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

We go to the Duergar stronghold and saw the Dragon leave to ravage the Ten Towns. We figured we could get inside and call it back.... yeah you cant do that. So by the time we got out of there Ten Towns was like Five Towns.

Of course how are we supposed to fight a dragon? So we held up at the final town and rallied the troops and fought it.

Long story short, Ten Towns was now One Town.

Oops? Apparently as soon as the Dragon was out and about we should have gone and fought it. I felt we were to weak to fight a Dragon and the obvious choice was to recall it and if forced to fight it do it with a lot of NPCs.

Honestly had I been DMing it I think I would have added a "recall device" in the Duergar stronghold and had us fight it there...
 
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Werehamster

Villager
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.
Have you explored the non-WoTC content much? GM's Guild etc come to mind. There are some very highly acclaimed creators on there among other resources. Just curious if you've had any luck with those and your personal preferences.
 

MarkB

Legend
We go to the Duergar stronghold and saw the Dragon leave to ravage the Ten Towns. We figured we could get inside and call it back.... yeah you cant do that. So by the time we got out of there Ten Towns was like Five Towns.

Of course how are we supposed to fight a dragon? So we held up at the final town and rallied the troops and fought it.

Long story short, Ten Towns was now One Town.

Oops? Apparently as soon as the Dragon was out and about we should have gone and fought it. I felt we were to weak to fit a Dragon and the obvious choice was to recall it and if forced to fight it do it with a lot of NPCs.

Honestly had I been DMing it I think I would have added a "recall device" in the Duergar stronghold and had us fight it there...
No, you're expected to still go into the fortress. The dragon has enough of a head start that even if you pursue it immediately, your changes of intercepting it before it's hit several towns are minimal.

The main thing you get from the fort is its flightpath. That lets you know where you can get to in order to make your stand.
 

lluewhyn

Explorer
No, you're expected to still go into the fortress. The dragon has enough of a head start that even if you pursue it immediately, your changes of intercepting it before it's hit several towns are minimal.

The main thing you get from the fort is its flightpath. That lets you know where you can get to in order to make your stand.
That would make logical sense and is basically how I'm intending to run it, but I think that answer is technically wrong as far as how it's written since the adventure really tries to sell it as you can do Option A OR Option B, because the "PCs have to see that their choices have consequences". While it does allow you to do the fort first, the end result is that there will be a lot more destruction as written due to lost time.

Even though Option A makes no sense for the information that the PCs have at the time.
DM: "So, let me make sure I have this straight. You're going to turn around abruptly from your goal to chase after a creature that not only can travel at least six times faster than you, can fly in a straight line as opposed to having to follow along twisty paths, and also doesn't have to worry about the blizzards and avalanches you've regularly encountered in your travels. You don't know where it's going or what it's going to do, nor even what it is other than it looks like a dragon. You don't know how powerful it is or whether you can beat it, and odds are that since the various towns can raise dozens to hundreds of their residents as trained militia you deciding to confront it probably won't sway the needle either way if it attacks a town."
Players: "I guess"
DM:........."You have made the correct choice."

And this is why I'm going to change how this section plays out.
 
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MarkB

Legend
That would make logical sense and is basically how I'm intending to run it, but I think that answer is technically wrong as far as how it's written since the adventure really tries to sell it as you can do Option A OR Option B, because the "PCs have to see that their choices have consequences". While it does allow you to do the fort first, the end result is that there will be a lot more destruction as written due to lost time.

Even though Option A makes no sense for the information that the PCs have at the time.
DM: "So, let me make sure I have this straight. You're going to turn around abruptly from your goal to chase after a creature that not only can travel at least six times faster than you, can fly in a straight line as opposed to having to follow along twisty paths, and also doesn't have to worry about the blizzards and avalanches you've regularly encountered in your travels. You don't know where it's going or what it's going to do, nor even what it is other than it looks like a dragon. You don't know how powerful it is or whether you can beat it, and odds are that since the various towns can raise dozens to hundreds of their residents as trained militia you're deciding to confront it probably won't sway the needle either way if it attacks a town."
Players: "I guess"
DM:........."You have made the correct choice.

And this is why I'm going to change how this section plays out.
Good move. It is a rather awkward story beat.
 

That would make logical sense and is basically how I'm intending to run it, but I think that answer is technically wrong as far as how it's written since the adventure really tries to sell it as you can do Option A OR Option B, because the "PCs have to see that their choices have consequences". While it does allow you to do the fort first, the end result is that there will be a lot more destruction as written due to lost time.

Even though Option A makes no sense for the information that the PCs have at the time.
DM: "So, let me make sure I have this straight. You're going to turn around abruptly from your goal to chase after a creature that not only can travel at least six times faster than you, can fly in a straight line as opposed to having to follow along twisty paths, and also doesn't have to worry about the blizzards and avalanches you've regularly encountered in your travels. You don't know where it's going or what it's going to do, nor even what it is other than it looks like a dragon. You don't know how powerful it is or whether you can beat it, and odds are that since the various towns can raise dozens to hundreds of their residents as trained militia you're deciding to confront it probably won't sway the needle either way if it attacks a town."
Players: "I guess"
DM:........."You have made the correct choice.

And this is why I'm going to change how this section plays out.
Yeah this is pretty much it.

"We can't fight it, must be a way to call it back."

Really at no point did I feel like we were supposed to fight it alone, until we pretty much had no other option.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
That would make logical sense and is basically how I'm intending to run it, but I think that answer is technically wrong as far as how it's written since the adventure really tries to sell it as you can do Option A OR Option B, because the "PCs have to see that their choices have consequences". While it does allow you to do the fort first, the end result is that there will be a lot more destruction as written due to lost time.

Even though Option A makes no sense for the information that the PCs have at the time.
DM: "So, let me make sure I have this straight. You're going to turn around abruptly from your goal to chase after a creature that not only can travel at least six times faster than you, can fly in a straight line as opposed to having to follow along twisty paths, and also doesn't have to worry about the blizzards and avalanches you've regularly encountered in your travels. You don't know where it's going or what it's going to do, nor even what it is other than it looks like a dragon. You don't know how powerful it is or whether you can beat it, and odds are that since the various towns can raise dozens to hundreds of their residents as trained militia you're deciding to confront it probably won't sway the needle either way if it attacks a town."
Players: "I guess"
DM:........."You have made the correct choice.

And this is why I'm going to change how this section plays out.

It's even worse than that.

Based on the travel times laid out in the book, it's literally impossible for the adventurers to save ANY towns except for Bryn Shander, and that's only if they head directly there as soon as they see the dragon fly out. This is contrary to the adventure text, which says that if they head to Bryn Shander first "they will be playing into Xardarok's hands" - false; it's the only way to save any town.

There is a serious lack of editorial oversight going on. The editor should have looked at chapters three and four, looked at the travel times laid out in the opening section of the book, and noticed there was a problem. Furthermore, the attempt to offer the players a dramatic, meaningful choice with consequences fails because the players are not armed with the information they need in order to make that choice. Ideally, the stakes and consequences of the dramatic choice should be clear, and there should be positives and negatives to weigh for both options. Instead, pursuing the dragon immediately is objectively the right choice - there are no negative consequences for doing so, since apparently Xardarok & Co will just sit around in Sunblight waiting for the adventurers to come and kill them. The only "drama" is that the players have to make an ill-informed choice (which really is neither dramatic nor meaningful - they're basically just being ambushed by circumstance).

I suspect that in an early draft, the travel time problems may have been mitigated by Vellyne Harpell having sleds pulled by undead dogs that didn't need to rest, but in play-testing the undead dogs were scrapped because too many players decided that undead dogs = evil NPC, and the adventure really wants them to ally with Harpell. However, no alternative means of fast travelling back to the towns was then substituted, automatically dooming 9/10 towns no matter what the players do, and rendering nonsensical text like "they can stop the dragon before too many towns are destroyed" (how many is "too many", incidentally?) and "playing into Xardarok's hands" by going to Bryn Shander.

So DMs are left to fix this in various ways - some by fixing the travel times to speed up the players or slow down the dragon, some by keeping the dragon in Sunblight until the players reach the forge. Personally, I just had the dragon attack the Ten Towns while the players were IN the Ten Towns - they damaged the dragon in Easthaven after Dougan's Hole and Goodmead were torched, driving it back to Sunblight. Pursuing the dragon back to Sunblight gave them a strong motive to actually go there, as players can otherwise put that off forever since on the face of it Sunblight doesn't look any more or less urgent that any other sidequest, and indeed as written is narratively inert until the players visit it.

My solution had the adventurers fighting Xardarok AND his dragon in the forge, which was a great fight. Yes, they didn't get to make the "dramatic choice" at the beginning of Chapter 3, but that choice is so poorly implemented that you can cut it and nothing of value is lost.

A much better dramatic choice, which the adventure doesn't really touch, is whether or not to stop the human sacrifices. Human sacrifices are bad, but the Sephek Kaltro situation suggests that screwing with them can cause Auril to retaliate. So the question of whether or not to try to stop them is an interesting one for the players, because arguably until the Rime is lifted, the sacrifices are a necessary evil. The adventure is no help in this area though, since it includes zero info about whose idea the sacrifices were in the first place, and who is in charge of them.
 

lluewhyn

Explorer
There is a serious lack of editorial oversight going on. The editor should have looked at chapters three and four, looked at the travel times laid out in the opening section of the book, and noticed there was a problem. Furthermore, the attempt to offer the players a dramatic, meaningful choice with consequences fails because the players are not armed with the information they need in order to make that choice. Ideally, the stakes and consequences of the dramatic choice should be clear, and there should be positives and negatives to weigh for both options.

I think there are just times when the writer (Chris Perkins?) just gets all hyped up about doing some ultra-dramatic thing with consequences for the PCs (oftentimes with railroading) that they're more concerned with pulling off the edgy moment that good storytelling drops by the wayside.

Writer: The Ten-Towns were all destroyed by the dragon because of the choice you made.
PCs: You realize that none of the information presented made chasing the dragon a logical choice?
Writer: I'm sorry, I can't hear you because I'm too busy laughing at the fact that your choices had consequences.

Just like later in the adventure when they are presented with Auril's challenge and any attempt to progress forward through alternative means automatically fails by writer fiat, with the added kicker that any resources used are lost as well (because the writer is pouty, and you WILL face a moral dilemma dangit).

In Curse of Strahd, there's the part where you have a chance to save Ireena and free her from Strahd but the adventure goes out of its way to trick the PCs into making the "wrong" choice, and then rubs it in their faces because now Ireena is doomed forever. Doomed!

In Dragon Heist, there's the explicit text that if the PCs ever get smart and come up with a solution to acquire the macguffin in a way not written, it mind-controls them and forces them to drop it so they can get back on the railroad tracks.

Essentially, whenever some parts of these adventures start taking a more gleeful, snickering and/or railroading approach to forcing the PCs to suffer consequences for some of their "choices", I tend to look at these passages rather cautiously.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
I'm running Dragon Heist now. I can't wait for it to be over.

For the record, I LOVE Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. One of my very favorite 5E adventures. It has glaring "how did it go to print like this" problems, but they are very fixable and the good stuff in the adventure is very much worth the effort imo.

Dragon Heist is like not even worth fixing. Just don't run it.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I'm running Dragon Heist now. I can't wait for it to be over.

For the record, I LOVE Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. One of my very favorite 5E adventures. It has glaring "how did it go to print like this" problems, but they are very fixable and the good stuff in the adventure is very much worth the effort imo.

Dragon Heist is like not even worth fixing. Just don't run it.

I agree. Some people, with a huge amount of work, apparently made it work for them, but for us it was really a horrible adventure, total railroading and not interesting at all, a large part wasted by "replayability" (stupid concept honestly).
 

lluewhyn

Explorer
I agree. Some people, with a huge amount of work, apparently made it work for them, but for us it was really a horrible adventure, total railroading and not interesting at all, a large part wasted by "replayability" (stupid concept honestly).
I hate, hate, hated running Dragon Heist and severely cut it short. Icewind Dale has some major problems, but for the most party they're easily fixable ones. Change a couple of story elements, ignore the quests you have the most issues with, and use the quests/encounters you like pretty much as is, add some foreshadowing and some rumors/leads to other plots, you're good. In general, coming up with some extra information/lore/rumors/etc. for the PCs will make the adventure shine a lot better.

Dragon Heist, on the other hand, absolutely will not work with giving the PCs additional information because the way it is written it spoon feeds the barest minimum of information to the PCs to get from Encounter 1 to Encounter 2 to 3,etc. (in a straight line) with usually only one given way to progress, and actively considers it to be "cheating" if the PCs try to think intelligently and actually get to their end goal any quicker. To fix the issues, I would basically have to rewrite a lot of the encounters entirely.

Ironically enough, even though it doesn't make any claim to replayability, I think IWD has a lot more potential for replayability for the same group of PCs than Dragon Heist. You'd probably have to tweak the second half of the adventure to mix things up, but PCs could do completely different quests from levels 1 to 6 or so.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Dragon Heist, on the other hand, absolutely will not work with giving the PCs additional information because the way it is written it spoon feeds the barest minimum of information to the PCs to get from Encounter 1 to Encounter 2 to 3,etc. (in a straight line) with usually only one given way to progress, and actively considers it to be "cheating" if the PCs try to think intelligently and actually get to their end goal any quicker. To fix the issues, I would basically have to rewrite a lot of the encounters entirely.

And on top of that, even if the PCs do things that go beyond what is expected, it's retconned for the next encounter because god forbid the players interfering with the holy plot. I was hoping for a nice heist / investigation in a city adventure - the type that I prefer - but I was really sorely disappointed.
 

Retreater

Legend
I'm running Dragon Heist now. I can't wait for it to be over.

Dragon Heist is like not even worth fixing. Just don't run it.

I agree. Some people, with a huge amount of work, apparently made it work for them, but for us it was really a horrible adventure, total railroading and not interesting at all, a large part wasted by "replayability" (stupid concept honestly).
My disastrous run of Dragon Heist was before I started doing Post-Mortems for my campaigns. Though I'm now tempted to start a Post-Post-Mortem thread for it.
 

TheSword

Legend
I think you’re being very harsh on Dragon Heist. It’s a glorious city based adventure with cool locations, villains and encounters.

It has one railroady chapter - 4: Dragon Season. Which is supposed to be fun as a very fast chase. It doesn’t work though, and I agree that having the same locations reprinted 4 times is a poor gimmick.

The other chapters are great though and have enough stuff to keep you going for many campaigns over. The sheer amount of stuff packed into it is huge for a slim book.
 

pukunui

Legend
I feel your pain on this. Virtually every module I've read by WotC tends to have poor writing in one way or another which requires the DM to have to put in extra work. Oddly enough, Lost Mines of Phandelver, the very first module released for 5E, is the best written one where a DM can pretty much run it straight out of the box. I'm not sure of the cause, but my guess is that there are so many different people writing different parts of the adventures without enough oversight to make sure things are internally consistent which leads to a "too many cooks in the kitchen" feel.
That’s one factor. I think another is that WotC is trying to have their cake (story-based play for shared experiences) and eat it too (provide cut/paste adventure locations for all the homebrewers out there).

So with RotF, they want to tell a story, but they also want to provide a setting with a whole bunch of small adventure locations that homebrewers can cut out and add to their own campaigns. In this case, they also want to make it so people can use the book to run their own campaigns in Icewind Dale without using the main plot.

It’s an admirable goal, but I don’t think WotC always gets it right. Sometimes the story ends up being paper-thin. Other times it’s too heavy-handed, making it more difficult to cut/paste.

I suspect the reason a lot of Rime’s text doesn’t take the low visibility into account - and the fact that people still seem to be living more or less normally despite supposedly having no sun for two years - is because they wanted to make it easier for people to use the content without using the plot.

What you’ve basically got with Rime is a simplified Icewind Dale sandbox campaign setting with a thin veneer of plot laid on top of it.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I think you’re being very harsh on Dragon Heist. It’s a glorious city based adventure with cool locations, villains and encounters.

Honestly, it's good that you found it that way, but it did not feel like that at all for us. Maybe my expectations were too high, but the NPCs in particular felt wrong, all these high level NPCs dealing with imcompetent adventurers, etc.

It has one railroady chapter - 4: Dragon Season. Which is supposed to be fun as a very fast chase. It doesn’t work though, and I agree that having the same locations reprinted 4 times is a poor gimmick.

Calling it "just one chapter" is very misleading. In term of pages, it's more than half the pages of adventures, since chapters 5/6/7/8 are just the endings for various villains, and chapters 1-3 are very short. It's also really the core of the adventure and incredibly frustrating if played as written, basically it's automatic movement through 10 locations with what you do there not mattering at all except if you fail.

The other chapters are great though and have enough stuff to keep you going for many campaigns over. The sheer amount of stuff packed into it is huge for a slim book.

There are a few funny things here and there, but honestly, but I never felt really engaged by the introduction either. Some DMs have apparently made it much better, but it's also probably a question of choosing the right villain. I think the Cassalanters are supposed to be the best, we had Jarlaxle and it was really not interesting, we could not understand what was the point of adversaries who were infinitely better than us and undercut us at every turn whatever we did.

In any case, the principle of the book is stupid: why have 4 different stories and villains ? The replayability is nil anyway with the same group, and as a DM of a campaign, the replayability really should depend on the players and their actions. Here, so much time is wasted with things that will never be played twice, and even less four times...
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
That’s one factor. I think another is that WotC is trying to have their cake (story-based play for shared experiences) and eat it too (provide cut/paste adventure locations for all the homebrewers out there).

So with RotF, they want to tell a story, but they also want to provide a setting with a whole bunch of small adventure locations that homebrewers can cut out and add to their own campaigns.

It’s an admirable goal, but I don’t think WotC always gets it right. Sometimes the story ends up being paper-thin. Other times it’s too heavy-handed, making it more difficult to cut/paste.

I think the main problem of WotC, and you feel it in every publication, is that they are trying to please a huge customer base that they don't really know that well. In the previous editions, when the game was much more confidential, it was a bit easier to create supplements, it was geek producing for geeks. But now that the game has exploded, I think that WotC don't even understand all the reasons for their success, and it's very hard to try and please everyone, especially if you don't know them that well.

As a consequence, the only adventures that people really praise are the low level ones, since there are fine for introduction for any group, and simple enough that mistakes are not made. CoS is a notable exception, but honestly I think it's just Ravenloft fans pushing it because I don't like Ravenloft and I find the whole adventure hanging on a paradigm that I can't work with, namely heroes supposedly being afraid all the time.

After that, the thing is that, if you read forums, there is a big push towards open-ended adventures, more sandboxy. Look at video games, most of them boast of a "vast, open world". And I think that this is what WotC has been trying to do in a number of publications, with more or less success, because it's damn hard to do and to describe. So much relies on the players and the DM, and in particular on the DM adjusting things to the path that the adventurers take, so that it's neither too easy or too hard.

For me, it's impossible to create a sandbox adventure that will work as written whatever path the adventurers take. I'm not saying that they did a poor job of it in RotFM, but I suspect that it's one of the reason for most of the negative comments. If you want to run a sandbox, you'd better be prepared to do a lot of work on top of what is written, it's as simple as that.

Moreover, it's a dangerous thing to do, because experienced players can become lost in a sandbox, and not enjoy the experience. The best known example is the sandbox part of SKT, we had a very experienced group who was suddenly lost and sort of ressented not at least having a few goals to chase. Same in my Avernus campaign, it took the very experienced group a while to understand that they could do whatever they wanted, could invent their own goals and ways to succeed. In the end, they are having a blast, directing whole armies in the blood war, but it took them a while.

So RotFM is just in the middle there, trying to please both sandbox lovers and people who would like more guidance, and sort of failing at both in the end. I think they should just accept that some modules should be designed with only part of their audience in mind rather than pleasing everyone, maybe with a few guiding scores on the cover like a 1-10 on a "linear / sandbox" scale, and warning that the more sandboxy, the more experience and work will be required from the DM...
 

TheSword

Legend
I think the main problem of WotC, and you feel it in every publication, is that they are trying to please a huge customer base that they don't really know that well. In the previous editions, when the game was much more confidential, it was a bit easier to create supplements, it was geek producing for geeks. But now that the game has exploded, I think that WotC don't even understand all the reasons for their success, and it's very hard to try and please everyone, especially if you don't know them that well.

As a consequence, the only adventures that people really praise are the low level ones, since there are fine for introduction for any group, and simple enough that mistakes are not made. CoS is a notable exception, but honestly I think it's just Ravenloft fans pushing it because I don't like Ravenloft and I find the whole adventure hanging on a paradigm that I can't work with, namely heroes supposedly being afraid all the time.

After that, the thing is that, if you read forums, there is a big push towards open-ended adventures, more sandboxy. Look at video games, most of them boast of a "vast, open world". And I think that this is what WotC has been trying to do in a number of publications, with more or less success, because it's damn hard to do and to describe. So much relies on the players and the DM, and in particular on the DM adjusting things to the path that the adventurers take, so that it's neither too easy or too hard.

For me, it's impossible to create a sandbox adventure that will work as written whatever path the adventurers take. I'm not saying that they did a poor job of it in RotFM, but I suspect that it's one of the reason for most of the negative comments. If you want to run a sandbox, you'd better be prepared to do a lot of work on top of what is written, it's as simple as that.

Moreover, it's a dangerous thing to do, because experienced players can become lost in a sandbox, and not enjoy the experience. The best known example is the sandbox part of SKT, we had a very experienced group who was suddenly lost and sort of ressented not at least having a few goals to chase. Same in my Avernus campaign, it took the very experienced group a while to understand that they could do whatever they wanted, could invent their own goals and ways to succeed. In the end, they are having a blast, directing whole armies in the blood war, but it took them a while.

So RotFM is just in the middle there, trying to please both sandbox lovers and people who would like more guidance, and sort of failing at both in the end. I think they should just accept that some modules should be designed with only part of their audience in mind rather than pleasing everyone, maybe with a few guiding scores on the cover like a 1-10 on a "linear / sandbox" scale, and warning that the more sandboxy, the more experience and work will be required from the DM...
Or they are actually pleasing huge numbers of people, just not a few vocal forum posters.

For the record Tomb of Annihilation was very well received and is often described as up there with Curse of Strahd.
 


Lyxen

Great Old One
Or they are actually pleasing huge numbers of people, just not a few vocal forum posters.

It seems like they are for sure, not sure how much is surfing on the wave and what is real quality, that's all. And it's not just forum posters, it's also reviewers in general.

For the record Tomb of Annihilation was very well received and is often described as up there with Curse of Strahd.

I have run Tomb of Annihilation, and it worked very well, especially the city at start after some enhancement, and the Tomb was very well done. My group liked the hex crawling, but not more than that, some locations were really good, others less so, but again it's after a fair bit of enhancement, so...
 

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