Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir Interview

With the release date of Obsidian Entertainment’s ambitious Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir expansion pack quickly approaching, we felt it was a good time to quiz the team about some of the information that’s been shared since our last interview.  Answering our questions this time around are lead designer Tony Evans, programmer Justin Reynard, lead QA Brandon Adler, producer Rob McGinnis, marketing and PR producer Matthew Rorie, designer Nathaniel Chapman, artist Jay Bakke, asset manager Homer Parker, and lead programmer Rich Taylor. Here we go:

GB: In our last interview, you revealed the Doomguide of Kelemvor prestige class.  Since then, you’ve announced two others – the Swashbuckler and Hellfire Warlock.  Can you give us a quick rundown of the advantages each of these classes bring to the table?  What sort of prerequisites for each are we looking at?

Matthew Rorie: The swashbuckler is actually a base class – it can be acquired at level one with no prerequisites. As a base class, it’s probably going to be a good lead-in to the Duelist prestige class, although it’s also powerful up to level 20 by itself. As you might expect from the name, the Swashbuckler is a Robin Hood-style class that relies on light armor and light weapons. Instead of massive critical hits, the Swashbuckler will deal extra damage based on their Intelligence bonus, and will also eventually get bonuses to their chances to dodge attacks. In their late teens, they also gain the ability to sap an opponent’s strength and constitution with each hit.

The Hellfire Warlock is the first Warlock prestige class that we’ve done, and it’s a powerful one. While it’s only a three-level prestige class, each level will net you some very powerful abilities. The prerequisites are nothing to sneeze at, though: you will need 12 ranks of Lore, among other skill requirements, to pick up the Hellfire prestige class, so it’s not something you will be able to pick up too early. When you do start down your infernal path, though, you will gain abilities that will let you drain your own constitution to deal extra damage to your foes (keep a Restoration spell at the ready!) or even summon powerful devils to do your bidding. (Be aware that they don’t always appreciate being told what to do, however, and sometimes express their displeasure in a rather vehement manner.)

GB: You’re also introducing the Yuan-ti Pureblood and Gray Orc races.  What advantages and disadvantages will be associated with these races and what classes are they best suited for?

Matthew Rorie: The yuan-ti pureblood has some interesting abilities, starting with the +2 bonuses to dexterity, intelligence, and charisma. On top of that, they also possess innate spell resistance and a natural armor bonus, on top of a bevy of spell-like abilities. Powerful stuff…but you’ll have to accept a +2 level adjustment to make up for it. The favored class of a pureblood is ranger, but they’ll be adept at almost any profession they choose.

The gray orc is a different beast from the half-orc that has been the favorite race of many a barbarian for years. This breed of orc actually gets bonuses to strength and wisdom to counterbalance their penalties to intelligence and charisma. They’re also able to move more quickly than most races, and their powerful sense of smell aids them in tracking, making them ideal candidates for leading a party across the Overworld Map. These abilities do come with a +1 level adjustment, however. The favored class of the gray orc is the cleric.

GB: Given all of the modules that have been released for NWN and NWN2, both official and fan-made, did you have trouble coming up with a new premise for the SoZ campaign?

Nathaniel Chapman: Actually, all of the modules that exist for NWN and NWN2 provided inspiration and helped make Storm of Zehir’s inception relatively painless. I think, in general, the premise of SoZ was formed mostly by things that we on the SoZ team like about Pen and Paper D&D and PC RPGs that we felt hadn’t been done before in the NWN series or hadn’t been done to our satisfaction in any game. I think the design team shared a very clear vision of SoZ’s gameplay from the ground up and challenges came more in the nitty-gritty aspects of implementation than in coming up with the ideas themselves.

This may sound a touch selfish, but with SoZ I think we decided to first and foremost make the kind of game that we wanted to play and that we hadn’t seen in a long time – although, if this is something we want, there’s probably a significant amount of gamers out there who want it, too.

GB: Are we finally going to see secret doors in SoZ?  And if not, will we ever?

Jay Bakke: Secret doors are something I would love to see make its way into the game in the future, but alas, there were no secret doors created for Storm of Zehir.

GB: How many new magic items will Storm of Zehir bring to Neverwinter Nights 2?  Are there any new weapon/armor types or never-before-seen utility items being added?  Any notable examples you can share with us?

Tony Evans: Storm of Zehir will have well over 100 new magic items. Here are a few examples.

The Adventurer’s Guide Players will find this useful tome early on in the game. In addition to containing a great deal of information to help you learn the how to be an adventurer in the dangerous Forgotten Realms, it also grants a small bonus to Survival and Lore to those who possess it.

The Belt of Growth Allows the player to cast enlarge person on himself once per day. An ideal item if you want your gnome rogue to see eye to eye with a yuan-ti abomination.

Eyepatch of the Great Sea Corsair Gives the player +5 to spot checks and can cast see invisibility once per day. (Great for the overland map as well as dealing with pesky, disappearing wizards).

Many of the more exotic and powerful magic items in Storm of Zehir can be created through our new Crafting system. There are over 350 recipes divided up in several categories including Magic Weapons, Magic Armor, Alchemy, Traps and Wondrous Items. One of the things that is great about our Crafting system is that you no longer have to hassle with juggling around reagents to the one person who has the skill needed to craft an item. Now if anyone in the party has the right materials and right skills, you can craft an item simply by clicking on any of your recipes, which will be stored conveniently in Crafting books.

GB: How many new spells and feats are being added with the expansion pack?  Additionally, can you tell us more about the new Teamwork Benefit feats?

Justin Reynard: We added over 90 new feats, epithets and Teamwork Benefits to Storm of Zehir. We’ve worked hard to make sure that there’s something fun for just about every category to help make Storm of Zehir the richest D&D experience possible.

I was a big fan of the Jurassic Park movies (well, the first one, at least) so the addition of Dinosaur Companion is definitely one of my favorites.

Also, when creating your new characters don’t miss the new Draconic, Fiendish and Fey Heritage Feats. These feats define your (lineage) so the first feat in the series can only be taken at level one. This leads to such future feats as Fiendish Power which increases your caster level for evil spells and warlock invocations by 1 and is great feat if you plan on trying to master the new Hellfire Warlock class…

We’ve also added nearly 30 new spells and over 25 class and racial abilities, many of which will have a defining impact on your Storm of Zehir experience. I’m not a very good NWN2 player, so personally the new spell Stabilize (2nd level Divine spell for Clerics and Paladins) which does an area heal effect for 1 hitpoint, stopping any of your characters from bleeding to death, has saved my party a few times.

GB: In addition to our customized four-member party, how many different “cohorts” will be available for us to recruit in Storm of Zehir and how will we gain access to them?

Brandon Adler: To help round-out the party constructed during character creation, you can encounter up to eleven cohorts – each with their own unique personalities.  One thing to remember: encountering a cohort does not necessarily mean that they will follow you into battle.  Some will only require that you ask for their help.  Some may demand your assistance in completing a task.  Others are little more than mercenaries.  Regardless of which cohorts a player adventures with, he can always find a companion that fits within the group’s dynamic.

GB: How different will the Storm of Zehir campaign be from the perspective of an entirely good party vs. an entirely evil one?  Will there be multiple endings that depend on the choices made during the campaign?

Homer Parker: As with the other games in the Neverwinter Nights 2 series, your actions in the campaign will affect how NPCs treat your party in a variety of situations.  Storm of Zehir, even more so than our previous games, allows the player to choose how he wants the adventure to unfold.  Almost every problem can be resolved in multiple ways.  Some may not be immediately obvious.  Some may not be as simple as bad or good.  Truly villainous players may indulge their selfish whims and augment their party by bargaining with a familiar evil.

The resolution of major plot arcs will, of course, have a significant effect on how the party’s tale is told.  I think that players will be pleased to find that even seemingly trivial decisions made during lesser plot arcs will help to tailor an ending that accurately depicts how they weathered the Storm of Zehir.

GB: Storm of Zehir, Mysteries of Westgate, and Patch 1.14…  what order do you anticipate these being released in?  Are there any additional tweaks that you’d like to make that aren’t going to make it into v1.14?

Rich Taylor: The next Neverwinter Nights 2 product to be released is going to be Storm of Zehir.  The version of the game that will be on the DVD is going to be called 1.20. This release will include the authentication system that was determined to be a pre-requisite by Atari before Mysteries of Westgate could be released. Last I heard from Atari’s QA department, everything should be ready for MoW with the release of Storm of Zehir. There will be an update on the day this new expansion releases in order to update all of the clients with Neverwinter Nights 2 installed that don’t have the new expansion. This will bring all installations up to version 1.21.  The next update after 1.21 will be released sometime in the next few months and will be referred to as 1.22. There’s a number of exciting changes planned for the 1.22 update, but we’ll wait until its contents are a more definite thing before going into much detail on them.

GB: What’s next for the Neverwinter Nights franchise?  If approached, would Obsidian Entertainment be interested in working on a Neverwinter Nights 3 or even a Neverwinter Nights Online MMO?

Rob McGinnis: Well, after Storm of Zehir is released (and a short break), the patching will resume.  We have some great things coming out for NWN2 in the patches, such as the autodownloader system by community member GrinningFool.  This feature will allow players to automatically download content from a multiplayer server whenever they connect.  No more searching for the server’s website.  No more cryptic error messages.

I think a Neverwinter Nights 3 would be a great opportunity for Obsidian.  We have learned a lot over the relatively short time we have been involved with NWN.  We have done some cool things with the Neverwinter series, but we have made some mistakes as well.  I think that if we were to work on a Neverwinter 3 we would do a lot of things differently.  We love Dungeons & Dragons and we really enjoy making a community-focused game.   A NWN3 set in the 4th edition Forgotten Realms would be interesting to say the least – the Spellplague and other disasters have left the cities of Neverwinter and Luskan in ruins, rifts to long-forgotten worlds have opened, Thay has transformed…  That is the perfect setting for one of our dark stories. 

A Forgotten Realms MMO is an interesting concept, too.  I wouldn’t mind working on it.  I am sure others here would like to as well.  But for now, Obsidian’s involvement with MMOs is on the player side of things.

So, is there a third expansion or a Neverwinter Nights 3 in the works?  Time will tell…

Thanks for your time, guys!

Share this article:
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments