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Gnoll Mutant

Gnoll Bard's page

RPG Superstar 6 Season Marathon Voter. FullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 363 posts (407 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 6 Pathfinder Society characters. 2 aliases.


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Liberty's Edge

So, Raynulf's amazing Council of Thieves Thesis has really inspired me both to give running this AP a shot and to really really work on expanding Westcrown as a setting. The descriptions of Westcrown in the books are vague enough that everyone probably has their own version of the city, which I frankly think is a great thing for an AP where the city itself should really be a major character. I'd love to see what ideas other people have had for livening up the city - NPCs, locations, organizations, all that good stuff.

To begin with, I'll share a few of my own ideas:

The Cult of Aroden:
The worship of Aroden has never entirely faded from the city that once stood poised to become his seat of power on the material plane, though his priesthood grows smaller and more eccentric with each passing generation. Those who continue to call themselves priests of the Last Azlanti fervently believe, even after a century of silence, that their god is merely testing them, and that those who keep the faith will be greatly rewarded in the coming Age of Glory. They point to the unstained visage of the Aroddennama and other such “miracles” as evidence of their beliefs, which they proclaim them loudly to any who will listen.

Having abandoned their former finery, members of the cult of Aroden wear the hair-shirts of penitents as they preach from street corners and in those few crumbling shrines from which they haven’t yet been evicted. Such preaches must watch their worlds carefully - those Arodenites who dared to openly blaspheme against Asmodeus were made examples of long ago, and the current generation hasn't forgotten the horrific spectacle of their deaths. These days they dedicate most of their time to community service, tending monuments and public buildings and clearing refuse from the streets in a losing battle to preserve the city’s glory for their god’s long-awaited return.

The Wiscrani church of Iomedae takes pity these confused souls, though only truly desperate Arodenites are willing to accept their charity. Followers of Asmodeus consider them amusing and disgusting in equal measure, and mock them mercilessly. It's not uncommon to see a drunken scion of one of the city's more diabolically-inclined noble families beating one of the zealots in the street. For the most part other Wiscrani do their best to ignore the dwindling cult, though the dottari have been known to step in and arrest particularly zealous Arodenite preachers for "disturbing the peace."

The Cult of Aroden (notes):
The remaining worshipers of Aroden are mentioned in passing in The Bastards of Erebus, but I've expanded them here to really make them a part of Westcrown's bleak atmosphere. I envision them as essentially the Golarion version of the stereotypical apocalyptic street preacher, filthy, unkempt, and wild-eyed as they urge passers-by to repent in the name of their dead god.

Prinn's Scriptorium:
One of the few businesses in the Rego Scripa to have remained in operation since before the Civil War, Prinn’s Scriptorium is a combination library, copyist’s shop, and bookstore.

For a nominal fee, patrons may peruse a large collection of books both commonplace and rare, and for an additional payment may commission a copy of any text in the collection or for which they can provide an original.

The proprietor of the Scriptorium, a partiucularly curmudgeonly forlorn elf of indeterminate age known only as Prinn (LG middle-aged male elf wizard 6), is a traditionalist who insists on producing all of his copies by hand without the aid of magic or machinery. He is well known for his immaculate penmanship, however, and makes a respectable side income as a calligrapher taking commissions from well-to do patrons in the Spera.

As a wizard, Prinn also possesses an extensive collection of arcane spells which he makes available for customers to copy at the standard rates, and also sells a selection of low-level scrolls. He’s known to pay well for any spells he hasn’t seen before, though most wizards are hard-pressed to show him anything new.

Unbeknownst to most, Prinn maintains a personal collection of books he considers to valuable or dangerous for general consumption, but which he may show to particularly trusted customers.

Prinn's Scriptorium (notes):
I envision Prinn's scriptorium both as a colorful place to buy scrolls and add new spells to a spellbook, and as tiny piece of "Old Westcrown" lovingly preserved by its long-lived proprietor. Though an elf, Prinn is a lifelong Wiscrani who has witnessed the entirety of his home's century-long decline, which has affected him more deeply than he generally lets on. He could easily become an ally of the PCs as they work to improve things in the city, and might act as source of useful information if they manage to miss some crucial clue.

Liberty's Edge

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My Pathfinder Society Bard, Reed Starling, is a halfling who grew up on a small family vineyard near Carpenden in Andoran. A devout worshiper of Desna possessed of a powerful drive to see and experience new things, he's always curious about exotic local dishes. In his time with the society he's sampled lye fish and strong mead in Kalsgard, palm wine and peppersoup in Bloodcove, and delicate canipés with strong elven absinthe in Iadara, to name just a few.

At the end of the day, however, his preferred comfort food is good, old-fashioned halfling home cooking. Vegetable stews flavored with wild herbs and red wine, fermented dry sausages, warm bread with farm-fresh butter or cheese, and savory stuffed grape leaves - these are a few of his childhood favorites that have sustained him in times of trouble. Coming from a family of vintners, he firmly believes that no proper meal is complete without a glass or two of wine, and there's nothing he loves more on a cold winter's night than a hot mug of mulled wine.

Liberty's Edge

I wonder how strong the comparison to Venice really is, considering that Westcrown is built next to and in the middle of a major river, whereas Venice is in a lagoon. The geography of the surrounding coastline is almost nothing at all like the region around Venice either, and the relative narrowness of the Adriatic probably contributes to the effect of the tides at its northern edge. Maybe something like New York would be a more cogent parallel, in terms of the effect of tides and the like (the climate would obviously be drastically different).

Liberty's Edge

This seems silly to even bring up given the magnitude of what you've accomplished here, but I have one small nitpick about your description of Westcrown's climate. I'm fairly certain the northern coast of the Inner Sea is supposed to be a Mediterranean zone, meaning that the summers are likely quite hot and dry, with most precipitation falling during the cooler half of the year. This kind of pattern is characteristic of western and southern Italy, including Rome, as well as most of California.

Rainstorms wouldn't be all that unusual during the winter and early spring, but would be virtually unheard-of during the summer. The region is likely vulnerable to drought, and the level of the Adivian probably varies noticeably throughout the year, and the city would be vulnerable to flooding in the winter.

Liberty's Edge

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Once again, rolled using Random.org:

Glamreal, the Heart Fire, Spirit of Ardor
Neutral Good intermediate god of courage, determination, and passion

Domains: Charm, Fire, Good, Healing, Strength
Subdomains: Agathion, Ash, Love, Lust, Resolve, Resurrection
Favored Weapon: Javelin
Holy Symbol: A burning heart

Glamreal, the Heart Fire, Spirit of Ardor, is the god who places fire in warrior's bellies and ignites the passion of young lovers. He is the blazing beacon that inspires heroes to stand against impossible odds and the divine spark that allows athletes to press on even after the strength has gone out of their aching limbs. He is the giver of passion that continues to burn, even in the face of death.

Glamreal is an ancient deity, and not one given to explaining himself. His holy symbol is found in ancient sites around the world and there are few corners of the modern world where his worship is totally unknown, and yet little is known of his origin. Some propose that he may be related to the similarly fiery Arkesht, and some ancient texts describe him as the "elder brother" of Polyphenna, but ultimately these claims are mere speculation. Some have gone so far as to suggest that it was Glamreal who first bestowed the spark of life to the first living things, but other faiths usually deny this claim.

Glamreal's worshipers include many good-aligned soldiers and adventurers, as well as healers who work on battlefields or in other difficult situations and athletes of all stripes. He is also called upon by many of the young and love-struck seeking to kindle similar passions in the objects of their desire, but he is not a god particularly associated with marriages or building families. His priests typically dedicate themselves to healing and the protection of the innocent, and his faith is replete with tales of heroic martyrs who pushed themselves beyond any human limits in the pursuit of a worthy cause.

Glamreal's holy symbol is a human heart wreathed in flame, and his favored weapon is a javelin. In artwork he is usually depicted as a muscular man with an opening on his chest revealing his flaming heart, holding a javelin which he casts into the hearts of mortals to kindle their passion and resolve.

Liberty's Edge

As I understand it, the development of graphite pencils had more to do with the discovery of a massive, extremely pure graphite deposit in England than it did with any specific technological advancement. So there *could* be graphite pencils if there's a similar source of the raw material somewhere.

Liberty's Edge

Rogar Valertis wrote:

Let's try to determine the standing of the main evil deities in Taldor (Norgorber has already been dealt with though).

Asmodeus: The prince of darkness cult is intrinsically tied to Cheliax. This alone makes hard for its church to gain any momentum in Taldor although the cult's strong emphasis on order and law made possible for it not to get banned.
That said Asmodeus does have a few converts in Taldor, generally people of noble stock ruling their fiefs as true tyrants. Serfs in these lands are often worked as hard as possible, and their lords make sure they know they live and die at their whim.
While often considered crass and unrefined by the vast majority of their peers these cruel nobles are sometimes looked at as people who have found effective methods to counter the madness from Galt and to a lesser extent from Andoran, reaffirming the "rightful order of things".

Lamashtu: As her title implies the "mother of monsters" appeals to monstruos races. This makes her presence in Taldor's most civilized areas almost negligible. In the wilderness, especially near the Fog Peaks in the north, her cult has followers and not only monstruos ones. More than a few rejects and serfs who have rebelled against the authority of their lords and survive hiding in Taldor's woods and bogs pray to Lamashtu and plot their revenge, often by allying themselves with the likes of goblins or giants (and often ending up as their meal). It goes without saying that her worship is outlawed in Taldor.

Rovagug: In Taldor the Rough Beast has even less worhippers than Lamashtu does. The few that exist try to keep their affiliation secret until their natures betray them, often in spectacular fashions. A few flee to the wilderness where they wage short but bloody wars against the constituted order. As with Lamashtu, Rovagus's cult is not allowed in Taldor.

Urgathoa: The Pallid Princess cannot be openly venerated in Taldor as her pratices are widely considered too horrific and gruesome to be socially...

I like your ideas, though I think Rovagug might have more of a following, considering Taldor's relative proximity to the Pit of Gormuz. I'm envisioning peasants turned bandit who have lost everything and now "Just want to watch the world burn."

On a related note, I think some of the demon lords have been called out as having a following in Taldor; I seem to recall Nocticula and Socothbenoth being among them.

Liberty's Edge

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Thought I'd take a crack at this; I rolled using Random.org:

Boundane, the Laugher in Darkness
Chaotic Good demigod of nocturnal hunters, good-hearted rogues, and the new moon

Domains: Chaos, Darkness, Good, Trickery, Void
Subdomains: Azata, Espionage, Night, Stars, Thievery, Whimsy
Favored Weapon: Dagger
Holy Animal: Hyena
Holy Symbol: A disk, black on one face and silver on the other

It is said that when La first placed the moon in the sky, he cast a long shadow in the pale light it shed. As the moon god admired his handywork, his shadow tore loose and skulked into the darkness, cackling from the shadows where the moonlight couldn't reach. When the first lunar cycle reached its nadir and La's new light vanished entirely from the sky, the shadow emerged from its hiding place and cried its name to the sleeping world, declaring that it was Boundane, the Laugher in Darkness.

Although he is a creature of darkness, Boundane is fundamentally a good-natured deity. He looks after all those who make their livelihoods under cover of darkness, but only so long as they do so for the sake of joy, rather than out of malice. He is a protector of mortal hunters and nocturnal predators, but only so long as their predation remains within the limits that the wild can bear, and he is an enemy of those who kill out of hatred or sport. Likewise, he is a patron of spies, thieves, and other such scoundrels, but never of those who prey on the truly innocent or downtrodden.

Boundane's relationship with La is complex and often strained. It is said that the Laugher in Darkness goes about in the material plane on nights of the new moon, checking in on his followers and making mostly harmless mischief. He is banished by the light of the moon, however, and cannot stand in the presence of La himself, although some claim that he merely chooses not to out of fear that the moon god will try to reclaim his shadow. La and his faithful do not approve of many of the rogues that pay homage to Boundane, but realize that he is essentially an ally when it comes to protecting the innocent during the night.

For his part, Boundane finds La to be no fun at all, but he shares the moon god's hatred for Khaivara and Nescifent, whose faithful are often the targets of his mischief. He views Evoco and Ilkin as rivals, and considers Endasra a close ally, though the feeling isn't always mutual. Boundane has attempted to court Zyelimun on several occasions, though some believe that he only does so because he knows it annoys the Secret-Stealer.

Liberty's Edge

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Blech, twelve hours later and I'm just now noticing all those typos. Oh well, glad some people found my ideas interesting, at least. :)

Rogar Valertis wrote:

Great post Gnoll Bard!

My notes:

Adabar: I agree but I also believe the taldan noble class would stress Adabar aspect as the god of civilization, in turn identifying themselves with those who brought said civilization to other people ("Those unwashed, ungrateful savages!")

I imagine these sorts of attitudes were probably more widespread in the heyday of the Empire, when the Grand Prince ruled over many non-Taldan "barbarians" in need of a proper education in the arts of civilization. As this "civilizing" mission came to an end with the loss of most of the empire, the focus of Abadar's faith probably shifted to matters of commerce and law, and it consequently became less attractive to the nobility.

Rogar Valertis wrote:
Aroden: I believe a modicum of scorn is in order here as the pride of many a Taldan would have been hurt when the church of Aroden decided to leave for Cheliax. To more than a few Taldans Aroden may have gotten what he deserved for abandoning them for Cheliax!

I agree that opinions on Aroden in Taldor probably run the gamut from zealous devotion to indifference to scorn, but it's worth remembering that the god's faith never fully abandoned Taldor, and as such I doubt that most of the nobility fully abandoned their faith in the Last Azlanti.

Rogar Valertis wrote:
Sarenrae: She's interesting because she brings the possibility of conflict with her. More than a few nobles could feel threatened or offended by her return to Taldor because of her ties with Qdira. I think that her history within Taldor would make her less appealing even to the common classes as Taldans of any walk of life are of a proud sort and the war with Qdira hits a sore spot for many of them still.

You raise a good point. It might be that Sarenrae's faith in Taldor is actually strongest in those regions furthest from the Qadiran border. Northern Taldans may have met Keleshite missionaries without ever having clashed with Keleshite soldiers, and might therefore be more positively disposed toward the faith.

Rogar Valertis wrote:
Shelyn: Yes, but if she favors Taldor... what do servants of Zon Kuthon think of it?

While pockets of Zon-Kuthon's faithful are found throughout the Inner Sea Region, their influence really seems to be centered on Nidal, and Taldor is somewhat outside of that nation's sphere of influence. I imagine that The Midnight Lord's faith is outlawed in Taldor, and his faithful probably have no more influence than similarly proscribed cults of demon-worshipers and the like.

Liberty's Edge

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Rolling for New Settlement Tue Nov 08 2016 13:30:57 GMT-0800 (PST)
law/chaos 3
good/evil 1
size 7
government 5
region 2
race 10
quality 1 29
quality 2 26
quality 3 21

Xoxoucayotl
Chaotic Good Large Town (South)

Corruption 0; Crime +1; Economy 0; Law 0; Lore -3; Society +4

Qualities Defiant, Rule of Might, Subterranean
Danger 10
Government Council
Population 2,642 (2,500 Humans, 42 Dark Folk, 100 Other)

Notable NPCs
Atempanecatl Achcautli the Blind (CG Old Male Human Brawler 10)
Atempanecatl Chicawa the Bold (CN Female Human Ranger 8)
Atempanecatl Itzli the Fierce (CN Middle-Aged Male Human Barbarian 8)
Elder Coxcatl, Speaker For the Ancestors (NG Venerable Female Human Oracle 10)
Ambassador Xil (CN Dark Stalker Rogue 4)

Marketplace
Base Value 2000 gp; Purchase Limit 10000 gp; Spellcasting 5th
Minor Items 3d4; Medium Items 2d4; Major Items 1d4

The pale-skinned Axtlaca people are a peculiarity in the southern lands of the former Telzuchin empire, physically resembling none of the neighboring peoples and traditionally keeping to their own small communities scattered across the hill country pm the western edge of the Telzuchin Jungle. According to their oral histories, they once lived as slaves in a lightless underworld, serving a hideous race of subterranean beings whose name is lost to living memory. After throwing off their chains in a titanic battle merely hinted at in their oldest epics, the Axtlaca made a harrowing journey through a vast maze of caverns before finally emerging on the surface world. At the cavern mouth where they emerged, they constructed a great walled city, which they called Xoxoucayotl, meaning "Freedom From Bonds" in their native tongue.

Those who scoff at the legends of the Axtlaca would be shocked to learn that Xoxoucayotl is very much real, and stands to this day, although to describe it as a great city would be an overstatement. When the Axtlaca emerged on the surface world, they found that the light of the sun was too bright for them to bear, and so they established a crude settlement of rough-hewn stone in a vast cavern just beyond the sun's reach. When their children, exposed to the light of day from a young age, proved able to function on the surface, most left the city behind to make a new life for themselves in the world beyond. A minority, however, remained behind to help care for the older generation and keep watch over the tunnels from which they had escaped. It was this second generation who sealed the passage linking Xoxoucayotl to the underworld with a thick wall of unmortared stone, leaving only a narrow passage wide enough for a single human adult to pass, which they blocked with a great stone wheel.

Today, the stone and brick structures in which the people of Xoxoucayotl dwell are a far cry from the crude hovels of their ancestors, though the settlement has continued to dwindle over time and currently more than three-quarters of its buildings are abandoned and in various states of disrepair. The remaining inhabitants scrape out a living herding livestock on the mountain slopes beyond the mouth of their cavern home, and consider it their sacred duty to guard the stand ready in case their ancient masters decide to come calling one day.

Although the people of Xoxoucayotl are not especially warlike, they are always ruled by a triad of their most capable warriors, known as the Atempanecatl, or "high captains." This tradition is believed to date back to the original rebel leaders who won the freedom of the Axtlaca in bloody combat. In order to be considered eligible to become one of the Atempanecatl, a warrior must journey alone through the door of the stone wheel and slay one of the hideous monsters that dwell in the caverns beyond. Bringing back a trophy from any appropriately dangerous-looking beast is acceptable, but the larger and more impressive the kill, the better.

Any warriors who have thus proven themselves have the right to challenge one of the Atempanecatl to single combat in order to take their place. If the challenger is of sufficient character, the challenged Atempanecatl is greatly impressed by the trophy they brought from beyond the wheel, or if the incumbent has simply grown old and feels that they cannot stand against the challenger, they may decide to yield before the duel begins. Otherwise, the combatant who first surrenders or is rendered unable to fight on is declared the loser, and the winner takes a seat with the other Atempanecatl.

The current Atempanecatl are Achcautli the Blind, the eldest sitting member of the council, who continues to defend his seat in spite of having lost his sight years ago, Chicawa the Bold, who goes on regular forays beyond the wheel for the sheer joy of the hunt, and Itzli the Fierce, a brutal and little-loved warrior who has had to defend his position more times than any other sitting Atempanecatl. The Atempanecatl are advised by a council of revered elders, the most prominent of whom is Elder Coxcatl, who holds the title of "Speaker for the Ancestors" and acts as the primary keeper of Xoxoucayotl's oral history.

Competing with the council for the attention of the Atempanecatl is Xil, a Dark Stalker who acts as an ambassador from a nameless nation of Dark Folk who are Xoxoucayotl's primary trading partners. The Axtlaca of Xoxoucayotl regard the Dark Folk as "cousins," and their legends suggest that the two races toiled together as slaves before casting off their chains. At any given time, there may be dozens of dark folk in town, though most stay only long enough to conduct whatever business they have with the local humans. For the most part, this business consists of trading refined metal, rare stones, and alchemical ingredients from deep underground for lumber, wool cloth, and various surface-world foodstuffs.

In addition to the dark folk, members of a number of more-or-less civilized subterranean races can be found in town, as well as a few immigrants from the surface world who have found their way to the secluded mountain region where the entrance to Xoxoucayotl is located. Outsiders are generally made to feel welcome, as the people of Xoxoucayotl are always eager for news and goods from other parts of the world, isolated as they are in their stony fastness. As it stands, the town has plenty of space for newcomers to stay, and anyone who's willing to fix up one of the abandoned houses that fill most of the cavern can claim it for themselves.

Liberty's Edge

Ani the Dungsweeper

Chaotic Good Inquisitor of Khepri

Ani belongs to no temple, tends no shrine, and has little direct contact with other worshipers of Khepri. In fact, he mostly keeps to himself, which isn't difficult to do considering his smell.

Ani lives in Sothis, and makes a meager living sweeping streets and clearing trash from the gutters. He's one of many such folk in the metropolis, and like his fellow dungsweepers he's largely invisible to the multitudes that throng the streets he tends. Despite his lowly station, he knows that without his labor, and the labor of others like him, Sothis would be unlivable, with piles of filth blocking the streets and disease running rampant through the populace.

Ani doesn't begrudge the people of the city for not noticing him, however, or for the way they wrinkle their noses when they pass him on the street. Sothis is a city of wonders, and you can't blame people for ignoring her gutters when her spires glitter so beautifully in the light of the sun, or for turning up their nose at a filthy dungsweeper when the scent of precious incense and exotic spices wafts from every window and doorway.

Besides, if more people took notice of Ani, it would make his true work more difficult. A wise man sees much when he goes everywhere unseen, and hears much when no one knows he's listening. So Ani makes his rounds through high neighborhoods and low, and so he learns much. And although he loves his city and appreciates its many splendors, he never turns away from its ugliness.

Though he rarely speaks of it, even in those unusual cases where he has the chance to practice his conversational skills, Ani has experienced much of this ugliness first hand. Born a slave, he was sold almost as soon as he could walk and never truly knew his mother. His master was a fiend who inflicted savage punishments upon him for even the smallest perceived failing. When at last he managed to escape, he found that life on the streets was little kinder for a penniless boy. And yet, through cleverness, and luck, and the love of the gods, he endured.

Ani knows that many others are not so lucky. And so, whenever he hears the cry of a beaten slave, or the wracking cough of a sick beggar, or the splash of a body being dropped in the river late at night, he takes a moment to take stock of the situation before going on his way. And by the time Khepri has pushed the great dung-ball of the sun over the horizon, Ani will have set things right.

Although he knows only a few petty magics, Ani has been a healer to the sick and wounded, and though his only weapons are a crude sling and a heavy length of wood, he has hunted gangs of killers and packs of monsters that prey upon the city at night. He has also been a thief to feed the starving, a burglar to free the imprisoned, and even a murderer when the situation has called for it. Ani knows that one day his luck may run out, but as long as the Humble Hand continues to show him favor, he will continue to do the god's good work.

And besides, who would ever think to accuse the dungsweeper?

Liberty's Edge

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I've been thinking some more about what the role of the prominent gods in Taldor may be; I figured I'd share my thoughts.

Abadar

While Abadar would certainly be a widely-celebrated god, particularly in his role as patron of civilization, laws, and legitimate rulers, his association with such low practices as commerce and money-lending probably make his faith rather gauche among the Taldan aristocracy. Commerce is hardly a traditional pursuit for a landed noble, and being preoccupied with so a petty concern as money is a mark of commonness in a land where the upper classes have legions of serfs to provide them with an income. Likewise, the serfs themselves have more immediate concerns than the vagaries of finance and law, like whether there'll be enough rain this year and whether their sons will be sent off to die in their lord's latest petty feud.

Therefore, I imagine that, while most Taldans pay lip service Abadar as a great and important deity, in practice he's mostly the patron of the urban middle-class. His worshipers are bankers, merchants, petty landlords, and some skilled craftsmen, and those few members of the bourgeoisie who manage to worm their way into the lower aristocracy likely soon distance themselves from the unfashionable faith.

Aroden

I imagine that Aroden is a god who resonates on a very fundamental level with the Taldan soul, all the more so now that he has apparently died. He represents a link to the glory days of the empire, when Oppara was the seat of Aroden's church in Avistan, and beyond that to the mythic era of Taldor's founding by the heroic Azlanti survivors of Earthfall. The belief that Aroden is merely testing his faithful in his absence, and that he will one day return to usher in an Age of Glory for those who kept the faith, mirrors Taldor's own fallen state and dreams of one day recapturing the glories of old. In fact, some Taldans may believe that the failure of the Starfall Doctrine is basically Cheliax's fault, as the god was surely displeased when the center of his church was shifted from glorious Oppara to provincial Westcrown.

That said, the fact that Aroden no longer answers prayers limits the sort of people that remain faithful to him. The struggles faced by the common classes, and by anyone involved in perilous endeavors like sailing or warfare, call for a deity who might actually help out in a time of need. Anyone who regularly has cause to fear for their life or their livelihood will likely turn away from the church of the dead god, out of pragmatism if not for any other reason. Aroden is therefore likely a god most worshiped by old and stable aristocratic families who have no need of miracles to ensure their prosperity and safety.

Calistria

Even if she weren't a deity associated with sexual excess, trickery, and bloody vengeance, Calistria is a distinctly foreign god, and one most commonly associated with non-humans at that. In proud and xenophobic Taldor, this is more than enough to make her faith seem scandalous and untrustworthy, but also to lend it an exotic allure. Calistria has little to offer the rural peasant class of Taldor, but in the cities it caters to every vice that a man or woman can imagine and pay for.

In Taldor, Calistria counts actors, elves, prostitutes, sailors, and other such city-dwelling undesirables among her faithful. Though their families would be loathe to admit it, her temples and pleasure-parlors also attract many young noblemen, seeking entertainments not to be found in glittering opera houses and genteel salons. They also come seeking the means to gain an upper hand over their rivals in the great game that is Taldan politics, and Calistrian spies and information-brokers play an important part in the intrigues of the capital.

Cayden Cailean

Although probably a child of Absalom rather than of Taldor proper, the mortal Cayden was indisputably of Taldan descent, and is therefore counted among the pantheon of the Empire's most storied heroes. Unlike his fellow ascended mortal Aroden, however, Cayden Cailean is more popular among commoners than he is among the landed aristocracy. His worshipers include innkeepers and wine-sellers, or course, as well as brewers and vintners, and even many agricultural laborers who provide the raw materials needed to practice those professions. Many of Taldor's professional soldiers and mercenaries in Taldor pray to the Lucky Drunk as well, seeing in him a kindred spirit and hoping to be blessed with bravery on the battlefield.

Moreover, Cayden Cailean is worshiped by all those who appreciate the simple joys of a cool drink, a friendly brawl, and a tumble in the hay with a farmer's daughter (or son). For serfs, whose day-to-day existence allows them little pleasure, Cayden represents all the best things in life, ensuring his nearly universal popularity throughout the Taldan countryside. While the aristocracy may feel uneasy when priests of the Lucky Drunk speak of human dignity and the right of every person to be free, they're simply too much a part of the cultural fabric of Taldor to be done away with. That said, particularly troublesome preachers certainly do disappear from time to time; after all, in these troubled times there are many bandits upon the roads, and no traveler in rural Taldor is ever entirely safe...

Kurgess

Another celebrated member of Taldor's pantheon of heroes, in Taldor Kurgess is usually viewed as an ally or even subordinate of Cayden Cailean, and the two churches work closely with one another. Taldans have a great love of competition in all its forms, and the faith of Kurgass has spread quickly among professional athletes, gladiators, and even members of the aristocracy who seek to prove their worth through physical prowess. In the latter case, Taldan high society is somewhat ambivalent in how it treats aristocratic followers of Kurgess. On the one hand, the Strong Man is perhaps the best example of how Taldor remains a land of larger-than-life heroes, even in the twilight of its power. On the other, Kurgess and most of his priesthood come from distinctly common stock, and many aristocrats see their influence, and perhaps even Kurgess' divine ascension itself, as an affront to the traditional Taldan class structure.

A few soldiers and sellswords dedicate themselves to the Strong Man's faith as well, though not so many as adhere to the worship of Cayden Cailean. Even those who don't take Kurgess as a patron may offer him a praise before engaging in any sort of physical competition, as common superstition holds that the the god himself sometimes visits Taldor to observe or participate in such games.

Norgorber

Even moreso than Kurgess, Norgorber represents something of a conundrum in Taldan polite society. The first mortal to pass the Test of the Starstone after Aroden raised the artifact from the sea, Norgorber is theoretically a paragon of human drive ability. More than that, although almost nothing is known about Norgorber's mortal life outside of the highest levels of his faith, common wisdom holds that he was Taldan, which in theory would place him among the greatest of Taldor's heroes by virtue of his divine ascension. And yet, as in most civilized societies, the worship of Norgorber is formally forbidden by law in Taldor, and his underhanded ways are antithetical to the virtues prized by Taldan culture.

That said, it is an open secret that Norgorber's church wields a great deal of influence in Taldor. Taldor's powerful Thieves' Guild(s) revere the Gray Master as their patron and symbolic ancestor, proud to have a divine "hero" of their own. Many assassins and unscrupulous alchemists in Oppara and beyond revere Blackfingers, and perform poisonings in their god's name on behalf of aristocrats embroiled in Oppara's deadly intrigues. Priests of the Reaper of Reputations are perhaps the most well-known of all, and anyone in Taldor with money and connections (and a flexible moral compass) has likely had dealings with these merchants of secrets.

Sarenrae

Proscribed for more than 200 years by decree of Grand Prince Stavian I, the Church of Sarenrae remains in many ways a religion of outsiders. In addition to Keleshites, who brought the Dawnflower's religion to Taldor in the first place and continue to be subject to racial discrimination, Sarenrae's faith has attracted all manner of outcasts, former criminals, runaway slaves and serfs, and other such villains seeking to find acceptance and make a new start. Her faith also attracts all manner of well-meaning radicals and reformists, particularly those who wish to see the end of slavery and serfdom in their country. Whereas the faith of Cayden Cailean is integrated enough into Taldan society that its priesthood is mostly willing to work within the current order, the outsider status of Sarenrae's priests makes them more willing to call for radical change. The Taldan Church of Sarenrae venerates many holy martyrs who died for their beliefs, and even now that the faith is no longer outlawed, many of the Dawnflower's followers stand willing to die in the name of what they believe is right.

Beyond foreigners, outcasts, and radicals, Sarenrae's church has been gaining ground quickly among the serfs as well - so quickly, in fact, that many wonder how widespread Sarenite beliefs had already become when the faith was still outlawed. This belief has less to do with the church's stance against serfdom than it does with more practical matters; as a solar deity, Sarenrae has an obvious appeal to farmers, and as a goddess of healing, her followers are always a welcome sight for those who can't afford to seek succor with Taldor's more mercenary churches. While faith in Cayden Cailean probably remains more widespread, Sarenrae arguably has a more universal appeal for the rural poor, and the expansion of her faith across the countryside shows no signs of stopping.

Shelyn

Of the ancient deities that the Taldans inherited from their Azlanti ancestors, Shelyn is unsurprisingly the most loved. It is said that no other nation on Golarion is as favored by the Eternal Rose as Taldor, and it is a widely held belief that the goddess herself visits the Temple of the Upheld and Golden Rose in Oppara once a year to spend a day among her faithful. The Taldan people return this affection in kind, and you will rarely find a Taldan so jaded that he or she has never offered a prayer to Shelyn her aid in matters of the heart or in thanks after witnessing a sight of great beauty. Much of the Taldan preoccupation with elegance and fashion stems from their appreciation of the tenants of Shelyn's faith.

As the goddess of love and beauty, Shelyn's appeal is universal, but she is particularly revered by artists, performers, skilled artisans, and the most aesthetically inclined of the nation's aristocracy. The lower classes tend to invoke her name less commonly, as they can ill afford to spend their time contemplating beauty or engaging in the elaborate and lengthy courtships common among aristocratic couples. Nevertheless, nearly every Taldan bride or groom dreams of having a Shelynite wedding, and even those who have rarely spare a thought for the goddess will often travel for days to be married at one of the small Shelynite temples scattered throughout the country. In the cities, the larger and more prestigious temples often have waiting lists stretching months or even years for weddings, and can support themselves almost entirely from the tithes they collect for performing these services.

The Green Faith

Although Taldans generally prefer to worship anthropomorphic deities with ties to their history and culture, the Green Faith deserves a special mention if only because its nominal center lies within the nation. Druids from all over Golarion gather at the Wildwood Lodge on the Isle of Arenway in Taldor once a year to discuss weighty concerns about Golarion's health and to commune with the Will of the World. Throughout the year, the Lodge guards the Verduran Forest, and has a standing agreement with the Taldan Government which allows for the harvesting of some of the forest's valuable blackwood trees under close supervision by the druids.

The Green Faith is probably popular among the people living in and around the Verduran Forest, including the inhabitants of Wispil. The Green Faith is also an attractive faith to farmers, who have a particularly close relationship with the land and the plants and animals that inhabit it, and it seems likely that the faith is found in rural areas well beyond the edges of the Verduran, at least in the northern part of the country.

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Gorbacz wrote:
GALT!!!

You know... having read all the Norrett/Orlin Gantier stories... Galt actually has it's charms. If you can avoid the mobs and aren't desperately poor, there's still a lot of the old Galtan gentility and culture to be found beneath the grime of the revolutions.

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I kind of figured Hell's Vengeance worked best if you assume that Wrath of the Righteous has already happened. It provides a good justification for a bunch of radical Iomedaeans to suddenly show up with a force strong enough to pose a legitimate thread to House Thrune.

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As far as the issue of slavery goes, one of the distinctive traits of the Pathfinder setting is that slavery is a legal institution almost everywhere, which has been true in most eras in the real world but isn't represented in most fantasy settings. Serfdom and slavery can absolutely coexist, with serfs and slaves filling different social roles.

I imagine that slaves in Taldor are mostly household servants, where as most agricultural labor is carried out by serfs, and other forms of manual labor are handled by some combination of skilled professionals and various unfree laborers. The military probably also provides a labor pool for certain projects, as it did in the Roman Empire.

Now, one interesting wrinkle you might throw in is for human slavery to be illegal. It's not uncommon in history for members of the social "in-group" to be excluded from enslavement, so it makes some sense. Maybe basically all of the slaves in Taldor are halflings, and they've been attached to the same families for uncounted generations. Taldans may regard it as only natural for halflings to fill a servile role, while at the same time vilifying those who would enslave a fellow human.

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Sorry if this has been asked already, but I was recently looking at the first book of Council of Thieves, and it includes this interesting tidbit in the sidebar on the "Founders of Aroden":

"Even though the Last Azlanti died, his founders continue aiding their followers and working to keep all those who once revered this city from totally losing faith in it or themselves."

Now, we know that at least two former servants of Aroden, Iomedae and Milani, continue to exist and grant spells to clerics. Can the Founders do the same?

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UnArcaneElection wrote:
^That's true -- the church of Sarenrae seems to have an above average amount of schism and infighting, even developing a whole prestige class as a result

I tend to imagine this has something to do with the fact that Sarenrae is the patron of the entire Empire of Kelesh. Not only is Kelesh huge and, presumably, fairly diverse, as a society it has... let's say mixed success living up to the standards of their goddess. There's probably a tendency for all sorts of social and political movements in the Empire to try and claim they're carrying out the true will of the Dawnflower, further contributing to the division of the faith against itself.

And if Sarenrae seems to disapprove of some of these schismatic theologies, or of the conflicts within the faith, why, that's just further evidence that you should get on board with my brand new and absolutely authentic interpretation of her will!

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My collection of characters is pretty modest:

3 Humans (two Taldans and a Chelaxian)
1 Elf
1 Gnome
1 Halfling

That said, I've played my halfling moire than the rest of them combined.

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It may also be worthwhile perusing the categories on Pathfinderwiki corresponding to each ethnicity, as the list of "inhabitants" for each gives a fair sample of names in most cases.

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That's fine; I didn't mean to come off like I was criticizing you, I was just confused by the apparent contradiction.

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I haven't read Hangman's Noose, but it has this guy , and he's apparently chaotic evil.

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James Jacobs wrote:
Gnoll Bard wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:

"Priest" is a word we've often used in our books to denote a person who is part of a faith's religion. A priest can be of any class. It's a gendered word, so it's not the BEST option (which is why you see us sometimes use words like "worshiper" or "clergy" instead).

The fact that we haven't associated the word "priest" with specific class names or rules or other things is intentional, as it's very valuable for us to retain some words so that the only definition that matters is the word's actual definition. (We can no longer indiscriminately use the word "hunter" to talk about folks who make a living hunting for food, for example, or the word "arcanist" as a catch-all word for all arcane spellcasters.)

Just to be clear, though, I presume that the title implies some level of authority in the faith as well? After all, we see references to classes that "play an important role in the faith" but are "not clergy", like Bards who follow Cayden Cailean.

It indicates a worshiper of a faith. That is it. Doesn't imply anything about positions of authority in the faith. It's a one word shortcut to saying "Individual who worships this deity or follows this religion." It's a synonym, in that regard, with things like clergy or worshiper.

And bards who follow or worship Cayden Cailien can ABSOLUTELY be priests if they want to be part of the organization. If they merely worship him, they are not priests.

This... actually confuses me more. You say that a priest is merely a worshipper of a faith, but that one who "merely worships" Cayden Cailean is not a priest. What does being "part of the organization" entail? I presume it means more than just going to temple on Sunday. It seems like you're saying priests have some type of official function, which presumably varies depending on the faith and the priest, but I would tend to assume that taking on such responsibilities grants them status, or at least respect, in the faith above that of a "mere worshipper."

Edit: Now that I think about it, Inner Sea Gods talks specifically about the training and responsibilities of priests of each deity, and definitely seems to distinguish between priests and simple worshippers of a deity, so it seems to be using a different definition of the term than you are.

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James Jacobs wrote:

"Priest" is a word we've often used in our books to denote a person who is part of a faith's religion. A priest can be of any class. It's a gendered word, so it's not the BEST option (which is why you see us sometimes use words like "worshiper" or "clergy" instead).

The fact that we haven't associated the word "priest" with specific class names or rules or other things is intentional, as it's very valuable for us to retain some words so that the only definition that matters is the word's actual definition. (We can no longer indiscriminately use the word "hunter" to talk about folks who make a living hunting for food, for example, or the word "arcanist" as a catch-all word for all arcane spellcasters.)

Just to be clear, though, I presume that the title implies some level of authority in the faith as well? After all, we see references to classes that "play an important role in the faith" but are "not clergy", like Bards who follow Cayden Cailean.

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With regard to religon, Taldor is home to what is probably Shelyn's holiest site on Golarion, the Temple of the Upheld Golden Rose in Oppara, which the goddess herself is said to visit in disguise one a year. Notably, the Taldans seem to reject the church of Iomedae's claim that their goddess is the rightful inheritor of Aroden, as Iomedae is not one of the more commonly worshiped gods in Taldor. This is probably because the mortal Iomedae was a Chelaxian, and seemingly a relatively loyal one considering she actually governed a Chelaxian city for a while, which makes her essentially a traitor in the eyes of the Taldan state. Most Taldans who would otherwise worship Iomedae instead cling to their faith in Aroden or have presumably moved on to the worship of another deity, most likely Abadar.

There is definitely slavery in Taldor (the practice is only banned in a very few places in the Inner Sea Region), but it's been explicitly stated that there's serfdom as well. The average Taldan peasant generally seems to have fewer rights than even a Chelaxian commoner, and the population is probably less urbanized, on the whole, than in many other parts of the Inner Sea Region. That said, even the most downtrodden Taldan is raised to take pride in their heritage, and there seems to be a strong current of patriotism that helps to work against any social discontent.

As far as the nobility goes, it appears that Taldor's government and military are highly decentralized, and that the Taldan aristocracy behave largely independently of the throne. A Taldan duke once unilaterally launched an invasion of Andoran, and did significant damage before the Eagle Knights organized a counter-attack. The signature character Alain's backstory makes it clear that feuds between Taldan nobles are quite common, and may even be viewed as a kind of sport. Even the ruler of Taldor's title, "Grand Prince", seems to suggest a role as a sort of "first among equals," rather than anything approaching an absolute monarch. It probably takes a major event, like a Qadiran invasion or a call for a new Army of Exploration, to organize the Taldan nobility and their various household armies into any kind of cohesive force, and even then the Taldan military is likely hampered by internal conflicts. This might help explain why Taldor, at the height of its power, struggled to match the military of Qadira at a time when the empire of Kelesh was engaged in its own civil war and unlikely to be providing aid to their furthest-flung satrapy.

It's been stated that Taldor values arcane knowledge highly, and the Gran Prince himself is a wizard. Taldor probably produces the finest wizards in the Inner Sea Region outside of Garund (since everyone knows the very best wizards are Garundi), with the possible exception of wizards trained at the great schools of Absalom.

One of the ancient dwarven Sky Citadels is located in Taldor, and while most of its population has since emigrated to the Five Kings Mountains as a result of the local mines running dry, it stands to reason that Taldor would have a sizable dwarven population. Oppara is one of the largest cities in the world and a major trading port, so it's likely at least as cosmopolitan as Sothis, which has been noted as having major populations of all of the common races of the Inner Sea Region. Notably, halfling slaves and servants are probably quite common in Taldor, though possibly not quite so ubiquitous as they are in Cheliax.

I believe that it's also been noted that the much-lampooned arrogance of the Taldan people cuts both ways. They consider themselves better than other peoples, but they also hold themselves to a higher standard. Faults that a Taldan might accept magnanimously (if condescendingly) in a companion from another land might be viewed as entirely unacceptable in a fellow Taldan. I imagine that a lot of Taldans (at least in the upper classes) conceal a core of self-doubt under their overweening pride, as they struggle to live up to the countless larger-than-life figures of their nation's history, but inevitably come up short.

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Rysky wrote:
Hmm, and a Paladin "falling" into NG has been a scenario that has interested me for quite some time.

For reasons that aren't entirely clear from an in-universe perspective, Paladins *have* to hold themselves to a code of conduct that goes well beyond simply being good. A neutral good character wouldn't bat an eye at telling a lie to protect an innocent life. Heck, most lawful good characters would be willing to do that if they saw no other option. As a paladin, however, you can't make that compromise. You are required to stick to both the letter and the spirit of your code, or forfeit your powers, and that allows little wiggle room for non-lawful behavior.

This, incidentally, is why it makes little sense to me that antipaladins are chaotic evil. Why would a chaotic character adhere so rigidly to any code of conduct, even one that boils down to "be selfish and cruel all the time". I tend to imagine the chaotic evil characters are less predictable than that, and may sometimes, say, help out their buddies with no ulterior motive in mind because they felt like it at the moment. Doesn't mean they won't later shank that buddy mercilessly over a perceived insult; they just happened to be in a charitable mood.

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Prince of Knives wrote:
Rysky wrote:
Anyone can explicitly be a priest. A Barbarbain can even be a head priest of a religion. Priest is a title/occupation, different than a Class.

How about no?

Priesthood is and has been heavily associated with divine casting to the point of synonymity in both Pathfinder and its preceding systems. If you'd like to dig me up some examples of priests that aren't divine casters or False Priests I'm all ears but in the meantime I'm decently certain no precedent supports your viewpoint.

Had a longer post initially, but Adam made my point much more succinctly. Just to reinforce what he's already said, here are some quotes that explicitly use the term "priest" or "priesthood" with regard to non-divine casters:

"Priests of Desna—including clerics, bards, rogues, rangers, and occasionally druids—go where they please, earning money by telling fortunes, providing entertainment, and interpreting dreams."

"Any spellcaster can join Nethys’s priesthood: whether divine or arcane, academy-trained wizard or wild shaman, all who call upon magical power are welcome. Divine casters are valued, but must be able to defend their positions with magical knowledge or brute power."

"Most of Urgathoa’s priests are clerics or necromancers (particularly sorcerers with the undead bloodline), as well as a few similarly inclined witches."

It's also worth noting that any character can get divine boons from a deity they worship even if they can't cast spells, in the form of traits, feats, and various other things like Cavalier orders and prestige classes.

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Not to divert the discussion too far from the original topic, but I feel like Rahadoum is getting a bum rap. It's easy to dismiss their misotheism as simple closed-mindedness, and certainly their dogmatism goes above and beyond what can be reasonably justified, but I think their opposition to the gods is more justifiable than people give it credit for.

I mean, worshiping a god can certainly bring a variety of benefits, but in exchange you're essentially selling yourself to that deity for something resembling eternity. Good and/or chaotic deities may not treat their followers like slaves, but the fact remains that, once you get processed at Pharasma's boneyard, you basically *belong* to that deity. You spend the rest of your potentially unlimited existence in their domain, doing things that they're interested in. And if you're really lucky, you get to become an outsider, and probably meet oblivion on some planar battlefield fighting your deity's enemies.

For some, the nothingness of the graveyard of souls is a preferable fate to a never ending existence of devotion to an unknowable alien being, however benevolent its goals may be.

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It's worth noting that elves turning into drop could potentially be related to the phenotypic adaptability of elves in general. I don't have the source in front of me, but I believe that Elves of Golarion has stated that, while elves exhibit at least as much variation as humans, their appearance is far less linked to their genetic heritage. A dark-sknned Ekujae elf who goes to live with the Snowcasters will gradually become as pale as they are, and undergo other minor physical changes advantageous in response to his environment. Assuming this feature is at least partly magical, we might hypothesize that extreme evil interacts dramatically with this inborn magic.

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You can find the image in question online if you google "bladed scarf." I think it would be bad form for me to post it, but it's not hard to find. It looks to me like somebody pasted a yellow-and-blue scarf onto an old-fashioned two-person saw blade... it's pretty goofy.

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One thing I've been forgetting to mention; Inner Sea Gods has some insights into this topic, and notes which inquisitor archetypes are especially appropriate for particular gods.

Unsurprisingly, infiltrators are typical of the churches of Asmodeus (to sabotage enemies of the faith) and Norgorber (presumably to corrupt other groups from within), and the church of Pharasma trains exorcists.

Iconoclasts are listed as an appropriate archetype for inquisitors of Rovagug, which makes some sense considering that their skill set is dedicated to breaking things.

Perhaps more oddly, sin eaters are apparently associated with Shelyn. The idea of consuming another's sins and thereby offering them a sort of forgiveness even after death seems like more of a Sarenite thing to me, but I'm sure the writer had some justification in mind.

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Tacticslion wrote:
Huh. Looked like the same basic design with slightly different style of blades to me. But either way, it's a pretty cool weapon, just not always easy to visualize.

Agreed, I'm fairly certain that if you look again you'll find that the blades on that scarf are attached to the ends.

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FormerFiend wrote:
Why not, instead of going into that detail from the start and focusing on the Not-Mediterranean, you divvy it up and detail a few nations on each continent, not necessarily evenly but enough to give the impression that no one continent or region is the absolute center of civilization in this world.

The obvious reason not to do this, for me, is that it's simply not as useful as putting more detail into a contiguous area of the campaign world. Characters who begin adventuring in one region are more likely to wander over the border into an adjacent region than they are to suddenly hop a ship or teleportation circle or whatever to a distant corner of the globe.

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Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
There's a whole novel set in Kyonin... Queen of Thorns.. it's one of the Jeggare series.

Good point; Plague of Shadows also deals with issues of elven culture and identity, since the main character is a "forlorn" elf who has some interesting interactions with an elven settlement on the borders of Kyonin.

Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
No it's not.. Unreasonable expectations however, generally are. After all are you going to chide them for not having an expy for Lichenstein?

True, but wondering why the indigenous inhabitants of two entire continents are so under-represented in fantasy fiction isn't exactly equivalent to demanding Lichtenstein in Golarion.

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Set wrote:
Since Irori is all about self-realization and improvement, his faith might be strongly opposed to any sort of regime that forbids a certain class of people from advancing themselves, either by restricting their movements or educational opportunities or whatever. A place that forbids a certain class of people to improve their minds or bodies, would be anathema to the Inquisitors of Irori, who would prefer that every person has the opportunity to strengthen both mind and body.

On a similar note, I believe James Jacobs has stated that inquisitors of Shelyn would oppose government officials who persecute lovers, for instance by enforcing laws forbidding miscegenation or same-sex romantic activities.

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It's a long scarf; you can probably wrap it in such a way that the blades are hidden in the folds.

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zimmerwald1915 wrote:
None of which will ever get explored.

Honestly, I don't mind having stuff in the setting that gets mentioned but never fleshed out. That way I can use the stuff I like from the setting and there's still some room for customization. I mean, like, I could just change the published stuff too, but I'm less comfortable with that because I feel like it takes away from the wonderful creative work that Paizo does.

But yeah, the elves are one of the better fleshed-out races in terms of having different cultures and lifestyles; the elves in Tian Xia are even super lawful and samurai-y. However, not all races have been as well served. The Dwarves stand out as a pretty glaring monoculture, so much so that published material sums up the Mbe'ke by saying that they lead "traditional dwarven liestyles," and the Taralu are described in terms of having abandoned their traditions, rather than as dwarves who simply have [i]different[/] traditions.

Honestly, one would expect that the dwarves of Garund, at the very least, would be quite culturally distinct from their distant kin in the Five Kings Mountains, considering that the creation of the Inner Sea during Earthfall seems to have effectively isolated the two populations from one another for at least around 1,000 years.

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Captain Battletoad wrote:
The Juppongatana member Cho from Ruroni Kenshin wields a sword that's kind of like a bladed scarf, which he wears around his midsection.

I'm fairly certain that's supposed to be an urumi, which I believe we already have stats for separate from the bladed scarf.

It's interesting; the creative team seems to have a pretty clear idea of what a bladed scarf looks like, but every image I see convinces me more that it should really do piercing damage rather than slashing.

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CBDunkerson wrote:
It would be great if Arcadian halflings filled some of the roles occupied by 'little people' in various Native American myths and legends.

My thoughts exactly. While it's hardly unique to the Americas, the "little people" trope is pretty ubiquitous across North America at least (I'm generally less familiar with South American folklore).

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Kalindlara wrote:
Chelaxian monks using Varisian weapons(?)

Eh, they'd probably just tell you that the bladed scarf (like all useful and ingenious things) was first created in Hell, and that those dirty, ignorant, thieving Varisians are all the more pathetic for trying to take credit for it.

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I have a concept for an inquisitor of Shelyn with the Recovery Inquisition who's basically an Indiana Jones style adventure archaeologist, seeking out lost works of art and literature in order to put them in museums where future generations can enjoy them.

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There's also a picture of a Sister of Eiseth using a bladed scarf (and pentagram shuriken!) on page 20 of What Lies in Dust, part three of Council of Thieves. It's depicted as long strip of canvas with three dagger-like blades affixed to each of its narrow ends. So, it appears to be similar in concept to a rope dart, though it's hard to see that version being a particularly effective as a slashing weapon.

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Actually, if we're being fair, there's also an Elf-ruled island in the Shackles, at least two more significant eleven tribes in the Expanse besides the Ekujae (unless they've been retconned) and the Snowcaster elves who control territory somewhere on the northern edge of Avistan. And that's not including the continent-sized empire they rule on Castrovel.

For the Dwarves, there's the Five Kings mountains of course, but also the important city-state of Janderhoff, the Pahmet, who are a de-facto independent people, tribes in the Expanse and the Shattered Range in Garund, and the reclusive dwarven nation of the Mbe'ke in the Terwa uplands. Also, if we're being fair, Alkenstar is as much a dwarven nation as it is a human one, regardless of who the majority race is. And if we're going beyond the inner sea region, the population numbers given for the Dwarven nation of Zavaten Gura on the crown of the world seems to make it the second largest group of dwarves in the world, and dwarves probably the most populous race on that continent.

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Of the core 20 I'd absolutely go with Shelyn; no question. She represents the things that make life worth living, and is the deity who comes closest to my vision of what absolute good should be like (sorry Sarenrae). And as much as other churches would like to say otherwise, she and her followers are no slouches when it comes to defending the things they cherish.

That said, if we're looking at the setting as a whole, I'd go with Arshea all the way. I'm gay, and into some pretty kinky stuff, and a lot of my friends are trans or otherwise gender-nonconforming. For me, Arshea combines the best of Calistria's sex-positivity, Shelyn's dedication to love and beauty, and Cayden Cailean's devotion to freedom and self-determination. Plus, androgynous angels are sexy. >_>

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KarlBob wrote:
My personal quibbles about diversity relate more to the fact that on the Inner Sea map, there's one elven country, one orcish country, one dwarven country, no majority halfling or gnome countries at all, and dozens upon dozens of human countries.

While it would be fun to see more diversity in the non-human nations, the fact that the small-sized races of the Inner Sea Region don't have nations of their own is an important aspect of their cultures. Gnomes are fey exiles who basically have a biological imperative not to settle down and build stable communities. They're probably the least "human" of the core races, and aren't particularly well suited to nation-building

Halfling culture, on the other hand, is shaped on every level by the fact that they are a people without a history, who live basically at the mercy of human nations. Like any number of oppressed, stateless minorities in the real world, they struggle with issues of identity and self-determination in a world that systematically devalues everything they are. For me, at least, that's what makes them interesting, and not just off-brand hobbits.

That said, my personal headcanon (at least until future publications contradict me) is that halflings are originally from Arcadia, and have their own cultures and nations there. The Segada chapter of Distant Shores suggests that halflings are among the more populous races in Arcadia, and have their own settlements in the Grinding Coast region.

In the Inner Sea region, on the other hand, the earliest solid historical evidence of halflings comes from after the Age of Darkness. It's also been mentioned that the Azlanti launched attacks along the coast of Arcadia in the waning years of their empire, and it seems logical, as a slave-holding society, that they would have taken as many captives as they could. My theory is basically that the halflings of the Inner Sea are the descendants of slaves who arrived along with Azlanti colonists and refugees.

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Jack Brown wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
we should NOT have given kreighton shane the time turner...
Yup. That could explain it all. Just an accident with th Sky Key.

Or maybe it was that odd scepter Durvin Gest brought back from the ruins of Ninshabur. Of course, that was ages ago...

Liberty's Edge *

DrParty06 wrote:
Z...D... wrote:
When ever the time line comes into question. I just tell the players to think of it as sitting around the bar or lounge and swapping war stories.
Proceeds to TPK. ...did I forget to mention the bar was in Pharasma's Boneyard?

You know, some Abadarian should really look into that. You could make a killing selling concessions to all those souls in line.

Liberty's Edge

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So, it's a tiny part of the adventure (only mentioned in one rumor as far as I know), but for some reason I got inspired to come up with a plot outline for Shensen's cancelled opera, Huntress of Heroes, complete with song ideas! You'll find that the half-elven luminary has taken some creative liberties with the source material, but the general framework of the legend remains the same. I don't honesty know that much about opera, but let me know what you think!

-

Huntress of Heroes
A dramma giocoso in two acts

Dramatis Personae (in order of appearance):
Violeta, a beautiful and gentle Varisian wanderer and the priestess Dionarra’s most avid admirer, her sweetness and innocence make her death at the climax of Act I the tragic highlight of the show.

Matei, a Sczarni bravo who initially appears as a farcical caricature of the superstitious and untrustworthy Varisian, he unexpectedly emerges as the hero of the opera's second act.

Velkan, a young Varisian boy.

Aolar, the titular Huntress of Heroes, portrayed as an almost farcically villainous but nevertheless horrifying figure.

Dionarra, a saintly priestess of Desna beloved by all of the Varisian wanderers.

Desna, goddess of dreams, the stars, and travelers.

Abadar, Calistria, Sarenrae, and Shelyn, other deities

Chorus, representing various heroes and captive souls

-

Act 1

Scene 1:
Next to her brightly painted wagon, Violeta sings about the many hardships of a wanderer's life, but that she is nevertheless filled with joy and hope because her caravan is watched over by the famous Dionarra ("How can these sore feet go on"). As she finishes, the roguish Matei arrives to scold her for praising the priestess so, for while they all love her, they do not wish to draw the attention of Aolar, the huntress of heroes ("shut your mouth and make a fig").

Even as Matei sings, however, Aolar makes her appearance, enchanted to appear blurred and diaphanous (showing that it is only her mind that is present). She observes for part of the song, after which the boy Velkan runs to tell Violeta and Matei that Dionarra has returned to the caravan after being away on a solitary pilgrimage, and all of the mortal characters rush off stage. Aolar then delivers a song in which she describes her evil deeds (taking exaggerated pride in them),but declares that taking Dionarra's body will be her greatest achievement yet ("what a lovely new toy").

Scene 2:
The scene begins with Dionarra singing a song of praise to Desna as she walks along a path, which becomes a duet sung between her and the goddess Desna, who appears gliding through the air above the stage ("The night is long, but the stars are bright").
After the song finishes, Desna fades away, and Violeta, Matei, and Velkan arrive to greet Dionarra. As they do, however, screams are heard from offstage, and Dionarra declares that there is a nearby village that must be in need of aid.

Violeta and Matei beg Dionarra not to go, with Violeta fearing for her safety and Matei reinforcing her concerns with outlandish tales of dangerous beasts said to live in the area ("what nightmares lurk in those shadowed hills"). Dionarra replies that it is her duty as a priestess of Desna to combat such monstrosities, although she does offer that, if he is so concerned, the though she does ask Matei, who so often boasts of his prowess, if he would be willing to accompany her. Matei demures with exaggerated cowardice, and Dionarra sets off alone.

Scene 3:
Dionarra arrives at the village and does battle with illusions of terrible monsters, fighting to save the fleeing villagers. The scene is embellished with magical effects and features a duet between Diona and Aolar, where it becomes clear that
the demon lord has engineered this attack ("what fell power has cursed this land"). The scene ends with the death of Dionarra when she heroically interposes herself between a horrible hook-clawed beast and a cowering child, and Aolar gleefully congratulates herself on her victory ("the fool comes gladly into my domain").

Scene 4:
As Violeta and Matei await Diona’s return, the latter attempts awkwardly to court the young lady, who is naively oblivious to his attempts ("there's a cold wind blowing from the mountains tonight"). Thus thwarted, Matei changes tactics, and tries to impress Violeta with boasting, but as a gentle soul she finds his supposed achievements abhorrent. In the end Matei confesses tearfully that he made most of it up ("What can a poor boy do"), and his sudden vulnerability touches Voleta, who places a hand on his shoulder as the scene ends.

Scene 5:
Aolar returns to the caravan in the body of Dionarra (courtesy of a disguise self spell), while Dionarra's disembodied soul is forced to look on. Dionarra sings a lament in which Desna once more appears to join her in a duet ("would that I could warn them"). Velkan rushes to greet her, and Aolar keeps up the charade of being Dionarra long enough for Violeta to return ("come, gentle boy").

As the young woman arrives, Aolar murders Velkan right before her eyes, and Violeta is so horrified that she is unable to defend herself when the demon turns on her. Just as Aolar delivers the killing blow, however, Matei arrives and rushes to her aid, stabbing the possessed priestess in the back. This forces Aolar to flee Violeta's body, but she carries off her soul along with that of Dionarra.

Matei then takes Violeta in his arms, and as she dies he confesses his love to her in song, while she tries to console him to go on ("hold on to me, dear flower"). As she falls lifeless in his hands, Matei calls upon Desna to take vengeance for her fallen priestess.

Act 2

Scene 1:
Aolar gloats in her castle in the Abyss, joined by a chorus of damned souls ("I bid you welcome, dear guests"), but the spirits of Dionarra and Violeta still defy her. The priestess’ spirit counters her boasting, and then fortells than the enemies she has
made through her evil deeds shall soon come to call, and not a stone of
her castle will remain standing ("no storm can rage forever").

Scene 2:
In "the heavens," Desna speaks with other deities, including Calistria, Shelyn, and Sarenrae. She demands retribution for the wrongs done to her followers, and the other goddesses lament that they too suffer from the terrible evils of the demon lord ("do the angels have no fury"). However, Abadar appears and declares that ancient pacts forbid the gods from taking direct action against a lord of the Abyss. In the end, Desna resolves to find truer allies in her home on the material plane ("what good is eternity"). Shelyn and Sarenrae are saddened by this, but Calistria remains aloof and enigmatic throughout the scene.

Scene 3:
We return to Matei, who is mourning before the graves of Dionarra and Violeta ("where shall I wander now"). Desna appears to him, and instructs him to gather righteous souls who have been wronged by Aolar in order to strike back against the demon lord ("hold tight your hope, oh sorrowful one"). He agrees, and the scene culminates in what is meant to be the musical high point of the piece, an impassioned plea by Matei for mortals, imperfect and powerless as they may be in the grand scheme of the cosmos, to make a stand against evil ("listen here, all you wretched ones").

Scene 4:
Desna, Matei, and their army of heroes march into the Abyss, and another effects-heavy scene begins as they do battle with demons. Desna exhorts her followers to take heart in the face of incredible odds, while Aolar heaps abuse on her faltering demonic foces ("fear not the rising of the tide"). The scene culminates in the goddess destroying the demon lord’s fortress and setting free the souls she had kept from their proper judgement ("and now at last all chain are broken").

Scene 5:
In the ruins of Aolar’s tower, Desna approaches the demon lord intending to end her, but Aolar reveals that she still holds the souls of Dionarra and Violeta prisoner, and threatens to devour them if the goddess strikes against her. Aolar launches into her climactic song in which she declares that compassion is a weakness and that evil will always triumph over good ("what should a goddess care"), but meanwhile Matei sneaks up and manages to free the bound souls. Aolar realizes this too late, and is slain by Desna.

Both the goddess and the spirit of Dionarra thank Matei for his intervention ("let angels' heads be bowed"), and he has one final goodbye duet with Violeta before she must go on to her final judgement ("I fear we were but strangers in the end"). In the end, Matei is left alone on stage, and sings a final song, in which he declares that while we cannot know with certainty what fate awaits us in the great beyond, the more important thing is that we strive to make a better world for ourselves while yet we live ("it is not for us to know").

Liberty's Edge

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

Liberty's Edge

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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.

Liberty's Edge

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.

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