I've been a big fan of the Forgotten Realms since the Old Grey Box, running games in 1st, 2nd & 3rd editions, but not 4th – by the time the 4th edition Realms was published, I'd done enough work on Parsantium to know I wanted to run my 4e games there. Despite years of running campaigns in the Realms for kb98, I'm not really that familiar with Neverwinter itself. I played some of the first Neverwinter Nights game, but the city, now called the Jewel of the North, hasn't appear in my FR campaigns.
In this new book, the city survived the Spellplague which changed the face of much of the rest of the world, but has since been partly destroyed by a volcanic eruption. It is now in the process of being reclaimed for civilization by the Open Lord of Waterdeep, the somewhat dodgy Lord Neverember. Other factions, including the Shadovar, the Red Wizards of Thay, the aboleth, the diabolic cult of Asmodeus and many more are all up to no good in the city and its environs, providing plenty of adventure hooks and ideas for an exciting campaign set in the region.
There is plenty of excellent player-centred material in the book. The themes, including Uthgardt Barbarian, Harper Agent and Renegade Red Wizard, are very well done and ensure that each PC is grounded in the setting with built-in adventure motivations from the off. A full bladesinger class is detailed – this is the fighter-magic user we've been waiting for, far superior to the swordmage. Domains tied to the FR gods such as Oghma and Torm provide some good options for warpriest clerics.
The bulk of the the book is DM only stuff, packed full of adventure ideas, information on the various factions and what they're up to, and a full gazetteer section. The factions are all tied into the themes and locations in the gazetteer section, and include associated monster and encounter ideas. There is plenty of conflict here, and the DM is encouraged to make the setting his own, allowing key NPCs to die if it suits the story, a refreshing change from earlier FR sourcebooks that featured the uber-powerful Seven Sisters and Knights of Myth Drannor.
The gazetteer covers the city of Neverwinter itself, the nearby Neverwinter Wood, Evernight – the Shadowfell parallel of Neverwinter, and Gauntlgrym – the legendary dwarven city which has a primordial imprisoned deep beneath it, amongst other interesting locations.
Art is nearly all top notch with some stunning pieces (see above & below!), and the writing is great - like all good campaign sourcebooks, Neverwinter is packed full of ideas and made me excited about running a game there as I read it.
This is an excellent campaign setting for 4e – if only I'd had this book a few years ago, then I would have grabbed it with both hands and ran a campaign set there. Now, in the twilight of 4th edition, it's likely to go on the shelf and be forgotten about, something of a shame.