The City of Splendors
”Introductions are always the first and best way to get to know people and places. And, of course, one’s introduction to Waterdeep colors how one sees the City of Splendors forevermore. For me, Waterdeep and her vistas will always be dominated by Mount Waterdeep and a fond memory of an alighting griffon silhouetted against the reddened skies of the setting sun.”
Open Lord Piergeiron Paladinson, Year of the Shield (1367 DR)
The City of Splendors remains what it has been for centuries: a bustling, crowded, busy mercantile crossroads where coin is king, tolerance for outlanders of other races and habits is high (as long as they trade fairly), and folk play hard and work even harder, their lives proceeding at the fastest pace possible. Gossip is the grease that helps the daily lives of most Waterdhavians along in their endless striving to make ever more money. Wealth brings respect, respect earns influence, and influence is power.
Waterdeep today is a bustling center of commerce filled with around-the-clock stinks and noises, rumbling wagons south of Castle Waterdeep, and walled splendor to the north of the castle. The city is often swept by fads and fashions, and is dominated by wealth, trading, and constant chatter about the latest news of events everywhere in the world (as well as rumors planted so as to sway public opinion and investment).
For the purposes of governance and security, Waterdeep is divided into a system of wards or civic districts. Each of the seven official wards is briefly discussed below.
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. Deliberately putting on a show of force, City Watch and Guard patrols are heavy in Castle Ward.
The ward’s most prominent landmarks include Ahghairon’s Tower, Blackstaff Tower, Castle Waterdeep, the Lords’ Palace, the Market, the Cynosure, and New Olamn.
Dock Ward is Waterdeep’s oldest and most colorful ward. The harbor is very much a working place, full of sweating, cursing dockworkers and sailors loading and unloading vessels. Carts groan hastily between warehouses all over the southern half of the city and Dock Ward, carrying goods to and from the ships. Dock Ward is also notorious as a lawless, brawling place of drunks, smugglers, and fell magic.
Those who are daring or foolish enough to want to delve beneath the brackish water of the harbor are advised that the City Guard keeps a close watch for smugglers and for items dropped for later recovery.
Notable landmarks of Dock Ward include Cookhouse Hall, Shippers’ Hall, and the Full Sails tavern, headquarters of the Most Diligent League of Sail-Makers & Cordwainers.
Field Ward is a rather crowded area, newly built over, between the North Trollwall (the old inner north city wall) and the outer north city wall (still anchored by Northgate). It was once the caravan camping fields. Neither wall has been torn down, leaving Field Ward fenced off.
This district is home to folk of all walks of life who lacked coin enough to hire lodgings or own buildings in old Waterdeep, but who first arrived as the ravages of the Spellplague began. It is a slum in some places, and a struggling middle-class area in others. The Ward is a noisy, lively area that’s home to poor (and a few wealthy) elves, half-bloods of all sorts (and anyone who has a deformity or visible taint), and dwarves who are determined to get the respect they are sure they deserve.
Home of the Wealthy
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 intrigue and scheming that goes on behind closed doors, and the volumes of smuggled goods that lie in cellars beneath the city streets.
The only widely known landmark of North Ward is the Gentle Mermaid, whose fame as a gambling hall has spread up and down the Sword Coast.
Waterdeep’s most affluent 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 its premier wizards.
Lashed by sea storms, Sea Ward was traditionally deserted in the winter; the nobles preferred to weather the cold months in estates farther south. This practice has been largely abandoned over the last century, however, as strife erupted across the Sword Coast.
Notable landmarks of Sea Ward include the Field of Triumph, the lush Heroes’ Garden, and the Sea’s Edge Beach. Waterdeep’s largest temple, the House of Heroes dedicated to Tempus, stands just north of the Field of Triumph.
South 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.
South Ward is dominated by large, tall, old warehouses made of stone, mud brick, or timber. Crowded among them are three and four-floor tenements, most with shops at street level.
Notable landmarks of South Ward include Caravan Court, Waymoot, and Metalmasters’ Hall, headquarters of the Most Careful Order of Skilled Smiths & Metalforgers.
Center of Commerce
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 and Virgin’s Square. The towering Plinth stands no longer, having collapsed during the chaos of the Spellplague.