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Estago is a system-neutral port town, filled with necromancers, unscrupulous merchants, and a deranged elven ship captain.
Do you need a quick stop for adventurers on a sea journey? Or a port of call for treasure-hunting pirates? This article is for you!

The City of Estago sits on the rocky edge of a bay. To its east, high cliffs rise, topped by a looming citadel whose bricks are stained white with sea-salt. To its west lays the brickyard, a mammoth complex of fire and clay. Beyond that lays a saltwater swamp, filled with flora and fauna both malignant and medicinal.

Estago

Estago is a port town, living off the export of its bricks. The vast majority of the buildings are made of yellowish brick, made from the local clay. The town is built on the lowest of a series of rocky outcroppings, leaving it just a few feet above sea level at high tide.

The bay is partially enclosed by a long ridge of rock, leaving just enough space for two ships to pass each other, though a very small boat would be able to bypass this by cutting through the swamp.

There is a half-built brick bridge crossing a channel from Estago to a large high part of the swamp, but a section of it recently collapsed. The reason is unknown, and the subject of many rumors.

The Shipwreck Tavern & Inn

Several blocks from the docks sits the remains of a galleon, its keel smashed against the rock. Many years ago, it was carried onto the shore by a storm. Since it was carrying a substantial amount of alcohol at the time, the captain decided to run it as a bar until he made enough money to buy a new ship. That was 20 years ago, and the money Krerik constantly pours into repairs and improvements means that he has never been able to save enough for a sailing ship.

The bar sits in front of the captain’s quarters, and the wall behind it is covered with a combination of exotic liquor bottles and trophies from Krerik’s sailing days. Strange skulls, a sextant, that kind of thing. Most prominent is the intricate carving showing the ship’s name, written in both the runes of the dragonfolk and the letters of the common tongue: Fauna.

A brick staircase has been built on the port side of the ship, allowing easy access to the deck. It was built for free by some of the Bricklayers, many of whom like to drink at the Shipwreck.

The tavern portion is on the main and upper deck, while the rooms are in what used to be the cargo hold. This makes sleeping there… somewhat difficult.

Captain Krerik (they/them), dragonborn barkeep. Krerik is an old, white dragonborn. They speak softly most of the time, but can shout loud enough to be heard several blocks away if need be. When business is slow, they smoke tobacco from a pipe. They know the town fairly well, but they know the seas far better, and is much more fond of answering questions about the seas.

The Brickyard

The Brickyard is a complex at the west end of Estago, run by the Bricklayers Guild. Wooden tracks have been laid across the yard, running between the various manufacturing areas. One set of rails also runs through town and to the docks, where the bricks are loaded onto ships bound elsewhere.

The Bricklayers Guild are responsible for most of the construction in and around Estago, both in building and design. This makes them rich and powerful in the region. The guild has a variety of ranks, starting with Mudders, who work in the Tempering Yard, and ending with Brickmaster, the person who runs the guild. Once somebody gets high enough to learn the art of structural bricklaying, they are branded on the right bicep with the letter Π, once their first building is complete.

The Tempering Yard

Clay from the swamp is spread here, and mixed with water and other additions before being ran over by horses over and over. After that, young workers fill molds with the resulting thick material. Once that material sets, it is pushed out of the molds and moved by cart to the drying racks.

The Drying Shed

This large structure is little more than a roof and a bunch of supports. Rails run through it, allowing racks of bricks to be easily moved in. The racks sit in the shed for just under a week, before they are moved on to the kiln. This area would be excellent for close-quarters fighting, as the racks are generally not right up against one another and, with sufficient strength, could be pushed over on to an opponent.

The Kiln

A gigantic circular structure with a substantial chimney sits at one end of the yard, constantly belching smoke. This is a continuous kiln, with each section at some point in the heating/baking/cooling process at every part of the day. Its roof is heavily insulated, allowing workers to walk across and deposit fuel into slots as needed, and this would also allow an adventurer to sneak over the top, if need be.

Workers

Gianni Vallelis (he/him), brickmaster. Giani is a greedy, cigar-smoking man who runs the brickyard. He has light brown skin, and his black hair is cropped very close to his head. Lately, he’s been becoming increasingly paranoid about sabotage in the brickyard.

Argyris Lilleas (she/her), bricklayer. Argyris is a hard-drinking, pale-skinned woman who is almost always covered in dust. She was in charge of the swamp bridge project. She can often be found at the Shipwreck, with a mug of ale in her hand.

Margarite Zenoti (she/her), brickmaker. Margarite is a bronze-skinned teenage girl with large, defined muscles and several bright-red burn scars on her arms. She uses her meager pay to feed her siblings, and hopes to rise through the ranks and, some day, build her family a proper house.

The Docks

The wooden docks stretch for about a kilometer along the bay. A dozen or so berths jut out, allowing as many ships to dock at any one time. In addition to this, a drydock made of brick sits at the west end. It is currently occupied by the Seventh Shard of the Bleak Sunset.

Many stalls and drinking establishments sit near the dock, and their merchants take payment by weight instead of denomination, to accommodate all the foreign ships passing through. For reference, one ounce is roughly 3 standard GP. Prices right near the dock are generally 20-40% higher than what’s listed in your rules reference book of choice, owing to their ease of access and the willingness of the desperate to pay anything.

Miscreants

Michalis Michaeleas (he/him), hawker, most peoples’ first point of contact in Estago. He sells wine and food at high prices, and directs people to inns he has kickback deals with.

Vaso & Vasso Raptas (he/him, he/him), twin brothers. Both of the Raptas twins are handsome, brown-haired lads with brown eyes and a crescent-shaped birthmark on one hand. Vaso has it on his left, while Vasso has it on this right. Vaso works as an armorer and general metalworker near the dock, repairing anything and everything. Vasso, meanwhile, plays the guitar near various inns throughout the city. Vasso’s name is pronounced with the S held slightly longer. This is the only phonetic difference.

Tasia Panageli (she/her), guard. Tasia carries a heavy club at her hip, and has no qualms about using it on rabblerousers on the docks. She wears as her straight, black hair in a tight braid.

Elluin Silverday (he/him), elven captain. Silverday commands a mighty elven vessel whose name translates, roughly, to “The Seventh Shard of the Bleak Sunset.” The vessel is currently drydocked and undergoing substantial repairs. Being unable to get his ship back to a “proper” elven port is a great source of shame for Silverday. He’s been stuck here for a week now, and he seems to get more erratic every day.

Elluin Silverday (he/him), elven captain. Silverday commands a mighty elven vessel whose name translates, roughly, to “The Seventh Shard of the Bleak Sunset.” The vessel is currently drydocked and undergoing substantial repairs. Being unable to get his ship back to a “proper” elven port is a great source of shame for Silverday. He’s been stuck here for a week now, and he seems to get more erratic every day.

The Seventh Shard of the Bleak Sunset

The hull of this large ship looks like it was grown as a single piece, with no seams between boards, as you’d see on a normal ship. Or, at least, it looked that way before its most recent voyage. Now, holes and gigantic slashes mar the side of it, and the remaining crew are helping dockworkers perform hasty repairs, nailing boards over the breaches. Strangely, the human workers have been forbidden from entering the Seventh Shard, though they are— reluctantly— allowed on the deck.

In the hold of the ship lays a gigantic trident made of metal so dark it appears like a hole in space. This trident was pulled out of the corpse of a dead god on the ocean floor, many miles out to sea. Unfortunately for the crew of the Seventh Shard, measures had been put in place by whoever impaled that ancient being to prevent the trident from being removed. Vicious sea creatures immediately attacked the crew and the ship, who barely managed to escape the area.

The crew does not know if these creatures still pursue them, and if they’ll attack Estago to get at them. All they want is to get home, get the trident off their ship, and make it somebody else’s problem.

The Citadel

The Citadel sits on cliffs overlooking the harbor. Wide, brick walkways connect the various buildings. Under these walkways is a rough drainage system, little more than gently sloped channels leading to the cliff edge. Over the years, plenty of detritus has built up in these channels, and the grates that once covered the outlets have been broken off to prevent blockages. It’s not exactly an easy climb, but it’s doable for an adventurer. Or a fool. But I repeat myself.

The worshippers of Keebus believe that death, rebirth, undeath and unrebirth are all equally valid parts of the cycle of life. Through a process they call osteoanimation, their skeletizers repair and reanimate skeletons. They have a fairly loose definition of “repair,” however, and strange abominations walk the paths of the Citadel right alongside relatively normal skeletons.

The Temple

The main building of the Citadel, this is where osteoanimation and sermons take place. The Temple is the only building open to the public, and even then, only during the weekly sermons and animation ceremonies. A large statue of Keebus stands behind the altar. The skeletal baby in his arms is gilded.

Behind the statue of Keebus is a gigantic stained glass window. It depicts a golden skeleton with a sword, its tip resting on the ground at the bottom of the window and its hands cupped on the pommel. Its eye sockets are green.

The Keep

At the heart of the citadel complex is the Keep, a three-story building built on top of an ancient catacomb. All the “mundane” parts of osteoanimation are done in this building: Picking parts from the catacombs, reinforcing them with metal and thread, decorating them with gold and jewels.

The Keep also houses most of the population of the Citadel in its upper floors, though the accommodations are sparse and private rooms are rare. Instead, the dwellers of the keep sleep in barracks-style beds which are, appropriately, little bigger than coffins. They also eat communally, at tables in the center of the barracks-rooms.

Guard Skeletons

Most of the guard skeletons are fairly similar. Six-ish feet tall, a sword, and a black cloak. However, a few are more… unique, either the result of an eccentric osteoanimator, or creations that have been reassigned from their original purpose.

The Bride. A skeleton with a bridal veil and an armored, gilded torso with a red metal heart in the center. The Bride carries a morningstar.

The Bride

The Groom. The Groom is a skeleton with a fancy red coat and a rapier. Its sword arm, its right arm, is noticeably longer than its other arm.

The Groom

The Sherriff. A seven foot tall construct of mismatched bones. Most notably, the Sherriff has four arms, with the second set mounted to the ribs, just under the primary arms. On the secondary arms, the fingers have been fused in pairs and sharpened, forming rudimentary claws.

The Sherriff

The Hound. Built as an experiment, the Hound is mostly built out of animal parts. It walks upright, like a man, but stands little more than three feet tall. Approximately a dozen gems are mounted in a plate in each eye, giving the skull a somewhat insectoid aspect. The Hound has arms and hands, but can’t really use them. The Hound attacks primarily by biting, and several of its teeth have fallen out and been replaced with jagged pieces of iron.

The Hound

Population

Keebus (any), God of Life. Keebus is a figure revered by medical practitioners, midwives, and necromancers. Keebus governs the power of life, and he considers reanimation part of that domain. He is generally depicted as a golden-skinned human man carrying a child swaddled in blankets, its face hidden in shadow. However, depictions created by necromantic acolytes have the head uncovered, revealing a skull.

Farman Sandin (he/him), priest. Farman is a devout acolyte of Keebus, the God of Life. He has short-cropped hair and an unusually high voice. He has no experience in the necromantic arts himself, but he preaches its virtue in weekly sermons.

Potentiana (she/her), skeletizer. Potentiana is an elderly acolyte with a gift for osteoanimation. Outside of rituals, she speaks with a stutter. She looks old and weathered, but is surprisingly strong.

Madlyn (she/her), skeletizer. Madlyn is an experienced osteoanimator, and is now teaching the younger generation the art. Her workshop is under the church, filled with gold leaf, goldsmithing supplies, thread and rods of iron.

Iraklis (he/him), goldsmith. Iraklis is a relatively young acolyte, training under Madlyn in the early steps of osteoanimation. Iraklis used to be a brickmaker, and still carries some of the scars on his hands and arms.

The Forgotten Crypt is just the place these osteoanimators might frequent…

Conclusion

Hey, Garm here with some behind the scenes notes. I spent a lot of time watching videos about brickmaking, which is a surprisingly straightforward process, even these days. The kiln in this article is specifically a Hoffmann kiln. I didn’t go very much into the specific details, but if you’re interested, the Wikipedia article (linked) is reasonably informative.

The general geography of Estago was inspired by the Greek city of Thessaloniki, with… a substantial amount of creative liberties taken. Like the cliffs. And the swamp.

The Cathedral and its acolytes were inspired by, in rough order, Heavenly Bodies by Paul Koudounaris (which I would highly recommend if you’re intrigued by bedazzled skeletons), Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, and the video game Hood: Outlaws and Legends, which I have logged way too many hours in recently.

That’s it from me for this week! Let me know what you thought below.

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About the author

Garmbreak1

Former esports wannabe, current TTRPG streamer and TTRPG creator interviewer. I like science fiction and I have a soft spot for licensed tabletop RPGs. You can find all the campaigns I'm in and interviews I've done over on YouTube.

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Published: September 14, 2022

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