Some characters cross the divide between the expansion packs, but each also features new faces. In the original campaign, you can pick between six companions, or henchmen, to accompany your protagonist. Four of them make a temporary comeback in Chapter 1 of Hordes of the Underdark. In the OC, however, you can only recruit one at a time. In the first Chapter, they require a fee for their services, depending on your protagonist’s race and Charisma, and give her/him a token, which allows her/him to recruit them again as long as s/he keeps it. Fees aren’t required any longer in Chapter 2 or 3, but only the henchman your protagonist finishes Chapter 3 with will be available in Chapter 4. Each of these henchmen has their own alignment, according to the D&D morality grid: Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic and Good, Neutral or Evil. Three of the henchmen are Neutral, two are Good and only one is Evil. However, this doesn’t affect either their willingness to join or to stay with your protagonist, unlike in Baldur’s Gate, making the alignments more cosmetic than anything.
Each companion has three fetch quests, in Chapters 1, 2 and 3, which provide an opportunity for them to recount their personal backgrounds. Your protagonist needs to reach a given level to be able to unlock these conversations; it doesn’t matter how often s/he brings the companion along. In each case, the reward is an item that grants bonuses that reflect each henchman’s class and becomes more powerful in every Chapter. Other than that, the companions don’t interact with your protagonist.
One silly piece of trivia is that some of the character portraits had to be changed in a patch, as BioWare had used unauthorised, modified pictures of celebrities to represent them. Don’t know about you, but that cheapens the characters even more in my eyes.
Hero of Neverwinter: This is your protagonist, whom you can customise (almost) to your heart’s content. If possible, they’re even more of a blank slate than the Bhaalspawn in Baldur’s Gate, with only the briefest, vaguest blurb referencing their personal history, depending on their race. Yet, even that manages to use unnecessarily loaded language in some cases, e.g. the description for elves referencing “filthy dwarves”…why the automatic prejudice? What if I want to play an elf who doesn’t hate dwarves? Be that as it may, all you know is that your character has decided to become an adventurer and has joined the Neverwinter Academy to work on their skills. You’re free to choose their race, gender, name, appearance, portrait, alignment and class. There are also voice options for combat interjections. As I’ve already mentioned, the graphics in this game are pretty ugly, so making a character who’s pleasing to the eye is a bit of a challenge, although I must commend the fact that you can choose between two body types, something that no other BioWare game allows. The portrait selection is not particularly exciting – although some had to be changed as they were based on Angelina Jolie, Jane Seymour or Robert De Niro –, but you can make your own. Instead of ‘rolling’ your character as in BG, you’re simply given one with an 8 in all of their attributes and 30 points to allocate as you see fit, with one additional point every four levels subsequently, which speeds up the creation process immensely. There are seven races and 12 classes to pick from. Other than that, your protagonist’s personality is entirely up to you, and you can pick their responses in conversations accordingly.
Tomi: Of all the henchmen who had to have their portraits replaced, Tomi lost out the most. I have no idea whom his original portrait was based on (although he reminds me of either Zac Efron or Steve from Sex and the City), but it looked good. His updated one? BORING. Anyway, this red-haired (brown on his updated portrait) and brown-eyed Chaotic Neutral halfling Rogue hails from Calimshan, in the south of Faerûn. He’s the first potential henchman you encounter, as he can be found in the Hall of Justice, where he’s hiding from the authorities and where you begin Chapter 1. Tomi has a knack for getting in trouble, although how much of what he tells you is true and how much pure embellishment isn’t clear. What is certain is that he has escaped from the Neverwinter Prison, where he had been thrown for pickpocketing. Tomi’s first quest involves finding some documents to clear his name in an incident with his former employer. His second quest involves finding a ruby that his former friend and current “nemesis”, a halfling called Sammy, nabbed from him. The third quest involves finding the ashes of a warrior for a Sorcerer that Tomi used to be apprenticed to, as a compensation for inadvertently destroying his home, in an episode directly referencing The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Tomi is a good henchman for a non-Rogue melee protagonist, as he will take care of locked chests and traps, and land backstabs in combat. His Strength is poor, but he has good Constitution, a good Armour Class (AC) and excellent Dexterity, as well as the Weapon Finesse feat, which enables him to use Dexterity as a melee modifier instead of Strength. Like most other henchmen, he also comes with a bow, should it be required. Personality-wise, Tomi is cheeky, cheerful and carefree, as well as, apparently, a big hit with the ladies. His quest reward is a ring with some bonuses to Dexterity, Disable Traps and Open Locks. His token is a contract.
Daelan: One of the most popular henchmen from the OC, Daelan is a Chaotic Good half-orcish Barbarian with red hair and black eyes. As all the other henchmen besides Tomi, he can be found at the Trade of Blades tavern in the Neverwinter City Core. A member of the Red Tiger Uthgardt tribe, who live in the north of Faerûn, Daelan was exiled due to his mixed descent after his mother was killed in a bandit raid. He worked first as a guard in Luskan, then at the Neverwinter docks, where he saw his friends and co-workers die from the Wailing Death. So he became a mercenary to try to help out, but also to undertake his Vision Quest, an Uthgardt rite of passage, so that his tribe would welcome him back. His first task is recovering his mother’s stolen brooch, which he uses as a talisman for his Quest. His second task is finding the axe that killed her, so that her spirit may rest. His third task, and the actual goal of his Vision Quest, is to find a legendary spear and bring it back to his tribe. Daelan has the highest Strength and HP of all the henchmen, and his Dexterity is surprisingly high for such a bulky fellow. His Constitution, however, is mediocre for a melee character, and his AC is lower than Tomi’s. Still, he’s best used in melee, as he comes equipped with a friggin’ double axe, even though he also has a bow. Daelan is good for squishy mage-types, Rangers and Rogues, as he will provide something for the enemies to hit while your character snipes or backstabs them. Personality-wise, he’s loyal, dignified and honourable, wanting to prove that he can be reliable despite his heritage. His quest reward is an amulet with bonuses to Strength, immunity to fear and, in its final iteration, a certain amount of spell resistance. His token is a feather.
Boddyknock: In the same room as Daelan, you’ll encounter a gnome with grey hair and black eyes. Boddyknock is a Lawful Neutral Sorcerer from the island of Lantan, off the western coast of Calimshan. He decided to go on a pilgrimage for knowledge and ended up in Neverwinter, trying to find a cure for the Wailing Death. His first quest involves locating a recipe for leaven bread for his master. His second quest is to find some seeds for his father to make up for the accidental destruction of his garden. His third quest involves locating a dragon scale, the actual goal of his pilgrimage. Following the now established trend of BioWare’s inexplicable dislike of gnomes, Boddyknock sucks. Despite his excellent Constitution, his HP is puny, and while his Charisma is good, it could also be better, considering it’s a Sorcerer’s primary stat. He also has the worst AC of all henchmen. This means you should keep him at range, using his crossbow and spells (although he also has a dagger). The problem is that his Dexterity is mediocre at best, so he won’t be good at sniping either. What’s more, he’s supposed to have a familiar, but never summons it, due to buggy A.I. And his spell selection isn’t exactly stellar. Bottom line: there are better henchmen for every single class you may pick. Personality-wise, Boddyknock is all about reason, logic and an analytical approach to things. Excuse me while I yawn. Unsurprisingly, he’s the only henchman from the OC that doesn’t return in HotU. His quest reward is a ring with bonuses to Charisma and regeneration. His token is a gem. His original portrait was based on Leonard Nimoy and therefore had to be changed.
Linu: This brown-haired and green-eyed Neutral Good elven Cleric of Sehanine Moonbow, the elven goddess of the Moon, can be found in a separate room at the Trade of Blades. The first thing she does when you speak to her is apologise for stepping on someone’s cat, which should give you a hint about her personality. Linu hails from Evereska, to the southeast of Neverwinter, but although she’s kind, enthusiastic and helpful, she’s also a walking catastrophe, her legendary clumsiness causing pretty bad mishaps wherever she goes. This makes me think that she may have been a prototype for Dragon Age II‘s Merrill. One of Linus’s latest predicaments involved letting a thief – later revealed to be none other than Tomi – into Sehanine’s temple, as she believed that he was a starving child. He stole a silver chalice, and Linu’s first quest is to retrieve it. She used to be married to an archaeologist named Synth (yes, really), but he seems to have died in unknown circumstances during one of his explorations, and her second quest is to locate his body and his journal. Her third quest is to find an oak seed, a token valued by Sehanine, presumably as a means to regain her favour. Linu comes equipped with a mace, shield and crossbow, but her Dexterity is mediocre, so she’s better off meleeing, especially since she has the second-best AC of all henchmen. Her Strength and Wisdom are good, but the latter could be better, considering it’s a Cleric’s primary stat. Other than that, she’s very handy for healing and against undead. A male character can also spark a (very) prospective romance with her. Her quest reward is a pendant with a bonus to Dexterity, Darkvision and, in its final iteration, immunity to mind-affecting spells. Her token is a flower.
Grimgnaw: This rather unnerving bald dwarf with black eyes and epic eyebrows (which are sadly absent from his portrait) can also be found in a room at the Trade of Blades. Grimgnaw is a Lawful Evil Monk of the Order of the Long Death, originally from Mithral Hall in the North of Faerûn and the only Evil henchman of the lot. As the name implies, his Order reveres death, preferably one achieved through prolonged suffering. His first quest is obtaining the ring of an initiate who fled from the Order. His second quest involves killing some of his comrades who have been turned into zombies by a lich (and thus denied a proper death). His third quest is finding a dagger to undertake his final initiation within the Order. Simply put, Grimgnaw kicks butt. His Strength doesn’t match Daelan’s, but his speed makes up for it. He has the highest Constitution and AC of all henchmen. He also has good Dexterity and very good Wisdom (higher than Linu…), which both contribute to his AC. As a Monk, he can also stun his targets and heal himself. The only problem is that he can’t wear any armour, so if he does get hit (e.g. with magic), things can get ugly. He fights with his bare fists and doesn’t have any ranged options, but, like Daelan, is an excellent henchman for squishy and ranged characters. Of course, it means putting up with his creepy personality and obsession with death. This isn’t a problem if your protagonist is Evil too, but Good ones may find it hard to stomach, although there’s nothing inherently objectionable about his quests. His quest reward is an amulet with a Constitution and spell resistance bonus, as well as immunity to level and ability drain in its final iteration. His token is a gem. He shows up again in HotU, but not as a henchman.
Sharwyn: This red-haired and brown-eyed human Bard (possibly a prototype for Dragon Age’s Leliana) can – you guessed it – be found in a room at the Trade of Blades. Sharwyn is from Neverwinter, but her parents separated before her birth. Her mother then married a wealthy man, but squandered all his money, leaving the family in debt when he died. She therefore tried to have Sharwyn find herself a wealthy husband as well, but, as luck would have it, she fell for a lowly Bard and eloped with him. Unfortunately, he eventually left her for a rich noblewoman who kept herself looking young and beautiful with magic. Upon returning to Neverwinter, Sharwyn found her mother poor and ill (although not from the Wailing Death), so her first quest is to find a cure. For her second quest, she seeks to break the aforementioned noblewoman’s spell, even though she no longer cares about getting her lover back. Her final quest involves finding a legendary elven song so that she can become famous. As a Bard, Sharwyn is a very versatile character. While she has surprisingly high Strength – second only to Daelan – and comes equipped with a sword, her Constitution is poor and her AC only passable, so she’s better off using her bow, due to her good Dexterity. Bard spells are based on Charisma, and while hers could be better, it’s still good enough. She can also serve as a lockpicker, making her a serviceable choice for any melee protagonists. Personality-wise, Sharwyn is confident, independent and sassy, and may be receptive to a male protagonist’s charms. Her quest reward is a belt with a bonus to Charisma, Persuade and Perform (for Bard Song). Her token is a contract. Her portrait also had to be changed, because the original was based on Catherine Zeta-Jones.