District Spotlight: The Freehold District
The Freehold district is the most welcoming and most open of all the districts of the city. It has the few requirements for residency, and the people tend to be welcoming of outsiders. Getting there is another issue- the district’s portal leads to a ruined area of the natural world, so Freeholders tend to come in through other parts of the city, or on airships through the Astral Sea.
To a new visitor, the most obvious qualities of the district are its strange architecture, and its safety. A decade ago it was home to yuan-ti and their abominable or undead servants. The district is a mix of ancient stone repurposed Yuan-Ti buildings, and much newer constructions where old buildings were torn away. The second feature is the magical ban against spilling blood in the district- no permanent harm can home to anyone from violence.
Background: Nexus Freehold District
A character with a background in the Freehold District likely lived a storied and transitory life, filled with wanderlust and journeys. The character may have settled down in the Freehold district, or he might have moved on. Freeholders always move on sooner or later, as there’s always the prospect of another adventure across the horizon.
A character who takes this background may take either Dungeoneering or Streetwise as their background skill, from an experience as a professional adventurer and ruin delver, or experience living in a bustling place.
The Mystic Warding
A magical effect on the district prevents the spilling of blood and violent death. Any player character who falls below 0 hit points does not need to record failed death saving throws. (The character should still roll them, in case a natural 20 is rolled.) A character who falls beneath their negative bloodied value does not die, but may not roll death saving throws, and if healed, is only restored to 0 hit points.
A nonplayer character or monster who is reduced to 0 hit points is only knocked unconscious, not killed.
The Wardens: The Iron Circle
The Freehold district is unique in that it has not a single ruler, but a ruling group- the Iron Circle, an experienced adventuring party. After defeating the previous Warden, a Yuan-Ti Mummy Lord, they decided to make the District their home and turn it into a point of light. So far, their effort seems to be working.
Officially, Loriengard, a Half-Elf Bard serves the district’s Warden. The other members of the group include Etherios, an Eladrin Swordmage, Minishutsu, a Human Ranger, Broken Feather, a Shifter Warlord, and Illustriel, a Deva Invoker, who each hold the position of Knight-Warden. The Iron Circle treats all its members as equals, and confers privately on important matters, with Loriengard taking the role of diplomat and messenger to the other Wardens.
Except for Loriengard, who’s duties keep him very busy, the others are fairly accessible and take an active hand in the District, often serving as mentors and patrons for up-and-coming adventurers.
Organizations and Locations
The majority of the District is known as the Freeholds. This area is host to many large houses, each one typically hosting an adventuring party. At first it was custom that these buildings themselves were the Freeholds, and those who lived in them Freeholders, but the term has come to apply to just about anyone who lives in the district. In addition to the Freeholds themselves, there’s a variety of boarding houses and inns for new residents or those who are loners by nature.
Located in this area is the Adventurer’s Gathering Post. A building to rival the proper guildhalls, this is a gathering area for adventurers, functioning like a guildhall and a giant tavern rolled into one. The organization has been lobbying for official guild status for several years, without any promise of progress any time soon.
The Armory is the headquarters of the Freehold Militia. Any resident of the district is welcome to serve a stint in the militia; it’s not required, but highly encouraged for resident adventurers. Those adventurers who don’t do their fair share in the militia often find the district becoming rather unwelcoming. Knight-Warden Etherios leads the Militia, and can often be found here or patrolling and surveying the city.
Ringing the Freeholds are the Outfitters, streets devoted to armorers, blacksmiths, and provisioners catering to the adventurers ready to go out on expeditions. There isn’t quite the sheer variety to be found in the Market District, but there’s the essentials, and enough variety to serve.
The Outfitters are home to the district’s sole guildhall, the Carpenters’ Guildhall. The guild used to be based out of the Market District, but with the vast construction effort going on, decided to move its headquarters. The Carpenter’s Guild specializes in tearing down and making new buildings, and is busy working across the district. They deal in more than just wood too- metal, stone and stranger things are within the Carpenter’s Guild’s arsenal.
District Hall is the Iron Circle’s attempt to democratize the district. Every week one of the members of the Circle (usually Loriengard or Illustriel) hosts a meeting to hear grievances and suggestions for the district. Often, those who have an idea for improvement are given permission to take responsibility for implementing it.
The Old Freeholds are the official name for the area of the city consisting of Yuan-Ti architecture, and inhabited by kobolds, goblinoids, minotaurs, and other monstrous races. Less charitably, the area is known as Freaktown. The residents officially have all the same rights as other Freeholders, but are under represented at District Hall meetings and are publicly reviled.
The Iron Manor is the home of the Iron Circle. It’s located in an out of the way corner of the District, and has a large woodsy grounds, full of reclaimed wildlife. The Iron Circle does not appreciate visitors on their own Freehold.
The Temple of Adventure is a stone building, formerly one of the District’s many temples to the dark god Zehir, now reconsecrated in the name of Avandra, but shrines to Erathis and Sehanine are present as secondary altars.
The Ziggurat looms over the center of the district. This abandoned testament is a reminder of what the district once was- this is where the undead Yuan-Ti Caliph, the previous Warden, resided, and at the top performed bloody sacrifices. Now the Ziggurat is empty and abandoned, but it is huge, and can be seen from all over the district.
The Ruins are unoccupied parts of the city, still filled with empty, Yuan-Ti architecture. Anyone who likes can take ownership of a building, but they have to reside there or make it a place of business. The Ruins are slowly being overtaken by the Freeholds, Freaktown and the Outfitters, but are still a place of shadows and mystery.
Delver’s Square is the name for the area around the district’s portal, and is home to the priciest shops, and the district’s airship hangers. The construction here is all stonework- either Yuan-Ti, or in imitation of the older style.
Law and Order
The Freehold Militia patrols the district- mostly the Freeholds, Outfitters, and Delver’s Square, but there’s token patrols in Freaktown and the Ruins. Generally they’re on the lookout for lawbreakers- thieves, thugs, agitators and miscreants. For minor crimes (such as excessive drunkenness resulting in violence), criminals are given a couple of thumps on the head and kept in jail at the Armory for a few days. For more severe crimes, such as theft, arson, or treason, restitution is often required, then the criminal is exiled. Those who break their exile risk suffering the wrath of the Wardens.
On the Other Side of the Portal
The district’s portal leads to the ruined Yuan-Ti kingdom of Ath-Sethoth. Once an emerald city of glimmering spires, it sunk (deeper) into depravity and corruption. A combination of war, slave revolt, and natural disaster finally broke the kingdom apart. The Caliphate District, which once acted as a client state and natural ally was cut off, and dwindled in power until the Iron Circle came along.
Today Ath-Sethoth is rather changed. Large portions of the city are overgrown or flooded. The slave races the Yuan-Ti mastered, lizardfolk, kobolds and shifters largely among them, have taken large parts of the city, but have slid into barbarism, and war against each other. The Yuan-Ti were masters of magic and necromancy, so locked away are powerful arcane secrets and horribly monsters.
The residents shun the site of the portal, considering it haunted- a fair assessment, since adventurers come through on a regular basis, hacking and slashing their way across the ruins.
Rumors, Secrets, Adventure Hooks, and Outright Lies
The Iron Circle originally had six members, but one died fighting the Caliph. Someone matching that person’s description has been seen, but there haven’t been any confirmed sightings.
Back when it was the Caliphate district, there were two unsanctioned guilds operating in the district- the Thieves’ Guild and the Assassins’ Guild. One or both of these might still be operating, out of the shadows of Freaktown.
The Carpenters’ Guild is looking to expand its business into airships, which is going to put it into direct conflict with the Shipmaker’s Guild.
Only one person can be Warden, and that person happens to be Loriengard. But it’s not just a title- it comes with an imbuement of power. Someone else in the Iron Circle is jealous, and is setting up Loriengard for a fall so they can take his place.
What started out as a benevolent mandate has gotten darker- the Iron Circle isn’t content with what they’ve got, and want to elevate every one of their members. For that to happen, four other Wardens- and their Districts- are going to have to fall. The Iron Circle is slowly preparing for a war on the rest of the city, with the adventurers as their pawns.
Somehow, someone’s figured out how to murder. Victims are showing up here and there. The only clue is that it seems to be Yuan-Ti blood magic. The Iron Circle is keeping it hush hush- they don’t want anyone knowing that the safety of their wards are failing.
The Adventurers’ Gathering Post is agitating for guild status again. This is up for the Wardens as a whole to decide, but it’s rumored the Iron Circle is against it- they enjoy the role they have sponsoring and guiding adventurers.
Relations between the Freeholds and Freaktown have never been good, but they’re getting worse. The Hobgoblins are showing up to do militia duty and being turned away, militia patrols are being bullied out of Freaktown, and monsters are being denied serve in the Outfitters, as always. Now adventuring groups from the rival neighborhoods are skirmishing on the other side of the portal. A race riot can’t be far behind.
Minishutsu has been absent from the district for some time, but has returned, and rumor has it he’s perfected the ultimate martial technique. He used to train apprentices, but since his return, he’s been cloistered in isolation.
As a Deva, Illustriel has multitudes of lifetimes behind him. How many of those were spent in Nexus, and how much information about the other Wardens does he have?