Sarp Item in Tremanac | World Anvil


A box with strings inside. It can only be played by those with psychic or arcane powers.

Mechanics & Inner Workings

A sarp is a box with strings insides. A tightly fitted lid with sound holes covers the strings and prevents them being played physically. Magical powers are required to play the strings and while the spells or abilities used to do so are fairly minor, using them with the precision to play the instrucment takes years of practice. There are three main designs.  

Training Sarp

The simplest of the designs this is a square box, approximately half a foot wide and about 3 inches high. There are eight strings inside the box running parallel with each other. There are tuning pegs to adjust teh tnesion of the strings inside the box. The strings themselves tend to be made of gut but. some are made from wire. The lid is made of a square wooden lattice which make sit easy to see inside the box. This version is used for teaching precision rather than as an instrument though it can be used to pick out simple tunes.  

Classic Sarp

This six sided box is the earliest design which can truely be called an instrument. A more complex array of 21 strings are contained in the box which is about a foot across and 4 inches high. The strings in this sarp cross each other with 7 strings running from each side to the opposite one. Tuning pegs are on outisde of the box for this variationin order to reduce the number of time sthe lid needs to be removed. The lid itself is a solid piece with carefully shaped curved sound holes.   The undersides of this variation also have two depressions which are meant to make the sintrument more stable when resting on the players legs. The angles of these depressions vary from sarp to sarp as they were usually made to align with how the original owner liked to sit when playing.   These sarps are more difficult to play due the number of strings and the difficulty in seeing inside. Part of the skill in playing them is to be able to both pluck and still multiple strings at the same time. Even after the development of the concert sarp these remained popular with those who needed a more portable design. While many of the original sarps of this design would have been relatively plain the surviving ones tend to be more orante versions which are family heirlooms.  

Concert Sarp

The largest design is the eight sided concert sarp. Most were around 2 foot arcoss and half a foot high with each side being the same length. These had 12 strings to a side with strings running between opposite sides. With both tuning pegs and tension levers on the outside the instrument could be set up to change keys much more easily than the classic harp which gave amny more options for performances. Like with the classic the lid was a tightly fitted piece with curved sound holes.   While it was possible to play with this resting on your legs the weight and size meant that most people preferred to use a stand and separate chair when playing. With even more strings and the option to use the levers to adjust the tuning of strings mid song these were considered much more difficult to play than the classic. Shile some would move the levers with their hands, this was considered cheating by some who held that all parts of playing should be done with magic.   Even when first produced most concert sarps were highly ornate. Some were simply showpieces for the wealthy but others were for those who played professionally at grand events. Almost every one of these was unqiue and those that have survived have been passed down through elven and dwarven families for generations.


The sarp was developed in Arbreendon as way of training psions in precise control of their telekinetic powers. The earliest versions were simple square boxes with four strings at different tensions to help the instructor tell if a student had plucked the right one. Some of the apprentice psions liked to play simple tunes on them and tried adding more strings. An eight string variant was created and found favour with the masters as it increased the difficulty of the training.   The sarp would likely have remained as a training tool were it not for Lufen Wrenson taking one with him on his travels. An encounter with a travelling bard led to discussions about how the instrument could be improved and Lufen took some tieme out on his way back home to consult with an instrument maker. This led to the creation of the hexagonal or classic sarp.   The sarp remained an instrument played almost exclusivelyin Abreendon until it was introduced to a mage from the Colleges of Magic. The colleges began using them to train mages in precise control and like in Abreendon, some students took to playing them for enjoyment. Up intil thiis point the sarp had been a fairly plain looking instrument but a few enterprising crafters decided to cash in on the new instrument, Realising that there was little profit to be made from producing small numbers of plain sarps they began creating much more ornate versions with different woods and ornate designs on the outside.   As is often the case some crafters and players were not content with the basic design of the sarp. Though there were relatively few customers for the instrument they tended to be wealthy and for a while there were almost as many different variations on the sarp as there were players. The number of strings, shape of the box, sound holes, and internal structure were all varied till the instruments could barely be considered to be of the same type.   Eventually the designs started to converge on an eight sided box with crossed strings and several internal structures to direct the sound. This configuration is now referred to as the concert sarp. Concert sarps were still custom made, with the size and decoration varying by owner but the underlying structure remained fairly constant.   Following the War of Ascension and the destruction of the colleges the sarp was largely forgotten apart from in elven and dwarven lands wehere a few continue to be played.
Item type
Musical Instrument
What's in a Name?
When the sarp was first produced psionics were little known nad most with that strange power had no desire to advertise their abilities. Publically calling it a psychic harp as it was in Arbreendon would have imdermined this so the name was compressed to Psi-harp then Sharp (which sounded silly for an instrument) and then Sarp.  
The power to play
If only psions were able to play the sarp it would have been a bit of a give away, so before any were permitted to be taken out of Arbreendon the master psions consulted with mages to see if there was another way to play them. Some of these mages, who already knew about psions, were able to use a minor spell of their own to pluck the strings which meant a psion with a sarp could pass themselves off as a mage.  
Whose Instrument is it?
Despite being originally designed by humans from Arbreendon, by the middle of the Second Age the elves had established themselves as the true masteres of the sarp. The difficulty of playing the concert sarp meant it could take decades to learn and only one or two humans ever truly mastered it.  
Works of Art
Most concert sarps were works of art in themselves but a few mages further enhanced their instruments with illusions to create moving images and lights while playing. Tineven Gemflower was renowed for creating one which showed images of whatever ballad he was playing at the time, no mean feat given his repetoire of hundreds of songs.
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Cover image: The party's camp by Tanai Cuinsear


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