With Tyranny of Dragons concluding on the Neverwinter severs soon, the release of the 5th Edition rule set for tabletop D&D players, and the general hype surrounding all of the D&D world right now, we thought this would be a great time to catch up with Cryptic Studios’ resident Loremaster, Randy Mosiondz, and chat about how Neverwinter (the F2P MMORPG) crafts its lore and opens the D&D universe to a whole new audience.
Magicman (MM): Obviously being tied to the D&D IP there are volumes of well-established lore available to pull from. When crafting the Neverwinter narrative how important is telling a unique story versus presenting existing storylines in a new way?
Randy Mosiondz (RM):In general, we try to establish new storylines in order to give players new ways to experience Dungeons & Dragons in the Forgotten Realms. That being said, we try to incorporate callbacks to familiar storylines and characters when we can, trying to interweave the old with the new, sometimes with a twist.
For example, in our upcoming module – the conclusion of the “Tyranny of Dragons” campaign – we include the beloved Linu La’neral from the old Neverwinter Nights game. The “clumsy cleric” now takes a senior role in the fight against the Cult of the Dragon and their plans to summon Tiamat from the Nine Hells.
MM: When looking at the many modules made for the table top game, how does the team decide which table top experiences would make great Neverwinter experiences?
RM: Part of it is working with Wizards of the Coast on what fits with their current Forgotten Realms continuity. We’ve got a great working relationship with them, and typically talk with them on a weekly basis. They got large-scale “story bibles” that describe a high-level framework of upcoming content, which we use as a starting point for developing our own modules. As they develop their tabletop modules, we develop the online counterparts for Neverwinter.
MM: How does the team go about making separate modules fit into one larger story like a good DM does?
RM: We mainly focus on trying to do a good self-contained stories for each module, but we try to establish a loose continuity between modules by doing callbacks to characters and locations from earlier modules. For example, Valindra Shadowmantle (our infamous lich), was threaded throughout the initial launch content from the start to end game as a background villain. She showed up in our first module “Fury of the Feywild” where she acts as a major antagonist, and finally concludes with a final fight in her stronghold during the “Shadowmantle” module.
MM: Does the narrative team find it difficult to tell some stories since the Neverwinter player base ranges from long time D&D lore hounds to players that may have almost no D&D experience outside of Neverwinter?
RM: Part of it is just keeping in mind what type of game you’re developing for your fan base. Neverwinter is an action-MMORPG, meaning you don’t want to have heavy narrative sequences that take you out of the action or away from social interactions. We also didn’t want to overwhelm players new to D&D with the dense lore that’s been developed over the decades.
To that end we developed a lighter-weight lore delivery system. Instead of wading through walls of text, we build a lore journal that players can collect simply by exploring the world around them. As players explore the world, talk with NPCs, and interact with objects they start collecting lore entries with short phrase summaries that fly-up, along with deeper entries that go into their player journal. That way players don’t have to stop the action or interrupt a play session with other people – the lore just collects in their journal, categorized by zone or event, and players interested in delving into the lore can do just that. This makes the die-hard D&D lore hounds happy while making it accessible to newer players.
MM: We’re going to get some Tiamat love very soon, but what other iconic D&D figures does the lore team really want to see implemented into Neverwinter? They’ve got to have personal favorites!
RM: Good question! My content team and I are HUGE fans of D&D and the four decades of iconic characters it contains. We’re always looking to bring noteworthy pieces of the lore to life in Neverwinter. We adore figures like Asmodeus, the Lady of Pain, Lolth, Manshoon, as well as monsters and groups like dragon turtles, githyanki, and modrons. To be honest, the entire canon is full of notable creatures, so it’s difficult to pin down which ones we love most.
MM: When telling stories unique to Neverwinter, how does the team stay true to the IP’s table top roots?
RM: Staying true to the D&D IP is one of our imperatives. We don’t necessarily need to follow the tabletop mechanics (rules change all the time), but we want to capture the essence of D&D: a party of adventurers exploring fantastic locations and fighting terrible monsters for magical treasure. We also want to make sure we’re true to the Forgotten Realms IP. To this end we have a review process in place where Wizards of the Coast’s story team reviews our story proposals and eventually produced quest text. As D&D and the Realms evolve, we’re evolving right along with it.
MM: How often does the team actually play table top D&D for “inspiration?” I bet a lot can come out of how players react to those fun table top situations that could spark come great ideas for implementation!
RM: I’ve actually been running weekly lunchtime D&D games on-and-off for the Neverwinter team! A lot of the games I run are set in and around Neverwinter and the Sword Coast, which ties up the tabletop-online connection nicely. I’m currently running the D&D 5th Edition “Tyranny of Dragons” tabletop game for the content team. We’re having a blast with that storyline, and it’s fun to play in a world we’re also developing online in Neverwinter!
Our thanks to Randy for stopping by!