Varistan (City of Cyphers)

(pop: 13,328) Varistan; also known as the "City of Cyphers," is a seaport located along Eldara's Bloody Coast,

This Thannish city is situated about 180 miles north of the Redpeak Mountains, where the mouth of the Velskar River forms a natural inlet off the Sea of Orel.

That river winds its way down through the desolate hills and valleys of the Sokoro Highlands, then runs directly through the middle of the city, past the island of Devil's Fork and before it empties into Varistan’s sprawling 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 city sits in a steep and circular valley, centered between two large rocky bluffs, each of which tower 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.

Today, due to its remote location, Varistan has developed somewhat of a seedy reputation because of its widespread corruption. The city is currently ruled by Baron Avery Kromar; an openly corrupt Thannish aristocrat, who remains in power largely because of graft and political connections within the Eldaran Royal Court in Eldarand.


The Cyphergate

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 is covered on both sides with ancient Elvish runes and other archaic symbols, although their exact meaning remains unknown.

Because the Gate's original purpose and the identities of its builders are now lost to history, the city has become home to the Cyphermages; an order of sages who have devoted their lives to studying the famous arch, and other ancient mysteries of Corwyn. The Order hopes to someday decipher the mysteries of the Gate.

Local History

Although it is the seventh largest city in Eldara, Varistan is, today, the most notorious city within 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 supposedly built the city’s most famous landmark; the Cyphergate.

After the terrible War of Wrath and the collapse of Ectharë, the elves abruptly fled the city, and it remained abandoned for many centuries. In the early Third Age, most seafarers 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 base to conduct their raids on the sea-lanes.

Late 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 capital of a thriving 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 became engulfed in the events of the wider world and lost 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 1158/3. At that point, Varistan became part of the kingdom of Valdor and lost its independence forever.

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

The City Today

From its ancient origins as an elvish settlement and later a notorious pirate haven, Varistan has grown over the ages into an important Thannish seaport in its own right. It may have once served as a den of piracy, but over time, the city has expanded into an important trade center 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 the right skills and a bit of luck. Yet, for every success story in Varistan, there are a dozen nameless bodies buried in potters’ fields or tossed into the sea.

Inside the city walls, everything seems tranquil; but there are outside threats that have plagued the city for many years. One such threat lies off the Bloody Coast; where merchant 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 as they traverse the Cyphergate Road, between Varistan and Eldaran capital of Eldarand.

Prominent Residents

Andros Hewitt, Arendil, Avery Kromar, Beltran, Bojask, Casperian, Clegg Zincher, Elias Tamarlane, Evangeline, Gaston, Gravin Goldhammer, Hauk, Jasper Creesy, Kyonin, Larue, Lilly, Lymas Smeed, Samaritha, Saul Van Kasken, Tymora, Varny, and Zeb.


City Districts

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: The Dragon’s Hoard Gambling Hall is located in this part of the city along the northwestern shore of the Velskar 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 seaborne winds. The majority of the city’s population resides in the various tenements located in this district. most buildings here are three or even four stories tall, containing shops at street level where standard goods and services can be obtained. The upper stories are crammed with the city's poorest residents.

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 guardsmen and has developed its own social order, informal system of laws, and distribution of goods and employment.

River District: This district runs along the banks of the Velskar River and consists primarily of shops and mills. Most of Varistan’s exports 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 Varistan, the Slums have the highest crime rate and the most brothels and alehouses per capita. The district 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 Velskar River. On the island is the Citadel; once known as "the Sokoro Palace." The castle currently serves as the Baron's residence and as the barracks for Varistan’s 250 guardsmen. Its damp and dismal dungeons have long held both the city’s worst offenders and the Baron's political enemies.

Wharf District: This rough-and-tumble district lies along the city's harbor-front, and it is where much of the city’s day-to-day action of commerce and thievery occurs. Near the docks are a series of warehouses and cheap, bawdy taverns, where sailors and locals mingle in a haze of rum-soaked debauchery.

Windward District: Built on the slopes of the city’s western ridgeline, this is Varistan’s most 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 the City


1. Cyphergate
2. Main Harbor
3. Velskar River
4. The Ferry
5. River District
6. The Publican (Inn/Tavern) Owner: Varny
7. Windward District
8. Temple of Myrival (Evangeline)
9. Wharf District
10. The Golden Goblin (gambling Hall) Owner: Saul
11. City Arena
12. Cyphermages Guildhall (Beltran)
13. Rotgut District
14. Home of Lymas Smeed
15. Watchtower
16. City Well
17. Temple of Ethenghar (Casperian)
18. Leeward District
19. Temple of Ator (Gaston)
20. City Market
21. The Elven Temptress (Inn/tavern)
22. Estate of Clegg Zincher
23. The River Rat (Inn/Tavern) Owner: Zeb
24. Temple of Nerydia (Tymora)
25. The Citadel (Castle Kromar)
26. Gambling District
27. Shantytown
28. Warehouses
29. the Tar Pits
30. Arendil’s Home
31. The Boneyard


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