Geography and Founding
Bonetown sits in a small harbor on a rather large island called Pearl Island. Pearl island is sandwiched between the smaller Crescent Island to the SE, and the huge Totem Island to the NW. Crescent Island is the new home of the Planned City of Rum and the entire reason that Bonetown exists.
Rum is an experiment. A city designed by the Powers That Be from the East to be a gateway to all points west so that the East can profit from it. That means trade. Lots of trade. Initially, trade in the form of all the materials that will be needed to build the city. Then trade in the form of all the folks that will be moving in. Then trade between Rum and all the colonies that will spring up throughout the region.
Bonetown was the original site for Rum, however, the twin volcanoes on Pearl Island scared them off, so they moved it SE to the smaller Crescent Island. That left Bonetown mostly abandoned. Every ship under an independent flag is looking for work as the Rum effort ramps up in intensity. However, the best traders on the seas are the two pirate factions: The Pirates of Jack and the Deadjacks. And where one goes, the other follows as they are bitter enemies. And where did they decide to set up shop for their illegal merchandise port? The abandoned Rumsite that they aptly renamed Bonetown.
Bonetown is positioned on the SW side of the island away from the activity of the Twin Sisters Volcanoes, which are very active. However, Bonetown is not overly concerned with its environment. It has but one concern: illegal trade. Contraband. Drugs. Endentured Servitude. Bonetown is by default, the center of all trade that the builders of Rum do not want to have anything to do with. Bonetown is indeed the Black Market twin sister to Rum.
Quickly evolving, Bonetown has and is developing its own unique culture and attitude. Trade rules all. Any government at all will not be tolerated. Anything but slavery is tolerated and encouraged. A truce is always in effect in the harbor to protect the merchandise. Work out your own problems because there is no mayor or city guard to appeal to for help. The ship with the greatest firepower and the biggest reputation gets the right of way in the harbor. These and many other rules evolve daily into the culture that is Bonetown.
Government and Power in Bonetown
Amongst the anarchy that is Bonetown, there are several groups that wield power within the town and thus provide what little government the town will endure. These are: the Harbormaster, the Captain’s Council, Pirate Factions, Criminals and Gangs, and Freebooters.
Bonetowners have a passing acquaintanceship with concepts such as ‘government,’ ‘civic duty,’ and ‘citizenship.’ After the rigid discipline of their ship captains, pirates have little tolerance for the yoke of governance once they set ashore. The closest thing to a head of state possessed by Bonetown is the Harbormaster, Linus Icahn. A former captain in the Aisildur navy, Linus absconded with his ship and turned to adventuring after his heartseed was removed. He also happens to be a scion in the Shipping Guild of Elenna, though what role he plays in that diminished organization and what influence they may have in Bonetown is yet to be realized.
Linus arrived in Bonetown several months ago with a shipful of gold and several former adventuring compatriots. In a fortnight he convinced the Captains’ Council to allow him to police the harbor. When they asked him why he wanted to do that, he simply replied, “I see potential, good sirs. I see potential.”
The Harbormaster ensures general order along the docksides and marketplaces, though for a pirate enclave this amounts to little more than preventing looting or murder. Petty acts of larceny and vandalism are ignored, but anyone attempting a mugging in broad daylight is likely to draw the attention of the Harbormaster’s men. Dueling, on the other hand, is considered a spectator sport and more likely to draw crowds and betting than legal intervention. The Harbormaster--call him Linus and you’ll be thrown in the harbor--doesn’t allow such things on the docks. What happens elsewhere, he doesn’t care about. In fact, if there is a murder going on two feet off the edge of the pier, he’ll watch silently and do nothing.
Linus enforces his rule with hired guards, typically posted in small guardposts that look more like small outhouses at various spots throughout the docks, wearing the blue Jolly Roger on bands around their arms. They do have some small, fast boats to go out into the harbor waters if needed, but usually they leave such things alone. They are more interested in keeping order than solving crimes, however, so investigative work is unheard of. These guards are led by Linus’ capable right-hand man, Enoch Almraiven. Almraiven is a former mercenary and officer in the Mailed Fist and came to Bonetown with Linus Icahn after several seasons of adventuring together.
The other half of the so-called government is comprised of the Captains’ Council, a motley group of pirate captains. If you’re a ship captain, and you’ve paid your Harbor fees, you’re a member! There is a quorum group of seven retired pirate captains that are available to meet when there is an emergency, but usually, when a meeting is needed, a captain calls it by raising the “Captain’s Jolly Roger” at the Harbormaster office and the meeting will occur, at midnight, in The Nine Fingers Tavern, because its the biggest. Usually, the council is convened to settle a grievance between captains or factions. However, they will also meet if there is a tangible threat to the town that is not being handled by normal means--which means someone gets irked by the threat enough to round up some brutes to take care of it. Any captains currently in Bonetown will usually attend as they are fun, slanderous, and there are free drinks. Drawing Lots determine who oversees the meeting. Under normal circumstances, the PIrates Council meets twice a year on the Spring and Fall equinoxes. Everyone tries to be in town for that as it turns into a Festival of drunkenness and debauchery.
One of the few positive agreements that have come out of the Captain’s Council is called the “Pact of the Jolly Roger.” This was an agreement by all captains and factions that created a Flag of Bonetown. Many pirates now fly the flag of Bonetown on their masts, a traditional Jolly Roger on a royal blue field. This flag is a promise to other ships that those who surrender without resistance will be shown no physical violence and will be allowed to keep their ship and enough food to reach the next sizable port. This arrangement typically results in lighter punishments when pirates are captured by government authorities while flying the Bonetown flag, earning them floggings, branding, and imprisonment rather than outright execution.
Even though, pirates hate “authority” they do believe in protection in numbers. So various “pirate factions” have come to be since the original splitting of the PIrates of Jack from Aisildur. PIrates form “alliances” for all sorts of reasons:
- mutual protection
- types of trade and inner-group trade
- share in a ship repair facility
- favorite type of rum
Ships, captains and pirates usually have a multitude of alliances. However, two reign supreme and are called The Two Jacks. They are the Pirates of Jack and the Deadjacks. The Pirates of Jack is what is left of the mighty revolutionaries that helped overthrow Ga’al and his priests in Aisildur. No longer militant, joining means that if the Jack of Diamonds, their leader, calls upon your ship, you must come. There is also an unspoken requirement:
"If you can, do harm to the Deadjacks."
There is also a tithe and the Jacks are now a pyramid scheme. If you join, you “pay it forward” and give the ship that brought you into the POJs a taste of your profits. This has caused many to pull out of the Pirates of Jack. It also creates disputes as the “honors” of recruiting a ship can be traded. The worst infraction for a POJ is to quit. Pulling out will earn you a response from your sponsor if you don’t buy yourself out. And announcing your withdrawal is just as dangerous as not announcing it.
The second faction are the Deadjacks. When the priests of Ga’al were overthrown, the purpose for the PIrates of Jack had ended. Over the next few months while the leadership debated over a new course of action, the individual ships started finding ways to earn money. Some diverted to trade, others to piracy. The result was that a new faction was born, The Deadjacks. Originally, the reason for the Deadjacks was to protect each other from the repercussions of leaving the Pirates of Jack.
There are dozens of other factions, organizations, alliances, trade partners, and word of mouth agreements. These drive the ecomony of Bonetown more than any council or Harbormaster. In fact, The Harbormaster says it best, “Trade keeps the peace.”
Criminals and Gangs
It should come as no surprise that Bonetown has a strong criminal presence. The streets are alive with freelance thieves, murderers, enforcers, and thugs. For this reason, everyone in the city goes armed to the teeth. Even those folks rich enough to afford a few bodyguards and private militias aren’t cavalier enough to dispense with a sword or dagger. While freelancers abound, the two strongest gangs are Gentleman John Marcone’s Syndicate and the Red Foam Gang, the latter being controlled by Humble Tom. These men have their thumbs on the heartbeat of Bonetown’s crime, and both Marcone and Humble Tom have a lot of influence beyond Bonetown in their respective fields.
In Bonetown, crime is just a way of life. A person can be beaten to death for an askance look or a misspoken phrase, and bodies left in the alleys or the streets are so commonplace that no one even notices anymore. For as adventurous and tolerant as Bonetown is, there’s a strong undercurrent of cruel selfishness. Folks are unaccustomed to lending a hand without asking what they get in exchange.
Gangs are the norm for Bonetown. They rove the streets wearing their identifying colors and tattoos and generally cause trouble. Gangs offer their members a sense of belonging, a bit of power, and respect from the locals who fear them. And since advancement is an illusion for many, Bonetowns gangs provide another means to enjoy the finer things the township can offer. There are dozens of gangs in Bonetown, though the Syndicate and the Red Foam dominate the streets. The Syndicate wears neckerchiefs of black, while the Red Foam Gang wears red armbands.
If there’s one practice that is universally upheld, it’s the ban on slavery. Even Marcone and Humble Tom won’t touch this nasty trade. Despite the widespread and near universal hatred of slavery, it does happen in Bonetown, though never in the open. Slavers from distant ports, come to the city to harvest slaves in the dead of night, spiriting them out again before dawn. Slavers are not tolerated in Bonetown, and a standing bounty is awarded for bringing them to the city guard in the nearby city of Rum.
While slavery is not tolerated by the majority of residents and visitors to Bonetown, indentured servitude is a pervasive and time-honored tradition. Those who commit themselves to indenture negotiate the terms of their contract with their debtor, which typically stipulates the length and nature of their servitude and the debt to be considered nullified at the termination of their service. Indenture can vary widely in length, severity, and the type of debt to be paid.
Some contracts can be very short in duration, such as those lasting several months for delinquent taxes, or extremely long periods even up to the remaining natural lifespan of the debtor. There are even contracts that last longer than life itself, giving rights to the contract holder to reanimate the debtor for continued labor after their death. Those who are indentured for life are typically those who either agreed to indenture to avoid a serious criminal punishment, or who were terribly desperate at the time the contract was made. Many criminals, faced with lifelong imprisonment or execution for serious crimes, volunteer for indentured servitude as a way to avoid the gallows. The most important aspect of indentured servitude, however, is that contracts are commodities. There is a thriving industry for the buying and selling of contracts.
A wide variety of entertainment and diversions that would be grounds of imprisonment in the mainland earn appreciative nods in Bonetown. Prostitution, gambling, booze and drugs welcome incoming sailors eager to spend their plunder. Due to the transitory nature of most of the residents of Bonetown, problematic vices tend to shift as pirates come and go from the city. An outbreak of an especially powerful narcotic does not merit concern from the Harbormaster or Council, since the supply will dry up quickly enough and those addicted to the drug will ship out eventually. Certain substances prove perennial favorites; the current drug of choice throughout Bonetown and many pirate fleets is “Choke”, a black powder smeared on the gums that provides users with a mild euphoria and feels of exuberant self-confidence. Habitual users, called ‘chokers,’ can be identified by their gray teeth and gumline.
Along the crowded wharves, one can find ships hailing from all over the world, bringing unusual peoples, customs, goods, and animals to this wretched hive of scum and villainy. True, the harbor doesn’t come close to rivaling Rum, but the illegal and hidden cargoes always seem to find their way to Bonetown. It is here that orc pirates rub shoulders with elven corsairs. Human sailors brawl with those of rival nations, while exotic peoples from far-flung nations stare in wonder at each other. Bonetown is, at its core, a home for pirates. Many of these sea dogs serve under one of the three major pirate factions, The majority, however, are independent freebooters, swearing fealty to none but their captain, and even then only if well fed and well paid. Most ships that dock into Bonetown, use it as a place to unload the illegal portions of their cargo, enjoy shore leave among their own kind, and take on new crew and provisions.
Though they are not beholden to the Harbormaster or the Council, they do follow the one inviolate law: when you drop your anchor, all fly under the flag of Bonetown. Despite romantic notions, piracy can be a very stressful and dangerous profession, and even the most cutthroat and bloodthirsty of buccaneers recognize that they need a neutral ground on which they can sell the “questionable” portion of their booty and spend a few nights in a soft bed. Mostly self-enforced, the freebooters of Bonetown do not allow rivalries and aggressions from the high seas to come into their town. This doesn’t mean safety, however. While crews of rival ships may call truce while in port, they are still likely to draw knives over spilled drinks. These souls constitute the primary economic force behind the success of Bonetown. The illegal booty they bring into port is sold sometimes to the very merchants from whom it was stolen in the first place. These goods and treasures are then shipped, under heavy guard and misdirection, over to Rum, and occasionally to other ports. In many ways, Bonetown is an enormous pawn shop for the pirates of the southwestern portion of Yrth, with accompanying diversions and entertainment that cater to them.