The Dark Side of Sembia
Sembia is prosperous, but there is a dark side to its security and wealth. It's a haughty, ruthless, and cutthroat land, bustling with commercial intrigues. Sembians look down on the poor and all outlanders - albeit with a measure of respect when they think of wealthy and successful Amn, Thay, Waterdeep, and Westgate - and they positively sneer at elves. Sembians are outwardly tolerant of a wide variety of races, appearances, and customs - as long as such strange folk are here to buy.
Coins make for instant friends in Sembia, and lack of coin makes them disappear just as swiftly. The dagger, strangler's cord, and poison pose the chief dangers to life and limb and may strike anywhere - but do so sparingly, because there are plenty of wizards-for-hire in Sembia, and local rulers pay some to use spying spells at random to check on their subjects business dealings.
Sembians expect corruption in high places. Constant rumors speak of various city rulers conspiring with Thayans, Zhentarim, or "fell things mages can talk to from afar" to betray their citizens. Underhanded dealings are permissible and even admired - but outright theft or arson are abhorred, and justice can be harsh.
Outlanders seeking to set up shop in Sembia are warned that if they "look different" from the fairskinned, drawling humans, business rivals seize on any excuse to start unfavorable rumors about them, because Sembians are especially quick to shun "sneaking outlanders."
Kidnappings-for-hire of business and social rivals (and of one's own undesired offspring and other relatives), "hirespell" wizards who magically spy or cast harmful spells for fees, and debtors indentured as near-slaves to work off their debts for years are all common in "Golden Sembia." The upland woods, hunting estates; and the Ghost Holds (abandoned mansions) of nearby Batt1edale all crawl with Sembian outlaws - folk ruined or driven off by the unwritten rules of the merchant kingdom.