City Gates of Greyhawk

Greyhawk has a number of gates along its walls, all of which are permanently guarded by rotating shifts of Watch patrols. Most gates remain open from sunrise to three hours past sundown; three of them — Cargo Gate and Highway Gate on the outer wall, and Garden Gate inside the city — are open at all times except during dire emergencies. Anyone approaching a gate when it is closed cannot gain entry unless the traveler convinces the sentries of the urgency of his need to pass, perhaps producing a letter or writ from Greyhawk’s Lord Mayor, Captain-General, or the like. In any event, the traveler must be searched and adjudged to be harmless before being allowed through.

Each city gate has a huge pair of wooden doors, each about 12 feet high,8 feet wide, and 1 foot thick, made of iron-banded roanwood. Four gates — Cargo and Highway on the outer wall, and Garden and Black on the two inner walls — are larger, with each door measuring 16 feet high and 12 feet wide. Behind each gate’s pair of doors is a huge iron portcullis whose bars are 2 inches thick, intertwined so that only a very small child could squeeze through them. A portcullis is usually kept raised, and is lowered only during emergencies or when the gate doors require maintenance.

Each gate is contained within a gate house consisting of two 40-foot-diameter, 40-foot-high towers with a wide walkway between them, running above the gate. All of the usual means for attacking intruders exist (arrow slits, murder holes, and so on), plus a few new tricks added by engineers and spellcasters from across the Flanaess over the centuries. The gate house towers each have a door into the city at their base, and a door on either side at the top leading to the walkways over the walls. In addition, three wooden platforms are built stacked over each tower, covered by a cone-shaped peaked roof, allowing up to 40 archers per level to fire down on attackers at the gates. In peacetime, which is nearly all the time, these platforms are used by the City Watch as resting spots and storage. Every gate has at least two Watch patrols, one standard patrol stationed in the gate house itself while the others guard the gate passage and surroundings.

The two internal walls, Black and Nobles’, divide the city into three districts by economic class. The extremely crowded Old City at the south is largely inhabited by the working poor, long-time residents and recent immigrants alike. The Old City’s inhabitants can gain access to the “Middle City” of Clerkburg and the Foreign, River, and Artisans’ Quarters through the Black Gate. Access is usually automatic during the proper hours. The flourishing middle class of Greyhawk, made up of merchants and tradesmen of every sort, inhabits the “Middle City” and can move with considerable freedom into the “Upper City” of the High and Garden Quarters through the Garden Gate which is kept open nearly all the time. The aristocracy of Greyhawk can move as desired into any quarter of the city, though few go to the Old City or River Quarter except as necessary. However, anyone entering the High and Garden Quarters will quickly be escorted out if he or she appears to be loitering, involved in criminal activity, begging, and so on.

Passage through any gate requires the traveler to sign a roster, which is annotated by the senior sentry present with his initials, a coded note describing the person briefly if unfamiliar to the guards, and the approximate time (taken from a nearby sundial, mechanical clock, timekeeping spell, or other). Illiterate persons — that is, most in the lower class but far less than half of the middle and upper classes must sign with a simple X rune and their names are appended by the sentries. Many residents and familiar folk can passthrough by signing only their initials, as the guards recognize them easily. Every morning before dawn, the rosters for each gate are collected and brought by courier to the Great Library of Greyhawk, where they are stored. What happens to these (by now very many documents has not been revealed. Some say that the Directing Oligarchy and officers of the Watch are the only persons supposed to have access to this information, but rumors say that others (such as certain guildmasters and perhaps the Circle of Eight) have access to this data as well.

No one is asked to explain his or her business or reason for passing through one of the two internal gates, an old “hands-off” tradition that people here appreciate. However, anyone arriving at the city’s outside gates must explain his business and is examined with some suspicion, particularly in these troubled time when spies, assassins, saboteurs, foreign thieves, and other troublemakers from the lands of Iuz, Turrosh Mak, the Scarlet Brotherhood, and so forth are much feared.

Not everyone is automatically allowed entry to the city through its outer gates. Citizens of countries hostile to the city are barred, and nearly all humanoids and monsters are turned away (assuming they ask for entry and do not try to force their way in). Any known citizen of the Scarlet Brotherhood, the Empire of Iuz, or Turrosh Mak’s Orcish Empire of the Pomarj is prohibited from entering the city. A long list exists in each gate house of other perceived enemies of the city who are not allowed entry, particularly persons belonging to evil cults, traitors, major criminals, and beings of hated races such as the drow, derro, ogres, orcs, lizard men, and so on. A gray area exists for unusual beings such as centaurs or pixies, who are not hated but aren’t viewed with a great deal of trust, either; fast talk, a pleasant and patient manner, and the usual bribes may help here if normal documents do not suffice.

Brief notes on each gate follow, moving in a clockwise fashion from the northernmost gate:

Wharfgate: Most traffic here consists of citizens who wish to wander in North Hills Park or persons having questionable business in Shack Town or with the Rhennee, whose barges are tied up at Barge End. No wheeled vehicles, beasts of burden, or livestock may pass through here, a rule that limits lower-class traffic into the wealthy area of the city. From Wharfgate, much of the Selintan River valley to the southwest and the city itself (which slopes away to the southeast) can be seen from here. An elite patrol and a standard patrol of the City Watch are here.

Battle Gate: This gate, unlike the others, is normally kept shut and opened briefly only at certain specified times.

Duke’s Gate: High Street turns into the paved High Road beyond this gate, which allows traffic to and from the Cairn Hills, Elmshire, Grossettgrottell, and eventually the Duchy of Urnst. Farm produce and mined ore are the major products shipped through here. The gate is named for a duke of Urnst in the last century who spent much of his time in Greyhawk and was a major patron of the city’s gambling houses. An elite patrol and a standard patrol of the City Watch are here.

Druid’s Gate: This, the least used gate of the city, opens to Ery Trail and many farms to the east. Dwarves from Greysmere occasionally enter here, though most come through the Highway Gate. Two standard City Watch patrols are on guard here, but they tend to be lax in their duties .

Highway Gate: This is the main entrance to the city, the magnificent gate through which most first-time arrivals pass. Huge caravans from across the central and western Flanaess enter here. Two elite patrols and one standard patrol act as sentries here, and their searches for smugglers and criminals are fairly meticulous. Somehow the guards miss detecting those members of the Thieves’ Guild who are disguised as peasants to spy on traffic through this gate in search of victims and enemies.

Marsh Gate: Farmers and fishermen who live near the Selintan use this gate most often, though the gate is the second least-used gate of Greyhawk. Wagon loads of waste are sent through here to be dumped at Garbage Hill. Adventurers heading for Castle Greyhawk leave the city by this gate, which is guarded by two standard Watch patrols.

Cargo Gate: Cargo Gate is not as fancy as Highway Gate, but it is even busier, with foot and cart traffic passing through it at all hours of the day and night from the numerous docks lining the west bank of the Selintan. Almost every item entering the city from the river (save for a few smuggled items going through other gates) passes through here. Two elite Watch patrols and one standard patrol guard this large gate. Some spies from the Thieves’ Guild are usually present, too.

St. Cuthbert’s Gate: Named for the many pilgrims who come to the city to visit the Sacred Temple of St Cuthbert in Garden Quarter, this gate is smaller than Cargo Gate next to it and sometimes is ignored in favor of its larger sibling. However, a good amount of merchant traffic passes through here toward the High Market. One elite and one standard Watch patrol stand guard here.

Garden Gate: A standard Watch patrol monitors traffic through this gate, though with casual indifference. Everyone must sign the roster at this gate, however. An extra guard patrol is stationed here only during emergencies and manhunts. Most traffic here heads for the High Market. The guards are irritated by constant complaints from Greyhawk’s aristocracy about “beggars and thieves” using this gate to enter their part of the city.

Black Gate: This gate is more heavily guarded than the Garden Gate, with an elite and standard patrol present. In addition, the Thieves’ Guild maintains careful surveillance over this gate, noting who comes and goes as a way of protecting what the guild perceives as its own part of town. The Thieves’ Guild watches other gates but not continuously.

Roger Moore. Greyhawk, The Adventure Begins. 1996

Gem of the Flanaess

City Gates of Greyhawk

Greyhawk Samaryllis Samaryllis