Curse of the Crimson Throne
Welcome! This adventure path is an adaption of Pathfinder; Curse of the Crimson Throne, set in the CORWYN game setting. All players will need to read the guide below to give them background information and set up their PCs.
PLAYERS GUIDE TO; CURSE OF THE CRIMSON THRONE
Ashara has long stood as an eastern bastion of Thannish civilization and the capital city of the Kingdom of Gwynne. Yet tragedy seems to haunt the city’s royal bloodline. Few of her rulers rule for long, and none have lived to a ripe old age, dying instead well before their time. Heirs to the throne are few and far between—in its 300-year history, no king of Gwynne has directly inherited the Crimson Throne from his father without some tragedy befalling the monarch. This is the source of much gossip and tale-spinning among the city’s citizens, who speak in hushed tones of what they have come to call the Curse of the Crimson Throne.
HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE
Aside from introducing the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path, this guide is intended to aid players in the creation of characters native to the city. The information presented herein is common knowledge, especially to characters who call Ashara home. This guide is organized to familiarize you first with this city. Within the following pages, you’ll find a gazetteer of the city of Ashara as well as notes on character races, classes, and equipment as they apply to the city. he last section of this book introduces the background trait concept. This Adventure Path begins with the assumption that all new characters share one thing in common: they’ve been wronged in some manner by a local crime lord named Gaedren Lamm. Pick one of the traits that matches your character, and you’ll not only have a built in reason to join forces with the other PCs in your group, ut you’ll also get a nice bonus that’ll help you along your way in the ordeals to come! Most of these traits assume that your character spent a significant portion of his childhood in Ashara, although a few of them allow for more widely traveled characters. For the most part, though, Curse of the Crimson Throne works best with PCs who are natives to Ashara. If this guide whets your appetite for more information about Ashara, be sure to check out the Guide to Ashara, a 64-pagebook that explores the city in detail. Beyond that, the Pathfinder website (paizo.com/pathfinder) and each subsequent volume of Pathfinder will reveal more information about this fantastic city and the world around it, as well as new options for players to further immerse themselves in the ongoing adventures. Rest assured, this guide is merely the first step, and your adventures in Ashara are just beginning!
Like the people of any other city, Asharans concern themselves more with the day-to-day particulars of living than with politics, history, or macroeconomics. Still, Ashara has a few particular nuances that make it and its citizens unique. The following overview only begins to touch on what it means to be a Thannish. At its height, just before the Forgotten War, Ashara just topped 53,000 inhabitants. It lost nearly 20,000 to the resulting chaos of that 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 Ashara remain under-populated. With the buildings it has and the area it covers, Ashara could comfortably fill out to a true metropolis. The dichotomy of Ashara’s under populated affluent wards with overcrowded Old Ashara highlights the city’s greatest failing: the vast gulf of separation between its wealthy, powerful elite and its dreadfully impoverished poor. This gulf between social classes colors the development of the city and led to the creation of some of the features unique to Ashara. Those who live in Ashara 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 lethargy. Thannish folk are quick to judge and slow to forgive. In addition to power, Asharans love predictability. Thannish like to regulate their lives, creating strict regimens for themselves that they slavishly follow. Upsetting a Thannishman’s routine can ruin his entire day and likely makes him angry. To this end, Ashara 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, Ashara also recognizes that not everyone plays by the same rules, so it compensates by applying regulations to non violent criminals in the form of vice taxes and official recognition of the city’s single thieves’ guild. By charter amendment, Ashara does not allow merchants, laborers, or tradesmen to form guilds. Most workers within the city are self-employed or work for a master to whom they were apprenticed in their youths. The city relies on these cottage industries and the skilled workers who make them profitable, so naturally it has one entire volume of laws and regulations devoted to the protection and rights of workers. And thanks to the Thannish drive to succeed, the city’s merchants do well for themselves.
The city of Ashara wears its Thannish heritage proudly on every building, tower, and rooftop. As one of the oldest eastern Thannish settlements in Gwynne, the city of Ashara considers itself the founding seat of Thannish civilization in an otherwise lawless and uncultured region. Thanks to it and the spread of its people, Ashara has become a relatively safe place to live. The city of Ashara sits on the eastern banks of the majestic Myrival River, at a junction with the smaller Jeggare River. The city covers Endrin Isle (which splits the two rivers), and spreads to a few outlying areas on the far shore of the two rivers. A large part of the city stands on two hills; Garrison Hill on Endrin Island and Citadel Hill further south. A small canal called the Narrows separates Endrin Isle from the remainder of the city. Ashara is divided into seven districts, many of which are further subdivided into wards.
West Shore: The only district on the Farside of the Myrival River, West Shore is home to a handful of noble houses closely tied to the military of the city, as well as the struggling Theumanexus College.
Gray: Unlike all other districts in Ashara, Gray’s residents generally keep to themselves and are well behaved. Of course, most of Gray’s residents are dead. The only living creatures who reside in Gray belong to the church of Ator and live within the temple.
The Heights: Standing atop Citadel Hill, the Heights District has a commanding view of the rest of the city, which its residents look down on—both figuratively and literally. Nearly all of Ashara’s power players reside in the Heights, including the monarchy.
Midland: When most people think of Ashara, they think of the cosmopolitan and friendly district of Midland. As the home district of both the City Watch and Sable Company, Midland has the smallest number of gangs and gang battles in the city—although the thieves’ guild does a brisk trade in the district thanks to the disproportionately high number of merchants, shops, and other commercial and financial concerns.
North Point: The first section of the mainland settled by the descendants of the city’s Thannish founders was Mainshore, at the northwestern tip of Ashara. That ward houses many of the city’s oldest non-noble families. The greater district of North Point covers the entire northern end of the city and holds Ashara’s seat of municipal power (City Hall), the city’s courthouse (Longacre Building), and the Bank of Abadar.
Old Ashara: As its name implies, Old Ashara is old. It covers all of Endrin Isle, most of which is covered by Garrison Hill. Atop Garrison Hill stands the stone wall of the old Castle Ashara, while the imposing black marble Arkona Palace dominates the northwest corner of the island.
South Shore: The newest district, South Shore became a part of Ashara only a quarter-century ago .It contains the Pantheon of Many, a massive temple dedicated to most of Corwyn’s most popular deities. South Shore’s population consists mainly of the city’s nouveau riche hoping to escape the cramped conditions found elsewhere in the city.
Five major landmarks give Ashara a distinctive skyline: the ancient and massive structures of Castle Myrkur, Pillar Wall, and Gatefoot, as well as the more practically sized Great Tower and Hall of Summoning, which have stood for less than 50 years. In addition to these landmarks, several locations unique to the city bear mention.
Ashara Academy: Shrouded in secrecy, the campus’s 30-foot-high walls only barely conceal the grand Hall of Summoning. Visitors and residents cannot hope to ignore the presence of the Academy, and since very few people unconnected with the college know what happens within it, the academy has given rise to many rumors.
Castle Myrkur: The centerpiece of the city, Castle Myrkur towers over the Heights. Multiple monarchs have added to the castle over several past centuries. As such, despite a relatively consistent gothic styling, the castle’s tall grey towers and smaller interior buildings are crammed together haphazardly.
The Shingles: Permanent and semi-permanent homes, roads, and safe houses appear on roofs throughout the most crowded parts of the city. These rooftop communities and the pathways that connect them are collectively known as the Shingles.
The Vaults: Most cities have sewers. Some can even claim dungeons beneath them. Yet few have as complex a system of subterranean tunnels quite like the underground sewers of Ashara.
Three distinct military groups police and protect the city of Ashara: the City Watch, the Iron Guards Mercenary Regiment, and the elite Sable Company. Each one focuses its efforts in different areas and interacts with the monarchy in its own unique way. The City Watch serves the city of Ashara first, the government second, and the church of Berevrom third. It works closely with the city leaders and the high priest of Berevrom to maintain order in the city, acting most often like a police force but turning into a military organization whenever the city is threatened by external forces. The Sable Company does not answer to the king of Gwynne, but rather to the seneschal of Castle Ashara. This elite force of cavalry defends Ashara and provides strong military support to the City Watch.
The Cerulean Society is Ashara’s thieves’ guild, and it monitors, controls, or influences almost all illegal activities of any noticeable size in the city. More than a dozen gangs work the streets, Vaults, and Shingles of Ashara, but most of them answer in some way to the Cerulean Society (or else do not survive long). Hastily hushed rumors put one of the noble houses as the de facto leadership behind the thieves’ guild. Ashara’s History of Conflict, misery, and division define its history. Founded as an island fortress at the edge of a hostile and untamed land, Ashara evolved over time into a bustling and energetic trade center. Several distinct periods define the history of Ashara from its blood-splattered founding to its current turmoil. Before the city’s founding, the site on which Ashara stands was sacred to the Mortai peoples, although most Thanns have forgotten why. They knew only that the large temple atop the hill at the mouth of the river was to be guarded at all costs and that no one was ever to enter it. For hundreds of years, they kept this promise.
The People of Ashara
Buildings, infrastructure, and politics make a city livable (or intolerable, in some cases), but the people who live in a place truly make it a city. Barely more powerful than the lord magistrates who preceded them, the monarchs of Ashara must share power with the strict governmental entities existent at the founding of the monarchy. The command King Garik II exerts over the city is constantly checked by the arbiters, magistrates, and nobles, the city’s most politically powerful groups. More than judges, the arbiters not only determine the guilt or innocence of defendants in a court of law, but also have legislative oversight. No one exactly knows what the 23 magistrates or their staffs do, but most Asharans suspect the entire purpose of city hall is to waste the time and money of the city’s people. Finally, two overlapping divisions define Ashara’s aristocracy: the five most powerful families bear the coveted title of Great Houses, giving their members special privileges within the city, and 21 noble houses make up the Dock Families, allowing them to charge berthing fees on one or more docks in the city.
Listed here are many of Ashara’s most well-known names, be they famous or infamous.
Ashara’s government is split into three groups. The magistrates serve as judges, trying criminal cases and settling civil disputes. The Royal Stewards handle the day-to-day bureaucracy of city management. And the monarchy serves as Gwynne’s diplomats and defenders.
Cressida Kroft: The current leader of the City Watch, Marshal Cressida Kroft is an even-tempered woman whose practice of openly encouraging adventurers and mercenaries to aid the Watch in the city’s defense has earned her some unfair criticism by the city’s elite.
Garik Hekkarë II: The King of Gwynne is a man whose spend thrift ways are moderated somewhat by the numerous good works he has spear headed.
Ileosa Arabasti: Queen of Gwynne. Ileosa is barely a third the age of her husband. Rumors say that she holds much of Gwynne in contempt, and that she seduced the king into marrying her simply to advance her own wealth and riches.
Gerold Hekkarë: The Bastard-prince of Gwynne is a young man both feared and hated, for his known cruelty and bad-temper.
Lord Tanner: Often called “the most hated man in Ashara,” Lord Tanner is the Magistrate of Commerce, the man who oversees the collection of taxes in the city.
Lolia Perenne: Once a priest of Berevrom, the current Magistrate of Regulation is tasked with the maintenance of weights and measurements—much of her office’s time is spent seeking out faulty scales, shaved coins, and other attempts by merchants and customers to cheat one another.
Marcus Thalassinus Endrin: Commandant Endrin is the current leader of the Sable Company, a man whose dedication to tradition and honor sometimes blinds him to what might be best for his own career.
Neolandus: The seneschal of Castle Myrkur, Neolandus commands the defenses of the castle itself, and is regarded as the second most powerful individual in the city, behind only King Garik II.
Severan “Boneclaw” Di Vri: The intimidating and mysterious commander of the Iron Guards Regiment. Lictor DiVri is a towering man who rarely leaves his post at Citadel Vraid.
Lord Sylvio Gar: If Lord Tanner is one of Ashara’s most hated officials, Exchequer Gar is one of the most loved—his responsibility is to see to it that city taxes are spent properly and efficiently on public works.
Lady Zenobia: Known as the Hanging Judge, Zenobia is Ashara’s senior Magistrate. Her reputation is justifiably fearsome among city criminals.
Citizens of Note
From the lofty perches of the city’s aristocracy down to the market’s entertainers, merchants, and criminals, many of Ashara’s citizens are well-known figures.
Blackjack: One of the city’s most beloved and reviled heroes, Blackjack is more of a symbol than anything else—a legendary masked hero who has fought for Ashara’s downtrodden for hundreds of years.
Boule: The guild-master of the Cerulean Society, Ashara’s largest Thieves’ guild, Boule is feared by many and respected by few.
Tuttle: The Archbanker of the Church of Berevrom, Tuttle is one of Ashara’s most powerful clerics.
Devargo Barvassi: Known to some as the “King of Spiders,” Devargo runs Eel’s End, a collection of ships that double as a brothel, drug den, and gambling hall.
Glorio Arkona: The patriarch of one of Ashara’s most powerful noble families, it is rumored Glorio has ties to most, if not all, of Ashara’s criminal underworld.
Keppira: The High Priestess of the Temple of Ator, Keppira’s stewardship over the city’s Gray District has kept the presence of undead at an all-time low.
Pilts Swastel: Pilts owns and runs Old Ashara’s Exemplary Execrables, a playhouse that caters to those seeking perverse and morally-questionable entertainment.
Sabina Merrin: Many rumors surround Queen Ileosa’s bodyguard, not the least of which is that she and the queen are secretly lovers, yet none can deny this imposing woman’s loyalty to the crown.
Toff Ornelos: The Academy is the most prestigious school of magic in Varisia, and as its headmaster, Toff is one of the region’s most respected and powerful wizards.
Vencarlo Orsini: Owner of the renowned Orsini Academy fighting school, Vencarlo’s outspoken disdain for Ashara’s government has earned him trouble on several occasions.
Ashara, like any city, has its share of undesirables. Cutpurses, thugs, thieves, burglars, assassins, and lowlifes of every sort can be found in waterfront slums, creeping in the sewers, or hiding in the tangled Shingles above. The City Watch does what it can to keep the city’s criminals from causing too much harm, but the cold reality is that they will always outnumber the law. And that means some crimes go unpunished and some criminals see great success. Worst of these, perhaps, are the city’s crime lords. Dozens of them operate in Ashara at any one time, from the sinister leader of the Red Mantis assassins all the way down to the Korghani Sczarni thugs who preside over a gang of a half-dozen friends and cousins. These minor crime lords are often, ironically, the ones who do the most damage to Ashara’s law-abiding citizens, as larger organizations have little need to bother commoners. One such undesirable is Gaedren Lamm, a despicable low-life who missed his chance at being somebody big in Ashara’s murky underworld. Well past his prime, the decrepit thief abducts orphans and forces them to support his despicable lifestyle with petty crime. Many of Ashara’s lower class have had dealings with Lamm, and even a few of the city’s middle class and nobility have had their lives complicated by this foul old man. Yet no matter what he does, he always seems to slip away from the guards and avoid answering for his crimes. Gaedren Lamm’s luck is about to change, though. For among those his actions have recently touched are several men and women destined to become some of Ashara’s greatest heroes. And one of those heroes is you.
Even before Curse of the Crimson Throne begins, you and the other PCs have a shared trait—you’ve all been wronged, in some manner, by the despicable Gaedren Lamm. The campaign you are about to begin starts as you and several other promising young heroes are brought together to do what the City Watchs cannot (or will not) do—to see that Gaedren Lamm answers for his crimes, be that in a court of law or at the edge of a vengeful blade. Presented here are five ties to Gaedren you can choose for your character, historical snippets that explain how this detestable crime lord has affected you in the past. Each trait presents an unfortunate event, painted in broad strokes so you can customize it to your needs, which helped shape your character. Once you’ve selected a trait, pick a benefit that matches your own concept for your character. Feel free to adapt and rework the particulars of your chosen trait to fit your history. So long as you have a reason to see Gaedren pay for his crimes, you’ll have a built-in reason to take up a life of adventuring and, more importantly, a reason to bond with your new companions. Obviously, these background traits won’t work well for new characters brought into the campaign after Gaedren’s been taken care of, yet the flavor text can be easily changed. Talk with your GM, but it should be a simple matter for you to pick one of the following traits, change a few names, and have it focus on an entirely different set of circumstances. It’s up to your GM to decide if your new higher-level character has already addressed these issues or if he wants to work them into future events in the campaign. The game benefits of the selected trait remain unchanged, and persist even after Gaedren Lamm is taken care of.
1) Framed: Someone you know and love was accused of murder. A supposed eyewitness account from a local fisherman seemed to be enough to seal the case, but the accused had enough alibis that sentencing wasn’t immediate. Someone confronted the fisherman and discovered he was intimidated into providing false witness and forced into planting the murder weapon by the actual murderer—a local crime-lord named Gaedren Lamm. Lamm’s thugs killed the fisherman before he could recant his testimony. Although this removed the key witness and resulted in the accused being set free, the stigma was enough to badly damage his reputation. If you can find Gaedren, you’re sure you can find evidence that ties him to the murder and can clear the accused’ name.
Family Honor: The person framed was a family member, perhaps a father or brother. You managed to trick the fisherman into revealing the truth with your skilled tongue, and thus gain a +2 bonus on Bluff checks.
Dropout: You were the one accused. Although you were eventually freed when a friend confronted the fisherman and got the truth, the damage had been done. You were forced to leave your school (perhaps the Academy) or church. As a result, you were forced to self-train and promised yourself you would become better at your chosen profession despite the spurning of your peers. You gain a +2 bonus on Spell craft checks.
2) Love Lost:* Someone you loved was knifed to death in a dark alley one night. You were called to the scene by the City Watch to identify the body, and as rough as that was for you, you also noticed a ring was missing from the body. Whoever murdered your loved one stole that ring—you’re convinced of it. You’ve done some investigation on your own and recently found the ring for sale at a local merchant. Although, to your great frustration, you can’t afford yet to buy it back, the merchant did tell you from whom he purchased the ring: a man named Gaedren Lamm. It seems likely this criminal is the one who killed your loved one, or at the very least knows who did. The only problem is finding him.
Orphaned: The murder victim was your only surviving parent. You had to grow up fast to take care of your siblings or to handle your family’s matters and were forced from an early age to support yourself. You gain a +2 bonus on one of the following skills: Craft, Perform, or Profession.
Widowed: The murder victim was a lover. With your lover’s death, a part of you died as well, leaving you haunted, grim, and prone to dark musings. You gain a +2 bonus on Intimidate checks.
3) Missing Child*: You suspect that a child you know has-been abducted by Gaedren. Whatever the relationship, you’ve heard rumors about Gaedren’s “Little Lamms,” and of how the old man uses children as pickpockets and scouts for his crimes. You’ve even heard rumors that the child you’re looking for has been spotted in the marketplaces in the company of other known to be cutpurses and pickpockets. Although the City Watch has been understanding of your plight, yet it has its hands full with “more important” matters these days, it seems, and has not yet been able to learn anything more about Gaedren. No one else is interested in bringing Gaedren down and rescuing his victims—that task falls to you. Yet where could the old scoundrel be hiding?
Missing Sibling: The missing child is a brother or sister. Although everyone else has given up hope, you believe your sibling still lives out there. Your constant search for the missing sibling has developed into great skill at rumor mongering and finding information from others. Gather Information and Sense Motive are always class skills for you.
Missing Son or Daughter: The missing child is your own son or daughter, a niece or nephew, or the son or daughter of your superior or employer and one you had been charged with protecting. The child was abducted during a trip to the market or some other daily event. Long hours spent searching for rumors and your stubborn will to continue grant you a +1bonus on Will saves.
4) Unhappy Childhood*: You spent a period of time as one of Gaedren’s enslaved orphans. Maybe you were abducted from your parent’s home or during a trip to the market. Perhaps the irresponsible matron who ruled your orphanage traded you to him in return for a desperately needed loan of money. Or perhaps you, like most of Gaedren’s slaves, were merely a child of the street who succumbed to his promise of regular meals and a roof in return for what he said would be “a little light work.” Whatever the case, you spent several years of your life as one of his “Little Lamms” before escaping. You’ve nursed a grudge for the old man ever since.
Tortured: Gaedren tortured you and left you for dead on a garbage heap after you made one too many errors. Your scars and memories have honed your reaction speed and make you rather jumpy. You gain a +1 bonus on Reflex saves.
Religious: You found a holy symbol of the god you worship today while on a job for Gaedren and, intrigued by it, you snuck off to attend services. When Gaedren found out, he beat you to within an inch of your life and broke your holy symbol. Your faith let you block out the pain, and you escaped his control and took shelter in the church, where you spent the rest of your youth. You gain a +2 bonus on Concentration checks.