The city has been the home locale for the first graphical MMORPG ever created, the original Neverwinter Nights on AOL (1991-1997), which was developed by Stormfront Studios. BioWare later acquired the rights to the title and developed a series of best-selling RPGs under the name Neverwinter Nights. The city was also featured in Neverwinter Nights 2, the sequel to BioWare's game, developed by Obsidian Entertainment.
Neverwinter has a population of about 23,200 at last count and is also known as the City of Skilled Hands and Jewel of the North. It also serves as the origin of the phrase "by the clocks of Neverwinter", used when one is solemnly swearing, a reference to the precision of its timepieces. The erudite travel writer Volo (among others) credits Neverwinter as the most cosmopolitan and the most civilized city in all of Faerûn. He regards this as quite a reputation, considering the breadth and variety of the continent.
The name of the city has its origin in that even though the town is situated in the cold north of Faerûn, the Neverwinter river that flows through it is heated by fire elementals living under the nearby Mount Hotenow in the Neverwinter Wood. The heat given off from the river creates a permanent warm climate in the immediate area; without the elementals, the river, and subsequently the city's water supply, would freeze over. An alternate loric explanation for the name is given in Neverwinter Nights 2: When the city's founder (Halueth Never) was hunted to the coast by orcs, he chose the city's site to make his last stand. Expecting to die in the imminent battle, he named the site "Never's Winter". When the orcs were defeated with help from some human allies, Never founded the city, keeping the name. Over the years the name was shortened to "Neverwinter".
The city is ruled by Lord Nasher Alagondar, an aging, veteran adventurer and devout worshipper of Tyr. Neverwinter is prosperous, its master-craftsmen making lamps of multi-coloured glass, precision water clocks and exquisite jewelry. Its Tyrran faith promotes justice and fairness, and greed is frowned upon.
In addition to its unnaturally warm climate, Neverwinter is a rather picturesque city. It founds such sights as its three spectacular, intricately carved bridges: the Dolphin, the Winged Wyvern and the Sleeping Dragon. Under these, the waters of the Neverwinter River cascade over small, gentle waterfalls as they course into the city's bustling harbour. Neverwinter's magnificent gardens (the phrase "the City of Skilled Hands" refers to Neverwinter's accomplished gardeners) ensure the warm winters are colourful and the summers are rich with fresh fruit. The city is replete with beautiful and ingeniously designed buildings, many of which are famous in their own right, such as The House of Knowledge, and Neverwinter's tall and many-windowed temple of Oghma. In addition, the reputations of such unique taverns as The Moonstone Mask and The Fallen Tower reach far beyond the Neverwinter's walls. These elements generally make Neverwinter a rather distinctive city.
The city is a member in good standing of the Lord's Alliance and Lord Nasher has ensured that the city is well defended, both physically and magically, against attacks or infiltration from Luskan, Neverwinter's warlike rival. Maps of the city, which has a maze of meandering streets, are not distributed, as part of an effort to thwart Luskan spies. Some merchants in the city do however sell such maps, often over a black market.
The city of Neverwinter can be roughly divided into five different districts. The inhabitants of these districts clearly differ in social class and status, wealth, prosperity, population and criminality.
In Neverwinter Nights 2, the continuity regarding the different districts was changed as much of the city was destroyed by war and plague and has been rebuilt. In the sequel, only three districts are available to the player: Blacklake, which has been rebuilt in the area near Castle Never, the Docks, which remain largely unchanged, and the Merchant Quarter, which may be the remnant of the City Core. If this is not the case, the player simply does not have access to the missing districts.