Curse of the Crimson Throne
Basic City Information
Korvosa (pronounced kohr-VOH-sah) is the largest city found in the wilderness area known as Varisia, and serves as the seat of one of three city-states that claim independent authority over their individual holdings in the region. Though its citizens and traditions have strong ties to the nation of Cheliax, with many of its people tracing their ancestry directly to servants of the Empire, the city’s location at the mouth of the Jeggare River and the presence of a highly-defensible harbor have contributed to the establishment of Korvosa as a primary hub for trade; various cultures and peoples can be found within the city’s walls as goods move in and out of its gates.
At its height, before the death of Aroden and the departure of the separatists who founded Magnimar, Korvosa topped 23,000 inhabitants. It lost nearly 10,000 because of the resulting chaos of the time, but in the last century it regained half that many. As a result of its rapid contraction and slow re-expansion, many of the affluent sections of Korvosa remain underpopulated. With increasing trade and abundance of area into which it can expand, Korvosa could comfortably fill out to a true metropolis.
People identify their affiliations symbolically, from the colors of their uniform to the specific design of their coats of arms. Some commonly seen Korvosan symbols are:
Colors: Korvosa’s colors are the black and red of Cheliax (deepened to a rich crimson), with the addition of silver to distinguish it as an important colony (in its own eyes, at least).
Mascot: The city claims as its mascot the powerful hippogriff, dozens of which perch within the high aerie of the Great Tower and serve as the mounts for the city’s elite Sable Company.
Motto: Korvosa’s motto is “Trosker ep Styrk,” Ancient Taldane for “Fidelity and Strength.”
Life in Korvosa
Those who live in Korvosa respect and admire ostentatious displays of wealth, power, or knowledge. They consider confidence and competence the greatest of assets, and they deride or heckle those who display weakness, indecisiveness, or inability. Korvosans are quick to judge and slow to forgive. Korvosans like to capitalize their words. The people of Korvosa feel this trait gives them an air of greatness and importance.
In addition to power, Korvosans love predictability. They like to regulate their lives, creating strict regimens for themselves that they then slavishly follow. Upsetting a Korvosan’s routine can ruin his entire day and likely makes him cranky. To this end, Korvosa strictly enforces its laws (which often have harsh punishments far in excess of the law codes of other non-evil governments) and rewards those who play by the rules. That said, Korvosa also recognizes that not everyone plays by the same rules, so it compensates by applying regulations to nonviolent criminals in the form of vice taxes and official recognition of the city’s single thieves’ guild.
Regulation and law dominate Korvosa and how it lives. The city’s charter, an officially sanctioned document created by Emperor Halleck IV of Cheliax in 4406, bears 247 amendments. These amendments add to the city’s unbreakable laws (those which no leader can modify, except by additional amendment) and are considered as binding and official as the charter itself. In addition, a thick, multivolume body of work spells out Korvosa’s many other laws and regulations, as well as the punishments for violating them.
Like everybody else, the people of Korvosa hate to pay taxes. The city does not cripple its inhabitants with taxes, but it does have a few notable fee structures.
Any dinghy, boat, or ship that docks in Korvosa must pay a dock fee. The fee ranges from 1 sp to 100 gp depending on the size of the vessel and the location of the dock. Only 20% of this fee goes to the city—the dock’s owner takes the rest.
Korvosa’s high property tax is based on an outdated system that calculates it based on the square footage of a building’s ground floor. A convoluted formula modifies this simple conceit by accounting for multistory buildings, additional residents, and a mixture of uses within the same building. Because the care and feeding of sins and vices comprises a healthy percentage of the city’s underworld operations, and because taxing them directly is far too difficult, the city recently enacted vice taxes. Those who practice such activities gain amnesty from prosecution if they claim the income and pay the proper dues. Violent crimes never gain amnesty from this program.
By charter amendment, Korvosa does not allow merchants, laborers, or tradesmen to form guilds (worse still, in workmen’s eyes, it does allow for criminals to form a thieves’ guild—currently the Cerulean Society). This practice prevents these groups from price-fixing, the city’s main concern, and allows the city to maintain control over much of its labor force. Most workers within the city are self-employed or work for a master to whom they apprenticed in their youths. The city relies on these cottage industries and the skilled workers who make them profitable, so of course it has one entire volume of laws and regulations devoted to the protection and rights of workers. Thanks to the Korvosan drive to succeed, though, the city’s merchants also do well for themselves.
Many people in Korvosa own their residences, but most rent. The costs of these dwellings vary depending on their location and style (as described here).
Manor: These largest of all private dwellings belong only to nobles and relatives of the king. They typically rise to at least two stories and contain no fewer than five rooms (bedrooms and studies), two privies, a bath, a large kitchen and pantry, and a cellar. Most have large family or living rooms. Large, usually well-manicured yards surround these free-standing structures. Manors are never for rent.
House: One of the more uncommon types of dwellings, houses look like small manors, with one or two floors holding up to four rooms, a privy or two, a bath, a kitchen and pantry, and usually a cellar. Many have either a family room or a living room, but not both. Houses have their own yards, usually consisting of narrow strips of hardy plants. Houses are rarely rented out.
Townhouse: Most people in Korvosa live in townhouses. A townhouse is a narrow dwelling that abuts another building on at least one side. Most townhouses begin on the second floor of a building, rising above a shop or other business of some kind, which is also usually owned by the resident. Townhouses otherwise resemble small houses and always belong to those who live in them. This ownership usually extends to the ground floor spaces meant for businesses.
Apartment Suite: Some buildings do not have ground floor businesses and instead contain nothing but living spaces. The largest and nicest of these buildings contain apartment suites, one-story dwellings with one or two bedrooms and all the amenities of townhouses. An apartment suite never fills a floor on its own and usually opens onto a common hallway. Apartment suites can be purchased or rented.
Tenement Flat: Tenement f lats lack their own privies, baths, and kitchens. Instead, they share communal rooms dedicated to these purposes. Two or three of them can squeeze into the space of a single apartment suite. Tenements are only available for rent and cannot be bought by their residents.
Studio: The smallest of all dwellings, a studio consists of a single open space, often with just enough room for a bed and one or two other pieces of small furniture. Studios share communal privies, baths, and kitchens. They are only available for rent and cannot be bought by their residents.
The people of Korvosa universally speak Taldan (frequently known as “Common”). Korvosans have, over time, created their own slang unique to the city. In order to help you blend in while exploring Korvosa, make sure to (correctly) use the following phrases.
Chel: Mildly derogatory term for people of Chelish descent. Widely used as a contemptuous dismissal in the rest of the world. In Korvosa, the word has evolved into a hate-filled ethnic slur. Use of this word constitutes a grave affront in the city, and using it
against the wrong target likely finds the offender beaten, lynched, or killed.
Dancer: Cutpurse, pickpocket, or other thief who works crowds. Comes from the belief that most thieves are Varisians and most Varisians like to dance. Actual dancing performers are called “performers.”
Empty: A beggar, vagrant, or homeless person. Most Korvosans consider an empty to be someone without meaning or purpose, whose existence doesn’t matter and whose life and death occur without mention.
Fronter: Someone who lives in Bridgefront or is otherwise poor. Not a polite term and frequently used as a mild (sometimes playful) insult among younger aristocrats and nobles. Connotes dirtiness.
Gater: Someone who lives in Northgate. Common term even used by Gaters themselves.
Horser: Highly inflammatory term for a Shoanti or other savage primitive. Holds strong connotations of bestiality.
Imp: A young student of the Acadamae. Older students respectfully receive no nickname, as they wield the power to kill those who insult them.
Moth: A full-blooded Varisian. Because so much of the population in Korvosa descends at least partially from Varisian stock, most people don’t consider it an insult, using it as a nickname for the nomadic people. Full-blooded Varisians differ on their acceptance
of the term: some use it themselves while others bristle at its connotations.
Pincher: Someone very poor who scrapes by on only a few copper pinch a month.
sails: One or more ships.
Solly: Someone who wishes to unionize or form a guild. Short for “solidarity.” A dire insult in Korvosa (even if the recipient does support the formation of guilds), sometimes considered the foulest thing to call a Korvosan.
solly slop: Rubbish, excrement. At one time, this referred to the bland porridge of unskilled laborers (the most common agitators for unionizing in the city). Today, Korvosans consider the phrase vulgar and not to be used in public.
The Bank of Abadar mints uniquely Korvosan coins used throughout Varisia. Korvosa ties the value of its coins to those of Cheliax, such that Chelaxian coins are also considered legal tender in the city.
Copper Pinch: Usually referred to as simply a pinch (plural and singular), dropping “copper.” Calling multiple copper coins “pinches” elicits laughs and painful tweaks on the arm or backside.
Silver Shield: Frequently called by its full name to differentiate it from the shields used for protection.
Gold Sail: Always called by its full name to differentiate it from the similar term “sails”.
Platinum Crown: Occasionally referred to as simply a crown, dropping “platinum.”