, probably should be out in the sun quite a lot.

Looking through the art Kellids are usually presented as tanned or paler than an Ulfen with no inbetween (see the Kellid section in Inner Sea Races).
Could you point out some of those "paler than an Ulfen" depictions? I confess that off the cuff I cannot remember a single one of that kind.

She's in Inner Sea Races, contrasting the tanned male in that section.

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