Forgotten Realms: Splendors & Shadow
Waterdeep’s laws are necessarily extensive, covering a wide range of possible crimes and situations, as tends to be the case in a place where so many have lived and traded for so long. Different aspects of the law are overseen by different houses of the City Council – common and criminal law are the province of the Council of Lords, trade and labor law are overseen by the Council of Urbans, and religious law is decided by the Ecumenical Council. All laws are then interpreted and enforced by the Council of Judges and their black-robed Magistrates.
Weapons and armor are legal, as is their use in self-defense; even dueling is permitted, if performed under observation by a magistrate. The law can be a little tricky in matters of self-defense, however — a fight involving a nobleman or wealthy local merchant is likely to come down in his favor if it makes it to the Lords’ Court, no matter who the aggressor was. Foreigners and commoners are best served by avoiding confrontations in the city whenever possible.
Magic is also legal, although selling magical services within the city (or tossing spells around in the streets) without first contacting the Arcanists’ Guild for the proper permits (50 silver to register as a practicing mage, or 100 silver to sell magical goods or services) will bring unwanted attention, fines, and if flagrant or persistent enough, entanglement with Watch wizards (or worse, the ire of Blackstaff Tower).
Religion: Waterdeep has no state religion (although the Church of the Holy Triad is the most powerful, largely by virtue of its voting bloc in the Ecumenical Council, and its influence over the Lords’ Court), but faiths that aren’t members of the Ecumenical Council may not build temples or hold public services within the city. Those unwelcome cults and churches are forced to meet in secret – many in Undermountain. While those displaying livery or icons of such religions may not be denied entrance (the Watch are likely to give them a lot of scrutiny, though), they won’t be welcomed with open arms – indeed, many businesses and individuals will refuse to deal or associate with them.
Race: Only those of overtly exotic races (unknown, monstrous, or known to be hostile to humanity) will meet any kind of resistance. Of these, those who present themselves civilly and amiably are most likely to be taken before the Duty Officer and/or the Arcanists’ Guild to be questioned as to their business. Unless determined to be overtly dangerous, they’ll be allowed in, if carefully watched. (Of course, the most powerful and dangerous beings and individuals are likely to enter the city by other means, and/or be able to cloak themselves from the prying eyes of the Watch, and thus avoid such entanglements altogether.)
Allegiance: While an individual usually won’t be denied entrance due to personal beliefs or allegiances, certain groups are forbidden to operate (openly, anyway) within the city, based on their past activities. Groups that have shown themselves to be violent, corruptive, or otherwise troublesome, such as the Arcane Brotherhood, the Zhentarim, and the Harpers, may not operate within the city, and members will be arrested or expelled if caught pursuing their group’s agenda (although the latter are generally tolerated, provided they limit their activities to thwarting the other groups, and don’t meddle in the city’s governance). Known membership in such a group (or a dark cult, etc) will likely play against a person should any legal troubles arise. More insidious groups, such as the Twisted Rune or the Cult of the Dragon, are entirely forbidden; suspected members will be arrested and tried as conspirators.
Noblesse Oblige is the private law of the upper class – a code of law that applies only to the city’s recognized nobility. While many in the middle class complain that Noblesse Oblige is simply a way to unjustly excuse nobles of their crimes, the gentry counters that it places greater expectations on nobles than on common citizens. (See Status and Legal Immunity: Noblesse Oblige.)