Investing In: the Lore of Guns & Gears

First and foremost, congratulations to United Paizo Workers for quickly working to organize and bring attention to numerous important topics while engaging with Paizo leadership to become publicly recognized! I’m so excited to see the conversations continue and the innovations, growth, and development these challenges have brought to the community. Thank you to all involved!

And now, to the lore!

The world of Golarion is a living, breathing entity, shaped by adventurers, innovators, politicians, smugglers, and pirates in a variety of ways. Beyond the inventions and innovations of its inhabitants, Golarion’s technology has been impacted by beings from other worlds, and travelers from Golarion who return from distant planes with their discoveries. This has led to Golarion’s inhabitants making new discoveries and advancing technology at a pace unlike anywhere else in the multiverse— sometimes leaping ahead of the progress made elsewhere and sometimes lagging behind as magic and circumstance limit necessity and alter the flow of innovation.1

Lore Drop!

I’m back for the lore of Guns & Gears! There’s an entire chapter dedicated to the Rotating Gear, a theoretical gazetteer on the technology found throughout Golarion. Of course there’s bits and pieces scattered in earlier chapters too, partially reflected by some of the mechanical game options we’ve seen and mentioned like in my article last week. Like I mentioned then I appreciate the optional, modular approach taken to the book and for the GM with their players to decide what all they wish to weave into their game from a mood or tone perspective. But as this books shows, the world of Golarion is continually influenced by the innovations of technology, sometimes pushing cultures far ahead of others and sometimes stymied by the prevalence of the magical. While magic pervades Golarion, there’s technology to be found in many countries as the gazetteer notes in Arcadia’s Deadshot Lands, moving through the streets of Alkenstar, or even the lost Jistka Imperium.

What about Numeria? Yes, what about Numeria. A nice sidebar is right in the Introduction and I do appreciate the tasty sidebars sprinkled throughout Pathfinder releases. It reminds that a certain crashed spaceship being plundered for advancements has led to lasers, AI, and other technology well beyond the clockwork and guns of this new release. Numeria is a land of advanced tech that can be an inspiration for those elsewhere, a promising spot to explore and learn from but an extreme in its growth beyond the magical. It’s not impossible to imagine the brilliant inventor who has heard of blueprints secreted away by the Technic League and has to instead rely on scavenged parts and their personal ingenuity. 

A Forgotten Empire

The Jistka Imperium on the other hand is not a land of the future but a land of the past. What has become Rahadoum on the continent of Garund was once a land of advanced craftsmanship that blended magic with its technology, primarily in an effort for dominance and survival as detailed in that final chapter. It’s called out alongside the Shory empire, known for its flying cities and structures, that any who’ve traveled in the Mwangi or Osirion may have heard of. What excites me about the Jistka Imperium is that it’s but one of many empires that fell and doesn’t have the prevalence seen in the present world like the Thassilonian or even Azlanti empires have. Part of that Jistka legacy are the Automaton ancestry, one of those survival technologies supplanting their otherwise aggressive uses. But there’s something more and dangerous as evident by the banner art above (and I’ll say as I often do but always need to say just how amazing the art in this book is).

The Jistka section of the Rotating Gear chapter grants us a fair amount of history as well as present day influence on various cultures and of course Rahadoum. There’s details on Elemental Constructs, a blend not of arcane magic but the lost works of Azlanti clockwork and the occult traditions of narrative spirit-calling. Does that mean bards spoke epic poems and maybe psychics imprinted emotions onto the metalline facades to house elementals? That seems far more kind a story than that of the “priest-artificers” who wanted to help battle the encroaching forces of Osirion by making bargains with demons and devils from beyond to inhabit their war machines. Unfortunately – probably not very surprising ultimately – they were relatively unstable, especially as the details around their construction were not often shared. Basically, mad fiends inhabiting gigantic constructs for eons now sometimes awakening as peoples of Golarion begin to explore deeper and further. Yeah the banner above probably depicts such. At least the more mundane research led to that Automaton ancestry we mentioned or the rise of grafts and other prostheses now seen in Rahadoum and even Absalom (Grand Bazaar, next time)!

Where Magic Fails…

Instead of embracing the war of two magically powerful nations – Geb and Nex – the dwarves of Dongun Hold retreated from the foolish humans and the atrocities they were committing upon the land. But they rose from the Darklands and shared some of the innovations – namely black powder and other firearms – they’d developed to protect themselves as they learned to survive underground. Ancil Alkenstar started the so-called Grand Duchy named for him after he’d fled Nex and convinced the dwarves to return to the surface. As magic is unreliable there due to the warfare of the past blasting away at the Mana Wastes, Alkenstar’s populace has focused upon their technological learning and development. I’ve actually got a player with a PC from Alkenstar in my Expedition campaign we’re running, so I was thrilled to see more detail provided.

There’s a threat to safety from the dwarven traditionalists known as the Keepers of the Skyflame. They see danger in the sharing of blackpowder and firearm secrets to Alkenstar, which has proliferated out to the people. However, the means they’re using to express their beliefs have become violent, costing lives. It’s important to show that advancement in science doesn’t necessarily mean all will agree in how they use that newfound knowledge. Magic is dangerous, but so too are explosives and siege weapons. Even then weapons are rare amongst the people for who can necessarily afford one, while the armed guard presents a political or societal opportunity to explore real-world issues should your party be comfortable with such. Even then, some of the guards are being replaced with constructs. I think we’ll see some transformative paths ahead with Androids, Automatons, and other aware constructs looking at how other people, other cultures use them. Again, this may touch on themes you should first discuss with your group. Finally, that limited magic but prevalence of weapons and external dangers has led to rising medical advancements – medicine, prosthetics, surgery – which is exciting from a non-violent lore perspective in another sidebar. A Helping Hand indeed!

Remember the Code

Ah but there’s a place more pastoral, rich with history and culture, that blends the mundane and the magical, the technical and the mystical. You might have thought I was going to say the Mwangi Expanse but no. I do hope to hear of technical developments there, but I meant Arcadia! I mentioned last time the Beast Gunner archetype, a blending of primal power and magical from those who built starguns from the metals that fell from above. Great heroes of the past built these guns to fight monsters and protect their people. It’s still not common to carry such a firearm, but there’s a legacy for those who do ijn the Star Code: “to never attack an unarmed opponent, to give parley to the weak who request it, to eschew deceit, to honor the terms of a duel, to respect one’s star gun, and many more rules…” It’s an honorable code for those who’d use Starguns, which are noted as rare and finding an intact one even more rare. I appreciate weaving the skymetals into lore this way as well as the respectful yet strong traditions of the Arcadian people.

Of course I wanted to see what Arcadia had in store for us because of our Valiant game. We’ve exciting ideas and adventures ahead, but learning more of the past that comes into official materials is good to see. I do want my Expedition heroes to explore Arcadia. There’s another nice sidebar on the Deadshot Lands timeline. There’s a rough map inside the section too, which maybe your heroes might find or purchase in their adventures! The area of Tazuni has a detail section as do the Illani Plains, Three Craters… Oh look at that, Tazuni calls out the city of Altameda. I hear there’s a very brilliant, charming, handsome elf based there as well as of course some other powerful heroes! It does seem if we travel north we’ll find the Tengu-populated Halana Theocracy. Apparently they employ beast guns too with an “elite group of wicked soldiers known as the Mivanians.”6 It would appear you have to be avian in nature to join, so I expect the humans in the area have seen the other side of a racist or theocratic control like in Cheliax. That will assuredly be interesting to learn more about. I wonder how they feel about couatls?

There’s so much more to be found in Guns & Gears so I highly suggest you invest in it, whether you plan to use Inventors, Gunslingers, and technological advancement within your party or you want to expand Golarion and its lore through NPCs, news (like the Gazetteer!), or areas to explore. You will not be disappointed. Next time I’ll look into the Grand Bazaar. And again, congratulations to the United Paizo Workers, first union of its kind!

Investing In:

I wasn’t quite sure what to name my article series when I first started but the idea of showcasing or discussing things that make me excited, that I find new and interesting, or maybe I’m otherwise passionate about seemed to fit with the idea of Investing In something like the Pathfinder 2E mechanic. To use some magic items you have to give that little bit of yourself, which helps make these things even better. I like the metaphor of the community growing and being strengthened in the same way!

I also want to hear what you’re Investing In! Leave me a comment below about what games, modules, systems, products, people, live streams, etc you enjoy! You can also hit me up on social media as silentinfinity. I want to hear what excites you and what you’re passionate about. There’s so much wonderful content, people, groups (I could go on) in this community of ours that the more we invest in and share, the better it becomes!


Banner – Rotating Gear chapter banner art, Guns & Gears, Paizo

  1. Realms of Innovation excerpt from The Rotating Gear, Guns & Gears, Paizo
  2. Absalom: Gadgets and Gizmos banner, Guns & Gears, Paizo
  3. Jistka Imperium: Ancient Automatons banner, Guns & Gears, Paizo
  4. Alkenstar, the City of Smog banner, Guns & Gears, Paizo
  5. Arcadia: Beast Guns and Skymetals banner, Guns & Gears, Paizo
  6. Excerpt on Star Code from Arcadia: Beast Guns and Skymetals section, Guns & Gears, Paizo
  7. Arcadian citizen from Arcadia: Beast Guns and Skymetals section, Guns & Gears, Paizo

Rob Pontious

You may know Rob Pontious from Order of the Amber Die or Gehenna Gaming's first series of Monster Hearts 2. He currently writes Know Direction's Investing In blog as well as a player for the Valiant podcast and Roll for Combat's Three Ring Adventure. He's been a lover of TTRPGs for over three decades, as a gamer, and a GAYMER. You can find him on social media as @silentinfinity.