Champions of Old Korvosa
Welcome to Korvosa
“Not only couldn’t I imagine living anywhere else—I simply wouldn’t. I’m a good man, a faithful husband, a loving father, and a responsible citizen. What I do has a purpose— and that purpose is to keep Korvosa safe. It might not be a glamorous job, but it’s as important as anything else. So if you’re looking for trouble, might I suggest Magnimar or Kaer Maga? You’ll save yourself some hard labor and me a lot of paperwork if you do.”
—Captain Tevigant Bereskan, Korvosan Guard, South Shore Garrison
“You consider yourself exceptional. You agitators always do. You mistakenly think yourself above the immutable laws of our glorious city’s charter. You think you’re special. Well, as you’re about to discover, nobody is above arbitration. Not the magistrates. Not even the king. And especially not you.”
—Garrin Divraid, Korvosan arbiter, to a condemned unionizer before his hanging
“Why do I live here? Why live in the most regimented, law-abiding, oppressive city this side of Bloodsworn Vale? Answer’s simple, mate. With the Sable Company flapping around in the clouds, Hellknights stomping around on the streets, and the Korvosan Guard caught between them, no one knows who’s got jurisdiction over what. You just gotta know when to hide and know when to bribe. Now, you wanna buy this magic dagger or not?”
—Corb “Birdtongue” Meever, Cerulean Society Fence
Like the people of any other city, Korvosans concern themselves more with the day-to-day particulars of living than with politics, history, or macroeconomics. Still, Korvosa has a few particular nuances that make it and its citizens unique. The following overview only begins to touch on what it means to be a Korvosan in the year 4704.
At its height, just before the death of Aroden and the departure of the separatists who founded Magnimar, Korvosa just topped 23,000 inhabitants. It lost nearly 10,000 to the resulting chaos of the time, but in the last century it regained half that many. As a result of its rapid contraction and slow re-expansion, many of the aff luent sections of Korvosa remain underpopulated. With the buildings it has and the area it covers, Korvosa could comfortably fill out to a true metropolis.
The dichotomy of Korvosa’s underpopulated affluent wards with overcrowded Old Korvosa highlights the city’s greatest failing: the vast gulf of separation between its wealthy, powerful elite and its dreadfully impoverished poor. This gulf between social classes colors the development of the city and led to the creation of some of the features unique to Korvosa.
Those who live in Korvosa respect and admire ostentatious displays of wealth, power, or knowledge. They consider confidence and competence the greatest of assets, and they deride or heckle those who display weakness, indecisiveness, or inability. Korvosans are quick to judge and slow to forgive.
In addition to power, Korvosans love predictability. Korvosans like to regulate their lives, reating strict regimens for themselves that they slavishly follow. Upsetting a Korvosan’s routine can ruin his entire day and likely makes him angry. To this end, Korvosa strictly enforces its laws (which often have harsh punishments far in excess of the law codes of other non-evil governments) and rewards those who play by the rules. That said, Korvosa also recognizes that not everyone plays by the same rules, so it compensates by applying regulations to nonviolent criminals in the form of vice taxes and official recognition of the city’s single thieves’ guild.
The city of Korvosa wears its Chelaxian heritage proudly on every building, tower, and rooftop. As the oldest human settlement in Varisia (a claim frequently challenged by Kaer Maga), Korvosa considers itself the founding seat of civilization in an otherwise lawless region. Thanks to it and the spread of its people, Varisia has become a relatively safe place to live.
Korvosa sits at the end of Conqueror’s Bay, where the Jeggare River meets the sea. The city fills the spit of land formed by two sharp turns in the river, covers Endrin Isle (which splits the river at its mouth), and spreads to a few outlying areas on the far shore of the Jeggare. It stands on two hills: Garrison Hill on Endrin Isle and Citadel Hill on the mainland. The Narrows of Saint Alika separates Endrin Isle from the shore.
The city is divided into seven districts, many of which are further subdivided into wards.
Korvosa also has two unofficial districts that exist outside the city walls.
Five major landmarks give Korvosa a distinctive skyline: the ancient and massive structures of Castle Korvosa, Pillar Wall, and Gatefoot, as well as the more practically sized Great Tower and Hall of Summoning, which have stood for less than 50 years. In addition to these landmarks, several locations unique to the city bear mention:
The Acadamae: Shrouded in secrecy, the 30-foot-high walls of this great college of wizardry only barely conceal the grand Hall of Summoning. Visitors and residents cannot hope to ignore the presence of the Acadamae, and since very few people unconnected with the college know what happens within it, the place births abundant (and sometimes ludicrous) rumors.
Castle Korvosa: The centerpiece of the city, Castle Korvosa towers over the Heights. Multiple lord magistrates, seneschals, and monarchs have added to the castle over the past three centuries. As such, despite a relatively consistent neo-Chelaxian styling, the castle’s main towers and interior buildings are crammed together haphazardly.
The Shingles: Permanent and semi-permanent homes, roads, and safehouses appear on roofs throughout the most crowded parts of the city. These rooftop communities and the pathways that connect them are collectively known as the Shingles.
The Vaults: Most cities have sewers. Some can even claim dungeons beneath them. Yet few have as complex a system of subterranean tunnels quite like the Vaults of Korvosa. Modern Korvosa stands atop the remains of at least two other civilizations and integrates both of them in its design.
Three military groups police and protect Korvosa. Each one focuses its efforts on different areas, and interacts with the city’s monarchy in its own way. While the three orders work with each other, there is little love lost between them.
Korvosa is a constitutional monarchy, whose laws are based on those of Imperial Cheliax from before the Chelaxian Civil War. Korvosa’s government is split into three groups. The arbiters serve both as judges, trying criminal cases and settling civil dispute, and as a legislature. The magistrates handle the day-to-day bureaucracy of city management. And the monarchy serves as Korvosa’s diplomats and defenders. Five Korvosan noble houses trace their ancestry directly to Imperial Chelish nobility. Nearly all Korvosan Magistrates, Arbiters, Royal Advisers, and military leaders are from one of the noble houses.
Currently, King Eodred Arabasti II sits upon the Crimson Throne. The King of Korvosa is generally well-liked by the people, and has ruled the city for nearly 20 years. Eodred successfully negotiated several favorable trade deals with Cheliax and the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, bringing in much-needed capital, which he has used for several public works projects. Personally, however, Eodred is known for lavish personal spending and seveal scandals (including persistent rumors of his keeping a secret harem of slave girls, and some semi-public indescretions with buxom young noblewomen). Now nearly 60 years old, Eodred has never married and has no heir. There are rumors that he’s finally on the market for a suitable queen.
LN large city
Corruption +2; Crime +0; Economy +4; Law +5; Lore +4; Society +0
Qualities academic, holy site, magically attuned, prosperous, strategic location
Government overlord (King Eodred II)
Population 18,500 (16,750 humans, 750 dwarves, 350 elves,
350 halflings, 150 half-elves, 150 other)
Notable Leaders: Swordmistress Sabina Merrin, Headmaster Toff Ornelos, Field Marshall Cressida Kroft
Base Value 12,800 gp; Purchase Limit 85,000 gp;
Minor Items 4d4; Medium Items 3d4; Major Items 2d4
[Text of this entry was excerpted from Curse of the Crimson Throne Players Guide ©2008 Paizo; Guide to Korvosa ©2008 Paizo; and Varisia: Birthplace of Legends ©2012 Paizo.]