The City of Splendors lies in the shadow of Mount Waterdeep on the shore of the best natural harbor along the Sword Coast. Undermountain, the greatest dungeon in all Faerun, lies beneath the city's streets and sewers, and the untamed hinterlands of the Sword Coast beckon the those daring enough to seek their fortune.
Built on a plateau settled first by the elves of Illefarn and later honeycombed by the shield dwarves of Clan Melairkyn, the City of Splendors was founded by primitive Illuskan and Tethyrian settlers and heavily influenced by far-wandering Chondathan merchants. Today, Waterdeep remains a predominantly human city, although representatives of nearly every intelligent race make their home within its walls.
Waterdeep is home to haughty nobles, diligent craftsmen, scheming merchants, daring sailors, and bold adventurers of every stipe. It has always been a center of weatlh and influence where those who dream of power, riches, and artistic fulfillment can come to realize their aspiratons.
It is also a city of fearsome dungeons.
Undermountain and the Dungeon of the Crypt promise untold riches and deadly monsters to those who dare their depths. Skullport, however, lies in ruins,no longer inhabited at least by any creature you would care to socalize with. Ancient feuds divide Waterdeep's guilds and noble houses, and many factions seek to topple the secretive Lords of Waterdeep. The Arcane Brotherhood of neighboring Luskan seeks to weaken its gated rival to the south, while the Red Wizards of Thay hope to dominate Waterdeep's markets. The churches of Selune and Shar use the City of Splendors as a battlefield in their eternal war, while countless mercenary groups come to the city to spend their hard-won earnings. The Shadow Thieves of Amn plot to overthrow the Lords who once drove them out of the city. Spies and mercenaries such as the Knight of the Shield and the Kraken Society spread rumors and steal closely held secrets. All the while, the secretive Lords of Waterdeep strive to preserve the city's tolerant spirit, wise rule, and powerful magical tradition.
For most citizens, besides word of mouth, most news is spread by broadsheets, those printed single page papers sold on streetcorners for a copper nib. The Broadsheets include:
- The Vigilant Citizen, considered the most reputable of the broadsheets, reporting on many topics, but heavy focus on politics and commerce
- The North Wind, the broadsheet of fashion and society
- The Mocking Minstrel, a caustic, sarcastic muckraker spewing bitter commentary about corrupt politics, lascivious noble houses, and shady merchant deals
- The Merchant's Friend, oriented towards commerce, near and far
- The Blue Unicorn,
- Daily Luck,
The city's first line of defense is its topography; Waterdeep's coastlines and placement atop the high, sloping plateau surrounding Mount Waterdeep deter most orc and troll hordes from even making the attempt. The bald, rough crag enables the city's defenders to occupy the high groung. Just below the summit on th elandward side is the Peaktop Aerie, which is the former home to the city's griffon cavalry, and two Watching Towers, one located high above the Palace and the other overlooking the former Naval Harbor, give the city's lookouts unobstructed niews in all directions. The city's natural harbor is a nigh-prefect redoubt on the Trackless Sea.
Waterdep is shielded by the Trollwall, thus named for its role in the Trollwars. These stout stone walls are 15 feet thick and 40 feet high, and have crenellations on both sides and a tunnel and small rooms running throughthe interior. The walls encircle the entire city, except for a small stretch north of the City of the Dead, known as the Cliffwatch, where the cliffs are so high that they act as effective walls. A second set of walls wraps around th enorthern edge of the city and the South Gate, providing an additional line of defense against land invasions. Even the islands that form the harbor are walled, connected to the mainland and eahc other by stout chains that bar passage to ships in times of war. Five major gates pierce the Trollwall - South Gate, River Gate, Northgate, Troll Gate, and Westgate.
Waterdeep is also enmeshed in a variety of magic wards, the effects of which are largely unknown. Only Ahghairon and Halaster had a near-complete understanding of Waterdeep's magical defenses, which typically encompass the outer (fortified) walls and cliff tops, all of Mount Waterdeep and Deepwater Isle down to the low tide lines on the seaward sides, and so reach a maximum two-dimensional extest of 10,500 feet east to west, and 23,000 feet noth to south.
Just over four centuries ago, the noted adventurer Ranressa Shiard flew over the palace and alighted from dragonback atop Mount Waterdeep to a hero's welcome. However, her dramatic flourish caused much consternation among the Waterdhavian populace, leading the first Blackstaff, Ahghairon, to craft a magic ward that prevents most wyrms from doing such a thing today. This epic spell is known as Ahghairon's Dragonward, and it blankets all of Waterdeep.
Over two millennia ago, the Fair Folk of Aelinthaldaar foresaw that dwarven Melairbode might one day grow to honeycomb the entire plateau beneath their city. While the capital city of Illefarn is no more, one enduring lagacy that survives until this day is the Melairshild, a powerful high magic mythal that still guard the City of Splendors against excessive tunneling in Halaster's Halls. Specifically, the Melairshield renders the top 100 fee of the Waterdhavian plateau immune to collapse, no matter how much dirt and stone is excavated from the depths of the plateau. It in no way prevents new excavations, magical or otherwise, but it does prevent the cumulative effect of such excavations ever leading to the collapse of the plateau.
The eight giant stone colossi known as the Walking Statues of Waterdeep play a unique role in the city's defense. During times of peace, the statues remained dormant and unmoving, normally remaining motionless. Over time, the tend to accumulate birds' nests, moss, mantles of snow, and other such cosmetic debris. Many visitors to the city naturally believe they are nothing more than gigantic statures. However, certain conditions can cause the statues to animate and act to defend the city even without an explicit command, based on a set of "standing orders" dictated long ago.
Today, Waterdeep's navy has been scuttled, and the city relies on warships from Mintarn for defense. The Guard is now part of the Watch, serving as a permanent bodyguard for the Open Lord and the Palace. The famed Griffon Cavalry was dissolved years ago after the griffons perished in various battles and were never replaced.
Aside from sharing facilities and personnel with the Guard, the City Watch of Waterdeep is much as it was a century ago. Watch patrols pass along main streets once between bells, varying their routes often. It's rare for a patrol to have fewer than eight Watchmen. All Watch patrols are armed and carry horns to summon reinforcements.
Effect Of The Spellplague
While Waterdeep was spared many of the ravages experinced by other cities during the Spellplague, the event did introduce several lesser phenomena to the City of Splendors.
Hundreds of glowing globes (floating, mobile spheres of continual radiance) now drift freely around Waterdeep. Although every mage and sage who has studied them insists the spheres of light aren't sentient, they behave uncannily as if they are. They seem to become curious, and for a random time, follow certain beings who are moving about the city; they always seem drawn to any release or casting of magic; and they seem to become excited, gathering and rushing wildly about, if anyone tries to move or harness them by magical means.
A few of the fabled Walking Statues of Waterdeep went wild, striding across the city until they collapsed, toppled, or got wedged between buildings. Some were later quarried away into nothingness, but a few remain, forever frozen.
One invisible local change wrought by the Spellplague is all too familiar to local spellcasters: Detection and location magic no longer functions. Such spells feature in old tales but are unknown in life today.