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The City and Vales of Urr


Urr is located at a joining of two rivers, carving through fertile valleys as well as a number of caravan routes:  Geography of Urr

The climate of the region is a temperate continental one. The mountains do not have a permanent ice cover. Sometimes a weather front becomes stationary in the mountains meaning that it rains for longer periods. The big and small river are snow rivers. Hence, flooding in the poorer quarters of Urr may happen from time to time. The city of Urr is at about 300 meters above average sea level.

The vales alongside the rivers of Urr are fertile and contain small but dense woods with extensive arable open ground between them. In the vale to the north east, there is a large forest, habitat for an Elven people.

The mountains north of Urr are steep and rich in metals, which is the reason why the Dwarven race of Longbeards have settled here. These mountains are densely wooded with mixed forests at moderate elevation and needleleaf forests higher up. There are two large peaks in these mountains namely the Mithril Mountain and Mount Emerald, where they mine precious metals and gems. Together they are known as The Metal Mountains. The Gnomish nickname for these mountains, The Tits, has become more common in the Vales of Urr and should, of course, never be used in the presence of Longbeards.

To the east of Urr, the Gnomes live in and under a dormant stratovolcano whose Gnomish name reflects its purpose: Mount Central Heating. As the name suggests, it is not entirely dormant and there are several hot springs inside the mountain and a fumarole field exists on the west side of the volcano. When the wind is in the east, its smell is quite noticeble in Urr. The south slopes of this volcano have good vineyards and Gnomish wines have become an interesting trade article.

To the southwest of Urr are the Green Hills, where the Redbeards live (although it is more accurate to say that they live under these hills). This is rugged country, with large woods and bogs, although there are also patches of open ground, which are arable. The Green Hills are full of wildlife especially deer and wolf. The Green Hills are also known as the Paths of the Giants. Nobody knows why. The actual capital of the Redbeards is roughly at a day's march away to the Southwest, at the Hill of the Seven Towers.

Yendor is located to the south of Urr at about 2 weeks travel.

Flora and Fauna

The vales have lots of arable land, but also contain several small but dense forests. The hills and mountains of Urr have large woods, with all kind of forest wildlife such as deer, wolf, owl, wildcat, boar and bear. Some special fauna also exists:

  • Poisonous toads
  • Venomous snakes
  • Giant hamsters. It is rumoured that these are bred by the Gnomes and used as cavalry.
  • Large and intelligent foxes, sometimes seen with as many as nine tails. They can be good or malicious.
  • Dragons (in particular threeheaded ones). These intelligent beings are rare. They love gold and can be angered quite easily.
  • Large Golden eagles. These intelligent birds are sometimes good and sometimes evil.

The Free Republic of Urr

The Free Republic of Urr has about 8000 citizens. In the city, there are 4000 humans, 1000 Redbeard dwarves (living mainly in the west quarter), 1000 Free Folk (south east quarter) and 2000 humans spread throughout the Vales, living in farms and small villages.

The Council of Urr

The City and Vales of Urr form a republic. Every five years, they elect a parliament called the Grand Council. The Grand Council then elects the Executive Council of Urr. By tradition, it has the following members:

  • The Captain Regent of the City
  • The Captain Regent of the Vales
  • The Chief Judge
  • The Master for Public Wellfare
  • The Master of Trade
  • The Master Mason
  • The Master of Public Works

The Temple Hermits

Within the city, an order exists that practices magic. They are called the Temple Hermits. The Order is mixed sex. The person who represents the Order in the outside world is called The First Speaker, as he or she is the first that speaks during conventions. The First Speaker is a spokesperson and not so much a leader. It is not unusual that he or she is elected in the Grand Council as well as the City Executive Council. The member of the Order with the best understanding of magic is called The One Blessed by Moonlight. The Order has members and lay members.

The City map

The City of Urr has two walls, an inner one and an outer one. Both are surrounded by moats. The inner wall surrounds the oldest part of the City and hosts the palace of the Captain Regents and the Grand Council Hall. A small canal separates the inner City from a wedge-shaped island that lies between the two rivers. The canal serves as an additional dock besides the docks that are present on both sides of the two rivers. The Wedge (as the island is locally known) hosts a large tower from which all dock operations can be overseen.

As you can see in the following map, the outer City walls are roughly circular in shape and have a diameter of about 800 meter. This means that Urr has an area of some 0.5 km2:

Urr City Map

The center of Urr consists of two squares. One is the Grand market of Urr, while the other was called the Town. When Urr was young and more of a direct democracy, the citizens gathered here to make policy. When government became a representative democracy, decision making moved to buildings in the Inner City and the square was no longer used. A dozen odd years ago the Temple Hermits built The Great Ziggurat of Urr on this square at great government expense. Locally, this temple has the reputation of being an insane boondoggle.

The grey blocks next to the roads into the city indicate the graveyards of Ur. Traditionally all of the tombs and graves are grouped in cemeteries along the roads that lead out of Urr.

The Dwarven peoples

Dwarves are a strong and vigorous race of generally short, stocky and strong beings. They are about four to five feet tall and have sturdy, thick arms and legs. They are vulnerable to greed, yet rock-hard, stubborn but also practical, slow to love and yet fast in friendship. Dwarves are basically cynical creatures who are not easily taken in by elvish fine words and beauty. All of them are workaholics. Their specialties lie in the manipulation of materials and related things such as smithying and mining. They are relatively long lived: 300 years is considered an old age. Dwarves have a remarkable resistance to hunger, pain and disease and can endure long journeys without words and withstand fire and cold without flinching. Dwarves form close-knit clan-based working communities and value especially those of their own family.

Dwarf races near Urr

Near Urr, three races of the Dwarves have settled:

  • The Longbeards
  • The Redbeards
  • The Gnomes

The Kingdom of the Longbeards

The Longbeards are a noble branch of the Dwarves, characterized by their somewhat longer length (for a Dwarf) and usually long beards. Currently about 3000 Longbeards live under the Metal Mountains. They are governed by a High King. At this moment, this is King Durin XIII. He is assisted by a council, known as The High Council, and currently consists of the following members:

  • Chief Smithain
  • Chief Warrior
  • Chief Mining Engineer

While the Longbeards mine mithril, emeralds and other valuable metals & gems under the Metal Mountains, they are mostly famous for making excellent jewelry, weapons, armour and siege equipment*. They earn vast wealth by trading these abroad. They resent the Republic for its imposing tariffs on goods passing through the city.

The Longbeard dwelling under the Metal Mountains is a vast network of interconnected caves, some of natural origin and others dug by necessity. In the natural caves, some vegetation in the form of moss and mushrooms of various sizes and composition can be found. The Longbeards especially like one specific kind (They call it Great Dinner), for it grows to a height of three feet and is quite tasty, even according to human standards. However, there is usually not enough of it to feed the entire populace. Since the Longbeards have specialized in the making of materials, they usually have to buy most of their food.

*No doubt an invading army could buy or rent some of their creations.

The Princedom of the Redbeards

The Redbeards are an openly communist* Dwarven nation. Compared to the other local Dwarves they are of a normal length and usually have red beards. They are governed by a Central Committee of Elders (also known as the Commissjun) that is presided by the Comrade Prince Secretary of the Redbeards. After hearing the Elders, the Prince passes new edicts and laws (known as Moshuns in Dwarvish). The rules concerning the wording and structure of these moshuns are immensely complicated and unintelligible to non Dwarves. The Redbeards are the largest Dwarven people in Urr: about 5000 Redbeards live in the Green hills and another 1000 have become citizens of Urr and mostly live in the West quarter of Urr (at the Green hills' side of the rivers). The Central Committee of Elders consists of the following members:

  • The Comrade Prince Secretary of Redbeards (presiding over the Commissjun)
  • Comrade Chief Warrior
  • Comrade Chief Smith
  • Comrade Chief Merchant
  • Comrade City Diplomat

Just like the Longbeards, the Redbeards are miners and crafters. The hills hold no precious metals, but plenty of high grade iron, tin and copper ore. Much of it is traded to the other two Dwarven kingdoms, but the Redbeards are just as good at crafting as the Longbeards. The difference is that they are just as likely to produce humble pots, pans and spades as they are to forge a sword. Usually, the Redbeard stuff is cheaper as well, because they are not trying to turn everything into an artistic masterpiece.

Since the Green Hills are arable at several places, there are actually Dwarven farmers living on the Green Hills, earning a good living. There is quite some trade in live stock going to and from the City and Vales. The Redbeards do not really worry about the trade tariffs as there is as much going to the City as coming from it.

There is a large Redbeard minority in Urr. Several offices are usually taken by Redbeards. The Chief Mason of the City, responsible for the integrity and maintenance of the City walls, is by tradition a Redbeard. After all, it were the Redbeards that helped Urr in its founding years to build the Inner and Outer Wall of the City.

*All Dwarves are communists by nature: they are workaholics, obsessed with achieving high standards of quality and somewhat penny pinching. So they all collectively work very hard, to create magnificent stuff and accumulate great wealth, which they then admire, while not using it and that makes them very happy.

The Gnomish Confederacy

The Gnomes are a particular subspecies of Dwarves, characterized by their short length, big noses and inquisitive nature. Many Gnomes wear glasses. Gnomish society is the only (known) dwarf matriarchy in existence. About 2000 Gnomes live in the Gnomish Confederacy in and under Mount Central Heating, a not quite dormant stratovolcano. The Confederacy maintains very friendly ties with the City of Urr and especially with the Temple Hermits of Urr.

The head of state is called the Goddess Empress. Her council (named the The Extremely High Council) consists of the following members:

  • Chief Engineer (responsible for the creation/trade of non-edible things)
  • Mistress of Steam (court wizard)
  • Chief Brewmaster (responsible for the creation/trade of edible things)
  • Master of Hamsters (military command)

The Elves

Elves are an ancient humanoid species whose culture and learning predates that of humanity by many millennia. Elves are immortal creatures: they live forever barring accidents or death in battle. This gives them a unique view on the world and the species that inhabit it. They are the great enemies of all the various Dark Empires and Evil Lords that have popped up over the ages, but they take the (very) long view so they don't always jump in when the younger races would like them to.

The Orcs

The origins of Orcs, or (as they call themselves) the Free Folk, is shrouded in mystery. Humanity has found out the hard way that the general human populace and the Free Folk can interbreed. They live in tribal groups and their main activities are raiding, some farming and hunting.

Each tribe (or Tuath as it is known in the language of the Folk) is run by a Council of the Free. The Free Folk are the chiefs in the tribe and certain folk who have been declared Free as a result of their worth to the Tuath. For example, skilled artisans or valued servants may be given their Freedom. The majority of the Tuath are servants of the Free. Obviously, only the Free have the right to bear arms or make decisions in the Council.

Each Tuath rules itself and makes its own decisions. Currently there are two tribes in the Vales of about 1500 Free Folk and a smaller independent group lives in the City of Urr (they are not a tribe). There is a regular meeting of all Clan Elders to discuss matters. The City Free Folk elect one of their elders to represent them in this meeting.


The general pastime of Free Folk Chiefs is raiding. This involves going into another Tuath’s area (or other neighbour), killing a few servants and taking away some treasure, slaves or cattle. Raiding is an acceptable social norm. That is, nobody really minds being raided, any more than they mind raiding. It goes on all the time and is socially useful because it gives the Free Folk Chiefs a chance to hone their martial skills, perhaps taking a head in the process and keeps them occupied. Of course, the humans, Dwarves and other folk frown on this raiding, especially when they are the victim of being raided.

urhb/description.txt · Last modified: 2018/01/22 19:46 by marceln