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Kelcimer
Learned Scribe

USA
109 Posts

Posted - 19 Sep 2021 :  08:27:25  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
On "Best Realms Product Ever: The City of Ravens Bluff" I had said:
http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=24139

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer
Man, "City of Splendors: Waterdeep" was bad. Not just the worst Forgotten Realms product I ever bought, but the worst gaming product I ever purchased. In my third campaign I had my players on a quest going all across Forgotten Realms so that I would actually deal with various locations. One of the locations they were to go to was Waterdeep. Waterdeep had a big reputation and I was looking forward to dealing with the city. I already had my players on route to the Waterdeep when I purchased CoS:W, to work on the adventure. The book was billed as the be all end all to Waterdeep. Turns out it was such a useless product that I wound up capping the adventure by nuking Waterdeep in an Akira like explosion. A very round Bay of Waterdeep can be seen from space. Good times.



To which George Krashos asked:

quote:
Originally posted by George Krashos

You don’t say why you thought CoS:W was a steaming pile of ordure. Care to expand?



To which I replied:

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer
That is going to take some words to fully convey. I have some old notes from a debate about this that I had about 12 years ago or so. I am going to do due diligence and pull the book out of storage so as to give it a fresh look. I don’t want to go off of just my memories. I will expand.


I have reviewed my notes and looked over City of Splendors: Waterdeep. This definitely went longer then I intended, but here goes:

Introduction

There are several reasons why I have a very hard view on City of Splendors: Waterdeep (CoS:W) that are separate from the product itself that contributed to its failures being particularly highlighted to me.

First, I used “City of Ravens Bluff” (CoRB) extensively. My Forgotten Realm’s core is built around Ravens Bluff. During my campaigns that were in the Vast, whenever I was at a lack of an idea I'd just flip though CoRB and a new adventure idea popped into my head. My experience with CoRB was as good as you can get. CoRB was the only city book that I had used previous. I knew the largest difference would be that the “City of Ravens Bluff” had very many people contributing to the pile of information that was sifted by Greenwood down to what made it into the book. Waterdeep, to my knowledge, has not been worked with in that way, but I was generally aware that it had been worked on as a location for a decade or more. So I knew going in that it wasn't going to be like City of Ravens with the sheer concentration of wonderful details packed onto each page, but figured it should be a good enough resource. Yes, CoRB was a TSR product and CoS:W would be a WotC product, but WotC had done a great job on the Campaign Setting book, and the accessories since then had been all right. I figured WotC would also have a certain amount of self awareness about the quality of city products that had been done in the past and want to shoot for that. All of that is to say that I knew what an excellent Realms product on a city could be like and expected WoTC to know what a Realms product on a city could be, as well. So, all things considered, I figured that it would be decent enough.

Second, I was about as primed as you could be to want to like CoS:W. I was running this Faerun spanning adventure where things the players needed were all over the place. I did this so that I, as DM, would have to deal with the larger realms. One piece of information would be in Waterdeep. I wanted my players to go through Waterdeep, because I hadn't actually played with the city before. I've read the Elaine Cunningham books around Waterdeep. They were good reads. “City of Splendors: Waterdeep” had just been printed and it billed itself as the first and last stop for all information about Waterdeep. The specific words on the back being an “in-depth examination” and in the introduction says “this book gives you everything you need”. So I bought it. I had in mind an adventure where the players get caught up in assorted plots as they try and find that specific piece of information that they needed for the larger quest. I figured that I could get a solid five sessions out of it and hopefully lay the ground work for returning to Waterdeep in the future. I had already aimed my players at Waterdeep. The previous five sessions had been about getting to Waterdeep. The party was locked in. I was committed to running a Waterdeep adventure. I was really looking forward to this and looking forward to answer various questions that I had.

And then I started reading it.

Not making sense

And the city didn't make sense to me.

The first chapter is covers the roughly 10,000 year history of the area around Waterdeep. It goes for almost two full pages before Waterdeep is even mentioned. In these two pages the reader is spammed with a whole lot of names and dates and battles. It’s discussing all sorts of geography and doesn’t bother to give a map. While I have a current map of the realms, I don’t know what things looked like back in the day. I don’t have any sense of where all these different peoples were coming from.

The chapter doesn’t even bother to say when Waterdeep officially became Waterdeep. It is supposedly called Nimoar’s Hold from 882DR to 932DR, but then it says that Nimoar’s Hold became known at the “town of Waterdeep” presumably, from context, shortly after 889DR. Was the name adopted by Nimoar’s Hold in 933? In the next section it refers to “Waterdeep’s forces” being driven “back to the gates of Nimoar’s Hold”. The what? I thought the fledgling community of Nimoar’s Hold came to be known as Waterdeep! But then, without missing a beat, the writers refer to them as separate descriptors and doesn’t bother to stop and clarify. That is incoherent.

The chapter doesn’t say anything about how Waterdeep grew. It says that Nimoar’s Hold grew and prospered, but it doesn’t say why. There is nothing in the previous 9,000 years of history to suggest why this should suddenly be a prosperous place when it wasn’t before. It just happens. Why exactly does Waterdeep (2nd largest city in the realms!) exist where it does? Baldur's Gate is a much more understandable location for a city that large. Waterdeep is supposed to be this huge trade city. Being a trade city is generally what causes a city's population to grow by leaps and bounds. So what if you have the best harbor ever? If that harbor is not between anything or produces a lot of what other parts of the world need, then the harbor is not going to do anywhere near as much business. Balder’s Gate has a far better geography to justify being a massive trade city, so there really needs to be a good explanation for it. And there isn’t. I can accept that a medium sized city would grow up where Waterdeep is by virtue of it being at the end of a river system and being the last good stop before you hit the North, but I cannot accept that it is the second largest city in Faerun. I am wholly unconvinced why such a city should be of the size and supposed importance of Waterdeep.

Of significant importance is the whole establishing of secret lords. I don’t know how that is supposed to work. I would never have thought of a location having secret rulers, but I’m willing to accept the silly idea so long as a decent effort is made to explain it. But there is no explanation. It just happens. If you fast forward to “Lords of Waterdeep” on page 52, again, it doesn’t say there either. It just happens. How does one become a secret lord? Do the secret lords decide amongst themselves? Its it the Open Lord who just pick people? It doesn’t say.

And then it says the Ward System came into being. Okay. I know what a ward system means in a real world context. What is it supposed to mean in a FR context? How does it work? How did the people feel about it. Doesn’t say. It just happens. And if I fast forward to page 91 under System of Wards it just says that the Waterdeep has been “divided for the purposes of governance and security in a system of wards”. Okay, fine, but what is the practical effect here? What does the Ward System do? Doesn’t say. There are not actual walls separating them, nor is it a tax designation, so what exactly is this "Ward System" supposed to do? The book doesn't say. As near as I can tell it is just to name different parts of the city and they do not have any actual function. Which if they are just neighborhoods, fine, they don’t need to be called wards.

The rest of the history continues to spam names, dates, and battles for another four pages. The whole history seems assumes the reader already knows what all these names and things mean and what Waterdeep is about. It takes no time to dwell on individual historical characters so that you can get a sense of who they are and have a chance to become invested in any of them as personalities that shaped Waterdeep’s past.

Which, by the way, for perspective, my favorite history author is Paul Johnson, he has written books that are literally a thousand pages in paperback. In his books, Paul Johnson covers an extensive amounts of history and spends just a couple sentences describing historical figures and brings them to life. He does that all through his works and I have torn through Paul Johnson books like their were comic books. Such an easy read. CoS:W is supposed to be entertaining fantasy history. I should think that would be easier, but no, the history in this books reads like stereo instructions.

I start skimming to see if the chapter is going to give me personalities, but I see it is just rushing from one event to another event without context.

And somehow, even though Waterdeep is involved in all of these wars, it never bothers to go into what territory was gained and lost. What was Waterdeep's territory at it’s maximum? Why is its present territory so small? It doesn’t say. Wars and battles just happen! Why does Waterdeep have so little territory today? It just happened. How exactly did it become the second largest city in the realms? It just happened.

At this point the book is functionally asking me to figure out personalities and motivations and stuff for all these named characters. And asking me to figure out for myself when Waterdeep became Waterdeep. And asking me to figure out for myself, why it became prosperous when the location wasn’t prosperous in the previous 9,000 years. And asking me to figure out why Waterdeep’s territory is so small. And I need to figure out how the secret lord thing actually got pitched and why the people went for it.

These are basic questions that the history should have covered, but it basically feels like the designers had the attitude that “Oh? You wanted to know WHY stuff in Waterdeep is the way it is? Don’t worry about it. It just happens.”

In preparing for the adventure I had looked up Waterdeep in all my other books. The little bit about Waterdeep that each of those books had held more life to them then what CoS:W had. I seem to recall that those same bits of info appeared in the Waterdeep book, but paraphrased. Somewhere along the way the life came out of it. All the life the material might have had was sucked out of it in the phrasing and organization. When I read a gaming accessory I want something that's going to make me excited. Again, it felt more like stereo instructions.

Why doesn't the city buildings burst beyond it's walls? Were the walls built much more then needed and Waterdeep is only just reaching maximum capacity? I think not. there is no explanation for this in the book. I have been informed that Waterdeep expanded it's walls 3 times in it's history. Maybe a couple maps showing how Waterdeep has grown over the centuries would have been good. I've been told by that that same individual that the city does not burst beyond it's walls "Because people like to be safe. There are many perils that abound the region from orc raiding groups to trolls to pirates and undersea menaces. You live outside the walls, you take your chances." That's nice, but it is suggested in places that Waterdeep exerts vast control for hundreds of miles, but somehow there is so much danger outside it's wall that people are afraid to build outside the walls. If Waterdeep is really attacked so often that no one lives outside it's walls then exactly how can the surrounding farmland be maintained to provide food? Where is the detailing of the vast farmlands needed to feed a city this big? I found out that Goldenfields is supposed to answer that issue, but its not like the book has a section on agriculture to describe all the things that various posters on Candlekeep have conjectured to explain how Waterdeep feeds itself.

The place descriptions in the back for the individual locations has numbers and letters designating what kind of structure it is and a name. That's not much to inspire the imagination. One only need to look in the back of CoRB and take the Walking Tour to see how the back of the book should have been done.

To use a specific entry as an example, the Griffon Calvary entry takes up a little over half of a page. A good chunk of that is taken up by the stats for an average griffon calvary-man. This is useless info to me. All I need to know about the average rider is that they are fighters level 6. I'm a bloody DM. I can create my own stats. Stats are easy. It also wastes an entire line with "Authoritative Figure". I don't want to know who their Authoritative Figure is. I want to know who their leader is. Phrasing is important. "Leader" is more definite, more excitable then "Authoritative Figure". In another book they summed it up as "Who Rules:" and "Who Really Rules:" That was good. This is not. I don't need to know what the organizations GP limit is. Their GP limit is whatever I say it should be. There is a name of a commander, but nothing about how he leads. How long has he been the leader? What problems has he faced in running the Griffon Calvary? Where is he trying to bring the institution in the upcoming year or so? The entry takes up a little over a page and a half and provides maybe an 8th of a page worth of useable information. The rest is superfluous. That is a typical entry in the book as near as I can tell.

And that is really what makes the book suck in my opinion. It tells you where Waterdeep IS and assumes you know how it got there. It doesn't give the trajectories of the people, players, and organizations of the place. It's too much superfluous information. Too much stats. Not enough soul. Not enough story. It is suppose to be THE Waterdeep product. Years have passed in the Realms. How have those years treated all those families? That is what I would consider core material that needs to be covered.

The book was billed wrong. If a book says it's going to be all about X area, then it should be ALL about X area and give it it's best face. Primary type material should not be left for the supplements or in previous products. CoS: W was the first Waterdeep product in over a decade and billed as the be all end all Waterdeep book. I later found out that if I really want to find out about Waterdeep then I should look in FR1 Waterdeep and the North, Volo's Guide to Waterdeep, Volo's Guide to the North, the Ruins of Undermountain boxed set and the City of Splendors boxed set. I double checked this. I had been a picking up Realms products since 1999 and those products came out in 1987, 1992, and 1991. I have not since picked up those products, becauseCoS:W did not make enough sense to warrant looking into older products for more. Based upon how well the Campaign Setting book updated things from the Grey Box, I figured there really isn’t much back there. I have also since been directed by Waterdeep fans to the web enhancements for CoS:W, but if I need to get web enhancements for a gaming product to make sense, then it's not much of a product. And the book does say in the beginning what you need to use the book and it doesn’t mention any of that as things you really ought to have.

Reapproaching the book

Some times things do not make sense, but you just can’t grasp exactly why they don’t make sense and the faults you are more readily able to indentify hold your attention. I thought it would be a good idea to try looking at parts of the book with fresh eyes.

What was I really interested in 15-16 years ago? The identity of Waterdeep. Questions about identity are important. I wanted to know the identity of Waterdeep. What makes it different from all the other cities?

It has secret lords. It has a ward system. It is the second largest city in Faerun. “Waterdeep is THE major cosmopolitan power of Faerun”. It has “wise rule, a tolerant spirit”. “The city’s nickname, the City of Splendors, is never said sarcastically. People know that Waterdeep is a marvel and that life is better, or at least more bizarre, there.” “[T]he flow of wealth never ceased nor shrank, year by year.” Waterdeep is a portrayed as a very prosperous powerhouse. None of these descriptors should be taken for granted. I expected these bits of its identity to be fleshed out. Especially because there are some incongruous elements about Waterdeep. I thought that this book would attempt to justify the identity that Waterdeep is supposed to have and I think it failed at this.

Being the 2nd largest city

At the time that I first read CoS:W, I didn’t go into this deep of an analysis, but I did have the overall impression that Waterdeep is fairly far away by itself. A really big city surrounded by hundred of miles of frontier, 500+ miles away from proper civilization of the sort that that would justify a city being as populous and as prosperous as Waterdeep is supposed to be (Amn & Cormyr). That doesn’t make sense on the face of it. What does it produce that makes people really want to come there? Or is it somehow a large enough market to justify people going so far out of their way to get there?

We could consider the Sea of Fallen Stars to be an economic network similar to the Mediterranean. And we could consider the Sea of Swords and the Shining Sea (hereafter referred to as “the ocean”) to also be an economic network similar to the Mediterranean. These are the two great economic networks of the Realms connect best at Sespech and between Iriaebor and the Dragonmere. It would make sense for the largest trading cities to either be at the center of either of those networks or where the two networks connect.

Calimshan is the largest city in FR. Looking at a map, this makes sense. If you consider the farthest reach of the Lake of Steam, the Western most part of Chult, and Baldur’s Gate, what is right in the middle with water access to all of those? I might have other issues with Calimshan (and I do), but it has a fantastic location to justify it being the largest city in the Realms.

There is also this great map in “Cloak and Dagger” on page 24 that shows the area of influence of all the different organizations. I would say that the greatest concentration of overlapping circles are from the Moonsea to Baldur’s Gate to Calimshan and the Lake of Steam. That is the contested center of the realms. Everything outside of that is periphery. And Waterdeep is a tied in more than a lot of periphery, it is still on the periphery Not the hardest place to get to as long as you are on the ocean, but it is very isolated from the Sea of Fallen Stars portion of the contested center of the Realms.

What is on the other side of Waterdeep? The North. The Campaign Setting book defines the North as “still a frontier”. The Western Heartlands below it are not quite as unforgiving, but they are getting there. So Waterdeep somehow became the second largest city in Faerun in the middle of a whole lot of frontier. That doesn’t make sense on the face of it. Historically, the largest cities don’t pop up in wilderness areas, but in well developed populous civilized regions.

Looking at the population figures from the Campaign Setting Book, if add up the population of the North it comes to about 3.7 million people. Amn, Tethyr, and Calimshan have a total population of about 12 million people. Waterdeep is not the largest market, nor is seeming to produce anything unique to pull people there.

There is an insert on that map in Cloak & Dagger that zooms in on Waterdeep. And in that insert it shows a bunch of circles of different organizations in Waterdeep. It is as if a whole bunch of organizations are fighting in the center and then, for some reason they all go way up north in order to fight one another there. I can read the legend, it doesn’t say that they are all up there fighting one another, but basically this map is another indicator of just how important Waterdeep is. Okay. Why?

I have been in enough conversations about Waterdeep that I I am used to Waterdeep fans being exacerbated that they have to address questions about Waterdeep's geography, agriculture, and prosperity yet again. I kinda have a hard time believing that those same complaints were not in evidence by the time this product was made. Those people could have been thrown a bone, by some attempt to address their issues. After all, if a bunch of people are having issues with a thing, then other people down the line are likely to have the same issues. Best to head them off in a book like this.

There is this interesting line in the Campaign Book: “The City of Splendors is undeniably a place where things happen, and important center for trade and change. Waterdhavians merely accept this as a fact and never think on why or how it came to be so.” At this point, I wonder if that was an oblique way to say “No reader, you shouldn’t question this either.”

Wise rule

Are the rulers wise? I see no evidence of this. The history says that there were times of peace, but how that peace was achieved? Doesn’t say.

Alone amongst all the various towns, city-states, and nations of Faerun, they have to have secret rulers. This speaks of serious insecurity on the part of the rulers. There is no system of accountability in such a system. Oh, the rulers are all “good”. If only we had the right people given absolute power over the laws and their enforcement! Germans have a a saying that translates roughly as “Opportunity creates theives”. One of the great problems of history has been “good men” trying to save people with their “good intentions”. The Secret Lords are more powerful than kings, because at least the people know who the king is and can better negotiate with him. The people in Waterdeep can’t even know which secret lord they are interacting with.

And what have they done with that? With 300 years of secret “wise” rulers, they haven’t even made the nearby frontier safe for folks.

In real history, one of the hallmarks of a great and wise ruler is establishing or simplifying the law. What have the secret lords done on that front?

“Most of Waterdeep’s laws are unwritten, with the “reasonable discretion” of the magister” and “barristers (lawyers) are barred from working in the city (although counsel from “professional witnesses” is grudgingly tolerated)” .That is really messed up. That is not the product of wisdom, but the product of someone who actively wants injustice. Most people are completely unable to function in a court room. Even thouse who are, well, there is a reason why defendents should not represent themselves, but to bar the people from having representation to present their case is actual tyranny. No wonder “Waterdhavians are largely law-abiding”. They want to avoid court at all costs!

This is a lot more fundamental then you’d think. Courts are important so as to provide non-violent conflict resolution between strangers. When you have a tribal grouping of 300 or less where everyone knows everybody else then should two people have a disagreement they would be surrounded by people who have an interest in them sorting it out. After you pass that threshold you have more and more strangers getting into conflicts with one another. And often when one person has ten of their friends handy and the other doesn’t. The way to avoid that kind of conlfict is agreed upon laws and a court system that mostly works.

To not have thier laws defined and also to not allow defendents representation is to make every individual absolutely vulnerable to the whims of the court. Even in societies that have defined laws and representation for clients, court is scary. This is a straight up evil way to organize society. It is neither wise nor good.

Guilds

Guilds are organizations of those who practice a particular craft, nominally to ensure a certain minimum quality of product in the city, but really to restrict the supply of people who perform the craft. By artifically restricting the supply of people who perfrom the craft, that means that the supply of said labor is more dear and the more limited supply of craftmakers can charge more for their services. Guilds are a good old boys network to shut down unapproved competition.

It is important for guilds to recieve official sanction from the city government so that they can have their authority enforced over anyone who would practice the same craft without their permission.

I am under the general impression that Guilds arise when a critical mass of craftsmen agree to form a guild to control supply and then get the stamp of approval from the local government. Why do city governments go in for recognizing guilds? Because then they are in a postion to not renew a guilds charter. That’s leverage over a political block. The most simple is that the guild has to pay a handsome fee ot the city each year to maintain its charter. Ultimately Guilds exist at the pleasure of the ruling elite.

How are guilds handled in Waterdeep?

In the Campaign Setting Book it says “The city wards were established in 1035DR, and the city’s guilds in 1248DR”. That is already striking an odd tone. It suggests a top down appraoch to guild formation. The secret lords suddenly wanted guilds and brought a whole bunch into creation in 1248DR. Presumably there was offical policy against guilds in the previous 400 years. I already have a lot of questions even before I get to CoS:W.

In CoS:W it doesn’t even acknowledge that the guilds were established in 1248DR. That is unaccountable. Then 1256, bearly eight years later, the guildmasters conduct a coup and rule in some form until 1273. If the Secret Lords are so wise, then how did they manage to create a whole new power structures to organize a city that completely turned on them in eight years? That is unaccountable. That suggests really interesting history, so of course the book doesn’t cover it.

The section describing the guilds in general is not even half a page of content. It Then lists 42 guilds, but only provides detail on 4 guild masters. Not on the guilds as a whole, but just the guildmasters. Only by reading the first entry do you find that guild masters are an elected office.

This section it raises even more questions. “Guild law, the rules under which specific trades ae conducted, are distinct from city law, but they can never conflict with or override city law or the intent of such laws.” What? Guilds have their own laws and presumably their own courts? What? These sound more like free range regulatory agencies then a guild.

“Guilds can never restrict all trade to themselves; the Lords are adamant in enforcing the right of merchants and tradesfolk to operate outside the strictures of the guilds if they prefer.” Did none of the developers know what a guild is? A guild is based on being able to control who enters into a profession and can provide those services. Whatever these “guilds” are, they’re not guilds.

Okay, putting this together with the Secret Lords barring people from having representation in court, what this sounds like is that the Secret Lords aren’t really interested in governing. They establish these regulatory agencies to govern various aspects of life and to create their own laws and courts. The people then have a choice, do they abide by the regulatory agencies that are going to be unfair to them, or do they go to the city courts which will treat them even more unfair? That is not an example of “wise rule”. That’s insane. They functionally created a bunch of gangs. No wonder the the guilds are at each others throats.

Tolerant Spirit

Given the contant threats on their borders and the chaos fostered by the secret lords within the city, why should the people have developed a “tolerant spirit”? This is a people that should feel chronically threatened and insecure.

Missing Puzzle Pieces

There are a lot of sections, like “Adventures in Waterdeep” where I start reading and I just can’t get into it. Why should I care what is going on in this random alleyway, organization, or NPC? I have no idea what this city is about. I have no context to place that random alleyway or NPC. I have a whole bunch of puzzle pieces but none of the edge pieces match and a good fistful of middle pieces that straight up did not come with the box.

It seems to me that someone put up the windows and doors of the house that is Waterdeep without any consideration for the foundation or the structural supports. Now it may be that much of this is built into it from previous products. If that is so, then that speaks against their quality.


Compared to City of Ravens Bluff

And City of Splendors: Waterdeep really suffers in comparison to City of Ravens Bluff.

• Ravens Bluff, a city many times smaller then Waterdeep, has something like 20 or so different sections of the city. Each section of the city a different character and history from the rest of the city. There is not just one dock section, but a bunch! Different parts of the docks had different characters history and purpose, that sort of thing. Waterdeep should have been divided into at least 30 sections.

• The Waterdeep Locals chapter does not compare favorably to the Walking Tour from CoRB at all. You know, if I want to have some randomly generated names and roll dice to determine the usage, building style, and number of floors, I could do that myself.

• CoS:W lists the names of 42 noble families and detail only five of them. These just happen to be families that have been featured in novels. really? I want to know a bit about all 42 families! If I wanted names I can easily generate some on my own or use a name generator. The City of Ravens Bluff book spent a couple paragraphs on some 30 or so families. Not exhaustive detail but enough to get a sense of where the family is, where's its been, and an idea of where it's going.

• CoS:W lists the names of 42 guilds and details only four of them. CoRB provides detail on all 22 guilds it names.

• CoRB has a chapter actually detailing how the government works.

• CoS:W could have used a chapter like “Beyond the Living City: The Vast” in CoRB. That chapter devoted attention to the surrounding lands to provide greater context for how Ravens Bluff fits into the world.

• The CoRB’s history section is 7 pages long and does a fantastic job of conveying relevant history and Ravens Bluff’s geopolitical situation. It does not present any outstanding questions like what CoS:W does. If you were to take someone who had never heard of either location and have them read the history section from both books, which one do you think they’d have more fun reading and actually remembering what was in it afterwards? The difference is night and day.

• The organization of information and the presentation of information is also far superior in CoRB. For example, if the developers had a brief history that presented the arms and legs of the recent 500 years of history in the beginning of the book (that didn’t leave any outstanding questions) and then contained all the deep lore about the timeline towards the back, that would have been better than spamming the reader from the get go. In looking at both books there is no visual noise getting between me and the information in CoRB and lots of noise in CoS:W.

• At no point do I feel The City of Ravens Bluff spamming me and wasting my time. Waterdeep feels like it is spamming me and wasting my time. I would have to work very hard to make any portion of it useful.

There is 3e era problem that does affect this book. The text is larger then 2e products. But I don't have a problem with it just because it is a 3e book. I'm basically fine with the books that cover regions. I think it's a matter of books that focus on cities. A region book I imagine to be much easier because everything is spread out. A city should be so tightly wound with so much local politics that it makes it a completely different beast.

If you compare the font size in CoS:W it is a bit larger than the 2001 Campaign Setting and about twice the size of the print in CoRB. They did not have enough material to warrant 157 pages and they knew it. If there was so much good material in past stuff, then why not shrink the text, update it a bit, and get it in there? Not rocket surgery. Eric said that he had more material to get in there if they gave him another 32 page signature, but more pages was not needed. Just reduce the font size to what it was in the Campaign Setting Book and there the space would have been.

Which, BTW I don’t begrudge the font size of the 2001 Campaign Setting Book. It looks pretty and I think it is a good comfortable font size, but I am going to compare CoS:W to CoRB because that was my bench mark for what to expect from an outstanding campaign accessory on a city. If the text in CoS:W was the same as CoRB then CoS:W might be 80 odd pages. CoRB is 160 pages. I said it had 9 lesser pages, so I’ll count usable pages at 151 pages. With 151 usable pages in CoRB, CoS:W right off the bat cannot have anything more than about half the meat of CoRB. I was already a graphic designer when I purchased this product, and so I knew just by looking at the page what they had done. I knew that the font is inflated and that there is not going to be as much material and I was accepting of that when I bought it. That’s okay though. If that 80 pages of actual material is quality, then all would be fine.

Then there are the pages of monsters, feats, magic items, and spells that went from page 134-157. That’s 24 pages and the only one I can justify being in the book are the Walking Statues of Waterdeep. 23 pages at regular CoRB sized font would be about 12 pages, so that 80 pages of actual material goes down to 68 compared to CoRB .

I completely agree with Wooly Rupert about being “a huge fan of the 2E abbreviated stats, such as "Bahb Silvernoun (NG hm F7 DEX16 CHA16)” and prestige classes, etc. I don’t know how many pages were wasted with character stats, but that’s more wasted space not devoted to Waterdeep. Page 77-90 is another 14 pages of what I consider non-content. Which with a CoRB font would be about 7 pages. So 68 pages of material goes down to 61 pages.

And of those 61 pages there are all the problems detailed above. Within those 61 actual pages of content, there is surely usable material, but there is so much space in between those bits of information and so much work to sift through the dross that it is not worth it. I would have been better off not purchasing this book and starting from scratch, building my own Waterdeep history.

In marketing the book, they could avoid phrases like "in-depth examination" etc. and make clear that the new Waterdeep supplement is just an update for those who feel they can't live without a Waterdeep book for the current edition, but not a primary source for someone approaching it new. If they did this, people wouldn't have to feel obligated to excuse certain shortcomings after release and point that the person really should have purchased out-of-print material.

And those were my problems with the City of Splendors: Waterdeep.

BTW in looking for this book I remembered “Mage: The Ascension”. I have to take back what I said about "City of Splendors: Waterdeep” being the worst gaming product I ever bought. “Mage: The Ascension” is definitely worse. So City of Splendors: Waterdeep gets the #2 spot, among products that I have purchased, for what it is worth.

Remember, my players are ON THE WAY TO WATERDEEP!

I still had to have an adventure for my players.

I continued to wrap my brain around the problem.

I made and discarded half a dozen adventure ideas.

That’s bad. That is really bad. Usually I can get my first or second adventure idea to work. If I get to six discarded adventures ideas, then there is a serious problem.

Nothing worked in my head. Most of the time when I find something wanting with Forgotten Realms, I either ignore it or do a small change or extrapolation of the source material. But Waterdeep is just so damn central to the Realms. I found more use in any quarter page of text from the CoRB (outside those 9 pages) than in the entirety of the CoS:W. I expected the book to be useful. I didn't expect it to be at the completely different end of the spectrum from CoRB. I did not expect the book to make no sense to me whatsoever. I didn’t expect it to waste my time.

I remember working on the problem and saying, “I just want to blow it up!” Then I stopped and thought about it. What if I did blow it up? What could I do with that? How would I make it work? I pulled on that thread and stuff came to me.

Instead of the five session adventure where the players get caught up in assorted plots as they try and find that specific piece of information that they needed for the larger quest, I would do one session dealing with Waterdeep. Instead of lay the ground work for returning to Waterdeep in the future, I made its destruction fit into the larger narrative of what was going on in my Faerun.

I genuinely cannot remember if the actual Waterdeep part of the game was 1 or 2 sessions. I want to say one session, but I could be wrong. One of my concerns was that the players would not get out in time, because players inevitably tarry when they shouldn’t. I then thought of what would happen if they didn’t and if there was a way I could get them out of it. I came up with an idea that I liked so much that I decided it was too good to pass up.

So I followed that line of thinking and developed the following:

When my players approached the city, they found people leaving the city in droves. Something in Undermountain was sucking all energy from miles around. This had been going on for a couple weeks and growing in intensity. At first it was bugs dying. The rats dying, plants withering, and meat spoiling. Then cats and babies were dying. People just lying down in the street and not getting up again. Panic had set in and people were fleeing the city. As the players approached the city, they felt a “tug” as if some of their life energy was being drained in the direction of Waterdeep.

The players got into the city and found the plot point their were looking for. There were minor complications and they were able to find what they needed in a couple of hours and a fight or two. During this time, sound itself is becoming muffled and color starts draining out of things. The players mostly made haste out of Waterdeep. (Players!) At some point, in the clouds above Waterdeep, formed out of the white clouds appeared the massive visual that could be seen some miles away. It was of an orb and two people to either side of it. Using the two figures for scale, the orb was several feet in diameter. Witnesses would later say that one of them was clearly Halaster. The other humanoid’s race could not be readily identified, but years later when his people invade Faerun far to the south, they would know. These two individuals both had their hands on the orb and seemed to be in a contest of wills or some sort.

As the players were racing away from Waterdeep their world suddenly turns to white as Waterdeep explodes. They resolve and I describe their first impressions of the Fugue Plane. Then they suddenly they are falling! They all land on grass and they are naked. They are on a hill and there is a lady in a chair with a spyglass in hand. She looks surprised. “Oh. I guess I didn’t word the Wish quite right.” The players ask her what she means and she gestures in the direction she had been looking. Far off is Waterdeep, and apparently black and white. She hands the spyglass to the Wizard in the party and I describe how he can see themselves running away from Waterdeep. Then I describe the Akira type explosion destroyed Waterdeep. Even as far back as they are, the explosion shakes them to the ground. Then all the gear they had on them falls out of the sky on them.

The woman is Aster Worthington and she is the future version of the younger sister of the parties wizard. She is a wizard in her own right. She has come back in time to warn the Faerun about some great threat and as a side bit, she wanted to save her brother. She had wondered what had happened to her brother and divinations had revealed that he had perished in Waterdeep. As long as she was heading to the past, she could do something about it. Her warnings to Waterdeep about what would happen were apparently not enough to prevent it from exploding. She didn’t want to prevent him from the business he had in Waterdeep (as she was vaguely aware of it) and had not spotted them on the way in, but she had come prepared for that eventuality with a Wish to save her brother and his companions. She could have worded the Wish better, but hey, it worked!

In retrospect, I didn’t need to have the players die, and just cut to them falling on the hillside, but at the time I liked the idea of having the players both die in the explosion and see the explosion. It is definitely not the sort of thing I would normally do in my game.

And with this I introduced Aster Worthington “The Prophet” and she was the background vehicle to set into motion a bunch of stuff that has defined my realms since.

Where Waterdeep used to be can be seen from space. Waterdeep is useful to me now. Anytime I want some piece of knowledge or item to be unretrievable I can say something like, "It was last seen in Waterdeep" or "That was kept at X place in Waterdeep."

It also wound up foreshadowing the invasion of southern Faerun by the Viadan Empire, which my players would interact with on the edges of for a couple of campaigns before I dealt with directly.

It also provided an in game reason for Baldur’s Gate to be a larger and more prosperous city than Waterdeep. By and by, my Baldur's Gate absorbed a good chunk of Waterdeep's refugees. I wound up running my players through Balder’s Gate and had a little adventure there to define it as the big trading city on the Sword Coast like I was going to do for Waterdeep.

With this solution I can acknowledge that Waterdeep existed, so I don’t have to overwrite any canon about it prior to when my campaign got to it, but I don’t ever have to explain anything about it how it was, because it’s gone now. The relevant bits are that Waterdeep was a big city, center of stuff, but now it is gone and that vacuum allowed various other things to happen along the Sword Coast. I am happy with that result.

Concluding thoughts

What if I hadn’t been aiming my players at Waterdeep and had not needed to come up with something? I think it would still top my list for worst FR products. I have my experience with City of Ravens Bluff to compare it to and CoS:W is just so disappointing.

I don’t think I had unreasonable expectations of the book. I went into it wanting to learn more about the city that Elaine Cunningham had made central to her books and that so many people had raved about. I could not have been more sold on running an adventure in Waterdeep or more open minded. In order to make use of Waterdeep as a element within my campaign and have that region make sense to me, I had to nuke Waterdeep. That's how useless the product was to me.

I haven’t read every FR product in the world. I will take your word for it if there are worse ones out there. And I have read Mage: The Ascension, so I know there are worse gaming products in general out there.

I hope that this is a sufficiently respectable position for why I think so little of the product.

Edited by - Kelcimer on 19 Sep 2021 09:18:15

sleyvas
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Posted - 19 Sep 2021 :  15:32:21  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'll give you one thing, when I said be ready to back up what you say, you were at least willing to do it. I'll even say you have some points in some of this (the fact that they have done nothing much to civilize their surroundings, the fact that the lords being hidden creates somewhat of a problem (something I've pointed out with Rashemen to an extent, though for different reasons), the fact that Waterdeep shouldn't be a trade powerhouse any more than say Baldur's Gate or Amn would be.... (I mean Amn is FOR traders).... etc...). However, I don't blame this product for that, because all of that was established almost 20 years earlier and so this product was meant as a 3rd edition revisit/introduction for people to the area. I blame those things on the design of the world itself, which given how MUCH was designed... I'm a little forgiving. Some might believe that the establishment of security in this region via the school of magic, etc.. would have allowed this city to grow, or the large deep harbor, but not far away is the city of Neverwinter, which seems a better place as it's naturally warm (and Waterdeep's harbor isn't all that special).

Now, here is what I pose to you as a question.... and feel free to ignore it... what would YOU do to make a FIX for this representation of Waterdeep WITHOUT removing all of these things which are at the basis of what's been written about it over the years? In other words, keeping hidden lords, keeping a huge dungeon and outlaw city just below it, keeping the noble families that are established, keeping that it's not some city that's gobbling up the surrounding territory, keeping the various guilds, and keeping a beholder crime lord in its sewers. I think the idea of the Lord's Alliance came about in 3rd edtion, but i may be wrong... maybe it was in savage frontier..... but I actually think that was an improvement, so let's say keeping that as well. What would you do that turns believability on for this city?

I'll even throw out some ideas here for this

First, magic is one of THE most defining features of the world. We have a school of magic run by Hilather (think that is the name Halaster was using at that time). Could his school of magic have been "special" in some way that drew mages there? I don't necessarily mean even "it's powerful"... just maybe he opened a school and then sent people to the surrounding areas to FIND students and then offered to cover the cost of moving families if their sons/daughters would attend his school. Maybe it had recovered a mythallar and adapted its use, such that the ability shown by the prestige class of guild wizard of Waterdeep works (i.e. people can donate spells into it, creating a spellpool that those attuned can draw from).

Second, one big complaint I've hears is feeding them, and then there's always mention of Goldenfields nearby. Then people ask "why is it so magical?". Well, the area USED to be held by the elves, so is there some secret that the humans don't know about related to elves and goldenfields?

So, what ideas come to your mind to make some of this "true" rather than saying chuck out 20 years of lore (well about 30+ now).

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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George Krashos
Master of Realmslore

Australia
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Posted - 19 Sep 2021 :  15:52:20  Show Profile Send George Krashos a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Thank you for taking the time to respond.

-- George Krashos

"Because only we, contrary to the barbarians, never count the enemy in battle." -- Aeschylus
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sleyvas
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Posted - 19 Sep 2021 :  16:27:54  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Some other ideas that popped in my head after writing the above.... WHY is Waterdeep's harbor SO specially deep, and what's with all these tunnels running underneath it with the underdark? Also, what's with this mountain right along the shoreline (not all that uncommon, but still a little odd)? Also, there's a celestial staircase in Waterdeep, so its a planar nexus of sorts for SOME reason that probably predates the city. Why don't the average humans know all about this stuff (besides that they're busy with their lives and the stories have been lost to history, such that only some sages have theories).

Well, what if there IS something special to Waterdeep and the Underdark? Did maybe something crash into the coastline here long ago (maybe even prior to elven civilization coming to here), and thus create the harbor and furthermore furrow out tunnels that became the tunnels of Undermountain? Is "Mount Waterdeep" a large chunk of whatever may have crashed to Toril, but an unburied piece? Is the area something of a weave anchor as a result of this? Were the Netherese of Sargauth Enclave here to study it?

Ilefarn was previously here, did it have involvement with the celestial staircase? It seems that the elves of Ilefarn did have some kind of planar nexus that might be a part of some bigger portal network that sometimes malfunctions. The capital of Ilefarn was Aelinthaldaar, which is where Waterdeep is now, so perhaps the elves knew of something here.

If the place IS a planar nexus, might it be that a decent portion of the populace is coming here via portal network and then coming into the city to trade, similar in some ways to how spelljammers arrive clandestinely by sailing into the harbors?

Why is Halaster so worried about controlling some dungeon here? Seems nuts right? Maybe its because whatever power source has drawn so many beings here is what he's protecting, and he's doing it via setting up this dungeon.

BTW, I won't say I'm the most Waterdeep lore driven person, so if any of this that I've hinted at is already an idea.... guys throw me a bone and feel free to give me quotes or point me to products. I admit there seems to be a bigger mystery to Waterdeep that the average person doesn't know.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 19 Sep 2021 :  17:51:17  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I personally think there's something like the Athora, under Waterdeep.

We've got a Celestial Staircase in Waterdeep, as mentioned, at least one portal to the realm of the dead, and powerful entities have been drawn to Waterdeep since before there was a city there. Dragons were going there, elves picked it for a place to put their capital -- heck, why are the merfolk in the harbor willing to live so close to the shore? Why did both dwarves and drow decide to tunnel under the place? Why did Halaster decide to settle there and then start making his own downward descent? Why did the Netherese feel this was a good place to live underground?

Ed did respond on Twitter that there is something drawing everyone there, but hasn't given any more information.

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Kelcimer
Learned Scribe

USA
109 Posts

Posted - 19 Sep 2021 :  19:06:23  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hello sleyvas!

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

I'll give you one thing, when I said be ready to back up what you say, you were at least willing to do it.


Thank you. I appreciate that!

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

I'll even say you have some points in some of this



And that as well. :)

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

Now, here is what I pose to you as a question.... and feel free to ignore it... what would YOU do to make a FIX for this representation of Waterdeep WITHOUT removing all of these things which are at the basis of what's been written about it over the years?

[...]

So, what ideas come to your mind to make some of this "true" rather than saying chuck out 20 years of lore (well about 30+ now).



There's no easy solution. I don't think all elements can be kept within the scenario to make a good Waterdeep. Depending upon which elements and characteristics are kept, very different alternative Waterdeeps could be drafted. For all elements to be kept within the scenario? I think something else would have to be added that would radically recontextualize the city.

I will have to think on this.
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Kelcimer
Learned Scribe

USA
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Posted - 19 Sep 2021 :  19:14:21  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hello George Krashos!

quote:
Originally posted by George Krashos

Thank you for taking the time to respond.

-- George Krashos



You are welcome!
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Lord Karsus
Great Reader

USA
3633 Posts

Posted - 20 Sep 2021 :  03:19:26  Show Profile Send Lord Karsus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
-Simpsons "Stop! Stop! He's already dead" dot GIF

(A Tri-Partite Arcanist Who Has Forgotten More Than Most Will Ever Know)

Elves of Faerûn
Vol I- The Elves of Faerûn
Vol. III- Spells of the Elves
Vol. VI- Mechanical Compendium
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Gelcur
Senior Scribe

420 Posts

Posted - 20 Sep 2021 :  06:18:56  Show Profile  Visit Gelcur's Homepage Send Gelcur a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Just my 2 cents but seems different books are for different people. I have been currently running in Waterdeep for over a year. Last few months, I found info on the Order of the Even-Hand that I pulled into my quest (pretty sure it was original content to CoS:W), used the entire sewers section (plus I was pleasantly surprised that the rules were consolidated for grates, balance checks, disease, tracking, etc), and found info on the Dragonward to make loop holes for NPCs. I can leaf through CoS:W and things pop out at me that I want to use, this makes it useful, which makes it good for me.

I've skimmed CoRB multiple times in the past and once today and the only section that ever pops out at me is the Walking Tour. Maybe its that small font creating walls of dense text that make it hard to pick things out.

I do believe you have some valid points. The most valid point is likely the advertising, I honestly don't remember how it was billed. To be fair I doubt you would like any of the RP products for Waterdeep. For example, it seems none of them mention how the Masked Lords work.

It seems to boil down to Waterdeep is too large for a single book. And I'll be honest I have found DMing in large settings unwieldy. Undermountain oddly enough right beneath Waterdeep is much the same. But once I gather several sources together, combine the material, read several posts here by sages and designers it eventually clicks. Sometimes I need to run one or two quests that aren't stellar before it clicks. But when it does click it is wonderful. I can see how you would have a bad experience if you expected a book focused on running quests in Waterdeep without additional material. It is sad you couldn't get it to click, because it can be a very fun place. For me all Forgotten Realms RP products are springs boards, reference material. I expect information that I can then research elsewhere. When I want the feel and soul of the world I go to the novels.

As a side note if you want good insight into the Masked Lords and the Open Lord read Death Masks by Ed.

The party come to a town befallen by hysteria

Rogue: So what's in the general store?
DM: What are you looking for?
Rogue: Whatevers in the store.
DM: Like what?
Rogue: Everything.
DM: There is a lot of stuff.
Rogue: Is there a cart outside?
DM: (rolls) Yes.
Rogue: We'll take it all, we may need it for the greater good.
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Swordsage
Learned Scribe

149 Posts

Posted - 20 Sep 2021 :  07:47:43  Show Profile  Visit Swordsage's Homepage Send Swordsage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
That review and commentary comes across like someone reading The Return of the King and then complaining that no one explained how Frodo and Sam got to Mordor.
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
10743 Posts

Posted - 20 Sep 2021 :  14:34:38  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

I personally think there's something like the Athora, under Waterdeep.

We've got a Celestial Staircase in Waterdeep, as mentioned, at least one portal to the realm of the dead, and powerful entities have been drawn to Waterdeep since before there was a city there. Dragons were going there, elves picked it for a place to put their capital -- heck, why are the merfolk in the harbor willing to live so close to the shore? Why did both dwarves and drow decide to tunnel under the place? Why did Halaster decide to settle there and then start making his own downward descent? Why did the Netherese feel this was a good place to live underground?

Ed did respond on Twitter that there is something drawing everyone there, but hasn't given any more information.



Exactly the kind of idea where I was going. There's SOMETHING about Waterdeep, and it may even be multiple somethings (as in something that broke apart). I'm very inclined to believe that it's something that came from the moon and crashed into the water (hmmmm, what's its symbology? A symbol of the moon reflecting into the water of a bay....). I know we've brought up this concept several times (the impact area of Halruaa, the Star Mounts, etc...). It might also be that modern sages BELIEVE that this is related to something crashing from the moon and it's actually something else entirely.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Demzer
Senior Scribe

814 Posts

Posted - 20 Sep 2021 :  14:35:27  Show Profile Send Demzer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Alright, I don't like Waterdeep enough to have ever DMed or adventured there but I feel CoS:W is getting a trashing it doesn't deserve and the city with it.

Kelcimer, in some of your posts (all recent, so I remember them quite well) you've been showing that you got enough between your hears to figure out pretty complex situations while bringing a bit of a new point of view on a lot of different topics (I think Candlekeep didn't have someone so firmly anchored to RW socio-economic notions). But in discussing this sourcebook specifically it seems you put your intellect (and the RW comparisons you made everywhere else) in suspended animation, just for the sake of arguing your point.

I'll give you a few examples here, quoting parts of your post (not quoting it all to prevent the collapse of the Wards of Candlekeep).

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

The first chapter is covers the roughly 10,000 year history of the area around Waterdeep. It goes for almost two full pages before Waterdeep is even mentioned. In these two pages the reader is spammed with a whole lot of names and dates and battles.
[...]
The chapter doesn’t even bother to say when Waterdeep officially became Waterdeep.



You mean like the "Local History" section of CoRB where it uses one page for much less history (about 7-800 years) talking about a long forgotten and extremely minor dwarven realm of a backwater region of Faerun and then springing on you "In the Year of the Wandering Waves (1292 DR), the first pirate raid struck
the harbor of Ravens Bluff" ? Because that's the first mention of the name "Ravens Bluff" in the history section of that sourcebook. I don't have a problem with it but you apparently do, yet this didn't stop CoRB from becoming your best product ever.

And even on this point:

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

It is supposedly called Nimoar’s Hold from 882DR to 932DR, but then it says that Nimoar’s Hold became known at the “town of Waterdeep” presumably, from context, shortly after 889DR. Was the name adopted by Nimoar’s Hold in 933? In the next section it refers to “Waterdeep’s forces” being driven “back to the gates of Nimoar’s Hold”. The what? I thought the fledgling community of Nimoar’s Hold came to be known as Waterdeep! But then, without missing a beat, the writers refer to them as separate descriptors and doesn’t bother to stop and clarify. That is incoherent.



You seem fairly knowledgeable about RW history, as I already said, yet here you are pretending that the name of an existing place (note, not a place being built on the ruins of another place) should change overnight just to give you a fixed date while you know full well that's not what happens in reality.

Do you think when Costantinople became Istanbul everyone worldwide started calling it that on the moment? How many people know that Swaziland is not Swaziland anymore but Eswatini since 2018? What about all the old people in Europe (and maybe elsewhere) who still refer to Yugoslavia or who still have to be reminded that Czech Republic and Slovakia are two different countries? Or, brace for this because this is really funny, what about the very old ones (high 80s and 90s+) who were confused at the Euros football match between Austria and Hungary because to them that was just one country?

Making the transition between the names "Nimoar's Hold" and "Waterdeep" muddy to me is a testament to the willingness of the authors to try and give a real, historical feeling to the events that transpired there. It's something I quite like and something that, bringing the Realms closer to the RW, you should like too, based on your previous posts.

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

The chapter doesn’t say anything about how Waterdeep grew. It says that Nimoar’s Hold grew and prospered, but it doesn’t say why. There is nothing in the previous 9,000 years of history to suggest why this should suddenly be a prosperous place when it wasn’t before. It just happens. Why exactly does Waterdeep (2nd largest city in the realms!) exist where it does?



Yeah, nothing in the previous 9000 years suggest the place is prosperous beside elves, dwarves, Netherese, Illuskans and their cats and dogs all wanting to settle there. Because they are all crazy?

If you take any map of any edition you see that Waterdeep is at the edge of the North. It doesn't need to produce anything, the North does all the job and gets the stuff to Waterdeep which is the market that allows that stuff to reach the rest of Faerun. Waterdeep is the crossroad, both on land and on water. The hardy people of the North bring their stuff here through swamps, woods, orcs, trolls, pirates and raiders (look at where all the island and island chains are), the soft people of the South come up here to get that stuff and the fat people of Waterdeep get fatter without lifting a finger. It's quite easy to understand or, as you repeatedly said, "it's not rocket science".

My last quote as this is long enough already:

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

Why exactly does Waterdeep (2nd largest city in the realms!) [...]



You repeated this a number of times, for emphasis and just to show how broken the situation is. Yet this is wrong. Waterdeep is not the 2nd anything. The numbers fluctuate between editions but, since we are commenting a 3/3.5E product, let's go with those numbers and list cities with higher population than Waterdeep: Calimport, Skuld, Bezantur, Unthalass, Gheldaneth, Suldophor. That makes Waterdeep the 7th biggest city in the Realms (within striking distance of the 6th spot and with a bunch of cities in hot pursuit, but I digress).

Still, Waterdeep is the biggest city in the North by far, you need to get down to Athkatla with almost 120k people to get anywhere near it. And it is with good reason, as shown by the history section you so don't like: Waterdeep sits on the best harbor of the Sword Coast, with geography that makes it highly defensible and plenty of good land around. Cities like that usualy grew by leaps and bounds in the RW and it seems Waterdeep did the same.

You got other points wrong, maybe because you tried to absorb too much information in too short time (the history sections explicitly say the walls were expanded a few times) or because you already decided on the point you wanted to make and were just looking for excuses (Waterdeep guilds are not exactly the guilds you know, so what? You didn't get invested in Ahghairon, a Samuel L. Jackson level BMF stopping dragons with a mythal and passing away peacefully? You didn't pick up on the Shadow Thieves + Amnian families / Twisted Rune / Arunsun clan battle royale?)

Others have already pointed out how it can be extremely difficult to compare sourcebooks from two editions that had completely different editorial mandates and constraints so I won't repeat those points.

Far be it from me to claim CoS:W is the best sourcebook ever (sorry guys, but I'm a ... Schender? ... Schendist? ... a follower of SES? ... how are we called?), but it does its job and it's a nice standalone product like many others in the 3/3.5E times. It just so happen it didn't mesh with your ideas and it did not paint Waterdeep as a usable stopping point on the railroad you had set for your players, no need to be bitter about it (maybe a little, for the money spent).

Edited by - Demzer on 20 Sep 2021 14:40:52
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
10743 Posts

Posted - 20 Sep 2021 :  15:51:16  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

Hello sleyvas!

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

I'll give you one thing, when I said be ready to back up what you say, you were at least willing to do it.


Thank you. I appreciate that!

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

I'll even say you have some points in some of this



And that as well. :)

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

Now, here is what I pose to you as a question.... and feel free to ignore it... what would YOU do to make a FIX for this representation of Waterdeep WITHOUT removing all of these things which are at the basis of what's been written about it over the years?

[...]

So, what ideas come to your mind to make some of this "true" rather than saying chuck out 20 years of lore (well about 30+ now).



There's no easy solution. I don't think all elements can be kept within the scenario to make a good Waterdeep. Depending upon which elements and characteristics are kept, very different alternative Waterdeeps could be drafted. For all elements to be kept within the scenario? I think something else would have to be added that would radically recontextualize the city.

I will have to think on this.




You are welcome, but I will stress here, the vast majority of your complaints about THIS product are not FROM this product. As I said previously, this product was an attempt to update, refine, and improve things from the origins of this city from its original release. This was individuals working within a framework of "this is what the place is" and trying to gather ideas to improve things (which I felt they did). This is why I also through out a "what would you do" question.... because you just bashed them for it, but can't come up with something better.

I also brought up that question for a second reason... and it's a longstanding FR tradition, and one I wholeheartedly love.... take lore and find commonalities and try to use it to "fix" things. This is what I see the authors of this trying to do, and I applaud them for it.

To add to this, I will say that I come up with a LOT of ideas here... and I bet 75% of them suck to 20% of the people... and 40% of them suck to 75% of the people... and 20% of them everyone likes, but have no use for... and MAYBE 2% of them everyone likes and sees a possible use for... (and 100% of those numbers I just came up with out of my ass). The best thing you can do is to come up with solutions, and I think you are trying to do that.

Finally, while I agree that some of the things are problematic, such as the idea of governance by unknown representatives... at the same time it's NOT impossible. Some would say its more viable than a king, where one can be good and the next a sudden tyrant. Some would also point out that we have yet to discover the "perfect" form of governance, and even our own democracy, which is only two and a half centuries old, is nothing like its origins any longer. So, rulership by unknown lords, might be a less polarizing solution for their society as it stands right now (which isn't perfect and DOES have some class issues and some guild law issues).... bearing in mind that they're still in an era without a printing press in wide use.


Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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HighOne
Learned Scribe

106 Posts

Posted - 20 Sep 2021 :  18:57:09  Show Profile Send HighOne a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I used City of Splendors: Waterdeep as the primary source for my Waterdeep campaign a few years ago and thought it was just fine -- even good. The FR line in 2nd Edition, by comparison, had many worse products, some that fall well short of modern editorial standards and would probably never be published today. I say that as a fan of 2nd Edition in general. But as much as I dislike 3E and the changes it brought to the Realms, I have to admit that the FR designers had really learned their craft by that point and were turning out great work.
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Zeromaru X
Great Reader

Colombia
2101 Posts

Posted - 21 Sep 2021 :  04:47:06  Show Profile Send Zeromaru X a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well, you did it. You sold me on City of Ravens Bluff. I'm going to buy it when I can, xD

Instead of seeking change, you prefer a void, merciless abyss of a world...
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Kelcimer
Learned Scribe

USA
109 Posts

Posted - 22 Sep 2021 :  09:59:51  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hello Gelcur!

quote:
Originally posted by Gelcur
Just my 2 cents but seems different books are for different people.



That's fair to an extent. For example, I am a DM who is uninterested in crunch in my source material, so a good chunk of the book was non-content for me. Another DM might really like that. But a lot of this stuff are things that are objectively bad, and I don't think there is any ignoring that in a critical analysis.

quote:
Originally posted by Gelcur
I've skimmed CoRB multiple times in the past and once today and the only section that ever pops out at me is the Walking Tour. Maybe its that small font creating walls of dense text that make it hard to pick things out.



For all I know that could be. Different people can process information differently. As a graphic designer I generally don't like to make my fonts small beyond a certain point. The smaller type is made, then the more likely it will create a little drag for some people. But the size of font that I would prefer not to go below is different for different purposes. I know the font size in CoRB is not an issue for me. I have read thousand page books that have text that small. If it is an issue for you, well, there you go.

quote:
Originally posted by Gelcur
To be fair I doubt you would like any of the RP products for Waterdeep. For example, it seems none of them mention how the Masked Lords work.



Thank you. That is what I suspected. I have looked at Volo's Guide to Waterdeep, which seems like a decent version of the Walking Tour, just missing the rest of the book. So I don't doubt that they can be better quality than CoS:W, just not going to give the full picture.

quote:
Originally posted by Gelcur
It seems to boil down to Waterdeep is too large for a single book.



That is not true on the face of it. Had they cut the size of the font to the size that is in the Campaign Setting book and cut the random crunch, then they would have an abundance of space to detail Waterdeep. But even discounting that, they could have chosen different priorities with the space that they wound up using.

quote:
Originally posted by Gelcur
As a side note if you want good insight into the Masked Lords and the Open Lord read Death Masks by Ed.



Thank you, but I doubt I will get around to it. I've already nuked the city. If you want to summarize the high points, then cool, I'd be interested in that.
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Kelcimer
Learned Scribe

USA
109 Posts

Posted - 23 Sep 2021 :  01:27:55  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hello Demzer!

quote:
Originally posted by Demzer

Alright, I don't like Waterdeep enough to have ever DMed or adventured there but I feel CoS:W is getting a trashing it doesn't deserve and the city with it.



I am giving a well founded reasoning as to why I have so low of an opinion of CoS:W as I do. There are a lot of reasons and I detailed them. That's not trashing. That's being thorough.

quote:
Originally posted by Demzer
Kelcimer, in some of your posts (all recent, so I remember them quite well) you've been showing that you got enough between your hears to figure out pretty complex situations while bringing a bit of a new point of view on a lot of different topics (I think Candlekeep didn't have someone so firmly anchored to RW socio-economic notions).



Thank you!

quote:
Originally posted by Demzer
You mean like the "Local History" section of CoRB where it uses one page for much less history (about 7-800 years) talking about a long forgotten and extremely minor dwarven realm of a backwater region of Faerun and then springing on you "In the Year of the Wandering Waves (1292 DR), the first pirate raid struck
the harbor of Ravens Bluff" ? Because that's the first mention of the name "Ravens Bluff" in the history section of that sourcebook. I don't have a problem with it but you apparently do, yet this didn't stop CoRB from becoming your best product ever.



1222 DR. That is the founding of Raven's Bluff. It's in the previous paragraph. It talks about how the Ravensgate Inn was named after the ravens. It is not much a stretch to think the name quickly came into being.

Does CoRB specify that that was what it was called at the time? No. But neither does it go out of its way to say it had some other name before being called Ravens Bluff. Transitions are important. The transition from Nimoar's Hold to Waterdeep is a particularly important one. What is the local mythology around their founding? With CoRB it is a bunch of settlers striking it out in an untamed land in 1222DR. What is that mythology in Waterdeep? I dunno. The history in CoS:W isn't interested much in providing context and if there was one transition that needed that it was this. This kinda highlights how much there wasn't importance on providing context.

quote:
Originally posted by Demzer
You seem fairly knowledgeable about RW history, as I already said, yet here you are pretending that the name of an existing place (note, not a place being built on the ruins of another place) should change overnight just to give you a fixed date while you know full well that's not what happens in reality.

Do you think when Costantinople became Istanbul everyone worldwide started calling it that on the moment?



Oh! That is an interesting story! The name change officially happened in 1923, but the world didn't start calling it that until Turkey changed it's postal laws to no longer accept international mail addressed to Constantinople in 1930.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lq8o2QjnqwM

quote:
Originally posted by Demzer
Making the transition between the names "Nimoar's Hold" and "Waterdeep" muddy to me is a testament to the willingness of the authors to try and give a real, historical feeling to the events that transpired there.



That is a really good post-hoc justification for that individual decision; but if the authors wanted to give a real, historical feeling to the events that transpired there, then I think a lot this this history would have been conveyed quite differently. I have read a bunch of history books. I know what "real, historical feeling" is going to feel like. They were not going for it.

quote:
Originally posted by Demzer
Yeah, nothing in the previous 9000 years suggest the place is prosperous beside elves, dwarves, Netherese, Illuskans and their cats and dogs all wanting to settle there. Because they are all crazy?



Wanting to settle there? Okay, sure. Did they succeed? Not on the level of Waterdeep. A lot of them were small communities, were located below Waterdeep, or relatively small installations.

quote:
Originally posted by Demzer
because you already decided on the point you wanted to make and were just looking for excuses



I genuinely wanted to make use of this product. If you doubt that, okay, but there is no need to cast aspersions.

quote:
Originally posted by Demzer
You didn't get invested in Ahghairon, a Samuel L. Jackson level BMF stopping dragons with a mythal and passing away peacefully? You didn't pick up on the Shadow Thieves + Amnian families / Twisted Rune / Arunsun clan battle royale?)



With regards to Ahghairon, a lot of names and powerful effects were rattled off in the history.

With regards to Amn and Tethyr, I'm not sure why feuds that are centered over 500 miles away should do anything to get me invested in Waterdeep.

If that is the stuff that gets your juices flowing, okay, more power to you. But I don't think it is a reasonable expectation that it should have the same effect on any other specific person.


quote:
Originally posted by Demzer
My last quote as this is long enough already:



No worries about going long. If being thorough means going long, then okay.


quote:
Originally posted by Demzer
You repeated this a number of times, for emphasis and just to show how broken the situation is. Yet this is wrong. Waterdeep is not the 2nd anything. The numbers fluctuate between editions but, since we are commenting a 3/3.5E product, let's go with those numbers and list cities with higher population than Waterdeep: Calimport, Skuld, Bezantur, Unthalass, Gheldaneth, Suldophor. That makes Waterdeep the 7th biggest city in the Realms (within striking distance of the 6th spot and with a bunch of cities in hot pursuit, but I digress).



After checking the Campaign Setting book, I can conceed that point about Watereep being the 2nd largest city.

This was an oft repeated fact back in the day. It is such a popular idea that I found links to Ed Greenwood still debunking it as late as 2016. There are still some Waterdeep wiki’s today that repeat that Waterdeep is the 2nd most populous city behind Calimport. Looking casually through the books I have on hand, I cannot find that phrase, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t miss something. Looking only at the Campaign Setting Book, Calimport isn’t even the most populous city in that edition. Weird. I do not know where it started. It might have been in 2nd edition books that I no longer have? I dunno at this point. It is clear that I am not the only person to have ever been under that understanding. From my notes on the discussion I had about it circa 2010, it was treated as accurate by my interlocutors.

Does it help that Waterdeep is the 7th biggest instead of the 2nd biggest? Yes.

How much does it help? I dunno. Yes, it takes the edge off a bit; but we still have all the phrases that prop up Waterdeep being “the grandest” and “the most cosmopolitan”, and a seasonal population that is five times the winter population. It’s really pushed that Waterdeep is THE city of Faerun. In context, does Waterdeep being merely the 7th largest city dampen the expectations of this book enough? I don’t think so.

[Edited to add: I had checked a couple Forgotten Realms wikis about the 2nd largest city after Calimport while writing the OP, assuming that the various wikis would be accurate. It was in multiple of them, but now I find that it is only in one of with wikis. Well done to whoever spot edited that out right quick.]

quote:
Originally posted by Demzer
It just so happen it didn't mesh with your ideas and it did not paint Waterdeep as a usable



I think you are ignoring the vast majority of my points. You confine your criticisms to the history, when my points go way beyond that. If I were to ironman it, and say that you are correct on all your points about the history (you're not), that still leaves the majority of my argument intact.

quote:
Originally posted by Demzer
stopping point on the railroad you had set for your players



Again, there is no need for aspersions. You don't know how my game played.

quote:
Originally posted by Demzer
no need to be bitter about it



Did you not read what I wound up doing in my game? The Waterdeep adventure wound up having far reaching impacts on my game and I am happy with those impacts to this day.

Bad products exist and people are going to have opinions about them. I genuinely think it is a really bad product. If you think my reasoning is flawed, then by all means direct your ire at my reasoning. I don't mind being proved wrong or having my mind persuaded.

Edited by - Kelcimer on 23 Sep 2021 07:01:20
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Kelcimer
Learned Scribe

USA
109 Posts

Posted - 23 Sep 2021 :  02:05:25  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hello Sleyvas!

I'm going to capitalize your name because it feels weird not to.

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas
You are welcome, but I will stress here, the vast majority of your complaints about THIS product are not FROM this product.



It is not much of a defense to say "these problems were in all the previous works as well". If those problems were in the previous works, then why didn't they try to solve them in this one? I find it difficult to believe that no one in the ten years prior to CoS:W ever asked the same questions I did about Waterdeep.

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas
This is why I also through out a "what would you do" question.... because you just bashed them for it, but can't come up with something better.

I also brought up that question for a second reason... and it's a longstanding FR tradition, and one I wholeheartedly love.... take lore and find commonalities and try to use it to "fix" things.



I also have fun with fixing things, or otherwise making them work. But just because someone likes that process doesn't mean that all things are possible. As I said above, I would never have thought to have secret rulers. It's a stupid idea. Even the people here on this forum who like the idea are not putting forward their own interpretations for how it is supposed to work. If the people who love the idea can't articulate how it is supposed to work, then how am I supposed to do so?

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas
To add to this, I will say that I come up with a LOT of ideas here... and I bet 75% of them suck to 20% of the people... and 40% of them suck to 75% of the people... and 20% of them everyone likes, but have no use for... and MAYBE 2% of them everyone likes and sees a possible use for... (and 100% of those numbers I just came up with out of my ass). The best thing you can do is to come up with solutions, and I think you are trying to do that.


I did come up with a solution! Not one that people like, but I came up with one! :)

Short of blowing it up, the simplest thing is to just recon the past 300 years of Waterdeep's continuity. The problem with that is that it violates my long standing standard operating procedure for the lore. Basically, I acknowledge that everything prior to 1372 that is established in the lore either stands or is conveniently ignored. Part of this is that the lore can get tangled and doing due diligence and making sure to account for outstanding plot threads related could be a bunch of rabbit holes. And in 2005 I didn't do this because having a good version of Waterdeep is what I bought the book for.

Considering it now, if the secret lords never stuck, the "Ward System" was never claimed to be established, and if actual Guild had come into being instead of the "Guilds" we got; then that would help. Creating a new continuity whereby the rulers of Waterdeep actually demonstrated wisdom, and did not engage in tyranny, would also solve a lot of problems.

But you are pitching it as moving forward from 1372 and keeping all the stuff that doesn't make sense. If I did that, then I'd have to introduce some radical plot element that would justify those elements having been there for centuries. In bringing that explanation to the fore (to fully explore the solution) I think Waterdeep would have to undergo changes that I don't think would appeal to fans of Waterdeep any more than nuking it does.

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas
Finally, while I agree that some of the things are problematic, such as the idea of governance by unknown representatives... at the same time it's NOT impossible.



It kinda goes against everything I know about human nature. All of human history and especially the 20th century shows you can't change human nature.

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas
Some would also point out that we have yet to discover the "perfect" form of governance, and even our own democracy, which is only two and a half centuries old, is nothing like its origins any longer.



That is a long conversation unto itself and outside the boundaries of this forum. Suffice to say, we have all the answers that we need. It's not like we are living in 1500 anymore. In an age of information ignorance is a choice, and unfortunately too many people choose ignorance because correct knowledge isn't emotionally satisfying for them.

Edited by - Kelcimer on 23 Sep 2021 02:09:35
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Kelcimer
Learned Scribe

USA
109 Posts

Posted - 23 Sep 2021 :  02:10:42  Show Profile Send Kelcimer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hello Zeromaru X!

quote:
Originally posted by Zeromaru X

Well, you did it. You sold me on City of Ravens Bluff. I'm going to buy it when I can, xD



Cool. You will have to let me know what you think of it once you get it in your hands and have read it over!
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Demzer
Senior Scribe

814 Posts

Posted - 23 Sep 2021 :  11:13:20  Show Profile Send Demzer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

Hello Demzer!



Hi and well met!

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

1222 DR. That is the founding of Raven's Bluff. It's in the previous paragraph. It talks about how the Ravensgate Inn was named after the ravens. It is not much a stretch to think the name quickly came into being.

Does CoRB specify that that was what it was called at the time? No. But neither does it go out of its way to say it had some other name before being called Ravens Bluff. Transitions are important. The transition from Nimoar's Hold to Waterdeep is a particularly important one. What is the local mythology around their founding? With CoRB it is a bunch of settlers striking it out in an untamed land in 1222DR. What is that mythology in Waterdeep? I dunno. The history in CoS:W isn't interested much in providing context and if there was one transition that needed that it was this. This kinda highlights how much there wasn't importance on providing context.



This right here is why I don't feel it's very useful to keep arguing: 1222 is when the first three homesteaders families arrive, the place was already a meeting point before then, there was a temple of Chauntea before then and it isn't until 1226 that more families join and they start talking about a settlement with no name until it suddendly gets raided by pirates in 1292 and we discover the name is Raven's Bluff.
So if you were nitpicking on CoRB like you are nitpicking on CoS:W, you should conclude that the very important transition between ruins and Raven's Bluff has not been marked clearly in CoRB so that the history in CoRB "doesn't make sense".

To state it more clearly, my point is that if you can excuse this ("it's not much of a stretch ...") for Raven's Bluff your criticism on Waterdeep naming appears entirely unfounded and shows a little bit of a bias in judging the city itself (beside the sourcebook).

This is especially true when you yourself admit that even in modern times the capital city of a nation took 7 years to get the rest of the world to recognise and acknowledge the name change. 7 years with radios, telegraphs, phones and other worldwide connections.

Oh, by the way, rereading the history part I just saw it's stated clearly that the official founding date of the "Free City of Waterdeep" is 1010 DR, done by Warlord Laroun (page 9). So there you go, the timeline is "Nimoar's Hold" until 932 then other people start calling it "city of Waterdeep" and the warlords running it are too busy fighting orcs and trolls to bother with the problem until 1010 when it's officially renamed.

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

Wanting to settle there? Okay, sure. Did they succeed? Not on the level of Waterdeep. A lot of them were small communities, were located below Waterdeep, or relatively small installations.



Maybe you want to quickly reread the start of the history section. Aelinthaldaar, capital city of Illefarn, stayed there for 7000 years. Waterdeep is a young whipper-snapper by comparison.

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

If that is the stuff that gets your juices flowing, okay, more power to you. But I don't think it is a reasonable expectation that it should have the same effect on any other specific person.



And that's why matters of opinion can't be held as facts and can't be used to claim that a book/show/product isn't good. "The characters didn't click to me" is not an objective reason to rate a product.

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

This was an oft repeated fact back in the day. It is such a popular idea that I found links to Ed Greenwood still debunking it as late as 2016. There are still some Waterdeep wiki’s today that repeat that Waterdeep is the 2nd most populous city behind Calimport. Looking casually through the books I have on hand, I cannot find that phrase, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t miss something. Looking only at the Campaign Setting Book, Calimport isn’t even the most populous city in that edition. Weird. I do not know where it started. It might have been in 2nd edition books that I no longer have? I dunno at this point. It is clear that I am not the only person to have ever been under that understanding. From my notes on the discussion I had about it circa 2010, it was treated as accurate by my interlocutors.



Population figures have been a mess over the different editions but were kept roughly in the same order (i.e. city A bigger than city B), the big changes that happened to Calimport (and probably the same reasoning apply to Suldophor) were explained a bit in the Calimport 2E sourcebook: basically around 200000 is the number of the citizens, not counting the slaves, if you add those it gets to 900000 (up to 2 millions in summer) and dwarfs anything else on the face of Faerun (with the possible exception of the cities in Mulhorand were the same thing with counting slaves might happen but their numbers never fluctuated that much, unsure about big places in Shou Lung).

quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

I think you are ignoring the vast majority of my points. You confine your criticisms to the history, when my points go way beyond that. If I were to ironman it, and say that you are correct on all your points about the history (you're not), that still leaves the majority of my argument intact.



You were wrong on the history and the tone of the post with the repeated rethoric questions, the "it doesn't make sense" and "it's not rocket science" made it clear a true discussion where the sides are willing to concede points and maybe change idea was out of the question straight out of the gate.

Several of your points also came down to personal taste (the Wards, the Guilds, the Lords being secret) and I don't want to comment too much on those because to each its own.

I agree that stating more clearly how the Lords business works might have been helpful but from an RPG point of view it gives much more freedom to individual DMs to do as they please with them (as opposed to your run of the mill kingdom, i.e. Cormyr, where the power structure is clearly defined and you have to take everything down to establish a new power broker). With the Lords as they are, the table is always open for DMs creations and ideas at the very top of Waterdeep power structure. Liking it or not, I think it makes sense from a game design point of view.

As for the historical establishment of the Lords, Ahghairon was the top dog, he tried to stay on the sideline and let traditional leaders (the warlords) rule and it was ending in tyranny. So he stepped in and people did what he said because he was the man that saved their behinds (multiple times). When he passed away, powerful figures in the city tried to take over (the guildmasters) and wrought chaos for a long while until the surviving Lords reappeared. The people (assuming the naive notion that they had a say in the matter) went along with the re-establishment of the Lords because it was the system that worked best (no tyranny, no lawlessness, protections from the outside threats).

As for the effectiveness of the Lords, the city thrived both during the first 200 years of the Lords rule and in the second run after the guildmasters debacle.

All of what I wrote in the previous two paragraphs is spelled out in the history section, there is no mistery and nobody is left wondering "Why".

The part about Waterdeep legal system not being up to RW contemporary standards I don't get because it seems to me as trying to enforce several hundred years of RW history on Waterdeep alone (as the situation in many other parts of Faerun is much worse, with most places being "shoot arrows/quarrels first, ask questions if they survive").

The direct comparison with CoRB might stand if Waterdeep didn't have already a few sourcebooks on its back. With this I mean that the Volo's Guide already provided a quite detailed "walking tour" (and much bigger than CoRB) and redoing it would have p****d off the people already owning that book and offered no new information.

I'm getting the feeling you might have been better off with getting the 2E sourcebooks on Waterdeep as your style of play/DM seems to have been much better catered to in that edition. But as already stated, I don't think it's fair to blame on a single product the different editorial mandates of 3/3.5E.

I'm sorry you didn't take well the railroad comment but I call it as I see it from the little information you have given us: you spent several session "aiming" your players at Waterdeep and when they were there they had to (no other option) get in and get out in the smallest time possible, on penalty of death (with a deus ex machina ready to rescue them and keep the story moving).
Of course, I was not at your table and if you claim that there was more to it I believe you, but with the information I had before it seemed a railroad to me.

And by the way, there is no ire in my posts and I offer an apology if that is what is transpiring. It's just that when very strong statements are made and the supporting evidence is shaky I think it's better to dispute those claims and not leave only one side talking. Anyone stumbling on this scroll later can judge all the reasonings presented and decide on their own (and sometimes use necromancy to start the argument again).
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
10743 Posts

Posted - 23 Sep 2021 :  15:11:33  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Kelcimer

Hello Sleyvas!

I'm going to capitalize your name because it feels weird not to.

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas
You are welcome, but I will stress here, the vast majority of your complaints about THIS product are not FROM this product.



It is not much of a defense to say "these problems were in all the previous works as well". If those problems were in the previous works, then why didn't they try to solve them in this one? I find it difficult to believe that no one in the ten years prior to CoS:W ever asked the same questions I did about Waterdeep.

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas
This is why I also through out a "what would you do" question.... because you just bashed them for it, but can't come up with something better.

I also brought up that question for a second reason... and it's a longstanding FR tradition, and one I wholeheartedly love.... take lore and find commonalities and try to use it to "fix" things.



I also have fun with fixing things, or otherwise making them work. But just because someone likes that process doesn't mean that all things are possible. As I said above, I would never have thought to have secret rulers. It's a stupid idea. Even the people here on this forum who like the idea are not putting forward their own interpretations for how it is supposed to work. If the people who love the idea can't articulate how it is supposed to work, then how am I supposed to do so?

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas
To add to this, I will say that I come up with a LOT of ideas here... and I bet 75% of them suck to 20% of the people... and 40% of them suck to 75% of the people... and 20% of them everyone likes, but have no use for... and MAYBE 2% of them everyone likes and sees a possible use for... (and 100% of those numbers I just came up with out of my ass). The best thing you can do is to come up with solutions, and I think you are trying to do that.


I did come up with a solution! Not one that people like, but I came up with one! :)

Short of blowing it up, the simplest thing is to just recon the past 300 years of Waterdeep's continuity. The problem with that is that it violates my long standing standard operating procedure for the lore. Basically, I acknowledge that everything prior to 1372 that is established in the lore either stands or is conveniently ignored. Part of this is that the lore can get tangled and doing due diligence and making sure to account for outstanding plot threads related could be a bunch of rabbit holes. And in 2005 I didn't do this because having a good version of Waterdeep is what I bought the book for.

Considering it now, if the secret lords never stuck, the "Ward System" was never claimed to be established, and if actual Guild had come into being instead of the "Guilds" we got; then that would help. Creating a new continuity whereby the rulers of Waterdeep actually demonstrated wisdom, and did not engage in tyranny, would also solve a lot of problems.

But you are pitching it as moving forward from 1372 and keeping all the stuff that doesn't make sense. If I did that, then I'd have to introduce some radical plot element that would justify those elements having been there for centuries. In bringing that explanation to the fore (to fully explore the solution) I think Waterdeep would have to undergo changes that I don't think would appeal to fans of Waterdeep any more than nuking it does.

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas
Finally, while I agree that some of the things are problematic, such as the idea of governance by unknown representatives... at the same time it's NOT impossible.



It kinda goes against everything I know about human nature. All of human history and especially the 20th century shows you can't change human nature.

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas
Some would also point out that we have yet to discover the "perfect" form of governance, and even our own democracy, which is only two and a half centuries old, is nothing like its origins any longer.



That is a long conversation unto itself and outside the boundaries of this forum. Suffice to say, we have all the answers that we need. It's not like we are living in 1500 anymore. In an age of information ignorance is a choice, and unfortunately too many people choose ignorance because correct knowledge isn't emotionally satisfying for them.





So, you knock the authors for not coming up with a solution that works within the bounds of what's already been presented, but you can't come up with one yourself other than "throw it all out and start over"... or rather "blow it up".

Then you see no way that any form of governance can occur with no clear idea of who is running things (other than the open lords and the heads of the guilds). I point out there are problems with it, but it can work. Essentially noone knows who to give "special treatment" to, so the basis would be that they give everyone the same treatment and they try not to break the rules. In practice, that will be biased by "who pays me more", but you show me a society that doesn't have that kind of corruption in it.... oh wait, that doesn't exist anywhere. This WILL result in corruption, and the guilds will definitely be corrupt, but in theory having them police their own will at least keep the government OUT of things they know nothing about. Hopefully the lords will have their own spies within the guilds though to find out who is so much of a prick that they need to be "handled". So, what does this make Waterdeep sounds like? Mob bosses running New York? "Influencers" reporting on people and news and fake news controlling public opinion? Are these things horrible... yep... and yet they even occur in our own world, so why would we expect this fantasy world to be any better? I would also add that there are a lot of people who live in major cities and might only know the mayor and have no idea who their city councilmen are, and yet their lives don't get all that affected.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas

Edited by - sleyvas on 23 Sep 2021 15:25:18
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 23 Sep 2021 :  15:42:22  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

I would also add that there are a lot of people who live in major cities and might only know the mayor and have no idea who their city councilmen are, and yet their lives don't get all that affected.



A lot of people won't care who their leaders are, so long as they don't have issues with that leadership. Waterdeep is known to be a lawful place, and we've seen that in the fiction and source material several times. And of course it's a prosperous place, as well.

The majority of the people are living at least a comfortable life, and they don't have to worry about invasions, monsters, hostile magic, or crime... For the average Waterdhavian, it's very much a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" scenario.

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The Masked Mage
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Posted - 23 Sep 2021 :  16:08:36  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think that some of your critiques are valid - others are not.

Like - "Why is the water near Waterdeep deep?" That's pushing it. :P Why not ask, 'why is the Grand Canyon grand?' :D Come on, be reasonable.

Many of your other issues stem from a simple problem. There is no city in the realms covered more than Waterdeep... multiple products in multiple editions over decades - and that's not including numerous articles in magazines. Plus all the Undermountain products. Why? Because it was one of the locations of Ed's home campaign, so it is very fully detailed way back when.

There are multiple dungeons because that's where they adventured. The 2 page history could be expanded to 20 easily, but you cant shove every bit of information into every Waterdeep product, so they made choices.

I will say that I did not like they way they handled the Lords. No need to list and talk about all the lords, that no one is supposed to know anyways.

I also don't get why they did not provide some descriptions to go along with that great Castle Waterdeep map. Probably the best map of any building in the realms and it needs to be described properly in my book.

I also always wished they would give us some of the other dungeons of Waterdeep, besides Undermountain, but I doubt that will ever happen.
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ericlboyd
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Posted - 23 Sep 2021 :  19:33:18  Show Profile  Visit ericlboyd's Homepage Send ericlboyd a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by The Masked Mage

I also always wished they would give us some of the other dungeons of Waterdeep, besides Undermountain, but I doubt that will ever happen.



I detailed 2 other dungeons of Waterdeep in Dungeon #127 (Dungeon of the Crypt) and Dungeon #128 (The Fireplace Level). They were part of the 3-part Vampires of Waterdeep trilogy (Dungeon #126 - #128) that I wrote.

I hope someday to write up the Citadel of the Bloody Hand, but that's pretty far down the list.

--Eric

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The Masked Mage
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Posted - 24 Sep 2021 :  01:25:18  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ericlboyd

quote:
Originally posted by The Masked Mage

I also always wished they would give us some of the other dungeons of Waterdeep, besides Undermountain, but I doubt that will ever happen.



I detailed 2 other dungeons of Waterdeep in Dungeon #127 (Dungeon of the Crypt) and Dungeon #128 (The Fireplace Level). They were part of the 3-part Vampires of Waterdeep trilogy (Dungeon #126 - #128) that I wrote.

I hope someday to write up the Citadel of the Bloody Hand, but that's pretty far down the list.

--Eric



Thanks Eric - I'll try to dig up a copy of that issue to see.
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The Masked Mage
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Posted - 24 Sep 2021 :  01:34:26  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by The Masked Mage



Thanks Eric - I'll try to dig up a copy of that issue to see.
[/quote]

PDF easily located online. Thanks again. If you ever translated into 2nd E stats, that would be great :D
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