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RulerLords of Waterdeep
Race(s)Humans, dwarves, elves, halflings, half-elves, gnomes, half-orcs
Notable locationsWaterdeep (capital)

Waterdeep is a fictional city-state that forms part of a Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game campaign setting called the Forgotten Realms.[2] It is a port city 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.


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.[3] Game designer Ken Rolston called Waterdeep "the urban showpiece of the Forgotten Realms campaign".[4] Jim Bambra called Waterdeep "an ideal setting for urban adventures", adding that Waterdeep "has a rich background which gives the city great character".[3]

Waterdeep was created by Ed Greenwood as part of his fledgling Forgotten Realms campaign setting.[5]

Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons series, notes that while TSR was interested in publishing a new setting in 1986 "the story of the Realms actually began some two decades earlier. A young Ed Greenwood was a voracious reader, influenced by Poul Anderson (1926-2001), Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), Fritz Leiber (1910-1992), A. Merritt (1884-1943), William Shakespeare (1564-1616), and others. Some time between 1966 and 1969 (sources vary), Greenwood tried his hand at writing too, penning the first story of the Realms. [...] It was the first of many stories of Mirt the Moneylender. [...] In the years that followed, Mirt traveled up and down the Sword Coast in Greenwood's stories, and so the author discovered Mirabar, Luskan, Neverwinter, Port Llast, Waterdeep, and Baldur's Gate. Within a year he drawn a map showing these places, truly turning the stories into a world. And thus the Realms was born".[5]


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,[citation needed] 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 those prone to unlawful or unethical behavior towards it and away from Waterdeep. Skullport is located directly below Waterdeep in the Upper Underdark—a region of extensive caverns and tunnels beneath Faerûn.

History within the Forgotten Realms setting[edit]

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.[3] 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 Ahghairon 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.[3] When Ahghairon 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 Ahghairon's surviving fellow lords took steps to reestablish the rule of the Lords.[3]

The city grew rapidly, such that by 1248 DR both the City of the Dead—a sprawling cemetery complex[6]—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 Magisters[clarification needed] 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.[3] 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[citation needed] 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 places[edit]


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 Skullport, written by Joseph C. Wolf.[7]


Underneath a rise in the western part of the city is an extensive complex of tunnels and chambers known as the Undermountain. 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.[8] This dungeon has also been used as an adventure setting for several computer games.[9][10][11][12]

Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons, wrote "readers of Dragon magazine saw their first hint of Undermountain in Dragon #106 (February 1986), where Ed Greenwood led off an article called 'Open Them If you Dare'. [...] However, unbeknownst to them, Dragon readers had been reading material associated with Undermountain for years. Some of the spells and books in Greenwood's 'Pages from the Mages' series, which began in Dragon #62 (June 1982), and the 'Rogue Stones and Gemjumping' magic from Dragon #116 (December 1986) were 'first inflicted' on PCs in Undermountain. [...] Rather surprisingly, there's no explicit mention of Undermountain in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (1987). However, 'The Halls of the Beast-Tamers' adventure is of some note. The portal described in area 11 was intended to send players to 'the uppermost main level of Undermountain', at least according to Ed Greenwood's home campaign. [...] The first notable mention of Undermountain in print was in FR1: 'Waterdeep and the North' (1987)".[13]

2018's Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage describes Undermountain as 23 levels deep.[14] It was later established that "Undermountain was created because Halaster was compelled by his own madness to build it, and to continue building it out into eternity. The Mad Mage built his original tower upon the land that would become Waterdeep by an unknown and powerful source of magic. This source was a knot in the Weave of Magic inadvertently created by an ancient elven civilization that sought to transcend reality. Halaster is more than the dungeon’s creator; he is its avatar. Halaster has died countless times, but he always returns before long. It is said that Undermountain cannot exist without Halaster, and his return is necessary to keep the dungeon from being utterly destroyed".[15][16]

Jason Wilson, for VentureBeat on the topic of megadungeons, wrote that Undermountain "might even be deeper than Castle Greyhawk" and that Halaster Blackcloak is "known as the Mad Mage, and as he dug deeper under the Realms’ City of Splendors, Waterdeep, Undermountain didn’t just grow. He connected it to many parts of the Realms and the multiverse with a host of portals. As he descended into madness, he dug deeper, and his halls expanded. His apprentices, some bearing similar broken minds, added levels of their own. And others even founded a city, Skullport, which serves as not only a link to the Underdark but also the seedier side of Waterdeep. Without Halaster, Undermountain unravels, its portals going crazy and sending monsters into the city above. It creates problems for the rest of the world. So if Castle Greyhawk was a trap for the gods, then one could see Undermountain as a containment system for a mad archmage … and the terrors of the dungeon itself. It’s a trap and a prison, as much as Castle Greyhawk is for the gods".[17]

Official material[edit]


  • Waterdeep and the North
  • City of Splendors: Waterdeep (Excerpt)
  • City System[2]:89
  • Greenwood, Ed (1989). Waterdeep. TSR Inc. ISBN 0-88038-757-2.
  • Greenwood, Ed (January 1993). Volo's Guide to Waterdeep. TSR Inc. ISBN 1-56076-335-3.
  • Greenwood, Ed; Schend, Steven E. (July 1994). City of Splendors (boxed set). TSR Inc. ISBN 1-56076-868-1.
  • Boyd, Eric L. (2005-07-14). City of Splendors: Waterdeep. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-3693-2.
  • "Welcome to Waterdeep", Dragon #128.
  • Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. Wizards of the Coast. 2018-09-18. ISBN 9780786966257.
  • Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage. Wizards of the Coast. 2018-11-20. ISBN 9780786966264.


Appelcline also wrote that "the AD&D 2e version of the dungeon was the most extensive, with six different supplements revealing considerably spans of the dungeon, level by level. Ruins of Undermountain (1991) detailed the first two levels, Ruins of Undermountain II (1994) described two Deep Levels and a sub-level, then Undermountain: The Lost Level (1996), "Undermountain: Maddgoth's Castle" (1996), "Undermountain: Stardock" (1996), and Skullport (1999) revealed smaller scale locales. The D&D 3e version of the dungeon instead tried to cover everything in one big book: Expedition to Undermountain (2007). It overviewed the whole dungeon, then detailed some very specific places. In its third roleplaying incarnation as Halls of Undermountain (2012), the 4e designers took a different tack. The 96-page book isn't really a sourcebook like its predecessors; instead it's a set of three loosely linked adventures that use Undermountain as a setting — and in the process tell a larger story. Halls was actually the second appearance of Undermountain during the 4e era. However the Encounters adventure, 'Halaster’s Lost Apprentice' (2010), was still unknown to most players — and had only featured the dungeon in the form of some very constrained encounters".[18] In 5th Edition, Undermountain was revisited in Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage.[19]

Title Author(s) Type Date Pages ISBN
Ruins of Undermountain Ed Greenwood Boxed set 1991 210 978-1560760610
Ruins of Undermountain II Jean Rabe and Norm Ritchie Boxed set 1994 210 978-1560768210
Escape from Undermountain Mark Anthony Novel 1996 316 9780786964116
Undermountain: The Lost Level Steven E. Schend Adventure module 1996 32 978-0786903993
Undermountain: Maddgoth's Castle Steven E. Schend Adventure module 1996 32 978-0786904235
Undermountain: Stardock Steven E. Schend Adventure module 1996 32 978-0786904518
Descent to Undermountain Role-playing video game 1998 n/a n/a
Skullport Joseph C. Wolf Source book June 1999 96 978-0786913480
Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark Expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights 2003 n/a n/a
Expedition to Undermountain Eric L. Boyd, Ed Greenwood, Christopher Lindsay, and Sean K. Reynolds Campaign setting June 2007 221 978-0-7869-4157-5
Halls of Undermountain Matt Sernett with Shawn Merwin Adventure module April 2012 96 978-0786959945
Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage Wizards RPG Team Adventure module November 20, 2018 256 978-0786966264
Neverwinter: Undermountain Expansion for Neverwinter April 23, 2019 n/a n/a
Neverwinter: Uprising Expansion for Neverwinter August 13, 2019 n/a n/a

In other media[edit]

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.[20]

The computer roleplaying game Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark, features Waterdeep and Undermountain in the first levels of the game.[21]

In 2012, Wizards of the Coast published a German-style board game Lords of Waterdeep that is set in the city.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Forgotten Realms: Waterdeep". Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast LLC. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-653-5.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Bambra, Jim (December 1988). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR (#140): 83–84.
  4. ^ Rolston, Ken (April 1990). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR (#156): 84–85.
  5. ^ a b Appelcline, Shannon. "Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (1e) | Product History". DMs Guild. Retrieved 2019-08-02.
  6. ^ Jones, Rosemary (2009). City of the Dead. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 078695129X.
  7. ^ Wolf, Joseph (1999). Martin, Julia (ed.). Skullport. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1348-7.
  8. ^ Greenwood, Ed. Ruins of Undermountain boxed set (TSR 1060). ISBN 1-56076-061-3. Campaign Guide to Undermountain book page 3 (TSR, 1991)
  9. ^ Erik Bethke, Game Development and Production (Wordware Publishing, Inc., 2003), 79.
  10. ^ Padilla, Raymond (December 10, 2003). "Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark". Game Spy. IGN Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved 2010-07-23.
  11. ^ "Neverwinter: Undermountain Launches on PS4 and Xbox One". Bleeding Cool News And Rumors. 2019-06-19. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  12. ^ "The Next "Neverwinter" Module Uprising Will Arrive On PC August 13th". Bleeding Cool News And Rumors. 2019-07-10. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  13. ^ Appelcline, Shannon. ""The Ruins of Undermountain (2e) | Product History". www.drivethrurpg.com. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  14. ^ Haeck, James (November 19, 2018). "What the Heck is a Megadungeon?". D&D Beyond. Retrieved 2019-08-02.
  15. ^ Haeck, James (December 10, 2018). "How to Tell a Story in Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage". D&D Beyond. Retrieved 2019-08-02.
  16. ^ Waterdeep : Dungeon of the Mad Mage. Renton, WA. p. 6. ISBN 9780786966264. OCLC 1066115292.
  17. ^ Wilson, Jason (September 21, 2018). "The D20 Beat — Dragon's Dogma, Etrian Odyssey, and Path of Exile are today's D&D megadungeons (updated)". VentureBeat. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  18. ^ Appelcline, Shannon. "Halls of Undermountain (4e) - Wizards of the Coast | Product History". www.drivethrurpg.com. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  19. ^ Hudak, Rob (2018-12-21). "Book Review: Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage". SLUG Magazine. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Hordes of the Underdark plot at Bioware official website
  22. ^ Hauge, Andrew (2012-05-09). "Review of Lords of Waterdeep". RPG.net. Retrieved 2012-05-15.