Religion in Golarion

My group’s been playing Second Darkness for over a year now, and if there’s one weakness we’ve found in the Golarion campaign setting, it’s religion.

The setting is geopolitically diverse, with the same sort of kitchen-sink-of-cultures approach that made Greyhawk our go-to setting for so long. But what it lacks are gods. Oh, it does have some gods and goddesses, as evidenced by this wiki entry but what it doesn’t have are pantheons. Or at least, that’s what we thought.

We’re spoiled, coming from Greyhawk with its myriad of deities for the Baklunish, Suel, Flan, and Oeridian races. We’re used to a realm in which each human race had its own collection of gods, as did each of the demi-human and humanoid species. All of it was backed up by stories, both canon and fan generated, going back millenia in game time, and 40 years in rea time.

And then there were the demigods and hero gods from the days of Greyhawk’s status as Gary Gygax’s home campaign. You had Zagyg (god of Humor, Eccentricity, Occult Lore, and Unpredictability), the Earth Dragon ( demigod of Earth, Weather, and Hidden Treasure) and Mayaheine (goddess of Protection, Valor, and Justice). Hell, you even had Dalt, god of doors and portals!

I initially had a hard time finding the same depth in Golarion. The Inner Sea Campaign Guide covers the core gods and a handful of smaller ones, but there’s none of the richness provided by Greyhawk’s classical pantheons. It turns out that some of that richness does exist, but you wont’ find it online.

Sean Reynolds wrote some fantastic god profiles for Dragon Magazine and he brought his sensibilities to the Pathfinder supplement Gods and Magic. It’s 64 pages have write-ups on the 20 core gods that are much the same as what you’ll see in the campaign guide, but it also has 40 other deities worshipped by demihuman races (dwarves, elves, gnomes, etc.) as well as monstrous ones like giants and dragons.

There are also the kind of oddball gods my group loves. There’s Achaekek (“He Who Walks In Blood”) is the patron god of the Red Mantis assassins guild. Besmara is the pirate queen goddess, worshipped by sea folk up and down Golorian’s coastlines. Hanspur is the god of the waterways. Zyphus is the god of bad luck.

It’s not a bad mix — sure there’s no equivelent of Dalt, god of portals and doorways from Greyhawk, but it does give players some quirky choices for their gods. There’s also a dwarven pantheon of nine gods and goddesses and an elven one of three gods. Halflings get two gods, gnomes get one, and even four goblin hero gods.

Another worthwhile Pathfinder religion sourcebook is Faiths of Purity. It’s a slim tome — only 32 pages — that’s aimed at players. It has write-ups on the major gods and some of the minors. The material repeats much of what you’ll find in the other two books, but it also includes taboos and traits specific to those gods. There’s also a chapter on religious holidays. There’s are also books for the Faiths of Balance and Faiths of Corruption, which presumably do the same for the gods of neutrality and evil.

The gods are out there; it’s just a question of introducing players to them. The challenge there is that the Second Darkness adventure path doesn’t delve heavily into religion; it’s about stopping fanatical drow from destroying the world, not the machinations of the divine. That means the gods don’t play much into your average adventure, and as the DM, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to insert oddball clerics.

If we run another Golorian-based campaign after this one, I think I’d make more of a concerted effort to connect the gods to the adventures. I’m not saying I’d have a religion of the week, but I would want to delve a little deeper into what makes some of the religions tick.