Capital Waterdeep
Government Oligarchy
Ruler Lords of Waterdeep
Population 130 thousand (est.)
Races Humans, dwarves, elves, halflings, half-elves, gnomes, half-orcs

Waterdeep is a fictional city-state that forms part of a popular Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game campaign setting called the Forgotten Realms.[1] It is a port city that is located along the western coast of the Faerûn sub-continent. Known as the City of Splendors, Waterdeep is one of the largest and busiest cities—and one of the most important political powers—on the continent. The population is primarily human, although other races dwell therein. The city government consists of a cryptocracy of (mostly) anonymous individuals known as the Masked Lords of Waterdeep.

Underneath a rise in the western part of the city is an extensive complex of tunnels and chambers known as the Undermountain. This dungeon has been used as an adventure setting for several computer games.


The City of Waterdeep was an integral part of Ed Greenwood's house campaign, and is the most important city in the north of the Forgotten Realms setting.[2] Game designer Ken Rolston called Waterdeep "the urban showpiece of the Forgotten Realms campaign".[3] Jim Bambra called Waterdeep "an ideal setting for urban adventures", adding that Waterdeep "has a rich background which gives the city great character".[2]


The city-state of Waterdeep is documented in several publications that support the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. These describe Waterdeep, or the City of Splendors, as the most important and influential city in the northwestern part of the Faerûn continent, an area referred to as the North. Geographically, the city is included in a region called the Heartlands of the Realms, even though it lies 150 miles north of the western Heartland town of Daggerford, along the Sword Coast. The roads to Waterdeep are described as well paved and well patrolled. The city serves as a trading hub, tying together 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 is named for its outstanding natural deepwater harbor, which has made the city a commercial crossroads. The population of the city is listed as approximately 130,000, with more than one million Waterdhavians making their home within the city's territorial area. The city sprawls northward from the sea, spreading along the flanks of Mount Waterdeep, a solitary mountain. Mt. Waterdeep is indicated to have been a citadel of a fantasy race called the dwarves, 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. For gaming purposes, Waterdeep is an attractive location for adventurers because it has a large adventuring site, the Undermountain, located near temples and other health recovery areas.

Despite its size, the inhabitants of Waterdeep are described as largely benevolent and ethically good-natured people. This is due to the efforts of a group called the Masked Lords, the patrols of the Waterdeep City Watch, and the close proximity of Skullport, which draws away those prone to unlawful or unethical behavior. Skullport is located directly below Waterdeep in the Upper Underdark—a region of extensive caverns and tunnels beneath Faerûn.

History within the Forgotten Realms settingEdit

Within the Forgotten Realms campaign history, years are listed in terms of Dalereckoning, or DR. The first mention of a Waterdeep (not as a city, but as a collection of warlords) occurs around 900 DR. The city was truly established as a growing concern by 1032 DR, the year Ahghairon became the first Lord of Waterdeep, and the date from which Northreckoning is counted.

Waterdeep was founded by local tribes who benefited from trading timber and furs with southern merchants, and the settlement's deep harbor gave the city its name.[2] These were violent times, and a savage human tribe overran the settlement and built defenses and fortified their new homes. As tribes of humanoids advanced on Waterdeep, more human tribes converged on the settlement, swelling its size and number of defenders, and after savage battles, Waterdeep emerged as a free city ruled by War Lords. The mighty mage Ahairon then overthrew the last of the War Lords and established a government based on wisdom instead of armed might, and he ruled the city with a group of masked Lords who were secretly selected to govern.[2] When Aghairon died 200 years later, his rule was followed by a brief period of anarchy, as powerful guildmasters attempted to gain sole control of the city, until Aghairon's surviving fellow lords took steps to reestablish the rule of the Lords.[2]

The city grew rapidly, such that by 1248 DR both the City of the Dead—a sprawling cemetery complex—[4]and the various trade guilds had been developed. The guildmasters seized control of the city soon afterward, ushering in a period of unrest and bitter conflict known as the Guildwars. The Guildwars ended only when the two surviving guildmasters brought in their own period of misrule. It was only in 1273 DR that the present system of government (or lack thereof) was instituted. This was the year that the MagistersTemplate:Clarify were established and the secret Lords of Waterdeep were firmly reestablished.

Since that time, the city has continued to grow and prosper. Humankind and other races come from parts of the Realms to engage in business in the Waterdeep, now known as the City of Splendors. Over the years these successful merchants set up guilds and themselves become nobility, supporting the secretive Lords of Waterdeep who police the city fairly, by means of the well-trained city guard (soldiers), city watch (police), and over 20 black-robed magistrates. As a result, Waterdeep is now described as a place tolerant of different races, religions, and lifestyles. This in turn has encouraged commerce, and Waterdeep has grown into a huge, eclectic city.


Waterdeep is ruled by a council whose membership is largely secret. These hidden Lords of Waterdeep maintain their identities behind magical masks; while they rule in public, none know the true identities of most of them.[2] The subject of who the Lords are is a common topic of noble conversation, and some consider it a game to discover their identity, a game made more confusing by the fact the Lords themselves set their own rumors afloat. It is a known fact that Piergeiron the Paladinson, Warden of Waterdeep and Commander of the Watch, whose golden-spired palace dominates the center of the city, is a member of the Lords. He is the Unmasked Lord (in some references, the Open Lord), and wears no mask over either his face or his heart.

The archmage Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun was also of the Lords, and perhaps chief among them, exceeding even Piergeiron. Three members of The Four (excluding Randal Morn, who rules far Daggerdale); Mirt the Moneylender and his wife Asper, and Durnan the barkeeper and owner of the Yawning Portal are revealed to be Lords of Waterdeep in several of Ed Greenwood's stories. Though the names of the courtesan Larissa and Texter the Paladin have been connected with the Lords, evidence exists to both prove or disprove claims that they are Lords. Beyond these listed conjecture swings widely as to who is a Lord and who is not.

The Lords appear in public only in the Lords' Court, hearing all cases of murder, treason, misuse of magic, and appeals from lower courts. On such occasions there are always at least four Lords present, but sometimes six or seven are seen, and rarely as many as nine. Piergeiron chairs the Court and asks all questions, for the Lords speak through him. In chambers the Lords all appear similarly masked and robed, their robes formless and black, with black capes, and their masks completely covering the head and face. These masks have featureless faces, with mirrored crystals over the eyes, save for Piergeironís. He has had his face covering separated from his helm, and lets those who appear before the Court see his face.

Khelben's status as Masked Lord was later revealed, but only after resigning the post, and in the Songs and Swords series of novel, Danilo Thann, of Waterdeep's wealthy and influential Thann family, and Khelben's nephew, became one of the secret Lords.

Related placesEdit


Skullport is a city that lies more than a mile beneath Waterdeep. Skullport is a lawless place of slave traders, pirates, and demi-humans, where illithids, drow, beholders and other less savory creatures traffic with merchants and buccaneers from the surface. This settlement was detailed in the 1999 supplement Skulldeep, written by Joseph Wolf.[5]


Undermountain is a vast labyrinth of caverns in the Underdark under the area of Waterdeep. It was created by Ed Greenwood in 1975. This was the first dungeon for his fledgling Forgotten Realms campaign setting, and he used the Undermountain in both his Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons games.[6] In 2003, Waterdeep and Undermountain served as part of the setting for the Neverwinter Nights computer role playing game expansion, Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark.[7]

Campaign description Edit

The published campaign information describes Undermountain as at least nine levels deep and possibly deeper. The majority of Undermountain was created and expanded from the natural caverns already in the area by a powerful and ancient wizard named Halaster Blackcloak, who dwelled in Undermountain and uses it as his personal playground and laboratory (307 DR–1370 DR).

The third level contains Skullport, also known as the Port of Shadows, and Qilué’s Promenade of Eilistraee, a temple complex northeast of Skullport. The latter dedicated to the followers of a deity named Eilistraee.

There are ruins of an ancient Ghaunadaur-worshiping drow city in a part of Undermountain near the Promenade whose inhabitants were single-handedly driven away by Halaster while he was creating Undermountain. The lower three levels were delved by dwarves. Below that not much campaign information is available. Madgoth’s Castle also lies below the depths of Undermountain.

Many magical portals lead into Undermountain from all over Faerûn.

This dungeon is the titular location of Descent to Undermountain, a game maligned as "a classic example of a game that was shipped too early."[8]

In media Edit

Official Material Edit

In other mediaEdit

Eye of the Beholder was a 1990 role-playing video game developed by Westwood Studios and published by Strategic Simulations, Inc. The game plot concerns an unidentified evil presence located underneath Waterdeep. A party of adventurers controlled by the player is dispatched to investigate, but becomes trapped following a cave-in of a sewer tunnel. The goal thereafter is to deal with the threat, and escape through the dungeon, which is replete with traps and monsters.[9]

Waterdeep is the primary location in the first portion of the computer roleplaying game Neverwinter Nights. The game's second expansion, Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, features Waterdeep and Undermountain in the first levels of the game.[10]

In 2012, Wizards of the Coast published a German-style board game Lords of Waterdeep that is set in the city.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-653-5. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Bambra, Jim (December 1988). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR) (#140): 83–84. 
  3. Rolston, Ken (April 1990). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR) (#156): 84-85. 
  4. Jones, Rosemary (2009). City of the Dead. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 078695129X. 
  5. Wolf, Joseph (1999). Martin, Julia. ed.. Skullport. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1348-7. 
  6. Greenwood, Ed. Ruins of Undermountain boxed set (TSR 1060). ISBN 1-56076-061-3.  Campaign Guide to Undermountain book page 3 (TSR, 1991)
  7. Padilla, Raymond (December 10, 2003). "Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark". Game Spy. IGN Entertainment, Inc.. Retrieved on 2010-07-23.
  8. Erik Bethke, Game Development and Production (Wordware Publishing, Inc., 2003), p.79.
  9. Barton, Matt (2008). Dungeons and desktops: the history of computer role-playing games. A K Peters, Ltd.. pp. 238–239. ISBN 1-56881-411-9. 
  10. Hordes of the Underdark plot at Bioware official website
  11. Hauge, Andrew (2012-05-09). "Review of Lords of Waterdeep". Retrieved on 2012-05-15.
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