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.
WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH IT:
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.
WHAT YOU CAN’T DO WITH IT:
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.
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
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:
- Create a new NPC costume. Use Human Male 12,who has grey muttonchop sideburns. Name him Old Man.
- Edit him to make him look old, thin and frail, and dress him in rags.
- 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.
Step 3: Craft the Story
We’re going to build the very simplest sort of adventure story you can create – travel to a place, talk to a guy, kill stuff, return for reward. There are thousands of variations upon this theme, but we’re keeping it simple for the sake of tutorializing.
- Place Old Man NPC.
- Add Dialog to Story tab, link to Old Man – spell- and grammar-check first, please!
- Edit in Dialog Tree for quest bestowal
- Add Kill Monsters to Story tab, link to encounter group
- Add final Dialog to Story tab, link to Old Man
- Edit in Dialog Tree for quest reward.
- Save your work.
Now that you’ve made your quest-giver NPC, it’s time to place him on the map and get your story written. Place the Old Man near the spawn point using the NPCs button, and turn him using the arrows around the outside of the item marker so he’s facing the spawn point.
Now it’s time to do some writing. Go to the Story tab, click the Dialogue icon in the panel on the right and drag it to the middle. There should now be a Dialogue objective underneath Map Transition – click on that to edit it. We’re not going to do too much with this box, but there are some details we need to fill in.
Quest Text needs to be filled in first. This is what shows up on the players quest log, directing him to speak to your NPC. Personally, I would use “Travel to (your area) and speak to (your NPC).” Below that, you will see a field for NPC – click on that and select Old Man from the tree on the left of the map menu. You will have to click the little arrow to expand the tree, but Old Man should be the only thing on it.
Jump down to the Text box – this is where you write the first line of dialogue. We don’t need anything fancy here – a simple “Hello” or “You there!” will do just fine for now.
Now we close that and move to the Dialog Tree tab. This is where we get fancy with our dialogues. We start off with that one NPC box, and we add responses. Let’s add two – one friendly, one rude.
This sets up two “reactions” from the NPC. He will respond warmly to the friendly reply, and angrily to the rude one. At this stage, though, we want to just move the story along, so we’re going to say that he will respond once to the tone, and then continue on with his story. For each of these prompts, we will use the same response, and then add the next prompt underneath the “warm” one. When that’s in place, drag the arrow tip beneath the + underneath the rude response to connect with the continuation prompt – that means that either dialogue option proceeds to the same spot. It’s kind of lazy writing, but that’s fine for a tutorial.
Technically, you can branch this whole conversation out as much as you like to create a vast labyrinth of circular conversations. Ultimately, they need to lead to some variation of “Alright, I accept the quest,” but the journey to that conclusion can be as roundabout as you like.
You should also add an option for the player to refuse the quest. Add a response and indicate that it is a quest refusal, and instead of linking it to another prompt, tick the tiny box that says “Fail Story Objective” below. This will end the dialogue, and the player will have to start over to pick it up again.
Now that we have a mission, we need to add the new objective to the story. Go back to the Story tab, click and drag the Kill Enemies icon and drop it under the dialogue. Again, you will need to edit the Quest Text so the player can plainly see what it is he needs to do, and then link the objective to an object on the map – in this case, the encounter group you placed earlier. You do this the same way you linked the dialogue to your Old Man NPC.
You can add more quest objectives, either daisy-chained in sequence or in parallel. Daisy-chained objectives require tasks to be completed in order – first do Objective A, then Objective B, then Objective C – but parallel objectives are completed at the same time – while working on Objective A, also do Objective X, then Objective Y, then Objective Z.
For example, in a dungeon-crawl adventure, you may want to have staggered “Kill Enemy” objectives on the one branch (first kill all the enemies in area A, then all the enemies in area B) and exploration objectives in the other branch (use the lever in room 1, inspect the rubble in room 2, reach the hidden cell in room 3, etc).
The next step is sort of optional. You can either end it there, or you can continue the quest by going back to the old man for a “good job” dialogue. Going back to the poor old man seems the more natural choice here, so add a new dialogue to the Story, link it to your NPC and write it out in the Dialog Trees tab.
- Pro-tip: Before you write out all your dialog in the little editing windows, write it out first in a word processor with a built-in spell-checker. Preferably one with grammar correction, also. It’s not so important for this tutorial adventure build, but when you eventually start publishing your adventures, you will want to look like you know what you’re doing. Write like a professional – don’t use gamer-speak, capitalize words that need it, learn about “there/their/they’re” and “your/you’re,” and be aware that poor spelling can actually cost you money later on.
Step 4: Playtest
For our quick little adventure mod, we do some simple play-testing:
- Go to Play Map and load the module.
- Make sure the quest works the way it is supposed to – everything is reachable, dialog is not broken, goals are achievable. If they are not, fix them in the Foundry.
- Make sure the set decorations and other objects are where they are supposed to be. If they are not, fix them with 3D Editing Mode.
- Go back to Foundry, Save your work.
Now you get to dive in and see what you made. This is a critically-important part of building an adventure, because if it doesn’t work, no one will want to play it. It also has to be fun and engaging, which this tutorial adventure won’t really be, but we’re not out to build a published adventure here.
Anyhow, you will need to jump in and test it to make sure everything works. And to move stuff around when it doesn’t. Hit the Maps tab, select your map and hit Play Map.
You will be given a level 1 character to test with, but you can upgrade it in the Foundry up to level 31. This character will be pretty basic – it comes with a set of mostly green gear. I was unable to upgrade my test character’s skills, but your mileage may vary. It’s not really important that he be kick-ass anyway – you can always just set him to “God Mode.”
First things first: run through your quest and make sure it works like it’s supposed to. Talk to your NPC and accomplish the goals he sets for you. Make sure the spawn point, your quest-giver and your objective are all in reachable places – some maps have strange terrain that can make accessibility problems for you.
Next, you’re going to want to make sure that the objects you placed aren’t floating or buried, and that they are facing the proper direction. Move your character next to them and hit CTRL + Tab to enter 3D editing mode. In this mode (Transform by default), when you mouse over a placed object, you will see a little white box that indicates its position relative to everything around it. Click on that box and you will see a little set of arrows that allow you to move it.
To move an object, you will need to click on one of the arrows and slide the object along that axis. This allows you to raise sunken items above the ground, pull them out of walls or trees, or sink them deeper into walls so only parts of them stick out.
If you want to change an object’s facing, you need to switch from Transform to Rotate mode. Click the Rotate button in the little UI box in the lower right, and the sets of arrows around the little white boxes changes to intersecting compasses. These colored circles perform similarly to the little arrows, but control the rotation of the object instead of its relative position. Using this tool you can give rickety towers a dangerous lean, create sets of statues that face in different directions, or invert an object so it looks like it is hanging upside down from the ceiling.
Once you are satisfied with the functionality and decorations, go back into the Foundry. Now it’s time to pack everything up and get it ready for publishing.
- Pro-tip: Click the Respec menu in the Foundry before you playtest your work. This allows you to beef up the class of your choice, and to test specific things (like objects that are only visible to characters with Dungeoneering, for example).
Step 5: Finishing Up
You’re now nearly ready to publish your work:
- Connect your map to the rest of Neverwinter.
- Playtest from the beginning to make sure everything works.
- Do lots of quality control passes.
- Save your work.
- Ready to publish!
Everything works, everything is where it’s supposed to be. You’ve done a final quality-control pass and fixed any weird defects you found during play-testing. Good. Time to connect everything up and get it ready for publishing.
The first thing you will need to do is connect your map to Neverwinter. Since we created an Outdoors map, we need to connect it to the Overland map so that players can travel to it from any city exit gate. Click on the Story tab, and then on the Map Transition box at the top of the story list. This brings up a Properties dialog – fill in the Quest Text with something appropriate (“Head to Area X and speak to Old Man”) and tick the True box below that to use the Overworld Map.
Next, click on the vertical map button on the left side. This brings up a Properties dialog box – click on the Overland map in there and it brings up a large map window where you can place a marker, representing your map. You can place your marker wherever you want, but if you’re attempting to match the lore you might want to do a bit of research first.
Once you have that done, save your work and play-test it again, but this time, start from the beginning. You want to make sure players are able to pick the quest up from the job board and then get there without breaking anything. Click on the “Play from beginning of story” button at the top right of the Story tab window, and you should find yourself in Protector’s Enclave. Head to any city gate and you should be able to travel to your new area.
At this point, there should be no more yellow-triangle warnings anywhere in your Foundry. Save your work again, give it a final quality-control pass (especially pay attention to details like spelling, grammar, graphical glitches and the like) and make sure everything is up to code. When it is, you are ready to hit the Publish button.
You probably don’t want to publish this tutorial adventure – you can, if you want to test it with your main character and make sure that everything works without God Mode, but chances are slim that anyone else will play it yet, or give it more than a 3-star rating. Even if it works perfectly and everything is meticulously ordered and perfectly meshed together, it’s still not very exciting yet. It’s up to you, now, to figure out how to make it exciting enough to publish, and worth playing. Chain more events, add more maps, create more story, make the dialog enticing.
If you have made something truly excellent, players will leave you Astral Diamond tips for your good work. That earlier comment about poor spelling costing you money wasn’t just blowing smoke – clear communication can be the difference between a 4-star adventure and a 5-star one, and more stars = more tips.
Pro-tip: You might want to reposition the reward chest before you publish anything. Set it right next to the quest NPC, or hide it way out somewhere in the wilderness so that finding it is part of the quest.
And there you have it: a simple, bare-minimum adventure accessible to anyone. The guys making top-rated Foundry adventures all started out with simple stuff like this and worked their way up, so don’t be afraid to experiment to learn new things.
Got any other Foundry tips you’d like to share? Let us know in our comments!