“The modern nations of the Impossible Lands are inextricably defined by the legacy of their pasts and the monuments to progress they’ve made in the face of uncertain futures. Though independent from one another and often in competition or conflict, the nations of the Impossible Lands all share a common origin as sites of colonial conquest and cultural diasporas…”1
Impossible Lands is rich with the lore and culture of nations and their people. Numerous writers and artists, along with many supporting editors and designers have come together for this fine tome including Eleanor Ferron, Logan Bonner, Michael Sayre, Ekaterina Gordeeva, and the new Creative Director: Luis Loza. You can learn more about the authors on this excellent Paizo blog article too! Impossible Lands is part of the Lost Omens line and while we see a number of new mechanics, it’s primarily detailing the history and modern days of Alkenstar, Bhopan, Geb, Jalmeray, the Mana Wastes, and Nex as well as their numerous peoples. There’s a reason it’s a must-have and a must-invest-in, and not just because the NPCs are so hot as Nonat said recently though I do agree it is very much S-tier. This book brings life (and undeath) to some of the oldest nations who have faced incredible adversity through the conquests, colonialism, and abuses of power of the few and powerful. These again, as I mentioned in my review, are mature themes that are handled with respect to create a narrative for incredibly inspiring gaming. The team involved as well as those that have created these places originally truly invest care and passion into telling this story. Ultimately, it’s telling a story that is central to our tabletop roleplaying games.
The central story here is the exile of the necromancer Geb from Osirion, who conquered and rose – from the dead – the nation to bear his name as well as the archmage Nex from Quantium, who also conquered and created – using flesh in a different way – to forge another self-proclaimed nation. Their war has cost the lives, freedoms of many as well as tore up the area that would become the Mana Wastes with Alkenstar growing from within that ruin. Jalmeray was pulled into the war as part of Nex. Bhopan has existed somewhat in isolation off Nex’s coast but members of the Pathfinder Society have contributed to chaos and theft there, before ultimately setting up a Lodge in Nex. As we saw in the last article there’s a lich who fled Geb and dwells in the Wastes. I think it’s safe to presume at least one person from Nex likely lives there in exile as well.
Before we get into the region’s History, the Introduction provides an overview of each area and how they interact. I appreciate these details like how to put adventures here or what current events I should consider. I knew of Geb and Nex, have seen a little of Jalmeray, and certainly have more exposure to Alkenstar in recent months. Understanding how these lands came to be and the hubris of magic and power that has led to them – reminding me of World of Darkness, especially the Mage related games – is extremely valuable as a GM but also simply interesting. Current Affairs gives some good expectations for the day to day of the Impossible Lands: peace has benefitted some and the threat of the rulers returning, bringing back their war, is on everyone’s mind. 4,000 years of growth, international diplomacy, trade… There’s a lot of politics, economy, and day to day life that has simply moved on. Problem is, Nex and Geb seemingly haven’t.
You can – and should – read the historical details presented in the History chapter. I do truly feel that the Queen of Ebon Feathers is a devotee of Urgathoa. It may be too she reminds me of Jaethal as we play through Kingmaker. A detail that’s called out that I’d either not seen before or simply forgotten is about Nex’s attempt at godhood in Absalom. He made his spire, sieged the city, wanted to take the Starstone for himself. But yet no one knows why it ended? Why did he stop? Why did he turn back? The call out is that he was unwilling to pay the final price to ascend to godhood or at least that’s the legend. Considering the other ascended mortals, what would that final price even be? Considering power would grow and hatred can remain, the only thing I can imagine would be a promise that in the future you would lose it all and/or die. Is that a price Aroden paid for his time as a god? There’s also all the horrible things Geb has done in response to Nex but also how vengeful he can be in general like when the Knights of Ozem attacked. He is the one that took Arazni and raised her as a lich. Now she’s a goddess and she ain’t happy. I really hope to see more of her in published materials. There’s that unwilling vampire Ileana in Knights of Lastwall if you recall who seems to have a patron in Arazni.
Each chapter has those sidebars of tasty lore and additional detail. In People we get a number of them, like details for the Mana Wastes and Fleshforges within the Fleshwarp section. Nex is basically 3D printing flesh and creatures. Now I’ll say the idea of being able to print up limbs to help those who’ve lost them is great. Need a kidney transplant? Done. There’s already ways to replicate your skin cells and basically spray paint your own skin back onto you, a very amazing invention to help those who’ve suffered terrible burns. That’s the sort of technology and magic I want to see from our society. The problem is Nex takes it too far. From the sound of things in the Alkenstar chapter their investment in technology is primarily for the military, and a superweapon to defend themselves from being scooped up by either nation seems likely. Alkenstar is still a thriving city state aside from such war-foreplanning. The Alkenstar Ice Wine side bar refers to Geb’s interest in it due to the positive energy in the wine from a wellspring surge that makes undead susceptible to the inebriation of the alcohol. We also see a great deal of art and references to mask wearing, feeling quite personal to our COVID days, to avoid airborne maladies. It’s not just the art of the people, but all these beautiful maps and city views are gorgeous too.
Barphon. I could write a whole article just on this nation. I might actually. Secret nation once terrorized by an archfey whose power was focused in a demiplane of magic and then a crown? No wonder for many people in Golarion it’s a place of myth and fairy tales. I’m a big fan of all things fey and love the influences like the Dance Unending. A seasonal dance called the Eternal Bloom is giving me strong A Court of Fey & Flowers vibes from Dropout. I highly suggest you watch that by the way. Intrigue, magic, and Pride & Prejudice influences. It’s a marvelous way to run a fey game. It’s interesting now that Barphon for all its negative past with the fey now has so many fey influences. Unfortunately that’s common for conquesting warlords. Have your warriors become part of the local culture. Change traditions, holidays… Still the Dance is one of tradition and magic that persists with numerous Beastkin thriving there, especially if they’ve avian abilities. I’m reminded of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the sidebar on dancing mishaps. Flub the dance moves and you could wind up with a donkey’s head! We’ve got Blood Lords going right now for Geb. Here’s hoping we have a Barphon adventure path one day too!
As we’re seeing in Blood Lords, Geb has an economy focused on producing food for the rest of Avistan. The Quick – that’s living – sometimes try to savor what little of life they can and can be treated as livestock for the undead. It’s why worship of Urgathoa is apparently becoming more common. It’s entertaining to see there’s a Quick-Dead Coalition that is pushing for more rights for the Quick as a learned, organized society in Geb is seeing a growing mindset of equal rights, but of course the Blood Lords won’t necessarily appreciate such liberal values. Geb returning in general is a threat to their comfortable, capitalistic society too. Their nation is literally built on the backs of the living, who don’t even get to rest in death. The details of Mechitar (see the image above), the capital city, break down the hierarchy and the Quick are at the bottom. Even the leader of Urgathoa’s church doesn’t have enough influence to counter more influence undead lords like vampires and mummies. I’ll have to read through Blood Lords and see if there’s more detail on this high priestess Rinnella Brenon. She’s a Child of Urgathoa and as Geb noted in Book of the Dead, he prefers those who didn’t die and need a second chance but became undead of their own volition.
Meanwhile in Jalmeray you have power struggles between those who’ve gone and returned and those who took. The Vudrani and the Arclords displaced and then destroyed the native Sunghari, leveraging Nexian magic and the elemental power of the genies. There is a constant focus on perfection, both perfecting the self and presenting a perfection front. It is front however. An appointed leader – the Thakur – must constantly contend with the wants and needs of varying cultures and beliefs amongst rulers of their own sort while numerous peoples dwell and make up this island. Even Rakshasas find a place depending on their behavior like Jagabattuk, a mercenary. There’s geniekin of many sorts along with people and nagas. While every nation has their power struggles, this one is seated a bit differently as the politics are firmly rooted in ancient beliefs, numerous varying cultures, and the impact of past struggles and atrocities. I’ve seen a lot of common threads with the people of Nex – frequently arclords or some influential sort – having a negative impact like in Bhopan or the Mana Wastes. Am I sympathizing with Geb? That’s not good.
The Mana Wastes are far more lively than you’d imagine with life finding a way. Well, exiled undead too as we’ve said. There’s mage gangs. There’s dead magic. There’s wellspring surges. There’s gnolls and hill giants who have tribes here while lizardfolk have fled from the caverns beneath. Tehre’s a Theurgists’ Commune intent on harnessing the forces of the Wastes and another would-be town built around healing the land at the Samsara Oasis. Of course, Alkenstar is also within the Wastes and there are dwarven peoples beneath the land here, Geb, and beyond. They, like some of the sages and hermits, are responding and studying – if not using the land. In the Mana Wastes we see many settlements growing around mana springs as energies gather deep below and shoot up to create storms and aid to the wild miasma. You have to be prepared for uncertainty in the Mana Wastes and whereas most rely on magic acting normally in most campaigns that will not be true for adventures here. Perhaps that’s why the muscle wizard (it’s right there in the text!) Velasco Cueto came here. There’s a delicate balance in the physical and magical, just as magic can create or destroy. It’s why Nethys has two sides after all.
Of note, not all creation is good and not all destruction is bad. Nex is creating flesh for the use of war, making monsters. Destruction can be a natural part of the cycle as trees are destroyed by volcano, wildfire, storm… New life grows. Remember bacteria help us digest food; they’re not just making us sick. Nex has lost sight of that balance. They don’t stop to ask if they should there. The Miasmere is beautiful, but polluted. The city of Ecanus, where the fleshforges work as the military heart of the nation, is fouled by the stench of viscera growing and stretching from an explosion at one of the factories. The chapter notes how it’s been 14 years and it’s still happening? All these archmages can’t fix this? Or won’t? Unknown horrors are coming out without being programmed to do so. I love this take on wild creation, dangerous and threatening. I made the Jurassic Park reference earlier and it’s very true here: life finds a way. No one quite knows why the explosion happened and I think that’s just one facet of what people don’t truly know.
There’s such arrogance in their intelligence and power that they assume all is well, safe… People would rather save face politically when they talk risk, problems. That’s a festering rot from within that needs fixing but with pretty floating towers, magical lights, and pretty crafted appearances, who will be willing to raise the ugly truth? They call this spreading sore the Awful, and I feel it’s an enemy all its own even if it’s not a willful villain it’s certainly an antagonist. It may be the work of a group like Haagenti’s Mask, started by Dulin Tro a drow in service to a powerful demon. Here is evil wearing another face and using the hubris of Nex against itself. It’s only going to get worse, clearly. We need an adventure path for Nex to explore what’s truly happening here.
Impossible Lands is rich with story and possibility beyond the already amazing books of the Lost Omens line. Not only are there evils to rise up against, but lesser evil with pretty faces and excused histories all in the name of conquest and progress. I’ve read through once already and have started my second. I highly suggest you invest in Impossible Lands too as you’ll gain a perspective of the dangers of making the possible a reality. I’ll end also with a thank you as well to all our readers, community members, gamers, fans, friends, and family! Thanksgiving has colonial origins not to be celebrated, however I do like the idea of giving thanks for all I have and for sharing this community with all of you. Thank you!
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!
- Impossible Nations excerpt, Introduction, Pathfinder Lost Omens: Impossible Lands, Paizo
- Nex banner, Pathfinder Lost Omens: Impossible Lands, Paizo
- Geb, Introduction, Pathfinder Lost Omens: Impossible Lands, Paizo
- Spring Festival image, Alkenstar, Pathfinder Lost Omens: Impossible Lands, Paizo
- Mechitar, Geb, Pathfinder Lost Omens: Impossible Lands, Paizo
- Prada Hanam, Jalmeary, Pathfinder Lost Omens: Impossible Lands, Paizo
- Quantium, Nex, Pathfinder Lost Omens: Impossible Lands, Paizo
- Nex, Introduction, Pathfinder Lost Omens: Impossible Lands, Paizo