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I'm starting to get confused by the term "Zhent" as I read it in the Waterdeep: Dragon Heist adventure, and how it is used. Is it just a term for any member of the Zhentarim?

I attempted to look this up myself in the Forgotten Realms Style Guide that's part of the DMs Guild Creator Resources, and in the list of "Location Adjectives" on pages 17–18, and it lists these:

  • Zhentil Keep: Zhent (people), Zhentish (stuff)
  • Zentarim: Zhentarian (stuff), Zhentilar (people; soldiers)

Now I'm not sure how much to trust this, as I'm assuming "Zentarim" is a typo for "Zhentarim" (and I've seen plenty of other typos in the document), but I can't find any references to "Zhentarian" or "Zhentilar" anywhere (either in the adventure, or via those D&D Beyond searches which I believe search all officially published 5e material).

Here are some mentions of "Zhent" in Dragon Heist, with some significant spoilers:

Adventurers can't join Manshoon's cause, but they can join and receive aid from the Zhents who are opposed to him. (p. 17)

Each Zhent has a black tattoo of a winged snake on his neck or forearm. (p. 25)

Staget makes it clear that he won't send a force into the sewers in search of someone who might well be a Zhent or Xanathat Guild spy. (p. 27)

But are these just some specific members of the Zhentarim (like those from Zhentil Keep) that are called "Zhent", or is it a generic term for any member of the faction?

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Zhents are citizens/residents of Zhentil Keep (a city on the Moonsea). Zhentilar are members of the Zhentarim (the trade/criminal organisation).

The Zhentarim is named after the Keep, where it began and is headquartered. It’s also the effective government of the city.

Not all citizens of the city are members of the organisation (in fact, most aren’t). Soldiers of the city generally are, in that they work for the government.

Not all members of the organisation are from the city.

So you can have Zhents who are Zhentilar (members who are from the city), Zhents who are not Zhentilar (normal people from the city), and Zhentilar who are not Zhents (members who are from elsewhere than the city).

(Yes, anything without the H is just a typo.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So when Waterdeep: Dragon Heist has a character say that the Zhents did something, that's referring to a Zhentarim member who is from Zhentil Keep? \$\endgroup\$ – user37158 Sep 28 at 16:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ And while I have no reason to doubt you're right, could you cite some sources? I feel like I keep getting more books and yet there's always more stuff out there I don't seem to have yet. \$\endgroup\$ – user37158 Sep 28 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCooperJr.: You can have a look at the Forgotten Realms Style Guide, which confirms SevenSidedDie's answer. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Sep 28 at 19:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ZwiQ My confusion between what the Forgotten Realms Style Guide says and what Waterdeep: Dragon Heist says is what precipitated the question. I've updated the question with some specific examples. \$\endgroup\$ – user37158 Sep 28 at 21:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCooperJr. When interplanar travel loosens up, you can find a Zhent in Ghent booking a flight to visit Stoke-on-Trent ... \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 28 at 21:54

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