Curse of the Crimson Crown
Korvosa has long stood as the first bastion of civilization on the wild frontier of Varisia. Yet tragedy seems to haunt the city’s royal bloodline. Few of her rulers rule for long, and none have lived to a ripe old age, dying instead well before their time. Heirs to the throne are few and far between – in its 300-year history, no king of Korvosa has directly inherited the Crimson Crown from his father. This is the source of much gossip and tale-spinning among the city’s citizens, who speak in hushed tones of what they have come to call the Curse of the Crimson Crown.
Like the people of any other city, Korvosans concern themselves more with the day-to-day particulars of living than with politics, history, or macroeconomics. Still, Korvosa has a few particular nuances that make it and its citizens unique. The following overview only begins to touch on what it means to be a Korvosan.
At its height, just before the civil war with Cheliax and the departure of the separatists who founded Magnimar, Korvosa just topped 23,000 inhabitants. It lost nearly 10,000 to the resulting chaos of the time, but in the last century it regained half that many. As a result of its rapid contraction and slow re-expansion, many of the affluent sections of Korvosa remain under-populated. With the buildings it has and the area it covers, Korvosa could comfortably fill out to a true metropolis.
The dichotomy of Korvosa’s under-populated affluent wards with overcrowded Old Korvosa highlights the city’s greatest failing: the vast gulf of separation between its wealthy, powerful elite and its dreadfully impoverished poor. This gulf between social classes colors the development of the city and led to the creation of some of the features unique to Korvosa.
Those who live in Korvosa respect and admire ostentatious displays of wealth, power, or knowledge. They consider confidence and competence the greatest of assets, and they deride or heckle those who display weakness, indecisiveness, or inability. Korvosans are quick to judge and slow to forgive.
In addition to power, Korvosans love predictability. Korvosans like to regulate their lives, creating strict regimens for themselves that they lavishly follow. Upsetting a Korvosan’s routine can ruin his entire day and likely makes him angry. To this end, Korvosa strictly enforces its laws (which often have harsh punishments far in excess of the law codes of other non-evil governments) and rewards those who play by the rules. That said, Korvosa also recognizes that not everyone plays by the same rules, so it compensates by applying regulations to non-violent criminals in the form of vice taxes and official recognition of the city’s single thieves’ guild.
By charter amendment, Korvosa does not allow merchants, laborers, or tradesmen to form guilds. Most workers within the city are either subsistence farmers, fishers, and gatherers, or are self-employed or work for a master to whom they were apprenticed in their youths. The city relies on these cottage industries and the skilled workers who make them profitable, so naturally it has one entire volume of laws and regulations devoted to the protection and rights of workers. And thanks to the Korvosan drive to succeed, the city’s merchants do well for themselves.