A city that once boasted some 55,000 people was reduced to ruin after the Spellplague. Over 100 years later it’s never really bounced back.
Review of Sources
I couldn’t find any adventures set in Ormpetarr. The earliest record of the city that I could find was from the 2nd edition sourcebook ‘Vilhon Reach.’ This sourcebook does a pretty good job of going through that the Vilhon Reach region of Faerun and giving a breakdown of its cities and nations.
The 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting likewise contains some information about the city.
Unfortunately, all of these great sources were thrown to the wind with 4th edition. While there is a brief mention of the general area in the 4th Edition Campaign Guide, we only learn about the city’s fate (and how it is split in two as a border of the Plaguewrought Land) in the novel ‘Edge of Chaos’ by Jake Koke.
Life in Ormpetarr (the capital of the former nation of Sespech) hasn’t always been easy. Sespech was a relatively small nation and as such had to worry about being annexed by neighbouring Chondath constantly. To protect itself it had to reach out to neighbouring city-states like Hlondeth for support, even when (in the case of Hlondeth) they are controlled by less than ideal allies (the Yuan-Ti).
When the spellplague hit the Vilhon Reach region was severely affected. The actual Vilhon Reach itself was drained of all its water, and Ormpetarr itself was split into two with the border of the Plaguewrought Land falling right down the middle of it. The devastation inflicted on the city also was calamitous to its population. It went from around 55,000 in 1372 DR to around 4,000 a hundred years later. The city was completely devastated by the spellplague and the years that followed. Even outside of the city earthmotes, swaths of moving rock, and great ravines that led directly to the Underdark would have been commonplace here around 1479 DR.
It’s not known what became of the region after the Second Sundering and the return of Chondath and Halruaa.
What Makes it Unique Compared to Other Cities?
A hundred years ago, it was a typical walled city on water that you see in a lot of fantasy settings. While the city wasn’t unique, the nation of Sespech did have a few things unique about it. These could also be applied to smaller cities in Sespech like Elbulder and Mimph.
Strict Magic Controls
Anyone who uses magic to harm another in Sespech can expect a swift execution.
Under Constant Threat of Invasion
Chondath has had its eye on taking back this former barony. It’s likely sponsored bandits on the roads solely for the reason of de-legitimizing the rule of Sespech’s current ruler.
Assassination Attempts on its Ruler are Common
Not only does Chondath want to take back its former barony, but the thieves guild has never been happy about the situation in Sespech either. It’s on more than one occasion arranged assassinations against the leader of Sespech (paid for by Chondath).
Hearings Held in Open Court
Sespech is not a nation that does hearings behind closed doors. When it broke free from Chondath this is one of the things that the change in government introduced. This also makes the very open in terms of how justice is administered.
Post spellplague it is said to be now a city of 4,000 people with no formal government. The Order of Blue Fire was the only organization that really offered any form of order in the city. Even then they were not interested in helping the city recover but instead actually sought to expand the plaguelands (that had split the city in two). The city was also a key attraction for pilgrims hoping to gain magic power through its Festival of Blue Fire.
With the events of the Second Sundering having happened it’s not really known what state Ormpetarr is in. It’s likely that it is still a frontier city although with spellscar no longer being a thing the Order of the Blue Fire likely disbanded. The city may now be under the authority of the copper dragon Tyrangal, or it may continue to be lawless.
What are the City’s Issues?
A City of Ruins
You don’t go from being a city of 55,000 to 4,000 without leaving behind a fair amount of ruins. There should be a rich opportunity for any adventuring party here to go searching through these ruins in search of wealth and treasure.
Lack of Any Government
It’s not really clear at this point what has happened to the city since the Second Sundering. There is a good chance, however, that it still has no formal government. Without the Order of the Blue Fire keeping order, the city may have descended into becoming a haven for criminals.
Leftovers From The Spellplague
It could actually very well be that things like earthmotes (big floating chunks of earth) continue to be present north of the city. Other leftover effects of the spellplague could linger in the area around it.
How Can I Use It in My Campaign?
Ormpetarr represents a city not only that lies in ruin, but that also has been deeply touched by some truly strange magic. I would play up this quirky angle if I were running the city myself.
For instance, maybe a new lord has taken over, and their manor is found on top of a floating earthmote. Maybe the city is now shaped around the crevasses and ridges created by the spellplague. Perhaps poor quality wooden bridges have been thrown together to connect what used to be a city with many different quarters.
Ultimately, I think this city works best if you play up the impact of the spellplague and make it out to be a place where unusual magic is still strong. Even having zones of wild magic or dead magic zones is an option.