The Alphastream Game Design Blog
On the Mastering Dungeons podcast, Shawn Merwin and I took a detailed look at what the Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden adventure offers. From its wonderful strong points to its weaknesses, we provide analysis and advice on running a great engaging Dungeons & Dragons campaign.
We covered a lot of ground. Here is an index of the 24 episodes and what we cover:
1. Intro to Icewind Dale: We introduce you to the history and geography of Icewind Dale, reviewing past products, novels, video games, and key setting elements.
2. Book Organization: We take a look at how the adventure is organized, and the overview provided by the adventure. We discuss the 5E timeline.
3. Wilderness Hazards: Given our recent episodes on exploration (part 1, part 2, and part 3), we assess how Rime departs from standard exploration and travel rules. We analyze new rules on avalanches and blizzards and suggest approaches. Finally, we review fishing, cold weather gear, and character secrets!
4. Ten Towns Overview: We break down the adventure’s premise of picking a starting town and having one of two quests lead to other towns. We look at expected play levels and the Reputation rules.
5. Starting Quests: We review the pros and cons of the two starting quests and how to work with them to weave an interesting narrative and avoid issues.
6. Avalanches Revisited, Bremen, Bryn Shander, and Caer-Dineval: Teos corrects his avalanche math, and then we dive into the plots and quests fond in the first three of the Ten Towns.
7. Caer-Konig, Dougan’s Hole, and Easthaven: We brave three more towns, discussing the advantages of Easthaven as a starting town due to its many quests.
8. Good Mead, Lonelywood, Targos, and Termalaine: The final four towns are reviewed, looking at Good Mead as another excellent choice for both a first town for a campaign and for emphasis as a home base.
9. Chapter 1 Wrap-Up and Town Suggestions: Based on a listener question, we propose the towns we would select for a compelling campaign narrative.
10. Chapter 2 Overview, Quests and Wilderness Encounters: We review the book’s guidance and how quests, places of interest, and wilderness encounters work. We also review the expected level range for play.
11. Chapter 2 Places of Interest, Part 1: We review the locations outside Ten Towns that tie into quests and “tall tales,” starting with Angajuk’s Bell, the death-filled Black Cabin, and cramped Cackling Chasm.
12. Places of Interest, Part 2: We analyze and propose the best ways to run the locations, from the perilous Cave of the Berserkers, epic Dark Duchess, and the fantastic Id Ascendant.
13. (We spent our time on news and Tasha’s, so we didn’t get to Rime this episode!)
14. Places of Interest, Part 3: We cover Jarlmoot, Krkolohk, and Lost Spire of Netheril.
15. Places of Interest, Part 4 and Recommendations: The final locations! We tackle the framework and perhaps troubling quest for Reghed Tribe Camp, the hard to use Revel’s End, and the goliath settlements of Skytower Shelter and Wyrmdoom Crag. Finally, we look back and make suggestions for the best quests to create a strong narrative.
16. Chapter 3, Sunblight: We set up the chapter and provide guidance for evaluating whether to run Chapter 3 or 4 at this time. We then look at Sunblight’s most important rooms and recommend ways to weave a tighter plot using Auril.
17. Chapter 4, Destruction’s Light: We break down the dragon’s flight path and the options the PCs have, review the challenge level, and suggest tweaks so the chapter is clear to you and the players, and a lot of fun.
18. Chapter 5, Auril’s Abode: We review likely levels and how to entice players to this location with a more flexible approach and stronger narrative. We review the island’s locations and effective use of NPCs and magic items, saving Auril for the next episode. Importantly, we review possible ways to handle the larger plot and make this significant.
19. Defeating Auril’s Three Forms: We break down combat tactics for Auril and options for creating an interesting and challenging combat with the Frostmaiden. We also discuss whether she should be defeated at this time and Shawn comes up with possible ways to keep the overarching plot and narrative alive for a satisfying conclusion later in the adventure.
20. Chapter 6, Caves of Hunger Intro: We cover the chapter’s premise and how characters reach this location. We review the mechanics of the main foe in this area and the overall features and story behind the location.
21. Caves of Hunger Rooms: Our breakdown of the most important rooms in this chapter.
22. Chapter 7, Doom of Ythryn: The premise behind the chapter is explored, including the NPCs, threats, history, and overall location of this fantastic buried city. We try to reframe the chapter’s premise for a stronger narrative.
23. Doom of Ythryn Locations and Conclusion: Review of the important rooms in the Netherese city, including ways to tie in NPCs, Auril, and the larger narrative. We break down the ways the adventure can end and provide cautionary advice for DMs to maximize the fun and meet player expectations.
24. Final Thoughts with GM Tim and Marcello De Velazquez: Two expert DMs who have run several 5E hardbacks join us. Together we take a look at Rime and the results of our DM survey. The four of us provide final recommendations on running Rime and how it compares to other adventures.