Korvosa (pronounced kohr-VOH-sah) is the largest city found in the wilderness area known as Varisia, and serves as the seat of one of three city-states that claim independent authority over their individual holdings in the region. Though its citizens and traditions have strong ties to the nation of Cheliax, with many of its people tracing their ancestry directly to servants of the Empire, the city's location at the mouth of the Jeggare River and the presence of a highly-defensible harbor have contributed to the establishment of Korvosa as a primary hub for trade; various cultures and peoples can be found within the city's walls as goods move in and out of its gates.

History of Korvosa

Korvosa is the eldest of Varisia's three city-states, once part of Imperial Cheliax but now independent. The settlement originally served as no more than a defensive position from which settlers and explorers would enter Varisia, only growing into the cosmopolitan center of trade that it is today with the passage of time and events.


Before the arrival of the Empire of Cheliax, Korvosa was no more than a site sacred to the Shoanti; the protection of the location, as well as the pyramid found there, was of great importance. However, in 4407 AR a group of Chelish marines under the command of Field Marshal Jakthion Korvosa selected the site to begin construction of a defensive outpost. Once completed, Fort Korvosa acted as a common stop for explorers, settlers, and trappers operating in the region. The trading post and its defenses were later strengthened after a Shoanti raiding forced burned much of the location in what would become known as the Great Fire.

The Cousins' War

The Cousins' War began in 4502 AR, the result of an insult directed at one of Korvosa's noble families. The conflict heralded the end of the settlement's significance as a military position, but also resulted in the growth of both its population and economic power. Soon after, Korvosa was seen as a true colony of the Empire of Cheliax.

Death of Aroden

In 4606 AR the death of the deity Aroden resulted in civil war in Cheliax; many of the Empire's colonies, including Korvosa, suffered as their connection to the homeland unexpectedly disappeared. The city's government has succeeded in achieving some measure of prosperity since the Empire's decline, but the city's recovery from the chaos that resulted as a result of the Empire's sudden absence has been slow; its population is but a fraction of what most would expect given a settlement of Korvosa's physical size.


The government of Korvosa is comprised of three official branches, each with its own unique sphere of influence. In addition, Korvosa's noble families exert limited power in the affairs of government.


Since their appointment following the decline of Imperial Cheliax, the monarchs of Korvosa have served as the primary diplomats and defenders of the city-state; the city's royal bloodline has served the populace from the famed Crimson Throne since Korvosa gained its unexpected independence. The monarchy's authority has always been limited, with control of Korvosa's government shared among groups that existed prior to its inception.


The arbiters of Korvosa act as judges, hearing disputes and crimes and determining punishments for those deemed guilty. They also hold the responsibility of legislative oversight over decisions made by the other branches of Korvosa's government. The most well-known senior arbiter in the city is Zenobia Zenderholm, also known as the "Hanging Judge". She is justifiably feared by the criminal classes for her harsh rulings.


Korvosa's magistrates are in charge of the daily management of the city. The 23 individuals that comprise this body are primarily concerned with matters of bureaucracy, including taxation, economic oversight, and public works.

Peerage Review

The monarchy is advised by the Peerage Review, a council composed of the heads of Korvosa's five Great Houses. The remaining 21 noble house comprise the Dock Families, each boasting control over one or more of the city's docks.


Korvosa's military resources are embodied in three separate organizations, each charged with protecting the city-state and its people in manners unique to each group.

Korvosan Guard

The primary responsibility of the Korvosan Guard is the protection and well being of the city of Korvosa. Its members serve as police and will, in times of danger from beyond the city's walls, also act in the capacity of a defensive military force. In addition, the Guard also often works to forward the interests of the government and the local church of Abadar.

Sable Company

The hippogriff-mounted marines of the Sable Company answer directly to Korvosa's monarchy, their orders given to them by the standing seneschal of Castle Korvosa. Their purpose is to patrol and defend the city's skies and waterways, though they've also been known to assist the Korvosan Guard in their efforts throughout the city.

Order of the Nail

The Hellknights of the the Order of the Nail pursue their unyielding ideals of order and law above all else; they are fanatical when confronted by behavior or events that fly against their strict worldview.


Despite its remote location in relation to other major cities in Avistan, Korvasa is nonetheless a major commercial player in Golarion. Its primary export is seafood, such as oysters (the Straits of St. Alika are famous for their oyster beds), reefclaw claws, caviar, and other high-end seafoods. Also in the high-end foodstuffs department, Korvosa exports thileu bark to Cheliax at ridiculously high prices. It also exports goods made in its vassal states and is the only port that ships off Janderhoff goods. Thanks to the impressively large Bank of Abadar, Korvosa is also an important banking and financial city which mints its own currency. Thanks to the presence of the Acadamae, Korvosa is also a fair-sized supplier of magic items, especially low-level ones utilizing the school of conjuration. The Arkona family imports a lot of items from distant Vudra, which then are distributed throughout northern and western Avistan. Finally, as much as the government is loathe to admit, Korvosa has a pretty impressive drug trade, although it mainly imports such goods.

Korvosa's food supplies come from the farms around it and its vassal communities, although it does import foods that can't grow in its climate. Wine is a major import, for example, as are tropical and subtropical fruits. The majority of Korvosa's imports, though, are in "manufactured goods." Despite the presence of the Ironworks in the city, Korvosa's capacity to produce finished goods lags well behind its demand, and like any good colony it imports a lot of such supplies from its homeland. Textiles are another example of that need.


Despite being seen internationally as somewhat of a provincial backwater, Korvosans like to think that their city is actually quite cosmopolitan.


Fully 90% of the city's population is human, with the vast majority being descendants of Chelaxian immigrants. Most of these consider themselves to be Korvosan, feeling no strong kinship with their infernally-dominated cousins to the south. Other notable human ethnic groups include the semi-nomadic Varisians, which constitute about 10% of the human population, although a much higher percentage of the population can claim some Varisian blood. Pure-blooded Varisians tend to encounter quite a bit of prejudice in Korvosa: most people just assume them to be murderers and thieves. Shoanti make up the smallest of the human ethnic minorities, mostly due to the centuries of conflict between the Shoanti and the Chelaxian settlers of the region, and the fact that as a semi-nomadic people, they have little use for cities.


Due to the city's proximity to the major dwarven settlement of Janderhoff, Korvosa boasts a sizable population of dwarves. The majority are merchants and craftsmen, dealing in the creation and selling of tools, arms, and armor. Although most of these items are contractually sold to a few noble houses, who then sell them to the general populace at a profit, dwarven merchants often sell their surplus on the open market, particularly at the Gold Market in Midland, and the Dock Trade in North Point.


Elves have existed in Korvosa since the early days of its founding. Most originally are from the relatively nearby Mierani Forest, although others have made their homes here for hundreds of years. The leader of the Mierani elves is Perishial Kalissreavil who is seen of an ambassador of sorts. He maintains a small compound on the South Shore where he and his entourage advise the city on matters of nature, magic, and other scholarly topics.


Halflings have a peculiar history in Korvosa. Sensing a chance to widen their profit margins, House Leroung began constructing halfling-sized ships and boats and hiring halflings to run them, believing that they would take up much less room and eat less than their human counterparts, leaving more room for cargo. Their hunch turned out to be completely correct, and seeing their increased profits, the other trade houses (with the notable exception of House Arkona) soon followed. Today, even though halflings only make up 2% of the total population, fully half the ships owned by most of the major merchant houses are staffed by halflings.


Korvosa sits on the eastern shore of Conqueror's Bay at the mouth of the Jeggare River in southeastern Varisia. The oldest part of the city is located on Endrin Isle, a relatively small spit of land, while the majority sits on the mainland across the Narrows of Saint Alika. The city is built around two major hills: Garrison Hill on Endrin Isle and Citdel Hill on the mainland.


The city of Korvosa is divided into seven official districts: East Shore, Gray, the Heights, Midland, Old Korvosa, North Point, and South Shore. The borders between these neighborhoods can be fixed (such as by water or a wall), or exist only in the minds of the city's inhabitants. Two other unofficial districts exist within Korvosa, their boundaries not conforming to any design by the city's planners. They include the rooftop area known as the Shingles, as well as Korvosa's large undercity, the Vaults.

East Shore

East Shore is the only city district on the far side of the Jeggare River. It is connected to the rest of the city by High Bridge, and is home to a number of Korvosa's noble families with strong ties to the military. It is also the location of the city's second, and arguably inferior, magical school, Theumanexus College.


The Gray district serves as Korvosa's graveyard and is where most of its dead are interred; the only living inhabitants are the priests of Pharasma who tend it and reside in the Grand Cathedral of Pharasma.

The Heights

The Heights district sits atop Citadel Hill and the cliffs of Korvosa's western shoreline. It is home to the most powerful nobles in the city, including the monarch, as Castle Korvosa is located within its borders. The Acadamae, Korvosa's most well-respected magical college, can be found here as well. As the highest district in the city, its residents feel they can look down on the rest of Korvosa, both literally and figuratively.


The Midland district is what most visitors think of when they speak of Korvosa. Located in the southeast quadrant of the city, it is home to the majority of Korvosa's merchants, shops, and financial institutions. The criminal elements who might prey on this accumulation of wealth are kept in check by the fact that both the headquarters of the Korvosan Guard and the Sable Company is located here as well.

North Point

North Point was the first part of the mainland to be settled after the city began to expand from Endrin Isle. Encompassing the northeastern quadrant of the city, it is home to many families descended from these early settlers, in addition to much of Korvosa's municipal infrastructure, including City Hall, the courts, and the Bank of Abadar.

Old Korvosa

Old Korvosa, as its name implies, is the oldest, but also the poorest, most overcrowded part of the city. It encompasses all of Endrin Isle and is dominated by Garrison Hill.

South Shore

The newest district of the city, South Shore, was only founded at the end of the 47th century AR. Located on the southwestern edge of mainland Korvosa next to the Gray district, it does not suffer from the overcrowding that plagues the rest of the city. Because of this, it is a highly sought-after residence for the city's new money elite. It is also home to the Pantheon of Many, Korvosa's ecumenical cathedral.

The Shingles

Built on top of the rooftops of Korvosa's most-densely populated areas lie wooden walkways, ramshackle abodes, and shops known as the Shingles. Due to the city's severe overcrowding, this neighborhood is home to some of the city's poorest citizens, as well as providing quick highways over the bustling streets for anyone wishing to avoid the crowds.

The Vaults

The Vaults run beneath most of mainland Korvosa and are far more than just sewers, as they incorporate the ruins of two other settlements previously located here.


Korvosa's holdings span much of southeastern Varisia, and include a diverse array of towns and villages.
Abken | Baslwief | Biston | Bloodsworn Vale | Harse | Melfesh | Palin's Cove | Sirathu | Veldraine

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