CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Superstition Is the Poetry of Life

In the really real world superstitions are a definitive part of many cultures. They can be as varied as the peoples that produce them. Some folk throw salt over their shoulder while others refuse to walk under ladders. Many of our holidays have aspects of superstition as well. Trick-or-treating is rooted in leaving out treats to ward off evil spirits or faeries. Stockings for Christmas comes from boots filled with straw that were left out on the chimney for Odin to feed Sleptnir, his eight legged horse. In a world where monster and deity imposed bad luck is real, what kind of superstitions do the people there have?

If you’ve read any of the pathfinder novels you’ll find Dave Gross’ character Radovan uses Desna’s wings as a symbol to bring good luck or ward off bad. It is apparently a very common superstition among the Varisians, and has even spread to some of the other Human ethnicities. In the new Inner Sea Races book, the section on the Kelesh people talks about their relationship with halflings. Halflings are considered to have impeccable luck and, as such, are hired to go on caravan journeys to bring that luck to the trip.

Those are some examples of superstitions that are already in the game if you know where to look. What we’re gonna do here is come up with some new superstitions that you can use either as a jumping-off point for your own ideas or that you can take wholesale and plop down right into your game. The point is to share the creativity, so by all means feel free to use it.

One of the most common starting areas on Golarion is the frontier of Varisia. Many of the Paizo adventure paths start in this area including their first: Rise of the Runelords. There are three very common ethnic groups in the area; the Varisian wanderers, the Chelish frontiersmen and the Shoanti tribes. A lot has been said about the Varisians and the Chelish, but how do the Shoanti tribes handle superstition?

Animals are a major part of the lives of the Shoanti tribes. From the horses they ride, to the buffalo they hunt, and the cindercats that many of their rangers and druids keep as companions. Some superstitions are as simple as feeling that luck comes upon the wind if you see an eagle in flight first thing in the morning. But others are more sinister.

Nothing goes to waste on the Storval plateau, misusing any part of an animal is considered sacrilege to the Shoanti people. On occasion in their travels, the tribes will come across the carcasses of prey animals. It is considered a very ill omen if the body has been untouched by either predators or scavengers.

Across the Inner Sea the Osirian people have spread far and wide through the northern part of Garund. From Osirian itself to Thuvia and Rahadoum these swarthy descendants of ancient fallen civilizations have superstitions as old as the ancient ruins that fill their lands. And the superstitions of the desert people hold true even in the godless lands of the enlightened atheists. Water is the one true source of life to these people, and as such, spilled water is considered a bad omen. Traditional Osirians will scoop up the wet sand and carry it with them until it dries out in penance for their wasteful ways.

Some superstitions, however, are newer than others. Since the formation of The Eye of Abendego and the creation of The Shackles, devotion (or at least fear) of Besmara has grown commonplace. Among the pirates it is already well known that dolphins, porpoises, and even whales following the ship are good luck. But the mother of sea monsters likes a more savage offering from her faithful pirate worshipers when they search for ships to loot. Swabbing the bow of the ship in the blood of a shark is considered to bring success and vast booty to a raid.

In the lands of the Tian, their approach to prayer is much different than elsewhere. The Tian consider their own gods much more fickle, and much more hands-on. Lack of respect to a deity is dealt with harshly. As such the Tian people like to make sure their pleas make it to their divine benefactors as quickly as possible. It is believed that prayers written to a specific god on a piece of rice paper and then burned travel to the ears of that deity much faster than simple words spoken at a temple

Even non-humans have their own superstitions. The Dwarves of the Five Kings Mountains take their metal work and devotion to Torag very seriously. A weapon that shatters or warps when it is being quenched is considered a bad omen. The weapon itself is melted down back into an ingot and reused for something other than military purposes. To reuse this ore to reform a weapon or armor will anger Torag and it is believed that this piece of equipment will break at a crucial moment in battle.

Those are just a handful of very simple superstitions that may exist on Golarion. Does your own character observe any superstitions? Do you create your own for use in your home games? How important are the beliefs of the peoples of your world to the games you run? Share with us a superstition and expand our base of ideas. 


  1. I've been toying with the idea that Dwarves don’t worship Gods exactly but rather practice a form of ancestor worship that manifests itself as a lot of little rituals and superstitions which would have developed to protect workers in their ancestral mines. Even mountain Dwarves would practice a form of the religion, hearkening back to their roots, and each family’s version would be slightly different.

    1. Not unlike the Dwarven Paragons of Dragon Age.

    2. Not unlike the Dwarven Paragons of Dragon Age.

  2. I use superstition a lot in my setting. Amazing article!

  3. Interesting concept Hudders. I don't think Pathfinder or its predecessor touches very much on ancestor worship, but its a topic that is close to my heart. Dwarves being as regimented and isolated as the usually are seem like just the type of people that would revere their ancestors and if you have anything written up on how ancestor worship would work in a game like pathfinder I would be interested to read it.

    I vaguely remember the Dwarven Paragons from the first dragon age Jimmy. Did they expand upon them in the Dragon Age RPG Jimmy?

    And Robert I'm gad you liked the article. I think superstition is overlooked a lot of the time. So I'm always happy to hear from those who do. Is there anything specific you have as superstitions in your game?