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D&D General Any Realms-Heads Know About The Politics of The Sword Coast?

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Specifically what I'm curious about is the places and power structures in and around Waterdeep that a young orphan and former street kid might have some serious desire to burn down in a revolutionary manner.

Everyone in the group has a fairly deep bias against laissez-faire capitalism, are fairly pro-union, believe in democratization of all major forms of power, etc. Don't want to argue about policies or real world systems, just noting this in case it helps filter what Realmsian power structures relevant to Waterdeep are most likely to be of interest.

What I know is that Neverember was especially corrupt, but basically competent, and weakened the exclusive structures of power in Waterdeep to allow more people to move upward socially and economically. Laeral Silverhand, on the other hand, is an immortal Chosen Sorcerer, an idealist, and seems inclined to delegate day to day power much more to the Masked Lords and focus on big picture stuff.

There is a lot to play with there, but my quick read of Dragon Heist makes it seem like Waterdeep is just not a particularly corrupt place, no one is really downtrodden or oppressed, like...what is there to rebel against, here?

If you insert an Alexander Hamilton to this place...does he just become a merchant? Are there any environs that are controlled by Waterdeep where power stratification is more stark? What dynamic of potential revolution, what tension exists that folks inside of the situation might look around at and say, "there will be a revolution in this century"?

the character I'm playing in the relevant campaign is below for reference. THe DM wants to mostly stick to written lore for the setting, but is down to add things that help us realise our characters as long as they don't make it so we can't just google up the answer to a lore question, basically. A shared lore foundation campaign, which we don't really normally do. She has offered to let me do research on politics and power in the relevant areas of Faerun and report back, and I figured there were a few people around here likely to know what's up.

Arestaeia "Kid" Mallorna Violensia Gheribaldt Brightmantle

Level 1 Human (Mark of Making) Artificer
Background: Waterdhavian Orphan (custom)

Kid doesn't know what the deal with her name is, doesn't know of any house named Brightmantle, and has only vague recollection of people that might have been her parents as kind but desperate people who died and left her with nothing but a name and the vague memory of safety, and her mind. She lived on the streets of Waterdeep from about 6 to 11, when she was nearly taken by a the hag of Trollskull Manor, who tried to mark her with an evil sigil that would cause her to transform into a hag upon her coming of age. She escaped as Emerald Enclave rangers stormed the house and killed the hag, and nearly died in an alleyway as the half-finished sigil poisoned her body and soul. An Emerald Enclave druid found her, arrested the magical poison, and removed the poisoned arm, which couldn't be saved.

Kid spend the next two years in the direct care of the Emerald Enclave druids working in Waterdeep, ensuring that she wouldn't develop anything that needed to be dealt with. She was grateful to them, but also very aware that she had been marked by something evil, and that every time she found some new magic, there was a tension round the eyes of her guardians as they watched and examined and made sure it wasn't something dark. Some time into her 13th year she left the Enclave, thanking them and letting them know where to find her if they wanted to give her a job in the future.

As she spent the next year or two trying to make her way as a tinkerer, alchemist, and general craftsperson, she found that the Guilds of the city had no interest in allowing an upstart with no known mentor and no history rise in any Guild, and she has had to find a niche that serves those who can't or won't hire Guild artisans or tradesfolk. Most folk are impressed enough by her living construct prosthetic arm that she has little trouble convincing such folk that she knows what she's doing, at least.

She isn't skilled in close up combat, but can hold her own if she has to. Where she does excel is ranged combat, including the use of the smokepowder firearms that have been spreading throughout the Sword Coast in recent years. She has one that she is tinkering with to eventually turn into her arcane firearm.

My hope is to play her as a very intelligent, very knowledge-obsessed, very advanced in knowledge of political and economic theory, very eager to rise above her station and break the structures that prevent others doing the same.

Any general thoughts, fun facts I should know, or particular books or web articles I should read?

Should I just post this at the candlekeep forums? I haven't been there in years so I don't even know how active it is these days.
 

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Parmandur

Book-Friend
Waterdeep is like the Toronto of Sword & Sorcery cities on thst front. There are opportunities for Adventure! there, but the law is generally benevolent and helpful, and the nobles, merchants and Guilds hold society in a pretty good equilibrium. Indeed, it is actually a super Unionized town, with all workers having representation and power through their Guild (there is room for politics, obviously).

Luskan (Pirate City) might be a better target for revolutionary ambition, and could be a good place hook for the DM...
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Specifically what I'm curious about is the places and power structures in and around Waterdeep that a young orphan and former street kid might have some serious desire to burn down in a revolutionary manner.

Everyone in the group has a fairly deep bias against laissez-faire capitalism, are fairly pro-union, believe in democratization of all major forms of power, etc. Don't want to argue about policies or real world systems, just noting this in case it helps filter what Realmsian power structures relevant to Waterdeep are most likely to be of interest.

What I know is that Neverember was especially corrupt, but basically competent, and weakened the exclusive structures of power in Waterdeep to allow more people to move upward socially and economically. Laeral Silverhand, on the other hand, is an immortal Chosen Sorcerer, an idealist, and seems inclined to delegate day to day power much more to the Masked Lords and focus on big picture stuff.

There is a lot to play with there, but my quick read of Dragon Heist makes it seem like Waterdeep is just not a particularly corrupt place, no one is really downtrodden or oppressed, like...what is there to rebel against, here?

If you insert an Alexander Hamilton to this place...does he just become a merchant? Are there any environs that are controlled by Waterdeep where power stratification is more stark? What dynamic of potential revolution, what tension exists that folks inside of the situation might look around at and say, "there will be a revolution in this century"?

the character I'm playing in the relevant campaign is below for reference. THe DM wants to mostly stick to written lore for the setting, but is down to add things that help us realise our characters as long as they don't make it so we can't just google up the answer to a lore question, basically. A shared lore foundation campaign, which we don't really normally do. She has offered to let me do research on politics and power in the relevant areas of Faerun and report back, and I figured there were a few people around here likely to know what's up.

Arestaeia "Kid" Mallorna Violensia Gheribaldt Brightmantle

Level 1 Human (Mark of Making) Artificer
Background: Waterdhavian Orphan (custom)

Kid doesn't know what the deal with her name is, doesn't know of any house named Brightmantle, and has only vague recollection of people that might have been her parents as kind but desperate people who died and left her with nothing but a name and the vague memory of safety, and her mind. She lived on the streets of Waterdeep from about 6 to 11, when she was nearly taken by a the hag of Trollskull Manor, who tried to mark her with an evil sigil that would cause her to transform into a hag upon her coming of age. She escaped as Emerald Enclave rangers stormed the house and killed the hag, and nearly died in an alleyway as the half-finished sigil poisoned her body and soul. An Emerald Enclave druid found her, arrested the magical poison, and removed the poisoned arm, which couldn't be saved.

Kid spend the next two years in the direct care of the Emerald Enclave druids working in Waterdeep, ensuring that she wouldn't develop anything that needed to be dealt with. She was grateful to them, but also very aware that she had been marked by something evil, and that every time she found some new magic, there was a tension round the eyes of her guardians as they watched and examined and made sure it wasn't something dark. Some time into her 13th year she left the Enclave, thanking them and letting them know where to find her if they wanted to give her a job in the future.

As she spent the next year or two trying to make her way as a tinkerer, alchemist, and general craftsperson, she found that the Guilds of the city had no interest in allowing an upstart with no known mentor and no history rise in any Guild, and she has had to find a niche that serves those who can't or won't hire Guild artisans or tradesfolk. Most folk are impressed enough by her living construct prosthetic arm that she has little trouble convincing such folk that she knows what she's doing, at least.

She isn't skilled in close up combat, but can hold her own if she has to. Where she does excel is ranged combat, including the use of the smokepowder firearms that have been spreading throughout the Sword Coast in recent years. She has one that she is tinkering with to eventually turn into her arcane firearm.

My hope is to play her as a very intelligent, very knowledge-obsessed, very advanced in knowledge of political and economic theory, very eager to rise above her station and break the structures that prevent others doing the same.

Any general thoughts, fun facts I should know, or particular books or web articles I should read?

Should I just post this at the candlekeep forums? I haven't been there in years so I don't even know how active it is these days.
The Lords of Waterdeep are a power structure that you can rebel against. Especially since all but one of the lords are hidden behind masks and only one is known. Hidden power is a scary thing.
 


vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Well, the secret cabal that is the Masked Lords, being unelected rulers that make all deals in secrecy are pretty shady, even if they tend to be kinda non-evil.

Overall, if you want Realm-Fantasy-Gotham, you'd better look into Baldur's Gate, if you are open to the rest of the Sword Coast. Neverwinter, if we go with the lore where Neverember is still proclaimed lord-protector of the king-less city, would be the best stage for a revolutionary background, especially with the Sons of Alagondar, the lost crown of Nasher, and a rumor that there's still a potential heir to the throne somewhere that would be able to be recognized by the guardian-ghosts of the Nines.

Luskan is a mess of corruption, but its more of a lawless free-for-all than an oppressing tyranny.

Amn, which is a little more to the south than your preference, is governed by money; everything as a price, the the riches make the rules.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
The politics are whatever I need them to be. I have canon, for whatever that's worth, but I'll bend and twist things to make my game work. That said, I have a ton of supplementary stuff for Dragon Heist, so I have a lot to work with. So, to be more specific, I'll take a look at the characters, backgrounds, and whatnot, and I'll pencil in some ideas about how the politics work. What I'm not doing is deciding before hand - I have no pre-prepped plot at all. I'll see where the PCs head and I'll make that work. Before hand I have factions and motivations, and that's about it. So I set those next to what the PCs decide to do and see wat happens.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Waterdeep is like the Toronto of Sword & Sorcery cities on thst front.
I've heard that, though I think my group sees it more as the early modern New York.
There are opportunities for Adventure! there, but the law is generally benevolent and helpful, and the nobles, merchants and Guilds hold society in a pretty good equilibrium. Indeed, it is actually a super Unionized town, with all workers having representation and power through their Guild (there is room for politics, obviously).
Yeah, I think that for this character to make sense, she needs to have a somewhat nuanced take on what needs to be removed from power.
Luskan (Pirate City) might be a better target for revolutionary ambition, and could be a good place hook for the DM...
Yeah that would be a fun option, as well. Certainly a place for her to eventually look for allies.
Not that it helps you here, but Baldur's Gate is ripe for this exact character, and violent revolution.
Gods above yeah...I'm tempted to have her actually come from there, and having come to Waterdeep maybe a year before getting messed up by the hag, and giving her a mindset that encompasses all the lands under the Lord's Alliance, rather than just Waterdeep.
The Lords of Waterdeep are a power structure that you can rebel against. Especially since all but one of the lords are hidden behind masks and only one is known. Hidden power is a scary thing.
Yeah, especially with the lords gaining more power under an Open Lord that focused more on Big Picture stuff than on day to day governing.
There's also Skullport the pirate town down in Undermountain. The Lords tolerate it and allow it to flourish, which can be considered a corrupt act, even though it allows them to have the enemy that they know and can monitor.
Yeah and someone who has seen people destroyed when the corruption of Skullport bubbles up to the surface might well have a chip on their shoulder toward the Masked Lords and their little blindspot.
Well, the secret cabal that is the Masked Lords, being unelected rulers that make all deals in secrecy are pretty shady, even if they tend to be kinda non-evil.
And the Open Lord took power mysteriously, and is an immortal demigod, basically. Terrifying, regardless of her intentions. That alone speaks to "there will be a revolution in this century". I mean, who is going to believe that she will ever relinquish power? Maybe the people who know her very closely on a personal level, and idealistic sycophants who trust her blindly, and that's about it.
Overall, if you want Realm-Fantasy-Gotham, you'd better look into Baldur's Gate, if you are open to the rest of the Sword Coast. Neverwinter, if we go with the lore where Neverember is still proclaimed lord-protector of the king-less city, would be the best stage for a revolutionary background, especially with the Sons of Alagondar, the lost crown of Nasher, and a rumor that there's still a potential heir to the throne somewhere that would be able to be recognized by the guardian-ghosts of the Nines.
Trust me, I wish this was taking place in Neverwinter or Baldur's Gate.
Luskan is a mess of corruption, but its more of a lawless free-for-all than an oppressing tyranny.

Amn, which is a little more to the south than your preference, is governed by money; everything as a price, the the riches make the rules.
I'd love it if there were other characters from those cities in the campaign. We almost had a fire genasi Lafayette in the campiagn, whose mother was a noble efreeti merchant, and who was a charming and passionate individual who had some radical beliefs about her homeland (basically having an anti-capitalist scion of a powerful merchant in Amn is like having a revolutionary scion of great wealth and privilege in 1700's France), but she dropped out of the campaign.
 

cowpie

Explorer
Older versions of Waterdeep made the city slightly grittier. Geographically it's loosely modeled after Lankhmar from the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser swords & sorcery stories by Fritz Leiber. Greenwood made it much more friendly, with a colorful high-fantasy setting. However, you could choose to make the place grittier by modeling it after Lankhmar.

It's a city of Thieves infested with crime. There's a powerful Thieves' Guild that tries to control all criminal activity. There are extremes of wealth and poverty. The nobles live in a district gated off from the rest of the city with lots of private security. In order to survive, most people are forced to engage in morally grey behavior. There's a street of the gods, where the gods regularly move up and down the street, based on how many worshipers they have. They constantly jockey for position to get into the fancier temples. If they run out of worshipers, they'll eventually get kicked so far down the street, they get kicked out of the city through the "gate of the gods".

The characters engage in intrigue, heists, stumble onto ancient eldritch magic (and horrors), etc.

You could probably crib some stuff from that setting, and plug it into Waterdeep to make the place more of a powder keg, where people are less secure, and are more likely to attempt a revolt.
 


vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Well we know a few things from the Masked Lords that would make good things to oppose:
1) Power can be bought. In Dragon Heist, Jarlaxle want to find the treasure to secure a spot in the Lords.
2) Anybody can be a Lord. You have Mirt and (IIRC) Durnan who are both ''somehow'' immortals and Masked Lord, making them rulers for ages.
3) Waterdhavian nobility is twisted. You have one noble family whose richesses come from dealing with devils, the Neverembers steal money from the coffers, one other is in league with the Zhents etc
 

pukunui

Legend
Older versions of Waterdeep made the city slightly grittier. Geographically it's loosely modeled after Lankhmar from the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser swords & sorcery stories by Fritz Leiber. Greenwood made it much more friendly, with a colorful high-fantasy setting. However, you could choose to make the place grittier by modeling it after Lankhmar.

It's a city of Thieves infested with crime. There's a powerful Thieves' Guild that tries to control all criminal activity. There are extremes of wealth and poverty. The nobles live in a district gated off from the rest of the city with lots of private security. In order to survive, most people are forced to engage in morally grey behavior. There's a street of the gods, where the gods regularly move up and down the street, based on how many worshipers they have. They constantly jockey for position to get into the fancier temples. If they run out of worshipers, they'll eventually get kicked so far down the street, they get kicked out of the city through the "gate of the gods".

The characters engage in intrigue, heists, stumble onto ancient eldritch magic (and horrors), etc.

You could probably crib some stuff from that setting, and plug it into Waterdeep to make the place more of a powder keg, where people are less secure, and are more likely to attempt a revolt.
You’ve basically just described Baldur’s Gate.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The "Baldur's Gate expatriate who views all Lord's Alliance memberss as compromised" makes sense: the Lord's Alliance is pretty amoral.
Very true.
Well we know a few things from the Masked Lords that would make good things to oppose:
1) Power can be bought. In Dragon Heist, Jarlaxle want to find the treasure to secure a spot in the Lords.
2) Anybody can be a Lord. You have Mirt and (IIRC) Durnan who are both ''somehow'' immortals and Masked Lord, making them rulers for ages.
3) Waterdhavian nobility is twisted. You have one noble family whose richesses come from dealing with devils, the Neverembers steal money from the coffers, one other is in league with the Zhents etc
Yeah I like that angle, especially since the DM is using Dragon Heist as a base for the start of the campaign.
You’ve basically just described Baldur’s Gate.
Yeah I may have her be from there, and have moved to Waterdeep shortly before the hag in trollskull manor tried to curse her.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
One of the Masked Lords is Omin Dran, who is basically a tyrant boss making pacts with the Nine Hells, so at least one of the city’s rulers are super shady.
Yeah, though to be fair, that's just one of his half dozen clones!

I won't say any more to avoid C Team spoilers.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, I’ve kinda got the impression that the lands under the banner of the Lords Alliance are on the verge of developing into something like the various places IRL that went from many petty kingdoms and such into a nation.

If that is the case, it may be reasonable for someone to see Silverhand as a very dangerous figure indeed. She will outlive all other members of the Alliance, and IIRC is the head of the Lords Alliance?

I think that this is an interesting dynamic to dig into with a character.

It also seems like Neverember gave people a greater taste of what a world without the aristocracy might be like, even though he did what he did to line his pockets and stay in power, and now the aristocracy are reconsolidating their power.

A rebel with a plan for an elected central government and shared financial burdens to strengthen the economic prospects of the whole is, I think, a fun character, as well.

Who doesn’t like a well read and well spoken young revolutionary with a plan beyond tomorrow?
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
So, I’ve kinda got the impression that the lands under the banner of the Lords Alliance are on the verge of developing into something like the various places IRL that went from many petty kingdoms and such into a nation.

If that is the case, it may be reasonable for someone to see Silverhand as a very dangerous figure indeed. She will outlive all other members of the Alliance, and IIRC is the head of the Lords Alliance?

I think that this is an interesting dynamic to dig into with a character.

It also seems like Neverember gave people a greater taste of what a world without the aristocracy might be like, even though he did what he did to line his pockets and stay in power, and now the aristocracy are reconsolidating their power.

A rebel with a plan for an elected central government and shared financial burdens to strengthen the economic prospects of the whole is, I think, a fun character, as well.

Who doesn’t like a well read and well spoken young revolutionary with a plan beyond tomorrow?
It's a interesting concept, but Waterdeepas written is probably balanced enough that they would be dismissed as a nuisance by most residents: there's food and money to go around, and diffused powers that are working in a balance. The DM could tip the town into a more Baldur's Gate-y direction on their own? Disempowrting the working class Guilds, or getting rid of the Druid supermarket that makes food abundant?
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
It also seems like Neverember gave people a greater taste of what a world without the aristocracy might be like, even though he did what he did to line his pockets and stay in power, and now the aristocracy are reconsolidating their power.
Well, Neverember was Open Lord for a time, in addition to be Lord-Regent of Neverwinter, so he was pretty much THE aristocracy of two big cities for a time, not a great example of an aristocrat-less world.

Thing is, the politic world of the Realms are pretty much a weird status quo where there's no open war, barely no kingdoms or attempts to create some, all cities are pretty much self enclosed, stand-alone, stable city-states.

That's why I once had a plan to create a Faerun Year 1508 setting where there would be more large kingdoms, burgeoning republic and conflicts/war, like:

- The Deep Waters League, merging the Waterdeep, Baldur's Gate and other small sea-side cities as one kingdom, with the addition of the Rhuatym islands.

- Free Holds of the North, a rebel alliance of the Silver Marches' cities against the Hartsvale's Empire made of the conquered lands of the hold dwarven holds, ruled by the proclaimed half-dragon son of Klauth.

- Twilight Parliament of the Moonsheas, forming a democratic monarchy covering the Moonsheas Islands and their Feywild-only cities.

etc
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