Go to Arcane Magics      Go to Epic Mysteries   Maldin's GreyhawkGo to Game Mechanics     Go to Greyhawk Locations

The Irongate Project


The City of Irongate

by Denis Tetreault
Version 2.0


The Free City of Irongate, often known as "The City of Stairs", lies on the northeast coast of the Azure Sea, on a narrow isthmus of land between Onnwal and the United Kingdom of Ahlissa. For regional-scale maps and a description of the greater Irongate area, go to the Irongate Region page. The City of Irongate holds an unusually large percentage of the  regional population of 71,000, containing fully 51,400. Humans make up approximately 83% of the population, with the remainder consisting of hill dwarves (15%), halflings (1%), and other races (1%).  The human population is mostly of oeridian descent, with some suel presence. Languages spoken include Common, Dwarven, Oeridian, Suel, and Ferral (as a military command language).

The local government is headed by the Lord Mayor, elected by city council for a 10-year term. The current mayor is Cobb Darg, an enigmatic man described in more detail within Dragon Issue#351 (2007), now serving his 5th term in office. The city council consists of old nobles, merchants, clerics, and military heads. For a detailed history of Irongate, see the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (2000) pages 55 to 58. The city coinage consists of the dragoneye (gp), starry (sp) and common (cp).

Religions commonly practised in the region include Heironeous, Zilchus, Procan, Osprem, Xerbo, Norebo, Fortubo, Jascar, and Lendor. The dwarf pantheon is worshipped by the local dwarves, as well as some humans (particularly miners).

The exact strength of Irongate's military forces is a closely kept state secret, but its approximate make-up in CY 579 is known. Forces are likely  stronger now considering the state of the world politics today. At the time, the Free City's forces stood roughly as: 200 light cavalry (scouts), 1,000 regular infantry (marines), 2,000 levied infantry (at ready), 2,000 light infantry (borderers and hillmen), and 1,000 armored crossbowmen.


The Local Area


Above is a view of the mouth of the Levasslar on Samryn Bay. The City of Irongate stands on a large asymmetrical hill within the valley with the river meandering around to the east. The east side of the hill has a steep cliff face, while the west side has a more gentle slope down to the surrounding valley floor. The outskirts of the city extend outside the walls to the north. The yellow hatched areas on the map are farmed land. The cliff faces are between 100-150 feet high, with hill elevations increasing inland.

This map is preliminary, and was meant for discussion. The details of the map may change with time as the setting evolves, and as we get input from the online community. In fact, it has changed several times already. More recently, the idea of a separate dwarven city in the eastern cliff has been abandoned in favor of an extensive underground dwarven quarter beneath Irongate proper. Consider the "Dwarven City" entrance marked on this map as yet another one of the many old mine entrances.

The central hill Irongate is built upon is the erosional remnant of a large (and very ancient) volcanic intrusion (see the Geology of Irongate). As it was more resistive, the Lavasslar was deflected around it, creating an isolated, easily defensible highland area.


The City of Irongate

Below is a preliminary map of the City of Irongate showing major street patterns, but should not be taken as a "final" map of the actual city layout. Changes are planned as we detail individual sections (for example, see the Irongate Dock Quarter page). As well, the City of Irongate does not have strictly defined "quarters" like some cities. However, there are higher densities of certain types of business in some areas, so use the "Quarter" labels for general feel and not as a hard-and-fast rule. By hovering your mouse over different features, the pop-up labels should appear. If you do not see these, or see no map at all, it may be because you have an old browser that is not java-capable. I would suggest downloading a newer version of Netscape, Firefox or Internet Explorer. A direct link to the rough map is here: City of Irongate sketch map. If you still have problems, email me (Denis, aka "Maldin", email address on my website's main page).



  It's a real shame you can't see this, because it is REALLY cool! You need to install a Java-capable browser.



Inside the City Walls

The Cidereal Citadel is originally of Aerdi construction, however it is believed that it was constructed on the remains of a more ancient Suel fortification. The old cellars certainly hide many secrets, however getting into the fortress would be a rather difficult feat. Rumors of ancient sealed passages deep below the surface, some older then recorded history, rumors denied by the authorities, continue to circulate.

A massive edifice usually referred to simply as "The Tower" is a rather formidable fortification in its own right, and is located at the southwestern corner of the city, providing defense for the west side of the harbor. More formally known as the Tower of Docan, it is named after it's original designer, General B'Brog Docan, a military genius who commanded Irongate's military several hundred years ago. Today it is headquarters to one of the most decorated units in the Irongate armed forces, as well as several other military units. The 3rd Tower Company consists of 120 armored crossbowmen. Their skill and deadly efficiency is the stuff of legends. In game terms, range increment (when determining attack bonuses and penalties) are increased by 30%, and standard bolt damages at point-blank ranges are doubled. Depending on game edition, assume all appropriate skills/feats, with no soldiers below 5th level. Heroic stories of the actions of this Company span nearly every major battle in  Irongate's long history since Docan's day. Despite their relatively small numbers with respect to the total Irongate military force, they were a major influence in the Battle of a Thousand Banners; not up on the city walls where many of the missile troops were, but at the front lines on the field of battle. Not only are they deadly accurate with crossbows, but these troops are also highly skilled at hand-to-hand combat with shortswords. The offer of a commission into this squadron is considered the ultimate achievement in the military careers of hardened, experienced soldiers. The 3rd Tower Company is led by one of the most experienced, decorated, and legendary officers in Irongate's military, Captain Drad "Dead Eye" Skran.

Irongate has three major city gates. The "Mine Gate" or "West Gate", "Valley Gate" or "North Gate", and "Dwarven Gate" or "East Gate". The Great Staircase is a spectacular stone construction that rises 100 ft in a 200 ft distance up the cliff face to the city's Dwarven Gate. The staircase was built by dwarves as a gift from the dwarven clans of the Iron Hills to the City of Irongate. It is constructed completely of white marble imported from various locations around the Iron Hills, representing the several clans that contributed to the making of this generous gift. The Great Staircase is truly one of the architectural marvels of the eastern Flanaess, and never fails to awe all travellers rounding the Coast Road as they approach the city from the east.

The "city quarters" listed as follows are not strictly defined regions as there is much mixing of businesses throughout the city. There are unofficial regions, however, with higher-than-normal concentrations of certain types of establishment. These areas should not be taken as strict descriptions of an official "quarter" in the sense that many such cities normal have.

The High Quarter contains many of the large manor houses of Irongate's wealthiest merchant families. Also here are some of the city's temples and embassies. Occupying the location of the original Aerdi city, most of the original constructions (mainly wooden) were torn down to make room for the manors as the rest of the city expanded to the west and north. A handful of these buildings were preserved and converted to new purposes. Periodically new constructions expose long forgotten cellars. 

The Forge Quarter houses many of the human-run smelters and forges within the city, however much of the activity of this type (both human and dwarven) is actually beneath the surface of the city, where a virtual city has been hollowed out of the rock (see Beneath the City of Stairs, below). The city was often referred to as the "Overking's Armory" when still under the Great Kingdom's control. The weaponsmiths of Irongate in particular are regarded as the best in the Flanaess. "Forged in Irongate" is a phrase that is often synonymous with "unbreakable". The smelting of high-quality iron from the locally mined iron ore has been a major industry for the local dwarves for hundreds of years, and this has attracted the best craftsmen, human and dwarven, to the area as well.

The Merchants' Quarter contains the homes and shops of Irongate's middleclass... the merchants, craftsmen, and laborers of the city. The wealth generated by Irongate's smelting and forge industries, and the relative lack of other industries, has attracted merchants of all types selling goods from all corners of the Flanaess. Because of the lack of agricultural-based productivity, much of the city's needs must be imported. This, combined with its key location along major trade routes, has made Irongate a major hub of trade flowing between the Sea of Gearnat and the western shores of the Azure Sea to points in the Aerdi interior, Ahlissan provinces and other eastern destinations. Most major merchant organizations have representation here, some calling Irongate "headquarters".

The Academic Quarter contains the various educational institutions, several guildhalls, many temples, and clerk-type businesses. The Tower of Daern houses the Artificers Union of Irongate (see Dragon Magazine Issue 351 for more information) and the guild-supported wizard's college. The Union is Irongate's guild of wizards and sorcerers. Elayne Mystica (see Dragon Issue 139) is one of three archmages that lead the guild.

The Low Quarter is pretty much what you would expect in a city of Irongate's size. A rough place, it is home to Irongate's poorer citizens, and is often the scene of various nefarious activities. Hushed rumors of hidden evil temples, greedy and corrupt politicians, ruthless crime bosses, and skulking foreign spies abound, as one would expect in a city as large as Irongate, and with such an important role in both international trade and politics.

Within the city are four large plazas or squares, and many smaller ones. The High Market is where local and regional merchants set up booths to sell good quality merchandise. The Low Market is a much seedier location, where the odds between getting a good bargain on low priced products or getting robbed or ripped off are about even money. The Traders' Market is the only location where visiting merchants (arriving either by caravan or ship) are allowed to set up booths and hawk their wares. The City Square is not a market, but the center of political and cultural activity. Festivals and holidays are celebrated here. When the city declared independence, the new City Hall was built outside of the old Aerdi interior city walls, facing the main gate (of the time), as a symbol of freedom from oppression. The City Hall's bell tower is the tallest structure in the city, just barely surpassing (by design) the Citadel. Ringing the square are government buildings, the Merchant and Traders' guildhall, and offices for most of the major merchant and trading organizations. 

Beneath the City of Stairs

Much of Irongate is not visible at ground level. Often referred to as the "City of Stairs", not only because of the many stairs scaling the irregularities of the hillside that Irongate is built upon, the city actually extends far underground. A multileveled city that reaches down into the earth, much as a modern city reaches up towards the sky. One can traverse most of the city without stepping above ground, visiting shops and smithies lining a complex network of passageways and stairs. Above ground, a plentitude of smoking chimneys hint at the scope of industrious activity going on below the relatively quiet buildings on the surface. 

The extensive passageways and stairs beneath the city reach twice a far down as the upper city reaches up into the sky. While some high-traffic areas are well-lit, Irongate's undercity is typically dimly lit by strategically located light sources with a dull red glow. Most passageway intersections in Irongate’s undercity have hanging on one or more walls as a ubiquitous symbol of the city. A large shield, painted with the city’s coat of arms and enchanted with a dim illumination, with two crossed weapons behind it: a longsword, representing the humans of the city, and a battleaxe, representing the dwarves. Most of these items are quite old, sometimes quite corroded, and are coated with the grime built up over decades and centuries of torch and forge fires. Some date back to the founding of the city, and some are quite new (periodically new ones are put up to replace those lost or stolen over the years). Fewer are to be found deeper in the undercity as those tend not to be replaced. Their original purpose was not only to display the city’s symbol, but also to provide minimal light, as well as symbolic (and functional) weapons to the populace in the event that Irongate was attacked by its enemies. Citizens see so many of these functional symbols all of their lives that they are barely aware of their presence, hence the reason why any remain on the walls at all, although city ordinances do punish those who would attempt to steal the highly recognizable items. All of these symbols radiate magic, because of the light-emitting dweomer they possess. The dull red light is dim enough that it does not interfere with infravision, yet is bright enough to allow humans with dark-adapted eyes (that is, someone who has avoided bright lights for at least 10 rounds) to easily find their way around the passages. Some of the shields and weapons are actually of masterwork quality, although anyone would be hard-pressed to tell that through the centuries of grime. There is a rumor of a particular shield that once belonged to one of Irongate’s great historical military heroes, Nayr Goahil, being incorporated into one of these symbols upon his death. The rumor is true, however the shield hangs on a wall in one of the deepest sections of the undercity, once a vibrant forge centuries ago, and now long-overrun by undead (mostly swordwraiths). The Shield of Goahil is a shield +3, grants a +2 will modifier to all allies within 20 feet during combat, and a +2 charisma bonus for the wielder when interacting with dwarves.

Deep below Irongate, deeper then most ever venture, is believed to be found a pair of portals known as the Deep Doors (see Dragon Magazine Issue 351 for details) that connect Irongate's undercity to the underdark of the region, and perhaps beyond. Most citizens never venture this far, so many consider such stories as unfounded rumor. Others claim to have passed through the legendary, massive, adamantine-sheathed doors.

Few individuals know the tunnels beneath Irongate as well as Tuaren Leedstit (Exp 9, male gnome, NG, pick +3, see Dragon Issue 351), world-renown geologist and sage. Individuals from across the Flanaess, and sometimes beyond, often seek out Tuaren for his unmatched knowledge of Oerth materials, both "mundane" (gold, platinum, mithral, adamantite) and wondrous (oerthblood, dweornite, and more; see Dragon Issue 351 for more information on oerthblood). One of Tuaren’s most recent discoveries, deep in an abandoned mine beneath Irongate, is a bluish, faintly magical, quicksilver like material he has tentatively called illuminite. The material glows brightly for several minutes after it is hit with a hammer and Tuaren has hopes that it may prove to be a useful arcane component. After taking his first sample he was forced to abandon his discovery when he heard large creatures approaching, and is anxious to return with the help of adventurers.

In 591 CY, Dwur miners discovered 2 sixteen foot high tablets in Irongate's immense undercity. Referred to now as the Khul-Ak tableaux they are thought to reveal significant information about the lands surrounding the free city in ancient times. The script has defied all attempts to decipher it. Bigby has referred to the text as "unfathomably alien."

Outside the City Walls

The Dock Quarter is the hub of import/export activity. Irongate's formidable and legendary naval forces are docked closest to the Citadel. Standing on a large platform next to the ocean in the middle of the quarter is the Colossus of Irongate.  For more information about the Dock Quarter and the Colossus of Irongate, visit the Dock Quarter page. The city's naval forces have a headquarters and barracks here on the eastern side, as well as several dedicated docks where their ships are anchored, of course..

Harborkeep is a modest fortress built on a rocky island in the bay, providing important defensive capabilities to the harbor of Irongate. It figured prominently in repelling the blockade imposed by the Scarlet Brotherhood. It is believed that a tunnel beneath the harbor connects it directly to the Citadel on the mainland, enabling it to be continually provisioned and manned without the need of dangerous boat trips. An immense catapult on the battle-roof (reputedly of a magical nature) covers almost the entire harbor with its deadly reach.

Scumtown (a derogatory nickname for this "quarter") is a place of poor, unfortunate souls, trying to scrape out a life among the cluster of buildings nestled between the mine-waste dumps, rotting fish of its ramshackle wharfs, and the stinking swamp that separates them physically (and figuratively) from the city proper. Anyone willing to listen to an elderly, senile prospector in any of the less-then-luxurious taverns in Scumtown can hear stories of lost mines and fantastic creatures. Scumtown is a great locale for low level adventures, particularly in the small marsh between Scumtown and the Irongate city walls. Within the marsh, there are any number of low-to-mid level beasties, continually requiring "pest control" efforts. Any serious problems tend to quickly attract the attention of the authorities or higher level adventurers.

The stretch of land, river, and road sandwiched between the City of Irongate's highly elevated eastern wall and the valley's eastern cliffs are a strategic killing zone and has been the site of famous battles, including the Battle of a Thousand Banners. In this area there are monuments, as well as lost buried dead, equipment, and other artifacts of war.

The Hobloggers of Irongate, a clan of halflings that specialize in logging the tops of the rugged steep-sided hills in the region (see photo on the Geology of Irongate page), have their guildhall just to the northwest of the Valley Gate. Most of the easily reachable trees within the valleys have been removed for miles around the city, so their services are quite important. The guild has developed specialized portable cable equipment for efficiently getting large logs down the steep cliffs and onto the valley floor for transport to the city. The wood is in much demand for construction, ship repairs, and, most importantly, charcoal production to feed the forges. See the Irongate Region page for more information about the Hobloggers' Guild.



  site map

   Visit my active site map to see the entire website at-a-glance, find out whats new, and instantly jump there with just a click.


Return to the Irongate Project Main Page
Return to the Greyhawk Locations Page
Return to my main Greyhawk Page


This page last modified on October 9, 2018