Is the Afterlife Reliable?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

Silver Crusade

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Okay, so most of the setting material which explicitly addresses this question acts as though a typical person who lives and dies in the Pathfinder campaign setting goes through the afterlife system roughly as it is intended to be gone through.

Here's a question though: Given the sheer amount of stuff to be found in the Pathfinder universe which can keep you from the Boneyard, how could it possibly be the case that virtually everyone gets there. I mean, there's:

Devourers
Night Hags
Daemons, especially cacodaemons
Devils, including both contract devils and more powerful ones with Trap the Soul as a SLA
Sakhils, who are said to take the souls of everyone they go after
Multiple low-level damnation spells from Book of the Damned 1 (One is level 4!)
Sacrifice rules from the same book
Raveners (whose rarity is made up for by the sheer number of people they consume)
Kytons
Demiliches
Imprison (The Spell)
Various Demons
Umbral Dragons
That Kineticist Archetype from HA
Dullahans
Dreamthief hags

Given all of that, especially given that some of those things are not even supposed to be all that rare, how likely is it that only a negligible number of people fall prey to any of those effects?

Silver Crusade

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

Because compared to all the souls in all of existence those are a negligible number.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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What Rysky said.

Remember, the amount of souls traveling to the Boneyard every moment is a STAGGERING number; it's everyone who dies on every world in the universe, more or less. FAR more than even ALL of those soul-eating monsters could ever eat. The amount of souls who are snatched up by the various creatures that do that is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of less than 1 percent.

Silver Crusade

James Jacobs wrote:

What Rysky said.

Remember, the amount of souls traveling to the Boneyard every moment is a STAGGERING number; it's everyone who dies on every world in the universe, more or less. FAR more than even ALL of those soul-eating monsters could ever eat. The amount of souls who are snatched up by the various creatures that do that is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of less than 1 percent.

Thank you very much for responding. If I may ask though, would that imply that Golarion is not representative of a typical world in terms of the amount of soul predation it sees?

Because if it is typical, than it seems there would be as astronomically many of the threats I listed.

(When I think about non-Golarion Material Plane worlds, I come up with the other planets in the solar system, whose level of predation we simply don't know, and earth, which sees virtually no such predation, so I guess it's plausible that Golarion is especially bad.)


ThePuppyTurtle wrote:


Thank you very much for responding. If I may ask though, would that imply that Golarion is not representative of a typical world in terms of the amount of soul predation it sees?

There really isn't the data to establish a norm, so "typical" is a rather meaningless term.

It is probably a lot less than the amount of souls consumed in either a Moorcock Multiverse, or the Warhammer40k setting in which the souls of innumerable psychics are consumed DAILY in order to maintain the Emperor which is the only thing that keeps interstellar travel possible.

It's rather curious that I see so many posts trying to nail down details of Golarion's afterlife.


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ThePuppyTurtle wrote:

{. . .}

(When I think about non-Golarion Material Plane worlds, I come up with the other planets in the solar system, whose level of predation we simply don't know, and earth, which sees virtually no such predation, so I guess it's plausible that Golarion is especially bad.)

Uhhhh . . . how can you be sure that Earth doesn't see a lot of such predation? Just because you usually can't see this while being among the living, it doesn't mean that it doesn't happen . . . .

The awful truth on Earth is that All or at least the great majority of souls go to Hell (3 articles).


UnArcaneElection wrote:
ThePuppyTurtle wrote:

{. . .}

(When I think about non-Golarion Material Plane worlds, I come up with the other planets in the solar system, whose level of predation we simply don't know, and earth, which sees virtually no such predation, so I guess it's plausible that Golarion is especially bad.)

Uhhhh . . . how can you be sure that Earth doesn't see a lot of such predation? Just because you usually can't see this while being among the living, it doesn't mean that it doesn't happen . . . .

The awful truth on Earth is that All or at least the great majority of souls go to Hell (3 articles).

The truth that few people are willing to face up to is that there is no such thing as an afterlife. If they did, they'd realize that you get one spin 'round the wheel, and that their goal should be to make that spin as meaningful as possible.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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ThePuppyTurtle wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:

What Rysky said.

Remember, the amount of souls traveling to the Boneyard every moment is a STAGGERING number; it's everyone who dies on every world in the universe, more or less. FAR more than even ALL of those soul-eating monsters could ever eat. The amount of souls who are snatched up by the various creatures that do that is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of less than 1 percent.

Thank you very much for responding. If I may ask though, would that imply that Golarion is not representative of a typical world in terms of the amount of soul predation it sees?

Because if it is typical, than it seems there would be as astronomically many of the threats I listed.

(When I think about non-Golarion Material Plane worlds, I come up with the other planets in the solar system, whose level of predation we simply don't know, and earth, which sees virtually no such predation, so I guess it's plausible that Golarion is especially bad.)

Golarion is typical. Doesn't change the fact that the vast majority of souls get through just fine. The number of souls passing into the afterlife is many times the number of soul-eating predators. And there are other things out there, like psychopomps, who help protect the souls.


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James Jacobs wrote:


Remember, the amount of souls traveling to the Boneyard every moment is a STAGGERING number;

Nope! I'm still able to take all my actions normally. Definitely not staggering.


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James Jacobs wrote:

What Rysky said.

Remember, the amount of souls traveling to the Boneyard every moment is a STAGGERING number; it's everyone who dies on every world in the universe, more or less. FAR more than even ALL of those soul-eating monsters could ever eat. The amount of souls who are snatched up by the various creatures that do that is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of less than 1 percent.

"We're working on it OK? It's a tough job and it's going to take us a while.

Geez, you're almost as bad as the Oinodaemon. He/She/It was all like 'why are you all slacking off? Why haven't you eaten more souls this month? The sum of all mortality in the multiverse isn't going to send itself to oblivion.'

So, faced with our maker telling us all of that?... We ate them.

Suffice to say that didn't go precisely according to plan. But we're still working on all those souls! Give us time!"


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

It's also an adventure game. As such the CS and adventure paths are going to focus on the dramatic stuff, and not all the mundane people who go through life without encountering all that soul-eating stuff.

Silver Crusade

MMCJawa wrote:
It's also an adventure game. As such the CS and adventure paths are going to focus on the dramatic stuff, and not all the mundane people who go through life without encountering all that soul-eating stuff.

True. I suppose it's related to the question of how civilization flourishes despite all of the monsters.

And now I want to calculate what the monster population of Golarion would have to be for it to contain a stable breeding population of every monster in the bestiaries.

Liberty's Edge

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UnArcaneElection wrote:
ThePuppyTurtle wrote:

{. . .}

(When I think about non-Golarion Material Plane worlds, I come up with the other planets in the solar system, whose level of predation we simply don't know, and earth, which sees virtually no such predation, so I guess it's plausible that Golarion is especially bad.)

Uhhhh . . . how can you be sure that Earth doesn't see a lot of such predation? Just because you usually can't see this while being among the living, it doesn't mean that it doesn't happen . . . .

The awful truth on Earth is that All or at least the great majority of souls go to Hell (3 articles).

That's a very literalist reading. And, as the lack of a flat earth and the world existing for billions of years demonstrate, literalist readings are full of crap.

Assuming one is Christian in the first place, of course.

Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
The truth that few people are willing to face up to is that there is no such thing as an afterlife. If they did, they'd realize that you get one spin 'round the wheel, and that their goal should be to make that spin as meaningful as possible.

Is that the truth? How do you know?

I mean, that's clearly where the evidence currently points, but our understanding of the nature of the universe is in its infancy. Making assumptions about how it really works is not necessarily the best plan.

Of course, belief in an afterlife remains an irrational act. One of faith, not logic. But faith isn't necessarily synonymous with an unwillingness to 'face up to things'.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

It would probably be for the best if this thread focused on the topic of Pathfinder afterlife, rather than bringing the contentious (and often deeply personal) nature of real-world faith into the mix. ^_^

Liberty's Edge

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Kalindlara wrote:
It would probably be for the best if this thread focused on the topic of Pathfinder afterlife, rather than bringing the contentious (and often deeply personal) nature of real-world faith into the mix. ^_^

Yeah, that's probably fair. I, at least, will drop that particular topic going forward.

Dark Archive

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I've also been known to snack on a soul or two.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
ThePuppyTurtle wrote:
MMCJawa wrote:
It's also an adventure game. As such the CS and adventure paths are going to focus on the dramatic stuff, and not all the mundane people who go through life without encountering all that soul-eating stuff.

True. I suppose it's related to the question of how civilization flourishes despite all of the monsters.

And now I want to calculate what the monster population of Golarion would have to be for it to contain a stable breeding population of every monster in the bestiaries.

well...at least some monsters are created/undead/outsiders, so that takes out a good chunk of the monsters that might long-term breeding populations to survive.

Liberty's Edge

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MMCJawa wrote:
ThePuppyTurtle wrote:
MMCJawa wrote:
It's also an adventure game. As such the CS and adventure paths are going to focus on the dramatic stuff, and not all the mundane people who go through life without encountering all that soul-eating stuff.

True. I suppose it's related to the question of how civilization flourishes despite all of the monsters.

And now I want to calculate what the monster population of Golarion would have to be for it to contain a stable breeding population of every monster in the bestiaries.

well...at least some monsters are created/undead/outsiders, so that takes out a good chunk of the monsters that might long-term breeding populations to survive.

Additionally, many aren't Evil or actually inclined to mess with civilization, so it almost doesn't matter how many there are from the perspective of human civilization (though many of those have their own civilizations).

Plus a lot of them, even those that do exist and breed, aren't necessarily local. Formians are native to Castrovel, while all Fey are originally from the First World (or trace descent there), and are immortal (so sustaining a breeding population on Golarion isn't really necessary).

And dragons, at least true dragons, have tiny populations and simply have the advantage that they live forever and can travel wherever they want to find a mate.

And leaving out Dragons, Fey, Constructs, Undead, and Outsiders actually cuts the total number of creatures a whole lot (from 2075 entries on the PRD to 957, though something like 300 of the 2075 are just different age categories for all the different types of dragon).

Really, if you assume Golarion is super fertile (to support increased biodiversity), all of it suddenly looks pretty reasonable.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:
UnArcaneElection wrote:
ThePuppyTurtle wrote:

{. . .}

(When I think about non-Golarion Material Plane worlds, I come up with the other planets in the solar system, whose level of predation we simply don't know, and earth, which sees virtually no such predation, so I guess it's plausible that Golarion is especially bad.)

Uhhhh . . . how can you be sure that Earth doesn't see a lot of such predation? Just because you usually can't see this while being among the living, it doesn't mean that it doesn't happen . . . .

The awful truth on Earth is that All or at least the great majority of souls go to Hell (3 articles).

That's a very literalist reading. And, as the lack of a flat earth and the world existing for billions of years demonstrate, literalist readings are full of crap.

Assuming one is Christian in the first place, of course.

Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
The truth that few people are willing to face up to is that there is no such thing as an afterlife. If they did, they'd realize that you get one spin 'round the wheel, and that their goal should be to make that spin as meaningful as possible.

Is that the truth? How do you know?

{. . .}

I have a sneaking suspicion that both of you didn't actually read the whole 3 articles that I linked (all on 1 page) to see their real intent . . . .


"Nobody expects to go to heaven"?


Anyway, more on topic: I'm curious at the rough rate of increase, relative to each other, of the various planes.

For example, at about what rate (comparatively) do souls flow to each of the different alignments, in a broad sense (%-wise).

With such large numbers as we're discussing (even with no hard numbers, we've got a vague idea from sheer encounters, and those aren't remotely putting the various species at-risk, and those aren't making a notable dent in the river of souls), even minor fractions of a percent would likely result in vastly skewed numbers, but "completely even split" doesn't necessarily feel right, either.

At a guess, I'd tend to hazard that there is a slim majority of neutrality, and a slim minority of good - emphasis on the 'slim' parts. Prrrrrrrrrrroooooooooooobably slants more toward chaos than law over-all, but I could be wrong about that (that's mostly based on the fact that Axis seems so small), with TN being the "most" of them (but, again, not necessarily overwhelmingly so).

EDIT: To be clear, there's probably an ebb and flow to the river - different times and "seasons" as it were have different "flavors" or tendencies... but over-all is what I was mostly wandering about. Though I do have to wander about the current trends on Golarion, specifically. Hm.


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I'd say an utterly overwhelming number of souls go to the Boneyard.

Because, well, all living things have souls.

Including the bacteria.

Creatures that can actually have an alignment other than neutral make up probably a fraction of a percent of the River of Souls.

Now, out of the intelligent macrofauna, like humans --

I'd guess 60% or more divided between the neutral alignments, with most being plain neutral, and 10% or less divided between the good alignments, with the rest going to the evil alignments.

I may be lowballing how much are evil instead of neutral, since evil stacks the deck somewhat (between the various normally evil races with short life cycles and high birth rates (goblins, kobolds, etc.) and the forces of Hell and the Abyss sometimes just conquering entire prime material planets).

While "good" races tend to have long life cycles and low birth rates.

Aside on Axis - I'd expect it to easily host a massive mortal population that in turn continually returns souls back to Axis. My general impression of Axis is that while the plane may look "small," it's also quite dense due to dimensional shenanigans - you could easily have a street where every building opens up into its own city.


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Tacticslion wrote:

Anyway, more on topic: I'm curious at the rough rate of increase, relative to each other, of the various planes.

For example, at about what rate (comparatively) do souls flow to each of the different alignments, in a broad sense (%-wise).

With such large numbers as we're discussing (even with no hard numbers, we've got a vague idea from sheer encounters, and those aren't remotely putting the various species at-risk, and those aren't making a notable dent in the river of souls), even minor fractions of a percent would likely result in vastly skewed numbers, but "completely even split" doesn't necessarily feel right, either.

At a guess, I'd tend to hazard that there is a slim majority of neutrality, and a slim minority of good - emphasis on the 'slim' parts. Prrrrrrrrrrroooooooooooobably slants more toward chaos than law over-all, but I could be wrong about that (that's mostly based on the fact that Axis seems so small), with TN being the "most" of them (but, again, not necessarily overwhelmingly so).

EDIT: To be clear, there's probably an ebb and flow to the river - different times and "seasons" as it were have different "flavors" or tendencies... but over-all is what I was mostly wandering about. Though I do have to wander about the current trends on Golarion, specifically. Hm.

The Dominion of the Black write up and JJ's confirmation that their unsupported religious beliefs don't prevent them from going to a godless alignment appropriate afterlife leads me to believe that there might be a lot bigger percentage of evil stuff than you'd think, galaxy/universe-wide.

There's also the issue of attrition and conversion rates for actual outsider yield from a certain number of petitioners. Weak demons spawn multiples per one soul, but lots of demons die in intramural fighting. And how many larvae get eaten or used as spell components before they transition to demons? Daemons eat a lot of their petitioners before they can transform. Devils go for "eternal" torture that may leave lots of petitioners as permanent building blocks or sadistic art displays rather than ever making the transition to devil. The good aligned planes indicate that some petitioners decide to just merge with the plane and skip the outsider step once they get tired of the good (after) life.

You get the idea. Figuring out alignment intake is hard, but estimating outsider yield rates is harder.


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Tacticslion wrote:
"Nobody expects to go to heaven"?

I thought I was rather unusual for not expecting to go to heaven (and in the unlikely event that I ended up there, it would turn out to be bad).

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Well for my Golarion the percentages per alignment would be about this:

LG: 10% NG: 12% CG: 11%
LN: 11% TN: 11% CN: 12%
LE: 10% NE: 11% CE: 10%

Boneyard: remaining ~2%

So, yeah, there's no 'majority' to any specific alignment, but most souls are partly neutral (~59%). Good has a slight advantage over evil (~2%), same for Law over Chaos.

Souls that didn't worship a deity but leaned towards an non-neutral alignment get sent to a plane corresponding to that alignment (with only the TN atheists going to the boneyard).


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@ Franz - the Boneyard is actually the proper destination of all TN souls, and has a section* that's the final home of the souls that actually belong there.

* The Fields of Repose or something like that - I don't have The Great Beyond handy, so I probably don't have the name right. It's a realm of peace and quiet, and the souls there can choose to be reincarnated.

The Graveyard of Souls is its own thing, and is essentially the quarantine zone for souls that don't belong anywhere (usually because they reject judgment).


Deadmanwalking wrote:
UnArcaneElection wrote:
ThePuppyTurtle wrote:

{. . .}

(When I think about non-Golarion Material Plane worlds, I come up with the other planets in the solar system, whose level of predation we simply don't know, and earth, which sees virtually no such predation, so I guess it's plausible that Golarion is especially bad.)

Uhhhh . . . how can you be sure that Earth doesn't see a lot of such predation? Just because you usually can't see this while being among the living, it doesn't mean that it doesn't happen . . . .

The awful truth on Earth is that All or at least the great majority of souls go to Hell (3 articles).

That's a very literalist reading. And, as the lack of a flat earth and the world existing for billions of years demonstrate, literalist readings are full of crap.

Assuming one is Christian in the first place, of course.

Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
The truth that few people are willing to face up to is that there is no such thing as an afterlife. If they did, they'd realize that you get one spin 'round the wheel, and that their goal should be to make that spin as meaningful as possible.

Is that the truth? How do you know?

I mean, that's clearly where the evidence currently points, but our understanding of the nature of the universe is in its infancy. Making assumptions about how it really works is not necessarily the best plan.

Of course, belief in an afterlife remains an irrational act. One of faith, not logic. But faith isn't necessarily synonymous with an unwillingness to 'face up to things'.

Actually it is... clinging to the belief of an afterlife is an irrational rejection of a basic fact of life.... The world CAN and will go on without you someday. That everything has it's time and place, it's beginning and ending. And that you will pass in order to make room for what comes after you.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
Kalindlara wrote:
It would probably be for the best if this thread focused on the topic of Pathfinder afterlife, rather than bringing the contentious (and often deeply personal) nature of real-world faith into the mix. ^_^

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Kalindlara wrote:
Kalindlara wrote:
It would probably be for the best if this thread focused on the topic of Pathfinder afterlife, rather than bringing the contentious (and often deeply personal) nature of real-world faith into the mix. ^_^


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EDIT: You know, you two are right. Comment retracted.

EDIT 2: Man, ninjas, you know? Always getting in the way of a good head-shaking.

Liberty's Edge

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Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
Actually it is... clinging to the belief of an afterlife is an irrational rejection of a basic fact of life.... The world CAN and will go on without you someday. That everything has it's time and place, it's beginning and ending. And that you will pass in order to make room for what comes after you.

Start a thread on the topic and PM me with its existence and I'll be happy to discuss with you my disagreement in regards to this not being the only reason people believe in the afterlife.

In terms of this thread, see Kalindlara's post above.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

If I were to guess, the vast majority of souls moving onto the next phase of existence are neutral, with a small minority of evil and a somewhat smaller minority of good.

Sczarni

I hope this wont count as threadomancy, but to answer the OP:

At the moment of birth, Phrasma knows where a particular soul will end up,
but she reserves her official verdict until the last possible
moment, as she knows prophecies can be wrong or fail completely. She
believes in fate and predestination but understands the need for vagueness
and misinterpretation to allow for the illusion of free will.

So in pathfinder Phrasma believes there is no such thing as free will,
she is merely maintaining the illusion, any predation that occurs happens because phrasma knew it would,
this is why the god of death hates undead so fiercely, because undeath delays the soul from her judgment
and probably gives her a god sized headache.
I assume that everything else on your list Phrasma saw at the moment of birth so dose not care about,
it was seen so therefore it is what happens.
Undeath disturbs her as it is not natural, everything else is already accounted for.


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Too many souls getting eaten before reaching the Boneyard, eh? Sounds like a campaign concept to me.

Grand Lodge

James Jacobs wrote:
And there are other things out there, like psychopomps, who help protect the souls.

With a race of outsiders at work on it (among their other duties) and calling on non-psychopomp allies from time to time, the number of soul-eaters either warned off or exterminated may be significant, keeping their numbers and impact even lower.


What I want to know is how long each soul is judged. Does Pharasima stand at the end of the line and talk at the pace of an auctioneer, telling each soul where to go? Given the immense number, they have to be judged pretty quickly for them to get backed up. Thats not to say the line never gets backed up, we know the river of souls has been flooded before.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Xuldarinar wrote:
What I want to know is how long each soul is judged. Does Pharasima stand at the end of the line and talk at the pace of an auctioneer, telling each soul where to go? Given the immense number, they have to be judged pretty quickly for them to get backed up. Thats not to say the line never gets backed up, we know the river of souls has been flooded before.

Time works differently depending on each soul. It could be judged in a second, it could take years. This is represented in game by the time limit on resurrection spells and if your GM doesn't want something to be raised at all.


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Xuldarinar wrote:
What I want to know is how long each soul is judged. Does Pharasima stand at the end of the line and talk at the pace of an auctioneer, telling each soul where to go? Given the immense number, they have to be judged pretty quickly for them to get backed up. Thats not to say the line never gets backed up, we know the river of souls has been flooded before.

Anyway: I'm not blessed or merciful. I'm just me. I've got a job to do and I do it. Listen: even as we're talking, I'm there for old and young, innocent and guilty, those who die together and those who die alone. I'm in cars and boats and planes, in hospitals and forests and abattoirs. For some folks death is a release and for others death is an abomination, a terrible thing. But in the end, I'm there for all of them.

Death, in Sandman #20: "Façade"

Pharasma doesn't actually have to be sitting in one place in a physical throne. The River of Souls is as much a metaphor as it is a thing. No one has ever seen it's terminus and come back to tell the tale.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I tend to think of the Boneyard as a sophisticated court system, with Pharasma being the "Supreme Court". Most souls get processed by "lower courts" (e.g. powerful psychopomps and psychopomp ushers), with little argument or doubt to what plane who goes where. Only special or complex cases get bumped up to Pharasma. At least that is how I would run things in my version of Golarion.


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I'm pretty sure that's explicitly stated in several places. XD I believe the default is "sent to whichever plane matches your alignment, unless there's a prior claim (such as worshiping a specific deity, selling your soul to a devil, etc.)", and most cases are pretty straightforward. The more complex it is, the higher it's likely to go and, in some cases, the greater the chance of somebody showing up to argue for/against them.


MMCJawa wrote:
I tend to think of the Boneyard as a sophisticated court system, with Pharasma being the "Supreme Court". Most souls get processed by "lower courts" (e.g. powerful psychopomps and psychopomp ushers), with little argument or doubt to what plane who goes where. Only special or complex cases get bumped up to Pharasma. At least that is how I would run things in my version of Golarion.

That matches well with the actual yamaraj psychopomp entry - the Yamarajs, strongest of the normal psychopomps, act as the regular judges of the Boneyard, with the Ushers and the actual gods of death (Anubis, Pharasma, etc.) above them.

If its mimicking a mortal court, then most cases don't actually go to argument - the parties either reached an agreement or there simply isn't a contest. The judge and its staff just checks to make sure the paperwork is in order before signing off on it.

And the planes info from Occult Adventures indicates that most souls actually sort themselves without any need of assistance from the psychopomps.

It's probably worth noting a god doesn't have the action limitations that a demigod or mortal does. Pharasma might be simultaneously presiding over as many courtrooms as all of the yamarajs and ushers combined. Even if she only takes the strangest of cases, or ones dear to her personal interests (for example, in my campaign, Pharasma personally handles anything involving the samsarans), there's still possibly billions of souls coming into the Boneyard every day.

Silver Crusade

Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:

Pharasma doesn't actually have to be sitting in one place in a physical throne. The River of Souls is as much a metaphor as it is a thing. No one has ever seen it's terminus and come back to tell the tale.

Neliahad no argument there Instead she pointed past him, toward the palace. "What's that?" she asked. "That line in the sky."

"The River of Souls," he answered.
She made an incredulous noise, and Salim liked at her with a raised eyebrow.
"I just always thought that was a metaphor," she said, and bushed slightly.
This time Salim's smile held actual humor. "I think you'll find, Lady, that there's more truth to most of the children's stories than you'd expect."
-- Death's Heretic, 147-48:

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