Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Distant Worlds (PFRPG)

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Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Distant Worlds (PFRPG)
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Golarion is the primary world of the Pathfinder campaign setting, but it is not alone. Far beyond its lands and seas, sister worlds revolve around the same sun, their residents connected by magical portals or ships of terrifying magic and technology. Now take your game off-planet and explore these weird new worlds for yourself!

This book offers a detailed introduction to the science-fantasy worlds of Golarion’s solar system, each complete with its own mysterious locations and cultures. Discover how your swords and spells match up against the trench dwellers of the Red Planet or the angelic Sarcesians who soar between asteroids. Research the mysterious origins of the sealed world-ship of Apostae, or hunt vortex sharks in the freezing seas of Kalo-Mahoi. Though strange and new, each of these worlds uses the same Pathfinder Roleplaying Game rules as Golarion itself.

    Within this 64-page book, you’ll find:
  • Gazetteers of every planet and major moon in Golarion’s system, from the steamy jungles of Castrovel and the machine-ruled rock of Aballon to post-apocalyptic Eox and divided Verces, where one side is always day and the other night. Plus, uncover information on the residents of the sun, Golarion’s moon, the asteroid belt called the Diaspora, the dark regions beyond mysterious Aucturn, and more!
  • Introductions to the major cultures inhabiting the system. Will you join Castrovel’s beautiful Lashunta, fight beside the four-armed giants of Akiton, study with the hyper-evolved Contemplatives of Ashok, petition the undead Bone Sages of Eox, or face down the insectile legions of the Forever Queen?
  • Easy new rules for adventuring on other planets, including discussions on gravity, temperature, time, vacuum, and traveling between worlds.
  • Adventure hooks for every world, tailored for GMs currently playing on Golarion.
  • Six brand-new alien monsters, from intelligent dragonkin who bond with humanoids to the great oma space-whales and amorphous, blimplike Brethedans.

Distant Worlds is intended for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Pathfinder campaign setting, but can easily be used in any fantasy game setting.

by James L. Sutter

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-403-0

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Indispensable if Your PCs are Headed to the Stars


Distant Worlds is a 64-page softcover campaign setting book for Pathfinder that's like no other: instead of detailing a particular region of Golarion, this book takes you into space! Well-known as one of the few campaign setting-line books to receive a second printing due to its popularity, the goal of Distant Worlds is to provide an introduction and overview to the planets that share a solar system with Golarion. The Inner Sea is great and planar travel has its appeal, but sometimes a story needs to travel to whole new worlds and encounter strange, alien civilizations: if you're inclined in such a direction, this is the book for you.

The front cover is certainly cool and eye-catching, and evokes the "sword and planet" genre that inspires much of what's inside the book. The artwork is reprinted as the inside back cover, while the inside front cover provides a map of the solar system, showing the order of planets from the sun.

The Introduction (two pages) makes clear that this isn't intended as a brand new campaign setting (much less a brand new game like Starfinder), but is instead a whole new set of locales that heroes from Golarion can travel to and adventure on. Thus, the focus is on what outsiders to these planets will experience, and how they'll survive the journey to get there. I especially like the couple of paragraphs on how the gods of Golarion aren't necessarily known deities on other planets, and that their portfolios may be encompassed by deities completely unheard of to the PCs.

The first and by far largest section (48 pages) of this book is a gazetteer of the bodies that make up Golarion's solar system. Each of the planets receives four pages of coverage made up of statistics (diameter, mass, gravity, atmosphere, and orbit), a general description, a few paragraphs on what adventuring there would be like, a half-page chart of key locations on the planet, a couple of pages of written description of those locations, and then a few brief adventure hooks that GMs can use to draw PCs to that planet. Given that entire worlds are being described in just four pages, readers need to have their expectations in the right place: this is an introduction, not an exhaustive treatment. I found the interior artwork very hit or miss: many of the aliens are very cool and evocative, but some of the other drawings are rather mediocre. Anyway, here's a quick run-down of what's covered:

* The Sun: This is actually just a one-page summary, but it's actually kind of cool--I never thought about setting adventures on the sun! In Pathfinder, there's actually stuff there, including magically-protected "bubble cities" that would make an awesome setting for an adventure.

* Aballon: A rocky world that is the closet planet to the sun, occupied by a vast society of machine intelligences created by mysterious (and now departed) First Ones. There's a really cool cultural divide among the intelligent machines between Those Who Wait (who believe that their creators will someday return and justify their existence) and Those Who Become (who believe that they should leave and seed another world, becoming First Ones themselves). Another location that stands out is Horsethroat, a small settlement of about 50 people from Golarion (and other worlds) who have arrived, quite accidentally, through a portal from their homeworld and are now trapped on Aballon. It's a natural starting point for PCs to begin their adventures amongst the stars (even if the "fall through a portal" adventure hook is overused in the book).

* Castrovel: Home to both the elven nation of Sovyrian (with major story ties to the fate of elves on Golarion) and the lashunta, a humanoid race with major and fixed divisions between the societal roles of the sexes. There's a plethora of awesome stuff on these four pages, including some fascinating hints about a mysterious portal network on the planet, some links of which have become dangerous. The ties between Castrovel and Golarion are so strong, it would be fantastic to see an AP that crosses between the two planets.

* Golarion's Moon: This section is only two pages long, but there are some interesting story elements here, as the moon was once colonized by ancient Azlanti, and there's a demon-infested area called the Moonscar (the subject of a Pathfinder module).

* Akiton: That massive four-armed creature on the book's cover is a Shobhad from the harsh, red desert planet of Akiton. This is a classic "sword and planet" setting, but features two races that we'll be seeing a lot more of in Starfinder: the ysoki (ratfolk) and Contemplatives of Ashok (floating giant brains!). I appreciate that the book's author, James Sutter, took care to insert details of continuity from previous Pathfinder sourcebooks, like noting that there's a strong link between the Contemplatives and an artifact found in the Mwangi Expanse on Golarion that was first detailed in Heart of the Jungle.

* Vercies: A tidal locked planet, with a Darkside and a Fullbright area sandwiching a narrow habitable zone along the equator. There's a great picture on page 22 of one of the three castes of the planetwide Vercite species. This is one of the more "high-tech" planets in the solar system and has a nice SF feel that sets it apart from Golarion's traditional fantasy setting.

* The Diaspora: Millions of asteroids, large and small, form the Diaspora. The asteroid belt has a cool history perhaps linked to the Starstone, and is home to a race called the Sarcesians. There's a ton of great adventure possibilities detailed in these four pages, with the Vacant Halls and the Wailing Stone serving as natural destinations for explorers.

* Eox: What if you built the Death Star on a planet, but the one time it was fired it caused untold destruction of your own world? That's sort of the backstory to Eox, a planet where the survivors of a doomsday weapon have turned to necromancy and undeath in order to survive on a blasted world. Eox is one of the most memorable parts of Distant Worlds, as the resident Bone Sages are cool and creepy at the same time. There's a location on the planet called the Halls of the Living which is mad-genius Sutter at his best.

* Triaxus: Interesting concept of a planet with a long (317 years!) orbit, so generations are either "summer-born" or "winter-born." There's a surprising amount of dragon stuff, which isn't really my cup of tea, but it's done well.

* Liavara: An enormous gas giant with several moons. The moons provide lots of variety and adventure possibilities, and I can't argue with the fantastic depiction of a giant creepy bug called The Forever Queen on p. 39 (just pay attention to the little guy at the bottom left to understand the scale!).

* Bretheda: Purple gas giant with natives that are . . . difficult for outsiders to understand. I found the planet's moons to be the most interesting, many of which are so intriguing I wish they would have had additional pages devoted to them.

* Apostae: This is the classic "world-ship" SF trope, and I'm stoked to see it here. My mind instantly jumped to an AP focussed on how to get to the mysterious "vault" at the center of the planet to understand the creators and purpose of Apostae. Interestingly, each resident of Apostae is biologically significantly different to every other one, so the PCs will likely stand out simply due to their (probably) shared humanoid-bipedal features!

* Aucturn: A cool, mysterious planet at the very edge of the solar system. Unlike all of the others, there are no magical portals to Aucturn, meaning it's a hard place to get to! The write-up shows some intriguing links to the Old Ones and the Dominion of the Black, but there's only two-pages of information on this one.

* Other Worlds: The part ends with a two-page overview of some miscellaneous topics: constellations, Cynosure (Golarion's north star), the Dark Tapestry (the haunted void between the stars), and the Ice Belt. I wasn't particularly impressed with the material here, and would rather have seen it used for something else.

Part Two, Stellar Adventures, is just four pages long but they're an extremely important four pages. It's here we get some insight into ways for PCs to travel to other planets, including portals, spells, and vessels. There are brief discussions on how to handle environmental problems (including vacuum, extremely high and low gravity and temperature, etc.). Last, there are two new spells ("Planetary Adaptation" and "Mass Planetary Adaptation") and a new magical item ("Pressure Suit"), all of which are indispensable. GMs planning a space-based campaign should note that this section sets some very broad rules, but leaves the vast majority of questions that are bound to come up to GM discretion. Again, this is an introductory sketch to an interplanetary campaign, not a full rules system.

Part Three, Aliens, is eight pages long. One of the best parts of this section is a list of the couple of dozen of established Pathfinder "monsters" that are explicitly extraterrestrial in origin or that could logically be found on particular other planets. The list is drawn from Bestiary 1, 2, and 3, so there are probably more recent monsters from volumes 4, 5, and 6 that could be used as well. Last, six new alien creatures are given stat blocks and descriptions: the insectile machine creatures called Aballonians, the dirigible-like Brethedans, the previously-mentioned giant brains called Contemplatives of Ashok, the Dragonkin of Triaxus, giant interplanetary "space whales" (capable of being used as transports) called Oma, and the four-armed giants from Akiton called Shobhad. Interesting, creative ideas executed well.

Distant Worlds is a campaign setting book that will either sit on a shelf gathering dust (if you play purely pre-published materials like APs, PFS scenarios, and modules) or serve as *the* book for a homebrew campaign in which the PCs find themselves on alien worlds. It's thus not a must have for most GMs, but if you have serious plans to integrate Golarion's solar system into your campaign, then it's indispensable. There are a ton of great ideas in the book, and even if it's not quite as spectacular as some of the buzz indicates, it represents a worthy expansion of Pathfinder's core campaign setting.

A great spark for extreme fantasy


Not only does this book give some very unique interplanetary ideas, but is also very good to create earth based areas. That all comes with the fact, however, that this is an idea book like any gazatter.
This book runs through various inhospitable Terrain and the requirements to survive in them. With some clever alterations you can create very alien worlds with them. Those glaciers in real life that bleed red water because of heavy iron? Easily adapted to the Mars setting. Need a compelling volcano? The sun can help. Magic gas filling the area? Look to the gas giants.
Aside from the obvious and welcomed return of fantasy space this will be very much enjoyed by anyone who enjoys the most extreme fantasy setting. Again, this is a gazetteer so don't expect too much to be done for you, it just has the basics. Still the best example of a gazatter I've seen in ages.

Possibilities for the future!


As many of you have noted, this book provides many hooks, and basic background for these new worlds, but few new rules, items, and monsters. But think of the future Setting books this may spawn! I can easily see at least one book for each of the planets, plus a space-travel/vehicles book, magi-technology book, augmentations book (mystical&technological), etc.. I've already come up with an addition to the dragonkin, the True-blooded (dragonkin with the half-dragon template, with the damage, energy type, and DC of their breath weapon changing to that of their progenitor, along with their fire immunity being replaced with the respective type).

A Good Start


I'm an old school fan of SpellJammer although Spider Moon is growing on me, like a fungus really but I digress. I am a GM that wants to resurrect SpellJammer using Pathfinder rules and this was not enough. But I am aware of 2 more third party books coming down the pike to supplement what little is here so I'll take this book for what it is.

Now keep in mind I like the book as a whole but there were some teasers I found annoying in illustrations of being I would love to have stats for towards the end of the first section. It's a nice solar system model I may steal for my own campaign and there are some nice ideas in here, that I wish had been given more info. And in the intro would it have killed you to list some stories that feed into this, I mean, Heck Planet Stories has a good chunk of them, pimp yourselves!

The space travel is a little too light for my tastes but I had the same problem with the first section of being too short. The one new magic item inspired me to create my own. That said the image that starts the chapter off is just fun.

The last bit was all about Aliens and this too could have been expanded. Great stuff and suggestions of other monsters to add in that you may already have was nice. I love the space whales and living clouds best but there isn't a bad monster in here.

Ultimately this is your primer to fantasy space, if doubling the page count would have upped the price I would have paid the extra gladly. I'm looking forward to what Zombie Sky is putting out and I'm sorry I couldn't put in a bid for that one, but i expect it will supplement this nicely. Clockwork Gnome's book I did help get launched and with my pledge I'm getting a copy to use with this and I hope others will too. If you want interplanetary adventures this will get you started but as I have said, there could have been so much more in here.

To those looking for Spelljammer...


I have been interested in this book since months ago when I came across it while bouncing around on the messageboards. Like many others (if you read old posts under this product), I grabbed it up hoping for some solid replacements for the 2nd edition Spelljammer setting for D&D.

Well, as an outright replacement, it fails. The book hints at interplanetary travel, but offers more hooks than substance. The chapter that details space is a measly three pages, with a few references throughout that give you some light rules for how to deal with space travel.

So why give it 5 out of 5 stars?

Because the book imploded my expectations. I had hoped to pick up the book and ignore the fluffy campaign-world specific stuff and instead focus on some crunchy, meaty rules for space. Piecing together vehicle rules from Ultimate Combat, interpreting suggestions in the book and using a little creative license, I can do that but the book has done so much more.

This is one of the few world-specific books I've read cover to cover (and I'm going back through it again now) in my ~20 years of gaming. And though only two pages really focus on Golarion (or rather it's moon), which I had largely ignored since I really came to Pathfinder books for their 3.6+ rule replacements, I am now falling in love with the world so many of you already have. I have probably spent as much time on the Pathfinderwiki as with my nose in my physical copy of this book, trying to plumb every mystery hinted at in Distant World's pages.

So to those looking for Spelljammer rules, I say this:
You will find a rough outline, that needs to be heavily supplemented, for what Paizo's/Pathfinder's space travel adventures will look like. Vercitian aetherships and Eoxian bone ships will give you new terms and ideas for replacing tradesmans and neogi deathspiders. Pathfinder also declares where they stand on the rules of space (no gravity planes, no air bubbles, no philogiston -- though those could all exist if you wanted them to).

To everyone else:
This really seems like a must read book. Golarion and the adventures that take place there have long been influenced and defined by that which comes from beyond the sky (Starstone, Dark Tapestry, Numeria, Mythos monsters a plenty), and this book offers you some solid insider knowledge to help you understand the mere groundling races of Golarion place in the cosmos.

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I recently dug the book out again and stumbled over the Shobhad. I know what inspired the race, but I wonder what inspired the name.

Can someone shed a light on that?

Managing Editor

Justin Sluder wrote:
Am I correct in understanding that Apostae is smaller than Golarion's Moon?

Yup! Its outside surface area is significantly smaller, and its mass even less (since it's partially hollow). That said, there's actually probably *more* area to explore since it's riddled all the way through with chambers--in evaluating adventure area, the equation starts to become one of volume instead of surface, trying to figure whether there's more area in all the tunnels than in a narrow band along the surface....

...but then, if I were better at physics, I might have a different job. :D

Managing Editor

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Fabius Maximus wrote:

I recently dug the book out again and stumbled over the Shobhad. I know what inspired the race, but I wonder what inspired the name.

Can someone shed a light on that?

Honestly? It just felt right. I wanted them to have a strong, warrior-sounding name, but not something too harsh and over-the-top. Similarly, since they're a desert people, I think I gravitated toward things that had sort of a fluid Middle Eastern sort of sound. After that, I did what I always do, which is sit on my bed and smush random syllables together until one feels right in my mouth.

Hope that didn't just kill the mystery and magic for you. :)

James Sutter wrote:
Fabius Maximus wrote:

I recently dug the book out again and stumbled over the Shobhad. I know what inspired the race, but I wonder what inspired the name.

Can someone shed a light on that?

Honestly? It just felt right. I wanted them to have a strong, warrior-sounding name, but not something too harsh and over-the-top. Similarly, since they're a desert people, I think I gravitated toward things that had sort of a fluid Middle Eastern sort of sound. After that, I did what I always do, which is sit on my bed and smush random syllables together until one feels right in my mouth.

Hope that didn't just kill the mystery and magic for you. :)

Not at all and thanks for the answer.

I just wondered if there might be some kind "root word", because if you just change two letters, you get "Siobhan".

Which is why I pronounce it "Shovad", with an open "a".

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