Waterdeep is named for its outstanding natural deep-water harbor, and the city that grew up at this site became the commercial crossroads of the northern Realms. Waterdeep’s shops and merchants offer goods of every sort from every corner of Toril, and even the rarest of items can be procured, given sufficient coin and patience.
People have inhabited the plateau upon which Waterdeep stands for longer than human histories record. It was already a glorious place when a dwarf prospector named Melair discovered mithral beneath the mountain. In agreement with the elven kingdom of Illefarn, Melair called kith and kin to mine under the mountain and in the plateau, and thus Clan Melairkyn came to rule below as the Illefarni did above.
This fruitful alliance lasted less than the lifetime of a dwarf, for the emperor of the elves commanded that all leave in the Retreat, the exodus of elves from Faerûn to their mystical isle of Evermeet. The Melairkyn saw this as a breaking of their bargain, and never again did they deal with elves. Instead, they tunneled deeper under the mountain, never to be heard from again.
Early Human Settlement
When humans came to the deepwater harbor they found it empty and suitable for their own purposes. For more than a thousand years, folk lived and traded at the site of what would become Waterdeep. At some point during this period, the wizard Halaster Blackcloak built his tower at the base of Mount Waterdeep and came to rule the lands around until he, like the Melairkyn, vanished under the mountain.
Various warlords later claimed the plateau’s harbor as their own, but it was one known as Nimoar who is best remembered. Nimoar raised a wooden stockade to protect the settlement around the harbor, claiming rule over the town that by then was being called “Nimoar’s Hold, the Town of Waters Deep.”
War between orcs and elves in lands farther north drove hordes of trolls south to claw at the fledgling city, and amid this danger, Nimoar died of old age. Many bloody struggles unfolded between local folk and trolls, until the magic of a youth named Ahghairon turned the fortunes of war against the “everlasting ones,” which were destroyed or scattered. Ahghairon improved slowly in skill and power with the passage of the years, until he became a great mage.
The First Open Lord of Waterdeep
In the year 1032 DR, Ahghairon argued with Raurlor, who was then Warlord of Waterdeep. Raurlor wanted to use Waterdeep’s acquired wealth and strength of arms to create a northern empire. Ahghairon defied him before all the people, and Raurlor ordered the mage to be chained. But when Ahghairon magically turned aside all who sought to lay hands on him, Raurlor struck at the mage with his own sword. Ahghairon then rose into the air, just out of reach, and used his magic to transmute Raurlor’s blade into a hissing serpent. When the serpent struck Raurlor, he died in full view of his followers.
Ahghairon then gathered the leaders of Waterdeep’s armies and powerful families. While runners sought to bring them to the castle, flames roared and crackled in the empty warlord’s throne at Ahghairon’s bidding, so that none could sit there. Then, when the gathered host of worthies met in the audience chamber, the wizard seated himself on the flaming throne. Immediately the fires died away, leaving both the throne and Ahghairon unharmed.
From this seat Ahghairon decreed how the city would be governed. While he would sit as lord openly, a council of other lords of nearly equal power would rule with him. But the identity of those other lords would be hidden even from each other, thus preventing any of them from being approached and influenced by bribe or threat. So it was Ahghairon that established Waterdeep’s system of governance.
Ahghairon was instrumental in establishing many of Waterdeep’s other institutions, such as its black-robed magisters, its Griffon Cavalry, and the city’s many guilds. The first Open Lord ruled wisely for over two centuries before the magic sustaining his health failed. He now lies entombed in his tower, which can still be sees standing in the courtyard of the Palace of Waterdeep.
Time of Troubles
When the gods walked among mortals during the Time of Troubles, they were cast down to the world by the mysterious Overgod Ao in 1358 DR. Until then, none but the gods had known of Ao’s existence, and since then, few have learned little more. As all know, the crisis began with the theft of the Tablets of Fate by the vile and ambitious gods Bane and Myrkul, later joined by Bhaal. These mystic artifacts supposedly determine the extent of the gods’ power, and dictate how they use that power. As punishment for this affront, Ao cast down the gods (or the ones that humans worshiped, at any rate) and then demanded that they return the tablets to him.
The gods didn’t seek out the tablets, and thus it was left to mortal heroes to sort out the mess. They did so, their efforts culminating in Waterdeep. It was on the slopes of Mount Waterdeep that Ao was last seen, when he granted godhood to the human heroes Kelemvor, Midnight (who became Mystra), and Cyric.
Waterdeep has since attracted a steady stream of pilgrims who worship Midnight at Mystra’s temple and pay homage to Kelemvor in the City of the Dead. The Cynosure was built as a temple to Ao. But his worship fell from favor when all prayers to him went unanswered, and folk realized they had no idea what he stood for or who he was.
In 1385 DR, the Year of Blue Fire, the Spellplague gripped the world. None knew it at the time, but it has since been divined that Cyric’s long hatred for Mystra boiled over and led to his murder of the goddess of magic.
During this period, the powerful magical fields that protect and affect Waterdeep became unstable. This led to the disastrous activation of most of Waterdeep’s walking statues during an earthquake. In the years before, the walking statues were often hidden on the Ethereal Plane, to be called forth only in times of great peril. Many in the city doubted that such massive, sapient constructs were even real, let alone that they guarded the city invisibly. The Spellplague confirmed their existence for all to see, though, and each carved a swath of destruction through Waterdeep before it was stopped. Now the walking statues stand about the city in various states of readiness or disarray.
After the Spellplague came the Sundering in 1482 DR. Elf scholars insist on calling it the Second Sundering, asserting that the creation of Evermeet thousands of years ago was a similar happening. The event that unfolded was the result of another world — called Abeir — passing again into Toril. The gods were once more cast into the mortal realm, this time embodied in mortal beings known as Chosen. Ao seems to be the cause of it all, though why he chose to cast down the gods was a matter of dispute even among those entities while they were on Toril.
Apparently, all of this was foreseen by Waterdeep’s legendary wizard Khelben Arunsun, and it was only through his wisdom and the efforts of Elminster, Laeral Silverhand and a handful of others that the world was saved. According to Elminster, Ao remade the Tablets of Fate as a result, restoring the divine order and separating Abeir from Toril.
Law in Waterdeep
Waterdeep is a city of laws molded by Tyr’s spirit of justice. Members of the City Watch are entrusted to do their duty diligently, and that the city’s magisters will to be fair.
Unlike in less civilized settlements, punishment for crimes in Waterdeep isn’t typically used as public entertainment. Scheduled executions occur behind the high walls of Castle Waterdeep, and floggings are carried out in the watch post nearest the sentencing. The Watch makes an effort to take individuals into custody quietly, so as not to disrupt other citizens. Bystanders generally return the favor by giving altercations between criminals and the Watch a wide berth.
The Code Legal
Waterdeep has a complex library of law and custom set by precedent, the main body of which can be read in the Code Legal. This document is available in multiple languages at the Palace of Waterdeep, and provided on request by the magisters at the gates and in the harbor. The Code Legal provides an outline of typical sentences for various offenses, and magisters have broad discretion when meting out justice as they see fit. Any Masked Lord can overturn a magister’s ruling.
The first soldiers one might see in service to the city will be the members of the City Guard who patrol the roads leading to Waterdeep, watch the walls, guard civic structures, and protect magisters. Waterdeep’s streets are policed by an altogether different force: the City Watch.
The uniform of a City Watchmen consists of a green-and-goldenrod doublet and a tall steel helmet. Each typically carries a long truncheon, a dagger, and a buckler. Members of the Watch typically don’t carry crossbows or other weapons to attack at range.
The City Watch has watch posts throughout the city. These stations are often off the main thoroughfares, tucked away in small courtyards or at cross streets. A watch post can be recognized by the green-and-gold lantern outside it, lit even during the day with a continual flame spell. A watch post serves as an organizational headquarters and armory and typically contains a few holding cells where people arrested for crimes can be detained until they’re marched to a courthouse jail before standing trial.
Small squads head out from the watch posts on daily and nightly rounds of the city streets, or on special assignments involving protection or investigation. If Watch members spot trouble they can’t handle, they blow shrill tin whistles to summon more of their members — an act that alerts nearby citizens as well.
Ranks in the City Watch
Members of the City Watch are called officers. Their ranks are, from lowest to highest:
- Armar (sergeant)
- Civilar (lieutenant)
- Senior Civilar (captain; leader of a watch station)
- Ward Civilar (major; one per city ward)
- Commander of the Watch
The Watch also includes a Senior Armsmaster, who reports to the Commander of the Watch and is in charge of supplies. The Commander of the Watch reports to the Open Lord, Laeral Silverhand.
City GuardThe City Guard is Waterdeep’s army, charged with protecting the city’s walls and gates, government buildings, harbor, and officials. The City Guard also patrols the roads to Amphail, Goldenfields, and Daggerford.
Ranks in the City Guard
Members of the City Guard have ranks. From lowest to highest, they are:
- Armar (sergeant)
- Civilar (lieutenant)
- Senior Civilar (captain)
- Command Positions
- Seneschal of Castle Waterdeep
- Defender of the Harbor
- Master of the North Towers
- Master of the South Towers
- Master Armorer
- Others bestowed as needed in wartime, e.g. the Lords’ Hand and the Lords’ Champion
- Warden of Waterdeep
The current Warden of Waterdeep is Elminster, who answers to the Open Lord, Laeral Silverhand.
Brave warriors of the City Guard light out from the Peaktop Aerie atop Mount Waterdeep, riding fearsome griffons that have been bred and trained for the purpose of aerial defense.
Working in concert with one another, members of the Griffon Cavalry can rapidly eliminate any threat to the city — and even catch the body of the offender before it hits the rooftops below. Riders of the Griffon Cavalry are trained to stay above the rooftops because the smell of so much horseflesh in the streets below can sometimes drive their griffons into a frenzy.
The Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors
Wizards, sorcerers, and other arcane spellcasters who intend to stay in Waterdeep for any length of time are required to register with the city, and will be strongly encouraged to join the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors, headed by the Blackstaff.
Members of the Watchful Order are expected to render service to the city when called upon, acting as temporary members of the City Watch or City Guard. Their expertise often helps investigators determine whether magic was used to commit a crime in the city. Members can also expect to be tapped for assistance during and after fires, natural events that cause multiple casualties, or other nonmagical disasters.
The Wards of Waterdeep
Newcomers to the city of Waterdeep are often confused by the importance that Waterdavians give to wards. In other cities, districts are bounded by rivers or walls, but in Waterdeep, one can traverse from ward to ward by crossing a street.
Each ward has its own history, legends, and traditions based around who lived there in the past, famous or infamous events, and the uncanny things that continue to occur. These shared stories and traditions impart to each ward a different culture. Nothing drives residents to identify with their wards as much as festivals and sport. Nearly every race and parade in the city features a competition between wards as part of the festivities.
The Sea Ward stands proud on the high ground above Mount Waterdeep’s sunset shadow. The rich and the powerful reside or run their businesses here.
Blue and gold are the Sea Ward’s colors in competitions, and the ward’s mascot is the sea lion — a fanciful combination of fish and feline.
Many nobles live in the North Ward. Most streets are lined with row houses inhabited by the families of prosperous people of business, investing, and civic service.
The North Ward’s colors are green and orange, and its mascot is the gentle white dove, depicted in flight.
The Castle Ward is the heart and mind of Waterdeep, if not its soul. It houses the city’s military forces, courts, government, and the Market — the largest market square of any city in the North. It encompasses the City Navy’s docks in the Great Harbor and all of Mount Waterdeep, and it is home to six walking statues, numerous temples, and many other landmarks.
The Castle Ward’s colors are blue and purple, and its mascot is a griffon, typically depicted in gold. These borrow colors from the city’s flag and reference the Griffon Cavalry.
This ward bustles day and night with activity, both on the street and on balcony walkways that run the length of blocks and are sometimes layered five stories high. As long as it’s not illegal, you can find it in the Trades Ward. But if you are looking for something illegal, the Trades Ward is likely the place to get that too.
The Trades Ward uses green and purple as its colors, and its mascot is the mimic. This tradition reportedly arose because when mascots were first chosen, the Trades Ward took a chest of gold as its own — and was roundly mocked by citizens of other wards for not picking a creature. Now, every four years, the ward reveals a new object for its mascot, declaring it to be the mimic.
The Southern Ward hosts most of the traveling merchants who visit the city, and is made up of many enclaves, blocks, and streets primarily occupied by citizens who trace their ancestry to other realms.
The Southern Ward uses red and white as its colors — said to represent the blood and tears the people of the Southern Ward have shed during their labors.
The Dock Ward was long considered the most dangerous district in the city. Warehouses, poorhouses, and tenements dominate much of the area. Streets are steep throughout, and few have space alongside for pedestrians.
The colors of the Dock Ward are burgundy and orange, and its mascot is a swordfish that has always been depicted as green for reasons lost to time.
Though not an official ward of the city, the Field Ward is commonly referred to as one. The Watch doesn’t patrol this area and the City Guard oversees the Field Ward from the walls around it, but its members get involved only when folk moving into or out of the city are threatened.
This district was once a caravan yard between Waterdeep’s two northernmost walls, kept free of settlement to serve as a killing field in times of war. As refugees from various calamities settled there after not being allowed into the city’s wealthy northern neighborhoods.
City of the Dead
The City of the Dead is a great park of grassy hills, tended flower beds, artfully placed clusters of trees and bushes, beautiful sculptures, architecture, and gravel paths that wend through its landscape. Waterdavians largely abandoned the practice of burying their dead, instead entombing them in mausoleums. For centuries, the major mausoleums in the City of the Dead have each been connected to an extradimensional space where the dead are taken, mourned, and interred.
Those who can afford it memorialize the departed with sculptures. Nobles and wealthy merchants have competed to erect the grandest markers for their dead, leading to a wide variety of styles and concepts created by artists.
One of the cemetery’s attractions is the Warriors’ Monument. This sixty-foot-high sculpture depicts a circle of women and men striking down trolls, orcs, hobgoblins, bugbears, and barbarians, all of which are falling backward and outward around the warriors. Above all of them, a flying griffon rider spears a skeletal knight whose breastplate bears the symbol of Myrkul, god of the dead. This statue is also a fountain, and the wounds on these combatants gush water.
The Guilds of Waterdeep
No aspect of life in Waterdeep goes untouched by at least one of its more than forty guilds. Virtually every profession has an associated guild, and there’s hardly a citizen of the city who doesn’t belong to one or more guilds, or doesn’t work for someone who does.
|Field of Work||Guild||Headquarters|
|Alcohol||Vintners’, Distillers’, & Brewers’ Guild||The House of Good Spirits|
|Baking||Baker’s Guild||The Master Baker’s Hall|
|Barrel-making||Cooper’s Guild||Cooper’s Rest|
|Basketry||League of Basket-makers & Wicker-workers||Office of the League|
|Bows & arrows||Fellowship of Bowyers & Fletchers||The Citadel of the Arrow|
|Butchering||Guild of Butchers||The Butcher’s Guildhall|
|Candles & lamps||Guild of Chandlers & Lamplighters||House of Light|
|Cloth||Most Excellent Order of Weavers & Dyers||House of Textiles|
|Clothing||Order of Master Tailors, Glovers, & Mercers||Costumer’s Hall|
|Document-making||Scriveners’, Scribes’, & Clerks’ Guild||The Zoarstar|
|Driving||Fellowship of Carters & Coachmen||The Road House|
|Dungsweeping||Dungsweeper’s Guild||Muleskull Tavern|
|Fishmongers||Fishmonger’s Fellowship||Seaswealth Hall|
|Food preservation||Fellowship of Salters, Packers & Joiners||Shipper’s Hall|
|Footwear||Order of Cobblers & Corvisers||Cobblers & Corvisers|
|Fur & wool||Solemn Order of Recognized Furriers & Woolmen||Guildhall of the Order|
|Glassworking||Guild of Glassblowers, Glaziers, & Spectacle-makers||House of Crystal|
|Greengrocers||Council of Farmer-Grocers||The Market Hall|
|Horses & Mounts||Stablemasters’ and Farriers’ Guild||The Guild Paddock|
|House-building||Carpenters’, Roofers’, & Plasterers’ Guild||The Stone House|
|Innkeeping||Fellowship of Innkeepers||Fellowship Hall|
|Jestering||Jesters’ Guild||Jester’s Clubhouse|
|Jewelry||Jewelers’ Guild||The House of Gems|
|Laundry||Launderers’ Guild||House of Cleanliness|
|Leatherwork||League of Skinners & Tanners||League Hall|
|Magic, arcane||Watchful Order of Magists & Protectors||Tower of the Order|
|Maps||Surveyors’, Map-, and Chart-makers’ Guild||The Map House|
|Medicine||Guild of Apothecaries & Physicians||House of Healing|
|Metalcasting||Guild of Trusted Pewterers & Casters||Pewterer’s Guildhall|
|Metalsmiths||Most Careful Order of Skilled Smiths & Metalforgers||Metalmasters’ Hall|
|Metalwork, weapons, armor & delicate work||Splendid Order of Armorers, Locksmiths, & Finesmiths||The Metal House of Wonders|
|Music||Council of Musicians, Instrument-makers & Choristers||House of Song|
|Paper||Stationer’s Guild||Stationers’ Hall|
|Sailing||Master Mariners’ Guild||Mariner’s Hall|
|Sewers||Cellarer’s and Plumbers’ Guild||The Old Guildhall|
|Sail-making||Most Diligent League of Sail-makers & Cordwainers||Full Sails Tavern|
|Stonework||Guild of Stonecutters, Masons, Potters & Tile-makers||Builder’s Hall|
|Streetwork||Loyal Order of Street Laborers||The Pavilion of Paving Stones|
|Tack-making||Saddlers’ and Harness-makers’ Guild||Saddler’s Hall|
|Vehicles, land||Wagon-makers’ and Coach Builders’ Guild||Coach & Wagon Hall|
|Vehicles, water||Order of Master Shipwrights||Shipwright’s House|
|Water-travel||Guild of Watermen||Watermen’s Hall|
|Wheel-making||Wheelwrights’ Guild||Wheel Hall|
|Woodcarving||Guild of Fine Carvers||House of Fine Carvers|
The Walking Statues
Originally there was only one visible statue in the city, while seven other statues remained hidden on the ethereal plane around the city. During The Spellplague six more of the statues exited the ethereal plane and began rampaging the city. Once their rampage ended, the city rebuilt around, on top of, and sometimes inside the statues.
The God Catcher
One of the most famous walking statues in the city. The statue is of a well-muscled male human with its left leg sunk to the hip in the street. Its left hand and right foot press against the ground as if it is trying to pull itself out. Its right arm is raised skyward, and above its open palm floats a sphere of stone. Its gaze looks up toward the sphere.
All about the statue, climbing up its chest and on its knee and shoulders, is a tenement that carries the name “the God Catcher.”
The Griffon is shaped like the beast for which it is named. Looking to the southeast over the Dock Ward, it stands a fully twenty feet off the ground in a regal pose near the Peaktop Aerie atop Mount Waterdeep.
The Sahuagin Humbled
For years this was the only visible walking statue of Waterdeep, known simply as “the walking statue.” It stood at the foot of Mount Waterdeep near the head of Julthoon Street. After its critical role in defending the city against an invasion of sahuagin in 1370 DR, Khelben Blackstaff reshaped the statue into a sahuagin.
It now bows low toward the House of Heroes on bended knee.
The Great Drunkard
This walking statue stopped its rampage as it approached the Market, then fell backward and sat upon a building. When it settled, its arms fell limp at its sides and its head tilted forward onto its chest, giving the impression that it had fallen asleep. The statue’s huge stone battleaxe still stands nearby, its haft angled upright and its blade half buried in the cobbles. The rubble of the crushed building was rebuilt into a broad stone stair that ascends to the statue’s lap.
Upon the giant's lap is a two-story tavern, called Gralkyn’s Tankard.
The Lady Dreaming
This statue has the appearance of a female elf, whose hair and clothing appeared to flow naturally. When the walking statues stopped, this one toppled onto its side, taking on the appearance of a titanic sculpture of a lady asleep.
The Honorable Knight
The Honorable Knight is a statue of a male warrior in plate armor with a shield and longsword. When the walking statues stopped, it bowed to those opposing it, straightened, sheathed its sword, and doffed its shield, setting it point down on the ground and upright by its side. It then ceased motion in this position, facing southwest toward the harbor.
The Hawk Man
This statue looks like a winged, hawk-headed being with wings folded tightly against its back. It tilts decidedly toward the northeast due to a missing right foot, along with a missing right arm. Its left arm is extended out toward the north, palm forward.
The body has been hollowed out and turned into a tower shared by several wealthy tenants, which is officially known as Sparaunt Tower. The first floor of the tower contains a fine-dining restaurant called Soaring Delights.
This statue appears virtually identical to the Honorable Knight, except for its female form and open-faced helm. The residents of Waterdeep’s North Ward dismantled much of the statue, parts of which can now be found all over the North Ward, either incorporated into buildings or as bits of freestanding sculpture.
The head of the Swordmaiden sits in a stand of tall trees in the center of the block of the North Ward bounded by Hassantyr’s Street, Tarsar’s Street, Whaelgond Way, and Ussilbran Street. The center of its jaw and mouth have been replaced by a door, which leads into the shop known as Thort’s Findings.