Review – Lost Omens Gods & Magic (Pathfinder)

Lost Omens: Gods & Magic (for the second edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game) revisits one of my favorite fantasy roleplaying game topics – religion. Fantasy RPGs (Pathfinder included) typically present worlds where gods are very visibly real and empower mortals to act on their behalf on a daily basis. It’s a setting element that’s radically distinct from almost any other RPG setting. And it provides a fairly easy, but significant, way to help craft a distinctive character.

Note that the title of “Gods & Magic” might be a bit misleading, especially for players who are used to the 1E books Inner Sea Gods and Inner Sea Magic. This is overwhelmingly a book about the gods. Sure, there are new domains and such, but it’s about the gods.

The Gods and Other Faiths

Of course, that starts with more information on the ‘core 20’ (the deities presented in the 2E core book). Each of them gets a two-page spread containing about 1.3 pages of flavor description, an image of the deity, two symbols, applicable new domains (see below), their allies and enemies among the gods, aphorisms of their faithful, divine boons or curses they might grant/inflict, and a listing of other details (sacred colors, animals, etc.).

There are also another 20 deities given a full page of presentation, with the sort of information you got in the core rulebook on the core 20, including all of the mechanical-relevant content needed (alignments allowed, favored weapon, domains, divine skill, etc.). I’m very happy that they have images, just like the core 20. There’s also a web supplement that includes boons and curses for these gods.

These 20 are a different lineup from those presented in Inner Sea Gods – many repeats, but a few removals, and a lot of additions (not new to the setting, just new to a full-length write-up in a mainline book, rather than an adventure path). The new gods from Inner Sea Gods to Lost Omens: Gods & Magic seem to mostly fall into three categories: (1) new or greatly changed gods from events in adventure paths; (2) gods of cultures of Golarion that were inspired by non-European sources; and (3) ancestry-focused deities for characters who aren’t dwarves or elves. The returning players are:

  • Achaekek (He Who Walks in Blood), the assassin god worshipped by the Red Mantis;
  • Alseta (The Welcomer), goddess of transitions, including portals, doorways, and life events like birthdays, marriages, and gender transition;
  • Besmara (The Pirate Queen);
  • Brigh (The Whisper in Bronze), a clockwork god who I admit I totally forgot about because it’s a lot easier to remember a clockwork god when you have a picture;
  • Ghlaunder (The Gossamer King), an insectile deity of bugs of all sorts (the ones that have six legs and the ones that make you sick);
  • Groetus (God of the End Times), the apocalypse god who floats as a moon in Pharasma’s boneyard;
  • Kurgess (The Strong Man), who favors sports, healthy competition, and being super-buff;
  • Milani (The Everbloom), goddess of hope, freedom, and revolution; and
  • Sivanah (The Seventh Veil), for those who like secrets and illusions but aren’t super-evil.

Taking newly prominent roles are:

  • Arazani (The Unyielding), who recently broke the shackles of forced servitude to Geb;
  • Casandalee (The Iron Goddess), an ascended artificial intelligence;
  • Chaldira (The Calamitous Turn), a halfling goddess of fortune and mischief;
  • Grandmother Spider (The Weaver), who emphasizes using your wits to protect the weak and cause mischief for the powerful who would oppress you;
  • Gruhastha (The Keeper), a winged god of enlightenment, peace, and collective understanding;
  • Hei Feing (Duke of Thunder), because the tengu are popular enough to get representation now;
  • Kazutal (Mother Jaguar), a goddess of safety and community;
  • Nivi Rhombodazzle (The Grey Polychrome), a deep gnome deity who is bound to find favor with gamers because her holy symbol is a six-sided die;
  • Nocticula (The Redeemer Queen), a redeemed demon lord succubus;
  • Shizuru (Empress of Heaven) and Tsukiyo (Prince of the Moon), the leader of the Tian Xian deities and her lover.

Beyond that, there is a presentation of demigods and other divine-types, but these are the sorts of things where you get 5-12 related beings covered on a two-page spread – so you get a gist, but it would be hard to make a ton of use of them (in first edition, many of them eventually got stat blocks or fuller write-ups in bestiaries). These groups include archdevils (Lawful Evil), demon lords (Chaotic Evil), elemental lords, empyreal lords (Good), the horsemen (Neutral Evil), and outer gods/great old ones (for those who like some Cthulhu Mythos mixed in with their fantasy). All of those beings, and many more, are included in some pretty dense charts at the back of the book, which provide the basics needed for mechanical use.

In addition to divinities (and semi-divinities), there are full page write-ups for a variety of faiths that are not based on the gods. Some of these are fairly traditional, like the Green Faith, which is a druidic staple. The Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye and the Prophecies of Kalistrade have both turned ancient prophecy into a matter of faith. God Calling and Shoanti Animism focus on different supernatural entities. Sangpotshi explores concepts of karma and rebirth. And characters might also follow the Laws of Mortality or be plain old atheists – not that they don’t believe that these beings called gods exist, but rather they reject the notion that mortals should in some way serve or be beholden to them.

The deity presentations are the strongest flavor part of the book for me. Golarion just has this great, diverse, and well-developed array of deities, and these presentations (along with some explanation in the introduction) are a real help in thinking about how a character would view the gods and how that would affect their behavior. Of the ‘new’ options presented, I have some personal favorites. I really liked seeing Arazani let out of her millenia-long role as unwilling servitor. I’ve got a halfling character kicking around who would probably work well with Chaldira instead of just focusing on Desna. And I’ll give the nod to Brigh (who I’m going to pretend is new because I forgot about her) over her Triune-mate Casandalee, just because I overall like clockwork in fantasy RPGs more than the sci-fi feeling android consciousness.

Player Character Options

For me, the most noteworthy new player options are new domains (and matching domain spells), which provided expanded options for the core 20 deities and round out the options for the newly-presented gods. There are plenty of choices, with change, cold, decay, delirium, dust, duty, glyph, lightning, plague, repose, sorrow, soul, star, swarm, time, vigil, void,and wyrmkin joining the options in the core book. I found interesting Share Burden (the 1st level focus spell for the Repose Domain), which is a reaction (before the roll) that improves the results of an ally’s saving throw by one step (e.g., failure becomes success), but at a cost of inflicting any consequences on you as well. Sometimes that’s a bum deal because the difference between success and failure isn’t that much. But sometimes its a great deal.

In addition to the domain spells, there are six pages of general use spells. These are labeled as being often associated with the deities of the inner sea region, but I wasn’t really seeing the connection for most of them (unless I missed some new gods of acid, fungus, omens, etc.). That doesn’t mean they aren’t handy though. At first level, Acidic Burst could be a decent option for spellcasters who have a bad habit of getting surrounded in combat. Endure is a semi-healing spell for arcane casters. And, while I’m not sure how great it is, Gravity Well (which sucks everyone/thing to a spot you choose) is amusing, bringing a little Solarian action to pre-Gap Golarion.

One place I particularly wish there was more content was in the Feats, which only span two pages. I was quite fond of the deity-specific mechanical components that enriched Inner Sea Gods, and it seems like a design decision was made here to stay away from those. I can get that from a design standpoint (why stop people from using a perfectly serviceable feat just because of a flavor decision), but I enjoyed the flavor of there being certain things that only followers of a particular deity could accomplish.

There are some deity-specific magic items, however (in addition to introducing stats for the mundane versions of the favored weapons for all of the deities). I can only imagine that the 2nd-level Bottomless Stein (which has exactly as infinite a quantity of ale as you might expect) will be supremely popular with followers of Cayden Cailean (and their players). I am fond of the 10th-level Lucky Rabbit’s foot, which helps on Reflex saves and might let you hop out of the way, and is available to followers of Desna (my personal favorite Pathfinder deity).

Wrap-up

Lost Omens: Gods & Magic is a great presentation of a really handy topic for those who will be adventuring on Golarion. The information is presented in a clear and well-written fashion that’s fun to read and helpful for in-game use. My only complaint is that I just wish there was more of it.

 

Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy.

 

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