The Water Margin
Much of the action of The Water Margin takes place in the Tablelands, a tremendous swath of dry wastes, sand dunes, and silt estuaries bordered by towering mountains and obsidian badlands.
The Tablelands are perilous. Despite the parching heat and the trackless sands, many dangerous predators and poisonous plants dot the landscape. In the towering city-states, predators of the humanoid kind present an equal threat.
Immortal sorcerer-kings have ruled several city-states in the Tablelands for the entire length of living memory. Though the sorcerer-kings are distant at best and draconian at worst, the city-states offer the possibility of some degree of safety against the creatures of the desert. Employment and shelter can be had in the cities, as well as food and water — at least, if a particularly brutal heatwave has not wiped out the year’s crop and left famine in its wake. Anyone who resides in the cities, though, must be constantly vigilant for the templars, who theoretically serve the interests of the sorcerer-kings but also line their own pockets with bribery and graft. Worst of all, the meanest rung of the social strata belongs to slaves, and any who fall afoul of the templarate risk being cast into slavery. The back-breaking labor of slaves feeds the bellies of the populace, and the blood of slave gladiators entertains the masses.
Seven city-states eke out a meager existence in the Tablelands:
- Balic, an orderly city-state that struggles under the pretense of democracy when its true ruler is a dictator
- Draj, a distant city-state situated on a fertile mud flat
- Gulg, a city-state of religious zealots amid the treetops of the southwest Crescent Forest
- Nibenay, home of a mysteriously absent sorcerer-king, on the northeast edge of the Crescent Forest
- Raam, situated on a northerly trade nexus, with a decadent sorcerer-queen who declares herself the chosen servant of a distant goddess
- Tyr, sun-scorched city at the base of the Ringing Mountains in the west, dominated by a monumental ziggurat crafted as a manic civic project of its sorcerer-king; renowned for the value of its nearby iron mines
- Urik, a militaristic city-state near the Smoking Crown in the northwest
Small towns dot particularly fertile or valuable areas of the Tablelands, but any town must either suffer the burdensome attentions of a merchant house’s protections, or else be at risk from raiders and monsters. Though life in a town is without the hazards of templars and sorcerer-kings, the towns are not safe from large raider bands, dangerous creatures, or the armies of city-states in search of plunder and slaves.
Some of the prominent towns of the Tablelands include:
- Altaruk, a fortified trading town across the Great Alluvial Sand Wastes from Tyr, regularly destroyed by raiders and then rebuilt
- Bitter Well, an oasis east of Draj in the northeastern most part of the Tablelands
- Ledopolus, a pair of towns on opposite sides of the western edge of the Estuary of the Forked Tongue
- Kled, a settlement on the western side of the Great Alluvial Sand Wastes and due east of Tyr
- Silver Spring, an oasis on the eastern side of the Great Alluvial Sand Wastes
- Walis, an outpost in the far south of the Tablelands
City-states have fallen in the past to the depredations of the Dragon and the ravages of the wastes. Now they are home only to memories and monsters. Occasionally, brave travelers will bring forth strange psionic devices or metal weapons from these ruins, but more often they meet a grim fate.
Some of the notable ruins include: