Due out later this fall on the PC, Underdark, is the newest Module for Neverwinter. Underdark is tied in neatly with the current Wizards of the Coast season Rage of Demons. Last week Rob talked to lead game designer Scott Shicoff to find out what all this module entailed. Read on to see what we learned besides the fact that Scott is a huge Electric Mayhem and the Muppets fan.
MMORPG: Can you provide us an overview of what is going on in the new module.
Scott: For module 8 we wanted to tie into the Rage of Demons. For us that meant to go to the Underdark and really explorie what it would mean for demons to be flooding the material plane. At a high level we wanted to get a lot of demons so players will have an opportunity to fight demons throughout the module. We have a couple of skirmishes that have variable play and variable rewards based upon how well you do. We also have a large group fight with Demogorgon, which is a 10 player fight against a large monster with coordination and multiple phases. One of the cool things we got to do with this module is we have a whole quest line written by R. A. Salvatore dealing with Drizzt, Bruenor, Regis, Pwent, and a lot of famous characters from D&D lore so that is really cool. There is a whole chain of quests there.
MMORPG: While certainly the baddest Demogorgon isn’t the only demon from the Out of the Abyss adventure guide to spring forth to the prime material plane. Will we get a chance to get to see any of those other demons in this module?
Scott: Sure. None are as high ranking or powerful as Demogorgon. Demogorgon is certainly the “big bad demon” that we are unveiling but you are going to see a lot of other cool things. Balgura, Glabrezu, Shadow Demons, things like that.
MMORPG: Will we see any of Lolth’s influence in the module.
Scott: That is an interesting question because if you play the table top one all of Lolth’s influence, she likes to be really behind the scenes. She is the one tying into the tears in the material plane and the demons flooding in, this is part of her grand plan. Really everything that is happening even if you don’t realize it that is all Lolth’s influence. Demogorogon being there, all the demons coming through, that’s all Her doing. Even though you won’t be directly interacting with Lolth or going to the Abyss yourself all of this is Her influence.
MMORPG: What was it like to work with Bob (Salvatore) on this story line?
Scott: It was really cool. He has been writing these characters for 28 years now and they have endured, there is something that people really identify with there. Being able to work with him and have him help us tell these stories with characters that people really identify with that was super cool. He was easy to work with, very collaborative, worked on not only the plot lines but the dialogue. He knows his characters better than anyone. Something that we really hope comes through when people experience this is getting a feel for who these guys are, it’s so rich and there is so much lore in there you could never tell it all, having that knowledge and saying well how does that translate? How do players experience this? How do we get to feel like we know these characters. You are going to have a number of players who recognize, “Oh that’s Drizzt. I know his story. Oh that’s Bruenor, that’s Pwent.” Then you are going to have a lot of other players who don’t know these characters. Getting their personalities to come through is something that Bob was a really big help on.
MMORPG: We might be venturing into spoiler territory here but you keep mentioning Pwent. Pwent’s dead. How does he fit in?
Scott: We had to disconnect a little bit from the timelines in the books because as you mentioned Pwent’s dead and a lot of stuff has happened through Archmage and Bob’s got more books coming out that continue these stories. Because we are going to have a number of players that only sort of know these characters we had to say that we were going to be disconnected from the timelines within the books themselves to give players a chance to experience these storylines for themselves. They are going to be able to interact and learn his fate a bit. There are similarities you are experiencing in the gameplay versus what might of happened in the books.
MMORPG: In the novel Archmage Regis and Wuflgar left to find Regis’s love interest that he met as Spider. Does this storyline fill in the gaps on how Regis has rejoined the companions after Archmage or has the story been retconned for this module?
Scott: It’s a separate telling. That said we love working with Bob on all of this stuff. I love the characters. I’d love to do stuff telling stories like this in the future and we are continuing to work with Bob on future stuff. No promises on what we might do. But there are all kinds of cool stories we would love to tell with the Companions (of the Hall) moving forward.
MMORPG: Will there be any new playable characters or races added in with this module?
Scott: Nope. No new class or race yet. The paladin came out with module 6 so that is the newest class and that will be the case for a while.
MMORPG: Besides this quest line are there any major changes or system additions for this module?
Scott: There aren’t any new systems per say, but one of the things I touched on in the beginning was the idea of variable rewards and variable experience. When you play a piece of content like the Demogorgon fight you want to be engaged with it. You want to have to read what is going on and make decisions and make choices because that’s what makes it fun. We really wanted to make sure with all of this content that each time you played it you had to pay attention. You’ve got to really see what is going on. You don’t want to be able to just close your eyes and play it. On top of that as you start to learn the mechanics and systems and improve your equipment and style of play you are going to get better rewards. It’s something that I don’t know we did really well in Neverwinter before so it was something we are really trying to nail this time
MMORPG: Like in previous modules are we going to see the introduction of passive bonuses aka boons and things like that for unlocking certain quests?
Scott: Yeah. There is a new campaign tied into all the Underdark content and there are new boons tied into that. There are also new companions and new mounts. We are also doing a new trade bar store rework. It has been in the game since launch but it hasn’t been updated in a long time. We want players to feel good about acquiring these trade bars. Some of that will be gear that ties into a demon theme.
MMORPG: Will adventurers get a chance to journey into Menzoberranzan?
Scott: Nope. We are not taking them all the way in there. The current state of Menzoberranzan is that it is currently being trashed by demons. By the nature of the lore we are keeping players away from Menzoberranzan for now. One of the other things to wrap that thought up real quick is, “What is the Underdark? Why is it cool to go there?” WotC told us that they really like the concept of the Underdark being the great unknown. It is a massive place that has only barely been explored. Civilizations have risen and fallen that haven’t even been discovered. The Faerzress magic permeates the place. The concept of this is the great unknown. Go explore. This is really inspiring for us. The sky / cavern ceiling is the limit. We are going to Mantol-Derith. A market where all the denizens of the Underdark will go and trade. They all put their differences aside in the name of trade and business.
MMORPG: Player characters will be going into Gauntlgrym?
Scott: Not to give off too much but there is a part of the story that will take you there.