Investing In: Highhelm

“While Highhelm wasn’t the first Sky Citadel, it has proven itself arguably the most important and certainly the most influential. The undisputed center of dwarven culture today, Highhelm has a depth, complexity, and richness in its fabled halls that place it among Golarion’s finest cities. Dwarves of all kinds, be they holtaksen, ergasken, or grondasken, call the Sky Citadel their home, and the city even houses large populations of other ancestries. This mixing of ancestral cultures and traditions, combined with influence from Highhelm’s neighbors, makes the city unique among the active Sky Citadels. It’s simultaneously a city that’s undeniably dwarven in its nature, but also one that draws from non-dwarven traditions to create a culture unlike anywhere else.”1

The Quest for Sky led the dwarves to create many Sky Citadels, but it’s the latest Lost Omens release, Highhelm, that details the one that as noted above has become the most important. A number of talented individuals contributed to this including Development Leads Eleanor Ferron and Luis Loza, who was also Narrative Lead. Logan Bonner and Michael Sayre are the Design Leads while a number of other authors contributed including Dana Ebert, Owen K.C. Stephens, and Shan Wolf. I believe this is Shan’s first sourcebook contribution actually. Of course there’s many more amazing contributors like Avi Kool as Editing Lead and Covert Artist Ekaterina Gordeeva. You may recall that Ekaterina did the beautiful cover art for the Lost Omens Travel Guide. A big thank you to the artist, authors, leaders, and more honing their creative energy for this brilliant book. It’s exciting to see another piece of history detailed while presenting an extremely relevant, multicultural hub to expand on the world and lives of those in Golarion.

While next article will dive into some of the lore revealed in this Lost Omens source, I wanted to first peruse it at a high level and call out some of the character options presented as well. We open Chapter 1 with the King’s Wish and a not-available-to-the-public letter from the late King Taargick who led the Quest for the Sky. Now I know I just said I’d wait to dig into the lore until next time, but this letter is the one referenced in Legends that we knew High King Anong Arunak found. Now we get to see it. Indeed there’s an apology here, not publicized but recognized. That won’t fix what was done but it follows a trend of certain explorers and founders of nations who went too far in their questing. I’m looking at you, shade of Aroden! I think this is a great tonal opening for the Introduction chapter. We then get a wonderful map of Highhelm you’ve likely seen already, including the relevant blog article. Settlement information is always helpful, and a nice sidebar gives us that as geography is discussed, which is primarily the Emperor’s Peak.

The timeline starts at Founding, the implications of Earthwall (Taargick was born on Earthfall by the way), and to the present where Aroden’s death has warned of missteps but earthquakes reveal new opportunity. There’s a respectful amount of learning from the past while keeping tradition, and forging ahead with wisdom their city has developed. Dwarves always have some rich, exciting culture and the discussion of their engineering, trade, and clan framework is extremely valuable whether you are a GM or a PC. It’d be easy to adapt for any game, but of course for Golarion it’s only added to the tapestry of detail. Apparently Highhelm’s druids stay active creating breatherwalls in the tunnels with various lichen. Meanwhile ranchers raise massive grubs to handle waste but also make candles, soaps, and lubricants. Aren’t they just adorable as seen below? We do get bust art and information for the various clan leaders, helpful for anyone visiting or starting a campaign in Highhelm. A city only campaign can be a true delight.

Chapter 2 is the Gazetteer and starts with some useful mechanics, namely how to build up the right character background, find the right item based upon location, earn income based on that area, or get useful information from NPCs you’ve met. Because the chapter goes on to give maps and location details for each part of the city, there’s first a breakdown of the types of traits you might find. I believe this was first done in Absalom, City of Lost Omens. Each area has a bit of the local fauna, flora, demographics, and current events before going into a number of highlighted locations that are marked on the map. The amount of maps is really pivotal to playing out these area, useful however you blend it into your campaign, but more importantly if you want to do that city-focused game you’ve got more than enough here. Oops All Dwarves or Oops All Residents of Highhelm would be easy to do!

There’s a highlight of some crunchy mechanics for you too. The Depths and Five Kings Mountain overall geography sections don’t have them, but the other 3 do: King’s Crown, King’s Heart, and Stonebreach. Each has an applicable background to the area and then between the three there’s some feats and new items. The Furnace of Endings, a magical item used to smuggle documents, recreates the last item immolated within it. So I guess it doesn’t end with burning the message! And we get another magical tattoo with the Words of Wisdom, used to embolden you with words of affirmation. They always benefit Diplomacy but then either intimidation, deception, or performance. The idea of empowering oneself through magical affirmation, reflected in the tattoo upon your body seems to align perfectly with the idea many have when getting a tattoo.

Once we get to Chapter 3, however, it’s all Highhelm Options. A sidebar quickly calls out that while these options are focused on dwarves some can be for other ancestries, or maybe for those raised in the city. I was very excited to see expanded Ancestry options including the Rivethun feats. You might be aware of the Rivethun Adherent background. Well there’s a disciple feat for 1st level now that simulates the trait for 1st edition, granting a circumstance bonus to a few mental skills when you have physical-based conditions, or a few physical skills when you have some mental-based conditions. The 9th level spiritual attunement feat lets you gain spiritsense for a time and even the presence of spirits as if you had soulsight. The new heirtage is a blessing from the deity your family venerates, and who doesn’t like an innate divine 1st level spell even if it is only once a week? The new archetype is the Stalwart Defender is a very tanky archetype with 11 feats, first available through a 2nd level dedication feat. There’s 3 additional feats previously published that you can choose from besides the 11 new ones. I love the 8th level Rupture Stomp, a two-action attack to crack upon the ground and cause difficult terrain around you, possibly greater difficult terrain. The 16th level Stone Body grants you resistance 10 to all damage for a round and it’s usable once per hour. Truly a tank, ready to fight, and unable to face down the danger.

Some equipment is given including the Keep Stone Shield, a 17th level shield, and the Keep Stone Weapon, 18th level, using the new material Keep Stone. It’s metallurgically perfected alloy that, while weaker than adamantine alone, is disruptive to magic. The relics and legendary items are quite befitting the dwarves of Highhelm. Both minor and major gifts are given for the relics in the new aspect of Forge. These gifts focus on creation with a reference to the will of Torag. They don’t have to be for dwarves should you wish to use them for a character maybe with a blacksmith background or a crafter build. The Living Forge gift is a grand gift and lets you turn into a steel elemental! This new elemental form can reshape their limbs to do different forms of physical damage. Are you ready to go T-1000 and liquid metal attack your enemies? I hope this gets abstracted for future use in a spell, though I supposed that a custom rule you could easily make. One of the legendary items is the Blade of Fallen Stars, a gun sword of considerable power. I’ll leave the lore to next time! I’ll also leave the godly pantheon details to next time, but will note a few animals and other creatures are presented. I’m concerned by the Bloodstorm, a swarm of leeches, mosquitos, and various parasites. It’s level 14 and nothing I ever want to encounter. Apparently it’s due to the death of a demon that the local creatures devoured and were corrupted by its blood. I might bring it into our Kingmaker game actually… The pangulin are adorable, large-sized animals. They’re lizards that actually exist in the Five Kings Mountains. Oh there’s also the Riding Goats as seen below. They’re a possible animal companion for your characters!

There’s so much more detail in Highhelm that I can’t wait to break down the lore presented next time. Until then I suggest you invest in the numerous dwarf and other ancestry options, as well as general offerings, for your game whether based in Highhelm, Golarion, or any campaign setting! Fine maps, evocative images, and inventive creations are all the province of this sourcebook. You’ll be on your own Quest for the Sky after reading!

Investing In:

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

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


Banner Highhelm cover, Paizo, cover art by Ekaterina Gordeeva

  1. Using This Book excerpt, Chapter 1: Introduction, Highhelm, Paizo
  2. A King’s Wish banner, Chapter 1: Introduction, Highhelm, Paizo
  3. Grindlegrub Rancher, Chapter 1: Introduction, Highhelm, Paizo
  4. King’s Heart, Chapter 2: Gazetteer, Highhelm, Paizo
  5. Rivethun Dwarf, Chapter 3: Highhelm Options, Highhelm, Paizo
  6. Riding Goat, Chapter 3: Highhelm Options, Highhelm, Paizo

Rob Pontious

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