The Shardmind

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on April 9, 2010

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.

Attribute Bonuses

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.

Languages

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.

Skill Bonuses

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.

Racial Benefits

Telepathy

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.

Shard Swarm

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.

Class Considerations

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:

  • Avenger
  • Bard
  • Cleric
  • Invoker
  • Paladin
  • Psion
  • Sorceror
  • Warlock
  • Warlord
  • Wizard

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.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 callin April 9, 2010 at 10:56 am

Personally I would ignore the origin of the race. Humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, etc don’t have a specific origin. They might have origin myths but these are from so long ago that they no longer apply to the race as a motivator. I would do the same with the Shardmind; turn their origin into a myth and make it a non-factor.
.-= callin´s last blog ..4E Monster- Swarm of Bees =-.

2 Wimwick April 9, 2010 at 12:58 pm

@ callin
You make a good point about racial origin, with so many different fantasy systems where a race comes from is very relative. For example what is the differece between a Shardmind in the Forgotten Realms or in Eberron? Does the idea of the Living Gate change when you move from world to world?

One could also argue that as a sentient being, a Shardmind has observed mortal behaviour and enters its life with a general understanding of day to day practices and etiquette. Lots of potential that’s for sure.

3 Torsin April 12, 2010 at 8:19 am

I’m planning out a group for D&D (starting at lvl 11, the guys are playing an evil group hired to destabilise an area) and one of them had a very good idea for a Shardmind.
He’s saying his Shardmind has awoken recently and is unaware of basically anything, essentially a blank-slate character. Fits very well and allows him to roleplay in whatever direction he wants, which should be very fun!
That’s a potential fix for beginner Shardminds or just as a different angle on non-Gate Shardminds.

That’s my 2 pence anyway.

4 Bob Cain April 12, 2010 at 8:59 am

I am not a fan of the Shardmind or the Psionic power classes. This is a personal preference. I got into DnD through The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings etc…The Shardmind seems foreign to this genre. Almost like a space alien. I know others like the idea. By the way, why can Paladins use Plate Armor while fighters have to take a feat to gain this ability?

5 anonymous May 27, 2010 at 11:18 pm

All points are very true, however let’s not forget that there are 3 different background mindsets that a Shardmind can have; Thought Builder, God Shard, and Shard Slayer. With not one but all 3 in mind this makes for a great way to not just introduce the race into a campaign, but also introduce them as a playable character with an interesting back story. Suppose your running a good campaign and you need an arch-nemesis or something powerful. In the group is a good aligned Shardmind that decided to go with a Thought Builder concept. A npc of another Shardmind as a Shard Slayer would be a great way to bring them into the instance.

All thing’s considered I believe this race has just reached a very promising horizon either way

6 Cole Antalek July 25, 2010 at 9:31 pm

look dude, i like your description for the shardmind, it makes really good sense, but if your having trouble justifying whether or not a shardmind should be an NPC or PC, think about the Deva, these guys are freaking purple, PURPLE! and they never really die, so there is another piece of confusing information, how come they can still die in combat if theyll be reincarnated as the same fucking person? Anyways, about the bard piece of information, they dont just tell stories, the real purpose for the bard class itself is I think striker, and I’ve read what they do and its extraordinarily mean to everybody the bard hates, and they mostly rely on wisdom for damage, shardminds give wisdom, so they are great for that class, this is all i really have to say, if you have any issues with what im arguing/stating, email me back

7 G June 5, 2011 at 11:43 am

I’m still a D&D beginner. I’ve been playing Shardmind psion (now level 16) for a few months now since I stepped into my friends’ game. My character is AWESOME. I didn’t have too much trouble picking up on the mechanics, and it kicks serious ass with basic attacks. It’s NOT hard to play if you have a halfway decent DM, which I do. It’s a great race to pick if elves and humans are just a bit too run of the mill for you. I tend toward more exotic stuff, personally. Try it before you knock it.

8 Toxen January 26, 2012 at 3:04 am

i have a question about Shardminds, if they are controlled by a magical force. could a disspell spell kill them automatically? that you’d just turn them back into a pile of crystal shards.

9 Bacardipenguin January 26, 2012 at 9:43 am

No, They are held together by their own conscience. This leads me to believe that a part of their mind is always controlling how their body is physically maintained and if you were to say make them lose that conscience “grip” then they would easily fall to a pile.

10 R013 February 7, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Shardminds are pretty rad, you really gotta think outside the little box WOTC draws out for you if you’re role playing anything anyway.

I play a Shardmind Rogue who awakened when he was found in a snowbank by some humans, who “raised” him.

I make bluff and stealth checks to do fun things like blend in with treasure piles, take the form of a piece of modern art, get sold to a shopkeeper as a gem artifact by my party members then loot his store after he goes to bed, or maybe aid in perception by floating one of my crystals into a room and designating it as one of my eyes. Since Shardminds can emit a faint light if they choose to I’ve even acted as an impromptu light source!

You could even leap into the arms of your dragonborn fighter friend and take the form of a large battleaxe with your dagger and shortsword as the blades, granting him your combined weapon damage dice and effects as well as plus to hit because you’re a living floaty psychic weapon. (This one was an acrobatics check for me and an athletics check for him, Cost my minor and standard actions, and he got the combat advantage I caused with shardswarm since I was the weapon in the strike. After the strike I was shifted to the opposite side of the enemy.)

Of course when you get KO’ed your body becomes a pile of loose crystals rolling around on the floor. Which can lead to some silly times where you get revived under the metal grate floor and start running around down there grabbing Sahaugin ankles to immobilize and grant combat advantage for your party above.

There’s a lot of fun things you can do with a race which in it’s relaxed state is a bunch of floating crystals. Just remember, the humanoid form is one that Shardminds take just because it makes fitting in with people easier! Helps to have a fun DM who embraces the “rule of cool” that 4e was founded upon.

11 David April 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Personally, I love the shardminds. In my current world I just changed their origins somewhat.

My world was already one where the magics have been separated in the past by a great cataclysm, and each realm on the continent of the Eleddar has access to one source of magic. There is the psionic nation, the arcane nation, the primal nation, the divine nation, and the central battlefield that houses the capitol of the ancient empire that existed before the cataclysm.

In my world, the psionic nation is populated by Dragonborn, Githzerai, Githyanki, and Shardminds. Shardminds in my world are beings of pure psionic energy crafted from the magical crystals in the empire’s capitol and animated by the essence of the dead dragon god Io’s bones, the source of psionic magic. They are rare but prominent in this society, being the head of the Psion Conclave. It works well because the players are epic level in this campaign anyway.

I think if you do things like this the shardminds are incredibly awesome on all fronts.

12 TheBoundFenrir May 18, 2012 at 10:42 am

interesting thought: if a shardmind is made up of gemstones that pulled themselves together over several years, what would happen if a collector of rare gems walking into his vault one day to find all his expencive jewelry walking around and asking questions like “who am I?” and “What is my purpose?”? i can imagine the rp potential. even from a dm standpoint. the party could be hired to recover the ‘stolen’ jewels without being told the truth. moral decision, anyone?

13 David May 18, 2012 at 7:13 pm

That is an awesome idea, and it would work super well if the Shardminds weren’t prominent already; everyone already knows what they’re made of, so a jeweler would understand that Shards of Shardminds aren’t good for jewelry.

14 Jason Mackinnon July 29, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I am just starting to play a PBeM game as a level 1 Shardmind and built my character using the Character Builder from WotSC. I have, as one of my backgrounds, Created. Not a Shardmind of the original gate, but a facsimile.

Basically, A Demonic Necromancer built me on another plane and imbued me with psionic life similar to a Vampire.

So I am a Demon Spawn Shardmind created on another plane with the class: Hybrid Vampire/Psion. I was built to be the Demonic Necromancers Chattel. I escaped and when I first saw my form I knew I was too special to share existence with others like me so I became a Shardmind Slayer, always on the lookout for other Shardminds. And I was ‘born’ under a bad sign. Basically since I was awakened everything has pointed towards something sinister hidden under the fabric of reality. I also collect gems and treat them like pets, have conversations with them, and protect them.

As you can see there is a great deal of roleplaying possibilities with the Shardmind, and I think they are more extensive than many other races.

15 Jason Mackinnon August 5, 2012 at 7:15 pm

What happens if a single shard is left in a place on its own. Can a Shardmind see, hear, use powers through this single shard?

16 Max September 13, 2012 at 6:23 am

No because imagine that it would make assasination missions to easy you could just leave one of your shards in the assasinees room and when he sat down boom shard goes flying at him killing him then safely flying off. Bit to easy don’t you think?

17 Max September 13, 2012 at 6:27 am

Also I’m guessing your shards have a certain distance range about the same as your telepathy so you can’t fly a shard 2000 miles away and kill a small group of goblins in Albania

18 Logan October 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I’m currently playing a level 5 Shardmind Psion and so far I’ve loved it. Just as another example of “creative” origins my character, Azareth, was born out of a battle between to of the most powerful wizards who’d ever lived. When the wizard of good intent new he was going to die, he harnessed all of the passion for all things good and all of the psionic and magical energy he had left and sent a single spear of energy into the heart of his opponent. The evil wizard therefore became a surrogate for said energy, his body crystallizing and he no longer having any mind of his own. And so Azareth is born, and he spent most of the 30,000 years before he met my companions in solitude, praying faithfully to the god Lathander. Recently, in a solo adventure with my DM, we determined that unbeknownst to Azareth, a diametric opposite of him had been born from similar means named Garallax. Do you smell epic arch nemisisism?

19 Matias May 11, 2013 at 7:49 pm

I am wondering what colors can shardminds be? I know that in the playerbook it lists green, white, red, or amber but what if you had a shardmind who was blue or purple or maybe some other color. One that knows that its color means it is an intense rarity. They could go with the God shard philosophy and think its one of the strongest shardminds, thinking that it is too special to sacrifice. Also can shardminds absorb other shardminds or crystals? Like if a God shardmind killed a Shardslayer, could he take those crystals and add them to his body? I think that would be a great motivation for a God shard; to become as powerful as possible by absorbing weaker shardminds, maybe even becoming the new living gate but this time a guardian. I don’t know, just an idea.

20 Ameron (Derek Myers) May 14, 2013 at 9:29 am

@Matias
I’ve honestly never thought about Shardmind colour. I’d say you can make your PC whatever colour you want. We’ve done that with Dragonborn PCs even though the PHB states that Dragonborn should only be a few different colours.

If there are going to be many Shardminds in your campaign, by all means try to come up with a hierarchy. I’d look at Dragons as an example. Their colour denotes power and ranking. Use the same thing for Shardminds. The rarer the gem associated with the Shardmind, the more powerful they are. Diamond (white), Ruby, (red), Emerald (green), Sapphire (blue) at the top and then the lesser gems and associated colours lower down. Since there’s so little material available on Shardminds you’re free to do whatever you like.

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