The raison d’etre of the Open Game License is to allow others to reuse that which a publisher declares Open Game Content; 99% of the time, this allows for various game mechanics to be shared. But what about sharing various non-mechanical aspects of game design? In that area, most publishers are highly conservative, apparently afraid that someone will take their characters and settings and make a twisted mockery of them. Every so often, however, you’ll find an RPG book that allows for something like its settings, characters, or even deities to be Open.
The Gods of Porphyra (aka The Open Faiths Project) is one of those books.
A forty-five page book featuring twenty-seven new deities and some associated new game crunch, Gods of Porphyra’s technical presentation makes a good showing of itself. Full nested bookmarks are present for every section and subsection and copy and paste is enabled. In regards to artwork, the book appears more spartan than it actually is, lacking in page borders. However, each god has an image on the center of the page of their holy symbol, and the two new monsters in the book each have a full-page, full-color image. This strikes a very nice balance between being overloaded with graphic design and being utterly utilitarian; other PDF publishers could learn from the presentation here.
The book opens with a brief note from the publisher and some information about the Porphyra setting. Interestingly, though perhaps not surprisingly, the Open Game nature of the setting takes the in-game stance of having the OGC materials come from other realities and dimensions. Hence how the gods here are all non-native deities that arrived to what was previously a godless world. Two new clerical domains, Art and Time, are presented, each having two new subdomains as well.
The book helpfully opens its main section on the new gods with a two-page chart, listing all of the deities and their pertinent information for at-a-glance reference. Each deity is given a single-page write-up, beginning with their “statistical” information in terms of their alignment, domains, favored weapon, etc. I do commend Purple Duck Games for remembering to give us subdomains here, though they did forget to include inquisitions (though to be fair, that’s an easy oversight to make). The majority of the one-page information presents us with the “Legend” section, which tells us of how that deity came to be, and the “Church” section, discussing how that god’s followers conduct themselves in terms of organization and activities.
Interestingly, each also has a paragraph dedicated to “Spell Preparation Ritual” which is the rite by which divine spellcasters of that god regain their spells each day. I enjoyed this section, since it’s little bits of flavor text like this that help to differentiate between clerics of various deities. There’s a mechanical flipside to this in that each deity also has two new religion traits presented, each specific to what it means to be a followers of that particular god.
I had somewhat mixed feelings about the presentation of the various deities. On the one hand, there were some story elements I disagreed with, as some of the legends about where these deities came from seemed off for how deities are usually portrayed in a game world. However, perhaps ironically, that actually makes the in-game mythological nature of these legends more “realistic” in terms of presentation – after all, to the residents of the campaign setting, there probably are no “rules” for how gods function.
Two new monsters are presented, being the creatures of a specific deity. The first is a template with an associated sample creature, while the second is a new monster unto itself. About a dozen spells, all of which are granted from the aforementioned new domains and subdomains, are the book’s final presentation. Some of these may seem familiar if you’re a wider reader of Pathfinder-compatible products, as they all seem to come from other third-party materials, though most likely the majority of them will seem new to you.
Overall, I quite liked what The Gods of Porphyra presents. Knowing the book’s Open nature gives it a feeling of utility, that the publisher is not only making these allowable for re-use, but is actively encouraging us to do so. That’s a feeling that I think should be more prevalent among OGL publishers, especially where setting-based elements of campaign worlds are concerned. Beyond that, the crunch is without any flaws that I saw, and the flavor text is good, though focusing on the Patchwork World of Porphyra more than I suspect most other publishers will want to carry over. Still, it’s good to see some deities presented under the OGL. With any luck, we’ll be seeing them again soon.
[5 of 5 Stars!]