Tales of Lost Omens: The Hopeful

Thursday, May 30, 2019

"Pardon..."

Over the din of the bustling street market the young boy's cry reached the passing nobleman. "Pardon me, my lord. Are you seeking the god rock? Do you need the courage to take the leap? The blessing of one who passed the test?"

The nobleman ignored him, but the young merchant persisted, obviously recognizing the robed figure's wealth from the quality of his clothes and the confidence in his step. "I have here the tears of Iomedae herself, shed when she learned of Aroden's death!" The boy pushed through the crowd, following the nobleman, waving a tiny vial that undoubtedly contained ordinary water. "My lord?"

The nobleman paid the boy no mind and walked through the throng seemingly oblivious to the solicitations of its eager vendors.

All along the Avenue of the Hopeful it was the same racket. Everyone had some divine relic to sell: a tabard supposedly worn by Iomedae in the Shining Crusade; a barroom dart thrown by a mortal Cayden Cailean; a blood-rusted dagger said to have been wielded by Norgorber himself. They were all fake, of course, but the visitors that streamed down this road every day to look at the Starstone Cathedral didn't know that—or pretended not to out of willful ignorance. Sometimes even the merchants believed the veracity of their claims, their fraud offset by their misplaced good intentions.

Illustration by Federico Musetti

Among themselves, the charlatans hocking these wares claim the cathedral is the straight man in their cons. Its very presence adds an air of mystery and divine authority to the propositions, no matter how obvious the counterfeit relics are. How could it not? Inside the towering ancient shrine, suspended in the center of an unfathomably deep pit, lay a chunk of rock that fell from the heavens millennia ago amid the untold devastation of Earthfall. Those who brave the cathedral, passing all of its cunning tests, defeating its deadly guardians, and surviving to touch the Starstone exit the cathedral as gods. Many have tried over the centuries since Aroden constructed the cathedral to protect the holy relic within, but only three have ever succeeded. Unsurprisingly, it is Absalom's most visited tourist spot—the epicenter of the City at the Center of the World.

"Just two silver weights!"

The nobleman was now so far from the desperate tear-merchant that the boy's last cries were all but lost to the sounds of the city. The kid was new to the street and if he didn't soon fall in with one of the many organized rings of counterfeiters and con artists who worked in tandem to move their merchandise, he'd undoubtedly end up like so many others in the Ascendant Court, picking pockets to turn a profit from even the most discerning of customers. Those with experience working the God's Market knew not to waste their time with this particular nobleman, either as a customer or a mark.

Lord Synarr arrived in the city only six months ago, and since then he has walked the avenue every morning to gaze upon the Starstone Cathedral. At first, he was swarmed by kids hawking sacred items and protective talismans, but over time, they learned not to bother. Lord Synarr never spared even a single copper for any of their wares, he never once inspected their goods. He only diverted his attention from the Starstone Cathedral at the end of the Avenue of Hopefuls for the hopefuls themselves—those adventurers, demagogues, and zealots ambitious (or foolhardy) enough to plan their own run on divinity.

In a bid to prove their worthiness, most set up in one of the God's Market's many empty stalls and proselytize to what small audience they can wrest away from their competition. Some preach a message that speaks to a particular listener, or are charismatic enough to enthrall the crowd with their pageantry, and convert real followers from among the masses. On any given day a half-dozen or more hopefuls line the avenue, preaching their new faith, offering indulgences for coin, or performing rituals to prepare themselves for their journey.

For his first few weeks in Absalom, Lord Synarr stopped at each one as he made his way down the avenue, listening to the articles of the hopefuls' soon-to-be faiths before stoically moving on. The enigmatic noble no longer tarries before such aspirants, but he listens carefully to their tirades as he walks past, sometimes even smiling smugly to himself when a hopeful exhibits particular skill at capturing the crowd's attention.

Today, Lord Synarr witnessed a Keleshite trade prince offering a golden scabbard to Golinarth, the hulking hopeful who always wears a wooden skeleton mask and claims to have come back from the dead to become the god of second chances—one more rube offering wealth for miracles that would never materialize. A few yards further down the avenue, Ryni the Jest, a prankster hoping to become a god of mirth, gave the stern noble an unreciprocated wink of acknowledgment before turning his attention back to the butt of his public ridicule. The lord had his suspicions that the clown never actually intended to attempt the Test of the Starstone, but was simply amassing followers to start his own cult of personality.

A half-orc woman with a lilting accent offered Lord Synarr a score of rings, pendants, and bracelets tied to a velvet pillow. "Welcome back, my lord. Taking the test today?"

The noble didn't flinch, continuing his leisurely stroll toward the cathedral without a second glance in the merchant's direction.

"I got a new one, I did. Lets you walk on air." Her arm shot toward the end of the avenue like an arrow loosed from a hunter's bow. "Fttt—straight over the pit!" Recognizing that her daily pitch to her regular "customer" would have the same results today as it had the last six months, she turned her attention seamlessly to a wide-eyed gnome wearing Mwangi fashion to Synarr's left. "How about you, chum?"

Lord Synarr doubted any of the woman's jewelry was even magical, much less powerful enough to help someone cross the yawning expanse that separated the Starstone Cathedral from the surrounding city. Some fool, he was sure, would slip the ring on and dive headfirst into the abyss, cursing the merchant the whole way down. His dark eyes twinkled at the thought. One more shrine for the cathedral of the Failed, if even that.

Finally arriving at the edge of the chasm, Lord Synarr stopped for a moment and looked at the ancient temple. He was not the only one to hesitate near the precipice, and he had noted other regulars with their own routines in his time performing this daily ritual. Very few of them had lasted longer than a month or two, either giving up on their hopes of godhood or having perished in the attempt. Lord Synarr would be neither distracted nor a failure; he had one shot, and he would only attempt it when the time was right.

The robed lord turned to the left and walked around the chasm, the same route he took every day.

As he walked, his gait embodying both purpose and tranquility, Lord Synarr's thoughts turned to the temples adorning the grand plaza surrounding the pit. Iomedae and Cayden Cailean, two of the four whose apotheosis occurred mere yards away, had monuments here, built by their faithful as testaments to their success. A bridge spanned the chasm between each temple and the Starstone Cathedral, a physical manifestation of the gods' connection to the Starstone through which they attained divinity. The ascended god Norgorber, second after Aroden to pass the test, was far too secretive to put his temple out in the open. Those, like Lord Synarr, who studied the Starstone Cathedral could guess in which direction Norgorber's temple lied from the alignment of the third bridge, which appeared to point toward nothing in particular.

Lord Synarr ended his circuit of the Ascendant Court each day before the ruined fourth bridge across the mighty chasm. The missing span once pointed to the city's great temple to Aroden, who had raised the Starstone from the ocean depths along with the entire Isle of Kortos and in so doing captured his own spark of divinity. Though the bridge and even Aroden himself are gone, the temple still stands, now serving as the Chelish embassy. Despite the addition of the infernal insignias of House Thrune, Lord Synarr could still make out symbol of Aroden's eye that was once emblazoned above the grand entry, a negative outline in old dirt and moss.

The noble ended his daily stroll here to remind himself of his own mortality. While Lord Synarr welcomed the dignity and experience the gray in his hair and the lines at the corners of his eyes indicated, he could too easily allow the comforts afforded by his vast wealth distract him from the unwelcome truth that unless he passed the Test of the Starstone, he too would die. Though Aroden, god of humanity, may have died, Lord Synarr would not, he told himself.

His gaze turned from the repurposed Arodenite temple toward the towering cathedral at the city's heart. From this vantage point, he didn't see the gulf separating him from the home of divinity, and the sights and sounds of the bustling metropolis fell away. With the focus of an owl trained on its unsuspecting prey, he was aware only of the Starstone Cathedral and the power within. And just like every other day, he said one word, quietly to himself, before turning and walking back to his stately manor and the day's extravagances.

"Soon."

Jason Bulmahn
Director of Game Design

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Tags: Pathfinder World Guides Tales of Lost Omens Web Fiction
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Shadow Lodge

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Soon indeed.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Love the Absalom dynamic that's so palpable! Merchants trying to sell you talismans and ways of passing the chasm are certainly going to be included in my next description of the City at the Center of the World! Also love that each Hopeful already knows its future portafolio - I want to be the god of aligning schedules for game sessions!


6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

*The sight of the Starstone Cathedral across the yawning gulf... it fills you with determination.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Foreshadowing!?


2 people marked this as a favorite.

This is amazing! If the dayjob doesn't work out, Jason has a future as a novelist, methinks. I want to hear more about these characters!


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Synarr the God of....Indiference?


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Is that guy wearing the Sydney Opera House on his head?


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
VerBeeker wrote:
Synarr the God of....Indiference?

The God of Patience, perhaps. :)


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MaxAstro wrote:
VerBeeker wrote:
Synarr the God of....Indiference?
The God of Patience, perhaps. :)

He shall be the God of Saying "Soon" Quietly But With Great Weight. It's a long-overlooked field ripe for exploitation.

His portfolio is Strength, Glory, Luck, Madness, and Evil. If you have to ask why... you haven't said "soon" often enough.


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Synarr, God of Hubris.

"I'm so much wiser than the rest of these rubes. And yet here I am, every day."

Liberty's Edge

4 people marked this as a favorite.

I like this quite a bit. It's got a good vibe going.

I'd make him a God of Obsession myself. He reads to me like someone who knows this is a bad idea but is irresistibly drawn to it anyway. He yearns for something he knows is probably gonna result in his death, and has stopped himself so far...but soon he'll falter and give in, and he knows it. He's an ambition addict, and can't resist the chance for power even as he knows it will likely destroy him.


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All these mortals lusting after divinity, when immortality is just a vampire-bite away.


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Now I want Synarr to be an actual god of the setting, or one that we can actually see passing the test in an AP.

Dark Archive

Pompous Aristocrat wrote:
All these mortals lusting after divinity, when immortality is just a vampire-bite away.

Hear hear, join the loving embrace of the Pallid Princess


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Deadmanwalking wrote:

I like this quite a bit. It's got a good vibe going.

I'd make him a God of Obsession myself. He reads to me like someone who knows this is a bad idea but is irresistibly drawn to it anyway. He yearns for something he knows is probably gonna result in his death, and has stopped himself so far...but soon he'll falter and give in, and he knows it. He's an ambition addict, and can't resist the chance for power even as he knows it will likely destroy him.

Eh. To me he seemed old enough and wise enough to know that he has nothing to lose by trying. Undeath may not appeal and he may not be wealthy enough for the elixir, so why not go for godhood when the grave is the only thing that awaits?

the big downside is he'll never get away from the sellers and sneak thieves if he succeeds...

Liberty's Edge

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Voss wrote:
Eh. To me he seemed old enough and wise enough to know that he has nothing to lose by trying. Undeath may not appeal and he may not be wealthy enough for the elixir, so why not go for godhood when the grave is the only thing that awaits?

Also a valid interpretation.

Voss wrote:
the big downside is he'll never get away from the sellers and sneak thieves if he succeeds...

Huh? Gods who ascend via the Starstone aren't location-bound or anything. If he becomes a God he can go wherever he likes.


Definitely not a Python deity -- he doesn't buy anything, so he can't haggle.

Edit: For sure not a Python deity. If he was, he would eventually end up responding to the charlatan-merchants with "I DON'T WANT SPAM!".

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Pompous Aristocrat wrote:
All these mortals lusting after divinity, when immortality is just a vampire-bite away.

IIRC Tar-Baphon wants to become a God because he wants to be forever. Undeath is no guarantee of unending.

Also, if something has stats, PCs will destroy it.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Bruno Romero wrote:
Love the Absalom dynamic that's so palpable! Merchants trying to sell you talismans and ways of passing the chasm are certainly going to be included in my next description of the City at the Center of the World! Also love that each Hopeful already knows its future portafolio - I want to be the god of aligning schedules for game sessions!

Preach brother, preach!


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Patrick Newcarry wrote:
Bruno Romero wrote:
Love the Absalom dynamic that's so palpable! Merchants trying to sell you talismans and ways of passing the chasm are certainly going to be included in my next description of the City at the Center of the World! Also love that each Hopeful already knows its future portafolio - I want to be the god of aligning schedules for game sessions!
Preach brother, preach!

Note to self: Offer prayer to Bruno before contacting players about their availability for game this Sunday.

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.
The Raven Black wrote:
Pompous Aristocrat wrote:
All these mortals lusting after divinity, when immortality is just a vampire-bite away.

IIRC Tar-Baphon wants to become a God because he wants to be forever. Undeath is no guarantee of unending.

Also, if something has stats, PCs will destroy it.

Neither does godhood, I'd say ask Aroden, but you can't cuz he's dead


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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber
Irlana Brightblood wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
Pompous Aristocrat wrote:
All these mortals lusting after divinity, when immortality is just a vampire-bite away.

IIRC Tar-Baphon wants to become a God because he wants to be forever. Undeath is no guarantee of unending.

Also, if something has stats, PCs will destroy it.

Neither does godhood, I'd say ask Aroden, but you can't cuz he's dead

I think that point is EXPLICITLY made in the piece, but Synarr seems to figure his chances are better than his other options. I think it's interesting what the piece does NOT say. Specifically, although Synarr seems to think he has the capability to (maybe) start the test, there isn't a single implication about his ACTUAL ability to do so. He's not mentioned as a spellcaster or great warrior or really anything other than a pompous arrogant rich dude (not that they come in any other variety).


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Ftr, there certainly are non-pompous non-arrogant rich dudes, they just aren't as visible. :P


Or as rich.


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Let's be careful with the stereotyping. I know it's easy to attack rich people, but judging by some of the prices for PF2 books, rich people may soon be the only ones able to afford physical copies of the game.

Shadow Lodge

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Desna's Avatar wrote:
Let's be careful with the stereotyping.

Why? The rich aren't.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Roswynn wrote:
Or as rich.

If we are talking about in game, there are plenty of examples of very wealthy people who are neither pompous or arrogant - high level PCs for one. :P

If we are talking IRL, just as one example Markus Persson (aka Notch) is stupidly rich and seems like a fairly humble guy.


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TOZ wrote:
Desna's Avatar wrote:
Let's be careful with the stereotyping.
Why? The rich aren't.

More stereotyping? For example, I know a number of individuals others would consider wealthy who have the ability to focus on higher-order activities in life, such as fighting against blatant stereotyping of historically disadvantaged minorities in the US.

Your comment may be amusing, but isn't accurate.

Shadow Lodge

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And your defense of the upper class is irrelevant and impotent here.


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TOZ wrote:
And your defense of the upper class is irrelevant and impotent here.

Learn to read. I'm not defending the upper class, I'm attacking stereotyping.

There are plenty of both good and bad people in all "classes".


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The Raven Black wrote:
Pompous Aristocrat wrote:
All these mortals lusting after divinity, when immortality is just a vampire-bite away.

IIRC Tar-Baphon wants to become a God because he wants to be forever. Undeath is no guarantee of unending.

Also, if something has stats, PCs will destroy it.

Aroden showed nothing is forever not even being a god.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Desna's Avatar wrote:
Learn to read. I'm not defending the upper class, I'm attacking stereotyping.

No, you're objecting to rich people being stereotyped. So, defending them. Which is pretty irrelevant to the blog.


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TriOmegaZero wrote:
No, you're objecting to rich people being stereotyped. So, defending them.

Wrong.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Typical.

Paizo Employee Managing Developer

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Please let's drop this tangent and focus our conversation on the story.

Paizo Employee Customer Service & Community Manager

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Removed a post, as Adam noted, it's time to move on from the "rich" tangent.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

Sorry for contributing to the derail. To refocus, I come back to my prior comment:

I think it's interesting what the piece does NOT say. Specifically, although Synarr seems to think he has the capability to (maybe) start the test, there isn't a single implication about his ACTUAL ability to do so. He's not mentioned as a spellcaster or great warrior or really anything other than a ... rich dude

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I never considered the test of the startstone as a monument of inspiration to help challenge and motivate the people of Absalom... Even if they never jump. Love it.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
j b 200 wrote:

Sorry for contributing to the derail. To refocus, I come back to my prior comment:

I think it's interesting what the piece does NOT say. Specifically, although Synarr seems to think he has the capability to (maybe) start the test, there isn't a single implication about his ACTUAL ability to do so. He's not mentioned as a spellcaster or great warrior or really anything other than a ... rich dude

This is exactly what makes me think he has a chance. He clearly has a plan; he's obviously too cunning not to. But it's clearly not any of the obvious plans that have been tried hundreds of times.


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I dunno, the way he acts, all high and mighty, with such arrogance... I don't see him as smart enough to succeed at the test, it's not the impression he gives me. He appears to me like one of those guys who think everything is owed to them, and who are in for a rough awakening soon enough.

It's instinct, though, I'd need a lot of effort to be able to rationally explain why it is so. But I totally see him plunging to his death on the first step he tries to take towards the cathedral, maybe trusting a magic item someone far more savvy than he is eventually managed to sell him.

I think Iomedae and Norgorber were much more formidable individuals than this guy, that's the impression he gives me. As for Cayden Cailean... let's not even mention how awesome he must have been as a mortal.

Oh and then we have an Azlanti archmage who single-handedly raised up an island of mythic-ness from the depths of the sea.

Yeah, Synarr, best of luck.


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Interesting to wonder. How did those who succeeded approach the task?

We know Cayden did it essentially on a drunken dare. I doubt he moped around the city for months thinking about it.

Liberty's Edge

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thejeff wrote:

Interesting to wonder. How did those who succeeded approach the task?

We know Cayden did it essentially on a drunken dare. I doubt he moped around the city for months thinking about it.

Iomedae did it decisively. She went to the city, went to the cathedral, threw down her cloak to use as a bridge, and walked in.

Cayden Cailean, as you say, did it on the spur of the moment while quite drunk.

Norgorber did it completely silently. Nobody knew about it until it was done.

Those all say something about what kind of God they became...but all those have been tried before and since, with most failing, so it may not say a lot about what's needed to succeed in becoming a God.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:
thejeff wrote:

Interesting to wonder. How did those who succeeded approach the task?

We know Cayden did it essentially on a drunken dare. I doubt he moped around the city for months thinking about it.

Iomedae did it decisively. She went to the city, went to the cathedral, threw down her cloak to use as a bridge, and walked in.

Cayden Cailean, as you say, did it on the spur of the moment while quite drunk.

Norgorber did it completely silently. Nobody knew about it until it was done.

Those all say something about what kind of God they became...but all those have been tried before and since, with most failing, so it may not say a lot about what's needed to succeed in becoming a God.

It might however suggest that hanging around the city for months trying figure out a plan and/or get your courage up isn't the best approach. :)


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Hey, it could work if you're not very confident and are scared - one day you somehow give it a try, start failing, understand your life is on the line, muster up all your skills, stop thinking about it and just do what must be done. If you're good enough, you could in theory afford a bad start and then surprisingly manage the feat, even to yourself.

What all the gods coming from the Starstone have in common is that they were incredible as mortals. Legendary, very very high level, some mythic. Exceptionally skilled, more so than millions of other mortals.

Other than that... anyone could pull it off.

But you need to be quality material. Or you're just not coming back.


Roswynn wrote:
What all the gods coming from the Starstone have in common is that they were incredible as mortals. Legendary, very very high level, some mythic. Exceptionally skilled, more so than millions of other mortals.

I don't disagree, but I think we're assuming without evidence. What incredible things had Cayden Cailean or Norgorber done as mortals?


Fuzzy-Wuzzy wrote:
Roswynn wrote:
What all the gods coming from the Starstone have in common is that they were incredible as mortals. Legendary, very very high level, some mythic. Exceptionally skilled, more so than millions of other mortals.
I don't disagree, but I think we're assuming without evidence. What incredible things had Cayden Cailean or Norgorber done as mortals?

Yeah, Aroden and Iomedae fit that description, but Cayden Cailean doesn't really and no one knows much about Norgorber as a mortal.


Great story, thank you :-)


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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

We don't know really anything about Norgorber's attempt, so it's possible that he did sit around for months or years trying to figure it out. He seems much too deliberate to not have a plan all worked out before taking the plunge (or not as the case may be).

I would also note that just getting across is only the start of the test. The Campaign Setting says that some have crossed the chasm, entered the cathedral and then exited, having survived but failed in their test and returning as mortal.

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