Dungeons & Dragons
On the Coast Way, forty miles upstream along the River Chionthar from the Sword Coast, lies the bustling city of Baidur’s Gate. Home to tens of thousands, the harbor city has poor soil, but its sheltered bay, well away from the tides that batter the coast, make it an ideal location for trading goods from locations to the west in the Sea of Swords, inland along the river, and up and down the coast. Baldur’s Gate is a place of commerce, a city which enjoys great success handling the coins of other powers and making them its own. Sadly, Baldur’s Gate has a storied connection with the dark god, Bhaal. Just a few years ago, the city saw the terrifying return of the Lord of Murder. Following a number of deaths, one of the city’s dukes, Torlin Silvershield, was revealed as the Chosen of Bhaal, and underwent a monstrous transformation, turning many citizens into bloodthirsty killers and inspiring a riot and much death before finally being put down by brave adventurers. Even now, murderous echoes ripple through the city and beyond. Reports of inexplicable gruesome killings flow out of Baldur’s Gate.
Baldur’s Gate is ruled by the Council of Four, dukes who vote among themselves on matters of law and policy for the city. A single grand duke is chosen from among the four, and is empowered to break ties when the council is deadlocked. The current Grand Duke is Ulder Ravengard, who is joined by Dukes Thalamra Vanthampur, Belynne Stelmane, and Dillard Portyr, the former grand duke, who ceded the post to Ravengard after the city’s recent troubles. Below the council sits the Parliament of Peers, a group of about fifty Baldurians who meet daily (though almost never in full number) to discuss the future of the city and recommend actions for the dukes to take on all matters, great and small. At any given time, roughly one-quarter of the peers are powerful members of Lower City society, with the rest drawn from the Upper City‘s noble families, called patriars. Defense of the Upper City is handled by the Watch, the official constabulary of the city’s elite. Their duty is to defend the patriars and enforce their laws, and little else. For the rest of Baldur’s Gate, security is enforced and order maintained by the Flaming Fist mercenary company, a supposedly neutral force which is free to fight in external conflicts, so long as it doesn’t side against Baldur’s Gate. By tradition, the highest officer of the Flaming Fist is one of the city’s dukes, and Grand Duke Ulder Ravengard fulfills that tradition proudly. Membership in the Flaming Fist is fairly easy to achieve, and adventurers with much experience swiftly advance in rank (and, consequently, political influence) once they become permanent members. Many ranking officers are former adventurers who have “retired” to military life. In both the Upper and Lower Cities, the underworld is controlled by a shadowy group known merely as the Guild. The dukes don’t acknowledge the power of this group in any meaningful way—at least not publicly—but try (at least nominally) to curb its influence where and how they can. I lost count of how many gangs claim territory in the Lower and Outer City, and all of them seem to owe allegiance to the Guild. Efforts to destroy the Guild have thus far failed, due in part to the inability of outsiders to identify a clear leader of the group, but in no small measure to the shameful lack of effort on the part of the rulers of the city to protect its people.