The adventure begins with the characters arriving in the northern reaches of Baldur’s Gate, the Outer City district of Blackgate. They’ve come to the city on Founder’s Day, the celebration in memory of Balduran, founder of the city. It’s also the only day of the year when no one has to pay the usual gate tolls for passage (merchants must still pay taxes on goods though), so people have flocked from the tiny communities strung north and south of the city for the celebration and the chance to visit the city for free.
You’ve come to Baldur’s Gate for a job working as caravan guards for goods heading south overland from the city. But you’ve arrived to meet the shipment of goods from Waterdeep a few days early. Now you have time to spare and a city to explore.
A few miles out from Baldur’s Gate, a squint-eyed herdsman tried to convince you to leave your horses with him instead of boarding them just outside the city. Now you’re wishing you had listened. You found a place for the horses, but the price you’re paying to keep them there is outrageous.
Because it’s Founders Day, you don’t have to pay the usual toll to enter the city, but that’s small consolation for the high boarding fees the crowds create.
You’ve been waiting in line for an hour when you finally leave behind some of the stink and noise of the Outer City and pass through the first part of the Black Dragon Gate. In the muddy courtyard between gates, the rattle of smithing, the stench of beasts, and the barking of dogs fades somewhat. Leering balefully down at you from above the second gate, mouth agape, is the sculpture that gives this gate its name: a stone carving of a black dragon’s head, said to be magically empowered with the ability to spew acid in times of siege.
As you at last pass under the dragon, guards in crisp black livery wearing black helms with bold red stripes look you over and point you toward a row of iron boot scrapers set into the cobbles by the wall. Once you’ve cleaned off the worst of the muck, another guard nods approval and waves you through to make room for the next group.
In the Upper City, you’re immediately struck by many contrasts. The wide, muddy ways of the tumbledown shan- tytown outside have been replaced by narrow, cobbled streets and regular buildings of solid yellow granite, deco- rated with doors and shutters of bold red, blue, and green. Blossoming plants tumble out of window boxes, making the air sweet. The hubbub of the Outer City is gone, and the excited chatter of the crowd has quieted to a respectful murmur as you move with everyone toward the Wide, the city’s grand market square.