In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that the first RPG campaign I ran for my wife-to-be some 17 years ago was set in Waterdeep, and she played a member of the Watch. Nostalgia Alert!
*“We don’t have to put up with lip from stupid nobles! I punch the guy!”
“Well, that starts a bar brawl. The Watch is summoned.”
“The Watch? Those pansies.”
It’s a burden for a lot of DMs - players who care nothing for local law enforcement, knowing full well that such figures are likely plucked out of the back of some compendium of NPCs with only basic equipment and certainly no organization that could complicate even a mid-level PC’s life. Joseph Carricker’s “Watch of Waterdeep” not only gives you an organization that can help make PC’s behave like civilized beings, it provides the foundation for a campaign unlike anything you’d think of as traditional D&D.
The book opens with an exploration of basic Watch Operations: how they organize, both in terms of teams and geography; who’s in figurative and literal command; and the different ways that diverse classes could find themselves wearing the blue tabard. He covers the accouterments of the Watch - you may ask why you might want to know what the insignia of a Clerk looks like, but imagine your party finding such a tabard in an empty dungeon cell that belongs to the Xanatar. The implications are delicious (and will be pertinent below).
One of my favorite bits of the book is the use of the patrol horn. The break out of what the different horn calls mean can add one of those amazing little immersion details that can carry your game to the next level. I’d add a special call to summon the Grey Hands (the emergency response squad of Waterdeep), but the book covers the most common ones.
He finishes up with a couple of pre-built stat blocks for the different possible members of the Watch a party can encounter. All things that make a DM’s life a lot easier in the moment.
When I read this, I immediately thought of a “police procedural” campaign set in Waterdeep. Instead of ancient maps leading to moldering dungeons, clues and interviews lead an Investigative Watch Patrol to dens of thieves. You’d need to think a little bit about how to handle treasure, but the trade-off is broader use of social skills and roleplaying. Working your way through the ranks (and levels) until your party is uncovering noble corruption and maybe even clashing with the aforementioned Xanatar, who’s been torturing clerks for the secrets of the Watch and Castle Waterdeep!
All in all, this is an incredibly useful book, especially at the lovely price point. Anyone with a soft spot for the Realms will enjoy it, and I suspect a lot of us will start thinking about campaigns there.