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History of Korvosa

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Imps and pseudodragons do battle amid a thunderstorm in the skies above Korvosa.

Korvosa is the eldest of Varisia's three city-states, once part of Imperial Cheliax but now independent. The settlement originally served as no more than a defensive position from which settlers and explorers would enter Varisia, only growing into the cosmopolitan center of trade that it is today with the passage of time and events.12


Before the arrival of the Empire of Cheliax, Korvosa was a site sacred to the Shoanti. The location, which included an ancient Thassilonian flat-topped pyramid called the Grand Mastaba, was of great importance to them, even though they had forgotten what they were protecting. In 4407 AR, a group of Chelish marines under the command of Field Marshal Jakthion Korvosa selected the site to begin construction of a defensive outpost. Once completed, Fort Korvosa acted as a common stop for explorers, settlers, and trappers operating in the region. The trading post and its wooden defenses were replaced by stone and mortar ones in 4438 AR after a Shoanti raiding force burned much of the location in 4429 AR in what would become known as the Great Fire.23

The Cousins' War

The Cousins' War began in 4502 AR, the result of an insult directed at one of Korvosa's noble families. The conflict heralded the end of the settlement's significance as a military position, but also resulted in the growth of both its population and economic power. Soon after, Korvosa was seen as a true colony of the Empire of Cheliax.2


The nearby village of Harse was founded on the banks of the Falcon River in 4563 AR, and has served not only as a stopping-off point for dwarven merchants traveling downstream to the Varisian Gulf, but as an entry city for Korvosa's hinterlands located farther north and west.4


The village of Baslwief was founded in the shadows of the nearby Fenwall Mountains with an official Korvosan charter in 4563 AR, and has served ever since as an additional source of ore for Korvosa to that already flowing out of Janderhoff.5

Death of Aroden

In 4606 AR the death of the deity Aroden resulted in civil war in Cheliax; many of the Empire's colonies, including Korvosa, suffered as their connection to the homeland unexpectedly disappeared. The city's government has succeeded in achieving some measure of prosperity since the Empire's decline, but the city's recovery from the chaos that resulted as a result of the Empire's sudden absence has been slow; its population is but a fraction of what most would expect given a settlement of Korvosa's physical size.2


The town of Biston on the shores of Lake Syrantula was founded by the independent Korvosan Jhenni Biston, but soon came under the sway of the larger city. Tensions between the settlements continued and finally erupted into open rebellion in 4658 AR, when Biston declared its independence, led by Jhenni's grandson, Randas. The Korvosan government reacted quite forcefully to this challenge to its authority, sending half of the Sable Company and a regiment of Korvosan Guards, which quickly put down the rebels. Its leaders were dragged back to Korvosa and were summarily executed for treason, and put the town under martial law, which was lifted only recently.5

Kaer Maga

The leaders of Korvosa became aware of the presence of the ancient city of Kaer Maga soon after the founding of the city in the 45th century AR, and took an immediate dislike to the anarchic settlement. Tensions simmered for centuries and finally came to a crescendo when King Chadris sent an entire regiment of Korvosan Guard to besiege the cliff-side city in 4663 AR. The siege lasted for two months and resulted in the death of 117 Korvosans, but led to a negotiated truce and the signing of the Treaty of Sirathu. The treaty stipulated that Kaer Maga would relinquish any control over the lowlands regions of Varisia, most notably the village of Sirathu. Since its signing, the truce has held and trade (largely of illegal goods) has continued between the two settlements ever since.5

Recent history

Korvosa has seen its fair share of misfortune of late. It all began in late 4707 or early 4708 AR, when the ambitious and power-hungry Queen Ileosa discovered and was quickly possessed by the spirit of the dragon Kazavon.6

Rise of Queen Ileosa

Guided by the dead dragon's spirit, Queen Ileosa quickly put new plans into motion in an effort to gather all of Korvosa's power to herself. Her first obstacle was her husband, King Eodred II. Despite her most fervent wishes, the old man was still in good health, and showed no signs of wanting to divest himself of power. Ileosa contacted the Red Mantis assassins, but was rebuffed due to their policy of not targeting legitimate heads of state.6

Undeterred by this setback, the Queen instead focused her attention on a figure near the king whom she thought she could get to do her dirty work: his half-brother Venster. Hidden away in a tower of Castle Korvosa because of his parentage, Venster was deeply jealous of the king, but occasionally would play cards with him. Ileosa sought him out and quickly seduced him. From there it was easy enough to turn him against the King.

Following the seduction, Ileosa procured a special poison from her Red Mantis contacts who, although unwilling to actually murder a monarch themselves, were happy to help someone else to do it. This poison administered over time created the appearance of a severe and incurable form of leprosy, which eventually killed King Eodred II in 4708 AR. The seneschal of Castle Korvosa, Neolandus Kalepopolis, had discovered the Queen's treachery around the same time, and confronted her. When the Queen sent the Red Mantis assassins after him in response, Keopopolis went into hiding among his friends in Old Korvosa.6

The King is dead

The death of King Eodred II caused tremendous upheaval in all of the city's classes. Not only was it believed that he had been slain by a disease incurable by the best priests of Sarenrae, Abadar, and even Asmodeus, but he was succeeded by his wife, who was seen by the populace of Korvosa as nothing more than a spoiled gold-digger. The disappearance of Seneschal Kalepopolis only intensified these insecurities.7

The actual unrest and rioting in the street was caused by a basic breakdown of the social and economic relationships that keep a city going. Basic and skilled laborers, distraught by the thought of being ruled by a woman who obviously hated the lower classes, refused to work. With no one to unload cargo from ships and merchants caravans, Korvosa began to suffer food and supply shortages, leading to soaring prices for basic commodities, which only increased the anger among the city's poor. The most frightening thing, was that all of this happened within less than a day of the King's death.7

With chaos breaking out all over the city, the Sable Company and the Korvosan Guard did their best to restore order, but were ultimately unsuccessful. They simply lacked the numbers and resources to tackle this level of unrest in a city of almost 20,000. It wasn't until the Hellknight Order of the Nail, paid with treasures from the royal coffers, entered the city, that order was finally returned to the streets of Korvosa.7

Death of Queen Ileosa

In 4708, Queen Ileosa died, and was succeeded by Cressida Kroft, who previously served as the city's Field Marshall and then as a member of the Gray Maidens. She was chosen to succeed Ileosa, who had no biological or legal heirs, by the city's seneschal.[citation needed]


  1. Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 2: The Inner Sea” in Campaign Setting, 144. Paizo Inc., 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 James Jacobs & Mike McArtor. Curse of the Crimson Throne Player's Guide, 3–7. Paizo Inc., 2008
  3. Mike McArtor. Guide to Korvosa, inside front cover. Paizo Inc., 2008
  4. Mike McArtor. “Chapter 2: Places” in Guide to Korvosa, 7–8. Paizo Inc., 2008
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Mike McArtor. “Chapter 2: Places” in Guide to Korvosa, 7. Paizo Inc., 2008
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Nicolas Logue. “Edge of Anarchy” in Edge of Anarchy, 7–8. Paizo Inc., 2008
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Nicolas Logue. “Edge of Anarchy” in Edge of Anarchy, 22. Paizo Inc., 2008