Tales of the Sword Coast
Cradled in a crook of the Chionthar River and often swaddled in mist, Baldur’s Gate clings tight to the granite bluffs that channel the river. Trade nursed, the city grew from pirates’ port to farmer’s fort to the bustling urban center it is today.
Generations have worn smooth the cobbles of its narrow streets, and tens of thousands have lived their entire lives in the long shadows of its walls. The city’s stone has soaked in the blood of acclaimed heroes and terrible villains. Alongside and atop such stains, nobles and commoners, rich and poor, have lazed and sweat, ruled and bled, as they’ve played out the stories of their lives – making Baldur’s Gate a place of history and home to legends.
Baldur’s Gate began its life as a hidden harbor where traders would meet with pirates and “ghost lighters,” folk along the Sword Coast who used lights to lure fogbound ships toward shore, where they would run aground and have their goods scavenged. After hitting their targets, plunderers would journey leagues upriver to the future site of Baldur’s Gate, at a turn of the Chionthar that gave good harbor and relatively easy access to the Trade Way, and then sell their booty to traders without fear of meeting the goods’ original owners.
In time, industrious traders and herders decided that the excellent, albeit illicit, commerce outweighed the bluffs’ poor soil, and they put down roots. Due in part to its frequent mists and surely its residents’ reputations, the settlement became known as Gray Harbor – a name that Baldurians still use for the bay today.
The city gained its current name centuries ago when the great explorer Balduran returned from is journey to the other side of Everett, the homeland of the elves, where he searched for the fabled isles of Anchorome. He spread around wild stories of his adventures as well as huge amounts of wealth, some of which he spent to have a wall constructed around his oft-raided hometown. Balduran left again fro Anchorome and never returned.
Balduran’s gate-dotted wall encircled the homes at the top of the bluff but left the harbor and the club up the bluffs unprotected. This design allowed residents to tax goods coming to market. Balduran’s colleagues, sea captains to whom the harbor was home, angrily insisted the gate by which southern trade and the harbor traffic entered the city was “Baldur’s Gate,” and they refused to pay. They fought, overthrew the enriched traders and herders, and seized control of the city.
The four oldest captains, their days at sea drawing to a close, turned over their ships to younger sailors, who in turn supported the captains’ installation as the fledgeling city’s rulers. The aging skippers jokingly called themselves “dukes,” but the title proved useful in intercity negotiations. Following Amn’s founding, trade boomed in the Gate’s relaxed climate, and the city grew. It burst its original bounds, consuming Gray Harbor as it grew up and down the bluffs. The Upper and Lower cities’ fates were so entwined that the dukes ruled the Lower City couldn’t be left exposed to raiders. Thus, Baldur’s Gate erected two new wall segments along the bluffs that attached to the Old Wall, which was improved, and also kissed the River Chionthar twice, on the city’s western and eastern sides.
Today, Baldur’s Gate still refuses to be constrained. People and businesses blocked from residing within the walls huddle against them or sprawl along outlying roads. What once was two communities ow feels like three: the privileged Upper City, the hardworking Lower City, and the lawless Outer City.