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Tabletop Game / Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden

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Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden is an adventure module for the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, released on September 15, 2020.

The adventure takes place within the arctic region of Icewind Dale, where for two years it has been cursed by the goddess Auril into a state of perpetual, dark winter known by its inhabitants as the Everlasting Rime. But surviving the treacherous blizzards and finding a way to lift the curse isn't the only thing that adventurers would be tasked to do during their time in the region, as there are also many secrets and surprises that lay hidden beyond Auril's cold embrace, some of which may pose as much of a threat to Icewind Dale as the curse itself.

Can these brave adventurers prevent Icewind Dale from being turned into a frozen wasteland? What secrets would they uncover between the denizens of Icewind Dale and themselves? And what dangers lie beneath the icy tundra that could spell doom to the entire region?

This adventure provides examples of:

  • Albinos Are Freaks: Avarice is an albino tiefling wizard whose cruelty and ambition knows no bounds. At an early age, she sold her own soul to the archdevil Levistus in exchange for magical powers, and later on joined the Arcane Brotherhood with the goal of rising to fame and prominence within the organization in record time. To that end, she intends to find the Netherese city of Ythryn with the help of a Levistus cult known as the Knights of the Black Sword (as well as a group of adventurers, if they choose to be her allies) and plunder it of its magical treasures before other members of the organization do, pitting herself against Vellynne Harpell who also wants to acquire the treasures within the lost city.
  • The Alcatraz: Revel's End, where the Lords' Alliance keeps any prisoners who would be politically inconvenient to keep in normal prisons. Despite the High Fantasy nature of the Forgotten Realms, it's actually a pretty normal prison. Political prisoners are kept there until their time is served, and are promptly shipped back to civilization. The location is somewhat exotic, and the warden is a mage, but otherwise, it's remarkably unremarkable.
  • Animalistic Abomination: Auril's first form vaguely looks like an anthropomorphic owlbear with horns. It is depicted on the cover, and you do not want to meet it.
  • Apocalyptic Log: One of the books that can be found in the library of Ythryn is the journal of one of the mages who survived the city's fall, describing how it became trapped in the ice and the doomed attempts of the survivors to escape. The last entry says only:
    "Iriolarthas is convinced that aid will come in time from Netheril. I am not so sure."
  • Arc Villain:
    • Xardorok Sunblight serves as the main antagonist of the first portion of the story, with his plans for the Ten Towns being what the party is trying to stop.
    • Iriolarthas the Demilich serves as this for Ythryn, being the biggest threat lurking around and having long since gone insane. Can also count as the True Final Boss if the party defeated Auril in the first fight.
  • Ascended Meme: For years, players have joked about playing a "human" character who's actually three kobolds, goblins or gnomes in a trenchcoat. Lo and behold, three kobolds in a trenchcoat are featured in this adventure.
  • Big Bad: Auril, the malevolent goddess of winter, serves as this for the adventure. Her indirect reign over Icewind Dale through the Everlasting Rime has made life in the region more difficult than before. Even with duergar conquerors and members of a Magical Society posing as a threat to the Dale, they are all overshadowed by Auril's freezing grip over the region.
  • Brain in a Jar: The adventure has this as a monster, which is the result of an eldritch ritual performed to imbue the subject's brain with Immortality and Psychic Powers, but at the cost of everything else in its body.
  • Call-Back: One of the prisoners in Revel’s End is Vaelish Gant, a member of the Arcane Brotherhood who previously appeared as a villain in the adventure module Legacy of the Crystal Shard, which was released during 5th Edition’s playtesting period known as D&D Next. One of the quests in Chapter 2 has the adventurers being tasked by Speaker Duvessa Shane into interrogating Vaelish about the resurgence of the Arcane Brotherhood within Icewind Dale, although Vaelish himself would eventually tell them that he has nothing to do with the members of the organization searching for Ythryn.
  • Cannibal Tribe:
    • In one of the quests in Chapter 2, the adventurers learn that a Reghed Wolf Tribe camp has been resorting to cannibalism to survive during the Everlasting Rime, first by eating their sled dogs and their elderly, then by abducting furriers and trappers from across the wilderness.
    • At the start of Auril's Test of Cruelty, the Reghed Bear Tribe have began resorting to eating their sled dogs and elders once they have ran out of food and their hunters were unable to return to the camp due to a strong blizzard.
  • Circle of Standing Stones: One of Ten-Towns' most notable landmarks is the Twenty Stones of Thruun, a ring of megaliths in Dougan's Hole. No one knows who built this structure or why, but it is assumed that the stones have existed long before the town's founding. According to Issue #220 of the Dungeon magazine, the stones are actually named after the immortal Malarite beast that is sealed within, which can only be summoned through a horrific Summoning Ritual that involves Human Sacrifice. The only time Thruun has ever been released from the stones was in 1485 DR, when Isarr Kronenstrom summoned the beast to attack the town of Good Mead.
  • Continuity Nod: The Final Dungeon is Ythryn, a once-floating city of ancient Netheril. Interestingly, the fall of Ythryn had nothing to do with Karsus's Folly.
    • One of the secrets players can start with involves having penned a tract on prominent families from Baldur's Gate and Waterdeep engaging in devil worship. Previous 5th Edition adventures such as Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus bring you into conflict with such families, and if you joined the Bregan D'aerthe in the former adventure, you may have helped deliver the tract to the local newspaper.
  • The Corruption: Chardalyn, particularly when infused with magic from the Lower Planes, influences creatures who possess it, which can result in violent urges and mania.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The adventurers can fight against the goddess Auril in a bid to end the Everlasting Rime.
  • Disc-One Final Boss:
    • While it depends on the specific quests the party gets, the main antagonist for the first arc of the game is Xardorok Sunblight, but he's far from the ultimate threat of the story and unless the party seriously sequence breaks, will likely defeat him far before they confront Auril.
    • Auril herself can theoretically be this, as the party can theoretically defeat her during their first visit to her island, leaving the Ythryn section with Iriolarthas left to do.
  • Disc-One Nuke: It's possible for the players to acquire a Staff of Frost during one of the starting missions of the game, a Very Rare Magic Staff capable of casting the fourth, fifth, and sixth level spells at a point in the game they likely only have second level. It also grants the one attuned to it Cold Resistance, which needless to say, comes in handy in the middle of an eternal winter.
  • Deus ex Machina: Should the players fail the Tests of the Frostmaiden, a group of Auril's worshipers just happen to arrive on a pilgrimage to read the book the players are after and open the door for them out of nowhere.
  • The Dragon: Iskra, Auril's pet Roc, is her most powerful minion and vital to performing the Everlasting Rime. Killing Iskra is a viable way of ending it without having to fight Auril directly, but she's unlikely to go down easily.
  • Dual Boss: It's possible, if the DM wants to up the challenge, to have the party fight both Auril and her pet Roc Iskra at the same time as a Final Boss.
  • Endless Winter: Prior to the start of the adventure, Icewind Dale has been suffering from the Everlasting Rime for over two years since Auril first settled into the region to live among mortals, but so far no one in the Dale knows why the Frostmaiden has imposed her will in this way or why the other gods refuse to challenge her. The only sure way to end the curse is by killing either her or the roc that she uses to fly into the sky to cast her winter spell every night.
  • Evil Matriarch: Queen Bjornhild Solvigsdottir of the Reghed Tiger Tribe serves as this to an adventurer with the "Reghed Heir" secret. Long ago, Bjornhild attempted to offer her own child as a Human Sacrifice to Auril by casting them into the Sea of Moving Ice, only for the child to be saved by the goliath werebear Oyaminartok.
  • Fatal Forced March: The Test of Endurance, one of the Tests of the Frostmaiden, is this. The party must go on a long march and after a certain point risk getting levels of Exhaustion, which can slowly cripple them and even potentially kill them.
  • Fighting a Shadow: As per usual for Forgotten Realms deities, killing Auril will only be nothing more than an annoyance for her since she will be resurrected at the next winter solstice anyway. On the bright side, this would cause her to abandon her plans for Icewind Dale and go into hiding, thus putting a sure end to the Everlasting Rime.
  • Feuding Families: The Akannathi and the Thuunlakalaga are two goliath clans who refuse to get along, and competition between them is fierce and often violent. The feud can be traced back to a young Ogolai Thuunlakalaga being scarred by an Akannathi griffon during a game of goat-ball between the two clans, which led her clan to send a group of hunters to kill said griffon in retaliation, angering the Akannathi into further retaliation. Depending on the adventurers' actions, either clan will end up destroying the other, or both clans will Overcome Their Differences and unite towards a brighter future for all goliaths.
  • Final Boss: Depending on what the players choose to do, there's three possible final bosses:
    • Naturally, Auril the Frostmaiden herself, being the Big Bad. She has three phases that must be destroyed one by one.
    • If players don't want to actually fight Auril, they can instead just kill her pet Roc Iskra, removing her ability to continue the Everlasting Rime, and then leave. It is also possible for the DM to up the difficulty and make the players fight her and Auril at the same time.
    • If the players defeat Auril or Iskra before going to Ythryn, Iriolarthas the Demilich becomes the True Final Boss.
  • Ghostly Goals: Several ghosts appear throughout the adventure, most of whom remain tied to the material plane due to feeling they have unfinished business.
    • Nass Lantomir is the ghost of an Arcane Brotherhood mage who froze to death searching for The Codicil of White, the same book that the adventurers need to find; she will attempt to possess any adventurer she can in order to accomplish this. Finding the book while Nass possesses an adventurer allows her to pass on.
    • High Necromancer Cadavix of Ythryn haunts the ruins of his tower after being crushed to death when it collapsed during the fall. He won't hurt the adventurers unless attacked, and just wants to free his body from the ruins in order to pass on.
    • The entire orchestra of Ythryn remain as ghosts because they were killed when the city fell in the middle of their first performance of The Dark Between The Stars, their Magnum Opus and proudest accomplishment. If an adventurer takes the conductor's baton and passes Performance checks to successfully conduct them through the symphony, they will finally be at peace and pass on.
  • Godzilla Threshold: One of the ways the adventurers can thwart Auril's plans is to use a scroll of tarrasque summoning on the Island of Solstice. The module is very clear that this is quite possibly the most dangerous way to do so, and frames it as a last resort due to how risky doing so is.
  • Guide Dang It!: The Tests of the Frostmaiden run into this: the proper order is to do Endurance and then Isolation to remove the levels of Exhaustion the former with is likely to cause (unless the entire party somehow makes every saving throw on it). The issue is there's no inuniverse indication of what the tests involve, meaning that the party has no way of knowing that. If Isolation is done before Endurance, it can potentially leave the other tests impossible to complete in their current condition. There's also no indication the party doesn't actually have to do the tests at all to progress, as simply letting Auril's minions who already passed the tests open the door is an option, but not one the players are made aware of.
  • He Knows Too Much: An adventurer with the "Runaway Author" secret is hiding in Icewind Dale because of this. They have penned a controversial, yet well founded exposé which accused several noble families from Baldur's Gate and Waterdeep of being devil worshipers, making a lot of enemies in the process. While being hunted down by devils sent by worshipers of Asmodeus, the adventurer can seek refuge from the Knights of the Black Sword in Caer-Dineval, as the cultists are instructed by Levistus to form an alliance with the adventurer in question.
  • Hoist by Her Own Petard:
    • One of the character secrets available for this adventure is the "Midwinter Child", in which Auril blessed the character with cold resistance because they were born on the Midwinter holiday. As it turns out, this blessing proves to be very useful in surviving Auril's Everlasting Rime, as well as being the deciding factor in the party's battle against the goddess. In the event Auril would be killed, however, the adventurer with the secret would also lose their cold resistance until Auril is resurrected in the next winter solstice.
    • Auril maintaining the Everlasting Rime is the main conflict, but it also burns through the lion's share of her power, leaving her weakened enough for the party to stand a chance of beating her in a direct fight without being max level.
  • Ice Palace: Grimskalle is a skull-shaped fortress that was built by frost giants back when they still ruled over the Island of Solstice. Since then, the goddess Auril has claimed the fortress as her abode, from which she flies off to cast and maintain the Everlasting Rime. In the event that Auril would be killed while within Grimskalle, she would emit a deathly howl that causes the palace and battlement levels of the fortress to collapse.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: In Chapter 5, in order to access a particular chamber within Grimskalle that contains the Codicil of White, a character must succeed in the four Tests of the Frostmaiden: Cruelty, Endurance, Isolation, and Preservation. These tests reflect the four core tenets of Auril's faith, which only comes to show just how malevolent Auril's followers can be.
  • Jerkass Gods: As per Forgotten Realms tradition, Auril is a cruel and vain goddess who wants to cover the world in an Endless Winter For the Evulz.
  • Just Before the End: Not in the module itself, but the adventurers may accidentally send themselves back to -343 DR, four years before the fall of Netheril.
  • Kaiju:
    • Iskra, Auril's pet Roc, is a Gargantuan sized giant bird large enough to hunt sperm whales.
    • The Scroll of Tarrasque Summoning summons a Tarrasque, a nigh unstoppable, kaiju-sized monster.
  • Kill the God: The adventurers can end up killing Auril, with her death putting an end to the Everlasting Rime for good. Though it gets downplayed as Auril can never truly die for as long as there are mortals who continue to worship her, and she would eventually be resurrected in the next winter solstice. Though by that point, she decides to retreat from the world for the time being to not let herself be defeated by mortals once again.
  • Lottery of Doom: On every afternoon before a new moon, the towns of Bryn Shander, Easthaven and Targos hold lotteries on which citizen of their respective towns is to be sacrificed to Auril by nightfall. The unlucky winner of the lottery is then stripped bare and either tied to a post or sent into the tundra to die. And although accusations of rigged lotteries are common in these towns, they're not usually acted upon. Once Auril has been dealt with and the Everlasting Rime ends, the town speakers are very eager to end the practice, since the whole point of these sacrifices was to appease the goddess so that summer can return to Icewind Dale.
  • MacGuffin Title: Rime of the Frostmaiden refers to the curse of Endless Winter that was cast upon Icewind Dale by the goddess Auril, as well as being the title of a poem found within The Codicil of White which can be read aloud near the Reghed Glacier to open a path to the Netherese city of Ythryn.
  • Marathon Level: The Tests of the Frostmaiden, four very long trials (which inuniverse take days to complete) intended to be taken one right after the other. If your DM is feeling sadistic, your party might end up having to fight Auril directly afterwards. It's possible to completely bypass them, however, if the players just let some of Auril's cultists who already passed the tests to open the door instead.
  • Mechanical Monster: A dragon construct made mostly from chardalyn is being unleashed by the duergar warlord Xardorok Sunblight to destroy Ten-Towns as part of his Evil Plan to conquer Icewind Dale.
  • Meteor-Summoning Attack: The scroll of the comet, which is tucked away within the Spire of Iriolarthas, can be used to summon a comet from the sky to crash to the ground at a point up to 1 mile away from its user.
  • Non-Human Undead:
    • Among others, there are frost giant skeletons.
    • Vellynne is accompanied by several zombie kobold assistants, having raised them from the dead after they were killed by Nass.
  • One-Winged Angel: Auril has three different forms that she can assume: an anthropomorphic owlbear known as the Cold Crone, a 10-foot-tall woman of ice and frost known as Lady Icekiss, and an icy diamond containing her divine spark known as Winter's Womb, each progressively more powerful than the last. For the adventurers to kill her and end the Everlasting Rime, they will have to reduce each of her forms to 0 hit points one after another.
  • Parasitic Horror: An adventurer with the "Slaad Host" secret starts the adventure being implanted with a slaad egg after surviving an attack from a red slaad. They are well aware of their infection, but they aren't exactly sure how much time they have left before the incubation period of the egg is complete. And if they fail to find a cure to the infection when that time comes, then what happens to them next won't be so pretty (and healthy).
  • Plot Armor: During the dragon's attack on Ten-Towns, the module says that it's vital that Vellynne survives, as she's important to the plot later. Because of that, the book says that she can't drop below 1 hp during this event, and if she's left at 1 hp she either retreats to a safe position or casts a spell to heal herself at her companion's expense.
  • Railroading: A few scenarios have intended and explicit ways for them to be resolved, some of which may not be at all apparent (or possible!) for the player characters, and some of them are designed to not allow any other solutions. One of the most blatant is bypassing one door requires going through a set of trials (infamously disliked) and the adventure states: "The door is otherwise unopenable, indestructible, and impassable. Any spell cast with the intent of bypassing the door fails and is wasted." The sole way of bypassing it is only meant to be used if the players fail altogether rather than refuse, and is a Deus ex Machina.
  • Retcon: Previous editions had chardalyn, also known as black ice, be a naturally occurring mineral that was used as early as during the Days of Thunder by the Sarrukh. In this adventure module, it's instead established to be the remains of Crenshinibon, also known as the Crystal Shard, fused with local magic and ice.
  • Sadistic Choice: In Chapter 3, as soon as the adventurers begin their ascent into the mountain fortress where the duergar Sunblight clan resides, they would witness the chardalyn dragon flying out of the fortress and towards Ten-Towns. From there, the adventurers will have to choose between continuing their assault on the fortress as planned, or following the dragon back to Ten-Towns and destroying it before it destroys everything and everyone else.
  • Shout-Out:
  • The Show Must Go On: The Netherese Esoteric Orchestra refused to halt their performance of The Dark Between the Stars even as the city itself fell out of the sky.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Xerophon is a Netherese doppelganger who murdered a sage to steal his identity was and subject to magical experiments by the wizard who ran Ythyrn's prison after he was discovered. He was put under a sequester spell between experiments to stop him from escaping, and thus remained strapped to an operating table in suspended animation ever since the city's fall.
  • Taking a Third Option: While not made clear and the module as written tries to convince the party Cruelty Is the Only Option, the players don't actually have to take the Tests of the Frostmaiden. As it turns out, the door doesn't shut automatically behind whoever goes through it. If one of Auril's minions opens it, the party can waltz in without taking the test. Only the DM is aware of this as written, however.
  • Taking You with Me: When Auril dies in Grimskalle, she collapses the top two floors of her palace with her death scream in an attempt to take the adventurers with her.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Codicil of White acts as this, which contains various rituals and ceremonies aimed towards the worship of Auril. It was written by followers of Auril, is kept by the goddess herself within Grimskalle, and is also required to open a path to Ythryn as it contains the poem called "Rime of the Frostmaiden".
  • Trapped in Another World: The character secret "Escaped Prisoner" allows for this to be part of a Player Character's backstory. Abducted by spacefaring mind flayers from another world, they only managed to escape captivity when the nautiloid they were on crashed into the Spine of the World and was taken into Ten-Towns by some native trappers.
  • Trapped in the Past: A potential fate the adventurers can inflict on themselves. If they chose to use Iriolarthas' staff of power on the obelisk found within Ythryn, anyone who survives both the staff's Retributive Strike and the de-aging effect that the obelisk triggers is teleported to -343 DR, a point in time before the fall of Netheril and only a short time before the fall of Ythryn. The module outright says that they are essentially stuck here but, if desired, the adventurers could continue the story in the past using D&D sourcebooks from older editions.
  • True Final Boss: Varies depending on how the party chooses to handle Auril: they can theoretically defeat her in their first visit to Grimskalle, making Iriolarthas the Demilich the final threat of the campaign. They can do the opposite, however.
  • Very Definitely Final Dungeon: Subverted with the Island of Solstice as well as Grimskalle, which definitely looks the part but is not the final part of the adventure. Played straight with Ythryn, an ancient Netherese city buried deep within a glacier.
  • Violation of Common Sense: An infamous section in the adventure has the party arriving at the lair of a Duergar Warlord just in time to see a large dragon flying out of it back in the direction from which they came. The module intends that the party be given a choice of continuing into the keep or returning back to chase down the dragon. Most players will question the wisdom of chasing after a creature that can fly several times faster than them on a good day, not even accounting for the facts that they the snowy roads slow their traveling speed down to a crawl and the roads take circuitous paths around the natural landscape whereas the dragon can fly straight to its destinations. And yet, the writers reveal that the chasing after the dragon is the only way to save some of the towns from being destroyed. In a not-surprising example of Writers Cannot Do Math, astute readers realized that following the rules and guidelines of the adventure, even a party on dogsleds could do no more than save ONE of the Ten Towns, and it's a choice that the writers explicitly state is a bad move that falls into the villain's plans.
  • Was Once a Man:
    • The green slaad in Ythryn's observatory was the city's Arch-Astronomer who was infected by a slaad during the chaos of the city's fall, and who ordered her apprentices to seal her away before she transformed.
    • The Thing in the Well (a gibbering 5-headed abomination of warped flesh) is the result of a circle of mages attempting to fuse their minds together in order to increase their telepathic powers.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Maintaining the Everlasting Rime takes a lot of Auril's power, weakening her enough to be faced by mortals and potentially lose. To note, the other god-like beings that have been given stat blocks normally put them in CR 30 or so, Auril at her strongest is only CR 11 for this reason.
  • You Are Number 6: All prisoners in Revel's End are identified by a number, which makes it harder for them to know one another and keeps them on an equal footing. For instance, Vaelish Gant is referred to as "Prisoner 237".

DISCLAIMER: The windswept tundra of Icewind Dale is the true test of one's mettle. Here, it's survival of the fittest! Don't be fooled by the reindeer with glow-in-the-dark antlers and the tasty knucklehead trout (including the friendlier, more northerly Canucklehead variety). Icewind Dale is the frostbitten end of the world. You can't spell dice without ice, my friend, and the Frostmaiden is not some demon prince, vampire, lich, beholder crime lord, or archdevil. She's a god—and a cold-hearted one at that.