Well over three hundred fifty years old, Ptolus is a city of seventy-five thousand people, the largest urban area in the northwestern Tarsisan Empire. While neither the largest nor-from most people’s point of view-the most important city in the world, it is perhaps the most interesting one.
- The Flavor of the City
- Information Panel: The Districts of Ptolus
- The Economy
- City Layout
- The Wall and Towers
- The Five Gates
- Information Panel: Ptolusites: A Character Study
- Natural Features
- The Spire
- The King’s River
- King’s River Gorge
- Beacon Island
- Vertical Ptolus (From Secrets of the Delver’s Guild)
- On the Streets
- Looking Around
- Looking Up
- Looking Down
- Getting Around Town
- Information Panel: Outside of Ptolus
- The Flow of Information
- Shadow Sendings
- Using the District Chapters
The Flavor of the City
It’s sometimes difficult to find a single label for Ptolus. Depending on who you talk to, Ptolus is either a festering nest of liars and thieves or the last bastion of nobility in the otherwise mundane Empire. It is either the land’s central hub of magical knowledge or an inconsequential backwater port on the fringes of the Empire. It is the home of the Prince of the Church and it is the focus of evil in the world.
Ptolus is the least human-dominated metropolis in the Empire. By the standards of the rest of the world, it teems with elves, dwarves, and far stranger creatures. The very idea of counting orcs or lizardfolk among the population is unheard of elsewhere, and most people in the world have never heard of tieflings, let alone seen one—unless they’ve been to Ptolus.
The influence of the ancient evil below the streets of Ptolus has probably led to the city’s widespread corruptive elements—powerful criminals, demons, undead, and monsters of all types. Of course, being on the fringe of the Empire rather than more centrally located contributes to at least the first of those, if not the others. However, the ancient evil and its resulting corruption has brought the forces of light to Ptolus like nowhere else as well. You won’t find an entire fortress of angels and aasimars in Tarsis or Dohrinthas, for example.
Perhaps the best way to think of Ptolus is as an adventurer’s city. “Adventurers” are not common throughout the Empire. In fact, the Imperial authorities look down upon such people and discourage their activities. Adventurers—often a euphemism for tomb robbers, mercenaries, and thieves—typically carry dangerous weapons and even more dangerous magic with them, making them a threat to public safety, order, and the authority of local government. However, the Empire, through the Commissar, allows them a sort of “safe haven” in Ptolus. Why?
The unplumbed depths below the city, with their potential risks and rewards, have drawn most of the adventurers from around the Empire, which is just fine by other local magistrates. Those communities are happy the adventurers head to Ptolus rather than sticking around in their areas causing trouble.
The powerful and influential Delver’s Guild keeps the adventurers in Ptolus organized.
Adventurers perform a helpful service by ridding the city’s underrealm of dangerous creatures that could come up to the surface and wreak havoc.
But as much as Ptolus differs from the rest of the world, it shares much as well. As elsewhere, the Church holds considerable power, both spiritual and secular. Like other major cities, Ptolus is governed by a Commissar representing the Empire of Tarsis. The technological level of Ptolus has fallen in recent years, like that of the rest of the Empire— as the Empire crumbles, so too does its knowledge. Every year, there are fewer and fewer smiths who can repair the firearms, printing presses, elegant clocks, and other wonders from the Prustan folk and the Grailwarden dwarves of the east.
Overall, the flavor of Ptolus, as you will discover in the chapters to come, combines the city’s great age, its incredibly varied population, its large number of adventurers and classed characters, and its dark side, which has surfaced more and more of late and continues to grow.
Ptolus is cosmopolitan in the extreme. The names of many humans, for example, have become so jumbled that often they no longer offer a clue as to a person’s original lineage and familial land of origin. Likewise, the currency is a mixture of very old coins and standard Imperial coins, as well as a smattering of foreign money, such as from Uraq. Lastly, the many and varied gods of Ptolus come from everywhere. It’s been said that if someone, somewhere worships something, you can find a temple for that religion in Ptolus. The City by the Spire has always been accepting of variant outlooks and beliefs, even when they are not popular; for example, the Inverted Pyramid hid in Ptolus when the Edict of Deviltry outlawed the use of arcane magic.
“This city is the center of everything happening today. The Empire is no longer of consequence. Soon, we will all realize that the next phase of history begins here.”
– Helmut Itlestein, high priest of the Watcher of the Skies
“Put simply, Ptolus is the focus of all significant evil in the world.”
– Sheva Callister, adventurer