If, as I do, one wants to place Portown and the example dungeon from Holmes into the region of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, there is the rather difficult problem of where to place it. Holmes describes it this way:
Portown is a small but busy city linking the caravan routes from the south to the merchant ships that dare the pirate-infested waters of the Northern Sea. Humans and non-humans from all over the globe meet here.
In addition, the location of Zenopus' tower is above some cliffs looking over the sea. Thus, Portown lays next to the sea, along a coast line that runs north and south.
Cook informs us that the Black Peaks/Cruth Mountains/The Steach are on the north edge of the map and that there are easterly winds coming off of the sea. These two appear to be contradictory. There is a rather large and long mountain range that runs along the top of the map in Cook (who provides no compass rose), but the sea runs along the bottom of the map. This means that, except for a small peninsula south of Specularum, there really isn't any way for easterly winds to come off the ocean if the top of the map is, indeed, north.
I am going to take advantage of this contradiction, the lack of a compass rose and the various ways the word easterly can be defined to "rotate" the map provided by Cook 90° so that Fort Doom is north of Specularum. This accomplishes two things:
- The coast now runs north-south, so as to reflect the way Holmes describes the location of Portown.
- If one uses the mathematical definition of easterly — towards the east — this also allows there to be winds that blow towards the east off the sea.
This means that the caravans coming from the south that Holmes describes as transferring their goods to ships to go north are coming from Specularum and Fort Doom. This places Portown either on the northern half of the Gulf of Halag or further up the coast. The most likely place for Portown would be the river mouth that empties into the Gulf.
There are now two questions that need to be answered:
- Why do the caravans need to put their goods onto ships and not continue north?
- What is so valuable that there are ships willing to sail through the pirate infested waters of the Northern Sea?
The first has one of two answers: either the area is infested with something even more dangerous than pirates, or the geography makes it impossible for caravans to get across. The latter is most likely (if that something is so dangerous, why isn't it eating the pirates?). I suspect the mountains continue to swing west until they meet the sea, making caravan travel impossible.
The answer to the second question depends upon whether the Grand Duchy is in the northern or southern hemisphere:
- Since Cook indicates that there are Frost Giants on what is now the southern edge of the map, one could argue for the southern hemisphere, where the farther south one goes the colder it gets. In such a case, the trade in the Northern Sea could be driven by such things as spices, chocolate, cotton, tobacco and tea.
- If one would rather have the Grand Duchy in the northern hemisphere, the Northern Sea would probably be too cold for things like spices. Trade items might include certain metals such as iron, platinum or certain kinds of steel. In addition, there might be a whaling industry. Personally, I can imagine a fantasy version of the narwhale whose oils burn twice as long as other oils and whose horns are more valuable than ivory — possibly because they are used by magic-users to create wands. I imagine them to be better at absorbing magical energies and are therefore beneficial in the creation of wands (possibly by cutting down in creation time).