If there were ever a city that can’t catch a break in the Forgotten Realms it would have to be Saradush. For the last 100 years it’s the city that has seemingly been constantly either under siege or caught up in a civil war.
Review of Sources
Lands of Intrigue and the 4th edition campaign setting are really your best sources for it. It’s really kind of a shame but looking at the map in Lands of Intrigue, and the fact that the city boasts almost 40,000 residents, its pretty clear that what was represented in the video game really doesn’t properly portray the city as written (this makes sense since the development time of Throne of Bhaal was pitifully small). This is a city for instance that should have an adventuring quarter and an old royal quarter (from when the city was a capital for the royal family). Yet it’s just portrayed as one small outpost in the game.
Saradush’s most recent misery started when Tethyr (the nation Saradush is in) had a large civil war. It went on for 22 years, was really bloody, had lots of assassinations, and just a real mess. It took over 20 years after it started for Saradush to return to a state of normalcy. Even then it no longer was the capital of the royal family.
Shortly after the civil war ended the city came under siege. In 1369 DR (see continuity section), the Bhaalspawn Yaga Shura besieged the city of Saradush and left it in a state of ruin.
Then the spellplague came and the city suffered a decline as a result (going from around a population of 39,000 around 1370 DR to 35,000 by 1479.
By 1479 Saradush was constantly raided at night by citizens of Erlkazar.
What Makes it Unique Compared to Other Cities?
Source of unique eastern spices and herbs: according to the Empires of the Sands, Saradush is the headquarters for all agriculture in far eastern and southeastern
Tethyr. Crops like tobacco, cotton, teas and other herbs, as well as a few exotic vegetables, are the most common crops. While little of this is left up for export, the city could be a place for the party to travel to in search for unique ingredients (without having to go further east).
Enduring nature: between the civil war, the Bhaalspawn, and more recent raids the city has probably been under siege or under constant threat over the last century. You could say the same for many cities in the Forgotten Realms but most by now would have probably fallen to ruin permanently. Something about Saradush, whether that is it’s location along a trade route, it’s connections to the capital city, or sheer luck keeps this city still trucking on despite misfortune.
What are the City’s Issues?
Isolation: one of the issues Tethyr has experienced is how to maintain control over such large borders. Saradush will not have been immune to this. With only 200 guards within the city (whose primary purpose is as law enforcement) it may be that it relies on adventurers to handle the real threats.
Fading royal capital: there was a time when Saradush was where the nobility of Tethyr networked, plotted, schemed, and attempted to control their slice of this nation. The time of this however has long since passed. As Empires of the Sands describes it the royal families and nobility fled from it’s royal quarter overnight and in its wake left bureaucrats to try to blend into the city. So what has become of this city since then? It seems as though the administration of the town is left up to a single mayor. But with a monarchy still in control in Tethyr it may also be the kind of place where nobility that are not liked by the queen are sent to to from the royal court.
Raiding parties from Erlkazar: as of 1479 vampires and bandits from Erlkazar have been raiding the city. It’s not likely that this hasn’t been addressed by the time of 5E (closer to 1492 DR now) but it may be an issue that sees a recurrence. Vampires after all were also a problem in the city during the events of Throne of Bhaal.
How Can I Use It in My Campaign?
If you were doing a campaign in Tethyr I could see this being an important city to visit. It’s a city that has had it’s fair share of disaster over the years. It may even be a city that is seen by the nobility as a second rate city. So if you are going to include it consider it’s place within Tethyr and it’s society. In much the same way that coin in Amn is considered a matter of status perhaps where you live in Tethyr is an indicator of yours.
As far as your party is concerned, perhaps the party is sent there as penance to the queen. Maybe instead they’ve answered the call to deal with something that has threatened the city. This would be an assignment done with the understanding that it’s not the glamorous place it once was.
This will never be relevant in your campaign but it’s an issue I’m bringing to light. The Grand History of the Forgotten Realms puts the sacking of the city in 1368 DR. That would mean that between 1st Mirtul, 1368 DR (when Baldur’s Gate 1 starts) and the end of 1368 DR the entire events of Baldur’s Gate 1, Siege of Dragonspear, Shadows of Amn, and some of Throne of Bhaal take place. Clearly that didn’t happen. Wizards of the Coast really sucks at timelines (especially given the Baldur’s Gate franchise is one of their most famous franchises).