Raise your hand if you’ve played Neverwinter Nights for PC! I didn’t mean literally, put your hand down, you’re at work! You want your boss to see you?

Alright, that was close…

…Anyway Wizards of the Coast is apparently aware of all the love that game (by the now famous Bioware game studio) has garnered over the years. And so for the first time WoTC has dedicated a whole supplement detailing the Jewel of the North.

…which has been hit by a meteor.

The New New Forgotten Realms

Ok, it wasn’t a meteor, it was an exploding volcano, but the sentiment is the same. One of the most frequent complaints against the D&D settings of the past was that the world was full of awesome, epic NPCs that made it very difficult for players to make a difference in the story. WotC listened and when they launched the Forgotten Realms campaign for 4th Edition they wrote in the Spell Plague, an event that changed Faerun drastically. This allowed for PCs to once again explore the Forgotten Realms without fear of being unceremoniously smote by a 25 hit-die wizard/spellsinger.

And since it worked before they did it again! The Neverwinter Campaign Setting picks up 10 years after Neverwinter, having largely escaped the ravages of the Spellplague, gets totaled by a volcanic eruption. This means that the player characters can, once again, become the movers and the shakers in the campaign world.

Selling Points

Here, accompanied by my thoughts on their execution, are what the Neverwinter book touts as hallmarks of the Neverwinter campaign:

Low level play! The setting is largely built for characters of 1st through 10th level. No complaints here. Most games start out around heroic tier, so it’s certainly not a problem, especially with the rest of the forgotten realms out there for when the players outgrow Neverwinter.

Character Themes! theses types of bonuses, introduced in the Dark Sun campaign setting, include additional powers and features for your character. Now, do they really tie the character closer to the story like the book says? Not particualrly, but they do add a little bit of flavor-covered mechanics to distinguish Neverwinter characters from others. As in Dark Sun, these are very specific to the setting.

Characters Make a Difference! Certainly a good thing, but the book kinda beats you over the head with this one. Then again that’s always been Dungeons & Dragons’ style. It’s kind of funny that even when D&D is encouraging you to do your own thing they still do it by zapping you with a cattle prod.

Frontier Feel! Yes, this is here, and it works well.

Intrigue Abounds! Also yes, this book does have a lot of story hooks, both heading toward the future of the city, and unraveling the past.


The Story Goes On! Hey guys, you know how other constrictive settings make it look like the story will never change? Not us, man, we’re cool, largely because CHARACTERS MATTER!

Adventure is Everywhere! Again, yes. The book does a good job of providing a lot of hooks for the characters to get involved (since they matter and all)

Also, Check Out the Suite! The Neverwinter Campaign Setting is part of a multi-platform suite of products which include video games, novels, gaming store events and even board games. Which is cool since it allows for progressively deeper levels of involvement.


As is to be expected, the art is top notch. 4th edition books have a great look and Neverwinter continues the trend. I do cringe a little when I see art that I’ve seen in other D&D releases. But I also understand that most people probably don’t care about that.

New Tech

Mechanically, the primary draws of the Neverwinter Campaign Setting are the Themes that characters can access at first level. That said, it also features new options for wizards and clerics. My quick assessment is that the Spellsinger and deity domain options are balanced enough, and although the themes are powerful they’re balanced by the fact that everyone gets them. Oh, also I’ve gotten some flack before for not mentioning that a particular source book is ‘full of D&D essentials stuff’. Just so you know, this is. The new class options for wizards are written in the new essentials presentation, as is every other relevant power.

A Clarification and Some Parting Thoughts

All around the Neverwinter Campaign Setting is a complex pill to swallow. It strikes a strange balance between a setting that is familiar, and a setting that was familiar but now is under 16 feet of volcanic rock. Likewise, although I certainly appreciate the book’s enthusiasm to let you take control of the plot, sometimes it comes across like a loud girl shouting “MMM-HMMM GET DOWN WICHOBAD SELF!” Which is a little off-putting. That said, once you have processed the book, and rely on it largely for reference that may well take a back seat to the actual game.

I’m giving the Neverwinter Campaign Setting three out of five stars, certainly an above average effort, but restarting Neverwinter from scratch works against the book almost as much as it works for it.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

The Author



Nobody really knows what Rodrigo's deal is. He is a perpetual enigma, an unknown quantity, the X factor. He's the new kid in school, the unlisted number, the person all your friends talk about, but you've never met. How can one person be so mysterious, you ask? THAT IS ALSO TOTALLY A MYSTERY! You can try to keep tabs on him on twitter by following @fearsomecritter, but that probably won't help.

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  1. alvarlux
    August 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm — Reply

    Rodrigo – I think you missed the point that they let you control the plot – it’s very important to them.

    • August 26, 2011 at 3:59 pm — Reply


      • September 6, 2011 at 11:49 am — Reply

        Don’t be so hard on yourself, Rodrigo. It’s easy to miss.

        alvarlux, you MONSTER!

        Great review on this.

  2. Bill the Seeker
    August 26, 2011 at 10:13 pm — Reply

    Now if only I could find a book where the characters can make a difference. Know any settings like that, Rodrigo?

  3. EricMPaq
    September 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm — Reply

    Good review.

    A few nitpicks.
    1) The setting is set 30 years after the volcanic eruption. 100 years after the Spellplague.

    2) This is not an Essential product. It is a D&D 4th edition book which can be used with all 4th edition books.

    I enjoy the character theme tie-ins for the setting. It gives players a direct relationship to the story.

    For those who played Neverwinter Nights, there is link to the game in the D&D Encounters season Lost Crown of Neverwinter.

    • September 7, 2011 at 7:15 pm — Reply

      All character options are presented in the Essentials style, essential stuff is compatible with previous products. This book is an essentials product as much as any other, even if it’s not labeled as such.

      • EricMPaq
        September 8, 2011 at 6:09 am — Reply

        The style hasn’t changed much since original PHB. The only thing added is some setting info before each power presented and how they approach giving out character creation advice foer each class. I don’t see it being an Essential product. An Essential product is defined as being a product that will always be available, would constantly printed by WotC to be made available. I haven’t heard anywhere they plan to do that for Neverwinter Campaign Setting.

        • September 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm — Reply

          After the essentials line was launched the presentation (as well as some implementation) of classes was changed. See that table by the spellsinger? That’s a post-essentials presentation. So although the Neverwinter Campaign is not part of the Essentials (TM) line, it’s still a product that uses the essentials format.

          • EricMPaq
            September 8, 2011 at 7:52 pm — Reply

            Spellsinger? Do you mean Spellscarred Harbinger or Wizard (Bladsinger)?
            Also, which specific table are you talking about?

          • September 8, 2011 at 11:37 pm — Reply

            Ah, yes, I meant Wizard (Bladesinger), I get all the swordwizard words mixed up (Spellsword, swordmage, bladesigner, etc). the table I’m referring to is on page 71.
            The pre-essentials stuff all used the same table, so there were no tables like that before. Also the parenthetical is 100% a post-essentials addition. There didn’t used to be Class (Subclass) distinctions. When I say ‘this is an Essentials product’ that is what I’m referring to. That it is presented in the Essentials style and uses new Essentials rules and terminology.

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