Knives in the Dark
Layout of Sharn
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, Tavickis 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. 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.
Sharn rises from five distinct plateaus. While each plateau has its own unique feel and personality, you have to remember that the city also rises vertically into the usually cloudeﬁlled sky. So, while the city is divided into horizontal neighborhoods, it is also divided and stratiﬁed vertically.
Take a typical tower block in the Central Plateau. Starting at the uppermost level of the city, Skyway floats above the Central Plateau’s tallest towers that actually touch the ground. The Upper City sees the most light and enjoys the freshest air, and consequently the most well to do members of society live and work among the skybridges and platforms and balconies that extend from the uppermost towers.
Dropping down to the next section, we come to the Middle—City. This part of the city is a bit more enclosed than the section above it, but there are still open-air balconies and platforms here and there. A wide range of middle—class citizens live and work in this region.
Descending farther, we arrive in the Lower-City, where the poor must toil and struggle to survive. Few windows and only the occasional balcony or skybridge can be found among these levels, where the tower foundations grow close together and seem to merge with each other in ways almost unimagined in the higher sections of the city. Beneath the Lower-City, the weight of Sharn’s towers seems to crush all memories of the Depths. Sewer networks fill the upper regions of the Depths before giving way to the ancient ruins and forgotten levels of earlier ages. Passages and shafts are neglected, and many have collapsed over the centuries, but who knows what wonders and horrors roam these vaults that have been abandoned by those living higher in the city.
At the very base of the city, beneath ground level, lies the Cogs, whose great foundries and massive forges fuel Sharnls industrial economy. Shafts and tunnels that bypass the Depths lead directly to the Cogs.
ln all, it’s hard to tell where one vertical section of the city begins and another one ends, and it certainly isn’t a uniform division from one ward to another.
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 ofthe 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.
The city of Sharn is divided into smaller units: quarters, wards, and districts. The smallest unit is a district. Equivalent to a neighborhood. a district has a population ranging from 1,400 people to over 4,000 in the larger districts of Dura. Businesses of similar types tend to cluster in districts, giving each district a particular character as well as a deﬁnite social class (upper, middle, or lower). In general, the most densely populated districts are the lower-class districts. Examples of districts include Highest Towers, the civic center of Sharn, and Dragoneyes, a red light district.
A ward consists of three to nine districts. To an extent, districts of similar type and social class cluster together in wards, though there is some variation in individual wards. The wards of Sharn are grouped vertically as well as horizontally, so there are upper, middle. and lower wards in each area of the city. Upper~class districts tend to be found in upper wards. Examples ofwards include the Upper Central Plateau (known simply as Upper Central), which includes Sharn’s ﬁnancial and civic districts, and Lower Tavick’s Landing, which includes businesses catering to merchants arriving in Sharn by Orien caravan or lightning rail.
Quarters, the largest divisions of the city. generally consist of three wards a piece and are divided based on the actual topography of Sharn’s plateaus. Examples of quarters include the Central Plateau and Tavick’s Landing.
For a complete breakdown see Quarters, Wards and Districts