Qadir on the Bihyal
Campaign History: Qadir is the titular city-state in an arid clime that I spun up to play Burning Wheel several years ago. We gave up the game soon after it started, but that was mostly to do with the game system and our failure as a group to grasp it fully. Still, if a game engine is confusing, it doesn’t get much better at the table through repeat use unless everybody suddenly has a shared epiphany. However, even though preparations for Qadir were light, it had a certain appeal which spoke of untapped potential at all echelons of society, as well as great gaping holes which the players ambitions could fill in.
Overview: The great city-state of Qadir, also called the Sea of Lights, sprawls out among the tropical wilderness it carved itself out of over two centuries ago. The region is hot and humid with seasonal rain, which starts after the brutal summer and lasts four and a half months. It rains 115 days a year on average, and can be either temperate or semi-arid the rest of the year, with mild winters. The monsoon and growing seasons are by far many months longer than the other two. The temperate season begins the cycle, before the land is punished with baking heat, followed by the incessant rainfall which renews the parched land. Finally the growing season sets in, and the crops drink up the year’s worth of water and flourish, for a while, before winter approaches once more. The river Bihyal runs alongside the city-state from the northeast to the south, and during the monsoons it floods. During the hot months of the year it is barely wide enough for river travel, but it has always been the lifeblood of the city.
The people of Qadir are predominately Men, but some Roden and some Dwarves live here as well. The Roden tend to nest in the squalor consumed sections of the city and survive on the back of civilized society, taking what they need to get by. There are relatively few open citizens among their numbers. The Dwarves exist as human help-mates, and have acclimated to the culture over time. They are considered outcasts by others of their kind, who inhabit a nearby mountain fastness, but a welcome addition to the city’s resources. Several of the Great Houses use Dwarf craftsmen to make their goods, and while they do not sell Dwarven armor to outsiders, a dwarven-made sword is often a great gift for the scion of a house.
The Men are divided into three key heritages. The native stock has lived in this region since time immemorial. The seafarers arrived six hundred years ago, and swept through the region conquering city after city before mingling with the natives. The newcomers arrived shortly before the elves of the Republic of Zahanim or with them. They hail from the same homelands as the Zahanim, and have lived in the region for only a few decades at most. Due to the expansionist drive of the Republic many of the newcomers are ill disposed to their elven neighbors. While many natives assume the newcomers are allies of the elves, it is just as often not the case.
The Great Houses, also known as The Seven, control the political life of Qadir. They wield immense power through monetary resources, and a measure of residual divine right. The ostensible ruler of all Qadiri is the Prince, but all but the low born know that Prince Alexander is sequestered at court and mired in hours of debate that seems to be about the desires of the court luminaries. Those who have been to court can see this for themselves with little trouble. The Prince sits in an ornate chair and listens to eloquent arguments all day long, and contracts, boons, and decrees issue forth from the room without his decisions or participation. Each of the Great Houses controls one or more economic interests with a majority stake in the market.
Beyond the Alchemist’s Guild, the Apothecarists, the Brothers of the Lathe and Forge, the Chirurgeons Society, the Mason’s Circle, the Brothers of the Coin and the Craftsmen of Qadir are the numerous temples dedicated to the various gods, the underworld and various secretive cults all vying for survival or dominance in the city. The Craftsmen are the open practitioners of the mystic arts: summoners, wizards and loremasters. Some of the cults also harbor magical interests, but some of them are little more than upstart religions. The thieves are organized in families and ply their criminal trades in territories mimicking the rigid order of how the region was originally carved up. There is one group in the underworld that is feared, and rightfully so, by most everyone. The Sirocco are a cult of murderers, taking on jobs for the highest bidder to kill select targets. Threat of their interest is often enough to keep politicos on their toes, as the assassins do not kill solely for money.
There are several other city-states in the region, most of which are ruled by monarchies or theocracies dedicated to the Old or Young Gods. On the distant northern horizon at the coast are several cities that have been conquered by the Imperial Republic of Zahanim, an Elven nation that has stated that it is bringing order to the region and ultimately the world. It is jointly ruled by the First Governor, (or just the First) an appointee, and the Emperor, an Elf of purest lineage. The First governs military matters and the Emperor secular and philosophical matters. In this region, the First was in attendance until several months ago. The Republic has spread far and wide. Given the life spans of the rulers the current trend is to conquer and then mostly or fully assimilate a city before moving on, even if it should take decades.
Immediately surrounding Qadir is a Giant Spider enclave hidden deep within the darkest recesses of the jungle, a mountain fastness with trolls and giants, and orc hordes past the foothills leading into the Great Desert. Dwarves long ago founded Assal, Gem on the Rock, a city on the side of the mountain, but less than a 10th of the space is now in use. Still, these mountain dwarves consider themselves superior to the city-dwelling colonists. Elves are rare, and are not native to these shores, but become more common every year in the area near the city.