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Luskan, also known as the City of Sails, was a port city at the mouth of the River Mirar on the Sword Coast North.[4] Luskan, despite the presence of the Ten Towns, was considered by many to be civilization's farthest reach.

Although once a bustling city, in the days prior to the Spellplague, the city would suffer greatly at the hands of Arklem Greeth. The resulting disaster would allow the Spellplague to nearly annihilate the city, with it having only a fraction of its former populace.[citation needed]


As of 1370 DR, the city was split into northern and southern halves by the River Mirar, and these were connected by the bridges Dalath's Span, Harbor Cross, and the Upstream Span.[9] Other than the Host Tower of the Arcane, the city was dominated by two- and three-story buildings.[3]

Two inhabited islands sat in the mouth of the river: the island upon which lay the Host Tower of the Arcane (connected to both sides of the river by bridges) and Closeguard Island,[10] which housed Ship Kurth (connected to the southern bank by a bridge).[3]

Northern Bank[]

The northern section was walled and was almost entirely made up of warehouses. The Mirabar District (also known as the Mirabar Shield) was a fortified compound operated by the merchants of Mirabar, and it contained the Throat, the city's heavily guarded main water tower, which was situated in a grazing area for sheep.[9] The Red Dragon Trading Post, Luskan's most successful overland trading company as of 1370 DR (but no longer in operation in 1483 DR[11]), was situated on the northern bank, as was the North Gate, the portal between the northern and southern banks.[12]

The docks on the northern bank were on the sea coast (western part of the city) and consisted of Whitesails Harbor, used exclusively for the Luskan navy, and the unprotected Open Shore, which was situated outside the city walls and was the only place foreign shipping could dock.[12]

Southern Bank[]

As of 1370 DR, the southern bank consisted of a heavily fortified inner section surrounded by caravan compounds.[9] This area was home to the majority of residents and shops. The southern wall was semicircular, with over a dozen towers. The two towers flanking the South Gate were named the Twin Teeth.[13] The southern bank also housed stables, the Captains' and High Captains' Court, the Market and the Prisoners' Carnival, and the town's original harbor, Dragon Beach, a lawless place where even soldiers feared to tread[3][14]


Sammereza Sulphontis said that traders in Luskan "always wear furs, haughty expressions, and ready swords." Luskanite traders were always alert and well-armed.[9] The people of Luskan always tended to be tense and paranoid—rightly so, because of the dangers of the tough city—and they were extremely prejudiced against non-humans. In fact, few non-humans were allowed past the city gates.[3]


As of 1372 DR, the city was officially ruled by the five High Captains, all former pirate lords and each of which led a faction called a "ship" named after its respective captain: Ship Taerl, Ship Baram, Ship Kurth, Ship Suljack and Ship Rethnor.[4] The true power in the city resided with the Arcane Brotherhood.[5]

The High Captains encouraged the harassment of the trading routes of small cities such as Mirabar, Neverwinter, and Ruathym,[4] and made sure to avoid conflict with Waterdeep and Amn because they were too powerful.[5]

The Arcane Brotherhood also encouraged local traders to treat travelers with disdain and suspicion, due to the possibility that they may be spies for their enemies, often sending low-level agents to follow strangers personally.[4]

Luskan was rumored to be allied with the Zhentarim but no evidence of this was ever presented.[15]

By 1480 DR there was no true functioning government and gangs (including the Ships of the High Captains) carved out territories within the city.[16]

Some time after 1485 DR, the five High Captains who ruled the city started to conduct legal sea trade across the Sword Coast. They also protected the city and raided the island kingdoms to the west. Secretly, the High Captains were under the sway of Jarlaxle Baenre and the Bregan D'aerthe.[17]


Although Luskan and Ruathym were often enemies, they had an alliance known as the Captains' Alliance.[18]


Luskan circa 1377 DR.

Luskan was the gateway to the lands northward and as such was a perfect market for ore from the Spine of the World and scrimshaw from the Ten Towns in Icewind Dale.[3] Luskan traded silver from Mirabar and timber from Lurkwood. It also had a good business in dwarven-made weapons.[19]

As of 1370 DR, Luskan was the main shipyard for Mirabar. Trade with such places as Amn and Calimshan was carried out on the neutral ground offshore from Mintarn because it was not desirable to be associated with Luskan.[4]

As of 1370 DR, the city's market only allowed stalls by permit. These were only given to Luskan companies, and those outsiders who were closely watched. The main offerings at the market were fresh goods, firewood and trinkets.[13]

After Bregan D'aerthe took over the city, they began trading Netherese artifacts to Menzoberranzan.[8]


As of 1370 DR, Luskan had an army of 300 spearmen and a navy of 19 dragonships. The dragonships were each armed with 70 archers.[20] The North Gate was guarded by soldiers with spears and crossbows; in the winter they wore fur caps.[3]


While not at war, Luskan ships of war carried out independent piracy against shipping destined for other ports, with the aim of increasing trade with Luskan. While this contravened Luskan law as of 1370 DR, the pirates were actually supplied and directed by the high captains themselves.[15]



Built on the ruins of the ancient and magical orcish city of Illusk,[21] Luskan was a port town frequented by pirates, thieves and other disreputable folk interested in money. Although life within its walls was dangerous, Luskan was a very lucrative city. Pirates brought in their goods to be sold to the black market, northern traders frequented the place as a rest stop on their way to the Ten Towns during the warmer months, ready to buy exotic scrimshaw ornaments, several taverns traded in ale and other spirits, the drugs and slave trades were rife (although obviously sublimated) and information brokers and prostitutes plied their trade during the night-time.[4]

There was a period in Luskan's history during which dwarves from Mirabar would paint Luskan sheep different colours in acts of defiance, but as of 1370 DR this practice had ended after savage reprisals from the Luskanites.[9]

Luskan had a history of waging war against lesser naval powers,[15] and defeated Ruathym (not for the first time) in 1361 DR.[22] It withdrew when faced with war against the Lords' Alliance. Luskan has previously been defeated by Gundarlun, Lantan, Mintarn, Orlumbor and Tuern. The conflict against Lantan was disastrous enough that inhabitants of Luskan did not even acknowledge its happening. Inland, Luskan would attack Mirabar and the tribes of Uthgardt in order to keep them submissive.[15]

In the autumn of 1376 DR Luskan was attacked by an army of mercenaries led by Lord Brambleberry of Waterdeep and aided by the famous Captain Deudermont. The attack destroyed the Hosttower and the grateful populace installed Deudermont as their governor. Although he tried to rebuild as many homes as possible before winter set in, supplies were scarce and most food came via Ship Rethnor in the form of a strange tangy meat and edible fungus. People were being murdered every day for this food and those who weren't prepared to kill for it, starved. When supplies from Waterdeep were sent to aid Deudermont's new city the land caravans were attacked by bandits paid for by Ship Rethnor and the fleet of trading ships that was supposed to dock was attacked by Arklem Greeth, who had (unknown to all) survived the Hosttower's destruction. Barely any of the supplies arrived and then Kensidan had Suljack murdered, which sparked off a street war among the hungry masses and guards who had been bribed by Ships Rethnor and Kurth. At the same time Arklem Greeth attacked Sea Sprite. When Deudermont's corpse was found, it was all over. The survivors fled the city, leaving the four remaining captains to rule over the place, though Kensidan and Kurth would dominate Baram and Taerl. Luskan would become a free port, a place of trade where absolutely no questions would ever be asked.[23]

Unknown to most, much of the resources and intelligence that led to this outcome were provided by Bregan D'aerthe who, once more led by Jarlaxle, wanted to share in the profits the free port would hopefully produce.[23]


In the years after the Spellplague, Luskan fell into ruin. Over the next century, the rulership of the city changed from hand to claw to hand so many times that it would be nigh-impossible to document them in any kind of detail. The result was a mockery of a true city. Most buildings were ruined and murderers and demon-worshipers roamed the streets freely, plying their trade in broad daylight. Wretched tribes of goblins and kobolds skulked in the shadows and the fetid bog that was once the estuary of the River Mirar was infested with aquatic horrors. The place became a haven for escaped criminals who, while escaping punishment for their crimes would likely die on the end of a psychopath's blade or a monster's claw.[citation needed] Bregan D'aerthe continued their semi-secret domination of the city and its trading markets, associating with Ship Kurth.[24] Indeed, one of their agents, Beniago, in guise of a human, became High Captain Kurth.[25]

In 1483 DR, the city and its bridges were in disrepair.[11] The rickety Upstream Span was run by gangs that demanded passage for crossing.[26] The Red Dragon Trading Post was no longer in operation, but Baliver's House of Horses still was, housing a pony for 3 silver coins per night.[11] One-Eyed Jax was an inn and tavern on the northern bank overtly run by Ship Kurth.[27]

Notable Locations[]

Host Tower of the Arcane[]

The Host Tower of the Arcane was the site of real power in the city until shortly before the Spellplague. In 1372 DR, Arklem Greeth presided over around 130 mages. While delegating laws to the High Captains, the arcanists within partook in their studies and bouts of infighting.[citation needed] The tower itself resembled a tree with four "limbs" (spires) and exuded a magical aura that many residents found so uncomfortable that they purposely avoid looking at it.[3]

The Cutlass[]

The Cutlass was one of the busiest taverns in the city, a haven for the crews of the pirate ships that docked in the harbor as well as the escorts whom they spend their share of the booty on. The famed barbarian Wulfgar spent some time working here as a bouncer.[28] It was located close to the lawless harbor, the Dragon Beach.[3]

The Royal Arms Inn[]

The Royal Arms was an expensive and luxurious inn that served only the finest foods and drinks, often favored by rich traders and dignitaries.[29]

Seven Sails Inn[]

The Seven Sails Inn was an establishment on Setting Sun Street where one could actually get some sleep. However, it was also a place closely watched by the Arcane Brotherhood.[citation needed]

Prisoners' Carnival[]

The Prisoners' Carnival was Luskan's "court" of justice, although truly it was just a public spectacle of torture and execution. It was located in the most public part of town: the Market.[3]

Rat Alley[]

Rat Alley was narrow alley crowded by trash, such as crates, and lined on both sides by low storehouses. It was the perfect place for thieves in hiding.[3] The Fried Rat restaurant—which literally served rat meat—was located here, although it had burned down by 1370 DR.[30]

Ruins of Illusk[]

Some of the ruins of the city that Luskan was built atop of still existed until quite recently, namely on the western side of the South Bank not far from the Host Tower of the Arcane. Most folks stayed away from the ruins as wandering undead, restless spirits of Illusk, were known to prey on the drunks and adventurers who got too close to the hidden passageways to the old city.[citation needed] Crumbled walls and moss-grown statues remained.[3] In 1372, Arklem Greeth used his lich powers to control the undead and set them to attacking residents of Luskan, effectively turning popular opinion against him.[31] By 1474 DR, Bregan D'aerthe had set up their secret headquarters in Illusk, with a path connecting Illusk with Closeguard Isle and Ship Kurth.[32]

One-Eyed Jax[]

One-Eyed Jax was a post-Spellplague inn and tavern on the northern bank named for Jarlaxle of Bregan D'aerthe. It was overtly owned and protected by Ship Kurth (which was in fact an arm of Bregan D'aerthe). It was one of the most reliable inns for foreigners, although it was often populated with drow.[27] In 1483 DR, the barkeep was young woman named Serena who had gray eyes and brown hair. She was "spoken for" by Jarlaxle.[33]

The Winter Palace[]

In the post-sundering era, the temple of Auril was a great complex adorned with soaring white spires. It had no roof, but was an open court filled with white stone pillars and arches. Its rituals seemed overtly cruel to those not of Auril's faith.[34]

  • One of the most well known rituals were the wet parades. The parades involved the wearing of garments stuffed with ice. While wearing these garments, participants would race through the streets of Luskan to climb six white pillars, called the Kisses of Auril. They would climb the pillars to kiss the iron plates located at the top of each spire. During the winter, frostbite and physical injury are quite common during these climbs due to the ice stuffed clothes and slippery pillars. Those who complete this race are believed to have assuaged Auril's wrath, bringing an easy winter. The participants are given free food and drink all winter long by Luskan's inhabitants.[35]


Notable Inhabitants[]


Map Gallery[]


The Accursed Tower
Streams of SilverThe Silent BladeThe Spine of the WorldTangled WebsThe Pirate KingGauntlgrymNeverwinterThe Last ThresholdThe CompanionsOne-Eyed Jax: A Forgotten Realms Adventure
Video Games
Neverwinter NightsSword Coast Legends
Referenced only
Baldur's GateIcewind Dale II

Further reading[]


  1. R.A. Salvatore (July 2005). Streams of Silver. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 24. ISBN 0-7869-1606-0.
  2. Ed Greenwood (August 1992). “The Everwinking Eye: Words To The Wise”. In Jean Rabe ed. Polyhedron #74 (TSR, Inc.), p. 14–15.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 Philip Athans (2008). A Reader's Guide to R. A. Salvatore's the Legend of Drizzt. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 142–143. ISBN 0-7869-4915-5.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Ed Greenwood (1993). Volo's Guide to the North. (TSR, Inc), p. 111. ISBN 1-5607-6678-6.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 176. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  6. Erik Scott de Bie (September 2011). Shadowbane. (Wizards of the Coast), loc. 6538. ISBN 978-0-7869-5935-8.
  7. R.A. Salvatore (March 2014). Night of the Hunter. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 309–310. ISBN 0-7869-6511-8.
  8. 8.0 8.1 R.A. Salvatore (March 2014). Night of the Hunter. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 309. ISBN 0-7869-6511-8.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Ed Greenwood (1993). Volo's Guide to the North. (TSR, Inc), p. 113. ISBN 1-5607-6678-6.
  10. R.A. Salvatore (Oct. 2008). The Pirate King. (Wizards of the Coast), p. ??. ISBN 978-0-7869-4964-9.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Warning: edition not specified for The Companions
  12. 12.0 12.1 Ed Greenwood (1993). Volo's Guide to the North. (TSR, Inc), p. 115. ISBN 1-5607-6678-6.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Ed Greenwood (1993). Volo's Guide to the North. (TSR, Inc), p. 116. ISBN 1-5607-6678-6.
  14. Ed Greenwood (1993). Volo's Guide to the North. (TSR, Inc), p. 129. ISBN 1-5607-6678-6.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Ed Greenwood (1993). Volo's Guide to the North. (TSR, Inc), p. 112. ISBN 1-5607-6678-6.
  16. Erik Scott de Bie (September 2011). Shadowbane. (Wizards of the Coast), loc. 6534. ISBN 978-0-7869-5935-8.
  17. Christopher Perkins (September 6, 2016). Storm King's Thunder. Edited by Kim Mohan, Michele Carter. (Wizards of the Coast), chap. 3, pp. 97–98. ISBN 978-0786966004.
  18. Elaine Cunningham (May 1998). Tangled Webs. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 227. ISBN 0-7869-0698-7.
  19. Elaine Cunningham (May 1998). Tangled Webs. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 27. ISBN 0-7869-0698-7.
  20. Ed Greenwood (1993). Volo's Guide to the North. (TSR, Inc), pp. 112–113. ISBN 1-5607-6678-6.
  21. Ed Greenwood (1993). Volo's Guide to the North. (TSR, Inc), p. 118. ISBN 1-5607-6678-6.
  22. Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 146. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  23. 23.0 23.1 R.A. Salvatore (July 2010). The Ghost King. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 978-0-7869-5499-5.
  24. R.A. Salvatore (March 2014). Night of the Hunter. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 16. ISBN 0-7869-6511-8.
  25. R.A. Salvatore (March 2014). Night of the Hunter. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 102. ISBN 0-7869-6511-8.
  26. Warning: edition not specified for The Companions
  27. 27.0 27.1 Warning: edition not specified for The Companions
  28. R.A. Salvatore (January 1998). The Spine of the World. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 0-7869-1180-8.
  29. R.A. Salvatore and The Seven Swords (1999). The Accursed Tower. (TSR, Inc.), p. 4. ISBN 0-7869-1337-1.
  30. Ed Greenwood (1993). Volo's Guide to the North. (TSR, Inc), p. 130. ISBN 1-5607-6678-6.
  31. R.A. Salvatore (Oct. 2008). The Pirate King. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 978-0-7869-4964-9.
  32. R.A. Salvatore (March 2014). Night of the Hunter. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 101. ISBN 0-7869-6511-8.
  33. Warning: edition not specified for The Companions
  34. Steve Kenson, et al. (November 2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. Edited by Kim Mohan. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 25. ISBN 978-0-7869-6580-9.
  35. Steve Kenson, et al. (November 2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. Edited by Kim Mohan. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 18. ISBN 978-0-7869-6580-9.
  36. Elaine Cunningham (May 1998). Tangled Webs. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 86. ISBN 0-7869-0698-7.
  37. slade, et al. (April 1996). “Cities & Civilization”. In James Butler ed. The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier (TSR, Inc.), p. 25. ISBN 0-7869-0391-0.