While not technically part of the Alliance politically, the city-state of Waterdeep, arguably the largest city on the planet, is worth mentioning in any conversation about the Alliance, as it resides within the physical confines of the Alliance. While the Lords of Waterdeep certainly take part in the many dealings of armies and supply chains related to conflicts with the northern Orcs, the Undead across the sea, and the various monsters of the South, they have maintained autonomy from the Alliance, preferring to hold 100% of their destiny in their own hands. There are varying opinions about this fact among different politicians and nobles throughout the Alliance, but what can you do? With powerful heroes on the Waterdeep Council of Lords, who would dare stand against them? And who has the resources or political clout to do so?
Demographically, the city has about 3 million people. There are perhaps 300,000 dwarves & gnomes, 200,000 elves & eladrin, 200,000 half-elves & half-orcs, 300,000 dragonborn & tieflings, about a million and a half humans, and half a million mixed members of every other race imaginable. And that doesn’t include the populations of Skullport or Undermountain.
The Lords of Waterdeep are the ultimate authority in the city, both executive and judicial, but there are many lower courts and lesser administrative positions that run many of the daily ins-and-outs of the city. The Lords are 12 men and women whose identities are mostly unknown. There is always one “open lord” of Waterdeep. Currently that is a human named Dagault Neverember. He is the only one whose identity is known to the public. There is an entire media industry in the city based around rumor-mongering about who the others might be. When a new lord steps up to replace one who quits (nobody is entirely sure exactly how that process works), there is always somebody who lets the news slip… but no official announcements are ever made. Usually there seems to be a Lord in charge of each major industry in the city, and occasionally they will step in to various disputes throughout the city to adjudicate. But in general, they’re very mysterious. This occasionally causes problems with those who would prefer open government (see Righteous Dissenters, below).
One of the majorly divisive issues in the city is a group known as the Gray Hands. They are, essentially, Waterdeep’s SWAT and Secret Police in one. They have, effectively, an unlimited budget, permission to explode buildings when needed, and enough religious representation on their squad to know that Speak With Dead rituals can be used to sort out bodies and culprits after the fact. The Lords use them very sparingly, but their very existence is both something that makes citizens feel safe against the horrors below and something that terrifies them at the potentially unregulated horrors above. Members of the Gray Hands are identified by a pin that looks like a gray hand, though there’s often lots of gray worked into their outfits, too.
There are sizable churches to most every non-evil faith here, as well as off-shoot churches of many of those faiths’ splinter sects. Erathis is pretty big overall in Waterdeep, due to the fact that it’s the largest civilization on the planet, and her high priest in Waterdeep, a goliath named Alexander, is often seen as the Pope of the church, though anyone who actually understands the Erathin faith knows that there is no one central leader… because civilization works best when it is diverse and not limited to one authority over large areas.
There is, however, a sizable counter-cult of Erathis in Waterdeep as well, known as the Righteous Dissenters. Their leadership consists of two main figures: a half-elf bard named Marius, whose speeches rouse even the most conservative of hearts, and Abigail N’Thara, a female shade cleric of Erathis sometimes known as the “dark popess”. They preach that the Waterdeep government should be open with the people, and that the “pretender” church’s support of the Lords is a heresy that should be ended. While the established Church of Erathis has the most power in the city, there are probably close to 50,000 members of the Dissenters, and they have been known to be very visible with their acts of protest. It is said that Mirt’s now-deceased wife Asper was one of the founding members of the Gray Hands, which officially formed some 40 years ago.
The largest festival in Waterdeep is City Day. It actually takes up a week, and has an atmosphere very similar to Carnivale in Brazil. City Day gatherings are one of the only times that the public can see all 12 Lords of Waterdeep together (though of course all but 1 is masked).
Given Clan Sturmhammer’s role in the founding of the city, Moradin’s feast days are also well celebrated. Waterdeep has a fall festival known as Moradinfest (which also lasts about a week) where heavy drinking is the order of the day. Many brewers will debut new drinks here, and during this time the few surviving dwarves who claim some blood tie to Clan Malarken are considered the ultimate judges of all alcohol-related contests.
A city this big has got a lot of prominent citizens. Any one of them might be a Lord of Waterdeep, though it’s just as likely that any might be a distraction, and the actual Lord is the guy who does the prominent guy’s laundry. Who knows?
Abigail N’thara female Shade. Visible head of the Righteous Dissenters. Sometimes called the “Dark Popess” of the church of Erathis, Abigail believes that the only just government is one that is honest with its people. As such, she opposes the Lords of Waterdeep, and feels it is a heresy for Alexander to support them. She is very unwavering in her beliefs and known for organizing very visible protests (it is rumored that she was behind the release of thousands of masked mice during a City Day celebration that the Lords were attending 2 years ago. Many who are racially prone to dislike Shades will claim that she’s actually an agent of the assassin’s guild Kargatane, or maybe a necromancer, or maybe an undead herself. But those are just rumors or counter-intelligence… probably. It is generally thought that she decides the larger plans for the organization, while Marius (see below) is responsible for recruiting and morale-boosting.
Alexander Granitesoul Male Goliath. Head of the Church of Erathis in Waterdeep. Often referred to as “Pope Alexander” (even though the worldwide church has no official leader like that), Alexander is the head of the church of Civilization in the largest city on the planet, which sort of makes him the de facto authority in the church. He’s also involved heavily in city politics, and many feel he is, essentially, a “second Open Lord” of the city. For his part, he’s very cool about this, and seems to be a genuine lover of the idea of civilization. He greatly prefers debate and discussion to open conflict. However, his ideas on allowance have given many wackjob religious off-shoots the opportunity to grow into full cults (such as the Righteous Dissenters, or the Cult of Corax).
Bo Palabram male elf, bard/cleric(?). Bo is a well-known bard who sings songs about the dead. However, he is most well-known (and widely booked) as a Speaker for the Dead, a ritual leader who runs the Iounic Rite of Remembrance at a funeral. Bo fuses his music into the ritual, giving it a very different feel than when any other cleric leads the ritual with simple words. It is widely thought that he is also a cleric of either Ioun, the Raven Queen, or both. Most people are pretty sure that his guitar and voice have been blessed by the gods, though.
Halastair Blackcloak. If you know anything about the History of the city, or anything about the huge dungeon Undermountain that lies beneath the city, you’ll know that while this character’s consciousness likely survives somewhere, you DO NOT want to meet him.
Elanna Mirtdaughter. female deva. Formerly Mirt’s 2nd in command, she took over his operations (and his secret role as a Lord of Waterdeep) after his death.
Harshnag the Grim. Male frost giant, officer of the Gray Hands. Though much of what the Gray Hands does is not subject to any public scrutiny, it’s hard to miss operations that involve Lieutenant Harshnag. Those who have spoken with him say that he has a genuine heart of gold, and feels personally responsible for the well-being of the city. However, he is a frackin FROST GIANT, so many have raised questions about his true intentions, or his ability to remain civilized when in the heat of combat.
Jardwim. Male goliath, warden (the class), head of the Gray Hands. Jardwim is an odd character. Perhaps 50 years old, it is said that he is partially petrified. What makes this weird is that he certainly could afford the rituals to reverse this process (what with the Gray Hands’ budget), but he does not. Rumor has it that the curse was cast by something so powerful that he cannot actually remove it, but only keep it at bay. His unique condition does not affect the respect he commands among all peacekeepers in the city, though. He is a military veteran and longtime police officer who took up the lead job in the Hands about 15 years ago.
Khelben “Blackstaff” Ahroun. Human male, the city’s most powerful wizard. “Blackstaff” is said to be a title from some famous wizarding school of some sort, but most people just assume it has to do with the blackened staff he carries with him.
La Vocce. Female tiefling, famous bard. Mesh Beyonce & Jennifer Hudson together, then add sexy horns. She has a noticable tiefling accent too… but just enough of one to sound sexier (NOTE: a “tiefling” accent has a spanish/portuguese sound to it). Her voice is so treasured that there are scrolls containing magic mouths of her singing that are sold and shipped across the continent. Her most well-known song is “Embers of Remembrance.” More about that song can be found in the Bard’s Tale section.
Lady Artania. Eladrin female of indeterminate age. Lady Artania has always been wealthy, has always been beautiful, and for as long as anyone can remember, has always been here in the city. A well-known socialite who is known to enjoy art and poetry, little is known about her background, though it is known that she had a husband at one point, who died some time ago. It is theorized that she is MUCH older than she looks, and her eyes carry a wisdom that is centuries older than her apparent physique.
Lady Azalea Moonbow. Older elven female, she is known as one of the founders of the Harpers. Of course, that was 50 years ago, in her adventuring prime, and nowadays she lives a quieter life, running a school for young girls who need “proper” training in the arts of needlework, manners, and archery.
Lark. Wilden female, bard. Sort of a D&D equivalent of Bjork, yet less annoying. Lark appears to actually be able to alter her vocal chords to mimic the sounds that various animals (often birds) make, and her performances usually make heavy use of that skill. While this has made her a peculiar draw, it has kept her from wider popularity, as no other bards have been able to spread her songs to other venues, given their fixed vocal chord situations. Those who are “in the know” realize her skill, though, and she has been asked to accompany many performers in big shows throughout the past few years.
Lilith Spiderdeath. Drow female, high priestess of Eilistraee. There are very few Drow who dare subvert the Spider queen. There are even fewer who take their rebellion all the way to the surface. But none would dare flaunt their choice the way that Lilith does. Ever since entering the city 5 years ago or so, Lilith has done all that she can to make a laughingstock of Lolth (which has caused many to just call her “crazy”). She says that she was once a member of the Spider Queen’s priesthood, and now she will casually reveal any “ultra secret” details of their order to any who seek to subvert the spider goddess’ will. While many elves & eladrin have been hesitant to support her (or be within a 10 square blast radius of her), she has made great allies with the dwarves & gnomes of the city, and also is good friends with all the other high priests of the city’s various faiths. She is respectful in most of her dealings, but always flippant about the Spider Queen. She is also known to love dancing naked in the moonlight and by firelight, and some of her “parties” have created more than a few legends among the younger adult populations of the city.
Lindalf La’Roche. (pronounce La-Row-SHAY). Eladrin male. Founder of the “Cult of Corax”, an offshoot of the Raven Queen’s church that believes in the study of necromancy “so that it can be controlled.” Adherants often protest government policies banning necromancy, etc. While his followers tend to be fairly radical, Lindalf has a rather reserved demeanor, using calm statements of statistics to spur his followers into action. Think of that older guy who lead the skinhead group in American History X. That’s the kind of guy Lindalf is… likely involved in illegal activity, but no way for the authorities to ever pin anything to him. His scrolls and books are widely read among radical fringe groups, though, and are often found among the belongins of actual evil necromancers, too.
Marius Commonman. Half-elf male bard. The most audible voice of the Righteous Dissenters. His speeches are super-convincing, so much so that those who have tried to stop him have resorted to trying to bring loud pack animals to areas where he’s supposed to be speaking in the hopes of drowning out his voice. One dwarven cleric of the established Erathan church even arranged for a dwarven parade to Moradin, complete with dwarven drums and horns, to be rescheduled so that it coincided with a rally Marius was holding. He is generally thought to be insightful and clever, but also incendiary and passionate.
Mirt (the Money-Lender).
Deceased human male, a famous rogue who helped free Ionia from the threat of Dragon Mountain. Prior to his death (on the night of his 80th birthday, thanks to Akara), Mirt had become sort of a wealthy grandfather figure, though many of his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids were adopted (bearing the name “Mirtson” or “Mirtdaughter” with pride). There are those who called him a crime lord, but his genial nature and many humanitarian projects for the city seemed to speak otherwise, and no one in his funeral ritual seemed to remember him in that way. His operations (and secret role as a Lord of Waterdeep) were taken over by his assistant, Elanna.
No-Flute Harry. Halfling male. A comedic bard of relative popularity, legend has it that Harry once lost his flute in a game of dice just before a show early in his career, and had to go up onstage with nothing. Using his voice, he instead whistled tunes that entertained the crowd. Soon he was mimicking many different instruments in his act, and nowadays his routine is a mix of Rockapella and Scatman John. He is often accompanied by local acapella groups, though he does a mean solo show as well. His best-known ballad is the “Tale of the Drowning Orchestra”, in which he mimicks many instruments being played as they sink underwater.
Piergeron Paladinson III. Human male, paladin and politician. Combine the money and looks of Mitt Romney with the public appeal of Rick Santorum. The latest son in a long line of Paladins to the sun god Pelor, it is generally believed that if Piergeron is not already a Lord, he’s working his way there as quickly as possible.
Sweetness Hishim. Halfling female. Founder of Hishim Chocolates, she is one of the most respected desert bakers in the region. Also said to control (or heavily influence) the cattle ranchers union and several trading companies, especially those that control ships bringing in cocoa bean and sugar cane shipments from the south.
Vangerdahast. [pron. VAN-jur-duh-haast] Elderly human wizard. 50 years ago, Vangerdahast was the most important person in Cormyr. He was the royal court wizard, but the Cormyrean king at that time suffered various fits and illnesses, and was often treated with herbs that stole his mental faculties. So in practice, Vangerdahast essentially ran the Purple Dragon Knights and the War Wizards, as well as advising the Queen on how to run the kingdom. It is generally thought that he did a decent job of things, though of course “officially” he was nothing more than the court wizard (though most everyone knows differently). He retired when the King’s son (father of the current King) took the throne 40 years ago, and has been living quietly in Waterdeep since then. Well, not exactly “quietly”. “Old Vanjey”, as many locals call him (behind his back), is in his mid nineties now, and kind of typifies many of the stereotypes about the very old. He speaks his mind, and complains frequently, and has little filter for social appropriateness. However, nobody ever stops him, because A) he’s really old and B) he’s probably still a strong enough wizard to give even Blackstaff a run for his money. He’s also known to change his opinions frequently, talking at some points about how much he loves the joy in children’s eyes, then talking the next day about how young people these days don’t know how to appreciate anything, then bemoaning the state of the world on day 3 and saying that folks are fools for trying to have kids in this crazy world.
Places of Note
Castle Ward. Home to the central government, most of the city’s barracks, and also Mt. Waterdeep, which houses the huge mini-city of the dwarven clan Sturmhammer, which is also the center of the smaller dwarven faith to Sturm, a god of storms.
Citadel of the Bloody Hand. Originally Clan Malarken’s main halls, this structure, deep within Mt. Waterdeep, saw many a dwarf’s bloody end before the surviving clan members (with help from others) sealed it off. Well, they mostly sealed it off, that is. While city guards patrol the entrances, it’s still quite possible to get in. It is also known that the lower levels of the Citadel connect with Undermountain itself, and supposedly to areas unreachable via the Yawning Portal entrance.
City of the Dead. One of the largest shrines to the Raven Queen in the world, this huge walled cemetery is maintained by the city’s military and the Lords, so that no undead may ever be raised here. It is actually a huge park of peaceful remembrance of the dead (like a constant Day of the Dead celebration). (It is said that Lord Neverember tried to recreate this in his pet project on the west coast, the city of Neverwinter; but his men were… less successful at keeping necromancers out.)
Dock Ward. Home of one the largest seaports in the world, the trading ships that come through here have traveled everywhere. It is even rumored that trans-dimensional ships will dock here, selling wares from beyond the world.
Malarken’s Rest. A handful of dwarves hold a small clanhall inside upper Mt. Waterdeep to honor the many who fell to Halastair’s madness and treachery hundreds of years ago. Those who know dwarven history will know the tales of Undermountain and of the Malarken Dwarven Collective, but that has been dead for many, many centuries. The clanhall is a place for remembrance and the study of dwarven history. Several dwarven Iounic scholars have turned the passages around the clanhall into a large library of dwarven history.
Naval Command. Located north of the Dock ward and south of the Sea ward (also sort of a barrier between the two) is the command center for the Waterdeep Navy. Their fully-functioning larger warships are usually docked farther out in the water, but whenever one of the smaller command schooners comes to port, this is where they dock.
Naval Shipards. Located south of the Dock ward in the south-eastern corner of the city, this is where the Waterdeep navy’s ships are built and repaired. There is also slum housing for many of the shipyard laborers here, as well as whatever bars and other support businesses they might want handy.
Portobello Road. Street where the riches of ages are stowed. A major site for architectural artifacts and rare art pieces, as well as a site for grave robbers to unload their scores quickly. Anything and everything a chap can unload. Located in the Trade Ward.
Sea Ward. Home to many large temples to every major good deity, as well as lots of large villas for the wealthier patrons of the city.
Skullport. The dark underside of Waterdeep, Skullport is an underground mini-city connected through various tunnels to Waterdeep. It has its own waterways, which somehow lead to the surface and the ocean, though the path is never clear. Many pirates and other unsavory sorts hang out here.
Trade Ward. Tons of merchants from tons of places, you can probably buy and sell anything here. Many merchants looking to build castles will buy the contracts for raw materials & laborers here, even if the site is many miles away. There are also a number of popular architects and other secondary specialists to be found here.
Undermountain. Rumored to be the largest dungeon in the world. See the Bard’s Tale section for more on Undermountain. The highest level, known as the “Dungeon Level” due to the frequent practice of sentencing criminals to wander there with no weapons, is known to connect to the Yawning Portal Inn.
The Yawning Portal. Some of the best gambling in town can be done in this huge tavern. The marks? Adventurers going down the well in the first floor, one of the few known entrances to Undermountain. However, even if you don’t go into the mad wizard’s labyrinth, there’s still plenty of politicking, whoring, dart/billiards/arm-wrestling competitions, and several casinos located near the Yawning Portal, so you’ll find plenty to occupy your time with.
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