This is the first in a multi-part series developing the city of Akorros in Darokin from the skeleton outline in GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin to a full-fledged city which I can use as a campaign base. In this series of blog posts you will be able to follow along my research and thinking as I develop it into a rich adventure environment. Once sufficiently developed, it will also be available on WorldAnvil as part of my Melestrua’s Mystara campaign world. Subscribe to this blog to follow along.
My current campaign has been mired in Castle Amber for the last year, and has had an almost compete change of personnel, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, so it’s time to start thinking about what will happen once they return to the real world …well, Mystara …well, my take on Mystara.
We’ve established that most of the new characters come from Akorros, a city in the Republic of Darokin, but the players have never been there. So the first thing is to introduce them…in a way that immediately involves them in the action. Tee hee hee…
But in order to do that, I need to know what the rivalries and groups are, and more fundamentally, what the city is like.
According to GAZ 11 The Republic of Darokin, Akorros is one of the nine great cities of Darokin, but the thieves’ guilds and criminal elements have become rather too powerful, and this is impacting the profitability of the city. In the words of the Gazetteer:
The most important political institution in Akorros is the Thieves’ Guild. Like most of the Thieves’ Guilds in the Republic, this one operates on two levels. On the legal, above-board side, the Thieves’ Guild offers its services in lockpicking and trap disarming, as well as “advisors” on matters of security. On the illegal side, of course, are the traditional activities of burglary, mugging, extortion, and protection.
… In Akorros, however, things have gotten out of hand. Through payoffs, intimidation, and even assassination, the Akorros Thieves’ Guild has risen to such a level of power that nothing of consequence happens in Akorros without the Guilds’ approval. The Toney merchant house is a member of the “Great Nine” houses, but it is number nine. Just ten years ago, Toney was the 6th-largest house, and their losses to the Thieves’ Guild are the main reasons for their decline. The national government in Darokin is just beginning to realize how serious the situation is here, but they recognize that rooting out the Thieves’ Guild will not be an easy taskGAZ11 The Republic of Darokin pp32-33
A slip in net worth may be the case for the city and ruling Toney family…but there is still plenty of money about, and the leaders of the different “Venerable Societies” live lives of luxury in palaces, surrounded by their faithful acolytes and minions. At least until a minion decides it is time for a new leader, in which case the floors can run with blood (another good reason for having your palace floored with marble). And of course, it’s quite an incentive to be faithful when the alternative is being floated out into the lake in pieces along with the remains of your family.
The gazetteer goes on to say Akorros is on the eastern bank of Lake Amsorak, the side nearer to Darokin City and the centre of the country. Consequently, while many Darokinians think of Akorros as similar to Akesoli at the opposite side of the lake, the city inhabitants themselves see the two cities as very different.
“Akesoli is a hinterlands border outpost, suitable for traders and their caravans of goods through the Sind desert but not much else, uncouth and sand-beaten, whereas Akorros is much more civilised and sophisticated, where connections rule and money can buy anything. Sure you have to watch yourself, but pay the local thieves guild fee, display your badge and you should be fine. Who wants a quiet life anyway? There are daros [Darokin currency] waiting to be earned…or at least acquired/liberated.”an Akorros resident
(You can imagine the people from Akesoli put a rather different interpretation on things.)
Okay, so I have a lakeside city of around 23,000 effectively run by thieves guilds and competing factions. It’s at the natural striking off point for trade across the lake to continue overland to Darokin City (the capital of Darokin). It’s not on a river – that’s further south and following it down until it reaches the Streel and then back up again adds significantly to the journey. As any merchant will tell you, every extra day’s journey eats into potential profits.
The economic forces that drive Akorros are quite similar to those in Akesoli. Goods are ported in from all over Darokin, gathered together in a large warehouse district, and ported out across the lake to Akesoli for travel further west. Goods coming east from Akesoli are transferred to land caravans for the trip to Darokin or elsewhere.GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin, p32
Naturally Akorros will have a docks area. In fact it probably has multiple run by different groups. Either that or different sections of the docks will be under the control of different groups. And that’s without mentioning all the individual tie-ups where business can be conducted more privately.
Let’s have the docks area actually spread out into the lake on stilts, with waterways serving the purpose of streets, and warehouses, merchant halls and even a couple of palaces out there. Of course being on stilts gives nooks and crannies actually underneath which small boats can slip through. Let’s also have the shoreline quite undulating with lots of shady inlets, and maybe a nearby island or two. In fact, maybe the docks area actually extends out to include one or more nearby islands.
Other transport connections: on the eastern side of the city, obviously we have the main road to Darokin City. I see this as a busy, well-maintained highway to speed the flow of trade goods. We also have the plentiful agriculture of the Streel basin to transport:
There is more to Akorros … than a simple lakeside warehouse town, as the residents will be quick to point out. As the largest city in the rich agricultural lands of the Streel Plain, all of the biggest farm combines are headquartered here. A good percentage of the fruits, vegetables, and livestock produced in the area are brought to Akorros before they’re sent on to points throughout the world.GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin, p32
So there will be a coast road heading north and south, probably well travelled for quite a distance, getting smaller and less well-maintained once you get away from the farmlands into wilder lands. There will also be a network of smaller roads, farmsteads, townships spread out across the basin.
Size and layout
How much area would a city of 23000 cover? Referring to A Magical Mediaeval Society: Western Europe (3rd Edition) (MMSWE-3),
Most urban environments average a population density of 20-60 people per acre. Larger cities, royal cities, or cities on major trade routes have higher growth potential because of the amount of money flowing through the city. Population density in these cities is as high as 200 people per acre.A Magical Mediaeval Society: Western Europe Third Edition, p43
Since this is a larger city, we can assume it will be at the higher end, certainly in central districts, although it will probably tail off as you move towards the outskirts. To make the numbers easy, let’s make it an average of 100 people per acre. So that gives a size of 230 acres. With 640 acres to the square mile, that’s approximately 2/5 square mile.
I also assume it will have a roughly semi-circular shape, having grown north and south along the coast and east up the road to Darokin. Area of a semi-circle is ½Πr², so with a bit of rearrangement we have r² = 4/5Π mile². 4/5Π is roughly ¼ (certainly close enough for our purposes), giving r² = ¼, so r = ½. This gives us approximately 1 mile north/south along the coast, projecting about half a mile east inland.
What about walls? Referring back to MMSWE-3:
The city walls separate the city from its surrounding, offering protection and regulating people and goods going in and out of the city. They are often thick stone walls, some as thick as 20 feet and as high as 30 feet.
… City walls may keep size and population under control in the early stages of city development, but as people settle outside the walls for lack of space inside the city, merchants, craftsmen, and peasants create suburbs. As these groups become important to the city, town lords, city officials and other high-ranking people extend the walls to protect the suburb. With rapid growth and limited resources, some cities’ walls do not extend fast enough, leaving whole wards outside of the walls.
… The determining factor in extending the city wall is the importance of the people living in the suburb. Merchants and craftsmen usually have little problems convincing the city to protect them, but peasants and laborers are not so fortunate.A Magical Mediaeval Society: Western Europe Third Edition, p41 & p43
So there are probably at least two circling walls, maybe with other partial loops where one part of the city grew faster than the rest. I’ll also assume there are some suburbs outside the walls for people who can’t afford the inner rents (or don’t want the same level of overview).
In cities where invasion is not a large concern, a certain laxity behind the martial use of the wall turns the wall into a place of socializing. Guards, who are simply local guild members in most towns and some small cities, patrol the walls and streets, stopping to talk and chat with people they know. On hot summer days, people climb on top of the walls to catch a cool breeze and talk about local affairs.
Gates are where the city and the outside world collide. There is usually more than one gate into a city, and each gate is manned to regulate and tax people and goods coming into the city. Certain gates see more traffic, usually on roads linking the city to other urban centers. These gates become the city’s main gates.A Magical Mediaeval Society: Western Europe Third Edition, p41
Because of its more central location, Akorros does not have the bandit and monster problems that Akesoli does. As a result, the City Guard is much more relaxed and easygoing, though they are still a competent armed force that should not be disregarded.GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin, p32
So there are probably three main gates – the coast road gates to north and south, and the main gate on the highway to Darokin City. Putting it all together, here’s my first tentative sketch of the city:
What does it all mean? City Layout revealed in Part 2.