Esther: Hello and welcome to Know Direction, your number one source for Pathfinder news, reviews, and interviews. I’m Esther Wallace.
Navaar: And I’m Navaar.
Esther: And we are here today to talk about a book we’re both very excited about: The Impossible Lands.
Navaar: Yes. very, very excited. My physical copy just came in yesterday, so I was freaking out about that, but it’s just so beautiful. Physical or digital, it is such a beautiful book. I am very, very excited for this.
Esther: It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous book. The cover image is so striking. I love the art in this book, and the contents.
Esther: Before we get into that, we did want to take just a minute to note the exciting news that came out yesterday. We are recording this the day after the news that the Tian Xia books are gonna be coming in 2023 and 2024. I think an Adventure Path and then two source material books.
Navaar: Yeah. I am really excited for this. I interviewed one of the writers for this before I ever knew that he was a writer for this book. And at the time of the interview, we were talking about like how much I love the Mwangi Expanse and what other setting books could come out. This was last year sometime, and I was like, “You know what? Honestly, [I] think that Tian Xia is gonna be the next one.” I was wrong because obviously Impossible Lands came out and also Absalom, I think, in between that. But I’m still very excited that it’s here. They have so many incredible writers on the books, a lot of whom I’ve met in one way or another.
Navaar: And yeah, I’m really, really excited for, for another project of this scale that has writers that are writing for the culture that’s being represented. Tian Xia originally wasn’t very well represented from what I understand, and so a lot of the team had the opportunity to like, rewrite the lore to make it more, what’s the word?
Navaar: Basically, like a better representation of the people that it’s trying to portray. And I really love that, that Paizo like, took the time to say like, here are some things that are sort of set in stone, but also here are a lot of things that we can do to make it so that’s not just one conglomeration of like, China and Japan and Korea.
Esther: I remember going through on the wiki for PF1 and the Tian Xia being a little cringe.
Navaar: [laughs] Yeah.
Esther: Clearly Orientalist in places. And I really love that the company is kind of like, you know what? “We can do much better than this. We can do much more than this.” And are giving an amazing creative team the opportunity to just hopefully, turn themselves loose and have a lot of fun with the material. That lineup was amazing.
Navaar: Yeah. Yeah. And I think like in the similar vein, Impossible Lands is just that as well. The area that we’re exploring is very much represented in like, South Asia, Northwest Africa, and so there are a lot of writers that also wrote in that same way.
Navaar: Impossible Lands is also a very difficult and dark place. And so it’s important when you have a setting that’s a difficult and dark place representing a people who look like marginalized people in our real world, that you have those writers there to give their input, give their their insights into how this can be done and make it into what it is. So it’s like you still retain a lot of that like, this is the land ruled by these two, like, very evil — or not good at least — archmages who have done a lot of terrible things and there’s a lot of undead and all this other stuff. But also it’s still a land full of people of different types. And how are those people represented when it’s not just talking about the two rulers and making it about — the rulers [are] this way and so the people are this way as well. KInda like we talked about with Cheliax, right? Like the same thing, ruled by people who are like devil worshipers, literally, but that doesn’t mean all the people in this place are
Esther: Absolutely. I think it, it’s so important to have representation, if you’re drawing inspiration from a real world culture, from people who are — have that cultural background, so we don’t just descend into stereotypes or hurtful imagery or stuff like that. And I’m not of any of the cultural backgrounds represented in this book, so I feel like I can’t really say “They nailed it!” or not. But reading it, it felt like it was really, really well done.
Navaar: Yeah. Yeah. In our next episode, we’re gonna have a couple of the writers who wrote for this book on. I just wanna say in the brief conversations that I had with them, they were very excited about the work that they had done, which I think is a great– that’s like a telltale sign that something was done right.
Navaar: I also wanna point out — let me pull it up real quick. So there is like an associated adventure path for this book, and I cannot remember the name of it. But I also wanna say, in terms of bringing people in who are excited about it from the culture, there are a group of Desi designers who created their own Pathfinder Infinite adventure path called Adventures In Jalmeray.
Navaar: I think again, like, it just speaks to the idea that there are people who are looking at this that feel represented and feel excited about the ideas. Which is, I think, what you want to achieve when you’re creating something of this scope and scale. And I always get excited anytime people feel represented. It’s like, it’s a lot of fun. [laughs]
Esther: It’s just such a good feeling. It’s such a good feeling to see aspects of yourself really lovingly and carefully used as inspiration or showing up in, in a place that you draw joy from and that you enjoy being creative in. And I’m so excited that that is, it feels like, a real feature of this book. Should we go ahead and get into it?
Esther: So The Impossible Lands is a region that is really defined by a thousands-of-years-long conflict between two nations, Geb and Nex. And they do a really great job of giving like a, a thousand foot view of the history of the Impossible Lands in this book and how these two mages sort of came from like ancient civilizations and rose up and are both very, very powerful.
Esther: They respected one another at first and were kind of like each other’s only peers. And so had this magical exchange of knowledge, which then escalates into a rivalry, which then escalates into a war that lasts for millennia. the war comes to define the landscape of this place. Like the mages are blasting each other; Geb is a necromancer, Nex is an archwizard. They’re blasting each other with all kinds of stuff, just literally remaking the terrain. And they wind up kind of tearing holes in the fabric of reality so much that they create the Mana Wastes, a place where magic either doesn’t function or functions in really funky, funky ways and winds up causing things like mutations, weird magical stuff.
Esther: Geb dies and is like, “I’m uninterested in ruling for a while. I’m gonna do some kind of messed up stuff as a, an absent ruler.” Nex vanishes, and so there’s this fragile peace.
Esther: As a result of this, a city called Alkenstar springs up near the Mana Wastes. And Alkenstar winds up partnering with the dwarves of Dongun Hold and making a pretty clockworky, steampunk inspired culture where they produce, something that’s pretty rare in Golariaon: guns. Their city is sort of, defined by living on the edge of the Mana Wastes, being a real technological and scientific center, and making it as like the midpoint between these two nations that have reached a tenuous peace.
Esther: And then we get Jalmeray and Bhopan, and… am I forgetting somewhere?
Navaar: Yeah, that’s all of them. It’s a lot of fun. Like the chaos that they enact upon each other, in a lot of ways it sounded like it starts off as almost like pranks, right? Like, if like Amazon and Walmart decided to spend like billions of dollars to prank each other as corporations, like that’s how it would feel of just like this absurd — but like, it’s, super detrimental ’cause their pranks are like, taking this dragon’s acid and raining acid teeth down on people that turn into serpents.
Navaar: And yeah, I think what I really enjoy about the, like, the story of it is like how, powerful it is how powerful they are, the two of them. I think like, obviously playing these games, it’s the fantasy of like becoming this ultra powerful character, right? Some of these examples of how they– of the ways that they acted, though awful, it’s just like this super wild display of power. For me, it created a lot of inspiring ideas of how we can construct spells, how I can write an Adventure Path — like writing an Adventure Path to go against Geb or Nex and ultimately fight them, and what that would look like in combat. And so, yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
Navaar: And the Mana Waste is just, it’s so bananas. I I am really excited to talk about that because there’s a lot of cool stuff in there. Like the, the main key word that pops out a lot is mutants and, yeah, if you love at all X-men, like that’s, that’s something I’m really looking forward to getting to.
Esther: Same. Same. And we’ll get into like the histories of Bhopan and Jalmeray when we get to the overview of places. I don’t wanna leave them out. They are very important, too.
Navaar: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, in, in terms of a place, like it has a lot of the same peoples that you would find. You’d still find dwarves and halflings and humans. But much like they did in the Mwangi Expanse where these peoples have their own cultural identity specific to where they live, we see the same thing here as well. Which I think, like, that’s one of the things I really love. I love seeing the new Ancestries, ’cause there’s some really cool ones. But I know for myself, opening the Mwangi Expanse and seeing like, actual Black halflings and Black dwarves, like, that’s such a cool thing. And I think to the, the same degree being able to show people or for them to see, similar brown people, people that look like they could be Desi, like that is so… it’s just so cool to like, alright, now I don’t have to like, figure out how to possibly have to do mental gymnastics to fit my character into this place, into the world that I’m playing at this table or whatever.
Navaar: Like, this stuff is now canonized in the game. Which I think is so important, to canonize this stuff.
Esther: Yes. absolutely. And I also love that kind of as part of that, they’ve done a really intentional job of weaving in the fact that there are other places in this world where people are, and that those people travel. And there’s migration, there’s intercultural exchange happening here.
Esther: And I really, really appreciate that. It’s not like one group of people are– or every group of people are– isolated and don’t have any exchange with the outside world. This is a book that really shows how broad this world is and what it means to go to a place and then have two or more cultures meet and mingle and have that happen for like centuries. I really appreciated the way they wrote about that and just thought it was very well done.
Navaar: One other thing I like to do is look at like the introduction. There’s a lot of times that the, the writers who get to write the introductions put in a lot of work to help people who might not come from these cultures to understand like, the setting that they’re getting into.
Navaar: Setting expectations is, is one of the first box texts that you see, and they talk about like this being like, a very dark setting with a lot of dark themes. And it’s very important to like, as you’re engaging with this content, to take the time to use safety tools. Which, I don’t think anybody could ever stress enough how important it is to use safety tools — more than just one or two — because you could get into a lot of different dark things that come up in this stuff. ‘Cause we’re, like I said, we’re dealing with undead and demons of varying types and evil wizards and people who have had mutations forced upon them and stuff like that.
Navaar: So just don’t skip that section, I guess, is my point. And consider all of these things when you’re playing in this land and when you are building adventures for other people to use, because, yeah, not everybody is up for every kind of content. And that’s important.
Esther: Yeah, I think it’s definitely important, with these books, to give a broad overview of like, the canon setting and then talk with your table about what elements of that you’re comfortable with and kind of where your lines are and what elements you might wanna rewrite. Like I know there’s references to histories of enslavement and not everybody is gonna be cool with playing out a story that includes that element.
Esther: So things like that, it’s really important to, I think, give players upfront a broad overview, and then let people opt in or opt out and have a conversation about what you’re comfortable playing with at your table. And —
Esther: — really appreciate that they had a very specific box of text talking about that. It’s super important.
Navaar: Yeah, absolutely. So should we get into the peoples?
Navaar: The peoples of– the new Ancestries. So, like I said, there are new Ancestries, but they also talk a little bit about the Heritages. So I just wanna go over some of the Heritages that they’ve added.
Navaar: A lot of them, like I mentioned, they’re familiar, with their own cultural flavoring. But they’re also new kinds that are basically, you can have this as well as being a Human or an Orc or whatever. And so stuff like Genies, Giants, Nagas and Gnolls are all included in this area. The Tieflings that they have are like, different kinds — there’s like a Genie or a Rakshasa… what’s the other one? Let me find it.
Esther: Ah, it’s Faultspawn and Beastbrood. Faultspawn and Beastbrood Tieflings are the ones that are really referenced.
Navaar: Yes. Yeah. Which, yeah, it just gives you some different, a few different feats that you can use for your Ancestry feats, which I really love. It’s just more customization. The Fleshwarp, which is — you have the Book of the Dead, right?
Esther: Mmhm, I do.
Navaar: Do you mind going into the Fleshwarp a little bit? ‘Cause I think it’s just, it’s such a wild — like if you, if you recall it enough to —
Esther: Yeah. I don’t have it right in front of me, but I’ll do my best from memory. Fleshwarps are folks who have been subjects of experiments, whether willing or unwilling, that deal with the flesh and remaking the body into an organism, a machine, a tool that can be used to another end. And Fleshwarps have, they’ve been incorporated in a lot of different places in this universe.
Esther: And I think —
Esther: –there’s an intentionality being brought to them now about being folks with agency whose bodies are often not really accepted or are feared by society, but are finding greater acceptance in some places. I know like in this book, they talk about Nex having a lot of Fleshwarping facilities to try to make like, people with bodies that are better as weapons or as defense.
Esther: There’s a lot added, too, in this book. There’s three new Fleshwarp Heritages that I wrote down, and they are a Cataphract Fleshwarp, Discarded Fleswarp, and Surgewise Fleshwarp.
Esther: The Cataphract Fleshwarp has this really cool, flavorful description of your skeleton having additional cartilage and muscles, and that your skin has these little spurs to optimize how you fit into your armor. You gain the Armor Proficiency feat as part of your heritage.
Esther: The Discarded Fleshwarp basically has the flavor that that you are a sort of failure of your creators’ ambitions, that your body resists what they tried to mold you into, and you’re immune to the worst effects of Fleshwarping attempts. So if you roll a success on a saving throw against a Transmutation effect, you get a critical success instead.
Esther: And the last one, which is a Surgewise Fleshwarp — this is super cool. It says “the undulations of your body’s cilia are hyper-attuned to wellsprings of magic.” And so basically, these little hairs or undulating tentacle- things on your body give you more sensitivity to Occultism. So you gain the Trained proficiency rank in Occultism. And if you’re already trained in Occultism, you can become trained in another skill of your choice, and you gain the Oddity Identification skill feat.
Esther: There are also a few Fleshwarp Ancestry feats. They are all really cool. And there are two that are specific to the Cataphract Fleshwarp heritage that kick in at level one and level five. I’m actually going to talk briefly about the two other Fleshwarp Heritage feats which are available to Fleshwarps of any heritage, one of which is at level five and one of which is at level nine.
Esther: At 5th level there’s the Transposable Compliance feat. And that basically means that you are a weird Fleshwarp anomaly, where your body has healing powers. And it says that your skin molts, which lets you create tissue-based healing for yourself and others. So it lets you administer first aid without using healing tools, just using your own body, but you have to take one damage to attempt to heal someone. You can also treat wounds without Healer’s Tools, but you take damage in order to do that. And you gain a plus one circumstance bonus on all Medicine checks to Administer First Aid and Treat Wounds if you use your own body to Treat Wounds.
Esther: At 9th level, there’s a feat called Embodied Dragoon Subjectivity. And that means that your body can morph itself using blood and lymph fluid and subcutaneous fat to make like, gliding wings or a mount based out of yourself. It lets you cast Feather Fall and Phantom Steed once per day as innate Occult spells.
Esther: And when you cast Feather Fall, your body gives you little gliders to be able to glide and use the spell. And when you cast Phantom Steed, your lower body turns into the steed.
Esther: Extremely cool flavor there.
Navaar: Yeah. It’s, yeah, it, it — just like some more options that you can use to have this kind of really cool backstory and be able to do some different things with your character and their body. And, yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
Navaar: Genies also have become a big part of that. And so Geniekin, you can have these inherent abilities from a genie and not necessarily be a genie. But yeah, you get a very similar, set of feats that you can interact with yourself.
Esther: There’s four at 1st level that I really liked that are themed on the kind of Geniekin you are — Ifriti, Marid, Oread and Sylph.
Esther: They are all themed around the kind of elemental connection you have. So like the Marid feat lets you gain additional hit points if you rest in the kind of body of water that you are connected to. The Oread feat gives you a special relationship to terrain and you get the Terrain Stalker skill feat. The Sylph feat gives you an affiliation to air and you treat all falls as though they were 10 feat less than the actual distance traveled, and you get the Powerful Leap skill feat. And the Ifrit one I think has the most tenuous, but also kind of the most interesting, connection to the element. It gives you what’s called Molten Wit and you become very socially debonair and skilled. And you gain the Charming Liar skill feat, or you become trained in Diplomacy and gain the Group Impression skill feat.
Esther: And I kind of like the flavor that you maybe aren’t so connected with fire but you have this spark of social energy. I think that’s really cool. And then the standout one that I put a little star by for me is Planar Sidestep at 13th level, which lets you essentially wink out of space and time like, into a different plane in combat as a reaction, and then reduce your damage — if you took damage — by 25, which I just thought was really cool.
Navaar: Yeah. That’s so good, yeah. Especially as a reaction too, like — god, that’s, so I could see that being very key in, in different settings. So yeah, absolutely love it.
Navaar: The next one is the, the Tieflings, like you mentioned. So the Tieflings obviously have a lot of variety and they’ve been given multiple varieties already. So now we get a couple more, specific to this setting. We get the… you just said them, too, and I’m — the Faultspawn and the Beast…
Navaar: Beastbrood, yeah.
Esther: I think Beastbrood was actually introduced in another book, but they have new feats for it here.
Navaar: Yeah, originally from the Ancestry Guide. But yeah, so you, you, you can do things that will– like the 9th-level feat, Jalmery Rakshasa Magic.
Navaar: So you can cast dispell magic and reaper’s lantern once per day, each as a 2nd-level divine innate spell. And your lantern manifests as a lantern shaped like the head of your rakshasa incarnation.
Esther: So cool.
Navaar: Just really fun flavor, yeah. I’ve seen this a lot in the book, too, of having these spells — these 2nd-level spells –that you get to use as cantrips. Which, that’s so great, to just add on one more thing you can do for free and not cost a spell slot. Gotta love it.
Esther: I absolutely do.
Navaar: Yeah. And then we get into the big ones. So like, these are actually new ancestries introduced to the book. Pathfinder got a lot of love for having Leshy because so many people who didn’t play Pathfinder wanted to be a Leshy so bad, and Pathfinder has them. But now we get an additional plant people called the… Ghoran, I’m guessing is vaguely the pronunciation for this? G-H-O-R-A-N.
Esther: One thing I do wish is that we’d get a pronunciation guide, or that they’d include pronunciations.
Navaar: [laughing] I was thinking the same thing! Yeah, I was thinking the same exact thing. ‘Cause that would really help a ton, especially like in a place like this, because I– I think it’s amazing that the people who are writing this and the cultures that it represents are getting to use names from that culture or at least like, pronunciations from that culture. But I also think it would be helpful if we, if we who are not from this culture understood how to say it so we didn’t say it wrong. Paizo, if you’re listening!
Navaar: But yeah, so the Ghoran are great. They’re basically like humanoid people, but they are living plants. They can change like their, their form to look like different leaves and flowers. They have these giant seeds that grow inside, like in the center of their body, and so if one’s going to pass away, they could just plant themselves in the ground and come back in a new body a couple months later.
Esther: And it renders them effectively immortal, but a little vulnerable during this time when they are growing out of the ground again.
Navaar: Yeah, do it during downtime. [laughs]
Navaar: In between campaign arcs or something. But yes, they are really cool. So there’s different types. There is the Ancient Ash, Enchanting Lily, Strong Oak, and Thorned Rose, are the different names of those types.
Esther: Of those, I was really into the Thorned Rose. First of all, the art in this book, I gotta shout out again, is really great. I meant to shout out The Geniekin art, which is maybe my favorite portrayal thus far of a heritage. They’re labeled as Vampire Geniekin or Vampire Sylph, I think, and have this amazing hair that is black and then turns into smoke. Just really gotta shout that out.
Esther: Gotta shout out the Thorned Rose Art, which is this person with like, I believe the face of a rose and a body with thorns protruding. And I thought that was so, so cool. I believe as part of that heritage you get a reaction that gives you an attack with your thorns, and then you can take a feat tree to either increase that or add on cool things like poison feats that let you poison someone. That was my favorite one.
Navaar: Yeah. And I mean, like 1d6 damage at first level for an unarmed attack feels good to me. I like that. But yeah, I mean, these, these options are just so cool. Like, ’cause I think the Leshy is — though it is beloved, right — I think it’s still not for everyone. Not everyone wants to be just this tiny like fungal person, or whatever. [laughs] Like, they’re not all fungus. And so I think like this is a really fun way to still allow like, that plant person PC and still have like a humanoid form that you can pick. They’re genderless, so you can just decide how you wanna look at any given time. You can constantly change your, your appearance as well, so you can just– you might leave for a few hours and come back and your friends might not recognize you. And I think that that’s, that’s a lot of fun.
Navaar: And yeah, 9th level you get to treat wounds with the sun.
Esther: So cool. I love that flavor. Another thing I wanted to briefly shout out is that if you’re familiar with the Elf ancestry feat tree that lets you retrain skills– I believe it’s at fifth level, you get to retrain one skill into being Trained, and as you go up, you get to retrain a skill and then retrain one into Expert — they have that same feat tree here, it’s just renamed. So if you’re a fan of that with the Elf background, you can also get that as a Ghoran.
Navaar: Yes. Yeah, they are so much fun. The next one is great. I, sometimes when I’m reading these, because the books are so big, I sometimes will skip around to different parts of the book, and it wasn’t until I was looking back on this that I found a very interesting part of what I’m about to talk about.
Navaar: The next ancestry that we’re gonna talk about is called the Kashrishi, which is K-A-S-H-R-I-S-H-I. And they are a humanoid rhinoceros type of person. They have crystalline horns. What I didn’t realize — I was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool. You get to be this big humanoid rhinocerous.’ They are small! They are the size of halflings, and it’s just amazing.
Esther: In my notes, I wrote ‘Lil’ Rhino People, heart’.
Navaar: [laughs] Yes. Yeah, exactly. Incredible. So yeah, they’re very empathic people, so you get some of that innate empathy there. They have a lot of like, flavor about how they’re designed, whether they, their physical appearance matches, sort of the crystalline color that they have, or if it’s matching the, other, creatures that are in their surrounding. Like, it talks about, like, stories of Kashrishi that have like, butterfly patterns across their bodies just from the places that they live, which is a lot of fun.
Esther: For GMs, I also thought it was a cool note that everybody’s horn, I believe, has a faint glow and it casts dim light in a 10-foot emanation. And the other cool thing is because they are an empathetic people, you have a sense of everybody’s feelings up to 15 feet out from you. It’s just a general sense of like, happy, angry, sad, peaceful, but that’s a really cool thing flavor-wise. And it’s also one of those things that as a GM, if I had a player who was playing a person of Kashrishi ancestry, I would really wanna have in my mind at all times, like, ‘Oh, I gotta remember they can sense emotions.”
Navaar: And if you’re a min-maxer, you play a Kashrishi Psychic. And now you’re, now you’re in it now . Now you’re really in it. It’s incredible. So I wanted to see which one this is. This is the– yeah, so one of them has the Athamasi? Athamasi? They have a small secondary set of arms that can be used for climbing and hanging from trees and holding objects with your limbs.
Navaar: So even if you have both your arms full, you can Grab an Edge or Vlimb, which is incredible. Let’s say you’re a fighter, right, and you want to use two weapons. And you want to either escape or Climb up to like, fight a giant whatever, you can still hold onto those weapons and Climb at the same time without having to put your weapons away. And mmm, that’s so good. As a person who had my players fight a Gargantuan creature next to a cliff, I really, really dig this idea.
Esther: This has so many cool applications. I love I also loved the Lethoci heritage, which is the next one down. And they have a particular relationship to water, which gives you a +2 Athletics bonus if you’re doing a Swim check, and if you critically fail a Swim check, you get a failure instead. And I’ve always wanted to play in a water-based campaign–
Esther: –so I thought, if you wanna do something like this, this is a really cool heritage to bring into that kind of a campaign.
Navaar: Yeah, absolutely. They kind of give a lot of options for different places that you could play. The Trogloshi is adapted to sunless regions of dense jungle forests and deep caves. Yeah, again, like if you’re doing likem a deep jungle or you’re doing an underground campaign, you still have the option to play a character that can fit into that space, which is a lot of fun.
Navaar: I love having PCs that are built to the setting. I mean also who aren’t, but I think, like, I really enjoy people who are like, want to be where they’re playing. And I enjoy that idea of like, now you have something where you like, “Oh, well I wanted to play this kind of character, but now I can’t because it doesn’t fit.” It’s like, well, no, cool. We can have dwarves and we can have tiny rhino people playing this underground campaign. And I love it.
Esther: Oh, I love that so much.
Esther: Another one is the Xyloshi ancestry, which basically lets you use your horn as a weapon and do 1d6 piercing damage, which is cool. And I believe there’s a feat tree that lets you add additional horn damage throughout your progression. I think.
Navaar: Yes. Yeah. So, there’s a 5ht-level Fighting Horn feat that you can modify the size and shape of your horn over time using the mental powers and choose two of the following weapon traits, disarm, grapple, shove, and trip. And your horn gains those chosen traits. You can take this feat a second time adding the trait you didn’t choose when you first took it. One of the things I really love about Pathfinder is because of the options, you can have that dynamic combat. And so when you can have that dynamic with your horn and then use weapons that have other traits, then all of a sudden you have some control of the field of battle and that’s just so much fun. That’s so great.
Esther: You have range in a really, really cool way. I love the worldbuilding around these horns. Like, there’s a 17th-level feat that’s a two-action that is called Cleansing Light that lets you send a burst of light in a 20-foot emanation from your horn, casting a fourth level restoration spell and rendering your enemies dazzled until the end of your next turn. And I’m like, wow! Now that’s 17th-level. But that is just really cool flavor-wise and really cool. I love all the versatility that you can get building upon this horn that your character has. It’s just really awesome.
Navaar: Yeah. Yeah. I, mean, I think like, I say this knowing obviously that we have a lot of listeners who have been playing Pathfinder for a while, but I think that there — and we hope that there — are new people coming to the system. One of the things that Pathfinder does a really great job of is making a player feel like the protagonist of a story, right? Whether that’s the hero or not, you feel like you are this super-human — or whatever — and that you can do these impossible things. And so when you get to feel like the action hero in that moment, and like, you’ve done all this damage and you’re fighting off all these minions or whatever, or the big bad, and then you can do this Cleansing Light feat that heals your friends and it’s just, yeah. Stuff like that I think is, is so good for just creating that sense of achieving fantasy, right, in the game at your table. So, big, big fan of that.
Navaar: Yeah, the next one is, is fun. So, the Nagaji is the next one, which are basically like a people descended from Nagas, or their–
Esther: — I think they were made by the goddess… goddess Nalinivati? So the Nagaji were made by the Goddess Nalinivati as creations to be in relationship with the Naga. I think the text says something like, she was hoping the Naga would be like an inspiration to them and the Nagaji would live their own creative, very fulfilled lives in relationship to the Naga. And in practice it maybe sort of works like that, but things maybe got a little complicated.
Esther: But essentially they are serpentine people and some have bodies that are very reminiscent of different kinds of snakes. There’s a cobra-like heritage. There’s a heritage that — and we’ll get into these in more detail– that lets you like whip your neck around. And then there’s the Sacred Nagaji where you have the lower body of a snake and the upper body of a humanoid, and it’s very cool.
Esther: One of the defining features of most of these heritages are that you get fangs. And I believe you get a fang attack that deals 1d6 piercing damage, and you have the option to add in things like venomous feat trees at, at different levels.
Navaar: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I love that.
Navaar: One of the things I– when you’re just looking at the artwork, I got worried for a moment because– so I have friends who do a podcast called the Slovenly Trulls, and it’s a feminist podcast that they talk about like, all of the aspects of specifically D&D that are just so awful and patriarchal and bad.
Navaar: They did an episode on artwork, and they talked about a lot of times we’ll get like, characters that are — the males are shaped like snakes and the females are shaped like women, and they’re attractive women. And so the sacred Nagaji is like this beautiful woman with a snake’s tail. And the other designs are all snakes. But it’s– I point this out just to say that in reading the actual material, like, it’s not that’s how the females of this ancestry look, specifically. It’s just that this is the way that they decided to draw it. Just as a point of reference, ’cause I think it’s important to talk about —
Navaar: — artwork and how that’s represented for gender as well. So — but the artwork is so beautiful. And the next page there’s another seemingly [laughs]… yeah.
Esther: Another very femme-looking Nagaji–
Esther: — And is portrayed a little bit differently. I actually love all of the artwork for all of them.
Esther: But I think it is so important to shout out that representation hasn’t been carefully or thoughtfully done in the past, and we can still fall into those tropes if we’re not careful. And hopefully this avoided that.
Navaar: Yes. Yeah. The one I really, that really stands out to me for a few different reasons — one, because the artwork is so cool, and two, because of like, the way that it’s mechanically designed — is the Titan Nagaji, which… the artwork just looks incredible. It’s this hulking, lower-fanged Nagaji with this beautiful golden or bronze armor on.
Navaar: It says “You were raised to be a warrior or a bodyguard, and your specialized diet and bulging muscles have major scales as strong as armored plates. Your scales are medium armor and in the plate armor group that grant a +4 item bonus to AC, a Dex cap of +1, a check penalty of -2, and a Speed penalty of -5, and a Strength value of 16, and have the comfort trait.” So you can never wear other armor or remove your scales, but you can etch runes into it.
Navaar: So, this is interesting because it’s natural armor, but it also sets a lot of these parameters that are typically pretty customizable for a character. And I just thought it was an interesting entry because, in so many ways, like the customization is kind of fundamental to Pathfinder 2E, and I don’t think that this necessarily takes a ton away from it. Like, if you’re playing a Titan Nagaji, that’s what you’re signing up for. You wanna be that. But I do think it’s fascinating that it was included to this extent, for whatever that’s worth.
Esther: Yeah, I was also remembering that there’s a Kashrishi feat at the 1st level that I think gives you basically the same thing. It’s called Tough Skin, and I believe you can take that feat only at 1st level. You can’t retrain into it, but it essentially does the exact same thing. And I, I thought it was interesting to include that with two different ancestries and have it just really be built in. However: the idea of etching an armor rune into scales is really cool flavor-wise.
Navaar: Yeah. It’s… that’s the thing, like if you’re playing a melee class, right, that’s not a Dex build, then this could make sense for you. Your armor class is still gonna go up with your proficiency level and when you put runes on it, and then you just get to design it the way you want.
Esther: As with many things in this system, I think it’s worth a try. There’s so many parts of playing Pathfinder 2E that I’m like, “I’m not totally sure how that’ll work in practice.” And then I’ve tried it and it’s really cool and it really works. I love shouting out the intentionality with the math in this system. It makes it easy for a person like me, who’s not mathematically inclined, to really trust the numbers and trust that a build is gonna work out. So I’d be really curious to try playing a Titan at some point.
Navaar: Absolutely. Having it all laid out there helps a ton. I will also say like, if you’re using a digital character sheet — like, Pathbuilder is the one that I use — that all gets calculated for you. Because finding out how to do AC just from the book, I think has been one of the more complicated things when I was first starting out. Because you have a lot of different things that get added on, but once it’s all there digitally, it’s like, “Okay, cool. We’re good to go now.” I just love it. I think it’s a lot of fun. I would love to play a Nagaji. I think it would just be a fun class.
Esther: I really like snakes, and so when I saw this, and another one that we’re gonna get to in a little bit, I was so excited. There’s five different backgrounds you can choose — or, or heritages — that you can choose from within the Nagaji: the Hooded Nagaji, the Sacred Nagaji, we talked about the Titan, the Venomshield, and the Whipfang.
Esther: And a couple of those are kind of like variations on having fangs and, and doing cool things with that. The Hooded Nagaji, you get a venomous spit ranged attack with a range increment of 10 feet that deals 1d4 poison damage. And on a crit, the target takes persistent poison damage equal to the number of weapon damage dice. You can I think, tweak some of these things through feats or add to them.
Esther: The Whipfang Nagaji lets you raise your neck and you get like a, a strike — a range of 10 feet, that like, extends your ancestry strike feat. The one that kind of stands out to me is the Sacred Nagaji, which instead of getting a fangs attack, you have a tail attack that deals 1d6 bludgeoning damage, which I thought was just really cool. And you gain a +2 circumstance bonus to your Fortitude or Reflex DC against attempts to Grapple or Trip you. I just love the idea of playing a person with a snake tail who gets to go around like, doing bludgeoning damage with that. It’s really cool.
Navaar: Yeah. Yes. I also really love this Skin Split feat that you can take, where if you have persistent damage on you, like acid or fire, you can just take the top layer of your skin off, like–
Navaar: — in as part of your turn, and then you’re no longer taking that persistent damage. Because to get rid of persistent damage is a flat roll. Off the top of my head, I wanna say it’s like a 15 DC. That’s pretty tough sometimes, especially if you’re having like a bad day of rolls, or you’re one of those people that just never rolls well. This is a great, just like, “Cool, I’m done with this acid damage. Once per day, I’m gonna try…” and then, you know, use your turn to get outta the way or continue fighting — the rest of your turn your, your last action. Just another like fun thing to add onto your character.
Navaar: Also, for people new to Pathfinder, these ancestries that we’re describing, you can also have — talk to your GM or whatever — like, there’s rules that you can just be basically mixed ancestry. So you can take some of these feats and still be like… if you wanted to be like half-Orc, half- Nagaji, that’s a thing you could do pretty easily in the game. You just pick ancestry feats from both of those trees. I love that idea of like, considering that as you’re building this stuff out
Esther: Yes, absolutely. There were at least two more feats that I wanted to just briefly touch on ’cause I they were awesome. One is the 13th level feat Pit of Snakes, which you get to call forth a bunch of snakes and they can try to grab other creatures. If they’re successful at the grab, that creature will take 3d6 bludgeoning damage and whenever a creature ends their turn in the area, the snakes try to grab that creature, and any creature that’s already grabbed by a snake will take 2d6 bludgeoning damage. There’s some more information about how people can try to escape the snakes, but I was just like, that’s, that’s really cool! You can call forth a bunch of snakes and have them grab people and like, beat ’em up.
Esther: The other one that I loved was 17th-level Prismatic Scales, which once per day gives you the ability to cast prismatic armor as an occult innate spell, except the spell alters the coloration of your scales instead of causing you to be clad in armor. It’s a cosmetic difference. I just loved the flavor of this and I love that you can do it as an innate spell once a day.
Navaar: And yeah, and just changes the way you look too, like, that’s so cool. God, Nagajis. It’s gonna be a fun one. We were talking about this before as we were texting and how much like, reading into these just makes us wanna play these characters, but we are both generally forever GMs. So, somebody save us and let us play five characters at once!
Navaar: The next one is the Vanara, which are basically a simian type people. They’re like monkey people. And they’re pretty short. I guess you can kind of look like a multitude of different types of, monkeys: howler monkeys, baboons, et cetera.
Navaar: So what I really love about this– I recently, and many people recently, had a very bad experience reading about The Other Game’s monkey people. And it created such a fuss that WotC had to go change the lore. And this didn’t give me any of those vibes. Obviously, we know why: the people who wrote it come from the culture it’s representing. But I just wanna say like, I really love the effort and care that went into creating these people to give them… basically like, an independent origin story, and one that didn’t feel like it was seated in racist tropes, was super important to me to see. And I’m very excited for it ‘Cause this is something that like would be fun to play, but done the wrong way it’s something that you just never want to touch. And I’m glad that it was done in a way that I’m excited about.
Esther: I have to confess, this is the ancestry I was really nervous about reading because I was like, we’ve seen this go wrong before and be done really with not a lot of care, with not a lot of thought, with not a lot of effort to avoid really, really harmful tropes. And when I read it, I was like, I feel like they did a really good job of not falling into the racist tropes and of writing an ancestry with a lot of care that feels like it would be really fun to play.
Esther: I wasn’t expecting to like this ancestry as much as I did. But reading their origin story, they were born of the god Ragdya’s ambition, and they are a culture of tricksters and a people who use like, wit and trickery and mischief to aid others as a cultural practice. And I really loved that. I, I kind of wasn’t expecting it and I think they took this ancestry in a really cool direction. So also just wanna give props to the intentionality that went into this.
Navaar: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a lot of fun. They have prehensile tails. They’ve got monkey feet.
Navaar: And like we mentioned, there is, Ragdya is a, like a monkey god. And that’s who created them. They even have their own weapon familiarity, which not a lot of ancestries have. So “You favor weapons steeped In Vanaran tradition. You gain access to and are trained with the bo staff, chakram, katar, panabas, and urumi. In addition, you gain access to all uncommon Vanara weapons. For the purpose of determining your proficiency, martial Vanara weapons are simple weapons and advanced Vanara weapons are martial weapons.”
Navaar: So, it’s always nice like, when you’re not playing specifically that kind of like, a Fighter who can just use everything, but you still want to have a different weapon than just a basic thing, you can now have these options to jump into stuff that was basically like canonized to be for these people. I always love that.
Esther: Yes, it’s very, very cool.
Navaar: Let’s see. Yeah, so there’s a lot of different fun ones in here. So the Banjdaji? Vanara?
Esther: Bandaji? Bandaji, yeah.
Navaar: “Your family’s one of many who claim to be descended from the regal Vanara peacekeeping family called the Bandaji. Bandaji are the most common kind of Vanara. You’re very familiar with the trappings of civilization and move easily through the most crowded communities. You ignore difficult terrain from crowds.” Which is like a fun society-style, roleplaying-heavy type of game, right? If you’re like, trying to spy on somebody and you’re in a crowded city, you’re moving.
Esther: I actually really love that as somebody who tends to focus a little bit more on social situations than I do on traditional combat. This is a really, really fun heritage ability if you’re gonna play in like, a crowded city setting on a regular basis. I really enjoy that.
Navaar: Yeah. I mean, I think like doing city settings is such a fun way to– even if it’s just like for part of the campaign, right? — I think it’s such a fun way to sort of mix it up, because you can really…
Navaar: Like one, there’s just so many people, right? And when you have that many people, it’s hard to know who to trust, who’s watching you, who’s just there. Which, I love creating tension in games. So that is literally my jam. Tension and mysteries are, are my two things, and maybe horror is like the secret third thing. So I really love the idea of setting up situations where your players are trying to like, gather information or whatever, and somebody steals an item from them and is running. Or they have to follow somebody without getting seen and, and that whole situation, very like Assassin’s Creed. So, yeah, I dig it.
Navaar: So the, uh… again, I wish we had pronunciations for these. Lahkgyan is the best way I’m gonna guess that’s said? L-A-H-K-G-Y-A-N. “Your Vanara ancestors might have been born in Ragdya’s image, but they found survival only as service to the enemy: the red-faced Lahkgya. You have sharp teeth meant for gnashing and ripping into flesh. You can subsist on raw meat alone. You have a jaw unarmed attack that deals 1d6 and your jaws are in the brawling group.” So, yeah. The image that’s for that is really cool. It’s got– like this, I forget what those actual monkeys are called, but basically like the white fur with the red face. The ones that you always see like, in the hot springs in like, the middle of the ice. That’s what I always envision with this type of, monkey image. But yeah, but it has these massive teeth.
Esther: Next we have the Ragdyan Vanara, and this heritage is “keepers of tradition and tellers of ancient tales. Your family traces its lineage to those born directly from Ragdya’s whims. When you speak, others are inclined to listen to you, perhaps due to the divine spark of your connection to Ragdya. You gain one cantrip from the divine spell list. This cantrip can’t deal damage or otherwise cause direct harm. You can cast the spell as a divine innate spell at will.” I think this one is really cool and I also love the flavor that it gives if you choose later feats that are sort of aligned with Ragdya’s Divine Power. There’s a few sprinkled without that let you do stuff through your cultural connection to him. And I would have a lot of fun picking this heritage and then going with that feat tree.
Navaar: Yes. I think it’s really cool. Like, a Cleric or a Champion, something like that, that can just tie into it again. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a min-maxer, so… take that for what you will. I’ll try not to be obnoxious about it.
Esther: It’s alright. We can balance each other out because though I do love a good min-max, I’m often also like a, “Let’s just pour all this cool stuff into one character, and if the numbers aren’t perfect, oh well! The flavor is great.” [laughs]
Navaar: [laughs] Yeah. We’re still not ready to premiere it, it’ll be sometime in May. But I’m just gonna say like, my character for Unwavering Force is only not trained in like, three skills. The lowest modifier I have is like a +5. I have so many +9s, it’s absurd. And good at combat and other stuff. I really enjoy making like a very powerful character, so, I I love that idea.
Navaar: The last of the Vanara that is mentioned — this is like, again, getting back towards the darker themes that can be represented in The Impossible Lands — Wajaghand is the best way I’m gonna guess that. “Your ancestors were forced into labor by the Rakshasa immortal Ravana, the First and the Last.” And so basically like, because of the things that you endured over the generations, you gain a +1 circumstance bonus to saving throws against emotion effects. And whenever you roll a success on a saving throw against an emotion effect, you gain a critical success instead.
Navaar: So again, I love the inclusion of feats that now can combat the Psychic. ‘Cause I think the Psychic is such a fun class. Other spellcasters can use emotion effects, too, so it’s not just purely for Psychics. But I, as a person who’s really in love with Psychics right now, I enjoy that there are ancestries that have feats that can just do it, just do the thing.
Esther: I also love the way this ties into, actually, some lore they include about the Vanara ancestry: that the Rakshasa Ravana had forced people into servitude to build some kind of like, large bridge to his like, kingdom. And the Vanara go in and like, make divine runes and make the whole thing essentially sing a divine song, or assume a divine posture, so that it calls gods to the bridge once it’s in use and the gods defeat Ravana. And I was like, what a cool way to build in trickery and mischief and a little liberation too. I’m into that.
Navaar: Mm-hmm. 100%. Yeah, so like the cool thing is you can get, like, Climbing Tail is an option you can take, which helps you with a circumstance bonus as you climb. The Jungle Runner, which is, as it sounds like, you don’t have to worry about the difficult terrain there. But yeah. What are, what are some of the other like feats that stick out to you?
Esther: One that set me off was feat Level 5: Ragdya’s Revelry, which is a reaction. And “Once per day, if an adjacent creature has failed an attack role against you, you can dart away from your foe’s attack with a casual laugh using the opening to cause mischief. You attempt to steal an item from the triggering creature, ignoring the usual restriction. The creature can’t be in combat.” I was like, if I were playing a Rogue, this would be my feat. I would be using that for flavor and for fun all the time.
Esther: What’s another one? I really loved feat Level 9: Ragdya’s Dance, another reaction. I’m really big into reactions. I, ever since I got to use them as playing a Champion, I just think they’re the coolest thing.
Navaar: Yeah. [laughs]
Esther: [laughs] And once per hour, it’s another “An adjacent creature succeeds at an attack roll against you. Even when faced with deadly danger, you fight with the rapturous laughter of Ragdya in your heart and can play impossible tricks. After resolving the successful attack, the triggering creature must attempt a will save against the higher DC of your class DC or your spell DC on the failure you and the triggering creature switch places. And you must each be able to fit inside the new space and your positions must be unoccupied.” I love that. I just think that’s a super fun little trick for combat. I love the flavor it brings and the possibilities.
Navaar: As a person who in a game tried to convince a player, by means of environmental cues, to throw somebody off of a cliff, I love the idea of being the player and positioning the enemy to throw you off a cliff and then switching places with them. ‘Cause even if you fail, you could always try to grab an edge or have a another backup plan.
Esther: That is awesome. Oh my gosh, yes. Now I want to see that happen.
Navaar: I am a menace as a player. I was in a oneshot for Transplanar and we got to have one common magic item, and I chose the Irremovable Rod. And I used it to stop a giant purple worm advancing on us.
Navaar: Yeah. [laughs] That’s what I– like, I’m always like, “Hmm, how can I make this work?” Which again, like, if you’re playing a character who enjoys mischief and trickery, you gotta find all the fun little things to do to set that up. ‘Cause I think not only is it fun for you as a player, but I think it’s fun for the table to see those incredible moments of getting one over on your GM.
Esther: Absolutely. I would also have fun like, tying this, as I said to a Rogue, but also a Swashbuckler, I think, could be really fun flavor for this background, that is.
Navaar: Yeah! That would be really good, yeah. Yeah. Oh, on a ship! Switching places on a ship! I can imagine possibilities of that. Yeah, that will be a character that I create.
Esther: Yes! Success! You gotta guest on Chromythica.
Navaar: Yeah! Yes, absolutely. Cool.
Navaar: Well, so I think this is the other one that you were talking about that you’re very excited for, going into our next ancestry: the Vishkanya.
Esther: The Vishkanya, yes. So the description for this one is “Vishkanyas are ophidian humanoids who carry potent venom within their blood and saliva. Largely misunderstood due to old tales of their toxicity and natural finesse, Vishkanyas work to grow into more than just what stories paint them to be.”
Esther: So we have another snake-like person. The Vishkanyas are more humanoid-looking than the Nagajis and resemble like, humans, but when you get close, you can see that they have like, fine scales all over their bodies. And they have venom within their blood and saliva that is toxic to everybody but I think a Vishkanya, and that is the basis of a bunch of really, really cool character flavor in the heritages and feats.
Navaar: I was trying to figure out — “I’m like, what? Hey, hang on. They have scales?” And it, it’s so subtle that it just doesn’t even show up in the art, which I think is really cool, to be this like venomous, reptilian human looking person with these little fangs. It could be a lot of fun, in a situation where you’re playing a game that like, has vampires and stuff like that, to bring this person across from your players and them not know what’s going on, and try to figure out. And assume, maybe, that that’s the vampire or whatever. Because you still don’t want to be bit, to be clear. [laughs]
Esther: Mmm. Yeah, you still don’t wanna be bit.
Navaar: Yeah. I mean, most players probably wanna get bit by a vampire just for the sake of vampirism. But, uh…
Esther: Of coolness!
Navaar: Yeah, yeah. I’m like, no, please bring a werewolf into the game. I would love to have werewolf powers as a player.
Esther: I would love to be a Lycanthrope. Yes. Like, let me get– I am, I volunteer as tribute!
Navaar: Yeah, I will save all of my Hero Points to make sure I pass those Constitution saves so that I can change. It’ll be great.
Navaar: So essentially the Vishkanya’s really, really cool for those reasons. They can do all of this incredible stuff. Like Swift Application: “You expertly combine the motions of attacking and coating your weapon with venom. You Envenom a weapon or piece of ammunition, and then Strike with that weapon. This counts against your uses of in Envenom normally and can’t be used if your venom is exhausted.” But that’s a single action to do, to poison and attack at the same time, which I mean… it’s 9th-level, but that’s really strong.
Esther: And it builds off of a feat that all Vishkanya get, which is Envenom, which is an action. And once a day you can deal 1 slashing damage to yourself to essentially collect your venom and then apply it to something or to poison someone. And it gives all the stats for what the stages of the venom are. Stage one is 1d4 poison damage. And it gets to… stage three is still 1d4, but it walks you through. And then there’s all these feats that let you do cool stuff with your venom. Gotta find one of them real quick.
Navaar: Yeah, so like Debilitating Venom, which is 5th-level: you can hamper, stumble, and do a special — which the special is you can select this feat a second time to gain the other debilitation. So you can cause them to take a -5-foot status penalty to Speed.
Navaar: For the stumbling, you basically make them flat-footed. Not only are they flat-footed, but they also take- 5 to Speed as well. But if you have both of them — if you take it twice, then you’re just slowing them down and beating ’em up and they’re taking poison damage and yeah, it’s really, really good control. Battlefield control. Yeah.
Esther: The other one that I wanted to shout out is the 5th-level feat Restoring Blood, which essentially lets you kind of do the opposite of the Envenoming. Your body can process an alternative and it’s a restoring agent. So, you or an adjacent creature can interact to consume the restorative to regain 3d6 hit points. And when you reach 15th level, it becomes 5d6 hit points, which is a cool innate healing ability.
Navaar: Yeah, incredible. Cool.
Navaar: So: I think that leads us into our locations. We’ll go over locations and some of the other stuff. pretty briefly. Like I said, we’re gonna have some of the writers on to talk about the things that they wrote, so we’ll go a little bit more in depth into a lot of that stuff.
Esther: Alkenstar! Just to give a, like, a brief overview of the way these sections are structured: you get sections on Alkenstar, Bhopan, Geb, Jalmeray, Mana Wastes, and Nex. And each of them basically walks you through an introduction to that region, to one or more of the major cities in that region. They give you a day in the life of that city, and then a year in the life of that city or region, which I really thought was cool. There’s recipes sprinkled in and then there’s like, some feats or terrain stuff or monsters or familiars or like, cool stuff that is kind of unique to that region in each little subsection. And it kind of differs by subsection what you’re gonna get. There’s items and curses and all kinds of cool stuff.
Esther: So yeah, Alkenstar.
Navaar: Alkenstar. Yes. Immediately from the book, it’s like, okay, like, this is a very like, industrial place, but also looks like a Western. It just looks like cowboys and guns. And in a lot of ways it is. Like, it’s this place that’s built– it’s like in between Geb and Nex and they’ve learned how to just turn industry into these incredible inventions. Which is a lot of fun, especially for people who like including the Gunslinger class and those associations into their games.
Navaar: I find myself a very traditional fantasy person where I don’t include a lot of Gunslinger nonsense in my games. Shenanigans, I should say. But I think it is fun. And the Gunslinger class is like, absurd. It’s so, it’s so wild.
Esther: If you want like a canonically regional Gunslinger place, this is your place. Also a great spot if you’re really into clockworks, steampunk-style innovation — this is the hub in Golarion for all of that.
Esther: And I love the way they walk us through some of the politics of the city. There’s Smokeside, which is where like a lot of the factories are, a lot of the lower economic classes live. And then there’s, I believe Skyside, which is where the wealthy patricians of the city reside and where more fancy stuff happens. Love that they give us some of the politics of those.
Esther: I loved the details that people drink a lot of coffee and tea here and that they wear like, filtration masks all year long because of different smoggy weathers or like, dusty weather. And I think a really cool feature of Alkenstar is their relationship with the dwarves of Dongun Hold, if we wanna like touch on them really quickly.
Navaar: Yeah, go ahead.
Esther: Yeah, so Dongun Hold is a Sky Citadel that was, I think one of the first — or maybe the second — that the Dwarves built when they reached the top of the earth from the Darklands, and inhabited it for a while. Then stuff started going down between Geb, Nex and they’re like, “We’re getting out of here for now. We’re gonna retreat back to the Darklands.” And then Alkenstar, the namesake of the city, shows up and kind of persuades the dwarves to come back, and then there’s this symbiotic relationship between the city of Alkenstar and Dwarves of Dongun Hold. I just loved some of the worldbuilding that went into this. They walk you through the yearly cycle where there’s like, the forge fires are going and then everybody kind of puts the fires out and really focuses on home life. And then when the year starts up again they have a huge parade. Also love the note that they’re really, really, really into cats. I just thought that was so cool! [laughs]
Navaar: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah. The Sky Citadels are a lot of fun because the way it reads, it’s like, oh, like they built this castle in the clouds. And it’s like, no, to the Dwarves who like, started out as these underground people, this was their way of reaching the sky, was building these like big citadels.
Navaar: Yeah, I think it’s really interesting to be in this place that’s right in between these two powerful wizarding nations and overlooking the Mana Wastes, and all of the destruction and environmental corruption that’s gone on there… to have these beautiful citadel with these industrious people who have created all of these incredible things in possibly the worst place possible to be sandwiched in between.
Navaar: ‘Cause I think, in terms of the geography, if I’m not mistaken, I’m gonna look now. But I feel like it’s cut off from the rest of Garund, the continent that it’s in, by mountains.
Esther: By the mountains, that sounds right.
Navaar: The Shattered Range is what it’s called. So you’re just like, tucked up against this mountain range, in between these two nations with these ancient wizards who do shenanigans.
Esther: And the tension there is really, really juicy. The tension of having to live on the edge of trying to maintain good relations with both your neighbors while Geb sometimes attacks you, while giants from the Mana Wastes come and attack. There’s a lot going on in this city and I think they give GMs and anybody who wants to worldbuild there quite a lot to work with.
Navaar: I always love when they do, like, the day in the life stuff and things like that and the governments to like see okay, what’s the government structure, what’s the council like, that kind of stuff. In terms of like, setting up using pieces of that for your campaign, it’s so much fun to just see, cool, these are all these things that are structured in here and now I can pull pieces from this to like, build what I want to build out of it. I always love that.
Navaar: I also love, like, a lot of the artwork really shows how just smoggy and nasty it is to live here where it’s just like, constant pollution from all the stuff that they’re getting into. Which I mean, like, if you’re doing like, a druid campaign, like this is a great, great conflict immediately set up about the destruction, the absolute destruction or that’s going on to the environment from this one city.
Esther: Yes. Yes. That would be so juicy.
Navaar: I think just for the sake of time, we’ll probably just go through these briefly, but it’s a lot of fun. If you’re into steampunk and if you’re into just these different political environments and all of the stuff that can go into this, like, I think it’s a great, great place to start.
Esther: Definitely. Where next?
Esther: So Bhopan is an island, I believe, that is really dominated by its historical conflict with a fey being called Q-X-A-L. I’m gonna say “Quacks-el.” So Qxal shows up, tries to take over and rule this island, there’s a huge conflict, Qxal gets sealed away somewhere. And then many, many years later, the Pathfinders discover this being, and it sort of leads them to Bhopan.
Esther: But the Bhopanese really, really aren’t into more folks coming to kind of discover that they exist, because of their historical bad experiences with that. One of their princesses wants more relationships, but she gets kicked out and they escape. The secret of Bhopan kind of dies again, and then it’s eventually rediscovered and the nation opens up a little.
Esther: And you sort of enter as they are figuring out what they wanna do now that they have something of a relationship with the wider world. There’s this sense that that relationship is not fully established yet, so you could do a lot to shape how Bhopan is going to interact with the rest of Golarion.
Esther: It’s a place that’s really dominated by its relationship with the First World because of the massive influence of this fey entity on the island and on its people, so there’s a lot that relates back to the fey and the First World here. It feels– reading through it, if you’ve watched Dimension 20’s A Court of Fey and Flowers, I was getting some of those vibes. Like it feels just like, a very fey-infused place. And there’s a tradition of dancing here with like fancy balls. There’s a whole feat tree in this section about Bhopanese dance, which is really cool and y’all should check it out. Yeah, so just a, a generally a very fey-marked place. There’s also a lot of feats that have to do with resisting fey or being linked to the First World and being able to express that through bodies and bonuses and stuff like that.
Navaar: A lot of like, the people there are Beastkin, which is something you can do — it comes from the Ancestry Guide — but the artwork for is incredible, of just like, these peoples who have taken on aspects of different animals in their physical appearance and the way that they interact.
Navaar: I really love the idea of like, amidst all of this chaos that is the Impossible Lands to have this like, secluded fey-like place, you know, full of Beastkin and good fey. It’s just like a locational reprieve from the rest of… we just got done talking about like, the very polluted Alkenstar and to have this juxtaposition as a place that can also be explored here is a lot of fun.
Navaar: If you are a person who wants to play an animal-like a creature, this has some great options for ideas for you.
Esther: Or if you just like the fey! There’s a lot of juice here if you want to have a campaign that ties into the First World while also tying into the Impossible Lands. And I do think some of that conflict between a more pristine place where the, the environment is very cared for versus someplace like Alkenstar, which is just exploiting so many resources and is on the edge of the Mana Wastes and is just kind of an ecological mess, that can be a really juicy conflict.
Esther: Also, as you’re thinking about where your characters might be from, if you’re playing an Impossible Lands campaign, it could be really interesting to have somebody from Bhopan show up in a place like Alkenstar or Geb. Really, really big contrast there.
Navaar: God, it’s just so cool. Just looking at like, the different options. And so for those who don’t know, also the First World is the equivalent of the Feywild, which is where all the fey are from. So, yeah, very fun, very exciting, super bright, colorful, wonderful.
Navaar: Leads us into the opposite — worse than the opposite of Alkenstar — is Geb, which is the, the land of the Undead. And so Geb, if you recall, is one of the wizards that we talked about from thousands of years ago. Geb was the Osirian… what’s the word? He was royalty there and moved down into what they call the Southern Regions and basically turned himself into a king. And a big part of what made that happen is his desire to be immortal and his interest in necromancy. And that interest became bringing hordes of undead and other terrible, terrifying things into the space of his lands.
Esther: It’s safe to say that maybe he’s gone a little too far.
Navaar: He’s gone too far. Yeah.
Esther: It’s really interesting. I, in real life, don’t do horror that much. Like, horror films are really hard for me to watch. It’s just not where I’m naturally drawn. And I, I also don’t do authoritarianism that much, but I’m really drawn to Cheliax and Geb in this setting. It’s so interesting. And I, I make my own changes to them, but it’s like the opposite of what I’m usually into. And reading this, I’m like, “Oh, I gotta set a campaign there. This is so cool. I’m so into this.” Yeah. It’s just thinking about what it’s like to live in a majority-undead society, I think, is really fascinating.
Esther: And this setting has been through a lot in the past several thousand years. You’ve got a backdrop of intense war. You have a king who became immortal, became a ghost, sort of noped out of ruling and installed somebody kind of against her will who ruled for a while, and then she’s noped out. Arazni has has been like, “Nope, I’m good now. I’m, I’m out of here.” And Geb’s gotta step back into leadership. In the meantime, you have a faction called The Blood Lords who are powerful necromancers or other undead, vampires, who kind of scheme against each other while also running a lot of the big political stuff that’s happening in this nation.
Esther: And then you’ve got people who are called “the Quick,” who are still living who have some rights. But once you die in Geb, you basically are allowed to be reincarnated and your undead body can be used for whatever. So it’s, it’s a juicy, disturbing place that I find really compelling.
Navaar: Yeah. They have a faction called Reanimators that just basically bring back the undead to do like, farming and other labor intensive work. And even the politics around that idea, like, I think what’s really fun for it is the idea of starting a campaign of, of living people in Geb and going through like, what that might look like as players and the conflicts that could arise from that and like, what ultimately ends up being your goal. Because like you mentioned, like, if you’re living, you’re not necessarily the first class citizen here, like you’re [laughs], we’re just waiting for you to become expendable, for us to use you in a different way. And so that’s kind of a terrifying reality to grow up with and I think makes for a very interesting plot.
Esther: And they do note there’s a faction that’s working together with some Quick and some undead to make things better for the Quick, a little bit more equal. I think that could be super compelling. I also love that somewhere in here they mention for living folks who grow up in Geb, this is like normal. And I, I loved sort of situating that. What would it be like to grow up in an environment like this and be surrounded by the truth that once you die, your body gets to be used for whatever? I think that’s such a good point you make. Really juicy place to start a campaign.
Navaar: Yeah. I mean, I think what’s great about this stuff for players and for GMs alike is it’s a new perspective of how to look at adventure, right? And getting a deeper understanding of like, what it could be like to be in a different place like this. And when that’s the situation, like, yeah, what do you, what do you do with that? What is status quo for you? And what, what’s the thing that causes you to rebel against that idea? Which I think is just fun to explore. ‘Cause it’s, it’s not necessarily like the, it doesn’t have to be the traditional fantasy tropes that we see so often.
Esther: The other thing I wanted to briefly shout out is the inclusion of new curses, new spell catalysts, and magic items that are included in the Geb section. We won’t run through them all, but know that they’re there and they’re cool. And if you wanna look them up on Archives of Nethys, you can do that too.
Navaar: Yeah, absolutely. Next is Jalmery.
Navaar: We have this Geb and Nex who were having these warring countries, but all throughout this time there’s this other country, which I believe is also an island, and they have their own thing going on and their own country and their own kingdom and their own maharaja and, and their own forces and cultures. And so, it’s really exciting to see. This feels like– as I talked about before, like the desi writers that created adventure for it — like, this felt the most South Asian influenced of the locations that we’ve seen so far.
Esther: Absolutely. And some of the history is that Nex, the archmage, kind of gives an island that doesn’t really consent to being given to the visiting Maharaja from Vudra, I believe, which is another South Asian setting in Golarion. And it’s Maharaja Khiben-Sald and he shows up, is so excited, and he has like a, a hundred or a thousand ships or something like that, a huge amount of ships.
Esther: Nex is like, “I don’t know if I wanna have to deal with this guy, I’m gonna give him an island.” The island’s inhabitants are like, “Oh, we didn’t know that either of you had the ability to give or take us, but okay.” And what happens is, they wind up partnering with, and sometimes not really consensually partnering with, a bunch of genies, to make this island, to make the culture of this island.
Esther: And so, although most genies are now liberated there, there’s this undercurrent of that past where the relationship was not an equal footing. And there’s an element of like, elemental magics that infuse this place. And the sense that wishes and the, the power of wishes, are a little bit more common here.
Navaar: Yeah, and the genies that became liberated, there’s still sort of this like air of, “Well, we’re not gonna give all wishes in good faith, if you will.” So [laughs] so, yeah. So these mishaps happen and, I think it’s really interesting, like, the way that it’s described as like the, the person who liberates the genies, like, it’s not necessarily a completely altruistic deed. And so what that means– and I just love the idea of like having this gray morality of what could be. ‘Cause it’s like, it’s so easy to just paint things black and white, good and evil, et cetera. And I think that in so many ways, yeah, some of these people are just here because this is where their ruler brought them. Or they were just here before, you know? And, and how does that work in a situation like this? And what does that look like after thousands of years of living together? Which I think is a lot of fun in the way that it’s blended.
Navaar: Definitely check this out. It’s, again, just incredible stuff. The artwork is so good. I’m looking at a portrait in this that, yeah, I just love it. I’m just like, brown Orcs. Incredible. Give it to me.
Navaar: So for the sake of time, we’re gonna just kind of breeze through this, but again, so many things. Like this is super, super rich, with a ton of amazing ideas, and like, specific cultural things that are tied to Jalmeray that I, hope that people take the time to go through and look at.
Navaar: And then our next location is the Mana Wastes, which is, basically it’s just like the culmination of destruction between Geb and Nex and what that did to the populace. And in a lot of ways it created very terrifying creatures, and the peoples that lived there either mutated or had to change significantly to adjust to the world that they were put in. There’s talk of the Gnolls and how they’ve adjusted and, and they can take on like these mutations of being like, a hulking Gnoll. And mutations are just fun.
Navaar: Like, it’s very dark in the way that it’s written, to be clear. I don’t want to like, downplay that. But with agency and options, I think you can create a really interesting story with those things. ‘Cause it’s not all necessarily from experimentation. Sometimes it’s just the place you live in.
Esther: I think a really notable thing about the Mana Wastes are the wild magic surges, which they give you a table on page 233 of Wellspring Surge chances and what can happen if you experience a Wellspring Surge. I thought that was really cool. And then in the back on page 332 and 333, they give you a Mana Wastes mutant archetype for the Bestiary, which also just creates a bunch of really cool options for what you can do as a GM with creatures or peoples that have mutated as a result of their time in the Mana Wastes. Ton of potential there.
Navaar: One thing I really, really, really love is just like, in so many ways, like we hear Wizard and we think like, glass cannon. You’re just gonna get beat up. You know, like a very astute, like studious person. And the Mana Wastes has wizard gangs, which is like… the way it’s kind of described as like, Mad Max, but with magic. If that doesn’t get your creativity going, I don’t know what will. ‘Cause that just sounds so…
Esther: What will?! It’s so cool.
Navaar: Yeah, I wanna do something with wizard gangs. It will happen. I’m very excited for it. But yeah, again, like it’s just this place that’s full of like these wild magic surges, these people who don’t wanna be associated with either Geb or Nex, they just kind of wanna live in their own way. But you still have this very difficult, unpredictable terrain to deal with and the people in it as well who also want to be there, and are contending for the same space and resources, so. It’s a lot of fun. Alkenstar gets raided by the Mana Wastes quite a bit.
Esther: Speaking of wizards and wizard gangs, does that lead us into our last location?
Navaar: Our last one, yes! Yes.
Navaar: Nex. Which got the better end of the deal, if I remember correctly, over Geb in their — so Geb’s like, to the north and Nex is to the south. It’s probably a bit of Geb’s fault. You, you did some of this to yourself, but also [laughs].
Navaar: But also.
Esther: Definitely. But also…
Navaar: But yeah, so Nex is another, it’s the other location ruled by the wizard. It has this really beautiful, advanced docking location called Quantium. And Quantium is this very industrious, beautiful place that has had its own issues with both Geb and, and his shenanigans and everything else.
Esther: The thing I love about this place is the arcane potential. Like, if I wanted to set an arcane campaign somewhere, this would be one of my first go-to options.
Esther: I think the idea of being a caster from this culture that has been so dominated by magic and the effects of magic, both good and ill, is really, really compelling. That’s the thing that really jumped out at me from reading about the cities and the peoples is just like, “Wow, the history of magic here is really complicated.”
Navaar: One of the biggest complications is the Fleshforge, where these fleshforgers do terrible experiments to people, which you can probably imply by the name, right? But there is just a lot of like, really interesting plot hooks and pools here that you can use. Yeah, I absolutely agree, like, depending on how you wanna start that like, playing somebody who’s like about to be brought into the fleshforge and what does that mean for you and, you know, what does escape look like? And what does your life look like prior to that? And how much power do you have because of where you grew up? It’s just a lot of fun to dig into. And I’m excited to get more information on this stuff.
Navaar: Just to kind of close out the episode, we also get some new deities to use as a — whether you’re a Cleric or Champion or just somebody who wants to have a deity to — what is the word for that?
Navaar: Thank you. [laughs] My nonreligious brain shut down.
Esther: Don’t worry, I’m a religious educator. [laughs]
Navaar: But yeah, so I love incorporating deities daddies as a person who’s not religious, because I think like in a world where they exist in such a tangible way, it’s a lot of fun to dig into and kind of explore those ideas and create things that couldn’t be created without it.
Navaar: And so I love it. The artwork for these is amazing. There’s one, a serpent that has like a thousand arms with swords.
Navaar: And then, bestiary! So there’s a lot of cool new stuff. You talked about the mutants. There are also a bunch of different constructs and like magical… creatures that have like, basically out of magic came into existence, which I think is a lot of fun to just kind of get into, so.
Navaar: This book is great. We’re gonna do a second episode on it. Depending on how that goes, I think there’s room to do more. We also have other stuff to get into. We want to really talk about Treasure Vault. But yeah, I’m really excited to dig into this again and get some more insider info on how this went and some of the inspirations behind some of this stuff.
Esther: I’m really excited to continue talking about this book. It’s a very, very enjoyable, juicy, information-filled guide, and I highly recommend it if you’re curious.
Navaar: Yeah, absolutely. Cool. Well that’s it for us today, folks. Thank you for listening and hanging out with us. If you [would] like to follow me on social media, I’m in most places as NavaarSNP. That’s N-A-V-A-A-R-S-N-P. Check it out, see the other stuff I’m working on.
Esther: Check it out. If you’d like to follow me on social media. I am everywhere @dungeonminister. And importantly, if you wanna follow Know Direction on social media, we are @knowdirection on Twitter and YouTube and Mastodon as well. And you can come join our Discord server where we talk about episodes of this show and other network shows and just Pathfinder and TTRPGs in general. It’s a really good time. You are so welcome to join and we’d love to have you there.
Esther: Until next time, this has been Know Direction. Thanks so much for tuning in!
Navaar: Thank you!