(Large City) Nonstandard
Average Alignment: NE
40,000 gp limit
Assets: 30,000,000 gp
Population: 15,000; Integrated (human [SOf] 5,550, orc 3,000, half-orc 2,700, goblin 1,500, hobgoblin 1,050, gnoll 750, norker 450).
Authority Figures: Braks (LE male half-orc Ftr10), Commander of the garrison, co-ruler of Highport; Tanva (NE female olve Wiz(Enc)10), co-ruler of Highport;
Important Figures: Turel Halreyn (LE human male, Rog6), leader of the Chainers’ Guild, Boss of Highport; Lordrenn Marr, (NE human male Exp5), leader of the Merchant’s Coster, Boss of Highport; Pyrra Burntaxe (NE, half-orc female, Ftr8), leader of the Burnt Axe mercenaries, Boss of Highport; Kuurag Crackskull (CE, orc male, Bbn5), chief of the Bonespear mercenaries, Boss of Highport; Lurghaleget – mercenary (LE, hobgoblin male, Ftr7), leader of the Olvereaver mercenaries.
Overview: Highport is the most populous city in the so-called Orcish Empire of the Pomarj. A squalid, stinking port of some 15,000 souls, it is the gateway to the northern plains of the Pomarj and the fearsome Drachensgrab Hills. Highport has long been a haven for pirates, slavers and scum of all sorts. Cold-blooded mercenaries offer their sword arms to the highest bidder here, while privateer captains gamble away their ill-gotten gold, stained as it is with the blood of innocents. By day, unscrupulous traders throng its markets, trafficking in slaves and contraband. By night, orcs, goblin-kin and some say even the ebon-skinned drow make the streets their own. Temples to fell gods such as Nerull, Incabulos, Gruumsh and the enigmatic Earth Dragon thrive here. Life in the City of Chains is often short, brutal and – above all – cheap.
Rulership and Law: To the world at large, the Council of the Five Bosses rules Highport in the Mak’s name. Made up of prominent mercenary and merchants, the Council ensures that the Mak’s laws are enforced in the city. An uneasy peace exists between the Bosses and the factions they control. Though they scheme endlessly to gain some new advantage over their rivals, none risks open conflict for fear of the terrifying punishment that the Mak would mete out for breaking his peace.
However, the true power in Highport lies in the hands of Braks, the half-orc commander of the garrison and Tanva, an olven mage, who between them rule the city from the old Palace of the Bilarro princes. Though they allow the Council the semblance of authority, their word, backed by the might of the Mak, is law. Braks commands the city guard, easily identifiable in their azure blue sashes. The guard, made up of a mix of humans, orcs, half-orcs and goblinkin, patrol the city, quelling disturbances with uncompromising brutality. Punishments for minor offences range from fines to imprisonment in the appallingly filthy dungeons beneath the city guardhouse. Major crimes are punishable by death or enslavement, as judged by Braks and Tanva. All crimes, great or small, are likely to earn the offender a savage beating at the hands of the guard.
Braks and Tanva are said by some to loathe one another, by others to be lovers. It is also whispered that Braks is the Mak’s anointed successor, while Tanva is none other than the infamous Markessa, one of the Slavelords of old.
- The Old Port Quarter
- The New Port Quarter
- The Palace District
- The Eastwarrens
- The Ruinfields: Large swathes of old Highport are sparsely populated or entirely derelict. In many places, the old buildings are in an advanced state of collapse, overgrown with scrub brush, creepers, grass and weeds. Many citizens graze goats, sheep and even cattle in the meadows that have sprung up in old streets and empty lots. The surviving buildings are home to squatters, criminals, vermin and even a handful of dangerous monsters that have managed to avoid the attentions of the city guard. Plagues of giant rats occasionally swarm from out of the ruins to trouble the more populous parts of the city, while feral giant weasels also abound. Highporters often tame these vicious beasts to use as pets or guards.
History: Highport was founded in 305 CY when the Poor March (as the Pomarj was then known) was a possession of the Kingdom of Keoland. The sundry barons of the March were vassals of the Dwur Prince of Ulek. Distant from the affairs of the Court of the Lion Throne, the human nobility chafed under a dwarven liege lord. Thus, when Prince Corrond of Ulek broke with Keoland in 461 CY, the barons in turn declared themselves the Free Lords of the Poor March in 463 CY. Highport became capital of the loose confederation of petty fiefs. For half a century, it flourished under the rule of the House of Bilarro, its merchants growing fat on the trade that mineral wealth of the Drachensgrabs and the decadent tastes of the Marcher lords attracted.
In 513 CY, Highport’s good times came to an abrupt end. Having been drven by the combined armies of the Ulek states, Veluna, and the demihumans of the Kron Hills in the wake of the Hateful Wars, hordes of orcs, goblins and giant kin, fled the Lortmil Mountains and descended on Highport. On the 11th of Planting that year, the humanoids attacked Highport. While the other towns in the Pomarj were full of men gone soft, the people of Highport were hard workers and supported by sailors with years of experience fighting pirates, savages, and strange monsters from the deep. Five times the orcish armies were repulsed from the city, but on the sixth assault the gates were sundered as the hour approached midnight and the invaders entered the city. Large portions were set afire, and any defenders who were caught were slaughtered, their bodies impaled on any sharp objects available and left on the city wall. Those who escaped dubbed it the Night of the Bloody Spear, and the tale they tell has remained a testimonial to the savagery and determination of the humanoids of the Pomarj.
Much of Highport was left in ruins. The orcs rebuilt enough to make it livable and eventually reopened the city for trade. At first everyone avoided the port, but some of the bravest pirates finally decided to try a stay and found the new owners reasonably tolerant. The word spread, and in a few years the shattered city of Highport was again a common stopping place for naval trade, although those captains who chose to put to port here kept their hands on their swords and several deck hands awake at all times. Evil men of many nations began to settle in the city, accepting the orcs as ugly brothers with the same blackhearts as their own. Half-breeds of all sorts became common. Evil temples of the vilest sort sprang up everywhere and waged subtle and gruesome wars with each other. The town was ruled by a coalition of tribes, split by factional disagreements and blood feuds, with fighting breaking out between rival groups at least once a month. Justice was unknown, as right was determined by whoever had the faster sword arm. Pirates based here harried shipping all along Woolly Bay and even into the Azure Sea. This corrupt condition lasted for over 50 years, with different tribes gaining ascendancy at different points and at least two human-and half-orc-controlled governments taking control during this time.
For 60 years, loose coalitions of orcs and humans ruled the city, re-establishing a semblance of order after the slaughter. In these years, Highport acquired a fell reputation. Where once merchantmen thronged its quays, pirate ships now jostled for berths. In the late 570s CY, the port was home to the yellow-sailed vessels of the Slavelords. Slaves became the lifeblood of the city’s economy. The fall of the Slavelords hit this trade hard, until the outbreak of the Greyhawk Wars, when the city leaders swore allegiance to Turrosh Mak, Emperor of the Pomarj.
With the rise of Turrosh Mak, some semblance of order returned to Highport. Differences between rival tribes were crushed by the Despot, using his own troops, transfer of members between tribes, and the power of his wizard and priest allies. A government loyal to Turrosh Mak was put in place and established a reasonable (if harsh) system of laws to prevent the most grievous offenses and punish troublemakers. A temple of the Earth Dragon was consecrated to foster religious unity, and other temples (especially ones of the more destructive gods) were warned that any mass slayings, plagues, or other great ills that befell the city would be blamed on them. Ship from the Scarlet Brotherhood occasionally stop here, although they fly other countries’ flags or no flag at all. Ships from the Lordship of the Isles can also be found here, although they prefer to maintain a more legitimate appearance and usually stick to the ports north of the Orcish Empire.
Now Highport is a dark, dirty city firmly in the grip of evil but safe for those that don’t appear weak. The humanoid districts within the city reek of filth, unwashed bodies, and rotting meat, with the human districts being in a somewhat more tolerable state. Many of the buildings still show burns and damage from the Night of the Bloody Spear, but most that were present at that time have fallen down or been renovated by the new inhabitants. Some parts of town are little more than open fields with large and small tents, where drunken sailors, poor mercenaries, and outcasts of many races grab a few hours of sleep at any hour of the day. A large area devoted to warehouses covers part of the shoreline, and the damaged city walls have been rebuilt. Large sections of the city are unused and are likely to hold squatters, vermin, wizards, or monsters seeking some privacy or secrecy, and even some rogue undead (either animated by one of the evil temples and abandoned or long-dead citizens clinging to unlife through sheer force of will and looking to avenge their deaths at the hands of humanoids).
The temple of the Earth Dragon is a renovated temple of Xerbo that was looted and damaged during the sacking of the city. Other dark deities with temples here include Beltar, Erythnul, Incabulos, Hextor, Iuz, Michlantecuhtli, Nerull, Pyremius, the cult of Vecna, and various humanoid gods.
Of course, not everyone in Highport is a monomaniacal cutthroat; many are merchants and other people (not necessarily humans) just looking to do business, and are just less concerned with the sort of person who pays them for their goods. A wide variety of shops, inns, and taverns exist in Highport, serving the rough-and-tumble clientele and providing the basic services that are necessary to all: equipment, food, clothing, and so on. It is quite possible for adventurers to make their way into the town in the guise of mercenaries and survive for quite some time as they investigate the Slavelord operation here. Heroes who indiscriminately attack people in the town just because they live here should quickly discover that most of the common people in town aren’t evil. Even some of the humanoids many of which have grown up here and have become more civilized than their nomadic
counterparts-are good or neutral.
A decade after the end of the Wars, Highport prospers once again as the largest city of the Pomarj, enriched by the renewed slave trade and the spoils of war. Rumor has it that the Slavelords have risen again. If so, then Highport must surely be central to their plans.