Sardra Geltl is a great NPC. Paizo’s iconic shaman has the potential to inspire a whole binder full of quests – high heroism adventures with all sorts of twists and turns that will keep the player characters on their toes.
Not what you expected to read on this blog, is it?
Well buckle up, Buttercup, because we’re probably not going to use Shardra the way the author intended. A 21st century wish fulfillment fairy tale complete with a moral too pat for even the most After Schooly of After School Specials might make for a great litmus test amongst the Lefteratti, but it’s useless as an inspiration for RPG adventures. Paizo elected to pass on the rich vein of adventure ore lurking within the bowels of Shardra, but we’re going to tap that like a dwarven clan ankle deep in mithril.
Transgenderism is described, even by its supporters, as a curse. Turns out, we’ve got an app for that. It’s a spell called remove curse. So we’ve got a character suffering from a curse, a family that wants that curse lifted, and a band of adventurers looking for trouble to solve. Boom – instant adventure! Shardra’s immediate family (“It’s cheaper than a dowry”), or the heads of the Geltl clan, hire the party to get their hands on a decent remove curse scroll (or a spellcaster willing to cast it.) This task varies in difficulty based on your preferred edition of the granddaddy of all RPGs, and should be tailored to your own campaign.
Even having solved the Thousand Riddles of The Inscrutable Blackmage, scaled the Improbably Tall Mountain and slain the Beast With Swords For Hands and Teeth to recover the Sacred Scroll of The Sanguine Mind, the party’s troubles aren’t over. Shardra, a powerful shaman, may not be a willing participant in the proceedings. Things get even worse if casting remove curse takes more than a combat turn in your game world. In that case, the party has to capture Shardra alive, not just keep the shaman distracted long enough to fire off a spell.
Of course, having lifted the curse and ended Shardra’s troubles doesn’t mean the adventure is over just yet. From the backstory it isn’t clear if Shardra ever took advantage of the ready access to powerful magicks that characterizes the Pathfinder philosophy to procure an Elixir of Sex Shifting*. What if Shardra managed to secure one, drank it to get an upgraded body, and now that the curse is lifted, poor old Shardra is once again trapped in a body with the wrong pair of chromosomes? Boom – another instant adventure!
In order to fulfill the terms of the contract, the party now has to help Shardra get another elixir (these things ain’t cheap). Which means it’s back to the Inscrutable Blackmage and off on another quest. Given the vagaries of psychology, physiology, and transmutation magic, each successful mission can lead to even more complications. The central conceit of Shardra is so much more than just a one-off excuse to feel good about your Leftist credentials – it’s a launching pad for a host of gender bending adventures.
Shardra is an adventure gold mine! It’s a shame Paizo has other priorities.