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

As a side-issue, I wonder if the different responses to these issues don’t stem in part with how different people process inconsistencies in the campaign.

The way I see it, there are two axes to process inconsistencies in the campaign:
1. The egregiousness of the inconsistency (What? You’re telling me it’s been -40 C for 2 years and there are still humans alive?)
2. The ease of fixibility of the inconsistency (The simple, obvious solution to the problem proposed by the party not only makes everyone who didn’t find it look like idiots, but ends the campaign at level 3).

Personally, I care less about the first type of inconsistency than the second, though I could see why the first type would be annoying in a professional product you pay for.

Again, to me, the duration and the severity of Auril’s winter and the human sacrifice by Lawful Good villagers fall into the first type of inconsistency rather than the second.

Player: Shouldn’t everyone be dead if winter has been going on for 2 years and it’s -40 C most of the time?
DM: You’re right. It’s hasn’t been two years and the person who told you so was mistaken/lying/critically failed their Perception/Persuasion check/had lost touch with reality (aren’t we in like year 5 of a pandemic?). But the situation really is desperate. There’s no food and if winter doesn’t end soon, there really won’t be anyone left.

Likewise, I don’t play with alignment, so the desperate turn to human sacrifice didn’t bother me.
 

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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
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!

Hello - you know about Dyson Logos's site do you? TONS of free monochrome maps there...
 


Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
As a side-issue, I wonder if the different responses to these issues don’t stem in part with how different people process inconsistencies in the campaign.

The way I see it, there are two axes to process inconsistencies in the campaign:
1. The egregiousness of the inconsistency (What? You’re telling me it’s been -40 C for 2 years and there are still humans alive?)
2. The ease of fixibility of the inconsistency (The simple, obvious solution to the problem proposed by the party not only makes everyone who didn’t find it look like idiots, but ends the campaign at level 3).

Personally, I care less about the first type of inconsistency than the second, though I could see why the first type would be annoying in a professional product you pay for.

Again, to me, the duration and the severity of Auril’s winter and the human sacrifice by Lawful Good villagers fall into the first type of inconsistency rather than the second.

Player: Shouldn’t everyone be dead if winter has been going on for 2 years and it’s -40 C most of the time?
DM: You’re right. It’s hasn’t been two years and the person who told you so was mistaken/lying/critically failed their Perception/Persuasion check/had lost touch with reality (aren’t we in like year 5 of a pandemic?). But the situation really is desperate. There’s no food and if winter doesn’t end soon, there really won’t be anyone left.

Likewise, I don’t play with alignment, so the desperate turn to human sacrifice didn’t bother me.

I basically agree with this to a point - particularly with regard to the climate situation. Like, I think the climate as described in the book is ridiculous on the face of it (and not consistent with most quests, most NPC behavior, and the conditions described in most areas). But it's a super easy fix for the DM. I do expect better from a $50 book, but it's far from game-breaking.

I dispute that the human sacrifice situation fits as neatly into the "easy fix" category, though. And I also am not somebody who uses alignment either, so I'm not framing the problem as "But Lawful Good people wouldn't DO this!"

The problem is that the Ten Towns performing human sacrifices is a big, dramatic story element and the players are very, very likely to assume it is a quest hook in and of itself and set about poking into it - who thought of it? Who runs it? By what process is it implemented? How can it be stopped?...and the adventure just doesn't support the DM in this area at all. The designers should be helping the DM here, even if it's just one sidebar with the answers to those very basic questions (and the DM is then free to take or leave those answers). To me, if you introduce something as dramatic as human sacrifices, there's a narrative obligation as a designer to do something with it. You can't just go, "Hey, look, cool, gnarly idea. Too bad there's no 'there' there." It's just too front-and-center in the story to be treated like that.

For many groups, learning about the sacrifices is going to be one of the first things that happens in session one of the campaign - probably in the first few minutes of session one. And it's a narrative dead-end. It basically amounts to a piece of background atmosphere - but many, many players will assume that "stopping these human sacrifices" is like one of the main plot hooks they should investigate. When confronted with "Find me a chwinga for 10gp" or "stop the human sacrifices in this (perhaps YOUR) town", which quest will the players be more likely to pursue?

I think the difference of opinion in this thread is that some folks would described that as "a few scenes need to be filled in" (like the DM just has to perform a little expected touch-up work there) while for others it feels like "this is a pretty glaring oversight that potentially puts the DM in a rough spot - and the designers should have seen that."

EDIT: Again, I want to emphasize that this is actually among my very favorite 5E adventures. I actually love Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. But it does bother me seeing people try to pin its obvious flaws on DMs instead of the designer (and I know you, @FrozenNorth , are not doing that).

It has flaws. They're real. Personally, I kind of enjoyed fixing them and coming up with what I thought was some cool stuff to patch the holes. But that doesn't mean every DM should be expected to do that.
 
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Not to beat a dead horse, but to me, this problem is principally due to alignment.
And quite possibly the reason it didn't trouble me is I don't pay any attention to alignment. I think moral ambiguity is an important theme in Rime, if you try to make it black and white it doesn't really work.
 

For many groups, learning about the sacrifices is going to be one of the first things that happens in session one of the campaign - probably in the first few minutes of session one. And it's a narrative dead-end. It basically amounts to a piece of background atmosphere - but many, many players will assume that "stopping these human sacrifices" is like one of the main plot hooks they should investigate. When confronted with "Find me a chwinga for 10gp" or "stop the human sacrifices in this (perhaps YOUR) town", which quest will the players be more likely to pursue?
I think this overstates the issue somewhat. The way you solve the human sacrifice issue is to bring back spring. Yes, I want the party energized about this. They should want Auril dead!

That said, I changed the chwinga quest in my version. In mine, the next sacrifice (who is terminally ill and OK with dying for the greater good) wants to see a chwinga before she dies, making the chwinga more of an errand of mercy.

EDIT: Again, I want to emphasize that this is actually among my very favorite 5E adventures. I actually love Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. But it does bother me seeing people try to pin its obvious flaws on DMs instead of the designer (and I know you, @FrozenNorth , are not doing that).
Thank you for recognizing that.
It has flaws. They're real. Personally, I kind of enjoyed fixing them and coming up with what I thought was some cool stuff to patch the holes. But that doesn't mean every DM should be expected to do that.
In that vein, in my version, the lost wagon adventure was explicitly food received from dwarves (whose underground mushroom farms are somewhat less impacted by the everlasting winter), thus making it even more important to recover.
 



Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
I think this overstates the issue somewhat. The way you solve the human sacrifice issue is to bring back spring. Yes, I want the party energized about this. They should want Auril dead!

Conveying that to the players can be awkward though. They can very easily assume it's a matter closer to home - like, "We need to get the Speakers to stop doing this evil thing". It can potentially be hard to convey in-game that the characters are barking up the wrong tree. I can easily see inexperienced DMs having to say, "Uh, folks, the adventure really doesn't anticipate you trying to convince the Speakers to stop the sacrifices and, um, I'm not sure who is even in charge of them or how they work or whose idea they were. So please stop trying to do that."
I think this overstates the issue somewhat. The way you solve the human sacrifice issue is to bring back spring. Yes, I want the party energized about this. They should want Auril dead!

That said, I changed the chwinga quest in my version. In mine, the next sacrifice (who is terminally ill and OK with dying for the greater good) wants to see a chwinga before she dies, making the chwinga more of an errand of mercy.

In that vein, in my version, the lost wagon adventure was explicitly food received from dwarves (whose underground mushroom farms are somewhat less impacted by the everlasting winter), thus making it even more important to recover.
These are both GREAT ideas. In my campaign, I conflated the Macreadus character with the chwinga druid character, and had that character hire the party to find a chwinga because chwinga magic was necessary to create the summer star, which could potentially end Auril's Winter. When the chwinga was found, the NPC departed to the Black Cabin to complete the Summer Star and told the party to meet there in a week.
 
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Retreater

Legend
Conveying that to the players can be awkward though. They can very easily assume it's a matter closer to home - like, "We need to get the Speakers to stop doing this evil thing". It can potentially be hard to convey in-game that the characters are barking up the wrong tree. I can easily see inexperienced DMs having to say, "Uh, folks, the adventure really doesn't anticipate you trying to convince the Speakers to stop the sacrifices and, um, I'm not sure who is even in charge of them or how they work or whose idea they were. So please stop trying to do that."
Yes. So my take is that if you're going to have something as obviously disturbing as human sacrifice in an adventure: 1. the plot should be detailed enough to give the party a chance to stop it; or 2. the adventure should specifically say "this isn't addressed further, and DMs should remove it from the campaign or be prepared to expand it to a satisfactory conclusion."
Do most DMs of Wizards adventures have 30+ years of DMing experience? Do they write their adventures for seasoned DMs who are going to plan and prep down to like two sentences in a paragraph?
When we were given blanks in the 1980s, they were parts of 32 page adventures. You knew what you were allowed to (and expected to) expand. In today's era of 200+ page adventure books, this is harder to determine.
Again, to reiterate, if you are a writer and you put in human sacrifice taking place in a starting village, being condoned and implemented by the good-aligned officials of the town, you had better be prepared to address it IN DEPTH in your adventure. Other than the endless winter that's unstoppable by 1st level characters (and isn't really addressed until midway through the adventure), it's the most concerning issue in the Ten Towns.
You're going to go looking for a phantom deer while towns are sacrificing people? You're going to go collecting nature spirits, while the towns are sacrificing people? You're going to go after stolen iron, while the towns are sacrificing people?
 

I conflated the Macreadus character with the chwinga druid character, and had that character hire the party to find a chwinga because chwinga magic was necessary to create the summer star, which could potentially end Auril's Winter.
I did something similar, giving the chwinga quest to Mishann (Bryn Shander cleric), who the party had to visit in order to reverse being aged by a ghost. The relationship between her, Copper and Macreadus was... complicated.
 

Again, to reiterate, if you are a writer and you put in human sacrifice taking place in a starting village, being condoned and implemented by the good-aligned officials of the town, you had better be prepared to address it IN DEPTH in your adventure. Other than the endless winter that's unstoppable by 1st level characters (and isn't really addressed until midway through the adventure), it's the most concerning issue in the Ten Towns.
You're going to go looking for a phantom deer while towns are sacrificing people? You're going to go collecting nature spirits, while the towns are sacrificing people? You're going to go after stolen iron, while the towns are sacrificing people?
And this is you imposing your own values, which clearly are different to the author's values. Nothing wrong with that, I have the same thing with Dragonlance. I presented the sacrifices as just something that was happening, and my players accepted it (along with townsfolk warming their hands on burning wizards). People don't all have the same values and priorities.

The shock horror you clearly feel at the suggestion of human sacrifice isn't a reaction shared by everyone.
 
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Conveying that to the players can be awkward though. They can very easily assume it's a matter closer to home - like, "We need to get the Speakers to stop doing this evil thing". It can potentially be hard to convey in-game that the characters are barking up the wrong tree. I can easily see inexperienced DMs having to say, "Uh, folks, the adventure really doesn't anticipate you trying to convince the Speakers to stop the sacrifices and, um, I'm not sure who is even in charge of them or how they work or whose idea they were. So please stop trying to do that."
I think this is very much YMMV situation. In this particular case, the people who are involved in the sacrifices aren’t automatically hostile to the PCs and are present to give their reasons. I could see a DM that has trouble understanding the justification also having trouble explaining it, but at the end of the day, the problem is that there isn’t a whole lot the PCs can DO about it, short of killing a bunch of desperate people.

Not being able to solve every adventure hook immediately isn’t really a bug in my book.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
I think this is very much YMMV situation. In this particular case, the people who are involved in the sacrifices aren’t automatically hostile to the PCs and are present to give their reasons. I could see a DM that has trouble understanding the justification also having trouble explaining it, but at the end of the day, the problem is that there isn’t a whole lot the PCs can DO about it, short of killing a bunch of desperate people.

Not being able to solve every adventure hook immediately isn’t really a bug in my book.

But even, like, "Specifically whose idea was this"? I feel like this is just a basic piece factual information the adventure could have easily supplied that would go a long way towards throwing the DM a bone here.
 

But even, like, "Specifically whose idea was this"? I feel like this is just a basic piece factual piece of information the adventure could have easily supplied that would go a long way towards throwing the DM a bone here.
This is a world where gods are not only objectively real, but can and do walk into your living room with a list of demands. It's fairly obvious where the idea came from.

If you need any more hints there is a divine servant hunting down and killing cheats.
 

Retreater

Legend
The shock horror you clearly feel at the suggestion of human sacrifice isn't a reaction shared by everyone.
I mean, is it illogical to find random human sacrifice an abhorrent idea that should be stopped by heroic characters?
We're talking ritualistic murder.
How in the world is this acceptable among the posters on here?
 

Irlo

Hero
I mean, is it illogical to find random human sacrifice an abhorrent idea that should be stopped by heroic characters?
We're talking ritualistic murder.
How in the world is this acceptable among the posters on here?
Ritualistic murder, coerced by an evil ice god who has the entire region trapped in an unending wintery night, performed by a dwindling, starving populace, devoid of hope, knowing that, if it is not done, everyone they know and love dies.

No poster here finds it acceptable. But it makes sense in the fiction.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I mean, is it illogical to find random human sacrifice an abhorrent idea that should be stopped by heroic characters?
We're talking ritualistic murder.
How in the world is this acceptable among the posters on here?
Stopping it? Sure.
But the question is finding out why it's happening and getting at the root cause rather than going apeshit on the desperate people who are forced into such desperate measures.
 

Retreater

Legend
Ritualistic murder, coerced by an evil ice god who has the entire region trapped in an unending wintery night, performed by a dwindling, starving populace, devoid of hope, knowing that, if it is not done, everyone they know and love dies.

No poster here finds it acceptable. But it makes sense in the fiction.
The terrible thing about it is that Auril is not coercing anybody - not according to the adventure that I can find anyway. It's not said that her agents (or she herself) is requesting it. It's just happening, apparently for no reason. It isn't proven to be effective. It's completely random. It is even rumored to be rigged.
This is an evil institution.
 

Irlo

Hero
Party huddles together. "Yeah, this guy is clearly insane or evil. Either way he needs to be disposed from power immediately!"
KILL THE MAYOR!!!!
That could lead to a great interaction with the mayor. The PCs confront the mayor, preparing for execution, and the mayor accepts their judgement but pleads for them to wait until the new moon, so that his life can at least be spent to stay the goddesses’ cold wrath for another month.
 

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