The City of Splendors is sprawling, bustling metropolis. Although some fixtures remain unchanged for centuries, others last for less than a tenday. The following is a brief overview of the more permanent locations in Waterdeep. While hundreds of locations are noted below, most are left for the Dungeon Master to define, as best befits the campaign.
System of Wards
Since the Year of Falling Stars (1035 DR), Waterdeep has been divided for the purposes of governance and security into a system of wards or civic districts. Although no formal boundaries mark their borders, the six recognized wards of Waterdeep are Castle Ward, Dock Ward, North Ward, Sea Ward, Southern Ward, and Trades Ward. The City of the Dead is nearly a seventh ward unto itself, and Deepwater Harbor and the surrounding islands form an informal eighth ward.
The map shows the wards of the city and the boundaries between them.
Buildings in the city are detailed in the following format: Map Key: Name (usage, building class, # of floors)
Building class is an artificial categorization of structures into one of four groups (described below), sufficient to allow the DM to describe the building on the fly.
Class A Buildings: Class A buildings are always unique and distinctive landmarks of any scale. Most, however, are of a large and grandiose nature, almost built as much for show as for use. Examples include the city's public structures, major temples, and the nobles' villas.
Class B Buildings: Class B buildings cover the larger, more successful and elaborate single buildings within the city. They have up to six stories, and might have extensive cellars (usually connected to the sewers at some point). Most inns and guildhalls fall into this class. Examples include grand houses and mansions, prosperous businesses, large warehouses, and the guildhalls.
Class C Buildings: The great majority of buildings in Waterdeep are Class C - the tall row houses that line the streets to heights up to five stories. Row houses usually have shops on the ground floor, with offices.or apartments above that. While not always multi-story row houses, this class includes many of the better-kept taverns and rooming houses in the city as well.
Class D Buildings: Class D buildings are lesser buildings, usually one-story wooden buildings used as small warehouses, individual homes, and storage sheds for Waterdeep's lower classes. Such buildings are mainly found in Dock Ward, southernmost Castle Ward, and, in smaller numbers, in Southern Ward and Trades Ward.
Waterdeep's wealthiest ward is notable for the many-spired, grand homes of the nobility, the gleaming edifices of the city's leading temples, and the imposing towers of the city's premier wizards. Other notable landmarks include the Field of Triumph, the lush Heroes' Garden, and the Sea's Edge Beach.
Waterdeep's quietest ward is also one of its wealthiest. North Ward is home to most of the middle class and lesser noble families. This ward has few notable landmarks other than the Cliffwatch, and it all but shuts down at dusk. This placid reputation belies the intrigues and scheming that goes on behind closed doors, and the volumes of smuggled goods that lie in cellars beneath the city streets.
Castle Ward lies in the heart of Waterdeep, wrapping around the eastern slopes of Mount Waterdeep. This ward is home to the city's administrative buildings and buildings of state. The ward's most prominent landmarks include Ahghairon's Tower, Blackstaff Tower, Castle Waterdeep, Piergeiron's Palace, the Market, and Mirt's Mansion.
Trades Ward lies in the eastern half of Waterdeep, encircling the western and southern walls of the City of the Dead. Given over almost entirely to commerce, Trades Ward lacks the feeling of community found in the more residential wards, but retains the hustle and bustle of a marketplace throughout the day and night. Notable landmarks of Trades Ward include the Court of the White Bull, the Plinth, and Virgin's Square.
City of the Dead
This walled enclosure on the eastern edge of Trades Ward is the general cemetery for the City of Splendors, and its size nearly makes it a ward in and. of itself. Many citizens visit the City of the Dead's parklike green lawns and white marble tombs during the day, for it is one of the few places dominated by greenery that the citizens of Waterdeep can share within the city walls. A Watch contingent keeps the cemetery peaceful, and various members of the Guild of Chandlers and Lamplighters keep torches lit around and inside a number of the tombs. The grounds are. off-limits after dusk, and the gates are locked. Nevertheless, many individuals still hold clandestine meetings at night in the City of the Dead, despite the slight risk of undead escaping from a warded tomb to prowl the sprawling cemetery.
Although it has only been in its current form since the Year of the Riven Skull (1250 DR), the area has served as the city burial ground for centuries. The cemetery ran out of room in the Year of the Stranger (1064 DR), prompting the city to build a low wall around it and replace the individual graves with magic tombs linked by portals (constructed primarily by the mage Anacaster) to infinite demiplanes. Two years later, the high number of undead prompted the Lords to erect higher, defensible walls around the cemetery and to lock and ward the magic tombs. There have been few incidents since.
Waterdeep's most notorious and colorful ward is also the oldest. Traveler's tales portray it as a lawless, brawling place of drunks, smugglers, roaming monsters, and fell magic, which is not all that far from the truth. The bustling harbor scene and its attendant activities dominate this ward.
Once known as Temple Ward, Southern Ward lies in the southeastern corner of Waterdeep, bounded by Trades Ward to the north and Dock Ward to the west. Caravan City, as this oft-forgotten ward is sometimes known, is a homely, friendly, busy, and largely poor area of Waterdeep. Notable landmarks of Southern Ward include Caravan Court and Waymoot.
The naturally sheltered, deepwater basin that gives Waterdeep both its name and its wealth is a bustling place. Its chill waters are kept fairly clean by the diligent work of the Guild of Watermen and the merfolk of Tharqualnaar. The mariners of the Guard control access to the harbor above the waves, using the retractable chain-nets and walls of the defensible harbor to bar entrance or exit by particular ships.
Deepwater Harbor is divided into two smaller harbors - the Great Harbor, through which commerce and transportation flows, and the Naval Harbor, restricted for the use of the navy. Two major islands, Stormhaven and Deepwater, enclose the harbor. Notable landmarks include Boatscrape Cove, where ships are beached to be cleaned of barnacles and worse; Deepwater Beach, where mermaids often come to sun and flirt with the guards; the Sea Stacks, sharp rocks that deter the close approach of sailing ships; and Umberlee's Cache, the subsea depression that leads to flooded caverns in the depths.
Waterdeep's sewers empty into the harbor at places covered with extremely large and strong gratings, regularly patrolled by bands of merfolk. The merfolk use catch-nets on poles to scoop and gather the debris into large tow-globes for transport far out to sea. The harbor's rocky, sloping bottom is thinly covered with mud, especially at the southern end of the harbor. It is kept free of plants and litter by the merfolk. Due to the cleanliness of the harbor and the undersea lighthouse known as Deepwater Beacon, there are no penalties to Spot checks beneath the harbor's surface.
The Great Harbor is home to two communities - the merfolk village of Tharqualnaar and the sea elf hamlet of T'Quession. Both communities suffered horribly during the Deepwater War, but their numbers have rebounded thanks to an influx of refugees from other communities devastated by the Army of Iakhovas. Locathah sometimes come to the harbor to trade, as do other merfolk, but lizardfolk and sahuagin are slain on sight.
Although Waterdeep is a city in its own right, it contains three settlements within its borders sufficiently distinct to be considered communities of their own.
Skullport is a subterranean community on the banks of the River Sargauth in the depths of Undermountain's third level. Built atop the ruins of the Sargauth Enclave, the Port of Shadow has long been the dark mirror of Waterdeep's fair face. The Lords of Waterdeep have long tolerated Skullport's existence, reasoning correctly that if they were to destroy the Port of Shadow, the sinister commerce of the place would inevitably migrate upward to the city proper, despoiling the City of Splendors. However, the Lords do keep a close eye on activities within Skullport, predominantly through the efforts of Laeral and "Kitten".
Skullport serves as a smuggling and trading base for stolen and illegal cargo in the City of Splendors. Body parts, cadavers, drugs, ask-no-questions mercenaries, slaves, evil and vile magic, poisons, and almost anything else can be found for sale in its dark ways. Aside from the community's location and Skull Isle, the most notable feature of the Port of Shadow are its inhabitants - beholders, gargoyles, illithids, drow, vampires, and all manner of terrible monsters.
Skullport has no government per se, although the various competing power groups form a fluid oligarchy of sorts, with disputes resolved outside the town through proxies. The Skulls of Skullport, remnants of the Netherese wizards who once ruled the Sargauth Enclave, keep what peace exists. Shradin Mulophor is the nominal lord of Skullport, harkening back to an ancient agreement with Halaster, but since his transformation during Halaster's Higharvestide, he has exercised little actual authority. His clone has largely retreated within his manse, ignoring all else.
Other important power groups in Skullport include the Agents of the Eye, the Arcane Brotherhood, the Chosen of Eilistraee (from the nearby Promenade of Eilistraee, UM L3), the Dark Dagger, the drow of House Tanor'Thal, duergar from Gracklstugh, the Harpers, the illithids of Ch'Chitl, the Iron Ring, the Keepers, the Kraken Society, the Lords of Waterdeep, various Skulker gangs, and the Unseen.
Skullport (Large Town, Monstrous): AL CE, NE, LE; Spending limit 40,000 gp*; Assets 337,500 gp; Population 2,250 (doubles in spring and fall months); Races integrated (humans 832, half-orcs 405, goblins 225, kobolds 157, elves [mostly drow] 113, dwarves [mostly duergar] 68, others 450).
Authority Figures: The Rag Mage (CN male drow sorcerer 15/archmage 4); the thirteen Skulls; Shradin Mulophor (NE male Netherese human necromancer 16/archmage 2, clone of the original Shradin Mulophor).
Important Characters: Ahmaergo (see Agents of the Eye); the Eye; Kesra Tanor'Thal (CE female drow fighter 3/cleric 9 [Lolth], de facto matron mother in Skullport); Irusyl Eraneth (Laeral Silverhand's guise in Skullport, see Blackstaff Tower); Quinan Varnaed (LE male fighter 2/cleric 14 [Loviatar], leader of the Iron Ring slavers and master of the Tower of Seven Woes); the Skum Lord (LE aboleth sorcerer 6/cleric 7 [Piscaethces the Blood Queen], agent of the Kraken Society); Transtra (CE female lamia sorcerer 9, owner of the House of the Long Slow Kiss festhall); Zstulkk Ssarmn.
Other Characters: Aekyl Dafyre (N male Tetheyrian human rogue 6, maker of maps, owner of the Sword and Sextant); Alysae (NE female Tethyrian human cleric 4 [Shar], owner of The Hobbled Lamia festhall); Amet'ned-thoth (LN male Mulan human wizard 3/cleric 3/mystic theurge 1 [Thoth], orator); Amryyr Yauntyrr (LE male drow rogue 3/sorcerer 5/arcane trickster 4, scholar and courier, member of the Dark Dagger, a society of Vhaeraun-worshiping drow); Aurin the Generous (N male Damaran human Con17, co-owner of Hired Horrors); Lord Byronae Trilluach (LN male half-moon elf rogue 3/fighter 2/sorcerer 7, mercenary lord); Chantos Graybeard (LE male Illuskan human wizard 14, co-owner of Hired Horrors); Dalagor the Cold (CE male Illuskan human fighter 12, mercenary lord); Denver Gilliam (LE male Tethryian human aristocrat 1/fighter 1/rogue 5, outcast noble and owner of many taverns in Dock Ward and Skullport); Dwarnid Inkpeddler (N male shield dwarf expert 7, owner of Skin-Deep Tattoos); Eulagad the Maul (LN male Illuskan human fighter 10, owner of The Burning Troll inn); Grimmbold the Gith (CE male githerzai rogue 5/fighter 2/assassin 3, runs an assassin's guild); Gyudd (NG male shield dwarf fighter 3, owner of Gyudd's Distillery and heir to King Melair IV); Ilyana Wyrmmruff (CG female Tethyrian human rogue 12); Lord Ithvar Wordkiller (CN male Chondathan sorcerer 18, co-owner of Hired Horrors); Malakuth Tabuirr (CE male drow fighter 5/rogue 7, mercenary lord and slaver); Nestor Podgin (NG male human transmuter 14, owner of Monsters Made to Order); Othur Roonsundyr (CN male human wizard 20, scholar of rune, symbol, and ward magic); Rhaunagu'th (LE male Chondathan fighter 14, mercenary lord); Sangalor of the Secrets (LN illithid cleric 12 [Oghma], interrogator); Smallfry (CE male halfling fighter 2/expert 3, owner of Smallfry's Pantry); Spider (CG male tiefling rogue 4/fighter 3, owner of Spider's Fleet o' Feet, a courier business); Tohkkal Burrwarden (LN female rock gnome fighter 2/Ill7, owner of Clockwork Wonders); Vhondryl (LE female human psion 14, potion dealer and nominal owner of The Deepfires Inn); Ysele the Cat (NE female half-wood elf sorcerer 15); many more (too numerous to list here).
Notable Exports: Body parts, cadavers, drugs, evil magic, mercenaries, slaves, smuggling services, poisons, vile magic, undead.
* Skullport's spending limit is higher than normal, due to the proximity of Waterdeep's resources and riches.
THE SKULLS OF SKULLPORT
The Skulls for which the Port of Shadow is named are the sentinels of order in an otherwise dangerous community. The true nature of the Skulls has been a mystery since the port's founding, but their authority has never been successfully challenged since the arrival of Shradin Mulophor in the Year of the Angry Sea (1148 DR). The Skulls are possessed of a strange, alien intellect and are known to speak in cryptic phrases and ancient tongues long since vanished from the Realms. The Skulls often make bizarre demands of those who cross their paths or otherwise attract their attention, and their reaction to events is unpredictable.
The true history of the Skulls is known only to Halaster and a few of his apprentices. At the exact moment that the Weave faltered in the Year of Sundered Webs (-339 DR), the Netherese arcanists of the Sargauth Enclave were experimenting with the great mythal that encompassed their subterranean city. As surges of wild magic wracked the mythal, the arcanists were drawn into the magical mantle that enveloped their city. The thirteen most powerful arcanists were transformed into the Skulls of Skullport and trapped within the ruined city, while their apprentices were trapped within the twisted remnants of the mythal in the form of spellshades (treat each as CN flameskull sorcerer 9 with a rainbow-hued, vaguely humanoid-shaped body).
In the centuries that followed, the thirteen Skulls lurked within the ruins of their shattered enclave, unable to move more than 300 feet beyond the cavern that now houses the Port of Shadow. The mythal that held the Skulls in thrall allowed their thoughts to mingle, and over time the thirteen Skulls lost their individual identities and developed a collective consciousness that retained only fragments of its constituent personalities. While each Skull still exhibited odd habits, pet peeves, and even the occasional bit of skill or wisdom reminiscent of its original personality, for all intents and purposes the Skulls became a single entity. The spellshades found themselves incapable of manifesting at all except when summoned by the Skulls.
Shortly after his arrival in Undermountain in the Year of Scattered Stars (168 DR), Halaster Blackcloak discovered the ruins of the Sargauth Enclave, but he wisely retreated, correctly perceiving the threat posed by the Skulls. Halaster has never set foot within the ruined enclave, and he has always barred his apprentices from doing the same. Shradin Mulophor ignored Halaster's vague warnings and received the Mad Mage's permission to claim the ruins for his own. The Lord of Bones forged a pact with the Skulls that enabled him to establish a small trading settlement in the cavern. The Skulls agreed to Shradin's request not out of boredom or whimsy, as the necromancer suspected, but because his plans dovetailed with their own plans to escape their ancient prison. As Skullport grew, the Skulls learned to absorb and empower wizards they killed, transforming them into flameskulls. Not every arcane spellcaster was susceptible to absorption into the mantle, but enough were to create a great number of vassal skulls.
During the Time of Troubles (1358 DR), Halaster's control of Undermountain's wards wavered for the first time, and the Skulls were briefly able to tap into a portion of his power. The unlucky victim of their newfound prowess was a visiting drow archmage. The Rag Mage, as he came to be known, was transformed into his current form (insane CN male drow sorcerer 15/archmage 4 attended by a closet of common raggamoffyns), capable of feeding Skullport's mantle by slowly bleeding magical and life energies of victims of his servitor raggamoffyns. The wards of Undermountain faltered again on Halaster's Higharvestide (1369 DR) when the Mad Mage was abducted from his halls by the Twisted Rune. The Skulls struck almost immediately, transforming Shradin into his current form (NE nishruu [augmented male human] necromancer 22/archmage 5), capable of feeding Skullport's mantle the magic he absorbs. In the wake of these two successes, any two of the fifteen entities linked to the mythal (the thirteen Skulls, the Rag Mage, and Shradin) were able to escape the Port of Shadow. The Skulls became convinced that they only need link eleven other powerful arcane spellcasters to the mythal and they could escape once and for all.
Such ambitions were shattered just a few years later, when a powerful extraplanar entity named Vhostym tapped into Skullport's mythal with an artifact known as a Weave Tap. The ensuing destruction destroyed four of the Skulls, wreaked havoc in the Port of Shadow, and transformed the remaining Skulls into true undead. Once again the Skulls were trapped within the mythal, unable to depart (as were the Rag Mage and the Lord of Bones), but now they could send their spellshades and vassal flameskulls beyond the mythal into the halls of Undermountain. It is unclear how, if at all, the damage to Skullport's mythal has affected the balance of power within the Port of Shadow and between the Skulls and Halaster, but it is clear that the status quo on which Skullport was built has come to a rapid and unclear end.
The Skulls themselves can now be considered CN advanced 8 HD flameskulls. Collectively, they can tap into the spells of a sorcerer 26/archmage 5/Netherese arcanist 5 (effectively a shared spell pool). Individually, they can cause spellshades and vassal flameskulls to manifest for ld4 rounds or Td4 hours, respectively. Skullport's mythal, in addition to functioning as a prison, acts like a lich's phylactery. As long as it survives unscathed, none of the Skulls can be truly destroyed.
The hamlet of T'Quession is less than a decade old, having been formed by sea elf refugees from warmer southern waters in the Year of the Shield (1367 DR). The Fair Folk were driven from their homes by a huge horde of undersea predators, the vanguard of the Army of Iakhovas. The survivors settled in Waterdeep's harbor alongside the merfolk of Tharqualnaar and petitioned Waterdeep's Lords to join the Guard. Like the merfolk, the sea elves fought long and hard in defense of Waterdeep during the Deepwater War and paid a high toll for their efforts. In the years since that battle, many additional sea elves have migrated to the relative safety of Waterdeep's harbor, and the community is beginning to grow.
Like the merfolk of Tharqualnaar, sea elves who join the Guard receive a healthy stipend from the Lords. However, most of the Fair Folk seem to prefer the role of merchants, selling the fruits of the seas to surface dwellers at the Sea Elf Trading Outpost), just outside Waterdeep's walls.
T'Quession (Hamlet, Conventional): AL CG; Spending limit 100 gp; Assets 1,200 gp; Population 240; Races isolated (sea elves 230, merfolk 5, half-sea elves 2, others 3).
Authority Figure: Ni'saheensa Elanar (CG female sea elf ranger 14 [Deep Sashelas]).
Important Characters: Rellindaer of Lantan (CG male half-sea elf expert 9), many others (too numerous to list here).
Notable Exports: All manner of undersea trade goods, most of them produced by other undersea races.
The village of Tharqualnaar is a community of merfolk older than Waterdeep itself, dating back to the Year of Sea Monsters (-458 DR). For centuries, detachments of male merfolk have been sent north from warmer southern waters to the flooded sea caves beneath what is now known as Deepwater Isle. Members of the merfolk garrison kept watch over the tithes to Umberlee that littered the cavern floor, hoping to keep thieves from provoking the Bitch Queen's ire and the inevitable ensuing destruction above and below the surface all along the Sword Coast. Since the Year of Three Seas' Rage (-334 DR), that duty has necessitated keeping watch over Umberlee's Cache and the burgeoning number of sea wraiths and other monsters of the depths that dwell within.
In the Year of the Harp (1355 DR), merfolk fleeing the destruction of Laakos' Reef, a community in the Shining Sea forty miles east of Calimport, arrived in Deepwater Harbor seeking sanctuary from the looming threat of Iakhovas and offering their tridents in service to the Lords of Waterdeep. As they were accompanied by female and young merfolk, Tharqualnaar was transformed almost overnight from a remote military garrison into a thriving village. In the Year of the Gauntlet (1369 DR), the village was nearly destroyed by the Army of Iakhovas, and the merfolk bore the brunt of the Deepwater War's undersea casualties. However, in the war's aftermath, refugees from up and down the Sword Coast migrated to Tharqualnaar and made it their home. Coupled with a generous donation of material and magic support from the Lords of Waterdeep, the merfolk village of Tharqualnaar has once again begun to thrive. The merfolk have even cultivated an undersea garden in a "hot rift" on the harbor floor near the eastern tip of Deepwater Isle.
All adult merfolk of Tharqualnaar are considered members of the City Guard if they contribute to the defense of Waterdeep, though their weaponry and equipment is their own. The Lords pay a stipend of food, medical supplies, and trade-bars (the equivalent of 25 gp per head per month) to all who loyally patrol the harbor depths against invaders, predators, and shipping hazards. The merfolk are expected to aid in the recovery of corpses, spilled cargo, sunken vessels, and the like. They are free to travel outside the harbor, but rarely patrol more than a quarter-mile from the western shore of Deepwater Isle or a half-mile north of Stormhaven Island.
Tharqualnaar (Village, Magical): AL LG, NG, LN, N; Spending limit 200 gp; Assets 5,120 gp; Population 517; Races isolated (merfolk 492, sea elves 10, half-sea elves 10, others 5).
Authority Figures: Chief Harric Oreevel (LN male merfolk fighter 12); Voice of the Sunlit Shadows Narros Helanlaar (N male merfolk cleric 9 [Eadro]).
Important Characters: Thur Aquarvol (CG female merfolk cleric 3 [Umberlee]); Kerritas Reefsilver (LN male merfolk fighter 4); many others (too numerous to list here).
Notable Exports: Coral carvings, pearls, seafood.