A Pathfinder Review: Lost Omens Travel Guide
In my last two Pathfinder reviews, I was deep into the Mwangi Expanse. It was good. Then I picked up some more Pathfinder 2nd Edition books in pdf format. I read them. Most of them. Some of them. There’s a lot of them. But I finished one, and it’s the Lost Omens Travel Guide. So it’s time to dive into a review!
DISCLAIMER: I purchased this book myself, and have no (as of time of writing) work connections with Paizo.
Settings need details, but not all people use them. The key thing is that they’re available and that’s the niche that this book fills. Historically, books like this or smaller supplements were fairly common, and it’s good to see it coming back in such a big way with Golarion. This is, in my opinion, the companion book to the earlier World Guide, and that review is coming soon. The key thing to remember here though is that this book is not a world guide, it’s more a cultural guide to the broad trends of the Inner Sea Region.
There’s a lot of good here. This book is the key to unlocking deeper immersion in the Golarion Campaign Setting.
The first part that stands out is the art, and specifically the fashion. Pathfinder, as a game, has had a distinctive art style since book one, and the world has been growing with that. The art is diverse, and the fashion reflects a shift away from medieval styles in conventional games. You can see inspirations from every era from the middle ages to the French revolution and past, and it works. Golarion is a world that’s deep into a transition from a D&D-esque fantasy world to a magitech dungeonpunk one and this book is facilitating that shift.
Next up is the section magic and the perception of it by the peoples of Golarion. It lays it out straight that magic isn’t rare, and that 1 in 500 people have some sort of talent with it either by an ability to cast spells or lineage related magic abilities. It also lays out that people can be afraid of magic, but that it’s seldom a blanket “all magic is scary” thing. Instead it’s culturally or experientially driven. It’s good to see this stuff being laid to rest, because it’s a tired trope in RPG fantasy.
I could go on for a while in this section, but it would end up being a comprehensive review and synopsis of the contents of the entire book. Suffice to say, this book is literally a roleplayer’s dream. Food, common holidays and celebrations, drinks, actual recipes, cultural notes… It’s all information designed to let you deepen your immersion, write better backgrounds, and understand the world better. For a GM and/or creative, it’s all virtual how-to on making content that feels like “Pathfinder” and more specifically like “Golarion”.
I don’t know why everyone seems to be allergic to creating equipment sections these days for their fantasy game supplements. This was a falling down point in the Mwangi Expanse book, and it crops up here again. Even if it’s just a few illustrations with a side note about how weapon X or armour Y is the equivalent of weapon A or armour B, that would be something! Lots of effort went into art, fashion, even recipes… But not even a few more uncommon weapons at least? Maybe some regional or at least climate based armour variants?
Years. I deeply appreciate the world building behind the Absalom Reconciliation. That’s good stuff. But if you’re going to make a point of stating that other regions operate with different year ones or zeroes, give the equivalent year! Don’t leave us hanging with “region X uses a different year as their start”. Just say it’s 472X AR right now and give the years in the other calendars. The point of this book is world details, and this was a weird thing to include without the supporting details.
The trade route fail in Garund. I love the maps in this book, they do a lot of heavy lifting to communicate their information. But one thing struck me, particularly after a recent thread on Twitter about how the Mwangi expanse is still shut away from the larger world in a lot of ways. And that’s the lack of a link from its internal Diamond Webway trade routes Katapesh in Katapesh, where the Obari Crossing and South Tack trade routes meet. This is an obvious connection through relatively safe terrain, but it’s not there. The whole river trade aspect could have been retained by linking it to the Obari Crossing at Quantium in Nex too; so it’s not like there weren’t options. This is a problem because it lends strength to the idea that African areas need to be isolated to retain their value.
Stop rebranding poker for fantasy games. You’ve got a budget. There’s game designers who would fall over themselves to create a new card game or dice game or modify something that’s passed from common usage. We don’t need more poker.
The trade map is not up to par. All the other maps in the book are decent looking and good at communicating their information. Even the sparse Famous Monster Hotspots map, which only has eight monsters on it, at least looks good. The trade map looks like someone took a slightly incomplete political map of the Inner Sea Region and then used MS Paint or Adobe Reader’s draw function to quickly add some trade routes. It’s not up to the established standard that other Paizo maps have set.
All said and done, this book is a banger and will be indispensable for several specific groups of Pathfinder GMs, fans, and creatives. If you’re just in it for the dungeon crawl and don’t get too into the immersion aspects of roleplay though? This book will be an interesting read but probably not a game changer. The quality of the book is solid, the contents are good overall, and I give it a solid Rank A!