Heroes of the New Day
Skullport is many things to many people, and few of them “good” (by any normal sense of the word). A city of thieves that is literally underground, it’s hard to find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. The only known outside entrances are in dangerous shoals a mile or so to the south of Waterdeep. Internal entrances may lead through tunnels to basements in Waterdeep, or to certain parts of Undermountain, or even (it is rumored) straight to the Underdark.
Population-wise, it’s hard to say what the demographics are. Certainly plenty of surface races, but also Drow, Duergar, Illithids, an occasional Beholder, Gnolls, Orcs, Goblins, and even a few dragons polymorphed as other creatures. Locals are usually identifiable by their dress: well-oiled heavy cowls, large-brimmed hats, and hooded cloaks to keep off the relatively constant water drips from stalagtites. Visitors never think of practical things like that.
It is said that “13 Skulls watch over Skullport, and 13 tortures are visited on any soul that crosses them.” In general the “Skulls” are a metaphor for the rulers of the city. Much like the Lords of Waterdeep above, their true identities are not all known… though they make less effort to hide behind pomp and circumstance, instead just killing the wrong people who find out their names. It is also rumored that some of these Skulls are, in fact, skulls: demiliches of great power who have settled here to let their criminal empires bring them wealth.
The only law of Skullport is this: do not cause problems you cannot solve quickly. In practice, this translates into a general ban on open combat, a forbiddance on summoning greater powers into the city, and a gentleman’s agreement not to let bodies pile up in well-traveled areas.
It seems odd that Waterdeep, a huge city with its own army and naval force, would allow Skullport to exist. However, Skullport provides an interesting service… a place to stick the bad folks. There is no prison in Waterdeep… but there is an understanding that if you are “banished” on the books, off the books you’ll just be sold to a slaver in Skullport. This tends to keep a lot of would-be criminals in-line in the City of Splendors. It is said that the Lords of Waterdeep and the 13 Skulls have some sort of agreement, though none outside of those two groups know the details. Some say the Lords allow the Skulls to exist, some say it’s the other way around. There is no doubt that the secrecy around both groups’ identities has to do with avoidance of assassins from the other group.
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