Remembering Waterdeep, the Most Famous City of the Realms: Forgotten Realms City System by Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb

Remembering Waterdeep, the Most Famous City of the Realms: Forgotten Realms City System by Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb

Forgotten Realms City System
(TSR, July 1988). Cover by Larry Elmore

City System is an interesting Forgotten Realms boxed set that was released in 1988 by TSR, written by Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb, and with cover art by Larry Elmore. Except for one very slim booklet, this essentially is a box full of maps (by Dennis Kauth), detailing the most famous city of the Realms, Waterdeep.

Now, I must admit, I have always favored Greyhawk over FR, because it’s what I cut my teeth on, but this set is pretty nice for the development of an enormous city in any campaign. Poster maps include the typical grid of the city, a beautiful, three-dimensional artistic rendition of the city, and then 10(!) poster maps that zoom in on different wards.

[Click the images so they won’t be Forgotten.]

The ten interlocking Waterdeep Ward maps in the Forgotten Realms City System

Waterdeep Ward Map 10

For it to be practical (the 10-map display), you’d have to have a dedicated game room with the posters mounted on a wall. Otherwise, the single map is the way to go. Oh, and the pick pocket table was a definite highlight of this product. I think it is great for helping to get your players into some interesting escapades

There’s also an isometric poster map of Castle Waterdeep, which I really like.

Isometric poster map of Castle Waterdeep (from Forgotten Realms City System)

City System isn’t “lore heavy” by any stretch. It’s basically a pile of maps and a little booklet that lists shops, services, street scenes, and recurrent situations (these basically function as city adventure hooks).

This is exactly what I try to do with the Hyperborea setting. I leave a lot of it open to individual referee development, including unnamed towns, islands, rivers, etc.

The 32-page booklet in the Forgotten Realms City System

You don’t need a Ph.D. in Forgotten Realms to utilize this wonderful resource. I recommend it!

Below are the big maps of the city of Waterdeep.

Poster map of Waterdeep (from Forgotten Realms City System)

Street map of Waterdeep (from Forgotten Realms City System)

Jeffrey P. Talanian’s last article for Black Gate was a review of the TSR splatbook Charlemagne’s Paladins. He is the creator and publisher of the Hyperborea sword-and-sorcery and weird science-fantasy RPG from North Wind Adventures. He was the co-author, with E. Gary Gygax, of the Castle Zagyg releases, including several Yggsburgh city supplements, Castle Zagyg: The East Mark Gazetteer, and Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works. Read Gabe Gybing’s interview with Jeffrey here, and follow his latest projects on Facebook and at

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Joe H.

Another one of my prized possessions, wholly impractical though it is. I’ve always been a sucker for a good city map, and it doesn’t get much better than this.


Who doesn’t love a good fantasy city RPG setting, that’s what I’d like to know.

Bill Urban

Quite enjoying these 2nd edition remembrances, keep them coming, please.

I did not own the FR City Systems package, but did buy the boxed set. Still have it, journeying back down memory lane after reading the above…

Tony Den

Never played there, used to read the odd Waterdeep article in Dragon. I too love a detailed city setting. Think City of Thieves (Blacksand Fighting Fantasy) set me off when I was young. The Flying Buffalo City books, Legentia and Grimtooths Traps are my go tos for random bits, but also Carse and Tulan of the Isles (Midkemia / Chaosium) are good. Alas I have never laid hands on Sanctuary / Thieves World set or the City State (Judges Guild) setting. There are tons of others, but yeah always fund to do your own.

Wayne Ligon

Ugh. One of the worst products they ever made before the circling-the-drain era of the late 90’s. The crown jewel of the Realms, rendered as a mostly cookie-cutter Campaign Cartographer-like done-on-the-cheap job, slopped with dark random color to make the thing almost unreadable. Typical TSR interiors of the time: square room, rectangular room, straight line this, straight line that, etc. Compare those to the wonderful interior and exterior maps from the UK module series.

Even the review by a TSR employee in The Dragon damns it with faint praise.

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