Previously on the Paizo blog, author and Paizo developer Patrick Renie gave a sneak preview of some of the perils and enemies to be discovered in the Mana Wastes in the upcoming Pathfinder Module: Wardens of the Reborn Forge. In today's blog, developer Mark Moreland provides details on the geography of Alkenstar and explains how the magic-warping effects of the Mana Wastes play out in the City of Smog's society and culture.
Wardens of the Reborn Forge includes an extensive gazetteer of the city of Alkenstar, which straddles a 500-foot-tall waterfall that preludes an equally tall sheer cliff-side. While there are certainly clockworks, guns, and other steampunk elements in the adventure itself, it's in this gazetteer that the gloves come off as far as gears, goggles, and guns go. The city of Alkenstar is divided into two distinct parts—Smokeside and Skyside—naturally separated by the Ustradi River. The poorer and more dangerous half of the city, Smokeside, is located in a permanent pocket of antimagic, where spells both arcane and divine simply cease to function. Here, a tumble down the stairs can be just as lethal as a bullet wound (though the latter is far more likely), as magical healing is non-existent and unpracticed doctors are the only way for many citizens to remedy deadly injuries or disease. Gangs and criminal organizations operate out of soot-covered factories, ruling the streets beneath a perpetual cloud of lung-burning smog. For all its hazards, however, this side of the city is also one of the most highly sought out, since it's one of the few places in the Inner Sea where one can reliably avoid magical detection via divination, as scrying and other eldritch means of locating a person simply don't work among the smokestacks and filth-ridden alleys of Smokeside.
The half of the city on the eastern side of the Ustradi River is known as Skyside because the towers here are among the few places in Alkenstar where one can penetrate the blanket of smog and see the sky. The wide river itself is an area of unforgiving primal magic, which washes down the Alken Falls as surely as it occasionally seeps into the waters of Smokeside and Skyside from time to time. Only the wealthiest and most established Alkenstarians may live in Skyside. Here, the Grand Duchy holds sway, as do the myriad engineering guilds, metallurgic factories, Brigh- and Abadar-worshiping temples, and universities of alchemy and primal magic. The organizations and businesses of Skyside utilize the unpredictable fonts of magical energy that course through the soil—arcane remnants of the ancient wars between neighboring Geb and Nex—in order to drive their noxious industries ever forward in the name of profit, progress, and power.
The result of these two distinct sectors is a dichotomy between the haves and have-nots—those who use haphazard magic in their privileged daily lives and those who must subsist in a raw, unforgiving world run by machinery and grit alone. Factor in the presence of clockwork automatons constructed by Skyside's wealthiest engineering guilds and the burgeoning technology of guns, and Alkenstar quickly proves to be one of the most fascinating, exotic, and compelling cities in the Inner Sea region.
Thus concludes the two-part blog preview of the upcoming Wardens of the Reborn Forge! Whether you're a fan of desert-roaming mutants or steampunk-inspired plots and locales, this Pathfinder Module is one no Pathfinder fan should miss! Pre-order your copy now or pick it up when it hits shelves this fall!