Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Inner Sea Faiths

Clerics have always been one of my favourite classes. I like getting into the mindset of people who devote their lives to serving greater powers. As such, I also love books that focus on those powers—what their religions are like and what drives their followers. One of the most-used Pathfinder books in my games (apart from the central rulebooks) is Inner Sea Gods, which provides detailed information on the core 20 gods of the Golarion setting (along with additional character options).

However, Golarion has considerably more than just 20 gods. Inner Sea Gods contains details on many of the others, but no book has unlimited space, so these additional details are understandably brief—half a page at most, and often no more than a single paragraph. Some of these additional gods have received more detailed write-ups in other sources, such as volumes of Pathfinder Adventure Path, but ever since Inner Sea Gods came out, I’ve hoped that there would eventually be another book that would collect together these other gods into one place.

Inner Sea Faiths is just such a book. It provides details on 15 of the lesser-known gods of Golarion, such as Brigh, Hanspur, Kurgess, and Sivanah. All 15 are given write-ups in the same style as the ones for the core 20 gods in Inner Sea Gods. Inner Sea Faiths is not as big a book as Inner Sea Gods. The write-ups are 6 pages long each instead of 8, and it doesn’t contain any new prestige classes, magic items, spells, etc. It’s also not a hardcover book. However, it is still a bigger book than most in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting line—96 pages long instead of the standard 64.

Some of the gods in Inner Sea Faiths have previously had write-ups in other books (Brigh, for example, appears in Pathfinder Adventure Path #86: Lords of Rust). For the most part, these are the same as in their original source, though they have been revised and the text has often been reworded. Notably, they also include the gods’ obediences and boons (see below for more information on these) if the original source didn’t already have them.

There is one change, however, that stuck out for me, despite being minor. Previous sources (including the write-up in Lords of Rust) have referred to Brigh as “the Whisper in Bronze”, but this book has changed that to “the Whisper in the Bronze” (except in one sidebar where the name appears in its original form). It’s only the addition of one small word, but to me, it makes the name much less evocative. The use of the article the makes it seem as though Brigh inhabits only one specific piece of bronze, whereas without, it seems like she is present in all bronze. I don’t know why anyone felt the need to change this.

But that is a very minor point.

Most of the gods in the book, however, have never received more than brief mention in other sources. Inner Sea Faiths provides the first opportunity get full details on gods like Alseta, Apsu, Dahak, and Naderi.

Each write-up starts with a brief background about the god and then presents the god’s obedience and boons. This refers to the Deific Obedience feat first introduced in Inner Sea Gods (and reprinted in the introduction of this book). By performing a daily ritual specific to each god, a character with the Deific Obedience feat gains special abilities called boons. These obediences also for the basis for three prestige classes in Inner Sea Gods as well as several other prestige classes that have appeared in other sources. The obediences and boons are the only game mechanics that appear in Inner Sea Faiths and they take up a single page of each god’s write-up.

The remainder of each god’s write-up details the god’s church, the roles of priests and adventurers, relations with other religions, and more. Each write-up has a single sidebar that details something specific to each god (such as paladin or anti-paladin codes), but otherwise every write-up contains the same sections (which are virtually the same as the sections in Inner Sea Gods).

I sometimes find this need to present things in exactly the same layout (which is common across most Golarion books) to be a bit limiting. It forces every god into the same mould, which can be good because players and GMs know what to expect from each article and where to look for information, but it also makes it difficult for some gods to be truly different. A good example is the section on Holy Books. Not every god has a holy book, but the need to have this section in every god’s write-up forces the writers to include something. This generally means something written by the god’s followers. This can be interesting and useful information, but I have to wonder what alternative things could be included if the options weren’t constrained.

That said, I love this book just as much as I love Inner Sea Gods, and it has seen a lot of use in my games (particularly the section on Brigh, since I have an Iron Gods campaign ongoing, and Brigh is an important god in that adventure path). It is full of evocative and flavourful information that can form the basis of all kinds of characters and adventures. I particularly like that it uses its full space for this information and doesn’t feel the need to include numerous new feats and spells. I now have ideas for about fifteen new campaigns that I will probably never have time to run, but it’s fun to have the ideas anyway!

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