The Secrets of Kaer Maga
The Idiot's Guide to Kaer Maga
Getting you around the City of Strangers in a quarter the time of other guides, Guaranteed!*
A Brief History, or, “What the hell is this place?”
Kaer Maga is an ancient and massive structure, predating any record of life on the surface of Golarion. Not a single record of Golarion’s long history can find a period when Kaer Maga did not exist.
Originally “discovered” by one of the Thassilonian Runelords, the city was already occupied by strange creatures known as the Caulborn. These strangely psychic and telepathic beings agreed to share information with the Runelord – in exchange for subjects on which to feed. The city became a prison colony, a home for undesirables and other important prisoners a little too valuable to kill. Yet, in time, the human population outnumbered the Caulborn. To police the city, the Runelord turned to the undead – employed a vampire Wardens to guard his prison. Eventually, the Starstone fell – and Thassilon crumbled. The Caulborn and Vampires, however, had fled deep underground to survive.
The humans that remained managed to survive – for even the Starstone couldn’t topple Kaer Maga. Huddling together around what little resources they had, the city became one of isolation and self-reliance. This attitude defined the city as it rebuilt itself, and stands even today. The city bows to no king, aligns itself with no faction, includes itself in no war. The city is a hub of commerce and freedom, welcoming people from anywhere on the planet – regardless of their past. The hodgepodge of cultures mingle, and apparent enemies turn away from one another within the walls.
“Your business is your business.”
Geography, or, “Ok, but where the hell am I?”
The city of Kaer Maga is located in the frontier region of Varisia, in the arid badlands of the Stoval Plateau. The city is largely defined by its walls – the massive walls dwarf any structure built by the current residents of the planet, both in thickness and height. Roughly hexagonal, the walls are dotted with windows and homes carved by the many residents of Kaer Maga. The only hole in the wall is as old as the city, and no one knows what might have been capable of damaging the walls on such a scale.
Yet, that is not the first thing newcomers notice about Kaer Maga – it is the humongous cliff they need to scale. At over 3000 feet in most places, and never dipping below 1000 at its lowest points, the Kaer Magan cliffs are no minor obstacle. Carved with massive forms and visages of vanished kings and gods, the Storval Rise bisects the land. Ascent to Kaer Maga is typically done through one of two methods – slowly and carefully following the trail along the Yondabakari River, or braving the dangers of the Halflight Path.
The Districts, or, “No, seriously, that didn’t help. Where am I?!”
The city is divided into 11 districts, most of which actually exist inside the city’s massive walls. Inside the Ring, the neighborhoods honeycomb up and down within the wall, dividing the city into many levels. In many of these, height is associated with wealth, and the higher one’s class, the higher one’s home. The center region is known as the Core, surrounding the city’s seemingly endless freshwater lake and exposed to the skies. This region is considered neutral territory by most of the city’s factions and gangs – as without the trade that took place in the Core, the city would crumble.
Ankar-Te – The most diverse of the districts, it is also the only one that allows undead to walk the street unmonitored.
Bis – Home to the ledge-manors known as the Balconies, Bis is a district most well known for its “rulers”, the Ardoc Family – legendary golem crafters.
The Bottoms – Located along the cliff’s face, this district is the home of freedom – escaped slaves and abolitionist revolutionaries known as the Freemen celebrate democracy with a ferocious vigor.
Cavalcade – The heart of industry in Kaer Maga, this district houses mills and smithies that are powered by the streams and aqueducts running through it.
Highside Stacks – The richest of the districts, this region houses Kaer Maga’s elite. High above the ground, many of these individuals never even touch the city’s floor.
Oriat – The art district, known for its theaters, music, nightlife, and bardic college. Unfortunately, a guerrilla war amongst the Brothers of the Seal has all of its residents perpetually on edge.
Tarheel Promenade – The home of magic in Kaer Maga, this is where the Arcanist’s Circle makes it home.
The Warren – Most often known as the entrance to the city, Kaer Maga’s nearly impenetrable wall was breached long ago here, by forces unknown to anyone or anything alive. This ramshackle shantytown is the city’s slum, home to the poorest of the poor.
Downmarket – The trade hub to end trade hubs, anything can be found and purchased in the maze of tents and stalls that define this district.
Hospice – The hospitality district, this region offers the best and worst of accommodations and “entertainment”.
Widdershins – Unique in its order, this district is a quiet, orderly neighborhood where everyone acts appropriately – or else they face the wrath of the local Constabulary.
Not technically a district, the Undercity encompasses all of the tunnels, chambers, and ruins that lie deep within the cliffside. Many citizens believe that the topmost layers, those mapped and patrolled by the Duskwardens, are the entirety of the Undercity. But these levels fail to even scratch the surface…
Factions, or, “Who are those assholes you just namedropped?”
A city with no official government and few real rules, Kaer Maga is home to countless factions – members of nearly every religion, region, nation, government, agency, or lifestyle find themselves within the city’s walls. However, there are a couple of important ones that any visitor would be keen to know – lest they end up on their bad side.
Perhaps the most selfless group within the city, the Duskwardens represent the first – and often only – line of defense between the city of Kaer Maga and the Undercity below. Trained to defend against all manner of undead, monster, abomination, or whatever else might crawl up from the dark, the Duskwardens patrol the tunnels below the city to ensure their safety. Organized from their headquarters in Bis, they not only clear the tunnels for the city’s expansion, but attempt to map the maze below. The only profitable enterprise the Duskwardens undertake are the guides through the Halflight Tunnel – the fastest, and most dangerous, way from the cliff’s base to the city.
As a group that truly represents the benefit of Kaer Maga as a whole, they are supported by the entire city. No reasonable request from a Duskwarden is refused, and they are honored guests wherever the may choose to go.
If it’s magical and its in Kaer Maga, then the Arcanist’s Circle probably has a hand in it. As the center of the city’s magical research and experimentation, it houses a number of wizards and mages, all in the interest of learning and sharing information to the benefit of all involved. This involvement with magical devices has made them a powerful mercantile power – they not only sell magical items, but take commissions to construct new (and untested) devices.
The Ardoc Family
Controlling the district of Bis, the Ardoc Family is an age-old group of golemcrafters. Despite the city’s fluid alliances and residents, the Ardocs have managed to stay strong – and present themselves as such. They hold Bis with an iron fist, ensuring that gangs and crimes are punished accordingly. Yet, they are not exactly virtuous – the order they impose on Bis is equivalent to that of the city’s strongest crime family.
Truly bound by blood, the family is made of brothers – both blood and those married in. Those family members without magical ability are second class, only just above the average Bis citizen, and among the Ardoc’s children and women. The mages, however, all bow before the family’s patriarch, an aging wizard named Merriman Ardoc.
One of the newest factions to make an impression on Kaer Maga, the Freemen have made themselves known through their zealous defense of both freedom and democracy. Founded by a group of escaped slaves, the Freemen actively seek out slavers and end their human cargo’s plight. Any escaped slave is welcome, regardless of his history – and the Freemen will gladly give their lives to ensure none of its members find themselves back in chains.
Working out of the Bottoms, the district has become a bastion of democracy in a city with no real government. Led by the man who masterminded the first escaped Freemen, Halman Wright, the group has come to an uneasy truce with the other, slave-owning factions of Kaer Maga. In a delicate balancing act between freedom and foolishness, the Freemen often find themselves at odds with the mercantile interests of the rest of the city.
The Commerce League
Originally founded as a means of standardizing market procedures to maximize profits across the board, The Commerce League has grown to little more than a white-collar mafia. Focusing on businesses like price fixing, protection rackets, and loan sharking, the Commerce League undeniably has its hands in the criminal ring. Yet, it still holds its original principles to heart, as it protects the commercial interests of its investors and members with a tenacious fervor. As such, they keep the core largely free of the inter-gang squabbles that plague the rest of the city – after all, such things are bad for business.
*not actually guaranteed.