Freeport’s not a huge, sprawling metropolis. It’s a modest city, huddling, in all its ugliness, at the southern end of the largest island of the Serpent’s Teeth. That the city grew haphazardly is not lost on those who venture here. In many ways, it looks like it was cobbled together from materials washed up on shore, and yet there are still fine places about if you know where to look. The walls of the Old City loom over everything, and one can’t ignore the beautiful estates of the Merchant District.
That said, Freeport is not pristine, with whitewashed buildings and perfectly symmetrical streets like some places on the continent. The City of Adventure has grown without regard for planning—and that disregard shows.
Freeport has a character of its own, one that reflects the nature of the people who live, work, and die here. The port started as a small village, yet it grew far faster than the founders ever expected. Much of the city has been added haphazardly, with new sections built to accommodate the influx of new settlers. As Freeport grew, neighborhoods formed, bound by common interests, wealth, and influence. In time, these clusters developed into the current districts.
Locals call the Docks the “door to Freeport” because it’s the most convenient place to moor ships. From the pre-dawn light till well after sundown, this is one of the busiest parts of the city. Half of the Docks includes the wharves that stretch out into the harbor to accommodate the deeper-keeled vessels. The wooden walks connect to a boardwalk that runs across the entire district, extending from the Warehouse District to Scurvytown. You can find just about anything you’ll ever need here, since clever merchants like to get the jump on their customers before letting them move deeper into the city.
The rest of the district caters to Freeport’s breed of clientele: seamen. Pubs, taverns, flophouses, gambling houses, and bordellos offer countless diversions in which to sink a sailor’s pay. Crime is a constant, as brawls spill into the narrow streets, pickpockets and cutpurses worm through the crowds, and bravos and toughs lurk in the shadowy alleys waiting for the perfect mark to stroll by.
Murders might not happen as often as some claim, but a body appears in the harbor often enough that folks think little of it when it happens. And of course more humanoids still pour in every week; a day does not go by when a gang of orcs or goblinoids can’t be found around the Docks, either looking for work or, more likely, looking for Bloodsalt.
Scurvytown squats to the east of the Docks. For years, this was easily the meanest part of town, a large slum run by gangsters and crime lords, where even the well-armed Sea Lord’s Guard ventured only en masse. While Bloodsalt has eclipsed this district in terms of violent crime and lawlessness, Scurvytown is still a place best avoided. The relatively clean and safe (though by no means clean and safe) streets of the Docks give way to a place crammed with old homes, decaying shops, and watering holes no one in their right mind would frequent.
The people of Scurvytown are a hardened lot, accustomed to the harsh nature of the streets and criminal rule. They put little stock into Freeport’s elite, and their surliness borders on naked resentment when they encounter one of Freeport’s merchants or so-called “nobles.” Worse, the growing numbers of orcs and goblin-folk, for a short time driven into nearby Bloodsalt, have now started to spill back over into Scurvytown. It is not uncommon to see goblin beggars and orc thugs working the streets here, nor to see roaming gangs of orc or hobgoblin toughs just down the street from the human ones.
Those who have the means and ambition to rise above the slums of Scurvytown may find a slightly better life in the Eastern District. Thee middle-class citizens of the Eastern District don’t have it easy, though, since they are surrounded by five other districts—two of which are Bloodsalt and Scurvytown. The area borders as many districts as the Old City but does not have enormous walls to keep out unwanted elements. Crime here is high, and the Watch maintains only a minimal presence in the Eastern District; everyone knows the crime lord Finn and his flunkies the Hellhounds really rule these streets.
People in Drac’s End try to scrape out an honest living far from the chaos of the waterfront districts, but doing so is not always easy in a city like Freeport. Drac’s End is so named because the original Drac had once envisioned carving much deeper into the surrounding jungle, but it was here his ex-pirate workers were stopped dead in their tracks—sometimes literally—by the creatures inhabiting the jungle. Since Drac’s plans for expansion thus ended here, it acquired this somewhat ironic moniker.
Several clans of hobgoblins have relocated to Drac’s End over the past few years, seeking to escape the teeming chaos of Bloodsalt and to make an honest living for themselves here as merchants and laborers. While the locals can’t be said to have welcomed the humanoids, they have at least accepted them, if grudgingly. The hobgoblins’ disciplined nature has served them as well in mercantilism as it does on the battle eld; already, through clever backroom deals and overt coercion, a couple of the hobgoblin clan patrons have made themselves invaluable to the local economy. In fact, one of them has even made known his aspirations to local politics.
Sailors have always been a superstitious lot, so it’s not surprising Freeport has a thriving religious community. No matter the year or season, the people of Freeport have plenty of reasons to pray. Having survived a killer hurricane, a barbarian invasion, a great fire, and a mad Sea Lord all within the last decade, it has never been clearer to Freeporters that their fates are in the gods’ hands. The city has no official religion, although the God of Pirates has far more worshippers here than in any other single place in the world. Other deities are well represented, too, corresponding with the great diversity of the city’s population.
In stark contrast to the poverty of Drac’s End stands the Merchant District, where most of the wealthiest people in Freeport live and sometimes even work. Shops here cater only to the highest class of customer; the main streets are paved with level, well-maintained cobblestones and bordered by handsome lights and well-kept greenery. Wave Avenue, the most select address in town, runs right through the center of the district, like the spine that holds the city’s economy together. It’s said more deals are done on Wave Avenue than in the entirety of the Eastern District.
As the center of trade for the entire region, Freeport needs to have a place for the easy storage of goods of all kinds. Unlike the wharves down in the Docks or Scurvytown, the piers of the Warehouse District are heavily guarded and in good repair. The business done here involves serious money, and docking fees are commensurately higher to cover the cost of the increased security. That this area borders directly on the Merchant District is no coincidence. The powerful and wealthy prefer not to have to walk far to survey their assets.
This is where Freeport first began, under the original Sea Lord Drac. The massive wall that surrounded the city in its earliest days still stands, although Freeport has long since sprawled far outside its confines. While the five gates that control traffic in and out of the Old City are still in working order—ready to be slammed shut and barricaded against riot or invasion—they’ve been used only once in recent memory, during the Barbarian Invasion six years ago. In places, the old brickwork in this district is falling down, but this is still the seat of rule in the city. The Courts are here, as well as the headquarters of both the Guard and the Watch, and the Sea Lord’s Palace.
Bloodsalt was an accident. Formed in the aftermath of the Great Green Fire and the Wizards’ Guild’s recruitment policy for hiring only nonhumans, this place began as an encampment, but it rapidly grew to become a permanent addition to Freeport. Still, Bloodsalt is more a ghetto for orcs and goblinoids than it is a proper district. There’s some semblance of order here, imposed by the iron-fisted leaders of the humanoid clans, but violence often erupts and rules the day; people of other races are wise to avoid this place, for there’s little justice to be had.
“What is to be done with Bloodsalt after the Reclamation Project has been completed?”
More worrying, perhaps, is the fact that Bloodsalt is simply too small to enclose the many humanoids contained there. Given their constantly rising numbers and generally uncivilized behavior, Freeport’s elite are asking, “What is to be done with Bloodsalt after the Reclamation Project has been completed?” This issue is commonly referred to behind closed doors as the “Orc Problem.” As Bloodsalt’s population grows, so does the potential threat to Freeport— at least as far as the citizens of other districts are concerned.
Whatever else it might be, Freeport, and Bloodsalt in particular, is a unique melting pot. And the so-called “savage humanoids” have grown accustomed to this level of freedom. While there is an almost palpable racial tension, built largely on misunderstanding and mistrust, only the future can tell how this situation will play out.