A new module for the game, with new NWN content rivalling the official expansions.

As I read over the design documents, and saw that this would involve building something as iconic as Zhentil Keep, officially, for Neverwinter Nights I was hugely excited, and more than a little daunted. Then I kept reading, Mulmaster, Melvaunt, Thentia, we were building the entire Moonsea...

View of the Tesh Bridge in Zhentil Keep

Having worked for the last year as 'Lead Level Designer' on Tyrants of the Moonsea, the first new module released for Neverwinter Nights in 15 years, We are now able to talk about that experience, and what it means both for both ourselves, and the broader NWN community.

In May 2018 I was posting on our Twitter account about the history of premium modules for NWN, and ended by discussing Tyrants of the Moonsea, cancelled as development on NWN was finally shut down, and later released, free of charge, but incomplete. When the author was kind enough to respond to the tweet, I had no idea that only a few months later we would be working together in bringing Tyrants finally to fruition.

As any scholar of NWN knows, the loss of this entry was keenly felt. Penned by fantasy author Luke Scull (under the name 'alazander'), this was to be his third entry into the NWN canon, following both Crimson Tides of Tethyr and Siege of Shadowdale, both of which were highly acclaimed by the community. This was an artist invested in realising his vision, backed by the enthusiastic team of developers at Ossian Studios, themselves veterans of producing premium content both for Neverwinter Nights, and its sequel Neverwinter Nights 2.

In being approached to form and head up a level design team (to which I recruited Arelith developers Action Replay and Anatida, in addition to seeking the blessing from Artos to revamp a few existing Arelith interiors) I soon realised this was a real chance to show the broader D&D community just what Neverwinter Nights can do in 2019. A task helped immeasurably when legendary NWN community artist Zwerkules agreed with Beamdog to have some of his stunning tilesets and facelifts officially migrated into the game for this release.

The River Lis

With the art of Zwerkules, and the ability to produce far more ambitious area content than machines in 2006 allowed, my only misgiving was that given the niche market that exists for Neverwinter Nights, we would not have neither the time nor freedom to invest so heavily in improving and expanding the few hours of gameplay that comprised the incomplete Tyrants.

In this respect, I couldn't have been more wrong. What was originally slated for just a few weeks of development soon turned into something far larger, as many of us worked around the clock, for months, to fully realise Luke Scull's epic tale of the Moonsea, turning those five hours, into what is likely approaching thirty.

Thentia - a view of the Inlet Inn

With Ossian here was a team 'old hands', fresh from their enhancement of Darkness over Daggerford ready to do their level best in making Tyrants, and only as content began to be added did I realise just what NWN, and Persistent Worlds like Arelith stood to gain by this project.

One early highlight for me was when Alan Miranda, the CEO of Ossian put me in touch with artist Bill Harper, and together they asked me for a 'wish-list' of new placeables and items. For someone that has been trying to make the absolute most out of NWN's limited toolbox for over ten years, this was a like a dream come true...

Thus Tyrants of the Moonsea sees a host of new artistic content, with dozens of fantastic new placeables, new tile art, and items, including everything needed to build a fully fledged casino, as was required in the Gate of Good Fortune in Mulmaster, and something I have long wished to see on Arelith.

Dice Tables in the Gate of Good Fortune in Mulmaster

Card Tables in the Gate of Good Fortune in Mulmaster

Then of course there were the things I could hardly have expected to see produced for NWN in 2019, and what I would have guessed far outside the realms of possibility with so limited an audience. Alan was commissioning whole new musical scores, vocal performances, new art, and portraits.

The new creatures, though few, were of a quality I have simply never seen achieved in NWN. I am advised not to spoil the 'big bad' of the game, but I can perhaps share this image of the terrifying Malaugrym...

The Maulgrym

In addition to the inclusion of 3 (4 technically) amazing new tilesets, the changes and improvements made to some of the existing ones renders them largely unrecognisable. Mostly notably the spiralling walkways and lantern-lit tree houses added to the 'Forest' tileset, and used in creation of Elventree.

Anyone working in NWN area development, like myself, should find these additions immensely exciting – this is precisely what I hoped to see when Neverwinter Nights returned to active development with the 'Enhanced Edition'

The Treehouses of Elventree

Finally, and perhaps saving the very best for last, there is the aspect of this I found perhaps the most surprising of all, and potentially the most welcome by our players;

During the many days of play testing I came to realise that the staff at Ossian were not satisfied with merely optimising their own module, but began fixing long-standing bug and performance issues with NWN itself. Tracking down and fixing problematic tiles across many existing tilesets, increasing performance, significantly, in content not made by themselves, but released to the game over 15 years ago.

They did not need to do this, and that they did is most definitely to their credit.

In conclusion I found the commitment to Neverwinter Nights displayed by the Ossian Team hugely encouraging, and whether Tyrants of the Moonsea proves to be the 'Last Hurrah' for Neverwinter Night's modules, or the dawn of a new era of development, we are proud at Arelith to have played a part in it, and I wish to thank them for the opportunity to be involved.

I will now include a brief a FAQ, as I know members of our community will be asking some of these questions.

Do we need to purchase Tyrants of the Moonsea to access the new content?

No, this is not an 'official' expansion to the game, but rather comparable to releases like Kingmaker. Undoubtedly the new content will make its way into the various Neverwinter Night's servers soon.

Personally I find it absolutely critical that the content is quickly curated and updated into the game itself, as it is undoubtedly the case that various NWN servers will otherwise extract and use the content via their own HAKS, which is not ideal, and does not do justice to the artists responsible.

You can purchase NWN and Tyrants of the Moonsea via Steam

Does Arelith profit from Tyrants?

Tyrants of the Moonsea is produced by Ossian Studios, and has no formal connection to Arelith – A persistent World. We receive a 'special thanks' in the game credits, both due to the Arelith areas which have been included, and because of the opportunity cost we paid by my being indisposed for a number of months as I dropped Arelith development to work on this project. Arelith receives no funds from the release of Tyrants.

How soon will we see this new content on Arelith?

Hopefully very soon, at least for the Zwerkules content, which is already available to developers on NWN via the NWN Vault

Will there be any further development of this kind for NWN?

I cannot answer that question, though I expect the relative success of Tyrants will play into any such decision in future. I certainly hope so; there is so much more we can do.

Is this module made by Beamdog?

No, Ossian is a different studio, working under licence from Beamdog (Who themelves were extremely helpful and supportive in the project.) You can visit Ossian's website here.

Does this module support Multiplayer?

No, as with many single player modules of this kind it is built in such a way (The World Map Feature, Encouters etc) that unfortunately does not support party play.

Can we visit these locations while playing Arelith?

While I made many of these areas, they were done so on behalf of Ossian Studios, and thus not do not belong to Arelith. With their permission I wouldn't be against running a one-off event one day, where the adventurers of Arelith visit Zhentil Keep - though to see the full range of these locations, one will need to do so in Tyrants of the Moonsea!

The Grand Temple of the Black Lord in Zhentil Keep