“New to the city? All respect and honors, gov, but you’re not. No one is. These walls have seen wonders that would turn you or me to dust, and they’ll see more after you’re gone. No sir, Kaer Maga may be new to you, but you’re nothing new to Kaer Maga. Ten Thousand years she’s slept here, and still we’ve yet to wake her. Some would say as we’re her dreams, on account of our strangeness, but I don’t buy that.
“I say we’re her children, though a fat lot of good that does us. See, the city, she’s like a giant insect who’ll devour her young without a second thought. In here, there’s none who will so much as bother to forget you when you’re gone. You’re nothing. I’m nothing. And these warrens will be our tomb.
“Why the long face, chum? This is home. And besides, you’ve got me. And for a fiver a day, I’m your new best friend.”
–Gav Nahli, Freelance Greeter
Welcome to Kaer Maga, the City of Strangers. Kaer Maga is a city on the world of Golarian. The rest of the plane is full of its own surprises and unique locations, but, out of each and every one, Kaer Maga is the melting pot of strange. The city itself is divided into eleven total districts, all in differing forms of self-governance. Most of the districts keep to themselves, perfectly willing to ignore whatever happens behind closed, or even open doors, as long as it doesn’t directly affect them.
The main sight that comes into view from the city is the ring. The ring around the inner parts of the city protects it from intruders, while also keeping the city safe from itself. Eight of the districts; Ankar-Te, Oriat, Tarheel Promenade, The Bottoms, Calvacade, Bis, Highside Stacks, and the Warren, are located inside the ring itself, while the other three; Hospice, Widdershins, and the Downmarket, are located on the inner section of the ring itself.
While each district has its own massive and unique history and processes, each can be summed up quite nicely.
- Ankar-Te is a ring districts that used the tendency to stick to one’s kind to employ the use of necromancy to its fullest extent. Embracing the arts that are normally forbidden elsewhere, mindless zombies and undead, known as Twice-born are used for any task that is needed, though generally used as slaves for simple labor.
- Bis is another of the ring districts in the city. Ruled by a mafia-like family called the Ardocs, the entire district follows whatever they say, even if the family is more interested in the crafting of golems and constructs than worrying about petty fights that break out.
- The Bottoms is perhaps one of the weird districts, but not because of their own actions. While many other districts are ruled by families or the wealthy, the Bottoms is ruled by an ideal: freedom. Caring little for the differing ideals and thoughts of the surrounding districts, the Freemen, leaders of the Bottoms, make sure everyone feels welcome in the district, as long as they agree with the ideals laid out before them. Going on miniature crusades to free slaves from any of the other districts, sometimes going so far as to buy slaves from the Downmarket.
- Calvacade is the industrial heart of Kaer Maga, producing weaponry, shields, and other items of use for the other districts. Using the waterways and aqueducts that pass through the district, along with the wind mills, are able to turn power into products.
- The Downmarket is the most desired district for a multitude of reasons, but the last is for actually living there. A giant market consisting of stalls from sellers from all over the world, the Downmarket is where almost anything can be bought, if one looks hard enough. While each district has its own share of oddities, one of Downmarket’s greatest attractions, aside from the markets themselves, is the Augur Temple. This temple allows people to pay to get their fortune told, through a macabre version of ‘divination through entrails’ by having the Troll Augurs cut open their own stomachs and read whatever they can see on their own insides, before putting themselves back together and wait for their natural healing factors to take over.
- The Highside Stacks is the most mysterious district, for many reasons. Containing most of the wealth of the city, the Stacks are built up and above all the other districts, showing hteir own superiority to the other districts. While very rarely interacted with, many Kaer Magans see the Stacks as a goal to reach, even if it is completely unreachable.
- Hospice is a district of many things, ranging from comforting brothels to inns and food. Getting hospitality to an art form, the residents of Hospice act as a well-oiled machine, making so every visitor with coin is welcome.
- Oriat was originally the artistic district, containing the Lyceum, the college of arts, but was, some years ago, turned into a warground. The Brothers of the Seal, a monastery, had an internal divide on their sacred philosophy, turning Oriat into a site of guerrilla warfare. While the stronger residents still go about their life, those without protection are always on the lookout.
- Tarheel Promenade gets its name from a wide avenue that stretches the entire length of its district. That street appears as a solid river of oil that is near impervious to damage, as it slowly and mysteriously moves on and on. The Promenade does house most of the arcanists in the city, as most magic items are crafted here as a status symbol of sorts. Additionally, the two main churchs of the city are located in this district, stationed across the street from one another. The first is the Church of Asmodeus, while the second is the Bank of Abadar.
- The Warren is the last district, that is normally the entrance to the city. Technically located as a ring district, the ring that was located here was completely destroyed by some unknown disaster millennia ago. Now, the district is home to the poor of the city, hoping to get a coin for the next day’s meal. Rogues and spies also travel the Warrens, hoping to make a quick gold off of an unsuspecting traveler.
While less explored, the entire city, which sets on a massive cliff, has many locations that are underneath the city. While most citizens are content with ignoring the actions of those below them, the underground network of passages house many horrors, both known and unknown.
“Thing is, sire, everyone wants something from you here. The merchants want your coin. The Freemen want your ideology. The necros in Ankar-Te want your corpse. The Tallow Boys want–well, nevermind what they want, save that you’ll known when they come looking.
“The point is, everybody here wants a piece of you, and some want the whole blessed thing. The key to doing well here is in making them all think you want something from them, too, to help keep them on their guard. Otherwise they’re likely to give you something else–right between the ribs.
“It’s a rough city, gov. Try to keep up.”
–Gav Nahli, philosopher king
City of Secrets has a lot of mechanical themes going on, which tries to encapsulate the many working pieces of the city of Kaer Maga.
The set is the only set in its block and contains 279 cards, which doesn’t include basic lands. There are a greater number of legendary creatures in the set than normal, due to the appearance of many of the movers and shakers of the city.
The two new mechanics for the set are Assemble and Infiltrate, while the returning mechanic is Clash.
While there are other mechanics in the set, these are just the keyworded mechanics that appear. You’ll have to delve into the set to get the rest!
(The quotes are from the book City of Strangers by Paizo and are not written by me.)