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Tales from the City of Opal

Game Master Patrick Curtin

This is my homebrew world Arcaia. This particular setting is the free city of Opal, a lush equatorial city set on the edge of an immense jungle rife with undead , ancient civilizations, and dinosaurs.

This is a bit of history I worked up about the setting:

Eastern Isles/Mazatil Map:

Eastern Isles Map

History of the Eastern Isles:

The Eastern Isles have a varied and mish-mashed history down through the ages. During the distant aeons of the Old One's rule of the area, the islands lay empty for the most part, although certain ruins on Quetzal Island seem to originate with them or a similarly ancient race. There is also a theory that the Old Ones used some arcane ancient magic to raise up the forbidding Stormpearl Isles as a sheild from the many storms that rage in the open waters.

The Eastern Isles does have the distinction of having a native race, the Hadorzee, a species of simian-looking creatures with partigal flaps similar to flying squirrells. The Hadorzee are fantastic swimmers and can use their flaps to fly from treetop to treetop. During the ancient days, the primitive ancestors of the Hadorzee froliced among the atolls alone.

The ancient Lizardman race of the Sliss'pok were not represented in a major way in the Eastern Isles. There seems to have been a small trading post near the site of the city of Viridian on Taranta Island, probably to trade with the ancient Hadorzee who were numerous on that island. Taranta Island also is host to some of the animals and plants the Sliss'pok were famous for breeding.

During recent millenia as the ancestors of the Mazatilian humans migrated to the area, some of the migrants settled in the islands and developed an indepenent culture known as the Avveroe. They fished, farmed, and battled with the Hadorzee for centuries, living a fairly harmonious low-tech lifestyle until the Xoltec Empire rose on the mainland of Mazatil.

The Xoltecs were much more sophisticated than their island cousins, and they were always looking for sacrifices to their dark necromantic god Xipe Totec. They built war galleys and sailed for the islands, conquering the native Hadorzee and Avveroe alike. Much of both populations were taken back to fuel the blood sacrifices of Xipe Totec's temples. The city of Arratu on Taranta Island was so infamous for the cruelty inflicted on the Hadorzee that the word has entered their language as a curse. The islands suffered under the tyranny of the Xoltecs until the chaos of the Night of Bloody Bones allowed them to rise up and destroy the remaining surviviors and their dark cities. From that point on, the few remaining Avveroe and Hadorzee pledged to work together to defend their islands. Since then, both cultures have thrived, integrating well with the refugees arriving from Dragora and become sought-after crewmembers and navigators

During the following years, other groups began to arrive from other continets. During the consolidation of the Golden Empire on Dragora, many refugees from the conquered kingdoms sailed away rather than submit. These people found refuge among the islands, still recovering from the depredations of the Xoltecs.

Many of the refugees from the Kingdom of Vellasia setted in the south of Mazatil. A younger son of the slain King of Pyke led a group of his countrymen to the northern island of Chalmec, which they renamed King Island. They founded the city of Kingsport, and are quite succesful merchant-sailors. The merchant-nobles of Kingsport organize the annual Trading Fleet, which travels in convoy to the city of Amiran on the southern coast of Dragora.

A contingent of halflings who fled their homeland when the Kingdom of Garlan fell to the Empire settled on Parakeet Island, where they have become quite chummy with the local Hadorzee (they both have a fascination with fine food in large quantities).

A mixed group of refugees from many kingdoms settled the area that became the city of Viridian, the largest city in the islands. Viridian, much like its' sister city of Opal is a multi-ethnic stew, but without the rampant violence and undead menace that Opal suffers.

The climate of the Eastern Isles is very clement and tropical, but there are frequent storms that rush in from the Tempest Straits. Navigation can be tricky, and most captains stay along the deeper water channels known as Roads. There are many small coral atolls scattered about. in many places the water is extremely shallow, and many water-breathing sentients make their home under the waves as well. The are many unique and delicious foodstuffs that only grow in this environment, and long-distance traders come from all over Arcaia to dicker for them and the native hardwoods. The many ships have brought forth a large number of pirates.

Piracy in the Eastern Isles is fairly endemic. There is lots to steal, and many places to lie doggo with your ship until the heat is off. There is also a large "open port" city known as Argentum on the southern side of Avveroe Island. Argentum is a clearing house for dubious goods, and a place where pirates can give their crew shore leave without worrying about being strung up by the law. Most crews are local inhabitants, but there are ships looking for booty from Fimbulia, Therana, the Isles of Storm and almost anywhere with a maritime tradition. Argentum is the place to go to find or dispose of anything that might be dangerous, stolen, or both. Argentum is surrounded by shoals, and is difficult to navigate to unless you know the safest paths in.

Zapatec Calendar:

Zapatec Calendar:

The Arcaian Year is 367 1/12 days long. The Zapatec civilization created the calendar based on the calculations of the high Quetzalcouatl priest Mictanlatl (Heart of Flowers). It is based on the earlier Xoltec Calendar, which was abandoned because of its ties to human sacrifice and necromancy.

Rather than a 30-day month standard, the year is broken up into 28 13-day ‘cycles’. The cycles are grouped into 2 sections of 14 cycles each. The ‘wet’ cycles are named for animals and fall during the winter rainy season. The ‘dry’ cycles are named for gems and fall during the summer dry season. Zapatec children are often called by their birthday as a common name, with their birth name kept secret as a ward against evil magic. Thus a Zapatec child can be called Seven Foxor Twelve Onyx in daily conversation.

Wet Cycles:

1. Fox

2. Bat

3. Gecko

4. Spider

5. Eagle

6. Horse

7. Bear

8. Rabbit

9. Leopard

10. Jaguar

11. Tiger

12. Turtle

13. Deer

14. Bison

Dry Cycles:

1. Jade

2. Ruby

3. Turquoise

4. Diamond

5. Emerald

6. Onyx

7. Sapphire

8. Obsidian

9. Amethyst

10. Pearl

11. Topaz

12. Opal

13. Moonstone

14. Garnet

The remaining four days are marked on the solstices and the equinoxes. They are the Days of the Couatl, and any children born on these days are known as One Couatl and considered very lucky. These children often enter the priesthood.

Every twelve years there is a leap day. This is the Day of the Skull, prophesised to be the day the Zapatec Civilization will fall. Any child born on this day is considered cursed, and known as One Skull. These children rarely live long happy lives

Opal's Districts:

The Shambles: District where much of themanufacturing in Opal is located. Rendering plants, tanneries, smithies and distilleries all are locatedhere. Points of interest include theHyrkmirian Embassy, the Shipworks and the Temple to Volund/Rava. Local Tavern: The Rusty Rooster

Eastfaring: A working-class district where many Shambles workers make their home. Points of interest include the Leatherworker’s Market, the Varranio Glassworks and the Dawn Market. Local tavern: The Glisterbank Brewery.

Central District:One of the original parts of Opal, the Central District still serves asthe administrative heart of the city. Points of interest include The Grand Temple of Quetzalcouatl, TheCaptain’s Guild, and the House of Convocation. Local tavern: The Zephyr’s Kiss.

Old City: The original hub of habitation inOpal. It is still occupied by many oldernoble houses. Points of interest includethe Carvacchio Amphitheater, the Temple of Gozreh, and the Grand Ducal Palace.Local tavern: The Foc’c’sle.

Driftwood District: The rowdy and rundown docks ofOpal. Points of interest include theBroken House Sanitarium, The Temple of the Shark Gods, and Larmer’s Coffee House. Local Tavern: The Purple Siren.

Longreach: A mixture of housing and shops. Points of interest include the Opaline LeaperBourse, the Palm Brandy Distillery and the Saddlery. Local tavern: The Dragon’s Tooth Inn.

Westfaring: Mixture of warehouses, middle classhousing and college buildings. Points of interest include the University ofOpal, Erd’s Antiquities and Oddments and the Temple of Oghma. Local Tavern: The Steel Quill.

Highwatch: Highest point in Opal, Highwatch is where the richest families build their palatial dwellings. Points of interest include the Cloud Ballroom, Gem Boulevard and the Founder’s Hall. Local tavern: The Red Rose.

River District: Warehouses and river docks. Most of the Uplands plantation produce isunloaded here. Points of interestinclude the River Keep, the Confectionary and Greff’s Jungle Outfitters. Local Tavern: The Levee.

Upper Opal: A collection of higher hills. Merchantsand well-to-do captains make their homes here. Points of interest include the Exotic Animal Souk, the Temple of Abadarand Boulevard of Relics. Local Tavern:The Hogshead.

Market District: The commercial heart of Opal. Points of interest include the OpalExplorer’s Guild, the Temple of CaydenCailean/Ometochtl , and the Opaline Chandlery. Local Tavern: The Golden Perch.

Opal Harbor: Harbor shielded by a large manmade breaker known as Arturo’sWall. At the edge is a large lighthouseknown as The Octogon Light.

Opal and Mazatil:

Southwest of the continent Dragora, close to the Arcaian equator is the continent of Mazatil. It is a wild and forbidding continent, wrapped in jungle, desert and forbidding mountains known as the Skyspears.

Unlike Dragora's history, which began with a draconic civilization, Mazatil started much earlier as the home continent of the enigmatic race known as the Old Ones. High up on the slopes of the Skyspear mountains, which in some places top 50,000 feet, these otherworldly creatures built their domains. For eons this race continued to live and work high above the continent, until a new race began to develop beneath them in the eastern section of Mazatil.

This was a race of lizard men that evolved from the reptiles that ruled the humid jungle, and settled along the rivers and swamps of southern Mazatil. Calling themselves the Slisss'pok (with the ' standing for a click on the tongue), these lizard men were great builders and excellent animal breeders, and their civilization became quite advanced around the same time as the Draconic civilization reached its height in Dragora.

At some point there was a conflict between the Old Ones and the Slisss'pok in the Blackwraith Desert, which caused the Old Ones to disappear. Relatively soon afterwards the Slisss'pok civilization fell into savagery, which they never recovered from. To this day, tribes of lizardmen roam the jungles, barbaric, but wise and very knowlegable of the creatures and plants within their domain. Their once mighty cities are a lure to adventurers, but they are known as death traps filled with the decendents of the Slisss'pok's domesticated animals.

The Old One's civilization is a much more problematic venture. Very few have the skills to surmount a 50,000 foot climb and all that entails. Even the atmosphere is thin at that range (although not as thin as it would be in a normal physics scenario). The cold at that height and the shreiking winds make it a dangerous climb. The few accounts of explorers that suceeded in entering any of their habitations tell of cyclopean tunnels and lightless galleries that stretch far into the center of the mountains. The Old Ones dabbled in what can only be termed as bio-magical golem construction, and surrounded themselves with unearthly creations that served many bizarre purposes. Many of these creations were never truly alive in any sense we know, and they are still prowling the darkened depths.

About 3,000 years ago, a tribe of humans landed upon the shores of Mazatil, possibly from farther west towards the twin continents of Seng and Avmar and the Coral Sea. During the millenia that followed these humans interacted with the remnants of the Sliss'pok and began what became known as the Xoltec (shoul-tek) civilization.

The Xoltecs were dominated by a class of necromantic wizard-priests who worshipped the flayed god Xipe Totec. These priests refined and perfected the art of raising undead, animating the bodies of the many sacrifices they made to Xipe Totec, which they then used as cheap labor to construct their temples. As time progressed, they began to animate specialized undead minions to fight for them, and to keep the populace of the cities cowed. As the Xoltec priests grew in power and arrogance, a resistance movement known as the Jaguar's Shadow developed among those who would see Xipe Totec's priests cast down.

The Jaguar's Shadow was a mix of elite Arcanists and rogues who despised the priests for their iron control of the Xoltec cities and their taboo on exploring Sliss'pok and Old One ruins. In secret they began to explore the forbidden ruins, gaining knowlege over many forgotten arts. About 500 years ago, they decided to strike.

The Shadow War was brief but horrid. For roughly three years the battles raged among the Xoltec cities, with the Jaguar's Shadow (or Shadow Men as they became known) losing ground after a few brief victories. They simply didn't have the manpower to fight waves of fearless undead minions. In desperation, the Shadow Men unleashed a previously unknown magical effect which broke the priest's control over the undead. The vast Xoltec army of undead turned on their former masters and the surrounding populace in what became known as the Night of the Bloody Bones.

After the Night of the Bloody Bones the Xoltec civilization collapsed completely. Several other magical curses manifested themselves at the same time, transforming some Xoltecs into feral beast creatures or undead monstrosities. The main temple of Xipe Totec at the capital city of Chichen Ipec was abandoned to the swarming undead. A plauge of monstrous spiders followed soon afterward, scattering what few survivors there were.

Cuurently the remaining Mazatilians have formed a political body called the Zapatec Confederation, a collection of citystates that are strung along Mazatil's eastern coast. Opal is a member of this confederation, but due to its remote location and unique history it remains its own distinct culture.

the Free City of Opal:

Right on the Southeast corner of the Mazatil continent is a sheltered stretch of water known as Turquoise Bay. A city has grown there on the bones of far older civilizations. Opal is a city of outcasts, of refugee gentry from the wars in Dragora and the survivors of the Xoltec Empire.

Opal is a study in contrasts, old and new, rich and poor, civlilized but wild. In its present form Opal was founded by refugees from the Night of Bloody Bones when the Xoltec Empire fell. Relatively soon after refugees from the Wars of Consolidation in Dragora began arriving looking for somewhere to settle. The surrounding area was in need of brave settlers as there were still many rogue undead in the surrounding jungles to contend with. The melding of the two civilizations created the modern Opaline society.

Although the surrounding jungles are dangerous, there is much wealth to be had for the brave. Many Opalines and immigrants alike start farming communities. These farms are usually held in fief by a local feudal lord. There is a lot of undead/monster activity from the jungle and most freeholders know how to fight and recognize the need to underwrite a military class. The feudal gentry are very competitive as well as deadly and enjoy a lot of intrigue among themselves during the Opaline social season.

The city and most of the surrounding area is ruled by the Grand Duke of Opal, who traces his family back to both the Zapatec and Vellasian royal family. The present Grand Duke's ancestor Arturo, the second son of Vellasia's last king, fled his country after its fall to Auria during the formation of the Golden Empire 300 years ago. He mockingly called himself the Grand Duke of Opal after the title offered to him by Avros I's agents if he returned to administer Vellasia for him.

Arturo and his adherents were given leave by the Zapatecs to settle along the Opal River to help secure that valuable area and assist the people there in their constant fight against the hordes of undead still wandering the jungle from the Night of Bloody Bones. Although nominally a Zapatec city, the unique melding of Dragoran and Mazatil influences and its remoteness from the core of Zapatec society makes Opal its own unique civilization.

The land itself is intensely fertile, and lush farms of sugarcane, tobacco, chocolate, and oranges (among others) dot the Opal River's banks. West up the Opal River is the Uplands, a string of high hills/low mountains that are producers of Arcaia's best coffee beans and tea leaves.

Along with the fertile wealth of the farms there are veins of ore and gems to be had from the Uplands streams that feed the Opal River. Many prospecting teams hope to find wealth in the thinly settled Uplands, but it is not a journey for the faint at heart. The Opal River was first named that from the fantastic black opals that can be found in some of the Uplands and often wash into the neighboring streams.

The fishing is very good in the Turquoise Bay area as well, with the Kraken clan of aquatic giants ruling the undersea part of Turquoise Bay and bringing in huge catches. The Kraken clan is also known for their pearls, which they hunt in the depths from the giant oysters that thrive in the brackish waters where the Opal River empties into the Turquiose Bay.

Opal also does a thriving trade in antiquities from previous civilizations. The Sliss'pok and the Xoltecs also built at the very foundations of modern Opal, and Opal uses some of their original sewer layouts underneath its streets today. Most of the artifacts recovered in the jungles of southern Mazatil flow through Opal.

Opal is also the prime jumping off point for any exploration of the southern jungles. It is the only large city for any appreciable distance, and the only other city in Southern Mazatil, Threepenny Port, has a dark reputation. Opal is one of the few cities that has an actual guild for adventuring. Any new arrivals looking to explore the wilderness are encouraged to join, and there is always plenty of work for the strong of arm.

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