The Baldur's Gate described in Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus has a "well earned reputation as a den of vipers (p.10)":

Today, its foggy streets run red with the blood of unfortunates who fall prey to evil opportunists, many of whom count themselves as nobles, traders, pirates, and assassins. An army of mercenary soldiers called the Flaming Fist keeps order in the city, and these soldiers answer to Grand Duke Ulder Ravengard. The members of the Flaming Fist don't care about justice; they crave power and coin, nothing else. (p.10)

As the adventure begins, the situation is especially dire:

Without Ulder Ravengard to stay their hand, Flaming Fist captains are brutally exercising their autonomy under the veneer of maintaining order. They've closed the outer gates to keep Baldur's Gate safe from the refugee "threat," effectively trapping Baldurians behind their own walls. With the Flaming Fist distracted by the refugee crisis, city folk are being hunted and murdered in the streets by cultists of the Dead Three- the evil gods Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul. Without the Flaming Fist to curtail them, these cultists have grown bold and now move freely within the city, their activities financed and supported in secret by Duke Thalamra Vanthampur. (p.11)

However, when I looked at wikia article (admittedly an unofficial source), it describes Baldur's Gate in a much more positive light:

It is a crowded city of commerce and opportunity, perhaps the most prosperous and influential merchant city on the western coast of Faerûn.

The strong peace-keeping force known as the Watch, along with the presence of the powerful Flaming Fists mercenary company, kept the city generally peaceful and safe.

Is the wikia article simply wrong? If not, how can these two views of the city be reconciled?


Historically, no - but things change over time

The Forgotten Realms Wikia draws on sources across the history of Dungeons & Dragons publications, and the history of the Forgotten Realms itself is long and complicated. Even if you only consider the "current" periods in which different editions mostly set their material, 1e FR material starts at roughly 1357 DR and 5e's material starts at 1489 DR - a span of more than 130 years.

Importantly, the 1e/2e/3e material mostly covers the two-decade period spanning 1357 DR to 1376 DR, and then 4e jumps about a hundred years ahead to 1479 DR, so there's a solid hundred-year gap between the 1-3e era and the 4e/5e era - and there is vastly more Forgotten Realms material published and set in the 1e to 3e era (orders of magnitude, even), so descriptions from those sources tend to dominate the common understanding of the Realms and most of the description on the FR wikia.

Some places in the Realms changed quite significantly over the 3e/4e transition, not only due to the magical upheaval which always accompanies any major edition change in FR, but simply due to the passage of time. Humans are the dominant race on Faerun, and a hundred years is a handful of human generations - more than long enough to see dramatic changes in the culture and governance of human nations and cities.

Baldur's Gate in 4e/5e

The D&D Encounters module, Murder in Baldur's Gate, is set in 1482 DR, and it describes a Baldur's Gate which has grown dramatically over the last hundred years. At the outset of this module, the Upper and Lower cities are still generally well within the grasp of law and order, as they are patrolled by the Watch and the Flaming Fist, respectively - though it is noted that justice is often executed summarily, and the established noble patriar class enjoys significant rights over common citizens.

However, a sprawling slum known as the "Outer City", comparable in area to the city proper, has sprung up outside the city walls, as the city's population and industry simply kept growing and required more space than was available within the walls (see this question). Though the government of Baldur's Gate taxes the commerce that goes on there as best it can, it is not willing to fund any actual policing of the Outer City. Thus, the slum is a lawless and chaotic place, full of danger and frequently even open violence, which any visitor to Baldur's Gate (travelling by land, at least) must navigate in order to enter the city proper. Not only that, but:

The events that transpire in that adventure involve powerful figures in the city being manipulated by the resurrected god of murder, Bhaal, who is selecting an individual to become his Chosen champion; he drives two of the Dukes on the Council of Four, alongside a local crime lord, to ever greater acts of violence, until finally one of them becomes his chosen and must be slain by the heroes. More than a couple of mass slaughters may take place during the adventure. (Canonically, Duke Torlin Silvershield became the Chosen of Bhaal before being put down.)

Roughly ten years later, at the time of Descent into Avernus, the leader of the Flaming Fist has just vanished, casting the mercenary company into some disarray - and it is dealing with a refugee crisis, with the majority of its available Forces tasked to guarding the city walls and gates to prevent the residents of the outer city slums and the refugee influx from entering the city. This has afforded nefarious elements the opportunity to start acting more openly within the city, especially noting that:

Duke Thalamra Vanthampur, one of the current ruling Council of Four, is a devotee of the archdevil Zariel, and has been secretly funding and encouraging the chaos and anarchy within the city in order to destabilise the Flaming Fist - part of a long term plan to take over the city as Archduke and prepare it to descend into Avernus, like its neighbour Elturel.

It should probably be understood that the excessive violence within the Lower City is a very recent development in the context of the adventure, since normally it would be well-patrolled by the Flaming Fist mercenaries; it is only their distraction and disorganisation which permits the situation as described. The outer slums, however, have long been a dangerous place.


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