Against the coming storm
The City of Towers
The City of Knives
The City of a Thousand Eyes
The Gateway to Xen’drik
The Gateway to Perdition
The City of Lost Souls.
Sharn is situated on a rocky, volcanic, bluff overlooking the Dagger river and its flood plains on the southern coast of the nation of Breland on the continent of Khorvaire. First built as a site of mining, it soon became a home of industry after the ancient Dhakhanni Empire learned how to tap the power of the great lava pool beneath it. Once surrounded by swampland, innovation and investment spurred by the Last War have lead to draining the swamps and channeling the flood waters, turning it into some of the richest farmland in the world.
— Please see the history-of-sharn page for more details.
The area is very hot, and often incredibly humid. Great storms are common after the Spring floods from up the Dagger river, when the Summer monsoons come. Soon afterwards, the winds reverse and the hot winds of the Fall dry season come down from the great plains of Breland. Winter’s defining feature are its doldrums, which merchants hate more than any of the rest. Sometimes, depending on how strongly manifesting the plane of air is that year, it can even snow.
Due to its catching so much rain, and providing a support structure for growth, many towers are covered in vines, moss, or opportunistic trees. At the lower levels of the City, this leads to the impression of living in a maze of decaying ruins already being reclaimed by nature. Sometimes spiders, snakes or even larger predators find a home among the stones of the lower city, though they are as likely to become dinner for the hungry poor as to make a snack of the locals.
Their upstairs neighbors, however, have the opportunity to create many fantastic balcony gardens and live among a diversity of birds and butterflies.
Built on a manifest zone for the plane of air, the city of Sharn has the unique ability to build higher and utilize more powerful flight magic than anywhere else in the world. Thus, while its horizontal growth is limited by the rocky outcroppings it is built on, it has grown vertically. Its tallest towers reach more than a mile into the sky, linked by bridges and traversed by skycabs.
Due to the continual nature of building in the City over the last several hundred years, many towers do not actually reach the ground – they are instead built on top of, or between other towers, using magic to transitively use the ancient, enchanted, tower foundations as their own support. Thus, higher towers may actually be more stable than any of the lower ones which they perch upon. This has the effect of slowly choking off light from the lower city. Sharn regulation, however, requires that any new construction compensate for that. On lower levels, this often takes the form of great, flickering, illusory advertisements for various products… where the people have enough money to be worth advertising to, at least. Otherwise, street lanterns fueled by some kind of low grade dragonshard is commonly used. These crystals are already the end stage of some other industrial use and tend to gutter and produce smoke before burning out. Rumors that they are poisonous and sometimes explosive do not deter, in the least, their propensity for being stolen.
— Please see the districts-of-sharn page for in depth information on the various regions of the City.
The last time anybody counted. there was over a million people, in the strict sense of the term, living here. Now, it could be twice that, and there’s considerable argument over the who should, and shouldn’t, be counted as people.
Humans are the largest and most politically powerful species in Sharn, representing more than a third of the inhabitants, and well more than half the positions of power.
Half-Elves generally live in human neighborhoods, and often earn a good living as servants to the wealthy or entertainers of the middle class.
Genasi, of both the wind and fire soul varieties can be found in Sharn. The flux of the manifest zones can have a dramatic effect on their bodies and moods, however, and the majority are wards of the state at some level. Air soul genasi are in high demand as security and engineers in Skyway, while many of their fire soul kin perform similar functions near the lake of fire beneath.
Dwarves represent an old and very stable group in Sharn – for hundreds of years Dwarven hammers have mined the veins of the undercity and built the towers which stretch above it. Indeed, it is one of the largest Dwarven outposts outside of the Mror holds. Many Dwarven youths come here, since it is considered to be established enough to be respectable (and have a support network of kin already in place), but with more opportunities for both advancement and distraction than the homelands generally allow.
Gnomes are the next largest group in Sharn – and growing quickly. They’ve recently surpassed the Elves in number, and may soon surpass the Dwarves as well. They fill many middle-class crafting and bureaucratic roles (they make efficient use of space!). Some gnomes have become very wealthy here, ever since the alliance between Zilargo and Breland created a solid military and trade alliance. A counterculture of gnomes, who are at odds with their Zilargo kin, can also been found here, leading a somewhat paranoid existence in the depths of the City, always fearful of infiltration by agents of the Trust.
Elves represent the other traditional component of Sharn society – from when Sharn was rebuilt by humans, they have maintained and extended the sky-reaching magics of the City, and worked to ensure that the trees, vines and other opportunistic flora and fauna of the area worked to help support the infrastructure of the City and not bring it down under their weight. The several families of elves in Sharn are all descendants of the swamp and forest tribes which lived in the area when it was conquered by Malleon the Reaver, and were recruited to help him rebuild and suppress the remaining goblinoid slaves he kept at workers.
Changelings are found here in greater numbers than nearly anywhere else in the world, though they still represent a small minority. While still subject to some legal discrimination, there are laws which proclaim it is illegal to kill them, which are even enforced more often than not – which is more than can be said in many other areas of the world.
Goblinoids have been in Sharn since its founding, and many of those remaining can actually trace their lineage back to those days – even through the centuries of enslavement by humanity since that time. The ‘traditional’ caste system of the Dhakhaani Empire has been upturned here, however. Bugbears have done reasonably well for themselves as industrial laborers, while Hobgoblins deplete their own numbers through endless internal strife over ancient grudges and prideful power struggles. Goblins, such as exist, have either retreated to deep and nearly inaccessible holds in the forgotten depths, or end up filling many of the same roles as gnomes in the city above (except for less pay or concern for safety).
Warforged Only recently recognized as sapient creatures at all, the majority of Warforged continue to work in the forges and factories who used to outright own them, their lot little changed for their new legal recognition. Some have fled their labor contracts and have taken up desperate lives in remote sections of the Cogs, where they scavenge parts and garbage to live. They are rarely seen in the upper City, unless they attached to some security detail – where they have a fearsome reputation. Many Warforged have moved into the Depths between the plateaus, where they live among the sewage and refuse of the City above, attempting to find worthwhile goods before they are washed away and rendered by the great engines of the city below. Thus, they have come into conflict with the Kenku (below), who have long lived there.
Half-Orc The Half-Orc community has grown dramatically over the last several years, even faster than that of the gnomes. The inclusion of half-orc tribes into House Tharask has brought numerous wealthy individuals to the City, while the peaceful trading relationship between Breland and Droaam has opened the doors for immigrants seeking jobs. There is a great division within the community, however. Those connected to House Tharask promote peaceful, slow, assimiliation. Many of the newer immigrants, however, feel betrayed by their wealthier cousins who lured them to the City with promises of good work and comfortable living and have not quite delivered upon. Thus, Half-Orcs also form the backbone of the Daask Syndicate, who are aggressively pushing their way into the criminal underground of the City.
Other Monstrous Many other races have come to Sharn, particularly during the spectacular growth of recent years. While trolls, gnolls, minotaurs, yuan-ti and their kin do not generally get along, here they often manage to form uneasy coalitions for survival in a hostile environment.
Kenku The Kenku are another indigenous species to the region, who have made their home in the urban environment. While generally flightless, in Sharn’s environment they can often manage fluttering jumps and non fatal landings as they hop and climb from tower to tower. Many citizens blame them whenever something goes missing from their apartment, particularly when a balcony window is discovered open. They can also be found in the Depths, scavenging for goods from the refuse, where they are currently in some conflict with displaced Warforged who have nowhere else to go, either. While the majority of tribes nest in the sewers, there is a growing movement of Kenku who have a somewhat symbiotic relationship with the garden-growing Hamadryads of the middle and upper cities.
Hamadryads It has always been true that dirt and grime caught in the folds and crannies of the towers attracts plant life, and many legends have been told about mysterious encounters there. In the years since the Day of Mourning, those have become more frequent and overt. It would seem Hamadryads – living plant creatures of faerie origin – seem to be growing, or appearing there in greater numbers. They have taken to sustaining, growing – and protecting – their little environments. Often, they allow Kenku to nest there – the Kenku bring them new materials to work with, the Hamadryads remain to protect the environment while the Kenku scavenge. In some neighborhoods, this is welcomed, and the residents are pleased to find themselves with peaceful neighbors and a new park. In other neighborhoods, the situation does not work out so amicably.
Tieflings Two groups of Tieflings can be found in Sharn. There is one, fairly small, group of interlinked merchant-scholar-wizard families. They have strong ties to the University, live in upper Menthis and originally hail from Aundair, where they maintain family and commercial ties. During the war, they were severely restricted, and often put under house arrest. However, their loyalty was unfaltering and they have reaped the benefits of that in peacetime. Another group of Tieflings are all recent immigrants from [[Drooam.]] They appear to be of a religious order, and are all men. Whatever gods they worship do not appear to restrain them from aggressively contending for dominance in the street gang wars of lower Dura, though they do not appear to be particularly tied to the Daask.
Dragonborn For as few Dragonborn as there are in the City, they have very high visibility. About a hundred years ago, a Dragonborn adventurer from Q’barra came to Sharn, rich and well scarred from his quests. He retired, helping reinvigorate the Tavick’s Landing adventurer guild. He also told his extended family about the agreeable climate of Sharn (humid and dark) and how they could make a good living there (violence). Thus, Sharn has seen several generations of Dragonborn immigrants, who seem to have made a common practice of joining the Watch or becoming adventureres themselves. In recent years, with the rise of contract security ‘assisting’ Watch patrols in districts that can afford them, the largest non-Deneith firm in Sharn is Ziggurat Security, which is Dragonborn owned and (primarily) staffed.
Each of the 19 major wards of the city send a representative to the City Council (the method of selection varies by ward). The Councilors set city policy, and elect the Lord Mayor, who exercises administrative control.
— The Lord Mayor, Councilors and other characters of power or note are listed on the people-of-sharn page.
Forces of Law
Law enforcement in Sharn is a patchwork of jurisdictional authority.
- The, famously corrupt, sharn-watch is primarily responsible for keeping the peace.
- Several wards have contracted private security to ‘assist’ the watch and enforce local ordinances. House Deneith holds more of those contracts than anybody else.
- The Citadel is empowered to enforce the King’s Law.
- The breland-army has a training facility across the river from Sharn, though generally only a ceremonial role in the City itself.
- The gotg, a task force of the Army and Watch, is concerned with immigration, customs and refugees.
- The redcloak-batallion are a group of Breland’s most elite forces following the Last War. They have been given a tower in the City and are sometimes called in to combat serious threats.
- The Sentinels are a legacy group from old Galifar, before the split. They have questionable authority under the Code of Galifar to prosecute war criminals.
- The Dragonmarked Houses have nominal autonomy over their high ranking members and secure enclaves. They also generally provide security for those locations and services the City contracts them to maintain.
- The Sovereign Host and the Silver Flame have similar autonomy over their high priests and inner sanctums.
- Bounty hunting licenses may be acquired through petitioning the Watch, sponsorship by either adventuring guild, or membership in a Dragonmarked House.
- The Boromar Clan: A halfiing extended family, whose ruthless tactics and wise investments saw them rise to power. In the final decades of the Last War they provided significant assistance to Breland, and have been inducted to the Peerage as a result. They now claim to be entirely legitimate businessmen, though many of their sub families and associated holdings are far from.
- The [[Daask:]] Primarily immigrants from Drooam, their brutal tactics have been greatly successful in harming Boromar assets. The fact that they rarely bother anybody else has inspired some power brokers, who wish to see the Boromar taken down, to prevent a major crackdown on their interests.
- House Tarkanan: Claiming to be a home for magical outcasts, this secretive organization has taken the name of the leader who briefly ruled ancient Sharn, when he unified the resistance against the “Aberrant” purges by what became the Dragonmarked Houses. By rumor, they primarily take assassination contracts against malign wizards, evil cult leaders and corrupt Dragonmarked heirs. However, it is impossible to know if that is truly their only portfolio and many question their tactics.
- Tyrant: The Changeling community in Sharn is widely distrusted and has been historically oppressed. Even now they are subject to registration and scrutiny. It is unsurprising that they would develop an extralegal arm which utilizes their particular skills for more than the traditional bordello purposes. They offer their services to those who desire truly anonymous, untraceable and deniable agents. They’re involved in spying, forgery, false identities, theft and assassination — and defending against such.
- The Emerald Claw: Remnants of the Karrnath’s famed necromantic special forces, they were cast out with the ascension of that counties current king several years before the end of the War. Now, they are famed (in certain circles) as secretive mercenaries who are willing to take any job for the right price and never default on a contract.
- [[Sons & Daughters of Mourning:]] Cyran nationalist group/s.