A Whole New World – Characteristics of Golarion

Yesterday I announced the beginning of my article series on Golarion, the default campaign setting for Pathfinder. I promised that today I would look into the characteristics of Golarion as a setting and I am here to fulfill that promise. So, without further ado, let’s get right to it.

High Magic

The first thing to know about Golarion is that it, for the most part, is a high magic setting. This means that magic is a common thing, and that it’s not hard to find evidence of that no matter where you go in the world. Now, there are exceptions to that (aren’t there always), but those exceptions prove the rule. If an area like the Mana Wastes, a magic0dead area where technology rules the land, is presented to the reader, it does a really good job of showing how much magic the rest of the world has. Not to mention that the Mana Wates were made magic-dead thanks to a hugely powerful magical war. Numeria stands out as well, as a place where technology rules the day, rather than magic. And though there are place where mages are feared, that does not mean that magical power does not permeate the setting deeply.

Cultural Diversity

This, I think, is the hallmark of the setting and something that Paizo tried very hard to get across through both the Inner Sea World Guide and the novels set in Golarion. The world is a hugely diverse place, encompassing every type of culture that our own world does. “Big deal,” you say, “Faerun did much the same thing.” “True,” I say, “but the Forgotten Realms game books and novels did not, with apologies to the well-respected authors of those works, do as good of a job at presenting the diversity in that world. For me, at least, it existed, but was hard to access aside from the obvious differences between the Dales, the North and places like Calimshan.

In Golarion, the individual countries and cultures are described very carefully and you can tell that the authors really want players in this world to have a very good sense of the cultural differences between one part of the world and any other you should care to choose. Languages, customs, modes of dress, they all stand out in the World Guide and the novels.

Diversity of Plotlines

No matter what kind of game you want to run, you can probably find a place to run it in Golarion. The diversity of cultures that I talked about above means that that tropes that go along with each culture are very easily accessible. If you want intrigue, you’ve got Cheliax. If you want high adventure, become a Pathfinder and travel out of Absolom. If you want religious overtones and wealth beyond imagining, Druma is your destination. Take your pick of game and you’ll be able to run it in Golarion.

Final Thoughts

After writing this section of this series of articles, I find myself impressed with how well the information in the Inner Sea World Guide is presented. Additionally, the novels really add a lot depth to the overviews of the countries presented in the World Guide.

I also should mention something that I think will be happening more and more as these articles go on. When writing something like this, I often find myself searching for a frame of reference that I can use to compare Golarion to other, similarly epic campaign settings. My experience my be limited, but The Forgotten Realms is the most readily available for comparison. So far, what I see in Golarion looks better than what I have seen from the Forgotten Realms. I think I know why this is, and it has nothing to do with FR as a campaign setting.

The Inner Sea World Guide lays out its information in very compelling ways. As well, the novels seem to be written with setting information firmly in mind. These are both evolutionary steps in game setting design. The information that exists for The Forgotten Realms is just as rich, but to access it (aside from the newer 4e books, I assume; I’ve not seen them), you have to go back to older books that are not laid out as well and novels that did not keep the setting as firmly in mind. That means that every bit of goodness that can be gleaned from the Golarion resources I am using would not be available without the work that came before. The presentation of Golarion, in effect, stands on the shoulders of the giant that is The Forgotten Realms.

I love me some Faerunian adventuring. Please don’t forget that if it seems like I end up drawing negative comparisons between Faerun and Golarion with Faerun getting the short end of the stick.

That said, sometime soon (likely next week), you can look forward to the next article in this series, dealing with the races of Golarion. If you’ve got any feedback, I’d love to hear it, so please leave some comments.

[tags]rpg, rpgs, role playing games, Pathfinder, Golarion, A Whole New World[/tags]

4 thoughts on “A Whole New World – Characteristics of Golarion

Add yours

  1. I tend to agree with your assessment of early Realms novels as being somewhat disconnected. There’s a good reason for that…the Realms as a setting didn’t really exist at that point and evolved more out of the early novels. Golarion is a designed setting with the novels adhering to this.


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