Rock of Bral
The Rock is a bustling, dirty, port city filled with traders, rogues, mercenaries, pirates and thugs. There is no city watch and only two rules to remember: mind your own business and gold can fix anything.
There’s profit to made everywhere and always work to be done, so while the city suffers from overcrowding poverty is not a major concern. If courtesy is king than gold is queen; vendors hawk their wares, spacefarers seek taverns, entertainers panhandle, and merchants sell just about everything.
The city is divided into four quarters. The Low City is where the dockyards, dive bars, and houses of ill repute are located. It is a congested, overcrowded tangle of buildings built atop one another. The Middle City is a crowded merchant district where companies keep their offices and most embassies are stationed. The High City is a sparsely populated garden where the elite dwell. And finally, the is the Underside, the bottom of The Rock where prisoners sentenced to hard labor work the city’s farmlands.
You can usually tell a native Bralian from a sailor or mercenary by his manner of dress. Native Bralians prefer subdued, conservative clothing as opposed to the garish costumes that off-rockers where. A well dressed craftsman typically wears cotton breeches and a long, sleeved tunic of cotton or wool that hangs to mid-thigh. Merchants and tradesmen often wear tabards over their tunics, emblazoned with the emblems of their company.
Trading companies, Merchant Houses, Small Merchants and Independent Captains make up the mercantile class of the city. Trading companies are ruled by either family or council, with holdings in numerous spheres and are able to make profit in bulk cartage of cheap materials such as lumber or textiles. The loss of a ship or outpost can be absorbed by the larger organization. Merchant houses deal in more exotic cargos, high risk operations with exotic cargos; the loss of a ship can be devastating. Small merchants are the thousands of shop owners, inn keepers, restauranteurs, chandleries, etc. They depend on the constant flow of goods and travelers to stay in business. Independent captains are the ones who own a ship and pull into port with a load of exotic commodities, usually selling to a trading company or merchant house.
The gold of over 30 nations is honored, but the paper currency of other realms is not. In most cases, any gold will be accepted, though the Royal Exchequer will legally exchange currency for a 5% fee, handy when stopping over for a journey to a distant realm. On any given day over 20,000 gold from over a hundred different realms is exchanged.
One must realize that since most everything is imported there is a price inflation of up to 50% on almost all goods.
The city is ruled by Prince Andru in an unchartered monarchy. His predecessor and brother ruled for six days; the body being found in the trash of the Low City. The Council of the City, a body of 30 individuals, gives a chance to any citizen to have his or her voice heard. They have the power through unanimous vote to overturn any royal decree, but as they are all royal appointees and in the history of The Rock this has never happened. The more powerful body of the Noble Council, which consists of all 37 chartered landowners of The Rock, can disenfranchise any landholder by majority vote. Prince Andru sits on the council and has a 49% vote by definition. The Bureau of Land Distribution and Collection is an instrument of the council and supervises the charters and leases that forms the real estate market. The Council of Captains is the most powerful body, made up of all individuals and firms that own five or more ships and lease or own property on The Rock. They regulate trade, set tariffs and exchange rates, and enforce the rules of fair trade. Prince Andru sits on this council as well but only possesses a tie-breaking capability and veto power.
The laws are governed by royal decrees and magistrates with personal watches empowered to enforce the law. The law changes frequently in reaction to conditions, with postings and criers alerting the folk to the change in policy. The law permits that an offense can be reported to the local magistrate, who can send his watchmen to arrest the perpetrator if the magistrate feels it is warranted. If no report is made, no crime has occurred, and usually the magistrate will look to find a lesser, finable offense if the offender can afford it rather than a harsher sentence. The High City watch is comprised of a few gentlemen swordsmen and mages, the Middle City, the Low City has a tough force of over 30 crossbowmen and halberdiers, and the Underside is under direct military control. The citizens prefer to police themselves, so bouncers are a frequent sight at all taverns and inns, for example.
Burglary One year of labor Underside
Armer Robbery Five years of labor Underside
Negligent Arson 10 years of labor Underside
Manslaughter Five years of labor Underside
Smuggling Confiscation of goods and five years of labor Underside
Common Theft One year of labor Underside
Second Offense Five years of labor Underside
Third Offense Jettisoning
Provocation 30 day’s Underside
Fees and Services
Air Tax 2 sp/ton
Fouled Air Fine 100 gp
Poisoned Air Fine 500 gp
Water Replenishing 1 sp/ton
Carpenter 24 gp/month
Clerk 30 gp/month
Laborer 12 gp/month
Longshoreman 24 gp/month
Mercenary 10-30 gp/month
Merch. Agent 25-40 gp/month
Regular Inf. 20 gp/month
Sailor 24 gp/month
Shipwright 36 gp/month
Ale, Tankard 1 sp
Board 7 gp/month
Inn, Cheap 3 gp/month
Inn, Good 8 gp/month
Meal, Poor 2 sp
Meal, Good 1 gp
Staples, Poor 1 sp/day
Staples, Good 2 sp/day
Rent, Low City 5-30 gp/month
Rent, Middle City 10-100 gp/month
Rickshaw, Ride 1 sp
Arrow, Flight 2 gp/12
Arrow, Sheaf 4 gp/12
Backpack 5 gp
Boots, Leather 5 gp
Breaches and Tunic 4 gp
Horse, Riding 250 gp
Lantern, Hooded 12 gp
Lantern, Bullseye 17 gp
Oil, Flask 2 sp
Quarrel, Light 5 gp/12
Quarrel, Heavy 7 gp/12
Water is not much a concern on the rock, there is an ample lake that gets replenished every few years by cutting off a chunk of a passing comet. Food, however, is an expensive commodity. Property is rare in the extreme, and there is an 18 month waiting list to purchase any land.
The Underbarons are enigmatic crime lords that sit at the center of a web of deceit, racketeering, gambling, theft and extortion. In any given area, the shops and craftsmen are under the protection of one guild or another. The cost of “insurance” is seen as just the cost of doing business on The Rock, and the crime lords are also known for their largesse to the commonfolk, offering interest free loans and reimbursement for loses caused by a competing underbaron. Don’t be fooled though, a merchant who seeks help will be making a deal with the devil.
Each underbaron is the master of his or her own Thieves’ Guild, though their ranks include warriors and mages. Ozamata controls the docks and most of the Low City, smuggling and shanghais are his province. Meredin rules the district of craftsmen, watching over common burglaries and extortion. The Juggler supervises the various swindlers, minstrels, and con men, as well as provides security for the noble estates. A faceless underbaron is believed to operate in The Rock’s underdark, overseeing the illegal slave trade.
The Court of the Prince
Prince Andru‘s attempts at turning the city from a free port to a diplomatic hub have largely been successful. He rarely holds audiences or attends to matters of state, though an occasional banquet or ball are held from time to time, giving a chance for the elite to gain access to him. A cadre of loyal and well paid retainers handle mundane matters and he generally turns to them for advice. He listens to the magistrates’ recommendations, and is perceived as an unconcerned ruler. There is a slew of bureaucratic levels one must overcome to meet with the prince, getting from the gate house to the Majordomo, onto the Chamberlain and onto the Proconsul. Most requests end at the front gate, and only a rare few pass from the Proconsul onto the Prince.
Old and superstitious Bralians insist that the city was once inhabited by an ancient race that will one day return. Archeological expeditions have discovered Illithid and Beholder artifacts within the ancient tunnels. While neither race claims to any past presence, experts believe that the Illithids established an outpost on The Rock about 800 years ago, only to be exterminated and supplanted by Beholders who were wiped out in turn by another nation of their own race. Recently remnants of Dwarven constructions have been found, estimated to be 400 years old. The fate of approximately 200 Dwarves is unknown, meals were found half eaten, pots still on the hearth, and sword blades half finished lay on the anvil. Aside from the Elves stopping by The Rock to replenish Air and Water, no other race used the rock in ancient times.
170 years ago Captain Bral, a notorious pirate, established it as a secure hideout despite rumors of it being haunted space. He seeded the topside and underside with trees and crops. The caverns that form the modern docking caverns in the Low City were his first home. He soon assembled a small fleet of Corsairs named the Black Brotherhood. A town grew up around the port as more people and races came to settle and build. Most were rogues and thieves, but a few were merchants and entrepreneurs. It was a lawless town of endless revelry and unchecked dueling. Bral himself died when a flotilla of five ships were returning from a successful raid of a groundling city and ran into eight Imperial Elves Men o’ War. Only one of the pirate ships escaped, Bral’s vipership, the Starwind, was not one of them. The citizens threw a wild wake in honor of his death in a glorious blaze, and named the city after him. For almost 60 years after his death the city slowly grew, climbing up topside from the caves. The pirate captains ruled the city by popular consensus and little of the character of the city changed.
Slowly, merchants and tavern keepers became the majority of the citizenry. Cozar, a clever and ambitious captain, could see the tension rising between the pirates and permanent residents and knew that the pirates’ days were numbered. He quietly bought up every square centimeter of land. Those who held out sold under contract for free leases in perpetuity, while other powerful holdouts were granted privileges, permitting them to become what would later be known as the nobility. Once The Rock was his, he evicted any pirate who could not produce a legitimate business or lease. The bitterest opponent was Gadar Skullbreaker; he and six of his crewmen were killed in a confrontation with Cozar and the city leaders at the Broken Lantern in the Low City. The permanent residents supported Cozar, as they were tired of the lawlessness and tyranny of the pirate lords.
Cozar produced a Royal Charter, setting forth his lordship over The Rock and set forth the basic rules for governance. Thus, House of Cozar was born.
Prince Cozar ruled long and wisely, building The Rock into a legitimate center of trade. To keep the pirate captains who stayed happy he formed the Council of Captains as the chief governing body of the city. To their surprise, using their ships for trade was more profitable than piracy. Cozar established the first code of laws and formed a militia for the common defense. Its location allowed it become a center for free trade, old pirate lords founded merchant houses, great companies sought representation on the Rock, and it was an easy layover for any traveler.
Cozar’s son was not the man his father was, and while the city flourished and grew threefold under his 35 year rule, he concerned himself only with the accumulation of wealth and comfort and was not a strong man with an imposing authority. He expanded Starhaven, built the Citadel and the Donjon. His foresight saved the city several times during sporadic raids. During his rule the Neogi first came to Realmspace. A trader came to the sphere and demanded to meet with the prince. After being kept waiting for over a week he felt so insulted by the Prince, who thought he was too arrogant for its own good, that he left and returned six months later with a small fleet and an abandoned Dwarven stronghold. They dropped the citadel on The Rock, hoping to destroy it, but instead it only flattened a portion of the Middle City. The Neogi left in disgust, and Frun built a festival ground upon the demolished city quarter. He later died in the middle of a soiree commemorating Cozar’s birthday.
Calar inherited an empty royal vault, and was spoiled and pampered. Everyone assumed the royal house would pass into insignificance. Six days after taking the throne he was found in the jettisoned rubbish trailing the Low City.
By the rules of succession Aric should have succeeded to the throne, but Andru, the quiet second son of Frun seized the reins of power within hours of his brothers death. He then altered the rules of succession, enabling the oldest living male heir of Cozar to sit on the throne. So long as he does not bear a son then Aric is the next in line for the throne.
After securing the crown Andru launched a thorough inquiry into his brother’s death. Irrefutable evidence convicted a powerful Underbaron in league with the illithids and he was executed for the crime.
Andru struggled to restore power and wealth to the crown, it has been a struggle but a rewarding one. During his reign the captains have turned towards him as a source of authority and power. His judicious use of low taxes have promoted trade and swelled The Rock’s coffers at the same time, allowing him to double the size of the army and triple the size of the navy.
- SJR5 5-18, 58