In Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, both magistrates and magisters are mentioned throughout. The lore chapter, ch. 9, "Volo's Waterdeep Enchiridion," discusses the role of magister in depth, but does not mention magistrates.

Here are some examples. I cannot cite page numbers, as I am using D&D Beyond.

  • Introduction: "Those charged with committing a crime are brought before a magister to be judged."

  • Introduction: "...for example, a successful Charisma (Persuasion) check might enable a character to bribe an official or sow enough doubt in the mind of a magistrate to have the case thrown out."

  • Ch. 1: "Magistrate Silmerhelve witnesses the transfer of the deed, rendering the new ownership official..."

  • Ch. 2: "...an evil adventurer who was exiled three years ago for attempting to bribe a city magistrate, has returned to Waterdeep illegally."

  • Ch. 3: "A magistrate provides the City Watch with a warrant..."

  • Ch. 4: "They are arrested for one or more crimes and taken to a courthouse in the Dock Ward to face sentencing by a magister."

And so forth.

Is magistrate another word for magister, or is it a separate office? Although my question stems from the 5e adventure Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, sources from any edition are acceptable.

Note: I know that the term "Magister" has another meaning in the Forgotten Realms. I am not looking for information about this type of Magister.


1 Answer 1


They are the same thing

Magister is mentioned in the text repeatedly, and consistently as judges who can meet out summary sentences against those who have broken Waterdeep's laws.

Magistrates, on the other hand, are mentioned in the same context with a much lower frequency.

First I'll quote some passages that detail what a magister does.

Welcome to Waterdeep

Magisters can easily be recognized by the black robes they wear (and, in fact, are commonly called “black robes” as a result) and the City Guard force that always accompanies them. Be aware that magisters can pass a sentence without a trial. It behooves you to treat them with proper respect.

Life in Waterdeep

Those charged with committing a crime are brought before a magister to be judged. Advocates might intercede on behalf of the characters if they have allied themselves with influential NPCs and factions. 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. Given how strictly laws are enforced in Waterdeep, it’s possible that the adventure could end with one or more of the characters being exiled, sentenced to several years of hard labor, imprisoned, or put to death. If that’s how their adventure ends, so be it. Hopefully, your next group will fare better.

Surviving Waterdeep

Waterdeep has a complex library of law and custom set by precedent, the main body of which can be read in the Code Legal. This document is available in multiple languages at the Palace of Waterdeep, and (in the Common tongue) provided on request by the magisters at the gates and in the harbor. Be aware that the Code Legal provides only an outline of typical sentences for various offenses, and magisters have broad discretion when meting out justice as they see fit. Any Masked Lord can overturn a magister’s ruling, but there’s rarely a Masked Lord around when you need one.

Next, there is one passage (of 6 in the book which mention the word Magistrate) which shows absolutely that they are one and the same. If you are a player, do not read this:

The only condition under which Magister Barch will consider [spoiler]. [...]Given that the [spoiler], Magistrate Barch learns [spoiler]

This section is titled


Given that the same person is referred to by both titles we know that they are one and the same.


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