Friday, September 7, 2018

Let's Read Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron: Sharn, the City of Towers

Where the previous chapters of Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron gave a broad-strokes overview of the setting as a whole, the last full chapter focuses on a specific section of the world: Sharn, the City of Towers. Sharn is the Big City of Eberron; in many ways, Sharn is emblematic of the setting overall. Before digging into the metropolis, the chapter takes a look at the player character backgrounds presented in the Player's Handbook and offers suggestions on integrating them into Sharn. Unfortunately, each background only gets a meager d4 random table of Sharn-centric origins.

Sharn, as its "City of Towers" sobriquet indicates, is a city constructed from fantastically tall spires. The city's verticality is more important than its horizontal urban spread; the city's populace is stratified according to the height of the city they inhabit. The wealthy live in the highest heights of the city--this is where you find opulence, and where the City Watch is very active in suppressing crime. The middle heights are inhabited by middle-class citizens--and their shops, business, entertainments, and homes, as well as a City Watch presence that generally keeps the peace. The lower depths of the city house a mix of laborers, the destitute, and war refugees--this is the most dangerous part of the city, where the Watch doesn't dare intervene. These divisions are generalizations; the facts of city life vary a bit neighborhood by neighborhood.

Since Sharn is such a vertical city, traversing it entails walking across bridges and ramps, as well as magical lifts and gondola-like skycoaches that take advantage of Sharn's naturally occurring flight-enabling magic. Flying mounts are also a common sight within the city.

Next comes brief descriptions--complete with adventure seeds--of Sharn's districts:

  • Central Plateau, where wealth and power congregate.
  • Dura Quarter, the oldest section of the city, now fallen into ruin, poverty, and misery.
  • Menthis Plateau, the entertainment quarter, also home to Breland's most prominent university.
  • Northedge Quarter, a quiet residential area.
  • Tavick's Landing Quarter, a place of coming and going.

Aside from the five districts of the city, it also has Cliffside docks, an enchanted ward called Skyway that floats above the city, the ruins of a previous city beneath the streets, and tunnels that lead to magma used for industrial production in the Cogs.

Beyond describing the city through its constituent parts, this chapter also has information on the practical matters of using the city as a whole, such as yearly events that characters could get mixed up in, communication in the city (letter boxes, gargoyle delivery service!!!), and what happens when you fall from one of Sharn's many bridges (you probably land on another bridge, and some of them are imbued with a feather fall effect).

Given the murderhobo proclivities of adventurers, we also have a section on criminal activities in Sharn, including information on the Boromar Clan (a halfling criminal syndicate), Daask (a criminal organization of monsters within the lower parts of the city), House Tarkanan (thieves and assassins possessing aberrant dragonmarks), and the Tyrants (changeling and doppelganger blackmailers and forgers). We also get information on dreamlily, an addictive drug that adds a nice grotty sheen to the Weimar-esque decadence of Sharn.

Capping this section of the pdf off are a set of "starting points," places you might start a new campaign set in Sharn. Included are notes on:

  • Callestan, dark Western-esque adventure in the lower wards of the city.
  • Clifftop, pulp adventure with possible jaunts to uncharted lands.
  • Morgrave University, light-hearted, Harry Potter-esque coming of age adventures.

We also get random tables for quick adventure outlines, encounters on the streets of Sharn, suggestions for further reading among Eberron's back catalog of gaming materials and novels, a glossary of proper names used throughout the document (that is very helpful as a setting reference), images of the crests of all the dragonmarked houses, and full color maps of the setting.

Full review, section by section
Chapter One: What is Eberron?
Chapter Two: Welcome to Khorvaire
Chapter Three: Races of Eberron

Chapters Four and Five: Dragonmarks and Magic Items