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D&D 5E Jasper After Play review of Icewind dale

jasper

Rotten DM
Icewind Dale Rime of the Frostmaiden review.

Homebrew 4 out 5 stars. Adventure League 2 out of 5. Nitpicks a lot.

Experience DMS only. Adventure League DMs should not run this. The Adventure League review includes various guidance from Facebook, discord, other online sources, and season 10 and 9 documents.

My group was Adventure League and generally strong. Also, they let me run it close to homebrew by wanting to run through all the side quests. This was done by either pc characters being swapped out between sessions, or pcs not taking a level.

Adventure Season 10 changed the books available for the PHB +1 and changed the rules during the season to include Tasha’s. Limited Alignment from normal AL rules. Evil is not allows but Season 9 online guidance states a player can change alignment between sessions. Limited the races.

The book contains lots of detail in places but sparse in other stuff. Lots of subplots affect Ten Towns but no guidance is given on how to handle them.

The marketing went heavy on how cold it was and the possible horror elements. The cold weather part did not pay off.

I do have some problems with the maps in the printed version being hard to read but have mention those in other posts.

Welcome to the Far North

The flowchart for Adventure League (AL) needs to be change to limit Chapter 2 to fourth or fifth level.

The overland travel on dogsled is interesting but flawed. No guidance is given for how much a group of dogs can pull. In AL you can only hook up one dog per sled. The dog takes a short rest for every hour of travel. Which makes traveling by foot as fast as dog sled. No reason is given why you can’t use multiple dogs. (Which ticked off one gamer who was a fan of Iditarod dog race.) My group got around this by using an Owlbear to pull their sled.

Extreme Cold is interesting but in AL gives you a set of cold weather gear which nulls cold weather checks. This makes the marketing about cold weather very silly.

Illumination. Dim light is 10 AM to 2 PM. But no time for Auril’s aurora is given. I said 11 PM to 1 AM.

Character Secrets is a great idea and I want to see this used occasionally in future books.

Chapter 1 Ten-Towns.

Ten-Towns Overview. Is great overview. The Snowflake Ratings is nice idea for all towns and should be used in other books.

Sacrifices to Auril. This is a problem. While the book directs you to DMG for the Forgotten Realms calendar but a DM MUST create a few months of calendars with the New Moon and Full Moon noted.

The Cold-hearted Killer is the first quest written which may give DMs the idea to use it. But Sephek is a hard opponent and close to deadly if the party is weak or average.

Nature Spirits is better beginner quest which has no combat. But it does allow you explore Ten-Towns.

Bremen. Lake Monster. You can tie this in with the White Moose quest.

Bryn Shander. Foaming Mugs. Strange name for a recovery mission of iron ingots. But the blizzard is nothing due to cold weather gear. The polar bear power wagon moves better than a dog sled.

Caer-Dineval. Black Swords. This is first quest which has excellence roleplaying opportunities and some future quests with Avarice. Granny Hethyl can be used to drop hints at future events, or as information drop.

Caer-Konig. The Unseen. The hook is a little lame. But the duergar outpost has great hooks for upcoming chapters.

Dougan’s Hole. Holed up. I skipped this in game play but do suggest Norsu the Awaken Mammoth create a Mammoth Mafia and shake down the pcs in later chapters.

Easthaven. Toil and Trouble, Town Hall Capers, The Chardalyn Caper and White Lady of Lac Dinneshere. This is best city for quests. But the Toil and Trouble is about a third level quest. I do suggest to play the White Lady smart. And not take over a pc but flee and take over towns people. The Sunblight Duergar are also involved in the town, so a dm will need to take notes on what happens to them.

Good Mead The mead must flow. This town and the quest make no sense. They are the brewery for Ten-towns and export mead. Mead is honey based. Bees make honey. But the setup is -49 degrees and 730+ days of no sun light. How are the bees still working? An extra paragraph or two is needed to explain. The quest ends with the possibility of a pc becoming town speaker. AL guidance removes the pc from play if they are elected speaker. I suggest AL DMs ignore this and just have the people of town not be happy with their adventuring speaker.

Lonelywood. The White Moose. This is a must play if one of the pcs has the secret of being killed by the moose. The Frost druid as the villain is great but a player did point out the treasure was light because it was missing the 1,000 gp agate needed to cast awaken. The CG mummy is an interesting twist.

Targos. Mountain Climb. Another quest which ties in to a secret and has some other hints at other quests. It does hint to railroad the players to travel to Caer-Konig. It also contains a mistake on travel time from Targos to Kelvin’s Cairn.

Termalaine. A beautiful mine. Great quest for first level pcs. It did become a focus point in my running as the players wanted to take over the mine. The map is nice but has a problem in Chapter 4.

Chapter 2. Icewind Dale.

This has both wandering monsters and more quests. DMs are warned some of the wandering monsters can TPK the party.

Angajuk’s Bell is interesting encounter. The combat is on the easy side. Angajuk may appear in Chapter 5.

Black Cabin. Possible TPK due to the magic item especially as no danger warning exists. Possible kill on some the trap like places.

Crackling Chasm is straight up sneak or fight encounter.

Cave of Berserkers. Possible TPK or at least death of a party member if the players are sneaking.

Dark Duchess. TPK or Cake walk or saved by box text depending on random rolls which decide when the boss monster arrives.

Id Ascendant. Another quest with tie in to other quests. The failure to kill one monster does cause problems with Ten-towns and this is first quest which hints, the adventure should not be static.

Jarlmoot. A calendar based adventure which has no other flavor.

Karkolohk. Has some nice hooks and the option to be peaceful or hostile.

Lost Spire of Netheril. Gimmick, it is upside down. But it saved by the addition of an interesting NPC who has ties with other quests and other NPCs.

Reghed Tribe Camp. My group did not encounter these in chapter 2 but depending on the tribal it can be a difficult encounter.

Revel’s End. Interesting idea but it felt out of place for the theme of the book.

Skytower Shelter and Wyrmdoom Crag. Another secret tie in and possible pc tie in if you allow a player to play an Icewind goliath.

Chapter 3 Sunblight.

First major problem of the book The pcs must make a decision with only one clue. Either they continue on playing in Chapter 3 or moving on to Chapter 4. It does give more information on the Sunblight clan and his foes. My PCs decided to Ally with Sunblight.

Chapter 4. Destruction’s Light.

This a great chapter about consequences. If the party decided to play Chapter 3, Ten-Towns are nearly destroyed. You will have to track game time spent in Chapter 3 to find out how much destruction. The Travel Times will be interesting in AL. As my group spend two or three days being entertained by Sunblight, Ten-Towns were nearly destroyed. Also two of towns declared an alliance with Sunblight. The Single Dog on the Dogsled AL travel problem makes where is quicker to just walk back to Ten Towns. Termalaine population has a problem due to number of people saved. As the mine map from Chapter 1 Beautiful Mine could not hold the number of people without stacking people on top of each other.

Chapter 5.

I do like the various methods of getting there. The shipwrecked ships will give out enough treasure to break the AL Gold piece limit. The map scale of the keep is a little off if Frost Giants lived there. I suggest one square should be fifteen if not twenty feet.

Upper floor problem. If the party hits one or two of the win conditions, what reason should the party continue the book? Second problem is Auril lair and regional effects. The DM will have to balance how arrogant Auril is vs. not TPK the party.

Lower Floor has no problem but maybe uninteresting for some groups.

Chapter 6.

Use the wandering monster encounters from chapter 2 to make this more interesting. Some of the encounters have smart monsters and you should play them so. A bad result is hinted at if one monster is missed or not killed. Clerics will like this chapter as they have a chance to shine. Don’t tell the player the result of the hauntings, just have the note how many they had. This will promote paranoia.

Chapter 7.

Let your players know up front about the possibility of loot and lore. I used two Tupperware Tubs with slips of paper. Make two copies of the DM map and one of the players and one for you, so you can track what buildings have been looted.

The suggested time line of when Auril and Avarice is too short. I suggest you allow two or three days of exploring before the arrival.

The blight is interesting and will be harsh with a party which can’t cast the cure. The AL cost of cure is 450 GP between which means a player who contacts the blight will lose money about two levels of cash.

Summary. Adventure League DMs should just skip this book mainly due to the AL restrictions on the PC build, Dog sled restriction, and bad guidance about Chapter 2. Homebrew DMs will enjoy this but will have to make adjustments to certain quests due to various authors ignoring the common sense results of two years of no sun.
 

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Makes a good case for never DMing AL!

A question: did your players encounter the demilich in chapter 7? If so, how did it go? I have this coming up shortly, and at least on paper it looks like the party is overmatched.
 


jasper

Rotten DM
Makes a good case for never DMing AL!

A question: did your players encounter the demilich in chapter 7? If so, how did it go? I have this coming up shortly, and at least on paper it looks like the party is overmatched.
They met the demilich and Auril at the same time. Auril told the demilich to cool it. And one player surrender the special summoning scroll and convince Auril to use that to destroy Ten-towns instead of the endless winter.

As to the AL part. This was the first book the extra restrictions hurt.
 

They met the demilich and Auril at the same time. Auril told the demilich to cool it. And one player surrender the special summoning scroll and convince Auril to use that to destroy Ten-towns instead of the endless winter.

As to the AL part. This was the first book the extra restrictions hurt.
My take was Auril didn't want to destroy the Ten Towns - she could have done that any time she liked. She wanted to keep them on the edge of destruction and desperate, as she was using their sacrifices as god-batteries. Also "preservation" is one of her things.

Anyway, my players are dedicated to ending Auril's winter, and have decided they need to find the Ythryn Mythallar in order to do it. And they know what it looks like since they found a picture. This is likely to lead to them having to fight the demilich and the Frostmaiden in quick succession, which looks deadly on paper: CR 18, 10, 11, 11. If Auril gets there first then she could as you suggest deal with the demilich, but my feeling is my players will crack the forcefield well within the allocated 24 hours.
 
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jasper

Rotten DM
I made up loot slips and put them in a tubberware container. Show the players the container and told them they had to loot the buildings to get a slip. I also gave the pcs three days to explore before I send in Auril.
 

I made up loot slips and put them in a tubberware container. Show the players the container and told them they had to loot the buildings to get a slip. I also gave the pcs three days to explore before I send in Auril.
It sounds like you had pretty much the opposite issue that I am likely to have. I suspect my players (who tend to be single minded and goal focused) will clear out the whole outer city before Avarice arrives, never mind Auril. They may even use spells like Augury to decide which buildings to explore and which to ignore.

If Auril gives them three days she will probably wake up to find Solstice being bombed by a flying city!
 


Exploring the ruins is about 30 minutes for each building. With an random encounter roll about every hour.
The time given for movement is 5 minutes for 200 feet (which seems a bit fast to me, but whatever). It only takes 20 minutes to walk from one side of the "city" to the other. Most of the buildings only have a couple of rooms, and in most cases the required clue is in plain sight. Combat encounters last less than a minute. There is an NPC who can guide the party to the correct buildings, or they can use divination magic. About 8 hours of actual adventuring plus whatever time the party spend resting should cover it.
 
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jasper

Rotten DM
As the characters explore the necropolis, call the players’ attention to any numbered locations their characters can see; these are typically the most intact buildings. Unless the players say otherwise, assume that the characters explore at a cautious rate of 200 feet every 5 minutes.

Searching an unnumbered location takes 30 minutes and requires a check for random encounters. Roll once on the Ythryn Treasures table to determine if the characters find anything of value in the location.

My players did the loot unnumbered building for the section around y29. And some random encounters drained their resources so they had to take a long rest. Once they quit looting. The numbered encounters and random encounters took their toll too. The random encounters took up a lot of their resources. And them wanting to not push the adventuring day, so they could nova most of the encounters.
 

I don't really see any reason players would touch unnumbered buildings. For one, they look anonymous on the map. All the numbered buildings have a distinctive appearance. And then there is Augury, which can be cast as a ritual in 11 minutes and determine if a building is worth exploring or not. Not to mention all the hints and clues that are to be found around the city itself. I guess as DM I could rig things to encourage the players to waste time on unnumbered buildings, but I don't see any advantage to doing that. They would just get bored. And my players won't be interested in any loot or lore that doesn't directly pertain to reaching the Mythallar.
 


That is good. My players did want to explore the side quest of free looting. As long as the players are offered the chance. Tell me what happens at the end game.
I will. Probably about 4 weeks, they are just starting chapter 6 at the moment. Mostly worried about the demilich howl doing TPK. Which would be an anticlimactic end. Early on most of the party disastrously failed there saves against the White Lady and ended up aging decades. So I'm a bit twitchy about monsters with AoE save or die effects.
 

MarkB

Legend
The overland travel on dogsled is interesting but flawed. No guidance is given for how much a group of dogs can pull. In AL you can only hook up one dog per sled. The dog takes a short rest for every hour of travel. Which makes traveling by foot as fast as dog sled. No reason is given why you can’t use multiple dogs. (Which ticked off one gamer who was a fan of Iditarod dog race.) My group got around this by using an Owlbear to pull their sled.
This is a misinterpretation on multiple levels. A dogsled is pulled by a team of dogs, not just one (see the description of the abandoned dogsled in Mountain Climb). And their overland speed takes into account the hourly breaks. You still move twice as fast overall as when going on foot even after factoring in the rest breaks. This is reflected in the travel times given between towns.
Black Cabin. Possible TPK due to the magic item especially as no danger warning exists. Possible kill on some the trap like places.
What you don't mention is that this specific quest is built to compensate for that, and will allow a successful party to recover even from a TPK. It's actually more interesting if at least one person dies, which is why the traps are so lethal.
 

What you don't mention is that this specific quest is built to compensate for that, and will allow a successful party to recover even from a TPK. It's actually more interesting if at least one person dies, which is why the traps are so lethal.
Yeah, we had one character pick up the McGuffin and die, then be brought back by the others completing the quest. The damage numbers are set deliberately high to manipulate that outcome.

My party are actually riding around on axebeaks, because I decided that would be more fun than dogsleds (also because ESB). But I did a bit of research on RL dog sleds before running the adventure. They are a lot faster than described, and usually have somewhere between 5-13 dogs.
 
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jasper

Rotten DM
Mark B the Dog Sled is of one dog one sled was AL directions on either facebook or discord.
The Black Cabin trap really really ticked off two of my players. Yes there is a way back but if you are in B4 and the star is pick up is and automatic 90/45 screw by box text damage.
My review takes in account the feedback my players give me.
 

With the Black Cabin, fortunately the character who was zapped was attuned to the psi crystal, so I allowed them to use that to communicate with other party members. Otherwise it could have been a pain, since we where playing online.
 

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