Q’Rith: Sketch of a New Town

23:37 Sun 23 Oct 2011. Updated: 21:23 14 Apr 2013
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While filling out background details for an upcoming episode of my D&D campaign, I came up with this town and its history, which I thought worth sharing. It’s strongly rooted in Q’Rith, but could easily be transplanted to another setting, and it looks promising to me as a potential base for a series of adventures, although I’m not sure I’ll actually use it as such.

It’s a harbor town of about 3000, far north of any other urban areas, independent, surrounded by sparsely-populated cold country, and run by a group of six, its founders.

In 1219 a Torinthian noble with a commission in the army decided to solve the problem of his gambling debts by betraying his garrison to Nalend, during one of the innumerable Torinth–Nalend wars. The betrayal was successful, leading to one of the bloodiest defeats in Torinthian history, and Yemmit Tarika was paid his asking price. However, the betrayal was also discovered, and he had to flee. Torinth put a very substantial reward on his head.

A group of six mercenaries took up the chase, following him into the north and tracking him through tundra and mountain. He eventually tried to settle among the Snow Bear tribe near Northern Garlathia’s eastern coast, but was discovered there by his pursuers, who killed him in battle. On their way back with his head, they stopped at the hot springs at Sulfur Bay, which were used as a winter rest spot by the Snow Bears. There, they realized that the natural harbor, the springs, the relatively sparse population, and the abundance of furred wildlife represented a significant opportunity.

Eight years later, having accumulated large amounts of capital as well as important mercantile connections, they returned to the spot by ship, with a significant armed force. They negotiated purchase of the area from the Snow Bears, this purchase being partly predicated on their agreeing to supply the tribe with food, as recent winters had been particularly harsh. They began building a makeshift pier and then a town, naming it Tarika.

They also let it be known that they would pay for pelts. Up to that point, the northern fur trade had been under monopoly control in the Q’Resti Empire; however, the monopoly only covered furs imported across the northern border; the same monopoly interests also controlled the trade at what had been the only port north of the border. The founders of Tarika had invested in a ship, which they proceeded to fill with sable, fox, and otter pelts. They made a few journeys to Anaq’rest, the Imperial capital, and were able to sell them at a significant profit to their merchant contacts while still undercutting the monopoly’s prices.

Demand was high, and the merchants in Anaq’rest were able to protect their new source from legal changes attempted by the monopoly, and Tarika was a money-making center. The founders publicized it, as they needed more fur trappers, and this kicked off a mini-boom that secured the town’s wealth and future.

The founders still run the town. They own the largest inn, warehouses, the docks, and a number of ships that stop there regularly. They tax lightly, but extract money from everyone who passes through in a number of other ways. At the same time, they allow significant freedoms, and have been wise enough to realize that letting other people also get rich there is an excellent way to attract more custom. A variety of other individuals have done extremely well there, some of whom started with nothing.

The founders control the town guard, who are between 50 and 100 strong, a relatively high number relative to the population. They’ve seen off a number of coup attempts, and some attacks from outside, none with any lasting effects. The founders have decreed that Tarika is an open town, meaning that all races and nations are welcome and must be traded with, making it one of the few mostly-human towns to have open trading with orcs; in addition a small number of orcs reside there.

At the beginning of the war between Q’Rest and Shegu, Tarika experienced another boom, as Shegu funnelled trade through there to replace what had previously come from Imperial ports. A number of Imperial merchants traded with Shegans via Tarika, and the founders, despite pressure, refused to take sides in the conflict or prevent the Shegans from trading. While various factors in that war have meant that trade with the Shegans has dwindled (much of it moving to Zistown, which is far larger and better able to handle it), some still occurs, and the boom hasn’t entirely worn off.

The founders took the opportunity to recruit fishermen to Tarika, beginning to exploit local marine resources that had been largely untouched previously due to the lack of a local port. They’ve begun consultations with agriculturalists to see whether or not farming locally could be possible despite the cold. Over the years they’ve invested a tremendous amount in the town, which is well-fortified. They’ve also built around the hot springs, and with the aid of magic and excavation have managed to provide natural heat to much of the town. They’ve deepened the harbor, and now own several ships that call it home, with many more that call there to provide supplies and pick up furs.

In its current state of development, Tarika is a bustling, wild, and interesting place, with opportunities for trade, espionage, and intrigue. The founders run it well, and are ambitious, seeking not only to further increase their already-significant wealth but also to expand the town and its influence. They’ve started examining the possibility of satellite settlements, and are actively looking into opportunities for mining. The harsh cold makes these projects difficult, but the commerce already occurring at Tarika makes them more feasible. The founders are also considering a more military focus, and are contemplating moves against local orc and human tribes, weighing the gains against the potential disruption to trade.

One of the few institutions the founders do not own is the bank, a local branch of the Anaq’rest-based Coggs & Dann, one of the most powerful banks in the Empire and a longtime backer of the Tarika enterprise. Tarika does not have its own currency, and for the most part uses money from the Empire and Zistown/Unlund.

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