A city setting outline for Barbarians of Lemuria or any sword & sorcery game
This is a city I created for use with my home grown Swords & Sorcery campaign set in the lands beyond the Circle Sea. It was made in response to my player characters pursuing a notorious and evil Pirate King into the Bone Coast region that they had previously not travelled. In order to gain safe passage to hunt those waters they needed to deal with the city of Gathkun and reach some kind of arrangement allowing them to do so.
As is often the case with my notes I don’t present a particular throughline or plot, I just put together the ingredients on the page (or actually in OneNote) with some likely themes, conflicts and characters, and then see what the player characters focus on and go from there.
As it turned out the three or four sessions they spent in Gathkun turned into a locked-in palace intrigue with the incitement of at least two separate plots to usurp the tyrant, assassins in secret passages, the loosing of a caged dinosaur from the menagerie and encountering a giant scorpion in the bowels of the palace.
Here are my original notes for the city of Gathkun – anyone is free to take, twist, adapt and use any or all of it for their own gaming, but I’d appreciate it if you let me know what you did and how it went if you do.
- Gathkun is a great city on the Bone Coast ruled by Sothik nobility with Hathi subjects (Think Ancient Egyptian Rulers/East African subjects)
- There is great wealth there from inland mines deep in the jungle-covered mountains
- Built on a promontory with a deep harbour
- White stone buildings, richly adorned, wide avenues lined with statuary
- Off the main avenues are crowded buildings, stalls, beggars, ruins and poverty
- The wealthy are carried on chairs on the shoulders of servants, accompanied by warriors
- Public executions take place at key intersections, the crowds cheer because they have to. Their is hatred and tension in the air.
- A Sothik despot named Shath-Kas the most high. An absolute ruler who keeps his power by paranoia and tyranny.
- His court is palatial and indulgent. He spoils his loyal supporters with every decadent treat… the better to keep an eye on them and their weaknesses.
- Anyone seeking an audience has to attend a public gathering at the Place of Wisdom which is an open square outside the palace, where the Most High appears at a window high above. People pay money to hawkers to write their petitions on special scrolls with special pens and special ink (nothing special except they’re only sold here) and these are all loaded into a basket and pulled up. The Most High selects two or three at random and generally makes very brief responses – settling arguments, handing out judgements on a whim.
THE TYRANT’S COURT
- Of course there is a Vizier, the red-robed, golden masked Harra-Tan-Mor who is Shath-Kas’ closest and wisest advisor. Unbeknown to almost everyone, Harra is a Hathi, his identity hidden from the scornful Sothik courtiers who would refuse to tolerate his presence as anything but a slave. Shath-Kas knows of course, and values Harra’s wisdom.
- Namu-Resh is a general of Gathkun’s armies and a highly placed courtier. He is mainly loyal to Shath-Kas but his wife, Keperin would rather be the wife of the ruler than the wife of a mere General, and since Shath-Kas publicly scorned her months ago she’s been working to get Namu-Resh into a position where he might consider a coup. She’s the driving force behind this, but very persuasive and many of the palace guard are secretly loyal to her.
- Temra is a handsome young nobleman of about 16 years old who is pretty much a prisoner in the palace, held hostage against the good behaviour of his father Kovis who is the admiral of Gathkun’s navy. He’s a decent, optimistic and somewhat naive young man that may not even realise he’s a captive.
- The most dominant cult in Gathkun is the cult of Radamath the Celestial
- Radamath is an immortal priest, an incarnate god according to his followers
- His body is so aged and withered it is capable of no movement and is carried everywhere in a litter. But his mind is as sharp, cruel and inhuman as it was in his first century of life.
- Radamath, it is believed, guards the gates to the Afterlife. Nobody who dies moves on to their eternal paradise without Radamath’s blessing. He can imprison a soul within its dead body, or condemn it to endure a life as a disembodied spirit in a hell of his own making.
- His followers do not fear death – their own or others. They wear ink black robes with hoods that cover their entire heads. Rumour suggests some of them are long dead but still obedient.
- The cult is centred on the Necropolis a whole district of crypts and graveyards, with Radamath’s shrine/dwelling at its very centre in a building marked by three black obelisks.
- The nearest thing to a guild of thieves in Gathkun are Raka’s Shadows
- Mother Raka is a former bawd, a tough as nails criminal strategist who seems to know of every profitable and illegal deal being made in the city.
- The Unsleeping Locusts are a gang of pickpockets and burglars, part of Raka’s Shadows, and they are a persistent nuisance to the city’s guards. They’re on their way to being Gathkun’s version of Robin Hood and his merry men, in that they have entirely mastered the bit about stealing from the rich, but they haven’t quite figured out the rest of it and tend to just keep it for themselves.
- Maburu’s Hands are assassins who work for hire, and also part of Raka’s Shadows. They’re few in number but feared. Maburu is a Hathi god of death and disease from whom they take their name, and they make offerings to Maburu before undertaking their contracts.
- The SASU are Hathi revolutionaries who quite reasonably object to the Sothik rule over their people.
- SASU is a Hathi word meaning “Unbuilt” – as well as seeking liberty from oppression they also object to city life, laws and customs, and ultimately would want to destroy all these trappings of civilisation and return the Hathi to their traditional tribal lives. To be honest they’re fanatics and life under the Sasu would be pretty unpleasant too. But at the moment they’re opposing tyranny and haven’t yet become tyrants themselves.
- The leader or figurehead of the Sasu is Juld who is an escaped slave/gladiator from Gathkun’s arena. He works in secret and moves from hiding place to hiding place. He’s ridiculously charismatic and charming and his words, they say, could inspire ice to burn or trees to uproot themselves to attend his presence.
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