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A side-cut map of Highhelm.

King's Crown
41,527 (in 4723 AR)
39,917 (in 4711 AR)
83% dwarves, 7% humans, 5% elves, 5% other
Monarchy with a council
Source: Castles of the Inner Sea, pg(s). 34ff. (1E)
Highhelm, pg(s). 9 (2E)
This article covers the dwarven city. For the Pathfinder Lost Omens sourcebook, see Highhelm (sourcebook).

Highhelm is among the most influential of the ancient and expansive dwarven settlements known as Sky Citadels. Constructed and founded in -4880 AR1 during the Age of Darkness23 within and beneath lofty Emperor's Peak in the Five Kings Range, it has remained the center of dwarven culture on Avistan for millennia.4


The history of Highhelm is almost synonymous with the history of the dwarves of Avistan. Highhelm was the crown jewel of the dwarven empire of Tar Taargadth in the late years of the Age of Destiny and retained this honor for centuries before the empire collapsed beneath the waves of orc hordes in 1551 AR. After the fall of Tar Taargadth, the baron-mayor of Highhelm, Torheim Gardrick I, founded the Mighty Kingdom of Gardadth in 1557 AR, one of the five dwarven kingdoms in the area, alongside Saggorak, Doggadth, Grakodan, and Taggoret.5

In 2332 AR, the peace treaty known as the Kerse Accord was signed at Highhelm's Council Building and ended the 700-year-long civil war (the 19th Five Kings Wars) between the five kingdoms.5637

The five kingdoms eventually fell to the orc hordes in 2497 AR, though Highhelm endured because of its impenetrable defenses.8 When Khadon the Mighty reclaimed the Five Kings Mountains for the dwarves and founded the kingdom of Tar Khadurrm in 3279 AR, the importance of Highhelm decreased for several centuries. After the eruption of Torag's Crag in 3980 AR that caused the destruction of Jernashall and the fall of Tar Khadurrm, the capital moved back to Highhelm. In the 250 years since the fall of Droskar's Kingdom, in 4466 AR (known as the Collapsed Era), the metropolis of Highhelm has played a central role in maintaining what remains of the dwarves' once great legacy.695


Highhelm rises above ancient dwarven holdings in the Darklands. As the dwarves burrowed their way to the surface during their Quest for Sky, they built massive structures within Emperor's Peak, which gradually formed the city of Highhelm. The ancient foundation of the metropolis winds through the entire mountain before its tunnels finally enter the fortress-city most people refer to when they speak of Highhelm. This fortress-city is the most populous and is also known as the King's Crown. It consists of the Inner City within the mountain and the Outer City. The Inner City is carved into a colossal cavern with 100-foot-tall ceilings supported by huge pillars and arches. A low siege wall, known as the Second Wall, encircles the cavern and is connected to the main siege wall, the Plummet Wall, which rests at the end of the Outer City. The Outer City, known also as the Ledge, is built out of the cavern on a broad plane several hundred feet wide that the dwarves cut around the cavern of the Inner City.5

The majority of Highhelm's population lives in the Inner City. Neatly planned streets connect rows of private dwellings, shops, and alehouses. A number of long staircases climb the great stone hill known as King's Motte from these streets. Tiers cut into its sharp incline support a half-dozen impressive stone keeps, including the Council Building, the Scepter Building, the Trade Consulate Building, and the Stonehall, the carved palace from which the High King reigns. In the east wall of Inner City's cavern, a large hole known as the dawnhole allows sunlight to enter from dawn to noon, while a similarly carved hole, known as the duskhole, in the west wall allows light to enter in the latter part of the day. At the time of the day when the sunlight pierces neither hole, the cavern goes almost completely dark, and is called blacknoon.5

Beneath the King's Crown, tunnels weave through earth and stone connecting thousands of halls and chambers. These lower levels are known as the Depths and attract goblins, orcs, and other enemies. Groups of skyseekers are sent into the Depths to map unknown sections, recover artifacts, and keep the area secure.5

City districts

The approach to Highhelm.

Highhelm is split into four distinct levels, called layers or main districts: King's Crown, King's Heart, Stonebreach, and the mountain's lowest levels of The Depths. Each layer contains neighborhoods and districts with a variety of sizes and function, connected primarily by a large vertically-spanning spiral staircase called Clamber at the center of Emperor's Peak mountain.1011

King's Crown neighbourhoods

  • Deeplock: is a huge stone castle within the Inner City that sits atop a gaping hole that descends into The Depths.5
  • East End: Situated on the exterior of the mountain, the East End receives the most sunlight and has excellent views of the Five Kings range, including nearby Mount Kla and the Verduran Forest. Thus, East End is the most desirable district in Outer City and many merchant caravans set up shop here.512
  • Gatebreach: Located just inside the East Gate to the mountain's exterior, Gatebreach is the bustling center of King's Crown trade. It provides excellent business opportunities for city merchants, purveyors, artisans, tradespeople, and common folk, targeting all those who enter and exit the city.512
  • Helmsborough: Less wealthy than most other districts in King's Crown, Helmsborough holds innumerable taverns as well as military and blacksmithing ventures and their owners' homes. Helmsborough hosts half a dozen public drinking halls called communals. Mercenaries and merchants often convene in these communals to drink but also settle deals and sign contracts.512
  • Helmskeep: One of the oldest parts of Highhelm, this district holds the clanhalls of the most ancient clans, as well as the King's residence. Additionally, the most influential families, claiming direct ancestry to the Darklands dwarves who founded the city, have established their grand estates in Helmskeep district.512
  • Helmslore: A quiet neighbourhood, Helmslore is the home of many of Highhelm's "white collar" workers such as lawyers and bankers. A number of institutions dedicated to preserving knowledge, history, and financial records like the Hall of Ledgers, the Iron Archives, the Academy of Lore, Deepstone House, and others are located here or nearby.512
  • The Hollow: the Hollow district of the Inner City is the workplace and home of communities of artisans working in small collectives on large projects.5
  • New Stonewrought: New Stonewrought is located along the wall of the eastern part of Inner City. It is a small district of merchants and day workers.5
  • Runnerton: most of the muleskinners live in Runnerton district in Outer City.5
  • South Face: the South Face district of the Outer City is located between the walls of the West Gate Passage and the walls of East End. South Face rarely attracts visitors. Two important structures in the district are the Old Keep, which is the garrison of the famous Order of the Mantle, and the Broch which is a large tower converted into a prison.5
  • South Reach: Another of the poorer districts in King's Crown, South Reach's inhabitants are the cogs whose unglamorous jobs keep life running in the city.12
  • West Face: Situated on the opposite side of the mountain from East End, West Face receives much less sunlight, making it a home for the less upscale merchants. It is located in front of the West Gate Passage, which is one of the primary entrances into Inner City. Battlements flanked by huge stone towers separate the district into sectors and lead caravans toward the immense, hundred-foot-high West Gate. The residents of the district are mostly merchants, mercenaries, artisans, guides, and muleskinners.512

King's Heart neighbourhoods

  • Crystalborough: This district holds most of the municipal and religious functions of King's Heart.13
  • Goldgate: The few Goldhilt clans that make their home in King's Heart congregate in this district, making it more upmarket than most of the level.13
  • Ironwell: Full of practical tradespeople like blacksmiths and stonemasons, most homes in Ironwell are built over the residents' places of business.13
  • Obsidian: Home to most of the Steelhilt clans of the level, the streets and homes therein are usually built in the style of their owning clan.13
  • The Tunnels: Not literal tunnels, but the main point of transit between the various neighbourhoods as well as between the levels of Highhelm.13

Stonebreach neighbourhoods

  • Bonerun: Situated in a northern cavern, Bonerun is known for its no-nonsense residents and services like barbering and tattooing.14
  • Breachborn: Most of the non-dwarven residents of Stonebreach live in Breachborn.14
  • Dying Range: The Dying Range neighbourhood was officially abandoned after falling victim to an infestation of monsters from the Darklands. It is a common destination for brave or foolhardy scavengers.14
  • Etcherie: Most consider the Etcherie to be the heart of the level, especially since the Vanderholl clan hall is located here.14
  • Spilldown: Spilldown contains many lodging halls and property for rent for short-term visitors to Highhelm.14
  • The Warrens: Once carved as low-quality temporary housing for construction workers, the Warrens have become home to Stonebreach's thriving creative community.14

The Depths neighbourhoods

  • Artist's Walk: Almost an entire mile long, local artists have begun turning this tunnel into an enormous mural depicting all of dwarven history.15
  • The Burrows: The worst, most cramped homes in the Depths cluster here. Outsiders rarely visit.15
  • Deep Fork: The most central area of the Depths, this is the most visited neighbourhood by those coming from other levels.15


Despite the fact that today each of the city-states of the Five Kings Mountains functions as a free city with its own monarchy, and while the Gathering Council is loosely defined, Highhelm serves as the region's capital out of tradition and honor for its status as one of the four surviving Sky Citadels in the world. Dwarves throughout Golarion regard Highhelm as the center of their culture due to its historical significance and they would march to its aid if it were ever under attack.16


Highhelm is a major center for both industry and trade, overseen by a number of guilds and unions that lead their respective occupational fields. It is a nexus of commercial exchange that sees visitors from all over the world, much to the surprise of those who stereotype the region for its insularity. Markets within the city are generally small but highly numerous and offer a diverse number of goods and services throughout the levels of the city. More populated areas of the city host larger markets which are famed throughout the Five Kings Mountains and beyond. Imports and the production of goods are managed through negotiated discourse between the clans and guilds of Highhelm who rely on the steady influx of raw materials to continue their craft.17


To meet the needs of its large population, Highhelm accommodates for everyday demands of its citizens by hosting numerous major industries essential for the city's operation.

Air within Highhelm is produced and purified by a variety of cultivated lichen that are grown upon porous latticed walls placed throughout residential areas. Known as "breatherwalls", druids of the city created the lichen to improve air quality and dampen otherwise deafening noises that could echo through the halls of the underground city. These oxygen-creating emplacements are so efficient that it is possible for the entire city to subsist entirely on its produced air, even if every air shaft and entrance is sealed away to defend Highhelm against a potential siege. The practice of growing the breatherwall lichen is a trade secret, inviting many outsiders to try and steal the technique to no avail. This has not stopped spores of the lichen from appearing on the black market, although their legitimacy is questionable.17
The breweries and distilleries of Highhelm are well-known for the quality of alcohol they produce, and are one of few products of the city that are freely exported and accessible. Two varieties of the city's beverages are the Highhelm Deepdraught, a brown ale aged in the magically resonant caverns of the Darklands; and Taarghal Spirit Smoke, a whiskey flavored with the fronds of a local specimen of flora known as Taarghal cavernspike.17 The occupation of brewing and distilling is a task typically assigned to members of the Goldhilt caste of dwarven society, and Clan Firecask is especially known among its peers of dwarven clans as specialists in the field of alcohol production.18
A dwarf grindlegrub rancher.
Bred and ranched for centuries by the dwarves for a variety of uses, grindlegrubs are a species of large cave grubs that are often kept in large underground pits within Highhelm. All organic waste created within the city is collected and deposited into these pits to be consumed by the grindlegrubs, which are highly efficient recyclers of the nutrients that can be found within the material they are fed. Besides sanitation, grindlegrubs are also processed into various animal products. The fat is used to produce candles, soap, and machine lubricant, while the meat can either be cooked as a delicacy or compacted into nutritious but bland ration bricks.17 Fried grindlegrub is also a common street food in Highhelm.19
Although thousands of years of mining has largely depleted Highhelm of its mineral wealth, veins of copper, iron, and adamantine can be found within the Depths. Some small deposits of gems can also be found in sparing quantity beneath Emperor's Peak. All that can be extracted is kept by Highhelm, as the city no longer produces enough raw ore to export. Yet the mining expertise of the Highhelm dwarves remains unparalleled by any other, and the city's surveyors, engineers, and overseers can expect significant amounts of pay for their knowledge and occupational mastery.17
Highhelm remains a significant center for smelting and metalcraft, relying on imported ore to process within furnaces empowered by elemental magic. The practice of metal refinement is extremely sophisticated, using a combination of technology and magic to reduce the amount of toxic by-products generated by the craft. Some also patron the guilds of Highhelm to extract and process exotic or hazardous ores that no one else can, and guilds often take a percentage of the material as payment.17 Most of what is refined by Highhelm's smelters is set aside for local use, and the smiths of the city are renowned throughout the world for the durability and artisanal quality of their work. While armor and weapons forged by Highhelm's smiths are naturally sought after by many, their ornamental and utilitarian works are also held in extremely high regard. The outstanding quality of dwarven metalwork extends to objects such as clockwork toys, surgical instruments, and mortuary statues that often find their way to becoming treasured centerpieces for the collections of kings and archpriests.17
As the city of Highhelm has been carved into the depths of Emperor's Peak, stonemasonry has emerged as a revered trade that holds a prominent position within the city. While the export of stonework is limited, Highhelm's esteemed stonemasons occasionally undertake prestigious commissions to design and supervise the construction of foreign palaces, cathedrals, and guildhalls. However, such endeavors are only pursued when the proposed structures are deemed worthy of their exceptional craftsmanship.17
The logistics and handling of goods through the Five Kings Mountains is reliant on the expertise of the Harnessers' Guild. Highhelm's many imports depend upon the organization, who have taken to using mules for aboveground and upper-level transport, while delegating the same function to draft lizards in the Depths and beyond.17


Northeast of Highhelm, dwarves control the Five Kings Mountains with unquestioned authority, and passage among the many high peaks remains relatively safe from living dangers. Dwarven caravans from Highhelm seldom travel to nearby Darkmoon Vale, however, and most head west into Isger or Molthune. Roughly two or three times a decade, a group of Highhelm merchants gathers together and sends a caravan along the treacherous scree-covered trails that wind perilously through the mountains. The dwarves prefer to hire dozens of mercenaries to augment their tough dwarven guards and to act as arrow-fodder and spear-catchers during the inevitable attacks on these wealthy caravans.20


Paizo published a Pathfinder Lost Omens sourcebook about the Sky Citadel titled Highhelm and a significant article in Castles of the Inner Sea.

For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.

  1. Paizo Inc., et al. “Chapter 1: Introduction” in Highhelm, 8–15. Paizo Inc., 2023
  2. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 24. Paizo Inc., 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mike McArtor. Guide to Darkmoon Vale, inside front cover. Paizo Inc., 2008
  4. Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 2: The Inner Sea” in Campaign Setting, 73. Paizo Inc., 2008
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 Tim Hitchcock & Alyssa Faden. Highhelm” in Castles of the Inner Sea, 35–37. Paizo Inc., 2013
  6. 6.0 6.1 David Eitelbach, et al. Dwarves of Golarion” in Dwarves of Golarion, 8–9. Paizo Inc., 2009
  7. Mike McArtor. “Chapter 3: History” in Guide to Darkmoon Vale, 45. Paizo Inc., 2008
  8. Benjamin Bruck, et al. “Chapter 1: Common Races” in Inner Sea Races, 73. Paizo Inc., 2015
  9. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 67. Paizo Inc., 2011
  10. Paizo Inc., et al. “Chapter 1: Introduction” in Highhelm, 8–9. Paizo Inc., 2023
  11. Paizo Inc., et al. “Chapter 2: Gazetteer” in Highhelm, 82. Paizo Inc., 2023
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 Paizo Inc., et al. “Chapter 2: Gazetteer” in Highhelm, 51. Paizo Inc., 2023
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Paizo Inc., et al. “Chapter 2: Gazetteer” in Highhelm, 65. Paizo Inc., 2023
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 Paizo Inc., et al. “Chapter 2: Gazetteer” in Highhelm, 79. Paizo Inc., 2023
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Paizo Inc., et al. “Chapter 2: Gazetteer” in Highhelm, 94. Paizo Inc., 2023
  16. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 68. Paizo Inc., 2011
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 17.5 17.6 17.7 17.8 Paizo Inc., et al. “Chapter 1: Introduction” in Highhelm, 20–23. Paizo Inc., 2023
  18. Paizo Inc., et al. “Chapter 1: Introduction” in Highhelm, 32–37. Paizo Inc., 2023
  19. Paizo Inc., et al. “Chapter 2: Gazetteer” in Highhelm, 73. Paizo Inc., 2023
  20. Mike McArtor. (May 21, 2008). Here Comes the Neighborhood, Paizo Blog.