Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Iron Coast: Port Scourge

However unlikely it may seem that a pirate fort might grow into a fairly large city, rivaling the largest ports of Siccalia, that is precisely what has happened in Port Scourge. A defensible cove in the sea cliffs that surround her marked the land that became Port Scourge as a haven for pirates who first preyed off of traffic from grand Av Arat to the mainland (primarily Tenghwa vessels and merchantmen from the Orphan Baronies), where a rough (in all senses of the word) town sprang up to reprovision and provide services for the various pirate crews plying the Iron Coast. Just when the Av Arati navy seemed poised to strike a death blow against the burgeoning pirate state the Av Arati disparagingly named "Port Scourge," an invasion of the northmen who would found the nation of Iskurland cut the Arati off from their Tenghwa and Orphan allies, leaving the Arati Admiral (the legendary and lamented Admiral Alugham bar Wazi, regarded today as a sort of patron saint of lost causes throughout the Iron Coast) to face the most vicious pirate captains the Coast had to offer, alone. In the massacre that followed, the naval might of Av Arat was crushed, the Tenghwa nation was pushed inland (and into contact with the Oroztalani natives) and the Jarldom of Iskurland was founded. Faced with raiding on two fronts without support from a now nonexistent Arati navy, the Orphan Baronies faced extinction, but cunningly avoided it by striking deals with the various pirate captains of Port Scourge, turning each against the other for the promise of a cut of mercantile profits from unmolested ventures. Today, a state of managed hostility exists between the various pirate crews that call Port Scourge home; the edicts of the greatest captains keep a vague sort of peace in the streets of the city, while a fierce competition for marks at sea and shipping contracts from the Orphan Baronies have drive a bullish, booming economy that revolves around the sea and blackest hearts that sail her.

Stats

Because they're useful in ACKS. Port Scourge is a City with a population of 4,612 families (around 20,060 people) with a Class III Market. I don't have market modifiers yet because every time I sit down with a spreadsheet to figure them out, my brain explodes.

Government

There is little that could qualify as true "governance" in Port Scourge. Aside from a mutual agreement between crews of the various pirate (and some few legitimate) ships that call the port home to abide by a modicum of civility in port, each neighborhood takes it upon itself to set up its own authorities and laws, and must find its own method of enforcement. The haphazard nature of Port Scourge's construction assists in this matter, however, since as a fort town, each addition to the city was accompanied by a wall enclosing the new addition. Within any one set of walls, a fierce sense of self-determination and intra-municipal competition causes each of the city's districts and neighborhoods to seek its own identity and character. Locals often look to a particular district elder or even a pirate captain as the de facto leader of their particular district and, indeed, if any authority is recognized from one district to another, it is that of the greatest of captains, the more fearsome in infamy, the greater in regard.

Economy

Port Scourge has a surprisingly efficient, diversified and robust economy. The influx of agricultural products from the Orphan Baronies means that efficient means of storing and transporting goods to foreign markets are in sharp demand, as are the dockworkers, provisioners and shipwrights necessary to keep a mercantile fleet afloat. The less-than-reputable trade of the pirate contingent of the city fills her with exotic goods, valuable treasures and other spoils of war while requiring fuel similar to that of the mercantile fleet along with the endeavors of skilled weaponsmiths and armorers. The craftsmen of Port Scourge are in the enviable position of having wares from around the world to learn technique from (counterfeiting of goods and treasures being so common in Port Scourge that, in Av Arat, a "Scourge Reign" is common slang for counterfeit coinage that has spread to any craft), learning to manufacture home-spun versions of foreign goods through their own ingenuity and know-how.

Politics

The internal politics of Port Scourge are remarkably simple, being primarily a matter of different pirate captains and self-proclaimed admirals jockeying for positions of influence and power with one another, but these games of brinksmanship have little overall effect or longevity. Within the Iron Coast itself, Port Scourge does little to improve its image to the nations of the Coast, relying on international rivalries to distract the Siccalians, Iskurlanders and Arati from the Port's trespasses. Port Scourge has a half-hearted alliance with the Orphan Baronies, but these relationships are more between individual captains and the local barons, and not strong official bonds. The pirates of Port Scourge join the rest of the Iron Coast in uniform condemnation of the Oroztalan, but from a perspective of the danger that the Oroztalani pose to the rest of the Coastal nations, rather from a misconception of the Oroztalani as being savages, as they are seen in Siccalia and Av Arat. Port Scourge maintains ties to several tribes of the Kaasataha natives, who often join pirate crews and offer shelter to pirates in the interior of the Coast. Port Scourge sees its chief rival as the nation of Iskurland, both of whom see themselves as wolves of the sea.

Religion

Many faiths have been imported to Port Scourge from the Orphan Baronies, the Kaasataha, Tengh, the Iskurlandik, Siccalia, the strange faiths of Ur Hadad and Av Arat and even the dark blasphemies worshiped in Oroztalan. The heretical rites of the Chaos Lords are practiced openly here, alongside the peaceful and proper rites of Odosk the Pastor, the ecumenical money-changing of the Givers and the nameless observances those who worship the Great Old Ones. Far from a bastion of religious tolerance, however, Port Scourge is given to periodic religious strife, riots and pogroms as the adherents of contradictory or conflicting cults bring their bizarre tenets to a very violent conclusion. Every district features at least one shrine or chapel to one or many gods, philosophies or belief structures. A wise priest knows that ready converts may be found in Port Scourge, but that such a flock must be carefully tended, lest some other proselytizer wrangle them out from beneath his edicts.

Magic

Just as Port Scourge is a haven for misfit religions, she is also a safe haven for practitioners of all arcane arts, particularly those for which men in other lands would be hanged, beheaded or burned alive. Disgraced academic mages from Av Arat and Siccalia rub elbows with Kaasataha medicine men, Iskurlandik spirit-callers, Tenghwa necromancers and Tsohart warlocks. Black magics are easier to come by in the pirate port, and every neighborhood has at least one resident who sells hexes and maledictions and at least one other who sells charms and blessings to ward against them. Arcanists find their skills in high demand by the crews and captains of the pirate vessels who ply the Iron Coast, but woe betide the mage whose magics fail to live up to the expectations of those miscreants. In the small neighborhood (not nearly a district) known as Chandler's Lane, witches and sorcerers keep company in no small number, forming an impromptu guild of arcane practitioners by proximity alone; the alley (not a lane as the name suggests) is a tightly-knit warren of sancta and studies where mages may trade blasphemous sorceries and unspeakable incantations as their neighbors may trade other commodities. Anyone, mage or no, chased into Chandler's Lane is given up for lost by their pursuers, due to the unfriendly attitude that the locals take to disturbances.