Riddle me this...
The third largest city in all Varisia, Riddleport is also the most notorious. Once a secret pirate haven, Riddleport has grown over the last three centuries into a port city in its own right. At first it served as a den of piracy, but over time the city has expanded into a true settlement, the frontier’s frontier, the northernmost outpost on the lonely strip known as the Lost Coast. Yet while Riddleport has grown into a proper city, it remains true to its roots—you can get rich quick in Riddleport if you’ve got skill and a bit of luck. Yet, for every Riddleport success story, there are a dozen nameless bodies buried in potters’ fields or tossed to the hungry denizens of the sea.
Large City nonstandard (titular overlord with multiple crimelords);
GP Limit 40,000 gp; Assets 26,600,000 gp
Type mixed (77% human, 7% dwarf, 5% half-elf, 4% half-orc, 3% tiefling, 2% halfling, 1% gnome, 1% other)
Gaston Cromarcky, NE male human fighter 7/expert 5 (Overlord of Riddleport)
-Riddleport at a Glance
Most of Riddleport’s buildings are composed of wood— logs or planks—with multiple floors and steep, highpeaked roofs of wooden shingles. They are built in close quarters, and in some cases their wooden upper floors sag and lean together from the constantly sodden conditions. Stone fireplaces ward off the bitter winter cold and the chill that lingers in the fog-laden streets for much of the year, save for in high summer. During this two-month period, warmer air currents from the south bring a muggy, oppressive heat along with great black mosquitoes that breed in the nearby marshes. Many burn peat treated with incense in their hearths during these months to ward off the vermin with their thick smoke.
The major streets of Riddleport are cobbled, often becoming rain-slick cataracts during the wet seasons. Cobbles are often missing or crushed by the incessant traffic, leaving gaping holes and ruts in even the most well-tended thoroughfares. Side streets tend to be relegated to muddy tracks that are swift to turn into stinking morasses of sucking mud and filth. Riddleport doesn’t have much of a sewage system, and relies mainly on gutters along street edges to carry refuse to the river and harbor. One feature unique to the major streets are the frequent oil lamps mounted on iron poles that provide beacons of light in the benighted mists. These are set in sturdy hurricane lamps and burn thick, rancid-smelling oil from barrel-shaped reservoirs at the lamppost base—a byproduct and innovation of the Gas Works. These wavering lights give off illumination equal to a torch in even the foulest weather but are not well-tended; just over a third of them are out on any given night, in need of repairs or refueling.
Riddleport is located on the north-western coast of Varisia, where the mouth of the Velashu River forms a natural cove off the Varisian Gulf. Placed between two large rocky bluffs each over 300 feet in height, the city occupies both banks of the river. The majority of the city is situated on the eastern bank, nestled behind the outer rim of the Calphiak Mountains, which cuts it off from hilly tidal swamps to the east. The Velashu finds its way through canyoned walls from the Velashu Uplands. Roads lead out of town to both the north and east, but they are poorly maintained, as most traffic in and out of the city is by boat. The ominous Cyphergate, which towers over the entire harbor, is never out of sight, its rune-covered span dwarfing everything around it.
Riddleport is divided into a total of nine separate districts (although two of them, Lubbertown and the Boneyard, technically lie outside of the overlord’s jurisdiction).
Free-Coin District: Overlord Cromarcky’s three grand gamehalls are located in this part of the city along the northwestern shore of the Velahsu River.
Leeward District: The city’s largest district, Leeward is built into the protecting curve of the city’s eastern ridge, where it is sheltered from the worst of the winter winds. The majority of the city’s population resides in the tall tenements of this district, and most buildings have a shop at street level where standard goods and services can be obtained.
Lubbertown: Known derisively as Lubbertown for the fact that most of its inhabitants arrive at the city by land rather than by sea, this district is not patrolled by the gendarmes and has developed its own social order, informal system of laws, and distribution of goods and employment.
River District: This section of town runs along the banks of the Velashu River and consists primarily of shops and mills. Riddleport’s atrophied trade items are crafted in this district. The waste produced by the district’s tanners and fishmongers and the fact that many of the city’s sewage gutters converge here have earned the place the unofficial name of “Reek District.”
Rotgut District: The slums of Riddleport are a truly depressing and dangerous place to be. Easily the poorest section in the city proper, Rotgut also hosts the highest crime rate and the most brothels and alehouses per capita. It lies along the city’s eastern side against the ridge.
The Boneyard: This deceptively named place actually serves as the city’s dump and ship’s graveyard. Its name is derived from the many old hulks and collections of ships’ ribs that protrude from the swampy ground. The whole area is a partially flooded salt marsh that is generally 2 or 3 feet deep, although some hidden patches of quicksand are much deeper. Monstrous cockroaches, swamp barracuda, and (it is whispered) wererats infest this area.
The Devil’s Fork: This small military district is nestled near the north end of the city on an island in the Velashu River. It serves above as barracks for Riddleport’s 250 gendarmes, and below as a prison for the city’s malcontents.
Wharf District: This rough-and-tumble district lies hard on the edge of the very docks of the city and is where much of the city’s day-to-day action of commerce and thievery occurs. Nearest the docks are a series of warehouses and cheap grog houses where merchant and pirate crews alike mingle in a haze of rum-soaked blood and debauchery.
Windward District: Built on the slopes of the city’s western ridgeline, this is Riddleport’s affluent district; the buildings here are generally quite tall and its streets winding and steep. The majority of the city’s scholars and sages dwell in this windy district.
The town of Riddleport was founded in the 45th century AR as a hideout for pirates attacking Chelish shipping in and out of Korvosa. Since that time it has grown to become a true settlement in its own right.