Why did the Runelords become evil?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion


IIRC the Runelords started out as representing the seven Cardinal Virtues but eventually turned evil and started following the Seven Deadly Sins instead. Why did they exactly? Is it just a "power corrupts" type of thing or is their more to it?


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It basically comes down to two things:

  • Thassilon grew too large for Xin, who was basically a nice guy, to effectively rule on his own. So he chose a bunch of governors to help him, and it just so happened he was a poor judge of character.
  • As his governors grew in power they became resentful of not being the one in charge, and started fooling around on the side, striking bargains with extraplanar beings and dragons and so on. They ended up plotting both against the empire and each other.

When Xin died, there was a power vacuum and the runelords all tried to claim the throne.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Absolutely because of the classic theme of "Power Corrupts, and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely."

Scarab Sages

I'd love some exploration of whether they followed Lissala's corruption, or if she became more evil as a result of the decline of her primary followers.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Belabras wrote:
I'd love some exploration of whether they followed Lissala's corruption, or if she became more evil as a result of the decline of her primary followers.

Coincidence and parallel development. One did not cause the other. (Which is also my way of saying Lissala was supposed to be lawful evil from the start but a miscommunication easily on when we were all still figuring Golarion out made things weirdly confusing there.)

Scarab Sages

Ah, ok. Good to know. I was imagining some kind of Planescape-esque scenario where believers had some pull on their god through faith alone or vice versa.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Belabras wrote:

Ah, ok. Good to know. I was imagining some kind of Planescape-esque scenario where believers had some pull on their god through faith alone or vice versa.

Nope. That (along with deities requiring faith to survive) are things D&D does that Pathfinder does not.

Grand Lodge

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Belabras wrote:
I was imagining some kind of Planescape-esque scenario where believers had some pull on their god through faith alone or vice versa.

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James Jacobs wrote:
Nope. That (along with deities requiring faith to survive) are things (WotC) does that Pathfinder does not.

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In my game, because of the past ambiguity for Lissala, we use the Planescape model Belabras referenced.

But that's mostly also because it worked out that way in our campaigns. We've got a powerful NPC in Kaer Maga (Kesoula from PFS) who is LE and promotes a LE Lissala -- and we have a former PC (retired and serving as NPC) in Korvosa who is LN and promotes a LN Lissala.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Honestly, I'd just assumed that Thassilon was a more-or-less lawful evil society from the get-go, and that the "Virtues of Rule" were something they'd paid lip-service to in the beginning as a justification.


Interesting, James.

Thank you.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Haladir wrote:
Honestly, I'd just assumed that Thassilon was a more-or-less lawful evil society from the get-go, and that the "Virtues of Rule" were something they'd paid lip-service to in the beginning as a justification.

Thassilon was, like Azlant before, Lawful Neutral from the start. The whole point of the runelords going evil and turning on their king/emperor is less interesting if Thassilon was evil from the start.

And in fact, Thassilon was probably skewing more toward good than Azlant at the very start, thanks to Xin's progressive hopes and plans to abandon the "humanity is best" creed of Azlant and to work with elves and giants and other races as equals. That this fell apart HARD when the runelords turned on him is part of the whole tragic story.


James Jacobs wrote:
Nope. That (along with deities requiring faith to survive) are things D&D does that Pathfinder does not.

I'm really glad Pathfinder never picked up the whole "Gods need worshipers to survive" bit from D&D and pop culture. I studied many both ancient and modern Polytheistic religions in college, and that concept is found in literally none of them. That Golarion religion is a bit closer to real world Polytheism with its independent Gods and hundreds of demi-Gods tickles my academic fancy more than I care to admit.


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James Jacobs wrote:
Absolutely because of the classic theme of "Power Corrupts, and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely."

I guess the Runelords subsribed to the "Power corrupts and absolute Power is actually pretty neat" school of thought.

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