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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Tags: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Pathfinder Second Edition Pathfinder World Guides
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Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Okay, we now know that "magic warrior" is the Mwangi Expanse archetype.

I am definitely looking forward to seeing more details about Vidrian/Sargava, given that a former PC of mine was born and raised in Freehold.

One point I remember noting from the new map is that the label for Vidrian was actually south of the former territory of Sargava. Does that perhaps mean that the new Vidrian is larger than old Sargava?

Paizo Employee Developer

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Vidrian has the same borders as Sargava, as you'll see in the Lost Omens World Guide. The Vidrian tag on the map you've already seen happens to be a little lower than where you would expect it to be, but the nation is still the same size.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

HUZZAH!

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

:D yusss

Edit: Magic Warrior hype!


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As a reminder, here's a list of the archetypes that we know so far:

1) Absalom: Pathfinder Agent
2) Broken Lands: Aldori Duelist
3) Eye of Dread: Lastwall Sentry
4) Golden Road: Living Monolith
5) High Seas: Red Mantis Assassin
6) Impossible Lands: Student of Perfection
7) Mwangi Expanse: Magic Warrior
8) Old Cheliax: Hellknight Armiger
9) Saga Lands: ?
10) Shining Kingdoms: ?

Excited about Magic Warrior here, and very interested to see how the Lost Omens Character Guide develops the Magaambya:

Quote:
This must-have 136-page guidebook for characters of all types introduces three new ancestries to the Second Edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game—the regimented and warlike hobgoblin, the plant-like leshy, and the inquisitive lizardfolk—provides 10 new heritages for the game's core ancestries, offers nearly 100 new ancestry feats, and presents 10 new archetypes to allow characters of any class to participate in the world's most notable organizations, from the adventurous Pathfinder Society to the rabble-rousing Firebrands to the magical masters of the Magaambya!


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Exciting! My very first Pathfinder campaign was Serpent's Skull, so I feel an almost nostalgic connection with the Mwangi Expanse.

I seem to recall that there were some revolutionary tendencies in Eleder (or Kalabuto?) but I don't remember anything in the APs about a new nation forming in Sargava, though. Was that part of Hell's Rebels? Or is that a new addition to the setting that wasn't a result of the P1 APs?


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Nullpunkt wrote:

Exciting! My very first Pathfinder campaign was Serpent's Skull, so I feel an almost nostalgic connection with the Mwangi Expanse.

I seem to recall that there were some revolutionary tendencies in Eleder (or Kalabuto?) but I don't remember anything in the APs about a new nation forming in Sargava, though. Was that part of Hell's Rebels? Or is that a new addition to the setting that wasn't a result of the P1 APs?

I am pretty sure that this revolution was not part of any published adventure. Note that Sargava broke off from Cheliax during the civil war in the previous century, so this revolution was not directly against Cheliax.


So the Gorilla King is dead for good, or are there any chances he could rise again as a nascent demon lord? Or maybe even a new King might be born.

Silver Crusade

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I never knew Blessed Tattoo was from Mwangi Orcs, I only ever knew Sacred Tattoo as the excellent alternative racial trait for Half-Orcs to replace the suicidal Orc Ferocity. Huh. Cool.

This whole blog is cool, Love the jungle stuff and my first PF2 character will be a Mwangi Elf. They look great.

Shadow Lodge

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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Accessories Subscriber

" In the wake of the Gorilla King's death and the fall of Usaro" excuse me?! what happened here?


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I'm just loving the descriptive text on the pictures now. It really gives my blind self a new appreciation for the setting and Paizo. Thanks!


Relatedly, I've collected a little information about the Lost Omens Character Guide over here


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Vidrian does face at least one major problem. In the course of overthrowing their Chelaxian overlords, they broke Sargava's pact with the pirates of the Shackles. I am sure that the rulers of the Shackles are not too happy about that loss of tribute income.

Meanwhile, Cheliax lost a great deal of power and prestige during the war with the Glorious Reclamation. While they are currently too weak to do much in Avistan, they are certainly strong enough to launch an expedition against Vidrian, assuming that they are smart enough to avoid the Eye of Abendego and the Shackles pirates (who might be inclined to let them pass when they realize what the Chelish are up to).

While I doubt that Cheliax could totally conquer Vidrian, they could claim victory if they are able to seize even a single seaport such as Port Freedom or Crown's End.

Shadow Lodge

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Huzzah!


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Gasp, these Lizards don't have pants.


I actually like the appearance of the lizardfolks in this illustration. I also like the way they seem to be rather sociable than one would expect. I hope this is their new "Paizo Appearance" from now on, just as we have new kobolds and goblinoids.


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Magic Warrior... Yeees. I'm so in for this, I love Old-mage Jatembe and the lore around him, more info on the Ten Magic Warriors would be welcome!

Shadow Lodge

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David knott 242 wrote:

Vidrian does face at least one major problem. In the course of overthrowing their Chelaxian overlords, they broke Sargava's pact with the pirates of the Shackles. I am sure that the rulers of the Shackles are not too happy about that loss of tribute income.

Meanwhile, Cheliax lost a great deal of power and prestige during the war with the Glorious Reclamation. While they are currently too weak to do much in Avistan, they are certainly strong enough to launch an expedition against Vidrian, assuming that they are smart enough to avoid the Eye of Abendego and the Shackles pirates (who might be inclined to let them pass when they realize what the Chelish are up to).

While I doubt that Cheliax could totally conquer Vidrian, they could claim victory if they are able to seize even a single seaport such as Port Freedom or Crown's End.

Logistical obstacles to a Chelish expedition to Vidrian remain as formidable as ever. The Eye of Abendego hasn't gone anywhere, and while the Hurricane Queen is now no longer being paid to protect Vidrian, she's not likely to just let a Chelish fleet through her waters unmolested. Not without at least receiving a massive bribe.

Furthermore, while the Chelish navy was not involved in suppressing the Glorious Reclamation, it was the subject of stepped-up Andoren harassment during that time. It was weaker in 4716 than it was in 4714, though there may have been a rebuilding program between 4716 and 4720.

What may shake things up is the developing Scramble for Azlant, kicked off by the Andorens in 4717. Talmandor's Bounty is supposed to be a way station for ships plying the Arcadian trade, but there's no particular reason that it couldn't do the same for ships attempting to navigate around the Eye of Abendego. Other, competing colonies in Azlant could do the same.

And now for something completely different: Vidrian has a flag. And I can't help but notice that it continues the pattern of revolutionary countries using blue and/or (usually "and;" Galt is the only major exception) gold in their flags.


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Awesome! I'm happy to have guessed right about what's going on with Vidrian , and that the Mwangi Expanse no longer be described from an outsider's perspective. These orcs sound great, I must have missed them reading the ISWG, or maybe they weren't mentioned.

Paizo seems to be making a conscious effort to tone down the colonialist viewpoint and the "Darkest Africa" elements of the Expanse, which always kind of ruined the fun of the region for me. If they do so successfully in the LOWG it might just become one of my favorite meta-regions!

EDIT: And that picture of Mzali is gorgeous. The elves and lizardfolk look pretty neat too!

And about Vidrian potentially being attached by Cheliax, Sargava had already broken off from the Chelish Empire (though still ruled by ethnic Chelaxians, similar to Apartheid-era South Africa). If Cheliax wasn't able to reconquer it then I doubt they will now, especially since the whole deal with Ravounel is a more pressing issue.

Shadow Lodge

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Darth Game Master wrote:
and that the Mwangi Expanse no longer be described from an outsider's perspective.

Bit much to hope for, since both the Gold Road and Impossible Lands still are.


Hmm, fair point. Hopefully they'll at least try this time

Shadow Lodge

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Darth Game Master wrote:
If Cheliax wasn't able to reconquer it then I doubt they will now, especially since the whole deal with Ravounel is a more pressing issue.

No it isn't. Sargava in its time was far more valuable and productive than Ravounel ever was or could possibly be. The only thing that makes it even remotely relevant to Chelish concerns is its geographic proximity.


Perhaps not, but either way, I see little reason why Vidrian would be an easier conquest than Sargava. Even if it is, Cheliax seems to have given up on Sargava a while ago anyway, they might not even care about re-conquering it.

Shadow Lodge

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Darth Game Master wrote:
Perhaps not, but either way, I see little reason why Vidrian would be an easier conquest than Sargava.

It probably isn't. And certainly Paizo isn't going to scuttle their newly-minted Mozambique.

Quote:
Even if it is, Cheliax seems to have given up on Sargava a while ago anyway, they might not even care about re-conquering it.

They tried in 4712.


zimmerwald1915 wrote:
Darth Game Master wrote:
Perhaps not, but either way, I see little reason why Vidrian would be an easier conquest than Sargava.

It probably isn't. And certainly Paizo isn't going to scuttle their newly-minted Mozambique.

Quote:
Even if it is, Cheliax seems to have given up on Sargava a while ago anyway, they might not even care about re-conquering it.
They tried in 4712.

Huh, I actually didn't know about that. My mistake; probably should have checked to make sure I remembered correctly before mentioning that.

Silver Crusade

I love basically everything about this.

If Usaro has fallen, does that mean the Lake Ocata orcs now have Worldbreaker? How exciting!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The Mwangi Expanse also holds a special place in my heart, as it is also my first delve into a Pathfinder weekly game (started running Crucible of Chaos ... years ago) and the Mwangi Expanse is still my favorite region of Golarion.

Very excited for what PF2 has to offer ... despite my earlier claims to the contrary (I might actually look into getting PF2 .... even though I do have MORE THAN ENOUGH PF1 game material to last me 10 years over).

Lol! Ugh! Paizo why must you tempt me so? :P


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The Gorilla King is dead?! :(

I'm running Serpent's Skull at the moment, just getting started on book 2. I guess I'll just need to ensure my players understand that this is now set several years prior to this book, when Sargava/Eleder was still under colonial control and the Charau'Ka still ruled in Usaro.


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Any expectation to learn of any interaction with the countries south of the mwangi expanse? I haven't seen too much written on the subject.


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Is it just me, or between this and the Belkzen bit in Eye of Dread entry are orcs being adjusted away from being designated antagonists?


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SilvercatMoonpaw wrote:
Is it just me, or between this and the Belkzen bit in Eye of Dread entry are orcs being adjusted away from being designated antagonists?

I honestly hope this is indeed the case. Not a fan of the tendency for orcs in D&D and PF to be a one-dimensional race which exists to be antagonistic towards almost all of the others. Though I doubt orcs, at least Belkzen ones, are being totally de-eviled.


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

If House Thrune is really smart, their best bet would be to form an alliance with the Shackles and sack the ports of Vidrian in a joint expedition. That would give them the victory they need (as well as some loot) without saddling them with a colony that they would be increasingly hard pressed to defend. Furthermore, since Vidrian is not well equipped to attack Cheliax, they can repeat this campaign every few years as desired.


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I would much prefer races native to the material plane to be morally ambiguous with cultural tendencies toward specific alignments being attributable to whatever deities their local populous chooses to follow. I feel inherent alignment to be a strictly outsider phenomenon.


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Alchemical Wonder wrote:
I would much prefer races native to the material plane to be morally ambiguous with cultural tendencies toward specific alignments being attributable to whatever deities their local populous chooses to follow. I feel inherent alignment to be a strictly outsider phenomenon.

Seconded!


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As someone who ran Serpent's Skull, it's super cool to see that Sargava overthrew its colonial background. The colonial themes and racial tension in Eleder were... weird, and I'm excited to see where it goes from here.

Darth Game Master wrote:
Alchemical Wonder wrote:
I would much prefer races native to the material plane to be morally ambiguous with cultural tendencies toward specific alignments being attributable to whatever deities their local populous chooses to follow. I feel inherent alignment to be a strictly outsider phenomenon.
Seconded!

Thirded. Rich Burlew did this in Order of the Stick 10+ years ago, and it makes for much better writing to have goblins and orcs who are evil because they were raised evil & because humans/elves have abused them, than because they just have... evil genetics or something.

Shadow Lodge

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Alchemical Wonder wrote:
I would much prefer races native to the material plane to be morally ambiguous with cultural tendencies toward specific alignments being attributable to whatever deities their local populous chooses to follow. I feel inherent alignment to be a strictly outsider phenomenon.

That was the design intent behind the labels "usually" and "always" in the d20 system. "Usually" denoted a predominant cultural inflection or tendency, while "always" denoted an inborn or ontological trait.

Shadow Lodge

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David knott 242 wrote:
If House Thrune is really smart

Big "if" there. This is a family that tossed away a province on a whim because the queen decided she didn't like her cousin's face. To say nothing of how they seem to believe their own hype.

Shadow Lodge

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SilvercatMoonpaw wrote:
Is it just me, or between this and the Belkzen bit in Eye of Dread entry are orcs being adjusted away from being designated antagonists?

It’s not just you and it’s as it should be. Every race should be available across the alignment spectrum to tell the widest possible range of stories. It’s moving from “orcs are evil” to “Nazi orcs are evil”.


That’s the kind of nuance that’s difficult to express with the word “usually”.

Seems more like a setting backed stereotype than an acknowledgement that people will be people with all the good and bad that entails.

Shadow Lodge

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Alchemical Wonder wrote:
That’s the kind of nuance that’s difficult to express with the word “usually”.

Word count for each Bestiary entry is limited, and the meanings of the terms are defined up front.

It may not have been the most effective communication technique, but I'm willing to cut the writers slack for trusting their readers to exercise reading comprehension - even in the face of socially- and subculturally-instilled biases. I'm also not going to complain if, with the benefit of hindsight and experience, they make a different calculation about how to get across the same intent, or take those biases more into account, the better to confront them.

What I won't abide is the contention that it was ever the intent (in d20 and its derivatives - I have no experience whatsoever with anything earlier) portray the various peoples as cookie-cutter stereotypes or as easily-acceptible targets.


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Except that’s exactly the intent behind inherent alignments for outsiders. One that I accept freely as part of the fantastical setting. Whether specific native material plane races may be environmentally predisposed to certain alignment is also a reasonably justified setting. The conflation of the creation of such a setting with assumptions about the personal beliefs of the setting creators is not one I have made or intended to imply. Perhaps you could judge my writing with the same grace you judge theirs.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

For orcs specifically, I believe the idea that they are inherently evil is from Tolkien, where orcs are engineered to be evil descendants of elves. (Someone may have done the same earlier, but Tolkien is the popular source of it.)

More modern sources (like Warcraft) give the orcs other origins and make sense to give them nuance in their alignments, similar to humanity.

I definitely prefer the nuanced approach, but it's fairly clear where the "orcs = evil" comes from, and why they're usually the grunts in the bad guy's/girl's army.


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Wasn't the diagetic reason that Orcs were these ferocious antagonists was that Orcs were originally from the Darklands and were extremely influenced from proximity to Rovagug? But living on the surface they have no more reason than anyone else to take their marching orders from the Rough Beast save for "tradition."

Presumably in the last several thousand years a great number of orc groups have had cause to reconsider some things and have had opportunity to forge different traditions.


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I am HERE for more complex mortal species and also for the elimination of colonialism in the Mwangi Expanse! GO VIDRIAN!

Actually, reading the article again, it seems like the general design thrust of these updates are, "Maybe move away from the racist tropes of 'Darkest Africa'..." and I am even MORE here for THAT!


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^Yep!

Also, Order of the Stick is a great example. Goblins and hobgoblins are often antagonists to the main characters but they're portrayed as nuanced and sometimes even sympathetic ones, with historical reasons for their situation that make sense, and plenty of them are normal people. I know Rich Burlew isn't a fan of "always chaotic evil" races either (the TV Trope not the literal meaning).

Paizo Employee Designer

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The_Minstrel_Wyrm wrote:

The Mwangi Expanse also holds a special place in my heart, as it is also my first delve into a Pathfinder weekly game (started running Crucible of Chaos ... years ago) and the Mwangi Expanse is still my favorite region of Golarion.

Very excited for what PF2 has to offer ... despite my earlier claims to the contrary (I might actually look into getting PF2 .... even though I do have MORE THAN ENOUGH PF1 game material to last me 10 years over).

Lol! Ugh! Paizo why must you tempt me so? :P

Our goal is to make awesome stuff that you will enjoy and make great games and stories for you. If our older products are enough for that, that's awesome! If we can tempt you to check out some of our cool new stuff too, we're happy about that too and we definitely appreciate it if you do.


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So I don't suppose you could shed some like on the demise of poor Ruthazek and the rest of the demon haunted Usaro, Mike Seifter?


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
PossibleCabbage wrote:

Wasn't the diagetic reason that Orcs were these ferocious antagonists was that Orcs were originally from the Darklands and were extremely influenced from proximity to Rovagug? But living on the surface they have no more reason than anyone else to take their marching orders from the Rough Beast save for "tradition."

Presumably in the last several thousand years a great number of orc groups have had cause to reconsider some things and have had opportunity to forge different traditions.

I like this approach/explanation. It shows that while the mortal soul can be corrupted, it can also evolve away from that corruption.

Given that half-orcs exist as a core race in Golarion, and we should get away from the idea that all half-orcs are the product of violence, it's going to be rather important for non-evil orcs to not only exist, but also not be exceptional.

Paizo Employee Designer

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Thomas Seitz wrote:
So I don't suppose you could shed some like on the demise of poor Ruthazek and the rest of the demon haunted Usaro, Mike Seifter?

That depends. How familiar are you with all of the details of Serpent's Skull, including the extras? Though I'm not a Mike. Paizo Mike is very cool but a different person.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
Wasn't the diagetic reason that Orcs were these ferocious antagonists was that Orcs were originally from the Darklands and were extremely influenced from proximity to Rovagug? {. . .}

That may be part of the explanation, but also the Dwarves drove them out of the Darklands in their Quest for Sky. Given the Toragdan Paladin Code, this was almost certainly extremely brutal.

Edit: And now I want an AP of the Vidrian Revolution.

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