For the last eight years on Xbox, players have been able to enter the Forgotten Realms and experience the world of Dungeons & Dragons for themselves, through the free-to-play MMO Neverwinter. Now, as Neverwinter brings its Menzonberranzan arc to an end with the latest release, The Demonweb Pits, we sat down with Neverwinter’s Lead Content Designer, Elliot Minner, to talk about the last decade of adventures.
The Forgotten Realms is a classic setting, and gave the Neverwinter team the chance to bring classic Dungeons & Dragons characters to life and let players interact with them. Doing this has allowed the developers to explore some of their favorite heroes and villains.
“We’ve been lucky enough to put some of our absolute favorites in the game,” Minner said. “Antagonists like Strahd von Zarovich and heroes like Drizzt Do’urden and the Companions of the Hall. In fact, we recently were able to partner with R.A. Salvatore and his son Geno Salvatore to write an original story involving Menzoberranzan and Drizzt.”
Many of Neverwinter’s updates, called Modules, are based directly on the modules released by Wizards of the Coast for the last two editions of Dungeons & Dragons. When crafting those stories into gameplay experiences, Minner says they’re careful to follow the original plotline, but put their own twist on it.
“We try to stay true to the character and story, but adapt it to what the game needs,” Minners explains. “So we’ll often change or add abilities to make a cool fight, or place the characters in a different version of the plot because we aren’t able to follow the module one to one. With everything we make, we work with Wizards of the Coast to make sure it matches their vision, and they’re very supportive when we add our own touches to the IP.“
Of course, bringing beloved D&D characters like Jarlaxle to life comes with its own responsibilities. Players can have their own vision of these characters that’s lived in their heads for literal decades. While no version can be perfect, the team are all giant Dungeons & Dragons nerds, and work to get as close as they can.
“Our content writers sit down and think about the characters and their plot lines, and write to the character’s history,” Minner says. “We have a huge bookshelf of Dungeons & Dragons novels in the office, if anyone needs to reference a character’s established voice. Then we send that writing to our talented audio team, who cast the right person for the job and direct them to give a satisfying performance.”
Neverwinter isn’t the first Dungeons & Dragons game, and it isn’t the first to bring these classic heroes and villains to life. Asked what sets Neverwinter apart from other games in the Forgotten Realms, Minner says: “As an MMO, Neverwinter is all about playing together. You can meet Elminster with your friends, and interact with him as a party. I love the feeling of getting a group of friends together to battle one of our epic bosses, like Lolth herself.”
When asked about one character he would add if given the chance, Minner laughs. “Bahamut, definitely,” he says. “The dragon god of justice. I mean, how cool would that be?”
Neverwinter’s The Demonweb Pits is available on Xbox consoles now.