Come visit the city where it is always either that only has three seasons a year – Spring, Summer, and Fall. But Never Winter.
That’s right, today we visit the Jewel of the North, the City of Skilled Hands (clearly a nickname thought up by the Neverwinter tourism board’s summer intern), That Infernal City (this one is mostly a Luskan nickname)–Neverwinter. Named for the magically heated Neverwinter river that runs right through the center of town, Neverwinter is situated in the Northern Sword Coast near the Neverwinter hills, which lie at the base of Mount Hotenow–where the fire elementals that magically heat the Neverwinter river live.
It’s one of the more well-known pieces of real estate in the Realms, attracting such luminaries as Drizzt Do’Urden, Volothamp Geddarm, and a whole host of other high-level heroes.
It’s also been the setting of a few different video games over the years, most recently the self-titled Neverwinter MMORPG. But Neverwinter has a history of being multiplayer oriented. Something about this jeweled city, this bastion of cosmopolitan civilization in the otherwise untamed North must elicit cooperative vibes–the very first game to feature Neverwinter was called Neverwinter Nights and is almost certainly not the one you’re thinking of:
That’s right, this came out back in the halcyon days of 1991, when the Internet was full of hope and possibility and was basically like a superhighway, but for information. When people could surf in cyberspace to find the digital age at the tips of their fingers…
Seriously–this was published when AOL distributed CD-ROMs, but not with free minutes, with games. Neverwinter Nights, the original, was published in partnership with AOL and is considered the very first graphical MMORPG, predating even Meridian 59. And now that you know that, your indie cred has gone up enough that you can be maybe 62% as cool as those kids up there.
But there was another game that came out which bore the same title.
“With Baldur’s Gate we sparked a roleplaying Renaissance…”
And this was the first big 3-D D&D game. It featured its own suite of multiplayer tools and a plotline that pit Neverwinter’s age-old foes, the Luskans against it. They worked in the shadows to create and spread a magical plague called the Wailing Death, which resisted magical healing and you had to cure by rounding up four special creatures from Waterdeep.
From there you were embroiled in a plotline that pit you against one of the Old Ones–a Sarrukh–in an extradimensional space, accompanied by none other than halfling extraordinaire Tomi Undergallows.
I mean, there were technically other companions, but come on… he has a kukri.
But enough about Neverwinter’s history of multiplayer madness–though it does sort of lend credence to the city’s reputation for being the most cosmopolitan city in the Realms, even Volo agrees, and he’s been in enough places for that to actually mean something–for now, let’s explore the city itself.
The most prominent features in Neverwinter are the city’s three intricately carved bridges that span the width of the city’s life-giving river: the Dolphin, the Wyvern, and the Sleeping Dragon, each of which is a wonder in its own right. And beneath them, the magic river flows in gentle waterfalls through the city, feeding its gardens.
One of the city’s nicknames is the City of Skilled Hands, stop snickering. That particular epithet, stop snickering, refers to the city’s many skilled gardeners, who ensure that the gardens of the city are colorful and fruitful during the warmer months. And when the nights grow cold, the city is still warmed and its inhabitants enjoy the fruits of their labors, whether the actual literal fruits or the wealth that such exports bring to the city.
There are five main districts in the city (though some of this may have changed owing to the recent eruption of Mount Hotenow).
This is the governance district. Here the business of running the city is conducted. Castle Neverwinter sits overlooking its city, while around it are such sights and establishments as the Hall of Justice, a temple devoted to Tyr; the Cloaktower, where the city’s mages gather to conduct research and attend their end-of-quarter staff meetings; and the Moonstone Mask, an inn which is reputed to have a brothel tucked away in the back. Of course Ophalia Cheldarstone, the proprietress, runs a tight ship, and these things are likely as not mere salacious rumors.
With a name like Beggar’s Nest, you’re not exactly expecting a lively, well-to-do neighborhood, and you’d be right. This is a place where the destitute drift. Here people are forgotten and broken and desolate. Even surrounded by the wealth of the city, they have nothing. And just to help hammer the point home, there’s a massive graveyard to the north of this area, which means that somewhere in this district there’s a sign that keeps track of how many days they’ve gone without an undead attack.
It never goes up very high. One of the hardest hit parts of the city when the Wailing Death came to it. And again when the Luskan Orcs threatened it. And–you know, come to think of it, not a whole lot happens here that’s good.
The other side of the spectrum from Beggar’s Nest. Blacklake is where the wealthy elite of the city dwell. Whether you’re nobility, or simply have enough money to make a member thereof blush, you’ll find opulent houses here. Including, it’s rumored, the fortress-estate of an eccentric Elven wizard, who almost certainly doesn’t have his own private army for perfectly valid reasons.
The Neverwinter Zoo is here as well. No word on whether or not the cages are gilded–but hey, there’s an entire district for that!
When have a Fantasy city’s docks ever been home to anything other than the criminal element? I mean for all the wealth that flows to the city’s it’s no wonder anyone makes it in the first place for all the gangs, organized crime syndicates, rackets of kobolds/goblins operating literally beneath the notice of the city watch, Zhentarim agents, Luskan provocateurs, and all around bad eggs that you’ll find crime-ing it up in the shadows of the ports.
Which is not to say that boats don’t dock here occasionally. After all, smugglers have to have some place to bring their illicit goods that they sneak into the city.
Home to Neverwinter’s Prison, the peninsula juts out over the water and is incredibly secure. Naturally this is one of the locations that characters in Neverwinter Nights have to travel to, in order to track down part of the cure for the Wailing Death.
So there you have it. One of the most famous cities in the Forgotten Realms, with a cosmopolitan air that puts even cities like Waterdeep and Silverymoon to shame, it’s a great site for any adventure. You’ve got access to the Sword Coast, to the wild Northlands, and to all manner of other places just begging to be explored.
Ahhh Neverwinter Nights, the GM tools were the perfect way to unleash a horde of 50 dragons upon the characters you talked your soon-to-be-ex-friends into importing onto your custom server (which doubled as their graves.)