With the release of the PHB3 we have four new player character races to add to our available choices. Today I want to consider the Shardmind, beings of raw psionic energy barely contained in a body of gleaming crystalline shards.The Shardmind is built for the purpose of supporting the new psionic power source classes. Of course the Shardmind is also capable of doing much more than this as the player can select how they’d like their ability scores distributed. I’m of mixed minds about the Shardmind, part of me wants to love this race, another part isn’t too sure.
From a mechanics standpoint I think the Shardmind is a great race. The problem that I have with Shardminds is the race’s origin. They are the sentient fragments of the Living Gate. In other words, they are the broken shards of a gate standing at entrance of the Far Realm. Whatever happened to just having Dwarves, Elves and Halflings for races?
Now don’t get me wrong, the idea is cool. However, I see this type of race as an NPC race that the PCs meet along the road. Also, given the origins of the race I don’t see them really fitting into the heroic tier. Does a race whose strongest motivation is to permanently rebuild the gate of which he is a fragment (thus ending his own life?) really want to help rescue the king’s daughter or help Robin and his merry men?
These questions of motivation are of serious concern to me and have led me to believe that the Shardmind is not a beginner race. It is an advanced race, in the sense that some very serious role-playing needs to accompany playing of this race. From a mechanics standpoint this race is great, but without the proper role-playing motivation any Shardmind character is just an empty shell. Of course there is nothing wrong with selecting the Shardmind and power gaming the heck out of it. I just think that you’d be missing out on a lot of great role-playing potential.
As I mentioned, I believe the Shardmind is an advanced race to play. A great deal of collaboration between PC and DM is required to really bring this character to life. This is especially true if you are starting at level 1 with this race. As an awakened being who has never interacted with mortal society, does not require sustenance and doesn’t understand human etiquette, you really need to think creatively to role-play the character, while not being disruptive to the rest of the gaming group. Not always a simple task.
Now that we’ve talked about the origins and role-playing implications of the Shardmind, let’s break down the racial abilities and see if this race is really worth playing or not.
Shardminds are smart, charismatic and thoughtful. The racial ability scores reflect this. One trend that I’m seeing more of from WotC is the choice of secondary attribute. In the case of the Shardmind we receive a +2 bonus to Intelligence and our choice of Charisma or Wisdom. I really like that WotC is putting this choice into the hands of players. I actually wish they would go back and errata all races to have this type of choice. (And we have it on good authority that this indeed forthcoming.) While it plays towards power gaming it also allows players to create a character that truly fits their vision. They don’t need to gimp the character in a given area, or can choose to develop an aspect of the character that might not otherwise be given consideration.
Shardminds start with three languages. Common, Deep Speech and a choice of one other. While Deep Speech may not be used often, the Shardmind is among elite company as one of three races that has training in three languages from the start. The other two being Half-elf and and Deva.
Let the additional bonuses continue to roll in. The Shardmind gains a +2 bonus to Arcana, Endurance and to the choice of one other skill. This is a great way to either excel at a class skill or to round out the character’s skill selection. Given the ability scores that the Shardmind gains a bonus in and these skill bonuses, your Shardmind should be able to hold their own during any skill challenge.
The Shardmind can communicate telepathically with any creature within 5 squares. So long as that creature has a language. What’s great is that no where in the description does it say you must speak the same language as the creature. This opens up an enormous amount of very interesting role-playing possibilities.
On first read of this power I was slightly confused about what the power actually allows the PC to do. The description of granting combat advantage and teleporting all make sense. I know what those mean, but when do you get to teleport. At the end of the powers use, or at the end of your next turn when the combat advantage has expired. My reading of this suggests it’s when you use the power and not at the end of your next turn. The writing on the power could be a bit clearer and I won’t be surprise if we see some errata to clean up the description.
Regarding the power itself it’s a great way to get out a bind and give yourself an edge on your enemies. Although the distance teleported is limited to half your speed, it allows the Shardmind to reposition themselves to deliver a devastating attack on one or more opponents.
The description of the Psioin indicates that they would make great Psion, Invokers or Wizards. Absolutely true, given the Shard Swarm racial power, this race favours the controller role. However, with the ability score distribution the way that it is, the Shardmind would do well at any of the following classes:
Some of these choices are clearly more obvious than others. I would be hard pressed to justify the Shardmind as a divine character. The background of the race just don’t make sense when considering the motivations and source of power for divine characters. The exception being the Invoker who has access to the direct essence of their deity. I can see a Shardmind having that type of a relationship to a deity.
Similarly, I think you would be hard pressed to justify a Shardmind Bard. Given that Bards are storytellers it just doesn’t make sense to have a being that just gained sentience to start dancing, playing the lute and singing ancient ballads. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done, but again would require some dedicated role-playing to make it appropriate.
The Shardmind is a great race. Though I’m not the biggest fan of the origins of the race, they do represent a great opportunity to role-play for those that are willing to do the work. The mechanics of the Shardmind are also great with many innate bonuses allowing this race to become powerful in many ways.