Monday, April 15, 2013

World of Samardan: Mermak, City on the Moors...

Greetings, All:

Happy Tax Day! This is my thirteenth post for this year's A to Z Challenge series, which means we're halfway through. This year, I am describing 26 different locations in the World of Samardan campaign setting, one for each letter of the alphabet. Today, M is for Mermak, City on the Moors.

1233 Mermak, City on the Moors

Population: 7,000 (65% Sarrani, 30% Human, 5% Other). Ruler: Raganu Kaso Mudayaran (8th Level Sarran Mystic[Oracle]). Resources: Smokeleaf, Spices.

Ambiance: Surrounded by large spiked palisades to keep out the largest of the saurian marsh dwellers, Mermak is a thriving market city on the edge of the Granmer Swamp. Sarrani culture pervades Mermak: non-Sarrani locals wear togas or robes, sumarkafas ("contest of honorable war", a competitive game of strategy similar to Earthly chess) is a popular pastime, and membership in mystic orders is commonplace.

History: From its humble beginnings as a single trading post on the edge of the Granmer swamp, Mermak has grown into a small city-state serving the needs of loners and tribes living out in the swamp. Several large plantations contribute to the regional economy through the harvesting of both dimvar ("smoke+leaf") and various spices. Despite the Sarrani's sense of spiritual enlightenment, slavery is commonplace, particularly on the great plantations in the surrounding countryside. Mystics of any nature, however, cannot be made into slaves per the laws of Mermak. Instead, psychic prisoners are often sentenced to serve as test subjects for various mystic orders in cases where others might be sentenced to slavery.

Encounters: Beyond the palisade, dinosaurs and giant reptiles are a common occurrence in the swamps. Within the gates, however, mystics and mentalists are common, as are sumarkafas masters and their entourages, slaves, slavers and merchants. Common hazards and encounters include quicksand, swamp creatures, diseases and unusual mystical phenomena.

Treasure: The Raganu Kaso Mudayaran keeps the city treasury in a vault beneath his palatial estates, where it is guarded by a number of trained creatures and unusual traps. Gossips are unsure if this is because of a vision the Raganu has had, or if he's simply paranoid. In addition, several mystic orders maintain reliquaries and archives of unusual devices and lost lore.

Adventure Hooks: Adventure hooks for this site could include the following:
  • A slave, formerly Forto Sumaran of Deval, clandestinely seeks adventurers to rescue the love of his life, Loba Logasanan, a mystic who has been sentenced to become a test subject for a mystic order. He claims that they are both innocent of the crimes of which they were accused.
  • In the back alleys of Mermak, a shadowy figure desires information that can only be found in the library of the Crimson Watchers, a mystic order shrouded in secrecy.
  • Rago Viraloban, an unscrupulous spice-farmer, clandestinely seeks vagabonds to sow the seedlings of carnivorous plant creatures into the fields of a competing farmstead.
  • Sen Murdan Granfasan, a sumarkafas master, seeks to hire protectors so that he may attend a secret tournament located in a secluded valley a few hours walk from Mermak. At the tournament, warriors play the role of sumarkafas pieces and the outcome of a move is determined by the result of the fight, not the rules of the usual game.
  • Several merchants of Kolgrat are soliciting mercenaries to raid a caravan out of Mermak and retrieve its cargo of dimvar.

In some ways, Mermak is influenced by the plantations of the southern United States prior to its Civil War. An entire campaign could be spent on freeing slaves and ultimately ending slavery in this city-state. In addition, I wanted a city where I could introduce the classic "Chess Variant" trope that is so common in Planetary Romance series. Mermak gives me the chance to have "battle chess" scenarios, as well as using a high-stakes game of sumarkafas as the lead-in to a final climactic scene. The mystic orders of Mermak also give me a chance to integrate mystery cults into the setting, so that the presence of the Supreme Big Bad Guy doesn't stand out like a sore thumb. Mermak may become one of my favorite places in the setting, after Valdren, the City-State of Staves, of course.


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