The Sword Coast in the Forgotten Realms.
This territory encompasses all the lands between the Kingdom of Amn in the south and the City of Waterdeep in the north on the western coast of Faerûn. Although the lands to the north of that are not traditionally called the Sword Coast (often referred to just as “The North”), the adventures extend into that part of the land. Let’s call it all the Sword Coast!
It’s a savage land. There are no great kingdoms of humankind in this region. Instead, settlements are city-states or organized into loose confederations. Much of the land is wilderness, inhabited by monsters: orcs, goblinoids, trolls and worse. Settlements that exist need to fight off raiding parties, although the bigger settlements boast too good defenses (walls, men and magic) to be bothered that often.
Despite the dangers, trade routes cross the land. The main route, running most of the length of the coast from Waterdeep southwards to Calimport on the south coast, is known as the Trade Way, while other routes lead inland to the central kingdoms of Cormyr and Sembia. Trading caravans typically gather several merchants together and hire a large number of guards. Smaller wagons occasionally try to get by quickly and unobserved, but most prudent merchants travel in groups.
Waterdeep is the great city of the Forgotten Realms. Known as the City of Splendours or the Jewel of the North, it has more than 100,000 people living in the city. During the Spellplague, many of the nobility lost their fortunes, and so had to make deals with merchants to retain their places – many intermarrying and with new “merchant nobles” rising to take the place of the old. The city is ruled by a council of Masked Lords. One of the council is traditionally known to the populace: the Open Lord.
Baldur’s Gate is a major trading city along the Trade Way, at the point where it intersects with the trading routes to the east. The city has an upper city and a lower city, as it stands on the banks of the Chionthar River. The upper districts are strictly policed, and only people with business there are permitted to be there after dark. It is the place where the Patriars, the nobles of Baldur’s Gate, live.
Outside the city, a large area of slums has grown up – home of the workers and immigrants to the city who don’t have a place to stay within the city proper. There, the Guild – the thieves’ guild of Baldur’s Gate – holds sway.
The cities fortunes are protected by the Flaming Fists, once a famous mercenary company and now the army of the city. They also work as the police of the Lower City. Ravengard is their leader, and was so before using the influence of that position to become one of the Grand Dukes. In the Upper City, the Baldur’s Gate Watch do the policing. And in the Outer City… you are at the mercy of the Guild and the other lowlifes who live there.
Neverwinter lies north of Waterdeep. It was probably the third most populous city in the area (after Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate), and a hub of trade. Then a fire elemental caused a great volcano to erupt – Mount Hotenow – and the city burned. These days, intrepid men, under the patronage of Lord Dagult Neverember, have been seeking to rebuild the city.