Wednesday, 27 June 2012

[To Coin a World] Pyresburg

The Beacon City

A rather confused artist's impression of the city

Pyresburg has stood (mostly) for nearly two thousand years (again, mostly. Damned wizards), andhas played a pivotal role in the building of a dozen empires. It is also home to a lot of pigeons. Some of whom are said to have interbred with vultures.

Theme and Mood

Theme: Light and Fire, Smoke and Shadow 
Pyresburg has always been a beacon of civilization on Spindlewick, a shining example of everything a great city can be, what the fires of progress can forge. But it is also an example of every shadow that a beacon casts, and of what can be lost if a forge burns untended.

Mood: Bustling and Self-Absorbed.
The streets of Pyresburg are crowded and noisy at all hours of the day and night, thronging with locals, and visitors from all over the Coin. Most of these visitors are merchants, passing through, or selling to other merchants, as the city produces very little raw material itself. And yet somehow, even with this reliance on trade, those within its walls care little for the goings on outside, except as the occasional fashion or fad. The city has been here, always busy, always leading and lighting the way, for what seems like forever, while the rest of the world changes and follows.

The Sights

The Pyre
An incredibly tall solid (if slightly twisty) stone tower topped with a great fire, the Pyre for which the city is named has stood on its small rocky spit, serving as a lighthouse for as long as recorded history. In times of danger it is also used as a signal to the surrounding countryside by the simple expedient of adding an alchemical agent to change the colour of the flame, and on a clear night with some elevation and a spyglass, can be seen half-way across the world.

The Pyresbaron’s Palace
Supposedly the same building from which pyresburg has been ruled for the last two millennia, the Palace has been upgraded, downgraded, sidegraded, repainted, reoriented, reverted, inverted, added on to, or in some other manner modified by nearly every Baron to take residence in it (several of whom were quite crazy). As a result it is a rambling hodge-podge of architectural styles, stuffed full of rooms that nobody uses, or for even remembers the original purpose of.
A quiet evening

The Windings
Even the most hardened warriors hesitate to enter this maze of twisty little alleyways, all alike. The majority of Hoblings in the city live here, alongside the dregs of human society, but do not be fooled into thinking that they’ve raised the property values. If anything, it has an even darker reputation than it did a hundred years ago when a mercenary giant wandered into the area and was found the next day, devoid of both his wallet and several internal organs.

The Night Market
Under the glare of the Pyre, the city never truly sleeps, and business of one sort or another continues at all hours. The night market fills several minor squares, the streets in between, and in some cases, even extending to the catacombs below, with vendors selling everything that you could find in a regular market (for the benefit of those who keep later hours), and a lot more strange or illegal things besides. 

The Drowned Rat Tavern
A famous drinking establishment, but sadly not for exemplary service or fine beverages. Rather, the Drowned Rat attracts daredevils and the terminally curious, as it has been destroyed seven times in the last ten years, always in unusual circumstances. Why the owner, Johann Vine, keeps rebuilding it, and how he gets the money to do so, is a mystery.

The Elvish Embassy
Maintained in unison by the Dawnwind elves of inland Spindlewick, and the seafarers of distant Yendys, the Embassy organises trade between the two elvish groups, as well as to the human nations nearby. It also provides food, lodging, and luxurious baths for elvish travellers, and an excellent location to look out over the teeming human city and feel suitably superior.

The Temple of Untold Gods
A natural out-growth of the city’s mercantile nature, ancient and varied history, and its siren song to all and sundry, the Temple of Untold Gods is technically run by priests of Omnia (Goddess of Everything Not Covered By Other Gods), but is in fact an omni-denominational church that rents out shrine space to new religions, and is often visited by those faithful to gods not widely known in the city. Behind the building proper is a small dump where the trappings of long-dead cults are deposited, occasionally sifted by the Academy’s theology department.

The Pyresburg Academy
Must be Tuesday...
The oldest and most learned magical school on the Coin, the Academy was the greatest of its kind... until it burned down in mysterious circumstances 50 years ago, taking a fair chunk of the city, and all but a handful of wizards, with it. The rebuilding of the Academy has been an uphill battle, and it is still only a shadow of its former glory, but that very need to regain lost knowledge has made the Academy one of the best research institutes on Spindlewick, and a great place to sell rare books or magical devices. The locals have learned to largely ignore the periodic explosions and weird smells coming from the place.

Beneath the City
Pyresburg has existed for a long time, and the ground beneath it has taken on a consistency not unlike a Sbörk cheese – full of strange-smelling holes. Dwarf squats, Hobling warrens, basements, cellars, sewer systems both modern and long abandoned, underground sections of the old Academy (which are occasionally mobile), and older and more mysterious ruins jumble together beneath the streets. Some people tell tales of albino crocodiles that roam the underground. Those in the know scoff at such suggestions - crocodiles would be an easy meal for some of the things down there.

Yep, definitely Tuesday.

Personages of Note

PyresBaron Tiberius Hacken
A man bristly of moustache and large of ego, he considers himself a political genius, and a great patron of the arts. Most people in the know consider him a massively oblivious twit. How he’s survived nearly eight years since his election, where his predecessors died of Chronic Enemies within months is anybody’s guess.

Leonardor Doomwinch
Leonardor might well be the best dwarven engineer on the Coin, were he ever to actually finish constructing any of his inventions. Where most dwarves take pride in making a flawless finished work, Leonardor will only work on a project long enough to prove that he could hypothetically construct a perfect working construct. Of course, his designs are still incredible (if incomplete and occasionally hard to decipher), and even the basic prototypes for his inventions are marvels of engineering (if wildly unreliable), so he does not lack for patrons. There is a small industry of craftsmen in the city whose only job is to try to finish his designs, with varying success.

Daywatch Commander Lyadu Mzeze
A wandering hunter-adventurer from Zwuyala, Commander Mzeze came to Pyresburg in pursuit of a thief who had stolen a great trophy, the skull of a Zwuyalan Dire Tigerbear. Her pursuit of this criminal accidentally uncovered a smuggling ring, and caught the attention of the city watch. Intrigued by the prospect of hunting criminals through the streets of Pyresburg, she joined up as a constable, and 30 years later she is commander of the entire organization. Off duty she is a good humoured but sly old woman. On the job she is steely-eyed and tireless in her pursuit of justice.

Nightwatch Captain Thragg Turnskull.
Mzeze’s second-in-command, and Captain of the night shift, Thragg’s half-orcish night-vision and muscular bulk serve him well defending the streets from criminals. He shares his commander’s devotion to the Law, and to the City as a whole, even if most people would rather have nothing to do with somebody of orcish heritage.

Gonzo Loudfeet, Invasive Journalist.
Pyresburg is home to many thieves and spies and blackmailers. And recently, it has become home to something many consider even worse: a journalist. This obnoxious chain-smoking, coffee-skulling Hobling doesn’t even have the good grace to sell the information he purloins to the highest bidder, instead publishing it for all the world to see (or at least all the world with a spare copper or two, and the ability to read) in the daily broadsheet The Pyresburg Beacon.

Samuel Pander, Senior Firefighter Patrol.
Pyresburg has been burnt to the ground a number of times over its sordid history, but it won't do so again on Sam's watch. Or so he says, at least. He may have his work cut out for him, as he's actually the ONLY member of the firefighter patrol, and has been for many years. But he continues to patrol the city, selling water to thirsty folk to make ends meet, as well as sharing the surprisingly accurate and hard to come by information he picks up on his rounds... for a price. 

Sam on a typical day.

Criminal Groups

The Guild of Red Masks
The most famous guild of “gentleman” thieves and burglars on the Coin, the Red Masks’ official headquarters is in Pyresburg, according to legend, at least. Its membership are skilled, mobile, and universally possessed of a great deal of class, stealing only the most famous of objects, and looking down at the thugs and killers that are so common among the criminal class. The only way to enter the Guild is by invitation, and the only way to get that is with a heist executed with extreme daring, cunning and flair.  

The Studded Brotherhood
At the other end of the spectrum of criminal activity is the Studded Brotherhood, named after their near-uniform of studded leather armour and helmets. This organization of thugs and assassins control crime in a fair portion of the city, and would probably control a lot more if their lack of finesse hadn't caused the Red Masks to subtly side against them. 

Fighting Organizations

Have been covered elsewhere...

Random Encounters (d12)

  1. Puzzled tourist from some far off land, probably about to be fleeced.
  2. Studded Brotherhood gang-members loitering around. 
  3. Wannabe Red Mask running from the Watch. Is aiming more for dashing rather than fleeing. 
  4. The Pyresbaron's bright red coach, surrounded by guards. 
  5. Sound of a distant explosion. Anybody nearby will mutter "bloody wizards". 
  6. Watch patrol, seemingly loaded for bear. Will be puzzled if asked why they're heavily armed, as this is standard equipment.
  7. Beggars. Almost certainly collecting information for somebody
  8. Sam Pander and his water-cart. 
  9. Gonzo Loudfeet nosing about. 
  10. Weird noises from nearby drain. 
  11. See That Random Harlot Sub-table 
  12. Fight. 50% chance scheduled bar-fight, 50% chance flashy sword-duel.

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