From the intro:
So read on; and walk the streets of Waterdeep the Great, Crown of the North, with (of course) the standard warning: keep weapon to hand and eyes attentive…
Keyser the Eye Tyrant
The 13 year old boy in me looks as this cover and considers it awesome. After reading the book itself, this teenage boy loves that Keyser Soze lives in the sewers of Waterdeep and is an Eye Tyrant with a solid crew. Shit, the Eye Tyrant criminal even has a book-keeper with a network of snitches, a one-eyed dwarf , a merc thug for some muscle and a purty Drow whose specialty is extortion.
Then I grow up just a bit. Um, is the dusky gal in the bikkini getting the guys a slice of pot roast while they consider the scroll? There is something menacing about her, at least…I guess. Maybe the meat is to feed the Intellect Devourers? Do they eat meat when they’re not devouring…minds?
In the most pollyanna, charitable reading I can muster, she isn’t paying attention because as the highest level of the Eye Tyrant criminal’s counselors, she already knows the answer to what the men are pondering and is watching them struggle because in her mind its fun to watch stupid people struggle.
Yeah, while on the bus today, I was carrying Waterdeep & and North on top of The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting and shifted my books so the hardcover was the one visible.
Keyser Soze’s Beholder avatar lives under Waterdeep with his crew. There is no Thieves’ Guild, as they were driven south to Amn years ago but this Eye Tyrant is making a go of it. I love that as play begins, there is a criminal rising to power, even as the players rise.
I don’t see any mention of Skullport, that is mentioned in the 3E hardcover. Was this added later, any Realms scholars know where Skullport popped up? I’m not sure I dig Skullport. It is almost too easy an out, as if Waterdeep is so pristine that any crime or badness has to be relegated to another place that is deep underground where no one can see it and only bad people go. Eh, not my thing for urban fantasy settings.
The list of nobles has some names, where they make their coin and a little pic with their coat of arms. It is adorable, something the GM can peruse and get a little inspiration.
Here’s a few sentences out of Waterdeep & the North that make me sit up and get the highlighter out:
One note: many noble families gained great wealth through slave trade. Many years ago, they were given the choice of freeing all slaves and ceasing such trade, or becoming outcast. All renounced slavery (although some rumors to the contrary regularly make the rounds about former slaving families with connections in the far South).
And a few sentences down we get this:
Most noble families have fifteen or so members of direct blood resident in Waterdeep. One or all of these may alos own extensive holdings elsewhere in the Realms and other residences in the City.
I feel like that is Greenwood telling me that some families very likely still profit from slavery, they just do it away from the Northlands, away from prying eyes. That is interesting.
Here’s another bit that invoked a reaction:
…but it is strongly recommended that no PC be a noble (at least at the start of play) in any campaign set in Waterdeep – and if one must have PC cavaliers, that they be from elsewhere in the Realms, not of those noble born families (unless the relationship is distant). Most nobles spend their adult lives in an endless round of parties, intrigue, dabbling in this or that special interest, and partying again. Nasty, unpleasant adventures are things that (thankfully) happen to somebody else, and can be laughed at over a party, half a year later!
Oh man, how I disagree. As the Notorious B.I.G. said, “Mo money, mo problems.”
You’ve got this society of nobles who live in the most glorious city in the world. They can sample every delight the Realms can offer, buying and trading, running amok in an oligarchy where the major lords are masked. Some of the lords at the parties mentioned made their fortunes in slaving and still have distant relatives abroad who still send over coin made through trafficking in human misery. Yeah, most nobles won’t adventure but player characters were never supposed to be most people.
Do we not play commoners because most commoners are too worried about their trade or when the crop is going to be harvested to go out and kill monsters?
Thugs and Muggings
There are parts where it is quite evident that Dungeon Masters need to be prepared in case their players decide to flat-out mug an N.P.C. Just little throwaway sentences about security in noble villas and what to do if the players decide to shake-down Mirt the Moneylender (a former mercenary captain who I simply must burn up).
There is an odd aside for Mirt. They mention that he took in a younger girl and protects her ferociously. Wait, let’s look at that text, its creepy:
Mirt’s constant companion is the young fighter Asper, whom he once rescued as an infant from a sacked city, and whom he regards as his little girl despite her now-matured beauty.
He’s like her adopted dad, dudes. Don’t be creepy, gaming book. Please? Creepier still, in the 3E book, he’s married to her. C’mon, gaming, let me love you. Make this easy on me, wontcha?
There are 7 and they are pretty useless. I’d rather they cut them all down to a few sentences each and just had a few dozen inspiring hooks.
I skipped this upon the first read and was ready to pan the whole chapter (written in much smaller font) but upon reading it over for the express purpose of panning it here, I really liked it. The information on the Guilds gives a bunch of really cool little details about Waterdeep, from the boys and girls who serve as lamplighters to the upstanding member of the Stablemaster and Farriers’ Guild, Jhalathan Ilzoond, who tamed a griffon and can be seen riding it above the city from time to time. I’d like the guilds section to have more sights, sounds and smells, more little details of the city through the eyes of their crafts-folk.
An Overall Sense
The supplement is charming. It leaves one with the sense that this city is a shining bastion of seething humanity amidst an untamed wilderness filled with orc, undead that glare with the weight of long dead civilizations and portals from ages past to gods-knows-where. The lords of the city are masked, the nobles are painfully rich and the common-folk are jaded, where it takes epic magic to make the newest member of the Dungsweeper’s Guild even blink and every culture in all of the worlds are considered part of the culture of Waterdeep (except for Orcs, they’re evil and by evil, I mean Evil).
There’s a tavern with a vast dungeon, Undermountain, beneath it, through a well-like shaft in the common room and yes, the bartender is a retired adventurer, dammit.