Game Master Diaries #1.5: My Setting
As I promised on Friday, today I am going to give you a more in-depth description of the setting for my game. I’m not going to talk shop, since I did way too much of that last time. Instead, this is just going to be the background of the adventure as I would put it if I were writing the story as a book. Let’s do it.
Al Azar is and always has been a city of merchants. Nestled on the southern edge of the desert with the mountains looming up behind it, the city serves as a hub of commerce between the desert kingdoms and the free city-states of the plains south of the mountains. Situated at the foot of the only pass for leagues in either direction, all trade flows through Al Azar. The city has grown from a simple oasis marketplace to a bustling center of commerce, and that growth brings challenges along with it.
The Merchant King, Sar Rafiq Telamun, built the city’s outer wall to protect it from raids by bandits and desert tribes. Under his guidance, Al Azar grew into not just a mercantile wonder, but also a city of learning and elegance. His heirs have followed in his footsteps, increasing the beauty and wealth of Al Azar, along with the requisite increases in security, with each generation that passed.
Today, Sar Peladan Telamun rules in his great-grandfather’s palace. The city is as rich as ever, but corruption and crime have weakend it from within. The theives guild has gained a strong foothold and there are whispers that the true power in the city no longer resides in the palace or along the avenue of trees. Sar Peladan has become paranoid in his old age, and there are some that suggest he is no longer fit to rule.
Not everything in the city is bleak, however. With the recent establishment of the Order of St. Alphonsus in the mountains to the south, the previously perilous caravan route has been made safer by the paladins of the order. The hidden bandit strongholds in the pass are being found and cleared one at a time, and more and more merchants are willing to brave the pass with the Order guarding their way.
This increase in trade has brought with it another boon. Hailing from a far land, some monks of the Order of the Way have established a monastery in Al Azar, bringing with them a new religious tradition and its accumulated wisdom. Many from the desert kingdoms as well as the southern city-states are now coming to Al Azar to learn from the monks or the paladins, and the overall culture of the city continues to grow.
Disturbing whispers have started to spread, however. Whispers of a strange power that resides in the mountains, challenging the Order of St. Alphonsus for control of the pass. Monsters have been sighted — and worse. There are even some who claim that the undead have returned and that a new necromancer has risen to take the place of the White Wanderer who was vanquished by the fabled heroes of the last age. While the Order of St. Alphonsus has not confirmed or denied these rumors, they have recently initiated a new chapter of International Protection League, their affiliate order that recruits non-initiated adventurers to help guard the common good, and the number of paladins in the pass has risen steadily over the last few months. One way or another, Al Azar is a city on the verge of something big.