I might be done with Evermeet and the tribulations of the elves of Leuthilspar, but that just means I can wander farther afield in TorilMUD. And what better place to start with that the city of Waterdeep.
As in the Forgotten Realms lore, in TorilMUD the city state of Waterdeep is at the center of things, socially and economically. I’ve written before about how commerce used to work in the city and have mentioned repeatedly how elves, stuck on Evermeet until level 20, so longed to get there. It has been the forming point for many an adventure, the resting place for many a corpse, and the idling location for many a hapless ranger.
The city itself is big enough that it is actually split up into two zones. Theoretically, the split is between the north and south parts of the city, but there are some oddities in that, with rooms in either end that seem to belong to the other.
The city is surrounded by a high wall which my ZMud client will often send me scurrying along when traveling across the city. As it turns out, the room count, and thus the distance traveled, can be shorter if you head up the nearest tower on the wall and run to a tower near your destination.
The wall has five gates. Four of the gates, the north, east, west, and south gates, which are closed and locked during the night. There are few moments of mild annoyance like arriving in the room before the north gate just as 8pm strikes and seeing it closed and locked before you.
You can always spot the new elf in town in these situations. They’ve come out of the elf gate from Evermeet, run across the Great Northern Road, all the way down Tern Road, and up to the doorstep of Waterdeep only to find the gate closed and locked. So they stand there saying the passwords they’ve learned on the island for such situations, only to find that the gate doesn’t work that way here.
When the north gate was closed, you were stuck. Stuck unless somebody inside will cast “summon” to bring you inside or a friendly druid opens a moonwell into the city, or if a high enough level rogue is on hand to pick the lock on the gate and open it for you. But for the last, be quick, because the guards will soon shut and lock the gate again. You can shout for help to get past the gate, since most people in the game who are standing around doing nothing are probably doing that nothing in north Waterdeep.
At the south gate, if you’ve traveled up from Baldur’s Gate through the troll hills and across the plains, only to find night has fallen and the gate is locked, then you might have to wait. There was often somebody at the south end of the city fighting mercenaries of stalking the cat burglars that hide on the roofs above the south end of the city, but those are low level options and the people involved are busy killing between spawns, so were unlikely to be able to help you and might not even notice that you needed help.
At the west gate… which I often forget is even there, since for ages it was a dead end… well, nobody came through the west gate most days as, by room count, it was closer to the north gate outside the city than going through the city, so you probably just went to the north gate.
And then there was the east gate. Outside of town, on the southern side of the road leading to the east gate, there was the druid’s guild and, nearby, a tree stump that concealed a tunnel that led under the walls of the city. You could move past the gate. It was, as usual, a bunch of rooms out of your way, but the travel time was minimal if you knew the way and had enough movement points.
Yeah, movement points.
The terrain of a MUD is made up of rooms which can range in size from tiny to immense. But traveling through a room just involved choosing one of the exits. Done quickly… and programs like ZMud would chain together the commands for exits many rooms deep which the game would buffer and send you through… you could travel what might pass for dozens of miles in a minute. Barriers removed, I could spam my way to Mithril Hall, well north Neverwinter, to Calimport, beyond the desert south of Baldur’s Gate, in a minute or two easily. If you have a copy of the Forgotten Realms Atlas handy, you can probably tell me how far that is… but I assure you it is a ways.
So there are barriers along the way. There are rivers where the only way to cross is to wait for a ferry that slowly moves from bank to bank. There are movement points, which your character gets, and which must be expended in order to move from room to room. Terrain, weather, and how encumbered you are dictates how many points are expended. A strong headwind can burn your movement points pretty quickly.
And then there are things like the gates in Waterdeep, which bring traffic to a standstill during the night… unless you can find some help or are on the east side of the city.
But what is important about Waterdeep is its central location. People congregate there because from Waterdeep the journey just about anywhere it possible. It isn’t so much getting in the gates that matters as getting out through the gates and off to where you want to go.
And, of course, locked gates worth in both directions.
If you’re headed out of the east gate, then the tunnel can get you past the wall if it is after hours.
Eastbound traffic is pretty heavy, for many things lie east of the city. The first stop is the Turning Point, marked with a sign and an announcement board. This was a common meeting place for groups back in the day, especially if there were outcasts or others who could not enter the city, or necromancers, whose undead minions attract unwanted attention from the city guards. Meeting at “TP” was as common as “3W” and “Fountain” for those in the city.
Back in the day eastward would take you to podville, Split Shield, the buffalo fields, the lava tubes, the southern shore of Lake Skeldrach (via which you could get to the north side of the city), and Bloodstone, before it was destroyed.
It is also the direction the game has grown the most over the years, which I guess makes sense if you’re starting from a city on the west coast. The Black Griffon Road, the Swift Steel Company headquarters, the Inner Sea and the Pirate Isles, Zhentil Keep, Cormanthor and Myth Drannor, all of these and more lay east of Waterdeep.
North of the city are some notable locations, though expeditions north tapered off over time. For that direction we used to meet at the crossroads, where Tern Road out of Waterdeep met the Great Northern Road.
Every elf from Evermeet knows The Great Northern Road, since the elf gate in Leuthilspar drops you at its east end.
There are some local attractions, such as the Tower of High Sorcery, which has been there for as long as I have been playing TorilMUD. The undead boatkeeper at the back door holds the skiff, the lightest boat in the game (at least back in the day), which was a handy thing to have if you needed to cross water.
Others are more recent, though recent is a relative term when referring to a game that is past the 25 year mark. I think of Dragonfall Forest and the Swamps of Melich as new, but I was hunting gators in the later (at one point they were dropping platinum coins, and hides for which a nearby NPC would pay a few more platinum coins) in 2003 or so.
Heading further north brings you to the barbarian home town at Griffon’s Nest and the dwarven home town at Mithril Hall. There is also Ice Crag Castle, which I also think of as “new” because I remember when it was added to the game. But it was added at least 20 years ago, which shows how our brain distorts time. But Ice Crag Castle is a place I want to revisit in another post.
For ages the road north was somewhat limited. You passed through places marked as Neverwinter or Luskan, but there wasn’t anything really there. Luskan was a stopping point only because there was a ferry there you had to wait for on the run to and from Waterdeep. Those points have been fleshed out over the years though, so it might be worth my exploring the road north again at some point.
Out of the west gate of Waterdeep there isn’t much to speak of. For years it was a dead end, a single room outside of the gate, and it could be embarrassing if you stepped out just as the gates got locked and were stuck there over night. (From 9pm to 6am, or nine minutes real time.)
Eventually a road was connected there.
As you can see, it loops back so you can get to the north gate. It also gets you to the dock where the pirate ship, a floating exp zone that we used to sail on for hours trying to level up, puts ashore. But the north gate is nominally closer. North of the pirate ship you end up in Menden on Deep, the Dragonfall Forest, and then the Great Northern Road yet again. For a “great” road it doesn’t run very far.
Also on the west side of Waterdeep was the harbor. It tended to be an easy place for small exp groups to go. Farming the dockmasters was some good late 20s to mid 30s experience. But it was also a place to catch a ship. Tickets could be purchased to take you to the Moonshae Islands or down the coast to Baldur’s Gate and Calimport.
And with the mention of those two cities, the south gate must be mentioned.
The road south used to be a bit of a disappointment to me. The town crier in Waterdeep shouts out every so often that Lord Perignon wants adventurers to form up and head south to fight the trolls.
And there are indeed trolls south of Waterdeep in the troll hills. Also two no exit tar pits and a giant skeleton with flaming eyes that would shadow step to you if you aggro’d him and harry you until you left the zone or died. But there wasn’t a lot else. There were the home towns for the trolls and the ogres, a few small zones, Jenna’s cottage, and placeholder locations for Baldur’s Gate and Calimport.
But over the years new zones began to appear to the south. Calimport and Baldur’s gate were built out and are now sizable interesting towns on their own. Havenport showed up near Jenna’s, and Viper’s Tongue Outpost was raised as a home for outcasts. I used to live there.
And, finally, below Waterdeep is Undermountain, which I am embarrassed to say I have spent very little time exploring.
All of which has given me a long list of places I ought to write about when it comes to TorilMUD. There are zones with history, regions to navigate, and whole towns to revisit. So, as I said at the top, I am not done with writing about the place yet.