• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

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

mbriddell

Villager
Sorry you had a bad experience with this campaign. What you're describing is why I had the climactic showdown in Grimskalle and didn't use the latter third of the book. A friend of mine is also running this adventure, and when we were talking shop about it, he came to the same conclusion without my opinion (I didn't want to influence his running of it unless he asked me first).
We ultimately came to a similar conclusion: RotFM is an unfocused mess of an adventure, likely written by several teams of writers without a common direction.
The only connection made to the climactic last third of the book is a side quest (which could easily be missed) halfway through the book. It would be as if the writers decided to make the epic showdown involving an invasion of mind flayer gnomes (with their crashed ship being a scout ship to prepare for that invasion).
Instead, we're given the overview of a lost city. I don't think there are even any maps that go with it (with the exception of a generalized layout of the city) - you don't even get the areas where "big" combats are supposed to take place. Compare that to Omu in Tomb of Annihilation, where they provide the city map, as well as the individual temples where you solve puzzles and gain the keys.
You're right about there not being any accompanying maps for Ythrin other than the Demilich's tower.

Thinking back some more, Rime is reminding me of Saltmarsh in the sense that you can finish the "core quest" of that adventure and yet the book still presents more stuff to do afterwards.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Retreater

Legend
You're right about there not being any accompanying maps for Ythrin other than the Demilich's tower.

Thinking back some more, Rime is reminding me of Saltmarsh in the sense that you can finish the "core quest" of that adventure and yet the book still presents more stuff to do afterwards.
Which I think is fine for Saltmarsh, since it's billed as an adventure compilation (as is Yawning Portal, Candlekeep, and Radiant Citadel.) But Frostmaiden is presented as a single campaign story, with an arching plot and an antagonist.
This would be like if the Death Curse is dealt with in Tomb of Annihilation, then the group teleports to Thay to fight the Red Wizards. Or Strahd is defeated halfway through the book, so the adventure sends the party to an unrelated Domain of Dread.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
I think I've probably given these general thoughts on this before, maybe even in this thread. But my group is now 4 or 5 sessions away from finishing and I feel confident in my feelings about it:

- There is a lot of awesome detail work in terms of area design, cool ideas, and cool characters. I don't want to go on an on about it, but I don't want to undersell this aspect of the book.

- The art is consistently among the best in a 5E adventure book.

- Loads of great maps for the first 6 out of 7 chapters - one of the few recent WotC adventures that provides pretty much everything you can reasonably expect an adventure to provide in terms of usable color maps (until chapter 7).

- It's a legit sandbox experience for the players which can be awesome as long as the DM is willing to put in the work to have a LOT of stuff prepped in Chapters 1 and 2. Think Skyrim. Chapters 1 and 2 are probably a better executed sandbox than any WotC hardcover I have read or played. I'd say Curse of Strahd and Tomb of Annihilation come closest.

- D&D 5E doesn't really do wilderness survival well or have good rules to make it interesting and fun, and this book is no exception. Despite the content in the intro section about cold weather, travel times, environmental hazards, etc., imo you'll have a better time if you just hand-wave most of that stuff and lean into the book's actual strengths, which are fun, site-based adventure locations and set-piece wilderness encounters. The editors did not pay attention to things like their own travel time rules. The writers largely did not incorporate the insanely deadly climate conditions into 90% of the quests. If you want to make use of these elements, good luck to you because you'll get no help from the actual adventure in that regard.

- IMO, a ball was dropped not at ground level within the team of individual writers, but in terms of big-picture editorial oversight. Briefly:

1. The Sacrifices to Auril idea, particularly the human sacrifices, needed to be either fleshed out or just dropped. "Whose idea were the human sacrifices, and who is running them" is an obvious question most players are going to ask as soon as they learn about them. The book needs to have AN answer for this, and it doesn't. It's a cool idea that goes nowhere - or rather, it goes into the lap of the DM, who is forced to make up an answer. And yes, a good DM will solve it. But something that big should have come with at least one supplied explanation, even if the DM doesn't use the one on offer - you can't just have a big blank spot there.

2. The climate conditions described in the book are too extreme. Lot of ink already spilled over this one. Two years of no sunlight and average temps of 40 below = no more Ten Towns by day one of the adventure. Again, the actual adventure content and the type of quests on offer, particularly in chapters 1 & 2, largely ignore the fact that the setting is a frozen wasteland in favor of generally conventional adventure ideas (monsters took over our mine, goblins stole our iron, giant stole our beer, SERIAL KILLER MOOSE(!), there's something spooky going on in the old keep, etc.) And the writers were RIGHT to ignore the fact that it's 40 below with no sun, because the only story you can tell under those conditions is "everybody died 18 months ago".

3. The "dramatic choice" of whether or not to chase the dragon at the start of chapter 3 is poorly done on a number of levels - first, because it's not really a dramatic choice due to the information vacuum in which it's made. A really dramatic story choice should involve informed players forced to make a difficult choice where either course will have negative and positive consequences. Instead, the players are given a choice where one option is objectively right (there is literally no downside to chasing the dragon immediately) it's just that the players don't know that. So there's that weird "HA HAH YOUR CONSEQUENCES HAVE ACTIONS YOU MADE THE WRONG CHOICE EVEN THOUGH YOU COULDN'T POSSIBLY HAVE KNOWN IT YOU'RE BAD AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD" thing. The other reason it's poorly done is that, again, the editors did not consult their own travel time rules from introduction. If they had, they'd notice that 9 out of 10 Ten Towns will be destroyed regardless of what the players do, and the only one that MIGHT be saved is Bryn Shander - and that's only if the party b-lines right for Bryn Shander as soon as they see the dragon leave Sunblight (an action which the book inaccurately tells us would by "playing right into Xardarok's hands" - in fact, as written it's the only way to save even one town). If you're going to write a sequence that hinges so heavily on travel times and flight paths, then your math better work out - it doesn't at all, here. No idea how this survived playtesting tbh. DMs are left to re-design this section.

4. Chapters 6 & 7 can feel disjointed and apropos of nothing if the players beat Auril in Chapter 5 - but this is very avoidable.

5. Chapter 7 should have several more maps of the various areas in Ythryn.

- The good news is, points 2-4 are very easy to fix. Points 1 and 5 are more annoying but can also be addressed. Here's what I did with each of them:

1. I had the sacrifices actually work. In other words, Auril hasn't completely obliterated the Ten Towns because of the sacrifices. This explains why the non-insane leaders of the Ten Towns are running them - they are making a grim calculation to sacrifice a few to save many. Creates a legit moral dilemma for the characters. The other obvious option is that the sacrifices do nothing and either a powerful/charismatic Jim Jones-types cultist is instigating them OR the Speakers have been compromised by a devil (Asmodeus or Levistus, who as written both exist on the periphery of the adventure anyway - in particular, this fits the M.O. of Asmodeus).

2. Those climate conditions have to be modified. Either the crazy conditions have been going on for only 3-6 months, OR it's been normal winter for two years (but the sun still rises).

3. The dragon should just attack the Ten Towns while the players are in the Ten Towns, basically whenever you're ready to move into Chapters 3 & 4. It'll probably wreck 2-3 towns and then they'll damage it enough that it'll fly back to Sunblight for repairs - and pursuing the dragon to Sunblight gives the players an urgent reason to head there ASAP (otherwise, from their perspective dealing with the duergar will be no more or less important than any of the Chapter 2 side-quests, and they'll likely leave it on the backburner for ages rather than schlep into those mountains).

4. I don't overly care about Forgotten Realms lore, so my solution for Ythryn was that Auril was actually once a Netherese wizard. She had engineered a way to ascend to godhood by manipulating the weave with the Mythyllar - this event is what destroyed the floating city. Since Ythryn contains the secret of her apotheosis, she jealously guards it. The whole reason for the Everlasting Rime is because the Arcane Brotherhood has discovered Ythryn and the four Arcane Brotherhood wizards are hoping to follow in Auril's footsteps by replicating her "godmaker" process. So Ythryn has basically locked down the entire region as an emergency response to the threat this represents. Regarding players killing Auril too early (ie in Solstice) this is easily avoided - smart players will simply visit Solstice when Auril is in flight making her Aurora - which creates a fun "race the clock" situation to get on and off the island before she returns. She'll likely arrive before they can escape, so a fight with her is possible - but if you plan to continue through Chapter 7, it is extremely easy to prevent the players from killing her here because as long as she is on Solstice she can easily escape with her at-will teleport lair action. The possibility of defeating Auril on Solistice at all is obviously only there for DMs who DON'T want to run chapters 6 & 7. If you do intend to run chapters 6 & 7, then clearly the final showdown with Auril is in Yythryn.

5. This sucks, but all the maps you need for Ythryn have now been created by various third parties and are on DMsGuild. But yes, they should be in the book.

Other minor stuff:
  • Revel's End prison is such a cool idea. Too bad there's nothing going on there in terms of having an adventure. Also, it has working magical light and heat and a working port - should be flooded with refugees from the Ten Towns. Somebody will write a great adventure for this location.
  • I didn't use the goliaths and their two strongholds. Just didn't do much for me tbh.
  • I did use the Cackling Chasm. It was bad. But again, the vast majority of the site-based quests are great.
  • I changed all of Auril's tests to focus on more personal backstory stuff for my PCs and/or send them to un-used adventure sites from Chapter 2
  • I loved the player secrets (sometimes erroneously described as a "traitor mechanic" in pre-release press). Great way to make the adventure about the PCs.
  • The book tells you to use either of the starting quests, but there is zero reason not to just use both. Don't pay off Cold Hearted Killer until you're ready to move on from Chapter 1 - use both the starter quests to move them around the Ten Towns picking up other quests. The book is a little confusing on this point and I've seen some DMs think that level 1 players are supposed to confront Sephek Kaltro.
 

mbriddell

Villager
One other thing that our DM commented a lot on and that I agree with is that while the book makes a big deal about Auril and her tenets, it says practically NOTHING about either the Cult of Auril or the Church of Auril in terms of how they actually operate and function. Our DM wrote a very nice supplement that he published on DMs Guild to cover this called the Creed of Auril.
 

But Frostmaiden is presented as a single campaign story, with an arching plot and an antagonist.
Single story and antagonist? No. If you read the blurb on the back of the book it gives pretty equal weight to the quest for the power of Ythryn and the threat of Auril. It's quite possible to play the adventure with pro-Auril characters, or just to treat her as a minor obstacle on the quest for Unlimited Powah(tm).

Really it works best if the PCs are more morally ambiguous, rather than a bunch of Dudley Do-Rights.
 

MarkB

Legend
4. I don't overly care about Forgotten Realms lore, so my solution for Ythryn was that Auril was actually once a Netherese wizard. She had engineered a way to ascend to godhood by manipulating the weave with the Mythyllar - this event is what destroyed the floating city. Since Ythryn contains the secret of her apotheosis, she jealously guards it. The whole reason for the Everlasting Rime is because the Arcane Brotherhood has discovered Ythryn and the four Arcane Brotherhood wizards are hoping to follow in Auril's footsteps by replicating her "godmaker" process. So Ythryn has basically locked down the entire region as an emergency response to the threat this represents. Regarding players killing Auril too early (ie in Solstice) this is easily avoided - smart players will simply visit Solstice when Auril is in flight making her Aurora - which creates a fun "race the clock" situation to get on and off the island before she returns. She'll likely arrive before they can escape, so a fight with her is possible - but if you plan to continue through Chapter 7, it is extremely easy to prevent the players from killing her here because as long as she is on Solstice she can easily escape with her at-will teleport lair action. The possibility of defeating Auril on Solistice at all is obviously only there for DMs who DON'T want to run chapters 6 & 7. If you do intend to run chapters 6 & 7, then clearly the final showdown with Auril is in Yythryn.
My solution was that Ythryn was Auril's contingency plan, in case she was ever interrupted in casting her ritual. She anchored the Everlasting Rime to the Mythallar, and if she is defeated the Rime will run indefinitely and without guidance. The difference is that, while Auril was using the ritual to preserve the land as it was indefinitely (which is why the temperature hasn't plummeted, and all the plants and animals haven't just died off), the Mythallar will just blindly continue it, and that will result in the effects you'd expect from years of unending darkness - a frozen, lifeless wasteland.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
My solution was that Ythryn was Auril's contingency plan, in case she was ever interrupted in casting her ritual. She anchored the Everlasting Rime to the Mythallar, and if she is defeated the Rime will run indefinitely and without guidance. The difference is that, while Auril was using the ritual to preserve the land as it was indefinitely (which is why the temperature hasn't plummeted, and all the plants and animals haven't just died off), the Mythallar will just blindly continue it, and that will result in the effects you'd expect from years of unending darkness - a frozen, lifeless wasteland.

Yeah, this absolutely works.

One reason I was keen to tie Ythryn into Auril's origin story is that I wasn't in love with her motives and goals as written (they kind of amount to sulking/having a fit of pique after other gods bullied her). So I wanted to give her a more definite goal of "protect the secret of my power's genesis."
 

BenTheFerg

Explorer
I think I've probably given these general thoughts on this before, maybe even in this thread. But my group is now 4 or 5 sessions away from finishing and I feel confident in my feelings about it:

- There is a lot of awesome detail work in terms of area design, cool ideas, and cool characters. I don't want to go on an on about it, but I don't want to undersell this aspect of the book.

- The art is consistently among the best in a 5E adventure book.

- Loads of great maps for the first 6 out of 7 chapters - one of the few recent WotC adventures that provides pretty much everything you can reasonably expect an adventure to provide in terms of usable color maps (until chapter 7).

- It's a legit sandbox experience for the players which can be awesome as long as the DM is willing to put in the work to have a LOT of stuff prepped in Chapters 1 and 2. Think Skyrim. Chapters 1 and 2 are probably a better executed sandbox than any WotC hardcover I have read or played. I'd say Curse of Strahd and Tomb of Annihilation come closest.

- D&D 5E doesn't really do wilderness survival well or have good rules to make it interesting and fun, and this book is no exception. Despite the content in the intro section about cold weather, travel times, environmental hazards, etc., imo you'll have a better time if you just hand-wave most of that stuff and lean into the book's actual strengths, which are fun, site-based adventure locations and set-piece wilderness encounters.........
Loads of great comments.

To echo these, and others, RotFM has tons of great material, which, with effort, can be weaved into a great campaign.

I don't understand why WotC don't employ Justin Alexander (of The Alexandrian) to help edit/ oversee their campaigns to make sure
1. They make sense
2. They are internally logical
3. They give players logical, meaningful choices/ agency
4. The choices are awesome where possible etc.

Between his ideas, those of Eventyr games (DMs Guild), & others, plus my own ideas, I managed to bash a coherent structure onto Rime.

Disregarding Canon helped, since none of my lot care about the FR. Thus I made Auril into a corrupted nature goddess, who had been driven insane by the corrupting Chardylin in her flesh (the land of Icewind Dale), esp the spike of Chardylin in her in the form of Ythryn. Thus if Ythryn is either destroyed/ lifted out of the ice, she can be restored. I have given hints about this to the players (they have all seen Princess Mononoke....)

Secondly, I made an effort to tie them all into the setting & story. One's a goliath from one of the 2 warring factions. Another a Reghed barbarian. Another an ex-Scarlet Brotherhood wizard, who knows of their plans & has stolen them (which they then decipher as they progress, circumnavigating the need for an NPC Necromancer to lead them, which sucks).

Thirdly, I made sure pc choices were real & had an impact.

The party are in the hunger caves & having a blast! The RuneKnight goliath has just picked up the frost giants spear & is growing, which fits his concept perfectly! (Have made that temporary since its powerful!)

Why can't WotC write fab campaigns?
To be fair, Paizo, whilst creating better ones & more content, also have this problem: campaigns made by committee, where different bits are farmed out to different creative, and its all a bit disjointed.

Great news is that via forums, YouTube, DMs Guild, etc there is a fantastic 'participatory culture' to help busy GMs bring these campaigns to life. 😃
 

Why can't WotC write fab campaigns?
Opinions matter. I can't think of one they have published (5e) that has been terrible, or even bad. They are broad on purpose, in part, because they do not assume to know a DM's table or the players sitting at it. I have never really seen an instance where it couldn't be run as is with no editing.
The issue arises in that many DMs want to edit. They want to make it theirs. Hence, the broad-brush strokes.
 


Remove ads

Top