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

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
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.
On that, we're clearly going to disagree.
 

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Retreater

Legend
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.
I guess the wish-washy tone of the example was partially due to my need for thread brevity - and kinda trying to entertain with the example.

The real exchange actually took about 2 hours of game time. But still the same points came across.
1. We are killing innocent people.
2. We are offering sacrifices to an evil goddess.
3. We don't know if it's doing any good.
4. If people try to escape, we track them down (sacrifices aren't voluntary) [which happens, because the assassin guy is going around trying to kill the people trying to avoid their name in the lottery]

Any maybe it's because of me that I can't understand the logic of this, that it's not explained well enough, or that it seems evil to me - maybe that's why I can't convey it in a way that doesn't seem suspect?
 

Retreater

Legend
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).
Nah. There are people trying to escape it, buy their way out, etc. That's why there's the assassin going around killing people as one of the starter quests.
 

pukunui

Legend
4. If people try to escape, we track them down (sacrifices aren't voluntary) [which happens, because the assassin guy is going around trying to kill the people trying to avoid their name in the lottery]
I didn't think the assassin was in the employ of the townsfolk. I thought he was just a vigilante acting on Auril's orders, as it were.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I didn't think the assassin was in the employ of the townsfolk. I thought he was just a vigilante acting on Auril's orders, as it were.
He is. He's basically helping Auril double-dip into the sacrifice pool - which suggests she's definitely interested in the sacrifices being made by the Ten Towners. She's just not stopping winter for them. The primary effect the sacrifices seem to be having is exempting anyone participating in the lottery (but not picked) from this additional cull by the serial killer.
 

Irlo

Hero
I guess the wish-washy tone of the example was partially due to my need for thread brevity - and kinda trying to entertain with the example.

The real exchange actually took about 2 hours of game time. But still the same points came across.
1. We are killing innocent people.
2. We are offering sacrifices to an evil goddess.
3. We don't know if it's doing any good.
4. If people try to escape, we track them down (sacrifices aren't voluntary) [which happens, because the assassin guy is going around trying to kill the people trying to avoid their name in the lottery]

Any maybe it's because of me that I can't understand the logic of this, that it's not explained well enough, or that it seems evil to me - maybe that's why I can't convey it in a way that doesn't seem suspect?
We agree that it should be explained more clearly.
 

Retreater

Legend
On that, we're clearly going to disagree.
We agree that it should be explained more clearly.
Here's the point I'm making. It's not that any of us are wrong in the way we interpret this. It can be good/evil/gray area.
It's that the issue isn't considered important enough to the designers of Rime to warrant an explanation, an exploration by the characters, a rationale.
This afternoon alone we have written more about it than is included in the book and provided better guidance about the situation than the writers did for our fellow DMs. We have, I'd say, given it more thought and consideration without being paid by the company.
That's one of the reasons this adventure fails. There is no logical follow through with several key concepts. Here alone is human sacrifice being performed by lawful good towns. It warrants about two sentences in the book.
 

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."
Sorry to barge in on the conversation, but what DM is setting up a human sacrifice that way?

Where is the walking through town seeing people in tears? The somber heads down and the old-grizzled men looking away? Where is the person that would explain why they in a rational and sympathetic manner, and maybe even detail how it is a new practice - especially to a group of armed-to-the-hilt outsiders!?

This acts like the DM didn't even read the adventure beforehand.
 

Retreater

Legend
Sorry to barge in on the conversation, but what DM is setting up a human sacrifice that way?

Where is the walking through town seeing people in tears? The somber heads down and the old-grizzled men looking away? Where is the person that would explain why they in a rational and sympathetic manner, and maybe even detail how it is a new practice - especially to a group of armed-to-the-hilt outsiders!?

This acts like the DM didn't even read the adventure beforehand.
Me. I'm that idiot. ;)
So you have an adventure module you're prepping. All of your prep is performed to read and study which combat encounters are the least lethal to begin with, because the adventure doesn't do that for you and clearly sets up your party to get a TPK in their first encounter. (Just read the preparation notes online from various sites and watch a few YouTubers, and you can get nervous quickly.)
Then you are trying to understand what's going on in the various towns and prepare that, being aware that this is a big sandbox adventure and you can't possibly prep everything. You're going to try to guide the party to do the one or two quests that you think they will like the best and that you've prepared the most, but you don't want to railroad them. So at best you have a skeletal outline of the first chapter in mind.
Then you look at random encounters, weather factors, measuring out distances across the frozen wastes.
And if it's an early session, you're getting to know the characters, work in their stories and personalities, just trying to put out there what the adventure is about to get a buy-in.
So, let me assure you, I read the adventure beforehand. Let me assure you I also watched videos, read articles, downloaded DM's Guides on a third party site just to try to present this the best I can for my players. I may not be a professional DM, but out of the other DMs I know, I think I'm a pretty solid one. I think you (or most other posters on this forum) would have a pretty good time in most of my games. I'm also married, have a house that needs up keep, I have a job, some dogs that need attention. I expect when I buy an adventure from WotC (and its corresponding VTT components on Roll20), that most of the heavy lifting has been done for me. I think this is perfectly reasonable.
So let's consider how much attention the module gives the human sacrifice component.
Do they have a side quest or mission about it? Maybe names of the people who were sacrificed? Dates they were sacrificed? Names of their survivors? Names of the people who did the executions? The methods of performing the executions? What the sacrifices hoped to accomplish? How the lottery works?
Let's look at it in the larger context of Rime. Are the executions part of the plot? Could you remove them from the adventure? Is the adventure billed as a murder-mystery to stop human sacrifices to an evil goddess? What about the other sacrifices? Does it present why one town sacrifices food or fuel and the other does people?
Once you add something this big to an adventure, you'd better have the nerve to follow it through.
What should I have done? Well, I think it's safe to say I think I shouldn't have run this trainwreck of an adventure. But had I done it anyway, I shouldn't have put in this part of it.
That's why I'm bringing it up now. If someone reads this post-mortem before running it themselves, I'm encouraging them to remove or be willing to expand the human sacrifice element to something substantial. As it is written, there isn't enough information or importance to keep it.
 

Me. I'm that idiot. ;)
I wasn't calling you out specifically. But rather called out the, what I consider, ridiculous dialogue example.
So you have an adventure module you're prepping. All of your prep is performed to read and study which combat encounters are the least lethal to begin with, because the adventure doesn't do that for you and clearly sets up your party to get a TPK in their first encounter. (Just read the preparation notes online from various sites and watch a few YouTubers, and you can get nervous quickly.)
Then you are trying to understand what's going on in the various towns and prepare that, being aware that this is a big sandbox adventure and you can't possibly prep everything. You're going to try to guide the party to do the one or two quests that you think they will like the best and that you've prepared the most, but you don't want to railroad them. So at best you have a skeletal outline of the first chapter in mind.
Then you look at random encounters, weather factors, measuring out distances across the frozen wastes.
And if it's an early session, you're getting to know the characters, work in their stories and personalities, just trying to put out there what the adventure is about to get a buy-in.
So, let me assure you, I read the adventure beforehand. Let me assure you I also watched videos, read articles, downloaded DM's Guides on a third party site just to try to present this the best I can for my players. I may not be a professional DM, but out of the other DMs I know, I think I'm a pretty solid one. I think you (or most other posters on this forum) would have a pretty good time in most of my games. I'm also married, have a house that needs up keep, I have a job, some dogs that need attention. I expect when I buy an adventure from WotC (and its corresponding VTT components on Roll20), that most of the heavy lifting has been done for me. I think this is perfectly reasonable.
I have no doubt you are a good DM. And I understand time is precious. May I offer a suggestion? Instead of watching videos, downloading DM guides and reading those, reading articles, etc (it sounds very time intensive), perhaps just prep using your own thoughts and intuition. It might work out in your favor, and in turn, your group's favor.
So let's consider how much attention the module gives the human sacrifice component.
Do they have a side quest or mission about it? Maybe names of the people who were sacrificed? Dates they were sacrificed? Names of their survivors? Names of the people who did the executions? The methods of performing the executions? What the sacrifices hoped to accomplish? How the lottery works?
Let's look at it in the larger context of Rime. Are the executions part of the plot? Could you remove them from the adventure? Is the adventure billed as a murder-mystery to stop human sacrifices to an evil goddess? What about the other sacrifices? Does it present why one town sacrifices food or fuel and the other does people?
Once you add something this big to an adventure, you'd better have the nerve to follow it through.
What should I have done? Well, I think it's safe to say I think I shouldn't have run this trainwreck of an adventure. But had I done it anyway, I shouldn't have put in this part of it.
That's why I'm bringing it up now. If someone reads this post-mortem before running it themselves, I'm encouraging them to remove or be willing to expand the human sacrifice element to something substantial. As it is written, there isn't enough information or importance to keep it.
I never once claimed they implemented the sacrifices well. I simply asked, after reading your dialogue between the DM and players, why it would be introduced like that? I do think they could have done it better. I sympathize with first time DMs running this AP. That said, I think any DM with experience that reads the adventure will see some of the scenes in their need some setup. And if the DM knows their group - they most likely know where the sticking points will be. (That's a tough one since they might meet this very early on. Still, there is session zero.)
 

Swedish Chef

Explorer
Our session zero was spent deciding what characters we were going to play and the DM presented the list of Secrets for us to choose from. We decided 2 of our characters were from Ten Towns (Lonelywood and Bryn Shander), without knowing anything about the sacrifices. Failure on the DMs part? Probably. On the flip side, though, if we knew of the sacrifices and the types during session zero, it probably would have resulted in us passing on the adventure altogether. We, as players, would find it very difficult to play characters that were outsiders willing to help towns performing human sacrifice and I doubt any of us would have chosen to play natives to the Towns.

As it is, we as a party have decided to take on Auril simply to protect ourselves and the smaller towns. Our secondary objective is to take down the corrupt leaders of the three towns performing human sacrifices. We'll see what happens as the adventure progresses.
 

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.
I think there are a few things going on here.

Firstly, the concept of an Adventure Path is deeply flawed. You can't detail a whole 10 level campaign before session zero without severely constraining player freedom. It's simply not possible, there are far too many potential points in which things could happen differently. I might start with a broad outline, but I wouldn't start planning specific encounters until a session or two before they are needed. In ye olden days there would be a module, and it would spawn sequels. But if the first module didn't finish a certain way you wouldn't run the sequel. Desert of Desolation is a prime example of this. Both sequels depend on the party unleashing an efreet in a minor encounter in Pharaoh. If they don't stumble over that encounter then the sequels never happen.

Second, the death of authorial voice (bar one). I think pretty much the point in running adventures instead of writing them yourself is to get other peoples ideas. And most of WotC 5e adventures are dominated by just one voice: Chris Perkins. Which would be fine for just one or two, but his style gets predictable after a while. I'm pretty sure WotC have identified this issue, since we are seeing more effort to bring in outside voices recently. But he still has a tendency to muck about with stuff.

This relates to the third issue: fixed page length. It's pretty obvious that WotC adventures start out a lot longer, then a heck of a lot of stuff winds up being cut.

Finally, my last issue is more personal. I think starter adventures like Lost Mines do too much hand-holding. If you spend too much time holding someone's hand, they don't learn to walk on there own, they learn to always look for the hand. I remember the early starter adventures always had "this area has been deliberately left blank for the DM to complete themselves". Lesson: if confronted with a blank space, make something up.
 

I think there are a few things going on here.

Firstly, the concept of an Adventure Path is deeply flawed. You can't detail a whole 10 level campaign before session zero without severely constraining player freedom. It's simply not possible, there are far too many potential points in which things could happen differently. I might start with a broad outline, but I wouldn't start planning specific encounters until a session or two before they are needed. In ye olden days there would be a module, and it would spawn sequels. But if the first module didn't finish a certain way you wouldn't run the sequel. Desert of Desolation is a prime example of this. Both sequels depend on the party unleashing an efreet in a minor encounter in Pharaoh. If they don't stumble over that encounter then the sequels never happen.

Second, the death of authorial voice (bar one). I think pretty much the point in running adventures instead of writing them yourself is to get other peoples ideas. And most of WotC 5e adventures are dominated by just one voice: Chris Perkins. Which would be fine for just one or two, but his style gets predictable after a while. I'm pretty sure WotC have identified this issue, since we are seeing more effort to bring in outside voices recently. But he still has a tendency to muck about with stuff.

This relates to the third issue: fixed page length. It's pretty obvious that WotC adventures start out a lot longer, then a heck of a lot of stuff winds up being cut.

Finally, my last issue is more personal. I think starter adventures like Lost Mines do too much hand-holding. If you spend too much time holding someone's hand, they don't learn to walk on there own, they learn to always look for the hand. I remember the early starter adventures always had "this area has been deliberately left blank for the DM to complete themselves". Lesson: if confronted with a blank space, make something up.
I don't disagree with most of this, but I would dispute the "deeply flawed" point very strongly, simply because I've seen it done with such great success so many times by companies whose name is not WotC, and despite not being a fan of obvious railroading I've happily played through APs, and I know DMs who are not great DMs who have done a good job thanks to a well-written AP.

I think the issue is that WotC agree with you, and thus create these messy-as-hell adventures that they think work better than an AP, but are in reality just a lot harder for time-pressured or less-experienced/engaged DMs to run well than an AP.

I mean, you say the reason to buy adventures is to "get other people's ideas", and whilst that's valid and true as a reason, that's not why I'd buy a big-ass campaign-scale adventure, ever. The only times I've bought those it's been because I don't have time to write a big-ass campaign-scale adventure. The problem with the WotC approach is that due to the weird sandboxes, the disjointed adventures, and as you say, the general sense that a ton got cut (often "connective tissue", to use a slightly gross metaphor), I find I have to do literally almost as much work as actually writing a campaign to get one functional.

That was not true of Paizo's APs in 3.XE. I didn't like a lot of them. I didn't like the tone of a lot of them. But I didn't have to do tons of work just to make them work. I guess I want WotC's tone with Paizo's grasp on avoiding making me do work. If I'm paying a ton of money for an adventure, it's because I want the work done for me!
 

I find I have to do literally almost as much work as actually writing a campaign to get one functional.
I find it's always more work to run someone else's adventure than to write it myself.

The only reason I do it is I don't want my players to get too bored with my authorial voice.

As for Paizo, I've never liked any of them, so I've never run one. Personally, from those I have read, I am sceptical of the claim they can be run without a lot of work. I'm pretty sure my players wouldn't stay obligingly on the rails.
 
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I find it's always more work to run someone else's adventure than to write it myself.

The only reason I do it is I don't want my players to get too bored with my authorial voice.
Interesting, for me I've found it varies a ton. There are adventures I've totally happily run "out of the book" (albeit no WotC ones!), and there are adventures I've had to read, make notes on, re-plan, re-read, make further notes, add and alter sections, and so on to the point where I could easily have written an adventure the same size in a fraction of the time.

Of course this exposes my achilles heel.

Maps.

God I hate making maps. I love maps (preferably monochrome, not colourful). I love them to bits. I don't have a problem conceptualizing places either. Nor do I totally lack artistic talent. But I HAAAAAAAAAAAAATE making my own maps. I once scrapped a great adventure concept simply because it would have required me to make an elaborate map. And yeah I buy a lot of map packs as a result!
 

Azuresun

Adventurer
The Biggest Problem - one I am still grappling with - is at the end in Ythryn

At the END OF THE CAMPAIGN... the logic falls apart entirely. This material is from a thread from Justin Alexander - he says it really well

Ending Option #1
One way the PCs can end the campaign is to activate the 'Reset Obelisk and save Ythryn' ending of the campaign.
How do they do this:
1. They take Iriolarthas' staff of power (within Ythryn).
2. They use it to activate the obelisk.
Seems simples!!

However - there is a problem here!
Since Iriolarthas (the demilich) has spent 1800+ years trying to solve this problem. Despite his "best efforts" he's been unable to do so, despite having access to everything he needs.
A - the text states he is only a demilich since he cannot access his phylactery (its trapped under ice) -but this is a misreading of the rules about the phylactery - since it only has to be on the same plane as the demi-lich.....thus...??!!
B. But the problem here is that:
(i) The city is stuck because X needs to be done. (X = get staff)
(ii) X could have been done at any time. (Since Iriolarthas has his staff - although in the adventure it is not on his person but hidden in the rubbish in his library...??)
And this doesn't make sense. Nor will it make sense to any of my players who all are smart (one incredibly so) and experienced gamers... and I am sure this is the case for many gaming tables......

Thus the only solution seems to be - and an easy one here to boot: the GM needs to add an out-of-context element - ie: the staff of power is outside of the city (not in the demi-lich's library) - in a ruin such as that sole Spire of Netherill - which would force the PCs to leave the city, get the thing they need, and then come back. Which would also help with some of the timeline issues the finale struggles with.

Activating the Obelisk creates other problems too.... (going back in time - so you may want to change that too!)

Ending Option #2
The Pcs use the Ythryn mythallar to cast control weather and end Auril's winter!

Problem: This doesn't actually work. :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO: Like WTF!
1. it can only change the temperature from "arctic cold" to "cold". For 8 hours. As long as the user concentrates.
2. PCs have to do this 3 times per day for it to work, whilst concentrating.
3. It only effects a 50 miles radius, which isn't far enough to reach all of Ten-Towns.

On the other hand, as JA points out, it's nice to have an alternative resolution to the Auril's winter plot than killing Auril... except not really. Because the adventure says that using the mythallar immediately causes Auril to show up and fight them to the death.

So it's all pointless. :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:

[I like the idea of this working - so it needs some work to be changed!]

A bit more "here's how I'll do it" for this bit:

Bringing the mythallar and the dispelling giant artifact into contact will destroy them both and produce a dispelling pulse that ends all magic for miles around--since Netherese magic was more powerful than anything possible in the modern day, this can even undo the work of a god.
 


Of course, my first job was as a cartographer, so I'm not entirely incapable of making maps myself, should I want to make the effort!
Oh god I think you made me realize why I don't like making maps.

I was thinking "It's weird, when I was a kid I loved drawing maps endlessly!". But then... I started doing A-level archaeology (later switched it to Ancient History, but that's a long story), and went on some digs as a volunteer/amateur, and I had to learn to read maps properly and very carefully (even more than when I was a kid doing hiking), and to make maps fitting to certain specifications over and over, and I think somewhere in that process I started hating mapping. Hell I remember weeks of helping setting up the measuring tools and then very carefully and precisely drawing the maps out. And I know it was the one aspect of archaeology that just did not make me happy.

Wow, hadn't thought about that for a while.
 
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Oh god I think you made me realize why I don't like making maps.

I was thinking "It's weird, when I was a kid I loved drawing maps endlessly!". But then... I started doing A-level archaeology (later switched it to Ancient History, but that's a long story), and went on some digs as a volunteer/amateur, and I had to learn to read maps properly and very carefully (even more than when I was a kid doing hiking), and to make maps fitting to certain specifications over and over, and I think somewhere in that process I started hating mapping. naughty word I remember weeks of helping setting up the measuring tools and then very carefully and precisely drawing the maps out. And I know it was the one aspect of archaeology that just did not make me happy.

Wow, hadn't thought about that for a while.
Talk about learning lessons! I started out making street plans for estate agents. Not only did the exact measurements not matter, we actually had to make them somewhat wrong to avoid copywrite issues with the Ordinance Survey!
 

[Human Sacrifices in Ten-Towns]

Not to beat a dead horse, but to me, this problem is principally due to alignment.

When I read through the adventure, what I got from it was that people were desperate, and the situation was dire.

From a DM perspective, this is useful:
  • an understandable outcome of the situation the towns are in is to turn to human sacrifice;
  • it is probably the best element in the campaign to show how desperate people are;
  • it is a legitimate moral issue for the players: are they sympathetic? Judgemental?
(The timelines still don’t make sense, I’ll admit).

Maybe they will decide that the town leadership must die. So they kill them. Then what? There still isn’t enough food, winter hasn’t ended, and Auril now has a grudge against them. Seems like a cool adventure.

I think the problem comes from either (a) Lawful Good people wouldn’t do that; or (b) the party killing desperate Lawful Good people is wrong.

Either way, remove alignment and the dilemma remains, without being tied up in objective judgment.
 

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