Pharasma has become one of the chief deities in The Stolen Lands. Her faith is widespread and there are three different religious organisations dedicated to her and, as such, is probably overdue for consideration. According to the Pathfinder Wiki …
“The Lady of Graves”, Pharasma is the goddess who shepherds Golarion’s recently-departed souls to their final reward. Upon death, souls migrate via the River of Souls to Pharasma’s Boneyard in the Outer Sphere, which sits atop an impossibly tall spire that pierces the Astral Plane.Pharasma makes no decision on whether a death is just or not; she views all with a cold and uncaring attitude, and decides on which of the Outer Planes a soul will spend eternity. Pharasma is also the goddess of birth and prophecy: from the moment a creature is born, she sees what its ultimate fate will be, but reserves final judgement until that soul finally stands before her. As the goddess of death and rebirth, she abhors the undead and considers them a perversion.
However, there are many ways that her faith is interpreted by her priests in the mortal world and there is no overall Church of Pharasma that provides rules and guidance that must be followed. Each order or chapters of Pharasmin priests finds its own way to celebrate Pharasma’s philosophy, and finds the path that best suits them and their parishioners. However, there are a number of different ways that The Gray Lady might be honoured.
The great Pharasmin Cathedrals and Abbeys are often involved in the pomp and circumstance of faith, they spread the word and provide services based around birth and death, and form the touchstone of the Formal Faith. However, many support smaller community houses and Chantries, located in suburbs, towns and villages, that provide support to their local communities. After all, people are born, live and die the whole world over – not just in cities. However, the main abbey or Cathedral keeps a central record of Births and Deaths that have happened in their area of influence.
Many towns and villages have little more than a graveyard or shrine, or (in some cases) just a lone priest dedicated to the Lady of Graves, who may be the only clerical representative (of any faith) in a community. They still perform the core functions as a new soul is born into the world, and when they ‘travel on’ at the end of their days – however their register of Births and Deaths often includes entries on marriages and other important community events.
Sometimes, for the sake of the living, it is important to memorialize the dead – especially if the die far away from home or without a proper burial. Many people believe that while a departed soul is remembered, its path to the afterlife and its continued existence are made easier and more comfortable – and the priests of Pharasma encourage this belief. It might help the soul, but it certainly helps keep Pharasma in the minds of those left behind, and it often helps spread the faith. Most Chantry houses keep lists of their ‘patrons, and recite the names of the departed at least once a day, thereby ‘remembering’ the individual. Wealthier individuals pay to have a small plaque placed on a wall, or the departed one’s name inscribed in stone. The wealthiest might have a whole chantry dedicated to their noble family …
Priests of Pharasma abhor undead. In their eyes undeath breaks the Circle of Life and should be stamped out as quickly as possible. While most provide the basic Pharasmin services, but rather than being politically or Community focussed, the Militant Orders concentrate on the destruction of undead. Many junior priests serve as Crypt Guards, patrolling Crypts and Graveyards, searching out signs of undead infestations and trying to identify the potential source. Higher ranking priests deal with the infestation and actively search out undead, knowing that, once they have been destroyed, the Circle of Life will be re-established.
The Voices of the Spire are a good example of a Militant Order which is, like many others, led by an Inquisitor. Militant Orders often have their own Favoured Weapon, such as Maces or Flails, that are acceptable alternatives to the deity’s preferred weapon of a dagger. After all, a dagger is not a particularly effective weapon for the destruction of the undead.
Some orders believe that following a specific lifestyle, or philosophy, aids the soul in their afterlife. However, the philosophies vary widely from Order to Order but the Priests all seem to be in Pharasma’s grace (and receive their Spells/Powers) so it appears that Pharasma has no particular favourites amongst them.
Pharasmin Penitence is one example of such an order.
In the Stolen Lands
Pharasma is an important Deity in The Stolen Lands game. She was introduced right from the start as the Patron Deity of Lord Henry (my main NPC) because I wanted a non-intrusive ‘church’ that I could use to support PCs as they grew. However, she also suited Henry’s family background and fits with my tendency to create True Neutral NPCs.
Order of the Soul Spiral
The Soul Spiral represents High Pharasmin and Community Pharasmin rolled into one. It is overseen by Abbess Beatrix leMaistre (NPC) who is the cousin Lord Henry leMaistre – The Ruler of Midmarch. Mother Beatrix runs the Order from her abbey in Tusk (The Regional Capital), there is a priory at Newgate and graveyards (or similar) in six other towns or villages. Initially funded by Lord Henry, The Soul Spiral is now self-sufficient, and its expansion is driven by income generated from its religious sites. While Mother Beatrix supports her cousin, her finances are separate from his.
The Order of the Soul Spiral offers all the ‘mainstream’ services that you would expect from a Pharasmin Order. Graveyards are always attended by a priest who records births and deaths as well as help with funeral services. Great Shrines, and larger buildings, all have graveyards or small crypts, and normally offer midwifery services as well. Rumours are that Mother Beatrix wants to add a chantry at Kunlun soon.
Body and Soul
Body and Soul is a philosophical order overseen by the Priest Ethankos. Unlike Pharasmin Penitence, Ethankos believes that all souls are judged equally by The Gray Lady, regardless of the suffering that they have undergone here on earth – and that the afterlife is influenced by the previous behaviour, rather than it’s suffering. As a man who enjoys life’s comforts, Ethankos is determined to share that delight in life with others. He understands that death is part of the Circle, but so is life – and life should be lived to the fullest, while you still have it.
Based from a Holy House in Fey Falls, Body and Soul already has an Eating House and Shrine in Kunlun, and expects to expand to other settlements soon.
A Militant Order?
Next comes the question of what a Militant Order dedicated to Pharasma should look like, from what I can see the various wiki descriptions are suitable vague and don’t have enough detail to base anything on. About the only thing of value is that the leader of The Voices of the Spire is an Inquisitor. However, there is already a militant order, of Iomedae, based in Tusk. Led by two ex-PCs it boasts a Holy House, a Sword School and a Library – the Holy House provides a religious base, the Sword School delivers the military training and the Library provides specialist knowledge on their roles in society (etc) and that seems like a reasonable model to follow.
Graduates from Iomedae’s Mission are mainly warriors with the Equerry Archetype with the very best going onto become Paladins.
However, that doesn’t provide a home for the two principal investors, and (since it became an NPC establishment) I have been managing it as a low income, slow growth type of organization. Its one foray outside of Tusk has been to build a watchtower with a shrine dedicated to Iomedae in Kunlun (the religious centre) for The Southern Region. Future plans only extend to building decent homes for the NPC principals – then it will be time to think again – however, expansion will always be basic and low income.
A Militant Order for Pharasma, with an Inquisitor at the head – could well follow the same structural lines – although as it will be home to a PC, it should probably be a Priory, Sword School and Library. Graduates might be warriors or, perhaps more suitably, Adepts with the Military Chaplain archetype – basically Adepts with better armour than most others – The best going on to become Inquisitors. Maces could be their ‘Favoured Weapon’ – it is usable by Adepts and Inquisitors – and fits well with the traditional (D&D style) undead killer. Even now the archetypical D&D weapon for hunting undead is a Mace of Disruption – and the Disruption Magic Weapon Ability, can only be placed on a bludgeoning weapon.
Expansion Paths for the order, should probably be Holy Houses with a watchtower attached – that generates an Income, has a Def Point to represent the Specialist Fighting Priests, but still gives Stab ad Loy bonuses to help the settlement owner keep everything in balance.