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City System (1e)

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It is called the City of Splendors: Waterdeep, most populous of the cities of North. It is a city of wealth, adventure, and danger. More men have died in its taprooms and bars than in all the sieges of Dragonspear Castle. Success and death lurk in its shadowed entranceways and dimly -lit streets. Come explore the greatest city of the Realms in this incredible product dealing with urban fantasy adventures. Waterdeep is detailed in no less than 10 expanded maps, embellished with typical building interiors suitable for use in any campaign setting.

In addition to all these maps, a 32-page City System booklet provides encounters and street scenes, special features and details of Waterdeep, and methods for creating types of buildings in moments and filling the pockets of those unfortunate enough to get in a player character's way. Designed for use with Waterdeep, these features are suitable for use anywhere in the Forgotten Realms!

Product History

City System (1988), by Jeff Grubb with Ed Greenwood, is a boxed supplement for the Forgotten Realms. It was published in July 1988

About the Title. Though this supplement claims to be a city "system", "adaptable for any city in the Realms, or in any other fantasy setting", that's very much a misnomer. City System is very much a Waterdeep supplement for the Realms, with a minimum of information that could be used in any setting. Ironically FR8: "Cities of Mystery" (1989), which was more strongly branded as a Realms supplement, would be more of a city system than this one.

Origins (I): Huge Maps. When Ed Greenwood turned over the Forgotten Realms to TSR, he included a photocopy of his map of the Realms as twenty-four 8.5"x11" papers. He also supplied a map of Waterdeep that was even bigger! This was the inspiration for City System, whose main feature is ten poster maps that fit together to form a 67"x108" map of the city.

Origins (II): Return to Waterdeep. This was TSR's second outing to Waterdeep in just a year, following on FR1: "Waterdeep and the North" (1987). Rather surprisingly, there's a fair amount of material in City System that's copied from "Waterdeep in the North", sometimes verbatim, including the whole section on the Legal System. In some cases, such as the list of 282 buildings in town, the listing in "Waterdeep and the North" even had more details! There is new material as well in City System, but there's more overlap than you'd expect, considering "Waterdeep and the North" was just nine months old.

Adventure Tropes: Cities. For TSR's second great city, following Lankhmar: City of Adventure (1985), Grubb decided to follow the tropes of Judges Guild's City State of the Invincible Overlord (1976). A massive map, blown up from the map in "Waterdeep and the North", details the entire city. 282 buildings are labeled and named, but GMs have to fall back on random tables to fill in others (of which there were 850 total, occurring to a Polyhedron reviewer). Random tables also help GMs to fill in city events with "street scenes".

Exploring the Realms: Waterdeep. City System repeats details on the city of Waterdeep, but also features some new material, including: the massive and detailed map of the city; a cutaway map of Castle Waterdeep; and a brief timeline of the city. As always, the TSR iteration of the Realms included some changes to Greenwood's original. Here, some of the street names have been modified to honor TSR designers, among them Heard Lane and Niles Way.

Whoops. The maps of the City of Waterdeep and Castle Waterdeep conflict in scale. On the main map, Castle Waterdeep is 3.5" long, which would be 350 feet, while on the Castle Waterdeep map it's at least double that.

About the Creators. Jeff Grubb was Ed Greenwood's co-conspirator at TSR in early days, coauthoring the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (1987) and Forgotten Realms Adventures (1990).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons — a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

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Reviews (3)
Discussions (4)
Customer avatar
Lawrence C March 04, 2023 7:37 pm UTC
So is there no way to get the poster maps? Can we get them as complete .png files that can be printed at a place like Staples? I don't want to but them broken up because the cuts are always off. I have tried to reprint some from other .pdf's and it's always bad.
Customer avatar
Carl H October 18, 2022 7:29 pm UTC
Any chance of getting PNGs of the maps? I would to have higher quality graphics files to work with than the JPGs that are included with the download.

The quality of the scans is OK. I own the original box set and the maps are fairly-represented, but it would be nice to have scans of maps that weren't already beat up.

Thanks in advance. It's nice to have this in digital form.
Customer avatar
Todd W September 05, 2018 12:24 am UTC
This is second edition Advanced published in 1991?..
Customer avatar
Lance H May 30, 2017 10:04 pm UTC
The original "City System" is all about the maps. They are awesome. So how do the maps appear in this print-on-demand version?
Customer avatar
Jayce A July 09, 2018 2:45 pm UTC
If the maps are what you're interested in, I wouldn't buy the POD version. They're scaled down so they fit on the pages. They're readable, but very small.
Customer avatar
Andrew L August 07, 2018 9:22 pm UTC
How are they in the PDF? Is the resolution decent?
Customer avatar
Rod P July 08, 2020 3:09 pm UTC
I have to agree with Jayce, The book is good for the price but the quality of the maps is scaled down and part of the book. The PDF File is okay and fit on 12 sheets of 8x11 printer paper. If the maps were presented the way that they originally were in the box set it would be a hell of a good deal. I would even accept perforated or full size maps that you have to remove staples to take out. Like the 4 panel world maps from Dungeon Magazine, back in the day.
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TSR 1040
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File Last Updated:
June 02, 2017
This title was added to our catalog on May 30, 2017.