R.A. Salvatore shares his secret work on Neverwinter

How would you like for one of your favorite authors to come in and pen content for your virtual world?

R.A. Salvatore fans get to experience just that in Neverwinter when Underdark releases this fall. This eighth expansion for the Dungeons & Dragons game set in Forgotten Realms is venturing deep into the dangers in the world beneath the world, and who better to be a part of it than the man who brought the Underdark to life with memorable characters over a number of novels?

The pairing of Salvatore and Cryptic couldn’t be any more natural, and as a fan myself, I was happy to sit down with the author and talk about this involvement in the expansion, discussing everything from his famous characters to storytelling through the medium of games to having to keep it all a secret for so long.

The secret’s out

Although players and fans are just now learning about Salvatore’s involvement with the game, it isn’t a recently hatched idea. In fact, Salvatore said that he’s been connected to the project since the beginning — a detail that he had to keep to himself for over a year and a half! After having to remain quiet about it for so long (and deflect many a fan’s query), Salvatore expressed he was excited to finally be talking about it. “Wizards of the Coast called me up and asked me if I planned on going to the Sword Coast in my next Dark Elf book,” he said.  “And I said I was planning on going to the Crags.”

Salvatore described a meeting he then attended with Wizards of the Coast and Cryptic that discussed the need for a basic setting before Neverwinter even began. He continued, “I had an idea how of I could accomplish that with a fire primordial and the volcano, and we agreed so I wrote the book off of there.” After that, Salvatore said the lines of communication stayed open so that if there were any characters whose lives or deaths weren’t vital to his book’s story, they could live or die based on the game’s needs. As it turns out, Cryptic really wanted one particular baddy, so Salvatore didn’t kill it off.

Salvatore’s influence on the game goes beyond collaboration now; this recent work was actually crafting a handful of quests in a chain that players will embark on down in the Underdark.

Cavorting with canonized characters

As a reader of his books, I had to ask the obvious question: Do any familiar faces from Salvatore’s stories make an appearance in this quest line? He chuckled, then responded, “In this one, there’s this Dwarf with some really weird armor, another Dwarf with a one-horned helm named Bruenor Battlehammer, and a little Halfling guy named Spider — who has a different name other than Spider. And there’s a certain Dark Elf that people kind of know who kind of makes an appearance.” In other words, yes! “People who have been following the Realms for a lot of years and who know my work in the Realms are going to get to see some characters that they probably know as well as I know at this point,” he told me.

And fans will get to more than just see their favorite characters; players will interact with them. Drizzt Do’Urden, Regis, Bruenor, and Thibbledorf Pwent’s appearances are more than just fleeting cameos. According to Salvatore, one character in particular will have quite a bit of interactions with players, and we also know that Drizzt is fighting alongside groups in the 10-man battle against Demogorgon, the Prince of Demons. However, Salvatore emphasized that players aren’t taking a back seat to his characters. He stated,

“From the very beginning what we didn’t want to do is have iconic characters lead your character around by the nose. The player is the one that is important in this. But, having a companion shield Dwarf to run around with for a little bit might be fun.  Things like that.  There’s a lot of interaction with the characters.”

Salvatore noted that the actual quest line was written some time ago. Of course, then came all of the development work to bring those quests to life. Again, Salvatore’s involvement didn’t end, as times came up that adjustments had to be made before the whole thing was a finished product.

Now that it is completed and ready to release with the next expansion, has Salvatore played through his creation and seen the in-game representations of his characters? “I played through them all,” he said, “and I was giggling like an idiot the whole time. I was having a blast.” After seeing them in game, how did the characters measure up visually to what he — as the creator who brought them to life through words — envisioned? “They did an amazing job,” was his response. Salvatore noted that over the years there have been tons of artistic renditions of the characters, from book covers to fan art to even tattoos, so “most people who know [his] characters have a general feel of what they should look like, and [Cryptic] captured it really well.” In fact, the visuals — getting to stand beside his creations virtually — made the experience even more enjoyable for him. Was there any voice work involved for the characters, and how did that compare to how he heard them in his own mind? Salvatore said that he didn’t experience any voices as that part has not yet been added to the quest line.

So what is this quest line all about? While it may sound awkward to think of Drizzt or his companions needing help, they do. Salvatore stated that the quests center on “a really cool dwarf who lost a really cool and important item that he shouldn’t have lost” — an item that has been passing through the hands of many bad people and really needs to be found and reclaimed.  Salvatore explained that the quests make sense in the context of what happened in the books. The quest line is a continuation of the Forgotten Realms Rage of Demons story that began with Salvatore’s recently release novel, Archmage. The author also revealed that his book, Maestro, will be the conclusion to that whole story arc.

Video games as storytelling

While the idea of getting more of their favorite characters wherever they can is a bonus for some fans, others might not be too sure about mixing media. Why would an author, who has complete control over the destiny of his characters in print (well, we aren’t counting editors here!) allow his creations to be utilized in a video game? Salvatore stated that he believes that video games are another story-telling medium. He said,

“I’ve worked a lot with video games over the last 10 years; I know the process, and I enjoy the process a lot.  And I have a lot of respect for video games. To me, video games are the new story-telling arc — every bit as valid as movies, TV, and novels at this point.  Because technology has gotten good enough to get you emotionally involved.

Salvatore expressed how he relishes being able to work in a vibrant universe that combines the work of many artists. He stated, “The way that Wizards of the Coast is handling the Realms right now is really very cool as you’ve got lots of different parts moving around now with video games, the novels, and the new D&D edition.” It’s not about affecting the stories that others are working on, but using each others work to add flavor and immersion into his own stories. “When everybody is on the same page and that big story is flowing the way it supposed to flow, that’s when as a reader — or player — you can believe it more.”

“As a writer it gives you incredible opportunity to put Easter eggs in the books that will resonate and that might be picked up on somewhere else.”
“As a writer it gives you incredible opportunity to put Easter eggs in the books that will resonate and that might be picked up on somewhere else,” he told me. “It just makes it feel like a shared world again. I’m really grateful for that because makes it more fun for me.” He offered an example: When he did the Companion Codex books, he already had a couple dragons in there. However, he didn’t know about the Tyranny of Dragons campaign until the summit with Cryptic. At that point, he said to himself, “I need to bring some other dragons in!” He explained that that is the point where the dragon sisters showed up in the books, which he didn’t expect. It also afforded him a way to have meaning and motivations behind the addition of the metallic and chromatic joining in. “It made more sense,” he said, “Now there was a reason the four dragons were there and so willing to go and duke it out where the Orcs and Dwarves were fighting.” He concluded his example by stating, “I was able to take that story, to stand on the shoulders of the giants who created that story, and bring it over to add a little extra dimension and flavor to my story.” He punctuated his remarks with “That’s when a shared world really sings — when you are standing on the shoulders of giants leaping higher than you could if you were standing on the ground.”

Readers shouldn’t worry about any deep inconsistencies or wild departures from the stories they know.  “Some things might be different in the way things are handled in the novels than the video game, but the general story is the same thing.” Salvatore explained. For instance, the focus could be on side stories, or different takes on things in books, but it all works in concert together. “It gives the reader/the player such a deeper experience of the whole thing. I know as a player of games myself, when these things — those kinds of Easter eggs — just make it so much more enjoyable for me.”

On the flip side, Salvatore hopes that Neverwinter players who are unfamiliar with his works might be enticed to check out the books that flesh out the lives of these characters they will meet. He believes that combining media enhances the experience for both sets of players, those who read the books first or go to them after playing the game.

Knowing that fans will be hungry for more, I asked if we can expect to see more concrete collaboration with Neverwinter in the future Will there be more quest lines? Salvatore answered that he honestly didn’t know. “We’ve talked about it. We’ll have to see how the schedules line up. I certainly wouldn’t be aderse to it; I really enjoyed working with Cryptic. We have a good relationship.”

If you want to hear more about Salvatore’s involvement, check out this Q&A with Cryptic. We thank him for speaking with us!

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33 Comments on "R.A. Salvatore shares his secret work on Neverwinter"

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JakeDunnegan
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JakeDunnegan

mjfife85 Damonvile I’m going to play it some, but you are right, it’s grindy as all heck. The fact that you can BUY (at great cost, mind you) enchancements that take you right through several of the grinds, just proves it.

JakeDunnegan
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JakeDunnegan

Authors are some of the only people I get a bit “celebrity awed” by. Actors? Not so much. 
Kudos, @MJ Guthrie in getting to chat with Salvatore! Very cool :)
I was very, VERY, disappointed in Strongholds (large guilds only, need apply) – however, very excited about anything Salvatore would contribute to!

staticlove666
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staticlove666

MJ Guthrie staticlove666 Nice !!

Vagabond_Sam
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Vagabond_Sam

Stayed reading the Drizzt stories this year.
And it is specifically because of this patch i am in the game again

MJ Guthrie
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MJ Guthrie

Armsbend MadMadChuck aboomwithaview I think there needs to be a negative person out there to balance me out! Can too much positivity be lethal? hehe ! =P

MJ Guthrie
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MJ Guthrie

staticlove666 MJ Guthrie Not like this? I played a Drow matron mother in a tabletop campaign for well over 6 years, then moved her (then her sister) on to a couple of MMOs. I so freaking miss those days. Some AMAZING gaming then.  And yes, I have played a number of other systems , too =D (Even wrote my own world/campaign once)

Damonvile
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Damonvile

Armsbend Damonvile I can’t argue with the age thing because I read them all in my late teens early 20s. I loved them then but grew tired of the same stories over and over. I never really read any of them anymore….in fact I don’t read much of anything anymore.

I think killing characters off is more of a new trend ( not that it never happened before) and has gone way over board with shows like the walking dead and game of thrones when it’s little more than who dies next ( I love both shows btw ) 
I never needed any of the characters to die to have that kind of impact but I do remember reading dragon lance and not being able to go back for days when one of the main characters died…it actually makes me laugh and kind of sad how much of an impact that had on me. I guess fantasy life is better when you’re young and naive. I’d love to find a way back to that.

Armsbend
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Armsbend

MadMadChuck aboomwithaview just giving an opinion on an opinion site.  I read some of his books, saw his name and clicked on the article and made a post.  Standard stuff.

i’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion of what they like.  i said that on the op.  

yes, I am a negative person though.  cant help it!

staticlove666
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staticlove666

Wow  MJ Guthrie  you seem like the kind of person to NOT like this stuff. You have my attention now……………..

staticlove666
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staticlove666

mjfife85 Damonvile Eorzea for life !! But yeah I feel the same. I have 3 60’s in Neverwinter and havent played since 6 months after it launched lol.

staticlove666
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staticlove666

Sigbjorn Crystal Shard, Streams Of Silver, and The Halflings Gem. These are the best…….ever.

MadMadChuck
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MadMadChuck

Armsbend aboomwithaview Man, you’re one of the most negative posters I see on this site. 

You don’t have to like things, and when you don’t, you can just skip a post completely. What does your post accomplish other than telling people something they like sucks?

Armsbend
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Armsbend

Damonvile Yeah its why I kind of abandoned the genre.  I always felt Salvatore was too afraid to let one of his characters fail or die.  I think he invested too much of himself in it to be an honest writer.  That is perhaps overly critical of what really amounts to tween fantasy but it is what it is.  I read it in my late 20s it would have been much better 10 years prior.

Damonvile
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Damonvile

Isnt that the plot of every fantasy story ever? If you really want to distill plots down to their basic level there’s only like 7 plots in writing. I cant be bothered to look it up on my phone but i know there’s a list of them. It’s kind of funny and sad at the same time.

Sigbjorn
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Sigbjorn

The Drizzt series had some wild, wild swings in quality. Sadly most of the recent stuff has been lacking. The most solid seried is definitely The Hunter’s Blades trilogy, which begins with The Thousand Orcs.

Armsbend
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Armsbend

aboomwithaview  I read into 5 books of the Drizzt saga I believe.  By the third it became  so mundane and predictable I dropped the series.  Drastically overrated writer.

Dwarf falls off a cliff.  Everyone mourns.  Oh hurrah he is alive!  Find golden weapons of power!  Find new foes!  Save people from the shadows!

The classic Harry Potter (I know he was before Potter) sytle of “leveling up” through writing.

I see why people dig it though reminds them of childhood reading.  Anyways, 2cents like what you like.

aboomwithaview
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aboomwithaview

evolv_monbly Just read the wiki & sounds great, thanks for the info:)

evolv_monbly
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evolv_monbly

aboomwithaview Based on some of the books you talked about below, you may like ” The Black Company” Great series!

evolv_monbly
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evolv_monbly

evolv_monbly
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evolv_monbly

Funny this article came out today. I love Salvator writes. I started playing a table top game weekly recently, we based it on a mix of the Underdark and some elements of Darkon (LARP.) Sort of related, i went back and watched some old interviews with Mr. Salvator talking about 38 studios, it’s kinda saddening to see him going from talking like he is running everything and has alot of control to almost completely distancing himself from the studio. 

aboomwithaview
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aboomwithaview

BKone “Let’s just say Darksun is the crown jewel of D&D”
Personally I agree but felt that WoTC never did nor the majority of people for that matter. I always felt that the Realms or Dragonlance were their real babies & from the continued interest in those settings it seems so.

Dark Sun etched itself in my mind so much that everything else has to fight its way in even to this day.

BKone
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BKone

aboomwithaview Let’s just say Darksun is the crown jewel of D&D. I’m pretty sure
Wizards is waiting for someone to be able to drop 100 million to make it
into an MMO or a proper single player game.
With that said we need to accept the fact D&D is currently in an extremely tough situation. At one side there’s Middle-earth which is very strong in films and books but weak in electronics and on the other side there’s Blizzard that is a juggernaut in electronics but presumably weak in other areas (the “problematic film” tag etc,).
So I don’t envy Wizards’ current situation lol…
Still NW is a good game and has carved out sizable niche for itself.

mjfife85
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mjfife85

Damonvile Eh, I like to run through it every now and again, then I find out once more how grindy it is and then I make my way back to Eorzea.

mjfife85
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mjfife85

I’m guessing Drizzt is supposed to sound like Dizzt because of the boston accent xD.
Joking Aside, I love Salvatore. Such a good writer, even outside of Forgotten Realms and in some of the other games he wrote for, like Kingdoms of Amalur. I think if I had the chance to interview him, I would just stare at him wide-eyed and making little fanboi screams.

Damonvile
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Damonvile

He’s written some of my favorite fantasy books but..even him being involved isn’t enough to make me want to play neverwinter again.

mjfife85
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mjfife85

aboomwithaview MJ Guthrie The Dark Elf trilogy came out after Icewind Dale trilogy, but it’s the prequel to that trilogy. After reading those books, I was hooked, and it made the Icewind Dale books an even better experience. Also, he kinda has to keep on Drizzt not because the fans want him to, but because Wizards is making money off it. He pretty much killed Drizzt in protest to 4th edition being forced down everyone’s throats and because of that, fans protested and got even more upset with Wizards, so now we have 5th edition DnD and the Forgetten Realms is fine now!

aboomwithaview
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aboomwithaview

MJ Guthrie haha!
Well no problems there as after reading those pages on Amazon I think im already sold. Its been a while since ive actually groaned that there wasnt anymore to read, it teased me up to page 17 so now ill spend my afternoon sourcing it from somewhere:)

MJ Guthrie
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MJ Guthrie

aboomwithaview MJ Guthrie I would try the Dark Elf trilogy if you like the Underdark at all — you at least get to see what made Drizzt, Drizzt. I can’t remember which series I enjoyed the most, so I am having the urge to go back and read them all again myself!  I’d loan you mine to read, but no matter how hard I shove the book at the monitor it doesn’t go through…

aboomwithaview
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aboomwithaview

MJ Guthrie Will give that a read ty:)
I really enjoyed the Icewind Dale trilogy so may have to dig out some more of his works to see what Ive missed so to speak, I wouldnt say I dislike Drizzt but he did have a tendency to always have a get out of jail free card or pulling his panther (not in that way you rude people) out of his bat belt.

Any recommendations?

MJ Guthrie
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MJ Guthrie

aboomwithaview As Salvatore noted in the beginning of his Homeland novel, the fans totally latched on to Drizzt. He noted there that 8 out of 10 fan letters as about the Drow and saying he was the favorite, so it makes perfect sense he’d focus more on him. (Also, so cool to hear how the character actually came to be — not at all what you’d expect — so if you have a moment you can read those first pages right on the Amazon site)

MJ Guthrie
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MJ Guthrie

VilleUusitalo I might have locked everyone else in a closet when  a call for volunteers to interview him was made…

aboomwithaview
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aboomwithaview

Apart from the Icewind Dale trilogy I’ve not read too many more of Salvatores works, just felt he needed to drop the whole Drizzt love affair.
My favorite D&D novels have to be the Prism Pentad series by Troy Denning along with his entry to the Avatar series Waterdeep.

Gratz on that interview though, as a big fan that must have been great:)

VilleUusitalo
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VilleUusitalo

omg MJ im so jelly now – you got to meet the legend… I would had been happy to die after meeting such a high fantasy figure^_^

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