log in or register to remove this ad

 

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


log in or register to remove this ad

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Oh yeah!

I'd pay good bucks to play a character in a Gangs of New York/Les Misérables version of Waterdeep!
Hell yeah.
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?
Taxes. Stifled middle class growth. Consolidation of power by an immortal demigod in a world where such figures attract chaos and crisis.
There is stuff to work with, for sure. Without making it more like Baldur’s Gate.
Recall, not all revolutions require the sort of desperation and strife you see in such places. The American colonies were very wealthy when they rebelled. There was plenty of money, land, food, and opportunity, to go around. But you couldn’t ever go to the top. You couldn’t ever become someone who makes the rules. And meanwhile, the people collecting your taxes were using it to fight wars that had nothing to do with you and throw parties for the king.

Prosperity doesn’t preclude revolution.
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.
Sure, but people moved up more easily under his rule. And then the old status quo returned, in the name of stability.
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.
Yeah I think the DM is very willing to let the status quo change in the campaign, luckily. We are starting in a fairly “canonical” state, and going from there.
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
-
Those sound pretty fun. I’d play that.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Taxes. Stifled middle class growth. Consolidation of power by an immortal demigod in a world where such figures attract chaos and crisis.
There is stuff to work with, for sure. Without making it more like Baldur’s Gate.
Recall, not all revolutions require the sort of desperation and strife you see in such places. The American colonies were very wealthy when they rebelled. There was plenty of money, land, food, and opportunity, to go around. But you couldn’t ever go to the top. You couldn’t ever become someone who makes the rules. And meanwhile, the people collecting your taxes were using it to fight wars that had nothing to do with you and throw parties for the king.

Prosperity doesn’t preclude revolution.
Just going by canon as-written in Dragon Heist...it's not just that there is prosperity, it's that the city's main challenge for Adventurers with a capital A is that the society is functional and actually responsible, with fair and just laws and social mobility and representation, unlike the usual Wild West or hive of scum and villainy D&D defaults to. If I were your DM, I would bend canon to fit the character concept, but going strictly by-the-book a revolutionary firebrand in Waterdeep is going to find that the wood is waterlogged and unlikely to catch flame.

I do think the "Lord's Alliance is an amoral and corrupt institution" is a pretty good option, and gives the DM a strong potential hook into at least two, maybe three, of the potential villains. And (not saying who) the fourth villain that wouldn't work for is actually a Masked Lord IIRC, so I could see the character working as a foil to whichever NPC "main boss" the DM is angling for, even if Waterdeep itself is not a tinderbox waiting to go off.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Just going by canon as-written in Dragon Heist...it's not just that there is prosperity, it's that the city's main challenge for Adventurers with a capital A is that the society is functional and actually responsible, with fair and just laws and social mobility and representation, unlike the usual Wild West or hive of scum and villainy D&D defaults to.
You could replace Waterdeep with the colonies, and it wouldn’t be any less true.
If I were your DM, I would bend canon to fit the character concept, but going strictly by-the-book a revolutionary firebrand in Waterdeep is going to find that the wood is waterlogged and unlikely to catch flame.
That’s one interpretation, not a fact.
I do think the "Lord's Alliance is an amoral and corrupt institution" is a pretty good option, and gives the DM a strong potential hook into at least two, maybe three, of the potential villains. And (not saying who) the fourth villain that wouldn't work for is actually a Masked Lord IIRC, so I could see the character working as a foil to whichever NPC "main boss" the DM is angling for, even if Waterdeep itself is not a tinderbox waiting to go off.
The aristocracy itself is a reason to call for revolution. The fact that the ruler of the most wealthy and arguably most powerful city on the sword coast, and the head of the Lords Alliance, is an immortal demigod, is reason enough. The fact that the government is a bunch of unelected people who identities aren’t even known is enough.

Combine it all with the whole “there are both very rich and desperate destitute people here” thing, almost certainly increased taxes due to a string of crisis disasters in recent years and all you need is a recent proclamation that the Lords Alliance is forming a standing army, and, to quote Hamilton again, “there will be revolution in this century.”
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Waterdeep is not created to be a fertile field for a social-change adventure. Rather, it is the refuge Adventurers go to when they need to replenish supplies and research / purchase a McGuffin to defeat their upcoming BBEG.

However, nothing prevents the campaign from being set in the nearby towns and villages where "the city folk" (mostly nobles and agents thereof) are seen as outsiders, snobs, exploiters, and generally non-contributors to society. Those folks might be ready to tell a few Lord Full OfThemselves'es to take a hike.
 

As said, Waterdeep is not (normally) ripe for social change. But, it doesn't mean their are not tensions or issues. Besides the Masked Lords, you can look into;

  • The Code Legal; nobles and commoners are not treated equally.
  • The Guilds; are ominous and a bureaucracy to themselves, it would be easy to see injustice and issues (even for those pro-union).
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
is an immortal demigod
add to that the since Faerun's Sundering #547, Gods arent welcomed to show their face to say ''you are my Chosen'' so her whole ''I'm a Chosen of Mystra'' mystic cannot really be proved. She could be only a powerful mage.

And there's her proximity to the new version of the Blackstaff crew, the Harpers and Force Grey, where it could look from the point of view of a lowly commoner that the aristocracy has its own personal enforcers. Where commoners are supposed to follows the edits and bills of law, the Nobles can avoid any dealing with the Watch or Guard by going directly to armed forces that are only imputable to them.
 

Myrdin Potter

Adventurer
Waterdeep is an oppressive society run by secret rulers that does not even allow self defense if you are attacked. Lots of moralizing up topside, but many families have business connections in Skullport down below. Quite possible that The Xanathar actually runs the place.

The secret ambitions and avarice of the Masked Lords needs to be exposed and the entire structure needs to be torn down.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
As said, Waterdeep is not (normally) ripe for social change. But, it doesn't mean their are not tensions or issues. Besides the Masked Lords, you can look into;

  • The Code Legal; nobles and commoners are not treated equally.
  • The Guilds; are ominous and a bureaucracy to themselves, it would be easy to see injustice and issues (even for those pro-union).
There's also the drow enclaves that have been created for ''redeemed'' dark elves could be little less than ghettos (see Dragon Age alienage).

And waves of refugees fleeing Neverwinter and the open civil war within its wall.

The City of the Dead (WD's walled cemetery) is also becoming pretty big and deep, so you have (IIRC) lower class neighborhoods almost engulfed by the tombs of those rich enough to built fancy mausoleums.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Combine it all with the whole “there are both very rich and desperate destitute people here”
Well, that's the rub, there really aren't destitute people, as the Druids & Clerics have made Waterdeep's direct area into a post-scarcity society, by the book. Nobody is "destitute", even if some have more stuff. The aristocracy isn't really in charge, either, the Guilds are, and pretty much everyone in the city is a Guild member and so has representation and a real stake in the status quo. The 13 colonies aren't a strong comparison, Waterdeep is more like modern Scandinavia: sure, there's an absolute authorityfigure and rich & powerful people, but the social welfare is strong and people are invested in societies common good. I'm sure there is unrest in Copenhagen to be found, but it is not on the cusp of Revolution.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
You know, @doctorbadwolf one angle about the whole Masked Lord system, is that Ahghairon, the Wizard who set up the whole way it works, is actually a Lich lurking in the city...and Chris Perkins did lay that out in an old Lore You Should Know as a potential plot hook: who does the system serve, the city or the Lich who engineered it? Good grist to forge a darker Waterdeep, and maybe "conspiracy theorist who is actually right" would be a fun angle for this story.
 
Last edited:

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
add to that the since Faerun's Sundering #547, Gods arent welcomed to show their face to say ''you are my Chosen'' so her whole ''I'm a Chosen of Mystra'' mystic cannot really be proved. She could be only a powerful mage.
True, though she is perhaps less scary as a monarch that way. To me, being immortal and “chosen” makes her scary. A powerful mage running the city is whatever. Though a powerful mage who thinks she is a demigod or is lying about being one is also troubling.
And there's her proximity to the new version of the Blackstaff crew, the Harpers and Force Grey, where it could look from the point of view of a lowly commoner that the aristocracy has its own personal enforcers. Where commoners are supposed to follows the edits and bills of law, the Nobles can avoid any dealing with the Watch or Guard by going directly to armed forces that are only imputable to them.
Absolutely.
Waterdeep is an oppressive society run by secret rulers that does not even allow self defense if you are attacked. Lots of moralizing up topside, but many families have business connections in Skullport down below. Quite possible that The Xanathar actually runs the place.

The secret ambitions and avarice of the Masked Lords needs to be exposed and the entire structure needs to be torn down.
Yeeeep. The angle the DM is taking with the Emerald Enclave is that they view the great cities of the Sword Coast as a danger to the balance between wilderness and civilization, and are trying to steer the cities away from disaster.

Ample room for a young genius with a chip on their shoulder to view this strategy as overcautious and ineffective.
There's also the drow enclaves that have been created for ''redeemed'' dark elves could be little less than ghettos (see Dragon Age alienage).
True. Even being generous to the city…they’re refugees of a specific race that were put into an “enclave” for “their own safety.” Great.
And waves of refugees fleeing Neverwinter and the open civil war within its wall.
Great stuff. Definitely room for dislike of immigrants amongst some of the established Waterdhavian.
The City of the Dead (WD's walled cemetery) is also becoming pretty big and deep, so you have (IIRC) lower class neighborhoods almost engulfed by the tombs of those rich enough to built fancy mausoleums.
Yikes. Damn. Forgot about that.
Well, that's the rub, there really aren't destitute people, as the Druids & Clerics have made Waterdeep's direct area into a post-scarcity society, by the book. Nobody is "destitute", even if some have more stuff.
I don’t recall any statement of a total lack of food scarcity, nor is lack of food the only way someone can be destitute. Sure a homeless person who can always get a meal isn’t as badly off as someone who doesn’t know where their next meal will come from, but their still justified in resenting the wealthy.
The aristocracy isn't really in charge, either, the Guilds are, and pretty much everyone in the city is a Guild member and so has representation and a real stake in the status quo.
The aristocracy is in charge, though. The guilds are part of the overall power structure, but the masked lords are mostly nobles, and the aristocracy controls the land, and Waterdeep is not just a city.

The 13 colonies aren't a strong comparison, Waterdeep is more like modern Scandinavia: sure, there's an absolute authorityfigure and rich & powerful people, but the social welfare is strong and people are invested in societies common good. I'm sure there is unrest in Copenhagen to be found, but it is not on the cusp of Revolution.
I just flatly disagree. Copenhagen doesn’t have an oligarchical government. It’s people get to vote, and their vote matters.
You know, @doctorbadwolf one angle about the whole Masked Lord system, is that Ahghairon, the Wizard who set up the whole way it works, is actually a Lich lurking in the city...and Vhris Perkins did lay that out in an old Lore You Should Know as a potential plot hook: who does the system serve, the. Ity or the Lich who engineered it? Good grist to Forge a darker Waterdeep, and albeit "conspiracy theorist who is actually right" would be a fun angle for this story.
That, I did not know. Interesting.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
That, I did not know. Interesting.
Weirdly enough, looking around it seems that Lore You Should Know, which landed way prior to Dragon Heist being announced, is the only real canonical source for that, which suggests to me cut material from the Waterdeep books Perkins was working on at the time: other sources just say that he died at 300+ years old after having used a lot of life extending magic and nobody has unsealed his Wizards tower, the original core of the settlement, since thst time. But, hey, Word of Perkins is good enough for me that the mastermind of the Waterdhelvian "constitution" is an ancient Lich.

Try this concept on for size: Ahghairon is a super powerful, Lawful Evil with a capital L and capital E, long-lived, and hyperintelligent Wizard who doesn't want to die. He was the first Blackstaff, so let's suppose that the Blackstaff itself is his phylactery. What if the entire system of the City-State was designed to set up a stable, prosperous and fairly equitable society, therefore prosperous and highly populated. Then let us note that the laws of the City are strict and handled without corruption and quite quickly, including the death penalty. [Channeling some of my own anti-death penalty philosophy here] what if every execution in the city, even if justly administered, culminates in a legal ceremony that feeds the Blackstaff? Then Ahghairon sets up society in such a way that mighty heroes and do-gooders will defend The System that feeds his immortality without his needing to ever lift a finger? Ahghairon can do the math that statistically, in a society of a given population with certain laws, a predictable number of capital cases will go through every year. Ergo, Waterdeep is actually a conspiracy to feed an undead monster, who might be working even greater evil while Silverhand and other good guys ensure that his vitality is fed with souls...
 

CAFRedblade

Explorer
If you are on Twitter, Ed Greenwood loves to answer Realms based queries regarding politics in the realms or clarify what might be relevant to the situation you are looking for in regards to what might cause a revolutionary spark to someone growing up in Waterdeep.
Perhaps something akin to a Guy Fawkes attempt against the Masked Lords of Waterdeep.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
If you are on Twitter, Ed Greenwood loves to answer Realms based queries regarding politics in the realms or clarify what might be relevant to the situation you are looking for in regards to what might cause a revolutionary spark to someone growing up in Waterdeep.
Perhaps something akin to a Guy Fawkes attempt against the Masked Lords of Waterdeep.
Oooooo, yeah, Guy Fawkes is a good comparison: a rebel against a system that has buy-in from much of the population.
 


Bolares

Hero
I'd start small, with a lower class guild or aristrocrat run business screwing their workers, by not letting them unionize or something like that, and as the game progresses see that the corruption goes up the chain, maybe even putting some cultists in the middle of it, because who doesn't want to kick some cultist ass...
 

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.

Waunkeen is literally the Goddess of Capitalism, so you could have the characters caught up in conflict between her church and Ilmater that drifts into open war in the streets because of the manipulations of an evil God like Cyric (whose church teaches a kind of darker libertarianism), who wants to steal Wealth/Capitalism from neutral power Waunkeen.
 

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
-

Your confusing the Swordcoast with all the Forgotten Realms and forgotten that the current time period in FR is right after the Sundering where there was tons of open warfare with some nations crumbling or others rising.

The Mulhorandi destroyed High Imaskar with the exceptions of High Imaskar's Extraplanar turf (Celestial Nadir the most prominent of those), and rebuilt their Theocracy.

Returned Unther and Tymamther are still in the state of open warfare

The Shadovar and its vessel states were only just barely defeated after they went to war with just about everyone in reach like Cormyr, the Dales, Myth Drannor, etc..., like WW2 level warfare.

and that is just off the top of my head.

And FR has tons of big Kingdoms/Nations. Thay, Cormyr, Rashemon, Mulhorand, Unther, Tymanther, Calimshan, Amn, Tethyr, Turmish, Shou Lung, T'Lung, WA, Algorund, Damara, Koung, Impilur, Vaasa, etc...

And city states, despite the name, actual control territory beyond the enclosed city state. Waterdeep control a ton of territory filled with farms and small hamlets outside of actual city limits. This was also true of Greek City States FYI.
 
Last edited:

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
And....would you look at that....Waterdeep is one of the rare place on the Sword Coast where the Church of Gond has stock of smoke powder....
The old Realms of Magic anthology has two short stories about the use of smoke powder in the Realms. One, as I recall, makes it clear the stuff is considered to be contraband in Waterdeep (though I could see the Church of Gond having a waiver there, albeit a small one).
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top