The Curse of the Crimson Throne
Korvosa by district
Five landmarks give Korvosa a distinctive skyline. Three of these exist on a truly colossal scale and have survived for millennia: the massive, flat-topped pyramid that Castle Korvosa stands upon; the Pillar Wall, which stretches across most of the southern end of Citadel Hill, a 100-foot-tall remainder of what once must have been a magnificent barrier; and, just beyond the western terminus of the Pillar Wall, the Gatefoot, which obviously originally formed a part of the wall and likely served as a gateway of some kind. The other two landmarks – the Great Tower, rising 270 ft from the northernmost poitn of the Merciless Cliffs, and the Hall of Summoning, centre of operations for the Acadamae – while impressive, do not come close to the size or grandeur of the ruins.
Besides its impressive landmarks, Korvosa’s other famed manmade features include its walls (ruined and otherwise), beautiful bridges and famed Vaults. These it points to with pride, but not all of its distinctive features attract the attention of potential visitors and residents. Chief among its shameful features is the rooftop area of the city known as the Shingles, which serves as both a highway for bandits and a refuge for monsters, thieves and other undesirables.
Old Korvosa covers all of Endrin Isle, which rises from sea level along the southern shore to a 200-foot-high escarpment on the seaward north side. This steep incline is called Garrison Hill, on the top of which stands the crumbling stone wall of Fort Korvosa, completed in 4438. At the foot of Garrison Hill sits the beehive-like hovel of Bridgefront, the poorest and most crowded ward in Korvosa with more than a tenth of the city’s population living in its narrow spit of land. Old Dock, which accounts for more than half the city’s violent crimes despite frequent, heavy patrols by the Korvosan Guard, occupies the relatively flat eastern protrusion of the island.
North Point covers the entire northern end of the city and holds Korvosa’s seat of municipal power. It’s subdivided into four wards – Five Corners (housing many of the city’s politicians and their underlings), Mainshore (home to the city’s truly old money, peppered by dozens of plaques, statues and memorials in remembrance of the blood spilled between early Chelish settlers and the native Shoanti for control of the land), Northgate (entry point for most visitors, in a slow decline as the moneyed non-noble families who lived here slowly relocate to Citadel Hill), and Ridgefield (most economically diverse ward in the city, enjoying frequent but stilted economic growth despite being hounded by the poverty across the strait).
Nearly all of Korvosa’s power players reside in the Heights, which stands atop Citadel Hill. The district holds three wards – Citadel Crest (wealthiest ward in Korvosa, home to more than a dozen noble families and twice as many powerful merchants), Cliffside (next most expensive ward, home of lesser nobles and not-quite-as-wealthy merchants) and University (seat of mundane higher learning).
The centrepiece of the city, Castle Korvosa rises high above Citadel Hill at the junction of all three wards, towering over every other building in the city. Only the king, his immediate family, the seneschal of the castle, and his family may live in Castle Korvosa. Either man can invite long-term guests (such as the king’s small harem), but the other can evict these guests at any time (except during times of war).
Midland encompasses the wards of High Bridge (home to a fair number of longshoremen and fishermen as well as military families), Pillar Hill (most demographically diverse ward, housing both wealthy merchants in its northern corner and hardworking labourers to the south, with all races and human ethnicity represented), Slope (with its third highest concentration of educated people in the city, behind only University ward and the Acadamae) and West Dock (a rugged ward with few residences, housing mostly warehouses, food processing facilities and the like).
As the home district of both the Korvosan Guard and Sable Company, Midland has the fewest gangs and gang battles in the city. Despite that, the thieves’ guild does a brisk trade in the district thanks to the disproportionately high number of merchants, banks and other commercial and financial concerns.
The only district beyond the channel of the Jeggare River, East Shore is home to a handful of noble houses closely tied to the military of the city, as well as the struggling Theumanexus College. East Shore has no wards to subdivide it.
The newest district officially added to Korvosa, South Shore’s population consists mainly of the city’s nouveau riche hoping to escape the cramped conditions elsewhere. No wards divide South Shore.
Notable locations in the district include a small enclave built specifically as an embassy for Mierani elves, and the Pantheon of Many – a massive temple housing shrines to 17 of the 20 main deities of Golarion (excepting only Gorum, Lamashtu and Rovagug).
Gray District holds four tiny wards, the smallest in the city: Gold (reserved for nobility and military leaders), Everyman, Potter’s and Sepulcher. Burial costs range from 1 cp for internment in the mass graves of Potter’s ward to 1,500 gs or more for Gold. The only living creatures who reside in Gray belong to the church of Pharasma and live within the temple in Sepulcher ward.
The Shingles came into being only a few decades ago, when urban renewal projects on Endrin Isle pushed Old Korvosa’s poorest people into Bridgefront. As the people ran out of room, they built upward, with lean-tos and shacks creating impromptu third stories on many of the ward’s buildings. These temporary third stories gave way to more permanent additions, which in turn received tents and shacks atop them. Over time, this gave rise to haphazard pathways of connected residences, shops, waypoints and safehouses that spread beyond Bridgefront to roofs throughout the most crowded parts of the city – Garrison Hill and Old Dock in Old Korvosa, Cliffside in the Heights, Pillar Hill, High Bridge and West Dock in Midland.
No accurate map of the Shingles exists, as almost by definition the neighborhood is in a constant state of flux. The layout in Bridgefront, especially, constantly changes as the rickety structures that comprise the ward’s Shingles collapse or shift. As a result, exact directions to a particular residence or shop defy description.
Humans don’t live alone on the roofs of their fair city; an assortment of nasty surprises await unwary fools traversing the Shingles. Everything from imps and stirges to shingle spiders and chokers hunt above the city, ready at any moment to snatch inattentive prey. Parents in the parts of the city under the Shingles frequently threaten unruly children with visits “from the chokers that live on the roof”. Unfortunately, much truth exists in this threat.