Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In celebration of the release of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Heaven Unleashed, I wanted to take a moment as one of the biggest fans of Heaven on the Paizo development staff to reveal a never-before-seen, behind-the-scenes peek at how exactly we went about building the great mountain of Heaven!

As is often the case at Paizo, we didn't build it all at once. For many years, we had dropped hints and brief descriptions of different locations within it, or discussed it in broad terms. While we had given the plane a very rough outline back in a book called The Great Beyond, that was one of the first setting books we ever did, and frankly we were still figuring a lot of things out back in those days and had no concept yet just how important Pathfinder's setting would become. (To give you a sense of how long ago that was: the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game didn't exist yet, folks currently running the adventure paths hadn't even started freelancing for Paizo, and Wes didn't yet have any stress-induced gray hair.) Since then, we'd revisited the plane various times—for instance, I got to explore the Great Library and Heathen Shore (Heaven's international district) in The Redemption Engine—but we'd never sat down and really hashed out a full outline of the plane.

While Heaven Unleashed is mostly a big book of cool encounters tied to Heaven, it was important to us to finally give a comprehensive overview of the plane—what the various layers are, who runs what, etc. So several of us sat down and brain-melded to try and figure out how to weave existing canon and new stuff together to create a framework for Heaven. There was plenty of pressure, for as Wes pointed out, a well-designed Heaven ought to be just as cool as Hell, especially since they're in many ways mirror reflections of each other. (Plus, it had always felt like a shame to both of us that everyone reads Dante's Inferno, but not even hardcore planar fans can be bothered to finish Paradiso...)

The result was this whiteboard sketch, with each of Heaven's seven's layers charted out. Here you can see our thoughts on the function of each layer and which souls go where, as well as our metaphysical musings about how the souls residing on certain layers "face outward," others face inward, and still others face beyond, toward Heaven's role in the multiverse. (We go down all sorts of theosophical rabbit holes around here.) And of course, there are the names of the layers, the identities and titles of the rulers of each layer, which gods live where... all the basics you need to know as a scholar of Heaven or just someone looking to petition the gods or kick some angelic ass.

You'll also notice a bunch of green boxes on the board. Those were for those layers or rulers who hadn't been named or decided yet when I took this picture. We've figured things out since then, of course, and I'm happy to say that I think we achieved our goal of making Heaven just as interesting as its unholy sister plane. But if you want to know the rest of the details... well, that's what the book is for, now isn't it?

James L. Sutter
Executive Editor

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Tags: Pathfinder Campaign Setting

Ok, this book just got a heck of a lot more interesting to me. Congradulations! Is it next Wednesday yet?

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Society Subscriber

That's really cool. Can't wait to read more!

Silver Crusade

Hm. Apparently I must stop ignoring the copy of Heaven Unleashed on my nightstand in favor of Ultimate Intrigue.

Grand Lodge

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So is that one of the illustrations in the book, or did you go with a prettied up version?

Paizo Employee Developer

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Schnappy das kleine Kobold wrote:
So is that one of the illustrations in the book, or did you go with a prettied up version?

We turned the infographic into words. Beautiful, eloquent, legible words. So yes, a prettied-up version.


James L. Sutter wrote:
(Plus, it had always felt like a shame to both of us that everyone reads Dante's Inferno, but not even hardcore planar fans can be bothered to finish Paradiso...)

I've tried! I really have! I got partway through before the text got too dense for high school me. I'll probably pick it up again, though; I feel like I should read the entire Divine Comedy.

I have read all of Purgatorio, if that makes any difference...

Editor-in-Chief

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They're not gray, they're distinguished...

You @#$%.

Project Manager

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F. Wesley Schneider wrote:

They're not gray, they're distinguished...

You @#$%.

Yes, you're an extraordinarily distinguished-looking gentleman. And very clever and wearing a very nice shirt.

Paizo Employee Developer

1 person marked this as a favorite.

While it's not as difficult as laying out an entire plane, figuring out how Heaven's architecture looks is quite a challenge, too. I hope everyone enjoys the book, because I sure did and would love to revisit it! :D

Executive Editor

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F. Wesley Schneider wrote:

They're not gray, they're distinguished...

You @#$%.

We're all identifiable by our little writing tics. Jacobs EMPHASIZES in ALL CAPS, Jason says "a host of," I mention Wes's gray hair... It's just part of our individual charm.


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So, the obvious question is, when are we going to get a nice big hardcover PLANES book for pathfinder? Just wondering/thinking out loud.


I though Heaven had nine layers, for some reason...


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I prefer to think that Heaven is run by Mitra from Way of the Wicked.

...

Don't look at me funny! If Asmodeus is the ruler of hell, then logically speaking, wouldn't Mitra reign in Heaven? ;)


The Golux wrote:
I though Heaven had nine layers, for some reason...

its been awhile but i think Paradiso is 7 as well, but I could be (probably am) wrong.


zauriel56 wrote:
The Golux wrote:
I though Heaven had nine layers, for some reason...
its been awhile but i think Paradiso is 7 as well, but I could be (probably am) wrong.

Having since checked, in the Divine Comedy there are nine layers, matching up with astronomical figures (one layer is the fixed stars, and the undiscovered-at-the-time planets aren't counted) as well as the nine orders of angels (Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Dominions, Powers, Virtues, Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim), though diverging from Dante certainly isn't wrong per se. And the number of celestial figures and types of angels/archons is different anyway, not to mention the two other good-aligned planes!

Sczarni

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Now I want to run a campaign, featuring evil champion PCs, bent on destroying heaven itself from within!

I bet my players are not familiar with a lot of the powers of "good", mwahaha.

Can't wait!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

As a fan of aasimars, that's really fun!

Hmm

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