Rise of the Runelords
Magic is all things, and in all thing. It is in the Air, the Stone, the Flame, the Water. It is Time, Space, and the Void. It will nurture you, it will consume you, and always will it be your master. – The Book of Magic
THE ALL-SEEING EYE
God of magic
Alignment: True Neutral
Domains: Destruction, Knowledge, Magic, Protection, Rune
Favored Weapon: Quarterstaff
Centers of Worship Absalom, Geb, Katapesh, Kyonin, Nex, Numeria, Osirion, Thuvia
Obedience: Inscribe blessings to Nethys, arcane formulae, and lines of prayer on a blank parchment. Don’t inscribe a complete spell – only notations sufficient to potentially spur a reader to study magic in an effort to complete the incantation. At the culmination of your obedience, cast any spell or spell-like ability or activate a spell completion or spell trigger magic item. Gain a +4 sacred or profane bonus on concentration checks. The type of bonus depends on your alignment – if you’re neither good nor evil, you must choose either sacred or profane the first time you perform your obedience, and this choice can’t be changed.
Ancient Osirian legends speak of the god-king Nethys, a man whose monomaniacal pursuit of magic opened the fabric of reality to his probing vision, revealing to him the secrets of creation in this world and in the Great Beyond. The sight catapulted him to godhood and tore apart his sanity, creating two minds in one body. Now his fractured mind seeks both to cleanse the world through its destruction and to guard and heal it, to bend and preserve it, to conquer and free it. Nethys is a god of two warring personalities, prone to sudden and unexpected mood swings. He teaches that the use of magic for its own sake is the highest calling of mortals, for it is only through magic that one can change reality itself, and he embraces all who take up magical study. He does not care about the type of magic involved or the ends to which people turn it, only that they honor it and exult in its gifts. He represents all magic, from the most benign healing spells to the vilest necromancy, and mortal spellcasters of all alignments ask for his blessing.
Nethys’s only concern is magic-its use, creation, and innovation. He is aware of his mortal worshipers and rewards their devotion with divine power, but not for their use of magic alone. When some mortal tyrant outlaws the use of magic, Nethys expects his followers to intervene, though he issues no call to crusade. Likewise, those who perceive new avenues of magic and pursue them gain his favor, regardless of the nature or purpose of the magic. His total awareness means he sees every success and every failure, from the first cantrip learned by a fledgling hedge wizard to the rudiments of star-exploding magic developed on the farthest-flung planet.
Other gods may take parental roles toward their churches, but Nethys acts more like the volatile but dispassionate guardian of an estate, unconcerned about individual heirs as long as the vast legacy of the family continues. Queries made of the All-Seeing Eye via commune and similar spells always give accurate information, but his tone might range from amused to cold to disappointed to enraged, seemingly without rhyme or reason. Other deities have tried to stabilize or cure his shattered mind and violent mood swings, but he inevitably perceives any progress as a depletion of his energy and negates their efforts. His allies have learned to tolerate his ever-changing nature, keeping him at a respectful arm’s length for the sake of his knowledge.
Nethys is a proponent of magic for all purposes, even frivolous or wasteful ones. Magic is an infinite resource that permeates all dimensions, and thus he insists there is no need to limit its use for fear of its eventual depletion. He sees magic-drained places like the Mana Wastes as aberrations, tumors in the world that can be excised, though dealing with them is not a high priority unless they begin to grow and threaten the healthy flow of magic elsewhere. Nethys isn’t averse to technology unless it interferes with or supplants magic; indeed, he relishes the blending of technology and magic.
Nethys normally appears as a male human crackling with power, one side of him burned and broken, the other half calm and serene. This duality is usually emphasized in artwork, which often depicts the god releasing terrible magic from his broken side even as he casts spells from his good side to heal the wounds he just caused. Though he is generally depicted as Garundi, some regional temples deviate from this by showing him as a member of a prominent local race or as an Azlanti.
Outside of promoting the use of magic and embracing those who engage in it, Nethys is supremely indifferent to both mortals and other deities. Pleas for mercy or justice, incitements to violence, and invocations of fairness or the balance of power have no effect on him; he acts in the interest of increasing magical knowledge or according to his whim, but is otherwise unpredictable and unreliable. He is not known for showing favor or wrath to his followers or enemies in the form of divine intervention, a fact that many of his worshipers note with some pride. Layfolk, especially peasants, believe that invoking his name may help to ward off curses, hexes, the evil eye, and other superstitions, though his utter disregard for those who do not practice magic means these invocations fall on deaf ears. The devout believe that zones of unpredictable magic manifest where Nethys passes close to the Material Plane, though there is no confirmation of this from the god himsel£ Likewise, his church teaches that the manifestation of zones of “empty magic” (where magic simply doesn’t function) are indications of his anger at someone or something in that area, though there is no evidence that this is true.
His holy symbol is his face, half black and half white, which might be highly detailed or abstracted to little more than a two-tone, shield-shaped mask without holes.
The worship of Nethys attracts those who wish to explore the limits of reality and move beyond the mundane patterns of everyday life. The only common characteristic of Nethys’s followers is an absolute love of magic, and to join his church is to unite with fellow practitioners – if not in an alliance, then at least in a shared goal. Though some of his worshipers seek rewards through magic, for most, magic itself is the reward, and the power and wealth that it could bring are only a means to increase their understanding of the arcane arts. Some love the physical act of using magic; others appreciate it as a tool of the highest quality. Some are generous and willing to teach what they know; others are jealous and paranoid practitioners who seclude themselves and guard their secrets from potential rivals. Nethys’s followers are likely to experiment with their knowledge, and brandish it like a banner of faith, since Nethys teaches that using magic is a sign of refinement, and that conserving it is foolish. A true worshiper revels at the opportunity to use magic and show others its glory.
Worship services vary from temple to temple, but usually include a weekly meeting involving chanting and spellcasting demonstrations. In many cases, the hymns are phonetic transcriptions of verbal components of spells favored by that temple, allowing the faithful to chant a representation of the magical words, but with a few key syllables removed so that someone who actually knows that spell or has it prepared doesn’t risk accidentally casting it. Musical instruments are rarely part of services unless the temple has a bardic priest, though limited percussion involving the tapping of wands or staves is not unusual.
Crossbreeding and mutating animals and magical creatures is a common practice at many churches, reinforcing the “mad wizard” stereotype and often scaring nonmagical folk away from the temples. From time to time this experimentation creates a useful creature with magical powers that breeds true to create more of its kind, and the temple shares this information or the offspring with other allied temples or spellcasters. Once a year, the church demands that each priest tithe a minor magic item-such as a scroll or potion-to the temple for use or sale. Many adventuring priests use this as an opportunity to get rid of lower-powered items that have been superseded by other magic. Other priests have the option-in hierarchical order-to purchase them before the sale is opened to the public. Though temple leaders are usually willing to take money from outsiders to fund their research, few want their holy places to become marketplaces sullied by the feet of the unworthy.
Those without magical ability may work for the church, but are treated as second-class citizens at best and expendable guardians or experimental subjects at worst. In the church of Nethys, even a lowly apprentice who has mastered nothing beyond a few cantrips has higher status than a master rogue or talented fighter.
Most senior temple guards have at least one level in a magical class or have acquired (via a feat or special ritual) the ability to cast a few spells in order to gain some respect in the eyes of the priests and establish a firm seniority over the common guards. The newest recruits are first trained in Spellcraft so they recognize and do not needlessly fear magic. Though the church does not go out of its way to teach magic to laypeople, neither does it attempt to prevent them from learning or hold their former mundane status against them if they do manage to learn. After all, few people are born knowing how to cast spells, and those who manage to persevere and learn the magical arts are to be commended and respected above non-casters, regardless of how long it takes them to unlock that first flicker of ability.
Worshipers of Nethys can be found almost anywhere. The best-known temples are those in places of strong magic, such as Nex, Geb, Absalom, Kyonin, Thuvia, and Osirion, for the most powerful spellcasters converge on major cities in these regions to demonstrate their skills or display their knowledge. As Nethys himself is believed to have been Osirian in life, his worship is most prominent there, and many of his most ardent believers have been lost to the sands while seeking the site where vision transformed him into a god.
TEMPLES AND SHRINES
Nethys is both guardian and destroyer, and overall his church tries to balance his two aspects. Individual temples, however, often focus on one type of magical study, philosophy, or application in order to draw worshipers similarly inclined.
A few temples alternate between the god’s aspects or directly oppose the actions of other temples purely to keep the balance. Opposing temples might even war against each other for supremacy, while good temples might work together to siphon magic from evil items, lock the items away, or convert the items to a more benign use. Specialized temples are usually named in an identifying way so visitors are fully aware of their natures. For example, a Numerian temple devoted to deciphering the magical properties of skymetals might be called the Church of Skysteel, whereas a Gebbite temple studying necromancy might be called the Bone Cathedral.
Each temple usually has its own colors, which tend to be a range of similar hues, such as scarlet, deep red, and dark wine. Every one has at least one wall containing some or all of the text of The Book of Manic, and daily prayers usually take place near this wall. Significant or long-established temples set aside at least one chamber for the practice of the branch of magic favored by their inhabitants: a temple focusing on conjuration usually has a summoning circle, a temple of healing keeps an infirmary, and so on. Sometimes the true nature of a temple is a secret kept from the public, and this special chamber is hidden away so that no outsiders see it. A few temples, primarily those focused on healing, are specifically built to serve the public interest, but most are not open to layfolk or casual visitors, and function more like exclusive private clubs than places for commoners to pray and seek solace.
Shrines to Nethys are uncommon, because the faithful are more inclined to build grand structures at noteworthy sites-almost always with the help of magic-in order to make comfortable quarters for long-term study, rather than simply mark a place and move on. Actual shrines tend to be unusual, and guarded with dangerous curses to encourage the unworthy to stay away. For example, a wizard who wins a duel by turning her enemy to stone might declare his shattered remains to be a shrine to Nethys, casting spells that explain what happened and warn of the rotting curse that will befall anyone who disturbs the site.
A PRIEST’S ROLE
Any spellcaster can join Nethys’s priesthood: whether divine or arcane, academy-trained wizard or wild shaman, all who call upon magical power are welcome. Divine casters are valued, but must be able to defend their positions with magical knowledge or brute power. Even alchemists, paladins, adepts, and rangers can become priests, although advancement within the church is based on magical ability and knowledge, which means that most practitioners of simpler magic never ascend past the church’s lower ranks.
Temple-trained clergy are polite to adherents of other faiths as long as they have either magical ability of their own or proper deference toward those who possess it. Such priests are used to magical folk being in charge, and have difficulty hiding their contempt for the benighted non-spellcasters who lack such deference. They often make the mistake of barking orders in more egalitarian groups such as adventuring parties, making their companions wary of their god’s mercurial nature and the priests’ disdain for those without magical aptitude. Independent priests tend to be a bit more accommodating in their dealings with non Nethysians, although they still consider themselves superior to nonmagical folk and comport themselves with pride often seen as arrogance.
Nethys doesn’t care what his priests do with their magic any more than he cares about their souls. Many of his followers take pride in the fact that their god mostly ignores them, believing that any power they achieve is thus fundamentally their own. Most take a mercenary attitude toward those benefitting from their services: priests craft and sell magical goods, advise nobles and merchants on how magic can improve their stations, hire themselves as bodyguards for ships or caravans, or act as battle-casters for armies or adventuring companies. Some tithe service to a lord in exchange for property and a retinue of servants so that they can focus on research. Others use their magic to entertain or swindle others.
Priests evangelize as the mood strikes them, or remain within their towers seeking knowledge divorced from the outside world. As long as the direction they choose points toward greater magical knowledge and power, they may worship however they choose. For those priests and temples that do decide to evangelize, this generally takes the form of displaying the obvious benefits of magical power and then waiting for those who wish to learn magic to prove their worthiness, either by passing arbitrary and arduous tests or by fronting significant sums of money, before they are allowed to apprentice to a priest or be tutored by the temple. Often, the best way to convince the temple you’re worthy of magical training is to take the first (and most laborious) steps on your own, thus proving your dedication. Most magical training consists of helping the Nethysian tutors with their own researches and learning what one can in the process, as few Nethysians are interested in teaching except as it advances their own goals.
Rank in the church is based on magical knowledge and power. Benign temples tend to weight the former more heavily, while malevolent ones value the latter. As masters of magic, priests are trained to recognize spell levels and caster levels and use them to assess where someone fits in the pecking order. Individuals of higher rank often acquire apprentices – these may be neophyte members of the faith or individuals who have no status in the church whatsoever until their masters declare them sufficiently trained. Visitors from other Nethysian temples are welcome to participate in temple ceremonies unannounced, and many young spellcasters who show up are recently graduated apprenticesor those whose masters died or cast them out-hoping to gain a place in a new temple where the clergy neither knows nor cares about their history, and where they can attain rank based purely on their power.
Nethysian priests have a limited role in most rural communities, unless they focus on animals, crops, healing, or some other area that gives them reason to interact with common folk. Urban priests have stronger ties to locals, particularly those connected to construction, trade, and the exotic interests of nobles. Temple priests always have ranks in Knowledge (arcana) and Spellcraft, and depending on the temple’s focus, they may also have ranks in Appraise, Heal, Intimidate, and Use Magic Device. Temple priests are addressed as "disciple, “priest,” “brother,” or “sister,” depending on the speaker’s familiarity with the priest. The head of a temple is usually just called “high priest,” though individual temples may use unique titles. Members of the faith who are not associated with a temple are usually called “acolyte,” “disciple,” or “master,” depending on their apparent skill with magic. While it’s not considered an insult to mistake a stranger’s rank if she doesn’t give any indication of her magical prowess, persisting in this error after a correction is made is considered rude, and is often taken as a challenge.
Anyone with a passion for magic is welcome to worship Nethys. Though he is believed to have once been human, his worship is strong among all races that employ magic. Though Nethys’s teachings appeal to those who seek to manipulate reality, to enter his church is to join a community of fellow practitioners-at least in a shared goal and passion if not a true alliance.
Nethys’s worshipers have no built-in moral compass of any sort. He doesn’t care what his faithful do with magic, just that they seek out power with full intent to use it. Small wonder, then, that many power-hungry adventurers would tum to his calling. One might worship the All-Seeing Eye so that she can dominate your village or raze a city with a word. Another might worship him so that she can save her dear friends’ souls from torment at the hands of demons in the Abyss. Still more simply desire knowledge, the more esoteric the better. Nethys cares about deeds and motivations as little as he cares about his followers’ soul, and many in Nethys’s flock take pride in the fact that their god generally ignores them, for it means the power they achieve is fundamentally their own.
Individual temples of Nethys have great latitude both in terms of members’ behavior and dress code, though formal ceremonies require an elaborate robe, skullcap, mozzetta, and hood in the temple’s colors. A two-colored face may be included as an insignia, or the mozzetta itself may be dark on one side and light on the other. Priests of the All- Seeing Eye tend to focus their energies on the pursuit of knowledge rather than fashion, and are just as likely to don their ceremonial robes to honor the god as they are to use it as daily wear because they’re too distracted to find other appropriate clothing or otherwise oblivious to “insignificant social mores.” Many priests tattoo their faces and hands on one side to match their god’s image; darker-skinned priests rub white ash or other irritants into their fresh tattoos or cuts to create white scars.
The official text of the church is The Book of Magic, a comprehensive guide for casting spells and channeling magic, as well as a treatise on the moral ramifications of its use and misuse. As might be expected from a Nethysian text, the book often comes down squarely on one side of certain issues, only to contradict itself a few paragraphs later. Most scholars consider it useless as an ethical guide, since these inconsistencies put forth a worldview fractured to the point of insanity-temples of Nethys tend to adopt whichever codicils are most convenient for their particular needs. The information within the book is detailed enough that someone with a proclivity for wizardry can often eventually come to understand the basics of a few cantrips by reading it from cover to cover, and more than one great wizard has started out by reading a stolen copy of this book and using it as the foundation for decades of study and innovation. Likewise, some latent sorcerers see their power blossom after sleeping (sometimes unknowingly) near a copy of the book.
Nethys knows more about magic than any being in the Outer Sphere, and his faithful recite aphorisms that require intimate knowledge of the arcane to decipher. A few even rely on wordplay through phonetic pronunciations of certain magical runes that take on additional meaning in key languages. Two examples of this are as follows.
The Cube Is the Red Is the Sphere: This phrase refers to an esoteric intellectual test between three wizards, in which one realizes the answer to a puzzle precisely because the other two haven’t answered it. In casual use, the aphorism exhorts the faithful to find an answer to a problem based on the failures of others, as well as to transform something worthless into something useful or valuable.
Point with the Finger of the Scorched Black Hand: Nethys’s hand, blasted with raw magic, reveals his will, directing his followers to the path of learning in a phrase with many layers of meaning. The saying also refers to the somatic component of spellcasting-though in the Draconic tongue, the words for “point with the finger” sound similar to a related phrase which means “seek the greater knowledge.” (When certain syllables are stressed, it also translates to a vulgar suggestion, a fact that delights many snickering apprentices.) Members of the faith sometimes use this as a written catchphrase to indicate their divine allegiance.
The month of Neth is named for the All- Seeing Eye. The church has three holidays shared by all temples.
Abjurant Day: On 8 Neth, the faithful work together to shore up mutual defenses and train friends and children in defensive magic. It’s also traditionally a day for testing possible apprentices; some evil casters do so by performing deadly tests upon kidnapped subjects to find promising students and eliminate potential rivals.
Evoking Day: 18 Neth is a day of magical fireworks displays, dueling (both mock and real), and trading spells. Among the Garundi, even commoners celebrate helpful magic by dancing with bright streamers and wearing black-and-white flowing robes designed to flare out around the waist when the wearers spin.
Transmutatum: 28 Neth is a day of reflection and self improvement. Some traditionalists believe it is fortuitous to begin researching spells or crafting difficult magic items on this day.
RELATIONS WITH OTHER RELIGIONS
Nethys’s shattered mind makes him an uncertain ally in long-term plans, but he is able to negotiate with other deities, and doesn’t turn on them unless his omniscient senses reveal threats or imminent betrayals. Much like his martial counterpart, Gorum, with whom he shares a mutual appreciation for power and strategy, he is indifferent to the ethics of an engagement: many deities rely on his aid from time to time, and he might ally with anyone in the pantheon, supplying spells, magic items, or even raw magical power. Of course, he knows better than to provide more than minor spells and items to agents of Rovagug; despite his destructive aspect, he does not wish the entire world ruined.
Nethys and Irori were both mortals who ascended to godhood without use of the Starstone. Irori’s perfection of his physical self transcends the divide between the extraordinary and supernatural, something that both intrigues and vexes Nethys. He simultaneously wants to both praise Irori for his achievement and tear him apart to figure out how he did it.
Golarion’s god of magic resides in a domain of thousands of wizards’ towers perched atop a massive shelf of stone drifting within the deep Maelstrom. Given the All Seeing Eye’s nature and dual personality, the plane and its natives readily embrace its presence. The domain’s stable base and its elaborate, often madly designed and precariously perched towers exist in a state of constant growth and destruction, reflecting the god’s twin aspects. Additionally, the domain has the wild magic planar trait, operating according to Nethys’s whimsy, something that the surrounding depths often mirror for hundreds of miles around it. Surrounding the domain is a hurricane of magical energy formed by the Maelstrom as a frenzied and constant reflection of the turmoil within the realm. Beautiful, hazardous, and wondrous, the hurricane sometimes spins off cyclones with similarly wild magical effects, which experienced travelers use as a warning that they are near the mad god’s realm.
The All- Seeing Eye’s divine servants are ascended mortals (whom Nethys has lifted to near-divine status) and magical beings. Mirroring his many aspects, some are as nurturing as the most benign angels, while others are as murderous as the vilest fiends. Mortals seeking their advice or assistance had best ensure they summon one with compatible goals. In addition to his servitor race, the burleevs (see page 299), the following creatures serve Nethys and only answer the calls of his worshipers.
Arcanotheign: Appearing as a woman-shaped cloud of swirling energy, this creature serves as the herald of Nethys. As a supernatural creature created in a moment of lucidity by an insane, omniscient god, the Arcanotheign is often left to her own devices when her master does not need her, and wanders Golarion and the planes searching for new sensations and meaning to her existence and that of the multiverse. She is a lonely creature and welcomes those who would speak to her as part of a normal conversation rather than an attempt to get information from her. Her affection for animals is related to this; they are simple creatures who make no demands of her, and her habit of animating giant bears, lions, and other animals out of earth, stone, or wood represents her respect for animals she has known in the past ages. The Arcanotheign understands she is foreign to mortal life and mortal needs. She enj oys experiencing new aromas and tastes; someone wishing to get on her good side should bring her strongly scented flowers, a tasty meal, or some other physical object that may be new to her experience, even if humans would think it stinks or is inedible. For more information, see page 298.
Bard (unique female trumpet archon): Perhaps the noblest of Nethys’s servants, this neutral good being resembles a trumpet archon wearing a silvery mask. Skilled with any magic relating to sound, music, or rhythm, she uses the mask in place of a trumpet, projecting bolts of pure sonic energy with the power of her voice.
Takaral (unique male lich): Other than his all-white eyes and skeletal forearms, this neutral evil lich could pass as fully human, though the scope of his knowledge of arcane magic – especially necromancy-is greater than could be amassed in most mortal lifetimes. He carries a strange, semi-spherical device that allows him to shield places, and allies within them, from the effects of his spells.
Yamasha (unique succubus): Sinfully beautiful, this hawk-winged neutral succubus-like creature is a master of conjuration and enchantment magic. When she answers a summons, she insists on an oath of service from the mortal conjurer, and offers him a single feather from her wing as a token of their agreement.