Full Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden Review – D&D 5e

level up corner rime of the frostmaiden review

Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden is always reviewed very highly as an adventure but is rarely talked about in the community. In fact, very few people have ever played this adventure from start to finish. Today we will give you the perspective of a DM who has completed this adventure in our Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden review.

Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden is a good adventure if directed by a careful Dungeon Master. This adventure is extremely customizable, has a great midpoint, and contains one of the grandest open-ended sections available in any D&D adventure! With all this in mind, there are a few things that are handled poorly. Namely, pacing and fairness.

If you can modify the adventure to account for these poorly handled aspects or have players willing to go through a tough challenge, this will be a great adventure for you and your group. In this Icewindale: Rime of the Frostmaiden review, we will go over everything you need to know.

Is the Adventure Fair?

First off in this Rime of the Frostmaiden review, we need to address the primary reason why this campaign isn’t talked about that much in the community, and why not many people have completed it in comparison to Curse of Strahd. Curse of Strahd is a difficult adventure that isn’t fair to the players, but players tend to finish it more often than Rime of the Frostmaiden. Why is this?

Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden has a horrific start, unclear goal (until the players meander into it later on), and then are sent on another goal which was actually the secret goal all along!

This framework is jolting for players and often total party kills (TPK) the entire group. Conversely, if you read our article on Curse of Strahd it discusses how players are thrust into a land, have personal stakes in the mission, and are given clear goals from start to finish.

While the threat of TPKs exists in Curse of Strahd it is easily handled by the DM. Every situation is easily in the DM’s control while the players just flounder along. Conversely, in Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden the players are forced to wander into deadly situations that are ingrained into the adventure. If the players make one wrong step, they will die.

There is no easy alternative to this. You can’t just have the enemies withdraw like Strahd would in Barovia. In the Dale, these creatures are committed to whatever area the players strike at and have to fight for their lives. The creatures in these areas are not level appropriate and can kill the entire group!

This creates a feeling of unfairness which is a problem that happens multiple times. The players are not even given an adequate reward for many of these life or death encounters. This creates a sense of listless foreboding for future encounters.

This is why the DM must take careful considerations when giving players information on what to tackle and possibly avoid.

Level 1: The Introduction

The introduction to the adventure is a murder mystery! This seems like a great idea, but there is a huge problem here. The murderer isn’t there. We go over an important rule in our article on murder mysteries that talks about your suspects. Ideally, you should have two to three viable suspects for a short murder mystery. But in this adventure, you are given multiple towns’ worth of suspects!

Shifting from town to town can be a major problem and the very first section encourages this. The murderer could be anywhere and you just have to get lucky in order to catch them. The solution to this is simple: keep the murder mystery to the initial town that your group starts out in.

If you keep the murder mystery confined to the starting town, the introduction is extremely interesting!

Levels 2-3: The Slog of Death

This is the worst part of Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. Ideally, the players should solve three towns’ problems to reach level 3. After solving five more towns’ problems they reach level 4. This means that you must do eight sidequests to progress from levels 2-3.

It should take around 4-5 sessions maximum to get from levels 2-3. If you consider that it takes about 2.5 sessions per sidequest, that means it will take 7.5 sessions to get from level 2-3 in this adventure. This is absolutely insane!

Spending 20 sessions to get to level 4 is far too long for most groups. The pacing needs to be changed. If your group runs this adventure, they need to cut out at least one town for each level. This means it will take about five sessions to get to level 3, and that makes a world of difference. You can go a little further than this and cut out two towns to get level 4, making it three towns helped instead of five to reach level 4.

This section is fairly open-ended. There is the opportunity for difficult combats facing multiple 5 or 6 CR creatures. If the players are unaware of these situations, death is HIGHLY likely. To avoid TPKs, I had to give a warning to my players about which areas are death zones. I recommend doing this for your groups as well. Either your players avoid these areas, or go in with full knowledge that they can die unless they have a solid plan.

You need to handle this section of the adventure with care. If you just run the adventure as it is written or your campaign could end prematurely.

Level 4: Expeditions

Thus far in this Rime of the Frostmaiden review, we’ve pointed out some important short comings. But this is where the adventure truly shows its quality. For the first time, players are given a reasonable number of tasks to accomplish before leveling, leaving them wanting more of the Dale. There are an insane number of quests that you can choose to go on. Each DM can narrow the options down by customizing what the group encounters.

There are weather control artifacts, mysteries, survival expeditions, roleplaying encounters, dungeon delves, and more! Some of these adventures can give the players allies or further the plot’s narrative while providing unique and interesting experiences.

The beauty of this section is that the DM can choose between 13 different adventures. If one isn’t to your liking, you can ignore it and find something that will entertain you and your group.

Levels 5-6: Dragons And Dueragar

This grand section takes place right after the players’ eyes are opened to the wonders beyond the ten towns. Now, they must help the ten towns to survive from a Dueragar plot. This sounds great, but when the players get close a dragon soars above them towards the ten towns!

Do the players chase the dragon or go after the Dueragar? Do they go into the fortress to gain some knowledge on the dragon’s plans, or delve deeper? These are the decisions that the players must make. In this section, the placing of the dragon’s flight plan is brilliant. It forces them to consider turning back to help the ten towns.

This section is described in enough detail to answer almost any questions you might have. It also leads well into a further narrative that naturally comes after this section.

Confronting Auril: Level 7

By this point in the adventure, the players have learned about Auril and her everlasting Rime of winter. She has been a force that has confronted the ten towns. In order for the ten towns to recover, they need to stop her evil plans! At least, that is likely the players’ opinion by this point in the adventure. In reality, they are just trying to get a rhyme that opens a passage for something greater, as that is her true intention.

Not much needs to be edited or changed here for the adventure to work. The adventure placement is solid, but the players should know before confronting Auril (if they chose to do so) that it is unlikely they will kill her. This will help steer the players away from a potential TPK, let them chose their own fate, and encourage them to sneak around with Auril’s key to open the glacier.

Level 8: Caves of Death

At this point, the players have the knowledge required to open the glacier. They must race across the Dale, open the glacier, and stop the Frostmaiden! That is the plan, but it will not go as planned. There are many unexpected and logical roadblocks to assail the players. The caves that they enter afterward are also very well done, but I must give a word of caution to DMs out there.

Be prepared for your players to completely skip most of the Caves of Hunger if they have fly or climb speed.

The cave is made of many slides that the players can use to bypass the majority of the caves. This is a neat feature that they added to the adventure, but the creators didn’t fully grasp the implications of these slides. As a DM, be prepared to deal with this by either eliminating the slides or rewarding your players for creative thinking.

Levels 9-10: Ythrin

We have reached the final section of this Rime of the Frostmaiden review. In this final section, the players have uncovered something grand: the lost Netherese city of Ythrin. This place is what has drawn many DMs to play the adventure and where most theorization in the adventure has come from.

The fallen city is filled with blight and possibilities. If the players don’t learn early on about arcane blight, they may TPK if they end up with some bad rolls.

I recommend giving your players a warning about the arcane blight. Give them a low DC for their first roll, or something to let them know that their exploration is on a timer. This adds tension and a drive to get through this section while avoiding any unfair TPKs.

Once you have adjusted for this possibility, almost anything is possible. The players could travel back in time, conjure a Tarrasque, or even fight the Frostmaiden with her minions in a fight that will likely lead to a TPK. The choice is up to you on how you want to end your adventure. Any choice you make will end with an explosive climax that is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.

Once again, be warned that your players need to be informed of the potential for failure here. If they fight the Frostmaiden, let them know what they are in for. Let the players know that the Tarasquee is not something they can control and that there will be consequences. Keep them informed so that the ending isn’t in the hands of fate, but the hands of the players.

Conclusion

Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden is a grand adventure that has a thrilling narrative. It starts out very slowly and can be extremely unfair if the players are not informed of the possibilities that could occur. If uninformed, the players will feel like they have been bamboozled and leave on a sour note.

If the DM adjusts the pacing at the beginning of the adventure and keeps the players informed, you will have a great campaign. Knowing what may happen softens the blow and can prevent an unexpected TPK.

I cannot emphasize this enough. Prepare your players so that whatever decision they make is theirs, and not some surprise that instantly kills everyone.

I hope that this Rime of the Frostmaiden review has helped you learn about this awesome adventure. While there are some critiques to this adventure, they aren’t something that can’t be dealt with.

This has been Wizo, and keep rolling!

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