The Free City of Zobeck
The Free City’s austere feudal history defines the city’s current freedom-loving citizenry. After suffering under the long, harsh reign of the aristocratic Stross family, the people of Zobeck have little love for nobles or the institution of feudalism. Still, certain citizens are not as free as others. The kobolds fought alongside the rebels to emancipate Zobeck and thus gained a seat on the Free City Council, but on the whole, the kobolds remain very much second class citizens. They do not experience the same uplifting spirit of freedom as their dwarf or human neighbours, or even the gearforged.
The Free City Consul, consisting of the Lord Mayor Karillian Gluck and 11 other consuls, rules Zobeck, which has a population of 14,000 (11,040 humans, 420 dwarves, 2,200 kobolds, 200 gearforged and 140 other). The patron deity is Rava, Goddess of Gears, but other gods worshipped include Lada, Mavros-Perun, Volund and Khors, as well as Yarila and Porevit. There are three stronghold castles – Remmauer, Shadowcrag and Stefanstor; and the city is made up of ten districts:
Districts of Zobeck:
The Gear District
This is a district of industry, revolving around The Steamworkers’ Guild and the Geargrinders’ Emporium, but it is also the place where, at great expense, the gearforged are formed. With the help of mages, geargrinders, clockworker kobolds and dwarven engineers, it is said that a new gearforged creature is produced every month. These creatures have to pay for their own making, usually in the form of service to a wealthy family, temple or guild. Important places include:
Steamworkers’ Union, Geargrinders’ Guild, Foundrymans’ Guild, Glassblowers’ Guild, Soldiers’ and Braziers’ Guild, The Grey Friar Tavern
The Temple District
Temples to Zobeck’s five main deities may be found here, comprising the extent of the district, along with structures surrounding the temples themselves, housing staff, storing goods and providing support for their clerics. The temples include:
Temple of Rava, Temple of Lada, Temple of Mavros-Perun, Temple of Volund (also called Svarog or Aten), Temple of Yarela and Porevit. The Ancient Temple of Khors is now a temple to his father, Volund, but there are still many statues of Khors throughout the city and worshippers are welcome in the Chambers of Volund. For further details on Gods of the Crossroads, see Deities and Powers.
The Market District
Merchants selling carpets, cloth, leather, wine, weapons, alchemical powders, poisons, goods from other lands and even otherwordly goods from the Realm of Shadow hawk their wares from tiny stalls in the district. Most anything can be found here. Important places include:
The Brewer’s Sisterhood, The Stonemason’s Guild, Wainwright’s Guilt, The Vinters’ Guild, Lanternmakers’ and Tinkers’ Guild, Limner’s Guild, The Black Lotus, Hommnal’s Botanical Rooftop, The Dented Shield Hotel.
The Merchant District
Weavers, cobblers, coopers, carpenters, jewellers, armourers, and other skilled workers maintain shops lining this district. Some of their wares are sold in the Market District, supplementing their income, but these artisans generally work to order and have enough orders to keep them busy. Many merchants reside in the upper levels of their shops, though the wealthier ones have residences in Upper Zobeck. Important places include:
Honourable Order of Weavers, Ancient Order of Jewellers, Carpenter’s Brotherhood, Cooper’s Union, Order of Arms and Armoury, Order of Tanners and Leatherworkers, Six Lanterns Playhouse.
The Free city’s government centres cluster this district. The opulent, painted-brick houses of the city’s richest and oldest families stand in the Crown Square portion of the district, where the great Old Stross Clock tolls the hours. Important places include:
The Great Stross Clock Tower, City Archives, Civic Courthouse, Council Hall, Redrock Bailey, The Seven Bells Tavern, The Silk Scabbard, The Old Stross Public Bath House.
Lower Zobeck, or ASHMILL is home to the city’s poor and unskilled working classes, though a few merchants like the Kappa family have purchased large chunks of space here near the Moon Temple and the Shrine to St Charon. Lower Zobeck also houses the WHEATSHEAF TAVERN, a favoured drinking hole for smugglers and rogues. Important places include:
The Wheatsheaf Tavern, Moon’s Grace Temple, Red Queen Gambling Hall, Shrine of St Charon, Spyglass and Cartographers’ Guild, Miners’ Brotherhood, Ragpickers’ Guild, 10 Wheatsheaf Lane, The Tarnish.
The Dock District
Also called THE GULLET, this is one of the busiest areas in the Free City. It’s wharves, alleys and thoroughfares see traffic from merchants, bargemen, and stevedores at all hours. Brawls are common and The Watch heavily patrols the area to ensure smooth continuation of commerce. Important places include:
Blackened Fish Tavern, Greymark Warehouse, The Dancing Bear, The Moon and Owl Tavern, Alter of the Lorelei, The Bargeman’s Fellowship, Shipwrights’ and Chandlers’ Guild, Stevedores’ Brotherhood.
The College District
The greatest feature is Zobeck’s famous Arcane Collegium and many scholars, scribes, mages, students and alchemists frequent this region to gather at the HEDGEHOG TAVERN or peruse the shelves the THE BOOK FETISH. Important places include:
Arcane Collegium, Hedgehog Tavern, The Vigilant Scribes, Temple of Celestial Dawn, Fellowship of the Arcane Collegium, Chartered Brotherhood of Alchemists, Arcane Square, The Book Fetish.
The Kobold Ghetto
The Ghetto comprises a warren of streets no more than 6 ft wide (at best) where roofs meet overhead to keep out the worst of the sun for those nocturnal inhabitants who must venture out in daylight. The Ghetto has only two entrances (Ghetto Gate and Water Gate), each carefully watched from both sides. Multiple kobold tribal chieftains or “kings” rule the district, each having power as long as he keeps his relatives and minions in line. The KING OF KINGS, King Kuromak recently ousted Brandorek the 12th to claim the leading position. Important places include:
Ghetto Gate, King of Kings’ Palace, Royal Workshops, Kobold Docks, Undercity Entrance to The Cartways Black Market.
The Citadel District
Rising above the northern section of the city, The Citadel defends the river entrance from upstream threats. It also houses the Order of Griffon Riders, who fly patrols through THE MARGREVE and serve as the City’s early warning system. General Jorun Haclav (LN male human fighter/cleric [Perun]/expert) lives and trains in the Citadel and is the Supreme Commander during times of war. Outside of wartime, the Citadel answers to Lady Fenyll Marack (LE female human rogue/assassin). She is feared for her cutting remarks and her prowess as Praetor of the Blue House. Sir Jorun’s brilliance in matters of strategy and tactics protects the city when Lady Fenyll’s efforts towards diplomacy, sabotage and misdirection fail. Important places include:
The Citadel, Griffon Riders’ Barracks, Western Barbican, King’s Head Tavern, White Rose Tavern.
Karillian Gluck, Lord Mayor – LN male human aristorcrat/expert
Ondli Firedrake, First Consul and High Priest of Rava-amongst-the-Dwarves – LG male dwarf fighter/cleric [Rava and Volund]
Kuromak, Kobold King of Kings – CN male kobold rogue/shadowdancer
Radover Streck, City Consul – NE male human expert/alchemist
Melancha Vendemic, City Consul – LN female human expert
Kekolina of the Derry Mine, City Consul – NG female kobold rogue/cleric [St Piran]
Myza I, Mouse King – N male outsider/fighter
Orlando, Guildmaster of the Arcane Collegium – CN male human wizard/expert
Lord Volstaff Greymark, master merchant and Consul – LE male human expert
Lady Wintesla Marack, master merchant of House Marack and Consul – LG female human cleric[Lada]/aristocrat
Halsen Hrovitz IV, master merchant of House Hrovitz and Consul – NG male human bard/expert
Azelearnara Perunisis, retired adventurer from the Duchy of Perun’s Daughter – NG female human fighter
Composed of two small courtyards and a dozen two-storey buildings housing masters, apprentices, alchemists and clockwork servants, the Arcane Collegium rarely opens its doors to outsiders. The most common means of entrance are the STEAM GATE that leads into Arcane Square, across from the HEDGEHOG TAVERN, and the WATER GATE leading down a set of slippery stairs to the single pier on the River Argent.
The grounds of the college are protected by magic, clockwork traps, gargoyles and even undead under control of the Masters of the Collegium. These masters are Guildmaster Clockwork Mage Orlando (CN male human wizard/expert), Master Necromancer Konrad von Eberfeld (NE male human wizard/expert/eldritch knight), Master Illusionist Ariella Scarpetti (N female human illusionist) and Master Diviner Rudwin Whinstone (N male dwarf sorcerer).
Generally speaking the College will usually house about two dozen apprentices and about 40 to 50 retaining staff, although there are often guests and various sages on sabbatical and there are also some secret societies and factions that are linked to the college. One of these is the EXILES OF ALLAIN.
Exiles of Allain
Imperious Bloodline Faction of the Arcane Collegium, specialising in the Arcane Arts of the Ancient Caelmaraths that fought to overthrow their Elven Masters in The First Great Revolt about 800 years ago. At this time, dark wizards and tiefling sorcerers called upon the services of Baba Yaga to unbind the powerful elven wards, releasing many demons in the process.
Tranmus the Tall is the lead arcanist in this small but powerful faction within the Collegium. He and his scholars study the arcane histories and make annual visits to the Great Library at Bemmea to unearth secrets from the ancient strongholds of Bemmea and Vael Turog. Although some of the work of THE EXILES is specialist and secretive, they are also respected due to their contributions to the college as a whole by the application of the ancient bloodline powers to the current fields of study within the college.
This is a small three storey building near to the The Wheatsheaf Tavern in Lower Zobeck where the player characters currently reside. It consists of a common room and kitchen/ablution area on the ground floor, three tiny rooms on each of the first and second floors and an attic above with one small window facing the street that could be used as a store or spare room. All bedrooms have small windows, four facing front and two backward facing. There is a fireplace in the common room and two sturdy doors, one facing the street with a superior lock and one facing the stinking backlane, with two strong bolts on the inside.
The landlord is Optimus Primeval, a stonemason with reputed links to The Cloven Nine and who has several lodgings throughout the city and himself lives in the Market District of Zobeck. The monthly rent on the apartment is 50 GP, payable to the Landlord of the Wheatsheaf Tavern at the beginning of every month.
There are no frills in this modest abode and the general rule abides that “if you break it, you fix it”.
This famous garden in the roof of a five-storey building of shops and tenements belongs to Hommnal Agic and is a known meeting place for underworld negotiators needing a neutral ground. It is also famous for its teas and exotic plants and many brewers, alchemists, chefs and florists can be found mingling with the other customers. The building borders the Market District and Lower Zobeck, near to the water front and is easily recognised by the hanging branches of the great white oak on the rooftop and the purple-leaved vines creeping down the sides of the building.
The building has seen better days and its ambitious piping system to provide constant fresh water to the fountains from the river never really worked and is only effective at times of very high water levels after severe storms. However, the place still stands strong and has four blocks of shops on the ground floor and several small tenement flats on the floors between the shops and the garden on the top.
The gardens themselves house two fully working greenhouses and several sections dedicated to the growing of lucrative herbs and rare plants, but it is also very decorative, providing a pleasant environment for all visitors and a splendid location for afternoon tea on a warm summer’s day.
In deep underground chambers hidden beneath the streets of central Zobeck lies the Cartways Black Market, nefarious bazaar of the dark and sinister, the taboo and the forbidden. Several chandeliers festooned with continual flames give the chamber a glaring, flickering light that the vendors and regular patrons don’t seem to mind. The constant murmur of commerce is occasionally punctuated by arguments as flesh, drugs, stolen goods, and precious information is bought and sold. The threat of violence lingers unspoken with each transaction, and when it does erupt, bystanders observe with a detachment bordering on clinical. A single unspoken rule guides commerce in the market: Keep to your own business, and you’ll live much longer.
Split by the Imperial Slave Block, the Market exists in a place of uneasy neutrality. Two long aisles contain most merchants’ excuses for storefronts, business, and entertainments, with the most powerful claiming places along the chamber’s large centre pillars. Any number of strange personalities might appear in the Black Market. It is the proverbial hive of scum and villainy that attracts all types and demeanours, including Dobricar the Slaver Captain, Vukas the Market “Mayor”,Ticker Nicktailson, Gearworker Journeyman and lifetime member of The Redcloaks, and of course, the gorgeous ghoul, Radu Underhill.
Lying at the very heart of the city just south of Crown Square, this revered establishment once the epitome of the extravagance of the ruling nobility is now a shared social space dedicated to the triumph of the public revolt. It has two floors, one at ground level with a balcony overlooking the main pool which is in the larger section below ground, with the main pool being open to the sun.
Inside the building are various attendant rooms, including the grand lounge, several plunge pools, a chilled pool, saunas, massage parlour and gymnasium. The warm, azure tiled main pool is served by a channel from an underground spring pool and open to the sky with the covered portico of the terrace surrounding it.
No weapons are permitted into the building, apart from those of the armed guards. Clothing and weapons must be left in the change rooms near the entrance and only towels are permitted by the patrons who pay a pricely sum of 2 silver pieces to enjoy the luxury that was once the sole preserve of the aristocracy.
Even so, the human manager of the city run establishment, Zsolt, would like to see prices increased to be more restrictive and elitist of its clientele. There are many well-to-do socialites who frequent the pool for business and pleasure, including Svetlana, a local courtesan, Radu Underhill, an important CARTWAYS trader, and indeed even some of the Consuls themselves at times. The Massage Parlour is run by an elfmarked opportunist of well-groomed appearance named Mikhail. He is in love with Svetlana and makes friends with all stripes, supposedly gathering blackmail on the rich who purchase his services and occasionally even co-ordinating robberies of his clients after visits.
This is an area of LOWER ZOBECK, near and around The Red Queen Gambling Hall and not too far from 10 Wheatsheaf Lane. It is commonly known to be a rusting corner of decaying industrial sites haunted by the corroded ghosts of machinery. Locals talk in whispers of Night-Things although not many people seem to know what they are – just that they should be avoided.
While outwardly similar to any other part of the city, the signs of rusting industry litter THE TARNISH; chimneys rise from the side of buildings, waterwheels rust in crumbling pits, and gears clutter street sides.
The Spyglass Guild
The Spyglass Guild is Zobeck’s “secret police”, a quasi-legal organization answering ultimately to the Lord Mayor and the Council of Praetors. Mistress of the guild is Ersebet Cemilla but she answers to Lady Marack, Praetor of the Blue House.
The Cloven Nine
The Cloven Nine is an infernal group of gangsters. A favourite haunt and secretive meeting place is The Wheatsheaf Tavern in Lower Zobeck but an even more notorious venue is The Silk Scabbard on the meeting point of Upper and Lower Zobeck with the Koblold Ghetto. Owned by Tyron, but supposedly backed by Lord Greymark himself, it houses gaming, gambling and prostitution, all engaging members of the Cloven Nine, a collection of rogues, sharpers, cultists, assassins, fences and cold-eyed hard cases that is ever-changing but always dangerous, alert, and looking for an opening.
Masters of Small Matters
This is a non-aligned messenger service that works throughout the city. Most inns, hotels and public houses will have contacts within the service and are able to employ their services relatively quickly.
First Zobeck Adventure: Everyone Lies
These are the rough working notes for the adventure