Sunday, 25 January 2015

Stat Blocks - The Nashers

The Nashers played an important role in my Neverwinter: Year of the Ageless One campaign back in 2012 when we first began. (It's been a long haul to get as far as we have!)

I had them as an amoral counterpart to the Sons of Alagondar, with the Sons representing those who wanted a true heir of the last king/lord Nasher Alagondar to rule the city - and considered Lord Neverember nothing but a pretender - while the Nashers were claiming that they were, indeed, the legitimate heirs of Nasher Alagondar and thus should rule Neverwinter.

The Nashers had also attracted quite a following in Blacklake District in part because they were relatively wealthy and ran the district's only abattoir.  They were also loansharks and thugs. 

The reason they played an important role is that the best (and first) skill challenge that I ever ran involved a scene where the Nashers and the PCs were competing to sway a crowd to their side and the PCs won. The result was great but, as a DM, I was simply more happy that I was able to get a skill challenge to work!

Anyway, on the off chance that someone is still running 4E and may get some use from their stat blocks, there they are.

Andorn Nasher

The oldest of the four brothers and definitely their leader, the charismatic demagogue Andorn was, in the course of the skill challenge, the one whom the PCs were really competing with. However, he was no match for the thaneborn barbarian Griemolt whose outstanding rolls and good roleplaying - coupled with the voice amplification provided by the bard Aelar (as Aelar had an at-will thunder power, I allowed him to use this to boost Griemolt's voice with a successful Arcana check) - won the crowd over in very short order.

All that was left to Andorn was to order his brothers to kill these "usurpers" but he played a negligible role in the ensuing combat as Griemolt killed him in the first round. Things would have ended very differently if Griemolt et al had failed to win the crowd to their side....

In the picture above, Andorn is the first on the left.

Boelel Nasher

I think my favourite 4E monster type is the brute. They're simple to design and they're satisfying in play. I like combination of low AC (the PCs almost always hit...), high hit points (... but the brute keeps fighting...), and high damage (... and the players are scared). 

In the combat that followed, Boelel did something that I think has only happened two times in this campaign: he dropped the dwarf fighter to 0 hit points. I enjoyed that.

Boelel appears on the far right of the picture above.

Darraudan Nasher

Darraudan was there for the PCs to hate. In keeping with his chaotic evil alignment, he was the one the other residents of Blacklake complained about and was the casus belli, so to speak, for the PCs' confrontation with the Nashers.

He was fairly effective in combat and his quick feint worked fairly well to set up decent damage.

Story-wise, my plan was actually to have this psychopathic murderer return as a higher level undead mohrg but the PCs chose to take the unconscious Darraudan to be executed and he was beheaded. I didn't think a headless mohrg made that much sense.... However, I still have hopes of running another group through Neverwinter and, if I do, the defeated Darraundan is definitely going to come back!

He's the second from the left in the picture above. 

Gommar Nasher

My predilection for brutes appears once more.

While Andorn may have dropped the PC dwarf fighter, it was Gommar who did the damage in the first instance. Oh yes, I enjoyed unleashing this brute against the PCs. One of the things I like about both Andorn and Gommar is that you can see their pictures and imagine exactly what they do in the course of their butchery business, and then the stat block reflects the way that would translate into a fighting style. That's something I don't you can do in 5E.

Obviously, Gommar is the second from the right waving a butcher's hammer above his head.

A Note on Formatting

I don't know what goes wrong with Blogger so often. I cannot put the pictures where I want them to go, nor can I get the fonts to stay constant through my posts. And, consistent with the saying "beggars can't be chooser" I cannot really complain as this is a free product. Nevertheless, it is still annoying....

Friday, 9 January 2015

Starter Set Sandbox 17 - Hexcrawling Around Phandalin (post updated - previous post incomplete)

As per the revised post title, I originally posted this before I completed the post. I've edited in the missing content now.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I had now begun a 5E campaign set in and around Phandalin which I am currently calling The Twilit Land: Rise of the Zhentarim but may eventually be called by its original name - Tyrant of the Twilit Land - after a few more sessions. And If I end up with a beholder as the BBEG, it may even become I, Tyrant.

For me, 5E is the third edition of AD&D, although I also recognise the influence of both 3.xE and 4E in its design, but it feels and plays like AD&D, IMO (and YMMV).

And in a conscious homage to that old school vibe that it gives me, the campaign has begun with the basic idea of having an updated version of the Caves of Chaos from B2 The Keep on the Borderlands as its centrepiece. However, besides the Caves of Chaos, and in keeping with the old school vibe, I wanted to throw in a hexcrawl with various locations that can be explored and/or avoided.

So that's all a long way of saying that I've prepared a hexcrawl map for the 10 mile x 10 mile area south and east of Phandalin and some other DMs may find it useful. The scale is 1/2 mile per hex. (It was created using Hexographer which is such an elegant programme that I wished I had used before.)

And for those who want a little bit of inspiration for the locations I have placed on the map, here are my rough notes which I will gradually expand as we play.

01.01 Phandalin

This also includes hexes 01.02 and 02.01. This is the village of Phandalin described in Lost Mine of Phandelver.

04.12 The Statue Mines

Although these mines are rich, nobody will go there because of the petrified miners around the entrance and through the entrance tunnel. Basilisks lair here… and grimlocks can also be found.

The grimlocks worship a petrified, coiled, purple dragon (aka deep dragon) that "resides" in the middle of a vast amphitheatre-like cavern. The petrified dragon has been rubbed smooth over the centuries by the hands of grimlocks devotees.

04.17 The Moathouse

I think anyone reading this blog is familiar with the the Moathouse from T1 The Village of Hommlet or the execrable T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil. I think it's a fantastic little dungeon and I think it might work here. Otherwise, this could instead be the Place of the Unicorn or even The Shattered Circle.

(I note that the Place of the Unicorn should probably be northwest of Phandalin rather than south... but maybe the Spellplague caused it to shift? That statement, of course, is entirely tongue-in-cheek....)

05.05 Mines of the Goblin King

This is the location nearest to Phandalin and thus the one most likely to be explored first. I've already set up a Zhent-sponsored goblin threat to Phandalin in my game so this set of mines is going to be ruled by a goblin "king" but there will also be a Zhentarim presence.

10.03 The Last Copper Mines

The reason for the name is that miners believe you would have to be down to your last copper before you tried to delve these played-out mines which supposedly date back more than a thousand years…

… and are notorious for bad luck so lots of small shrines to Beshaba can be found along the way. Failing to pay homage at these shrines - or, even worse, desecrating same, can result in the Maid of Misfortune visiting the unbeliever with disadvantage on all saving throws, attack rolls, or skill/ability checks, or even all three.

It would also be a good location to run 2E's Dungeon of Death (which includes mines), although that adventure is set in The North so would require a few changes to place names and background details. And for those running it using 5E, you would need to convert a few monsters including the nabassu demons.

10.11 The Nexus Caverns

I am probably just regurgitating some ideas I had for the Old Owl Well, but I want at least one "weird dungeon" location in this area and I am thinking these could be something like S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Frankly, I should also take a fresh look at the wilderness portions of Lost Caverns and see if I can translate them to this hexcrawl map....

13.04 The Pit of Whispers

I want to take the basic idea of The Shattered Circle but have access to it be via a sinkhole or pit which resonates with weird whispers from the ancient past.

13.07 The Spire of Uruth Ukrypt

Ahhh, this is the orc-raised tower from the classic 3.5E adventure Sons of Gruumsh. Besides orcs - and orogs! - this adventure also conveniently includes Zhentarim which suits my purposes perfectly. It's one of my favourite adventures that I have yet to run and the maps are simply superb.

14.05 Forgotten Temple of Amaunator

I ran a year-long 3.5E campaign at a game store that began a couple of days after the revised edition's release and it was set in and around Deadsnows in the Silver Marches. I ran it as something of a hexcrawl using the map of the area around Deadsnows that appeared in 3E's The Silver Marches (one of FR's best ever regional supplements, IMO).

One of the few dungeon locations I used in that campaign was a lost temple of Amaunator that dated back to the Netherese era and still contained the clerics of that time, albeit as undead huecuvae (I am hoping that's the correct spelling of the plural of huecuva). The map was actually based on the dungeon in B3 Palace of the Silver Princess.

Anyway, I want to use it again. It's high up on a cliff top and accessible by a carefully hidden switchback path.

15.10 Lost Forgebar Mines

These are the Caves of Chaos from B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. They're supposed to be the focus of my new 5E game but I'm now not sure if the PCs will get there! :)

15.13 The Zhentarim Iron Mines

To support their activities in the area, and the eventually fitting out of the army they're raising, the Zhentarim have reopened some iron mines at this location and have pressed slave labour into doing the work. I don't have a published adventure to steal from at this point, but I may use the maps for the first section of the Mines of Tethyamar that appear in 3E's Lords of Darkness.

16.02 The Deep Delve

I want these to be active mines because the PCs have met a band of dwarven miners who were heading there... but I am also so very tempted to run 3E's Forge of Fury at this point, in large part because this campaign needs a dragon and there is a black dragon in Forge of Fury....

Alternatively, this could also be 4E's Orcs of Stonefang Pass....

18.15 Vulture's Roost

This is from the DDi adventure of the same name.

19.02 Temple of the Winds

This is based on the Lair Assault involving the temple of Shaundakul. However, it may now be the demesne of an ogre mage or three.

Basically, I want one location on this map to be up in the Sky. Temple of the Skygod is probably the best published fit, although I recall there is at least one published Dungeon adventure set in a cloud castle....

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

(5E) The Twilit Land: Rise of the Zhentarim 0 - Introduction & Hexcrawl Map

When I began typing this post, it was going to be a similar sort of introduction but for a campaign I was planning to call Tyrant of the Twilit Land. It was going to be largely based on B2 The Keep on the Borderlands - as explained in <this post> - with the town of Phandalin from Lost Mine of Phandelver taking the place of the titular keep. The Caves of Chaos would be lost dwarven mines where a tyrant - originally a beholder but I finally decided to use a blue dragon scion of the Blood of Morueme - had managed to unite disparate humanoid tribes and was gradually forging them into an army that would threaten Phandalin and other settlements in the North...

... but then we played tonight and my attempts to make Phandalin feel like Tombstone resulted in the players deciding they wanted to clean up this town and make it a safe place for miners, farmers, and their families.

And as the Zhentarim were identified as the primary threat facing this town - more on this when I write up the session report in my next post - I decided to use some ideas I have been playing with since 2E about the civil war within the Zhentarim between the Cyricist and Banite factions. So, while the Zhents are definitely trying to secure their position within Phandalin because of its easy access to several mines they expect to have real value, there are also two factions within the Zhentarim that are competing with each other in a desire to dominate the Black Network.

Anyway, here's some details of the four PCs that I'm running through this campaign which does not include a healer of any sort (but I do have a DMPC on standby, just in case). It's an odd group, including my very first drow ranger in 33+ years of D&D. But these are good players who I know won't turn the drow into some desperate, angst-filled, Drizzt-wannabe. And I am sure the fact that he is drow will be used against him more than once....

A. CG Male Drow Ranger

Background: Outlander.
Personality Traits: I'm driven by a wanderlust that led me away from home.
Ideals: Life is like the seasons, in constant change, and we must change with it.
Bonds: An injury to the unspoiled wilderness of my home is an injury to me.
Flaws: Don't expect me to save those who can't save themselves. It is nature's way that the strong survive and the weak perish.

A's favoured enemies are goblins and orcs.

B. CN Male Elf Monk

Background: Guild Merchant.
Personality Traits: I always want to know how things work and what makes people tick.
Ideals: Freedom. Everyone should be free to pursue his or her own livelihood.
Bonds: I owe my guild a great debt for forging me into the person I am today.
Flaws: I speak without really thinking through my words, invariably insulting others.

B is holding a letter of introduction from the Lionshield Coster in Waterdeep.

C. LG Male Human Fighter

Background: Soldier.
Personality Traits: Haunted by images of war.
Ideals: Greater good. Our lot is to lay down our lives in defence of others.
Bonds: I fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.
Flaws: I'd rather eat my armour than admit when I'm wrong.

C has a dice set (and, presumably, proficiency) and insignia of his former officer's rank. Unusually for a former soldier, he wears leather armour and fights with a greataxe. Coupled with his great strength (it is 18), the way he carries himself as a former soldier, and the fact that he is keeping company with a drow, the Zhentarim of Phandalin are going to look at him as a prospective recruit.

D. LG Male Human Warlock

Background: Noble.
Personality Traits: Despite my noble birth, I do not place myself above other folk. We all have the same blood. Even as a noble, I still feel the need to prove myself to others.
Ideals: Noble Obligation. I hope to become strong enough to protect all those beneath me.
Bonds: I will face any challenge to win the approval of my family.
Flaws: I hide a truly scandalous secret that could ruin my family forever.

A scion of House Adarbrent of Waterdeep, D enjoys the position of privilege trait of his Noble background. He also possesses a dragonchess set and presumably proficiency in same.


I've been using an old computer for the past few weeks because of problems with my laptop which is being repaired. (And this is the Philippines so nothing happens quickly... or on time.) I had forgotten that I had bought Hexographer roughly four years ago and had never actually used it. Anyway, as part of a desire to give this campaign a bit of an old school vibe, I thought a hexcrawl might be the perfect complement to a conversion of Keep on the Borderlands.

Here's the map I made in a few minutes using Hexographer (it really is fast!) but I am still brainstorming what each of the locations mean and will include them in another post.

The PCs actually obtained this map during the course of the first session of play - see next post - which is going to help with the mechanics of actually running a hexcrawl online without using a virtual tabletop.

BTW, the scale is 1/2 mile per hex. It's a pretty simple map so I hope it makes sense without further explanation. I've also posted some ideas about the locations in <this post>, part of my Starter Set Sandbox series.

Monday, 5 January 2015

5E: Is This the First Edition Where I Don't Care About Official Products?

We have our first 5E game scheduled for tomorrow - Tue 06Jan15 - and I will be running a Phandalin-based version of B2 The Keep on the Borderlands which I am currently calling Tyrant of the Twilit Land.

As I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I am not really a fan of the 5E rules but I want to run this game purely because of important friendships which, of course, trump petty quibbles about preferred D&D editions.

So, as I have been reading and rereading the various 5E products plus messageboard posts in order to ensure that I am properly psyched up and positive about playing an edition that is not my first choice, I suddenly realised: this is the first edition where I genuinely do not care what products D&D's publisher plans to release.

And that's not a slight on 5E. I realised that, after 34 years of running D&D, I've arrived in that place where a lot of old school D&D fans have been for decades: I am actually quite prepared to simply create my own stuff.

I lost interest in new monsters years ago and converting to 5E is quite simple. I have enough adventures to last me through several lifetimes DMing and conversion is pretty easy. I can create or convert any spells I feel I need because 5E is so like AD&D in this respect. And even my preferred campaign setting, the Forgotten Realms, is now at a point where I actually prefer my own direction for the world than the one that WotC is taking.

And there's my positive attitude toward 5E that I need to be in the right mood to run the game tomorrow: it's the edition I can really make my own, much like when D&D first became my hobby in 1981 and, as a 12-year old, I had no money.

Maybe I do like 5E after all....

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Starter Set Sandbox 16 - Neverwinter Wood

If you're reading this and you have Lost Mine of Phandelver but are not familiar with 4E's outstanding Neverwinter Campaign Setting, you might be wondering why the map on the right, while covering the same general area as the regional map in Lost Mine, is otherwise a bit different in terms of including a number of other locations that do not appear on the regional map that you're familiar with.

In the context of a post about the Neverwinter Wood, I would point out the Dread Ring, Sharandar, and Xinlenal as locations that don't appear on the regional map in Lost Mine but which will feature below.


FR5 The Savage Frontier

The first reference I can find to the Neverwinter Wood is in The Savage Frontier, although it refers to the Neverwinter Woods (plural). Besides some references to Uthgardt tribes being present, it has this to say
This forest east of Neverwinter seems to have a magical quality about it, or at least an air of mystical secrecy. The always-warm Neverwinter river, which flows out of the wood, has its source deep beneath Mount Hotenow, a sleepy volcano in the northern wood. Fire elementals are said to live deep within Hotenow. The steep mountains to the north of Hotenow hide griffon lairs.

These woods have never been logged by men (they are feared and shunned by the locals), and even today are largely unknown. The depths are said to harbour dire creatures. Orc hordes always go around the woods, never through them.
That's also the description that is regurgitated in The North boxed set. And Volo's Guide to the North says even less, except noting that some logging does take place. (I would refer you to the earlier entry for Thundertree for information about a ruined logging village.)

Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting

The FRCS took a slightly different tack with its description:
This charmed forest to the east of the city of Neverwinter is perpetually warmed by the Neverwinter River that flows from beneath the dormant volcano Mount Hotenow. Humans, and even orcs, fear the wood and tend to avoid it.

Unlike other forests with dangerous reputations, the Neverwinter seldom disgorges great monsters or evil forces - the unease felt by those who know they do not belong in the Neverwinter Wood stems partly from a terrible anticipation that the wood could do them damage if it chose.
Clearly, the Neverwinter Wood is meant to be a mysterious, fey place.

Champions of Ruin

An elven supremacist group, the Eldreth Veluuthra ("Victorious Blade of the People") was, to the best of my knowledge, first introduced in 2E's Cloak & Dagger. A throwaway reference was included to an Eldreth cell being present in the Neverwinter Wood. This reference was barely expanded in 3.5E's Champions of Ruin to two sentences:
The Eldreth Veluuthra claims that the forbidding reputation owned by this mysterious forest is due in no small part to the activities of one of the oldest and largest cells in the organisation. Several other small cells also operate in the area.
Neverwinter Campaign Setting

Sharandar in the Neverwinter MMORPG
I think it is fair to say that there are more words written about the Neverwinter Wood in 4E than in all the other editions combined.

Firstly, it addresses the appearance of the eladrin from the Feywild within the ruins of Sharandar, formerly the capital of the elven realm of Iliyanbruen:
When the Spellplague shook Toril, the Feywild fell once more into alignment with the mortal realm. Over time, many denizens of that untamed world crept, dashed, or strode across the newly weakened barriers.

Some eladrin from the Feywild kingdom of Iliyanbruen - who had fled when Illefarn fell into ruin long ago-decided to return to their ancestral roots. When the eladrin arrived at the portal connecting their forest to Neverwinter Wood, dark fey were already there. After driving out the evildoers, the band erected a military outpost in the surrounding wreckage on both sides of the portal and named it New Sharandar, after Iliyanbruen's former capital. Now the fey have spread through several of the ancient ruins, which time, nature, and intruders have ravaged.

The eladrin want to restore their ancient city and smash in the heads of the pillagers that defiled it. Even though most of the fey reserve their anger for the thieves and ravagers, others aren't so precise in their wrath. These eladrin are enraged at the desecration of their ancestral homes. They believe the entire region is theirs by right, and they'll happily slaughter anyone who dares gainsay them.
(I would refer you to page 126-127 of the Neverwinter Campaign Setting if you wish to continue reading: this is merely a quote.)

From page 174 onwards, the Neverwinter Campaign Setting begins addressing the Neverwinter Wood more directly:
Leagues beyond Neverwinter, a thick press of trees shrouds a foreign world in shadows and fear. In places, the land's brush grows into dense walls, and trespassers must hew through it branch by branch to gain access to the land's private places. Where the thickets are lighter and natural pathways allow for easier travel, the land's aura is no less menacing. Overhead, the canopy's branches and leaves intertwine into wooden fists, blotting out the sun and transforming the idea of" day" into a memory of brighter, safer domains. Travellers who risk entering this looming forest feel baleful eyes tracking their movements. Despite the warm temperature, a coldness creeps inside their clothing, sending shivers down their spines.

This is Neverwinter Wood. Dark and brutal outsiders journey here to steal power, magic, and lives. Monstrous denizens of this world and others dwell here in shadows, glaring in hatred at ignorant mortals who think to tame the wilds. Here, the bones of ancient civilizations that believed their magic a match for the woods reside as testaments of their folly. And here, the ghosts of such mistakes haunt the edges of this foreign reality, never escaping the winter of their lives.
A sidebar entitled Looming Woods then gives this flavour text some in-game effects:
A dark, ominous forest is enough to make anyone nervous. But in Neverwinter Wood, even the unease is unnatural. In areas of the woodland, travellers' disquiet thickens into a supernatural fear, becoming fantastic terrain.

Effect: Living creatures in affected squares must make a saving throw before rolling initiative. Those who fail are surprised during the first round of combat. Living creatures who fail a Perception check while in affected squares are convinced they heard or saw something moving nearby. Finally, living creatures take a -1 penalty to Will and saving throws against fear powers and effects.

Special: Creatures that live in these woods for more than a few weeks grow immune to this effect.
Beyond those general comments, I want to include quotes about three of the locations in the Neverwinter Wood - Sharandar, Dread Ring, Xinlenal - that appear on the map at the beginning of this post.


The ruins are described as follows:
Sharandar's structures were built high in trees, blending harmoniously with the forest's natural growth and forming a crown upon the canopy's brow. The thickest boles supported rounded platforms upon which peak-roofed homes and arching halls were erected. Skilled glassworkers crafted amber-tinted windows that sealed out the weather and gleaming lanterns from which mystical lights danced. Great bridges, both crafted and grown, linked one structure or tree with the next. Intricate knots, carved in wood and tied in branches, adorned ceilings, framed doors, and served as banisters to help keep occupants from toppling off platforms.

So it was. Since then, rot has been feasting, opening soft wounds in walls, ceilings, and floors for intruders to stumble through - likely to their deaths. Handrails sag dangerously, and entire sections of them are gone. Windows and lanterns are missing or shattered. Vines, lichens, mosses, and moulds snake along every surface. Small beasts, birds, and insects have reclaimed the trees, at times sharing the structures' remains with the more dangerous creatures that claimed them as lairs or with skulking invaders intent upon looting.
The descriptions continue beyond this quote and the impression the reader is left with is decayed magnificence. There is also a section further describing further the efforts to reclaim the ruins as New Sharandar but that's not a direction my only comments are heading in.

Dread Ring

My PCs will soon be tackling the Dread Ring as part of their Bones of the Thunderbeast major quest so I am rather biased when it comes to potential of including the Dread Ring as a part of a campaign. I have already covered off a lot of the ideas I have for the Dread Ring <here> (or you can follow this <tag>) but I will include a fairly long quote from the Neverwinter Campaign Setting just to explain the location with a little bit of detail:
In Neverwinter Wood's deepest region, where shadows weigh on travellers like wet wool, something malign lurks. The thick forest ends abruptly, its border abutting a circular field of ash. Animals give wide berth to the site, and the surrounding forest land is blanketed in a chilling, breathless silence. Heavy, stale air - redolent with the tang of disease - resists any breeze, stubbornly squatting over the clearing.

A few hundred feet in from the perimeter, black stones rise from cracked, lifeless soil. Walls, pillars, spindly towers, and gaping gates form an uneven circle of nefarious import. This structure, a combination of ritual focus and functional fortress, is one of Thay's Dread Rings. Szass Tam, the lich regent of Thay, created the rings for use in a fell ritual in his quest to attain godhood. His efforts were thwarted, however, and this ring is now the centre of Valindra Shadowmantle's regional efforts. Despite its stones having been broken, its walls hanging open, and its initial purpose going unfulfilled, the structure still holds more power than any sane person would want Thay to possess.

Adventurers who approach the ring do so without their mounts, since typical beasts step into the circle of ash only if they are forced. Familiars, beast companions, and the like are apt to proceed, snarling or whimpering, if their masters do.

Even within the unnatural oppression of Neverwinter Wood, the ring's malignity stands out against the surrounding landscape's. Characters who have training in Arcana automatically sense the magic in the broken walls of the Dread Ring (though they cannot tell its purpose). As their teeth chatter, their palms sweat, and their souls clench, even the most unobservant adventurers can tell this is a warped place.
Suffice to say, that's the sort of place that almost any DM could turn into a truly horrifying adventuring  environment.


Some 20-25 miles away from the Red Wizards of Thay with their Dread Ring, you have the other ubiquitous power group of the 4E Realms, The Netherese or Shadovar, seeking to recover one of their flying cities that crashed during the whole Karsus debacle a couple of thousand years ago:
In the woodland's eastern reaches, the forest floor smacks into an earthen wall that rises about 60 feet before stretching into a plateau. Although the rise is not especially great, the topside's thick canopy and heavy overgrowth shroud it in secrecy. Beneath this wooded cloak, cracked and scattered structures and winding avenues intertwine with the forest's vines, grasses, and branches.

This plateau holds the wreckage of Xinlenal, the First Enclave of Netheril. The earliest of the Netherese flying cities, Xinlenal plummeted to the earth when magic briefly ceased to function during the empire's fall. Here it has lain for nearly two millennia. However, if Prince Clariburnus has his way, the First Enclave might soon soar again.
While not as horrifying as the Dread Ring, there's a lot to be said for a megadungeon environment which, if you don't defeat the BBEG, turns into a flying megadungeon. Now why didn't I make this a more important part of my current campaign...?

Putting it Together

Old School

If you're a old school DM, you want to be able to run a hexcrawl as well as have at least one megadungeon in the midst of those hexes that the PCs can explore. The Neverwinter Wood is that hexcrawl. PCs can fight their way through evil fey, including elf/eladrin-supermacists, while encountering the corrupt necromantic creations of the Dread Ring and the soldiers of the Netherese. And then the Dread Ring, Sharandar, and Xinlenal are all megadungeon environments. (Dread Ring, to me, seems an almost perfect place to set Barrowmaze, for example.)

And when the PCs screw up in Xinlenal, it turns into a flying city and now they have to deal with the threat that this poses and the potential that it offers. I am sure any player would remember the time their DM gave them a flying city for years to come!

Not Old School

The critical issue in the Neverwinter Wood is the presence of the Red Wizards of Thay and their Dread Ring. It corrupts the entire forest. Such is the threat that it poses that even the most xenophobic of the Eldreth would consider allying with a group of PCs in order to end the Thayan threat.

And the threat posed by the Netherese is negligible. Even if they raise Xinlenal, their interests are elsewhere. (Also, if you're setting your campaign after the events of The Sundering, the Netherese are all but wiped out. As such, I would expect that a group of Netherese who managed to escape from the fate of most of their fellows would use a repaired flying city to start life anew in a place that posed less of a threat. On that note, it might be interesting to have the Netherese of Xinlenal, regardless of when your campaign is taking place, actually be those who simply want to live a peaceful life and not a life of empire and conquest. As such, the PCs may end up deciding to help them....)

So, that leaves us with the Dread Ring as the focus of any adventuring in the Neverwinter Wood. And breaking the Dread Ring's power should require something along the lines of what is needed to destroy an old school artefact. In my campaign, the power to destroy the Dread Ring and remove its blight is contained within three Tears of
Selûne - inspired by the DDi adventure Shards of Selûne - for which my PCs quested from levels 3-8.

As the Dread Ring is, for all intents and purposes, an insult (and anathema) to nature, any artefact connected to druids, primal forces, nature deities etc... could fill the same macguffin-like role that the Tears of Selûne have filled in my own game. (If you own 2E's Prayers from the Faithful, I would recommend the Eldathyn relic the Crystrum of Tranquillity.) 

Otherwise, the Dread Ring is an opportunity to go wild with dungeon design. It doesn't need to make logical sense - the Neverwinter Campaign Setting makes this plain - because reality breaks down in parts of the structure. Break out the old school random dungeon generation tables....

As already mentioned, the elves and eladrin of the Eldreth Veluuthra represent a cleart and present danger to those who enter the Neverwinter Wood. While that can mean, in simple terms, unexpected battles with "good" elves, it could be interesting to play up "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"-angle only for the Eldreth to betray the PCs once the Thayans are dealt with.

Summing Up

I'll keep this brief: evil elves and three megadungeons each with their own unique flavour, including the possibility that one could be made to fly? Yeah, I think most DMs would see the potential of running adventures in such a location.