Neverwinter Lead Designer Explains How Dungeons & Dragons Influences Game Design
The long-standing MMORPG Never winter obviously owes a lot to Dungeons & Dragons. The game takes place in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms campaign setting and adapts the tabletop game into an action-oriented MMORPG that any player can enjoy. Of course, the game’s designers are D&D experts too, with lead designer Randy Mosiondz having 36 years of DM experience in addition to an impressive game design resume. ComicBook.com spoke to Mosiondz via email about his experiences as a DM and how it contributed to game design, as well as the challenges of adapting D&D storylines for an MMORPG like Never in winter.
ComicBook.com: Obviously Neverwinter has gone through a ton of changes in its 8 years of existence. How do you keep the new content and storylines both fresh and engaging for existing fans and welcoming for new players?
Randy Mosiondz: A lot of it comes down to providing new experiences for players. It could be new locations in Forgotten Realms, new stories and villains, new monsters to fight, or new gameplay elements. We also work closely with Wizards of the Coast and often refer to Never winter versions of the modules they publish, such as Strahd’s Curse, Elemental Evil, Rise of Tiamat, Descent in Averne, etc. We also make original storylines inspired by the story of Forgotten Realms and new D&D books.
What tools from D&D DM have been found to be useful in approaching video game design? Have elements of your home games been integrated into Neverwinter?
Mosiondz: I’ve found that a lot of the work behind D&D DM is very similar to designing content games for Never winter. Card designs begin with sketches on scrap paper (sometimes grid paper) or their digital equivalent. The encounter distributions are very similar in terms of pace and escalation, while adding varied gameplay and themed rewards.
And yes, there are some minor characters and callbacks that have become Never in winter. However, only people who have played in my home games would recognize and appreciate the references!
What is one thing new DMs and veteran DMs tend to overlook when planning and running games?
Mosiondz: I think sometimes DMs have a very clear vision of what they want to perform for their game. But what is just as important is how the player characters fit into the background. Players sometimes put a lot of detail into their characters, and they must feel that they belong and are integrated into the world. A specific example would be if a bandit killed a player character’s lover, then you as the DM could make that bandit a big bad henchman in your campaign. It’s important to make a campaign personal, a story that you and your players can tell together.
Mosiondz: We’ve seen Neverwinter adapt several D&D campaign scenarios, including Tomb of Annihilation and Descent into Avernus. When you decide to adapt a storyline for Neverwinter, how do you decide which parts of that campaign will go into the game?
When we do an analysis of a table module for converting to a Never winter module, it really comes down to the impact of the story associated with the action gameplay, as well as the availability of resources. First, we try to identify the key story elements to come out of the mod that serve the action style of play that we established in Never winter. Players invest a lot of time building their characters in Never winter, so we want to make sure we come up with enough challenges to show their investment.
For resources, we’ve built a good resource library over the years, but sometimes there are separate visuals in the table module that are unlike anything we’ve done before. So we need to figure out what kind of new environment kits are involved, what kind of new monsters, sound effects, animations, and break it down into what we can do with a mix of new and reused assets.
Mosiondz: An interesting wrinkle in D&D’s new adventure, Wild Beyond the Witchlight, is that it can be approached with a “no combat” approach. Do you think Neverwinter will ever attempt a non-combat scenario?
We certainly have talented storytellers in our studio, so it’s not beyond our means. However, as mentioned earlier, Never winter is very focused on action gameplay. This means that while we may have quests that don’t directly involve combat, we’re not a heavily storytelling game. So having scenarios that aren’t combat focused would be a big change for our player base.
Neverwinter is free to download on Steam, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.