Broadcryers of Waterdeep
(Current as of 1354 DR. Not updated.)
News for Sale
Only the most wealthy and powerful Waterdhavians can afford large private libraries of bound tomes. Though the majority of citizens can read, and they do so often both for pleasure and to feel "on top of Mount Waterdeep" (which means commanding a view of current events, politics, trade activity, and near-future business opportunities), most citizens own a few well-worn chapbooks, some scrolls, and a large selection of the "short scrolls" commonly known as "broadsheets."
Chapbooks are pamphlets about two human-handwidths across by three handwidths high, and they consist of parchments sewn into hide covers (sometimes stiffened with very thin "reject" ceramic tiles or metal plates). Rarely having more than thirty pages, they often sport as few as a dozen. Apt to contain about anything from poetry to furious arguments against guilds, governing policy, or methods of tiling roofs, chapbooks are most often devoted to memoirs and to romantic tales of either the tearful (for goodwives) or bawdy (for jacks old and young) variety.
Traditonal or "long" scrolls tend to have writing on one side only, and they are the form of choice for setting down religious texts, accounts that are maintained over time (large ledgers are favored for official coinkeeping, however), and spells that will be cast directly from the writing. Although long scrolls can be printed by mechanical methods, "block after block," they are usually handwritten.
"Short scrolls" or broadsheets are what we call "newspapers." Usually strips of parchment no longer than a human is tall and of widely varying widths, from chapbook width to thrice as broad, they are printed by mechanical means on both sides (at different times; that is, after one side is printed, it's left to dry before the other side is printed). Their vegetable inks tend to run when wet, no matter how long ago they were printed (a few of the more exclusive broadsheets are baked to inhibit this effect), and at times cause certain neighborhoods to reek when many hearth fires are started with their crumpled carcasses at the same time. To Waterdhavians, these short, written newsheets are known as "broadsheets" after Haumbroad "the Humble," a now-dead tireless producer of them, who through years of sheer persistence trained the folk of the city to seek out and trust this form of news.
Older Waterdhavians remember Haumbroad as a wizened, untidily bearded old man who stood hunched over on many a street corner along the High Road, day after day, calling out to passersby to "trade a nib for the wonders of the world!" Many broadsheets still cost a single copper coin today, though most of the better-known ones are priced at twice that (until a vendor wants to be free of them and elsewhere in a hurry).
Haumbroad certainly started something popular. On a given day, thirty to forty regularly produced broadsheets are for sale on the streets, and some shops (notably the stall of "Sharkroar" Horth Shalark in the Market, and Berendarr's World of Words on the High Road, west-front just a few doors up from the Waymoot) even specialize in broadsheets. (The older ones are rolled and thrust into wall-shelves, and more recent offerings hang from the ceiling on clips like so many miniature tapestries.) Most old broadsheets sell for two to five per copper coin, but a few that contain especially salacious tales or notorious rants are sought after by collectors and fetch prices of as much as a dragon each!
Many Waterdhavians are fans of particular broadsheets, preferring the political rants, sly social comments, jokes, and serialized "adventures" (often bawdy or pranksome) they contain. New issues of most broadsheets appear on the streets every three or four days, and important events always trigger floods of "extras." The most haughty broadsheets (favored by the wealthiest and most noble clientele) publish once-a-tenday, and these concentrate on overviews of unfolding events and the best-written serial tales of entertainment.
Broadsheet vendors are usually young street children or the printers themselves, and they are universally known as "broadcryers" for their common habit of calling out headlines. "Learn who's behind the mask! A hidden Lord revealed!" is a frequent cry (almost always denoting a fanciful tale used when there's little news of worth to be told).
Other favorites used in place of "real news" include the following:
"Noble lord kidnapped into slavery years ago; impostor wears his boots!"
"New undead among us! They don't stink, you can't tell, they stay alive by taking part in the activities at festhalls!"
Perils & Presses
Although magisters of the city have firmly applied the "blasphemy against" laws to broadcryers who misquote Watch, Guard, and city officials, broadcryers are otherwise free to print what they like, unfettered by good taste or laws forbidding the spreading of lies or the damaging of reputations.
However, both guilds and noble families have hired thugs to "silence" printers who publish damaging things (true or false) against their patrons. Usually these "long hard arms" smash presses and beat printers senseless (breaking hands, arms, or ribs in "accidental drunken brawls") rather than resorting to murder or arson. Usually.
Interestingly, attempts to intimidate broadcryers into being only purveyors of fanciful entertainment, perhaps with veiled comments slid into the mouths of fictional characters, have failed because of two surprising things.
First, the haughty broadsheets (those read by the wealthy and noble) persisted in publishing such news and commentary anyway, daring the thugs to act. This was followed by Lord Piergeiron saying that as long as printers quoted all sources (himself, any citizen or outlander regardless of rank or position, and other broadsheets or writings) with strict accuracy, the Watch would be sent to "energetically" investigate all acts against broadcryers with the assumption that the persons and organizations they printed news about were to blame. Guilty parties would face the usual penalties plus the burden of all printing costs for that broadcryer for a year.
This edict caused an uproar in the city (and a few attempts to "frame" rivals by attacking printers so that someone else they'd written about would get the blame for the attack), but after some months of wild gossip and staged stunts to get florid news coverage, Waterdhavians decided they liked it -- and denunciations of a broadcryer, these days, tend to cause citizens to buy more of the next broadsheet put out by the denounced, to "see what was being complained about."
Though they prefer to churn out endless short chapbooks of torrid love tales and tearful romances (which they'd been doing for years before the rise of broadsheets and broadcryers), many gnomes and halflings of the city have been happy to help Haumbroad and his imitators and successors to produce broadsheets, using their small "frame presses." Some folk believe several thousand frame presses would now be found in Waterdeep, if one day, without warning, everyone went looking for them. Frame presses consist of a table on which rests an adjustable frame, and it is usually made of stout wood with clamps at the corners. A single page at a time is assembled for printing by placing illustrations carved in wooden blocks, and rows of script, in a "cast" (we would say "layout") with the use of many odd-sized wooden shims and wedges, often modified on the spot with a deft hatchet-blow.
The rows of script are formed in thin metal by laboriously "punching" individual letters with hammers and metal punches whose points are worked into the shapes of reversed script characters, so the punched characters "stand forth" (are raised up) from the strip. When all the elements of a page are clamped together into a frame, ink is rolled onto the cast, and pinned-flat-on-paddles sheets of parchment are laid on the inked result to print one page at a time.
A good printing establishment has lots of clean room to lay out drying broadsheets, a plentiful supply of thin sheets or strips of metal, and several sets of script punches with skilled "hammerwords" who can turn them into script speedily. Popular poems, sayings, jokes, and good tales are kept for re-use, though Waterdhavians are unforgiving when they see the same text twice in a year -- they will notice such "coin skimming" (a popular city term for small acts of swindling).
The sage Irbryth Authamaun (his home and office stands on north-front Sashtar Street, just across from the Thann noble family villa, North Ward) once defined Waterdeep's broadcryers to an outlander as "folk who stand in the streets crying torrid and dramatic headlines and selling both sides of a long strip of paper, usually rolled into a scroll, that have been printed with crude summaries of the latest news and gossip."
Most Waterdhavians would agree with that definition. They're quite used to "broad cries" like these (heard on a short North Ward street a few nights ago):
"Festhall lady revealed as doppleganger! Make sure your husband is truly your own!"
"Thousands of dragons missing from Castle vaults! Masked Lords to be arrested!"
The most aggressive broadcryers take up stations inside the city gates (Waymoot near the South Gate being the busiest), places many Waterdhavians visit daily (such as the Market), and strategic locations like the moot of the High Road and Waterdeep Way, the northerly moot of the High Road and the Way of the Dragon, and entrances to the City of the Dead around highsun (when many Waterdhavians enjoy their midday "highsunfest" by taking portable viands to the cemetery's parklike setting).
Some broadcryers strike deals with inns and taverns (particularly those near city gates), who allow them to sell in the lobbies without the usual calling of headlines. Almost all other broadcryers, save the few who deliver broadsheets personally to the villas of the noble and wealthy, cry out headlines on the streets -- which usually irritates folk living or shopkeeping nearby.
As a result, any citizen can complain to any Watch officer to have a broadcryer (or any street vendor) "moved along," and the Watch officer is bound to promptly issue such an order. This will always be "at least onto the next street," and is good for about half an hour unless the vendor wants to be detained and frowningly questioned for an entire morning or evening (losing a lot of trade in the process). Because of this, only the quietest broadcryers remain stationary in their vending locations. Young children selling broadsheets may even run to intercept or catch up with persons who seemed interested in their cry but in a hurry to accomplish some pressing task. Few broadcryers sell on the streets before dawn or after dusk -- and those who try to "cry headlines" at such times will be arrested by the Watch, taken to a Watchpost for a stern (and time-wasting) lecture, and then sent on their way without charge or punishment.
Broadsheets of Waterdeep
Today, broadsheets do a wide-ranging business. Gone are the days where you could only get Straight Talk from the Docks from a colorful piratical figure stumping from the Waymoot up and down the docks. Today, the Straight Talk printers deliver stacks of them to various inns and taverns in the Dock and South Wards.
One can also find a wide variety of "broadsheet stands" up and down the major thoroughfares of Waterdeep. Simple stands that buy stacks of various broadsheets, sold alongside "nib-dreadfuls" and cheaply printed steamy serial romances and adventure stories have become ubiquitous in the years after the Wailing Years. Improvements by Gondar and Lantannese engineers to the printing presses have made it easier than ever to mass-produce these works, and many are the outfits that not only set up stands to sell them to passersby, but who also employ lads and lasses to deliver "subscriptions" of these works to businesses and residences around the stand.
Straight Talk from the Docks
Dock & Newcomer/Visitor Stories • Daily
A broadsheet by this name has come and gone over the years in Waterdeep. The most-recent version of it has been around for about twenty years or so, something of a record for the name. Like previous versions, the Straight Talk focuses on the sights around the docks, of strange cargos and fascinating visitors. The gossip of sailors often makes its way into the rag, discussing the sinking of ships, attack by monsters, and the predations of pirates. It also advertises hiring of sailors and reviews of craftsmen and businesses that cater to the needs of ships.
Gossip & Japery • Tendaily
Catty gossip, mocking recounting of important public and private events, and stright-up bawdy jokes are the order of the day when it comes to the Wazoo, and even those who purport to hate broadsheets often chuckle at the Wazoo's content. One of the recurring columns in the Wazoo mocks the nobility quite openly using the old joking "Glunder & Bladderblat" names. Specifically, a column by that name takes something ridiculous done by a real member of the nobility and reports on it, changing the name of the ones involved to either Glunder (if the noble was being stodgy, highnosed, and tightvested) or Bladderblat (if the noble was ridiculous, extravagant, or just plain without dignity).
The Harbor Trumpet
Nightlife & Festivals • Tendaily
Descended from Turjan's Trumpet, this broadsheet maintains Turjan's legacy: it is the go-to place for writing directed at young gallants and bon vivants, all directed at the best places to party in Waterdeep's ever-shifting nightlife. All of the articles are written in conversational first- and second-person styles, as though addressing a friend, and all bylines are fictional names with the Turjan surname. Though it is all gossip in the Trumpet, it is interestingly diverse gossip: fashion, whirlwind dalliances, rivalries, and even bits of the noble's Great Game that comes into the sight of common folk in these taverns, festhalls, and inn taprooms. These articles get so salacious sometimes that the broadsheet is widely nicknamed "the Strumpet" by those in the know.
The Waymoot Times
Caravan & Trader News • Tendaily
An amalgamation of many similar broadsheets over the years, the Waymoot Times was created by the commingling of the old Calagar's Caravans and Thaeler's Coinwatch broadsheets over a hundred years ago. Today, it is one of the highest-circulation broadsheets in the city, and with good reason. It talks about caravans just arriving in Waterdeep and their goods, advertises caravan mustering and guard-hiring, reviews craftsmen and businesses who provide provisions and gear for caravans, and has a small army of editors happy to weigh in on shipping business trends and forecast the rise and fall of fortunes.
Religious Stories • Monthly
Named for an old Waterdeep institution – a grand temple-tower that maintained worship spaces for all faiths, particularly those that did not have temples in the city – the Plinth has absorbed other religious broadsheet operations over the sixty-or-so years it has been in operation. The Plinth publishes stories of all sorts relating to religion, theology, and the goings-on in temples and monasteries, with stories ranging from conversational interviews with important clergy to no-nonsense recounting of festival successes and tragedies to gossipy stories so salacious and near-blasphemous that the broadsheet has been warned by the law on more than one occasion. All of this is usually focused on Waterdeep and nearby locales, although important religious happenings further afield may warrant a mention occasionally.
Many of the names of old religious broadsheets have ended up as "features" in the Plinth: "Thy Daily Luck" is a Tymoran-written bit about investments and gambling, and the "Merchants' True Friend" is a Waukeenar feature that looks at business opportunities and faithful approaches to money-making. Every issue also has "The Eternal Dawn," where the Spires of the Morning's clerks announce the new babies, marriages, ventures, organizations, plans, and other sundry beginning-things recently consecrated at the temple to Lathander.
The Street of Whispers
Festhall Gossip & Guide • Tendaily
Never sold by shouted broadcryer because of its (delightfully) salacious content, the Street of Whispers (named for the festhall-heavy thoroughfare) has reviews of individual festhall workers as well as the entertainments of festhalls in general, a heavy gossip column that avoids mentioning names but is good enough at describing people that everyone knows who they are, and an entire back-of-sheet dedicated to ongoing steamy serial fiction.
The Gilded Laurel
Social Clubs News • Tendaily
The social clubs of the Waterdhavian nobility are an eternally-fascinating topic for the average Waterdhavian: places rich with luxury and privilege, permitting only those who are members into their halls, and above all defending their guests from public opprobrium and shame? Oh yes, that is catnip for the average Waterdhavian. As such, it should come as no surprise that the Gilded Laurel has cropped up to attend to that fascination. And it does so marvelously, describing the interiors of various clubs, who can be found in them, and what scandals and gossip occur within them. Indeed, the Gilded Laurel is so accurate so often that many nobles want to know exactly who it is that is responsible for it, but that is a secret. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that nobles are at least giving details, and some even think it is a noble themselves who run the rag. So impactful has this implied class treachery been that the term "a guilded laurel" has arisen among the Houses to describe a noble who sides with those outside of the nobility on any topic.
The Falcon & Anklet
Noble Ladies' Topics • Daily
A combination of yesteryear's Lady Amaranth's Falcon and the Anket, this broadsheet is intended for the consumption of genteel noble ladies and those who would emulate them. Exhaustive articles on proper decorum and etiquette, critique of fashion trends vis a vis their suitability to the delicate dignity of the noblewoman of Waterdeep, and excited looks at the new trends considered appropriate by the Falcon & Anket's noble editrix, every noble household has a subscription to the broadsheet, it seems. The broadsheet makes a great deal about noble marriages and births on its pages, and always has something to say about the various festivals and balls thrown by the nobility.
Noble Lords' Topics • Daily
Practically an echo of every sneering, highnose patriarch and stodgy old nobleman in the city, the Oracular contains praise for noblemen who hold to traditional noble pursuits such as hunting and riding, sneering disregard for "brightcoin pretenders" and "upjumped merchants," scathing recrimination for the Lords of Waterdeep and magistracy when they make decisions counter to the benefit of the nobility, and absolutely no word whatsoever of any modern trends or news about young noblemen who buck the old traditions. Some folk like to joke that the Oracular is so fitting for an old nobleman's study that it comes pre-scented with the smell of stinky old pipesmoke. The back page of the broadsheet doesn't exist as far as most noble readers are concerned, as those are the "Valet Pages" – an entire sub-broadsheet intended for the gentleman's gentlemen, advertising vacancies, trading recipes for bootblack and button-polish, and generally examining the right way to serve a nobleman properly, according to the dignity of the loyal valet.
The Sword in the Sun
Noble Revelry & Gallant Topics • Tendaily
Considered the fashionable reading material for any of the noble (and noble-aspiring) bon vivants of any gender, the Sword in the Sun focuses on who's who. It is the society page for those who aspire to a life of excess and revelry, for forbidden dalliances full of passion and terrible decisions, and for those who help themselves to a little too much of the many indulgences made available to the very wealthy at elite parties and gatherings. The only sin in these pages is that of being dull, and the further from dull the topic, the more the Sword loves them. These are common at festhalls, casinos, and taverns that cater to expensive tastes, though most nobles entrust the securing of their copies to trusted servants.
Noble Fashions • Monthly
Once a month, all of Waterdhavian society seeks out the Record. Its pages contain illustration-heavy articles discussing who is wearing what, how it was made and by whom, and most importantly, what the editor Hulbrant thought of it. Waterdhavians delight in recognizing their neighbors and friends in the Record. They tend to be a bit more ambivalent about their own names appearing in it, of course: most of the time, it comes with opprobrium about choices in garment and presentation. But the times that it features high praise for stunning style? Why that is nearly enough to make it all worth it, and is certainly an easy way to gain quick renown and invitations to a positive avalanche of dinners and parties.
Brightcoin Gossip • Daily
A combination of at least two similar rags of the past, the New Waterdhavian and Halivar's Lords and Ladies. The content of both are combined into a single daily page that is read by those with wealth but no title in Waterdeep (those referred to by the slang "brightcoin"). The broadsheet's stance on the subject is very redolent of sour grapes: they consider the old nobility to be outdated and pretentious, and the true nobility of Waterdeep those who rise by their own strengths and labor to positions of wealth and earned (rather than inherited) privilege. Needless to say, they find ample readership in the city, with their articles decrying noble excesses, mocking noble fashions, lauding the "working wealthy", and in general feeding the feelings of resentment most of their readership labor under. The Waterdhavian has an especial contempt for those families who were once merely rich but became noble under Neverember's rule – these they consider base traitors, and it is rightly supposed that never a kind word for a Hedare or Nantar will ever find its way into the pages of the Waterdhavian.
The Mocking Minstrel
Censurous Public Opinion & Gossip • Daily
One of the many "secret broadsheets," no one claims to really know where their copies of the Mocking Minstrel came from: "Surely someone just left it behind," they all claim. The reason for this is fairly understandable, for the Minstrel has been publicly censured by the magistrates and even the Lords on more than one occasion, so vitriol-filled and satirical are its mockeries of public and famous figures of Waterdeep. No one is spared its barbed quill: Open Lords, high priests, archmages, guildmasters, noble xatriarchs, one and all have felt the lash of the Minstrel. To some degree, everyone knows that while not strictly fiction, the reporting in the rag does veer strongly into inflammatory versions of the truth. Unfortunately, most readers are content to read (and repeat) the worst about most folks who make an appearance in the Minstrel, up until it is their names on the page.
The Guild Table
Guilds News & Announcements • Tendaily
A combined effort of the Scriveners', Scribes', and Clerks' Guild and the Stationers' Guild, with articles contributed by the masters of nearly every of Waterdeep's guilds, the Guild Table is an unabashedly pro-guild rag, focusing on announcements by the various guilds (including the achievement of new mastery, the opening of shops, and events held by various guilds), as well as thoughtfully dull examinations of guild structures and the overall benefit to society in general that guilds provide.
The Cracked Table
Guilds Gossip & Criticism • Tendaily
In contrast to the Guild Table is the Cracked Table, a secretly-printed broadsheet that purports to publish all of the best gossip and scandal occurring behind closed guild doors. The Cracked Table also published scathing editorials looking at the underhanded policies of the guilds, their efforts to quietly crush non-guild competition, and their various alliances under the table. They also routinely publish tell-all biographies of guildmasters and other senior guildsfolk, and are right often enough that everyone dreads the prospect of finding their name in a headline in the rag. The Cracked Table is a thorn in the collective side of the guilds, in terms of public perceptions, and the myriad guildmasters would dearly love to know who is responsible.
The Castle Chronicle
Law Reports, Legal News, Gossip on Magistrates, Watch, and Guard • Daily
Generally assumed to be written by some small cadre of enterprising clerks in Castle Waterdeep, the Castle Chronicle is basically a rundown of the important legal actions decided in magistrate courts, of important arrests by the Watch the previous days, and in general has information and topics gauged to be of importance (or at least interest) to the general reader. Not only does the Castle Chronicle release a once-daily sheet, but they also compile a full month's sheets into a slim bound volume with month and year on it, and sell them for 5gp at their office in the Castle Ward.