Home to more than 200,000 people, Sharn is a vertical city. Myriad of cultures have made it their home, so architecture and traditions from all over Khorvaire can be found. Most of Sharn’s wealthiest inhabitants live in the upper regions of the city, enjoying the freshest air and least claustrophobic views. If you want a cosmopolitan base of operations with a fresh personality and a whole sourcebook with details about the districts within, NPCs, holidays and a lot more, Sharn is the city for you.
There are countless wonders to describe Sharn in a campaign: the towers reach high into the air, held not only by the most amazing feats of architecture and engineering, but also by magic sustained in its location, which improves flight and levitation. Wealthy districts lay on top, while the most unfortunate and poor have to stay below where the light is a commodity. Floating gondolas and magic elevators provide transportation in a city crowded with the most diverse population anyone can ever find in Khorvaire. Its vertical design is but only one of the many reasons for this class separation: Sharn has a very high crime rate as lucrative illegal markets, explosive secrets and conspiracies are plainly one more way to run business to both criminals and officers.
Every city inspires a wide range of emotions, all the way from love and awe to despair and nostalgia. In Sharn, the verticality, its neverending flock of activity and super varied culture all play part in why it has become the lasrgest city in Khorvaire. Anything can happen here, and that’s exactly why adventurers are always coming, and most of the times, staying.
Sharn makes more than just a fine adventure locale: it is a great place to set a long campaign, and ideal for the first levels of it, before players get the resources to travel far from it to more dangerous locations, such as Xen’drik. Such a campaign will be optimized just by incorporating Eberron’s noir theme, which were inspired by works like “The Maltese Falcon”. The towers of the city create a lot of dim light on the streets and crime all around provide plenty of opportunity for amateur heroes to shine in a not-so-friendly neighborhood urban environment. Running adventures in a big city gives the DM the opportunity to reward players with more than money and treasure: heroes can get renown as stated in the DungeonMaster’s Guide.
What I particularly love about an urban campaign is the almost ingrained intrigue they always feature. Be it as private inquisitives or law-abiding associates, adventurers get the job done with sometimes unorthodox methods, and that can bring adversaries that share their goals but not their moral ambiguity or viceversa. Solving crimes and recovering lost relics full of history are a gate to know the full universe and rich history of Eberron one piece at a time. Keep in mind that in this setting things are rarely what they seem, as many layers of deception wrap mysteries of all kinds, and also villains can be a dark reflection of the heroes, who can relate to them if they imagine themselves pushed to the extreme by the circumstances. In Sharn, more than anywhere else in Khorvaire and beyond, happy endings are bittersweet: every victory comes with a defeat and with the discovery that it was just one into a seeming neverending series of steps.
Sharn: City of Towers
A full sourcebook was published by Wizards of the Coast in Novebmer 2004 with a gorgeous and super cinematic cover painted by the master genius Wayne Reynolds. This book was divided in eight chapters, with the following contents:
- A Visitor’s Guide: The bulk of the first chapter is a general overview of the city, its history and the things you can find and hire, along its religious, secular and sport festivals, including the Race of the Eight Winds, which would have more details in a Keith Baker’s “Dragonshards” article.
- Life in Sharn: Chapter 2 gives us an introduction about the architecture and then we’re all in the rabbit’s hole: every district in Sharn is described along with neighborhoods, and sidebars offer us insight about many of the NPCs that call Sharn their home, including Kessler and Flamewind.
- Power and Politics: No city is free from political intrigue, and this chapter details all the pawns and rooks along the kings and queens of the chess game that is Sharn government.
- Law and Order: The Galifar Code of Justice serves as the contrasting backdrop of possibilities when PCs are the ones breaking the law. Some adventure seeds accompany a list of offenses and their consequences.
- Guilds and Organizations: Adventurers usually get involved with many different groups along their quests, and this city has plenty of them to choose from: arcane circles, criminal rings and dragonmarked houses can be not only interacted with but even joined.
- Heroes and Magic: Every sourcebook in 3.5e included some mechanics for players and DMs, and this one is no exception, bringing some new feats, spells and prestige classes to your table.
- Monsters and Encounters: And just after the presents to players, this chapter brings the gifts to the DM, in the form of new monsters and NPCs, discussing also what kind of creatures live in urban areas.
- A Sharn Campaign: And to end a masterpiece, we have some advice for DMs to get the maximum optimization for their campaigns set in Sharn.
And in addition to this full trove of detailed information, the book included a 9-track CD with original music composed by David P. Davidson for this setting.
The art piece that is shown in this article actually belongs to Ravnica, a setting for the Magic the Gathering game that was published a short time after Eberron, and one that I constantly draw material from for my own campaigns. Have you played a campaign in a big city? In Ravnica or Sharn, maybe? Share your best memories in the comments below, and don’t forget to come back tomorrow for more Eberron as we get to talk about the new races created for the setting in “Fantastic Races and Where to Find Them”.