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.
Look, childbirth is a magical and wondrous thing, and I can accept that the biological parents of a child have a very strong bond with that child. However, I also know that there are parents of adopted children, children born from a surrogate mother, and step-parents of children who have lost one of their biological parents one way or another, who give their children all the love they have to give and do everything they can to ensure their well being.
I'm not accusing anybody of denying that fact, per-se,but let me just ask this: if you're willing to accept so many different kinds of families already, why should the junk between the parents' legs matter so much?
And yes, I know that there are other differences between men and women, but regardless of those differences every study I know of has shown that children raised in same-sex households are no less healthy or happy than children raised by opposite-sex couples.
From a mechanical standpoint, it's important that planetouched be visually recognizable as such. Being able to pass for human is potentially a major tactical advantage, since it means that enemy spellcasters may waste turns casting things like Hold Person and Dominate Person on you, which will have no effect at all on a native outsider.
I believe that under the rules for the knowledge skill, a planetouched individual, as an outsider with 0 racial HD, can be recognized as such with a DC 10 Knowledge (planes) check, which can be made untrained. That means that a commoner of average intelligence will have a decent chance of pretty much immediately recognizing an Aasimar, Tiefing, Undine, or what have you, upon first meeting them.
From a rules perspective, at least, planetouched are *much* less human than an elf or a halfling, because they're not even the same creature type.
Okay, so, setting aside the odious assumptions built into the term "natural marriage," you're making a big assumption there. Just what biological qualities are you talking about?
Are you talking about the ability to have children? Should infertile couples have their marriages declared null and void?
Are you talking about intercourse involving both a penis and a vagina? Should other forms of intercourse be disallowed by law to married couples?
The truth of the matter is that there's really no fundamental difference between a married homosexual couple and a married heterosexual couple. Both couples live together, love each other, share their lives and their possessions, and may choose to raise children if they so desire.
I'm not sure if this is a hard-and-fast rule, but literally every good undead being I've seen in the setting has been a ghost.
Negative energy might not be evil per-se, but it is literally the negation of life. If you give negative energy form and strength and the implements to harm the living, that's exactly what it will do. Uncontrolled mindless undead don't just stand around doing nothing; when they sense the living, they move to destroy it, because that's what their basic nature demands. Intelligent undead do worse than merely extinguishing life; in many cases, they spread unlife by causing those they kill to rise as more beings like themselves.
Not all are malicious in their actions, but the simple fact of the matter is that positive energy sustains life and negative energy destroys it. And to bring a being into the world whose basic nature is only to kill and destroy can be said to be an evil act.
To me, the conflict with Qadira is just another Byzantine parallel - Taldor has suffered terribly from more than a century of war with middle-easterny foes, and has accomplished nothing more than to maintain a fragile status-quo. They just better hope that some fantasy equivalent of the Turks doesn't come and supplant the Keleshites. :P
There are probably halfling slaves in *most* countries in the setting, at least most of the "civilized" ones with cities and agriculture and the like. Traditional wisdom in the setting seems to hold that halflings make good slaves, and slavery is practiced almost everywhere in the Inner Sea.
Slavery is explicitly banned in Andoran and the River Kingdoms, and the sale of slaves is illegal in the Mwangi city of Senghor. I'm fairly certain that the Elves and Dwarves condemn slavery as well, though the Drow and Duergar obviously have no problem with it. That's pretty much it for countries that condemn slavery.
There probably aren't any slaves in Nirmathas either, but the Nirmathi don't seem to have much use for the kind of sweeping government proclamations that and Andorens are fond of. Other strongly good-aligned nations probably frown on the practice, and as I recall thralls in the Lands of the Linnorm Kings have more rights and protections than slaves in some other nations. And, of course, in Geb mindless undead fill most of the roles normally filled by slaves, but all of the living in that country seem to be treated as second-class citizens at best, and livestock at worst.
So, as far as I know, slavery is practiced in Taldor, Qadira, every Garundi nation, most of the Mwangi Expanse, Sargava, the Shackles, most of Varisia, Molthune, Druma, Ustalav, Razmiran, Brevoy, Numeria... the list goes on. And where there are slaves, there are probably some halfling slaves.
Charisma is a tricky stat to characterize, because a low score doesn't just mean you're not witty or charming. It means you're not *scary* either, and also (if you're an NPC, at least) that you're easily manipulated through Diplomacy.
So when a character with single-digit charisma comes into the room, people don't see a slavering death-dealer (unless you've put a lot of points into intimidate). What they see is a dumpy, unimpressive looking guy who mumbles and fidgets and probably smells bad. Not, like, frighteningly bad, just "wow, I really don't want to be in the same room with this person" bad.
To put it another way, having a low Charisma and no social skills means that, even if you're the legendary savior of all worlds known and unknown, when you show up some place everyone looks disappointed and mutters something about how they thought you'd be taller.
Evil Midnight Lurker wrote:
*Valenhall* has been in Arcadia for 5,000 years. Valenhall is basically magical viking heaven on earth, guarded by Norns and Valkyries and every other Norse thing you can think of, and populated entirely by possibly undying Ulfen kings and their retainers. They do *not* have anything like normal relations with the natives, and sure as hell aren't trading horses and iron to them.
It's unclear how long the other colonies have been in Arcadia, but it's been explicitly stated that no settlement other than Valenhall has lasted more than 100 years. They are *extremely* isolated, because Arcadia is farther away from Avistan than North America is from Europe, and there are crazy magical and monstrous navigational hazards in the way.
In short, I think it would be entirely believeable for people in most of Arcadia to not have been affected by Avistani discovery of their continent in the slightest.
Other than that, I would point out that weapons made from fragile materials are really quite competative with metal weapons in Pathfinder. Masterwork obsidian weapons don't even have the fragile quality. That doesn't really make any sense; real obsidian and flint tools and weapons are good for one use only, unless there's enough material there to make something new when they break or go dull; but it does mean that a masterwork obsidian weapon is actually slightly better than a corresponding masterwork steel weapon, since it weighs less.
I, for one, would love to have an in-setting excuse to use "stone age" weapons; the related feats are pretty cool!
The designers seem to have taken the Byzantine comparison pretty far themselves. The Taldan people look (roughly) Greek, many of the example Taldan names are taken from historical figures in the Eastern Roman Empire, Taldor is described (as I recall) as having a "senatorial class" called the "bearded ones," a Byzantine term, and the Grand Prince is guarded by the "Ulfen Guard," whose description in the books makes them sound basically identical to the historical Varangian Guard in Constantinople, all the way down to their wages being "as much as they can carry out of the Imperial treasury."
Then again, it's clear that not every element of Taldan society is inspired by Basileia Rhōmaiōn. Descriptions of the Taldan aristocracy make it sound like Taldor operates on a feudal system more similar to that of medieval western Europe than the governmental bureaucracies of Constantinople (though there are certainly still plenty of bureaucrats). Most significantly, the owners of large provincial estates in the Eastern Empire don't seem to have been permitted to raise their own armies, whereas the vassals of the Grand Prince of Taldor clearly do.
I would say, then, that Taldor is probably socially a lot like the Byzantine Empire, but with internal politics more like those of medieval France. I would shy away from making a close comparison to Versailles-era France - I get the impression that the Grand Prince has much less power over his own vassals than Louis XIV, which is probably the main reason that Taldor hasn't reclaimed any of its former territory from Galt or Andoran.
Well, the closest cities to the Stolen Lands on the southern side are Pitax and Mivon. Pitax was, as far as I recall, basically founded by outlaws and has already seen more than a few petty tyrants come and go as of the default "present" of the setting. The place has a distinctly chaotic character and the main gods worshiped are Calistria and Desna, so it might be perfect if you want it to be something of a hotbed of dissent.
Mivon is about twice as big as Pitax in terms of population, and is run at "present" by a splinter sect of Aldori Swordlords who left Brevoy after refusing to swear fealty to Choral the Conqueror. It's noted for being a particularly rough town because it attracts skilled and/or arrogant warriors from across the Inner Sea Region, who come seeking to learn the secrets of the Swordlords.
Of course, the Empire would most certainly have had an interest in getting rid of the Swordlords when they moved into the area. Some carriers of that martial tradition might still be around, possibly in hiding, providing a ready source of fighterish character backgrounds or allies for the rebellion. On the other hand, Mivon might have resisted Imperial takeover fiercely enough that it's been basically wiped off the map, reduced to a ruin and possible adventure location.
What would be a good first scenario to get PCs embroiled in the conflict and give them that push?
One idea that springs to mind is to have an altruistic local cleric captured by the Imperial authorities and sentenced to death. Maybe he/she's a cleric of Iomedae who has been denying the divinity of the so-called god-king to her flock, or a cleric of a goodly non-human deity (Torag springs to mind), or simply one who has been casting banned high-level magics for the benefit of the community.
The PCs should have a personal stake in the matter; the cleric could have healed or otherwise aided them, their families, or those they care about. A religiously-inclined character may look to the accused cleric as a mentor, or possibly even a parent-figure. Maybe the cleric ran a shelter for those orphaned by the empire's wars, and some or all of the PCs were raised there. If you want to do campaign traits, every character could have one tied to the particular way in which they are connected to the accused cleric.
The first adventure could begin when the cleric is captured by the authorities. Another NPC who cares about the cleric might call the PCs together, convinced (rightly) that the cleric is destined for a short show trial followed by execution, unless the PCs do something about it first. From there they have to plan and execute a jailbreak with a short and perhaps uncertain deadline.
In the midst of their preparations, the Viceroy could arrive in town, having taken a personal interest in the case of the cleric for whatever reason seems appropriate. He could be staying at the local stronghold/government building where the cleric is being held awaiting trial, and his assassination could take place while the PCs are carrying out their jailbreak. In the chaos that ensues they encounter the assassin and may become accused of being involved in the killing themselves. From there they must escape the city, at which point they are wanted men with few options (at least in the short term) besides following the Assassin's map to (relative) safety, however they might feel about the assassin himself.
A rough sketch of the ensuing adventures, following the 6-part Adventure Path format, might go something like this:
Sort of a "social sandbox," in which the PCs have to work to establish a base of operations and keep it hidden while they rally support among the common folk, recruit skilled specialists, subvert good or dissatisfied members of the establishment, and weaken the empire's infrastructure in the northern hinterlands. Maybe they could recruit the aid of outside factions as well; the barbarian tribes of Numeria, the Sword-Lords of Restov (or their scattered, dispossessed successors), and the pirates of Issia are unlikely to be very firmly under the control of the empire, if those regions are included in its borders at all. Along the way, the PCs may come into conflict with the viceroy's assassin and his allies as they take on a more and more central role in the resistance. At the climax of the adventure, the PCs launch a dangerous mission to defeat the (new) viceroy of the region and whatever dire plot he might have to bring its rebellious citizens to heel.
With at least part of the former River Kingdoms now in more-or-less open revolt, the god-emperor turns all available resources toward snuffing the flame of revolution before it spreads. Not yet strong enough to oppose him or his more potent followers directly, the PCs must travel throughout the rebellious region and help the people prepare for the coming onslaught. In the course of doing so, they hear about a hidden, all-but forgotten power (like an artifact weapon, ancient Azlanti magical ritual, or cache of Numerian super-technology) that may allow them to overcome the impossible odds arrayed against them. The last part of the adventure involves finding and recovering this source of power.
The PCs engage in a campaign of sabotage and subterfuge against the oncoming imperial forces in order to weaken them and perhaps delay them while their own "super-weapon" is prepared. This, again, could be rather sand-boxy, with the PCs deciding where to strike and choosing between any number of possible plans of action, the overall effectiveness of which would determine how devastating the empire's counter-attack will be to the populace in revolt. In the end they must deliver their now-active "super-weapon" into the heart of the imperial forces in order to strike the decisive blow.
The rebel victory sends ripples throughout the Empire, emboldening revolutionary forces across the land.
In Andoran and Galt commoner militias rise up to do battle with the occupiers, heedless of cost in human life.
In Taldor, old noble families that feel slighted by the god-king's regime recall their forces from the field, while scheming Chelaxian bureaucrats become increasingly prone to costly "errors" and manage to "misplace" crucial intelligence reports.
Ulfen and Kellid warbands launch increasingly bold attacks along the northern border, spreading imperial forces thin, while the Garundi and Keleshites muster their forces in the south.
Despite all this, the Empire remains terribly strong, and as revolution spreads, Avistan bleeds. The PCs, now both individually powerful and in command of devoted and battle-tested troops, must face a series of difficult moral choices as they fight to free the people and bring an end to their suffering. Ultimately, they all come down to one question: can betrayal, brutality, and cruelty be condoned if they serve to bring a swifter end to the horrors that the war has become?
The PCs have made their choices and fought their battles, and at the very least they still live to tell the tale. Nevertheless, the god-king and his fanatical followers continue fighting, and commit new atrocities daily in their increasingly desperate struggle to hold onto their remaining power. Word reaches the PCs that the god-king has a secret weakness, an Achilles' Heel which a powerful mortal might exploit in order to break his power forever. Prayers and divinations seem to support the claim, and the PCs (possibly accompanied by a small force of their most stalwart NPC allies) much launch a potentially suicidal mission to gain access to the god-king in the heart of his power: the Azlanti Fortress in Absalom. Once there, they discover the true nature of the god-king, and must try to put an end to his reign of terror.
It's a bit tangential to the OP's question, but I for one hope that we'll someday get to find out a little more about the prehistory of Cheliax and Andoran. As far as I can tell, the published setting information about those countries in the period between the fall of the Jistka Imperium (which included part of Cheliax) and the Taldan conquest of the northern coast of the Inner Sea consists of just a few tantalizingly vague references scattered about in artifact backstories and the like.
We know that the debased civilization of Nidal has survived in something resembling its current incarnation since the Age of Darkness, and there were apparently Kellid tribes living as far south as Isger at one time, but the cultures and languages of ancient Cheliax and Andoran are largely a mystery, it seems.
It sounds like Yora's going for more of a Bronze Age or Iron Age setting, though it could make sense to have different regions or cultures using different technology. Considering the theme of Barbarism, the setting reminds me of the Bronze Age Collapse that marked the beginning of the Iron Age.
Drawing inspiration from that era, you might have a few remnants of collapsed empires defended by troops arrayed in gleaming bronze, while the surrounding "barbarian" warlords would be armed with iron, and isolated tribes in inaccessible regions might still be using weaponry of stone.
That's one of the things I find attractive about the idea of a stone age setting: the equipment *has* to take a back seat to the characters. When sticks and stones are all you have to work with, individual skill and cunning make all the difference. Or, to paraphrase a tagline from Iron Heroes
“You are not your magic weapon and armor. You are not your spell buffs. You are not how much gold you have, or how many times you’ve been raised from the dead. When a Big Bad Demon snaps your club in two, you do not cry because that was your +5 Flaming Burst Club of Disruption. You leap onto its back, climb up to its head, and punch it in the eye, then get a new club off of the next humanoid you head-butt to death.”
While I can see being intimidated by some of the lore, the changes they made were pretty much guaranteed to turn off the setting's (considerable) fan base. Honestly, there are things I like about 4th edition, but Wizards somehow managed to bungle the presentation at every turn.
I'm reminded of the time one of the developers behind the 4e supposedly commented that they'd simplified the mechanics because they wanted to attract more women players and "girls don't like math". :P
I actually think Paizo did more with halflings than most settings I've seen. That's not to say that they couldn't be more developed, but being an oppressed underclass is better than "also, there's hobbits." At least they found an interesting way to explain in-setting why so many halfling adventurers are rogues.
I was talking about this thread here, though I didn't mean to give the impression that it was all (or even mostly) people saying how much better Forgotten Realms is than the Pathfinder Chronicles setting. I just noticed a couple of people saying that they liked Forgotten Realms better, which made me curious about what some people like about that setting.
Precisely: the sudden and rapid accelleration of technological development in Europe in the modern era is essentially a historical fluke.
China had guns for hundreds of years but never developed them beyond a fairly simple design. The Song dynasty had joint-stock companies and the printing press and produced iron products on an industrial scale, but didn't experience the kind of world-changing industrial revolution that Europe would later experience.
While China provides a number of good examples because the Chinese developed a number of the technologies that we associate with modernity in the west, most of the history of the world stands as a counterexample to the notion that technological progress must proceed in any kind of predictable pattern. Events came together in Europe in such a way that European technologies and ideas have spread across the globe, but those events occurred only once and only after anatomically modern humans had been around for the better part of 200,000 years.
I see no reason to believe that the history of technology would necessarily unfold the same way on another world, even one that superficially resembles our own.