Forging New Adventures in Neverwinter's Foundry

Posted Fri, May 03, 2013 by gunky

Forging New Adventures in Neverwinter's Foundry

Neverwinter's Foundry is a pretty sweet tool for some of us. Back in the day, I was a Dungeon Master. I had a job as a night watchman at a rural factory, and I would spend nights planning out my campaigns in excruciating detail, creating entire worlds and weaving intricate stories and plots for my group of players. While the Foundry is perhaps not quite as flexible as a stack of books, pads of graph paper and an overactive imagination fueled by long nights of boredom, it's an amazing addition to a MMO.

It is also, however, kind of intimidating and a bit confusing for new users. The interface is not terribly intuitive, but this is not necessarily a flaw in the design - it's pretty much as simple as it can be considering all the stuff it needs to be able to do.

Before you dive in and get lost, it's perhaps best to know what you can expect from the Foundry. It's a very different tool than the Aurora toolset that shipped with Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2. The incredible flexibility of the Aurora toolset is the very thing that makes it wrong for developing adventures for a MMO.


  • Create Complex Dialogue-based Roleplaying Adventures - The dialogue editor allows the user to craft multiple response options to NPC dialogue. Evil guys can answer evilly and good guys can answer nicely, and each type of response can have its own branching dialogue tree.
  • Create Simple Hack-and-Slash Dungeon Crawls -Multiple interior maps can be linked together and populated with loads of encounters. Story is optional, the whole adventure can just be based around going somewhere and killing lots of stuff.
  • Build Stories Around Unique NPCs and Locations -The Costume editor allows the user to make custom NPCs, and the Map editor allows the user to build unique wilderness or urban areas.
  • Re-use Main-Story Locations and NPCs in New and Different Ways - Build stories around your favorite regions and main-story characters dressed up the way you want - a creepy dream-version of the Black Lake District, for example, with a swirling vortex sky and populated by zombies and demons.


  • Create Custom Gear - The Items tab in the editor is for making quest-specific inventory items with no stats. You can't make stuff that you can wear or use, and you can't place specific gear items in chests or in mobs as loot drops. This would create potentially unbalancing situations - players would be too tempted to create over-powered gear for their characters.
  • Change Main-Story Areas - The areas you create in the Foundry are separate instances, unconnected to the areas used in the main story. You can make an instance of the Black Lake District set after the events of the story, for example, but you can't remove an inconvenient obstacle you encountered during the main story. And your new area can be set during the bright afternoon instead of a gloomy, dark midnight, but the sludge and bricks and wreckage are not movable objects. You can add new rubble and buildings, but can't remove existing ones.
  • Use the "Boss Fight" Mechanic - You can edit encounters to create something similar to a boss fight, by reskinning one of the toughest mobs with a different costume and giving it a unique name. But at this point, you can't give that mob special boss attacks, the ability to summon adds, or the initial cinematic zoom-in intro.
  • Place Chests, Vendors or Resource Nodes - You get one "master" chest to place at the end of your adventure. You can place items and objects that are only "visible" to characters with specific resource-gathering skills, but you can't fill the objects with loot.

So with these limitations in mind, let's get started making our own adventure.

The first step you will want to take is to plan out exactly what you want to do with your adventure, and get an idea of how you will accomplish it. Quests you create will necessarily be linear in design - you can create parallel sets of objectives and daisy-chain them however you like, but there will only be one solution. You'll need to plan around this limitation.

  • Pro-tip: Save your work often! Any time you make a revision, save it. If you go long periods without a save and then your connection lags out, you lose all your work.

Step 1: Add A Map

Neverwinter's Foundry - Add A Map

We'll keep things super-simple for our tutorial.

  1. Create an Outdoors map and give it a name.
  2. Place one emergency exit near the spawn point.
  3. Place one Standard encounter a distance away from the spawn point.
  4. Place some Detail decorations. Don't go too crazy.
  5. Save your work.

As soon as you fire up the Foundry and create a new quest, you'll see that there are little warning signs that tell you what steps you need to take to make the mission playable. Your first major step is picking a map on which your adventures will take place.

Before you do that, however, you can fill out some details for your adventure on the Quest tab. Give it a name and a description. You will want to indicate what type of adventure this is - roleplaying, combat, exploration, solo, group, etc. - and fill in some information about the story. Now you're ready to pick a map.

Exterior maps are pretty easy. You just pick one from the list, give it a name and hit "Create," and you're ready to start filling it with buildings, trees and monsters.

Interior maps are a little different. You can pick a ready-made interior space from the list and plunk it down like normal, or you can create your own using the blank interior map. With the blank interior, you have to place rooms and hallways and connect them in the editor. Rooms have doorways, marked by purple indicators, and these doorways need to connect to other doorways. When two doorways line up, they make a green passageway. You can mix and match caves, crypts human homes and dungeons as you see fit. Some elements won't mesh together super-well, but you can get some interesting results mixing things up in clever ways.

You will need to add details to make the map your own. Trees, furniture, monster shelters, magical effects - decorate it however you like.

Neverwinter's Foundry - Adding detail to the map

You can also add some encounters to your map now - do this now so you have story hooks later on. Encounters are ordered by type, difficulty and group composition. A typical dungeon or adventure setting involves predominantly one type of monster - drow, or orcs, or undead - with lesser numbers of other creatures. Certainly, you can create a monster "zoo" with a little bit of everything if you want, but you'll want the story to reflect the reason why these creatures are all working together.

You will need to add some kind of emergency exit to any map you make. Pick any sort of item, open the properties and select the True box under "Abort Exit." This will allow the player to bail out without breaking anything if they find they have to log out suddenly. 

Once you have your map roughed out, click on the Story tab, and then on the big + Map button in the middle. Select your map to add it and you're ready to move on to the next step.

  • Pro-tip: Tweak skyboxes for a distinct feel. Click the "Edit Backdrop" button at the top to change how the sky looks for outdoors maps, or to add funky fog and mood lighting to interiors.

Step 2: Make Some Costumes

Neverwinter's Foundry - Make A Costume

For our tutorial adventure, we want an NPC near the spawn point, who tells us to go kill the encounter group. He needs to look like someone who might need help with a problem. So here's what we need to do:

  1. Create a new NPC costume. Use Human Male 12,who has grey muttonchop sideburns. Name him Old Man.
  2. Edit him to make him look old, thin and frail, and dress him in rags.
  3. Save your work.

Theoretically, Step 2 should be adding objectives and writing the story, but every story needs characters. In this case, you need NPCs to which you can tie the dialogue, so you need to create them first. 

Click on the Costumes tab, and then on the big + Costume button in the middle. The first costume you will likely want to make is the one for the NPC who actually gives the quest. You can pick an NPC from the main story or modify one of them to make a totally new character. Some of the available character models come pre-equipped with weird cosmetic items you can't change, so if you want to start from scratch, use a "naked" NPC like "Human Male 1." Select the guy you want, give him a name and you're ready to customize the appearance. 

The Slots button is used to change your character's outfit, and the Head button to change hair and face. Upper Body and Lower Body are not used in regular mode. Switching to Advanced Mode allows you to make some pretty warped-looking characters, but there are a few things that cannot yet be changed. A character with a beard is stuck with that beard, for example. 

You can also change the NPC's stance. This dropdown menu allows you to make your character hover or fly or crouch or menace. 

You can make more costumes using the drop-down menu in the top left corner, under the Quest tab. You can create named-enemy costumes for your "boss fights" in this same manner, but you can't really create boss encounters yet. 

Once you have all your NPC costumes sewed up, you can move on to the next step.

  • Pro-tip: Use the sliders to greatly reduce arm, torso and leg bulk. This makes your Old Man look more frail, since Neverwinter characters are pretty bulky by default.
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