Dartmouth
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"…When my ship entered the harbor, I was nearly overwhelmed by the smell. More than a million humans - a number I could barely imagine - breathed the same air, with hardly a tree between them to filter the noxious fumes out. I tried not to show my nausea, but I am afraid it was obvious for my companions…
Yet somehow, the humans thrive between those cold stone walls, and if my information is correct, this single city produces more goods and magic than our entire kingdom. My Queen, I promise that I will not rest until I understand how this city has become so successful despite all its obvious deficiencies, and how we can use this knowledge to make Narevoreen respected in the world again while still retaining our souls as elves…"
- Emrail Luthenien, Amassador of Avareen to Dartmouth, in a letter to the Elven Court (translated from Elvish)

Population: 2,731,862 (humans 70%, halflings 16%, dwarves 6%, gnomes 3%, hobgoblins 3%, elves 1%) (City of Dartmouth, 1,652,923)
Import: Ores
Exports: Finance, fish, print products, textiles

While in everyday usage the terms are frequently used interchangeably, the "City of Dartmouth" refers to the actual metropolitan area, while the word "Dartmouth" alone is the official term for the entire political entity that includes the Dartmouth Protectorate.

Life in Dartmouth

Industries

As a city co-governed by merchants, it should not be surprising that Finance itself is a cornerstone of the economy of Dartmouth. Its stock market is the largest in the Known Lands, and it is home to several noteworthy banks - none of them quite as large as the Gemeinschaftsbank, but many of them are still important regional players in the Flannish Cities and neighboring regions. Closely linked to finance is the maritime trade the city engages in - the Dartmouth Merchant Navy manages to compete with its competitors in Torburg and Rondhaven despite its smaller size. The recent acquisition of the colony of Hope Town has increased the reach of Dartmouth significantly in this regard.

Furthermore, the traditionally very permissive political and social environment of the city has created a prolific print industry. Many publishing houses, newspapers, and printers of magazines have made the city their base, and their publications are eagerly read even in far-away regions.

Life and Society

While juicy gossip is always appreciated by all levels of society, to be truly informed you have to read the newspapers. Unlike in many other cities, the press in Dartmouth is relatively free from government oversight, leading to a proliferation of magazines and publications that are read far and wide even outside of the Dartmouth Protectorate.

There are two consistently popular dailies which have existed for a long time and are unlikely to vanish any time soon. One of them is the Bay Times (2 cp per issue), a fairly conservative newspaper which to its credit tries to research its stories carefully before publishing them. On the other hand, its editor is an old friend of the current Lord Mayor, and stories in the Times that criticize the government usually focus on problems in specific departments, as opposed to the Lord Mayor and his Inner Circle. The other newspaper is the Dartmouth Enquirer, which is printed twice daily (1 cp each), and which is more known for its sensationalism rather than in-depth fact-checking. They are infamous for their lurid stories - faerie abductions are a favorite - and will readily pay adventurers for eyewitness accounts of strange occurrences. At the moment, they are focusing on an alleged "halfling crime ring" which supposedly abducts humans - especially human women - for undoubtedly nefarious purposes. That tales like these have increased incidents of random street violence against perfectly innocent halfling citizens does not seem to bother the editors. Occasionally, however, the Enquirer does publish a true and important story before anyone else does, though this is probably more a result of random chance than anything else.

Now and then, another daily newspaper tries to gain a foothold in the local market, but they rarely last long against the established competition. A few magazines published on a weekly basis exist, and there is a broad range of monthly magazines which cover specialized topics, such as the Journal of the Dartmouth Geographic Society (a favorite with those who wish to learn about far-off regions).

Shopping

An odd quirk of Dartmouth is that shops of a specialized nature tend to congregate in their own street, as opposed to being dispersed over the whole city. For example, the finest clothing boutiques may be found in Crescent Row in Duriam, the spice markets are in Becknal Road, while a disturbing variety of erotic literature is for sale in the shops in Worble Alley (not that any upstanding citizen would be caught dead there… so they tend to go in disguise instead).

Government and Politics

Unlike in many other city-states, government in Dartmouth is a confusing tangle of overlapping jurisdictions and responsibilities. That the city is able to function and even prosper is a constant source of bafflement to visitors from more ordered cities (such as extremely structured Praxus), but it functions nonetheless. In theory, the Board of Commerce is responsible for all matters relating to commerce, as well as governing The District, the Board of Works is responsible for the infrastructure (including the nexus towers of the city), the individual mayors of the city's boroughs are responsible for taxation, the local city guards, and everything else not related to commerce and infrastructure. Finally, the Lord Mayor - who is elected by the Council of Mayors - is responsible for the overall policies of the city-state, including foreign policy, defense, appointment of (non-commerce) judges, and overall cooperation between the boroughs.

However, even at the best of times these factions tend to be deeply distrustful of each others' powers and attempt to push the boundaries of their authority all the time. In extreme cases, the hostility moves into outright sabotage or even assassination attempts. The main limit on these activities is the fear of getting caught - it is a huge embarrassment for the responsible faction if its schemes are exposed by the newspapers, who serve as a useful check against the abuses of the powers of the mighty.

Groups and Organisations

Religion

As an open and tolerant city, Dartmouth calls a large range of faiths its home. The single largest faith is that of Thenos, which also wields significant political influence through the borough of St Conroy dominated by it, but none of the faiths is truly dominant.

Important NPCs

History

Despite numerous archaeological fieldwork - much of it happening amidst excavation efforts by the Board of Works - plenty of questions about the history of the Dart Bay area remains. The oldest artifacts found are fragments of tablets written in Asati, hinting at a settlement that even existed in pre-human times. A Green Monolith and earthenware by the Henge Culture have been excavated as well. Furthermore, there are numerous preserved old tunnels below Wyvern's Cliff which are of old goblin origin and contain numerous cave paintings. From their analysis of the discovered sites and old human texts, archaeologists assume that the local tribe - which had a preference for intricate blue body paint - survived for a long time even as humans became the predominant race in the area, although their numbers were steadily dwindling. There are numerous recorded instances where the goblins stole local livestock and children and dragged them into their tunnel network to consume them. Whether this tribe went extinct or whether some of the modern goblins living in the city are the descendants of that tribe is hard to say, although the latter is a popular belief among the local goblin community.

Dartmouth only truly came into its own as a city in Atalan times. The Atalan Empire needed a major port to support their northern provinces, and the Dart Bay was an ideal location and continued to operate as long as the Empire existed, though it was eclipsed at times by more northern ports at the sites of Torburg and Rondhaven.

After the city was sacked by a marauding orcish horde during the fall of the Empire, the city remained nearly uninhabited for over a century. This gradually changed as the region recovered and slowly returned to civilization. As feudal structures established themselves, Dartmouth became the capital of Wirland, a kingdom covering much of the south-western Flannish region. While its borders shifted and grew and dynasties rose and fell, the city gradually expanded as more and more people left their homes to seek opportunities in the "Big City".

This movement was temporarily stopped by the outbreak of the "Shambling Plague" in Dartmouth and the surrounding areas in 965. This vile disease was not only fatal if not treated by magical means, but it also caused the victim to rise again as a zombie at the next sunrise that attacked still living people, either infecting them or killing them outright. The fighting between the living and the dead was fierce, and the city was nearly abandoned to the walking dead, but eventually the living prevailed (though at a high cost). Many of the dead were burned on gigantic funeral pyres, but other bodies were simply dumped into the cave systems below the city through deep wells that were sealed afterward - and which remain sealed to this very day, for no one knows how long the plague will remain infective, and no one but a madman would wish to try to find out.

A notable development during feudal times was the establishment of the Wirland Parliament in 991 NA, a body consisting of the landed nobles of Wirland who could first only air their grievances in it, but later gained additional powers - they could propose laws, veto taxes proposed by the king, and finally got some measure of control over the budget of the kingdom. This set a precedent for later forms of government that were much less hierarchical than those elsewhere.

This state of affairs came to an end with the invasion of Negroth the Doombringer in timeline. The reigning king, John III (now also known as "John the Fat", "John the Coward" and a variety of other, even less flattering names) was initially dismissive of the threat Negroth represented and only sent a small force to the Fields of Harrow, and when news arrived of their crushing defeat, he became absolutely terrified. While the army of Wirland was still fairly large and might have been able to mount an effective resistance to the forces of Negroth if led by a competent strategist (though this is debated even today, since Negroth's forces were very strong - war games at the Dartmouth Academy of War that use this conflict as a setting are popular, but remain inconclusive), the King insisted on drawing back all available forces to Dartmouth to protect the capital (and, of course, him). He lived in constant fear of assassination (probably exaggerated, since Negroth could hardly have wished for a better enemy than him) while the armies of Negroth ravaged the countryside, leading to serious food shortages and outbreaks of plagues among the refugees hiding behind the city wall. When the invaders began to assault the city, the king and most of the nobles simply teleported out of the city to the Parginian Rim (where their descendants live even today), leaving the citizens to their fate. One noble, Eldwen of Hecanshire, mounted a spirited defense and tried to protect the inhabitants as long as possible, but he merely delayed the inevitable. When he fell while trying to stop a breach in the wall, the defenses crumbled and the invaders ravaged the city.

For two years, the city suffered under their cruel governor, and its population declined drastically. When news of the death of Negroth arrived, the humans banded into militias and drove off the remaining occupying forces, who quickly retreated north or faded into the countryside and living off the land as bandits. The people of Dartmouth weren't sure what would happen to them now, but they were sure that they wouldn't tolerate another monarch lording it over them again. From the chaos of the time arose a man named Everett Carsliff, who united several militias under his banner and then started a purge of "royalists" (i.e., the remaining nobles) and their sympathizers - anyone caught by his forces were put on trial and executed in public. As his forces grew, be began to pass more and more restrictive laws to "forge a new kind of men who would never again bow their heads to a monarch". That might indeed have been his intention, but the net effect was that the people of Dartmouth and the surrounding areas lived under a military dictatorship with oppressive laws and crushing taxes. When Carsliff was assassinated by unknown parties in 1185 NA, most were relieved, though Carsliff was considered to be a hero by the instigators of the later Liberation War, as well as the Secondaries of today.

The Greater Dartmouth area, whose population had once again shrunk drastically, dissolved back again into its component towns and villages, which were governed by a mixture of elected majors, local strongmen, and even the rare surviving scion of a noble family. Each town maintained its own milita/police force, and while there were the occasional squabbles over territory and jurisdiction, the people as a whole were tired of bloodshed and thus managed to solve most problems through peaceful means. Nevertheless, there are a few vicious feuds between families and boroughs that date back to that era and are still going on, despite the fact that the original bone of contention has ceased to exist for more than a century.

Dartmouth mostly kept out of the Liberation War - though a few people volunteered for the revolutionary side, on the whole the revolutionaries reminded too many people of Everett Carsliff and his reign of terror. As a result, Dartmouth was spared the devastation the rest of the region suffered under, which proved to be a great economic boost. Trade flourished, and more and more people flocked to the city in search of their fortune.

This caused tensions, however - while Dartmouth began to grow into one interconnected city again, the squabbling mayors of the individual boroughs were unable to agree on how to expand the city and how to cope with the increasing strain on the infrastructure. Furthermore, the boroughs each began to set up their own toll systems in an escalating battle for more tax revenue, causing traders to pay tolls on their goods several times even if they only wanted to pass from one end of the city to the other!

The situation became so bad that the leading merchant houses of the city staged a revolt. In 1303 NA they established the "Dartmouth Board of Commerce", which consisted of the (at the time) fifty wealthiest merchants of the Dartmouth region. These merchants settled on a common legal framework for business transactions and property laws and funded both a court system and a guard unit to enforce it. Taken by surprise, the mayors protested but were ultimately forced to accept the authority of the Board - especially after one particularly outspoken mayor was beaten into submission by the new guard and the militia of his borough was unable to protect him. The Board took control of the central part of the city, now rechristened the "Financial District'' (or "The District" for short) and held their frequent meetings in the former building of the Wirland Parliament.

This represented the closest Dartmouth had to a municipal government for many years, but there was soon an impetus for more inter-borough cooperation from an unexpected source: Sewage. The city had grown beyond its ability to cope with the waste it generated. Upstream communities simply dumped their sewage into the Dart river, poisoning the water for those downstream. Inter-borough tension grew to new heights, and the Board of Commerce realized that something needed to be done. But what?

Into this time of crisis stepped Charles Edwick, who proposed the creation of a new organization - the "Dartmouth Board of Works". This organization would be responsible for building and maintain the necessary physical infrastructure to allow Dartmouth prosper and grow. While there was some resistance from parts of the Board of Commerce, Edwick proved to be a shrewd negotiator, and in 1341 gained the funds necessary to found and operate the Board of Works - with him as its first director.

However, some obscure passages in the charter of the Board of Works also could be interpreted to allow him to build and maintain the nexus towers of Dartmouth, which had long fallen into disuse by that point. Secretly, he started refurbishing "Old Faithful", a former nexus tower dating back to the Atalan Empire located on a hill overlooking the harbor - a move that paid off when the city was attacked in 1346 by a fleet of pirates under the command of Tardruin the Black. That single nexus tower was able to destroy much of the fleet and drive back the rest.

Edwick became a hero, and while many members of the Board of Commerce were extremely worried when they became aware of just how much power the Body of Works had at its fingertips, they could not move against him openly. To this day, the nexus tower network is controlled by the Board of Works and gives it a steady source of income.

However, political infighting between the two Boards became common after Edwick retired, to the point where street fights between followers of the two factions became a daily occurrence, and a failed plot by Secondary revolutionaries in 1375 to destroy the House of Parliament with a large number of fire elementals while the Board of Commerce was in session only increased tension, suspicions, and paranoia. As the Board of Commerce weakened, the disenfranchised mayors of the boroughs saw their chance - in 1378 elected one of their own, the charismatic Everett Huffrey, as the first Lord Mayor of the city, and put all their militias under his command. He then set out to challenge the authority of the boards.

For a few days, it looked like the city would erupt into a full-fledged civil war, but after a few days of intense and secret negotiations the Board of Works accepted the authority of the Lord Mayor as long as its privileges were preserved, and the Board of Commerce eventually had to give in in the face of the power of their opponent. The negotiations that followed were even more intense, but eventually the three parties signed the new Dartmouth City Charter, which wrote down that the Board of Works was responsible for creating and maintaining the infrastructure of the city, the Board of Commerce was responsible for its commerce courts, the District, and generally regulating the commerce and trade of the city, and the Lord Mayor and his Council of Mayors was responsible for non-commercial laws, foreign policy, law enforcement, maintenance of military forces and everything else.

The City Charter was a complicated document that reflected its origin - several hundreds of pages of densely written and frequently ambiguously worded legalese, and later addenda have only made it more confusing. The whole government infrastructure is full of overlapping jurisdictions where no one is sure who is responsible for what. Despite this, Dartmouth has kept functioning and even prospered. And at times, it has even expanded via military means, such as in the recent Coastal War, when the city allied itself with Rondhaven against Torburg and gained the Veldtland colony of Hope Town as a concession.

The latest Lord Mayor, Percival Shellard, has taken office only last year, and everyone is waiting to see in what direction he will steer the city.

Adventure Ideas

Designer's Notes & Resources

Just as the Flannish Cities represent the "default region" of the setting, so does Dartmouth represent the "default city" of Urbis - a detailed locale where GMs can set their first adventures or even their entire campaign. Thus, it represents the City of Adventure - a place where player characters can find adventure just by crossing the street. It was strongly inspired by London - with the exception that Dartmouth never was at the center of a world-spanning empire.

And for the record, at the time I wrote up the first draft for Dartmouth I wasn't aware that there was a real city of Dartmouth in the United States. So it goes… but I've decided against changing the name into something wholly fictional. And perhaps I will add in a few references to the "real" Dartmouth when I can think of some good ones…

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