Chapter 1 - Intro

Welcome, Friend, to the remarkable city of Korvosa—Gateway to Varisia! The majesty of fair Korvosa marks it as one of the premiere cities of the world. Indeed, with the exception of magnificent Egorian—capital city of esteemed Cheliax—there is likely no greater city on, above, or within all of Golarion!
—Mercer Cucuteni, Magistrate of Tourism

City Basics

At its height, before the death of Aroden and the departure of the separatists who founded Magnimar, Korvosa topped 23,000 inhabitants. It lost nearly 10,000 because of the resulting chaos of the time, but in the last century it regained half that many. As a result of its rapid contraction and slow re-expansion, many of the affluent sections of Korvosa remain underpopulated. With increasing trade and abundance of area into which it can expand, Korvosa could comfortably fill out to a true metropolis.

Large City conventional (king); AL LN
GP Limit 40,000 gp; Assets 36,972,000 gp
Population 18,486
Type isolated (90% human, 4% dwarf, 2% elf, 2% halfling, 1% half-elf, 1% other races)
Authority Figures
King Eodred Arabasti II , ruler of Korvosa; Queen Ileosa
, wife of king; Seneschal Neolandus Kalepopolis,
keeper of Castle Korvosa; Field Marshal Cressida Kroft,
leader of the Korvosan Guard; Commandant Marcus
Thalassinus Endrin
, leader of the Sable Company; Lictor
Severs DiVri,
leader of the Order of the Nail; Lord Glorio
, de facto leader of Old Korvosa; Toff Ornelos,
Acadamae headmaster


People identify their affiliations symbolically, from the colors of their uniforms to the specific design of their coats of arms. Some commonly seen Korvosan symbols are:

Colors: Korvosa’s symbolic colors are the black and red of Cheliax (deepened to a rich crimson), with the addition of silver to distinguish it as an important colony (in its own eyes, at least).

Mascot: The city claims as its mascot the powerful hippogriff, dozens of which perch within the high aerie of the Great Tower and serve as the mounts for the city’s elite Sable Company.

Motto: Korvosa’s motto is “Trosker ep Styrk,” Ancient Taldane for “Fidelity and Strength.”

Speaking Korvosan

The people of Korvosa universally speak Chelaxian (frequently known as “Common”). Korvosans have, over time, created their own slang unique to the city. In order to help you blend in while exploring Korvosa, make sure to (correctly) use the following phrases.

Chel: Mildly derogatory term for people of Chelish descent. Widely used as a contemptuous dismissal in the rest of the world. In Korvosa, the word has evolved into a hate-filled ethnic slur. Use of this word constitutes a grave affront in the city, and using it against the wrong target likely finds the offender beaten, lynched, or killed.
Dancer: Cutpurse, pickpocket, or other thief who works crowds. Comes from the belief that most thieves are Varisians and most Varisians like to dance. Actual dancing performers are called “performers.”
Empty: A beggar, vagrant, or homeless person. Most Korvosans consider an empty to be someone without meaning or purpose, whose existence doesn’t matter and whose life and death occur without mention.
Fronter: Someone who lives in Bridgefront or is otherwise poor. Not a polite term and frequently used as a mild (sometimes playful) insult among younger aristocrats and nobles. Connotes dirtiness.
Gater: Someone who lives in Northgate. Common term even used by Gaters themselves.
Horser: Highly inflammatory term for a Shoanti or other savage primitive. Holds strong connotations of bestiality.
Imper: A young student of the Acadamae. Older students respectfully receive no nickname, as they wield the power to kill those who insult them.
Moth: A full-blooded Varisian. Because so much of the population in Korvosa descends at least partially from Varisian stock, most people don’t consider it an insult, using it as a nickname for the nomadic people. Full blooded Varisians differ on their acceptance of the term: some use it themselves while others bristle at its connotations.
Pincher: Someone very poor who scrapes by on only a few copper pinch a month.
Sails: One or more ships.
Solly: Someone who wishes to unionize or form a guild. Short for “solidarity.” A dire insult in Korvosa (even if the recipient does support the formation of guilds), sometimes considered the foulest thing to call a Korvosan.
Solly Slop: Rubbish, excrement. At one time, this referred to the bland porridge of unskilled laborers (the most common agitators for unionizing in the city). Today, Korvosans consider the phrase vulgar and not to be used in public.


Many people in Korvosa own their residences, but most rent. The costs of these dwellings vary depending on their location and style (as described here).

Manor: These largest of all private dwellings belong only to nobles and relatives of the king. They typically rise to at least two stories and contain no fewer than five rooms (bedrooms and studies), two privies, a bath, a large kitchen and pantry, and a cellar. Most have large family or living rooms. Large, usually well-manicured yards surround these free-standing structures. Manors are never for rent.

House: One of the more uncommon types of dwellings, houses look like small manors, with one or two floors holding up to four rooms, a privy or two, a bath, a kitchen and pantry, and usually a cellar. Many have either a family room or a living room, but not both. Houses have their own yards, usually consisting of narrow strips of hardy plants. Houses are rarely rented out.

Townhouse: Most people in Korvosa live in townhouses. A townhouse is a narrow dwelling that abuts another building on at least one side. Most townhouses begin on the second floor of a building, rising above a shop or other business of some kind, which is also usually owned by the resident. Townhouses otherwise resemble small houses and always belong to those who live in them. This ownership usually extends to the ground-floor spaces meant for businesses.

Apartment Suite: Some buildings do not have ground-floor businesses and instead contain nothing but living spaces. The largest and nicest of these buildings contain apartment suites, one-story dwellings with one or two bedrooms and all the amenities of townhouses. An apartment suite never fills a floor on its own and usually opens onto a common hallway. Apartment suites can be purchased or rented.

Tenement Flat: Tenement flats lack their own privies, baths, and kitchens. Instead, they share communal rooms dedicated to these purposes. Two or three of them can squeeze into the space of a single apartment suite. Tenements are only available for rent and cannot be bought by their residents.

Studio: The smallest of all dwellings, a studio consists of a single open space, often with just enough room for a bed and one or two other pieces of small furniture. Studios share communal privies, baths, and kitchens. They are only available for rent and cannot be bought by their residents.

Life in Korvosa

Like any other city, Korvosa has a few particular nuances that make it and its citizens unique. The following overview only begins to touch on what it means to be a Korvosan.

Korvosan Mindset

Those who live in Korvosa respect and admire ostentatious displays of wealth, power, or knowledge. They consider confidence and competence the greatest of assets, and they deride or heckle those who display weakness, indecisiveness, or inability. Korvosans are quick to judge and slow to forgive. A quick perusal of this book reveals that Korvosans like to capitalize their words. The people of Korvosa feel this trait gives them an air of greatness and importance.

In addition to power, Korvosans love predictability. They like to regulate their lives, creating strict regimens for themselves that they then slavishly follow. Upsetting a Korvosan’s routine can ruin his entire day and likely makes him cranky. To this end, Korvosa strictly enforces its laws (which often have harsh punishments far in excess of the law codes of other non-evil governments) and rewards those who play by the rules. That said, Korvosa also recognizes that not everyone plays by the same rules, so it compensates by applying regulations to nonviolent criminals in the form of vice taxes (see Taxes) and official recognition of the city’s single thieves’ guild.

Regulation and law dominate Korvosa and how it lives. The city’s charter, an officially sanctioned document created by Emperor Halleck IV of Cheliax in 4406, bears 247 amendments. These amendments add to the city’s unbreakable laws (those which no leader can modify, except by additional amendment) and are considered as binding and official as the charter itself. In addition, a thick, multivolume body of work spells out Korvosa’s many other laws and regulations, as well as the punishments for violating them.


Like everybody else, the people of Korvosa hate to pay taxes. The city does not cripple its inhabitants with taxes, but it does have a few notable fee structures.

Any dinghy, boat, or ship that docks in Korvosa must pay a dock fee. The fee ranges from 1 sp to 100 gp depending on the size of the vessel and the location of the dock. Only 20% of this fee goes to the city—the dock’s owner takes the rest.

Korvosa’s high property tax is based on an outdated system that calculates it based on the square footage of a building’s ground floor. A convoluted formula modifies this simple conceit by accounting for multistory buildings, additional residents, and a mixture of uses within the same building.

Because the care and feeding of sins and vices comprises a healthy percentage of the city’s underworld operations, and because taxing them directly is far too difficult, the city recently enacted vice taxes. Those who practice such activities gain amnesty from prosecution if they claim the income and pay the proper dues. Violent crimes never gain amnesty from this program.

Ten Crimes and Punishments

Punishments for violent crimes in Korvosa are harsh, but the general populace considers them fair. Non-violent crimes carry differing punishments depending on the disposition of the criminal: A member of the thieves’ guild (the only legal guild in the city) or a registered gang might receive a lighter sentence than does a freelancer, depending on the crime in question. The following selections of crimes and their punishments (listed in order they are applied) should not be construed as all-inclusive. Korvosa’s legal code fills multiple thick volumes.

Crime Punishments
Treason Torture, death; no appeal
Murder Torture, death; no appeal
Rape Torture and castration, imprisonment (10–20 years), death; no appeal
Armed Robbery Pay restitution or lose a hand, imprisonment (10–20 years)
Arson Pay restitution or branding, imprisonment (10+ years); plus murder charge if fire kills
Unionizing Branding, imprisonment (5–10 years); no appeal
Accidental Death Pay restitution or torture, imprisonment (5–8 years)
Robbery* Pay restitution or lose a hand, imprisonment (2–10 years), pay restitution
Drug Use Imprisonment (4–6 months pre-trial, plus 2–3 years if guilty)
Burglary* Pay restitution, imprisonment (1–2 years)

*: A member of the Cerulean Society (thieves’ guild) or a registered gang can expect to receive a lighter sentence of around half the common punishment for these crimes.


By charter amendment, Korvosa does not allow merchants, laborers, or tradesmen to form guilds (worse still, in workmen’s eyes, it does allow for criminals to form a thieves’ guild—currently the Cerulean Society). This practice prevents these groups from price-fixing, the city’s main concern, and allows the city to maintain control over much of its labor force. Most workers within the city are self-employed or work for a master to whom they apprenticed in their youths. The city relies on these cottage industries and the skilled workers who make them profitable, so of course it has one entire volume of laws and regulations devoted to the protection and rights of workers. Thanks to the Korvosan drive to succeed, though, the city’s merchants also do well for themselves.


The Bank of Abadar mints uniquely Korvosan coins used throughout Varisia. Korvosa ties the value of its coins to those of Cheliax, such that Chelaxian coins are also considered legal tender in the city.

Copper Pinch: Usually referred to as simply a pinch (plural and singular), dropping “copper.” Calling multiple copper coins “pinches” elicits laughs and painful tweaks on the arm or backside.

Silver Shield: Frequently called by its full name to differentiate it from the shields used for protection.

Gold Sail: Always called by its full name to differentiate it from the similar term “sails”.

Platinum Crown: Occasionally referred to as simply a crown, dropping “platinum.”


Chapter 1 - Intro

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