An Introduction to D&D Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden
If you love Dungeons & Dragons and follow the release of the Fifth Edition (5e) adventures, then you no doubt are already aware that Rime of the Frostmaiden became available last September. This article serves to give players an introduction to the region of Icewind Dale and also a brief introduction to the Rime of the Frostmaiden adventure. As of the writing of this article, it has been a month since its release. Now that some time has passed, players and Dungeon Masters (DM) alike are starting to unravel the mysteries of the frozen north and explore the inhospitable lands of Icewind Dale!
Before I begin this article, there are a few important caveats I must reveal. First, I have not played this adventure with the playgroup I DM for yet. Once we wrap things up in our current adventure, I will bring the group to the harsh winters of Icewind Dale. After I DM through this adventure, I will gladly write an updated review on it. So please keep in mind, this is just my initial impressions from reading through the adventure book as I prepare for my players to enter the north.
Secondly, I will do my best to provide an unbiased opinion of this adventure. However, I feel it is important to note that I unapologetically love the region and lore of Icewind Dale. In fact, winter and cold settings are my absolute favorite for any media. Favorite Star Wars scene? Battle of Hoth. Favorite Lego set? Ice Planet. Favorite horror movie? John Carpenter’s The Thing. Favorite Rocky Balboa montage? Rocky IV when he runs so fast the KGB following him in a car crash into a snowbank. Ice is nice and I love a story that takes place in a frozen environment!
In addition to that, my first real introduction to the D&D world was the Icewind Dale Trilogy of novels written by R. A. Salvatore. If you are not familiar, R. A. Salvatore’s Icewind Dale Trilogy were the first three novels published in the beloved The Legend of Drizzt series of books. I fell in love with the lore, characters, and atmosphere surrounding Icewind Dale and the novels that R. A. Salvatore wrote. And this adventure gives me the opportunity to send my players to locations and cities that I read about in those novels. Although the events of Rime of the Frostmaiden take place a century after the Icewind Dale Trilogy, it is still exciting to see familiar places and names.
I tell you all of this because the bar was set really low for me to love this adventure. The lead writer and designer, Christopher Perkins, could have made the adventure a series of quests similar to an online RPG and I would have lauded this book as a masterpiece. “Collect 10 yeti pelts for an NPC? Mr. Perkins has done it again!”
Luckily for everyone else, the quests in this adventure are deep and rich. There is lots of conflict in the snowy hills and new powers coming to rise. Not to mention, many incredible secrets to be discovered. So, let me dive into a brief, spoiler free, summary of Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden and what awaits you and your fellow adventurers!
If you have not already guessed it, Icewind Dale is the frigid northern region of The Forgotten Realms. The area is harsh and few people chose to settle there. However, fortune favors the bold and the region boasts some rich and desirable resources. Including the rare and highly desired knucklehead trout within the region’s frigid lakes. The valuable fish has ivory-like bones that are highly sought after, especially after artists adorn them with scrimshaw.
Even in the best of times and warmest seasons, few would dare to call Icewind Dale their home. Most stay further south where the comforts of life are more guaranteed. Presently, the region is seemingly locked in an endless winter. Days are shorter and the paths that lead into these lands are plagued by horrible blizzards and deadly avalanches. The locals who reside in the settlements which comprise Ten Towns believe it is the doing of the tenacious Frostmaiden. As players gain reputation in the untrusting Ten Towns, they may begin to hear tall tales that will point them in the direction of the Frostmaiden and learn what has caused the endless winter.
But that is not all our heroes must contend with. Some sinister forces from the Underdark are seizing the opportunity created by the shortened days to make their presence known in the north. While their true machinations remain hidden, it is certain that the outcome will not be good for Ten Towns or its residences. To further intrigue adventurers, a group of wizards has entered the region, operating more like gunslingers than traditional followers of the arcane ways. This group of wizards is seeking a secret buried deep in the north and they will stop at nothing to uncover it.
As mentioned before, the lakes of Icewind Dale are home to a prized fish known as a knucklehead trout. Additionally, the mountains and earth of the region are rich in minerals. Such wealth cannot be ignored by all the people of The Forgotten Realms. So, small camps and settlements began to show up in profitable areas of Icewind Dale. In total, 10 settlements would be built in the region. From the large settlement of Bryn Shander with walls to protect its people, to the small village of Lonelywood with barely 100 residents. These towns exist as a place for hard workers to make their fortune or for nefarious criminals to escape their past. Regardless of how they arrived at Icewind Dale, the people of Ten Towns are hardened souls who have chosen a difficult life.
To further complicate matters, the populations of Ten Towns generally do not trust one another. There is constant arguing and bickering over fishing rights, which sometimes end in bloodshed. Often times, when warned of impending danger from a neighbor, wary fishermen will become paranoid and think that they are being tricked into abandoning their lines to seek safety. The mistrust between the settlements of Ten Towns has led to a strained and often volatile alliance between the people. But if any of the settlements were to stand alone, their destruction would be most assured. The land is full of terrible monsters, raiding hordes, and much worse. All of the settlements rely on each other to provide valuable resources and the safety of numbers.
Recommendations for a Dungeon Master
If you are a DM looking to run this campaign, you can really improve your knowledge and understanding of the region by reading the Icewind Dale Trilogy by R. A. Salvatore. At least the first book. The books are exciting, fun, and easy to read. The amount of knowledge that you will gain will be invaluable to leading the adventure. For example, each of the Ten Towns elects a “speaker” to meet and discuss the turbulent politics between the settlements. Reading the Icewind Dale Trilogy will provide you with information on how effective… and most often ineffective those meetings go. The knowledge of these types of interactions will enable you to create some interesting moments with NPCs and give you a greater understanding of the distrust between the settlements, creating dynamic atmospheres for your players.
Additionally, one of the themes of this adventure is isolation and loneliness. The region is cut off from the rest of the world due to its geographic location and harsh weather. So your adventurers will be limited to the small settlements, the lonely tundra, and the dungeons they explore. With that in mind, I would recommend running this campaign after a playgroup has had some time to explore other adventures, either home brewed or from the 5e D&D library. While I think Icewind Dale is an excellent setting for a campaign, some of the themes may be taxing for players new to the game. But, that is only my opinion.
Final Thoughts on the Adventure
Keep in mind that I might be biased because of my love for all things winter. After all, every Christmas Eve I remind my family that like Han Solo, Ralphie Parker shot first in A Christmas Story. And the icicle was only defending itself. After my group plays through this adventure, I will gladly write a review of it. Or if there is interest, I can even write a battle report after each of our sessions.
The best part of any D&D adventure is the freedom to make it your own. But Icewind Dale offers some excellent choices for introductory adventures and the motivation for players to be there. Furthermore, although I have not ran this adventure yet, the quests seem dynamic and highly customizable. The starting location can be the choice of the DM or the book guides you on how to choose a random location that will open the door to the region. Without giving much away, there are many secrets to discover under the snow. Players will be rewarded with interesting encounters, unique creatures, and incredible new locations to explore.
It is hard for me to think of potential negatives without having played through the adventure yet. But I will say that this adventure would benefit from an imaginative and engaging DM. Some of the environments will feels the same to the players. It is hard to make new snow covered locations sound unique from ones already discovered. So to prevent player fatigue or disinterest, DM’s will need to rely on their skills as story tellers.
I think that this adventure will serve any capable DM and willing playgroup well. There is a very thoughtful afterword written by Christopher Perkins at the end which I won’t spoil or discuss to much in this article. However, the afterword speaks about D&D’s ability to cure isolation and bring people together. And I think this will be an excellent adventure to do both of those things.
Please keep in mind, these are only my opinions and you may have a different opinion of this adventure. Are you a player or DM that has experienced Rime of the Frostmaiden? Let me know your thoughts of the frozen north and if it is as enthralling as I think it will be!
An Introduction to D&D’s Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden
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