Pathfinder Skull & Shackles Campaign
The Shackles Islands
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.
Alignment: Chaotic neutral
Ruler: Kerdak Bonefist
Government: The Free Captains,a council of pirate lords
Languages: Common, Polyglot
Religions: Besmara, Calistria, Cayden Cailean, Gozreh, Norgorber, Pharasma
The winner of the annual Free Captain’s Regatta is offered a seat on the Pirate Council.
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.
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 organising raids against the northern parts of the Shackles.
Drenchport, on the edge of the Eye of Abendego
Hell Harbor, home port of Chelish mutineers
Neruma, mainland trading post
Ollo, threatened by sahuagin
Port Peril, the capital
Quent, a lively port city
Slipcove, dominated by halflings
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.
The larger islands of the Shackles are as follows :
Bag Island, ruled by the halfling pirate Jolis Raffles
Besmara’s Throne, a minor island
Cannibal Isles, populated by fearsome kuru cannibals
Dahak’s Teeth, a collection of three minor islands
Devil’s Arches, ruled by the Chelish pirate Arronax Endymion
Eel’s Skull, former fortress island of the pirate Nalt Tarbrow
Motaku Isle, ruled by the popular pirate leader Tessa Fairwind
Raptor Island, a minor island
Shark Island, ruled by the cruel pirate Avimar Sorrinash
The Smoker, a minor island
Tempest Cay, storm-tossed island on the edge of the Eye of Abendego
Whyrlis Rock, a minor island
Widowmaker Isle, a minor island
Other features include :
Jeopardy Bay, the bay opposite the capital, Port Peril.
Slithering Coast, the southern coast of the mainland, infested with water snakes and nagas
Temple of the Ravenous Moon, an ancient ziggurat in the Terwa Uplands
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. 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 harbours 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 rumour 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 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.
Had the steady stream of fat merchant vessels laden withbounty from Sargava not lured a plague of seaborne raiders, the archipelagic region known as the Shackles might still be void of civilization, having been almost completely cut off from the Inner Sea region by the Eye of Abendego. For centuries now, buccaneers have successfully used the various islands as convenient berths from which to launch their nefarious schemes. Hidden coves originally used for ship repair and restocking needed supplies grew into dozens of full-fledged settlements, eventually attracting many of the sort of legitimate businesspeople common in thriving towns. Soon merchants with more guts than scruples began taking what was coined “the southwestern vacation”—sailing galleons with ample cargo space to the renegade towns in the Shackles to trade for stolen goods at bargain prices. The major neighboring naval powers have made countless attempts to eradicate piracy radiating from the Shackles, but no effort has thus far succeeded.
But while these nations failed to disrupt the Shackles in the past, the emergence of the permanent hurricane known as the Eye of Abendego did manage to upset this maritime industry of organized larceny for a time. Trade routes were wildly altered by the never-ending storms, and Sargava’s lucrative traffic withered to almost nothing. The disparate pirate captains and bandit gangs fell to infighting over the suddenly slim pickings and would have eventually destroyed themselves had it not been for more farsighted pirate captains who met in Port Peril. Through much verbal wrangling (and at least two inconclusive fist fights), these freebooters managed to draft guidelines for a loose confederacy that has survived to this day. The Shackles are now loosely governed by the Pirate Council, a league of the most powerful lords of the region’s various islands and ports who rule alongside the elected Hurricane King.
Though the Shackles does technically possess a government, the Free Captains who sail its waters hardly consider themselves ruled. There is no true royalty in the Shackles—only a collection of the fiercest independent raiders and risk-takers. In reality, their “king” is merely the most powerful and widely respected pirate in the region, and his influence is enough to unify the otherwise disparate captains in the pursuit of ill-gotten prosperity. The select few members of the Pirate Council are among the most powerful Free Captains in the Shackles, and hold sway through force of arms as well as force of will. In the Shackles, courage, skill, and cunning are respected, not heritage or divine mandate.
While not just any self-proclaimed pirate can garner the attention of the Hurricane King or gain a position on the Pirate Council, anyone in possession of a ship can declare herself a Free Captain, and can make a name for herself with enough guile and luck. Free Captains see the Eye of Abendego not as a curse, but as a paradoxical blessing. Thanks to this vicious maelstrom, Free Captains are able to raid the shipping lanes north of the Eye with impunity and retreat just as quickly behind it; their superior knowledge of the tricky shoals and reefs of the seas around the unending hurricane provide the necessary edge against less skillful pilots who hope to thwart them. The Shackles have now experienced more than 30 years of roguish prosperity despite constant futile efforts by numerous powerful nations and mercantile conglomerates seeking to end the scourge. The only nation of the Inner Sea that possesses a treaty with the Shackles is lonely Sargava, which provides the pirate nation tribute in return for protection from Cheliax’s depredations.
While humans dominate the majority of the Shackles, larger concentrations of half-elves and half-orcs also call the archipelago home—perhaps here their mixed blood elicits less bigotry than in more sophisticated nations. A substantial number of tengus live among the islands as well, drawn to the freebooting spirit of the place and prized as mascots by many superstitious crews. The islands of the Shackles remain a powerful magnet for outcasts, outlaws, and outsized personalities. The dangers of the archipelago are legion, but the potential rewards are equally enormous, and if there is one universal truth within the Shackles, it is that the meek need not apply.