More Lore – Canon or Created?

With the influx of content on Pathfinder Infinite, we are starting to see a lot of cool material come out for the Pathfinder Second Edition system that does not have the official “approval” of Paizo. What does this mean for the lore of Golarion and how it fits into your game?

For those who aren’t familiar, Paizo has set up the Pathfinder Infinite (PI)  license through DriveThruRPG, which allows third-party publishers (“3PP”) to release content set in the Golarion campaign setting. This material can use all of the Golarion lore and setting material, but is developed without Paizo’s oversight (although see below). In theory, anyone could self-publish their own Pathfinder material in Golarion now under this license (although, there are some caveats and exceptions, and self-publishing is more than just scanning your campaign notes and slapping a cover on them!)

In truth, this option has always been available, through the Wayfinder fanzine. Tim Nightengale (co-founder of PaizoCon and Editor-in-Chief of Wayfinder) publishes a first-rate magazine with content created in Golarion, with everything from lore to adventure seeds to full adventures, with amazing art and maps. The only issue was that, to use Golarion content, Wayfinder had to be free. Tim and his small team have been doing Wayfinder as a labor of love for as long as Golarion has existed, and the back issues of the magazine have some real gems in terms of content you can throw into your game. The next edition is already complete and will be available at PaizoCon 2022, with the call for submissions for the next issue coming soon thereafter. Many of the authors who first published in Wayfinder have gone on to freelance for Paizo and many other companies – it’s probably done more to support and develop the freelance community than anything else. I had done a little bit of writing before I got my first piece in Wayfinder, but that magazine gave me the support and encouragement I needed to become a freelancer. (Thanks, Tim!)

Now, the material in Wayfinder is not considered “canon” – as in, it isn’t official history or lore, but an alternate universe of Golarion. The material published by Paizo, by contrast, is obviously official – everyone who plays the game assumes that these events have happened, and that so-and-so NPC has done so-and-so deeds, and so on. This official canon is part of what makes Golarion such a rich setting with lore you can use in your game.

So where does that leave material published under Pathfinder Infinite?

Like Wayfinder, Pathfinder Infinite is not canon. None of it officially has happened, and so you can’t assume everyone will know of it. And frankly, it’s probably silly for someone to publish PI material that is world-changing in scope. What good is a scenario where the Whispering Tyrant is actually a nice guy, or Aroden didn’t die? It would pretty much invalidate all of the canon material, and at that point you might as well just be making up your own setting. Similarly, PI content that contradicts the known lore and history doesn’t make a lot of sense. By contrast, a cool “Test of the Starstone” scenario might be a great way to end a campaign, allowing your PCs to become divine or die trying.

In my opinion, though, PI is perfect for the type of material that complements but doesn’t replace canon. Details of specific cities that are mentioned in the Lost Omen line but not detailed would be very useful, as are adventures set in specific places that don’t result in major changes to the setting. In other words, PI material should fill gaps rather than try to establish new frameworks. Most of what I’ve seen so far falls into that category.

There is always the risk that Paizo *will* eventually publish canon that overwrites PI content – that is a risk you take. I think most 3PPs are keeping a careful eye on the Paizo release schedule to make sure they don’t publish something that immediately becomes obsolete. Then again, alternate versions of things are very useful for GMs who are running a well-known adventure path who want to shake things up for their players.

I hope that PI will provide options for GMs in a hurry, to be able to use someone else’s prep time to present good Golarion-centric content. I’m also hoping to see some player options available that are tied to the Golarion lore and not just mechanics. (If you’ve got a product like this, shout it out in the comment!)

In short, the PI license is a perfect place to do what “More Lore” has been talking about – using existing lore as a springboard for content. Now you have the ability to publish a product under the PI license that is set in Golarion and uses most of the official Lost Omens setting material, and actually get paid for it. (Refer to the PI page for details of how this works – I am not giving you business advice, just making you aware of the opportunity.)

As a GM, I hope to use PI material in a couple of ways. First – for adventure hooks, scenarios, maps, and stat blocks I can use to save prep time. Second, for gazetteers of places that are blank in canon materials. (I want a full gazetteer of every major city in Golarion, with the level of detail that Sandpoint from Rise of the Runelords has! But I don’t have time to write them myself, so get to work please.) And finally, as a place to publish the best of my own developed materials for others to share. I don’t expect to make a lot of money from this – frankly, no one will make much, but that’s not really the point. I’ll still contribute to Wayfinder as well, even though it’s free, because it helps develop the community we all share.

Check out Pathfinder Infinite and Wayfinder today and see what you can grab for your game. And for you Starfinder fans, there’s a similar set-up for the Starfinder campaign setting.

Scott Young