Where do Alkenstar's "European / Western" aesthetics come from?


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion


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I obviously understand from a meta perspective that Alkenstar exists to be a steampunk Wild West fantasy, and so draws on the language and visual stylings of both Victorian Britain and the American westward colonization, but it's always bugged me that it doesn't seem to be diegetic at all.

Alkenstar is located in northeastern Garund, sandwiched between Nex and Geb, with the Mwangi Expanse over the mountains to the west and Jalmeray due east over the sea... so where are folks getting their fashion, which looks to be much more in the style of Taldor and Galt? I don't imagine Ancient Osirion left the region with a long history of saloons or cowboy hats, yet they're all over here. Ancil Alkenstar himself hailed from Nex, which has radically different looks, and doesn't seem to have any other duchies - so where the heck does any of this spring up from?

This came up some around the topic of Taldane being the Common suggested for Outlaws of Alkenstar, but it's been on my mind long enough (and feels topical enough, with the imminent Lost Omens release) that I wanted to actually voice this. Excited to hear your thoughts!


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This is something that bothers me too, if only a little. It's not an absolute dealbreaker or anything! But Alkenstar seems so out of place — geographically, I mean.

Being completely honest, I do think that someone from the team simply thought that western and steampunk sounds like a cool combination, and that's why we have the Alkenstar of today. :B

If I had to come up with some excuse, though, I guess... I dunno. Alkenstar's early advances caught the attention from avistani people that brought appropriate attires and stuff from their cultures to deal with the climate, mingled with the local population, and the practicity of dusters and cowboy hats just exploded... Maybe? And now they have saloons too!

But in al seriousness, a pertinent immigration wave from Avistan in their early history could explain a lot of things, though not everything. Aside from that, unless one of Alkenstar's earlier founders or leaders has some sort of fascination with Taldor's culture and really wanted to do something similar, I dunno.

But, this is all conjecture...


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I can't speak to an in-universe history, and I'm not an actual architectural historian, though I will say that a lot of real-life ["western" architecture](https://c1.wallpaperflare.com/preview/432/94/361/west-mexico-almeria-texas .jpg) actually descends from its time as a Spanish territory, which inherited a blend of legacies - Romanesque from being a former Roman territory, and Andalusian from the Al-Andalus period. And there are very faint echoes of Ancient Egyptian in the history of Islamic architecture, blended with a lot of Greek and Roman and Indian. I would imagine that, being sandwiched between the traditionalist Geb and the innovative Nex, with Jalmeray to its north-east and trade from across the Inner Sea passing by on its way to Casmaron, it's fairly easy to justify any architectural tastes the Alkenstarites enjoyed. You could even say it's Dongun architecture, innovated by the dwarves when they decided to leave their hold and formulated a set style and form for their overland settlements to cope with the climate. Flat roofs, slotted windows, archways and verandahs, all serve practical and pragmatic purposes.


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Whoops, forgot to check my hyperlink formatting. Keep mixing up how it works here with how it works on reddit.

Silver Crusade

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keftiu wrote:
This came up some around the topic of Taldane being the Common suggested for Outlaws of Alkenstar,

Everyone speaks with a Dutch accent.


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Similar to Morhek, my headcanon had always been that it was dwarven influence and the geography/climate more than anything else that led to the cultural aesthetic they have.


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keftiu wrote:
This came up some around the topic of Taldane being the Common suggested for Outlaws of Alkenstar

Tying into assuming Alkenstar's architecture would owe more to the dwarves than distant Avistani styles, one would think Dwarven would make more sense as the area's Common than Taldane. At the very least rival dialects of Osiriani from Nex and Geb vying for dominance in the region creating a blended form would tie into the region's history.


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I have not seen enough of Alkenstar to know its visual stylings. Does it copy the clothing and architecture copying the United States' Old West of the late 19th century, or is it copying European styles of the early 17th century, the time period of Alexander Dumas's The Three Musketeers?

The Alkenstar picture on page 75 of Lost Omens World Guide shows a woman in tall leather boots, canvas pants, and a longcoat that would not look out of place in the U.S. Old West. She is even firing a pistol, though it is single-shot rather than a revolver. Likewise, the hat on the head-only picture of Trietta Ricia on page 78 looks Mexican or Western, too. But I don't see other examples of that style. The shirt on Foebe Dunsmith on page 8 of the Outlaws of Alkenstar Players Guide has a modern collar, but the epaulet on her right shoulder spoils the modern look. The orc gunslinger on page 6 has a style that I don't recognize, more fantasy than Old West.

My iconic view of Alkenstar is the PF1 iconic gunslinger Lirianne. Her split tricorn hat and armored skirt and bustier look more like a 18th century steampunk outfit than 19th century America. She could easily stand beside the the PF2 iconic gunslinger Nhalmika Ironsight from nearby Dongun Hold, though Nhalmika's red-and-white patterned shirt does not look western European. It could be Greek, but on Golarion I would call it Dwarven.

Nevertheless, a 17th- or 18th-century European style would also look out of place between the Osirion culture of Geb and Nex and the Vudrani culture of Jalmeray. I agree with Morhek that the only other nearby source of clothing styles is the home of Nhalmika Ironsight, the dwarven settlements around the dwarven Sky Citadel Dongun Hold. Lost Omens Legends, pages 14 and 15, tells how High King Anong Arunak of Dongun Hold supported Ancil Alkenstar in founding the city and gunworks of Alkenstar.

Another possible influence on style is sea trade from all across the Inner Sea. Lirianne's outfit looks designed to shed water, so perhaps it is influenced by sailor's garb. Out of game, the single-shot firearms are associated with the 18th century buccaneers of the Caribbean islands, so artists would be tempted to draw the gunslingers of Alkenstar like buccaneers. Sea trade from the entire Inner Sea would have to cross the Mana Wastes to reach Alkenstar, but I suspect that Alkenstar needs that sea trade to survive, so they would work hard to keep the trade corridor open.


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On a side story, around 10th level in my Iron Gods campaign, my NPC party member bloodrager/gunslinger Val Baine decided to try out a technological scatterlight suit as anti-laser armor. Alas, the suit gave only +1 against physical attacks, so she decided to wear a armored coat over the scatterlight suit, one of the rare cases where PF1 allowed armor atop armor. Though a real armored coat is a metal vest, I described Val's as a longcoat with plates sewn into it.

This caused a clothing trend among the party. The gunslinger Boffin and the magus Elric began wearing armored longcoasts, too. The party had a combat style based on ranged attacks while on the move: guns for Val and Boffin and spells for Elric. The strix skald Kirii also was always on the move with her Death from Above flying melee attacks with a lucerne hammer. Given the skirmishing combat and the infertile wilderness of Numeria as the setting, we felt that Iron Gods was a Old West story with fantasy and science fiction elements. Thus, the players had their PCs dress the part.

Historical early firearms cause players to dress like their characters like historical figures who used early firearms.


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I would like to make it somehow parallel to how country music and cowboy aesthetics are actually big in sub-Saharan Africa. Here's a story about that.

Like if you're actually in a sunny place without a lot of cover, "cowboy hats" make a lot of sense.


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My initial response is that it's a cultural influence from the Dongun dwarves, who developed strange fashions while back underground. A more out-there thought is that this is an effect of the Mana Wastes - a bit of wild magic brought fashion on the winds from a far-off place or time, and it's cool so it stuck.


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From what I've seen of the new book, Alkenstar's folk are dressed in what mostly tracks as fantasy-ified Victorian fashions, sometimes creeping a little older and more Regency or colonial, or else forward to the trench coats and gas masks of WW1. It's completely distinct from Dongun fashion, and their architectures are likewise radically different.

If I knew Avistan well, but didn't have a clue about Alkenstar and was plunked down on its streets, I'd assume Taldor had built the place. Older lore might even agree with me, as the (in)famous "Worldbreaker" cannon Alkenstar built for Taldor (later lost to the Gorilla King of Usaro) actually predates Alkenstar's canonical founding by thousands of years. I have to wonder if there might be genuine confusion that the nation somehow has deep Taldan roots... but the notion's not backed by anything I've yet seen out of LO:IL.

It would seem if you meddle too much with steam power, the universe folds you into a faux-Victorian shape, even if you are Osirian/Keleshite/Garundi/Mwangi folks caught between Nex and Geb. The saloons and cowboy hats sprung from the soil of the Mana Wastes like proud saguaros.

I'm likewise super keen to figure out where on Golarion the Spanish-sounding mage gangs picked up their names!

Dark Archive

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I'm still bit sore about how Taldane became over time the "white people" ethnicity when it didn't start out like that :'D


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I honestly sort of thought the premise of Taldor was "What if Turkey was Rome?"

Radiant Oath

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PossibleCabbage wrote:
I honestly sort of thought the premise of Taldor was "What if Turkey was Rome?"

Which is historically accurate in a roundabout way when you consider one of the first major Turkish polities was the Sultanate of Rum, literally naming themselves after the Roman Empire! XD


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Here is a theory that i am taken only half seriously. Between the shadows of two super powers with distinct identities and fashion. The people of alkenstar turned to a different style, this style started with the workers supringsly enough. Those working on machines in factories required tighter more form fitting, and more durable clothing. This grew quickly as the style to wear fair any hardworking indviduals. The upper class and those powers soon replicated these designs out of the genuine desire to replicate the practicality for their own personal projects or to give the asthethics of the working man. Over time The wealthy seeked to refine and polish their style embracing their status as sort of captains of industry, this became more "sophisticated styles" like the suits and vests we see. And that style was then emulated in perhaps less fancy materials in the lower class. The gas masks and things like that also developed out of nessecity but some have chosen to keep it for style.

Im no expert on fashion history or anything like that but i feel like this could maybe give a reasonable explanation.
A cultural desire to define them seperately from those around them while also inspired by the type of work used done in alkenstar, and a cycle of various classes being inspired and changing styles based on the images they wanted to present.

Edit: as for the spanish sounding names for the wizard gang i got nothing. I hadnt thought to hard about it because i was just excited to see naming conventions that felt famililar but yeah it does seem abit off.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
I honestly sort of thought the premise of Taldor was "What if Turkey was Rome?"

I mean it sort of was, given, you know, Constantinople (assuming you mean Turkey in a geographic sense that is, since the area wasn't inhabited by Turkic people for most of the time that the Romans controlled it).

On that note, I'd argue Taldor's more or less the fantasy counterpart Byzantine Empire (used to be a lot bigger before its western half split off, in the southeastern corner of not!Europe, Norse honor guard, etc) except that it doesn't seem to have ever controlled northern Garund. Unless you're referring to the fact that it started from the eastern part rather than vice versa?

In any case Taldan (the ethnicity) has always encompassed more than just people from Taldor, and with it expanding to include Chelaxians in 2e, I see Taldans as Golarion's equivalent to southern Europeans, or perhaps more broadly to European cultures that were under Roman control at one point, rather than all "white" people. I mean, it's not like Ulfens aren't also fantasy-European.


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Darth Game Master wrote:
In any case Taldan (the ethnicity) has always encompassed more than just people from Taldor, and with it expanding to include Chelaxians in 2e, I see Taldans as Golarion's equivalent to southern Europeans, or perhaps more broadly to European cultures that were under Roman control at one point, rather than all "white" people. I mean, it's not like Ulfens aren't also fantasy-European.

Indeed. It helps that "whiteness" isn't a concept that seems to exist in Golarion - a Taldan person and an Ulfen person are both Avistani, but so's a Kellid or a Varisian, without any kind of broader unity or assumed worth/traits.


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My read on Alkenstar is that their fashion is going to be fairly unique to the region do to industrialization as much as cultural influence, especially since the regions cultural identity has largely been shaped by the total rejection of everything Nex and Geb. It kinda makes sense that the style their would be iconoclastic to the rest of the region.


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Perhaps the cowboy-style clothing derives from the specific customs of the Garundi Ustradi clans who founded Alkenstar. According to the Impossible Lands book, the clans’ customs and values influence modern Alkenstari society, and the book shows a picture of Ancil Alkenstar---who it notes was taken in by the clans---in cowboy-style clothes. Impossible Lands also emphasizes that everyday wear in Alkenstar is pragmatic, so it’s conceivable that this is the style of clothing that was the most pragmatic for this particular geographic location.

As for the more Victorian fashion of the elite: Impossible Lands indicates that Alkenstar’s ethnic composition has changed over the years due to the duchy’s “aggressive courtship of migrant laborers and the affluent from across Golarion,” with the Ustradi clans absorbing customs they found useful into their society even as the Ustradi remained the duchy’s wealthy elite. Given that Impossible Lands seems to indicate that the duchy tries to retain some degree of independence from both Nex and Geb even though it is technically a duchy of Nex, it’s possible that the Ustradi, as they grew wealthy over time, looked to absorb the customs of elite outside of Garund for their fashion, particularly to the extent that the peoples of Avistan migrated to Alkenstar.

Notably, the Agents of Edgewatch AP has art depicting what appears to be a Victorian style of dress for Absalom. So it’s conceivable that, to the extent the wealthy Ustradi of Alkenstar---who seem to consider themselves to be excellent merchants---looked to absorb the culture of areas of the Inner Sea regions beyond Garund, they elected to adopt the fashion of Absalom, one of the greatest trade cities in Avistan.

Then again, perhaps none of this adds up. (For example, art in other books doesn’t seem to suggest that Absalom fashion is Victorian in style.) Personally, I agree with what Mathmuse recently said in the “Why Most Inner Sea Nations Fail” thread. As he opined: “The true out-of-game-reason is that the writers and artists want us to recognize Alkenstar was a Wild West setting with steampunk elements, so the residents dress like Wild West setting with steampunk elements.”


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Nikofaust wrote:
Then again, perhaps none of this adds up. (For example, art in other books doesn’t seem to suggest that Absalom fashion is Victorian in style.) Personally, I agree with what Mathmuse recently said in the “Why Most Inner Sea Nations Fail” thread. As he opined: “The true out-of-game-reason is that the writers and artists want us to recognize Alkenstar was a Wild West setting with steampunk elements, so the residents dress like Wild West setting with steampunk elements.”

Nevertheless, discovering a workable in-game explanation is a lot of fun. I cannot draw, but I have made up flavorful backstories for NPCs based on my in-game explanations for details that the original writers did not explain.


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Mathmuse wrote:
Nikofaust wrote:
Then again, perhaps none of this adds up. (For example, art in other books doesn’t seem to suggest that Absalom fashion is Victorian in style.) Personally, I agree with what Mathmuse recently said in the “Why Most Inner Sea Nations Fail” thread. As he opined: “The true out-of-game-reason is that the writers and artists want us to recognize Alkenstar was a Wild West setting with steampunk elements, so the residents dress like Wild West setting with steampunk elements.”
Nevertheless, discovering a workable in-game explanation is a lot of fun. I cannot draw, but I have made up flavorful backstories for NPCs based on my in-game explanations for details that the original writers did not explain.

I completely agree.


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Super late to this, but I wonder if Ancil Alkenstar was perhaps Varisian? Wild West attire has previously been connected (as far as I've seen) to two distinct peoples in Golarion other than those in Alkenstar: residents of Arcadia's Deadshot Lands, and vaquero-inspired elements of Varisian culture (who were said by James Jacobs to be highly inspired by touchstones from Romani, Mexican, and Californian hippie culture). Varisians being the eternal wanderers they are, it would not surprise me to observe Spanish conventions appearing in their language - perhaps due to some distant connection between them and people in Arcadia (especially considering Golarion's primary analogues for Mexican peoples appear to originate from Arcadia — commonalities between them and Varisians may be more than coincidental).

In any case, the theory works neatly in my own head. If Ancil (or his family) originally migrated from northern Varisian lands (to Nex then) to Alkenstar, he would have brought with him a knowledge of Varisian and Taldan fashion (for Wild West and Victorian aesthetic, which would have been novel in Impossible Lands region and thus helpful for the purpose of giving the budding city-state a distinct identity amidst their neighbors), potentially some experience with Arcadian lore (enabling him to first recognize the value of gunpowder and firearms that would initially motivate an alliance with Donguni dwarves) and Arcadian linguistical conventions, along with an appreciation for the arts of science and magic through his own distant homeland's rich history in arcane and clockwork innovations, and his apparent skill in negotiating and leading people of a nomadic background, such as the Ustradi and Mana Wastes residents — all of these distinct elements, while not necessarily pointing directly toward someone of Varisian heritage, would certainly mesh very well with someone of that background.


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Opsylum wrote:

Super late to this, but I wonder if Ancil Alkenstar was perhaps Varisian? Wild West attire has previously been connected (as far as I've seen) to two distinct peoples in Golarion other than those in Alkenstar: residents of Arcadia's Deadshot Lands, and vaquero-inspired elements of Varisian culture (who were said by James Jacobs to be highly inspired by touchstones from Romani, Mexican, and Californian hippie culture). Varisians being the eternal wanderers they are, it would not surprise me to observe Spanish conventions appearing in their language - perhaps due to some distant connection between them and people in Arcadia (especially considering Golarion's primary analogues for Mexican peoples appear to originate from Arcadia — commonalities between them and Varisians may be more than coincidental).

As a matter of fact I think many of the Varisian names in the Lost Omens Character Guide are of Spanish/Iberian origin so that could fit. Impossible Lands doesn't specify Ancil's origin beyond being from Nex, so it's certainly possible to headcanon him as Varisian.

Though wouldn't it make more sense for Spanish elements in Varisia to be from or be related to the culture of Cheliax, which is right there, is the origin of many colonists in Varisia, and is vaguely based on southwestern Europe? Spanish isn't any more native to the real-world Americas than Portuguese, French, Dutch, or English, so seeing Spanish-based language outside of the areas adjacent to Chelish colonies there would be pretty odd*. Arcadia's firearm traditions also seem to be intentionally distinct from Alkenstar's/Dongun Hold's, which have largely been presented as a unique invention to my knowledge, so I'm not sure that implies a connection.

Anyway as for the overall thread, looking at my LO:IL copy it's said that Alkenstar is dominated by Garundi but has a lot of ethnic diversity due to "aggressive courtship of migrant laborers and the affluent from all across Golarion". So it's possible a lot of cultural influence may come from immigrants which as Opsylum points out may be appealing to Alkenstari due to a desire to set themselves apart from Geb/Nex.

I also think it bears mentioning that while northeastern Africa doesn't have much of an equivalent that I know of (unless you consider cattle pastoralism to be close enough), the vaquero tradition you mention does ultimately draw partially from traditions in northwestern Africa that influenced those of the Iberian Peninsula (fun fact: "jinete", a Spanish word for "horse rider" comes from "Zenata", the name of a historical confederation of Amazigh tribes in what's now Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia). Perhaps some of the cowboy aesthetics come from a different corner of Garund, in addition to Varisia (and possibly Cheliax and Andoran).

*I'd advocate for Varisia or the Grinding Coast as better places for inspiration to be drawn from the culture(s) of the colonial/post-colonial Hispanic Anericas than the rest of Arcadia; one could probably justify characters from even Vidrian, the Shackles, or Andoran as having some of those aspects


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Darth Game Master wrote:
Though wouldn't it make more sense for Spanish elements in Varisia to be from or be related to the culture of Cheliax, which is right there, is the origin of many colonists in Varisia, and is vaguely based on southwestern Europe? Spanish isn't any more native to the real-world Americas than Portuguese, French, Dutch, or English, so seeing Spanish-based language outside of the areas adjacent to Chelish colonies there would be pretty odd*. Arcadia's firearm traditions also seem to be intentionally distinct from Alkenstar's/Dongun Hold's, which have largely been presented as a unique invention to my knowledge, so I'm not sure that implies a connection.

Very true. My mind jumped to Arcadia mostly because I haven't seen many Spanish linguistical conventions used in majority Taldan regions (which seems to represent numerous different European cultures), nor the aforementioned vaquero aesthetic. Taldan seems to be primary spoken language across Avistan (to the point that it's referred to as "Common"), whereas Europe in our world has more variation in spoken tongue. I'm not aware of very many Spanish lingustic motifs being represented in Avistani regions, and the vaquero aesthetic specifically seems more directly tied to Spanish-speaking cultures in the Americas than in Europe. Perhaps I've missed some material though. (I'm also a lot more familiar with Mexican culture than I am Spain's, so that's probably going to influence my ability to recognize such here – I seriously need to finally make that dream tour of Europe I've always dreamed of doing)

I also didn't mean to imply a connection between Donguni gunpowder traditions and Arcadian – my point was more something like: "Ancil Alkenstar had heard tales of Star Guns across the ocean, and saw many similarities between these Dwarven crafts and the fantastic stories he'd grown up with as a child. Thus recognizing their potential (and danger), Ancil was inspired and better prepared to negotiate with the Donguni for access to their gunsmithing traditions."


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“Varisians have distant Arcadian cultural heritage that a Varisian-born Ancil Alkenstar carried into his new nation” isn’t canon, but I’m gonna believe all of it from this day onward. That rules!

I hadn’t seen cowboy Varisians before, but that really helps gives them a non-Romani identity.

Razatlani, the main “Common” of Arcadia, seems to have a lot of Spanish sounds, plus a few creeping in from Nahuatl: the cities of Jolizpan and Segada (in Xopatl and Degasi, respectively), the use of Yan (instead of San) for saints in place names, NPC names like FotRP’s Yarrika Mulandez… it’s not exactly Spanish, but the inspirations are pretty clear - while my beloved San Diego wouldn’t exist in Arcadia, a Yan Tiego would fit right in!

Chelish names, comparatively, do play with Spanish, but just as much or more faux-Latin influence on things, and at least one past user here insisted they were “clearly” British; despite their place on the faux-Strait of Gibraltar, they’ve never felt too influenced by Iberian cultures to me.


IDK, feels a bit redundant when Varisians and Chelaxians have both often had names drawn from Romance languages--not just Spanish, true, but including that and the language it evolved from. Doing some quick research, Sargavan names in Mwangi Expanse are mostly of Catalan origin, and Varisian names in Character Guide are mostly Spanish or Aragonese.

So I'm not sure why fantasy-Spanish linguistic features should pop up in Razatlan, especially when the Razatlani language presumably far predates any Avistani contact given it was a pre-Earthfall civilization, IIRC. I suppose you could chalk it up to common Azlanti influence, but I'm not sure how much of that there really was in Razatlan, and there's even less precedent (if any) for Azlanti sounding like Spanish...not to mention it has weird implications on a meta level. I wouldn't give members of a fantasy culture based on the early Haudenosaunee confederacy English names, for example.

Maybe that's an unfair analogy, but either way, Arcadia being both "fantasy counterpart Americas, but only a tiny bit was ever colonized" and "a continent where Spanish-like names are common across many regions" feels like trying to have one's cake and eat it too. Sure, the Razatlani Empire conquering nearly the entirety of Arcadia is drastically different from the history of the real Americas, so maybe it's best not to draw comparisons, but it'd be a weird choice nonetheless.

I would argue a not!San Diego would fit better in Varisia since it draws on modern California (though of course it has other influences) and San Diego is a quite modern city. Although to be fair much of Varisia has already been written so it'd be harder to just insert that, and it is more northern-California like...maybe something based on (rapid Googling) Kosa'aay, the Kumeyaay settlement that San Diego was built around, could work for Arcadia?


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Razatlani has Spanish sounds because many of the people who call the Americas home today speak Spanish, and those are the names of many people and cities that matter a great deal to people, even if their original source is European colonization centuries ago. Golarion is not Earth, so its Fantasy Latinx/Mexican representation can exist without their phonemes having come from another continent.

We’ve seen luchador masks, firearms, and robots in Arcadia. It’s not strictly limited to wholly pre-Columbian inspirations, and demanding that cuts out representation for people whose stories aren’t some sort of purely Indigenous story - something vanishingly rare today.

Also, Yarrika Mulandez and Barzillai Thrune don’t sound like they come from the same place to me, personally.


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keftiu wrote:
We’ve seen luchador masks, firearms, and robots in Arcadia. It’s not strictly limited to wholly pre-Columbian inspirations, and demanding that cuts out representation for people whose stories aren’t some sort of purely Indigenous story - something vanishingly rare today.

Not saying it necessarily has to be--I understand it's not practical to limit one's source material entirely to before the 1500s when for some regions there is limited information about those periods. There are plenty of aspects of modern Latine cultures which have some roots in indigenous ones, and I'd say incorporating stuff like that is fair game even if it has since been altered by European and/or Christian influence. I agree it would be unreasonable to demand Arcadia be entirely devoid of any trace of that.

However, I think avoiding using names from European languages is fairly reasonable, especially when equivalents to those cultures also exist in Golarion, making it nonsensical for two continents to both share the same naming conventions despite limited contact. Plus, Razatlan is in fantasy Mesoamerica and Nahuatl is a living language they can easily draw on for Razatlani without needing to rely on Spanish. I am not at all opposed to Latin American representation on Golarion, but I feel that in Arcadia specifically it should be, within reason, limited to things that aren't of uniquely European or African origin. Like the Spanish language. It'd make plenty of sense in Anchor's End and the areas that frequently interact with it, though, that's the one big exception I can think of.

Keftiu wrote:
those are the names of many people and cities that matter a great deal to people, even if their original source is European colonization centuries ago.

The same is true of a multitude of places. That doesn't mean it makes sense. Again, my issue is not with the concept of Latin American elements in a fantasy America (there are plenty of fantasy settings that have that which I enjoy and support; D&D's Radiant Citadel and the upcoming 3rd-party setting Koboa come to mind) but with claiming it is a version of that where there was very little colonialism...and then giving characters in the majority of the region names from a European language as if those being there is somehow inevitable. The only difference between that and using French or English names in northern Arcadia is the problem of Latin Americans (indigenous or otherwise) being underrepresented in US media. And I think the solution to that, in a situation where we can't reverse the choice to make Arcadia precolonial, is to provide such representation in different contexts.

Shoanti people are Golarion's version of post-colonial Northern American indigenous people, the Vidric ethnicity as described in the LO Mwangi Expanse evokes the African Diaspora, Andoran is an irritatingly on-the-nose idealized fantasy USA (sorry), and as Opsylum pointed out, James Jacobs has described the Varisian ethnicity as being partially inspired by Mexican culture. Not to mention the out-of-place Western aesthetics of Alkenstar that led to the creation of this thread. Arcadia isn't the only place where elements of the Americas can exist; Hispanic representation can be, and has been, done elsewhere in the setting.

...granted, the ship has pretty much sailed on this in the case of the Deadshot Lands, so no use making a fuss about it there, but I'd rather they not make a habit of it. That's just my opinion though. Hopefully indigenous people from those regions (and not just the US/Canada) will be involved in a hypothetical Arcadia book if they aren't already, and if they decide differently, I'll respect that.

(and in case my repeated responses to you are coming off as antagonistic, Keftiu, my complaints are with the worldbuilding decisions, not anything against you or the writers; I fully understand where you're coming from and it's a valid position to take, I just don't personally agree)


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They aren't straight Spanish names, though; the aforementioned Yarrika Mulandez from Fists of the Ruby Phoenix or the briefly-met Edibaro Jolinarez in Dark Archive have names that are clearly playing with familiar sounds, but so far the place has not been full of Juans and Marias. There's a reason I said my home town would be Yan Tiego and not San Diego - they're recognizable, without actually just being real. Razatlani as a language clearly seems to be borrowing widely from both Spanish and Nahuatl, and I'm perfectly okay with that, because it's a fictional language meant to span much of an entire continent. Non-Razatlani groups like the Mahwek pull on more purely Indigenous sources.

The dev team - and particularly, the Rules and Lore team with Luis Loza, a Mexican man, at the head - has made it pretty clear that Arcadia is not a place where they want to tell colonization narratives, which means that if you demand a strict match between Golarion and Earth, there can't be any Fantasy Mexicans in Fantasy Mexico, and that would suck for a lot of folks. I'm a white gal myself, but I've never lived outside the Southwest, and as such have always been completely surrounded by Latinx folk; telling them anything recognizably post-Columbus (or post-Cortes, as it were) is off the table for Arcadia wipes out just about anything you can point to in the world today as an inspiration.

While I gladly welcome any "cowboy" elements of the Varisians, it's telling that as one of the more lore-obsessed people here, I had no clue that part of them existed - because the overwhelming bulk of lore paints them as Fantasy Romani, or less often, Fantasy Romanian. The Shoanti are so much more born of fantasy noble savage tropes than I would be comfortable ever claiming as Indigenous representation; white authors writing about "spirit totems" does not a Native make.

Golarion isn't Earth. That means the full palette of the history of the Americas is open to be mined, without as much of its real-world baggage and context (not that it's not to still be considered!), but made available for play. I *like* that Calaca Psychopomps are sugar skull mariachis who carry a guitarron and revolver. I *love* that enchanted lucha masks are potent foci for plant magic. I think it's cool that the continent gets to have guns without having gotten them from fictional white people, and I feel similarly about their names. Your mileage, of course, may vary.


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Ah, to be clear, I wasn't saying that Shoanti should be an alternative source of Latine representation, nor that they are necessarily excellent representation for Native folks in general, just offering that as an example of something based on the Americas in Golarion that is outside of Arcadia. I also agree the inspirations for the Varisians other than "hollywood Romani" haven't been conveyed very well thus far. At least, not in what I've read, I admit I have yet to read the books on Korvosa, Magnimar, or Sandpoint; perhaps those detail the culture better.

And again, not trying to be an absolutist about any and all post-Columbian elements, more just preferring that they attempt to mostly stick to things that're at least partially rooted in either the era before that or indigenous traditions that arose since then. It's never gonna be 100% when things have changed so much in the past half millennium.

EDIT: Looking it up, that is in fact the case for both luchador masks and calacas, which apparently draw on Aztec and Maya aspects, respectively. Modern stuff with links to the original cultures falls well within the type of stuff I'd prefer to see in Arcadia, it needn't all be 500+ years old

I think it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that doing the pre-colonial Americas "wipes out just about anything you can point to" though, there are some societies we know plenty about from archaeology, oral history, and the few surviving local records (Portuguese/Spanish descriptions are also a source, but an extremely biased one and only depict the end of that period). I recognize that's beside your point, but alas, I am an insufferable pedant who cannot help but nitpick.

I do get the appeal of an "anything goes" fantasy Americas that draws on all time periods, honestly, and that's not a bad thing. Really, it's more just that I wonder why Paizo sold the concept as "unconquered Americas" if they were trying to do that. Maybe this is all just mismanaged expectations on my end. But I also worry that trying to dodge colonial baggage may lead to running into it even more by ignoring the colonial roots of certain things. I'm not qualified to judge for sure what would and wouldn't be an example of that, but "they just happen to have Spanish-like names because those regions are Spanish-speaking in the present day" feels like it's on thin ice.


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I've been having a great time reading Fifth Sun, an excellent history of the Mexica ("Aztecs") whose claim to fame is only using Indigenous sources - either records from before and during Spanish conquest, or from the generations after who learned to write in the language of their colonizers.

It's a riveting read, but the one point I think it makes really well here is that there's that there's continuity throughout all of this history. The tlatoani of a Nahua tributary village and a native-born Catholic scribe from three generations later are just as much the people of that land as one another. Colonization is an irrefutable fact, but it doesn't make the lives of those born into or after it any less authentic - a notion you often see raised especially often today in food discourse, where there's been a ton of pushback on labeling recipes altered for new audiences and ingredients by immigrants as somehow not being 'true.'

Arcadia is big enough to have people on the rivers and plains whose lives are 90% taken from pre-Columbian contact history and for there to be abandoned churches with haunted bell towers - and just as importantly, it's also got room for sacred magic firearms, wooden construct-folk, and halflings who ride giant eagles. Mayan pyramids and Olmec stone heads are just as much a part of its palette as chupacabra sightings, the Roswell crash, and that time El Santo fought Dracula, and I think the setting is all the more vibrant for it.

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