Illustrated by Christophe Swal

Roots & Beginnings: Taldor

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Next month, Pathfinder Companion: Taldor, Echoes of Glory will be hitting the bookshelves of game stores and subscribers everywhere. Hank and I had the opportunity to edit the book recently, and Taldor will definitely please those gamers that enjoy a little (or large) dose of Byzantine politics in their game.

I spoke with Joshua J. Frost, the Events Manager for the Pathfinder Society and the author of Taldor, Echoes of Glory, about the sources of inspiration for Taldor. According to Josh, he envisioned the decadent, failing empire as a mix between the cultural decadence of Amsterdam during the 16th and 17th centuries and the exceedingly complicated politics and government of the Byzantine Empire.

The Gilded City of Oppara, the heart of Taldor and the rotten core of a failing empire, was modeled after the opulence and corruption found in historical Amsterdam. At the time, the economics of the city were largely geared toward making a handful of individuals obscenely wealthy, while the rest remained mired in the middle and lower classes. Such a division between rich and poor is obviously reflected in the politics of the Gilded City, where the Royalty and Senatorial classes live in opulent decadence while the masses toil away as laborers, conscripted soldiers, and penniless vagabonds. 16th and 17th century London also inspired the aristocratic culture of Taldor, particularly with regard to the importance young men of Oppara place on the possession of a fine sword; the concept of Oppara's "young blades" comes directly from this period of British history.

Josh's studies of the Byzantine Empire inspired Taldor's convoluted political system. The expansive bureaucracy of the Taldan empire, the power of the emperor to elevate officials and common citizens to higher ranks, and the division between the "bearded" aristocracy and the "unbearded" masses were all modeled after the complicated politics of the Byzantine aristocracy. In particular, the tendency of the Byzantine emperor to bestow numerous, seemingly redundant titles upon "the Bearded Ones" of the aristocracy directly inspired Taldor's elaborate hierarchy of aristocratic titles.

GMs who love to include political intrigue should look no farther than the Byzantine Empire—indeed, the bureaucracy of the empire was so vast and tortuous that the word "Byzantine" has become synonymous with decadence and duplicity. If you can't wait to include dangerous, double-dealing political intrigue in your campaign, or to simply explore the decaying empire of Taldor in greater detail, look for Pathfinder Companion: Taldor, Echoes of Glory next month!

David Eitelbach
Editorial Intern

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