Secrets of the Sands
Who founded it and why?
Rockwallow was once a dwarven colony, discovered by dwarven explorers eager to carve out every scrap of precious metal from the cavernous mines that dig deep underground. In time, the colony grew into something resembling a town. Eventually, the elven empire conquered the mine, and with the empire’s influence, an entire city rose around it. With the empire drawing away to protect its core, leaving the mine unattended, the city-state has declared independence, thanks to a certain “ex”-criminal named Rotram Goldgrip.
Who Rules / Government type
The city-state once claimed a viscount, but with the rise of Goldgrip and the overthrowing of the government thanks to an increased number of mercenaries, loosed criminals, and slaves fighting for their freedom, the old system of government fell apart. Now the city is ruled by a council. Each member represents one of the larger factions throughout the city: Goldgrip, who controls the mines, merchants, and trade and has the most influence; Mother Galina Shade, a mysterious woman who introduced a new religion and has quite the following; Essential, a tiefling who rules the city’s redlight district; Haera Dayward, a Sun elf and former ambassador, now the leader of a fast growing guild of asssassins and hell-bent on beating the city at its own game; Kalask Redwood, the half-orc leader of the mercenary band known as the Redwood Knives; and the son of the former viscount, Nicolaus Kane.
Main Export / Import
Rockwallow, of course, is known for its impressive mine that pumps out tons of gold, iron, and other valuable metals and minerals. Since Goldgrip’s rise to power, he controls the trade of these products of the mine. Since the surrounding steppes and rocky terrain aren’t great for agriculture, the city’s main import is produce. But the city doesn’t just import and export resources, it’s also known for mercenaries, thugs, assassins, professional thieves, and pretty much anything else incredibly illegal.
What is the architecture of the city?
During the uprisings, most of the city burned. Out of the burnt out husks of the empire’s old structures might rise buildings designed from the cultures of the peoples who live around them. The richer parts of the city retain the Egyptian / Roman feel, while the rest of the city features weird combinations of architecture types as different races and peoples inhabit the city. The temple has a Gothic design. Of course, within the mines, along the harbor, and in the poorer districts, most of the “buildings” are sheds and lean-tos, and those are the most prevalent.
What races live in the city?
Mostly dwarves and humans now, but still very racially diverse. Halflings looking to pinch purses, tieflings looking for a place where they won’t be looked at so hard, gnomes taking advantage of the loose ethics, dragonborn seeking freedom from slavery. Thieves, mercenaries, assassins, and thugs come in all shapes and sizes, and they prefer the unsavory streets of Rockwallow.
What religion holds sway?
Because of the varied population, the religion is also very hodge-podge. Every race, clan, and people brings its religious practices with it when it moves into the city. As a result, like the architecture, there are strange combinations, variances, and evolutions. That being said, the fastest growing religion in the city is centered on a goddess named Nuprix, said to offer respite to those in despair (and man, there’s a lot of despair in this city). Despite its astounding popularity, little is known about Nuprix. Mother Galina Shade, one of the council members, is the head of the religion and runs the temple in the city.
What is a weird cultural thing the citizens do?
Just about everything the citizens do might seem strange. Different people bring their culture to the city, and it gets blended with other cultures to produce some weird mixtures. However, the people of this city maintain pride in their seedy, underhanded ways. It’s the city of thieves and murderers, after all. A unifying trait of the citizens is that they like to test newcomers, see how they fair when it comes to playing the games of the city. You must learn how to lie, cheat, kill, and cover it all up or else you won’t survive. There are constant games and power struggles going on, and some of them are more public than others.
How common is magic?
Most magic-users would hide their true abilities unless they really needed them, so it’s hard to say how common magic is. Magic definitely isn’t performed openly in the streets, at least not usually. One or two of the council members might have some serious skill when it comes to magic.
What sort of relation does the city state have to the large elvish empire to the south?
Not good. The empire isn’t happy about being cut off from the largest mine in the area, losing all that gold. Not to mention that it’s known that many escaped slaves make their way to Rockwallow to disappear. In an attempt to open trade agreements, the city had sent an ambassador named Haera Dayward. Unfortunately, due to the city’s way of testing its newest occupants, the sun elf didn’t even make it to the Keep to meet with Goldgrip. She disappeared into the underbelly of the city and wasn’t seen again until a few years later, changed by the underhandedness and squalor of the city. The empire hasn’t forgotten their wayward daughter.
What factions are important?
The entire city is made up of gangs and factions, and most don’t last more than a month or two before being taken out by one of the bigger gangs and factions. Most important are Goldgrip’s gang, who run the mines and most of the city; Mother Galina Shade and her fast growing cult; Essential and his thugs, who run the redlight district; Haera Dayward and her assassins and rogues; The mercenary group known as the Redwood Knives led by Kalask Redwood; and Nicolaus Kane, the former viscount’s son and the only one maintaining the schools and orphanages. There are lesser factions that have somehow survived, are elusive, and don’t have enough power to challenge the Council: the Halfling known has King Willos who rules a gang of Halflings and children; a gnome by the name of Banfi Lovelace who runs a gang known as the Silver Tears and are primarily made up of former dragonborn slaves; a mercenary group known as The Roses lead by a mysterious rogue named Bond Grimm; and a locked down district known as Blood Street, where hospitals and graveyards are located, lead by Kregan the Doctor and his following.
What is the lifestyle of the citizens?
Every day is a struggle for survival. Most citizens, especially of the lower class, will join a gang, band, or faction for protection. It is not abnormal for some citizens to fight for dominance in the city, or hope to gain the favor of one of the powerful players. Of course, the many factions, gangs, and bands try to outplay and gain advantage over each other. The city, with its loose morals and slack authority, attracts many shady and corrupt individuals. Some citizens may want to secure a place of power or security within their group, or they may just be trying to gain enough influence and resources to make it out of the city altogether. Except for those lucky enough to live in the rich district, most citizens live in squalor and poverty.