Every day, a hundred adventures unfold in the City of Towers. Heroes arise and meet their doom; treasures are unearthed, stolen, and recovered; and villains plot unending schemes of wickedness to unleash upon the city.
The city inspires a range of emotions, from awe to disgust. Its architecture and the pervasive magic of flight, the bustling activity of its towers, the tremendous array of cultural, culinary, and commercial delights it offers, and its proximity to the lost continent of Xen'drik draw pilgrims and adventurers from around the world. Its crime rates, the debauchery offered among its many entertainments, the well-known corruption of its leaders, and the very real threat of ancient monsters lurking beneath its sewers provoke fear and censure from moralists and those of less adventurous spirit.
Sharn is the largest city of Khorvaire, though not the most important in its political or economic life. It is, nevertheless, a hotbed of activity, an ideal location to set an adventure or an entire campaign. This book is your guide to the city, written to give life to a campaign set among the towers.
from Chapter 1: A Visitor's Guide to the City of Towers
Sharn, the largest city on the continent of Khorvaire and one of the defining locations of the nation of Breland, looms atop an inhospitable outcropping of rock near the mouth of the Dagger River. The City of Towers rises high into the cloud-filled sky, growing upward within the limited space available on a plateau bounded on the west and south by the Dagger River and its eastern tributary, the Hilt. To the north and east, steep cliffs define the city's boundaries, while deep chasms formed by volcanic action cut the plateau into five distinct regions: Dura on the west, Tavick's Landing on the east, Northedge to the north, and the Central Plateau and Menthis Plateau in the center. Along the Dagger River at the western edge of the city, the neighborhood of Cliffside is built upon and into the steep riverside cliffs. Above the highest towers, the neighborhood of Skyway floats over the city. The city also extends underground, into sewers and long-forgotten ruins, and deeper to the furnaces and foundries of the Cogs.
Sharn sits within a manifest zone linked to Syrania, the Azure Sky (see Chapter 5: Magic in the Eberron Campaign Setting). This manifest zone enhances magic related to flying and levitation, which makes many of Sharn's magical wonders possible. The vast majority of the magic items used within the city to facilitate flight only function because of the manifest zone, and work less well or not at all beyond its boundaries. See Chapter 6: Heroes and Magic for more information about the manifest zone.
Most of Sharn's neighborhoods are vertically stratified. For example, while Menthis Plateau is known as a center of entertainment, the type and quality of entertainment available varies among the different levels of the towers. The upper levels (usually referred to as "Upper Menthis") offer high art in the forms of opera, theater, and symphony, as well as housing Morgrave University and a thriving community of writers and other artists. The middle levels ("Middle Menthis") house a thriving theater district with more affordable shows, a large number of professional minstrels, acrobats, and similar entertainers, and a year-round circus complete with animals. The lower levels ("Lower Menthis") contain a very different sort of theater district marked by burlesque shows, a red light district, and a great number of taverns for cheap and bawdy entertainment.
A long wall rings the Central Plateau at its lowest level, interrupted by towers along its entire length. Inside the wall, structures rise higher and higher toward the tallest towers near the middle, creating a great artificial mountain at the heart of the city. Mostly populated by the upper and middle classes, the Central Plateau houses the seat of the city's government, its wealthiest citizens, and its finest businesses. Embassies from other nations, important representatives of the dragonmarked houses, and banks are found here as well.
Menthis Plateau serves as the entertainment hub of the city, and is home to Morgrave University and a variegated quilt of different races. Certainly the most trendy of Sharn's quarters, Menthis is a popular tourist destination. No walls surround Menthis, though its tallest towers are spread along its outer rim. The enormous dome of Morgrave University, ringed by five tall, slender towers, stands near the center of the plateau.
Northedge, the most residential of Sharn's quarters, contains everything from towertop penthouses in the heights to tightly packed apartments on the lower levels. Aside from a marketplace district near the bottom of the towers, Northedge is a quiet neighborhood with little commerce and little crime.
Dura, the largest quarter in Sharn, covers the great expanse of the western plateau from the cliffs overlooking the Dagger River to the crevasse of the Western Cog. It is also the poorest, excepting the Cogs, with even its topmost levels solidly middle class. Dura mixes various businesses and housing, never approaching a true residential district but holding a number of apartments, tenements, and (near the bottom) slums. The lower levels of Dura include a large population of immigrants from Darguun and Droaam, forming a neighborhood of goblinoids and other monstrous residents.
Cliffside is a neighborhood perched precariously on the side of the cliffs above the Dagger River and Sharn's waterfront. It includes the waterfront businesses far below Dura, as well as towers built up from the cliff face and a shantytown of caves dug into the sides of the southern cliffs overlooking the Hilt. The businesses of Cliffside are either directly related to shipping or cater to boat crews, adventurers, and other transients.
Tavick's Landing, at the eastern edge of the city, is in some ways defined by being the terminus of the Orien lightning rail line and trade road. The lower levels cater to travelers and traders entering Sharn by rail, and include an entire city district that has been converted to provide housing for refugees from the Last War. The middle and upper levels are broader in their purposes, including a variety of trades, services, and residential districts.
Skyway is magically suspended above the city on gigantic disks of force, like Tenser's floating disks taken to a fantastic extreme. These disks are among the many magic items and effects in the city that work only because of the presence of the manifest zone linked to Syrania. Not a cloud palace but an actual extension of the city, Skyway includes some of Sharn's finest inns and restaurants, exotic and upscale trades, and a number of mansions belonging to the very richest citizens.
The Depths is the generic name for everything that lies beneath the city's main plateau, excepting Cliffside and the Cogs far below. The upper levels give way to active and inactive sewers, some of which have their own inhabitants, as well as the mostly forgotten ruins of earlier settlements built long before the towers started to rise. Far below and accessed by well-maintained tunnels and shafts, the Cogs sit at the very base of Sharn and serve as an actively populated center of industry. In fact, the roots of modern Sharn's towers lie underground in some places, buried by the passing of centuries.
The Cogs are the churning heart of the city, full of forges and foundries powered by steaming geysers, molten lava, and bound fire elementals. Extending far below the foundations of Sharn's towers and built along the banks of the great chasms that divide the city, the Cogs incorporate elements of ancient ruins and natural caverns.
What Brings You to Sharn?
The sheer size of the city, the maze of bridges among the towers, and the bewildering array of goods and services available can quickly overwhelm first-time visitors to Sharn. Adventurers usually come to the city with a specific purpose in mind, to get one thing done. Whether it's to sell a magic item or spend an enjoyable evening (and a good portion of the loot from their last adventure) out on the town, adventurers in a hurry need to know where to go to get what they need, or they could spend a lot of time wandering the maze that is the City of Towers.
In Sharn, the saying goes, even the poor eat like kings, and good food is usually readily available. With the exception of purely residential districts, nearly every district in Sharn includes some number of dining establishments, usually at least one in a given tower. Nearly a thousand restaurants in all, not counting street vendors and inns that also serve food, offer an almost endless variety of dining options to natives and visitors alike. Among these many locations, Sharn offers a few unique dining experiences.
Striking views enhance a meal, and for that purpose no restaurant can compete with the dozen or so establishments in Skyway. Of those, perhaps the best known is the Celestial Vista Restaurant, a tourist attraction. In-the-know locals celebrate special occasions at the Cloud Dragon or the Azure Gateway, both of which have views as stunning as the Celestial Vista's, food no less impressive, and generally smaller crowds. All three restaurants in Skyway serve all of their food purified by House Ghallanda.
A very different, but no less striking, view can be had at the Lava Pit, an up-and-coming restaurant in -- of all places -- Tavick's Cogs, in the heart of one of the city's industrial districts. True to its name, the Lava Pit overlooks a gigantic forge powered by molten rock, suffusing the place with lurid red light. The restaurant began as little more than a hole in the wall with an interesting location, serving a variety of barbecued meats in a Shadow Marches style. Its popularity has grown tremendously, allowing the restaurant to improve its facility and expand its menu (though spicy Marches barbecue remains its specialty), making it by far the most upscale establishment of any kind in the Cogs.
For variety of cuisine, no region of the city can match the Menthis Plateau, with its diverse population. Culinary purists argue that the only place to sample halfling cuisine is in Little Plains, and likewise for the other racial neighborhoods in Menthis, but most people agree that the University district in Upper Menthis is the best place to sample the wide variety of cuisines Sharn has to offer. Halfling specialties, gnome delights, elf cuisine, Karr-nathi fare, and even exotic Riedran food are all available in the University district. University students and faculty are fond of dining at the Commons, a large open-air plaza near the top of one of the Morgrave University towers where food vendors bring carts and wagons daily to serve up a smorgasbord of ethnic offerings.
Of course, sometimes the need for quality overshadows spectacular views and culinary variety. A few of the generally acknowledged best restaurants in Sharn include Sannid's in the Platinum Heights district of Upper Central, known for its extensive wine collection; Galdin's Garden in the Seventh Tower district of Upper Menthis, surrounded by a towertop garden featuring roses and orchids; The Oaks in the Shae Lias district of Upper Northedge, serving elf and Brelish cuisine in an elaborate open-air pavilion surrounded by oak trees; and Olladra's Arms in the Hope's Peak district of Upper Dura, notable for its banquet-style seating and generous portions.
Finally, as in many cities across Khorvaire, House Ghallanda offers heroes' feasts in the city as often as demand allows. Ghallanda does not have a major presence in the city. Unlike in some eastern cities where such feasts occur weekly, in Sharn they usually occur no more than once a month, in rotating locations -- in the House enclave in Dragon Towers (in Middle Central), in the huge Ghallanda Hall Inn in the Underlook district of Middle Dura, and in the open-air market in Little Plains (in Middle Menthis).
See also the discussion of dining clubs under Companionship, on page 14.
|Dinner Quality (Example)
||Cost per Person
| Outstanding (Celestial Vista)
|| 75 sp; includes fine wine
| Excellent (Sannid's)
|| 40 sp; includes good wine
| Good (Besimir's Folly)
|| 35 cp; includes common wine or ale
| Common (The Commons)
|| 19 cp; includes ale
| Poor (street vendor)
|| 12 cp; includes watered ale
A city as large as Sharn offers plenty of places to hide (see Hiding, page 21). Consequently, it also supports a sizable number of inquisitives who specialize in finding people who might prefer not to be found, or just people who don't know someone might be looking for them. There is no single district where inquisitives tend to set up shop; any given district can only support so many. Middle-class districts of a certain flavor are the most likely areas to find an inquisitive -- places such as Underlook in Middle Dura, Deathsgate in Middle Tavick's Landing, and Warden Towers in Middle Menthis. The best inquisitives -- particularly when it comes to finding what's lost -- are those associated with the Finders' Guild of House Tharashk. Four Tharashk inquisitives with the lesser Mark of Finding head agencies in different parts of the city: Kurt Karr'Aashta's Investigations in Deathsgate, Information Acquisition in Underlook, Thuranne Velderan's Investigative Services in Warden Towers, and Globe Information Agency in Dragon Towers. The dragonmarked heads of these agencies generally work only on the most important or difficult cases, but their staffs are among the best inquisitives in the business.
Do-it-yourself types who don't want to (or can't) pay an inquisitive have other alternatives, ranging from amateur sleuthing to powerful magic. Gather Information might work to find a specific individual. However, it is usually only possible to learn the whereabouts of a person within a single district -- asking around Highest Towers trying to find someone hiding in Precarious is doomed to failure. If the person sought is located in the same district as the person seeking, a successful check against DC 20 to 30 (depending on how noticeable the character is, how carefully he is hiding, and similar factors) can at least narrow down the hiding person's location. Naturally, spells such as locate creature and know location are the most effective means of finding people.
Hiring an Inquisitive
An inquisitive's rates vary from person to person. In general, they range from 10 sp to 20 sp per day, plus expenses. (This is comparable to the results of a Profession check.) For exceptionally difficult or dangerous cases, inquisitives usually increase their rates by as much as 100% and insist on receiving an advance for several days' work.
An inquisitive who brings magical resources to bear in the course of a case charges typical rates for spellcasting:
|| 60 gp
|| 1,200 gp
|| 280 gp
|| 60 gp
|| 280 gp
*The minimum cost assumes the lowest caster level that allows casting the spell. Higher-level casters produce better results and charge correspondingly more.
Gateway to Xen'drik
Many adventurers come to Sharn solely to get someplace else, using the city as a launching point for an expedition to the ancient ruins and trackless jungles of Xen'drik. Morgrave University and the Wayfinder Foundation both send teams to Xen'drik on a regular basis, and Sharn hosts a thriving antiquities market that provides demand for items recovered from Xen'drik by both official and amateur expeditions.
The Cliffside ward is a good place to find ship captains experienced in the passage to Xen'drik, who have contacts with the sahuagin of Shargon's Teeth and can secure safe passage through those straits. The journey from Sharn to Stormreach is about 1,500 miles and takes a little over a month by sailing ship. The usual cost of passage is about 300 gp. It is sometimes possible to hire an elemental galleon for the journey, which takes only three or four days but costs 3,000 gp. A House Lyrandar sailing ship (without elemental power) can make the trip in 11 days and costs about 1,500 gp. Airships do not normally make the trip from Sharn to Xen'drik.
Stormreach, a rough-and-tumble frontier community where giants often trade in the marketplace, is an essential stopover for most expeditions before proceeding farther into the wilds of Xen'drik.
If a group of adventurers manages to secure employment on an expedition to Xen'drik, they can expect the following terms:
The organizer of the expedition secures letters of marque for the characters.
The organizer usually arranges for transportation to Xen'drik, though this is not always true.
The organizer provides rations and mundane equipment, usually consisting of anything in the "Adventuring Gear" category of goods from Table 7-8 in the Player's Handbook.
The organizer has the right to claim any treasures that the adventurers recover on their expedition, presumably for research purposes or for display in the Dezina Museum. The adventurers may keep or sell any items the organizer does not claim, and the organizer typically offers a guarantee of a minimum amount of gold. This amount is typically ten times the average treasure value for an encounter of the party's average level, as shown on Table 3-3 in the Dungeon Master's Guide, divided by the number of characters in the party. For example, a group of six 3rd-level characters would receive a guarantee of 1,500 gp each, since the average treasure value for a 3rd-level encounter is 900 gp (900 x 10 / 6 = 1,500).
Sometimes an expedition organizer accompanies the characters on the expedition, while other organizers prefer to remain in the relative safety of Sharn. When the organizer accompanies the expedition, it is assumed that the adventurers give highest priority to protecting the organizer's life.
As the gateway to Xen'drik, Sharn has a number of residents who sell their services to adventurers and prospectors planning expeditions to that mysterious continent. As with investigators, House Tharashk dominates this field, making use of their magical dragonmark abilities (know direction and find the path) as well as their extensive, if more mundane, skills and experiences. The House's grand hall in Dragon Towers is its most prominent public face, but better deals and sometimes better guides can be found in their enclave in Clifftop (in Upper Dura).
Sometimes visitors to Sharn need guides within the city itself. City guides are easy to find: they usually cluster around arriving Orien lightning rail coaches, airships, and river vessels, hoping to solicit business from newly arrived visitors. These guides -- often very young individuals -- are inexpensive and tend to highlight the great tourist attractions of the city, which is sufficient for many visitors' purposes.
City guides of a different caliber can be found in Ambassador Towers. Most of the escort services in this district emphasize companions who are knowledgeable about the city and its attractions as well as being enjoyable company in other ways (see Companionship, page 14).