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I'm another huge fan of the whole setting, but my favorite is probably the Mwangi Expanse. Part of it might be that I've been running Serpent's Skull for a couple years now (our sessions have been more than a little irregular), but I really like the way it manages to blend pulp themes with a fairly sensitive and respectful treatment of themes from African culture and mythology. Plus, it's got one of the highest densities of adventure seeds per square mile of any of the regions described so far. :P
Arcadia has very little published information at present, but could provide a very interesting setting. I've been playing with an idea involving the Andoren colony of Elesomare vanishing a la Roanoke. The PCs are among a new group of settlers sent to rebuild the colony and find out if possible, what became of its former inhabitants.
Arcadia is much more isolated than the Stolen Lands, so I figure the colony would grow much more slowly than the players' "kingdom" in Kingmaker. There'd be more of a focus on individual characters and what they can contribute to the colony, and their survival would depend heavily on establishing friendly (or at least peaceful) relations with the poorly-understood native peoples.
The Hellknights are technically independent of any government oversight; they're somewhere in between vigilantes and independent military contractors. That being said, the Hellknight orders are, above all else, extremely lawful in outlook. I'm sure that the ones that go around capturing criminals and the like observe some kind of due process, but I suspect that they examine the evidence *before* they go after somebody, so once you're caught I'd guess that you'd be "processed" fairly quickly.
As for Cheliax, they absolutely have regular law enforcement; as I recall, it's mostly down to various city guard organizations to carry out arrests, though army units probably spend a lot of time rooting out bandits and other criminals outside the cities. One notable feature of the system is that bribery has basically been institutionalized; for most crimes it's acceptable for the arresting officer to accept an appropriate 'fine' in lieu of other punishment, presumably assuming that their superiors get the appropriate kickbacks.
As far as I can tell, the courts in most parts of the country are more or less run by the church of Asmodeus, so trials likely swift and more than a little cruel. Executions are a popular form of public entertainment.
In Planescape (a "darker and edgier" setting if there ever was one) the leader of one of the factions that ran the multiversal hub city of Sigil was a half-orc (despite them not being a Player's Handbook race at the time) with a refreshingly different backstory.
In this case, the character's parents were a loving couple who had fled their home prime material word to escape persecution over their unusual choice of spouse. As I recall, the orc parent was his mother as well, which is a little unusual in-and-of itself.
As I recall, the couple had been forced to settle down in the poorest part of the city and had died as victims of some kind of violence while their son was only an infant, so he grew up an orphan and never knew his origin. So, it's still a "gritty" story, but with more of a Romeo and Juliet (or perhaps Westside Story) angle rather than the typical inter-species rape scenario.
It should definitely also present challenges specifically targeting a character's weaknesses and forcing them to find creative solutions to make up for their shortcomings.
The rules of the game, and of physics, should probably be significantly relaxed inside the cathedral as well; after all, Iomedae crossed the chasm surrounding the dungeon by throwing her nonmagical cloak into it, which miraculously transformed into a bridge. On the other hand, magical teleportation and flight have been known to inexplicably fail at accomplishing the same task.
Anything that's creative and dramatically appropriate should potentially work within the Test, while boring but mechanically sound solutions should be unreliable at best.
That's probably a good example. At least in the Pathfinder campaign setting it started out as a code, after all, and at least some of the words are recognizably from Common, but put together in ways that are impossible to understand unless you learn to speak tje language. Maybe think "English English" from the third Austin Powers movie.
Nyarlathotep is the "soul and messenger" of the Outer Gods, and is particularly associated with Azathoth. Azathoth isn't just dumb, he's effectively mindless - more like an inconceivably vast and complex chemical or nuclear reaction than a living, thinking being. Rather than wielding the power of creation and destruction, he simply is that power.
Nyarlathotep, on the other hand, appears practically human by comparison. This is, of course, a facade, but unlike the other Outer Gods he seems to be both capable to recognizing and understanding humanity, and interested in doing so. When he takes on human form, he sometimes seems to be a hedonistic trickster with a pronounced sadistic streak. Other times he seems more like a prophet or even a scientist, revealing mind-shattering cosmic secrets with neither mirth nor remorse. In all cases, however, he is both profoundly knowledgeable and capable of expressing that knowledge in a way that human beings can understand, much to their detriment.
The idea of Nyarlathotep serving Azathoth in the way that a vassal serves his king doesn't make any sense. Rather, it seems to be closer to the truth to say that Nyarlathotep and Azathoth are two aspects of one being - Azathoth is power manifest, and Nyarlathotep is the will and consciousness through which that power expresses itself.
It's worth noting that there are actually a few other Avistani colonies in Arcadia, and the Chelaxian outposts of Canorus and Anchor's End are explicitly noted as sources of slaves. Arcadia is quite remote, and the journey is dangerous, but there nevertheless seem to be quite a few ships that make the journey, since there's an architectural style popular with the super-elite in Egorian (the capital of Cheliax) that makes use of red-veined black marble quarried only on the distant western continent.
Therefore, there might actually be quite a few Arcadian slaves in Cheliax, which means there could very well be a population of Arcadian ex-slaves in Andoran as well.
Varisia might have a small population of Arcadian exiles too, since Kintargo, the main port of entry for goods from the colonies, is also a major trading partner of the Varisian cities of Korvosa and Magnimar. Amusingly, that makes it a technical possibility that there could be some half-Arcadian, half-Shoanti kids running around the streets of Magnimar. :P
Some time after the Ulfen founded Valenhall, epidemic diseases ravaged the Arcadian population, much as happened in the rl Americas. However, that was thousands of years prior to the present of the setting, so by this point Arcadians probably don't have any more to worry about from Avistani diseases than native Avistani do.
As an aside, the city of Senghor in the Mwangi Expanse seems to have originally been an Arcadian colony in the Inner Sea Region. The Caldaru people, of whom there are about 10,000 in the city, are the descendants of these mysterious travelers from the west, and are noted for having lighter skin and straighter hair than the other Mwangi peoples, as well as (oddly enough) a high incidence of blue or green eyes. The Bonuwat and Lergeni, also native to the western coast of Garund, may also be partly descended from these advanced ancient seafarers, but essentially nothing of the mysterious culture remains aside from the astonishingly advanced fortifications around Senghor.
Glad people think this is a cool idea! I certainly do. :P
So, before I actually came up with the idea for the Taldan grammar I posted above, I was actually working on some stuff for Azlanti. The relationship of the personal name Savith with the name of the city Saventh Yhi got me thinking, and I ultimately tried to link it to the difference between Taldor and Taldan. The main trust of my idea was that the Azlanti "-th" had turned into the Taldan "-r," which was then dropped after other consonants, like "-n".
I've been playing with other sound changes, and I'm curious to see what people think!
Etymology of the name Azlant:
So, while thinking about the relationship between -th and -r, I hit upon the idea that Taldane-speakers were actually mispronouncing the name of the legendary lost city.
The primary contrast in Azlanti consonants, according to this line of thought, was not between voiced consonants (like "b" or "g") and voiceless consonants (like "p" and "k"), but between aspirated consonants (like the t at the start of "top") and unaspirated consonants (like the t's in "start").
The aspirated consonants subsequently became voiced consonants in some positions (like between vowels) and voiceless fricatives (like the "-th" sound) in others, leading to some confusion among Taldane-speaking scholars as to how they were pronounced.
Accordingly, here's my idea for the origin of "Azlant," the Taldane form of the name of the ancient empire. I'm using IPA symbols, so aspirated consonants are represented with a superscript "ʰ," and "j" here represents the sound made by "y" in English.
The Azlanti name for themselves (in the nominative case) was "Ajlitʰ," plural "Ajlitʰan," meaning, more or less, "the people." The short-hand term they used for the lands they ruled was "Ajlentʰan," meaning "of or belonging to the people."
The element -tʰ- here marks that the noun is animate (rather than an inanimate object), since the noun actually denotes the people, rather than the place.
From that point, the changes are as follows:
Etymology of the name Thassilon:
For this one, I'm assuming that the name was borrowed into Taldane from Varisian, since the Varisians have a much more direct historical connection to Thassilon.
Thassilonian, by this line of thinking, was actually a fairly conservative descendant of the earliest Azlanti language, retaining some sound distinctions that had been lost in Azlanti by the time of the earthfall. Among these were a set of "voiced aspirated" or "breathy-voiced" consonants, similar to one of the sets of consonants reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European.
The Thassilonian elite referred to themselves as "Tʰantʰon Gʰin-Alintʰ," roughly "Gʰin's good people." "Gʰin," of course, would ultimately be known to history by his Taldanized name "Xin." In the same mode as their Azlanti forebears, they called their land "Tʰantʰon Gʰin-Alantʰ," "of or belonging to Xin's good people."
From there, the changes were as follows:
For Taldane letters, I'd consult p.20 of Pathfinder #43 (Carrion Crown pt.1) and p.184 of Ultimate Campaign.
Interesting! I have to wonder how well the Taldan alphabet fits spoken Taldane. For comparison, English uses the Latin alphabet, which has 5 characters that typically represent vowels. Classical Latin distinguished 5 different vowels, which came in long and short forms, so this system made perfect sense at the time.
English, on the other hand, distinguishes somewhere between 9 and 14 different vowel sounds, depending on the dialect, and as a result the alphabet fails to distinguish between the sounds in, say, "trap" and "palm," or "foot" and "goose."
Since Taldane adopted the Jistkan alphabet, I could see it having a similar problem with spelling. On the other hand, it could be more like ancient Greek, which took the symbols from the Phonecian alphabet but re-assigned many of the sounds in order to fit their own language.
Of course, sound changes over time can spoil even the most elegant of phonetic writing systems...
I had a sudden inspiration and started toying with a little grammar. Under this system, Taldane marks nouns for 4 cases:
Nominative (NOM): Subject nouns and pronouns
Accusative (ACC): Direct objects
Genitive (GEN): Marks possession or association
Dative (DAT): Absorbed an earlier Locative case and now marks both indirect objects and nouns describing where the action in a sentence is happening.
There are also three "genders" for nouns, roughly organized in the same fashion as the Thassilonian rune systems:
Positive: Most animate beings, virtues, positive emotions
Negative: Undead, monsters, evil outsiders, sins, negative emotions
Neutral: Most inanimate objects, miscellaneous abstract concepts
"Positive" nouns also have honorific forms in the Nominative and Accusative cases, which are used to show deference to the person or thing described.
Case is marked with suffixes. I'm using IPA notation, but I'll try to make the pronunciation clear:
*NOM (regular): -iɹ ("ear") or -oɹ ("ore")
*NOM (honorific): -odn̩ ("Oden")
*ACC (regular): -ɚ (like the "ur" in "nurse")
*ACC (honorific): -dn̩
*DAT: -eɪn (rhymes with "pain"), stress shifts to final syllable
*NOM: -ʌg (rhymes with "thug")
*DAT: -eɪn, stress shifts to final syllable
*NOM: -i (rhymes with "free") or -ə (like the a in "sofa")
*ACC: -Ø (unmarked)
*DAT: -eɪn, stress shifts to final syllable
Using these suffixes, we can derive some proper names:
Taldor [taldoɹ] (similar to "tall door")
From the root tald-
Aroden [aɹodn̩] (ahh-road-n')
From the root aɹ-
Oppara [apaɹə] (ahp-are-uh)
From the roots ap-, "city" and aɹ-, "Aroden
Absalom [absalom] (ahb-sahl-ohm)
This one is based off a different dialect of Common, wherein the "p" in ap- has become a "b", the cluster "dn" in the honorifics has been simplified to "n," and "n" has become "m" after the rounded vowel "o."
The roots are ab-, "city" and sal-, "center," and the declension uses the positive honorific, because Absalom is special.
Awesome! I studied anthopology myself, and never touched linguistics while I was in college. In the past year or so, however, it's become something of an obsession of mine.
To start things off (and for the sake of giving the thread a bump), I figured I'd put together some notes regarding what we've been told about a few of the major current and historical languages of the Inner Sea Region, and some of my speculation about them.
The more-or-less direct ancestor of Taldane and several smaller languages, Azlanti is a moribund language spoken fluently only by the Elves of Mordant Spire.
There is also, evidently, at least one variety of academic and liturgical Azlanti still used in Chelish opera and the scriptures of Aroden.
At least two phrases in Azlanti have been published: "Ex Prothex" evidently means "from the first" in (presumably) the variety of Azlanti spoken by Aroden circa 1 AR, and "Saventh-Yhi" is recognizable to modern scholars as meaning "Savith's grave." The contrast between Sav-ith and Sav-enth would seem to indicate some kind of affix and/or apophony at work, and the hyphen might indicate that nouns were compounded together to form possessive constructions.
Ancestral to Varisian, Shoanti, and Giant, Thassilonian is described as being "the first language to develop three grammatical genders." This would seem to indicate that Azlanti, and possibly other similarly ancient languages like Draconic and Elven, distinguished somewhere between zero and two classes of noun. It also implies that this innovation was subsequently adopted into other languages, possibly including Taldane.
Thassalonian was written using three distinct sets of "runes," which seem to be mostly logographic in nature. This was evidently a more complex system than the one used to write Azlanti, but it's probably safe to assume that there were many similarities between the two systems.
Not much has actually been said, as far as I can tell, about the common tongue of the Inner Sea. If nothing else, the adventure "Rasputin Must Die" implies that the languages of Golarion do not, in fact, significantly resemble those of our Earth, so there's no reason to believe that Taldane is necessarily anything like English.
It is evidently highly conservative, apparently retaining at least the same basic grammatical structure as old Azlanti despite the passage of 10,000 years since the destruction of Azlant. Nevertheless, it is apparently different enough that the grammar of Halfling can be recognizably more similar to that of the first human empire, and it is written with a phonetic alphabet derived from that developed in the Jistka Imperium circa -4,000 AR.
Actually, that ended up being longer than I thought. I do tend to ramble. :P
I'd love to hear anybody else's comments or observations!
I get the impression that the failure of prophecy is something specifically tied to Golarion itself, a side effect of the death of a god so intimately tied to that world and it's subsequent cosmic shift toward the Abyss. It's conceivable that the defining feature of the Age of Lost Omens is being caused by some kind of cosmic dissonance radiating from places like the Worldwound, Tianjing, the Tanglebriar, and parts of the Mwangi Expanse, where primordial manifestations of evil and chaos spill over into the material plane. Kind of a "the dark side clouds everything" sort of deal.
Having altogether too much time on my hands, I've lately developed an interest in linguistics and constructed languages. Looking at the old Languages of Golarion thread, it appears that there are at least a few other folks around here who share that interest, and have some neat ideas about what the languages of the Pathfinder setting might be like.
I've been toying with some similar ideas of my own, so I figured I'd poke my head up and see if anybody would be interested in collaborating on something a little more in-depth. I think it could be a lot of fun and, if nothing else, it'd be a unique opportunity to geek out on two of my favorite topics (linguistics and fantasy setting lore) at the same time! :P
I'd lean towards "Jan" as well - going with "Yan" would sound more Scandinavian to me, rather than Germanic...
Actually, as far as I know, "j" always represents the English "y" sound in standard German. German words with an English-style "j" sound are all loans from other languages, and often have weird spellings, like "dschungel," which is pronounced more-or-less the same as the English "jungle."
As far as I can tell from skimming Wikipedia, English is about the only Germanic language that natively has the sound we associate with the letter j. That's not entirely surprising; in several ways, English is sort of a weird outlier within the language family.
That said, the Pathfinder developers are English-speakers, so I should probably stop overthinking this. :P
Slavery in the Pathfinder World and its implications... (series of weird questions regarding a controversial topic)
One issue here is that the term "slavery" gets attached to a diverse group of institutions in human history, some of which have been, arguably, less monstrous than others. For instance, in the last couple centuries of of the Western Roman Empire slaves were commonly allowed the right to complain of cruel or unfair treatment by their masters, and masters who abused or killed their slaves could be prosecuted under the law. Islamic law likewise established standards for the treatment of slaves, though mostly in the form of recommendations to slaveowners, rather than enforceable requirements.
I don't have too much of a problem with a slave-owning society being Neutral in alignment. In such a society, cruelty toward slaves would certainly be a reality, but would probably be discouraged, socially if not legally. Slavery and the slave trade would be regulated to curb the worst abuses of the system, and there would probably be opportunities for at least some slaves to eventually become free.
After all, Golarion is a historically-inspired premodern world. Floggings and other physical abuse are probably used as punishments in many militaries and other discipline-oriented organizations across the planet. Common punishments for criminals probably include things like branding and maiming that would be considered cruel and unusual today. Apprentices probably have few rights while serving their masters, and the lower classes in most countries are extremely poor, with little to no opportunity for social mobility. In a place like Taldor, being a slave probably isn't all that different from being a peasant or poor city-dweller, and might, in some cases, be a more comfortable position.
The protagonist of the Web Fiction story Hell or High Water is a Mwangi huntress who fights with a pair of mambeles, depicted here. Ultimate Equipment classifies these as a type of Hunga Munga (multi-bladed throwing weapons), and there are probably many other variations on the theme used throughout the Expanse.
Other weapons thematically appropriate to the Mwangi Expanse might include:
boomerang (representing throwing clubs like the East African rungu), longsword (various types of one- and two-handed slashing swords were used in irl West Africa), machete (Serpent's Skull has an adamantine machete that is treated as a short sword that does slashing damage), shotel, throwing axe (like the Congolese nzappa zap), and, of course all manner of bows, clubs, knives, and spears.
Wearing any armor at all in a tropical environment can be a liability, and armor check penalties interfere with the stealth on which hunters rely. Therefore, Mwangi warriors probably rely on agility, cover, and shields, and eschew body armor.
Aside from the aforementioned khopesh, if Osirion's army is much at all like those of the Egyptian Pharaohs at the height of their power, the most important weapon would be the composite bow. Other important ancient Egyptian weapons include boomerangs ("throw sticks"), short spears, and slings.
Due to the intense desert heat, I would imagine that Osiriani infantry probably don't usually wear armor, though heavy shields would be appropriate. Charioteers and/or cavalrymen and other elite soldiers might wear scale or similar medium armor.
I always got the impression that the space inside the Starstone Cathedral was kind of extra-dimensional anyway, as big or small as it needed to be to properly test those who enter.
Hmm... it might actually be an interesting twist for someone to enter the cathedral, only to find that the interior space seems to consist of a single, featureless, closet-sized room. There would be some trick to it, of course, but it might be quite a shock to someone expecting to be greeted by some grand and fantastic sight.
Forget Pharasma; I'd let Calistria have "mercy" on my soul any day. ;D
More on topic, I find it interesting that people seem to perceive gender as being somehow a more fundamental category than species. The reincarnate spell can cause a human to be reborn as a kobold. One would imagine that the physiological and psychological differences between those two species, one a medium-sized diurnal placental mammal and the other a small, darkness-loving reptile, would be far greater than those between a human man and woman.
Maybe they could come into contact with some long-lost artifact, or be hit with a strange, unstable magical effect that causes them to become "unstuck" from space, and perhaps even time as well. At regular intervals (say, once a week, or once a month) they involuntarily teleport to a new location in the world, while ordinary teleportation effects don't seem to work for them at all.
Trapped in this endless cycle, they find themselves leaping from place to place, putting things right that once went wrong, and hoping each time that their next leap... will be the leap home. B)
This sounds interesting; feel free to email me - I'll PM you my address.
My personal favorite potential world-conquering baddies in the setting are the serpentfolk. I've played around some with ideas for what a full-scale serpentfolk reconquest of the overworld would look like.
Assuming that all of the sleeping serpentfolk elders are awoken, I figure they'd start by marshaling their forces in Seksmina and putting their house in order by taking on the drow.
Elves, drow or otherwise, tend to be hard to control and make poor slaves, but the chaotic and self-destructive nature of drow society would probably make their empire relatively easy for the Coils of Ydersius (serpentfolk reincarnated into the bodies of other humanoids) to infiltrate and destroy from within.
I suspect that the serpentfolk would find drow fleshwarping very interesting, and as masters of the arcane they would probably be able to figure it out fairly quickly once they'd subverted the great houses of the drow, and perhaps even improve on it somewhat. The re-conquest of Sekamina could bolster the serpentfolk armies with legions of driders and ghonhatine and the like.
Still, a simple military invasion of the surface world would be far too inelegant for the serpentfolk. To begin with, they would probably spend years deploying Coil infiltrators and dominating powerful individuals on the surface as they bred their armies of aapoph-caste warriors and fleshwarped nightmares thousands of feet below the surface.
Casting Cheliax and Taldor into civil war would probably not be beyond their power, nor would sparking a new war between Taldor and Qadira or between Cheliax and Andoran.
Perhaps their greatest opportunity, however, might lie in the Hold of Belkzen, where the brute strength of the orcish warlords would do little to save them from the machinations of a race of geniuses who can dominate minds with a thought. Like the Whispering Tyrant before them, they might, over time, gain power over an orcish horde of unprecedented size, and send their bloodthirsty, expendable thralls into a suicidal frenzy of carnage against the nearby lands held by civilized humanoids.
Only once the powers that be on the surface had exhausted themselves fighting one another would the serpentfolk-led army of horrors emerge from the Mobhad Leigh to usher in a new Age of Serpents.
Having glanced over this thread, I've reached a startling conclusion!
I know who the decemverate are! Their members are as follows:
1. A Veiled Master
I don't think there's been much more published on Andoren politics than you already have. I suspect, since the republic has a very early-USA vibe to it, that there would be some manner of division of powers between the supreme elect and the people's council in the interest of placing checks and balances on any one governmental agency. I would guess that each municipality would have some manner of town council as well, though it might only serve an advisory function, with the mayor holding ultimate authority.
As for what counts as a municipality, I would guess that not all of them are the same size. Andoran is actually a pretty big country, geographically speaking, so there are probably all sorts of unremakable villages and small towns that don't show up on the map or get mentioned in print.
The recent storyline within the Andoren faction in Pathfinder Society involves corruption within the People's Council, so that's certainly a problem. I would assume that council members aren't above the law, so they could presumably be prosecuted if there were evidence of them taking bribes or abusing their power. If nothing else, the church of Abadar takes a very dim view of corruption in government and the courts, and they're pretty strong in Andoran.
Joe M. wrote:
Good point. I, for one, think that Abadar is pretty cute. :)
I think Kofusachi is sort of a love god, though he mostly seems to be associated with happiness in a more general sense.
In the real world, mythological figures embodying love and beauty do seem to be disproportionately female cross-culturally, though a quick search of Wikipedia indicates that Kāmadeva and Yue Lao are noteworthy love-gods in India and China, respectively.
One option would be to play said character as a total hedonist who takes pleasure from shocking others, and takes pride in being good at it. A sort of bored and cynical type who doesn't really want to hurt anyone, but loves to make people squirm, and gets off on transgressing social norms. After all, what greater transgression could their be than devoting oneself to demon-worship? Calistria is positively mainstream by comparison, and nothing's more boring than the mainstream. If people are horrified and revolted by you... well, that's kind of the point now, isn't it?
In order to make the character fit into a PG-13 rated game, you could go the route that most TV shows and movies seem to go with prostitute and dominatrix type characters. Be sultry, worldly, and confident, and drop suggestive comments and innuendos wherever you can, but always imply your perversions, rather than saying or doing anything explicit.
There doesn't really seem to be a direct parallel to the Gaels in Golarion. The ethnic groups of the Inner Sea Region tend to encompass several different cultural paralels; The Ulfen are sort of Germanic/Slavic, with a strong Scandinavian or Russian flavor, depending on the country; the Chelaxians mostly blend elements of Mediterranean romance language speaking cultures (the Romans, the Spanish, the Italians); the Taldans are (perhaps bizarrely) sort of (Byzantine) Greek/French; the Kelishites are Persian/Arabian, and so on.
The Celts, however, seem to be mostly unrepresented. The Kellids of old Sarkoris (the land that is now the Worldwound) might be the closest fit, but they're definitely more Conan the Barbarian than Conán mac Morna.
Cities that float on water might be interesting, too, as a more fantastical version of Tenochtitlan. As I recall, the (highly inaccurate) Golarion world map shows a large inland sea in north-central Arcadia; maybe there could be some manner of mesoamerican-esque empire based around the lake, wherein the floating capital city "migrates" cyclically from province to province.
One thing I really love about Golarion is that it's got plenty of grime to it, without it venturing into Warhammer-style grimdark territory. Slavery is an accepted fact of life in many parts of the setting, rulers are often cruel or incompetent, crime and corruption eat at the heart of even the good-aligned nations, the gods are distant and sometimes difficult to understand, and genuinely unsettling acts of violence and cruelty take place all the time.
At the same time, however, there are genuine heroes, good and honest men and women, and virtuous leaders even in most of the "evil" parts of the world. There's hope as well as despair, light as well as darkness, and I feel like the writers have done a good job of striking a balance between the two. The imperfectness, for lack of a better term, of both good and evil in the setting, and the fact that the writers drew inspiration from the crimes and cruelties of history as well as its wonders and exoticisms makes Golarion feel more real to me.
The party in my Serpent's Skull game visited the government district third, after first dealing with the military and mercantile districts. I had made more than a few modifications to the adventure as written, one of which was to replace the Charau-Ka in the military district with a tribe of Umasi, since I figured the group would have had their fill of ape-men for a while after their visit to Tazion.
Thanks to the silver tongue of the party's paladin, a devotee of Abadar, and a minor magical item that allowed him to plead his case before the aggressive Umasi attacked, the group was ultimately able to secure an alliance with the harvestmen rather than fighting them. As a result, there was little to tip off the self-absorbed Akarundo to the presence of a disruptive new force in the city. Furthermore, the party approached the government district from the south, using magical flight to "hop" between islands, and stumbled across the rakshasa's lair before encountering any of his followers.
Having minimal time to prepare, Akarundo sensed the presence of unfamiliar intruders and donned his human disguise just in time to greet them. The rakshasa failed to immediately sense that the paladin could detect his evil nature (the paladin's strong will having blocked his thought-reading abilities), and a brief exchange of words took place as the the two sides tried to gauge the motives of the other.
The battle was joined when another member of the party, the alchemist, realized that the creature was trying to subtly cast a spell to influence the mind of the party rogue. The rogue was effectively beguiled, and stood by uselessly during much of the fighting, but the paladin was upon Akarundo in a flash. Between the paladin's smite, the alchemist's bombs, and the rakshasa's failure to effectively cast defensively, the fight was over fairly quickly.
Of course, when the serpentfolk discovered what has become of their "god," pandemonium broke out in the city, and the party found their alliance with the Umasi tested somewhat sooner than they might have hoped.
I second Hugo Weaving as Abadar, though that does beg the question of who would play Norgorber. Cillian Murphy might be a good choice, though not if he's already playing Seltyiel. :P
For Asmodeus, I have to go with Vincent Price, hands-down.
For Cayden, I agree that Robert Downey Jr would be a good choice, though I think a young Harrison Ford would be awesome.
Irori is a tricky one; Irrfan Khan might do a good job. He was pretty good as a semi-mystical, sagely-type character in Life of Pi, and Irori is supposed to be from fantasy India.
David Bowie as Nethys is, I think, a truly inspired choice. Now if only we can figure out a way to work muppets into the equation. :P
Nazanin Boniadi might make a good Sarenrae; she's got some acting chops and she's an official spokesperson for Amnesty International. Plus, she's Iranian-American; I think it would be a shame to just cast some pretty, anglo-American actress.
For Shelyn, it might be interesting to have multiple actresses play the role, since her appearance is supposedly subjective (to some degree), depending on the viewer's ideal conception of beauty. Still, if I were to pick one, I think I would go with a young Audrey Hepburn, as much for her humanitarian work as her appearance.
Helena Bonham Carter might make a good Urgathoa; the fiction I've read makes her followers out to be a bit camp, and she seems to fit the sort of gleeful insanity that Carter does best.
They're actually well into book 4 now, but here's the lineup from my game:
LG Aasimar Paladin of Abadar; a man of few words by nature, though capable of great eloquence when it it called for, he boarded the Jenivere in Port Peril, of all places, and even after more than a year together his companions know little about his past. Nevertheless, he has proven both an unfailingly loyal friend and a holy terror on the battlefield.
CG Dwarf Rogue; originally a human from the streets of Port Peril, Davek exchanged what little money he had for passage on the Jenivere in order to escape to people he'd crossed in earning it. Despite his sketchy past and larcenous habits, Davek is fiercely loyal to those who have earned his trust and friendship, as he demonstrated when he died in battle with a rampaging tyrannosaurus that beset the party's camp deep in the Screaming Jungle. Reincarnated as a dwarf, Davek's long-term memory has become somewhat muddled, and he now styles himself "Davek Hammerhand" and clings to a quixotic delusion of racial heritage and pride.
N Tiefling Alchemist; a scholar of dubious origins who boarded the Jenivere in Bloodcove, the man who calls himself Mox frequently makes his companions more than a little bit uncomfortable. The Tiefling looks like a grotesque amalgamation of beast and man, never seems to sleep, has a habit of collecting grisly "samples" from slain monsters, and performs unnatural flesh-warping experiments on his own body. To make matters worse, he's given to strange, unintelligible mutterings and half-joking pretensions of megalomania, and labors under the strange delusion that most every unexpected event in his life is tied to some manner of family curse that he refuses to elaborate on. Nevertheless, after more than a year of traveling together he has never been anything but a reliable comrade, and his bombs, elixirs, and ingenious magical devices have helped the party out of more than a few tight spots.
Aside from those three, Nkechi, an NPC cleric of Gozreh from book 2, has rounded out the group since they took him on as a guide in their expedition to the heart of the Mwangi Expanse.
A couple other (PC) castaways never made it off of Smuggler's Shiv, because their players dropped out of the game:
Keetook: A kobold with a gun who stowed away on the Jenivere, but who found his fragile constitution ill-suited to the rigors of surviving on the Shiv
Mirelda: An elven witch and adherent of the Green Faith who boarded the Jenivere in Magnimar but didn't survive long after the shipwreck.
Access to the Pathfinder Chronicles is supposed to be restricted to society members. If I recall correctly, according to The Compass Stone they're compiled and printed by a staff of blinded convicts provided by the city of Absalom, and distributed only to Pathfinder lodges. Any Pathfinder has the right to consult the Chronicles at a lodge library, but lodges are, for the most part, strictly off-limits to the general public.
Some volumes of the Chronicles (mostly the earliest ones) have been leaked to the public over the years, and it has been suggested that the Decemverate allowed that to happen in order to inspire people to seek out and join the society. However, sharing copies of the Chronicles with people outside the society is a serious offense.
One odd bit of lore that's easy to miss are the Star Towers, which were built by Dou-Bral before he became Zon-Kuthon to help close the wounds in Golarion left by Rovagug's imprisonment and strengthen his prison. They have since become great sacred sites for the worshipers of Zon-Kuthon, and places of evil where the barrier between the material plane and the plane of shadows grows thin.
The Pathfinder Society is explicitly not good, and the secrets they gather are for members' eyes only. They don't seek to educate those outside the society, and the artifacts that go into their vaults usually never leave them again. When they help out somebody outside the society, it's to pay a debt or in exchange for something they want.
There's a certain arrogance built into the Society's basic philosophy. They don't trust "civilians" with the dangerous knowledge and power they've accrued, making them available only to those who make it through the society's fairly intense training and vetting process.
I'm considering introducing the Mythic rules into my Serpent's Skull game, albiet later on than you guys have suggested. When the final Mythic rules came out my group was already right around the start of chapter 4, though I've been going out of my way to emphasize that the PCs have been brought together and seemingly guided by destiny and the gods toward Saventh-Yhi.
My current thought is that, if I do use the mythic rules, I'll have them kick in once the PCs enter Ilmuria, and I'll confine mythic adversaries and allies to the serpentfolk city. I'm also planning on depicting the city as almost miraculously unchanged from ancient times, its terrible glory waxing bright once again as the time of Ydersius' return draws near.
Basically, I'm running with the idea that mythic heroes and monsters belong to a bygone age of Golarion's history, an age when gods like Ydersius walked the earth. As Vyr-Azul works the ancient magics to bring about the return of Ydersius, so too do other ancient powers begin to awaken in Ilmuria, and the PCs find themselves bolstered with the strength of the ancient heroes who first laid the serpent-god low.
The Pathfinders have somewhere in the neighborhood of three dozen full-fledged lodges, all but one of them in the Inner Sea Region, and a number of other, smaller safe houses and the like. Pathfinderwiki has pages for 38 venture captains from published sources, but I suspect there are more, since every lodge is run by a venture captain but not every venture captain runs a lodge.
Each pathfinder reports to a specific venture captain; if we assume that the average venture captain is responsible for, say, 4 or 5 field agents (the "assumed" size of an adventuring party), then a ballpark estimate of the number of active society members might be something like 300, including venture captains, field agents, the decemverate, and "seekers" like Osprey. That's a *very* rough figure, though, based on a lot of assumptions on my part.
The Aspis Consortium might have a similar number of actual members. On the other hand, the Aspis presumably command a huge number of hired goons, employees, and other servitors who don't have a badge of membership.
As for an influence map, the Society is based in Absalom and had a lot of lodges on the Inner Sea coast and up the Sellen river. Their presence in Cheliax is pretty minimal these days following the fall of the Westcrown lodge, its re-establishment as a puppet of the Thrune government, and its second abandonment. Likewise, the Society has all but pulled out of Sargava after they got sick of the armies of Mzali burning down their lodge in Kalabuto. They're outright banned from Galt and Molthune and are, at the very least, unwelcome in Geb, Kyonin, and Nidal, and their lodge in Nantambo is secret and would not otherwise be allowed. Razmiran They do, however, have a lodge in the Tian metropolis of Goka, as well as inexpensive magical methods of traveling there, so Tian Xia is relatively open to them.
The Aspis Consortium, on the other hand, is headquartered in the cities of southern Cheliax, and basically controls the city of Bloodcove on the Mwangi coast. Their influence appears to be strongest in Garund, but they also have trading interests throughout the Inner Sea and in Varisia. They don't have much of a foothold in Sargava because an alliance of local guilds has so far been successful in blocking their attempts to take over the market, but they definitely have an interest in the riches of the lost colony. As far as I know, their presence in Goka is minimal to nonexistent; Tian Xia has it's own trade consortia and crime syndicates more than capable of keeping the Aspis at bay.
As far as I can recall, we have no dates for events that happened prior to the earthfall, so it's hard to say just how long the empires of Azlant and Thassilon (or the empire of the Serpentfolk, for that matter) lasted. It seems like you might be justified in hand-waving contradictory sources by saying that the fragmentary evidence that survives from that bygone age is itself confusing and contradictory.
Maybe it's two-thirds dragon, like how Gilgamesh was two-thirds divine. :P
The results of the Milgram Experiment, the shock experiment you're referring to, have increasingly been called into question. It appears that Dr. Milgram manipulated the results to fit his preconceptions, and several people who had participated in the test independently claimed that Milgram had violated the conditions he described in his paper by telling them the shocks weren't real or repeating his commands dozens of times before allowing them to leave. Overall, more than 50% of test subjects still disobeyed.
That being said, there's still the question of stress. A good character is good under even dire circumstances; they wouldn't deliver a seemingly lethal shock even if you held a gun to their head. A neutral character might break down crying and hate themselves afterwords, but their instinct for self-preservation would outweigh their commitment to protecting others. An evil character wouldn't be particularly bothered by following the order to kill a seemingly innocent person they'd never met, and might even be morbidly fascinated to watch them die.
At least, that's how I see it.
The Elves don't really care, save for one law. Any Elf that reaches the borders of Kyonin, is considered free of his slavery. And slave trading isn't allowed in the one open port.
I would guess that the elves don't trade slaves among themselves, either, so that means that there's no slave trade in Kyonin, save perhaps some kind of underground thing. I would guess that the reason they don't free slaves brought to the open port by traders is that they don't want a big influx of non-elven refugees. Still, considering the individualistic, freedom-loving, and good-hearted nature of elves, I suspect that some slave-owning visitors have gotten up in the morning to find some of their "property" missing.
With regard to dwarves, I'm fairly certain that Torag considers slavery an abomination, considering that it's a big component of Droskar's portfolio.
Turning a body into a zombie *must* interfere with the soul in some way, because any person whose body has *ever* been turned into an undead creature cannot be returned to life without very powerful magic.
In point of fact, that's exactly what it creates. When a prey animal dies, it feeds predators, scavengers, and decomposers, giving them life. The plant takes unliving elemental matter and turns it into a living thing which can then be sustainence for other living things.
Nothing eats the undead, and the undead don't need to eat. Creatures they kill become more undead, so that the corpse can no longer sustain life. They don't even poop and return nutrients to the soil. They're a dead-end in the food web, a nightmarish ecological disaster.
Plus, I'm willing to embrace enough moral relativism in my games to accept that "Good" is defined from the perspective of living beings, not unliving magical construct, intelligent though they may be.