Forgotten Realms country
Capital Waterdeep
Government Oligarchy
Ruler Lords of Waterdeep
Population 1.3 million (est.)
Races Humans, dwarves, elves, halflings, half-elves, gnomes, half-orcs

Waterdeep is a city-state on the fictional continent of Faerûn, the setting of the popular Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting Forgotten Realms.

Waterdeep, also known as the City of Splendors is one of the largest and busiest cities—and most important political powers—on the continent, and is run by a group of (mostly) anonymous Masked Lords of Waterdeep (cf. cryptocracy). Waterdeep is a human city, although other races also take residence therein.


Waterdeep, or the City of Splendors, is the most important and influential city in the North[citation needed], and perhaps in all Faerûn. For this reason[attribution needed] it is considered part of the Heartlands of the Realms, even though it lies 150 miles north of Daggerford, along the Sword Coast. The road to Waterdeep is well paved and well patrolled. The city is the hub of trading from 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, and the city that grew up at this site has become the commercial crossroads of the northern Realms. The population of the city itself is approximately 130,000, but more than one million people make their home within Waterdeep's territory. The city sprawls northward from the sea, spreading along the flanks of Mount Waterdeep, a great and singular mountain. Of old, Mt. Waterdeep was said to have been a dwarven citadel, 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. One reason that Waterdeep is an attractive location for adventurers is that it has a large adventuring site, the Undermountain, comfortably located near temples and other recovery areas.

Despite its size, Waterdeep remains a largely benevolent and good city. This is partly due to the efforts of the Masked Lords, partly due to the Waterdeep City Watch, and partly due to the close proximity of Skullport, which draws in the seedier and darker sorts. Skullport is in the Upper Underdark and is located directly below Waterdeep.


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.

The city grew spectacularly, such that by 1248 DR both the City of the Dead and the guilds had been developed. The guildmasters seized control soon afterwards, 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 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 all over the Realms to earn hard coin in the City of Splendors. Over the years these successful merchants have set up guilds and themselves become nobility, supporting the secretive Lords of Waterdeep who police the city fairly, yet with a light hand, by means of the superb city guard (soldiers), city watch (police), and over 20 black-robed magistrates. As a result, Waterdeep is 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. 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 places[]


Skullport is a city that lies more than a mile beneath Waterdeep. It is a lawless place of slave traders, pirates, and demi-humans, which Illithids, drow, beholders and other less savory creatures traffic with merchants and buccaneers from the surface.

Official Material[]




Specific prestige classes[]

External links[]

  • Music suite, describing important localities of Waterdeep ("Hymn to Waterdeep")


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