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Region Varisia
Size Large city
Population 18,486
Demographics 90% human, 4% dwarf, 2% elf, 2% halfling, 1% half-elf, 1% other
Government Conventional (monarchy)
Alignment Lawful neutral

Korvosa (pronounced kohr-VOH-sah) is the largest city found in the wilderness area known as Varisia, and serves as the seat of one of three city-states that claim independent authority over their individual holdings in the region. Though its citizens and traditions have strong ties to the nation of Cheliax, with many of its people tracing their ancestry directly to servants of the Empire, the city’s location at the mouth of the Jeggare River and the presence of a highly-defensible harbor have contributed to the establishment of Korvosa as a primary hub for trade; various cultures and peoples can be found within the city’s walls as goods move in and out of its gates.



Conflict, misery, and division define the history of Korvosa. Founded as an island fortress at the edge of a hostile and untamed land, Korvosa evolved over time into a bustling and energetic trade center. Several distinct periods define the history of Korvosa from its blood-splattered founding to its current turmoil.

Before the city’s founding, the site on which Korvosa stands was sacred to the Shoanti, although most have forgotten why. They knew only that the large pyramid atop the hill at the mouth of the river was to be guarded at all costs and that no one was ever to enter it. For hundreds of years, they kept this promise.

In 4407 AR, Field Marshal Jakthion Korvosa rescued an abandoned group of Chelish marines trapped on a hostile island and founded Fort Korvosa. The settlement acted as a strong defensive position and trading post for settlers, pioneers, trappers, and explorers in the area. After much of the settlement burned during a Shoanti raid (an event known as the Great Fire), an in flux of Chelish gold and tradesmen strengthened the settlement’s defenses and allowed its residents to move onto the mainland.

An ill-fated insult against a very prominent Korvosan noble family sparked the Cousins’ War, in 4502 ar. The war ended Korvosa’s role as a military outpost and—with a further influx of Chelish nobility—made the settlement into a true colony.

A period of great wealth followed, leading to a steady increase in size. Korvosa’s prosperity came crashing down in 4606 ar, when the unexpected death of Aroden kicked off a civil war in Imperial Cheliax. Cut off from its homeland without a word, Korvosa survived these dark times.

Today, the city prospers again, thanks to (or in some cases, despite) its self- appointed royalty.

Detailed Timeline




The government of Korvosa is comprised of three official branches, each with its own unique sphere of influence. In addition, Korvosa’s noble families exert limited power in the affairs of government.


Since their appointment following the decline of Imperial Cheliax, the monarchs of Korvosa have served as the primary diplomats and defenders of the city-state; the city’s royal bloodline has served the populace from the famed Crimson Throne since Korvosa gained its unexpected independence. The monarchy’s authority has always been limited, with control of Korvosa’s government shared among groups that existed prior to its inception

King of Korvosa – Eodred Arabasti II
Queen of Korvosa – Ileosa Arabasti
Queen’s Royal Bodyguard – Sabina Merrin


The arbiters of Korvosa act as judges, hearing disputes and crimes and determining punishments for those deemed guilty. They also hold the responsibility of legislative oversight over decisions made by the other branches of Korvosa’s government. The most well-known senior arbiter in the city is Zenobia Zenderholm, also known as the “Hanging Judge”. She is justifiably feared by the criminal classes for her harsh rulings.

Laws of Korvosa


Korvosa’s magistrates are in charge of the daily management of the city. The 23 individuals that comprise this body are primarily concerned with matters of bureaucracy, including taxation, economic oversight, and public works.

Taxes, Bureaucracy and Money

Magistrate of Commerce – Garrick Tann
Magistrate of Expenditures – Syl Gar
Magistrate of Regulation – Lolia Perenne

The Bank of Abadar

Peerage Review

The monarchy is advised by the Peerage Review, a council composed of the heads of Korvosa’s five Great Houses. The remaining 21 noble house comprise the Dock Families, each boasting control over one or more of the city’s docks.

Members of House Endrin, Jeggare, Leroung, Ornelos, and Zenderholm sit on the Peerage Review, advisors to the monarch with the power to countermand a monarchical order with a unanimous vote.


Korvosa’s military resources are embodied in three separate organizations, each charged with protecting the city-state and its people in manners unique to each group.


Buildings, infrastructure, and politics make a city livable (or intolerable, in some cases), but the people who live in a place truly make it a city.

Barely more powerful than the lord magistrates who preceded them, the monarchs of Korvosa must share power with the strict governmental entities existent at the founding of the monarchy. The command King Erodred II exerts over the city is constantly checked by the arbiters, magistrates and nobles, the city’s most politically powerful groups. More than judges, the arbiters not only determine the guilt or innocence of defendants in a court of law, but also have legislative oversight. No one exactly knows what the twenty-three magistrates or their staffs do, but most Korvosans suspect the entire purpose of city hall is to waste the time and money of the city’s people. Finally, two overlapping divisions defines Korvosa’s aristocracy: the five most powerful families bear the coveted title of Great Houses, giving their members special privileges within the city, and twenty-one noble houses make up the Dock Families, allowing them to charge berthing fees on one or more docks in the city.

Those who live in Korvosa respect and admire ostentatious displays of wealth, power, or knowledge. They consider confidence and competence the greatest of assets, and they deride or heckle those who display weakness, indecisiveness, or inability. Korvosans are quick to judge and slow to forgive.

In addition to power, Korvosans love predictability. They like to regulate their lives, creating strict regimens for themselves that they then slavishly follow. Upsetting a Korvosan’s routine can ruin his entire day and likely makes him cranky. To this end, Korvosa strictly enforces its laws (which often have harsh punishments far in excess of the law codes of other non-evil governments) and rewards those who play by the rules. That said, Korvosa also recognizes that not everyone plays by the same rules, so it compensates by applying regulations to nonviolent criminals in the form of vice taxes (see Taxes) and official recognition of the city’s single thieves’ guild.

Regulation and law dominate Korvosa and how it lives. The city’s charter, an officially sanctioned document created by Emperor Halleck IV of Cheliax in 4406, bears 247 amendments.

These amendments add to the city’s unbreakable laws (those which no leader can modify, except by additional amendment) and are considered as binding and official as the charter itself. In addition, a thick, multivolume body of work spells out Korvosa’s many other laws and regulations, as well as the punishments for violating them. A quick perusal of this book reveals that Korvosans like to capitalize their words. The people of Korvosa feel this trait gives them an air of greatness and importance.

Korvosa is known for this colorful slang.

Nobility and Organizations


Great Houses

House Endrin
House Jeggare
House Leroung
House Ornelos
House Zenderholm

Dock Families

Besides the major houses mentioned above, twenty-one other noble families exist in Korvosa; most of these are “Dock Families” controlling one or more docks and shipping interests in Korvosa. Below are some of the more notable Dock Families, included in the count of twenty-one.

House Arkona
House Bromathan
House Kroft
House Carrowyn

Criminal Organizations

The Cerulean Society
Catsdew Lofties
Rat’s Teat Boys

Unaffiliated Criminals

Gaedren Lamm

Outside Korvosa

The Umbra Carnival

Venlok the Scourge

Sources and Acknowledgements

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