Campaign of the Month: September 2013
Originally a bazaar, Bartertown has become a sprawling city sitting outside the gates of Throal. Bartertown was founded by merchants who wished to take advantage of Throalic trade policies without becoming a part of the dwarf kingdom. Lacking formal city government to oversee planning, these traders built shops and homes wherever they saw fit, giving the city a haphazard layout. Barsaivians claim that travelers can buy any goods or services in Bartertown, if they look long and haggle hard enough.
A vast, bewildering maze of a city that 50,000 people call home, Bartertown lies just outside the gates to the Kingdom of Throal. Sprawling in front of the three giant arches leading into the mountain kingdom, Bartertown grew out of a bazaar the dwarfs established years ago at the entrance to Throal. Huts and other permanent structures eventually replaced the open market bazaars and tents and were in turn replaced by larger, more comfortable buildings. As of this writing, it seems nothing can stop Bartertown’s growth. During a busy trading season, the city’s already large population can double in size.
The closer one approaches to Bartertown, the clearer its ramshackle nature and origins become. Traveling up the Royal Road to Throal, a visitor can see the massive Throal Mountains, at the base of which the three towering arches leading into the kingdom catch the sun’s light and glimmer bright gold. These arches seem to stand guard over Bartertown, which tumbles away from the mountain like sharp, angular foothills.
On the Rulers of Bartertown
A magistrate chosen every year by the Council of Merchants rules Bartertown. The right to choose this magistrate became a thorny issue several years ago when King Valurus III of Throal and Bartertown’s leading merchants wrangled over the power of appointment. Suddenly realizing how large and prosperous Bartertown had become, the king wished to appoint his own magistrate, presumable to extend his sovereignty over the city. Unwilling to relinquish their power, the merchants waved their original charter in the king’s face until he was forced to relent.
To their misfortune, the merchants’ stubbornness prompted King Valurus to stop supplying money and military might to support the city. In the last 15 years the city has been forced to impose taxes to build better buildings and provide city guards, but many of the citizens simply ignore or cheat on their taxes, which has made the king’s withdrawal of support a matter of serious concern. Bartertown’s fate has yet to be determined, but already some citizens want the Council of Merchants to relinquish authority to King Valurus III. Many more citizens believe that pride demands that Bartertown succeed on its own. These good people consider the city their home and want it to become as independent and wealthy as any other city of Barsaive.
Unique Features of Bartertown
Reflecting its origins as an open-air market, Bartertown is unlike the other great cities of Barsaive. Most other cities, built generations ago with the aid of the Theran Empire, boast massive stone buildings, towers and spires plated with gold, wide domes that glow the blue of a beautiful dusk, and intricate patterns carved into stone walls laced with gold and silver. Even though the Scourge, the Theran War, and time have reduced many of these cities to ruins, and though the cities still inhabited reflect only a shadow of their former glory, their beauty eclipses the ramshackle streets and lively chaos of Bartertown.
Bartertown boasts no buildings higher than three stories; most stand only two stories tall. Lying as it does next to Throal and the mountains, the city’s lack of stonework is immediately noticeable. The buildings of Bartertown are constructed of wood, covered with white plaster, and lack the sense of security that stone shelters provide. Despite the city’s size, Bartertown gives more the impression of a small wilderness town that just happens to lie along trade routes. Bartertown owns no airships and maintains a minimal city guard.
The wide, smooth Royal Road bisects Bartertown, providing all visitors with a clear view of the arches carved out of the mountain ahead. Three-story buildings line both sides of the road, all adorned with colorful paint and bright signs proclaiming the sale of various wares, goods, and services. The Royal Road is clean and well kept, creating a sense of order that makes the city seem pleasant, if provincial. As visitors pass beneath the arches, they enter the Throal Bazaar – the dwarf kingdom’s official trading area, housed in a huge cavern filled with countless stalls and merchants. Tunnels lead out of the bazaar into the kingdom itself.
Visitors who turn aside from the Royal Road and onto one of Bartertown’s roads quickly see the true nature of this city. Its architecture resembles a child’s version of a city, hundreds of buildings placed next to or on top of one another. A closer look shows that some shelters consist of nothing more than heavy cloth draped between two buildings.
Visitors who venture further into Bartertown encounter a sea of jostling crowds in the streets and a cacophony of voices. Workers move their wares from craft shops in the inner recesses of the city to shops set up on or near the Royal Road, where traders from all over Barsaive scour the streets looking for bargains. Visiting airships dock at spires, their shadows falling across the crowded streets as their crews unload goods carried from as far away as towns and villages near Death’s Sea or the Twilight Peaks. Pickpockets and thieves work the crowds as well, finding easy pickings among those who become careless in Bartertown’s bustle and din.
The city is full of merchant houses busily making fabrics, dyes, magical potions, and every other imaginable good. Even if a product is not made in Bartertown, it can still be found within the city’s shops and stalls. Customers seeking specific items must be prepared to spend considerable time sorting through the city’s chaotic layout and willing to wait for information if finding the item requires the merchants contact other merchants. Items not immediately available can often be found and brought to Bartertown for a customer, though sometimes the seeker of a rare herb or exotic perfume is simply told in what remote corner of Barsaive he can find the thing he desires.
- Aknohzobnakk Agn, headquarters of Roinak and the Order of the Hand (Orzet for “Intercepting Fist”)
- The Fish Pond
- The Great Library of Throal
- The home of the Morgûl Rana
- The Sewer Rat, a ramshackle in with a bawdy tavern.
- Unnamed apothecary shop where Dremnin made a deal with the owner for Last Chance Salve ingredients