Polygamy and Golarion


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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This isn't a thread to discus the merits of polygamy. This is merely a discussion over where in Golarion it may be practiced, mainly in the kingdoms or religions where it it would either be permitted or banned in.


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I don't have any cultural details but right off the bat, but the three prominent goddesses, Sarenrae, Desna, and Shelyn, are in a committed polyamorous relationship, so at the very least I would expect followers of those faiths and nations where they are common to celebrate the merits of plural marriages and open relationships.

Scarab Sages

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According to the wiki, Anadi (spiderfolk) marriages involves 3-5 people. They live in southern Garund.


I just ran an organized play scenario that had a family in it that had three partners in the relationship, so I guess Ulfen / Valenborn culture accepts it?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I would imagine that Shelyn and her followers would be fine with polyamory and polygamy as she supports love in its varied forms.


I would imagine that Taldor and their subsequent regions like Cheliax would be for against that nature.


Patrickthekid wrote:
be for against that nature.

I can't parse this exactly but I'll chime in that Shelyn is in some respects considered a "Taldan" goddess because of her popularity with that nation in its history. Values change over time but that would suggest support for polyamory in at least a portion of the population.


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

Since many Golarion cultures are loosely based on real world cultures, a good place to start would be the customs of those real world cultures.

Of course, many of these cultures are moving in unhistorical directions that cultures in the real world have either reached only recently or (in some cases) are only being experimented with by a minority of the population.

So the more traditional sort of polygamy would comprise a few powerful individuals with harems, for highly stratified cultures in which a few powerful people lord it over a population of subjects with few rights.

The more advanced sort might occur when a couple grows to include additional people as long as everyone already in the relationship consents, most likely as an informal and extralegal relationship.


David knott 242 wrote:


Since many Golarion cultures are loosely based on real world cultures, a good place to start would be the customs of those real world cultures.

Sure that works.

Just making stuff up also works.

It's fantasy after all.

If all men are obligated to marry three wives, and each of these women are allowed to make that marriage bond twice (two husbands), just to make up a case I think doesn't exist IRL, and you make that work in your campaign, more power to you. :)


Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
Patrickthekid wrote:
be for against that nature.
I can't parse this exactly but I'll chime in that Shelyn is in some respects considered a "Taldan" goddess because of her popularity with that nation in its history. Values change over time but that would suggest support for polyamory in at least a portion of the population.

On the flip side as we see with Sarenrae & Qadira & the Cult of the Dawnflower, a culture's - or at least a portion of a culture's - interpretation of a deity's doctrine & the actual, purest intent of it, aren't always the same thing.

One of the reasons polyamory has been historically frowned upon is that it tends to make lines of succession & inheritance even more messy than they already are. So while I'm a proponent of the "it's fantasy, do what you want" approach & of poly visibility in general, if there's one nation in the Inner Sea that I'd think would have an issue with it, it would be Taldor.

Having said that, Taldor is also one of the main instances of, different rules for commoners & nobles in the setting -the beard thing, before that silly retcon, comes to mind - so I could see this being an instance of, nobles don't do it so as not to complicate things anymore, no one really cares if poor people do it or not.

If anything I could see it being more a thing in Cheliax with them having a draconian set of laws prepared to parse out the succession & inheritance issues, though I'd also imagine their version of it would be more reflective of the worst versions of polygamy in reality where it's more decidedly unequal & unethical.


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Golarion as a whole is pretty tolerant, modulo "we need to oppress somebody to maintain our power". So any particular romantic or sexual model not being found in a place is probably more of a function of "well, we never did it that way, and haven't really put a lot of thought into it."

Plus, if you see 3-6 people basically spend all of their time together, how are you going to tell whether that's a polycule or an adventuring party? It's not really any of your business anyway.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:

Golarion as a whole is pretty tolerant, modulo "we need to oppress somebody to maintain our power". So any particular romantic or sexual model not being found in a place is probably more of a function of "well, we never did it that way, and haven't really put a lot of thought into it."

Plus, if you see 3-6 people basically spend all of their time together, how are you going to tell whether that's a polycule or an adventuring party? It's not really any of your business anyway.

Polycule. I've learned a new word today. :)


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Using David's idea, Cheliax would be one place to look. Mind you, the love one expects in a marriage is likely scarce. But marriage contracts to form alliances? One could see that easily enough. Three priests or priestesses, for example, of the Queens of the Night. A noble family formed when the heads of three smaller families united by marriage. It would make things more labyrinthine to be sure.


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Labyrinthine. That was the word I was looking for.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
Plus, if you see 3-6 people basically spend all of their time together, how are you going to tell whether that's a polycule or an adventuring party? It's not really any of your business anyway.

I know which one I'd have more of a problem with if they showed up in my backwater village anyway :D

Grand Lodge

As long as Paizo is in control of Golarion it is likely that modern moralities will take precedence over any historically-based abstractions of post-medieval accuracy. Or basically, if it makes you happy, its okay.

Shadow Lodge

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TwilightKnight wrote:
As long as Paizo is in control of Golarion it is likely that modern moralities will take precedence over any historically-based abstractions of post-medieval accuracy. Or basically, if it makes you happy, its okay.

Well, Golarion lacks the large monolithic and essentially 'lawful' faiths that have dominated the last millennia or two of the 'real' world (at least in europe, the middle-east, and areas conquered and/or colonized by either area): The mere existence of openly worshiped chaotic deities in Golarion gives decent backing to a 'do what you want' sort of attitude.


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TwilightKnight wrote:
As long as Paizo is in control of Golarion it is likely that modern moralities will take precedence over any historically-based abstractions of post-medieval accuracy. Or basically, if it makes you happy, its okay.

Which is good, because the game is being played by modern people and is more based on genre fantasy than real post-medieval history.

Grand Lodge

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Taja the Barbarian wrote:
The mere existence of openly worshiped chaotic deities in Golarion gives decent backing to a 'do what you want' sort of attitude.

Perhaps, but chaotic doesn't necessarily mean do whatever you want

thejeff wrote:
Which is good...

That depends on how much "escape" from the modern world you want to have in your fantasy game


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TwilightKnight wrote:
Taja the Barbarian wrote:
The mere existence of openly worshiped chaotic deities in Golarion gives decent backing to a 'do what you want' sort of attitude.

Perhaps, but chaotic doesn't necessarily mean do whatever you want

thejeff wrote:
Which is good...
That depends on how much "escape" from the modern world you want to have in your fantasy game

Individual tastes differ of course. And you can always do your own thing.

Judging by what's popular in genre fantasy though, I suspect those that want "historically-based abstractions of post-medieval accuracy" are a distinct minority.

Shadow Lodge

TwilightKnight wrote:
Taja the Barbarian wrote:
The mere existence of openly worshiped chaotic deities in Golarion gives decent backing to a 'do what you want' sort of attitude.
Perhaps, but chaotic doesn't necessarily mean do whatever you want

Well, I was just paraphrasing your 'if it makes you happy, its okay' line, but once you have multiple deities with different philosophies, a society is much less likely to have 'rigid norms' like 'a marriage is only one man and one woman' if it might offend a divine power.

Overall, I'd expect the 'one man + one woman' combination to be the default as it is the simplest child-producing combination, but I'd also expect to see a fair amount of variation for folks who want something a bit more 'complicated' and few outright restrictions if the relationship was blessed by a recognized faith (what mortal law dares to sunder a union blessed by a deity).

Scarab Sages

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TwilightKnight wrote:
As long as Paizo is in control of Golarion it is likely that modern moralities will take precedence over any historically-based abstractions of post-medieval accuracy. Or basically, if it makes you happy, its okay.

I like Pathfinder 2E and the Lost Omens setting, but I'll admit it isn't a medieval life-simulator, nor should it try to be one. What works for, say, "A Song of Ice and Fire" doesn't work for something like Pathfinder.

Dark Archive

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My problem with "historically accurate fantasy" is that most of people who do that base it on pop culture version of what is accurate history :P

Song of Ice and Fire for example, isn't really "historically accurate", its "take worst examples from human history and make the setting be only that"


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Lathiira wrote:
Using David's idea, Cheliax would be one place to look. Mind you, the love one expects in a marriage is likely scarce. But marriage contracts to form alliances? One could see that easily enough. Three priests or priestesses, for example, of the Queens of the Night. A noble family formed when the heads of three smaller families united by marriage. It would make things more labyrinthine to be sure.

I would actually picture Cheliax as being rather conservative in this area, as they can take better advantage of a more old fashioned monogamous situation than of a polygamous one. For example, if we assume that polygamy is outlawed, we can expect a fair number of discrete extramarital affairs that agents of House Thrune or of the Church of Asmodeus could exploit as weaknesses and vulnerabilities in those whom they catch in such situations. It would fit into a more general scheme of ensuring via complex laws that most of the people in power are technically criminals who can be blackmailed for said crimes.

Since marriages are a way to seal political alliances, the monarch would probably want to ensure that nobody (with the possible exception of himself/herself) can form multiple such alliances too easily.


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

I suspect it's allowable just about everywhere. Why wouldn't it be?


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Steve Geddes wrote:
I suspect it's allowable just about everywhere. Why wouldn't it be?

Apart from religious reasons, polygamy introduces a big social unbalance as wealthy people will have multiple partners which in turn means non-wealthy persons won't be able to find partners at all in a time where family and children are still the biggest, and often only, form for social security there is.

And when you have a fully equal society, something that Paizo seems to strive for, it will also complicate inheritance a lot as polygamy would speed up the concentration of wealth and power even more.


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Ixal wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
I suspect it's allowable just about everywhere. Why wouldn't it be?

Apart from religious reasons, polygamy introduces a big social unbalance as wealthy people will have multiple partners which in turn means non-wealthy persons won't be able to find partners at all in a time where family and children are still the biggest, and often only, form for social security there is.

And when you have a fully equal society, something that Paizo seems to strive for, it will also complicate inheritance a lot as polygamy would speed up the concentration of wealth and power even more.

Note that historically this has only been the case in gender unequal societies - only wealthy men could support multiple wives and the wives generally had little say in any new additions.

It's not clear that the same pattern would exist in a world where women were equal not just in terms of wealth generation, but in being able to choose partners. Harder to add more partners to a marriage, if they all have to agree.

The problem of non-wealthy persons not being able to find partners only exists if the polygamy is gender biased. If rich men get many wives, there are less left for the poor men. (And theoretically the reverse - though historically polyandry tended to function differently.) If the rule is group marriages with multiple partners of different genders, there's no imbalance left.

Inheritance gets complicated, but it can also break up the concentration of wealth as a families wealth is divided among more children.


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Ixal wrote:
polygamy introduces a big social unbalance

Not in Golarion. It may be true in Earth history and current events, but obviously that assumption doesn't apply to the Lost Omens setting

(assumption about wealthy people) which in turn means (conclusion based on some weird economic rule that money is the only reason people have romantic partners and spouses)

Quote:
non-wealthy persons won't be able to find partners at all.

Extremely illogical conclusion

Quote:
in a time where family and children are still the biggest, and often only, form for social security there is.

Not in the Lost Omens setting.

Quote:
And when you have a fully equal society, something that Paizo seems to strive for, it will also complicate inheritance a lot as polygamy would speed up the concentration of wealth and power even more.

That's really stretching your assumptions to prove a point. There's no evidence at all that polygamy speeds up the concentration of wealth and power. That's all in your head.

To quote a famous US president:
"There you go again."


Polygyny generally crops up historically when there is a shortage of men for whatever reason and more children are desired (by society).

Polyandry generally crops up historically in places where resources are scarce, so child survival is most desirable.

Presumably in Golarion, magic helps some of these issues, but it's going to start happening there for the same reason it started happening elsewhere. I don't know if it's particularly common anywhere.


PossibleCabbage wrote:

Polygyny generally crops up historically when there is a shortage of men for whatever reason and more children are desired (by society).

Polyandry generally crops up historically in places where resources are scarce, so child survival is most desirable.

Presumably in Golarion, magic helps some of these issues, but it's going to start happening there for the same reason it started happening elsewhere. I don't know if it's particularly common anywhere.

Polygyny is also common historically anywhere in strongly hierarchical male dominated societies. Sometimes with formal marriages, sometimes with less formal mistresses. Or with serial "trophy wives".


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber
Ixal wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
I suspect it's allowable just about everywhere. Why wouldn't it be?

Apart from religious reasons, polygamy introduces a big social unbalance as wealthy people will have multiple partners which in turn means non-wealthy persons won't be able to find partners at all in a time where family and children are still the biggest, and often only, form for social security there is.

And when you have a fully equal society, something that Paizo seems to strive for, it will also complicate inheritance a lot as polygamy would speed up the concentration of wealth and power even more.

I said allowable, not the norm. Its clearly very rare (based on the NPCs we've seen).

I just dont see why one would look at golarion and think polygamy would be banned in anywhere but the most repressive places.

Grand Lodge

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Taja the Barbarian wrote:
I was just paraphrasing your 'if it makes you happy, its okay' line

Sorry, to be clear I wasn't saying that was necessarily MY opinion, just that as long as Paizo is in command, given their socio-policial propensities, modern progressive morality is going to be the driving force.

Grand Lodge

CorvusMask wrote:
My problem with "historically accurate fantasy" is that most of people who do that base it on pop culture version of what is accurate history :P

To be fair, Pathfinder and most fantasy systems are themselves pop culture.

Grand Lodge

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As far as it goes in Golarion, maybe list the occurrences of polygamy in the product vs non-polygamous relationships. Based on that alone, it should be clear that polygamy if/where it exists is incredibly rare.


When you're setting up a fantasy world for people to roleplay in, it's important that the world be recognizable for your players so they can pretend to inhabit it.

In that case, social mores and the like tend to be much more representative of "what current, 21st century people would recognize" than anything else. People's understanding of real historical periods is pretty spotty and a lot of people believe things that are actually wrong, so if you were to include like "actual work/leisure balance for people in 15th century continental Europe" in your fantasy game, people might object because they believe (erroneously) that it should be something different.

The other thing is that if you're a GM running a game or a company selling the product, you don't want to alienate your players/customers by singling them out for who they have chosen to play (or who they are.) The goal of these things is to have fun and while some people might enjoy something like "fight back against a highly misogynist social order" that's going to be far from universal and the thing that upsets the fewest people is going to be "NPCs are pretty chill about a lot of things."

Grand Lodge

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I don't necessarily agree that people need to know what the real historical evidence is. Our game, like most RPGs is a pop culture phenomenon. IME players generally want to emulate what they know of history as seen through romanticized narratives, TV/moves, and some of the stereotypes. We generally expect a knight to be "shining," riding a valiant steed, wearing heavy armor and espousing "king and county." Not 100% to be sure, but the vast majority. The fact that knightly European life was much, much gritter than that doesn't really matter. They generally want the Robin Hood of myth and legend, not the dirty vagabond the "real" Robin Hood (if there ever really was such a person) is likely to have been given the harshness of those time.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:


Plus, if you see 3-6 people basically spend all of their time together, how are you going to tell whether that's a polycule or an adventuring party? It's not really any of your business anyway.

Who's to say they aren't both?


Yqatuba wrote:
PossibleCabbage wrote:


Plus, if you see 3-6 people basically spend all of their time together, how are you going to tell whether that's a polycule or an adventuring party? It's not really any of your business anyway.
Who's to say they aren't both?

What a dream


Sibelius Eos Owm wrote:
I don't have any cultural details but right off the bat, but the three prominent goddesses, Sarenrae, Desna, and Shelyn, are in a committed polyamorous relationship, so at the very least I would expect followers of those faiths and nations where they are common to celebrate the merits of plural marriages and open relationships.

I know James Jacobs, has said that they in some form poly relationship, but was that ever put in print?

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