The Mwangi Expanse

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Since we first revealed the map of the Age of Lost Omens campaign setting, with its ten meta-regions and updated names for existing locations, fans have been asking for more information about the Mwangi Expanse. Well today I'm happy to be able to grant that wish, with a brief overview of how the setting's iconic jungle has evolved between editions!

Lush green landscape with a few slim, leafy trees in the front right foreground. In the distance, a number of geometric buildings are seen at the foot of a background of mountains.  A flock of birds are flying by.

Illustration by Roman Roland Kuteynikov

One of the key differences between the Mwangi Expanse and other regions of the Age of Lost Omens campaign setting is that it (mostly) lacks nation-states with capitals and well-established borders, instead offering a number of city-states spread throughout a vast wilderness of adventure-filled jungles, savannahs, swamps, and mountains. Whether it's Nantambu, with its ancient magic academy, the Magaambya; Mzali, ruled by the mummified child-god Walkena; or the mercantile pirate port of Bloodcove; each of these political entities is presented with the same level of detail as the nations on the Inner Sea. We took special care to ensure that each one is described from the perspective of a native rather than from the eyes of outlanders coming into the region to explore and research the “lost” civilizations within, and longtime fans of the Mwangi Expanse should appreciate the new point of view for the variety of stories it can inspire in players and GMs alike.

Jaha. A vast walled city with a large palace-like structure in the center. One area of the wall has an inset with a large statue depicting a seated person, praying. A number of smaller buildings are in front of the wall near the statue. With the walls, a building with a different large statue of a seated person flanks the palace on the left.

Illustration by Mirco Paganessi

On the Expanse's western coast lie the Sodden Lands—a collective name for the flooded nations of Lirgen and Yamassa, which were destroyed with the Eye of Abendego formed off their shores. No centralized government rules these waterlogged lands, and what antediluvian settlements survive are now mostly ruined spectres of their former glory, overtaken by cannibals, cultists, and monsters. Many Lirgeni refugees and lizardfolk resettled in the Mwangi city of Jaha, and unlike the city's vanished former inhabitants, open the city to visitors who hope to learn from the famed astrologers and work with them to find a way to end the raging hurricane and reclaim their homeland.

A group studies a many-pointed star engraved into the stone ground near a brick building. Five are lizard people, wearing decorative belts and armguards. One carries a horned staff.  They are accompanied by a woman with long dark hair tied back in a braid. She wears long white robes, sandals,  and a circlet on her head.

Illustration by Roberto Pitturru

South of the Sodden Lands, the former nation of Sargava has undergone incredible change in the last few years. A revolution mounted by the nation's native population overthrew the Chelish colonial government that had ruled for centuries, establishing the new land of Vidrian in Sargava's place. As with all new nations, Vidrian has a long road to stability ahead of it, but its people are hopeful that self-rule will bring about an era of prosperity and innovation. Under the leadership of heroes of the revolution, the ruling council of Anthusis (what used to be Eleder) hopes to establish new trade and military alliances with nations both abroad and in the Expanse, and prevent colonization efforts like that of Sargava from occurring again elsewhere in the Mwangi.

Flag with a light blue background. A bird with red wings, an orange beak, and teal tail feathers is shown from the top down, its wings outspread. It is outlined in a firey yellow.

Illustration by Rogier van de Beek

Humans are not the only inhabitants of the Mwangi Expanse, however, and rich societies of elves and orcs are also present. The elves of the Mualijae nations—the Ekujae, Kallijae, and Alijae—occupy most of the Expanse to one degree or another, and though no longer part of a unified nation as they once were, the elves nevertheless exert incredible influence over the entire region. The orcs of Lake Ocata, for their part, have a much more localized reach, but their influence is no less important. In the wake of the Gorilla King's death and the fall of Usaro, it has been these jungle orc tribes who have led the efforts to re-stabilize the region and retake their homeland from the demon-tainted forces that once ruled.

Two dark-skinned elves in tribal gear. One is female, the other male. They both wear capes. The female, on the left, has a belt with a pouch and is carrying a staff. The top of the staff resembles a coiled snake. The man has a colorful bird sitting in the palm of his outstretched left hand.

Illustration by Andrea Tentori Montalto

Player characters from or familiar with the Mwangi Expanse can select from eight new backgrounds, such as Bonuwat wavetouched, Bright Lion, and Shory seeker, or acquire a blessed tattoo from the Mwangi orcs. Modern heroes who hope to emulate the powers and traditions of the Ten Magic Warriors and Old-Mage Jatembe may also take the magic warrior archetype.

A dark skinned magic warrior clothed in dark purple robes with gold trim. He has symbols painted in white on his face and carries a curved knife in his right hand.  His left hand is red up to his mid-forearm.

Illustration by Klaher Baklaher

Be on the lookout for the third and final piece of flash fiction from Pathfinder Tales author Tim Pratt later this week in the Tales of Lost Omens series. Next week, we'll travel back to southern Avistan to the meta-region of Old Cheliax with new fiction from Liane Merciel!

Mark Moreland
Franchise Manager

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Contributor

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Arachnofiend wrote:
Not having any good orc gods means that a good orc's religious practices are just going to be adopted from human cultures.

There are plenty of cultures on Golarion that are not human. But even if you mean an evil ancestry has to discover goodness from from another humanoid culture, that's not true either. Sarenrae is not and never was a human (even if that's how she is depicted). There's no reason an orc culture can't adopt a religion through epiphany just like many other cultures on Golarion (both good and evil) did.

(I also get the impression that people who play orcs/half-orcs want to play the monster--either to play to type or to disprove genetic determinism--and I'm OK with having an ancestry specifically to oblige that.)


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It just feels weird to me to have a culture which is thousands of years old which has not developed religious traditions both good and evil specific to that culture.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
It just feels weird to me to have a culture which is thousands of years old which has not developed religious traditions both good and evil specific to that culture.

That's totally fair - I guess I just feel that rather than an orc "pantheon," particularly in a place with such porous borders as the Mwangi Expanse, I'd expect to find that every group has adopted some of each other's gods. So maybe some new gods that clearly originated with the orcs (and are worshiped by some Mwangi groups) and some that the orcs worship and clearly are non-orc in origin.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
It just feels weird to me to have a culture which is thousands of years old which has not developed religious traditions both good and evil specific to that culture.

They could have their own traditions and rituals, but Golarion is also a world where the existence of gods is objective fact and most of those gods have been around an incredibly long time and that kind of makes the waters murky in terms of outright brand new and different religions entirely, I think.

Sarenrae is one of the oldest gods in existence, basically one of the original major deities. She's as valid of an orc god as she is a human god and she dramatically predates both of those species. Even calling her a human deity feels disingenuous.


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The Norv wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:
It just feels weird to me to have a culture which is thousands of years old which has not developed religious traditions both good and evil specific to that culture.
That's totally fair - I guess I just feel that rather than an orc "pantheon," particularly in a place with such porous borders as the Mwangi Expanse, I'd expect to find that every group has adopted some of each other's gods. So maybe some new gods that clearly originated with the orcs (and are worshiped by some Mwangi groups) and some that the orcs worship and clearly are non-orc in origin.

I think I would like that, actually. It wouldn't make much sense for them to totally ignore the "major" deities.


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Deserk wrote:
I didn't even know there was that significant a presence of Orcs around the Mwangi. How cool. And yeah it would be cool if they were portrayed somewhat differently that than the archetypical Orc.

They've been mentioned before, but not much, and only briefly. I believe they're stated to be less aggressive than their cousins in Belkzen and often get along with the local humans. They're not seen as a threat in the same way as other orcs are. Bastards of Golarion, mentions Mwangi half-orcs being prized by many human tribes as strong heroes, and they will often arrange temporary marriages with orcs to produce them. That certainly implies some cooperation with the locals, and a lack of stigma. So they're been described before, but detail has been lacking. Getting a more complete treatment of them will be nice. It gives an alternate, and less nasty, orc culture. They'd be a great source of heroic orcs that don't have to go the Drizt route of being the unique rebels against their evil kin. Also a good source of half-orcs who don't have the unfortunate implications of rape that often goes with the territory.

Arachnofiend wrote:
Having only evil orc deities is a bit different from having only good elf deities; it goes back to my issue with the one "Good" orc tribe in Belkzen being devoted to Sarenrae, and Gorum being retconned to no longer accept Chaotic Good worshipers. Not having any good orc gods means that a good orc's religious practices are just going to be adopted from human cultures. It'd work well enough if Mwangi orcs have always shared a cultural heritage with their non-orc neighbors, but making it so they have to be "saved" by a human deity to be good comes with a whole host of problems.

Agreed. I'd like for there to be at least one good orc god, and several neutrals. Perhaps their worship has been largely stamped out in Belkzen but continues in secret, and openly in the Mwangi Expanse. And while I actually agree with the decision not to have CG clerics of Gorum, I can see the problem that none of the traditional orc gods allow good clerics. Having the only good orcs follow traditionally human religions does feel a bit problematic. It might be well intentioned, but brings the unfortunate implication that all goodness from orcs comes from outside, by making them less orcish. Although on the other hand, as was pointed out, Serenrae predates humans, orcs and the planet. And her status as the deity most directly involved in the defeat of Rovagug does seem fitting for good orcs who reject their kin's worship of Rovagug.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The goddess of the Sun does not strike me as a likely ancient traditional deity for creatures who had always lived underground.


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The Raven Black wrote:
The goddess of the Sun does not strike me as a likely ancient traditional deity for creatures who had always lived underground.

Especially considering her physical manifestation is the source of non-stop, agonizing pain and discomfort for the average orc, even if orcs are not natural evil I doubt 'light' and 'the sun' would have as positive connotations as they do in human society.

And honestly I'm thrilled for there to be more emphasis on non-evil orcs, I just wish they weren't so localized and confined to one specific geographic area.


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Super Mutant wrote:
And honestly I'm thrilled for there to be more emphasis on non-evil orcs, I just wish they weren't so localized and confined to one specific geographic area.

From the Broken Lands description, it did sound like Belkzen orcs might be getting some nuance to them as well.


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There is a tribe in Belkzen that worships Sarenrae.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I feel the archetypical Evil Belkzen Orcs are now showed as an exception whereas they were often thought of as representative of the average Orcs in years past.

And even them did not blindly fall in line behind Tar-Baphon when he came calling.

Shadow Lodge

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The Raven Black wrote:
The goddess of the Sun does not strike me as a likely ancient traditional deity for creatures who had always lived underground.

We know why Sarenrae was picked: because the tribe was "redeemed" from Rovagug's worship and Nocticula hadn't adopted her new persona yet.


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Doktor Weasel wrote:
And her status as the deity most directly involved in the defeat of Rovagug does seem fitting for good orcs who reject their kin's worship of Rovagug.

I actually really like this angle. What better way to thumb your nose at Rovagug than to celebrate the god that cast him down?


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Considering that Orcs spent their previous existence underground, just coming out of a cave and seeing the sun for the first time must have been a religious experience for some orcs. It would be awesome in the classical sense.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Squiggit wrote:
Doktor Weasel wrote:
And her status as the deity most directly involved in the defeat of Rovagug does seem fitting for good orcs who reject their kin's worship of Rovagug.
I actually really like this angle. What better way to thumb your nose at Rovagug than to celebrate the god that cast him down?

Worship Asmodeus ?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
The Raven Black wrote:
Squiggit wrote:
Doktor Weasel wrote:
And her status as the deity most directly involved in the defeat of Rovagug does seem fitting for good orcs who reject their kin's worship of Rovagug.
I actually really like this angle. What better way to thumb your nose at Rovagug than to celebrate the god that cast him down?
Worship Asmodeus ?

Asmodeus didn't strike at Rovagug with a flaming scimitar.

I can see that part of the story appealing to even a fairly "traditional" orc who values martial prowess as a cardinal virtue.


7 people marked this as a favorite.
Cole Deschain wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
Squiggit wrote:
Doktor Weasel wrote:
And her status as the deity most directly involved in the defeat of Rovagug does seem fitting for good orcs who reject their kin's worship of Rovagug.
I actually really like this angle. What better way to thumb your nose at Rovagug than to celebrate the god that cast him down?
Worship Asmodeus ?

Asmodeus didn't strike at Rovagug with a flaming scimitar.

I can see that part of the story appealing to even a fairly "traditional" orc who values martial prowess as a cardinal virtue.

Even the painfulness of the sun could feed into that. Respect for something so awesome that you can't even look at it without massive pain. So yeah, I'm actually starting to really like the idea of Seranrae as a deity for good orcs. It is keeping with the emphasis on strength and power. Why worship Rovagug, when Seranrae smacked him down? It's the traditional thing of the leader is the one who defeats the old leader.

It'd certainly be a minority faith. But I'm seeing more and more points in it's favor. There should still be some non-evil, natively orc deities too though.


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^Agreed

Liberty's Edge

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I missed this until now!

I'm overjoyed by the hints that we'll get more about the Orcs of the Mwangi Expanse. Culturally, the Orcs of Belkzen are primarily Evil and that can't change quickly without weird retcons, but we know so little about the Mwangi Orcs (and the little we do know involves them being chill), that they serve as an excellent opportunity to showcase a more pleasant and friendly group of Orcs.

Which is what Paizo seems to be doing. And that's wonderful.

I have no objection to the rare Good Orcs from Belkzen worshiping Sarenrae, as the Goddess of Redemption and foe of Rovagug, that makes a lot of sense. I would likewise, however, expect the Orcs of Lake Ocata to have entirely different faiths bearing no relation to either of those Gods. After all, why would they care about either?

Orcs aside, the rest also sounds quite good (particularly presenting the area from the perspective of someone who lives there), and I'm very interested in the new nation replacing Sargava. That's cool.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
zimmerwald1915 wrote:
Aenigma wrote:
Also, what happened to Pridon's Hearth, the newest colony of Sargava? Did the native people conquered this town too?
Liberated, and probably. Vidrian has the same frontiers as Sargava.

I ran Ire of the Storm last year; Pridon's Hearth is south of Sargava, and wasn't much of a colony. They had also freed all of their slaves, and depending on the PC's actions, possibly made peace with both the local Song'O Halflings and the Lizardfolk. Regardless, Pridon's Hearth was never under the administration of Sargava in the first place, and it didn't sound like the colony's only valuable export (Malaria-curing potatoes? Something like that) was common knowledge.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
David knott 242 wrote:
Mark Moreland wrote:
David knott 242 wrote:

Since both Cheliax and the Shackles are now enemies of Vidrian, the open question is whether they make any sort of common cause against that new nation.

I wouldn't necessarily say that either is an "enemy" of Vidrian. Cheliax lost Sargava long before Sargava became Vidrian, and the Shackles will just have to go back to getting money from the Vidrians the old-fashioned way—piracy. While they aren't necessarily allies, they don't have an oblique motivation to full-out conquer them either.

Conquer them -- no, it wouldn't be worth it.

Punish them -- oh yes, they have plenty of motivation to do that. The idea of Cheliax taking action against Sargava is actually mentioned in the "Continuing the Adventure" section of one of the "Hell's" adventure paths -- I think it was "Hell's Vengeance". I don't think they would particularly care that there has been a revolution there.

I think the part that strikes me as unlikely is the Shackles Pirates rolling over for Cheliax so soon after the Chelaxians tried to outright murder them with Devils. I can see them taking (very high) bribes to allow trade ships through, but nothing the size of an invasion force, because doing so would threaten the pirates' own sovereignty.

I think more likely threats to Vidrian would be wealthy Sargavans trying to cling to their power in the region, Bekyars and other hostile neighbors looking to invade while they're still weak, and various factions vying for control of the country. I'm thinking about setting my 2E campaign in the region, starting around the transition period, so the players can experience the chaos, trying to protect their friends during the transition, choose what part of the revolution they support, etc.

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