Pope Uncommon the Dainty's page

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Mykos Roarik (male vampire fighter 10) is the member of the Umbral Court who wanders the farthest. What race was Mykos before his Embrace? Presumably human, but why not state it? Deceptively gentle-mannered, he’s the leader of the Adamant Company, a subset of the state army (appropriately called the Adamant Guard) and hires them out to people other than Nidal (the Black Triune? The Umbral Court itself? Who actually is in charge of the Adamant Guard, anyway?) Evidently, the Company’s cruelty is so famous that their mere arrival on the field can cause the enemy to surrender with only one condition: no one, civilian or soldier, will be given over to their uncertain care.

The final member of the Umbral Court we’re given a description of is Virihane of Pangolais (female caligni ranger 8/rogue 2), a lovely (and rare) example of a veiled assassin done up in classic Kuthite goth-y style. I like the spiked steel rings that fringe her veils ~ it’s a detail that can either end up delicate and elegant, or exaggerated and hella metal. She’s a hunter of forbidden faiths, killing their worshipers and taking their stuff, and ties into a relatively weighty plot thread running through the book. Her current quarry is the Harp of Night’s Hope, a relic dedicated to Desna that helps them dream and get rid of Zon-Kuthon’s influence. It’s somewhere in the Uskwood, lost by a worshiper of the night sky who was caught trying to get an umbral shepherd out of a loved one. (That would be a Shadow Plane-based outsider who actually serves the Midnight Lord ~ as opposed to the velstracs who are merely deeply allied with him ~ who look like something out of a Lovecraft story and spend their time possessing people and turning their flesh into dissipating shadow.)

We’re given the details on the occult ritual known simply, descriptively, and effectively as enter the Umbral Court. It’s a big’un, level 8 and requiring 2-7 spellcasters. Oh, and ouch ~ it involves being whipped with a whip made from one’s own skin. That’s a little over-the-top, I’d say, but certainly makes a point! For some reason, I am deeply happy about the inclusion of an Intimidate check as part of the ritual ~ it feels very gratifying and realistic to me that many rituals involve some sort of action covered by a non-obvious skill like this. Why is this ritual possible at close range? That means a 20th-level lead caster can initiate someone into the Umbral Court from half a short city block away!

Backlash causes all involved casters to take a permanent negative level, while failure sends them off to somewhere near Zon-Kuthon’s realm of Xoviakain (on average, that would be 252.5 miles away, which is about the distance between Fremont and Shasta in California) and then get attacked by apostle velstracs. I wonder how often the ritual is failed, and how Nidalese culture processes it ~ is it a sign of the Midnight Lord’s displeasure with the supplicant? With the caster? Is it a test? Is it just something that happens sometimes, a consequence of working with such murky energies? Apostle kytons are powerful beings formed from those who have become infected with the madness of shadows (CR +2 template), either by another apostle kyton or some other source. The example in Horror Adventures uses a human slayer 11 as the base, resulting in a CR of 12. Since three more attack than the number of casters, that would result in a difficult CR 16 to a difficult CR 18 encounter, which doesn’t seem all that hard for spellcasters capable of doing an 8th-level ritual.

The fact that the ritual involves custom tortures derived by reading the target’s mind might make the distance of the ritual make more sense ~ many tortures would only be possible at such a distance (certain humiliations, fears of pursuit, etc.). While being tortured, the supplicant must recite the story of the Black Triune’s meeting with Zon-Kuthon against a background of epic poetry concerning the god’s time outside of reality and what he can do to his worshipers.

There’s this thing in religious studies scholarship that the achievement of altered states of consciousness is one of the main purposes of religion, with the particular state preferred by a religion defining much of how that religion works. This particular ritual surprises me by not going for the endorphin-fueled altered state caused by extended pain but rather the adrenaline of fear (in fact, anyone immune to fear would fail the ritual). Or perhaps it’s something similar to the panikon (panic) sought out by the cults of Pan in ancient Greece who would often get themselves lost in the mountainside forests. It wasn’t the state we call panic they worked with (the freakout when you realize you have no idea how to get back to somewhere safe/familiar), but the state afterwards ~ the wide-open freedom of no expectations.

Anyway, the ritual turns the supplicant’s eyes inky black and renders it immune to shadow spells (though they can lower this as a standard action, if desired). They also gain a bunch of unholy protection: regeneration 5 (“good weapons and spells and silver weapons” ~ is that good weapons and good spells or good weapons and any spells?) and DR 15/good or silver. Finally, they are forcibly turned lawful evil and have a 1-in-4 chance of getting summoned to Xoviakain for eternal torment if they do anything against Kuthite doctrine or dogma.

D&D-style fantasy games often refuse to describe what certain things look like, describing them solely in mechanical terms. The Umbral Courtmember lowering their immunity is one of those things. While this can often reduce games to simple strategy, it also allows players to develop the fiction of their character’s religious practices. What are some possible ways that could look?

We’re also told a little about the Midnight Guard and the Adamant Company. The former is a group of Nidalese spellcasters that serve House Thrune in quelling rebellion and the Black Triune by spying on Cheliax. Liane includes a short shout-out/pointer to her two Nidal-focused novels for more information about the Guard.

The Adamant Company, on the other hand, are pseudo-mercenaries who enforce the will of and loyalty to the Black Triune, with a specific focus on the Uskwood. Mykos Roarik sometimes hires them out to bosses other than the Triune when possible (although there is a slight discrepancy: his description says he does “when otherwise unoccupied” but this says “when resources permit”).

It doesn’t answer the question of the Guard’s, and therefore the Company’s, ultimate commander. Nidal obviously isn’t a feudal state, seemingly run as a nested oligarchy, with a larger group of rather independent agents (the Umbral Court) taking charge of most matters, and a tiny junta (the Black Triune) at the top. But/and many of its structures and institutions, like the Adamant Guard, seem to call for it to either be some form of absolute singular rule (monarchy, despotism, etc.) or to have some sort of governmental level in between the two. Though I suppose a more unified Umbral Court could also be a solution.

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UnArcaneElection wrote:

What's the Tower of the Fiendlorn?

Haunted mad wizard's tower that disappeared from Golarion for a while and then came back.. I'm (slowly) getting to it in my Let's Read of Nidal, Land of Shadows, if you want to know more.

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UnArcaneElection wrote:

Also consider Vildeis -- clawed her own eyes out, so the Shadow Council has got to think of that as metal. On the other hand, it could be that the real reason she clawed her eyes out was that was the only way she could think of to keep from being taken over by the same evil that took over Doubral to make Zon-Kuthon (whether true or not, the Black Triune decree could even advertise this to discredit her).

I think, much like the Tower of the Fiendlorn that returned to Nidal tainted by the Abyss, Vildeis is perfectly placed to really strike an uncanny horror in the Nidalese heart. Vildeis knows the shocking enlightenment of pain, and so resonates with the Kuthite way and should know the truth, but she did it specifically so that she would never have to see the challenging parts of the world, the difficult way of things. She did the Kuthite thing as a rejection of Kuthite ideals, especially Kuthite ideals translated through a Kellid ur-culture.

When Nidalese nannies tell their children Vildeis's story, the children find it hard to sleep that night, drenched in nightmares.

UnArcaneElection wrote:
Pope Uncommon the Dainty wrote:
{. . .} I shall have to add a sentence or two to that effect to this decree.....

Now I've got this vision in which the decree gets updated -- including one of the previously allowed deities/demideities is decided to be unsuitable -- but the update doesn't get propagated in sync(*) . . . .

(*)This might not be exactly an accident . . . .

Ooohh! If this had to do with Abadar, or even better some appropriate demideity, I could even see this becoming an international incident, as Molthune might find its militarism stirring with the possibility of an excuse to start a war.....

Next we get a sidebar with yet another pet peeve of mine >.< A description of three powerful, ancient, and mysterious beings (the Black Triune, the three horselords who made that deal with Zon-Kuthon that recreated Nidal in his image) . . . who “hold themselves remote from its day-to-day affairs.” Like, that’s the worst possible way to say that cuz it’s essentially saying “Haha, but you don’t get to see them!” WHy not just say “They only get involved in matters of the highest stakes as regards Nidal, or in the kind of cosmic matters scrutable only by the highest-level adventurers”?

We are told, however, the (possible) classes of the Triune, as well as the suggestion that there are three of them because of the three types of obedience/obedience-related prestige classes. This is almost too neat in that way that AD&D2 is often accused of being grid-filling, but it’s still super-cute. Possibly because the class choices aren’t boring :-D One was a cavalier/sentinel of Zon-Kuthon (capstone obedience ability: blindsense), another was a ranger/exalted of Zon-Kuthon (capstone obedience ability: summon and control an interlocutor velstrac 1/day), and a third was a witch/evangelist of Zon-Kuthon (capstone obedience ability: unarmed strike that does 2d6 nonlethal pain damage per round, nauseates, and gives a +4 bonus to your Intimidate checks against it for 10 rounds, save for half damage and sickened).

While I’m curious about the sentinel’s cavalier order, it’s the witch’s patron that fascinates me more. The Kellid ur-Nidalese are described as having “shamans” ~ presumably, the Pathfinder1 class of the same name (that I have renamed the “spiritworker”) is the best way to represent this religious practice. That class is a hybrid class mixing and matching elements of the witch and oracle classes, so knowing the patron of one of the Black Triune could really flesh out not only that ancient culture’s spirituality but how the Kuthite Reformation blended with, superseded, and appropriated that substrata.

Next comes a description of the Umbral Court, complete with a pointer at Paths of Prestige for the Umbral Court agent prestige class. Court membership isn’t granted to someone merely for having been born to the right family. No, it’s piety to the Midnight Lord and merit that earns one a place in this great group. Their origin as roving proud nomads shows up here, as Court members receive no formal title.

They do, however, receive a ritual that transforms them somehow. The change might be subtle and non-physical, but it can include getting turned into a vampire, shadow creature, shadow lord, or some other mystically empowered and appropriate form. Presumably, anyone who becomes a vampire thereby would become a moroi, the standard European conception of the vampire that’s popular nowadays, though I suppose getting turned into a nosferatu (monstrous and ugly) wouldn’t be too much of a surprise; the jiang-shi (hopping vampire) or vetala (psychic vampire) are, I would imagine, not quite Zon-Kuthon’s bag, baby.

The shadow creature template is pretty bog-standard for D&D3.x, giving expanded vision, damage reduction, spell resistance, and resistance to cold and electricity. Its special lala is that it gains concealment when not in bright light as it blends into the shadows. The shadow lord is, at its base, a pumped-up version of the template with better vision and better defenses. It also means that the creature is incorporeal but only while its moving, including (called out in the Bestiary 4 entry) a very situational deflection bonus to AC. It gets a melee touch attack that can be negated witha Fortitude save and that can do a tiny bit of Constitution damage, as well as a cone of cloying gloom that can blind and slow opponents and a bunch of spell-like abilities (ray of sickening at will; shadow conjuration (shadow creatures rather than fiendish/celestial) and shadow step 3/day; greater shadow conjuration (same) and shadow walk 1/day). Finally, they can open gates to the Shadow Plane (except in normal or bright light) to make it easier for their buds to come to the party, a significant boost to Dexterity and Charisma, and a mighty boost to Stealth. So, yeah, that’s a whole thing.

The first member of the Umbral Court to whom we are introduced is Eloiander of Ridwan (human druid 15), the albino master of the all-albino Shades of the Uskwood (repesented by a feat in the Inner Sea World Guide that adds two mostly necromantic or invisibility-related spells per level to your spell list and removes your ability to cast spells or take wild shapes involving fire), who goes around garbed in a continuously ad-hoc robe woven about his body by a multitude of spiders. Take that, Lolth; maybe you should go to Eloiander for some fashion advice! Eloiander is the answer to my earlier concern about the Kellid-descended Nidalese chafing at the idea of riding Cheliax’s coat-tails. He is whispered to be leading the Shades in sabotaging the diabolist realm. Nothing is said about his motives, but I suspect pride in his people is behind a lot of it.

Following that is his rival, Kholas (vampire sorcerer 14), the official advisor to Queen Abrogail Thrune II. Everything that Eloiander is not ~ urbane, polished, sophisticated, and dedicated to the alliance with Cheliax. No doubt he personally waited, tapping his foot, those three centuries to find out why the Black Triune ordered the nation to surrender. He suspects Eloiander, and would jump at the chance to act on actual proof of his subversion. It would be nice to know his bloodline; I’d guess shadow since he was trained in the Dusk Hall as a shadowcaster, but that’s also kind of boring, y/n? Considering his posting, an infernal, vetsige, or (if he was human before) imperious bloodline might be appropriate, but something like a div, dreamspun, martyred, psychic, starsoul, or even unicorn bloodline might be fun….

The last one for today (more in the next post) is Meleyne the Sun-Dimmer (half-elf bard 9). She does a lot of work souring relationships and burning them down with flames of jealousy and distrust. She is the frenemy with the biting tongue that drips tiny comments all over the place which drown your confidence and allow resentments to slip under your skin. By pushing her victims toward vengeful self-destruction she turns them into instruments of bitter envy. She’s the worst kind of bully and social predator. I have this kind of funny image of her running afoul of a pakalchi sahkil (who specialize in finishing off decaying relationships and, coincidentally, are CR 9) for essentially overworking the sahkil and not letting her have her choice of targets, or of tainting the work by artificially decaying the relationships in question. She’s a good enemy for an Ultimate Intrigue campaign because she likes to target the rulers of good-aligned nations, allowing the PCs to act as defenders of the realm.

Few who have read my posts are likely to be surprised at this (considering just how immersionist I can be), but/and I think Pathfinder could get clearer on what the meta-concept of "patron deity" means in-universe.

Is it something like the Catholic view of patron saints, where it is someone you or related to you choose to have you focus your reverence upon (some of us just choose a patron saint cuz we like them/they're applicable to us; some of us treat our name or baptismal or confirmation name or some combination thereof as determining our patrons)?

Is it closer to the Afro-Diasporic (and maybe Yoruba/Dahomey/Kikongo ~ I know less about the African versions of these religions than their Western Hemispheric descendants) idea of a lwa/orixa being "on your head"? Something that essentially everyone has but that is a choice on a part of the divine entity rather than the human practitioner?

The Mesopotamian concept of a personal deity can be similar to both of the previous or some combination thereof. The Nahua/Aztec idea of the name-day can carry something similar to the Afro-Diasporic idea, in that each day is ruled by a specific teotl who can be treated as having special influence in the person's life.

Or maybe it's more like a Greco-Roman mystery cult-like thing ~ do a particular (often very intense) ritual and magically forge a specific connection between you and the theos, deus, heroon, daimon, or other entity central to that ritual? In which case, someone might have several patron deities within the larger pantheon which receives their worship.

Many of these come with vows and taboos that serve as analogues of the semi-mechanical idea of edicts and anathemas (though they can sometimes get more specific, such as needing to always sleep on clean, fresh, new sheets or not being able to wear a certain color or eat certain foods).

Likely, the meta-concept of patron deity includes all of these. But then the question still remains ~ for thaumaturgical/theological/cosmological reasons do all of these block the whatever it is that Godless Healing represents from working? In which case there might be entire cultures prevented from taking the feat..... Or do some of these views of patron deity get past the Rahadoumi insistence on atheism/freedom from the gods?

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I wonder how effective the Mud Show would be in adapting that old Midnight Circus sourcebook/module from the old World of Darkness.....

It's edgelordy, but might be salvageable with some judicious changes....

QuidEst wrote:
Very cool! Droskar struck me as a good fit for a dwarven god allowed, with a particular focus on "toil" and "slavery" over "cheating". If dwarven foreigners are visiting to do work, or to sell slaves, better that they believe their work or that of their slaves should be difficult and miserable.

You have a point there!

I think I'd been of the mindset that Zon-Kuthon preached the pleasures of pain and suffering (as opposed to the velstracs, who recognize the aesthetic beauty but preach self-improvement through masochism instead) and Droskar lends itself to a gray boringness.

But I hadn't considered, as you point out, the use of Droskar as another effort like allowing the work of Ghenshau ~ as a means by which to reduce the danger foreigners present. I shall have to add a sentence or two to that effect to this decree.....

Speaking as someone with a fair (but not huge) amount of personal social experience with similar populations....

I'd peg Int 6 as about the intelligence of my Dominant's (sadly dead) ex Greg. Note: Greg died before I met my Mistress, so I'm putting this description together from listening to Miki talk about him.

Thanks to like fetal alcohol syndrome and things, his IQ was tested at about 75. He was unable to keep a job, but did manage, at least with Miki's help, to get onto social services and keep its benefits. He was also homeless during much of his life. Neither are as simple and straightforward as you might think.

He also greatly enjoyed playing video games, and so had presumably developed a certain amount of advanced problem-solving capabilities, even if they might have only applied to video games and might not have been at the level of a dedicated amateur with a higher IQ.

Certainly, he had the capability to determine what he wanted and navigate most situations to get it, though I imagine things like budgeting and the like might have greatly benefited from Miki's supervision. Keeping house was possible ~ he understood how to do the tasks, but the ability to chain those tasks together into proactive action seems to have escaped him.

I believe he could read and certainly spoke English at a conversational level. He certainly had the ability to dress and adorn himself with some skill and ability to fit a fashion (he was goth).

Finally, he didn't have as much ability to assess risk as many of us have (not that humanity as a whole has overmuch). The drug addiction certainly didn't help, but these two things combined led to his HIV infection and eventual death.

That's about where I'd put Int 6 ~ hardly a "drooling mentally handicapped" (fun fact: the drooling is usually a side effect of the unnecessary psych meds we tend to foist on those unable to protect themselves therefrom, rather than being a function of their mental capacity.....)

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In Nidal, Land of Shadows, it is noted that some few deities other than Zon-Kuthon and the velstrac demagogues are allowed to be worshiped in Nidal. However, no actual list is given (no doubt for a variety of reasons, including not trying to limit individual DMs' story ideas). That's kind of unsatisfying to me, however, and so I ended up writing this little-piece of in-universe writing to list out which gods I see as being allowed, and why.

What do y'all think? Is my reasoning solid, in your opinion? How's my list ~ does it include everyone it should and no one it shouldn't?


Wandering Nidal are a variety of Umbral Court agents, inquisitors, shadowcallers, and others who police the behavior of those within the realm. Many among them bear a slim book of about 80 illuminated pages, hand-lettered by means of a Nidalese pen. These pens are specially constructed to pierce the thumb and finger and channel the writer's blood to mix with a dark powder and form an ink.

Within that book's slim, razored cover of rich, dull blue and gold-leaf, are recorded the following words:

The Black Triune, chosen of the Midnight Lord and rulers of Nidal lo these last ten millennia, would have it known to the Umbral Court, its agents, and all Nidalese who remember whence their salvation came after Earthfall that those foreigners who dare to treat with us upon our own sacred soil have earned by their courage the right to build and maintain shrines to their lesser gods, provided that said gods present neither annoyance nor threat to our hallowed ways. In discussion with the velstracs who serve Zon-Kuthon directly in Xoviakain and with the Prince of Pain himself, your ancient chiefs have determined the following deities to make up that category. Shrines dedicated to any other divinity are to be destroyed upon their discovery, and the devotees who built or frequented such places shall be converted by torture or cruelly slain, as is the wont of you who discover them.

Naturally, of course, all foreigners may consider themselves more than welcome to worship Zon-Kuthon and the velstrac demagogues who have come into alliance with him. They are able to do so without harassment or opposition whether they follow our more perfect ways or approach these divinities in the lesser ways that the other races have developed over the millennia.

The undying love of our cruel master for his sister prevents us from outlawing, interfering with, or hindering the ways of Shelyn’s worshipers or clergy in any direct way. Her shrines and altars here in Nidal are sacrosanct, though oblique efforts to limit her worship and influence are encouraged of you who bear this decree.

Our Chelish friends may worship Asmodeus freely, of course, as may any foreigners who likewise serve him. The Pallid Princess, also, may be honored with small shrines of the sort that adorn the kitchens of foreign taverns, and shrines to Abadar who gifted Zon-Kuthon with his home and the First Shadow may also pock the realm with impunity. The ancient deity Ydersius is halfway to understanding the Nine Truths and the deep understanding the Midnight Lord discovered Beyond Beyond; by allowing him in his throes of agony to receive foreign devotions in our land, we hope to guide him the remaining distance. Ydersius is one of several whose presence here is intended to convert even the gods to the wracking joys of our enlightenment.

In memory of one of their number having granted our velstrac teachers their freedom, two of the Queens of the Night may be worshiped here, though only devotion to them performed by foreigners is allowed by our decree. We Nidalese belong to the Midnight Lord. One of these so allowed is, of course, Doloras, who played a significant role in the events that led to Nidal’s salvation by freeing the velstracs from their prison, and so may be worshiped freely in our borders. Zon-Kuthon remembers the ancient days when Ardad Lili served his beloved sister, and so she too may receive foreign prayers here.

The caligni who have settled among us may feel free to worship the owb to whom they owe their devotion. Be wary, you who bear this decree, for their numbers are legion and so can provide easy cover in their permission to those who would seek to smuggle forbidden ceremonies into our realm.

The archdevil Baalzebul knows well the glory of anguish. Like Ydersius, we hope that by allowing him some meager, foreigner-haunted shrines here in Zon-Kuthon’s land, he might be brought the rest of the way, and see his misery for the gift it is.

Baalzebul is joined by certain of the infernal dukes who serve him and the other archdevils, as the following list delineates.
* Moloch’s servants Alocer and Eligos both call to mind our ancientmost Kellid heritage, reminding us most wistfully of those olden days. They may be worshipped here, though Nidalese themselves are forbidden to join their foreign worshipers in their rites. Bearer of this decree, we bid you to instruct your fellow Nidalese in the treasure that is their inability to join in these rites when you see them looking upon the worshippers of these infernal dukes with longing upon their brows.
* Deumus, liege of Barbatos, is another whose maimed history ~ this time at the hands of dread Ragathiel ~ readies him for the lessons the Midnight Lord and the velstracs teach. May that proselytization be easier by virtue of our allowing him foreign worship in our home.
* Haborym, duke of renewal and shackles in service to Mephistopheles, is an inflictor of those very things we proud Nidalese prize; namely, he brings those in his charge austerity and the pain of immolation, and they rise again with unclouded eyes as a result. His worship shall be permitted here.
* Another of Moloch’s servants shall be allowed shrines within our borders: Ruithvein, Blood Emperor. As we have many native vampires in Nidal and an environment highly amenable to them, we welcome foreign bloodsuckers and the devil they worship to come and join us.
* Similarly, the Prince of Broken Glass, Zaebos, patron especially of the Ustalavic vampires, may be worshiped here by them. Let it not be said that we refuse intercourse with the greater world, as long as those who seek intercourse with us are worthy of our time and efforts.

Though we do not condone the boorish ways of the undisciplined demons, we find the following few to be in line with our own, and acceptable objects of foreign devotions.
* Andirifkhu may be wild and raving and her traps convoluted, but there is much to learn from her torturous ways. Let the foreigner worship her, and study their inventions that we might put them to more purposeful use.
* Mestama has forced herself into our borders, with the Uskwood and smaller groves sometimes hiding paths that leave this world of ours and meander into her Barren Wood. Reluctantly, we bow to these intrusions and call you, decree-bearer, to leave her shrines unmolested in the absence of her worshippers engaging in any act dangerous to Nidal. Watch them for such. We would love an excuse.
* Our relationship to the Nightripper is much the same as ours to Andirifkhu. Learn from him the songs the body can play when plucked by a knife, for there is much to learn there, but do recall that only Zon-Kuthon is your lord.
* As we welcome foreign vampires to our most welcoming land, we welcome Zura, as well.

The qlippoth lord Chavazvug is well-known as a foe to demons, and we hope that by allowing him a presence here, if small, he will serve to curtail the excesses of those demons previously allowed worship in our lands.

In those ancient times when we first met Zon-Kuthon, we promised the Dark Prince that we would learn his joys and attend to them. We have learned of the many types of pain, including the hurting ways that strike without need for skin to bleed. We praise the Midnight Lord, in part, by allowing the worship of some few asura ranas, some few of the grand mistakes of the gods so that Zon-Kuthon can dance in the ache of doubt beside us. But the ranas we allow are few, and limited to the following names.
* We find Andak to have much knowledge to offer in the ways of the mortification of the flesh.
* Chugarra has no skin and so his flesh must be a riot of pain.
* Onamahli is a fascinating one to us, as her myths and stories tell of a departed goddess of beauty. The Midnight Lord has not seen fit to tell even us of the Black Triune whether Onamahli’s former mistress was involved with what he found Beyond Beyond or what he became after. Moreover, Onamahli knows the sound of her skin and her spirit tearing in two, and still feels the anguish therefrom.
All three of these are among those whose foreign worship here may be a means by which they come to see the truths offered by Zon-Kuthon and his velstrac allies.

Worshipers of those foul fiends known as daemons are to be carefully watched, for the oblivion they seek is a surcease to suffering. It cannot be denied, however, that Osolmyr, at least, brings blessed misery to rival that of the velstracs ~ though it may do so without success. Accordingly, worshipers of this daemonic harbinger may build shrines, but you are charged to curtail any doomful plans they may futilely attempt.

Many among our subjects follow the Nine Truths, seeking to improve themselves. Thus, shrines to Irori ~ who preaches his own manner of perfection and enjoys his own painful privations ~ are permitted by us. There exist those who have conquered death, and can writhe in agony forever. We the Black Triune deign to allow one such rakshasa immortal some presence inside our borders. Caera purchased her immortality at the cost of her skin. She is as ready as Chugarra to hear the teachings of the Midnight Lord and the velstracs.

The concerns of the malebranche mostly remain distant from those of our world, but some few have ways close enough to ours that they pose little to no interruption in our customs. They are listed below.
* Cagnazzo, like Alocer and Eligos, is to be allowed free worship by foreigners to remind us Nidalese of what we are, what we were, and what we’ve lost. Savor the feeling.
* Those who worship Rubicante are said to hear words of sense and peace as they burn. This seems not too far from the ways in which Zon-Kuthon has instructed us, and so shall be permitted.

It is perhaps inevitable, given their capricious ways, that some among the fey shall prove to be palatable to the Nidalese spirit. The Lost Prince is one such, and so may be honored with small shrines here. He knows well the restless mind-writhing, and is another good candidate for conversion to the superior ways of Zon-Kuthon and the velstracs.

No Kuthite seeks death, for though we may disagree about the capacity undead flesh and spirit have for blessed suffering, it is well known that death takes most well distant from pain’s brilliant touch. As a proud Kellid race, no Nidalese seeks death either, for such is a coward’s way. Nonetheless, a few of death’s servants have been found worthy to visit foreign shrines built upon our home’s soil. Those allowed are as follows:
* Dammar invented the hangover, that pain which even those well distant from our borders and rites welcome and invite. This, and the natural interest the rest of the world has in our winery ways, has earned him a few scattered shrines across Nidal.
* Vonymos was long worshipped by our ancestral god callers, and grief is the very reason for loss, an ache of the memory that never heals, a forever misery. The Mourning Prince may be worshipped by foreigners in our land.

We are much more welcoming of the ushers’ fearful brethren, the sahkils, and thus allow the following to receive worship from foreigners here.
* Ananshea and Ozranvial both know the ways of pain. The Skin That Walks on Teeth generously tears the flesh and Despair’s Smile crumbles the illusions of those foreigners we allow to worship them.
* Nameless Upon an Empty Throne not only brings the glorious torment of doubt, it does so to all those who seek power. By allowing it to be worshiped in our borders, we hope that it will do its work amongst those who would come here to take from us what we bargained with Zon-Kuthon for.

Though it may surprise some, we the Black Triune have found some among the empyreal lords to be safe enough for foreigners to worship in Nidal. Be suspicious of them, decree-bearer, for those types of people are well-known for their lack of trustworthiness, but do not prevent their practices for those rites are allowed.
* Foreign workers who come to serve in our vineyards and alien winemakers curious to learn some scrap of our superior skills may worship Halcamora.
* Though ghosts obviously lack the flesh to feel pain, thus obviating the question of whether the undead have the capacity for such wisdoms, there is nonetheless a dull woe only the eternally lost and lonely can know. Ashava is the angel of this ache, and so may be worshiped here by foreigners.
* Foreigners are dangerous, of course, too often seeking to undermine our society or overthrow our rightful Kuthite rule. By allowing them the worship of Ghenshau, we incline them towards his ways ~ his ignorant, placid, simple ways that keep them easily controlled. What fools they are to seek comfort, and the lack of will that comes therefrom. Our ways of pain and grief have truly honed us into a superior people.
* Neshen, on the other hand, understands the development of the will through suffering. In truth, he is but a short way from being a velstrac himself. Do what you can to bring him the rest of the way when you encounter the permitted foreign shrines to him.
* Shemhazai is on the same journey from the other side. Lamashtu has done us the favor of readying him for the Kuthite message and the Nine Truths. By allowing his worship, we hope to make the angel of vision see, and bring him into our ways.

The dwarfs at our bepeaked borders may beseech but a single of their gods to carry their prayers and offerings to those for whom they were intended. That goddess is Dranngvit, for debt is its own misery. Likewise, elfs who know the Savored Sting may offer her devotion in our lands and attempt to seduce her into interceding with the other elfin gods if need be.

Likewise, Vudrans who have come to treat with our Umbral Court for trade or war are allowed to erect shrines for Dhalavei alone, as the ways of the Unsuspected Rot seem closest to our ways out of all the many gods they worship.

Whereas the Vudrans have their appointed divine representative, so too do the Tian, though the latter have two. General Susumu, like Alocer and Eligos, remind us simultaneously that we remain Kellid, born to the wind in our manes and the rhythm of hooves beneath us, and that we are now so much more by the grace of Zon-Kuthon himself. This pain has purchased the Tian right to worship him here. On the other hand, Làu Kiritsu reminds us of what our austerities and agonies have formed us into. Those Tian who come here must do so because they envy what we are ~ let Làu Kiritsu foment this feeling and push them to be good students of our superior culture.

We have heard of the strange gods worshipped among those whom our Chelish friends have encountered in distant Arcadia. Should any of those peoples visit Nidal, let it be known that we are curious about one, supposedly named Ah Pook, and thus permit him shrines in our lands. It is said that he breaks mortal minds on the rack of their doubts and dances in the miserable shards of their life. We approve.

Iblydans may bring their rumored vampire god Chinostes to our shores, should they have the courage to come here. Write down everything you may witness about this worship, however, O decree-bearer. We are as yet uncertain about this new god whom our vampiric subjects may wish to worship, and would like to learn more,

We are certain those so honored by this decree as to be allowed a scattering of small altars across our lands will do as they are bid by their brave fellows who take step upon our soil. If they do not, then perhaps those dwarfs, Vudrans, Tian, Arcadians, and Iblydans should worship stronger gods.

These forty-five divine beings ~ with the addition of the various owb prophets our caligni friends worship and our own teachers, Zon-Kuthon and the vestrac demagogues ~ shall be considered the only deities allowed worship wherever in Nidal our reach may stretch its fearful arm, and you who bear this decree are the weapon we wield in that hand. Should you see a foreigner in our lands worshiping any other god, or one of us worshiping any but Zon-Kuthon and the demagogues, you are hereby empowered by our word to enforce this decree by whatever means you so deem fit. Let your cruelty be loosed.

As a reminder, ten of these forty-five are allowed for the express purpose that we might proselytize the lessons learned from misery to them. These such are Ydersius, Baalzebul, Deumus, Andak, Chugarra, Onamahli, Caera, the Lost Prince, Neshen, and Shemhazai. Find what ways you can to accomplish this by the indirect means available to you, using their worshippers as your tools.

This has been decreed by the Black Triune, and the Umbral Court has been instructed in its reasoning and workings. It shall be so.

Way back in the long ago, when I had to walk uphill both ways in the snow barefoot to purchase D&D3.0 books and the internet was full of really ugly webpage design, there was a small trend of taking fantasy settings and advancing them in culture, history, and technology to approximately the equivalent of the modern day, maybe with a few cyberpunkish elements. Dungeon and Dragon did a thing on Greyhawk 2000, which was fascinating if frustratingly light on actual setting information, and one of the designers of Legend of the Five Rings (was it Rich Wolf?) had a website called Rokugan 2000, updating that setting to a near-future setting, complete with stories, RPG rules, CCG cardsets, and mecha-piloting Unicorn Clan detectives.

So I've been thinking lately.....

What would Golarion look like in *cough*cough* years, with the advancement of technology and the increasingly entangled sociopolitical scene that comes with all of it? Nidal would have to still be around ~ it's already twice the age of Earth's recorded history! ~ but I can imagine it accidentally creating a World War by seeding its advisors throughout the various governments of the world and binding them all together in a complicated mesh of treaties/alliances that only require the murder of a relatively obscure noble to make explode.

Galtan troll farms mucking about with Iblydan elections for hero-gods, Segada-as-Hollywood (but better, cuz duh), ... What do y'all think G2K might look like?

The god of humanity died 113 years ago (the equivalent of about 51 years ago in terms of cultural/historical processing by the multiracial society as a whole, or of about 16 years ago to the long-lived elfs ~ yes, it is very possible that your 1st-level elf PC was born before Aroden’s death), His death brought civil war to Cheliax, in which Nidal; sided with the devil-worshippers of House Thrune. Their victory brought independence, an alliance, and a purging backlash to Nidal. Dissidents and heretics were rooted out and murdered with pain.

The very next paragraph describes Nidal as becoming politically powerful by means of its alliance with Cheliax, as riding their coattails into international relevance. Frankly, I find the idea that this state of things is palatable or even bearable to such a proud people as the Kellid Nidalese ~ the Kellid seem like a fiercely independent people who would insist on being mighty n their own right (or by right of their own thews, perhaps I should say), and millennia spent flinging themselves upon the gentle spikes and hooks of Zon-Kuthon would likely have only exacerbated their self-reliance.

A brief foray into divine history follows. Zon-Kuthon was once Dou-Bral. He and his sister Shelyn (beauty, art, love) were the children of Thron, the Prince That Howls. Their father was a spirit-wolf whose howls praised life, love, and song ~ the very image of the pastoral woodland. But Dou-Bral fought with his sister and fled from her beyond the borders of the planes.

Something waited there for him there that taught him the rapture of suffering in all its forms, the beauty of being maimed, the joy of loss. He took his new name, wounded his sister, and twisted his father into his new herald, now called the Prince in Chains.

Abadar did his favorite thing and developed a scheme to neutralize the cruel god. He offered banishment to the Shadow Plane prison realm of Xovaikain for as long as the sun hung in the sky. In return, Zon-Kuthon would be able to claim a single item from the First Vault. I imagine the Midnight Lord creepysmiling at this offer, and capitulating with an unsettling eagerness.

Earthfall banished the brightness of the sun from the sky, and Zon-Kuthon burst free from his prison and claimed the first-ever shadow from the First Vault. His prison became his new deific realm.

That was when three of the greatest leaders of the Kellid horselords quested for salvation from the spirits, their tribal gods, and Desna and Gozreh. They found a giant cloud covering once-shining green hills, a wicked and foreboding presence that balked the shamans. But the horselords knew that help was needed for their people to survive.

Zon-Kuthon whispered promises of survival in trade for the servitude of them and their descendants. A tear in the world appeared before them, and those quiet offers became screams. The three horselords did what they had to so they, their people, and their horses could live on. Zon-Kuthon crawled into the world, touched them, and evaporated their humanity. Where once three Kellid chieftains sat upon their horses, now the Black Triune were. No longer could they feel anything ~ not the heat of the sun or the varied delectations of a feast or the caress of the river’s waters ~ except for the shocking glory of pain and the slickness of their blood as it spills. They also became the immortal leaders of a new Kuthite theocracy.

In truth, their immortality is important, as Nidalese law consists only of the vague prescriptions of their high holy book, the Umbral Leaves. The Black Triune is their charter, their constitution.

We’re told that some faiths are approved for worship by foreigners, and Asmodeus is name-checked as having small shrines in the realm for that very reason. I hate when some detail like that is dropped, and there’s no specification. Like, I think I get it ~ leaving it open allows more GM interpretation and customization for the specifics of their campaign. Only… it doesn’t allow for such, it more like invites it. GMs can and do change details like that all the time, so I don’t see preserving that functionality as sufficient reason to avoid communicating a more nuanced and specific vision of the setting. Like, there are 130 lawful evil divine beings. I can’t imagine that all of them are accepted within Nidal, and it would reveal something about Nidalese culture to know what they allow and don’t allow.

Next we get a recognition that, well, pain isn’t for everyone, and that in fact entire communities may pay the Midnight Lord no more attention than a Christmas-and-Easter Catholic gives their god. The vast majority of Nidalese do not commit themselves to the spiked chain’s kiss eight times a day.. Folk superstition and, especially, the worship of Desna continue throughout.

I rather enjoy that Desna is the main revolutionary force in Nidal ~ Shelyn would be easy,but it’s established that Zon-Kuthon still loves her in his way. He might enact any number of cruelties upon her and her followers, but he still wants her to succeed. Narratively, this makes it difficult for her to be a good opposition to her brother. And Desna has associations both with Zon-Kuthon’s place of transformation and to the human ethnicity just north of Nidal ~ the Varisians have long been fond of the butterfly goddess...

You should look into some of the modern polytheistic theologians writing on the subject of syncretization ~ the question, for example, of how Re-Horakhty relates to Re and Heru/Horus, or how Hermanubis relates to Hermes and Anubis or how both Maria Padilha and Pomba-Gira of the Seven Crossroads can be Pomba-Gira, et cetera, et cetera. You're treading on some of the same ground as those theologians right now....

I don't know if e's resposted it, but PSVL (Phillupus Sufenas Virius Lupus), a (possibly former) friend of mine and founder of one of my religions, used to have some really amazing writings on this subject up on eir blog...

UnArcaneElection wrote:

^Sounds like Nidal might have a problem with tooth decay, and Andoran might be developing a problem with cardiovascular disease.

Welll, don't ignore the Nidalese taste for horse-dairy. Milk is quite basic and can serve to reduce that risk some. I can also imagine that the Nidalese might welcome tooth pain the way some Catholics wear cilices to cause constant pain or discomfort, even into light abscess territory. Nonetheless, Nonetheless, I would imagine that the Nidalese practice dental cleaning of the sort described by Hieronymus Fabricius on Earth in the late 16th century, and use rosemary charcoal to clean their teeth more regularly. (thanks for inspiring me to google "Renaissance dental hygiene", btw)

As for the Andorani ~ yeah, I imagine it's a problem for them. Tbh, I'm not as drawn to Andoran as I think I'm supposed to be (being an American and an anarchist), so I don't have a super-strong image for their cuisine atm. Mostly, I realized that poullet au vinaigre (which I enjoy cooking for my carnivorous friends, and tempeh au vinaigre for myself) could be posited as an example of cultural exchange in Avistan, and cultural exchange is a phenomenon sorely ignored in much D&D/PF-style fantasy world-building so I seized the opportunity

Count me in the crowd of folk eagerly awaiting such a book! I love the strong fantastical/magical/religious elements in Starfinder, but have yet to really feel the wow factor of the religions presented in Starfinder. Well, except for, like, some of the interesting shifts from the pre-Gap days, like Lao Shu Po (one of my old faves) being so much more prominent and such.

CorvusMask wrote:

On side note: I thought by shaman they were referring to shaman class aka communing with spirits and the world. Could be wrong about that though since term has been used in setting before the class was ever a thing

Oh, I thought the same thing! I just look at that class and see a theological element to it ~ an animist perspective of the individual spirits in things who can be interacted with as friends or community members, as opposed to the cleric's great big gods who require devotion and worship, the oracle's numinous mysteries to lose oneself in, or the druid's wild pantheism. It's how I'm able to understand the difference in-fiction between an Earth-domain cleric, an Earth-domain druid, a stone oracle, and a stone spiritworker....

It's also why I've been thinking I need to write up a pain spirit for the spiritworker a.k.a. "shaman" (tho it does feel odd to want to write 1e content now that 2e's here) to represent the union of Kellid culture and Kuthite theology. Well. velstrac praxis more precisely.

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Oh, I'ven't yet posted the second part of my earlier ruminations on Avistani cuisine! Oops, well, here it is:

The pre-Earthfall Kellids of what is now Nidal both cooked food directly on open fires using ceramic vessels, spits, and griddles, as well as by more indirect methods involving hot stones, often mounded into crescent shapes. One more advanced method used sandstone rocks (individual such rocks were used to cook like this for centuries), submerged in pits of water or buried underground to boil, steam, and bake food. Sheep, boar, cattle, goose, and poultry (pigeon and squab for the elite) formed the proteinous backbone of their diet, though red deer, swan, hare, and rabbit were hunted as well, while hazelnuts, rhubarb, and elm bark were used for accompaniment. Pork was salted and smoked, and bacon was popular; the tongue and hams were brined and dried. Whale, dolphin, and porpoise meats were all eaten salted, while carp, pike, tench, bream, and eel grown in artificial freshwater ponds were commonly consumed. The nuts also provided them with oil, after being boiled and then the oil skimmed off the surface of the water. Gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries, rose hips, tubers, and apples further complemented the Nidalese Kellid diet, which was seasoned with sweet basil, bay leaves, caraway seeds, finocchio, mint, tansy, rue, pennyroyal, hyssop, sour cherries, sour plums, marigold petals, and saffron. Though they hadn’t yet made contact with Garund and gained coffee therefrom, they did brew a similarly energizing and bracing drink from roasted bay nuts. Brined lupini beans were, and still are, commonly carried as snacks to eat while on the move.

Mare’s milk is drunk and used to make cheeses far more than cow’s or ewe’s to this day, and the horse-meat dishes once consumed on religious holidays still survive as special feast-foods. The meat of a beloved fallen mount is still eaten as a funeral remembrance.

Boiling in long, shallow pits lined with stone and timber was a very common cooking method. The pits were always dug near natural springs and were divided with partitions, both to avoid direct contact between stones and ingredients, and to allow multiple foods to be cooked at once. Similar pits dug into sand were used as subterranean ovens. Each pit served as the center of social gatherings, for meals were always cooked and eaten communally, amidst large complexes of monuments, stacked stone formations, and the like.

A major component of modern Nidalese cuisine is the prevalence given to acids. While their Chelish allies prize the effects of capsicum and similar foods, the Nidalese prefer a cleaner, quicker pain, individual shocks whose fleeting nature calls the eater to long for their return. To this end, they have increased the acidity of the white wine vinegar they have always used to complement their cooking, and adopted the use of pomegranates and lemons from their neighbors to the South as quieter contrasts to that vinegar. Nidalese chefs also commonly use “green juice”, a highly acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes, crab-apples, or other sour fruit, sometimes with lemon or sorrel juice and various herbs and spices, as an ingredient in sauces, as a condiment, or to deglaze. Beef is often eaten untouched by fire, cooked only by being soaked in these four acidic liquids in a dish not unlike tartare or kitfo. Even root vegetables and fruits are often vinegar-pickled in Nidal to preserve them.

Since the alliance with Cheliax, some Nidalese chefs have begun to aim at a “symphony of the tongue’s wincing”, constructing complicated collections of piquancy (thought of as a background melody) and sourness (thought of as the stings of a rhythm punctuating that melody).

Casseroles are common in Nidal. Another common form of food preparation is to finely cook, pound and strain mixtures into fine pastes and mushes, something believed to be beneficial to make use of nutrients.

The Nidalese Kellids, much like the modern Chelish, commonly smoked foods to preserve them if they could not be eaten before spoiling. However, since Earthfall and the coming of Zon-Kuthon to Nidal, it has largely been replaced by the practice of pickling. A few recipes still current in the realm combine the two ancient methods of preservation, either pickling something that had been lightly smoked or using smoking techniques to dry out something that had been pickled.

There is a flavor profile associated with the halflings of southern Nidal, in which they elevate the cheap foods they are given as slaves ~ tough cuts of meat, hard-to-cook or off-putting vegetables, offal ~ with sauces or in stews that combine the palates of all three cultures involved ~ sweet for the halfling tongue, that Chelish fiery burn, and the sharp sour of Nidalese cuisine. Thanks to the Bellflower Network’s efforts, this profile has managed to migrate to Andoran, where a wider variety of meat is available to the newly free halflings. In Andoran, they usually blunt the spice and bite of the recipe by leaning into the Andorani taste for rich foods, utilizing cream to calm the tongue. They’ve also moved towards less intense means of achieving a similar effect ~ hearty doses of black pepper instead of chilis or horseradish or mustard, and balsamic vinegar instead of sharp wine vinegars. Perhaps largely as a celebration of their liberty, Andorani halflings have also turned to the brighter flavor of honey as a sweetener, rather than the more traditional Taldan/Chelish date molasses.

John Compton wrote:

In addition to your in depth study of this book (appreciated), I encourage you to write a review for any Paizo books you read.

Just be sure to type the review in another program and paste it into the text window, as the website occasionally tries to "eat" reviews, and it's a lot easier to copy-paste what you have written rather than have to retype it.

Oh, I never responded to this! >.< I'm sorry, my bad... I would love to write a review ~ mebbe I will once I'm done with this close reading. I'm relatively new to the forums, though; where is the appropriate place to post such a thing?

Evidently, the Kellid ancestors of the Nidalese were tan-skinned and dark-haired. I’ve been thinking of them as essentially Celtic (though, of course, Golarion and fantasy role-playing generally speaking seems to lack any equivalent of, say, Epona, goddess of horses) but this description, which focuses heavily on their nomadism and mentions so-called shamans (a word I tend to shudder at unless it’s referring to near-Arctic indigenous religions) and warlords as their ruling classes, is bringing a much more Mongolian image to mind that what I’d had previously. The picture of a horselord on this page doesn’t push me one way or the other. She’s a thin woman, presumably human but looking rather elfin, with golden, warm skin, dressed for warmth but not, like, super bundled for snow. Definitely a fur cape, though, and her horse has some nice jewelry (armbands on a horse, though?), including something in its hair that looks like stars against the night sky of its locks. I don’t know how it matches up to other depictions of the Kellids, but I will now be imagining them as a cross between the Celts and the Mongolians ~ maybe something from about halfway, like the Scythians, would be the best model for them.

Despite their spiritual leaders being described as shamans, the ancient Nidalese are described as worshiping both Gozreh and Desna. I’m kind of curious how the otherworldly/altered-state-of-consciousness/animist religion usually intended by the word “shaman” interacts with the more theistic notions of these two gods. Certainly, I have friends whose theologies bridge these two worlds, who will do things like going on trance journeys to the grand fields of night to talk to the butterflies there, but I’m curious how the Old Nidalese used to reconcile them.

I wonder how the Nidalese who have encountered the Bonuwat think of Shimye-Magalla, the janni-like syncretism of Desna and Gozreh they worship… It’d be a cute character, perhaps: the half-Bonuwat half-Nidalese cleric, or oracle, or “shaman”.

I also find myself wondering about preservation of this older religion into Nidal’s more modern spirituality. Do they have “shamans” who follow velstracs using traditional methods of altered states of consciousness and otherworldly travel? Do they use the more institutional, worship-based Kuthite ritual forms to approach the nature and dream spirits of old? I think one thing that would have made me beyond happy would be to see velstracs or demagogues who had started out as such spirits and then had heard the word of the Nine Truths, forsaking their old realms and ways for the Shadow Plane and the ways of pain. There’s (of course) real-world precedent for such things; some of the stories of the djinn involve converting them to Islam.

Anyway, the Old Nidalese preferred to live on the hoof and were well-known as master horse-breeders (shades of Mercedes Lackey ~ I’ve thought about exporting Nidal into a patchwork setting before; maybe Aldea from Blue Rose would share a border and an ethnicity with it?).

That whole life-way ended with Earthfall in –5293 AR, as dust dimmed the sun. The book makes a point of saying that humans could survive such a disaster, but their beloved horses could not and that the Nidalese sold themselves to the newly-returned Midnight Lord in service to their love and devotion for their equine familymembers.

So the previous statement about their maintaining libraries of knowledge from before Earthfall (twice as long before the present day of Golarion as the development of writing is from us) seems almost false. “Almost” because we are told that straggling survivors of Azlant and Thassilon crowded around the Old Nidalese for safety. These would have carried with them the ancient knowledge that Nidal now keeps preserved alongside the few scrolls and painted hides that represent their own knowledge of old.

The “Last Civilization in Avistan” turned inward and insular and isolationist, pursuing ends described as “increasingly inscrutable and arcane”. No doubt that they were busy! Completely overhauling their entire spiritual practice, collating and collecting and making use of the random bits of knowledge just discussed, settling into cities and permanent settlements, and exploring the enlightenments that pain brings ~ there was a lot on their docket.

But the account skips nearly 9600 years of history to the expansionist Chelish attack of 4305 AR (414 years ago, equivalent to about 188 years ago to the culture as a whole and just 60 years ago to the elfs), unprevented by Nidal’s fearsome reputation. It was part of a larger effort that involved also invading Molthune and Varisia. The war between the two lasted 30 years (equivalent to about 14 years to mixed culture, or 4 years to the elfs), until the Black Triune ordered the Nidalese soldiers to stop fighting.

The period known as the Shadowbreak began with the formal acceptance of Chelish conquest in 4338 AR (381 years ago, equivalent to about 173 years ago to the culture as a whole and just 54 years ago to the elfs). This was a time when the Kuthite faith blunted its sharpest cruelties, Nidalese sages began to participate in the overall Avistani academic conversations, and the House of Lies opened its doors to all of the world’s braggarts. More on that institution later!

I also happen to know some genuinely kind or charitable people who might also be said to have tendencies toward evil. It's the "no one way to <alignment>" and "people are more complicated than two words" issues. Or, perhaps, the virtue ethics v. deontology/consequentialism issue. Being evil does not preclude having specific virtues.

I am super curious, as well, especially considering their rather intense and surprising portfolios ~ hell, one of them has the tick as a sacred animal. THE TICK.

I swear there must have been something interesting going on in the Shadow Plane right after Earthfall. We have Zon-Kuthon busting out of Xoviakain, the Azlanti of Calignos escaping into the Darklands and getting adopted/changed by the Forsaken before they blow up (and maybe become the owb?), the Widow (whom we know less about than the Forsaken) taking some Azlanti into the Shadow Plane and turning them into the kayal, Count Ranalc ceasing to try to influence the Material Plane, and the wayang migrating to Tian Xia.

The forsaken had some plot to steal the souls of the caligni to fuel some sort of apotheosis (maybe? There's some wiggle room in the description, I think) and may have become the owb...

Just found this in my Let's Read of Nidal, Land of Shadows:

Rural Life wrote:

Farmers remain dependent on the Uskwood’s druids and their gifts to grow crops under Nidal’s cloud-choked sun, which further ensures their loyalty. While wheat and rye are the country’s staple crops, gasping white fish from Usk Lake supplement the Nidalese diet, as do more ordinary fish pulled from Conqueror’s Bay and Nisroch Bay. The Uskwood and Ombrefell, too, produce food. Given the forests’ well-known dangers, however, only the bravest or most desperate peasants venture far beneath the leaves.

So there's some more canon info on Avistani cuisine.

@Gark: That makes sense and certainly does create a recognizable cuisine that is nonetheless different enough from our usual fare so as to feel sufficiently fantastical, but I'm afraid I don't remember how long Anchor's End, Canorus, and the Andorani settlement have been around? Depending on how recently they were founded, it might strain belief a little bit for there to be no influence whatsoever. I mostly wanted to use the connection there for Chelish society to have adopted chiles and infernal spice over the last century, as diabolism became all the rage. I like the idea of sugarcane from Osirion.

OK, so now we finally get into the beginning of the meat of the book (what can I say? I’m a bit of a completionist!) Everything starts at the beginning, and the beginning (of course) is Earthfall, that time when a bunch of aquatic tentacley things tried to kill the planet with meteors. It happened 10,000 years ago.

It’s time for another look at the scale of things. Time is a big one in fantasy settings, perhaps largely due to Tolkien’s need to tell an amazing story that stretches over ridiculous amounts of time. If not that, then the roots of the modern fantasy genre being grown at a point in history when we were realizing and grappling with the idea of “deep time”, that evolution and astroplanetary processes required flat-out incredible stretches of years. If not that, then the simple pressures that develop from the need/desire to create myriad little pockets of setting to accomodate a wide variety of genres, stories, and authors.

So 10,000 years ago, in our world and from our perspective, was the time of, for example, Çatalhöyük (Catal Huyuk), famously one of the first ever cities on the Euroafroasiatic tricontinent. This predates writing, and in fact agriculture was the new big technology changing the world. Europe was just leaving the Paleolithic, as Asia Minor was teaching it these new ways. Only about, say, 5 million people existed at the time.

This seems, at first glance, to be a ridiculous stretch of time, but if you consider the length of the nonhuman races, it becomes much more reasonable. I did the math once (like a decade ago, so please forgive if I misremember numbers slightly) and, if we go by the relative ages of majority, elfs would experience history at about 1/7th the rate of humans. That is, elfs take about 7 times longer to reach their adulthood than humans. And the culture as a whole, assuming we can average out this ratio amongst the core PHB races would have a rate of historical change equivalent to just slightly half (2.2). This would mean that Earthfall would happen more like 1430 years ago (or the equivalent of, like, the beginning of the Bengali calendar and the Byzantine-Sassanid War) from the elfin perspective and 4550 years ago from the perspective of the general, multiracial culture. That would make it closer to, like, the origins of Proto-Indo-European and the domestication of pigs/cultivation of rice in China.

Honestly, that still feels like a f@** of a long time ago in terms of the multiracial general populace, but it’s not unbelievable if we think of Azlant as being basically the Atlantean precursor to civilization. Humans would consider it unbelievably ancient and it would be a recognizable period to elfs as the precursor to the pseudo-time-period in which their fairy tales are set.

So, that many years ago, the ancient horselords of Nidal found no benefit from their traditional gods in the face of cosmic catastrophe and were offered solace from the Midnight Lord, Zon-Kuthon, son of god of hunters and beasts who turned on both father and sister (goddess of love and beauty) after going too far into the empty spaces between the stars. Now he likes whips and chains and shadows and things. In contrast to the tone of the sermon on the previous page, the text here specifies that they bound themselves in fealty to Zon-Kuthon out of terror and desperation ~ I suspect that any good Nidalese would bristle and stab at this suggestion, should it be made in character!

One of the interesting things about Nidal is that it achieves the trope of the shadowed land at least partly not from some weird magical sky effect but from the thick canopy of the Uskwood’s giant, black-leaved trees, which cover the “glittering shade city” Pangolais. I really appreciate how this image drives home the blend of Gothic and barbarian that gives Nidal its particular flavor.

We are told that Nidal is ruled by the Umbral Court, which is in turn ruled by the Black Triune. This sentence is particularly cute: “They govern in murmurs and feather-light touches, for shouts are unnecessary when every whisper carries the promise of unimaginable pain.” Sure, it’s a weensy bit purple, but it gets across quite beautifully that this is a realm of creeping threat and constant paranoia, rather than the bog-standard military state. The latter would simply bring forth all my anarchist revolutionary desires, whereas the former actually brings chills down my spine with thoughts of Foucault, the closet, and real-life repressions.

Nidal doesn’t feel safe, and part of that is that there is no obvious target to strike against to achieve one’s liberation. Armies can be defeated, despots can be killed, but the uncertain panopticon can never fully be pulled from beneath one’s skin.

The text does note that there are rebellious elements in the nation, but it doesn’t mention any plots or organizations, to its credit. This resistance feels, from this paragraph, more like the refusal of hope to die than it does an organized movement with actual goals and even some faint idea of how to accomplish them.

The page ends with a note that Nidal is the only place on the continent of Avistan (maybe throughout Golarion?) where pre-Earthfall knowledge is preserved. This gives PCs a reason to visit the realm other than “bad guys live here, go kill them”, which is really kind of neat, and adds a third point to the complex nature of what could have been a single-pointed kingdom: Nidal is a land of pseudo-Celtic barbarian horselords worshiping a Pinhead pastiche that have some of the most important libraries on the continent.

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Writing quickly, so I don't think I articulated very well:

In the absence of an equivalent to the Treaty of Westphalia, Avistani ideas of the nation likely wouldn't include the same understandings of sovereignty we've had on Earth since the Early Modern period. In other words, there is no citizen-ship to violate, outside of feudal serfdom (which functioned like slavery: the lord OWNED the serf).

I can imagine that the various philosophically rebellious nations (Galt, Andoran, etc.) have had philosophers constructing the idea of national sovereignty since they declared independence. It would be an attempt to articulate what that independence would mean in the absence of a rival lord the folk were throwing in with, and might attempt to articulate "the people" as the ultimate feudal lord or somesuch.

zimmerwald1915 wrote:
UnArcaneElection wrote:

Canonically, Cheliax and to a lesser extent Andoran do have at least small colonies in Arcadia, so they (especially Cheliax) have some potential for exploration and mercantilism. Cheliax also had a moderately large colony in Garund, but they lost that . . . Nevertheless, despite their currently shaky situation, they should have had plenty of opportunity to get foodstuffs and recipes from elsewhere.

I'm not sure it's to a lesser extent anymore. Cheliax used to have two colonies in Arcadia: Canorate chartered from Corentyn and Anchor's End chartered from Kintargo. Canorate was destroyed in an earthquake and Anchor's End may have stuck with Ravounel or gone independent itself rather than stick with Cheliax. Andoran, meanwhile, still has a confirmed colony on Arcadia, and is winning the colonial race in Azlant.

As for how any of this impinges on their cuisine, the Chelish and Andoren colonies hug the Grinding Coast and primarily border the Mahwek nations. The name's a dead ringer for "Mohawk," and as such Cheliax's and Andoran's food imports likely include maize, squash, and beans.

Yeah, I tried to work Anchor's End into my description, though I focused on this kind of trade as a way for chiles to enter Chelish cuisine, it would certainly bring maize, squash, and beans ~ I must say I had a bit of a moment as I semi-willfully treated Anchor's End as near a pseudo-Nahua culture (the one I know most about) ~ does anyone know anything of Mohawk cuisine?

Sargava is interesting ~ though the place itself feels very Belgian Congo, the Cheliax-as-Italy analogy would point towards Ethiopia/Eritrea...which is closer in feel to Geb, Nex, and Alkenstar In-Between. I'm not aware of Ethiopian food affecting the kitchens of their colonizers, but it's worth (and likely fun!) to research...

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Let’s Reads rarely have much to say about tables of contents, and I doubt this one will really buck that trend. The credits list no names I recognize as involved in this particular book, and I’ve already mentioned the two names I found most aesthetically interesting (Liane Merciel and Kiki Moch Rizky), though I do enjoy a few bits of names scattered throughout ~ one of the Interior Artists is named Federico and another has the last name Pajaron, while one of the cartographers carries the surname Mammoliti (note to self re: the Omnipresent Inspiration Hypothesis ~ the Most Serene Republic of Mammoli, a pseudo-Italian Renaissance city-state inhabited by loxodons (is there a Pathfinder equivalent?) called the mammoliti, perhaps based on Genoa or San Marino). The rest of the credits are the standard list of Paizo’s general team.

It does list the Starfinder design lead and the Starfinder Society developer, which I find somewhat surprising. I do appreciate Paizo listing as many folks as they do, down to the data entry clerk and the warehouse team. It’s nice to see the workers in the less-glamorous parts of the company getting relatively equal credit.

The chapters seem pretty standard:
Living in Shadow
Threats in the Gloom

There’s a sizeable content note with specific trigger warnings around what is to be found within the book that will benefit from explicit consent for inclusion. It also includes a sentence driving home that a single person not wanting or having the spoons to play with these themes is a reason to do something else with your game and a pointer to a deeper discussion of consent and horror in Horror Adventures. That discussion, while excellent, sadly doesn’t provide any technologies to negotiate prior consent and monitor ongoing consent, like the system of Lines, Veils, and X and O cards so favored in the storygame scene. I really wish it did. I like how up-front this content notice is, non-apologetic but also sensitive to the realities of players’ various experiences. It does still read very “No Means No” and I prefer to come from a “Yes Means Yes” consent culture. I’m not sure how to put that well in an RPG content note, however, as saying something like “Only play this if everyone at the table is excited to play with these themes” feels a little too close to inviting edgelordiness….

Other than the standard OGL notice, there’s only the standard Pathfinder reference section, listing what are presumably the most commonly-referenced books in the text and giving them little superscript abbreviations to ease reading. Anything not on this list will be spelled out in full when being referenced. Listed are the Advanced Class, Player’s, and Race Guides (cuz duh), Bestiaries 2 through 6 (including 5, which is my favoritest), Occult Adventures (yay! I simply adore what Paizo did with the occult classes), and Ultimate Magic. This is all a very good sign for what is to come.

The next page includes half of a gorgeous blue-hued two-page header image featuring a standardly gorgeous woman with interesting hair looking out over a suitably Gothic-medieval Brutalist city. There seems to be smoke floating through the air, which lends a very atmospheric obscuration to the city but also, well, obscures it a bit. Also, the city is dotted with what might be termite-hills or very large tents, conical spire things that curve out to a slightly wider base than would be expected; what are those? I am jealous of her dress, ridiculously thin as it is (some of the back flourishes appear to be painted on). I would so wear that. She has a bracelet that seems to float at some distance from her wrist ~ I’m going to interpret that as being composed of thin spiky needly things cuz worshipper of the pain god ~ and the blue tone allows the red liquid in and spilling around her wineglass to really pop. There’s nothing in the picture to resolve the question of whether it’s claret or blood, which seems just exactly the right artistic choice.

As the title page for the Living in Shadow chapter, the only text here is the name and an excerpt from the “traditional Festival of Night’s Return sermon”. This is the kind of thing I just eat up; I love it. These little bits of religious microfiction can go a long way to expressing both the grand theological elements of a setting and the social history/people’s history/psychosociology of describing the nitty-gritty details of how the average fantasy-world person views the world.

Two things jump out at me in this sermon, which I love. One is the sentence “Death came to hunt us, and Zon-Kuthon taught us its leash.” The Nidalese are not a people who see themselves as having escaped death, but as having gained the ability to give it orders, to turn it into their cute pet who slobbers up excitedly to greet them when they come home from work. The other is that most of the sermon prides the Nidalese people on surviving Earthfall. These are not empty-headed conquerers-for-conquest’s-sake, like the Necromongers they take so much inspiration from. Though this understanding of themselves can easily provide a pretext for seeking military domination, it is deeper and more self-possessed than that, and can easily be built upon to reach a perspective that can be considered “good” by fantasy RPG standards.

It helps that the sermon reminds me of a Radical Fairy song that I’ve always assumed goes back to the 90s, when AIDS was wreaking havoc in our community (I am too young in both breath and the Radical Fairies to remember those times, but I’ve often listened to my elders who were there for it):
We walked and we walked and we walked and we walked
And the echoes of our cries
Brought us to the other side
We almost died…..
But now we thrive

That is, I think, something I forgot to praise about Nidal ~ while its culture is obviously one built upon and predisposed toward evil, very little of their society and psychology is reducible to evil, allowing players to create believably Nidalese good characters without having to make them Do’Urdenites who unrealistically reject everything about the memescape which formed their understanding of the world.

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UnArcaneElection wrote:

Really? I would expect pasta to be a Mediterranean thing, which on Golarion would translate into the coastal areas around the Inner Sea, with what most Europeans and Americans think of as pasta being more on the northern coast and things like couscous being on the southern coast. This would also go for original-style pizza, perhaps with Andoran making the modification to something like American pizza.

Well, the problem is one of differing geography, and therefore trade routes.

On Earth, my ancestors, I think (and I've seen indications that there might be counter-evidence), got the idea of pasta from the Chinese, particularly by means of Marco Polo's expedition. While such a thing is still possible on Golarion, Cheliax seems to have less of an exploratory mercantile focus than Italy did. Moreover, the most appropriate moment for noodles to enter Avistan would have been when Amatatsu Aganhei crossed the Crown of the World in 1300 AR, though they probably wouldn't have taken hold until his maps resurfaced three millennia later (effectively, in terms of cultural processing as compared to Earth's timeline, about 1500 years, thanks to the effect of having elfs and dwarfs and the like around, who live longer, and experienced as the equivalent of only about 428 years or so to the elfs). The Path of Aganhei connects Lung Wa (pseudo-China) to the Mammoth Lords (inhabited by Kellids, so pseudo-Celtic/pseudo-Scythian) and Minkai (pseudo-Japan) to the Linnorm Kings (the Ulfen are pseudo-Norse). Since Arcadia doesn't seem to have been explored in any region resembling South America overly much (there's some Mesoamerican stuff, obviously, but that's very different, and very far), I would imagine that the potato hasn't yet crossed the ocean into Avistan, leaving noodles (probably cold, considering climate and route, so possibly resembling some Korean dishes in several ways) as the primary starch of the Kellids.

So as to avoid derailing the core idea of the thread:
61. Mammoth Lord noodles: An iced dish of noodles boiled with cabbage and carrots in a garlic-hazelnut sauce made with dill, malt vinegar, caraway, mustard seeds, and marigold petals. The poor just eat it like this, without meat, while a version is also made with salted aurochs and bison meats. If it is made with fresh-cooked meats, especially mastodon meat, then you know you're at a real feast.

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OK, so first, some starting assumptions for this post and the next one:
* Taldan cuisine is similar to Byzantine cuisine
* A lingering Tolkienism has led me always to associate halflings with sweet tastes
* The Kellid are, obviously, pseudo-Cimmerians ~ both Howard’s proto-Celts and the actual pre-Scythian culture from the northern shores of the Caspian. Super-quick Wikipedia/Googling gives me some info on Insular Celtic cuisine but precious little on Cimmerian/Scythian cuisine; I know (very little but) some about Georgian cuisine, so I’ll work with that, as Georgia is just a bit south of there. If I were a real food historian, I’d peg Kellid cuisine to the 4th-century BCE Scythians, when the Celts were pushing them out of the Balkans after they fought Alexander the Great. I’d downplay but keep the Greek influence, as a marker of interactions with the Varisians (especially in, like, Nidal, which shares a border with Varisia and used to worship similar gods).
* Nidal, ecologically, seems very similar to France
* Andorani cuisine would likely mimic American cuisine, primarily, and French, secondarily

Cheliax seems very Italian often. It also appears to have been a terra nullius prior to Taldan colonization (seriously, who were the indigenous Chelish?), so I would model Chelish cuisine on medieval Italian cuisine built atop that Byzantine substrate.

I doubt pasta would be much of a thing in Chelish cuisine, probably being more associated with the faux-Norse Ulfen and the northern Kellids, due to trade routes over the Crown of the World. (This also suggests the intriguing idea of noodles being present in some significant way in the pseudo-Inuit Erutaki cuisine). Tomato would be relatively new, being imported from Anchor’s End. On Earth, they and chile peppers were originally considered decorative and possibly poisonous, so it took a while for them to be incorporated into recipes. I tend to think that such a reputation would have actually sped their incorporation into Chelish cuisine, which also would have taken to eating food that brought to mind the fires of Hell. I like the idea of modern Chelish cuisine since the rise of House Thrune being very spicy, actually, to imitate the fires of Hell, so their love of the burn would likely also come from black pepper, mustard (the late-season greens can really get you!), and horseradish (all of which would have been available before the founding of Anchor’s End). This piquancy is often paired with an even heavier dosage of sulphorous flavors than they are in Italy ~ onion, garlic, and asafetida.

That selfsame desire for an “Avernus of the mouth” (as one famous Chelish chef once called their preferred flavor profile) has led to smoking foods becoming the primary method of preservation over long periods of time, though brine and salt are also often used for food preservation. There are a wide variety of smoked sausages eaten throughout Cheliax, many resembling Earth salami, as are a wide variety of savory torts.

Rosemary can be quite harsh when used heavily, so it’s also featured in Chelish cuisine, and I’d also emphasize finocchio (fennel) ~ but that’s just cuz I personally love it.

Shellfish, fish, and poultry provide the bulk of Chelish proteins, the last especially being cultivated in every home, primarily cooked by boiling in either water or capon stock flavored with saffron. Snail are often eaten in Cheliax, as well. Perch, sardines, turbot, rudd, bass, shad, eels, and grayling are the most commonly-eaten fish. Cheliax is famous throughout Avistan for their spongy omelettes, an inheritance from Taldan cuisine. Hunted boar and wild deer, and also lamb for the wealthy, occasionally liven up the Chelish table. Poorer Chelish, on the other hand, usually slaughter a pig at the beginning of winter to give them sausages, salt pork, and lard throughout the year. These meats are often served beside cabbage, soft squash, olives, carrots, figs, grapes, oranges, and beans; spinach, almonds, and rice brought over from Taldor; and salt cod and stockfish introduced by the Nidalese. Many varieties of fermented fish sauce and fermented barley sauce deepen the umami of Chelish cuisine.

Chelish black bread appears to be based on/similar to a Russian recipe, involving rye flour, apple cider vinegar, molasses, black cocoa, espresso, and finocchio seeds. Cocoa might have filtered down to Cheliax from Valenhall (it does keep better than tomatoes), but this indicates that the bread is probably a more recent innovation. I’d probably shift the vinegar to a wine vinegar, maybe balsamic, though using pomegranate vinegar might add a nice color element and help emphasize the Taldan substrate to Chelish cuisine. Speaking of, I would definitely use date molasses instead of cane molasses.

There is also a strong thread of very bland, calorie-less food in Chelish cuisine, mostly used to achieve and show off an austere asceticism or as a tool for social control (to get folk to give up hope that things can be better). Combine this with the Byzantine predilection for salads, and you actually get something similar to the NXIVM diet (800 calories or less, no meat, and lots of green veggies, with the calorie limit coincidentally editing out most carbs and fats, too, leaving the dieter with almost nothing in the way of macronutrients). Wealthy Chelish probably add a good amount of raw mustard greens to their salad, however, and I can certainly see (having eaten mustard-green salads) this being a way to show off one’s toughness, with cocky youths daring each other to eat ever-larger such salads.

The next page is a rather pretty map of Nidal. Sadly, I can’t seem to find a picture of it easily on the Internet ~ everything that comes up is either not Nidal or ugly.

One of my favorite things about this map is that they draw images of the common animals on it, presumably in the same reagions where the animals are most commonly found. There’s five of these: a horse north of Edammera’s Folly, a dragon at the rather poorly-named Shadow Caverns, some sort of imp thing outside of Brimstone Springs (a much better name), a vestrac of some sort above Ridwan, and most surprisingly a bison or somesuch in the North Plains. The North Plains, ironically, are in the southwest of Nidal. Presumably, they’re named for their placement in relation to whatever country is south of Nidal ~ the core of Cheliax, the bit of it that hasn’t won its freedom in revolution.

These animal pictures are accompanied by quite beautiful little highly-detailed images of the settlements depicted on the map. These are ornate and specific enough to give you, at a glance, some of the street-level feel of the place which seems like a nice touch that I really enjoy.

I’m often fascinated by the scale of fantasy and scifi realms, especially because it’s so often misunderstood. More importantly, however, it’s one of those things that can really aid immersion into the setting, as we players can analogize what’s going on to very concrete experiences we have and share. In this case, the map covers approximately 120,000 square miles (almost 400 miles by about 300 miles); that’s about the size of, like, New Mexico, Poland, Oman, or the Phillippines. That’s a nice size, not ridiculously large (the most common issue with fantasy maps) nor overly small. Poland was about the same size as this dating back to the 12th century, so (while large) it doesn’t strain credulity for it to be unified as a nation. At the same time, it’s large enough that one could reasonably expect regional differences to have some real weight; I would expect the Atteran Ranches and Ridwan to have distinct cuisines and holidays and clothing styles and things. Recognizable as part of an overall Nidalese culture, and yet distinct from each other.

The Uskwood is between the Sumatra Rainforest and the Virgin Komi Forest in size ~ large but nowhere near unbelievably so, as Earth retains forests in the millions of square miles, even in this age of deforestation. Continuing this trend of lovely restraint and reasonability of size, Usk Lake is only about a third the size of the Great Salt Lake. Nidal is an almost unbelievably believable size.

I decided to Google “Nidal” and discovered that it’s an Arabic word meaning something like struggle, but in more of a competitive or controversial sense than, like, the more famous word “jihad”. It’s used as a given name, carried by everyone from a director of Bulgarian National TV, Syrian and Palestinian politicians, and an Ivoirian singer to a soccer player, the creator of a type of rocket, one of the bombers of the first World Trade Center bombing (in 93), and the Fort Hood shooter. It’s also in the name of one of the Palestinian revolutionary groups ~ the ANO is the Abu Nidal Organization ("Abu Nidal" = "Father of Struggle", I believe?).

Does anyone have any inside baseball on why they chose the name, actually? There is an English adjective referencing nests, the uterus thickening before ovum implantation, neuronal aggregates, infection points, and originations. I’m kind of hoping that was the reason they named it that, cuz the idea of pulling in a random Arabic word for one of the dark/evil countries (no matter how much I love said nation) is kind of . . . icky. Especially since the Avistan cultures that inform most of the human ethnicities in Nidal would indicate something closer to Celtic/Cimmerian, Romany, or maybe French/Italian/Latin influences (kind of in order of strength of influence; that’s Kellid, Varisian, and Chelish in Avistan terms).

Have you considered taking a Celestial Obedience feat? The requirements of the obedience can certainly drive your play towards angelic behavior, and with the right choice of patron, the powers can provide an additional nudge towards angelness.

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OK, so I kinda ended up perseverating on this topic a bit, and spent the weekend looking into various cuisines and writing up 2350 words on the cuisines of Taldor, Cheliax, and Nidal. I won't post all of that here at once, but here's the first bit, and the most appropriate to this thread.

41. Azlanti placenta cake: An ancient dish consisting of many dough layers interspersed with a mixture of capramance cheese and giant bee honey, flavored with bay leaves, baked, and then covered in more honey.
42. Taldan cheese-pie: Along with baklava, cheese-pie is a descendant of Azlanti placenta cake uses head and feta cheeses and replaces the honey with thunderbird eggs
43. Taldan flowery cheese: Made from a combination of sheep and chimera milk, the dry variety is a very salty, hard cheese much like myzithra with a powerful sherry-like smell, while the fresh variety is dry, white, soft or medium, with a sweet, creamy taste. It is often eaten for breakfast with honey and fruit, or in savory dishes with oil, chiles, and wild herbs. The dry is often added to salads.
44. Taldan head cheese: Not the meat dish known as head cheese.
A hard, salty cheese made from chimera and sheep milk that is often fried in oil or grated over meat or cooked vegetables. An aged variety is drier with a stronger flavor.
45. Chelish eggplant parmiggiana arrabiata, served with the Chelish black bread mentioned in The Sixfold Trial to sop up the sauce: much like Italian eggplant parmiggiana, but with the addition of red pepper flakes (or up into, like, habanero territory, if you’re going for big flavors), extra onions/garlic, and a dose of asafetida
46. Chelish stacked-leaf pastry: Descended from Taldan baklava (itself derived from Azlanti placenta cake), this pastry is made by rolling a thin dough brushed with olive oil into a log and then cutting disks from the end. The disks are then shaped to form pockets, and filled with orange-flavored ricotta and black garlic, almond-horseradish paste, or candied chile peppers. The pastry is baked until the layers separate, forming its characteristic ridges.
47. Chelish spinach pie with onions
48. Avernal: A popular Chelish sweet wine made from a black grape grown in the Archduchy of Longmarch spiced with a few chile peppers imported from Anchor’s End. Boiled-down grape syrup is added to the wine. A dark, almost opaque purple-brown, its flavors of caramel, chocolate, coffee, raisins, and plums sparkle against the burn of its spice.
49. Chelish resinwine: A white or rose wine which has pine resin added to the must during fermentation, giving the surface an oily film which is then clarified at racking. It is well-known to have a pungent aroma of turpentine, which many non-Chelish have difficulty appreciating.
50. Kharijit: An amber-coloured sweet dessert wine made in the Chelish province of Kharijite in northern Garund made from sun-dried red and white grapes.
51. Nidalese drajei: Lumps of sugar hardened with lemon juice and seasoned with sumac.
52. Nidalese cucumber sausages: These pickles begin fairly similar to their Earthly counterparts (which is to say: pickles), though finocchio/fennel and rosemary are used instead of dill. Then they are smoked to dry them out and allow them to remain edible for even longer.
53. Nidalese pickled rhubarb
54. Nidalese digestive wine: A sour red wine spiced by soaking apples, rose hips, lemons, almonds, ambergris, cinnamon, ginger, clove, cardamom, and black pepper in it for a day before sweetening it (with sugar for the nobility and honey for the people) and heating it. Various medicinal, digestive, and aphrodisiac properties are ascribed to this wine by the Nidalese.
55. Southern Nidalese beef bourguignon, halfling style, served over plain rice: Julia Childs’s recipe, replacing the wine with a sharp red wine vinegar, increasing the alliums by a half, adding cayenne peppers, replacing the thyme with rosemary, and sweetening with date molasses
56. Southern Nidalese slave pickles: Also a halfling recipe, this giardiniera-like mixed pickle of chile peppers, celery, beets, cauliflower, and gherkins with crushed red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, and white sugar is also made in a variation in Almas in Andoran, which replaces the chile peppers with sweet onions, removes the red pepper, and adds some turmeric
57. Andorani poullet au vinaigre, served with brown buttermilk biscuits: Basically the same as the Earth version, only with balsamic vinegar instead of red-wine vinegar, quite a bit more black pepper, and a bit of honey, accompanied by a buttermilk biscuit made with rye bread and black cocoa (soft for the rich, and hard for the poor)

Oh, and I'd love to see some of the big mythic sci-fi stuff like the annunaki acting within the Golarion solar system somewhere (or even the broader multiverse, in Starfinder). Or at least in, like, the distant worlds that have affected the Golarion system: Androffa, Kasatha, etc.....

How do they interact with, like the Dominion of the Black, for example?

The Widow who saved the kayal from Earthfall.

Nidalese dwarfs.

What exactly was going on in the Shadow Plane during Earthfall. I mean, seriously, we have the Widow, the Forsaken adopting/changing the caligni and then blowing up, oh, yeah: Zon-Kuthon. And you know Count Ranalc had to be involved somehow.

Caecilias. I love me some Ursula.

Ninshabur. I love me some ancient Sumer.

I know there's some Mesoamerican stuff, but I'ven't read it. Nonetheless, more please.

Deep immersion kind of stuff: food, fashion, languages, and the evolutions thereof.

The Forsaken.

The Forsaken, and thus the owbs and their prophets who channel them. In addition to being the caligni's old savior gods, just look at their respective portfolios!

  • fetters, lethargy, and physical corruption
  • inferiority, felines, and strangers
  • accidents, parasites, and reckless lust (sacred aninmal is the tick)
  • emptiness, loneliness, and narcissism
  • family strife, suspicion, and vengeance
  • broken things, forgetting, and unexpected violence
  • failed heroics, imprisonment and squandered time

Sure, some of them are edgelord-y, but the others are such unusual things to see in a god's portfolio....

The Widow, who saved the kayal after Earthfall. Which is, I think, literally the only thing we know about her....

Pakalchi sahkils ~ I'd love to see one with class levels (is such a thing still possible in PF2?) as the ultimate villain of an AP

Court poet skalds, magical child vigilantes, and gingerbread witches

Occult dragons of all types


Household spirits

The Cult of the Failed

Nidalese dwarfs


I'm sure there are more.....

I'm sure there are more....

I adore how this tale lends nuance and multivalent strategies and diversity of tactics to the Desnan resistance in Nidal, too ~ I can imagine that a Desnan rebel might have quite an interesting take on the relationship between Zon-Kuthon and his siblings, drawing from the story of Desna's mistake...and maybe even work towards a syncresis of Desna and Zon-Kuthon ~ the wondrous beauty of consensual pain.

Yeah, they chose the name of one of the main divinities I worship (Ninshubur, King-Queen of the East), so the relatively small amount of information about the country frustrates me, for sure. I'm always happy to talk Sumerian with folk, tho!

I often think of Taldor as vaguely Byzantine/Ottoman (the latter more appropriate with Golarion's general late-Renaissance into mid-Modern setting). A quick trip to Wikipedia tells me:

1 gold lira = 100 silver qirsh
1 qirsh = 40 pare (presumably silver)
1 para = 3 silver akche

I might do something with that ~ I kinda appreciate the weird conversion amounts in real-world coinage, so I might keep those, or you could just call a platinum piece a lira, a gold piece a qirsh, a silver piece a para, and a copper piece an akche.

People have all manner of qualities and interactions outside of philosophy and discipline ~ maybe the characters are siblings, or there's some sort of romantic/sexual spark between them, or serve the same lord, or are initiated to the same (demi-)deity, or one of them sees a cold-hearted use for the other, etc. This is one of the most fertile soils for drama and stories, so look at your favorite literature/media and find things that brings odd couples together.

Or tell your players to do so, anyway, as everyone else has said.

First of all, I'm honestly not sure if this should be here or in the Paizo Products forum. I decided to put it here because I'm approaching the text from an immersionist perspective (has any RPGer used that term in the last decade?), meaning I want to do a deep dive into Nidal as a setting element. Moderators, if it's more appropriate elsewhere, I welcome you moving it!


I love Geek and Sundry's Knights of Everflame, and in fact just finished watching Season Two. However, I kinda feel like Jason Bulmahn done Nidal dirty. The shadow-hugged land of Nidal is one of my favoritest places in Avistan. I've long adored the velstracs (nee kytons) as proponents of the exquisite enlightenments of pain ~ I see elements of myself mirrored in their personality and exaggerated until horrifying. Zon-Kuthon . . . well, I want to like him, but it feels like Paizo has often tried to stress WAY too hard for li'l ol' masochist me to stress how corrupt, evil, and alien he is for liking pain (this is a large part of why I disliked how Jason portrayed Nidal and the Kuthites in Knights of Everflame ~ I'm not trying to make them good, but I am interested in crafting them as a place and a religion with which good people can interact reasonably). Which is weird, cause the velstracs are perfectly placed in the uncanny valley for me, so I know that Paizo can do it. I'd love to read (and might try to write) a syncretic deity composed of the two siblings (Shelyn and Zon-Kuthon) much like Shimye-Megalla is a syncretization of Gozreh and Desna. Might try to cherry pick a few empyreal lords and kyton demagogues for those devotees to include.

But anyway: when I first read Nidal, Land of Shadows I was ready to hate it. I was bracing myself for a one-dimensional "Hurr, hurr, hurr, see how evil and edgy we are!" realm; what can I say? I'm of such an age that I was escaping from being a not-boy at an all-boys' school by playing D&D and a lot of Word of Darkness at peak-edgelord in the late '90s, so my expectations of such things are low.

But I LOVED the book, finding that it keeps the pre-ouchyouchyfunfun history of the kingdom alive, rounding out the Chronicles of Riddick meets Hellraiser vibe of the place with a settled horselord culture that felt quite real and pastoral vineyard rusticism scattered throughout. It's a nation of fiercely proud people, unbent, unbroken, some of whom still remember that they were that way before the Chained Hooks sunk into their soul-flesh and whom one can easily imagine enjoying a quiet moment with some simple food and a great wine beneath the gloomy sun. The combination even lends itself to an emergent fertile ground for ghost stories.

The cover, by an artist with the wonderful name of Kiki Moch Rizky, depicts the iconic hunter Adowyn, her pet wolf, and the escaped halfling slave bard Lem fighting an umbral dragon, no doubt somewhere deep within the Uskwood. They're intriguing choices, and not what I would have suspected for the iconics that might be presented on this cover. I actually kind of dislike Lem, whose backstory includes an important moment where he burns down his master's villa and then walks away disgusted by the halfling slaves who rushed to rescue their demon-worshipping masters (he's Chelish). It's left a bad taste in my mouth, as it seems to lack understanding of what liberation actually means and a disavowal of the ongoing work necessary to actually build folk a better life. Half-assed and objectifying revolution is oppression in its own way.

Sorry for that aside ~ I'm a bitter ol' anarchist and that comes burbling out sometimes >.< Anyway, I would not have expected either Adowyn or Lem to be on this cover, as they seem not have overmuch to do with the themes of Nidal. Which makes their appearance a good sign that the book will avoid the one-dimensionality I was worried about before my first readthrough. It's a clear message that there will be thematic weight and adventure here for even pretty bright, more traditional (less Gothic/dark) fantasy heroes as well as for, well, Riddick and the like. But come on, there's an iconic FROM Nidal, the iconic villainous inquisitor Zelhara. Why couldn't we see her somewhere in the tableau as well?

Actually, my biggest complaint with this cover image is that the umbral dragon just doesn't feel very umbral to me. It's more like a gray dragon than anything else. Even the wisps of shadow around its mouth read more like smoke than anything. A smoke dragon? A cigarette dragon? The image tells me there's more here than I feared it would be limited to but doesn't evoke any of the actual themes of the realm. They overcorrected with this one and missed a lovely opportunity to concretize a creature that, at least for me, can sometimes be difficult to conceptualize. The umbral dragon is almost queer in that it attempts to straddle seemingly contradictory tropes/themes/archetypes ~ the imposing muscle and maddening treasure hoard of a dragon with the fear of the hidden and the unknown and the lack of safety found in the formless, gossamer shadows. This cover would have been a great place to really help sink that image into many gamers' minds.

Oh, well. The rest of the book certainly makes up for the cover!

P.S., I really like the lead author's name ~ Liane Merciel. It's quite beautiful, and almost Kyoninite in its sound. Ever notice how Kyoninite names seem to mimic some sort of hybrid between Hebrew angel-names and French? Except for the country, of course, which always sounds so Japanese to me. But, yeah, Seltyiel and Merisiel and Tariel (from Knights of the Everflame) immediately come to mind when I see Merciel on a Pathfinder product..... Although I can't help but imagine the book being written by the half-elf Alkenstarian iconic gunslinger, Lirianne, who just seems to always be in it for the wild rides and the gonzo adventures of everything. It's an interesting voice to imagine this book written in....

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I was in high school when Peter Jackman's <i>Lord of the Rings</i> movies and I may have watched too many of the special features on those extended edition DVDs. Accordingly, I've something of an obsession with expressing deep worldbuilding (sub-creation, as Professor Tolkien might say) through the material culture and visual details of the world.

Thus, my questions (I tend to ask every question like six times in different ways >.< Please bear with me):

Having done so much art for Pathfinder (and being the, ahem, iconic artist for the game), have you started to develop an understanding of the history of fashion in Golarion? Do you ever build in cultural connections among the characters you draw (like, connecting them because of culture rather than for any of the strictly artistic reasons you might repeat a visual theme)? If so, what's the most surprising, in your opinion?

Have you noticed any intentional or unintentional worldbuilding across your pictures? Or, maybe, have you noticed any later elements of Golarion's worldbuilding that might be traced back to a detail in one of your pieces?