The North...rugged mountains and dense forests, which hide many beings hostile to man (who has settled here but lightly). Many dungeons and ruins also lie hidden in the Northern wastes, relics of the former splendor of the dwarven kingdoms, now lost and abandoned, and of earlier, fallen kingdoms of men.
Waterdeep...crossroads of the world, City of Splendors. Here are wealth and goods from every corner of the Realms, intrigue and feuds and important personages of rank and influence. From the many-spired towers of Piergeiron's Palace to the littered alleys of "the Docks," this book introduces you to the living, ever-changing city of Waterdeep, and suggest many adventures therein.
Partake of the sights, the bustle and the intrigue-rub shoulders with the powerful and famous-feast your eyes on fabled treasures. Hear tales in the taverns such as can be heard nowhere else in all the world-but keep your weapons ready and your wits sharp. Oh, and above all...enjoy your stay.
"FR1: Waterdeep and the North" (1987), by Ed Greenwood, is the first in the series of "FR" sourcebooks for the Forgotten Realms. It was released in October 1987.
Origins. The Sword Coast is the oldest area of the Forgotten Realms, discovered by Ed Greenwood in 1966 when he started writing fiction about that area. When Greenwood began running D&D games in the Realms in 1978, the Sword Coast also became his first setting for adventure: the Company of Crazed Venturers founded their career on the exploration of Waterdeep's infamous Undermountain dungeon (and the adjunct Dungeon of the Crypt) before venturing forth into the North.
When Greenwood turned his huge reams of Forgotten Realms material over to TSR, Waterdeep was the most detailed city; it looked like a great starting place for describing the Realms, so TSR asked Greenwood to turn it into a Realms sourcebook.
Introducing the "FR" Series. Prior to the publication of "Waterdeep and the North", there were five Forgotten Realms books, all of which had been published earlier in the year: the compiled adventure I3-5: Desert of Desolation (1987); the novel Darkwalker on Moonshae (1987); the boxed Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1987); the continuing adventure H3: "The Bloodstone Wars" (1987); and the new novice adventure "N5: Under Illefarn" (1987). If you want to retroactively count the two previous Bloodstone adventures, H1: "Bloodstone Pass" (1985) and H2: "The Mines of Bloodstone" (1986) and Aaron Allston's N4: "Treasure Hunt" (1987), then there were eight Realms publications by late 1987.
The idea of novels supporting game lines was still relatively new, but this was otherwise a fairly typical way for TSR to support a setting at the time: a single boxed campaign setting and a lot of adventures. However, TSR decided to do something new with the Realms: they opted to create a series of geographical setting books which together described the entire world in detail!
Before 1987, you could have counted TSR geographic setting books on one hand. There was: the original World of Greyhawk in two editions (1980, 1984); a tiny bit on Krynn in the thin DL5: "Dragons of Mystery" (1985); the extensively detailed Lankhmar: City of Adventure (1985); and some information on Kara-Tur in Oriental Advenures (1985) and OA1: "Swords of the Daimyo" (1986). It was a real hodge-podge, with setting first and foremost in only a few of those books.
But things were changing in 1987. Earlier that year, Bruce Heard had begun work on his geographic Known World sourcebooks with GAZ1: "The Grand Duchy of Karameikos" (1987); meanwhile, TSR also knew that Greenwood had written down considerable more detail on the Realms than had been available for other past settings (or potential settings) like Greyhawk or Blackmoor. Some combination of these facts cause TSR to produce a geographic line for the Realms as well.
Too Much Information. Greenwood warned TSR from the start that Waterdeep was a big city, not just a few buildings and a couple of maps. He told them that the "and the North" section wasn't likely to fit into FR1. When he finally delivered the manuscript over word count, he suggested to the staff that they set the book with tiny type.
The section on guilds in "Waterdeep and the North" is actually set in a pretty tiny font size — and Greenwood was told not to use "mouse type" in the future. The rest of the book is a more normative size. However, as Greenwood had predicted, there wasn't much room for "and the North". It gets a brief introduction on pages 3-10, but the rest of the book covers Waterdeep proper.
Some of the information on the North instead appears in "Welcome to Waterdeep" in Dragon #128 (December 1987), while the rest was given to Paul Jaquays for use in producing FR5: "The Savage Frontier" (1988).
About the Map. Greenwood's original map for Waterdeep was huge, sized so that a 76mm Airfix miniature of a person could fit into a building. Greenwood often laid out the map during games, using individual figures to represent groups such as the PCs and the City Watch.
In order to deliver the map to TSR, Greenwood photocopied it piece-by-piece at the public library where he worked. Jeff Grubb then had to piece it back together, taking up a large amount of space between the designers' and editors' cubicles while he did so … and also blocking access to the womens' washroom.
A History of City Books. "Waterdeep and the North" was TSR's second city book, following Lankhmar: City of Adventure (1985). Within the larger industry, TSR was trailing the pack. Judges Guild had started their business with maps and sourcebooks depicting the City-State of the Invincible Overlord (1976+), while Midkemia Press had founded their publishing house on city descriptions, beginning with the eponymous Cities (1979). Even Chaosium had gotten into the race with their famous Pavis (1983) and Big Rubble (1983) boxed supplements.
Expanding the Realms. The Sword Coast had gotten some brief mention already in "N5: Under Illefarn" (1987), which is set to the south in Dagger Falls. Meanwhile, Greenwood had idly mentioned Waterdeep as far back as Dragon #62 (June 1982). However, "Waterdeep and the North" was really the world's first look at the city of Waterdeep and some of its NPCs — including the crimelord Xanathar, who also appears on the cover and shows off Greenwood's love of beholders.
Future History. Waterdeep has been extensively detailed many times over the years. The City System (1988) box of maps was allegedly created because a TSR executive was impressed when he saw Grubb working on all those original maps, laid out on the floor. Later books about Waterdeep include Volo's Guide to Waterdeep (1993), City of Splendors (1994), City of Splendors: Waterdeep (2005), and the City of Splendors (2005) novel.
About the Creators. Ed Greenwood is, of course, the creator of the Realms. He'd already written CM8: "The Endless Stair" (1987) to learn how to produce a module for TSR, but "Waterdeep and the North" began his regular writing for the company. There would be a couple of supplements from him every year from now until the death of TSR in 1997.
Jeff Grubb, the person who worked with Greenwood to get Forgotten Realms over to TSR, is credited for "Project Coordination", as TSR didn't yet have positions for developers in charge of settings.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.