The Race Of Eight Winds

Nature: Sports Event
Location: Dura, in Sharn

Sharn is a vertical city, and over the course of centuries the people of Sharn have developed a variety of sporting events that take advantage of the unique architecture of their home. Windchasers dart around the towers following elaborate racing paths, while skyblades joust far above the ground. But one event overshadows the rest: the Race of Eight Winds.

This event draws spectators and gamblers from across Khorvaire. Part race, part aerial battle, this stunning spectacle has shaped the culture of the Dura Ward. Dura, one of the oldest and poorest quarters of Sharn, contains inhabitants swept in from all corners of Khorvaire. They may not have gold, but the people of Dura have the Race of Eight Winds.

According to the commonly accepted — if somewhat unlikely — legend, King Galifar II was fascinated by the use of aerial scouts and cavalry. It’s said that he used Sharn as a proving ground to test the merits of different flying beasts, granting land and gold to exceptional cavaliers. Over the centuries, this activity evolved into an exotic competition involving different sorts of magical and fantastic beasts.

Race Structure

The Race of Eight Winds is primarily a test of speed and skill through a course that weaves around and through the spires of the city.

For purposes of the race, Dura is divided into eight regions, each of which is represented by a different creature. To this day, the name of the creature is often used as a slang term for the inhabitant of one of these areas; when someone talks about "that treacherous owl", he's probably referring to a resident of Rattlestone or the Bazaar.

The race itself is a test of speed and skill, challenging the reflexes and combat skills of both beast and rider. From the starting point in Hareth's Folly, the race takes competitors on an intricate course that weaves in and around the towers of Sharn — and since contact is allowed between riders and beasts, the racers can always try to win by eliminating the competition.

The race is older than most of Sharn, which explains why much of Upper Dura isn't represented; it literally didn't exist when the tradition began. Hareth's Folly and Hostelhome (gm: where?!?) have always been neutral ground where people gather to watch the race.

While the beasts may use any natural weapons that they possess, the riders may not use spells, psionic powers, dragonmarks, magic devices, or alchemical items. Anyone who breaks these rules is immediately disqualified, and are also most likely torn apart by an angry mob.

The only weapon a rider can use is a sporting crossbow, equivalent to a light crossbow but with an 80-foot range increment and 1d3/1d4 damage. Competitors may carry a dozen quarrels, allowing the rider to hinder the progress of another racer but making quick kills unlikely.

The Rules


Traditionally, each region enters a single beast and rider in the race. However, if a region makes a 250 gp donation (which goes into a general treasury to offset the cost of the land grant), it may enter a second contestant. While this is rarely done, it is the primary way for outsiders (such as player characters) to enter the race. A would-be contestant would need to negotiate with the Wind Guard and find a region that willingly lets her participate under their banner.

The race itself is a dangerous event. Full contact is allowed between beasts and riders, and beasts can use any natural weapons that they possess. Riders cannot use spells, psionic disciplines, dragonmarks, magic devices, or alchemical items, and anyone who breaks these rules is immediately disqualified and exposed to mob violence. A rider is allowed to carry a sporting crossbow and a dozen quarrels; this is similar to a light crossbow, but it has an 80-foot range increment and deals only 1d3/1d4 damage. This allows for entertaining conflict while preventing swift kills.

The victorious rider receives a 500 gp purse and a small parcel of land — while the Wind Guard of the winning region lays claim to the Rod of Eight Winds. This mysterious item is a major artifact recovered from the depths of the city long ago; some say it is linked to Syrania and projects the effects of a manifest zone within a short distance. However, few of the people of Dura have any interest in the rod's history or powers. What matters is its current role as the symbol of Dura's pride — and each district is desperate to claim it.

Local Importance

The Race of Eight Winds brings spectators, tourists, and gamblers from across Khorvaire, and it also presents a host of opportunities for adventurers. The victorious rider receives a 500 gp purse at the end of the race, as well as a grant of land elsewhere in Breland, donated by one of Sharn’s noble families.

While not everyone takes an interest, many of the inhabitants of Lower and Middle Dura are avid followers of the Race of Eight Winds. It brings people of all races and professions together, and those directly involved with the race are the heroes of their districts. This includes the riders and handlers, along with the Wind Guard — a committee appointed to manage the interests of the region. While this is a great honor, it carries considerable responsibility: there is far more to the Race of Eight Winds than just skill in the air. The Wind Guard has to raise funds to acquire, maintain, and train the exotic beasts used in the competition. Usually local merchants donate a share of their profits to support the race, but it is up to the Wind Guard to make up for any shortfall.

In addition to finances, the members of the Wind Guard engage in a never-ending series of schemes and negotiations on behalf of their region. Alliances and networks of favors stretch back for centuries, making the race as much a match of politics as of speed. The owl is one of the slowest creatures in the race, but the Bazaar has a powerful economic position and often uses bribery and graft to get ahead. The griffon rarely tries to win, instead using its physical power as a bargaining chip throughout the period between races; even if the griffon can't win, it can usually take another creature out of the race. Of course, it may be that the hawk owes a favor to the owl, and repays that favor by asking the griffon to cripple the pegasus — and this is a fairly simple example.

BEAST Districts Colours
The Eagle Broken Arch & Stormhold Brown & gold
The Gargoyle Fallen & Malleon's Gate Black & gray
The Glidewing Gate of Gold & the Stores Gray & green
The Griffon Precarious & Oldkeep Brown & red
The Hawk Tumbledown & Underlook Light brown
& dark brown
The Hippogriff Daggerwatch & Overlook White & gold
The Owl Rattlestone & the Bazaar Brown & gray
The Pegasus Highwater White & silver

The Beasts (Teams)

Each creature is associated with a particular region within Dura. As the race draws near, visitors see banners displayed across Dura, and people dress in the colors of their beast

The Eagle

The districts of Broken Arch and Stormhold support the giant eagle, whose colors are brown and gold. Stormholders are especially passionate about the race, even though the eagle rarely wins. Many Stormholders take pride in being fierce and noble like the eagle, and they rarely participate in the politics and intrigue that often affect the final outcome of the race. They are especially dismissive of the other birds of Middle Dura; the hawk is a lesser eagle, while the owl is treacherous and far too clever.

The Gargoyle

Fallen and Malleon's Gate were originally represented by the dire bat. As immigrants from Droaam came to Sharn, most settled in the Cogs or Malleon's Gate. Twelve years ago, the region of the bat made an unprecedented change and shifted their regional beast to the gargoyle, whose colors are black and gray. Currently, the region is represented by Carralag (male gargoyle rogue), a remarkably clever gargoyle with the "Manifest Flight" (sharn-specific) feat.

The people of Malleon's Gate are fiercely dedicated to the event. The violence appeals to the Darguuls, while the city goblins love the chance to compete against the elitist folk of the upper levels. While the gargoyle has yet to win the race, it has had greater success than the bat, and this has brought increased support for Daask and the Droaamites within the district.

The Glidewing

This flying dinosaur (pteranosaurus) represents the districts of Gate of Gold and the Stores, and its colors are gray and green. The glidewing is extremely popular among the hobbits of Sharn, and some say that the Boromar Clan is the financial force behind the Glidewing Wind Guard.

The Griffon

This powerful beast represents Precarious and Old Keep, and its colors are brown and red. During the race, red ribbons are usually tied to the forelegs of the griffon, giving the impression of streams of blood coming from its claws. The people of Precarious are fanatically (and often violently) devoted to the race, although many don't care if they win or lose; as long as the griffon brings down one of the other beasts, they consider it to be a victory.

The Hawk

Tumbledown and Underlook are represented by the dire hawk, whose colors are light brown and dark brown. The hawk rarely wins, but Underlook makes considerable profits off the tourist trade and most Tumbledowners are devoted followers of their underdog champion.

The Hippogriff

Daggerwatch and Overlook are represented by the hippogriff, whose colors are white and gold. The Goldwings (the aerial division of the Sharn Watch) are based in Daggerwatch, and a Goldwing officer typically represents the district in the race. The hippogriff has one of the best records in the race, rivaled only by the pegasus.

The Owl

The giant owl is the beast of Rattlestone and the Bazaar, and its colors are brown and gray. While it is one of the slowest creatures in the race, the owl is famous for manipulating the outcome of the race with intrigue and diplomacy. While many of the inhabitants of Dura speak dismissively of "two-faced owls," the merchants, con artists, and pickpockets of the region take pride in their mascot's cunning, and a strong streak of carefree pragmatism runs through these districts. A few former racing owls are now merchants themselves, which can lead to unusual encounters in the Bazaar.

The Pegasus

Highwater was the last district to join the Race of Eight Winds. Thanks to House Vadalis, Highwater is represented by the pegasus, whose colors are white and silver. The pegasus is the swiftest creature in the race, and it has brought Highwater to victory time and again. The people of Highwater are proud folk and are always willing to discuss the ways in which a pegasus is superior to the other beasts.

However, success has its price. The other districts often team up to bring down the pegasus at the start of the race. And outside of the race, many of the inhabitants of the lower wards despise the people of Highwater; thieves and bullies will go out of their way to target a snooty pegasus supporter.

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