The Dragon Between
The cornerstone of life on Khorvaire is the small town: a dim but important point of light in the
world’s darkness. Most Khorvairians are farmers or laborers, living in farmsteads and hamlets within a couple of miles of a central town. A larger settlement serves as a trading nexus, to which farmers bring crops, livestock, wool, and similar goods. Crafters from the town trade plows, leather goods, imported items, and similar objects or services in exchange for farm goods. Farmers, crafters, and laborers pay taxes to a local lord, who lives nearby. The lord uses this tax money to raise an army, train a militia, or otherwise ensure that the people under his or her protection are safe.
In truth, this system isn’t perfect. Brigands many of them ex-soldiers from the Last War-plague the countryside. Monsters roam the vast distances between towns, occasionally attacking farms and trade routes. Corrupt nobles hoard their wealth and let their people suffer.
Rural life is simple and sometimes peaceful. Away from the bustle of the city, people are more connected to the natural world. The rural population of Khorvaire tends to distrust visitors and strangers. News travels slowly, and rural people are often suspicious of anything that happens more than a dozen miles away. Many still feel the pain of the Last War and its aftermath— cousins dead, fathers disappeared, and siblings gone to work in the big cities.
Just as farms surround a town, towns surround a city-although usually the city is miles away and travelers must spend a day or more to traverse the distance (if they travel by conventional means). Although Khorvaire’s cities are few, they are vital. These points of light are beacons of both civilization and depravity, of scholarship and corruption, of organization and filth. Cities are far more cosmopolitan than the countryside. Individuals of all races and backgrounds come together in the great metropolises of Sharn and Flamekeep, sharing food, living space, and rumors.
City residents are more comfortable with diversity and more wary of the wilderness than are rural people. They also have more opportunities to improve their economic means. Members of the middle and upper classes are found more often in cities than in the country.
Urban dwellers have access to resources that country folk generally lack. Magic is common residents of cities regularly enjoy minor spells and enchanted items that improve their lives. Also, the remnants of Galifar’s educational system are intact in most of Khorvaire’s cities; public education is free (supported by taxes) for all who care to take advantage of it. Higher education is available at a few universities that teach subjects such as history and geography, as well as more esoteric topics such as magic and monster lore.