Icewind Dale Rime of the Frostmaiden is the latest adventure campaign for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. In it heroes face the terror and dangers of the frozen tundra, experience new monsters, and even get the chance to delve deep into a long forgotten magical city. Icewind Dale Rime of the Frostmaiden continues D&D‘s recent trend of taking a familiar(ish) location, giving it the fifth edition make-over, dropping low level heroes into the mix, and thus concocting an exciting new adventure. They did it with Waterdeep, Baldur’s Gate, and now comes Icewind Dale, which is, as you might expect, an expansive land of ice. And wind. And dales.
For me, Icewind Dale is the most intriguing of the three famous(ish) locations. I have strong memories of playing Icewind Dale on my PC over two decades ago. This would have been my very first introduction to Dungeons & Dragons, before I even realised what I was playing. So, there’s definitely nostalgia here. But what else?
Thankfully, the summary of this adventure delivers all the further encouragement and enticement I need to get appropriately enlivened about Icewind Dale:
A duergar despot forging a dragon out of chardayln. A lost city of magic entombed in a glacier. A frozen wilderness trapped in Auril’s grip.
Top 5 reasons Icewind Dale should be your next D&D campaign
1. Ten Towns
Icewind Dale is the name for the northern region of the Forgotten Realms, just above the Sword Coast. A vast and sparsely populated region, its main populace is located within ten small towns artfully called Ten Towns. The campaign can begin in any one of these towns, and each comes with its own starting quest. My favourite of these is Lonelywood, a quiet fishing town troubled by an evil white moose, but you’ll get to visit each of the towns at some point, so don’t worry if evil awakened mooses aren’t you thing.
Not only are the Ten Towns a great place to start your Rime of the Frostmaiden campaign, but they’re the perfect beginning locations for any D&D campaign. A few name changes, swap the snow for some other weather condition and you can run these towns over and over again, not only do they come with quests, but there are NPCs, taverns, and factions all ready to go making this as much a campaign setting book as a complete story.
2. Character Secrets
Like many of the fifth edition campaigns that came before it, Rime of the Frostmaiden contains useful sections for developing your characters before the campaign begins. Each background in the Player’s Handbook is given a “hook” to tie them to Icwind Dale. These range from knowledge of specific fantastic artefacts, to having a reputation for saving someone important, and being sent to Icewind Dale by your grandparents to teach you a lesson.
As well as these character hooks, this campaign features a whole load of character “secrets”. A first for a fifth edition campaign, these secrets are designed to ferment mistrust and intrigue amongst party members, creating an atmosphere of paronoia and suspicion appropriate to the setting. You might be a runaway author hiding from the secrets you exposed. You might have been raised by a Yeti. You might even be a secret pirate cannibal.
How your players utilise these secrets will depend on individual playstyle. Some will guard these secrets for the entire campaign. Some will wait for the perfect moment to reveal their secret. While others will blurt out their secret before you’ve even started playing. Whichever happens, these secrets add an interesting new dynamic to your game – as well as an additional factor for the DM to keep track of and consider.
3. Dungeons AND Dragons
This adventure has both in very satisfying amounts. The exploration elements of Rime of the Frostmaiden are extensive and there really is a sense of the payers exploring the wilds around Icewind Dale. As well as the occasional dragon or dungeon, there are goblin prisons, crashed illithid nautiloid (mindflayer space ships), frozen pirate shipwrecks, cackling chasms, moaning mountains and toppled towers all hidden within the frozen tundra, waiting for adventurers to stumble upon them and reveal their secrets.
After exploring the cold wastes, the first big dungeon crawl of this campaign – the Caves of Hunger – is a horrifying romp through an ice dungeon set inside a glacier. Here heroes will find a network of sepulchral ice caves haunted by ravenous beings. Players will face remorhazes, gnoll vampires, mephits, wraiths, shadow demons, and slaadi, and they might even end up in the Underdark if they’re particularly unlucky.
Then, having faced the Caves of Hunger they’ll find themselves in one of the most exciting and fantastic locations in a fifth edition campaign so far – the Necropolis of Ythryn. It’s an ancient floating magical city that plummeted to earth thousands of years ago. That descent forever sealed in its secrets, treasures and powerful inhabitants. Until the heroes arrive and let them all loose that is.
4. Horror – be afraid, be very afraid.
Not since Curse of Strahd has a D&D campaign managed to capture the sense of foreboding and dread quite like Icewind Dale does. Tomb of Anhiliation tied down the jungle survival aspects, and Out of the Abyss certainly tried to send your player characters mad, but Rime of the Frostmaiden is the first to successfully take all three aspects and put them together for a truly chilling experience. And it certainly is cold.
There are also some truly horrifying and fiendish monsters to set your players against too. From mindflayer gnomes (yep), to zombie gnolls, and ice giant ghosts, there are plenty of unexpected new monsters that haven’t appeared yet in this edition. Add in avalanches, blizzards, and extreme cold, then mix with a few dark secrets, and this is a campaign that will turn your players into paranoid wrecks, just as likely to turn on another as to fight side by side.
5. Lots of Content
Like the previous two campaigns, Icewind Dale Rime of the Frostmaiden comes with another amazing map to add to your collection – not that there’s any more space on my office walls after all of the previous maps.
It also has 51 brand new monster stat blocks, 12 brand new magic items, and 3 new wizard spells to add to your arsenal. Of those new additions, the level nine spell Blade of Disaster looks particularly fun: you summon a “blade shaped planar rift” to stab people with. I’m also excited by the two magic scrolls in this book, the Scroll of Tarrasque Summoning and Scroll of the Comet – both of which would be excellent “break-in-case-of-emergency” style items for DMs to have up their sleeves, or to give to players when you just want to cause as much chaos as possible.
Overall Icewind Dale Rime of the Frostmaiden is a tale of dark terror that revisits the forlorn, flickering candlelights of civilization and sheds light on the many bone-chilling locations that surround the frontier settlements of the frozen north. All-in-all it looks like a really great campaign, not too difficult to run, and I’m super excited to start prepping my first session.
Interestingly, and unique to this adventure, there is an afterword from lead writer and honorary D&D deity Chris Perkins. Here he addresses the fact that a key theme of Icewind Dale Rime of the Frostmaiden is isolation, and that at the time of publication, due to a global pandemic, this is a very familiar theme to many. It’s worth saying that this could well be a trigger for anyone experiencing a particularly difficult time right now, and that, as always, every care should be taken by Dungeon Masters and players alike to look out for their fellow gamers. I think this is a particularly significant inclusion and shows an understanding of how roleplaying games like these can impact players. And it serves as a strong warning to all. After all, this is a horror-themed game and there will be moments of anxiety, terror and tension.
However you play, be it in person or online, and whatever your style, Icewind Dale Rime of the Frostmaiden is sure to be a memorable and fun campaign, because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love the idea of a gnome mindflayer with a laser pistol. Am I right?
Disclaimer: Geekdad received a copy of Icewind Dale Rime of the Frostmaiden for review purposes.
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