When Chris Tulach, the D&D Organized Play Program Manager, came to R&D with the task of creating the D&D Game Day adventure, it fell to me, as a D&D producer, to decide who would tackle it. Erik Scott de Bie had worked on the Neverwinter Campaign Setting and was also lined up to write the D&D Encounters season taking place in Neverwinter, so he seemed like an obvious choice. And fortunately, he agreed to the project.
As Chris and I discussed the practical constraints of the product—page count, maps, release date—we set upon an idea that dovetailed perfectly with the goal of creating an integrated Neverwinter experience: making the Game Day adventure a prequel to the D&D Encounters season. We wanted the adventure to encourage players to continue on to the Encounters season, both through story and character rewards.
I went to Erik and asked him for an outline that placed the adventure some amount of time prior to the start of the Encounters season, Lost Crown of Neverwinter. I also explained that we would have the characters carry over their XP and treasure from the adventure to the season. Several days later, Erik came back with an outline that proposed to place the adventure roughly a month before the start of the season, as a group of adventures was just arriving in the city of Neverwinter. One of the challenges Erik had in crafting the outline (and later the adventure itself) was in keeping the duration to three hours while still providing a strong glimpse of Neverwinter. Matt Sernett, lead designer on the Neverwinter Campaign Setting, worked with Erik on the details of the outline, until both were satisfied with it.
The adventure, Gates of Neverdeath, was now taking shape.
As Erik worked on the adventure, Chris and I debated character creation. We wanted it to be an important part of the experience, and the character themes in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting seemed like the perfect way to accomplish this. Although the duration limited how much these themes could be integrated into the Game Day adventure, the discussion provided us with the idea to give Erik yet another mandate: create a series of “theme tie-ins” for Lost Crown of Neverwinter to give each character the opportunity to have a spotlight moment during the Encounters season.
Chris, along with input from R&D, came up with a few other ways to create a robust Neverwinter experience for Game Day. However, I don’t want to give everything away, with the event just a few days from now (August 6th). Let’s just say that if you attend, you’ll find some goodies to aid you in character creation.
Erik made his turnover, which featured several of Neverwinter’s key factions—the Harpers, the Dead Rats, New Neverwinter, and Thay—in various capacities. However, by this time, playtesting of Lost Crown of Neverwinter had brought us to the conclusion that the number of competing forces in the Encounters season was too numerous, so we streamlined the Game Day adventure accordingly, dropping it from 16 pages to 12 pages and providing a more focused experience.
In the development process, we preserved the connection between the Game Day adventure and the Encounters season, though we took efforts to make each stand alone better. Without knowing how much overlap we would see between Game Day and the Encounters season, we didn’t want to make one depend too much on the other. As a result, players who stick with the Encounters season after playing on Game Day will be rewarded with a few “Easter eggs,” but you won’t need to have played one adventure in order to understand the events of the other.
Although Gates of Neverdeath doesn’t require the use of the Neverwinter Campaign Setting, I can attest to its value, having run the adventure this past weekend. This D&D Game Day adventure provides the details you need to give the players a glimpse of Neverwinter, but I found that the beautiful city map and the extensive details from the book allowed me to take the players off the rails as they explored the city.
Upcoming Neverwinter Events
Gates of Neverdeath takes place on Saturday, August 6, and games will be available at Gen Con. For details on the Neverwinter D&D Game Day, go here.
Lost Crown of Neverwinter, the next D&D Encounters season, starts on Wednesday, August 10. Look for details on the D&D Encounters page soon.
Forge of the Dawn Titan, part of the new Wizards Play Network in-store program, Lair Assault, starts on September 1. Details on the program can be found here.
Upcoming Neverwinter Products
Greg Bilsland is a producer for Dungeons & Dragons at Wizards of the Coast. His design credits include Monster Manual 2, Monster Manual 3, and Vor Rukoth. His current work involves coordinating the D&D Next playtest and helping plan D&D Insider and D&D organized play content. He keeps a gaming blog at wanderingbard.com and is active on Twitter (@gregbilsland).