The requisite to join the Lords' Alliance faction in Waterdeep is to be a local resident (p. 16 of the Waterdeep: Dragon Heist adventure):

To become a member of the Lords' Alliance faction in Waterdeep, a character must be a Waterdavian citizen. Those with criminal records can also join, provided they demonstrate their allegiance to the city.

After Dragon Heist's 2nd chapter,

players receive the deed for Trollskull Manor.

Do they now all qualify to join? Or is the intention here that players had to be prior residents, based on the background?


4 Answers 4


If they weren't already citizens, owning property in Waterdeep certainly qualifies them as citizens, and thus qualifies them for membership in the Lords' Alliance.

D&D 5e related rules

How one becomes a citizen of Waterdeep is not defined in the game, and in particular it is not defined in these books:

  • Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide
  • Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
  • Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage

Given that citizen isn't a game defined term, we need to rely on the English meaning of the word.

What does citizen mean?

Merriam-Webster defines it as:

1: an inhabitant of a city or town
especially : one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman


Collins Dictionary defines it as:


2. countable noun
The citizens of a town or city are the people who live there.


The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:



1.1 An inhabitant of a particular town or city.

All three of these dictionaries have citizen defined as someone who is an inhabitant of a particular town or city.

So for someone to be a citizen of Waterdeep, they just have to live there. If they didn't qualify before as residents of the city, once they own property and live in it they certainly qualify as residents of the city.

What about earlier editions?

Let's say we find this unsatisfying, and wish to look to see if earlier editions could shed some light on this.

The 3.5e accessory book, City of Splendors: Waterdeep has the following relevant information about Waterdeep citizenry:

The City of Splendors is home to over one hundred thousand citizens, growing to five times that number in the summer months. Among the city’s vast numbers, a handful of individuals have achieved particular prominence.

(Pg 13, Who's Who in Watedeep)

This passage in particular lends significant support to our "plain English" argument of inhabitance based citizenship as opposed to something more formal.

Further support is given with this passage:

[...] Waterdeep’s last line of defense is the most important—its ever-resilient citizenry. On more than one occasion, the inhabitants of Waterdeep have rallied to defend their city, reinforcing the City Guard and City Watch. [...]

(Pg 19/20, City Defenses)

The second sentence of this excerpt explicitly links inhabiting the city with citizens of the city, not making a distinction between them.

In addition to this, we can use the 2e sourcebook Volo's Guide to Waterdeep for some more evidence:

As has been said before, the people of Waterdeep are Waterdeep. No guide to the city is complete without a mention of the more colorful and influential folk who live there and shape Waterdeep into what the city is.

With Elminsters help, weve included a best guesses list here of the probable classes, levels, and alignments of some of the Waterdhavians Volo mentions. Adventurers be warned: Much of what is said here may be wrong!

This list is alphabetical by first name (or only known alias) because so many citizens of Waterdeep lack surnames. Only ability scores of 16 or greater are listed, and the standard Realms character statistic abbreviations are used.

(Volo's Guide to Waterdeep > Appendix 1: Folk of Waterdeep > Pg 214)

The fact that many citizens only have an alias or first name, supports our interpretation above, as registered citizenship in a city the size of Waterdeep would require something akin to a last name (or a place identifier)

The edition neutral sourcebook Ed Greenwood Presents - Elminster's Forgotten Realms, has only one mention of what constitutes a citizen, and that reference is for the town of Secomber (which is notably not Waterdeep):

A citizen is one who owns land, pays rent, or has resided in Secomber or within view of its walls for at least a season.

(Ed Greenwood Presents - Elminster's Forgotten Realms > 2. Laws and Orders> Justice > Secomber's Code of Justice > Pg 55)

It might be reasonable to apply this standard to Waterdeep, in which case, jointly owning Trollskull Alley qualifies the party as citizens all.

But in other real-world city state societies you had to be born in the city to be a citizen...

We can disprove that being born in the city is a requirement for citizenship this pretty easily with the following passage from Volo's Guide to Waterdeep:

VOLOTHAMP GEDDARM (CG hm W5; INT 18, CON 17). Volothamp, or Volo, as he is more commonly called, is the author of this guide and of Volo's Guide to All Things Magical, a suppressed work. He was born in a bog somewhere in Faerun. [...]

(Volo's Guide to Waterdeep > Appendix 1: Folk of Waterdeep > Pg 232)

Here Volo is listed as being a citizen of Waterdeep, but was not born in Waterdeep. Thus citizenship must not be reliant on being born in the city.

Waterdeep: Dragon Heist has some additional circumstantial evidence:

[...] The colors of the Dock Ward are burgundy and orange, and its mascot is a swordfish that has always been depicted as green for reasons lost to time. The folk of the Dock Ward take competition seriously, and they frequently draft their champions from the rough-and-tumble sailors who come to the city. (Some say they draft pirates, but that is pure slander.) Frequent complaints arise that these women and men are more citizens of the sea than of the Dock Ward itself. But if they register with a magister and pay taxes, they are as welcome to compete as any long-term resident of Waterdeep.

(Waterdeep: Dragon Heist > Volo’s Waterdeep Enchiridion > Dock Ward)

The fact that there are questions on whether or not someone's citizenship would be dependent on where they spend the majority of the time (sailors and the sea) supports our original interpretation of the much looser definition of citizen ship based on residency.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Residence can be a requirement for citizenship, but it's definitely not a guarantee. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jun 1, 2019 at 12:57
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I've focused the dictionary quotes to point out the definitions this answer relies on. But assuming Waterdeep, the city, has a citizenship process akin to how our countries manage citizenship in the modern day is stretching a bit. \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    Jun 1, 2019 at 14:50
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ @illustro Perhaps worth noting that Waterdeep is not an individual city that is part of a larger nation. It self-governs, answering to no one, ruling over surrounding towns. To that end, Waterdeep is more like a City-State than what we'd, in modern day, consider a city. While this is not likely how WD handles it, if you look at historical City-States....you only got to be a Citizen of Athens if you were born there--they didn't have a Naturalization process. You were a natural born Citizen, or you were not a Citizen. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2019 at 15:18
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @illustro any assumptions are stretching if we can't actually support them. And even cities generally have time requirements for residency to grant citizenship. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jun 1, 2019 at 15:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @guildsbounty added some detail specifically addressing the lack of a "born in the city" requirement for citizenship in Waterdeep \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    May 12, 2022 at 17:27

I'm going to post a contrary position here. I'm going through this right now with my table, and what hasn't been mentioned here is this bit (emphasis mine):

Characters who place the security of the city and the realm ahead of their own interests are invited to join this faction. Potential recruits must be residents of Waterdeep.

The second sentence has been addressed well here, but I think not the first. This wording strongly implies to me that only lawful-oriented characters will get invites, as that's essentially a paraphrasing of the definition of lawful alignment.

This is further backed up by the fact that this is the only faction that explicitly requires accepting and completing its missions to remain in good standing. You gotta follow orders, or you're out.

Now, that's just to get invited. There are actually two described ways to join factions according to this module: to get invited after Chapter 2 begins (which is what this question is about), or to take the faction agent background at character creation, and pick that faction (as per the Factions in Waterdeep section of the Introduction).

I could see someone chaotic (or non-resident) picking that faction at character creation, with some interesting backstory as to how they ended up there. On the outside, I could see a (law/chaos) Neutral character who RPs closer to the lawful side getting an invite in Chapter 2 as well. However, it doesn't seem like a Chaotic-aligned character could reasonably get an invite for this faction, as they don't in fact place the security of The System ahead of their other interests.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ they just need to think that's true. If you are a chaotic character that's done a lot of things to help waterdeep, they might assume you're more lawful than you are. Truth is your interests just aligned, but practically that doesn't matter. Being lawful is not a prerequisite for being a lord of waterdeep even (in fact there are published chaotic lords), so it shouldn't be a requirement to join their alliance \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2022 at 19:45
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @AndrewADeMarco - I can see that. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    May 13, 2022 at 4:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wanted to undo your downvote by my vote got locked in \$\endgroup\$ May 13, 2022 at 19:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AndrewADeMarco - Well, I've fixed a minor grammar error, perhaps that will help. If not, eh no biggie. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    May 13, 2022 at 20:27

I have read but not run this adventure yet. To keep it simple, I'd point you to two areas to cross-check:

  1. The part you've quoted from the adventure suggests that the manor isn't the most important thing. The PC(s) need to be citizens (check out the bit about applying and paying taxes, etc.) and be in good standing with (or "proven their allegiance to") the city. Owning real estate could be an essential foothold but, based on their actions, have they made the right impression(s) on the right members/NPCs?
  2. As always, it is at the DM's discretion. If your players are trying but fumbling the plot hooks you've laid out, it could be the smoothest transition to have them meet some important NPCs.

Residency and maybe paying taxes should be sufficient

Joining Factions

The characters do not need to be from Waterdeep, see p. 12:

If any of the characters are new to the city, they can be drawn to the Yawning Portal by its reputation (...)

The adventure says on page 14 about factions:

(...) Characters (...) can join factions once they reach the end of chapter 1 of this adventure. (...) Any such character must meet a faction's prerequisites to be eligible to join it,

These are explained on page 16 and 38:


To become a member of the Lords' Alliance faction in Waterdeep, a character must be a Waterdavian citizen. Those with criminal records can also join, provided they demonstrate their allegiance to the city.

Characters who place the security of the city and the realm ahead of their own interests are invited to join this faction. Potential recruits must be residents of Waterdeep.

Do you need to be both a citizen and a resident? Or do both terms just refer to "someone who lives in Waterdeep"?


Waterdeep is pretty strict when it comes to the law, with a full Code Legal of laws that are taken seriously. An excerpt version of this is even printed on p. 222, but it does not define how to become a citizen, nor does any other text in the book. So the DM will need to decide what it means to be a citizen.

There are a lot more people in Waterdeep than there are buildings. Some of them even lack a fixed abode of living. So property can not be a general requirement for citizenship.

The Adventure says on p. 169:

Taxes and Fees. (...) Waterdeep collects a monthly tax from all who live within its official wards. The tax is 1 shard per person above the age of ten years, and is collected door-to-door by patrols of the City Guard on the last day of each month.

While in the real world paying taxes does not equate citizenship, for a medieval fantasy world, living in the city and paying its taxes seem to be a reasonable baseline for being eligible to count as a citizen, even if you don't own property. At least it means they have stuck around long enough to not just be short term visitors.

How hard should it be?

The bar should not be too high, as the adventure wants them to establish roots this way. Is says the following on page 10,

City-based adventures can be challenging to run. especially if your player characters are inclined to wander. Keeping the characters in Waterdeep, where the action is, requires that they feel at home (...) encourage them to establish roots in Waterdeep. The adventure further invests the characters by awarding them property in the city and giving them opportunities to join local factions and guilds.

The intent here is to help the players feel connected to the city by becoming part of these organizations and developing relationships, to make city adventuring fun. So if you can choose that residency and maybe paying tax counts as sufficient for citizenship, you should do so.

More important is likely if they have shown to be protectors of the city. If they have done the right things to appear so, they may even be actively recruited.

Don't be too up-tight about the requirements

It is in the interest of the Lord's Alliance to gain strong supporters, and they even ignore a criminal history for those that demonstrate "their allegiance to the city".

In our game, one of us became a member of the the Lord's Alliance, and one of Force Grey. After we had settled the treasure hunt to the benefit of the city, the powers that be (Blackstaff, Open Lord) with a wink told us that as long as we support the city and do what needs be done, the rules might not be interpreted that strictly for us. Dragon Heist suggests this on page 10

For example, characters who become agents of the Lords' Alliance are more likely to be excused for crimes if Laeral Silverhand, the Open Lord of Waterdeep, has cause to let them off the hook.

We already were higher level, and hence more powerful and useful as pawns to the city's big shots. It may not be very lawful that the rules don't fully apply to those in power, but that is how it works in Waterdeep. (And, some might cynically think, in the world at large).

The Dragon Heist book says on page 7:

RUNNING THE ADVENTURE To run this adventure, you need the D&D fifth edition core rulebooks: Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual. The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide is helpful, but not necessary.

So arguments about what works must rely on just the text of the core rules and the module itself, they should not require useing other texts.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Made some copy edits, but wasnt sure what this sentence from the first section should say: "So for arguments what works must rely on just the core rules and the module itself." \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2022 at 15:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you. I reworded slightly - what I mean is that other sources are purely optional, and if you want to argue what is needed, you should do so without relying on them. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2022 at 15:30

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