This post covers the city itself and several nearby locations related to the Gray Wolf Uthgardt, who serve the Netherese.
Content Warning: “Brutal Savages” nonsense
There is a lot of Gray Wolf material in this section, and this is where the mounting inconsistencies in their portrayal start to get in the way. The stuff about them that I read so far gave me the impression of a people who were mostly minding their own business before the Netherese turned their leaders into fascist assholes. Most of the actual tribe members were not happy with the situation: a significant number of them had defected, and those who hadn’t were open to persuasion by a PC like the Pack Outcast.
This section drops most of that and goes all in on the “brutal savages who disdain civilization” cliches, painting the Gray Wolf as being bad guys even before the Netherese got to them. After being co-opted, they got even worse. Anyone who’s still a member of the tribe at this point is either on board with the cruelty or too cowardly to ever stand against it. Even their guardian spirits are disgusted with them.
I’m going to report what the book says below, but I personally would completely change it were I to run a Neverwinter campaign.
Xinlenal From the Outside In
As we saw before, Xinlenal wasn’t just a Netherese flying city, it was the first ever built. It fell here in the Wood when Netheril’s magic stopped working. Today, when viewed from the outside, it looks like an out-of-place 60-foot tall plateau jutting up from the ground in an otherwise flat area of the Wood. The structures atop it are hidden from view by the Wood’s vegetation, which grew over it in the two millennia since the city crashed. The Shadovar led by Prince Clariburnus use Xinlenal as their main base of operations in the region, and are hard at work trying to make it fly again.
The Forest of Hides
The Gray Wolf recognize this is the center of Netherese power even though they don’t know what goes on in here. So when they declared war on the Forsworn, they started hanging up the skins of their “traitorous kinfolk” in a clearing outside the plateau. This acts as both a warning to enemies and as a show of support for their new masters.
Ironically, the sheer brutality of this practice has led many rank-and-file Gray Wolf to question their leadership, and the horrible smell of dead werewolf lingering about the place acts as a cover for Forsworn spies and makes it easier for them to scout the plateau.
The act of building the Forest of Hides outraged and horrified many of the primal spirits who used to be friends of the Grey Wolf. If the Pack Outcast, Uthgardt Barbarian, or any other PC who uses primal powers dismantle the Forest of Hides, those spirits will reward them with a daily power named Wrath of the Fallen, which can be activated after an attack hits and makes the target vulnerable 5 to all damage (save ends), including that of the triggering attack. Once the target saves, they take another 10 damage.
Here you see the first instance of what I talked about in the intro paragraphs above. There’s more below.
The City and the Web of Stone
The walls of the plateau are a sheer climb, but they look natural after two millennia of weathering. Some flying monsters even made lairs there. The city at the top looks completely ruined when viewed from the plateau’s edge.
Those moving towards the center will soon spot a massive suspended “web” made of stone looming over the skyline. This acts as a gigantic crane and construction tool used in the Shadovar’s renovation efforts. It can lift whole city blocks for relocation, or remove an equivalent quantity of soil and vegetation to reveal the structures buried beneath. Workers both organic and artificial are constantly swarming all over it.
This web was built by the shadar-kai witch Korvina, who realized she could use residual energy from the city’s old protection rituals to power it. Later she would find out she was actually drawing power from the city’s broken mythallar and delaying its repairs. When her bosses found out about the oopsie, she managed to pin the blame for it on her colleague Qualthus, whose fate we’ll learn in a future post.
The Womb of Stone
Gee, these Netherese sure have a knack for naming things, don’t they?
This building is an ancient construct factory reactivated by the Shadovar. This is where they build all the thaalud constructs they’re using as a workforce. The ones they build today aren’t as powerful as the ones from ancient Netheril (using the thaalud constructor stat block from earlier in this book), but they can do their job just fine.
The Womb of Stone is run and operated by a shade named Ulrukan (stats as a human slaver with shade traits). His left arm and leg are animated prosthetic constructs, which I think is awesome. Ulrukan discovered the problem with the Web of Stone before anyone else, decided to keep it to himself until he could gain something by revealing it, and lost the chance to do so when other people found the issue and reported it immediately. Now that it’s public he’s trying to figure out how to extract some advantage from the fact that he knew it before anyone else did. I don’t think he knows it’s Korvina’s fault, or he’d already be blackmailing her.
Cathedral of Night
This is a ancient building repurposed as a temple to the goddess Shar. The exterior is still ruined and worn, but the interior is very fancy and all done up in onyx and jet. It’s also protected by enchanted hungry shadows, a very interesting hazard that can temporarily remove PCs from play and cause ongoing psychic and necrotic damage to them while they’re gone. This security protects the usual temple treasures and also a portal to the Shadowfell, which is used by the Shadovar to access their supply routes.
Orthinos Eln is the priest in charge of both the temple and the restoration project. He can be found here either meditating or communing with his boss Prince Clariburnus, who leads the faction as a whole.
The city’s mythallar is located at its very center. The tower that houses it was the first building to be completely restored, and a small army of Shadovar artificers is now busy restoring the artifact itself.
The restoration process is simple to describe but very hard to execute. It consists of mixing melted glass with large quantities of residuum, carefully pouring the resulting substance over the mythallar, and molding it so that it slowly recovers its original spherical shape. Right now it looks like a partial sphere, already over 100 feet (30 meters!) in diameter.
This is why the Netherese are scouring the region’s many ruins and dungeons for magic items and other ancient enchanted relics, and also why they’re poised to begin raiding Neverwinter. All of that loot is going to get destroyed for its residuum. The Shadovar are burning the legacies of others to rebuild their own.
The central tower is also where their main war room is located, as well as Clariburnus’ quarters and throne room. He can either be found here coordinating the faction’s overall strategy, or somewhere out in the world leading another raid for magic items. He also sometimes brings members of the Gray Wolf leadership here for briefings.
This is the main “settlement” of the Gray Wolf tribe, located in the Wood away from Xinlenal. The quotes are there because they are mostly nomadic, and this is just where a few more permanent structures are built - pack leader’s homes, a feast hall, and some other communal buildings. You can also find a number of tents and lean-tos scattered around the area, belonging to other tribe members who are currently staying there.
The book says the Grey Wolf have the technology to make weapons and tools as sophisticated as that of Neverwinter, but that they have no real culture to speak of beyond an obsession with behaving like D&D’s idea of a wolf pack. It could be that this is what the current leadership thinks, but the way the book phrases it kinda makes me think this is what they were like even before.
Vellosk’s central feature is a sloped pit whose bottom is coated in dry bones, and also contains a totem pole decorated with animal skulls. This is their center of worship, dedicated to Uthgar and the tribe’s guardian spirits. It’s also where ritual combats and duels happen.
One of the permanent structures here is the home of Ormshas, a dark creeper necromancer who is here officially as a Netherese ambassador and in reality as a spy placed to make sure the Grey World remain under control. She has a large group of wraiths under her control, which she uses to uncover secrets and silence dissenters.
The Gray Wolf and the PCs
A lot of the rank-and-file Grey Wolf are very unhappy with the direction the tribe is taking, but they also believe their leaders’ commands are absolute and those leaders have been completely bought the Netherese party line. Many tribe members would rather leave than try to challenge their leaders, but these days those who express a desire to leave are executed on the spot.
PCs such as the Pack Outcast or the Uthgardt Barbarian would have an easier time convincing the Grey Wolf to reject their leadership, but they would still need to challenge those leaders to ritual combat and win (or convince/help a friendly Gray Wolf to do so). Ritual combat is, of course, to the death.
Making a legitimate challenge would also require convincing a majority of the tribe that their leaders are being bamboozled by the Netherese. Just going for the leaders at once is a sure way to get the whole tribe to declare war on you no matter what they think about those leaders, so it’s not a good option for most groups.
Conyberry is a small village at the edge of the Wood that became quite scenic during the Spellplague when a populated slice of Abeir was isekaied there. It gained a new lake, a bunch of floating earthmotes, and a mixed population that learned to live well together after some initial friction.
Unfortunately you don’t get to see that version of it, because the Grey Wolf killed everyone long before the Netherese even got to them. According to the book they believed the people from Abeir to be hostile invaders and the people of Conyberry to be their co-conspirators.
The Gray Wolf used the now empty village as a storage area for a time. No one else went there because everyone (rightly) assumed it had been destroyed after news stopped coming, and when someone did stumble into the place they were killed.
When the Netherese recruited them they started using the village to, in the words of the book, “practice civilized behavior” so that they would blend into the communities they were ordered to infiltrate. Now when outsiders end up there by accident they’re received by a bunch of Gray Wolf in sheep’s clothing eager to test their acting skills. Only after the actors are satisfied, or when they’re found out, do the murder attempts start.
Xinlenal itself seems like a good dungeon location. A final battle against Caliburnus in the mythallar chamber would look awesome.
But everything about the description of the Gray Wolf kinda ruins it. The text is filled with the exact set of racist tropes that draw so much criticism to D&D. I’m left with the distinct impression that the Gray Wolf are described as being bad because they’re tribal, in contrast to the “civilized” people they disdain and victimize. Yikes!
That’s definitely something I’d completely rewrite if I ever ran a campaign in this setting. It actually kinda tainted the good memories I had of this book, and made me stop writing new Let’s Read material for it for a while.
In the gloomiest and darkest part of the Wood, there’s a perfectly circular clearing whose ground is ash. None of the Wood’s animals dare enter this place. This is where the Dread Ring was built. It was both a fortress and a ritual tool for a grand spell that would have turned Szass Tam into a god. Though the spell failed, the ruined fortress now serves as the main base for the Thayans in the region.
The entire area of the Ring, both indoors and outdoors, is super cursed. Check it out:
It counts as both defiled and necrotic ground, the rules for which are found in the DMG 2. Basically, undead are boosted and HP gains from spending healing surges are halved.
Powers with either the arcane or necrotic keywords crit on 19-20. Powers with both keywords crit on 18-20. This is one of the only instances of “critical range” boosting in the entire game, it’s an extremely rare bonus.
Creatures take -1 to Will against powers or effects with the fear keyword.
Since this is also Lorragauth’s grave, some smaller areas in here might also count as acid-based fonts of power or elemental spouts, making them even more hazardous.
The Ring from the Outside In
Frequent clashes between Shadovar and Thayan forces have turned the outer areas of the clearing into a blood-soaked battlefield littered with corpses.
Inside the ruined outer walls is the Flesh Factory, where corpses, body parts, and sometimes living victims are stored and used as materials for Thayan necromancy and flesh-shaping projects. The place’s design lets it raise undead at a much faster pace and a much larger scale than usual, effectively mass-producing them. This is where most of the Thayan undead are made, and also the facility in charge of repairing the fortress’ walls. Instead of bothering with the logistics of procuring and shipping stone, they decided to patch the walls with slabs of undead flesh. These walls get a stat block as a trap, because they can sprout grabby hands that deal damage.
Past the Factory are the halls of the fortress, which follow no plan a living mind would consider sane since their main purpose was to act as a ritual tool.
The center is open, and it’s the current site of the Thayan excavation that’s trying to reach Lorragauth’s resting place. They’ve managed to reach his bones and partially unearthed them already, but there’s plenty of work to do before they’re free of the soil. The excavation pit is deep and hazardous, and the book has rules for navigating it and for operating the many cranes installed here during combat to either drop rocks on enemies or slam the crane arm into them.
The undead workforce here doubles as the Dread Ring’s garrison, so they get depleted to a, er, skeleton crew when the Netherese attack. They’re overseen by Praddak, an battle wight (stats in DMG 2). Also here as protection is the sacred totem of the Thunderbeast tribe, which as we saw before was a fossilized thunderbeast skeleton. It’s been animated by necromancy, with the stats of a rotclaw (an undead monster from the Draconomicon). This of course is a horrible blasphemy, particularly to the Uthgardt Barbarian PC.
Somewhere near the pit is the Dread Spire, the tallest surviving tower of the Ring. It houses the Thayan war room, the entrance to Valindra’s sanctum, and a perpetually dark room that contains a portal to the Shadowfell. It also contains the Chapel of the Dragon, where Kroskas’ cultists research how to raise Lorragauth as a dracolich.
The Shadowfell portal is what lets the Thayans bring corpses from Neverdeath Cemetery for reanimation, and to receive caravans that come from Surcross via the Shadowfell Road.
Valindra’s Sanctum houses her library and an arcane observatory that lets someone scry remote locations and perform astrological divination. It’s operated by Lurrens, one of her lieutenants, who watches it 24/7. Lurrens is a former wizard who was turned into an undead Brain in an Armored Jar (from Open Grave).
The observatory’s grinding machinery is hazardous terrain, should a fight break out here. PCs might find information on Gauntlgrym and other campaign secrets by either researching Valindra’s library or learning how to operate the observatory.
Contrary to my earlier expectations the Dread Ring cannot rise as a floating battlestation or giant undead mech, though the possibility of them raising a dracolich is a decent substitute. The place is perfectly usable as an endgame dungeon, though it could also end up being “just” an important stop on the way to Gauntlgrym depending on the campaign’s focus.
And I have to say “Brain in an Armored Jar” is the best monster name ever.
Before I continue, I feel a correction is in order. This one’s on me, not on the book, since it was a detail from that long and detailed timeline at the start that I missed. I’m correcting it here because it will be important later.
As we already know, Shandarar was the former capital of Iliyanbruen, an elven/eladrin empire that existed in this region thousands of years ago. It coexisted with the human empire of Netheril, and witnessed its fall when the flying city of Xinlenal fell on the Neverwinter Wood.
The bit I got wrong was this: the fall of Xinlenal did not also cause the end of Iliyanbruen. The crash site was far from the city, and though the elves explored it soon after the event they decided to declare it off-limits after the first few explosions and carried on with their lives.
Iliyanbruen would last for a few centuries longer. They’d manage to repel a massive orc invasion that covered the North, but their kingdom would collapse from the effort it spent to kick those same orcs out of the human city of Illusk (located where Luskan is today). From here on out things proceed as previously detailed, with the empire’s population scattering and some of them deciding to take refuge in the Feywild.
The middle world ruins of Shandarar cover a sizable area in the Wood but were mostly hidden by the passage of time and the growth of vegetation. Sometimes a farmer at the edges of the forest would find shards of pottery as they plowed a field, or some village builders would end up unearthing a ruined structure. These rumors helped the Netherese find the core of the ruins and steal a bunch of ancient relics from it, which has the eladrin in a tizzy as we already learned.
Most of the ruins are still, well, ruins. They’re overgrown and weathered enough to be hazardous. The oldest part of them, however, is being rebuilt and renovated by the eladrin, since that’s where they crossed over from the Feywild.
The biggest news here is that there are still several shielded vaults in the ruins that haven’t been found out by anyone yet. They contain extensive troves of ancient Iliyanbruen artifacts and works of art, of immense cultural value even when they aren’t magical, all protected against the ravages of time by stasis spells. The eladrin themselves don’t remember their locations, and this is the first time the book itself mentions them.
Here is also where it goes into a little more detail on the Feywild side of the crossing. That’s where the military outpost of New Shandarar is. It was also built on top of ruins, after the eladrin force kicked out the evil fey that had been living in them.
New Shandarar’s fortifications are living vegetation shaped by magic, and the portal opens into a courtyard kill zone. Aside from all the military defenses you expect, built of out living and magically reinforced wood, the fort also has plenty of facilities for long-term habitation. This includes a temple to Corellon.
The Hidden Serpent
As we saw before, Merrisara Winterwhite, the force’s commanding officer, is part of their moderate faction. She spends most of her time in the middle world overseeing the restoration of the city. Her second-in-command is an extremist, and spends all of his time in the Feywild. Addemios Three-Dawn, the secret Asmodeus worshiper, also spends all his time in the Feywild. He has a hidden shrine to his god underneath Corellon’s temple. The evil fey who were supposedly kicked out of the area have a hidden camp not too far from the fort, and they cooperate with Three-Dawn because their interests align.
A side box here explains that Asmodeus presents himself in the Feywild as a trickster god of a “better class” than the usual archetypes found there. Instead of lying and cheating for the lulz, he encourages and teaches his followers to do so in order to advance their own power and influence.
The Fey and the PCs
Another box discusses the possible attitudes of the eladrin towards PCs. As we already known even the moderates are standoffish and aggressive to outsiders by default. However, they are likely have a more diplomatic stance towards a party which includes the Iliyanbruen Guardian.
Which of the two sub-factions wins out depends largely on the actions of the PCs. The moderates win and might become valuable allies if the PCs can offer them evidence that the Shadovar are responsible for the relic thefts, or if they can prove Addemios Three-Dawn is a traitor who is manipulating them.
On the other hand, if the PCs steal from the ruins, fight the eladrin or attack Three-Dawn before proving his guilt, the Fey will adopt the extremist stance and launch a full-scale invasion of the region, likely starting a major open war with the other factions.
How important the fey of New Shandarar are depends entirely on what the group wants for their campaign. They could be anywhere from isolated and irrelevant to a potential region-wide threat that needs to be defused as soon as possible. Even groups who aren’t interested in spending a lot of time dealing with these elves might still get an adventure or two out of a visit to their camp, perhaps as they’re traveling the Wood on the way to some other location therein.
The Neverwinter Wood dominates the northern half of our regional map and is much larger than the city that gives it its name. It’s a classic Creepy Forest, where the canopies block out all sunlight and even in the safer trails it seems like someone is always watching you from the shadows. And that’s just the baseline mood - the Wood is also currently full of ill-intentioned outsiders.
Characters in a Neverwinter campaign might need to trek through this place for any number of reasons. This section of the chapter covers some of the Wood’s most notable places, but it’s large enough that you could run a full hex-crawling campaign on it.
The book actually includes rules for a “Creepy Woods” hazardous terrain type that can be included in exploration or combat maps. Anyone on this terrain when a fight starts must roll a save before rolling Initiative - if they fail, they’re surprised during the first round. They also gain a -2 to Will while on Creepy spaces and when they fail a Perception check there they always think they heard something that’s not there.
This first post covers the “smaller” areas and “standard” geographical features of the Woods. It also contains several faction strongholds that will each get their own post.
This is a large mountain range that splits the Wood in two, running from NE to SW. Mount Hotenow is the most notable place in the Crags, as it’s where the Neverwinter River starts and also the source of the eruption that caused the cataclysm.
There’s a lot more besides the volcano though - this is a typical D&D mountain range full of monsters, caves, and hidden valleys and is also rumored to contain paths to lost Gauntlgrym. Whether those exist or not, the range does definitely contain a lot of old Delzoun outposts.
Those outposts will give the Heir of Delzoun something to marvel at even if they don’t find a path to the lost city here. They’re also targets for Netherese plundering in their unceasing quest for magic items to burn.
All of the Wood’s rivers are warmed by Hotenow’s heat, so they never freeze even during winter, and generally act to keep the forest warm and untouched by the seasons. They teem with non-monstrous aquatic wildlife but never gave rise to monsters - except for the River Morgur, the northernmost tributary of the Neverwinter. It’s still iceless, but also has river monsters.
Bones of Thundertree
Thundertree used to be a logging village that produced a lot of quality timber. It was completely destroyed by the eruption, and all of its surviving inhabitants fled to never return. The place is now haunted by possessed plant monsters (take plant monster stat blocks of your choice and give them undead traits). Aside from them, only the dwarf Favria, leader of the more violent faction of the Ashmadai, calls this place home. She lives in an underground wine cellar.
I was given to understand her whole Ashmadai sub-faction used this place as a base, so it looks like there was a miscommunication between different authors here. I’d probably add them here if I ran a Neverwinter campaign. Maybe say those plant monsters are possessed by devils instead of undead. How do you like evil treants with 20 fire resistance?
The Tower of Twilight
There used to be a wizard’s tower built in the middle of a lake island. It, and the bridge leading to it, only appeared at night, becoming more solid as the sun set and fading out again when it rose. During the Spellplague, the tower vanished entirely and did not return until after the cataclysm. Now, it appears sporadically with no set schedule, and no one knows what goes on in there anymore.
One suggestion from the book is that the tower fades out of time when it’s not visible in the physical world, and the people inside only experience the passage of time when it appears. This mean that the tower’s wizard and their apprentices and staff might still be there, either absorbed in their studies as if this was still 3e or struggling with what is to them a very recent bout of “original strain” Spellplague.
We’re getting outside of the city proper now! Helm’s Hold is a small town located on the edge of the Neverwinter Wood, built around a monastery and cathedral dedicated to the god Helm. It’s about a day’s travel northeast of Neverwinter.
The town’s proximity to the Wood and its traditions of rugged individualism give it big “American frontier” vibes, tempered a bit by the monastery’s own culture. Helm used to be the god of guardians, and the monastery’s purpose since its ancient founding is to give sanctuary to those who have none. The monastery came first, and the town slowly grew around it.
About a year before the Spellplague, when the inhabitants had just laid the foundation for the cathedral, Helm died. The grieving priests and citizens finished the huge building as a monument in his honor, and kept its purpose as a sanctuary, welcoming people of all faiths.
My experience of Helm’s Hold from the computer games and reading this book is that the place’s narrative purpose is to be infiltrated and secretly taken over by the current campaign’s Big Bads. It happened in the first computer game (ancient underground civilization), it happened again shortly before the Spellplague (Netherese), and now it’s happening once more (the aboleths). We’re headed for a plot pileup here because the Netherese are also trying to infiltrate the town anew, via their werewolf minions.
Those mysterious disappearances and murders are caused not by the spellscarred, but by the Grey Wolf Uthgardt, who have been ordered by their Netherese masters to infiltrate the town and cause chaos. They’re proficient at disguising themselves as locals or pilgrims, which lets them get into position to wolf out at night and go hunting. The core of their force hides out in the Wood. The Netherese don’t think the Hold is strategically valuable, they just want to keep the barbarians occupied until they’re needed in their true function as expendable muscle to throw against the Thayans.
The two barbarian-themed PCs are quite likely to end up here, and a peaceful resolution to the Grey Wolf plot would involve convincing them the Netherese are both evil and not interested in the tribe’s well-being. This has to be done subtly, though, as they are likely to attack the Pack Outcast on sight.
And of course there’s also the cathedral itself, which is currently being run by Rohini’s group and thus is a secret aboleth center of power. No one else knows about this currently, though ironically the AbSov is also interested in solving the murders because it will reduce the suspicion currently directed at them.
The Hold and Environs
The Hold’s mission as a sanctuary turned into the region’s premier treatment center for Spellplague victims, a duty which only became heavier about a year ago when Lord Neverember made it his official policy to send any such victims he finds in Neverwinter to the cathedral.
The rest of the region tends to see the spellscarred as dangerous freaks, but the inhabitants of the Hold see them as unfortunate victims affected by a horrible curse. Still, the overwhelming influx of new patients has been testing their open stance, as the city had to do a lot of rush construction to accommodate them all, with limited success. You can find newer buildings haphazardly constructed between older structures, their quality dubious due to the Hold’s chronic labor shortage. Most skilled builders are over on Neverwinter, where the work pays better.
The Hold’s citizens are further stressed out by the recent spate of mysterious murders and disappearances, which the more conservative among them have started blaming on the spellscarred. A group of spellscarred activists calling themselves the Heirs of Azure has sprung up to try to counter the distrust heaped upon their community. However, the Mintarn detachment sent by Neverember to help keep the peace isn’t having much success tracking down the real culprits, tensions keep increasing.
The city is governed by a council of elected Speakers who meet at a former tavern named The Dragon’s Gauntlet. They’re also split on the issue of the spellscarred, though the official stance is still receptive since current Chief Speaker is in that camp. The council’s collective power is waning, as there are enough mercs in town that they could declare martial law unopposed. Their commander, however, is uncharacteristically responsible and dutiful, so the order won’t come from him.
The market plaza, so named because there’s a shrine to Sune here. Fights are frequent because resources are scarce and prices high. Every now and then, at night, a major haunting happens here and a bunch of ghosts goes through the motions of market life. Some crew the stalls, some walk around making purchase and talk to each other. Most of their words are gibberish, but some are prophetic.
Old Dirty Dwarf
And old, respected, and dirty tavern, with a reputation as the place for new arrivals to go in order to get the lay of the land and hear the latest news from the Hold. The owner is friendly to the spellscarred, but some of the staff aren’t. Agents of the Prophet keep an eye here at all times and report news to their boss.
The ground under this neighborhood softened during the Spellplague, causing many of its buildings to sink and crack. Nowadays it’s a barely-standing, precariously-patrolled slum that is home to the most deformed of the spellscarred, those even the Hold shuns. It’s also filled with shady characters and the occasional monster hiding out in an abandoned ruin.
The aging faithful of Helm’s Cathedral now share it with a contingent of Oghma’s priests who arrived to set up a sanatorium for spellscarred patients. Brother Satarin commands the former: he’s a 160 year old dwarf who was an acolyte before Helm’s death. Rohini the Prophet officially commands the latter, and is the de facto boss of the whole place. As we learned a few posts ago, she’s a former succubus turned aberrant creature, and serves the Abolethic Sovereignity, as do all her subordinates. She holds the loyalty of Helm’s old priests because some of her (fake) prophecies hint at his return.
The surface levels of the cathedral are airy and well-lit. The underground is far less pleasant and houses the sanatorium for the most “severe” cases. Rohini spends a lot of time down there “treating” them (i.e, turning them into foulspawn). They go out for exercise every day, and the foulspawn among them are only detectable as such by people specifically looking for them.
This was a failed attempt to expand the city’s drainage system, abandoned when the dig broke into the monastery’s old crypts and was overwhelmed by monsters. It became a kind of unofficial sanatorium for monstrous humanoids afflicted by the plague, who find no acceptance even in a tolerant city such as this. Goblins, kobolds and others venture into the city to steal food for themselves, and this has given rise to rumors of fey hauntings. I think it still connects to the rest of the crypts, described below, and would be a good alternate route for parties who want to sneak in. I’d probably run that as a negotiation focused adventure rather than a classic murdery crawl, at least until the PCs get to the crypts where the actual bad guys are.
Crypts of the Vigilant Eye
These crypts lie beneath the Cathedral, and predate its construction. Though the levels closer to the surface were clearly used by priests of Helm from the older monastery, things get more ancient and mysterious the deeper you go. There’s a big vertical pit full of side niches that could only be reached by flight or teleportation, and is now full of gargoyles. There’s a hallway full of gigantic robed skeleton statues that don’t resemble any sort of Helmite iconography.
And all that is without counting the twisting of the place by Spellplague energies and its current occupation by AbSov agents and foulspawn. Or the trapped Grey Wolf recon force that still hasn’t managed to find a way out through all of that.
The deepest levels turn into caverns that were excavated and mutated by the Symphony of Madness, turning into a fungal underground swamp. These are Chartilifax’s hunting grounds, so they probably contain all sorts of creatures that are tasty to dragons and dangerous to adventurers. From here you can enter a pulsating tunnel to the brain-like chamber containing the Hex Locus, a bronze coffer that acts as a repeater for the Symphony of Madness.
The Locus chamber can also be reached via a teleportation circle somewhere in the crypt levels, and Rohini will use that as soon as she learns someone is inside. She is linked to the artifact and can feel when someone enters its room. This is likely where any final confrontation against her and her pet dragon will occur.
The Spellscarred Harbinger will most likely be told to go here soon after the campaign starts. The Pack Outcast and Uthgardt Barbarian’s pursuit of the Grey Wolf might also bring them here early.
The city’s werewolf problem and the creepy happenings at the cathedral should be obvious enough to get the PCs investigating, and the growing tension between locals and refugees would make a fine secondary plot line.
Rohini herself would not appear immediately villainous - she would instead attempt to coopt the PCs and get them to help with her goals. By default that’s serving the AbSov, but the book offers a few alternatives. Perhaps she wants to break free of them and would secretly help them destroy the Hex Locus instead of protecting it. She is of course still a devil, so she might double-cross the PCs once she has what she wants.
Independent of that, Mordai Vell is working hard to woo her, aware that she’s a devil in disguise but unaware of all the rest. So he might hire the PCs as go-betweens in his courtship efforts. That’d be a fun way to introduce the AbSov and Ashmadai to the campaign.
I tried to be fair and write a complete summary of the material in the book, but the truth is that I have a hard time caring about what’s going on in the town of Helm’s Hold proper. The original Neverwinter Nights computer game colors my perceptions here - it skipped the “town” bit entirely and placed you directly inside the monastery, which it treated as a dungeon. I only learned the Hold was an actual town once I read this book.
I feel like most campaigns will go a similar route, focusing all of their “urban intrigue” creative energy on Neverwinter itself and treating the Hold as a mostly-skipped prelude to the big delve into the cathedral and the crypts beneath. On the other hand, it would also be possible to do the reverse and ignore the big city depending on your party composition. There are several themes that have more reason to start at the Hold than at Neverwinter, like the Spellscarred Harbinger, the Uthgardt Barbarian, and the Pack Outcast.
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