Friday, March 18, 2022

Tabur, Grand Capital of Elburz Satrapy

Tabur has been the base of operations for my players in the King of Kings campaign (which has been on an extended hiatus since my last after action report post, unfortunately; though it will be making a valiant return soon enough), but for the most part it has been left rather vaguely sketched out. For the most part, it has only been a location to gather rumors and then return to after an expedition is done to give tribute to the group's patron, Farzaneh Taburi. While there has been tidbits of flavor here and there, I wanted to develop it into a more fully fledged location, and one that can possibly be a location for some adventure if the players so desire.

So without further ado here's some notes on the city, along with descriptions for the four quarters of the city and tables for random encounters! Additionally, I wanna thank John over at The Retired Adventurer for the advice/help with the format for the core description of the city.

Capital of Elburz Satrapy, religious and political epicenter of the east.
Atmosphere: Old money and old power, political intrigue, massive inequality. Looming stone structures a la Persepolis.
Size: ~9k souls.
Demographics: Mostly Shahanistani, small frogling and weirdwalker minorities.
Ruler: Satrap Gholam Ruyanian
Major Cults: Cult of the Morning Star (sanctioned), Cult of Mitra (sanctioned), Cult of the North Star (sanctioned), Followers of the Veiled One (banned)
Major Factions: House Taburi, House Manati, The Temple Reformers, The Snakes, The Mongeese, The City Guards
Landmarks: Hangman Bridge (river crossing, public executions), Lion Bazaar (major market), The Plaza of the Horse (horse racing and gambling), The Iron Pit (prison and city guards).
Quarters: The Tigerskin Quarter (froglings, weirdwalkers, and industry), The Charcoal Quarter (the poor, destitute, and craftsmen), The Bay of Red-Feathered Plenty (noble shops and homes of House Manati), the Emerald Eye of the Basilisk (fighting rings, homes of House Taburi).

What one of the gates to the city might look like (the Ark of Bukhara in Uzbekistan)

Short Descriptions of Factions
House Taburi is a well established noble family centered on the city of Tabur, but with land holdings and dehqans of many ages spread primarily throughout Elburz satrapy. It is the family of Farzaneh Taburi, the group patron, and thus House Taburi is the faction that the players are most associated with.
House Manati is the greatest rival of the Taburis, although they are a younger house. While Taburi can draw their lineage back to some of the earliest shahs of Elburz, Manati claims descent from the Conquering King. The jockeying for power between Manati and Taburi is why the Shahanshah has appointed a third party as satrap of the province.
The temple reformers are a loose collection of priests and temple bureaucrats who believe that the enlightened temples have been taking advantage of the poor and needy and seek to reform the religion and, by extension, the state of affairs to better society. Many of them are followers of the Veiled One.
The Snakes and the Mongeese are the rival horse racing teams of Tabur, with followings in most of the cities of the north of the Enlightened Empire. Think something comparable to the Blues and Greens of Justinian's Constantinople, along with their gangs of supporters.
The City Guards are the clenched fist of Satrap Ruyanian, although they are mostly centered on the edges of the city and at the Iron Pit where criminals and heretics are held and executed.

The Tigerskin Quarter
Sights: Closely packed brick houses, tight winding streets, frog lords in water tubs carried on the backs of slaves.
Sounds: Conversations in several different languages, braying of beasts, croaking of frogs, clanging of metal on metal.
Smells: Burning smoke in the air, brackish blackened water, wet clay, hot metal.

The Steel Serpent:
The official supplier of metal arms and armors for both the city guards and the forces of the Kanarang whenever he comes to Tabur. The only official source of plate armor and other such items in the city, and to even be able to purchase such items requires bribes and cajoling.
Mail Armor: 150 drachmae
Cataphract Armor: 500 drachmae
Grivpanvar Armor: 1,000 drachmae
Cataphract Horse Armor: 1,000 drachmae
Grivpanvar Horse Armor: 1,500 drachmae
Repairs to any set of armor: Half the listed price i.e. 250 for repairing cataphract armor, 500 for repairing grivpanvar armor.
Short Sword: (such as akinakes) 12 drachmae
Two Handed Sword: 25 drachmae
The Steel Serpent is the only place where one is able to legally acquire a sword in Tabur and, as mentioned above, access is controlled.

The Tigerskin Quarter is home to Tabur’s two minority communities: the froglings, sorcery-wielding amphibians from the marshy land surrounding the First City in the western regions of the Enlightened Empire, and the weirdwalkers, an exiled people with no land who are on a journey in search of their lost god (Kusa’s people!). The froglings cheer for the Mongeese.

Potter's Alley:
This is the place to go if you need any kind of ceramic ware or glass (it has been since days long gone that glassblowers were lumped together with potters), and so it is frequented by anyone in need of a container for anything else. Potter's Alley is also on the edge of the neighborhood of the weirdwalkers, their mysterious kilns belching sweet smelling smoke up into the sky.
For a typical clay vessel, price varies by who is making it and by size. Typical size to price ratios are:
Very Small: can fit roughly one swig of a liquid or a small amount of solid, 2 drachmae
Small: a small bowl or oil lamp size, 3 drachmae
Medium: comparable to a water bottle or larger bowl, 5 drachmae
Large: an amphora of wine or something of comparable size, 9 drachmae
Very Large: a very large bowl too large to hold in one hand or even both hands, 15 drachmae
For glass vessels, add 5, so very small becomes 7 drachmae, small 8, medium 10, large 19, very large 25.
It is possible to commission weirdwalkers to make ceramics with mysterious properties, for that is the gift of their crawling god. Such creations have their prices determined on a case by case basis.

Random Encounters in the Tigerskin Quarter (1d6):
1: A contingent of burly sooty slaves dragging a hot crucible through the winding streets, holding onto it with heat-resistant gloves and tongs and dragging it on dirty clothes. They are singing working songs and swearing up a storm.
2: A panicked debtor is attempting to pawn off subpar blades that they say they were convinced to sell by a frogling blacksmith. If they don’t get money for the blades, they’ll be sent to the Iron Pit!
3: A frogling mother has accidentally dropped the clay jar she was using to carry around her tadpoles!
4: A group of weirdwalker children playing in the street with clay toys of different animals and monsters. If you didn't know better, you'd think some of them were moving on their own!
5: A hunched over manservant dragging a cart behind him is in the process of picking up and taking back swords and other weapons for the city guards. He is dissatisfied but afraid of punishment.
6: A frogling coin lord is being marched through the street in a tub of sloshing water borne on the backs of four slaves. They are going around the streets in some fusion of a business trip and a flaunting of wealth.

The Charcoal Quarter
Sights: Tenements housing many more families than can comfortably fit all stacked one upon the other, crumbling ruins as the quarter gets closer to the city walls, beggars and carpenters and dye workers.
Sounds: Plaintive groans, feet padding upon the wet ground, arguments in some house you can't quite see.
Smells: Water, sweat, smoke from wood fires to make charcoal.

The Charcoal Quarter is where most people in Tabur live. It is presumably where most of the players have been staying when not going on adventures for Farzaneh Taburi, at least just due to it being the cheapest place to live. It is also a good source of rumors, namely from everyday lower class inhabitants of the city; most of the rumors that the players have received have come from NPCs centered in the Charcoal Quarter.

In addition to being the population center of the city and the poorest section of the city, the Charcoal Quarter is also where most craftsmen are centered. While those who work in industries that require a more forceful and fiery hand, such as blacksmiths and glassblowers, dwell in the Tigerskin Quarter, simple carpenters, bakers, coopers, dyers, candlemakers, and others in similar professions work here. Probably the biggest landmark of the quarter is the great dye works, where swarms of barefooted young women and men with bright stains up to their knees provide color to the spun cloth of the town.

Notably also, the Charcoal Quarter is where one can find most hirelings on the cheap. Drachm Street, where beggars and those in need of odd job employment aggregate, is where many such people can be found.
Example hirelings of Drachm Street:
Beggar: 1 drachm, +1 hit point
Light Bearer Boy: 1 drachm
Failed Stonemason: 3 drachmae, skilled at digging and cutting stone
Dye Works Girl: 3 drachmae, agile and quick, able to identify liquids
Tough Bully: 4 drachmae, +1 to hit and damage

Random Encounters in the Charcoal Quarter (1d6):
1: A millenarian street preacher, clad in garishly colored robes and with some implement of pain wrapped around their necks and arms. They call for all who listen to heed their warning of the coming prophet. If they linger too long, they will be arrested by the city guards.
2: An elderly beggar, a veteran of a battle against the Gnostic Elves decades upon decades ago, holding out a bowl for alms as he sits on the corner, unable to move except on a little wooden cart made for him.
3: The loud sound of an energetic youth harking goods outside of a family shop. They are making these little pieces of carpentry sound irresistible. 
4: A scrap in the street! 2d4 youths (and perhaps their tired and haggard parents) are caught in a fist fight over some perceived or real slight. The only way to find out is to intervene.
5: A gaggle of dye girls striding through the murky street, their legs and arms stained a cacophony of colors. They seem very excited to go see something.
6: A giant insect, pitch black from the choking smoke, crawls on the wall beside the group. It can spray a noxious fluid from its behind, and tastes foul raw but delicious when boiled (though make sure to throw away the water after, it'll be choked with coal dust)

The Bay of Red-Feathered Plenty
Sights: Houses made of beautiful wood and smooth stone nicely spaced from one another, bright red feathered plumes that loom over the street, servants in well to do garb anxiously going from store to store.
Sounds: Jovial conversation filled with words that you only half understand, deep guttural laughter, discussions over prices, water and wine being poured from clay jugs.
Smells: Spices, wine, olive oil, and aromatic woods. The dried out skin of long dead animals and dusty feathers.

The heart of upper class artisans and craftsmen, who work in fineries and fripperies day in and day out. Just about the only place here in the east where the traditional luxuries can be easily bought and sold (other than, of course, Humakuyun on the sea, but that city has many more unorthodox luxuries as well). The ancient arts and poetries of the region are represented well in this district. Additionally, the Bay of Red-Feathered Plenty is the center for House Manati, whose scions and princes dot the rolling riverside hills of the district in spades. It is beside the river itself where the most ancient building in the quarter sits, the palatial estate of the Conquering King's bastard son's descendants, the heads of House Manati. While House Manati presides here, they cannot stop the nobles of House Taburi from venturing in; but the Manatis have made as much of an effort as possible to keep their district as autonomous as possible from the sway of the city guards.

While it is technically not illegal to set foot in the bay as a member of the lower classes, being visibly poor will result in disgusted glances and refusal of service. If you dress in clothes befitting a higher station than your own, then perhaps you can get by in the wide boulevards of the bay, but being found out as a facsimile of the rich will net you an even worse punishment than simply being poor in the district. Alternatively, you can simply spend Rapport with your patron to have her accompany you in the bay, resulting in everyone assuming you are simply one of her clients or slaves.

The bay gets its name from the red feather plumes that loom over it during the day, and from the crimson Parrot-Fiends who haunt it at night, squawking loudly and entrapping trespassers in an unbreakable embrace until guards arrive (although in certain situations this is actually until pigmen in the service of one of the noble scions of House Manati arrive; in fact, the bay has a sort of parallel system of pigmen guards for affairs internal to House Manati). The parrot-fiends are sorcerous undead creations, and can be turned by clerics. The city guards hate them.

Example stores in the Bay of Red-Feathered Plenty:
The Aviary of Ashfar Ghen - Large building filled with cages of the finest and most exotic birds. Exorbitant fees must be paid for long distance transportation without the birds eaten by tigers. 
The Herpetorium of Yamsheen the Wise - An unassuming building operated by an old woman from a long line of fine lizard breeders. Illegal gecko production facility in basement, shipments sent to the assassins in Humakuyun.
The Manticore’s Tongue - A warehouse of spices, owner on good terms with Farzaneh Taburi. Locked up tight at night for fear of robbery, even with the bay’s security system.
The Silver Scale - A rather new lizard breeding enterprise established by a brineman named Farfeen. Closely involved in parrot-ghoul maintenance.
Sarai’s Silken Thigh - A purveyor of fine clothes, which supplies the city’s nobility with fine silken brocades and dyed cloth. Sarai owns a dying facility in the Charcoal Quarter.
Order of the Red Feather Dancers - A dancing company that takes in young men and women and turns them into dancers and confidants. Also sells spy-monkeys.
The Glinting Knife - A secret weapon supply for the nobility and merchants. Specializes in the production of blades for quick and silent murder. 
Yaghbona’s Furs and Skins - A purveyor of fine clothes, but more particularly focused on items made of animal furs and reptilian scales. One of the few shops in the bay regularly visited by adventurers.

Random Encounters in the Bay of Red-Feathered Plenty (1d6):
1: A foppish young nobleman being borne along on a palanquin, sightseeing around the quarter that he already lives in. He is loose with his coin, and easy to fool.
2: A poor river fisher on their boat, being yelled at by a port servant in dark robes for stopping in the bay's wharf.
3: A mysterious palanquin with its curtains drawn in close, only vague silhouettes visible through the thick brocades in the midday sun. Rumors abound as to what is in it; a portion of a noble's harem, a fine treasure being transported from house to house, perhaps even an eccentric noble themself?
4: An artist displaying lizard poetry in the street. The beautiful words encoded in the patterns of scales on the reptiles' backs are mesmerizing.
5: A group of burly men in full body cloaks and masks march through the street, carrying bags laden with fineries upon their backs.
6: A wandering, meandering party of nobles and their hangers-on crawl through the street, wine drunk and with full stomachs.

The Emerald Eye of the Basilisk
Sights: Houses of ancient stone hewn with the finest of tools, tall buildings painted in bright hues of green, mercenaries and guardsmen for hire lingering on certain corners, members of house Taburi striding in the street with parasols held above them by manservants.
Sounds: Whispered conversations at street corners, the wind flowing through silken curtains, the muffled sound of fighting somewhere not too far away and not too close.
Smells: Incense, soap, blood. The fresh smells of the river as it flows into the city.

The Emerald Eye is the old center of the city, the part of town that has been inhabited for centuries before even the time of the Conquering King. The crumbled remains of the city's original stone walls encircle this district, as the city has grown far past its meager beginnings innumerable generations ago. At the middle of the Emerald Eye is a hill, where in ancient days it was said a basilisk was born on the night of a viridian comet and a full moon. That baleful rumor kept the pastoralists of the valley away from the hill and away from the river it sits beside, allowing for a settlement to take root. Sitting atop the hill is the palatial abode of the city's satrap, Gholam Ruyanian; at its foot is the Iron Pit, the dreadful jail where criminals and heretics go to die. Encircling the satrap's palace are the homes of House Taburi, the ancient family who founded this city.

While House Taburi are the ancient founders of the city, they are also deeply involved in the trade networks that pass through the valley, and in many of the affairs that this implies. The Taburis have a finger in every pot, so to speak; Farzaneh, for instance, is deeply involved in the salt and spice trade through the Great Desert to the south. As a result, there are many warehouses owned by House Taburi in this part of town. One of the more unsavory businesses which House Taburi have gotten themselves involved in is the mercenary trade. While there are independent mercenary companies in Elburz satrapy, House Taburi dominates this area in Tabur proper. This, however, was made difficult by the ban on open carrying of weapons in the city put in place in the not too distant past. As a result, there are those in House Tabur who operate secret fighting arenas and underground training facilities, trying to stay under the nose of the city guards, or bribing them every once in a while.

Example mercenaries and hirelings of the Emerald Eye district:
Great Desert Slingman: 7 drachmae, wields a sling
Desert Guide: 9 drachmae
Dog Headed Mercenary: 6 drachmae as long as you let him eat what he kills, wields a nasty weapon
Spearman: 8 drachmae, wields a spear
Caravan Guard: 7 drachmae
Amazon Guide: 12 drachmae, wields bow at +1
Wrestler: 10 drachmae, skilled martial artist and can perform feats of strength, carries a training club

Random Encounters in the Emerald Eye of the Basilisk (1d6):
1: A gaggle of temple bureaucrats and palace scribes striding through the street, deep in conversation about taxes and financial minutiae. Their pockets are weighed down.
2: A wrestler in traditional garb practicing in the street with large weighted clubs. His brow glistens with sweat and his hairy chest heaves up and down.
3: A lithe hunting dog on the loose, its leash still clinging to its neck. This is obviously the pet of some nobleman, but the thing will resist capture.
4: A meeting of functionaries for some business of House Tabur's, discussing prices and trade routes and hazards along the way. Maybe they'd be open to an offer of help?
5: A group of mercenaries attempting to advertise their skills and prowess without direct reference. Spearmen wielding errant branches, wannabe cataphracts on donkeys. They know a guard is nearby.
6: A young member of house Tabur striding through the street in ostentatious dress and style, their long cloak held up off the ground by two manservants behind. An older woman, presumably the noble scion's mother, stands at a distance, disapprovingly.

That's all I wanna share about the city for now! Obviously there are more opportunities for tables or descriptions of NPCs or things to do with the landmarks I mention at the top of the page, but this post is long enough as it is so that will be for a different time.


  1. I love the encounters, they really make the place come alive and show the vibe of the different quarters.

    1. Oh thank you! That's very good to hear, exactly what I was aiming for! I think another thing that would be really important to keeping the city alive feeling and such would be to switch out certain encounters whenever players roll them; while some things might occur repeatedly, it would do a lot to keep the place feeling alive to put in fresh encounters every once in a while!

  2. I'm curious how the Tigerskin quarter wound up being home to Frogfolk.

    What did they do to the tigerfolk? D:

    1. Hehehehe, yknow I hadn't thought about how the name might imply tigerfolk or anything like that. In all honesty, I just chose the name because I thought it sounded good, and had a bit of a connection to it being a mercantile area and an area inhabited primarily by minority communities from other regions. Rest easy knowing that no tigerfolk were harmed in the creation of this post!

    2. (Haha woops, the above comment is me, I just wasn't logged in and didn't realize it!)