Starfall is a coastal city situated along the mountainous shoreline of (surprise) Starfall Bay on Andalin Island. Andalin is a large island, roughly 750 km north to south and 450 km east to west - the bay is roughly circular and takes a 200 km diameter bite out of the northern end.
The southern part of the island is rolling hills in the east and plains in the west, with scattered farming villages, two other major towns and a lot of forests. The northern third is mountainous, with extremely difficult terrain - only one road exists between Starfall and its nearest neighbor (Jarrow) and it is unsuitable for wagons.
Starfall makes its living on mining, manufacturing (artisan-scale production, actually), fishing and trade. Trade is essential, since the local farming potential is nearly zero and a lot of food must be imported.
The city government is dominated by merchant cartels and the major artisan's guilds. There is a Council (made up of representatives from all the guilds) which has official authority for municipal affairs, but in practice it is dominated by the wealthiest players.
Starfall is one of the more powerful members of the Trade League of Killimara, a very loose confederation of cities on several islands and the mainland. Although in theory the League can set policy binding on the member cities, it takes a 3/4 supermajority to do this and so it rarely happens on controversial matters. The primary effect is of a general agreement on bandit and piracy suppression and standard weights, measures, and coinage throughout the region. Occasionally the League will unite against an external threat, but more often the cities squabble about minor matters and vie for economic supremacy.
Major power blocs:
Steelsmith's Guild: producers of some of the finest metalwork in the world, including agricultural and artisan's tools, weapons, armor, and components for wagons, ships and other construction. A rather open and democratic guild, whose council representative is chosen by its members. Current head: Donya Margoles; species: rabbit.
Jeweler's Guild: producers of luxury items in precious metals and gems. Dominated by a few old-money families who own a majority of the producing mines. The elderly Tomas Larkin (species: fox) is the head of the family, but his son Angelo is the council representative due to his father's worsening health. The rival Wellesley (species: wolf) family, under the domination of Katherine, is rumored to be planning for a takeover upon Tomas' demise.
House Pravinchandra: a rich and successful trading cartel, dominating the grain, livestock, and weapons trade with the Karadan Empire on the mainland. Rumored to 'enforce' their monopoly, but no proof has ever been produced. Current head: Chandra Subramayan; species: mongoose.
House Allende: another major trading firm, this one dominates the luxury trade with Hamasura and Costa Guillermo on the southern continent. Of necessity closely linked to the Jeweler's Guild, the Allende family is the traditional balancer between the Larkin and Wellesley families. Current head: Diego Allende; species: jaguar.
Coastal Traders Alliance: somewhere between a guild and a cartel, the CTA is a union of individual ship owners based in Starfall. The members range from rich long-distance trade voyagers to local fisherman to suspected smugglers. Current head: Hassan ibn Al-Khali; species: horse -- Arabian, of course...
Starfall Navy: technically an arm of the Council rather than a power bloc within it, the Navy still wields influence because of the importance of its mission. Starfall is the premier naval power in the League (only distant Maidstone is a rival) and the city's survival depends on its suppression of piracy. Most of the officer corps is made up of members of the old nobility of the city, partly from family tradition, and partly from the desire to recover some of their old power base, lost when the city became a merchant republic. Current head: Admiral Helena von Rostock, Countess Blackpool; species: otter.
Karadan Embassy - the Empire is strongly interested in extending its dominion over the league. Their embassy in Starfall is the source of major and minor plots of various kinds, as well as ongoing espionage. Their traditional mainland rival, Ha'sheera, also maintains an embassy here. Ambassador: Hiram Birch, Lord Ravenspur; species: squirrel.
Ha'sheeran Embassy: The Empire's traditional rival, also involved in plotting and espionage, though mainly against the Imperials (see above). Ambassador: H'rulla Murnash; species: lynx.
Thieve's Guild: connections to the pirates as well as the usual burglaries, muggings, and so forth. Not an officially recognized group.
City Watch: standard sort. Some good cops, some bad, with a tendency to overlook Council faction squabbles unless they get really out of hand.
Numerous minor guilds: of interest to the players, this includes the Mage's Guild, the Alchemist's Guild, and a Mercenary's Guild, through whom bodyguards and caravan guards are usually recruited.
Tech levels are equivalent to Terran 16th Century without the gunpowder. Magic works, but requires specialized training.