Varistan (City of Cyphers)

(pop: 13,300) Varistan; also known as the "City of Cyphers," is a small but thriving Eldaran seaport located about 180 miles north of the Redpeaks, along the Bloody Coast of the Sea of Orel, where the mouth of the Velskir River forms a natural inlet.

Running through the middle of the city, past Prince island, is the Velskir River; which winds its way through the desolate hills and valleys of the Sokoro Highlands, before it reaches the city and empties into its harbor. Although the city occupies both banks of the river, the majority of the city's population is situated on the eastern bank, nestled behind the outer rim of the Calspur Hills, which cuts it off from hilly tidal swamps to the west. the ground on which the city sits is a round valley, centered between two large rocky bluffs, each over 300 feet in height.

The Cyphergate Road leads west out of the city, but it is poorly maintained, as most traffic in and out of the city is via the harbor. The ominous stone arch, which towers over the entire harbor, is never out of sight; its rune-covered span dwarfing everything around it.


Varistan's most famous landmark is the Cyphergate; a gigantic, ancient stone arch built over the city harbor. In essence, the "gate" is a giant stone arch spanning the natural cove around which the city is built. This famous gate It is covered on both sides with ancient Elvish runes and archaic symbols, although their exact meaning is unknown. The original purpose of this arch and the identities of those that built it are now lost to history. In fact, the city is home to the Guild of Cyphermages; a group of sages and scholars who have devoted their lives to studying the famous arch, and other ancient mysteries of Corwyn.

Today, Varistan has a somewhat seedy reputation and is ruled by an openly corrupt Eldaran nobleman named Baron Avery Kromar.



Although it is the seventh largest city in all Eldara; today, Varistan is the most notorious city in that kingdom. This ancient city has a long history; stretching back through the ages.

Long before the city was inhabited by the Thanns, it was a settlement of the Elder-Elves. It was those same ancient elves that built the city’s most famous landmark; the Cyphergate.

Yet after the War of Wrath and the collapse of Ectharë, the elves abandoned the settlement, and it remained so for centuries. In the early Third Age, most sea-farers and sailors stayed away from the arch, superstitiously believing that to sail under it would result in either death or bad luck.

Using this superstition to their advantage; the ruins were then taken over by a notorious group of pirates, who began to use the site as a secret pirate haven.

Later in the Third Age, the pirates were driven out and Varistan became a proper city; growing ten-fold in less than a century to become the thriving capitol of the Thannish civilization known as the Sokoro Union. The Union was ruled by a series of self-styled “Princes,” who built the grand Sokoro Palace (now called the Citadel).

So it came to pass that in the last century of the Third Age, Varistan was to be engulfed in the events of the wider world and lose its independence forever.

Around this time, the growing nation of Valdor was expanding north; under the aggressive ruler-ship of Valden the Conqueror.

Valden’s armies marched on Varistan in the year 1155/3, and Meraxas the last Prince of the Sokoro Union surrendered the city to him in 1158. At that point, Varistan became part of the kingdom of Valdor.

When the Thannish Civil War occurred less than a century later, the city became part of the new kingdom of Eldara and has remained so ever since.


From its ancient origins as an elvish settlement and later a notorious pirate haven, Varistan has grown over the ages into a port city in its own right. It once served as a den of piracy, but over time the city has expanded into a true settlement and an important port of call on the Bloody Coast of the Sea of Orel.

Yet while Varistan has grown into a proper city, some say it remains 'true to its roots;' you can get rich quick in Varistan, if you’ve got skill and a bit of luck. Yet, for every Varistan success story, there are a dozen nameless bodies buried in potters’ fields or tossed to the hungry denizens of the sea.

Inside the city walls, everything is tranquil; but there are outside threats that have plagued the city for many years. One such threat lies off the Bloody Coast; where ships are constantly harassed by pirates.

Another threat exists just west of the city, in the desolate Sokoro Highlands. Here, mounted barbarian tribes called the Velskir, regularly harass travelers and raid merchant caravans along the Cyphergate Road, between Varistan and the Capitol city of Eldarand.


Varistan is divided into a total of nine separate districts (although two of them, Lubbertown and the Boneyard, technically lie outside of the actual city walls):

Gambling District: Overlord Kromar’s Large Dragon’s Hoard Gambling Hall is located in this part of the city along the northwestern shore of the Velskir River.

Leeward District: The city’s largest district, Leeward is built into the protecting curve of the city’s eastern ridge, where it is sheltered from the worst of the winter winds. The majority of the city’s population resides in the tall tenements of this district, and most buildings have a shop at street level where standard goods and services can be obtained.

Merchant District: Known derisively as Lubbertown for the fact that most of its inhabitants arrive at the city by land rather than by sea, this district is well patrolled by the guardsmen and has developed its own social order, informal system of laws, and distribution of goods and employment.

River District: This section of town runs along the banks of the Velskir River and consists primarily of shops and mills. Varistan’s atrophied trade items are crafted in this district. The waste produced by the district’s tanners and fishmongers and the fact that many of the city’s sewage gutters converge here have earned the place the unofficial name of “Reek District.”

Slums District: The slums of Varistan are a truly depressing and dangerous place to be. Easily the poorest section in the city proper, the Slums have the highest crime rate and the most brothels and alehouses per capita. It lies along the city’s eastern side against the ridge.

The Boneyard: This deceptively named place actually serves as the city’s dump and ship’s graveyard. Its name is derived from the many old hulks and collections of ships’ ribs that protrude from the swampy ground. The whole area is a partially flooded salt marsh that is generally 2 or 3 feet deep, although some hidden patches of quicksand are much deeper. Many large vermin, both human and non-human, infest this area.

The Devil’s Fork: This small, rocky island is nestled near the north end of the city on the Velskir River. On the island is the Citadel; once known as "the Sokorro Palace." The castle serves as the barracks for Varistan’s 250 guardsmen, and home to the Baron. Its dank dungeons have long held both the city’s worst offenders, and the Baron's political enemies.

Wharf District: This rough-and-tumble district lies hard on the edge of the very docks of the city and is where much of the city’s day-to-day action of commerce and thievery occurs. Nearest the docks are a series of warehouses and cheap grog houses where merchant and pirate crews alike mingle in a haze of rum-soaked blood and debauchery.

Windward District: Built on the slopes of the city’s western ridgeline, this is Varistan’s affluent district; the buildings here are generally quite tall and its streets winding and steep. The majority of the city’s scholars and sages dwell in this windy district.

MAP OF VARISTAN: City of Cyphers


1. The Cyphergate
2. Main Harbor
3. Inner Harbor
4. Velskir Ferry
5. River District
6. The Publican (Inn/Tavern)
7. Windward District
8. The Mission
9. Wharf District
10. Marketplace (open area around the well)
11. Arena
12. Cyphermages Guildhall (Beltran, Samaritha)
13. Rotgut District
14. Lymas Smeed's House
15. Watchtower
16. City Well
17. Temple of Ethenghar (Casperian)
18. Leeward District
19. Temple to Myrival
20. the Golden Goblin Gambling Hall
21. Clegg Zincher's Estate
22. Boss Croat’s Estate
23. The River Rat (Inn/Tavern)
24. Temple of S'Thar
25. The Citadel (Castle of Baron Avery Kromar)
26. Gambling District (the Dragon’s Hoard)
27. Shantytown
28. Warehouses
29. Graveyard
30. Athelmar’s Home
31. the Boneyard


This city serves as the starting point for the Second Darkness Adventure Path.