Skull and Shackles 5E
Alignment: Chaotic neutral
Capital: Port Peril
Ruler: Kerdak Bonefist
Government: The Free Captains, a council of pirate lords
Languages: Common, Polyglot
Religions: Besmara, Calistria, Cayden Cailean, Gozreh, Norgorber, Pharasma
The Shackles is a stretch of land and a number of nearby islands in western Garund, directly to the south of never-ending hurricane known as the Eye of Abendego. It is the haven of the notorious Shackles Pirates, built on the ruins of an ancient civilization.
Little is known about the early history of the region. At one time it was part of the now-lost kingdom of Ghol-Gan. There are many ruins of an ancient civilization, which left behind disturbing carvings depicting cannibalism and blood sacrifice.
Few scholars know that several millennia after the collapse of Ghol-Gan, two powerful sorcerers known as Raugsmauda and Gray Whyrlis came to the Shackles and fought one another for control of the archipelago. They both uncovered the powerful sorceries that caused the doom of Ghol-Gan and attempted to harness them. In the end, however, the sorcerers failed to understand and control the powers they were using. In a disastrous incident Gray Whyrlis lost and Raugsmauda, heavily injured, was forced to retreat into her dungeon on Motaku Isle for centuries.
When the region was discovered by explorers from Cheliax they declared it to be cursed, and moved on to establish a colony further south in Sargava instead.
As trade grew between Sargava and Cheliax, it attracted those who wished to prey upon it. Pirates found the ancient harbors of the Shackles made excellent hiding places from which to strike. Soon these havens grew into proper communities.
Retired sea captains also founded the settlement of Bloodcove in the Mwangi Expanse.
The creation of the perpetual storm known as the Eye of Abendego permanently disrupted the sea trade in the region. The Free Captains met this challenge by banding together in 4674 AR to form one pirate fleet, under the leadership of the newly elected Hurricane King. They started preying on shipping to the north of the Eye, as far as the Arch of Aroden. When they are pursued by foreign ships the pirates skirt the edge of the Eye, using their superior skill and local knowledge to escape their enemies.
In an ironic twist of fate, the pirates now receive a hefty tribute from Sargava in return for protecting the independence of the former colony of Cheliax. The Shackles themselves have twice been attacked, once by Cheliax and once by Rahadoum, but in both cases the Eye destroyed most of the invading fleet. There is a rumor that one of the Free Captains has offered to guide a Cheliax fleet to the Shackles, in return for a pardon for past offences.
It is also known that the Rahadoum navy is willing to pay good money for accurate charts, or ideally a pilot, to assist them in a new attack on the Shackles.
The leaders of Shackles society are the Free Captains. Most command only a ship or two, but the most powerful each control one of the region’s ports and/or islands and make up the Pirate Council. The leader of the council is Kerdak Bonefist, the Hurricane King.
The winner of the annual Free Captain’s Regatta is offered a seat on the Pirate Council.
The population of the Shackles consists mainly of runaway criminals, escaped slaves and the buyers and sellers of illicit goods.
They are mostly human, with a comparatively high proportion of half-elves and half-orcs. The wilder regions are home to the degenerate kuru, and tribes of goblins. There is also a large tengu population, with many settlements having a tengu quarter; pirates believe it is good luck to have a tengu on board ship, as they “soak up” bad luck.
Lizardfolk from the Sodden Lands to the north occasionally mount raids into the Shackles.
The sea is home to locathahs, sahuagin and water nagas. There are also some dragon turtles in the western region.
The Shackles is made up of a stretch of land on the western edge of the Mwangi Expanse, and also includes a number of nearby islands in the Arcadian Ocean.
Civilisation, is as much as the term applies to the Shackles, is concentrated in six main areas : the Mainland, Bag Island, Devil’s Arches, Motaku Isle, Shark Island and Tempest Cay.
The larger ports of the Shackles are heavily fortified, to defend against threats from the wild interior, foreign navies, sea monsters, and (albeit rare) attacks by other groups of Shackles pirates.
Recently, an aggressive group of lizardfolk leaders from the Sodden Lands, known as the Terwa Lords, have been organizing raids against the northern parts of the Shackles.
There is also a Shackles settlement just outside its borders: the town of Greenblood in the Sodden Lands. The town grew up around the ferocious pit fight known as Green Blood on a Black Rock, an event started by the Free Captains.