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The Irongate Project

The City of Irongate

The Irongate Region

Version 1.1
by Denis Tetreault


The City of Irongate lies in a somewhat sheltered bay on the eastern Azure Sea on the southern coast  of a wide isthmus that connects the Iron Hills region between the South Province and Idee with the Dragonshead Peninsula and Onnwal. Most of the isthmus and the eastern reaches of Onnwal are covered by the rugged hills of the Headlands. The city itself sits on a large central hill in the mouth of a narrow valley that cuts north-south across the isthmus. The local climate is generally warm and almost sub-tropical most of the year, with the Azure Sea moderating any extremes in temperature. The following chart summarizes the average daytime temperature and precipitation for the region.

Average Temp
(% chance)
55/13 15%
58/14 18%
60/16 22%
Low Summer
70/21 30%
Low Summer 75/24 45%
Low Summer 80/26 55%
High Summer
85/30 65%
High Summer 80/26 65%
High Summer 75/24 50%
70/21 30%
65/18 20%
Winter 57/13 18%


Above is an early IGP map of the Irongate region (created by Gary Holian), delineating the "Domain of Irongate", the approximate area over which Irongate's influence is dominant. The names "Bronzegate" and "Ideegate" were only placeholder names when this map was created. Though we did become quite fond of "Bronzegate", eventually we settled on Northanchor for the northern port city. This is the name that we adopted in the description of the Irongate region published in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (2000) and later included on the 4 part map of the Flanaess published in Dungeon Magazine in 2005.

Below is an updated map of the greater Irongate region. There are no clear borders demarcating the limits of Irongate's influence, as much of the region is truly wild and unpopulated, although there are "claims" of real estate roughly outlined in the above map. While there are many small communities, they are almost exclusively concentrated along the only roads through the region (see the political geography map below). Indeed, much of the area is virtually impassable by normal means. See the Geology of Irongate page for more detail about the type of topography and geology found in the area.

The Irongate Region

Both Irongate and Onnwal claim regions larger than their practical influence extends, regions that in fact overlap significantly, however neither maintain military or civilian presence in these regions so there is no real conflict over these claims. Both parties have an unspoken agreement that neither could actually hold or occupy these wild regions, nor would they really want to anyways, so the differing maps have never resulted in conflict. The same could be said of the "border" between the Domain of Irongate, and the Dwur kingdoms of the Iron Hills. The dwarves really have no interest in the details of political borders. The land is just the land, and you live where your home is. For practical purposes, Irongate's influence extends to the west for approximately a days march, and to the east up to the Ahlissan Road that cuts roughly northeast through the Iron Hills. East of that, the dwarven kingdom holds sway.

The Physical Geography of the Irongate Region

The physical geography of the Irongate region

The Levasslar is the major river draining the Headlands region. Like many of the area's natural features, its name is derived from the dwarven language. Levasst, meaning "passage linking surface to underground", is a reference to the countless karstic openings into the underground along the cliffs and narrow gorges of the region from which water emerges to feed the river, and into which water sometimes disappears into the depths. The headwaters of the Levasslar is a region of very narrow, deep and twisty gorges where countless springs seem to erupt from the cliff faces. Local legend has it that in the ancient past many of the humanoids and other creatures native to the area sprang full formed from a primordial ooze issuing forth from the springs at the headwaters of the Levasslar, and spread across the Flanaess. Small boats and barges can navigate the Levasslar up to its junction with the Khanahllar, but frequent shallows and rapids make water travel very difficult beyond that by anything larger then a 6-man canoe. The Levasslar empties into the Azure Sea at Samryn Bay ("Samryn" meaning "trustworthy" or "favorable" in the dwarven language) where the City of Irongate lies.

The Khanahllar (Khanahl's River in dwarvish), is the largest tributary of the Levasslar. From its junction with the Levasslar, the Khanahllar reaches due north along a narrow valley into the center of the isthmus. Above the headwaters, a relatively flat, wide valley rises as a "hlar" (a gap or mountain pass), and continues over the drainage divide formed by the Baraktors (the "Backbone Hills"), and begins to descend downwards towards the north coast of the isthmus, meeting the valley of the Yaughlar. Sawsemis Khanahl was an ambitious, and some say delusional, explorer and dwarven entrepreneur, who lived in the area when humans first began to arrive in numbers to populate the settlement that would much later become known as the City of Irongate. Khanahl became obsessed with blazing a trade route between the burgeoning human-dwarf community on Samryn Bay and the coast of Dunhead Bay. So encompassing was his obsession that he even suggested moving the settlement inland so as to shorten the trade route, and dredging out the Levasslar and its northern tributary to allow larger ships to pass completely across the isthmus. While anyone with common sense knew that this was clearly impossible, Khanahl's friends and associates politely and amusingly humored him. The route become so closely associated with Khanahl's strange ideas that people began referring to the tributary as "Khanahl's River", and with time the original name of the stream became lost to history.

The Yaughlar ("Climbing River") flows east, then north, around the Yaughadartors ("the stepped hills"), emptying into a small bay on the coast of  Dunhead Bay where the port of Northanchor lies. The Yaughlar is a relatively small river (in both length and outflow), and is not navigable by ships, however small barges can travel a few miles upriver up to a series of rapids at "The Narrows" where the Yaughlar passes through the Yaughadartors. The Yaughadartors are a series of stacked limestone escarpments sometimes referred to as "the Amphitheater of the Gods", each step a dizzying height unto itself, much like a complex tiered cake, each level of escarpment riddled with caves of both natural and unnatural origin. The headwaters of the Yaughlar emerge from several of these caves and tumble down the westernmost Yaughadartors in a series of spectacular waterfalls.

The Drachenslar, or "Dragon's River" is the most isolated river of the region. This fast torrent twists through deep, narrow gorges and is filled with impassable rapids. Dangerous creatures infest its entire length from coast to headwaters. Numerous legends tell of the presence of not only "mundane" monsters often encountered in the wild places of Oerth, but of mythical creatures as well. The most commonly whispered of these legends suggest that the inaccessible vertical-sided hills around these gorges are the last home of the original masters of the Dragonshead Peninsula... the dragons themselves. At the headwaters of the Drachenslar is an unexplored and impenetrable bog known as the Drachenslurmurk ("concealed waters of the Dragons"). Why this bog has formed in a region that, like most karstic landscapes, has excellent drainage, is unknown. Thus far, no explorer has been able to discover the secrets of the Drachenslurmurk and return to document it. Not far to the west of the headwaters of the Drachenslar is the second highest peak of the Headlands, the Drachenbarak (or "Dragon's Backbone"). A long and curved ridge, its jagged peak can barely be glimpsed in the distance between other peaks from the south and west along the Western Road, and from the few straight sections of the Drachenslar to the northeast. Legend says that the Drachenbarak is the throne of one of the most ancient dragons on Oerth. No one has tried to go calling.

To the west of the city of Irongate lies the Arautor, or "the Great Hill", and represents the highest elevation in the isthmus. This massive highland is holy ground for the dwarves of the region, and is surrounded by many legends involving the origin of some of their gods, ancient forgotten temples, and lost dwarven cities. The Arautor highlands meet the Azure Sea with massive seacliffs that extend from Irongate, around the highlands and far beyond to the west, all the way to the plains of Onnwal. The southern coast of the Dragonshead Peninsula's isthmus is one of the most forbidding coastlines on Oerth, inaccessible by land, with small coves and numerous sea caves dotting the near-continuous cliffs. Monsters and pirates alike seek shelter here, and among the Kurst Islands off-shore, terrorizing any ships that dare sail within sight of the cliffs. Stories of hidden treasures and uncountable shipwrecks still lure the brave and foolish.

The Political Geography of the Irongate Region

Irongate region political geography>

The City of Irongate is the political and economic center for the region, and contains most of the local population. With a regional population of 71,000, the City of Irongate holds fully 51,400. The only other significant settlement is the small port-town of Northanchor with a population of approximately 4,850. Humans make up approximately 83% of the population, with the remainder consisting of dwarves (15%), halflings (1%), and other races (1%).  The human population is mostly of oeridian descent, with some suel presence. The roads that connect Irongate to the surrounding territories are very few, and therefore very important. Irongate’s large and heavily fortified walls form a bottleneck to the flow of traffic between the southern provinces of the Great Kingdom and Onnwal. Its natural harbor is one of the few sheltered ports along the long coast stretching from Scant to Naerie, and it is typically the refuge of many scores of sea-going vessels at any given time. 

The Coast Road, connecting Irongate with the dwarven enclaves in the Iron Hills (by way of the Ahlissan Road, and other minor routes) and the human Principality of Naerie (formally the nation of Idee, and now a member of the United Kingdom of Ahlissa)  is very well traveled, and very important to the regional economy. Many small coastal fishing communities dot the narrow strip of low land that separates the Azure Sea from the Iron Hills. Fish is very plentiful, and finds ready market in all three nations (although much of the trade with Ahlissa/Naerie is unofficial, and between individuals). Very little farming occurs here as the steep edge of the rocky Iron Hills highlands looms very close to the Azure shore. Any number of coastline-related adventures can be had here. Recently, a mysterious group of toughs have been selling "protection" to the fisherman who are brave enough to fish the teeming waters around the Kurst Islands. The Irongate government suspects that they represent either a new group of brazen pirates, or shameless con-men, but soon will likely send someone to investigate regardless.

The North Road crosses the 40-mile wide  isthmus to the smaller port of Northanchor on the shores of Dunshead Bay and the Sea of Gearnat. Small farming communities as well as isolated farms dot the valley of the Levasslar along the North Road, particularly close to Irongate itself, becoming less and less common to the north up to the junction with Khanahllar. Beyond that point (along either tributary) very few individuals are brave enough to build permanent settlements, such are the dangers of the Headlands. While there is alot of fishing in and around Samryn Bay in the south and Dunhead Bay to the north, most non-seafood for the large city must be imported.Locally produced fresh food is in great demand, so any threats to these farms are taken very seriously.

Due to the incredible inaccessibility of the shoreline west of Irongate, and the massive seacliffs that plunge directly into the Azure Sea along most of its length, travel along the western coast is quite impossible. The only land route to Onnwal is the Western Road, a perilous and lonely trail along a series of connected valleys that wind through the very heart of the wild Headlands. Infested with humanoids and dangerous creatures, traders normally travel in protective caravans, often hiring mercenaries and experienced adventurers for protection. Encounters of a memorable kind are quite frequent. Several groups of "guides" are organized into competing organizations based in Irongate. Until very recently, most traffic along the Western Road came to a virtual cessation after the upheavals of the Wars. Lately, thanks to the stabilizing Onnwal government, trade between Onnwal and Irongate along the road has begun to trickle through with increasing frequency.

One group of interest is a clan of dwarves, descendents of Sawsemis Khanahl, who operate a transport union of a type rather unusual for dwarves (and often are the subject of jokes by other dwarves). Khanahl's clan operates an efficiently run portage system for the transportation of goods between Irongate and Northanchor. Barges run goods up the Levasslar to a fortified dock located where the Khanahllar joins the Levasslar. Goods are then loaded onto carts or wagons and hauled along the North Road up the Kanahllar valley, over the pass through the Baraktors, and along the Yaughlar. Just north (down river) of the Yaughlar's "Narrows", the clan has another fortified dock where the goods are loaded onto small barges and carried down river the last half dozen miles to the port of Northanchor. While not the typical stone-working, mining, or forge-working dwarven stereotype, the clan takes great pride in its important work. The clan has a branch of warriors that serve as guards along the sometimes dangerous route, though sometimes a particularly tough problem moves into the area and the clan must hire special assistance.

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 City of Irongate's northern Valley Gate. Most of the easily reachable trees within the valleys have been removed for miles around the city, so the services provided by the hobloggers 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 of Irongate. Because of the relative isolation of the hilltops with the best trees, the clan must sometimes hire adventures to clear out the wildlife before they can bring in their cable equipment to clear out the lumber. Two years ago one Hoblogger crew spotted some particularly ancient trees on an isolated hill along the western Levasslar, and climbed the precipitous cliffs. Only one of the would-be loggers returned, and he was quite insane, mumbling incoherently about ancient pillars, statues that came to life, and frightening tentacled undead.

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This page last modified on August 18, 2009