Image by Wayne Anthony Reynolds from Sharn: City of Towers
As time allows, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. This month someone asked Who actually runs the skycoaches of Sharn?
Skycoaches are an iconic element of the City of Towers—small boats that dart between the spires, carrying passengers to every level of Sharn. As House Lyrandar holds a near-monopoly on airship travel, one might expect Lyrandar to run the skycoaches as well. But the skycoaches of Sharn have nothing in common with Lyrandar’s elemental airships. While Lyrandar’s airships are a recent development, the skycoaches of Sharn have been in operation for centuries; they were developed soon after the flying buttresses that highest towers of the city. Sharn is located in a manifest zone tied to Syrania, and skycoaches operate through a series of sympathetic principles that tie them to the Azure Sky. Among other things this means that they don’t function outside of Sharn; if you fly a skycoach beyond the city limits it will slowly lose power and descend to the surface. This is why you don’t see skycoaches in Wroat or Fairhaven; it’s a unique aspect of Sharn. There may be a few other cities that are located in similar manifest zones that could support skycoaches—but we’ve never suggested that such a city could rival Sharn, and most likely the skycoaches in such a city would have to be uniquely attuned to the manifest zone of that place and wouldn’t be casually interchangeable with the coaches of Sharn. As a point of trivia, the city of Eston is noted as using “skycoaches,” but despite the name, these vessels operate on entirely different principles than the coaches of Sharn and are more like carpets of flying.
The coaches of Sharn have soarwood hulls. The weight of passengers and other trappings prevents a coach from being naturally buoyant, but they are astonishingly lightweight. The interior of the hull is engraved and inlaid with arcane patterns; this channels the motive energy that drives the coach. The control system is made on of two linked pieces—a medallion of the sky and the medallion anchor. The anchor is a metal plate affixed to the coach, while the medallion itself is worn by the pilot. The primary function of the medallion of the sky is to allow easy, reliable control of the linked coach; while attuned to the medallion, the bearer has advantage on any ability checks (Air Vehicles) to control the coach, and doesn’t need to make a check to perform simple actions. The medallion also serves as a feather token, allowing an attuned wearer to cast feather fall once per long rest. Without a medallion, someone who’s proficient in either Arcana or Air Vehicles can control a coach, but it’s more challenging—and because it’s more a measure of understanding theory rather than practical knowledge, checks to control a coach using Arcana have disadvantage.
So: every skycoach has a medallion anchor and a medallion of the sky. These are forged in Sharn and are carefully regulated by the city government. Medallions are bought from the city and registered with the city, and transferring ownership of a medallion of the sky is a formal process that must be properly documented and approved by the original owner. The City Council evaluates the number of skycoaches operating in the city one a decade, but it’s actually quite rare for the city to issue new medallions; as a rule, if you want to run a skycoach in Sharn, you have to either inherit a medallion or buy one from a current owner. Even if one happens to fall into your hands, if you can’t prove that the original owner voluntarily transferred it to you, the city will reclaim it and sell it at auction.
So: the skycoach business has deep roots in the city of Sharn. There are a handful of one-coach operations; Dael Tantein, affectionately known as “the Sphinx” is an elf who’s been flying his coach for over five hundred years. However, most coaches are associated with companies that own the coaches and hire pilots. The Skycoach Company table provides a list of the best-known companies.
|The Swan. Over a third of the coaches in Sharn are tied to the Swan. The company is based in Dura and owned by the Undalon—a line of Brelish dwarves with long ties to the Boramar Clan. Swan coaches aren’t always pretty, but they’re ubiquitous and they’ll take you anywhere you want to go, no questions asked. Andala Undalon runs the daily operations of The Swan; she’s a gold concordian within the Aurum and keen to increase her hold on the skies of Sharn.
|The Gold Line. Based in Skyway, the Gold Line provides the most luxurious coaches in Sharn. Even the most basic Gold Line coach is well appointed and maintained, and charges twice the usual price for travel. The Gold Line also has three “party barges” and two gilded fliers—these fliers are twice as fast as the typical skycoach. Gold Line coaches are usually only found in Skyway and the upper districts, and its higher end coaches can only be booked by appointment.
|Silverstreak. Based in Middle Central, Silverstreak is notable in that it will rent skycoaches (along with a qualified driver) for extended periods, allowing a group to have a personal skycoach at their disposal for days or even weeks. The owner, Serra Narim, is an ambitious entrepreneur who’s been expanding her business as quickly as possible; she’s always looking for opportunities to acquire additional medallions.
|Aureon’s Flight. Based in Menthis, Aureon’s Flight is notable for hiring students from Morgrave University as part-time pilots. Its pilots aren’t as fast or as ruthless in their work as their counterparts in Silverstreak or the Swan, but they’re often very familiar with the entertainment districts and have interesting stories to tell.
|Other. The four companies mentioned above are the largest, but there’s a host of individuals and small companies who have maintained their medallions over the years. Roo are a group of goblins who run four coaches out of Malleon’s Gate; Daask has been offering to help them expand. Eagle’s Claw runs three coaches, and is noted for its fanatical devotion to the Eagle in the Race of Eight Winds. Feel free to make up a new company!
Skycoach pilots are often colorful characters. The company they’re tied to may suggest characteristics of a pilot—Gold Line pilots are usually more “respectable” than Swan pilots, and Gold Liners know the best restaurants in Skyway while the Swan can take you to the dingiest dives in Lower Dura. But company aside, the Coach Pilot table can help you quickly create an interesting pilot.
|… Who’s deeply religious.
|Halfling / Gnome
|… Who’s got a story to share.
|Elf / Khoravar
|… Who wants to sell you something.
|Dwarf / Goblin
|… Who fought in the war.
|Changeling / Shifter
|… Who has an interesting hobby.
|Orc / Jhorgun’taal
|… Who flies like a maniac.
|… Who loves the Race of Eight Winds.
|… Who knows a “shortcut.”
Would House Lyrandar or Orien be interested in encroaching on the Skycoach business?
If that’s a story you want to tell, don’t let me stop you! But in my campaign, no, Lyrandar and Orien don’t care about the Skycoach business. It’s important to remember just what an incredibly niche market this is—a mode of transportation that operates in a single city—and that the dragonmarks don’t offer any particular edge in flying a skycoach. Lyrandar is interested in dominating international air travel; it’s OK with leaving the alleys of Sharn to the Swan and the Gold Line.
With that said, House Vadalis offers air travel within Sharn; if Vadalis expands the services of its eagles and hippogriffs, that could be a concern. Beyond that, there’s aways tension between the existing companies; the Swan would love to consume Silverstreak.
That’s all for now! I don’t have time to answer questions, but share your own Skycoach ideas and experiences below. And if you have questions of your own or want to help support the site—or even play a game with me—check out my Patreon!