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When browsing the Pathfinderwiki pages I found descriptions of places like "the architecture here is mainly in elven style" or "the architecture is in the serpentfolk style", especially on the page that deals with Ilvarandin.

Are there any resources what these styles should really look like, or is it up to the GM to match the fantasy architecture with random real-world styles that could maybe be found on some special Wikipedia page?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can't answer because it'd be bad subjective (I don't own any) but I'm sure that some Paizo adventures and splat books would have this sort of information? Anything official set in Golarion may have the info you're looking for. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o May 21 '15 at 6:27
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I think the actual look of the style is less important than what it means to be in said style. What I mean by this is that if a building is described as Elven then it can be assumed that it was built by elves and maybe even for elves to dwell/do business in.

If you are looking for a dwarf in some city it would be important to note that "the buildings down the alley to the left look dwarven" so your PCs will know that area of the city is the most likely spot that a dwarf would hang out. Even if you wanted your party to figure out the type of architecture instead of telling them flat out it would be a knowledge check based in their trained skills not based on how well you can describe a building and how much the people at your table know about architecture.

If you want to set a precedence for your game that a particular style has a specific feature that would help/enhance the story then go for it because, as GMJoe points out, there is no real information on dwarven architecture.

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I fear that the information you're looking for does not exist. It's hard to prove a negative, admittedly, but I've never seen or heard of such information, and I imagine that something that comes up so often would have to be located somewhere easy to find. Since it apparently isn't, I'm fairly confident that the information does not exist in any Paizo publication.

I can't say for sure why such information wouldn't exist without engaging in speculation and guesswork - But I'd like to think that my guesswork isn't too far off, so here it is:

The sad truth is that most GMs don't know a lot about architecture. I mean sure, if they've actually studied architectural history, they'll know the difference between Doric and Corinthian columns, and the different styles of architrave, and the kinds of floorplans that were popular in fifteenth-century italian city-states.

But even if they do know, chances are their players won't. As a result, all that knowledge will likely go to waste - because if you were to rank the things players need to know about a dungeon, your list would start with things like:

  1. Where the entrances are
  2. Where the loot is
  3. Where the monster lairs are located
  4. Where the Mcguffin might be found
  5. ...

And so on. The actual details of the architectural style will be so far down such a list that that most groups will never get to them beyond the most superficial level they need to make decisions - and that means that detailing architectural styles is similarly low on the priority lists of campaign setting writers.

"But wait," I hear you thinking, "What about flavour? Flavour's important, and the look of a building is an important part of that!" Well, you're right, but again, most players and GMs aren't familiar enough with architectural terminology for an accurate and detailed description to make much sense - so beyond vague descriptions like "Airy, soaring archways" and "oppressive and dark stone passageways" you're not going to find many useful descriptions of architecture that you'll be able to use, and even those are in the text of adventures rather than in some convenient Pathfinder Campaign Setting supplement.

Even illustrations from published adventures won't help us; The artists who draw them have as much information about late third-era dwarven burrow construction as we do; Every artist will draw their own impression of the architectural style in question, and there's little consistency to be found.

Finally, even in the few situations where it comes up, published information on architecture styles is unnecessary. Most GMs are content with the (completely non-existent) information that's already available, because they know they can just make up the details of fictional art, architecture and cuisine as the campaign demands. Such details are vanishingly unlikely to be important, so few problems will ever be caused by their fabrication; And players won't call their GMs out for getting details wrong, since there's no cannon sources to contradict.

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