For more than 4,000 years, Absalom (pronounced AB-sah-lahm) has been the City at the Center of the World, a metropolis-sized showcase of the greatest treasures in all Golarion. The importance and influence of Absalom upon the Inner Sea and the whole of Golarion can not be overstated. The city not only holds a key strategic position for both commercial and military endeavors in the region, but encompasses the site of the ascension of four deities and claims to have been founded by none other than the Last Azlanti, the god Aroden. It is not without reason that the passage of time throughout the world is counted in Absalom Reckoning. This great city even extends beyond the Material Plane; although a pale reflection of its namesake, Shadow Absalom is the greatest city on the Plane of Shadow, inhabited by fetchlings, other humanoids, and undead.
Absalom’s great wealth is driven by trade, so the city’s rulers strive to craft policies favorable to commerce (and their own interests), but otherwise take a relatively laissez-faire approach to regulation. Taxes in the city are very light, although Siege Taxes during wartime may be significantly higher. There are no property taxes, although the city charges for access to roads, sanitation, and other public infrastructure. Modest taxes on foreign merchants, fees for pilots through the Flotsam Graveyard, and docking fees, are generally sufficient to supply the city’s needs.
Absalom’s economy can be divided into three basic parts: craftsmen, who manufacture goods; traders, who buy and sell physical goods; and laborers, who provide services. While craftsmen and laborers are organized into guilds that provide legal and illegal products and services, traders are prohibited from organizing to prevent collusion and price-fixing. The city’s laws require that goods to be sold must be owned by a single merchant, who may operate a single commercial outlet for them. Absalom’s currency consists of pennies, silver weights, crests, gold measures, and platinum sphinxes.
The city is a major hub for commerce on the Inner Sea, and its most common trading partners include Almas, Cassomir, Katheer, Niswan, Okeno, Oppara, Oregent, Ostenso, and Sothis. However, Absalom has varying relations with and regulations concerning trade with these cities: for example, Almas views Absalom’s ships as unwelcome bullies, while Vudrani traders from Niswan are celebrated, and ships from Oregent must prove they carry only glassware and silverware or face a 100% tariff.
Due to Absalom’s size and scale, beasts of burden are important elements of the city’s commerce and transport. Regular bench-wagons allow commoners to ride around town for a copper, and halfling porters with dog travois can be hired for a similar price.Horses are rare on the Isle of Kortos, since the centaur tribes regard them as invaders and the harpies like to eat them. Consequently, the most prominent beast of burden is the camel; farmers use them for agriculture, drovers use them to pull wagons and chariots, and many district guards field a camel cavalry. Camel barding is more commonly available than barding for horses in the city. After camels, axe beaks are most common mount and beast of burden, faster and better able to defend themselves than camels. Dogs, lizards, elephants, and monstrous centipedes are also found; before the establishment of Hackamore House, much saddle and tack had to be custom made or ordered from dozens of shops due to the diversity of animals used in the city.
Absalom is ruled by the Grand Council which is chaired by the primarch, a position currently held by Lord Gyr of House Gixx. The Council has twelve high seats (including the primarch’s) and a variable number of low seats. Most of the city’s administrative positions are filled by members of the Council, the more sought after titles going to members of the High Council. The position of primarch is held for life and decided upon by the High Council. It has additional privileges unique to the position granting the holder considerable power over the Council, and by corollary, the City at the Center of the World itself. Much of the day-to-day administration are handled by the district councils of Absalom. The district councils are headed by a nomarch, who is appointed by the Low Council with the approval of the primarch.
Situated on the southern coast of the Isle of Kortos, Absalom is the largest city in the Inner Sea region and quite possibly the entire world. The ice-capped peaks of the Kortos Mounts are among the highest known in the world, stretching high above treeline. Countless abandoned siege engines and constructions of war from the numerous failed attempts throughout history to take the city by force lie scattered throughout the surrounding countryside in what has become known as the Cairnlands and the wreckage of armadas of unsuccessful attempts on the city from the sea all but block the wide harbor in a mass known as the Flotsam Graveyard.
The city itself is enormous: it stretches more than seven miles from the Starwatch Keep to Azlanti Keep and more than five miles from Westgate to Eastgate, and Absalom has three times as many residents as the capital of Cheliax, Egorian
A city the size of Absalom could not function as a single cohesive unit, thus it has been divided or split naturally over time into a handful of distinct districts, each a city unto itself both in terms of sheer population and overall atmosphere, and each having its own district council to run its day-to-day affairs. From the high-class havens of the Petal and Ivy Districts to the dangerous and destitute districts of Puddles and Precipice Quarter, Absalom’s neighborhoods run the gamut of both the economic and social spectra. Additionally, austere monuments of historical and spiritual significance draw thousands of people to Azlanti Keep, the Ascendant Court and Wise Quarter on a daily basis.
More than just a city, Absalom controls holdings in and around the Isle of Kortos (though much of the isle remains wilderness). Although still under the control of the city-state, they function as independent communities.
Diobel, the smaller of the two settlements, is a bustling port town located on the western coast of Kortes. The town is a center of trade in its own right, acting as a hub for fishermen, traders and smugglers wishing to bring illicit goods into the City at the Center of the World via overland caravan instead of through the closely watched harbor of Absalom proper. Because of its important position as an alternative shipping route into the city, control of Diobel is very valuable and rising factions wishing to gain power in Absalom can often be seen first across the Isle in Diobel. The city is currently ruled by Scion Lord Avid of House Arnsen, a rival and childhood friend of Absalom’s own Lord Gyr.
Escadar is a vital military town located on the Isle of Erran off Kortos’s northern shore. Originally founded as a shipyard and warehouse to aid Absalom against naval blockades, the town quickly grew as workers and naval officers moved to Erran. Beyond its continuing function as a reserve navy for times of siege, the fair-sized military base operates throughout the Inner Sea and as far south as the Obari Ocean in constant efforts to hamper piracy in the region. Escadar’s governing body, the Lesser Council of retired ship captains and young relatives of members of the Absalom Grand Council, has also been known to grant letters of marque to civilian ships committed to fighting piracy in the waters around the Isle of Kortos itself.
Founded in 1 AR by the god Aroden when he raised the Starstone from the depths of the Inner Sea, there is nothing ordinary about Absalom’s history even from its very first day in existence. Its whole-cloth creation allowed for a quick inhabitation and Aroden tasked the best and bravest from throughout Inner Sea region to protect the Starstone and prevent any from moving it.
But given Absalom’s tactical positioning and its undeniable influence, countless ambitious nations or greedy warlords have set their sights upon the walls of the city over the millennia, and the guarding of the city and the Starstone within has never been easy. For centuries on end the city was besieged by one army after another, attempting to bring Absalom to its knees and wrest control of it from all others. Despite the relentless onslaught, the city has never fallen. Relics of these ongoing wars still litter the plains of the Isle of Kortos surrounding the city and sunken warships clutter the harbor.
More so than anywhere else on Golarion, Absalom plays home to every conceivable type of inhabitant. While primarily a human settlement, members of all races, religions and homelands can be seen in (and under) the streets of the City in the Center of the World. The specific demographics of each individual district vary greatly, but there are few (if any) peoples who are not represented somewhere within the city, even the mysterious gillmen of ancient Azlant and travelers from other planes.
The earliest inhabitants of Absalom were wise and brave nobles, merchants and adventurers from the lands nearest to the Isle of Kortos, thus the influence of the nations of Andoran, Cheliax, Osirion, Qadira, Taldor and Thuvia remain most pronounced in the city to this day. Due to influence of nearby Osirion and Qadira, many of the city’s inhabitants speak Kelish or Osiriani in addition to Taldane. Elves are relatively uncommon in Absalom, mostly consisting of adventurers or outcasts; more common are their half-elven descendants, many of whom can be found around the Pleasure Salon of Calistria.
Many of Absalom’s residents organize themselves into houses, which are similar to clans organized by national origin. Each house is a political entity that often maintains a strong connection to its homeland. They grant a set number of minor titles, and are governed by a lord known as a Scion. The immediate descendants of titleholder are automatically enrolled in the house, but not granted the title. Members of a house usually use the house name in place of a surname, while those wihout a house may use a place of birth, a nickname, or the title “of Gyr” to indicate loyalty to the primarch.
This house, of Osirian heritage and sympathies, is one of the eight most powerful houses and has been influential across the city for more than 300 years. With strong ties to the Ruby Prince Khemet III, many of the house’s members sport Osirion jewelry and khopeshes. The house is led by Scion Lady Neferpatra of House Ahnkamen, Grand councilwoman, Envoy for the Dead, and First Lady of Laws.
This house, through Scion Lord Avid, controls the teriarchate of Diobel, although Lord Avid has since become a rival to the primarch.
This house, of Kyonin heritage and loyal only to itself, is one of the city’s eight most powerful houses and the most prominent elven houses. Scion Lord Tylvran began allowing half-elves into the house at the dawn of the Age of Lost Omens. Other notable members include Dyrianna of House Avenstar, Head Hetaera of Calistria and Consul of the Courtesan’s Guild in Absalom.
The most notable member of this house is prominent Ascendant Court resident Toiden of House Azari, Faithful of Aroden and Keeper of the Books of Aroden.
House Candren This house, of Taldan heritage and Andoran loyalty, is one of the city’s eight most powerful houses and influential across the city. It is led by Scion Goodman Hugen of House Candren, Grand Councilman, First Harbormaster, and owner of the Sea King Shipyards.
House Damaq This house, of Keleshite heritage and Qadiran loyalty, is one of the city’s eight most powerful houses and influential across the city. It is led by Scion Lord Kerkis, Lord Exchequer of the Absalom Mint. Other prominent members include Silver Sword and Lord Yuvin Vatir of House Damaq, Quartermaster at Azlanti Keep.
House Gixx Although Lord Gyr is a member, this otherwise remains a relatively small and uninfluential house.
House Madinani This house’s most prominent member is Lady Darchana of House Madinani, Senior Lesser Councilwoman, Archdean of the Arcanamirium, and Second Spell Lord.
House Morilla This house, of Taldan heritage and loyalty, is one of the city’s eight most powerful houses and influential across the city. It is led by Scion Lord Celedo, Guildmaster of Mysteries and Trademaster.
House Ormuz This house, of Thuvian heritage and sympathies, is one of the city’s eight most powerful houses and influential across the city. It is led by Scion Lord Yamthar, the Eternal Envoy and Trademaster.
House Shamyyid This house, of Keleshite heritage and Qadiran sympathies, is one of the city’s eight most powerful houses and influential across the city. It is led by Scion Lady Xerashir of House Shamyyid, Bey of Sarenrae and Watcher of the Starstone.
House Tevineg This house, of Chelish heritage and loyalty, is one of the city’s eight most powerful houses and influential across the city. It is led by Scion Lady Xanippe, Beloved of Asmodeus.
House Vastille This house’s most prominent member is Rothos of House Vastille, Captain of the First Guard and Commander Militant of Absalom.
Religion The most common faiths in Absalom are, of course, those of the four ascended gods: Aroden, Norgorber, Cayden Cailean and Iomedae. In addition to these churches, temples and shrines to Abadar, Nethys, Sarenrae, Calistria, Irori and Shelyn can be found throughout the metropolis. Abasalom is also the only civilized city where the worship of Norgorber is tolerated.
Symbols Absalom’s many centuries of immigration have provided it with a dizzying array of guilds, houses, religious and martial orders, and other organizations, each with their own symbols. Absalom as a whole, however, has a number of common symbols. The city’s colors are golden yellow (for the Starstone) and green (for the sea and the island’s lush pastures). Absalom’s mascots are the hippocampus, representing the island’s naval power and Sea Cavalry, and the mother-sphinx, imported from Osirion. Absalom’s mother-sphinx is typically presented as a winged lion with a female human head and upper body, and occasionally shown pregnant, astride a wave, or with human hands holding a scale and scepter or scroll. The city’s motto is “Ex Prothex”, which is interpreted to mean “From the First” or “First Among Equals”. Absalom’s hybrid nature and long history are reflected some of the in the foreign names for it: the Patchwork City, or the City of Buried Treasures.