Those attending Gen Con will see that we have a lot of activities taking place around the former "Jewel of the North." Our focus on the Neverwinter Campaign Setting
includes the D&D Game Day
event, Gates of Neverdeath
. This adventure takes characters from Waterdeep to Neverwinter, and it allows them to be used in the upcoming D&D Encounters
season, Lost Crown of Neverwinter
. Those who want to throw themselves fully into all things Neverwinter can even take part in events at Gen Con, with participants able to join one of three factions: New Neverwinter, Thay, or Bregan D'aerth (see more about the factions below).
With events focusing on Neverwinter, we wanted to offer a brief tour of the city (and why it's called Neverwinter in the first place) here in our D&D Alumni column. Then, after you know the city and have learned of its factions, you have this decision to make: Which of its factions will you join?
The Founding of Neverwinter
According to the 1st Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign boxed set, Neverwinter is listed among the "good" cities of the North, along with Waterdeep, Silverymoon, and Sundabar. As Elminster himself notes, "Neverwinter is a friendly city of craftsmen, who trade extensively via the great merchants of Waterdeep; their water-clocks and multi-hued lamps can be found throughout the Realms. Neverwinter gained its name from the skill of its gardeners, who contrived to keep flowers blooming throughout the months of snow -- a practice they continue with pride."
Although that's but one of several explanations for the city's name, it is noted that "by the clocks of Neverwinter" became a known watchword (no pun intended…we think) for accuracy and delicate precision.
Turning to the Grand History of the Forgotten Realms, we discover that the city was founded back in 87 DR, Year of the Hoar Frost. Located along the Sword Coast, Neverwinter has continually faced the harshness of the Savage North, whether from the climate (another explanation of the city's name derives from the warm waters of the Neverwinter River, which keeps it from freezing over) or the nearby inhabitants (still another explanation is the heroic stand Lord Never took against marauding orcs, claiming the place would be Never's Winter).
Yet however resilient its people, Neverwinter could not withstand coming events.
Neverwinter Ruined... and Reborn
Also known favorably as the City of Skilled Hands and the Jewel of the North, Neverwinter was largely destroyed thirty years ago, following events of the Spellplague. Mount Hotenow, the nearby volcano, erupted and damaged much of the city in a flash, opening the great rift known as the Chasm. This year's D&D Open Championship, the Fires of Mount Hotenow, is set on the eve of the volcano's eruption -- with characters needing to escape the city to survive.
However, this resilient city would not only survive, but it is currently in an active state of repair under the rule of its Lord Protector, Lord Neverember. As described in the 4th Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, "Dagult 'Dagger' Neverember is a hard-drinking, eloquent, and impressive lion of a man. Tall, broad-shouldered, and forceful, he is a master manipulator and looks the part of a strong ruler; he was chosen to be Open Lord for this reason. Neverember is one of the richest men in Waterdeep. He prefers straight dealing to intrigue and genuinely wants to do what's best for the city."
The Three Factions in Play
Now, you have the background of the city. But what of the background of the event?
Several months prior to the convention, Wizards R&D devised this activity for Gen Con (the development of which we'll detail in a future Design & Development article). James Wyatt (with help from Mike Mearls, Chris Tulach, Toby Maheras, and yours truly) concocted the premise of three factions searching for notoriety within Neverwinter.
The event in a nutshell:
With the appearance of the Lost Heir of Neverwinter, the city is thrown into chaos. Is Lord Neverember the rightful ruler of the city, or is the mysterious Lost Heir's claim true? With everyone off balance, factions that normally scheme in the shadows come to the forefront, hoping to claim the rule of the city—and the power it contains—for themselves.
Join a faction and influence who will gain control of the Crown of Neverwinter and the power it holds!
The three factions, we decided, had to be far enough apart in their ideologies to have separate identities and leadership. Those who want to take part in the event might want to read brief descriptions of each, as presented below.
New Neverwinter is the faction of Lord Neverember, who returns in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting, along with his administrative mayor, Soman Galt. Neverember's New Neverwinter movement is a deft political tool, leveraging the spirit of the people to rebuild the city to its former prosperity, prestige -- and security.
Of course, it is not the only faction in town. Two others vie for the crown, and they feature much longer histories. But for those who want to quest for honor and stand by the side of Lord Neverember: We suggest joining New Neverwinter.
From the 1st Edition Forgotten Realms supplement, Dreams of the Red Wizards, we learned about Thay: "About four hundred years ago, a sect calling itself the Red Wizards declared its freedom from the godkings of Mulhorand. They rebelled from the rule of the theocracy and demanded more freedom for magic research. The sect originally sprang up all over the old kingdom, but its center of strength was in the northern provinces, where the natives did not have the inbred reverence for the god-kings. The wizards led an army to raze the capital city of Delhumide and declared themselves the free nation of Thay."
The lich and archwizard Szass Tam leads the nation of Thay, along with the Council of Zulkirs. (If the Zulkirs, or archwizards, formerly represented the eight schools of magic, Szass Tam represented the necromancy school.) With their connections to slavery and necromancy, Thay has long been a feared and reviled nation. If rumors are to be believed, Thay is secretly responsible for Neverwinter's destruction, with their agents still looking to take advantage of the situation.
In R.A. Salvatore's Gauntlgrym, Szass Tam ordered Dahlia to create the Dread Ring in Neverwinter Woods. And Szass Tam also deployed his fellow lich Valindra Shadowmantle to the region (partially to see if the ring can be restored, plus to raise more undead, including dracoliches, to place under her control).
Although Valindra doesn't share the full power or the long backstory of Szass Tam, she has likewise appeared in Gauntlgrym, as well as the Neverwinter Nights video game. (You can find her in Luskan's Host Tower of the Arcane.) Even as Szass manipulates his plots behind the scenes, Valindra works more directly out in the world, which makes her an excellent choice to lead this faction.
That said, the final faction might be even more deeply entrenched in the game of machinations. But for those lured by wizardry and the temptation of power, we suggest joining Thay.
The 4th Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide describes Bregan D'aerthe as "a company of mercenaries, assassins, and scouts founded and still led (though from afar and through intermediaries) by Jarlaxle Baenre. The company absorbs houseless males and unaligned graduates of Melee-Magthere, making their services available to the highest bidder -- and sometimes to every bidder. It's not at all uncommon for Bregan D'aerthe agents to be working on both sides of a struggle between warring houses, but they never side against House Baenre."
These drow mercenaries first appeared in R.A. Salvatore's Exile, the second novel in the Dark Elf trilogy, which saw Drizzt Do'urden make his way from Menzoberranzan to the surface world. Then they sold their swords to various houses wrestling for position in Menzoberranzan's hierarchy (with much at stake: losing houses were slaughtered, down to the last drow).
Since that appearance, Bregan D'aerthe would seem to have followed Drizzt to the surface. As the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting states: "Bregan D'aerthe actively pursues contacts with thieves' and assassins' guilds of the World Above, sometimes providing drow mercenaries to supplement their operations."
This involvement in the surface world has drawn Jarlaxle to Neverwinter. As depicted in the various novels, he has since traveled with the assassin Artemis Entreri (archrival of Drizzt), sought Crenshinibon the Crystal Shard, and been involved with the destruction of Luskan's Host Tower. He has even appeared in the Baldur's Gate II video game (coincidentally sending you on a quest against a lich). And, as noted by various sources, he certainly suffers no shortage of tricks -- especially when it comes to magical cards up his sleeve.
Although Bregan D'aerthe remains headquartered in Menzoberranzan, led by the psionicist Kimmuriel Oblodra during Jarlaxle's frequent and long absences, Jarlaxle has remained his faction's chief schemer and player. In recent years, Bregan D'aerthe has worked for surface interests from Luruar to Tethyr, and as far to the northeast as Impiltur, with contacts in cities such as Waterdeep, Baldur's Gate, Athkatla, and Darromar, as well as Mulmaster and Lyrabar.
And now, they've come to Neverwinter. As shown in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting, Bregan D'aerthe has established a camp in the courtyard of Castle Never, which is also frequented by Drizzt now that his interests have seemingly become entwined with Jarlaxle's.
So, for those of you swayed by riches and treasure in the shadows and ruins, join Bregan D'aerthe.
But What of Endings?
Although the mass adventure concludes at the end of Gen Con, we look forward to congratulating the winning faction and following their influence in the next season of D&D Encounters, Lost Crown of Neverwinter. There, it seems, the intrigue continues.
Missing for decades, the Crown of Neverwinter, symbol of the former ruling family, has emerged at last. Yet not all are pleased with the crown's reappearance. Beset by rebels and plaguechanged, Lord Dagult Neverember must hire a group of adventurers to track down the so-called Lost Heir and discover his intentions for the city. The stakes are no less than the lives of the citizens of Neverwinter, for if the heroes fail, Neverwinter seems doomed to descend into civil war.
Best of luck and good hunting!
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll).