Any roster of the most popular, important, and useful chapbook titles published in Waterdeep will inevitably be subjective and hotly debated -- but in all such lists drawn up fairly, the following titles must appear. (It should be noted that their resale prices reflect lasting popularity; lesser-known chapbooks usually fetch 2 to 4 gp at most, and many go for less than that.)
Engelvaer's Poison and Sickness Remedies
Engelvaer's Poison and Sickness Remedies is a compendium of alchemical preparations and folk medicines (including herbs and the placing of certain gems and other substances on the tongue of the stricken). Most of its contents have been discredited, but many sages believe some instructions may have limited efficacy if augmented by information deliberately left out by Engelvaer (and rumored to be contained in a second chapbook, the very expensive and rare Coderium that he sold for 1,000 gp per copy).
A growing number of folk believe the convoluted prose of this chapbook contains a coded message regarding the whereabouts of great treasure -- quite possibly a rich hoard of potions or scrolls. No one, so far as is known, has yet deciphered this hidden screed. Engelvaer disappeared some eighty summers ago through a portal somewhere in midair above a roof in Dock Ward; his fate, present whereabouts, and the location or continued existence of that portal are all unknown.
Format: 12 pages, bound in "dusty blue," with silver gilt stamped title on front.
Typical Resale Price: 4 gp.
Sample Passage: For relief from ye shaking fever, take first ye outer leaves of ye salath plant, taking great care that they be not withered but yet retain their prickly hairs, and soak a goodly handful of these in ye blood of. . . .
Herbs of the North and How to Recognize Them
Herbs of the North and How to Recognize Them is a fanciful overview of a strange selection of ground plants found in the Dessarin valley. The roster is considered odd in that none of the plants, so far as is known, actually has healing properties. Each is portrayed in a crude line drawing and identified by common names plus a grandiose title apparently crafted by the unknown chapbook author. Listings of uses follow; readers may learn (some the hard way) that every single use was apparently invented for this work and that attempting many of them may be harmful.
Many of the listed plants do have mild druglike effects such as causing drowsiness, deadening pain, calming (even against magical fear effects), or temporarily negating all sense of taste or smell, and almost all of them have strong flavors that might see use in cookery.
Format: 34 pages, bound in dark brown, with no lettering on the covers.
Typical Resale Price: 3 gp.
Sample Passage: Dragonfire Weed, hight also Common Thrubweed, Bootspice, Rust-Tassel, and Brownshar. A creeping, wilted-looking plant of slender, ragged dusty-green leaves sprouting from a single root without apparent flower. Older, outer leaves turn brown and lengthen into long stalks ending in the shriveled leaf, or "tassel." This plant sprouts wherever fiery dragon-breath touches fertile ground. Uses: Wards off dragons when worn on naked body instead of -- not as well as -- clothing or armor. Cures burns when rubbed on them. Calms troubled digestion and cures drunkenness instantly when chewed and swallowed. When boiled, yields a brown dye that can tint eyes and hair as well as skin.
Trade-Roads and Tavern-Notes: A Wayfarer's Guide to Inns, Wells, Taverns, and Perils in the North
Trade-Roads and Tavern-Notes: A Wayfarer's Guide to Inns, Wells, Taverns, and Perils in the Northis a guidebook consisting of very brief (alphabetical, by place) listings of travel-relevant features found along the roads of the Sword Coast North. Out-of-date judgments and curious omissions abound; no maps are provided and the work in general is "only a little better than nothing at all," but despite years of warnings by outlanders and Waterdhavians who've tried to use it "in the wild," the "Trusty Guide" is widely considered reliable by Waterdhavians who've never traveled. If such folk do undertake a journey, most will bring along a copy. In the words of one caravan rider: "Well, let them wave it about. Judiciously used, page by page, it can help get about ten wayfires going."
Format: 20 pages, bound in green (apt to fade in a mottled manner) with the letter "T" stamped on the front cover.
Typical Resale Price: 3 gp.
Sample Passage: Drowned Lady Well. A day east of Calling Horns along the Evermoor Way: seek small hill crowned by three tall pines, cairn like ram's head at west end. Well covered by large flat stone below cairn, flows out into stone-lined basin. Watched by wolves. Drinkable water, no drowned ladies. Troll country; camp with ring-fires.
Read more about chapbooks in the third part of this feature!
About the Author
Ed Greenwood is the man who unleashed the Forgotten Realms on an unsuspecting world. He works in libraries, writes fantasy, sf, horror, mystery, and even romance stories (sometimes all in the same novel), but he is still happiest churning out Realmslore, Realmslore, and more Realmslore. There are still a few rooms in his house with space left to pile up papers in . . .