Alkenstar

From PathfinderWiki
Alkenstar
Alkenstar.
(Nation)

Titles
The Grand Duchy of Alkenstar
Land
Alignment
Capital
Ruler
Government
Constitutional monarchy
Demonym
Alkenstarians
Adjective
Alkenstar; Alkenstari
Languages
Religions
Source: The Inner Sea World Guide, pg(s). 110ff. (1E)
World Guide, pg(s). 74
ff. (2E)
This article relates to the Grand Duchy of Alkenstar. Also see articles on the person named Alkenstar and Alkenstar City.

The Grand Duchy of Alkenstar (pronounced AL-ken-star)1 has gained an unexpected level of power despite its tiny size through the invention of firearms, a necessity for survival in the harsh, magic-dead region known as the Mana Wastes. Beyond just firearms and weaponry, the engineers and alchemists of Alkenstar have crafted and perfected technology to a level far surpassing other parts of the Inner Sea region, capitalizing on the rich mineral deposits and the need for something to replace the usually omnipresent conveniences of magic.2

History

The skyline of Alkenstar City.

In the wake of the devastating arcane conflicts between Nex and Geb, the neighboring regions suffered immense destruction, leaving behind desolate wastelands where the very fabric of magic was rendered inert by pervasive and twisted radiation. It was within this harsh landscape that the nation of Alkenstar emerged, its origins intertwined with the looming presence of Dongun Hold—a once-mighty dwarven Sky Citadel that had been sealed by its former occupants, preventing it from becoming a coveted prize in the endless back-and-forth struggles between Nex and Geb.34

Although the dwarves had abandoned their fortress over a millennium before, the surrounding ruins became a sanctuary for a disparate community of refugees and wanderers seeking solace amidst the chaos of war. In 4588 AR, a rogue engineer named Ancil Alkenstar, evading criminal charges levied by Nex, stumbled upon the shattered remnants of Dongun Hold. With his technological expertise and ingenuity, he fortified the settlement, introduced agriculture to the nearby plains, and harnessed the immense power of the Ustradi River, transforming it into a literal engine of creation.34

Determined to surpass the legacy of Dongun Hold, Alkenstar and his resourceful followers devised a daring plan to unlock the secrets of the mighty dwarven Sky Citadel. After tireless efforts, they successfully located the missing dwarves, who had sought refuge in a secluded vault deep within the uncharted realms of the Darklands, where the once-flourishing practice of magic had ceased to exist. Recognizing the potential of this fortuitous encounter, Alkenstar struck a mutually beneficial agreement with the dwarves, leading to an exchange of knowledge that would shape the destiny of their burgeoning city: the gift of firearms.34

Drawing upon the expertise and innovations perfected by the dwarves during their time in seclusion, Alkenstar introduced firearms to his people—a groundbreaking development destined to alter the course of history. These potent weapons ensured that the resilient inhabitants of Alkenstar would never again find themselves defenseless in the face of the relentless conflicts between Nex and Geb. As the decades unfolded, the Grand Duchy of Alkenstar grew into a formidable and self-reliant nation, flourishing in its own right, even if somewhat isolated from the surrounding realms. With their mastery of firearms, Alkenstar became a force to be reckoned with, carving out a prominent place in the annals of power and influence.34

The city's Gunworks were founded in 4620 AR5 and since then the city's renown has only increased. To the current day, nations throughout the Inner Sea region contract the engineers and metallurgists of Alkenstar to craft weapons for them.67

Geography

The city-state of Alkenstar is located in a low valley of the eastern Shattered Range on the banks of the Ustradi River where it plunges over the Hellfallen Cliffs in the Alken Falls. Amid the magic-dead region known as the Mana Wastes, Alkenstar is perfectly suited to act as a neutral intermediary between its neighbors of Nex and Geb to the north and south respectively. The Grand Duchy consists of three settlements that are often considered districts of the same large city. The largest of these is Alkenstar City, located on the edge of the cliffs and containing most of Alkenstar's population. At the foot of the cliffs lies the town of Martel, which connects to the main city via two immense towers which climb over 700 feet to connect with buildings in Alkenstar City through skybridges. Linked via the cyclopean, sky-bound Bridge of the Gods, the dwarven Sky Citadel of Dongun Hold produces much of the city's mineral resources, used locally in manufacturing or traded abroad. At the other end of the great bridge, on the other side of the canyon, one finds Cloudreaver Keep, which guards the city's eastern border.8

Alkenstar's brick-and-iron structures wear a shroud of soot, their true splendor concealed beneath layers of grime. Yet amidst the gloom, glimpses of elegant brass embellishments hint at the architectural marvels that lie beneath. The city is veiled in an ethereal atmosphere, with billowing clouds of steam hovering over its streets, intermingling with the dense fog drifting from the Lake Ustradi. Adding to the sensory tapestry are the acrid plumes of black smoke billowing from the countless factories that dominate the cityscape.4

Nestled on the southeastern shore of Lake Ustradi stands a colossal stronghold known as the Gunworks, an imposing castle that serves as the epicenter for Alkenstar's devoted metallurgists and engineers. Within its fortified walls, these skilled artisans toil tirelessly, pushing the boundaries of firearms technology. Among their proudest achievements is the awe-inspiring Great Maw of Rovagug, a massive cannon with an astonishing range stretching across miles. This formidable weapon is frequently deployed against the marauding mutated giants of the Mana Wastes, who regularly assail the city during the unforgiving summer months. The resounding booms of the cannon serve as a testament to Alkenstar's unwavering determination to defend its realm against all odds.4

Government

The Grand Duchy of Alkenstar is technically a vassal of the nation of Nex (located to the north) and Grand Duchess Trietta Ricia should, by the letter of the law, report to the rulers of that land. In practice, however, Alkenstar remains a fairly independent city-state and a force of neutrality between the rival nations of Nex and Geb. The small nation is governed by a High Parliament consisting of 73 ministers representing the various factions in the three settlements and small rural sections of the city-state's realm.2 Within the city's intricate tapestry of governance, corruption runs rampant, and rivalries persist among clans, guilds, and influential families. These factions vie for power and influence, each striving to further their own interests within the nation.4

Economy

Alkenstar is one of the only places in the world where firearms are manufactured, which has allowed the city-state to control the supply of these weapons, keeping the price high and their coffers full. In fact, a full 90% of all firearms, both personal weapons and artillery manufactured in the Gunworks are not sold abroad, both for protection and to maintain product scarcity throughout the rest of the world. In addition to exporting firearms, Alkenstar profits greatly from its citizens' expertise in the fields of engineering, alchemy, and metallurgy, sending masters on lucrative contract jobs across the Inner Sea region and beyond. The local mineral-rich mountains provide raw materials for export as well, such as the quartz crystals shipped through Nex to Vudra far to the east. The nation's banks, housed in the town of Martel, are known for their shrewd fiscal practices and are not trusted outside the Grand Duchy. Even though manufacturing and engineering exports generate considerable wealth, the desolation of the Mana Wastes has left arable land quite scarce in the region. As a result, the city-state imports most of its food from its southern neighbor of Geb, often trading one of the few potable goods produced locally, a potent ice wine.8

However, Alkenstar's remarkable rise to global prominence comes at a steep cost. Despite the commendable efforts of the High Parliament and elite police force to maintain law and order, the city remains a frontier boom town situated in a hostile and unforgiving land. The very growth that propelled Alkenstar to new heights has resulted in a tangled web of government and industries, plagued by inefficiencies and complexities that arise from the overwhelming demands placed on limited bureaucratic capacity. While Alkenstar's ascent has been remarkable, it is evident that the city is still grappling with the challenges posed by its rapid development. The road to progress is paved with obstacles, and Alkenstar must confront the pressing need to address the social and economic disparities that threaten to undermine the very foundations of its newfound power.4

Inhabitants

The Grand Duchy of Alkenstar serves as the safest haven within the Mana Wastes, attracting not only traditional refugees, escaped slaves, and nomads but also a growing number of merchants, foreign diplomats, and dwarves seeking to reunite with their kin in Dongun Hold. However, travelers venturing to and from Alkenstar face not only the perils of the Mana Wastes' twisted and unnatural environment but also the constant threat of magic-twisted abominations that inhabit the region.9

The Grand Duchy has a primarily human population, with most inhabitants belonging to the Keleshite or Garundi ethnic groups. The nation's proximity to (and encompassing of) the dwarven settlement of Dongun Hold brings a relatively large dwarven population into the mix, though most of these inhabitants reside exclusively in the Sky Citadel itself. Aside from the Dwarven spoken in Dongun Hold, most citizens speak either Osiriani, Kelish, or both. Commonly worshiped deities include Torag, Erastil, Abadar, and Irori.2 Sadly, the common folk are often left untouched by the fruits of the city's industrial progress, condemned to endure harsh and arduous lives amidst the oppressive smog emanating from the workshops. Crime looms large over the destitute outcasts, orphans, and the impoverished, who bear the brunt of the nation's financial instability. Desperate refugees from other lands, seeking solace in Alkenstar, often find themselves vulnerable to exploitation and predation.4

References

Paizo set the Wardens of the Reborn Forge Pathfinder Module and Outlaws of Alkenstar Pathfinder Adventure Path in Alkenstar, and also published major articles on the city and its surrounding region in Impossible Lands and Guns & Gears.

For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.

  1. Erik Mona, et al. “Appendices” in Campaign Setting, 246. Paizo Inc., 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 2: The Inner Sea” in Campaign Setting, 58. Paizo Inc., 2008
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 111. Paizo Inc., 2011
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Tanya DePass, et al. Impossible Lands” in World Guide, 74–76. Paizo Inc., 2019
  5. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 37. Paizo Inc., 2011
  6. Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 5: The World” in Campaign Setting, 201. Paizo Inc., 2008
  7. Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 5: The World” in Campaign Setting, 203. Paizo Inc., 2008
  8. 8.0 8.1 Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 2: The Inner Sea” in Campaign Setting, 58–59. Paizo Inc., 2008
  9. Tanya DePass, et al. Impossible Lands” in World Guide, 79–80. Paizo Inc., 2019