Neverwinter Nights 2 Designer Diary #4 - The Coolest Things in Neverwinter Nights 2

Lead designer Josh Sawyer introduces us to his favorite features (like arson) in Neverwinter Nights 2, the sequel to 2002's acclaimed fantasy role-playing game.


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Role-playing games such as Neverwinter Nights 2 immerse you into another world, and another life. You can take on the role of a warrior, thief, magician, and more, as you pursue a great quest, usually to defeat evil. With Neverwinter Nights 2, however, the focus is on improving the role-playing experience, as you can do lots of activities that you weren't able to do in the original game, like engaging in a little arson on the side for fun. It sounds a bit twisted, but that's how lead designer Josh Sawyer likes it. And in his designer diary, Sawyer tells us what he loves about the game. Neverwinter Nights 2 is scheduled to ship around the end of the month.

10 Things to Do in Neverwinter 2

By Josh Sawyer
Lead Designer, Obsidian Entertainment

When developing a game, it's important for the developers to play the game. This might seem obvious, but it's easy to lose sight of the fact that we're making something that other people are going to use. We're making entertainment appliances, and a user's experience goes beyond what can be imagined, expressed in an area document, or visualized in an editor. It's a series of moments made up of their interactions and reactions to what the game gives them. It can't be expressed as some sort of abstracted arithmetic, despite the fact that it's composed of things that can be easily listed and understood: accessibility, curiosity, wonder, fear, anger, excitement, disappointment, satisfaction, pacing, frustration, amusement, and so on.

There will be lots to see and do in Neverwinter Nights 2, the follow-up to 2002's acclaimed RPG.
There will be lots to see and do in Neverwinter Nights 2, the follow-up to 2002's acclaimed RPG.

To understand why anyone would pick our game up or put it down, I set out on a three-week adventure through the highs and lows of the Neverwinter Nights 2 official campaign. There were, in fact, some lows. But, guess what, this article is meant to entice you to buy the game, so we'll skip the lows and go right to the highs. You should rest assured, though, as Obsidian's bug-fixing gnomes have constructed an antibug golem to automagically fix any and all problems I experienced during the course of my play-through. With that in mind, please join me as I recount my top 10 coolest things in the Neverwinter Nights 2 official campaign.

1. Cool Tutorial - I never get tired of playing our tutorial. Actually, that's a lie. I've played our tutorial about 30 times, and when I start it up now, I long for the sweet release of death. However, I do not want to murder everyone involved in the creation of our tutorial after 30 sessions! That means that if you play through it once or five times, you'll love it! Seriously, it's a lot of fun. You get to help a child engage in theft, and you can expose the fraudulent flimflams of an old man and his pig. What else can you ask for? You might be asking, "But can I beat up some jerks with clubs?" You got it, pal.

2. Role-Playing - When I made my character, Sass Afrass, I gave her the tale-teller background trait. I decided to role-play this by "bluffing" (lying) any time I had the [LIE] or [BLUFF] options in dialogue, regardless of how terrible the results of failure might be. I had a lot of opportunity to do this! Also, I had a lot of opportunity to fail my bluff checks because I didn't put many points into bluff. Often, people got mad at me and attacked me with magic missiles, and my character slowly started telling the truth. I think my character learned a little something about honesty and I learned a little something about life!

Bluffing your way is an option, though you might tick off a lot of people along the way.
Bluffing your way is an option, though you might tick off a lot of people along the way.

3. Guyven of the Road - Who is this dude? Why is he hiding in the grass all over the Sword Coast? What secrets does he know? These are mysteries you can solve if you find this discrete halfling during your travels. Then again, maybe you aren't a cool enough explorer to be Guyven's pal. Find him, before it's too late!

4. Death's Herald +5, Hellbane +3, and Fiendbreaker +4 - I bet these sound like the names of magic items I found in the game. You'd be wrong, my friend! These are magic items I crafted in the game from adamantine ingots and fire beetle glands and a bunch of garnets. Crafting in our game takes a long time, but when you can make a flaming frost cold iron greatsword +3, it's pretty much worth it. Given Dungeon & Dragons 3.5's damage-reduction rules, it's nice to be able to have a full toolset, so to speak. "Sorry, Ms. Werewolf, you're taking the express train to shocking frost alchemical silver greatsword +4 town!" And colors/italics/boldface? Yeah, you can type those in the name field when you enchant items. I tried to make a rainbow staff to celebrate the diversity of my party, but the field wasn't long enough.

Greetings Ribsmasher!

5. Take Back the Streets! With Money! And Fire! - One of the routes through the game can be achieved by joining the city watch of Neverwinter. However, you can be a really corrupt watchman, which is pretty sweet. Bribery and graft are awesome! Alternately, you can side with the thugs and burn down the watch headquarters. Arson is awesome! If you're a pyromaniac with a heart of gold, you even have the option of burning down the watch headquarters and going inside to warn the residents so they don't get roasted alive. Merciful criminal torch-jobs are awesome!

Beware! A dragon is a very difficult enemy to battle. And two dragons are even tougher.
Beware! A dragon is a very difficult enemy to battle. And two dragons are even tougher.

6. Ribsmasher - To be honest, Ribsmasher is kind of a "wacky" character, but he's still quite the lovable scamp. Locked up in a goblin fortress, the player can set this crazy monk free! Or kill him. But setting him free has much more hilarious results, as Ribsmasher will smash the ribs of any hostile creature he finds. When he runs out of ribs to smash, he'll smash doors, chests, alchemist's workbenches, etc.

7. Crossroad Keep - In case you haven't been following NWN2's development, you can get a keep in the official campaign. Crossroad Keep starts out as a run-down rubble-littered dump where no one wants to live or work. By directing your staff of cool dudes, you can build it up and make it fancy again. You can recruit folks from all over the place to work at the keep, including a dimensional planes-hopping wizard and an aasimar fighter called Light of Heavens. The latter has a sister who will dance in your tavern if you can find her. What other games let you have aasimar dancers in your personal tavern, huh?! Huh?!

8. Prestige Class Outfits - I was skeptical about this when programmer Anthony Davis brought up the idea, but it turned out great. I even took levels in Neverwinter Nine just so I could wear my sweet Neverwinter Nine tunic whilst patrolling my lands. I saved my eldritch knight chain shirt for "field work." Only people with levels in the appropriate prestige class can wear prestige-class outfits. Except for people with a lot of ranks in the "use magic device" ability. They are dirty, dirty cheaters.

9. Killing a Bunch of Druids - Even though I actually like the idea of druids, they always wind up sassin' off to me when I play RPGs. They're pretty pushy people. "Don't burn down the forest!" this and "You are disrupting the Mere of Dead Men!" that. Well, let me tell you: If you play your cards right, you can waste a whole bunch of these guys in our official campaign. That'll show 'em. However, you will have to watch out for flame strikes and ice storms and myriad other nature spells/druids in animal form.

The role-playing possibilities in Neverwinter Nights 2 sound cool, and we can't wait for the game to ship later this month.
The role-playing possibilities in Neverwinter Nights 2 sound cool, and we can't wait for the game to ship later this month.

10. Dragon Encounters - There was a time when someone in quality assurance said, "Hey, these dragon fights aren't hard enough." That is no longer spoken. Hopefully, you will enjoy fighting and trying to defeat these colossal foes. The only thing I enjoyed more than defeating them was hauling loot out of the big one's lair down the side of a huge mountain infested with fire giants.

There are a lot of other cool things about our official campaign. And there's also all the toolset and multiplayer stuff, but you've already probably read all about that. I think people will really enjoy our official campaign and be able to make their own lists of cool things they found and did. I certainly know there are many more things to see that I missed and many more ways to play the game. Wheeee!

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