Rise of the Runelords
Korvosa (pronounced kohr-VOH-sah) is the largest city found in the wilderness area known as Varisia, and serves as the seat of one of three city-states that claim independent authority over their individual holdings in the region. Though its citizens and traditions have strong ties to the nation of Cheliax, with many of its people tracing their ancestry directly to servants of the Empire, the city’s location at the mouth of the Jeggare River and the presence of a highly-defensible harbor have contributed to the establishment of Korvosa as a primary hub for trade; various cultures and peoples can be found within the city’s walls as goods move in and out of its gates.
Korvosa is the eldest of Varisia’s three city-states, once part of Imperial Cheliax but now independent. The settlement originally served as no more than a defensive position from which settlers and explorers would enter Varisia, only growing into the cosmopolitan center of trade that it is today with the passage of time and events.
Before the arrival of the Empire of Cheliax, Korvosa was no more than a site sacred to the Shoanti; the protection of the location, as well as the pyramid found there, was of great importance. However, in 4407 AR a group of Chelish marines under the command of Field Marshal Jakthion Korvosa selected the site to begin construction of a defensive outpost. Once completed, Fort Korvosa acted as a common stop for explorers, settlers, and trappers operating in the region. The trading post and its defenses were later strengthened after a Shoanti raiding forced burned much of the location in what would become known as the Great Fire.
The Cousins’ War began in 4502 AR, the result of an insult directed at one of Korvosa’s noble families. The conflict heralded the end of the settlement’s significance as a military position, but also resulted in the growth of both its population and economic power. Soon after, Korvosa was seen as a true colony of the Empire of Cheliax.
In 4606 AR the death of the deity Aroden resulted in civil war in Cheliax; many of the Empire’s colonies, including Korvosa, suffered as their connection to the homeland unexpectedly disappeared. The city’s government has succeeded in achieving some measure of prosperity since the Empire’s decline, but the city’s recovery from the chaos that resulted as a result of the Empire’s sudden absence has been slow; its population is but a fraction of what most would expect given a settlement of Korvosa’s physical size.
The government of Korvosa is comprised of three official branches, each with its own unique sphere of influence. In addition, Korvosa’s noble families exert limited power in the affairs of government.
Since their appointment following the decline of Imperial Cheliax, the monarchs of Korvosa have served as the primary diplomats and defenders of the city-state; the city’s royal bloodline has served the populace from the famed Crimson Throne since Korvosa gained its unexpected independence. The monarchy’s authority has always been limited, with control of Korvosa’s government shared among groups that existed prior to its inception.
The arbiters of Korvosa act as judges, hearing disputes and crimes and determining punishments for those deemed guilty. They also hold the responsibility of legislative oversight over decisions made by the other branches of Korvosa’s government. The most well-known senior arbiter in the city is Zenobia Zenderholm, also known as the “Hanging Judge”. She is justifiably feared by the criminal classes for her harsh rulings.
Korvosa’s magistrates are in charge of the daily management of the city. The 23 individuals that comprise this body are primarily concerned with matters of bureaucracy, including taxation, economic oversight, and public works.
The monarchy is advised by the Peerage Review, a council composed of the heads of Korvosa’s five Great Houses. The remaining 21 noble house comprise the Dock Families, each boasting control over one or more of the city’s docks.
Korvosa’s military resources are embodied in three separate organizations, each charged with protecting the city-state and its people in manners unique to each group.
The primary responsibility of the Korvosan Guard is the protection and well being of the city of Korvosa. Its members serve as police and will, in times of danger from beyond the city’s walls, also act in the capacity of a defensive military force. In addition, the Guard also often works to forward the interests of the government and the local church of Adabar.
The hippogriff-mounted marines of the Sable Company answer directly to Korvosa’s monarchy, their orders given to them by the standing seneschal of Castle Korvosa. Their purpose is to patrol and defend the city’s skies and waterways, though they’ve also been known to assist the Korvosan Guard in their efforts throughout the city.
The Hellknights of the the Order of the Nail pursue their unyielding ideals of order and law above all else; they are fanatical when confronted by behavior or events that fly against their strict worldview.
Despite its remote location in relation to other major cities in Avistan, Korvasa is nonetheless a major commercial player in Golarion. Its primary export is seafood, such as oysters (the Straits of St. Alika are famous for their oyster beds), reefclaw claws, caviar, and other high-end seafoods. Also in the high-end foodstuffs department, Korvosa exports thileu bark to Cheliax at ridiculously high prices. It also exports goods made in its vassal states and is the only port that ships off Janderhoff goods. Thanks to the impressively large bank of Adabar, Korvosa is also an important banking and financial city. Thanks to the presence of the Acadamae, Korvosa is also a fair-sized supplier of magic items, especially low-level ones utilizing the school of conjuration. The Arkona family imports a lot of items from distant Budara, which then are distributed throughout northern and western Avistan. Finally, as much as the government is loathe to admit, Korvosa has a pretty impressive drug trade, although it mainly imports such goods.
Korvosa’s food supplies come from the farms around it and its vassal communities, although it does import foods that can’t grow in its climate. Wine is a major import, for example, as are tropical and subtropical fruits. The majority of Korvosa’s imports, though, are in “manufactured goods.” Despite the presence of the Ironworks in the city, Korvosa’s capacity to produce finished goods lags well behind its demand, and like any good colony it imports a lot of such supplies from its homeland. Textiles are another example of that need.
Devargo Barvassi, King of Spiders
Garrick Tann, Magistrate of Commerce
Keppira d’Bear, cleric of Ferismia
Lolia Perenne, Magistrate of Regulation
Mercer Cucuteni, Magistrate of Tourism
Neolandus Kalepopolis, seneschal of Castle Korvosa
Ornher Reebs, cleric of Asmodeus
Syl Gar, Magistrate of Expenditures
Tempest Geezlebottle, gnome wizard
Samp, rogue wererat
Thaviun Rigulus, wizard