Modder Savant Interview
We interviewed Neverwinter modder Savant (aka Stephen Nowland). We discuss his NWN mods and new game novels based on his mods.
Couchpotato: Can you give a brief introduction of yourself to our members?
Hello, my name is Stephen Nowland, known as ‘Savant’ in the NWN community.
Couchpotato: What made you start building modules for NWN, and did you foresee them becoming as popular as they did?
Stephen Nowland: Before NWN came out, I used to run pen and paper D&D games for my friends and had a wealth of material to go from. I wanted to create some adventures to run them through, but of course the build time was far more than I’d counted on. By then, the modding instinct had taken me over and I was determined to make it a good, standalone story. I’d previously written an unpublished adventure novel and began to factor elements from that into my mod. It was still pretty rough at first, but it smoothed out over time as I refused to give up on it. From there, I kept adding to and developing Aielund and the world around it. I never expected them to become that popular, though I’m pleased so many people enjoyed my work!
Couchpotato: How did you come up with the idea for the Aielund Saga?
Stephen Nowland: I take inspiration from little things in life. Certain kinds of inspiring music works wonders on my brain. In fact, there was a song called ‘Firelord’ that I used for the scenes in Fairloch, the capital of my story’s world, and from that I thought of ‘Ironlord’, which is where the penultimate villain of the story was born. I wanted to do political stories, sea adventures, and flesh out the world in my imagination, but I also enjoyed showcasing all the cool things NWN could do. That’s why there’s a huge variety of monsters, equipment, villains, and locations in my series.
Couchpotato: How long did it take you to create each mod?
Stephen Nowland: The first one took the longest, as I had to learn how to use the toolset first – 18 months if I recall correctly. The 2nd one was almost as long, simply because it was twice the size of the first one (yet I’d learned the toolset by then).
Couchpotato: Since each mod was made with the NWN Aurora Engine, can you share your opinion on the game engine?
Stephen Nowland: It has its limits, which I discovered when I began creating the 2nd story, Defender of the Crown. I wanted to have NPC people walk through the streets of the city during the day, and then go into their homes at night. Unfortunately, with the size of the mod, the poor engine choked when I asked it to do this! Aside from that, it’s a pretty robust and reliable engine that has stood the test of time fairly well. I was always impressed with the additions made to it by the community and the developers. It’s surprisingly flexible and when you get right down to it, a triumph of design.
Couchpotato: What are your favorite NWN mods?
Stephen Nowland: I thoroughly enjoyed A Dance with Rogues, and Stefan Gagne’s works. I may have played others, but it’s been a while and I can’t recall. I really did spend [more] time modding my own work than playing [the work of] others though ;)
Couchpotato: It was a sad day when the old NWN IGN vault went down. Do you host your mods on any other site now? One site is the new http://neverwintervault.org/.
Stephen Nowland: I was very upset when the vault went down, and worried my work might have been deleted. I have it all on my drive though so it’s nice and safe! Haven’t checked out the new site yet, though I will now.
Couchpotato: Do you have any plans to make any more mods, and did you ever want to create mods for NWN2?
Stephen Nowland: I had planned to create a new story for NWN2, until I attempted to use the toolset for it. Definitely a few steps backward from the NWN 1 toolset! I understand they eventually fixed it in subsequent expansions, but by then I’d already moved on. I don’t plan to go back into modding any time soon, as my efforts are focused on writing novels in the hope of perhaps making a career out of it.
Couchpotato: Since we’re talking about NWN 2, what's your opinion on the Electron engine, and the various mods released?
Stephen Nowland: I haven’t played enough of NWN 2 to comment on it in detail. It looks pretty enough, but I didn’t enjoy the first game.
Couchpotato: In the last few years you turned your mods into six novels. Was it hard to adapt the game world? I know it couldn't have been easy, as you've mentioned this problem before.
Stephen Nowland: Very! I went into the first novel expecting to copy/paste text straight from the first module. It wasn’t long before I discovered the quality of that writing was quite poor, by literary standards. The structure of a game is far different from a novel, too, giving the books a very ‘game-like’ structure to begin with. Only with the completion of the 6th book do I consider my writing level professional, or close to it at least. I’m going over the previous books right now to bring them up to scratch. In five years of writing, I learned *so much*, and looking over my older work I keep wondering what I was thinking when I wrote it. The finished result will be much easier to read and with a more realistic feel to it.
Couchpotato: What motivated you to become an indie author, and what authors inspired you?
Stephen Nowland: So many people gave me feedback on the mod, saying they loved the story and the characters. I lamented that only people who played the mod would get to read it. I also worried that as time wore on, the game wouldn’t be played anymore and my work would vanish. So I resolved to novelise it, and get back into writing properly, possibly even making a career out of it. Raymond E. Feist is one of my favourite authors with his mind-expanding Magician series. I also loved C.S. Forester's Hornblower books, which I did a little tribute to in my 2nd module.
Couchpotato: You just released the final novel, The Akashic Throne. What's next?
Stephen Nowland: Next, I get to write the story that was going to take place in my next modules that I never made ;) I’m in the planning stages now, and hope to have the first book done sometime next year.
Couchpotato: Have you seen Sword Coast Legends, the new RPG announced this month? If you have, what's your opinion on the game, as the develoepr claims the game is an updated Neverwinter game?
Stephen Nowland: I think that’s the one that lets one player be the DM, yes? I’m *very* enthusiastic about it, though I need to see more before I can comment much further. It does seem very promising, and I’ll definitely be getting my hands on it as soon as it’s released.
(Here is the link - https://swordcoast.com/)
Couchpotato: Thank you for your time and the many hours of enjoyment from your mods, Stephen. I was wondering if you have anything you want to add before we finish?
Stephen Nowland: Only that I am astounded and pleased NWN is still hanging in there. It’s pretty special, when you get right down to it, and I hope it’s around for years to come. Also, my first two ebooks are free so if you’re interested, you can check them out at no cost. Just wait ‘til the middle of March for me to finish revising them ;)
You can visit the following webpages to download the mods and buy his books.
Information aboutNeverwinter Nights
SP/MP: Single + MP
Combat: Pausable Real-time
Play-time: 40-60 hours
Voice-acting: Partially voiced
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released: 2002-06-18
· Publisher: Atari