Bringing Mystara to Life Online
by John Polacek
The face of online role-playing games is about to change. In a very big way. Don't believe it? Check out the new game Neverwinter Nights (NWN) from Bioware, the developers of Baldur's Gate, due to arrive in stores some time in late 2001. It is the first game entirely focused on bringing the pen and paper world of Dungeons & Dragons to the PC. It will be an online, multi-player game with a 3d environment (complete with dynamic light sculpting), available for Mac, PC, and Linux platforms.
What does this have to do with Mystara? Well, the most exciting innovation of Neverwinter Nights is without question the "NWN Toolset," which will allow users to create their own customized settings and adventure modules. Through the use of the Toolset, it will be possible to build and play in much of the world of Mystara. With its initial release, it will only be possible to build a limited amount of terrain types, but Bioware plans on releasing supplements that will provide much more diversity to the user, and should allow a Dungeon Master to build just almost any kind of fantasy environment he or she would like ... from the Empire of Thyatis, to the Principalities of Glantri. From the deep forests of Alfheim, to the cavernous mountain ranges of Rockhome. From the Black Peak Mountains to the Isle of Dread. From..., ok, you get the idea.
Ultimately, the beauty of this, of course, is that all those rare, out-of-print books, modules and boxed sets that are so hard to find can now be recreated. Not just recreated, but modified any way anyone would like. For example, if you'd want to play the classic Expert Adventure Module Castle Amber? Well, just fire up your NWN Toolset and build it. Or, maybe someone has already recreated the X2 Castle Amber module. Just download that sucker and play it with some friends. Or, modify it any which way you'd like, round up some players, be their DM and show them what Chateau d'Ambreville is all about. And, even better, DMs will have tremendous tools to help them create their own new, original adventure modules and even create their own alternate Mystaras if they see fit.
The NWN Mystara Project has been formed to help bring the amazingly rich and colorful world of Mystara online. The ultimate goal of the Project is to create a community for Mystara fans to play NWN. Through the site, Mystarans will be able to find DM's, players, games, downloads, news and more. There are sections devoted to adventuring guilds, organized campaigns, module projects, downloadable files, custom scripts and even a Persistent World.
Yes, that's right, a Persistent World for Mystara. Servers that run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week will be available to players and DMs. Currently, plans are underway to recreate the entire Known World and beyond as a 3d, online environment, complete with adventure modules, interactive NPC's and more. As of right now, mystaranet.com is the only PWS (Persistent World Server) that has come forward, but hopefully there will be many others to come.
The potential for this new technology is vast. The game hasn't even been released in beta form, and already websites devoted to NWN are popping up throughout the internet. Similar projects are in development for Dragonlance, Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, and others. The popularity of this game will undoubtedly dwarf that of Everquest and any other CRPG ever released. This popularity will give the setting of Mystara a chance to attract new fans like never before.
So, in addition to creating an online Mystara for existing fans, the NWN Mystara Project hopes to bring an entire new generation of fans to the setting. Fans that have never heard of Karameikos, WotI and the Hollow World. Fans that will have the immense pleasure of experiencing all of the wonders of Mystara for the first time, like no one ever has before.
However, those who will benefit most from the Neverwinter Nights game are the existing fans -- fans who have continued to play in Mystara despite it having been out of print for years. Fans like the members of the Almanac team, who will be able to see their creation brought to life and played by people all over the world. Fans like the contributors to this Tome, who can take their original Mystaran modules and creations, build them and host them with players not just in their living rooms, but throughout the world. And fans like myself, who feel like they've been waiting for this since we first opened that beautiful red boxed Basic Rules set, saw that gorgeous dragon illustration on the front by Jeff Easley and felt little tingles go up our spines.
I have a feeling there are a lot of people who feel as excited about this as I do. If you've gotten to the end of this article and have a nice, big smile on your face, then I bet you're one of them. If you haven't done so already, come over to the NWN Mystara Project and become a member. And, if I sound like I'm on a recruitment drive, that's because I am. Now, it's time to stop dreaming. Let's get this dragon flying!
To see a QuickTime movie demonstration of the power of this new game, visit this site.
Copyright (c) 2001, John Polacek. Used by permission. All rights reserved.