Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden is a massive adventure book, clocking in at over 300 pages to rival the length of the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Dungeon of the Mad Mage. Considering one is the literal rulebook and the other is the only fifth edition adventure to carry players to 20th level, that should be an indication of the wealth of information and content provided in Rime of the Frostmaiden. This book was written and published by Wizards of the Coast during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when the themes of isolation and being trapped in our own dungeons away from others were reflected in our own lives, making those themes of this adventure much more profound. That significance did not go unnoticed, and is acknowledged by Chris Perkins in a special afterword, recognizing the impact of the state of the world, but also having something like D&D can be a means for connection and community (through the benefits of technology) in times of isolation. The adventures in Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden can serve as a refreshing departure from the expected pace and style of traditional 5e D&D adventures, bringing new mechanics, tools, and obstacles for players and Dungeon Masters, or just as easily run as tried and true as any other fifth edition adventure.
The region of Icewind Dale is one that lies beyond the reaches of civilization in the Forgotten Realms, and was a setting that hosted some of the earliest adventures of Drizzt Do’Urden and the Companions of the Hall. Harkening back to R.A. Salvatore’s novels, there are a few subtle nods to the second series in the Legend of Drizzt novels, aptly named the Icewind Dale Trilogy, granting the legacy the respect it deserves with its reintroduction in detail for fifth edition.
Icewind Dale offers a new type of setting for adventures, as the very environment itself is hostile. Throughout the region, characters will encounter the private and secretive locals of the Ten-Towns, as well as the varied and resilient locals, ranging from the Reghed nomads to the different goliath tribes of the winter peaks. Random encounters ranging from polar bears to frost giants await players as they wander from the relative safety of the Ten-Towns to the wider wastes of Icewind Dale. The setting introduces new mechanics for weather and condition challenges, from avalanches and blizzards to traveling across the tundra or treacherous mountain peaks.
Icewind Dale is a frigid landscape north of the Spine of the World, a massive mountain range that separates the Far North from the reaches of comfortable civilization. Points of interest range from the Sea of Moving Ice, the fortress of a mad duergar despot, to the scattered remnants of ancient Netherese wizards from an age long past. In a place where people and secrets come to disappear, Icewind Dale offers opportunities for characters to seek out adventure, anonymity, intrigue, redemption, and perhaps even a confrontation with the Frostmaiden, Auril herself, whose magic has held Icewind Dale in sustained darkness and winter.
The adventures in Rime of the Frostmaiden are fragmented and separate, each contained, but are written with the intention of being dovetailed into one another. They can be the basis for an expanded, homebrewed adventure as Icewind Dale is written to be a wide, but self-contained campaign setting. At their greatest, the adventure sees characters begin with creative adventure hooks, and connect to subsequent adventures through resolutions and threads that intertwine to tell a wide-ranging story across the region of Icewind Dale.
The adventure is written for four to six 1st level characters, advancing to 11th level by the end of all the adventures, or beyond if a creative Dungeon Master expands or adds to the possibilities provided in this book. The adventure begins with characters in one of the Ten-Towns, taking an introductory quest that introduces them to the region, the setting, as well as some NPCs who might offer assistance or knowledge, all serving as the foundation for the greater adventure’s starting point. The adventure expands to the various Ten-Towns, and early character advancement comes from exploration and tasks undertaken within the Ten-Towns and beyond. Further chapters and hooks draw characters into duergar plots, confrontations with Auril, and even a search for the ancient lost Netherese city of Ythryn buried within the Reghed Glacier. The campaign is threaded with horror themes, leaning into isolation and paranoia rather than dread and fear, which matches the dark and cold all too well.
More than just an adventure book, Rime of the Frostmaiden is a thorough sourcebook and resource. The setting of Icewind Dale is explored and afforded mechanics to make it fell distinct and unique, as each of the Ten-Towns are explored in detail though Chapter 1, which is nearly a third of the book. Character creation is addressed very well, as it has the potential to have a greater impact in this adventure. The addition of character secrets are a way to create mistrust among party members, adding to the atmosphere of paranoia and suspicion. These secrets can be anything from a dark past, to events that tie to the progression of the adventure, cropping up at unexpected and inopportune moments. There are suggestions to help players decide why their characters might be in Icewind Dale, with optional character hooks tied to each background option. There are multiple ways in which certain classes, races, and backgrounds might reach the frozen north, and there are suggestions in the introduction if players need suggestions.
The Appendices provide a library of stat blocks for NPCs, villains, and monsters in the Creature Bestiary. There is a not insignificant presence of members of the Arcane Brotherhood in Icewind Dale, and a summary of relevant information regarding the group is provided to supplement individual NPC details. In addition to new magical items, artifacts, and spells, there are more than 50 stat blocks from monsters, creatures native to the region, and NPCs who range from friendly, to indifferent, to adversarial, and otherwise.
Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden brings a new style of published adventure to fifth edition, where exploration and travel is necessary and the seemingly simple task of getting from one location to another is a feat in and of itself. The progression of the story is good, rewarding creative players as well as providing a diverse story to keep them engaged and interested. As a sourcebook, this book opens up the Icewind Dale setting as a self contained, with detailed resources for the Ten-Towns and the greater surrounding region. The new mechanics and tools for navigating and traversing the landscape, exploring, and struggling to endure the harsh conditions give a distinct feel to the region, something that is missing in other settings. The integration of lore and history, the hold of Auril the Frostmaiden over the landscape, the remains of the ancient Netherese city, and even the mentions of characters and monsters who might have intersecting threads with other adventures set within the Forgotten Realms all serve to expand the possibilities of this book in the hands of capable and creative Dungeon Masters.
Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden is published by Wizards of the Coast.
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