The City of Efeterthorp
Efeterthrop is one of those places that may well be a bottomless pit of sin and squalor to most who speak of it, but to those that live and raise their own there they can see no freer place in existence. Ironically, cloaked behind a fierce sense of freedom is a strict social code none break thoughtlessly.
'A Den of Thieves,' 'Morally Bankrupt,' 'A Death Trap,' are the most common monikers for Efeterthorp, and they would be right, in all fairness. The weak have few places to scream out these jeers though, this city is somewhat unforgiving. NaÃ¯ve travelers stumbling through this packed trade city can simply go broke from one end to the other. Fuzzy warnings like; 'Watch Your Purse,' 'Kill and be Killed,' and 'Pay now or Pay later,' stand next to strange booths for a myriad of 'optional' tariffs, offering some kind of protection. All these line a thin ravine through the mountains to the gates of the city.
Life in Efeterthorp:
To visit Efeterthorp the first time can be a whirlwind of frustration. Without a guide who knows what they're doing your better off traipsing around the mountains through the desert rather than enter. (At least that way, you chose how to die.) Quickly, it becomes apparent that the number of purveyors of fine crafts is staggering and the array of materials, arms, and armaments present is a sight to behold in itself. It has been said that one with all the money in the world couldn't purchase a single blocks worth of goods in Efeterthorp on any given day.
The citizens of Efeterthorp carry themselves as proud members of the city. Most all citizens have some modicum of wealth as most are members of one guild or another or are respected merchants. Fewer poor folk do exist, but they stay away from the line light and prefer to survive quietly in the shadows on the scraps they can find. Crime as most citizens see it hardly exists; if some bit of ruckus is caused most people seem more interested in their sale than their safety.
To the trained eye however, one notices skilled hands moving quickly as they pass through a crowd from purse to purse, the muffled screams merely a faint whisper of alarm down an alley, the quiet *clink* of glass as it hits the ground outside a window. This is Efeterthorp: crime is all pervasive, crime is sanctioned,... Crime is Law; this is the true face of the most dangerous city in Estalon.
Crime is Law?
The four ruling guilds work in concert to run this city and by them all are judged. The guilds raised to prominence some hundred years earlier, a shadow of their current state, in the wake of a tyrannical ruler. Once they freed themselves, under their rule no law books were written; the only law to speak of is that of blood. People would see blood on the streets and quickly learned what was forbidden. No form of thievery, murder, or burglary for information or profit is to be carried out, without the full support of the guilds. For trespassers stiff fines and punishments are carried out brutally and quite publicly; as fines could mean ones house burnt down and punishments could easily be death.
More on the guilds can be found here.
Nestled in the mountains bordering the western edge of the Estalon Deserts, Efeterthrop sits near sea level surrounded by steep mountain ranges. The city is completely land locked and if not for some intrepid explorers the area might still be hidden today. The City boasts a number of unique attributes. It, to this day, still contains a bit of the natural forest that once spread across the valley and a low-saltwater lake linked to the nearby ocean by a natural cavern still exists as a seasonal spawning point for many fishes. Additionally a massive gate has been erected to the northern part of the valley as it seals a massive cave opening to the subterranean. There many bizarre and alien subterranean cultures interact with traders of Efeterthrop and exchange good and services unlike any other place in Estalon. While much of the city seems flat and fairly well carved out after centuries of inhabitance, a single spire raises up from the center of town, where many of the elite have taken up residence. This area is difficult to reach as the spire is quite steep; it is accessed by a trolley system moving up and down it at the behest of those with appropriate credentials.
Front gates: These are for the most part ornamental; the long thin ravine path to Efertrthrop is easily defended without any need for hand to hand combat, by accosting insurgents from high ground with arrows and boiling oil. There are hundreds of 'toll booths' lining the entrance where intelligent travelers spend at least an uncomfortable amount for a handful of scrolls to adorn their wagons and property with as to display they have played taxes upfront.
The Slums: The majority of the topside city is rather upscale slums. Simple one to two bedroom apartments with utilities is what 90% of the residents live in, only differing by a handful of square ft. The streets are relatively clean the closer to main road you are, but overall with little room for refuse in the city much is disposed of down to the sewers or the portcullis. The portcullis is an old magic for which little understanding still exist much past setting one up. Few understand what they are doing, but in essence they set up a sympathetic link between the owner and the portal to allow them to transport material to the elemental plane of sludge. Much like all old magic, few understand their origins and this happens to be one of the last forms of old magic modernly performable. That being said, this piece of old magic is most common to plumbing in most old cities of Estalon, as new installments are ludicrously expensive.
The Sewers: The city of Efeterthrop, a rather mundane city at inception once had use of a massive sewer system, but with the introduction of the portcullis, the need for a traditional sewer diminished. Over the centuries of stagnation much of the muck and filth has become fertile ground and those living in the shadows enjoy a fairly healthy diet of mushrooms, lichens, and small mammals. Recently, the city has taken note of this untapped resource, but has made little headway in mapping or taming it.
The Spire: Jutting up from ground level is a massive stony mountain ridge. The nobles and elite have taken to placing large mansions atop of a flattened steppe some 400 ft. up. Here the sun shines all day as the denizens below are cloaked in shadow a majority of the day, shielded by the surrounding mountains. A trolley system is used to easily ascend and descend from the plateau. Only those carrying a wooden trolley coin aren't accosted by the tolls at the bottom. These are for those who do not reside there and cannot be bought; they are given in person by a resident themselves, and carry a metal one of their own.
The Gate: At the northern end of town wide birth is given to 'The Gate.' Here a massive military structure is built across a huge subterranean opening. Here much of the exotic foods and crafts Efeterthrop is known for enter, as trade with subterranean cultures is brisk. The Gates are a dangerous and volatile area, great care is taken not to offend guests and maintain peaceful interactions. This is also a set off point for many expeditions in to the deep, adventurers and archeologists alike have been fascinated with the deep, though few return to tell their tales.
'The Ocean:' A large lake situated on the east side of the city is connected to the ocean by an underground cavern. Here Salt water flows in filling the lake and mixes with runoff form the surrounding mountains creating a low saltwater gradient that is nearly fresh water at the top and more salty as it descends; many fishes and other types of marine life use this area for spawning. As such fish are a main source of nutrition in the city and some areas heavily guarded, as to protect certain areas form overfishing. Or rather that rarer fishes whose eggs are considered delicacies are guarded because; a man can make an entire year's wages on a simple handful.
The Docks: Surrounding 'the Ocean,' are the docks. All manner of things are stored here and each house under strict guard, by their owners.
The Forest: The forest holds many secrets to this day, as the remaining portions of the forest are sacred in a way. A native group of druids has cultivated the forest and beat back many attempts to tame the area, at the city's founding. Over time the druids that reside her have dwindled in numbers as more and more of their forest was cut back from the edges. Today the druids exist peacefully with the surrounding city offering a number of services unique to their peoples. So calm the relationship with the populace and themselves, one may safely venture in and even through the forest for a means of meditation or escape from the city's cacophony. This is permitted only to those whose intentions are meditative and humble; otherwise consequences are still quite dire for those who disrespect the land. The forest acts as a refuge of sorts, boasting a spa and a temple for the worship of nature. It is common for rangers and traveling druids to find solace here.
The Park: Not far from the Forest lies the park, here festivals are held including the King of Satyrs Festival, often simply called Festival. During these times hundreds of additional tents, many from outside merchants, flood into the park to sell their wares hoping to take advantage of the celebrations.
Let it be known that there isn't anything that can't be obtained with enough time and coin in Efeterthrop. The circumstances of the object in mind can range from lost, stolen, to hidden. Material goods can move like phantoms through the city and touch a thousand hands in a day if desired enough and you can be one of them too, if you know the right people to talk to.
1. You're here to find something, can you?
2. You thwart a mugging only to incur the wrath of the powers that be.
3. You attend the spa and discover evil rituals being secretly held in back rooms.
4. You're simply traveling through, but didn't feel the need to pre-pay the 'taxes.' Now you're stranded, destitute. The red tape alone in the guilds, to log a complaint of over-taxation, can be tons of fun for you to discover.
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? Responses (12)
Update: Added map.
The main thing I don't understand are twofold. The first is why no one has conquered it. It seems to me that a city run by four gangs wouldn't have a very strong military to defend the city, or would be very capable of recruiting from the populace to serve as a military. I suppose they could rely on mercenaries, but then you run the risk of them betraying you (gold doesn't motivate people to not run away as well as patriotism and nationalism). Does the City enter a series of alliances and trade agreements with other cities to gain protections, and who organizes these diplomacy policies?
My second inquiry is about the populace. It seems to me that the benefits of living in a city pale besides being the equivalent of being a deer during hunting season. They can be constantly abused by the guilds, and have no laws or government to protect them. As you said, the only thing keeping them from just slaughtering people is blood ties, which leads to another question: why haven't blood feuds and guild feuds torn the city apart? There has to be some sort of glue to keep things from falling apart.
Other than this, I felt that it was highly original. Though I may appreciate more details and flavor text, the idea of a City of naught but crime shone through and proved a hint of excellence. Great job.
Those are great concerns,
1. Why hasn't it been concurred? A few things; the political environment of Estalon, to be expanded later, is fearful of war. The last war claimed nearly 2/3 of the continent, leaving 'desolate' wasteland.
a. Why hasn't the populace overthrown the 'government?' Generally speaking most residents with the power to do so have at least some cursory connection to at least one guild in family or similar ties, as such many are provided a number of privileges, that sate many of the frustrations mentioned. Much of the abuse is upon travelers and new merchant upstarts, as a bit of hazing as it were.
b. If another city-state or country did attack, what's stopping them without their own military? Namely the tiny ridge pass is easily defensible, barricades and constant hazing make breaking through quite difficult. It can remain closed indefinitely because the city is nearly self sufficient, with access to food and an escape to the subterranean in the worst case scenario.
2. Why haven't blood feuds and guild feuds torn the city apart? Good point! I'm not saying that isn't close to happening, the fear of losing the status quo is the only thing left. As a conceptual aspect of the town, it is close to falling apart. A handful of spry PCs might just see to that. ;)
A great little hive of villany!
Do you have a link to a higher-res version of the map? The current one is not really readable.
Why do they call their sewage disposal a portcullis? Thats a little confusing to me - there are few details given a portcullis has an existing specific meaning.
Ah yes, the Portcullis (see also, Porticullus), that's a bit of spoilers on my part. I meant to make an item sub on this one; it might be shorter, but thinking I should write it anyways. But basically its a mispronunciation/ miscommunication of its original name, 'The Culling Portal.'
Working on better resolution map.
Better map added hopefully, it should be easier to read albeit a little on the light side.
So the gangs also act as the police, like in Ankh-Morpork?
Thank you google, so is that in diskworld then? A friend tried to explain something about that to me when he read this, but i got kinda lost. So maybe, but not on purpose.
I like this city, the original small details is what does it for me, the spire and the agriculture in the sewers, though I have a hard time understanding how a city mostly made out of slums can afford to sell so much merchandise. The sub itself could do with a proof-reading, and the plot hooks were somewhat strange, other than that, original and likeable.