For the new players in my Wednesday night D&D game:
Kadish was the heartland of a vast empire that spread across the Sea of Wyrms. In ages past, the Empire was a great center of learning and mystical power, and that is what led to its destruction. Millennia ago five brothers vied for the crown, calling on every possible advantage they could gain over their foes. As the civil war drug on, first one brother, and then the others, called on powers from beyond the world, unleashing horrible monstrosities on the Empire.
Kadish itself was devastated; its citizens fled the grand cities into the jungle, and monsters of all types were loosed upon the land. Across the Sea of Wyrms, the Empire's colonies struggled to survive the death of the motherland, but soon they fell to barbarian invaders. In the following centuries, these invaders rebuilt the cities in their own styles, and now rule seven city-states that stand between the sea and the wild hinterlands beyond.
The Pirate Coast
Forty-five years ago, explorers seeking the lost treasures of Kadish were blown off course to the southeast. After sailing for weeks without any sight of land, they spotted a long archipelago sitting in the Southern Ocean. After making landfall, they found a tropical paradise free of dangerous creatures, and inhabited by tribes friendly gnomes. The islands were rich in gold, pearls, jade, emeralds, and exotic animals, but their greatest treasure were the spices that the gnomes used to cook and preserve food. Ginger, nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon, hot peppers, and allspice were wondrous new flavors to the Lystrakan explorers. Soon the ships were repaired and a route home calculated, and the brave explorers returned to the city of Javik, and to a heroes' welcome. In the ensuing years, merchants continued to make the long journey to the Spice Islands and back, reaping great rewards.
Soon, brave entrepreneurs established resupply ports along the jungle-covered coasts that the spice ships sailed off of. Many of these outposts were destroyed or poorly situated, but two have become small cities in their own rights. Saó Toma and Ríslu are the most prominent, but Sailor's Rest, Havret's Post, Point Breaker, and Perdido are well established. Soon after the spice trade began, pirates descended on the merchant ships, prompting many to form convoys for their own protection. The merchant houses of Lystraka began arming their ships, and even hiring privateers to combat the growing pirate scourge. Their private navies and marines are a common sight in the ports, and the merchant houses hold the real power. Only one port, Saó Toma , remains outside of the control of the merchant houses, and is the only place an independent ship can safely put into harbor and resupply.
In response, the individual pirate captains have formed an alliance, the Brotherhood of the Black Flag. They operate out of hidden ports and out of the way islands, swooping out to attack a convoy and pick off any stragglers. Their many successes and dashing ways have made them famous amongst the populations of the Lystrakan city-states, much to the merchant houses' disgust.
Plantations have been established on the Crab, Black, and Dragon Rivers, and a brisk trade in tobacco, sugar, and indigo has added to the wealth extracted from the Pirate Coast and the jungles of Far Kadish. These plantations are heavily fortified affairs and most are owned by one of the great merchant houses. Labor was once provided by natives of the jungle, however they proved both too intractable and too few in number to meet demands, and so indentured labor from the Lystrakan city-states have been imported. Most of the indentured laborers are not volunteers, but people transported to the new colonies as punishment for crimes. The prisoners are sold to a merchant house, or more rarely an independent operator, who then sends them to the plantations for a ten-year term of service. As the city-states are constantly vying for dominance, the fate of captured soldiers is often transportation, and a lingering death in the jungles of Far Kadish.
The Lost Ruins of Kadish
Shortly over a decade ago, ruins were found near the port of Saó Toma, ruins that date to the Empire of Kadish. This prompted a rush of explorers and tomb raiders who have flooded the ports of the Pirate Coast looking for lost treasures and magical artifacts. The treasure trade now rivals the spice trade for its ability to generate wealth, as expeditions return from the jungles laden with priceless artifacts. Not every expedition returns, as the jungles are still home to monstrosities created during the war or called forth from the Far Realms.
To date, only a handful of ruins that were once towns have been found, and no major city has been located and looted. Most of the expeditions follow the rivers up from the coasts, but a growing number strike overland, hacking their way through the jungle. Progress is slow, but the chance of finding one of the lost cities of Far Kadish drive men and women on, all too often to their deaths.
The Seven City-States of Lystraka
The city-states of Lystraka trace their founding to the colonies flung by the Empire of Kadish across the Sea of Wyrms. Conquered by hordes of barbarians from the west during the fall of the Empire, the cities today bear little resemblance to their past glories. Each city-state sits on the coast, and controls the surrounding farmland and secondary towns, often not much more than fifty or so miles inland. Beyond that lays savage wilderness populated by fierce beasts and wild barbarians.
Evarnton, the Broad Beamed
Rivaling Iros for oddity, Evarnton is a tree city that sprawls for miles inland from the coast. It does not have a very active port, and is one of the least nautically minded of the city-states. What it does have is natural beauty and an abundance of lumber, coal, and iron ore brought from the Karst Mountains to the west. The people of Evarnton are often accused of being as stout and thick as the lumber they cut, an accusation often taken by Evarntonites as a complement.
Ruler: Lord Mayor Yarlvest
Government: Constitutional Monarchy
Races: Human, Dwarf, Eladrin, Shifter
Economy: Lumber, Mining, Manufacturing
Iros, the Spired City
Built atop the remains of five grand towers built during the days of the Empire, Iros presents an unusual view to the visitor. The spires soar high above the ground (save for Sea Spire, which rises out of Blue Wheat Bay) and contain the city's entire population. Bridges of stone, wood, and rope span the distances between the main spires and the secondary spires that rise from their sides. Iros has been described by some as resembling five intricate shells upon which a spider has built its home.
Ruler: King Hassin IV
Government: Absolute Monarchy
Races: Human, Dwarf, Half-Orc
Economy: Agriculture, Trade, and Manufacturing
Javik, City of Ports
Javik is actually seven small towns that have grown together over the centuries to form a large sprawling metropolis. Its position in the center of the Lystrakan Coast has earned it a place as the greatest of trading ports. Two of the Great Merchant Houses, House Iolis and House Kelphis have their home offices here. The city controls a small amount of surrounding land, and its farms cannot support its growing population. Besides trade, Javik is also known as a center of banking and the arts.
Ruler: The Council of Houses
Races: Human, Minotaur, Halfling
Economy: Trade, Banking
Makeen, City of Temples
Famed as the home of the grandest and most influential temples in all of Lystraka, Makeen is also a city known for its learning and arts. Of the six principle deities of the Lystrakan pantheon, only Gortosh, He Who Shall Not be Called, lacks a religious complex. The others dominate the city, both physically and politically. Each temple vies with the others for importance, and naturally advertising their wealth and splendor in the name of the gods, is the best means of demonstrating the power of a cult. The temples are thus great patrons of architects, sculptures, painters, gold smiths, and tailors.
Ruler: Hierophant Augusti XX
Races: Human, Dwarf, Eladrin
Economy: Manufacturing, Tourism
Monrovia the Beautiful
Monrovia's gleaming white walls rise out of the Bay of Angels and encompass the entirety of the Island of Dreams upon which the city sits. Elegant arches and towers crown the sky, and the city's many museums, universities, and libraries are the envy of all others. Monrovia is a city dedicated to the arts and learning, and as such boasts the greatest and most creative minds in all of Lystraka.
Ruler: High Chancellor Linquist
Races: Human, Eladrin
Economy: Education, Tourism
Peshtar, the Greedy
Long known as the most ambitious and aggressive of the city-states, Peshtar seeks to rebuild the lost Empire of Kadish, with its ruler, Emperor Ratherton, at its head. The city is home to one of the three Great Merchant Houses, the Imperial Trading Company, of which the Emperor is the majority shareholder. His armies and navies prowl the world, looking for wealth to steal and foes to vanquish. Imperial agents can be found throughout Lystraka, the Pirate Coast, and the Spice Islands, sniffing out intrigue abroad and treason at home.
Ruler: Emperor Ratherton
Government: Absolute Monarchy
Races: Human, Dragonborn
Economy: Trade, Manufacturing, and Warfare
Thessalorika, the Clever
Whereas Monrovia is known for its high thought, Thessalorika is famous for its craftsmanship and engineering. The city is a stinking, smog and soot covered labyrinth of foundries, workshops, tenements, and dockyards. The most beautiful sword may come from Monrovia, the most delicate holy symbol from Makeen, or the most exotic wooden furniture from Evarnton, but the best-made and utilitarian objects are made in Thessalorika.
Ruler: Queen Ruth V
Government: Absolute Monarchy
Races: Human, Dwarf, Tiefling, Dragonborn
Economy: Trade, Manufacturing