D&D 5E Rime of the Frostmaiden Post-Mortem (Spoilers)


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That's great. I don't consider my preferences the sole taste of D&D. With the way most of the adventure content from Wizards of the Coast has failed to connect with me, I'm finally realizing that my preferences don't line up with the majority of D&D players.

It's a sort of bad spot to be in, honestly. When I'm not interested in the bulk of the official content, it feels like the hobby has moved on from me. Like if most D&D customers are getting excited about an adventure that can be won by hugging unicorns and befriending cuddly baby displacers (the newest Feywild adventure), I have to just enjoy what is there from the past and make my own fun.
You don't have to hate hugging unicorns to be unimpressed with WotC's adventure output. I love hug-a-unicorn stuff and I'm still deeply unimpressed.

I don't think that the tone of WotC adventures even has much to do with anything. WotC just isn't very good at writing campaign-length/adventure path material. They literally never have been. I struggle to think of a WotC AP that is more that more than mediocre, certainly in 4E/5E. They could be as edgy as hell, and about strangling unicorns, and they'd still not be very good.

And the "large sandbox section with poor support!" is pretty common in WotC adventures, and I guess is part of what means they're not really APs. As is "a series of largely disconnected and incoherent adventures". Third parties seem to be a lot better at this. Obviously Paizo are better at this and I don't even like Pathfinder (1E or 2E).

That's not to say WotC doesn't sometimes put out good adventures, but they are very much the exception and tend to be the short and mid-length ones, not the campaign-length ones.

I don't think it's new, and I don't expect them to change, because I think it's management-level failure to recognise they're kind of crap at this, and that their products sell largely because they're part of a brand and well-advertised, and there's an inherent demand for pre-written adventures/campaigns, rather than because of them being particularly good. It's a bit like Abercrombie and Fitch, where one employee said they could put dog-poop on a baseball cap, spell out Abercrombie and Fitch with it, and it would sell. Not quite that extreme, but I suspect even the very worst 5E adventures have sold extremely well, simply because there's no real critical reviewing of this stuff, and customers just take what they're given. It is obviously difficult to critically review an AP before playing it, but most "reviews" early in the life of an AP/campaign adventure are glowing, even if ultimately consensus is that it wasn't very good, simply because the people who review this stuff are mostly fans, and mostly reviewing it in a vacuum in the best possible light (in some cases they don't even DM). And from my groups at least, most of the other DMs don't even look for reviews - they just automatically assume "WotC = doesn't suck". Or, they used to, anyway.
 
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Retreater

Legend
Sigh.
I can assure you there is nothing in the book that says any form of sacrifice is working. It is really badly handled in the book. Not sure what Paul is smoking TBH
So ... I don't know if this is the Mandela effect or what, but I remember a specific passage in the book saying "the sacrifices don't work." Like pretty much in those exact terms.
I don't have the book with me at work, but I'm searching the text on Roll20 (which isn't the easiest to navigate, admittedly). The only reference I am see is "The town speakers (see the "Council of Speakers" sidebar below) have unanimously agreed to honor these practices, which they consider necessary evils, but would end them in a heartbeat if Auril were to be appeased or dealt with in some other way."
This infers that the sacrifices are indeed appeasing and "dealing with" Auril.
Maybe I'm wrong, or maybe it's been revised where the human sacrifice is actually condoned in the newest edit of the adventure?
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Sigh.
I can assure you there is nothing in the book that says any form of sacrifice is working. It is really badly handled in the book. Not sure what Paul is smoking TBH
That's not the same thing. Burnside's statement is that the adventure text explicitly says the sacrifices aren't working. You're addressing whether the book explicitly says the sacrifices are working. There's a gap between those two statements.
The continuation of the disaster may imply the sacrifices aren't appeasing Auril enough to get her to stop, but that's not the same as explicitly not working at all. They may be staving off the disaster worsening further, they may be doing nothing at all other than showing a certain degree of faith, subservience, and piety (and, honestly, isn't that what all non-monetary sacrifices from foreskins to meat during Lent are truly about?).
 

BenTheFerg

Explorer
That's not the same thing. Burnside's statement is that the adventure text explicitly says the sacrifices aren't working. You're addressing whether the book explicitly says the sacrifices are working. There's a gap between those two statements.
The continuation of the disaster may imply the sacrifices aren't appeasing Auril enough to get her to stop, but that's not the same as explicitly not working at all. They may be staving off the disaster worsening further, they may be doing nothing at all other than showing a certain degree of faith, subservience, and piety (and, honestly, isn't that what all non-monetary sacrifices from foreskins to meat during Lent are truly about?).
There is no guidance on this matter.

The book states:

SACRIFICES TO AURIL
The desperate people of Ten-Towns, hoping to appease Auril so that summer can return to Icewind Dale, make sacrifices to the Frostmaiden on nights of the new moon. This is a new practice that started a little over a year ago, when it became clear that Auril was angry and summer would not be returning anytime soon. The town speakers (see the "Council of Speakers" sidebar) have unanimously agreed to honor these practices, which they consider necessary evils, but would end them in a heartbeat if Auril were to be appeased or dealt with in some other way."

There is nothing I have found in my reading to indicate otherwise.

As others have pointed out, new players in the 10 Towns can have any desire to help them destroyed by the knowledge they practice human sacrifice.... Fortunately the community have found fixes, eg by having the cult of Auril organising such things & having them & their leaders the Frost Druids as an evil organisation the players need to deal with.

As for making a comparison between fasting in Lent & human sacrifice......?!?! 🤣 whatever!
 

BenTheFerg

Explorer
So ... I don't know if this is the Mandela effect or what, but I remember a specific passage in the book saying "the sacrifices don't work." Like pretty much in those exact terms.
I don't have the book with me at work, but I'm searching the text on Roll20 (which isn't the easiest to navigate, admittedly). The only reference I am see is "The town speakers (see the "Council of Speakers" sidebar below) have unanimously agreed to honor these practices, which they consider necessary evils, but would end them in a heartbeat if Auril were to be appeased or dealt with in some other way."
This infers that the sacrifices are indeed appeasing and "dealing with" Auril.
Maybe I'm wrong, or maybe it's been revised where the human sacrifice is actually condoned in the newest edit of the adventure?
No - it suggests they are not working since Auril is not appeased. The problem is this is badly developed..... as mentioned above, some GMs have posted how they have introduced a cult of Auril who are leading the sacrifices, led by frost druids. At low level, pcs will have to be careful of them (think The Wicker Man)....
 

BenTheFerg

Explorer
No - it suggests they are not working since Auril is not appeased. The problem is this is badly developed..... as mentioned above, some GMs have posted how they have introduced a cult of Auril who are leading the sacrifices, led by frost druids. At low level, pcs will have to be careful of them (think The Wicker Man)....
Later we get on p22

"Although each town has resolved to appease the Frost maiden with sacrifices of one kind or another, no respite from winter's fury seems forthcoming."
 

Retreater

Legend
There is no guidance on this matter.
And this is a shame, considering that human sacrifices are likely going to be a big deal for players of heroic characters. If the writers can't address it clearly (even if it's unclear if it works or not), that's a glaring oversight.
Why even put this in the adventure if you're not going to follow up with it? It's human sacrifice - in lawful towns!
Next thing you'll know they'll add in dogs and cats, living together and mass hysteria.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
And this is a shame, considering that human sacrifices are likely going to be a big deal for players of heroic characters. If the writers can't address it clearly (even if it's unclear if it works or not), that's a glaring oversight.
Why even put this in the adventure if you're not going to follow up with it? It's human sacrifice - in lawful towns!
Next thing you'll know they'll add in dogs and cats, living together and mass hysteria.
What are the PCs going to do? Balk at helping the Ten Towns that feel they have been driven to institute human sacrifice as a desperation measure? It's not like they're gleefully murdering people to further their evil cult.
 

BenTheFerg

Explorer
What are the PCs going to do? Balk at helping the Ten Towns that feel they have been driven to institute human sacrifice as a desperation measure? It's not like they're gleefully murdering people to further their evil cult.
The pcs rock up as outsiders to the 10 Towns. One of the first things they can experience is a human sacrifice.

I wish I had handled it better - retrospectively I wish I had the Cult of Auril running it. The event nearly put the pcs off helping the 10 Towns.... fortunately I got them back on track.
 

BenTheFerg

Explorer
What are the PCs going to do? Balk at helping the Ten Towns that feel they have been driven to institute human sacrifice as a desperation measure? It's not like they're gleefully murdering people to further their evil cult.
Human sacrifice is a Big Bad kinda thing!!
 

Retreater

Legend
What are the PCs going to do? Balk at helping the Ten Towns that feel they have been driven to institute human sacrifice as a desperation measure? It's not like they're gleefully murdering people to further their evil cult.
Yes. That's exactly what my group did.
Because the way it was written in the adventure.
"Why ... why are you doing this?" they ask.
"Uh ... we don't know. We guess it's helping," the Town Councilor responds.
"You guess?! You are f'ing murdering people!"
"Yeah, but it might work. We don't really have any proof."
Party huddles together. "Yeah, this guy is clearly insane or evil. Either way he needs to be disposed from power immediately!"
KILL THE MAYOR!!!!

I would be amazed if 75% of every group playing this adventure didn't have the same reaction. Because that is what is logical to do in the framework of a heroic fantasy adventure game like D&D.
If you are a writer and you have the bald-faced nerve to try to put in "non-evil human sacrifice" and expect it to be only a minor issue in the adventure, you deserve to have your writer's card taken away. It's like casually adding that a lawful good town kidnaps children or practices slavery. Once you do that, and I don't care what alignment the writer puts in the stat block, you're evil - and you're the enemy of a good aligned party.

Putting in a casual "oh, yeah, and they practice human sacrifice" is basically the same issue as "oh, yeah, and there hasn't been a growing season or sunlight in two years." The writers don't think how this would matter in the reality of the characters as actual people. It's as if they didn't even try to present the setting as a real, vibrant place.
It is a bad module. I'm really coming around to that now. I used to just say "it's flawed," but no - I think I can emphatically say "it's bad."
 

Irlo

Hero
Yes. That's exactly what my group did.
Because the way it was written in the adventure.
"Why ... why are you doing this?" they ask.
"Uh ... we don't know. We guess it's helping," the Town Councilor responds.
"You guess?! You are f'ing murdering people!"
"Yeah, but it might work. We don't really have any proof."
Party huddles together. "Yeah, this guy is clearly insane or evil. Either way he needs to be disposed from power immediately!"
I’m no defender of RotFM — it’s pretty bad — but I’d blame this one on some pretty darned lackluster role-playing in the part of the DM. And lackluster is a euphemism for awful.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Yes. That's exactly what my group did.
Because the way it was written in the adventure.
"Why ... why are you doing this?" they ask.
"Uh ... we don't know. We guess it's helping," the Town Councilor responds.
"You guess?! You are f'ing murdering people!"
"Yeah, but it might work. We don't really have any proof."
Party huddles together. "Yeah, this guy is clearly insane or evil. Either way he needs to be disposed from power immediately!"
KILL THE MAYOR!!!!

I would be amazed if 75% of every group playing this adventure didn't have the same reaction. Because that is what is logical to do in the framework of a heroic fantasy adventure game like D&D.
If you are a writer and you have the bald-faced nerve to try to put in "non-evil human sacrifice" and expect it to be only a minor issue in the adventure, you deserve to have your writer's card taken away. It's like casually adding that a lawful good town kidnaps children or practices slavery. Once you do that, and I don't care what alignment the writer puts in the stat block, you're evil - and you're the enemy of a good aligned party.

Putting in a casual "oh, yeah, and they practice human sacrifice" is basically the same issue as "oh, yeah, and there hasn't been a growing season or sunlight in two years." The writers don't think how this would matter in the reality of the characters as actual people. It's as if they didn't even try to present the setting as a real, vibrant place.
It is a bad module. I'm really coming around to that now. I used to just say "it's flawed," but no - I think I can emphatically say "it's bad."
Kind of a rush to judgment there by your players - insane or evil. Not desperate? Because that's pretty much how it comes across as I read it in the adventure - they're absolutely desperate. They'd stop it if they had a better way... but they don't (until the PCs come ambling into town).
Maybe part of the problem here is people putting WAY too much emphasis on alignment expectations. Being Lawful Good doesn't mean bad things don't happen on your watch - particularly if you don't feel you have a choice. And that shouldn't really exclude you from receiving help to end the situation that forces you to make those sacrifices.

The pcs rock up as outsiders to the 10 Towns. One of the first things they can experience is a human sacrifice.

I wish I had handled it better - retrospectively I wish I had the Cult of Auril running it. The event nearly put the pcs off helping the 10 Towns.... fortunately I got them back on track.
Having a bona fide evil cult running it would weaken the sense of desperation the Ten Towners are feeling.
 

pukunui

Legend
Honestly, there was also a similar situation in Rime's predecessor, Legacy of the Crystal Shard. The PCs are outsiders who come to Icewind Dale, and one of the first things they see is a naked Reghed barbarian tied to a pole in the town square of Bryn Shander. He calls for help, and if the PCs go talk to him, he tells them he's been falsely accused of theft and has been sentenced to death by exposure. Some of my players didn't think highly of the Bryn Shander authorities after that. I pointed out that Icewind Dale is a harsh land and the townsfolk don't think much of the barbarians. I also tried the whole "this is a pseudo-medieval setting; your characters wouldn't necessarily have the same modern sensibilities towards crime and punishment as you do" angle.
 

Retreater

Legend
I’m no defender of RotFM — it’s pretty bad — but I’d blame this one on some pretty darned lackluster role-playing in the part of the DM. And lackluster is a euphemism for awful.
Since I was the DM in that example, how would you have done it differently? You know, since I'm an awful DM, you can give me pointers.
[Granted the situation I quoted was very much simplified for the sake of brevity in this thread.]
 

Retreater

Legend
Kind of a rush to judgment there by your players - insane or evil. Not desperate? Because that's pretty much how it comes across as I read it in the adventure - they're absolutely desperate. They'd stop it if they had a better way... but they don't (until the PCs come ambling into town).
Maybe part of the problem here is people putting WAY too much emphasis on alignment expectations. Being Lawful Good doesn't mean bad things don't happen on your watch - particularly if you don't feel you have a choice. And that shouldn't really exclude you from receiving help to end the situation that forces you to make those sacrifices.
Uh. When you start killing people for no reason, no proof that it's doing any good, there's no good-aligned reason for you to be able to continue being in power. If you are so desperate that you just start killing people (and there's what - three towns of the ten that just decided they'd start killing their own townsfolk) I don't think you deserve to stay in power anymore.
 

pukunui

Legend
Putting in a casual "oh, yeah, and they practice human sacrifice" is basically the same issue as "oh, yeah, and there hasn't been a growing season or sunlight in two years." The writers don't think how this would matter in the reality of the characters as actual people. It's as if they didn't even try to present the setting as a real, vibrant place.
It is a bad module. I'm really coming around to that now. I used to just say "it's flawed," but no - I think I can emphatically say "it's bad."
And this is where being in the closed playtest programme can get a bit frustrating. I know I pointed out in my feedback that the "two years without sunlight" thing was nonsensical, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one, yet they chose to leave it in for some reason. (I also recall that we gave them some extensive feedback on how to improve the races included in Volo's and yet they were published almost entirely unchanged.)

I think the issue here is that they want Rime to double as a setting guide for Icewind Dale. So they have to present everything as normally as possible so people can use the content to run their own adventures in the area, which results in the plot being a thin veneer laid over top. That's why everyone is going about their business in Ten-Towns more or less as usual and the "two years without sun" doesn't seem to have had any effect.
 

Irlo

Hero
Since I was the DM in that example, how would you have done it differently? You know, since I'm an awful DM, you can give me pointers.
[Granted the situation I quoted was very much simplified for the sake of brevity in this thread.]
Oops, sorry. You’re not an awful DM! But that interaction with the NPC was awful.

How to do it different? Ditch the wishy-washy nonchalant “shrug-oh-well” attitude and play up the shame and fear and desperation. The town’s convinced this is necessary. They do know why they’re doing it. And it’s not a top-down decision. The townsfolk are all complicit, even cooperative, participating in the lottery. These towns are small. They all know the victims, or they know someone who knows the victims.

None of that makes the human sacrifice palatable, but it could lead the PCs to have some measure of empathy for the dire straits in Icewind Dale.
 

Irlo

Hero
Uh. When you start killing people for no reason, no proof that it's doing any good, there's no good-aligned reason for you to be able to continue being in power. If you are so desperate that you just start killing people (and there's what - three towns of the ten that just decided they'd start killing their own townsfolk) I don't think you deserve to stay in power anymore.
If I recall properly, most everyone is participating, aren’t they? Via the lotteries? They’re convinced. They won’t stop just because the mayor is voted out of office (or slain by adventurers).
 

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