Sharn (population 200 000 according to the 995YK census, but estimated to include a large number of new and undeclared residents) is one of the oldest and busiest cities on the continent of Khorvaire. It is unique in that it has not grown outward like most, but upward due to its situation on a cliff-face and being a geographical hotspot for flight magic.
Even in other nations, Sharn carries a reputation as being the forefront of wealth, opportunity and culture. Sharn is one of Breland's most cosmopolitan cities and boasts a representative office from each dragonmarked house. Practically everything, legal or illegal, is said to be available and wanted within Sharn's borders, and the city is a nexus for almost every sort of trade.
Sharn can be accessed by sea via ship, by land via lightning rail, or by air, via the airship-servicing facilities that have sprung up in its flight-aiding atmosphere.
Sharn is very much a city of haves and have-nots. Residents' economic levels are reflected in their position in Sharn's literal uptown-downtown hierarchy.
The Skyway does not touch the ground; its buildings literally float hundreds of feet in the air and are connected by well-secured bridges or the choreographed routes of flying sky coaches. Each building in the Skyway costs somewhere in the hundreds of millions of gold pieces, and this price has limited the total construction of this level to exactly twenty-nine extravagantly designed buildings. The slight majority of these constructions are in fact not homes but office buildings; one for each dragonmarked house, a few for the mightiest of corporations and a token government facility. Only the most eye-poppingly rich live at this level; the majority of citizens who spend their days here commute from Upper Sharn.
Upper Sharn exists on the city's skyline, housing the wealthy and important. Every property owner here is a celebrity in their own right, even if only in their own fields. The air is fresh and carries a hint of the smell of the nearby ocean. As well as residences, many large corporations hold their offices here along with the ritziest of restaurants, galleries and other commercial establishments. The mayoral offices are also located in this section, along with the central Watchtower - the lone dark, blocky chunk of goblinoid architecture that exists at this altitude. Most air travel and lightning rail stations service the rich here.
Middle Sharn houses most of the city's affluent middle class. Wealthy commoners and most low-level peons of dragonmarked houses make their homes at this level. Smaller, independent businesses make their place around this level. Although the homes are smaller and the air slightly stuffier than Upper Sharn, this is the economic hotspot of the city. Thousands of entrepeneurs go big or go bust here every year. One lightning rail station exists at this level, and most of the dock's powerful cargo elevators rise right to the loading bays of this area's warehouses.
When outsiders think of Sharn, they think of this. The active nightlife and constantly surging culture for which the city is known takes place on this level. Artists, entertainers, designers and celebrities all make their living here. This, too, is usually the hotspot of corruption many attribute to the city's bureaucratic and Watch services. Crime is typically not violent here, but back-alley assassinations are not unheard of, and the trade of illegal goods is rampant. The richest of gangs exist at this level and throw money at the Watch to keep them looking the other way.
In Lower Sharn, shadows stretch across the ground at any time but high noon. Sky, in any direction but straight up, is obscured by the reaching fingers of towers far above. Lower Sharn exists on the city's ground level; few walkways and bridges exist here except over yawning black chasms into the city's underbelly. This is where the poor live; those that fled from the rural farms to find their fortune, and found nothing. There's a sharp upturn in the proportion of goblinoids, shifters and other "gutteral" races at this level. Most inhabitants are noncitizen squatters, or rent from landlords that themselves save on taxes by not legally owning the property. City bureaucracy shakes its head at the loss of fees and promises to clean out Lower Sharn someday, but knows that it will cost more than it's worth to delve into the quagmire. The air here is filtered down through the meters of settlement above and pools in a miasma of shaded fungi and unwashed bodies. Any exceptions to the squat, goblinoid architecture is ramshackle constructions of cheap wood or scrap materials.
Crime is rampant here. There are few Watchtowers, and their employees are stretched too thin and almost all on the take. Racial gangs vie for control over the slums by means of violence, prostitution or drugs. Visitors from the upper levels or out-of-towners will want to watch themselves for fear of mugging.
Ironically, locals are relatively safe if they keep their heads down. Bodies still bring reprisal, though more often from one of the area's many gangs than from the city Watch. Even so, every once in a while one will find a new corpse in the gutter. Whether due to violence, disease, liver failure or simply giving up hope, this is where the city's unwanted die, unmourned.
Literally underneath Sharn, a honeycomb of tunnels into the rock is inhabited almost entirely by goblinoids. Most are the poorest of even their disenfranchised people, though some are just the sort to prefer their own kind. There are few lights except in the rare caverns used for marketplaces or meeting areas, due to the natural nightvision of goblinoids. Most tunnels are open enough to allow hobgoblins and bugbears (or other medium humanoids), though there is the occasional crawlspace that only goblins can comfortably traverse. Mixed with the everpresent miasma of body odour is the stench of the sewers, which have most access points in this section. The goblinoids exployed by the Sharn council to maintain the sewers have installed doors to close off the tunnels, but few are of airtight quality.
There is a whole other community down here, connected to but separated from the city, which outsiders rarely see. Nongoblinoids that visit this section tend to recieve cold welcomes, and are rarely tolerated for long.