Excerpts 11/05/2004

Sharn: City of Towers
By Keith Baker and James Wyatt

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 5: Guilds and Organizations

The Circle of Song

Bards have much to gain from the company of other bards. When bards come together, they can exchange news, stories, and songs, expanding their repertoires and base of knowledge.

The Circle of Song is an informal organization that can be found across Khorvaire. In principle it is open to all bards, but a bard who commits a crime against a fellow bard may be judged and expelled from the Circle. Outposts of the Circle are hidden in most major cities and many smaller communities; these are usually taverns or inns, with concealed areas accessible only to members of the Circle. The locations of these outposts and the passwords required to gain access to them are passed around the bardic community, often cleverly concealed in popular songs. Locating the nearest outpost of the Circle requires a Bardic Knowledge check with a DC of 15; if this roll fails, the bard hasn't heard of the local outpost.

The Circle does not have any sort of official dues, but bards can expect to make some sort of donation to the local outpost when they make use of its services; this could range from a single copper to a platinum piece or even a valuable gem if fortune has smiled on the bard. The bards look out for those who maintain the Circle, and in exchange the Circle looks out for the bards.

The Circle provides bards with the following benefits:

* A Circle outpost always provides food and shelter for a bard. This may not be comfortable living -- a bowl of gruel and a blanket on the floor -- but it will stave off storm and starvation. The bard is usually expected to perform for other guests at the outpost (usually the regular customers of the inn or tavern); this serves to prove that the bard truly is a member of the Circle and not a poseur.

* Bards exchange stories and news, and an outpost usually has a small library tucked away. A bard receives a +2 circumstance bonus on any bardic knowledge, Gather Information, or Knowledge check he makes at the outpost.

* Finally, bards are often willing to exchange minor favors: gathering information, creating a distraction, ridiculing a particular noble. Few bards will agree to perform a favor that places them in danger, and bards always expect to have favors repaid in kind (which can form a good basis for an adventure).

* Bards are expected to put aside all personal differences while in a Circle outpost. Mortal enemies can meet and discuss past battles over drinks. Breaking this code of conduct results in immediate blacklisting.

All bards are welcome in the Circle of Song, but not all bards are members; it is up to the DM to decide whether a particular bard has heard of the organization. Likewise, it may be that a PC bard has yet to encounter the Circle and must be inducted by an existing member.

In Sharn, the local outpost of the Circle of Song is located in The Golden Horn, an inn in the University District of Upper Menthis.

Organized Crime

There are four major criminal organizations in Sharn: The Boromar Clan, Daask, House Tarkanan, and the Tyrants.

Joining Up

Any rogue who wishes to actively pursue a criminal career in Sharn needs to forge an alliance with one of these organizations. The Boromar Clan allows thieves to operate independently in exchange for a weekly tribute of 10% of their earnings; each district has a Boromar observer who keeps an eye on the locals and manages collections. An independent thief who refuses to work with the Boromars must deal with Boromar bullies and muggers, which can make life very unpleasant -- and possibly, very short.

On the other end, a character can become an active member of one of these organizations. Typically, dues are 15% of the character's criminal earnings or 1 gp/week, whichever is higher.
In exchange, the character gets access to the resources of the guild; these vary based on the group, and are outlined below. The character is also protected from other members of his guild -- a Boromar thief won't pick the pocket of another Boromar thief. On the other hand, once a character takes sides he also makes powerful enemies; a character who joins the Boromars makes an enemy of Daask, and vice versa.

Normally, a character is left to his own devices. However, a character who shows particular potential may be asked to perform special services on behalf of the guild. In exchange, he receives gold and the ability to call in favors from the guild.

The advantages each guild can provide its members are described below.

Sample Criminal Organization: The Boromar Clan

The Boromar Clan is the most powerful criminal organization in Sharn. From a humble start as a gang of smugglers and thieves, the Boromars have risen to become one of the most influential forces in the city. The Boromars have a stranglehold on the smuggling trade and own the majority of the gambling halls in the city. Most of the fences and thieves in Sharn either work directly for the Boromars or pay tribute in exchange for independence. They control a vast network of extortion, blackmail, and graft that extends from the slums of Lower Dura to the heights of Skyway, with its headquarters in the halfling district of Little Plains (in Middle Menthis). But their influence reaches far beyond the criminal underworld. The early Boromar patriarchs invested wisely over the centuries, and today the Boromars are one of the Sixty families of Sharn. The Boromar Clan owns many of the warehouses in Precarious and Cogsedge. It owns taverns and inns throughout the city, and has a considerable interest in the shipping trade. A Boromar heir sits on the city council of Sharn, and the current patriarch is a member of the Gold Concord of the Aurum.

While the Sharn Watch is well aware of the criminal enterprises of the Boromar Clan, the Watch rarely interferes with Boromar activities. The Boromars have been bribing Watch captains for generations, and this is largely taken for granted. Those councilors and Watch captains that have chosen to fight the Boromars have always suffered swift and mysterious deaths, and the lesson has not gone unheeded. In addition, if the Boromar Clan collapsed, the underworld would erupt in anarchy as dozens of petty crime lords fought for territory and position. As much as many of the councilors would like to see the Boromar Clan destroyed, it simply hasn't been an option -- until now.

Over the past two years, the Droaamite organization known as Daask has been launching raids against Boromar holdings. These attacks have been becoming bolder and more frequent with each passing month, and the monsters are also beginning to muscle in on many activities traditionally controlled by the Boromars. The Boromar Clan is hampered by its size; Daask is a mobile organization using guerilla tactics, and the Boromars can't afford sufficient security to cover all of their operations. The Boromars have many enemies on the city council who are happy to see them cut down to size, and these opponents have prevented the resources of the Sharn Watch from being deployed against Daask.

The Boromar Clan is a massive organization, and it will not fall overnight. But for centuries, it has been resting on its reputation of omnipotence -- and this reputation is quickly being shattered. Even if Daask were destroyed tomorrow, the long-term damage would still haunt the Boromars for years to come. Saidan Boromar needs to find a way to counter Daask, and he needs to do it soon. A group of mercenary adventurers might prove far more effective than the soldiers Saidan usually hires for muscle work -- but does the party really want to help the Boromar Clan?

Prominent NPCs

The Boromar Clan employs people of all races, but the inner circle of the organization is comprised of halflings: 108 in all, including 32 members of the actual Boromar family. The current patriarch of the family is Saidan Boromar (NE male halfling rogue 8). Saidan learned his trade on the streets of Lower Dura, and he has a quick tongue, silent feet, and a swift hand with a knife. Saidan and his wife Mala can usually be found at the Tain Gala. Mala Boromar d'Jorasco (N female halfling expert 4) is an unmarked heir of House Jorasco, and her marriage to Saidan has formed important ties between the crime lord and the healers of Sharn. Jorasco healers help Boromar halflings free of charge, with the expectation that Saidan will reimburse them for their efforts; this emergency assistance has saved the lives of many Boromars ambushed and left for dead by Daask brigands.

Councilor Ilyra Boromar (NE female halfling rogue 3/expert 3) is the eldest daughter of Mala and Saidan. Her position on the city council has been invaluable in the past, but now her influence is slipping away.

Castar (NE male gnome diviner 3/expert 3) is the intelligence expert of the Boromar Clan and Saidan's chief adviser. Saidan expects Castar to come up with a solution to the problem of Daask, and the gnome may find himself at the bottom of the Dagger River if he doesn't come up with an idea soon.

Halak Boromar (NE male halfling barbarian 2/rogue 3) is the family's chief enforcer. The Boromar Clan still exists in the Talenta Plains, and Halak is a recent immigrant. As a result, he has more of a taste for blood than his city-bred kinfolk, and he likes nothing better than tracking and killing Daask goblins and gnolls. He is illiterate and not the brightest halfling at the best of times, but he is quick, strong, and surprisingly deadly. Halak commands the Clawfoots, the family's personal guard; there are 15 Clawfoot warriors, all of whom are halfling barbarian 1/rogue 1 characters.

Most of the 260 core members of the Boromar Clan are bookkeepers, administrators, or thieves. A typical Boromar agent is a 2nd- or 3rd-level expert or rogue, though there are a handful of specialists of 4th or 5th level. The Boromar Clan maintains a force of 30 burglars and cutpurses, but it specializes in intimidation, deception, smuggling, and similar trades; Boromar experts are more likely to have Charisma-based skills than Move Silently or Sleight of Hand. When it comes to physical violence, Saidan usually hires members of the Sharn Guard or employs the services of House Tar-kanan. The Clawfoots are called in on rare occasions, but primarily defend the Boromar holdings in Little Plains.

Boromar Pickpocket: Halfling rogue 3; CR 3; Small humanoid; HD 3d6+3; hp 16; Init +3; Spd 20 ft.; AC 20, touch 14, flat-footed 17; Base Atk +2; Grp -2; Atk or Full Atk +7 melee (1d4/19-20, masterwork short sword); SA sneak attack +2d6; SQ evasion, trap sense +1, trapfinding; AL N; SV Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +2; Str 10, Dex 17, Con 13, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 8.

Skills and Feats: Balance +4, Bluff +5, Climb +1, Diplomacy +3, Escape Artist +8, Gather Information +5, Hide +12, Intimidate +1, Jump +3, Listen +2, Move Silently +10, Sense Motive +6, Sleight of Hand +12, Spot +6, Tumble +10, Use Rope +3; Skill Focus (Sleight of Hand), Weapon Finesse.

Languages: Common, Halfling.

Evasion (Ex): If a Boromar pickpocket is exposed to any effect that normally allows him to attempt a Reflex saving throw for half damage, he takes no damage with a successful saving throw.

Trapfinding: A Boromar pickpocket can find, disarm, or bypass traps with a DC of 20 or higher. He can use the Search skill to find, and the Disable Device skill to disarm, magic traps (DC 25 + the level of the spell used to create it). If his Disable Device result exceeds the trap's DC by 10 or more, he discovers how to bypass the trap without triggering or disarming it.

Possessions:+1 chain shirt, masterwork short sword, potion of blur, potion of invisibility, potion of spider climb.

Joining the Boromar Clan

To join the Boromar Clan, a character must be sponsored by a current member in good standing. A member of the Boromar family interviews the character, probing to find out what he has to offer the Boromars and what risks he may pose. Halflings generally have an easy time joining the Boromars; other characters may have to serve a probationary period or perform a simple service on behalf of the Boromars to prove their talents.

Membership Benefits: The Boromar Clan has a great deal of political and economic power in Sharn. As a member of the Boromars, the character can get a 5% discount on any sort of goods or services he wishes to acquire, as long as he's willing to use a vendor with ties to the Boromar Clan. Halfling members of the Boromars receive a 10% discount at Jorasco houses of healing.

The Boromar Clan has safe houses across the city, and a member can always find a safe place to sleep, even if it is a flophouse. Other advantages include the ability to fence goods at no cost, to take out loans at 10% interest/week, and to arrange burglaries for 15% of the standard cost. The character can expend a favor to have minor criminal charges dismissed; many members of the Sharn Watch are in the pay of the Boromar Clan, and are willing to overlook a minor offense. Finally, a favor can be used to request an audience with one of the city councilors with ties to the Boromars, although this does not carry any promise of assistance.

While membership in the Boromar Clan offers many advantages, the character earns the enmity of Daask, and the monsters will go out of their way to harm an up-and-coming Boromar agent.

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