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A Travellersí Guide to Specularum: Specularumís Stronghold District part 1

by AllanP with Giampaolo Agosta from Threshold Magazine issue 25

Author's introduction

This article stems from the work that Giampaolo Agosta (agathokles) and I posted on the Piazza Forums some time ago. That work, adding detail to the city of Specularum, had been inspired by the proposal by Bruce Heard (in his days at TSR) for a line of "city books" adding background to the major cites of the Known World. Thoseof accessories never materialised. However,the fanon output from Giampaolo and myself, along with relevant material at the Vaults of Pandius collected from other Mystara fans, was eventually compiled into the "Specularum" themed issue #21 of Threshold Magazine. That issue included maps of each city district which I had developed from the original city map layout first published in GAZ1: "The Grand Duchy of Karameikos". These local maps showed the placement of buildings across the blocks. Each district had a few notable buildings marked and some had further detail described.

At the back of my mind I had felt it would be an interesting exercise to flesh out the neighbourhood with some more detail -adding to those establishments already placed, the other businesses, workplaces and facilities that would provide some depth to an area. The intent was to provide some assistance to a DM running an adventure in Specularum, giving them some background information that they could use to(a) guide their players through the city,being able to tell them what shops they pass by, (b) where players can find certain establishments if they ask for them, and (c)perhaps give the DM an encounter springboard using one of the businesses or its proprietor.

Realistically it would not be practical to identify every single building - some of the buildings would be purely residential, others might be shops or businesses (some including residential accommodation) and others would just be workplaces. Giampaolo and I had calculated population figures for each city district. I consulted several references, and using those figures calculated the number of basic building types in the district. Then I set about deciding which businesses appeared where and trying to justify their positioning.

Most of the identified buildings are just noted for the business that operates there. Some have brief details of the proprietor - thanks, in part, to a “Specularum Merchant Generator” tool developed by Giampaolo. This tool incorporates the traits system from GAZ7: “The Northern Reaches” to add some personality to these NPCs.

The Stronghold District

This area of the city is seen by many as the root of the Traladaran people and their culture, traced back to the “Dark Age” around 800 BC. Over the centuries it has risen to prominence, led by the Radu clan. The district was the first area of the city to be fortified with stone walls. It has a strategic position overlooking Mirror Bay and the Volaga River, as well as being the major entrance/exit to the city for overland travellers coming from or going to the east. The district's population is the smallest of the city's wards. In 1000 AC, it is estimated that this part of the city has 1,200 residents. The majority (approximately 80%), as might be expected, are Traladaran; around 12% are Thyarian; and as the result of inter-cultural marriages in the years since the arrival of Duke Stefan, the last 8% are “New Karamneikans”. See the articles “A History of Specularum” and “Walking the Wards” in Threshold Magazine issue #21 for more detail on the history and appearance of the Stronghold District.

Those journeying overland to Specularum from the east or north east will enter the city via the Duke’s Road Gate which admits them into the city’s Stronghold District. Having been checked by the City Guard1, the arrivals will be directed onward depending on their reason for coming to the capital.

Newcomers will note the impressive east wing of Radu Manor standing on a rise directly in from of them as they enter through the gate. They may also notice, in the formal garden between the Manor and the entry road, a short column with a bust mounted on it. The eyes of the bust are directed directly towards the gate, as if watching all who enter.

If the travellers are bringing goods or merchandise for the Stronghold Districts’ businesses, their carts will be directed eastward following the perimeter wall and around the residential blocks and on to the warehouse area on the southern side of the district.

Those who have business within the district are directed into the local streets, while those who have objectives lie in other parts of the city are directed along the wide route, known locally as the Broad Way, that follows the northern perimeter of the area to another city gate that provides access beyond the Stronghold District. This roadway skirts several business establishments on its southern side as it sweeps round towards the Stronghold Gate on the district’s western side. Practically all the buildings along this route offer services that would be of interest to adventurers arriving in (or leaving) the city.

At the eastern end of the Broad Way stands the Stronghold Inn (S6) which offers food, drink and lodging to guests. It is run by a family that is related to the Radu clan. The large stables next to it provide for guest’s mounts and is also where Anton Radu’s carriage is kept when not in use.

Adjacent to the stables are a wheel/cartwright (S18), a blacksmith (S19) and the premises of a rope and net maker (S20/21).

Continuing along the Broad Way are:

Cobbler (S22) – After travelling across the wildlands to the city, an individual’s footwear my need some repair having suffered in various terrain and in varying weather. The cobbler makes boots good for life in the city as well as sprucing up those that will be worn by departing adventurers and others setting off on travels.

Undertaker (S23) – Adventurers arriving in Specularum may bring with them the remains of a fallen comrade. The undertaker deals with all faiths provides services to ensure the remains are celebrated and dealt with in the appropriate manner. Additionally, the undertaker may arrange for the transport of the remains to the deceased’s homeland. There are opportunities here for employment to carry out such transportation. Who knows what might (secretly) accompany the departed on their journey?

Jeweller (S24) – One of many similar businesses across the city. This strategically placed operator can purchase gems from arriving adventurers. Of course, any wise traveller would consider seeking out the best offer from a range of establishments first, but their need to exchange the jewellery they have acquired might outweigh this. The shop also sells jewelled items to its customers – perhaps they need a gift to present to someone, or perhaps the gems may be better accepted than hard currency. The proprietor is Ilya Vasilov, [Male, Neutral Human Traladaran], a member of the Goldsmiths' Guild known for being cautious but unreliable; he supports the Radu faction.

Pawn Shop (S25) – This business offers secured loans to people, with items of personal property used as collateral. If an item is pawned for a loan, within a certain contractual period the pawner may redeem it for the original loan plus some agreed-upon amount for interest. If the loan is not paid within the time period, the pawned item will be offered for sale to other customers by the pawnbroker. Such loans may be inviting to arrivals who have little currency with which to procure food or lodging or other requirements. Pawning may also be an option for departing the city and needing a sum of money to fund their travel.

Gambling Hall (S26) – Those individuals without items to pawn might try their luck at one of the games of chance on offer at this establishment. Those who have acquired some wealth (as the result of adventuring or of some other employment) may be enticed to see if they can increase their fortune. But the odds are always against them here.

Physician (S27) – Those arriving in the city may be suffering from some illness or injury. The physician offers possible diagnosis and recommended treatments – perhaps necessitating the services of a local apothecary, cleric or magic-user. Characters preparing to leave the city may consider a “health check” by a physician before they set off, arming themselves with an array of salves, potions and the like to stave off potential harm.

The Golden Sceptre tavern (S2) – a drinking establishment that offers liquid refreshment and temporary rest for those entering the city, or the opportunity to celebrate a departure.

General Merchant (S28) – A store stocking a range of supplies from food to basic equipment. Ideal for those setting off on their travels to stock up with last minute requisites, or for those returning to the city to replenish exhausted items.

Moneylender (S29) – Finances are always important. Those leaving Specularum may have a need to obtain additional funds to buy needed items or services. Whilst others entering the city may need some injection of finance to be able to survive. If they have nothing to sell or pawn, this institution may be their solution, providing some guarantee can be arranged. The Veiled Society may be the ones who offer such an arrangement.

Fortune teller (S30) – What awaits the traveller on their journey across the wildlands, or in the streets of the metropolis? Pergaps the fortune teller can advise them?

Linguist (S31) – With many cultures both ancient and modern across the Known World, adventurers may need the services of a specialist to decipher or translate documents and tomes they that they have “acquired” during their exploits. Or some may need assistance in unravelling clues they need to embark on a new journey.

Cartographer (S32) – In similar fashion to his neighbour, the linguist, this specialist is able to provide maps to assist travellers as they venture across the Known World. Information gained from arrivals in the city enable new or updated maps to be developed.

The Beastman’s Axe tavern (S1) – A popular place for drinking, eating and meeting others, this tavern faces the Stronghold Gate that allows access between the walled Stronghold District and the city’s North End District, which in turn gives free movement to other areas including the Merchant District and the main harbour and docks. Travellers entering from the Duke’s Road and not being seduced or lured by what the Stronghold District offers can move on into other parts of the city to conduct business, seek lodging or refreshment, or perhaps employment (of various kinds).

Likewise, the Stronghold Gate allows those within the city a passage to the Duke’s Road where their journeys can take them north and east through the wilds of Karameikos and beyond. Such travellers may find the businesses along the Broad Way useful in providing last minute purchases of equipment, provisions or services.

Those bringing goods and supplies into the Stronghold District from other parts of the city or beyond will be directed south from the Stronghold Gate to the area of warehouses and granaries, from where the Radu clan arrange the distribution of the materials. This storage area is close to a gate in the southern perimeter wall of the district which provides access to a group of jetties on the north side of Mirror Bay. Goods (and passengers) can be loaded or unloaded from vessels using these jetties that are overseen by the Radus.

Going south from the Beastman’s Axe are a Barber (S53), an Armourer (S54), a Forge/Smithy (S55), before coming to the Stronghold Stables (S3). In the centre of this block is a Tannery (S56) operated by Andrei Vladescu [Male, Chaotic Human Traladaran], known for being cautious but suspicious. Adjacent to the tanner’s workshop is the premses of energetic but greedy Grygory Petrov [Male, Lawful Human Traladaran], a Leather worker (S57). Nearby is the Saddlery (S58) operated by Irena Aleksos [Female, Neutral Human Traladaran]. Irena is a former adventurer and used to be a party scout. Although reverent she is known to be deceitful. Next to Irena’s establishment is a Belt maker (s59). This workshop is run by one of the few non-Traladarans in the Stronghold District: Antonianus Angelian [Male, Neutral Human Thyatian]. Energetic but vengeful, Antonianus owes money to the Goldsmith's Guild. Vladescu, Petrov, A;ekos and Angelian are all members of the Leathersellers' Guild and support the Radu faction

Further up this street are more businesses; they include the Jewellery Shop (S60) of, modest but sometimes rash, Pavel Radianev [Male, Neutral Human Traladaran], and beyond are a Quilter (S61), Skinner (S62), Basket maker (S63) and a Chimney Sweep (S64). The latter is a potential source of local information as his trade takes him into many houses in the district, affording him the opportunity to see and hear things that the residents might wish to keep secret.

Across the street are a Weaver (S52), Scabbard maker (S51) and Weapons maker (S50)/ The last two businesses often providing repairs to weapons damaged during exploits than making new ones. Turning east, this block has the premises of a Broom maker (S49), Rat catcher (S48) and a Purse maker (S47). Further along is the Mercer’s shop (S45) of Darya Ourov [Male, Lawful Human Traladaran], a member of the Tailors' Guild known for being modest but vengeful. After this is a Barber (S45) often catering to users of the next-door Bath house (S44), somewhere that travellers can clean themselves after enduring the time on the trails across the country.

Across the street is a Laundry (S43) that can refresh the dirty clothes of a traveller or of a local worker. A Brothel (S42) is sited in the alley next to the Laundry, offering relaxation to those in need of intimate company. The nearby Perfumer (S41) counts the working girls as some of his regular customers. The neighnouring Apothecary (S40) has many potions for both visitors and staff of the brothel as well as other citizens. The Huntsman Tavern (S5) is run by Zweis Irenescu [Male, Lawful Human Traladaran], a member of the Tavernkeepers branch of the Innholders'.

Along the southern side of this block can be found a Candle and Lamp maker (S39), a Soap maker (S38) and a Cheese maker (S37). The cautious but deceitful Zweis Aleksianescu, [Male, Chaotic Human Traladaran], a former adventuring healer, now a member of the Bakers' Guild operates a Bakery (S36) here. The adjoining Fishmonger (S35) is Theodosius Sulovich [Male, Neutral Human Traladaran], known to be a member of the Radu faction. A Grocer (S34) and a Butcher (S33) are also found on this side of the street.

To Be Continued

1 See Threshold issue #21