D&D 5E Is Rime of the Frostmaiden the deadliest 5e campaign (probable spoilers)?

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
When I mean deadliest, I mean as written, and isn't necessarily due to any one creature, but can also include bad design or environmental hazards.

Also a caveat, I have not ran or played in every 5e campaign, so perhaps Ravenloft is more deadly
(I played that once, but died immediately when my level 1 fighter in a level 1 party got attacked by a shambling mound in the first mansion and it literally tore me in half).

But now that we did pretty much the entire campaign of RotFM, with a TPK at the end, I'm looking back and thinking that it might be the most deadly campaign, including but not limited to the following reasons:

* In the start of the campaign, it is likely you almost immediately run into Sephek, a CR3 opponent who does an average of 24 damage a round (2 attacks at 12 points each). One average attack will kill most level 1 PCs.
  • there is barbarian cave with a magical flame that makes the barbarians within immune to all damage. They will just keep getting up endlessly. The only way to stop it is to cast dispel magic on the flame or to lead the barbarian(s) out of the cave. This is problematic for 2 main reasons: 1. It's pure luck you'll have a PC in the party who can even cast dispel magic, let alone the party figuring that that is what's needed in the first place, 2. It's highly unlikely that the party will know to lure the barbarians out of the cave as a way to stop the regen. It's pure luck dependant on the PCs having certain spells set up and prepared, and having access to them. This is at lowish level as well, so the slot might not even be available
  • the lost city of Ythryn is structured where the PCs really need to explore most of the city, however, there is a 50% chance of a random encounter after each area is searched, and 24 hours after the party enters the city, those encounters happen every 1 to 2 hours. That means you get one long rest on the first day, and then it's pretty much impossible to get any more of them. You have to explore an entire city full of encounters, then a ton of random encounters as you're being hunted, all without any rests. We were 11th level by that time, and you're going up against demi liches and archmages and living swords, and all kinds of things. I don't know how parties are expected to survive that exploration
  • When you do finally meet Auril, you won't be at full strength for the reasons right above, and she has an ability in second form that freezes you on a DC 21 Charisma failed save. A lot of people from older editions don't realize this, but in 5e, a natural 20 on a saving throw is NOT an automatic success. So any PC who isn't proficient in Charisma saving throws and doesn't have at least a 14 Charisma will always fail. Always. There is no chance of success. Oh, and not only are you frozen, but you take damage each turn. The only way out of that is for your fellow party to destroy a crystal that formed when you got frozen. A crystal that is immune to all damage except fire. So again, the PCs waste turns figuring that out, and if they don't have fire spells, good luck, you're screwed. In our case, me (the rune knight) and the fire druid were both frozen (we both have a 10 CHA so we could never succeed on a save) and there was nothing we could do the entire encounter after that. TPK soon followed.

I don't mind tough adventures, but ones that are set up where you have to have PCs with certain spells available and prepared or else you can't win don't set right with me, and RotFM seemed to be full of them. The above are just a few.

So...based on what I know, I'd say that this campaign is the deadliest of all of them so far.
 

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Retreater

Legend
Yes. I brought up several of these points in my Post-Mortem of the campaign I ran. D&D 5E - Rime of the Frostmaiden Post-Mortem (Spoilers)
Of the official ones I've run at least most of (Lost Mines of Phandelver, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Princes of the Apocalypse, Out of the Abyss, Storm King's Thunder, Curse of Strahd, Waterdeep Dragon Heist, Tomb of Annihilation, and Rime of the Frostmaiden), I'd say Rime is the one that is the mostly carelessly difficult. Meaning that while there moments that are deadly in all of the other campaigns, they are either well telegraphed
(the green dragon in Phandelver or the appearance of the Demon Lords in Out of the Abyss)
or easily avoided
(running away from the mound in Strahd)
.
Frostmaiden presents quests that are artificially difficult due to what I perceive is the writers' lack of understanding of the rules or the adventure's placement in the rest of the campaign the barbarian who can only be killed by a dispel magic -
when that's literally not a power that any barbarian should have
- such as to get past this roadblock the group should have access to powers they can't have at their level. In every other campaign I can think of, you can just flee from the challenge and go on with the adventure - not the case with Frostmaiden. If you want to progress you need to go level grind - when there's nothing you can do to level grind - OR have the DM change the encounter so the party has a fighting chance.
 
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Savage Wombat

Adventurer
I haven't started running Call of the Netherdeep yet, but some of the encounters look pretty heavy on the CR to me. Of course, other modules grossly underestimate what a group of PCs can handle, so it may not be an issue.
 


Retreater

Legend
I haven't started running Call of the Netherdeep yet, but some of the encounters look pretty heavy on the CR to me. Of course, other modules grossly underestimate what a group of PCs can handle, so it may not be an issue.
While I haven't run - or even read much of - Call of the Netherdeep, I can say that it's not always the number of the CR (that can be deceptive). What I notice groups having difficulty with are factors not always in the numbers.
Having an area where the party must have access to a 3rd level spell to defeat a foe when they are only 3rd or 4th level - just stuff that the writers put in because they thought they were being clever - that's the stuff that gets a party killed (or otherwise leaves the entire group frustrated when they have to retreat and level grind). Frostmaiden does this on several occasions, puts up arbitrary roadblocks.
 

Voadam

Legend
White Plume Mountain from Tales of Yawning Portal is for 8th level PCs and has a CR 13 vampire who TPK'd a party of four when I ran it straight for my son, my brother, and two of my nieces. By the time they realized they were in way over their heads it was too late to run.
 

dave2008

Legend
None of these seem like an issue to me, as you have presented them. There is nothing wrong with an encounter you can't defeat are your current level IMO. However, the issue comes if there is no way find out about this or figure out a solution. I assume the adventure lacks that level of description as well or I guess it would be something to complain about?

PS I am not familiar with the adventure and I don't own it so I can't really check (I only purchased the monsters on DnDB).
When I mean deadliest, I mean as written, and isn't necessarily due to any one creature, but can also include bad design or environmental hazards.

Also a caveat, I have not ran or played in every 5e campaign, so perhaps Ravenloft is more deadly
(I played that once, but died immediately when my level 1 fighter in a level 1 party got attacked by a shambling mound in the first mansion and it literally tore me in half).

But now that we did pretty much the entire campaign of RotFM, with a TPK at the end, I'm looking back and thinking that it might be the most deadly campaign, including but not limited to the following reasons:

* In the start of the campaign, it is likely you almost immediately run into Sephek, a CR3 opponent who does an average of 24 damage a round (2 attacks at 12 points each). One average attack will kill most level 1 PCs.
  • there is barbarian cave with a magical flame that makes the barbarians within immune to all damage. They will just keep getting up endlessly. The only way to stop it is to cast dispel magic on the flame or to lead the barbarian(s) out of the cave. This is problematic for 2 main reasons: 1. It's pure luck you'll have a PC in the party who can even cast dispel magic, let alone the party figuring that that is what's needed in the first place, 2. It's highly unlikely that the party will know to lure the barbarians out of the cave as a way to stop the regen. It's pure luck dependant on the PCs having certain spells set up and prepared, and having access to them. This is at lowish level as well, so the slot might not even be available
  • the lost city of Ythryn is structured where the PCs really need to explore most of the city, however, there is a 50% chance of a random encounter after each area is searched, and 24 hours after the party enters the city, those encounters happen every 1 to 2 hours. That means you get one long rest on the first day, and then it's pretty much impossible to get any more of them. You have to explore an entire city full of encounters, then a ton of random encounters as you're being hunted, all without any rests. We were 11th level by that time, and you're going up against demi liches and archmages and living swords, and all kinds of things. I don't know how parties are expected to survive that exploration
  • When you do finally meet Auril, you won't be at full strength for the reasons right above, and she has an ability in second form that freezes you on a DC 21 Charisma failed save. A lot of people from older editions don't realize this, but in 5e, a natural 20 on a saving throw is NOT an automatic success. So any PC who isn't proficient in Charisma saving throws and doesn't have at least a 14 Charisma will always fail. Always. There is no chance of success. Oh, and not only are you frozen, but you take damage each turn. The only way out of that is for your fellow party to destroy a crystal that formed when you got frozen. A crystal that is immune to all damage except fire. So again, the PCs waste turns figuring that out, and if they don't have fire spells, good luck, you're screwed. In our case, me (the rune knight) and the fire druid were both frozen (we both have a 10 CHA so we could never succeed on a save) and there was nothing we could do the entire encounter after that. TPK soon followed.

I don't mind tough adventures, but ones that are set up where you have to have PCs with certain spells available and prepared or else you can't win don't set right with me, and RotFM seemed to be full of them. The above are just a few.

So...based on what I know, I'd say that this campaign is the deadliest of all of them so far.

While I haven't run - or even read much of - Call of the Netherdeep, I can say that it's not always the number of the CR (that can be deceptive). What I notice groups having difficulty with are factors not always in the numbers.
Having an area where the party must have access to a 3rd level spell to defeat a foe when they are only 3rd or 4th level - just stuff that the writers put in because they thought they were being clever - that's the stuff that gets a party killed (or otherwise leaves the entire group frustrated when they have to retreat and level grind). Frostmaiden does this on several occasions, puts up arbitrary roadblocks.
 

One average attack will kill most level 1 PCs.
It'll reduce them to 0 hp. It would kill a 1st-level wizard with no Con bonus, but I've never seen one of those. In any case, the way this is set up in the adventure (which, to be fair, is rather silly), it's hard to imagine a party not ambushing the guy.
 



Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Having an area where the party must have access to a 3rd level spell to defeat a foe when they are only 3rd or 4th level - just stuff that the writers put in because they thought they were being clever - that's the stuff that gets a party killed (or otherwise leaves the entire group frustrated when they have to retreat and level grind). Frostmaiden does this on several occasions, puts up arbitrary roadblocks.
Yep. challenges where the party isn't going to be high enough level to have the resource to overcome the challenge (like a 4th level party needing a 3rd level spell), or must-win-to-proceed scenarios where the party has have the exact spell prepared and accessible with no hints to the party that they'd need it. I don't mind scenarios you can't win, but do I mind scenarios you can't win but have to in order to proceed with the quest, or have only one very specific way to overcome it that most party's won't be set up for. Especially in 5e, where it was designed to have multiple classes do multiple things, and not require class X with spell Y that only they could cast like in 1e.
 

pukunui

Legend
That said, in my opinion the deadliest published adventure is Tomb of Annihilation.
ToA was certainly the deadliest 5e campaign I've run. The first time I ran it, we had a total of 8 PCs die. The majority of those were in Omu. Only one was in the eponymous tomb. That said, only one PC has died so far during my second run through.
 


Zubatcarteira

Now you're infected by the Musical Doodle
In Storm King's Thunder you can
get hit by a Meteor Swarm trap at level 7, so insta-kill on a failed save on a lot of characters, and even the tough ones will be at least at 0. Didn't kill everyone in ours, but we had to derail everything to get the resurrections done, and it lead to the campaign ending.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
Welp, add me to the "things you've been doing wrong in 5E" list as to saving throws.

Haven't run Rime, but in Curse of Strahd, if the DM runs Strahd as the super-genius with centuries of wisdom and a former lifetime of being a general that he is, he should be near-invincible with his "hit, run, and regenerate" strategy on his home turf.
In his castle, there is no reason Strahd would tolerate a stand-up fight against people with artifacts that can hurt him. He can run through walls/floors/ceilings of his castle. Hence, the strategy is run through a wall, risk an attack of opportunity, strafe an enemy PC (preferably a caster), and exit. If he takes damage, he can simply exit and wait until his massive regeneration kicks in. Add in his summons, and he can interrupt any attempt to rest with noise, guerilla attacks, etc. Absent DM fiat, it should be unwinnable. That's why when I ran it I played up his journal and history so much (stuff outside the scope of the module but in the novels and original material) so that players would realize Strahd as a master strategist would only abandon that strategy in a severe moment of rage. This became relevant when the PCs failed to act before history repeated itself (I had Ireena eventually go to him, something from the novel). He made her into a vampire, the PCs invaded the castle, the PCs got their arses spanked, the PCs began thinking WTH can we do, a player thought what would piss Strahd off, PCs ran to the tombs suffering minion attacks, PCs spiked Ireena/Tatyana. Strahd went insane and abandoned his strategy. Bon appetit.
 

Retreater

Legend
Haven't run Rime, but in Curse of Strahd, if the DM runs Strahd as the super-genius with centuries of wisdom and a former lifetime of being a general that he is, he should be near-invincible with his "hit, run, and regenerate" strategy on his home turf.
But there is the business of the Vistani fortune telling...
Except that there is the Tarokka (sp?) card that specifically calls out a room that Strahd won't flee from and will fight to the death there. My group found that area and trapped him in there. Luckily it was a few steps away from his crypt, so it was no challenge to end him before he could regenerate in an hour.
 

When I mean deadliest, I mean as written, and isn't necessarily due to any one creature, but can also include bad design or environmental hazards.

Also a caveat, I have not ran or played in every 5e campaign, so perhaps Ravenloft is more deadly
(I played that once, but died immediately when my level 1 fighter in a level 1 party got attacked by a shambling mound in the first mansion and it literally tore me in half).

But now that we did pretty much the entire campaign of RotFM, with a TPK at the end, I'm looking back and thinking that it might be the most deadly campaign, including but not limited to the following reasons:
Hell no!

The biggest problem I had running this adventure was the fights where far too easy. Even buffing the bosses they where a pushover.
* In the start of the campaign, it is likely you almost immediately run into Sephek, a CR3 opponent who does an average of 24 damage a round (2 attacks at 12 points each). One average attack will kill most level 1 PCs.
  • there is barbarian cave with a magical flame that makes the barbarians within immune to all damage. They will just keep getting up endlessly. The only way to stop it is to cast dispel magic on the flame or to lead the barbarian(s) out of the cave.
No, you just need to get him outside the cave. Which any party can do by simply running away. there is no requirement to "complete" this side quest. Although my players strung him up by his own meat hooks. I think he decided being unable to die was not an advantage.
  • the lost city of Ythryn is structured where the PCs really need to explore most of the city, however, there is a 50% chance of a random encounter after each area is searched, and 24 hours after the party enters the city, those encounters happen every 1 to 2 hours. That means you get one long rest on the first day, and then it's pretty much impossible to get any more of them. You have to explore an entire city full of encounters, then a ton of random encounters as you're being hunted, all without any rests. We were 11th level by that time, and you're going up against demi liches and archmages and living swords, and all kinds of things. I don't know how parties are expected to survive that exploration
Players don't need to complete exploration of the city at all. After a couple of days bossmonster turns up and takes down the barriers herself. But my party had no trouble resting using Rope Trick and/or Tiny Hut (which can be cast by an NPC ally if the party don't have it). There is also nothing to stop the party leaving the city and resting outside it. The demilich is pathetically weak. It was embarrassing how quickly he went down.
  • When you do finally meet Auril, you won't be at full strength for the reasons right above, and she has an ability in second form that freezes you on a DC 21 Charisma failed save. A lot of people from older editions don't realize this, but in 5e, a natural 20 on a saving throw is NOT an automatic success. So any PC who isn't proficient in Charisma saving throws and doesn't have at least a 14 Charisma will always fail. Always. There is no chance of success. Oh, and not only are you frozen, but you take damage each turn. The only way out of that is for your fellow party to destroy a crystal that formed when you got frozen. A crystal that is immune to all damage except fire. So again, the PCs waste turns figuring that out, and if they don't have fire spells, good luck, you're screwed. In our case, me (the rune knight) and the fire druid were both frozen (we both have a 10 CHA so we could never succeed on a save) and there was nothing we could do the entire encounter after that. TPK soon followed.
A single target ability. It's no big deal if one character spends a couple of rounds on the bench. It only took two rounds for the rest of the party to destroy the second form.

Who goes into an adventure called Rime of the Frostmaiden and doesn't prep fire spells? Who can't figure out to use fire to melt ice?

So...based on what I know, I'd say that this campaign is the deadliest of all of them so far.
The only WotC adventure I've run that came close to being deadly was one in Candlekeep Mysteries. Being too easy is a general problem for WotC.

I haven't played CoS, but I reckon that comes down to how the DM plays Strahd.
 
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Welp, add me to the "things you've been doing wrong in 5E" list as to saving throws.

Haven't run Rime, but in Curse of Strahd, if the DM runs Strahd as the super-genius with centuries of wisdom and a former lifetime of being a general that he is, he should be near-invincible with his "hit, run, and regenerate" strategy on his home turf.
In his castle, there is no reason Strahd would tolerate a stand-up fight against people with artifacts that can hurt him. He can run through walls/floors/ceilings of his castle. Hence, the strategy is run through a wall, risk an attack of opportunity, strafe an enemy PC (preferably a caster), and exit. If he takes damage, he can simply exit and wait until his massive regeneration kicks in. Add in his summons, and he can interrupt any attempt to rest with noise, guerilla attacks, etc. Absent DM fiat, it should be unwinnable. That's why when I ran it I played up his journal and history so much (stuff outside the scope of the module but in the novels and original material) so that players would realize Strahd as a master strategist would only abandon that strategy in a severe moment of rage. This became relevant when the PCs failed to act before history repeated itself (I had Ireena eventually go to him, something from the novel). He made her into a vampire, the PCs invaded the castle, the PCs got their arses spanked, the PCs began thinking WTH can we do, a player thought what would piss Strahd off, PCs ran to the tombs suffering minion attacks, PCs spiked Ireena/Tatyana. Strahd went insane and abandoned his strategy. Bon appetit.
Strahd doesn't even have to run away. He doesn't take damage for ending his turn inside stone. He can stay inside the walls and floor attacking with disadvantage.

But I agree 100% with your spoiler solution, and there's a GREAT Reddit collection on different ways to portray him.
 
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