Friday, December 31, 2021

OSR: The City of Brass

artist unknown

It is a city located deep underground, below the Veins but above Hell, floating on the surface of the Cauldron.  It is a mega-metropolis, a hub for entire planes, a secret world unto itself.  You could spend a lifetime exploring the city and not run out of interesting things to see or do.

The city resembles a giant puzzle cube of stairwells, plazas and palaces, with streets that wind up and down into its' labyrinthine surfaces, passing through sculpted arcades and carved tunnels.  Every inch of the city is encrusted with decoration- reliefs adorn the walls, statues dot the streets, beautiful tile work supports your feet on shining hands. 

Unlike everywhere else in the depths of the Earth, darkness has no power here.  The city overflows with light, from the lava flows that pass through the city's canals and under her bridges, to the countless magical lights to the glowing occupants, shining with magic and heat, the city is a blinding beacon to all around it, a defiance of all that is gloomy, drab and dull. The city was designed with this mind, with metal domes that glitter like a million new pennies and towering glass sculptures that spray rainbows through the air.  The whole city is a feast for the eyes.

Yet for every plaza with astonishing artwork, jeweled walls and beautiful people attended by flocks of servants, there is an unfinished neighborhood wracked by ethnic conflict, where wildly diverse people forced into close quarters butcher each other.  Riots are not uncommon in some parts of the city and there are multiple insurgent groups operating in the City, seeking to overthrow the government, take over the City or something else similarly violent.

Similarly, these outer areas are also known for their grime and poverty.  The flesh markets of the City are vast, importing mortal cattle from every known world and several unknown ones.  At the World-Gates, steel and gold is traded for flesh.  And even for those who are not enslaved, most have little hope of escaping the grinding wheels of poverty- they will spend their lives laboring in front of a blistering furnace, guarding a door or endlessly polishing the walls of the City's plazas. 

The lucky few might end up becoming part of a Genie's household.  This is a privilege only granted to slaves, but most Genie slaves are treated better than some Freemen, with only a few exceptions.

by derdevil
Inhabitants of the City of Brass:

Genies.  Primordial lords of elemental magic, most of the Genies in the City live in palatial estates within the more developed districts, the City constructed around their domains, or in secluded caverns nearby, for those who favor quiet.  Efreeti and Deep Janeen are the only ones to commonly live in the City, but Marid and Djinn are known to visit occasionally.  The Genies of the City compete with each other for status and power over the City, throwing elaborate street festivals come election years and peppering other times with commissioned public works and games to entertain the citizenry.  The Genies are largely indifferent or ignorant of the violence in the unfinished blocs of the city.  Other problems, such as the simmering unrest toward their apathetic rule also pass beneath their notice.

Azers.  Ageless spirits of living fire in self-crafted shells of metal, Azers were commissioned long ago by the Efreet to build the City of Brass for them.  Despite the impossible splendor of the City, the Azers are still not finished, expanding and improving the outer layers of the City, which are still lovely, though nothing compared to the opulence of the center.  Azers also work at some of the City's forges and are among the best smiths in all of creation.  Be aware of this fact if you attempt to hire one, as there is no end to those who wish to enlist the Azers in their projects. 

Salamanders.  Serpent-folk with molten skin and burning hands.  They are the original inhabitants of the area that the City of Brass is built on.  Some have accepted the fact that the City is not going away and have moved in.  These Salamanders work at the forges, attend the nobles and participate in civic affairs.  A substantial minority of the Salamanders are less content and some are even engaged in an active insurgency and a campaign of terror to overthrow the Genies and grind the City into dust.

Souls.  The dead who have come up from Sheol.  They resemble one of the mortal races, but translucent and seemingly insubstantial.  Most are here as part of a work program or have been let out for the weekend.  They are quarrelsome individuals, grumpy and bad tempered.  Most react to attempts to help them or genuine love with scorn, disbelief or extreme skepticism.  If they have the chance to make you upset or rebuke your generosity, they will.  If you are mean to or abuse them, they will react with smug satisfaction.

Outsiders.  Creatures who have come up from Sheol or down from Heaven.  They have urgent business in the City.  Demons are here to score good deals or to participate in one of the innumerable ethnic or political conflicts brewing in the City.  Angels are usually here to capture Souls that have broken their parole or overstayed their visas in the land of the living and need to be deported back to Sheol.

Surface and Veins Folk.  Some are slaves, but some are citizens.  They live here, attempting to fit in and find prosperity in the City, while doing their best to adapt to their strange new environment.  Here, old ethnic, religious, linguistic and political disputes are born anew among the diverse and fractious population and new ones are created by the bad conditions and constant, bubbling tension many are forced to live under.

Trade and Industry:

The City of Brass is a voracious beast, consuming huge amounts of water, food and other resources.  Unrefined resources flow like water into the city and emerge as worked goods, which are disseminated out to the surrounding communities.  A large minority of the worked goods in the Veins, from forged steel to woven fabrics come from the City. 

The City not only sells to Veinsfolk, but to travelers from distant lands and other worlds.  The vast bazaars of the City spill up and down the vast plazas, some composed of multiple layers of stalls, stores and displays.  Here you can find merchants squatting amidst clouds of perfumed smoke, hawkers walking and shouting out their wares and customers of all colors, sizes and shapes pushing and shoving to try and get the best deal.  If you know where to look, you can find almost anything for sale.    

Besides the Bazaars, which sell an eclectic mix of goods and services, there are also brick and mortar stores that sell goods both fine and common.  The Street of Steel is a long line of forges and smelters, where blacksmiths of dozens of races mold metal and pour steel.  The Flesh-Yards are full of auction blocks and huge pens made of iron bars, where slaves from countless worlds wait to be sold.  The Path of Silk does not lead to a brothel, but is instead where the weavers and seamstresses hawk their wares, selling fine rugs, beautiful garments and exotic clothing that is all the rage in some place you've never heard of, but are sure is somehow important.

by Alexander von Wagner

Amusements in the City of Brass:

The City is not just a place of business and cold calculation, it is also a vast spectacle of art and beauty.  Some of the areas of the City are feasts for the eyes.  These are areas that have been finished by the Azers, but there are other parts of the City that are far less beautiful, as the Azers have yet to reach these areas, or perhaps the locals have sullied them on purpose or by simple circumstance. 

Yet even in these areas, beauty abounds, from the mosaics crawling up the walls to the ornate tile-work, multi-colored stones intershot with veins of natural minerals, so cunning in their construction that they could be confused for natural tunnels, or so orderly and precise that they could be nothing but the work of inhuman hands. 

Besides the amazing architecture, there is also plenty of other things to do in the City.  The Nymph District is a nest of brothels, pleasure-houses and nymphariums, where prostitutes of every race you can imagine sell their services.  The Red Squares host gladiatorial fights between slaves, paid gladiators, volunteers and wild beasts.  The Greatest of these pits is the Brass Ring, a huge arena where the greatest of fighters and the most fearsome of beasts clash in terrific battles to the screams and adulation of the crowds.  There is the Symphonic Walk, a series of a streets that are designed to reflect and channel sounds in such a way that a single musician can be heard streets away as if he was on the other side of the road.  Here people tip-toe on padded shoes and musicians quietly brawl for the best spots, fighting with padded staves and silken strangling cords.

Many of the Genies seek to be adored as much as the City itself, so they commission museums where they display dazzling collections of art and stolen treasures, or vast grounds where they loose their menagaries to the gaping stares of visitors and locals alike.  If you long to test yourself against one of these beasts you can leave the City with one of the many guides who offer their services; this will enable you to track and hunt a dangerous beast and return with a trophy in time for tea.  Alternatively, book passage on one of the Brass Ships and take a pleasure cruise across one of the rivers or lakes of magma that ring the City.  These boats can also take you to other places in the Veins or away from the City, but why would you ever want to leave? 

You can also find other less carnal pleasures in the City.  Temple street is the place where the faithful were permitted to build their fanes and they strove to out-do each other in beauty. Flying buttresses and intricate stonework crowd the avenues as sacred prostitutes and street-prophets declare the superiority of their Gods.  Or if you long to feed your mind, you can explore the Yizawa's Librarum, perhaps the world's largest collection of books, scrolls and written works.  

There are also many academies and places of learning here, including on ones too niche or taboo to be taught in more conventional places.  Here you can learn surgical techniques from enslaved Kytons or the History of the Kilaji Confederation by the Demons who helped it to collapse.  You can study necromancy with the disciples of the Prince Perpetual or debate the merits of Chaos with mutated philosopher-magi.  Truly, the City lacks nothing in terms of what one could do.

by Andrew Mar

Enemies of the City of Brass:

The Druids of the Veins- Druids hate civilization, no matter where it is.  And Veins Druids are no exception.  They have been trying to destroy the City since they discovered it, regarding it as an abomination.  Expect them to unleash plagues of parasitic animals, clouds of hallucinogenic pollen and try to trigger volcanic activity to drown the City in boiling rock.  The Druids, so far, have been largely unsuccessful in their attempts, but they have made life quite miserable for the creatures living in the city's outer districts. 

The Order of the Searing Hand- A secret society of Salamanders, hell-bent on defeating the Council that rules the City and overtaking it.  The Searing Hand believes that the City of Brass is an intrusion into lands that rightfully belong to the Salamanders, and regard the Efreeti and their minions as colonizers and oppressors who need to be driven out.  The Searing Hand operates through small cells of highly capable agents who gather intelligence, carry out acts of sabotage and assassinate high-ranking enemies.  They try to avoid indiscriminately attacking civilians, as they don't want to hurt other Salamanders who could be later convinced to join the cause.

The Chained- A Chaos Cult which opposes slavery and the degredation of intelligent creatures, the Chained are dedicated to the liberation of all slaves within the City of Brass and holding the slave-masters to account.  Their plan is to initiate a slave revolt and then, once the City is under their control, put the slave-masters on trial.  Their plans are highly unrealistic and unlikely to succeed, but they do not seem aware of this fact, or perhaps they are just optimistic.  Note that the Chained are not the only Chaos Cult operating in the city, but it is one that seems like it is actually legitimate, and isn't actually controlled by double-agents and agent provocateurs secretly funded by the Genies.   

The Brazen Fists- When the City's foundations needed to be laid, the Genies enslaved a number of Fire Giants to aid the Azers in this process.  But after the task was done, the Azers forgot about the Giants and the Genies were too busy, so they left the Giants in the hands of their slaves.  These slaves were either unwilling or unable to stop the Giants from escaping their captivity.  The descendants of these Giants are still out there, plotting to destroy the City in a colossal act of revenge against the Genies who enslaved their heroic ancestors.  However, unlike others who despise the City, the Giants are not likely to bother with subterfuge, but instead plan on slaying the inhabitants with boulders and enormous axes, then smashing the City to pieces beneath their iron-shod boots.  

Plot Hooks:


1- You are hired by a man whose sister was kidnapped by slave-traders and sold as a prostitute.  She is currently working in the Obsidian Boudoir.  Please rescue her. 
2- The party are hired by a man who plans to bring a magic sword to the City of Brass to sell to a Genie.  Unfortunately, the sword is cursed and their employer knows it.  He plans to sell the sword and flee as soon as he completes the sale.  He's bringing you along in case he needs muscle. 
3- The Genies of the City have vast, well-guarded collections of incredibly valuable items.  There is a fortune to be made and your current client, a wannabe master thief thinks he can pull off the heist of the century with your help.
4- The party is hired to act as double-agents, infiltrating a suspected club that is believed to be hiding a Chaos Cult.  Infiltrate the club and decapitate the leadership, then escape.
5- The party are Chaos Cultists, working to undermine the City of Brass' government and society, to bring about a more equal future.
6- The outside district the party is in is attacked by Giants!  You can join the defense of the City or you could use this as a distraction to accomplish another goal, such as getting filthy stinking rich. 
7- A fugitive has fled to the City in order to escape justice.  Find him and return with proof of his death.  But be careful, the City does not tolerate foreign bounty hunters infringing on it's sovereign territory, so you'll have to avoid both the City's constables and the potential allies of your target. 
8- A charismatic warlord is recruiting men for a war.  It could be a good way to make some money to sign up with him, or it could be a good way to die for a cause you don't care about.

artist unknown


  1. Yo, this blog is pretty based. I look forward to being able to pay for a Nukaria setting PDF in the future.

    1. Thank you! Such compliments are well received, good sir. And while I haven't considered it, that is an excellent idea.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.