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D&D 5E A brief rant about Rime of the Frost Maiden, farming, logistics, and ecology

MarkB

Legend
Though this aspect of the adventure doesn't seriously bother me, I did come up with my own headcanon explanation for it, which started simple and has gradually sprouted in the back of my mind.

The mystical aurora created as Auril casts her spell across the sky has a strong ultraviolet component, sufficient to act as the equivalent of the enrichment version of a plant growth spell, counteracting the plant die-off that would otherwise be occurring. This is not a deliberate act on Auril's part - instead, it's a subconscious manifestation of her desire to preserve the region's natural beauty. However, it takes its toll upon her, and will be the first part of her spell to fail as she grows gradually weaker.

In fact, unbeknownst to all, it would already have failed if not for the bolstering effects of the Ten Towns' sacrifices.

Where this will really cause an issue is late in the campaign, if/when the PCs defeat Auril. Without this bolstering effect, the region's plant life could face a serious die-off in the time it takes for the environmental conditions to normalise.

I may add some clues to all this if it's something my players get hung up on. Members of some hardier races - those sufficiently cold-adapted that they can venture out with faces uncovered - have been experiencing a new malady known as "Auril's Windburn". They know it's brought on by exposure during clear weather, but nobody has yet made the connection to the aurora.
 

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Icewind Dale has approximately 3,000 Ten Town inhabitants, and most of those residents are in two of the Ten towns.

This isn't the most inhabited of regions. Also many of the monsters are Awakened Animals that have been indoctrinated to hate civilizations.

A mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains of Los Angeles jumped the fence of the Los Angeles Zoo and ate a Koala Bear.
Predators find a way to eat.
 

Aaron L

Hero
... Who cares, it’s a story.
That is an extremely poor argument. I guess it must be different for you, but for me if a story doesn't make internally consistent logical sense than it is a bad story, regardless of whether it is a "mere" magical Fantasy story or not. The presence of magic in a story does not mean that logic can be thrown out the window for all of the non-magical elements.

As far as Fantasy settings go, I like all of the non-magical elements to be as firmly grounded in real-life as possible. This is why I very much dislike places where magic is such a common mundanity that children are running around casting cantrips (Halruua, I am squinting disapprovingly squarely at you.)
 
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SkidAce

Hero
Supporter
BUT a Winter Coat capable of hiding 3 Kobolds is good enough to protect yourself. And you just wear your Hawaiian shirt and swim trunks you only need a DC 10 THAT ONE ZERO Con Save each hour.
You can freaking SWIM Bare NEKKID for ONE MINUTE PER CON SCORE. That is SCORE not Modifier before needing a DC 10 CON save.
I raised an eybrow on this one myself.
 

Just a preface to the following essay/screed/rant: I really like the adventure and I'm planning on running it and looking forward to a good time! But there is this one glaring thing...

Something that annoys me about the adventure is how blase people are about the situation. "Just another gruesome day in Icewind Dale" says the opening "read this to the players". No it's not! "The tavern is abuzz with talk of"... How can the taverns be abuzz? And how can it be on any topic other than "How are we going to survive the next week". The rest of the adventure reads like this is just a normal, if severe, winter, rather than the apocalypse ( and it IS the apocalypse, albeit a very local one). The locals seem to have an attitude of "Oho! Cold enough for you? Ah you weak southerner". But buddy, you're not surviving this either. I can see how the villages with pop of 100-200 might survive by hunting or ice fishing, but even then: After a year of winter, there should be no more fish: Not because the humans have eaten them all, but because the fish themselves have no food. Hunting and ice fishing is how they weather a normal winter.

I was listening to the Dragon Talk podcast and the question of how the bees of Goodmead have survived. This was answered by saying they live in the mead house which is kept heated. And I can see this is how the bees survive a normal winter, but what are they eating? There are no flowers and have not been for 2 years, and yet the bees are not only surviving, they are still producing enough honey to make enough mead to supply the entire region.

Even assuming the people of 10 towns are getting food shipped in ( And they're not, more of that later ) or have magical means of food production ( cauldrons of plenty, create food and water, goodberry, which requires a level of casual magic 10 town's doesn't have and I'm not willing to give it ), we're looking at total ecological collapse last year. No more reindeer, fish, moose, crag cats, yetis, gnolls, etc etc.

Ice fishing isn't supplying a big town like Bryn Shander. Bryn Shander suffers, like most D&D / Fantasy cities and towns, of being a town in the middle of wilderness, when it should be surrounded by farms ( A town of 1,200 will need an agricultural hinterland of 12,000 or so ). To supply it with food in exchange for the raw materials and goods it produces: Would require 1 cart load of food per person per year, but this food is also feeding the dwarves, and a good chunk of the larger towns like Easthaven. So that's about 4 thousand cart loads. Another problem is that you can't ship that food up until it's harvested, and it's harvested in September or thereabouts: So by the time you get that food up to the pass through the Spine of the World, the pass could well be closed by snow. I was entertaining the notion of using Hundlestone as a sort of depot, the carts from Luskan move the grain to there, and then teams of dog sleds from Bryn Shander move it in relays through the pass ( and what are the dogs eating? What are the axebeaks eating? etc etc ).This BTW is Icewind Dale AS NORMAL, not during the current crisis. I would probably have moved Bryn Shander to the coast, and had supplies come in by sea, which is so much less effort than by caravan over a mountain pass. Bryn Shander seems to be influenced by boom towns like in the Klondike gold rush ( but it's in a steady state, it's been here centuries, not here for 2-3 years and then gone again ). In the Klondike, almost everything was shipped by boat, and when it had to be done overland ( like over the white pass ) this was just a section separating river, lake, or sea routes.

My solution

OK so I'm going to base MY icewind dale on the Norse settlements in Greenland, including it's climate. These had agriculture, and that wasn't just because it might have been warmer then: Farming is done in greenland today. In particular sheep and goats will do a lot better than the cows the Norse used ( musk ox live there year round, even on the northern coast! I'm thinking if you can domesticate an axe beak, you can domesticate a musk ox) Food shipments can still be a thing, but they're shipping in supplemental material, trade goods not staples, like spices, wine, dried fruits etc. Some grain and spuds ( and rhubarb, from articles on Alaskan agriculture I'm reading ) can be grown locally, and in particular meadows mown for hay or silage to feed animals during the winter ( wild musk ox would roam in search of winter forage, domestic ones would be fed by hay / silage over the winter ).

The other change I will make for my own sanity is remove "It's been winter for 2 years" and slot in "All this started on the Winter Solstice, and it's now 2 or 3 or 4 months later and the days have not been getting any longer" and there is real worry about how folks are going to survive with no spring on the way. AFAICT there is still contact with the outside world, so someone is going to break the news that the days are getting longer around Luskan etc, so there will be talk and perhaps preparations made to leave, at least some people are. And maybe there is a lot of friction between "I'm staying the course" and "I'm heading south" folks, but that's all the more drama. The community is facing mass famine, that's the sort of thing that produces refugees. Having it be 2 years of winter means all the yetis, crag cats, polar bears, etc etc etc, all went extinct last year. This time line means that if the PCs are successful, they can save the community and ecology, rather than a pyrhic victory 2 years too late.

These are elements I'm going to add to my own game, again if nothing else for my own sanity and to have an answer to my players who WILL bring up these questions.
If only Wizards listened to our feedback! Good feedback!
 


FitzTheRuke

Legend
The way I see it, this is all about exaggeration:

1) The "two years of winter" by Icewind Dale reckoning is "two years where the passes didn't fully clear" (in other words, there was still summer, just crappy summers).
2) The "average temperature is -49 F is listed under "Extreme Cold Hazards" or in other words, NOT THE ACTUAL AVERAGE across the land, all year long. It's just how bad it can get, on average, in a cold region, at a cold time of year, in a dangerous spot. Mighty cold, to be sure.
3) The "no daylight for two years" is also exaggerated. It's been getting increasingly dark, sure, and lately the sun hasn't come out at all, but there's still a twilight-like midday. How long has this been going on? The last nice full summer day that anyone can remember might have been two years ago, if anyone's memory can be fully trusted, but it hasn't been dark for two whole years. That's just silly.

It's been getting worse for two years, to the point where it is now, but it hasn't been THIS BAD for the whole two years.

Not only is that how I would play it, but I also believe it's how the designers probably meant for it it be, but they did a bad job of making that clear. But then, so what else is new? There's always little things like that in adventures. I honestly think that Icewind Dale is one of (if not THE) best adventures that WotC has written.

I absolutely agree that the idea that Icewind Dale has been a dark winter with temperatures averaging -49 F for a whole two years, unchanged, would be terrible and everyone would be dead, but I don't think the adventure really means to say that (I agree that it DOES, technically say those things, but I don't think they probably meant to, and even if they did, it was only because they didn't think it all the way through).
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Europe has never experienced anything remotely similar to what is described in Rime of the Frostmaiden or alluded to in Game of Thrones. Never. We aren't talking about short summer/long harsh winter.



I see it's only page 2 and you're already backpedaling from your earlier "who cares" statement.
I’ve never backpedalled, and I’m certainly not now.

Nothing I’ve said contradicts anything else I’ve said.

Nice try, though. 👍
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I’ve never backpedalled, and I’m certainly not now.

Nothing I’ve said contradicts anything else I’ve said.

Nice try, though. 👍
And Europe literally has experienced a winter that lasted all the way through to the next winter, which...is literally 2 years of winter. 🤷‍♂️
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
And Europe literally has experienced a winter that lasted all the way through to the next winter, which...is literally 2 years of winter. 🤷‍♂️
Well, no, not literally in a couple of senses. Firstly, had winter actually persisted from 1 winter season through spring, summer, fall, and then the next winter, that's not two years, although it would be more than one, so literally not two years.

Secondly, the "Year without Summer" wasn't a yearlong (or 1 1/4 year long) winter, it was a year that had a late spring, a much cooler than average summer, and an early fall and winter season. This caused many crops to fail and massive famine and disruption even though a total crop failure did not occur. Had there been literally a year-long (or 1 and 1/4 year long) winter, the devastation and death would have been near extinction level for most of the Northern Hemisphere. So, not literally winter for even one year, much less two.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
That is an extremely poor argument. I guess it must be different for you, but for me if a story doesn't make internally consistent logical sense than it is a bad story, regardless of whether it is a "mere" magical Fantasy story or not. The presence of magic in a story does not mean that logic can be thrown out the window for all of the non-magical elements.

As far as Fantasy settings go, I like all of the non-magical elements to be as firmly grounded in real-life as possible. This is why I very much dislike places where magic is such a common mundanity that children are running around casting cantrips (Halruua, I am squinting disapprovingly squarely at you.)
Let me expand the argument as I think maybe be you’ve taken it at face value.

“who cares, it’s a story ... and a story shouldn’t spend time worrying about details that a./ don’t improve the story, b./ don’t provide opportunities for adventure.”

The forgotten realms has a weave of magic that affects multiple creatures and the there’s the magic that’s created this winter. So magic can be used to explain why people are still alive. The flora and fauna of the realms can be totally different to what we’d expect to find in medieval England. If people can’t accept in a story like Game Of Thrones (that has dragons and warlocks) that winter can last 7 years, then those people should stop reading fantasy stories and stick to historical fiction.
 
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FitzTheRuke

Legend
Well, no, not literally in a couple of senses. Firstly, had winter actually persisted from 1 winter season through spring, summer, fall, and then the next winter, that's not two years, although it would be more than one, so literally not two years.

Secondly, the "Year without Summer" wasn't a yearlong (or 1 1/4 year long) winter, it was a year that had a late spring, a much cooler than average summer, and an early fall and winter season. This caused many crops to fail and massive famine and disruption even though a total crop failure did not occur. Had there been literally a year-long (or 1 and 1/4 year long) winter, the devastation and death would have been near extinction level for most of the Northern Hemisphere. So, not literally winter for even one year, much less two.

This is the same thing the adventure means.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
That is an extremely poor argument. I guess it must be different for you, but for me if a story doesn't make internally consistent logical sense than it is a bad story, regardless of whether it is a "mere" magical Fantasy story or not. The presence of magic in a story does not mean that logic can be thrown out the window for all of the non-magical elements.
Poor argument. Great excuse! If Mr. Spock were still with us, he'd point out that every story doesn't make internally consistent logical sense; that's why they're stories. Which is to say: you either get the truth, or you get a story. How much fiction you like in your story is purely a matter of preference.

I'd wager that the combined sum of the magical and fantastic elements in Rime heavily outweigh the inconsistency of a society that persists through an extended winter. And folks that blow it off as a fluke. Those people are real, by the way. They're called Minnesotans.
 


Bryn Shander suffers, like most D&D / Fantasy cities and towns, of being a town in the middle of wilderness, when it should be surrounded by farms ( A town of 1,200 will need an agricultural hinterland of 12,000 or so ).

You're forgetting one important thing. Magic.

The Module states that for every 100 inhabitants of Ten Towns there is a Spellcaster capable of casting 3rd level spells (at least 2 spells per day) such as NPC Priests, Mages and Druids.

Leaving aside any creative uses of spellcasting to help with hunting and survival (talking to/ locating animals, druidcraft cantrip, bonfire cantrip etc etc) there are some obvious solutions:

  • Create Food and Water is a 3rd level Paladin and Cleric spell and it feeds 15 people. It's a 3rd level spell. Presuming roughly 1/3 of the Spellcasters in town are Priests, that's enough food for 50/500 people in the town right there.
  • Goodberry is a 1st level Druid and Ranger spell, it produces 10 berries, with each berry capable of sustaining a humanoid for 24 hours. Presuming just 2 Druid NPC spellcasters for every 5 spell casters/ 500 people, with 14 combined slots per long rest, and that's enough food for 140/500 people.

Of the 1 spellcasters per 100 people, if 2/5 of them ae Druids and 1/3 Priests (and the remaining are Mages) and you can feed nearly half of the population with spellcasting alone.

Also:

Create Water is a 1st level Ceric and Druid spell (however water shouldn't be a problem with all the snow around)

Purify food and Drink is a 1st level spell for Clerics and Druids, and it cleanses all food in a 5' radius sphere of all poisons and diseases. This would enable putrefying or poisonous foodstuffs to be cleansed and be able to be eaten (and it would be easy to store excess food in the freezing weather by simply putting it in a shed outside, where it freezes).

Druids capable of casting 3rd level spells can cast Plant Growth, turning a field of even the most meagre plants into lush overgrown crops.

In addition it also does this:

If you cast this spell over 8 hours, you enrich the land. All plants in a half-mile radius centered on a point within range become enriched for 1 year. The plants yield twice the normal amount of food when harvested.

So yeah. Magic.

It's likely that a substantial number of people in town are turning to Druids and the Churches for salvation in these dark times, and are getting crops blessed, and surviving on Goodberries and food created by Create Food and Water, supplementing any stored/ frozen meats like seal whale, axe beak, dog, walrus, reindeer and crag cat that they have left (which is likely running out).
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
You're forgetting one important thing. Magic.

The Module states that for every 100 inhabitants of Ten Towns there is a Spellcaster capable of casting 3rd level spells (at least 2 spells per day) such as NPC Priests, Mages and Druids.

Leaving aside any creative uses of spellcasting to help with hunting and survival (talking to/ locating animals, druidcraft cantrip, bonfire cantrip etc etc) there are some obvious solutions:

  • Create Food and Water is a 3rd level Paladin and Cleric spell and it feeds 15 people. It's a 3rd level spell. Presuming roughly 1/3 of the Spellcasters in town are Priests, that's enough food for 50/500 people in the town right there.
  • Goodberry is a 1st level Druid and Ranger spell, it produces 10 berries, with each berry capable of sustaining a humanoid for 24 hours. Presuming just 2 Druid NPC spellcasters for every 5 spell casters/ 500 people, with 14 combined slots per long rest, and that's enough food for 140/500 people.

Of the 1 spellcasters per 100 people, if 2/5 of them ae Druids and 1/3 Priests (and the remaining are Mages) and you can feed nearly half of the population with spellcasting alone.

Also:

Create Water is a 1st level Ceric and Druid spell (however water shouldn't be a problem with all the snow around)

Purify food and Drink is a 1st level spell for Clerics and Druids, and it cleanses all food in a 5' radius sphere of all poisons and diseases. This would enable putrefying or poisonous foodstuffs to be cleansed and be able to be eaten (and it would be easy to store excess food in the freezing weather by simply putting it in a shed outside, where it freezes).

Druids capable of casting 3rd level spells can cast Plant Growth, turning a field of even the most meagre plants into lush overgrown crops.

In addition it also does this:



So yeah. Magic.

It's likely that a substantial number of people in town are turning to Druids and the Churches for salvation in these dark times, and are getting crops blessed, and surviving on Goodberries and food created by Create Food and Water, supplementing any stored/ frozen meats like seal whale, axe beak, dog, walrus, reindeer and crag cat that they have left (which is likely running out).
Yep. If you can make crops yield more food, in an Alaska-esque climate, you can store that food for quite a long time, making 2 years with little new food but no depleted population entirely plausible.
 

Lord Twig

Explorer
Using magic as a solution is absolutely fine. So why didn't they mention that in the book? Also, that doesn't fix the problem for all of the native plants and animals.

It seems the WotC authors forgot a very important rule in writing fiction, whether it is a novel or a game: "The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense." It's been said many different ways and is attributed to various different authors, probably because it is so true.

And the "Don't worry about it! It is just a made up story with Dragons and Wizards!" Is fine for movies or even books where you are going to sit there passively and watch the story unfold. But when you are involved in the game you are going to be making decisions based on this story.

I know the people I play with would find this weakness immediately. The logic train would be very fast. "They still hunt for food? Then the animals must be getting food from somewhere! We should follow them to see what they are doing!"

Then then, as the DM, I would have to say. "No, actually. They don't have a source of food either. So don't waste your time."

Now if this were an adventure I made up myself, they would give me a hard time about that, but would be understanding. A good natured "Guess you didn't think that one through, huh?" and then we would all start throwing around ideas on how to explain it. Maybe we would go with magic, but we would come up with something. As part of a published adventure there really is no excuse.
 

At the risk of venting pointlessly, FR has always been terrible about this sort of thing and it's always driven me up the wall. Setting verisimilitude, basic economics and ecology etc. Even around the 2e/3e era, in approximately the same area of the Realms you had the Rage of Dragons, the invasion of the Shades, and the enormous war of the Purple Dragon when Azoun died, and that was only a few in-setting years on from the whole Avatar mess and the Maulagrym invasion and the Tuigan invasion etc etc etc.

If you even believed half the metaplot, there'd be only about three people left in the desolate, depeopled wasteland of north-west Faerun (and one of them would be Elminster). Where's the famine? Where's the vast depopulated districts in every city? Where's the enfeebled armies drained white by constant war against, y'know, masses of frigging dragons? Yet as soon as the metaplot needed, more population and more armies simply spring fully-formed into existence. Annoyed the hell out of me.

Mind you, D&D/FR is not on their lonesome here. I think someone once did an analysis of Privateer Press's Iron Kingdoms metaplot, and figured out that given the casualties involved, every single citizen of the kingdom of Cygnar had died four times over...
 

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