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The Shackles
The Shackles.

The Free Captains:
a council of pirate lords
Source: Isles of the Shackles, pg(s). 1–63 (1E)
World Guide, pg(s). 67–68 (2E)
Tessa Fairwind, Hurricane Queen.

The Shackles is an extended archipelago off the coast of western Garund, directly to the south of the never-ending hurricane known as the Eye of Abendego. It is the haven of the notorious Shackles Pirates, built on the ruins of the ancient cyclops civilization of Ghol-Gan.1


During the Age of Serpents, the area known today as the Shackles was once part of the cyclops kingdom of Ghol-Gan. There are many ruins of that ancient civilization still scattered throughout the region, many with disturbing carvings depicting cannibalism and blood sacrifice.1

Few scholars know that several millennia after the collapse of Ghol-Gan, two powerful sorcerers known as Raugsmauda and Gray Whyrlis came to the Shackles and fought one another for control of the archipelago. They both uncovered the powerful sorceries that caused the doom of Ghol-Gan and attempted to harness them. In the end, however, the sorcerers failed to understand and control the powers they were using. In a disastrous incident, Gray Whyrlis lost and Raugsmauda, heavily injured, was forced to retreat into her dungeon on Motaku Isle for centuries.2

When the region was first explored by the Empire of Cheliax in 4111 AR, they discovered the Ghol-Gan ruins and their grizzly illustrations and declared them to be cursed, and moved on to establish a colony further south in Sargava instead.13

As trade grew between Sargava and Cheliax, it also attracted those who wished to prey upon it.4 Pirates found the ancient harbours of the Shackles made excellent hiding places from which to strike. Soon these havens grew into proper communities.1 Retired sea captains also founded the settlement of Bloodcove in the Mwangi Expanse.5

Age of Lost Omens

The appearance of the perpetual storm north of the Shackles known as the Eye of Abendego in 4606 AR (which closely followed the death of the god Aroden) had a number of long-term effects on the region.6

Firstly, it permanently shrunk the sea trade along the western coast of Garund as captains decided to not brave the additional risk of navigating around the devastating and permanent hurricane. Because of the decrease in shipping, many Shackles pirates also retired or left the area for more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. Eventually, the Free Captains (the leaders of the Shackles Pirates) met this challenge by banding together in 4674 AR to form one pirate fleet under the leadership of the newly elected Hurricane King and his Pirate Council. They started preying on shipping to the north of the Eye as far as the Arch of Aroden, and used their superior knowledge of navigating the waters around the Eye to escape their enemies.6 Around 4609 AR, some pirates looked for alternate sources of income and found that merchants traveling to and from the Chelish colony of Sargava to the south would pay handsomely to have their ships guided around the storm.7

Secondly, the Eye caused a lessening of Cheliax's control over its colony of Sargava, which was further diminished with the outbreak of hostilities between the various Chelish noble houses that lead to the Chelish Civil War. Baron Grallus, the governor of Sargava, decided to throw his support behind House Davian in the conflict, but when it became clear that they would lose to House Thrune, he switched his allegiance to the only other maritime power in the region: the Free Captains of the Shackles. In 4637 AR, he began paying the pirate leaders large amounts of money to protect Sargava from what he believed would be the eventual backlash from House Thrune once they consolidated their power. This attack came in 4643 AR when the Chelish Navy arrived to deal with their renegade province, but instead was destroyed by a fleet of Shackles pirates in Desperation Bay. When Free Captain Molryn Hangtree falsely reported additional Chelish ships anchored in reserve off the Rahadoumi port of Azir, Governor Grallus began paying the Free Captains a continuing fee to picket the fleet, which eventually became a permanent protection contract.7

Sailors on the Chelish Navy ship Madam Diabola fire cannons at a pirate sloop at close range in the Shackles harbor of Shelly.

The Chelish Navy attempted a second invasion of Sargava in 4660 AR, but this time the Free Captains drove the ships into the Eye of Abendego. When it was clear that some Free Captains were not abiding by the protection contract, Baron Utilinus of Sargava (who has succeeded Grallus) renegotiated the contract with the Hurricane King in 4667 AR, and the King agreed to half of the previous amount.7

The Shackles themselves have twice been attacked, once by Cheliax and once by Rahadoum, but in both cases the Eye destroyed most of the invading fleet. There was a rumour that one of the Free Captains offered to guide a Chelish fleet to the Shackles, in return for a pardon for past offences.8 It is also known that the Rahadoumi Navy is willing to pay good money for accurate charts, or ideally a pilot, to assist them in a new attack on the Shackles.9

The lucrative protection racket with Sargava ended in 4717 AR when its colonial government was overthrown, and the newly formed nation of Vidrian refused to continue paying. The arrangement had lasted long enough for the Free Captains to fully establish themselves and consolidate their power.3


The leaders of Shackles society are the Free Captains. Most command only a ship or two, but the most powerful each control one of the region's ports and/or islands and sit on the Pirate Council, which oversea the entire nation. They are in turn led by the Hurricane King or Queen who is chosen from among their members. Currently the position is held by Tessa Fairwind.3

What passes for government in the Shackles is quite chaotic and each port establishes its own set of laws and customs, rigorously enforced by the pirate lord in charge. Among them, the largest and most prominent is Port Peril, strategically positioned on the mainland and safeguarded by the formidable cannons of Fort Hazard, overlooking Jeopardy Bay.3

The winner of the annual Free Captain's Regatta is offered a seat on the Pirate Council.8


The population of the Shackles consists mainly of runaway criminals, escaped slaves, and the buyers and sellers of illicit goods. They are mostly human, with a comparatively high proportion of aiuvarins and dromaars. The wilder regions are home to the degenerate kuru, and tribes of goblins.13

The Shackles is also home to the large tengu population in the Inner Sea region, with many settlements even having a fullblown tengu quarter.13 These Jinxfeather Tengus came from distant Tian Xia as sailors before settling down and taking jobs as fishermen and dock workers. Pirate superstition claims tengu are able to 'eat' bad luck, making them valuable members of any pirate crew. These "Jinx Eater" tengu tend to play up the effect they have on their crew's good fortunes.10

The Shackles is also home to a significant population of hobgoblins who make up the Bandu Fleet. Fleeing retribution after allying with the losing side during the Vidric Revolution, the Bandu Fleet hijacked its ships from a range of Free Captains, but due to their reliability as mercenaries they have been welcomed into the Shackles' cutthroat society.11

Lizardfolk and their Terwa Lords from the Sodden Lands to the north occasionally mount raids into the Shackles and the sea is home to athamarus,12 sedacthys,13 and water nagas. There are also some dragon turtles in the western region.1143


A map of the Shackles.

The Shackles is made up of a stretch of land on the western edge of the Mwangi Expanse, and also includes a number of nearby islands in the Arcadian Ocean.15

Civilisation, is as much as the term applies to the Shackles, is concentrated in six main areas: the Mainland, Bag Island, Devil's Arches, Motaku Isle, Shark Island, and Tempest Cay.16


The larger ports of the Shackles are heavily fortified, to defend against threats from the wild interior, foreign navies, sea monsters, and (albeit rare) attacks by other groups of Shackles pirates.17

There is also a Shackles settlement just outside its borders: the town of Greenblood in the Sodden Lands. The town grew up around the ferocious pit fight known as Green Blood on a Black Rock, an event started by the Free Captains.18


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 170. Paizo Inc., 2011
  2. Mike Shel. “Shackles Gazetteer” in Isles of the Shackles, 35. Paizo Inc., 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Erik Mona, et al. High Seas” in World Guide, 67–68. Paizo Inc., 2019
  4. John Compton, et al. “Masters of Waves” in Elemental Master's Handbook, 15. Paizo Inc., 2017
  5. Greg A. Vaughan. River into Darkness, 30–31. Paizo Inc., 2008
  6. 6.0 6.1 James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 170–171. Paizo Inc., 2011
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 JD Wiker & Sean K Reynolds. Sargava, the Lost Colony” in Sargava, The Lost Colony, 5–6. Paizo Inc., 2010
  8. 8.0 8.1 James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 171. Paizo Inc., 2011
  9. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 155. Paizo Inc., 2011
  10. Eleanor Ferron. Tengu” in Ancestry Guide, 56. Paizo Inc., 2021
  11. Mikhail Rekun. Duskwalker” in Ancestry Guide, 32. Paizo Inc., 2021
  12. Paizo referred to athamarus as locathahs until the publication of Rage of Elements.
  13. Paizo referred to sedachtys as sahuagins and sea devils until the publication of Monster Core.
  14. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 175. Paizo Inc., 2011
  15. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 172. Paizo Inc., 2011
  16. Mike Shel. “Shackles Gazetteer” in Isles of the Shackles, 3. Paizo Inc., 2012
  17. Joshua J. Frost, et al. Shackles Pirates” in Faction Guide, 46. Paizo Inc., 2010
  18. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 176. Paizo Inc., 2011