The lost and ancient kingdom of Ghol-Gan (pronounced GOHL-gahn)1 was a once magnificent cyclops civilisation made great by their gift for prophecy that eventually degenerated into worship of alien deities, bloody rituals, cannibalism, and ultimately collapse.234
At its height, the Ghol-Gani civilisations covered a vast area, including what is today known as the Shackles and Mediogalti Island, as well as the southern part of the Sodden Lands and a section of the western Mwangi Expanse.5 It is believed that Ghol-Gan's first city lies at what is now the centre of the Eye of Abendego. When Ghol-Gan was founded long before Earthfall, the continent of Garund stretched much further west into the Arcadian Ocean, and the isles of the Shackles were then a mountain chain that connected Mediogalti Island to what is modern-day Rahadoum. The land between these mountains, and what is now the Sodden Lands, were once sprawling hills and jungle quite similar in climate to the Mwangi Expanse. It was across this region that Ghol-Gani civilisation once thrived.2
Ghol-Gan pre-dates the rise of Azlant, having been at its height during the Age of Serpents.5 However, scholars are uncertain of the exact origins of Ghol-Gan but broadly divide it into four periods.2
Of all the periods of Ghol-Gan civilisation, the least understood is the prehistoric period, when cyclopes formed its first settlements. It was characterised by worship of nature spirits, but almost none of the remains of this period has been found.2
Almost all the ruins that remain above the waters of the Arcadian Ocean are from the pre-classical period or later, because Ghol-Gan did not expand to those areas until after the prehistoric era had ended. This pre-classical period marked the first time the cyclopes of Ghol-Gan began encountering creatures like dragons and the civilisations of twin-eyed elves and giants.2
The classical period is marked by the Ghol-Gani developing their writing system and grasping the significance of their species' mono-eyed physiology. With this new understanding, the sun and moon took on a special significance in Ghol-Gani culture due to their resemblance to an eye. With these new twin spherical deities came a cultural feeling of superiority, and the cyclopes began practicing animal sacrifice to appease the sun and moon.
The classical period included the height of Ghol-Gani civilisation as it flourished and expanded. Settlements grew into the first true Ghol-Gani cities, and the first vast limestone and basalt ziggurats, now so strongly associated with the Ghol-Gani, were built during this era. These cities grew to support tens of thousands of inhabitants; Tzaarban, the largest of these, is believed to have been home to over 100,000 inhabitants.2
As the cities of Ghol-Gan grew, they expanded downward as well as outward. They pierced the highest layer of the Darklands, Nar-Voth (which the Ghol-Gani called Reguare, meaning "Sleepless Realm"), and inadvertently started their civilisation's gradual decline. Amongst the benighted depths, the Ghol-Gani first encountered the serpentfolk, and those they fought represented only the fringes of the greater serpentfolk empire. The Ghol-Gani saw the Reguare as just another realm to conquer by crushing the serpentfolk, but in the lightless depths away from their sun and moon gods, they strayed into madness.3
Those cyclopes who spent most of their lives below, seemingly abandoned by the celestial deities of the land above, began to adopt the dark ideologies of the serpentfolk they had fought. These foul, malignant beliefs found their way to the surface civilisation above and were adopted by both commoners and the nobility. Animal sacrifices gradually gave way to cyclops sacrifice, and eventually descended into blood-thirsty, cannibalistic acts.3
Some of the most potent seers of the Ghol-Gani foresaw this collapse and warned their leaders away from this path. When their pleas fell on deaf ears, they fled and founded the distant empire of Koloran on the continent of Casmaron in what is modern-day Iobaria, and the even more remote island nation of Iblydos. The cyclopes who remained behind began their descent into the post-classical era by reinterpreting their old gods. The sun became a ruthless oppressor to be appeased with mass slaughters and rivers of blood, while the full moon was celebrated by appalling debauchery and unspeakable acts.3
The final phase of Ghol-Gan civilisation was marked by the decline of both their conquests across western Garund, and their moral decline as they an abandoned what little shreds of restraint remained. In the darkness of Nar-Voth, the most atrocious rituals took place.4 The Ghol-Gani embraced the worship of foul entities such as the Blood Queen6 and the Blind Formless Chaos That Lies Behind the Stars, Azathoth.7
Artefacts of this era lack the incredible artistry of earlier eras, and instead depict a people seemingly embracing their oncoming doom by abandoning all morals. The Ghol-Gani took to worshipping nightmarish monsters who further warped their minds and performed unspeakable experiments on their fellow cyclopes, including breeding with otherworldly creatures to spawn new servants and hybrids.4
The ngoga that still lurk in parts of the Mwangi Expanse are a relic of ancient Ghol-Gan. They were said to be granted as a gift from the sinister divine patrons of the empire toward the end of the post-classical era and were used by the Ghol-Gani as trained warbeasts.8 They even slew one another en masse and feasted upon the flesh of their own kindred in the deluded belief it would return the lost glories of their civilisations.4
By the time the Age of Legend drew to a close and the Starstone brought about Earthfall, Ghol-Gani civilisation was all but dead. The resulting earthquakes sank most of Ghol-Gan beneath the waves of the Arcadian Ocean into the area now known as the Eye of Abendego. The tunnels that connected the Ghol-Gani region of Reguare with the rest of the Darklands collapsed, leaving the region almost totally cut off from the rest of the Darklands.4
The last patriarch of Ghol-Gan was Ammelon VI. His treasures are said to be contained within the waterlogged temple of Xanthuun in the Sodden Lands. Most of the information known today about Ghol-Gan was obtained by expeditions into these extremely dangerous ruins.9 Hundreds have also died trying to explore the sunken ruins beneath the Gold Phoenix Aviary in search of Ammelon VI's treasure.10
In 4111 AR, explorers from Cheliax rediscovered the ruins of Ghol-Gan, but found them too disturbing and declined to settle there, having been convinced that the coastline was haunted and cursed.11 Instead, they continued southward and founded the colony of Sargava.12
Modern scholars are almost certain that the Ghol-Gani did not use any sort of currency. What little Azlanti coin has been found amongst Ghol-Gani ruins seems to have been solely used as a trade good valued for its precious metals and artistry. It is believed that, at least from the classical period onwards, food and other necessities were distributed based on status as well as through a complex system of auguries and mysterious superstitions. The institutions responsible for such distribution, especially in Ghol-Gan's later years, were known to be deeply corrupt. In the Ghol-Gani political system, even from the early classical era, power lay in the hands of tyrants and their chosen officers, power that they happily abused for their own selfish gains.8
In the prehistoric and pre-classical eras of Ghol-Gan, most of their manufactured items were made of perishable materials. It was not until the classical era that the Ghol-Gani mastered bronze and towards the end of the classical era even iron and steel. The Ghol-Gani forged mighty metal weapons that helped greatly in their conquests. Some of those weapons blessed by their celestial patrons have even survived into the present day. The Ghol-Gani were most renowned, however, for their mastery of stonework. Beyond even their incredible building, the Ghol-Gani could carve stone into armour and dazzling jewellery of jade and obsidian. Their most powerful tyrants were sometimes so bedecked in stone armour and jewellery that they looked more like statues than living beings. Ghol-Gani magical jewellery is still highly valued by the smaller races who might wear an arm torc as a belt, or a ring for a necklace or a choker.8
The people of Iblydos owe their existence to the cyclopes that emigrated from Ghol-Gan during that doomed empire's decline and, though the giants have dwindled in number since, they and humans continue to co-exist on the archipelago. The greatest mortals earn the rite of myth-speaking, in which the cyclopes foresee how that hero might attain mythic power through great deeds. Many of these so-called hero-gods have since ruled one of Iblydos's city-states, granting spells to followers and heralding in a new age of prosperity or tyranny. Since the deaths of Aroden and prophecy itself, the tradition has failed with troubling frequency. Now the last hero-gods age and dwindle, and a new generation of heroes must arise to combat the greatest threat to the islands: the thalassic behemoth Ousmariku.1314
The sole citizens of Ghol-Gan were the cyclopes, not the ravenous and violent people known in modern times, but rather oracles, soothsayers, engineers, and emperors. Interestingly, the feral and destructive great cyclopes were not a product of the decline of Ghol-Gani civilization but are recorded as having dwelt outside its cities even during the height of the classical era.15
- See also: Category:Ghol-Gan/Locations
Ghol-Gani magic users infused their craft into the buildings and other structures they built, so some have have survived the ravages of time. Their similarity to the ruins of the cyclops kingdoms in northern Casmaron indicate that the people of Ghol-Gan were also cyclopes.16 Ghol-Gani ruins still dot the lands that they once controlled, even millennia later. Many ruins also lie scattered across the sea floor of the Arcadian Ocean surrounding what is now the Eye of Abendego. These ruins are often still inhabited by brutish modern cyclopes who have fallen far from the glorious heyday of the classical Ghol-Gani period.2 Spread across four modern nations, those ruins still on dry land are the most easily explored and these ancient stone cities and towering ziggurats are what most people now think of when they hear the name Ghol-Gan.4
Some of the most famous Ghol-Gani ruins include:
- City of Bleeding Stones, an ancient ruined city on the island of Devil's Arches that is still haunted by some ancient, malignant evil.17
- Ganagsau, the largest Ghol-Gani ruins on the Cannibal Isles. Ganagsau houses the Blood Queen, an immortal servant of the alien deities worshipped by the post-classical Ghol-Gani.18
- Gold Phoenix Aviary, a hidden aviary that is home to the phoenix Erenkrest who was captured by the last patriarch of the Ghol-Gani.19
- Gutblood Labyrinth, a section of the Sleepless Realm isolated from the rest of the Darklands, it lies unexplored beneath Rechiend's Plains.4
- Imnuxeos, a stretch of plains south of the Terwa Uplands that was once the greatest arena in all Ghol-Gan, the ghosts of its combatants haunt this cursed region to this day.20
- Sumitha, a mountain retreat for seers on what is now known as the Island of Empty Eyes in the Shackles.21
- Temple of the Ravenous Moon, a Ghol-Gani temple in the Terwa Uplands whose white marble was stained red by the sheer number of blood sacrifices made there. Every expedition to explore its interior has failed to return.20
- Tzaarban, the ancient capital of Ghol-Gan that now lies lost somewhere beneath the waves of the Arcadian Ocean.4
- Xanthuun, this temple served as the bastion and final resting place of the last patriarch of the Ghol-Gani, Ammelon VI.2219
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
- “Appendices” in Campaign Setting, 246. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- “Ghol-Gan” in Lost Kingdoms, 25. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- “Ghol-Gan” in Lost Kingdoms, 26. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- “Ghol-Gan” in Lost Kingdoms, 27. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 213. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Threats of the Shackles” in Isles of the Shackles, 45. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- “Occult Locations” in Occult Realms, 32–33. Paizo Inc., 2015 .
- “Ghol-Gan” in Lost Kingdoms, 31. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- “Chapter 5: The World” in Campaign Setting, 222. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
- Burnt Offerings, 85. Paizo Inc., 2007 .
- “Dangerous Waters” in Pirates of the Inner Sea, 3. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 170. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- F. Wesley Schneider. (8 October 2015). See the World, Visit Distant Shores, Paizo Blog.
- “Aelyosos” in Distant Shores, 11. Paizo Inc., 2015 .
- “Ghol-Gan” in Lost Kingdoms, 29. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- The Inner Sea World Guide, 210–11. Paizo Inc., 2011 .
- “Shackles Gazetteer” in Isles of the Shackles, 8. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- “Shackles Gazetteer” in Isles of the Shackles, 17. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- “Ghol-Gan” in Lost Kingdoms, 33. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- “Ghol-Gan” in Lost Kingdoms, 28. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- “Island of Empty Eyes” in Island of Empty Eyes, 29–38. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- “Ghol-Gan” in Lost Kingdoms, 32. Paizo Inc., 2012 .