Last week we looked at the Eye of Dread region of Avistan, as described in the forthcoming Lost Omens World Guide, and boy was it gloomy! Let's change the scene for this week's look into the new state of the campaign setting in the era of Pathfinder Second Edition. What better locale to differentiate itself from mist-shrouded, undead-infested than the sunny deserts of the Golden Road?
This is one of the largest meta-regions in the book, stretching along the northern coast of Garund from the island of Nuat, across the Obari Ocean and Stonespire Island, to Qadira where Avistan and Casmaron meet. Five nations comprise the Golden Road—Katapesh, Osirion, Qadira, Rahadoum, and Thuvia—and while they all feature wide deserts, they're nevertheless distinct from one another, providing endless inspiration for adventure along trade caravans, teeming bazaars, long-lost pyramids, or hidden oases.
In Katapesh, the mysterious Pactmasters maintain their enigmatic rule over the mercantile nation, as implemented by their agent, Pactbroker Hashim ibn Sayyid. In the bazaars of Katapesh, adventurers, collectors, and purveyors of the bizarre can find just about anything they seek, assuming they can effectively barter for it. The nation takes its name from the euphoric drug, pesh, the foundation of the region's black market, and full stats for the drug's refined form are available for players or GMs willing to risk addiction for the pleasure of a little escape. The slavers of Okeno off Katapesh's eastern shore still peddle flesh, despite facing an influx of abolitionist movements on the waters of the Inner Sea and Obari Ocean. While the slave trade has been outlawed in Absalom, it's very much alive in Katapesh, giving liberators and Firebrands a new target in their war for universal freedom.
In Osirion, Ruby Prince Khemet III has rescinded his policy of welcoming outside explorers to the nation's many ruins, after many of the new discoveries brought more trouble to his land than they brought wealth. In perhaps the most trying event of Osirion's modern history, the Sky Pharaoh Hakotep I rose from his tomb in 4714 to reclaim his ancient empire with a fleet of flying pyramids. Though he was stopped by brave adventurers, upon his defeat, that fleet of pyramids pyramids fell to the ground, causing incredible devastation in population centers like Sothis and peppering the desert with newly unearthed ruins for Osirionologists to explore.
The rise of a new, more capable ruler in Taldor has quieted Satrap Xerbystes II's saber rattling in recent years, but Qadira represents just the eastern tip of the continent-spanning Padishah Empire of Kelesh. Over the millennia, trade and expansionism from the empire have led to many wars and conquests across the Golden Road, including a lengthy rule over Osirion and the religiously-motivated Oath Wars that led Rahadoum to adopt their Laws of Mortality. Though tensions between Qadira and its neighbors may have calmed of late, the nation's military remains under the control of the satrap's vizier, Hebizid Vraj who was appointed by the Padishah Emperor himself, and has the power to overrule the satrap if he leads the nation in directions against the empire's interests. What those interests are and what they may lead to in the future is anyone's guess.
Rahadoum continues its longstanding tradition of eschewing all divine interference by strictly enforcing the Laws of Mortality, which restrict the preaching of religion and the trade of holy texts or symbols. Where other nations might have thriving churches to myriad deities or demigods, the Rahadoumi instead have some of the most advanced schools of arcane magic, science, and philosophy on the Inner Sea. Of special interest to characters who wish to forge their own destinies instead of being pawns to supposedly "higher" powers, the Godless Healing feat allows for augmented healing in the absence of a divine healer.
To Rahadoum's east, Thuvia stands out for being less a single nation than a confederation of allied city-states. The nation's economy is largely dependent on a single product, the powerful sun orchid elixir, which allows those wealthy enough to purchase a vial extended life and youthful vitality. Though the tradition of alternating which city would host the annual auction for the season's batch of the potent alchemical concoction, recent shifts in the balance of power have some Thuvians worried that the delicate balance may soon come to an end. Agents of all five powerful city-states now advocate for unification into a more traditional nation, though each believes that their city should be the new capital.
Seven new backgrounds provide new rules options for characters from or associated with the region, allowing members of all ancestries and classes to become black market smugglers, Osirionologists, or secular medics! Furthermore, those adventurers who dabble in the living monolith archetype can transform their bodies into stone in order to better protect the ancient secrets of the region.
Well, that wraps up our whirlwind tour of the Golden Road meta-region of the Age of Lost Omens campaign setting. Next we'll join Chris A. Jackson (and one of his existing characters from the region) on a short adventure in a bustling bazaar on Thursday, followed by a voyage on the High Seas next week!