Waterdeep, also known as the City of Splendors or the Crown of the North, is the most important and influential city in the North and perhaps in all Faerûn. For this reason it is considered part of the Western Heartlands of the Realms, even though it lies 150 miles north of Daggerford on the shores of the Sword Coast. The city sits “slightly above the 45 degree north latitude line on Toril.” The road to Waterdeep is well paved and well patrolled. The city is the hub of trading from the mineral-rich lands to the north, the merchant kingdoms of Amn and Calimshan to the south, the kingdoms of the Inner Sea to the east, and the sea kingdoms and traders to the west. Waterdeep authority extends between thirty to forty miles from its walls where over a million people make their home.

Waterdeep is named for its outstanding natural deep water harbor, and the city that grew up at this site has become the commercial crossroads of the northern Realms. More than 100,000 people make their home in Waterdeep. The city sprawls northward from the sea, spreading along the flanks of Mount Waterdeep, which used to be home to the Melairkyn, a mithral-mining dwarven clan, and the entire length and great depth of the mountain is riddled with passages and tunnels, most of which are still occupied by deadly creatures whose presence in the mountain pre-dates the founding of the city itself. The halls of Undermountain located beneath the city are a popular target for adventurers, who enjoy the close vicinity of the cities main taverns and temples where aid can be paid for through donations.


Early history

In -1288 DR, Melairbode was created in the mountain beside and underneath Aelinthaldaar by the dwarven King Melair I, who began mining mithral there. As more and more “Melairkyn” arrived, the dwarves expanded their home to include areas nearer and nearer to the surface, which made the elves uneasy. In exchange for a large amount of mithral being mined by the Melairkyn dwarves, the elves created a magical effect on the plateau on which their city stood. This effect ensured that no matter what occurred below, the surface would remain unaffected and no collapse would occur there.

Aelinthaldarr was razed in -1100 DR after the elves inhabiting the city retreated to Evermeet. It was soon taken over by barbarian tribes who used it as a trade center from -1088 DR, doing business with peoples further south. The deep natural harbor on the site made it a particularly good point to hold trademoots because large ships were able to load and unload goods. Eventually, tribes made the area their permanent home rather than revisiting for each trademoot. Conflict was common due to the lucrative trade opportunities, but the area was eventually secured by a tribe of people led by Nimoar, who named the town “Waterdeep,” or “Nimoar’s Hold.” By 52 DR, a permanent farming community of Illuskans had been established.

In -750 DR, the Netherese had moved to Melairbode uninvited, and made their home adjacent to the dwarves. The Sargauth Enclave was hewn from the rock by magic spells and then sealed. Over the years, a mantle was raised that served a similar purpose to a mythal. The disruption to the Weave in -339 DR caused the collapse of most of the enclave, but what remains is now known as Skullport.

The drow began to push the Melairkyn dwarves back from -677 DR onwards, claiming more and more of Undermountain for themselves. They would eventually remove all the Melairkyn, but not until 211 DR.


In 168 DR, the wizard Halaster Blackcloak moved to the area and constructed Halaster’s Hold a little to the northwest of the farming community. Between 171 DR and 308 DR he conducted Halaster’s Hunts which brutally exterminated the drow and duergar from Undermountain, clearing the space for his own purposes. It was used until 307 DR, when The Seven, Halaster’s apprentices, moved into the Undermountain and abandoned it. It fell into disrepair at this point. It was not until 493 DR that the drow finally abandoned Undermountain.

Meanwhile, from 302 DR, the waters of the Lizard Marsh rose and forced Tavaray to be abandoned. The human settlements on the future site of Waterdeep became much more isolated, and the lack of prosperity and outside contact caused the populace to split back into tribes.


In 482 DR, a warlord from Tethyr named Ulbaerag Bloodhand came to the area and united the tribes, claiming the settlement as “Bloodhand Hold.” It began exporting timber onto ships destined for areas further south that did not benefit from such large trees as could be found in the North. Ulbaerag actively rejected the opportunity to join the Kingdom of Phalorm, known as “the Realm of Three Crowns.” It was not until his son came to power that Bloodhand Hold finally joined the Kingdom. Its existence continued until 615 DR when the Horde of the Wastes overran it, destroying Uthtower and leading to the formation of the Mere of Dead Men. The Sword Mountains became infested with orcs but Bloodhand Hold survived.

The collapse of the Realm of Three Crowns led to the formation of the Kingdom of Man, but Bloodhand Hold remained independent. Despite this, it was widely regarded as part of the Kingdom. After no heir existed to take the throne in 697 DR, the kingdom collapsed into civil war, but still Bloodhand Hold remained. Poor harvests in 734 DR caused the Hold’s leader, Raulbaera Bloodhand, to establish an outlying settlement named Rowan Hold, which would later become Amphail.


In 882 DR, a tribal leader known as Nimoar the Reaver led his tribe in search of a new place to live after the fall of the elven kingdoms. Nimoar and his tribe came across Bloodhand Hold and had no trouble in seizing it for themselves, renaming it “Nimoar’s Hold.” It suffered a large pirate attack in 887 DR but held strong, and then two years later, in 889 DR, the Blood Elk tribe set the settlement alight, but again it survived, and was rebuilt before the end of the year.


Due to massive orc uprisings and population growth in the north, trolls were forced out of their homes and pushed south, into the area now known as the Evermoors, and into conflict with the humans. The first conflict occurred in 932 DR but was ended before the year’s end, with the humans purging the moors area of trolls. In 936 DR the Trollwars were punctuated by the Orcfastings War, where the orc armies of Uruth Ukrypt attacked Nimoar’s Hold. The second conflict erupted in 940 DR when the trolls began making continual raids on the humans. It lasted until 952 DR, when it was ended decisively by the magic of the 32-year-old mage Ahghairon, but six of the War Lords were killed in the combat. A knight of Tyr named Samular Caradoon was recognised as a hero in the second Trollwar, and went on to form the Holy Order of Samular. Following the conflict, a walled keep was constructed on the slopes of the mountain, and the walls continued to expand as more and more people from the surrounding area came to it for protection. At this time, the “Free City of Waterdeep” was ruled by War Lords.

A temple and monastery to Lathander was constructed outside the city, and this would later become the Spires of the Morning.


Warlord Raurlor became the Warlord of Waterdeep, and aimed to use the city’s wealth to create a vast empire in Northwest Faerûn. Ahghairon voiced strong opposition to this in 1032 DR, and Raurlor ordered that he was to be arrested. When Ahghairon used his magic to prevent his own arrest, Raurlor struck out at him, but Ahghairon turned Raurlor’s sword into a snake, which bit him, poisoning and killing him. Ahghairon declared himself the first Lord of Waterdeep, and created the current system of government whereby all Lords but one (initially himself) have hidden identities.

Under Ahghairon, Waterdeep secured the areas to the north for the humans and built new roads to interconnect them, while continuing to grow to five times its size, becoming more and more prosperous. The city developed the nickname “the Crown of the North.” Ahghairon restructured the army and navy that Raurlor had built up into the city watch and the city guard (for both navy and army). As crime and deceit began to develop in Waterdeep, Ahghairon ordered the creation of guilds, a trend from cities in the south, to prevent the further spread of problems. It was under Ahghairon that the city began to use its system of wards, which was first introduced in 1035 DR. By 1064 DR, the city had reached 50,000 inhabitants.

In 1037 DR, creatures from another plane appeared in Waterdeep after emerging from the Undermountain. Ahghairon and one of the masked Lords named Kherris turned them back.

1101 DR saw further expansion of the city walls, to include the Spires of the Morning, the temple to Lathander that had previously been outside the city. In 1150 DR the city was hit by the plague that was travelling the Sword Coast. This was also the year Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunsun (then known as “Khelben the Elder”) first arrived in Waterdeep. Maulagrym attacked Khelben’s tower in 1179 DR, but they were defeated by Khelben, Elminster, Hamiklar Wands and other Waterdhavian mages.

The city was besieged in 1235 DR by the largest orc horde ever recorded. The siege lasted for nine months, but it was broken when Ahghairon used griffons to fly supplies of food and aid into of the city.

The only incident of betrayal amongst the Lords of Waterdeep occurred in 1246 DR when Kerrigan, a masked Lord, began slaying the other Lords. He murdered three before Ahghairon confronted him in a battle of magic that ended in the Southern Ward, where Kerrigan was killed.

Owing to a lack of space, the individual graves were replaced with tombs, creating the City of the Dead in 1250 DR. By 1252 DR, problems with undead from the area led to the raising of walls to separate it from the rest of the city. In 1255 DR, the Shadow Thieves begin operating in Waterdeep.

Eventually, even Ahghairon’s magic could not keep him alive, and he died in 1256 DR. He was buried in his own tower, which was sealed off and protected by magic. It is believed that his resting place has remained undisturbed ever since.


Turmoil followed Ahghairon’s death while the merchants of Waterdeep bickered over who would assume power. Nothing was heard from the masked Lords of Waterdeep, either because they could not communicate without revealing their identities now that Ahghairon was gone, or because their identities had already been compromised and they had been murdered. In fact, the only survivors amongst the masked Lords were the woodworker Baeron and the apprentice wizard Shilarn. After two months, power was taken by the Guildmasters who had been appointed by Ahghairon. The following six years were termed “the Guildwars” because of the violence and murder that occurred, often between private armies, ultimately leaving only two surviving Guildmasters.

The surviving guildmasters, gemcutter Ehlemm Zoar and shipwright Lhorar Gildeggh eventually tired of bloodshed and agreed to rule together, as “Lords Magister,” in 1262 DR. They did not agree on much else, and continued to argue, leading to continuing tensions within the city. Eleven years later, in 1273 DR, the Lords Magister were visited by Baeron and Shilarn who had concealed themselves underneath cloaks. Shilarn ordered the Lords Magister to leave the city. When they refused, she struck them down with magic, killing them both, and she and Baeron, the two remaining former masked Lords, took power.


The Gildeggh and Zoar houses were banned from Waterdeep. The other noble houses were given the choice either to leave the city, or to obey the new rulers. Baeron publicly revealed his identity, assuming the role of the Open Lord. The original form of government, whereby Waterdeep is led by one Open Lord and a number of Masked Lords, was restored. In order to further prevent the discovery of the identities of the Masked Lords, a group of Magisters named “the Black Robes” were instated as judges and dispensers of the law. In Uktar of 1273 DR, the Shadow Thieves were outlawed in Waterdeep.

1276 DR saw the birth of Lhestyn (later known as “the Masked Lady”), daughter to Baeron and Shilarn. The North Ward and the Sea Ward were introduced in this year, and the Lords of Waterdeep increased their number to sixteen. In 1298 DR, Lhestyn infiltrated the Shadow Thieves and exposed them in Waterdeep. They were killed or chased out of the city.

Baeron died of a fever in 1308 DR, and his wife Shilarn threw herself onto his funeral pyre.

Lhestyn and Piergeiron

Lhestyn took over as Open Lord after Baeron, but only until her death in 1314 DR. She was succeeded by Piergeiron the Paladinson who ruled as Open Lord relatively peacefully. In the early winter of 1345 DR, during the Night of the Temple Fires, religious disorder between the churches of Lathander, Selûne, Shar and Tempus caused the Spires of the Morning and the House of Heroes to be burned to the ground. Both were rebuilt within a year.

During the Time of Troubles in 1358 DR, Myrkul attacked Waterdeep causing huge fires and widespread destruction, mostly in the Castle, Dock and Southern Wards. Many inhabitants of the city heard the voice of Ao, and Cyric and Midnight ascend as new gods.

The summer of 1364 DR brought droughts and increased monster activity to the city. Shieldmeet at the Field of Triumph is disrupted by a green dragon. The next year, in 1365 DR, limited trade is established with Zakhara and Maztica, but the sea journeys are highly dangerous.


Waterdeep is ruled by a council whose membership is largely secret. These hidden Lords of Waterdeep maintain their identities behind magical masks, called helms and while they rule in public, none know the true identities of most of them. The subject of who the Lords are is a common topic of noble conversation, and some consider it a game to discover whom the Lords are, a game made more confusing by the fact the Lords themselves set their own rumors afloat.


As of around 1370 DR, stone was imported from Mirabar via Luskan for use in construction, having been magically transported. This was an expensive process.

Waterdeep is the start of several trade routes:

  • The Long Road, the inland trade route to the north.
  • The High Road, the coastal trade route to the north.
  • The Trade Way, the trade route to the south.

Defense and justice

Waterdeep maintains two separate armed forces, the Guard and the Watch. The City Guard serves as Waterdeep’s soldiery and its members staff garrisons, road patrols, and watchposts, and serve as bodyguards and gate guards. The Watch is the local police force and in addition to capturing criminals, its members settle petty disputes, give directions, summon medical and priestly aid, generally performing duties that promote the idea that Waterdeep is a city open to all who know how to behave themselves.

Waterdeep has strong walls on its landward sides and is protected in part by Mount Waterdeep on the seaward side. Mount Waterdeep is studded with watch towers and defensive positions, and patrolled by special guard units on flights of hippogriffs. Aside from this Waterdeep also benefits from a large native population of the adventuring class (including powerful mages, priests, and warriors) who are more than willing to deal with any and all miscreants who threaten their home city, and have done so in the past. This has often proved the City of Splendors most potent defense.

Waterdhavian justice is dispatched by the Magisters, who direct the common courts of the city. These Black Robes, as they are often called, are empowered to pass sentence. They are always accompanied by six members of the guard. Any individuals found guilty may appeal to the Lord’s Court, ruled over by the Masked Lords of Waterdeep, where serious cases are usually heard. Individuals bringing frivolous cases to the Lord’s Court usually face stiffer fines than if they accepted a magister’s ruling.

Other important factions

It is said that the Lords rule Waterdeep but do not truly run it. This is quite true, in that there are a number of other factions who make up Waterdeep. The most noticeable are the guilds – powerful merchant and craft organizations that control much of the life-blood of the city. Once, the guilds ruled the city, and it almost destroyed itself in a series of internal commercial wars. No one wants to see those days return.


A second important Waterdhavian faction is the local nobility. It consists of 76 families of varying degrees of power, most of whom can trace their lines to before the founding of Waterdeep itself. Many powerful names come out of Waterdeep, including the Amcathras (whose scion is now Lord of Shadowdale), the Cassalanters, wealthy moneylenders, as well as the Wands, a family of powerful and noble wizards.


Third, a rising merchant class exists outside the standard guilds. These are caravan and coaster operators, and they use Waterdeep as a destination for their caravan goods. More shops are offering a variety of different goods because of this growing group. The most notable of these new merchants is the retired wizardess Aurora, who has established a magical retail organization to supply a wide number of patrons across the North with specialized items.


A large host of adventurers flood the city at any given time. Some establish themselves as citizens of good standing and remain permanently, while others drift off for other climes or meet their ends in back-alley brawls.[citation needed] With the exception of the Gray Hands, secret societies such as the Harpers and the Red Sashes make up the closest thing to organizations drawn from this group.

Faith in Waterdeep

Waterdeep has a huge variety of faiths, and the odds are that if a deity is worshiped somewhere in Faerûn, it has at least a follower (or likely a wandering priest or two, and maybe a shrine) in the City of Splendors. However, there are only seven major temple complexes within the city. They are dedicated to Gond, Lathander, Mystra, Selûne, Sune, Tempus, and Tymora.

In addition to the temples, shrines to Silvanus, Mielikki, Chauntea, Lliira, Sharess, and Siamorphe (the last two are local divinities) can be found here. In addition, there are secret temples and hidden shrines to most of the dark gods, often hidden away beneath the streets of the city. These include churches to Cyric, Talona, Umberlee, Shar, Auril, and a wide variety of the Beast Cults, including the Cult of the Dragon. In the years immediately following the Time of Troubles, Waterdeep had an active Cult of Ao; however, this has diminished almost to nonexistence.

Thieves’ guilds in Waterdeep

The last official thieves’ guild in Waterdeep was destroyed in 1300 DR, and while there have been many claimants to that position and title over the years, there have been no groups of sufficient power to challenge the Lords of Waterdeep. Since the Lords are secret, no criminal knows if a trusted partner is truly on his or her side or not.

This is not to say that there are no thieves or crime in the streets of Waterdeep. Rather, crime here is random and dispersed, with no one leader or organization to command it. The most recent attempt was made by a crime lord named Xanathar, a beholder with a well developed secret network in his service. This network was savaged and Xanathar defeated through the actions of bold adventuring companies at the command of Lord Piergeiron. Whether a new crime lord comes to the fore remains to be seen.

Wards of Waterdeep

Since 1035 DR Waterdeep has roughly been divided into wards. The wards originally all had guards and walls in the manner of Procampur and other ancient cities, but the press of progress has toppled or bored through most of the walls. Only the walls and guards around the City of the Dead are still maintained. The wards of Waterdeep are:

  • Castle Ward
    This central ward encompasses Mount Waterdeep and much of the government of the city. Here is located Castle Waterdeep, the place of government, as well as the Palace of Waterdeep (also known as Piergeiron’s Palace), Lord Piergeiron’s private residence, and Blackstaff Tower, the residence of the Archmage of Waterdeep. This ward is also a common place for retired adventurers such as Mirt the Moneylender to make their homes.
  • City of the Dead
    This park-like area is surrounded by high walls. It is often visited during the day by wanderers and the odd picnicker. At night, the gates of the City of the Dead are closed, for it is Waterdeep’s graveyard. The more important personages have their own personal graves or family shrines, while others are confined to larger crypts. The reason for the guards is not to protect the graves, but rather to protect the city from the occasional restless undead creature that does not appreciate its accommodations.
  • Dock Ward
    As one might assume, the Dock Ward is situated hard on the Great Harbor of Waterdeep and holds the docks, shipbuilding yards and warehouses for the sea trade. The harbor is inhabited by mermen who keep the peace within their own aquatic city.
  • Mistshore
    Not strictly a ward, Mistshore is the derelict old naval harbor. The area is home to outcasts and criminals who live along the shoreline or on wrecked ships half-sunk in the harbor.
  • North Ward
    Tucked in the northeastern portion of the city, North Ward is the land of the nobility and their villas. The moneyed classes make their homes here, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the lower classes by the docks and in Southern Ward.
  • Sea Ward
    The wealthiest of the wards, Sea Ward contains many of the temples of Waterdeep, along with a good helping of the newer noble families and retired adventurers who can afford the odd villa or two. The Field of Triumph, Waterdeep’s arena, is located here.
  • South Ward
    Officially known as the Southern Ward, but only nonnatives refer to it as such, is a place of caravan masters and traders, for it is close to the South Gate, the opening to the Trade.
  • Trades Ward
    Waterdeep’s commercial section.

Festivals and holidays

In addition to the standard festivals of the Calendar of Harptos there are several festivals and holy days held in Waterdeep:

  • Ahghairon’s Day
    A holiday celebrated on the first day of Eleasias, commemorating Ahghairon’s birthday. It consists of small details, like toasting for the Lords, leaving violets at the base of Ahghairon’s Tower, the Plinth, or atop the altars of the House of Wonder and bards performing songs in honor of the Old Mage. The Open Lord visits taverns and inns across the city, to wish the people well.
  • Auril’s Blesstide
    Held on the day of winter’s first frost, includes everyone in the city wearing white clothes, not serving or eating hot meals, and a parade of naked men and women wearing only white cloaks going from Cliffwatch in the North Ward, across the city and to the beaches. There, participants dive into the icy waters, sacrificing their warmth to the Frostmaiden.
  • Fleetswake
    A festival celebrating the sea, the sea trade and the gods of the sea. It spans the last tenday of Ches, and includes boat races, the Shipwright’s Ball at the Shipwright’s House, and guild-sponsored galas at the Copper Cup festhall. The festival is concentrated in Dock Ward and the Fiery Flagon in Sea Ward.
  • Lliira’s Night
    A nightly celebration, honoring the Lady of Joy with dances and balls, held the 7th of Flamerule. Although the celebration is carried all over the city in many festhalls, the highlight of the night is the Cynosure Ball, which is sponsored by the Lords, the local clergy of Lliira and several noble families.


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