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

TheSword

Legend
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.



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.



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...
"Just endings for various villains"? Theyre the the main adventure locations for four powerful villainous organisations, each fully detailed and stocked, very various hooks for involving them in a waterdeep based campaign.

Half the adventure? Thats one interpretation I guess. Its 29 pages out of a 169 pages of adventure (yes I do count the villain lairs as part of the adventure). Even then, within those 29 pages you still get 10 city based locations and four different approaches to dealing with them.

IF you aproach it like a typical adventure with PC's clearing dungeons and killing everything in sight then yes the NPCs arent going to work. However if you see it as high level NPCs that are powerful enough not to have to kill everything and can actually work with the PCs or involve them in their plots/play different power groups off against each other then they work fine. Manshoon should not be having a one on one fight with the PCs.

Dragon Heist is not a novice adventurers campaign. It can set up a very rewarding Dungeon of the Mad Mage campaign where elements can be used over again and again. Its anything but a railroad though.
 

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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.



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...
I haven't run ToA, but one of the reasons I haven't is I felt it had a lot more gaps in need of filling in than RotFM.

My issue with CoS is different: the plot elements are all so familiar that it's impossible to stop it turning into a parody (Carry on Screaming/Abbot and Costello meet Dracula).
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
"Just endings for various villains"? Theyre the the main adventure locations for four powerful villainous organisations, each fully detailed and stocked, very various hooks for involving them in a waterdeep based campaign.

And it's what 15 pages each ?

Half the adventure? Thats one interpretation I guess. Its 29 pages out of a 169 pages of adventure (yes I do count the villain lairs as part of the adventure). Even then, within those 29 pages you still get 10 city based locations and four different approaches to dealing with them.

No, chapter 4 runs from 57 to 100. It's by far the largest in the book.

IF you aproach it like a typical adventure with PC's clearing dungeons and killing everything in sight then yes the NPCs arent going to work.

And if you approach them as described in the book I fail to see how adventurers at level 1-4 are going to bother movers and shakers of Waterdeep. Why does Jarlaxle even bother with the PCs, why does he stabilise their wounds ? It's just ridiculous.

However if you see it as high level NPCs that are powerful enough not to have to kill everything and can actually work with the PCs or involve them in their plots/play different power groups off against each other then they work fine. Manshoon should not be having a one on one fight with the PCs.

And considering his alignement, small pawns as these should be just worth entertain him with their dying, they have zero value.

Dragon Heist is not a novice adventurers campaign. It can set up a very rewarding Dungeon of the Mad Mage campaign where elements can be used over again and again. Its anything but a railroad though.

It's EXACTLY a railroad. Chapters are absolutely in mandatory order, and the 10 encounters of chapter 4 are exactly the same. And no matter what you do in one encounter, the next one will proceed exactly as planned. It's the perfect definition of ignoring everything that the adventurers do. Not to mention the fact that, on some encounters, the PCs are not even able to do anything. Let's look at the rooftop chase, can you please tell me what you expect a 3rd level party to do when chasing 2 drow gunslingers CR 4 across rooftops, when they start 40 feet ahead ? Nothing. It's not even using the chase rules. We played it as written, could not even scratch them no chance to catch up or anything, and in any case, it's not intended that they should be caught, otherwise the whole story breaks down. I don't think I've ever seen a module with that much "players do what you want, it does not matter the plot will go ahead as planned".
 


Lyxen

Great Old One
Reach spell Hideous Laughter.

If there is a way to break the plot...

It won't. Range 30 ft, so forget it if you don't have initiative (they have 18 dex), then it needs to fail its save, and these are drows... Clearly, the drows are not intended to be caught, and it's not even set up as a chase.
 

It won't. Range 30 ft, so forget it if you don't have initiative (they have 18 dex), then it needs to fail its save, and these are drows... Clearly, the drows are not intended to be caught, and it's not even set up as a chase.
Invisible Imp familiar tails them back to their base where the players later ambush them.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Invisible Imp familiar tails them back to their base where the players later ambush them.

The thing is that, as written, the chase has two possible consequences, keep up with the drows by everyone using dash, or lose them, and make enquiries in the street to find them again. The characters are not even supposed to catch them, at best follow them, so they can either fail to catch them or fail harder by losing them and having to find them again, which is more or less automatic, they just have to question folk along the way.

And then, wait for it, when they catch up, whether it's after following or losing time along the street, WHATEVER HAPPENS, the drows are still there waiting for a apparatus of kwalish to take them. So, basically, and as usual for the whole chapter, whether the adventurer fail or fail worse, it does not matter. Nothing the PCs do matter, and for me this is the worst possible design for an adventure which is supposed to be centered around the characters.
 

The thing is that, as written, the chase has two possible consequences, keep up with the drows by everyone using dash, or lose them, and make enquiries in the street to find them again. The characters are not even supposed to catch them, at best follow them, so they can either fail to catch them or fail harder by losing them and having to find them again, which is more or less automatic, they just have to question folk along the way.

And then, wait for it, when they catch up, whether it's after following or losing time along the street, WHATEVER HAPPENS, the drows are still there waiting for a apparatus of kwalish to take them. So, basically, and as usual for the whole chapter, whether the adventurer fail or fail worse, it does not matter. Nothing the PCs do matter, and for me this is the worst possible design for an adventure which is supposed to be centered around the characters.
I think some of this comes about simply as a result of writing it down. When I create my own content I wouldn't write this, I might think it when I'm planning, but tend to only commit crunch details to paper. A number of the criticisms levelled at RotFM are about the author not writing down how they expect the encounter to work. And I think this was deliberately omitted to try and avert the type of railroading you are describing.

Edit: As a complete aside, have you ever played Pillars of Eternity 2? what you have just described sounds like the whole main story arc. You chase someone at whatever pace you like, only to show up just in time to have no effect on what happens.
 
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lluewhyn

Explorer
It's EXACTLY a railroad. Chapters are absolutely in mandatory order, and the 10 encounters of chapter 4 are exactly the same. And no matter what you do in one encounter, the next one will proceed exactly as planned. It's the perfect definition of ignoring everything that the adventurers do.
I think there are also a couple of definitions of railroad to use here, and only Chapter 2 doesn't qualify. Chapter 1 is a light kind of railroad, where there's a specific sequence of events that has to occur in order, and although there's nothing really stopping the PCs from trying alternate things to do, those things won't help the PCs progress further to their goals. When Volo tells the PCs to go to the tavern where he and Floon were getting drunk, the PCs could choose to do other things I suppose, but there aren't a lot of options they could come up with that would help them any better than following the obvious clue. Maybe finding a caster capable of casting Locate Creature and then combing the city for weeks trying to find Floon that way? Every encounter in Chapter 1 leads logically to the next encounter. This isn't the infuriating kind of railroading, mostly boring since the PC choices come up to "Follow obvious clue" or "Do Nothing". Granted, every published adventure is going to have this kind of railroading to SOME extent because not every single plot point needs to have diverging paths. "You're in a tavern, and a man in robes by the fire gazes in your general direction with an appraising look and gestures for you to approach".

So, Chapter 1 has a sequence of encounters that all breadcrumb obviously to the next encounter, culminating in a sewer dungeon that's mostly got a single path through it with almost all branches off that path leading to uninteresting dead-ends (hey, it's a metaphor!). Once again, this is not too horrible for the introduction, although it would have been nice to give the PCs some kind of interesting choices to make. Chapter 2 really opens up and allows the PCs to make some decisions. There are some complaints about it being a little too unstructured, and I think the running the tavern bit was heavily watered down and as written is a complete money sink for the PCs (which will never come into the campaign again as a money maker if you go straight to Dungeon of the Mad Mage after this).

And then Chapter 3 is back on the light rails like Chapter 1, except now it's a little worse. There's a sequence of events just like before, but the information flow isn't as obvious and not doing the right thing stalls the adventure completely. If the PCs don't investigate the explosion right outside their tavern or try to get the city watch involved, the adventure ends (still not too bad, because "PCs should be proactive" isn't too unreasonable an assumption). But, the next step involves the PCs investigating the explosion and deciding to visit the Temple that's associating with constructs of this kind. My players got here and wanted to track down the fleeing wounded guy who stole an item off the body and the Golem who threw the Fireball, but those aren't allowed options even though the event happened just literally 1-2 minutes before the PCs got to this point. Ok, PCs suddenly realize their only lead is going to the Temple that made these golems,whatever. And then they get to the Temple, and have to have a specific exchange of dialogue with the priest to get him to chastise the Nimblewright. And then the PCs have to, apropros of nothing, cast Detect Magic while the acolytes are hauling the Nimblewright's stuff out of the room. If they don't decide to cast the spell, or don't even have the spell, the adventure ends. More realistically, the DM suddenly has to come up with an alternative solution to tracking down the Nimblewright on the spot. Now, the PCs have the ability to magically detect Nimblewrights, which isn't a terribly exciting sequence and has a good chance of sending them to the most pointless and boring roleplaying encounter I've ever seen solely so that the DM can chuckle to themselves about how their PCs don't realize it's actually a famous person they're talking to. Eventually, the PCs end up at the estate where the Nimblewright is staying and then see that a brawl is going down. Here, there are a few opportunities for the PCs to come up with some different options for how to approach the situation (even though the information is still very limited), but the end result is the same. No matter who the PCs help, the Nimblewright escapes (what happened to PCs being able to track it?) and the PCs have very little information than when they started as even the people they helped basically say "Thanks, now get lost".

And then you get to Chapter 4, which is the really bad kind of railroad we talked about where the PCs' choices will be overridden if they are too clever. At the end of the Macguffin chase I guess you give PCs more choices now in how to obtain the three keys to get into the vault, but by that time my players were quite annoyed at the constant hurdle jumping and just wanted to get into the dang vault! Once you do, the vault is once again a dungeon with a single linear path with little in the way of interesting detours, followed by a conversation where the PCs are very limited in ways to resolve other than the one scripted path.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I think some of this comes about simply as a result of writing it down. When I create my own content I wouldn't write this, I might think it when I'm planning, but tend to only commit crunch details to paper. A number of the criticisms levelled at RotFM are about the author not writing down how they expect the encounter to work. And I think this was deliberately omitted to try and avert the type of railroading you are describing.

You are probably right, it's tough to write things down, it's just that in the end, it just makes bad design even more obvious. A pointless chase remains pointless if everything is written in advance.

Edit: As a complete aside, what you ever played Pillars of Eternity 2? what you have just described sounds like the whole main story arc. You chase someone at whatever pace you like, only to show up just in time to have no effect on what happens.

No, I have not tried that one, I've played the 1 but never the 2. As a complete aside, my god, I've just bought an Oculus Quest 2, not that expensive, and running Asgard's Wrath in VR, it's incredible. I don't think I'll ever be able to go back to Pillars of Eternity type games again. :D
 

Azuresun

Adventurer
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.

Not to mention, a lot of the leaders of the towns are portrayed as good and moral people who probably wouldn't okay this unless they had proof it was the only way to survive. Also, none of the town descriptions take this into account--NPC's are generally friendly, eager to chat and worried about things like elections for a new speaker or missing iron shipments, they never seem like desperate apocalypse survivors who would probably offer the PC's as sacrifices so that they don't have to risk anyone they love.

It makes a lot more sense if the towns with weak or evil leadership start trying sacrifices ("no, it's fine, we're using condemned criminals, promise!"), and it escalates over time, egged on by agents of Auril--they make offerings of food, then warmth, then humans as the winter gets progressively worse. For me, it's another reason to have the story start just as the winter starts getting really bad, so the PC's can actually witness this decline, and maybe fight it themselves.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I don't run many WotC adventures, but I find I enjoy running them a lot more when I enhance them with content I find on DMs Guild. Of those I've run and played in, or have at least read through in enough detail to have a good idea on how they might play or need to be altered:

1. I loved Curse of Strahd. I really think you can run it well out of the box. I don't think you have to run it grimdark horror, PCs afraid all the time to enjoy it. They give some mechanics and advice for that sort of thing, but you can entirely ignore it and the game runs just fine. My only complaint was that Strahd himself didn't provide for an epic end battle. That's mostly on me. Still, I think it is the best of the main adventure books for 5e in terms of design, writing, DM manageability. A manageable sandbox that doesn't require the DM to spend a lot of time filling in. The only thing I added to Curse of Strahd is that I used "A Structured Milestone System for Curse of Strahd" by Milestones Made Easy on DMs Guild. Not at all necessary, not really an "improvement" to the adventures, but I that systems of level advancement worked really well for Curse of Strahd.

2. Tomb of Annihilation was also excellent. Easy to run hex crawl, fun locations, an interesting premise and challenge to solve. I don't think you have to do much extra work as a DM to fill things in. I could run this right from the book with my only prep being reading through it and prepping maps (its fun to use a VTT or printed maps for this adventure).

3. Storm Kings Thunder was disappointing to me. I knew when first reading it that I would not be interested in running it, but I keep it around to pull locations out of to use in home brew.

None of the other adventures caught my fancy, except for Rime of the Frost Maiden as I liked the concept, but I think I would need to spend quite a bit of time adding to or customizing it to run it how I like. I think it would be fun to throw it into my homebrew campaign world and tie it into other story arcs.
 

You are probably right, it's tough to write things down, it's just that in the end, it just makes bad design even more obvious.
Some players feel that is something is written down then it has to go down that way.

I don't have the adventure, but I guess if I wanted to get the players to a certain place I would think of several different leads that would take the players to the next plot point, and use the one which best fitted what they where doing to look for it. But if you write all the options down it takes up a lot more space and time.

Probably why I will never get to put an adventure on DMG!
 

lluewhyn

Explorer
Not to mention, a lot of the leaders of the towns are portrayed as good and moral people who probably wouldn't okay this unless they had proof it was the only way to survive. Also, none of the town descriptions take this into account--NPC's are generally friendly, eager to chat and worried about things like elections for a new speaker or missing iron shipments, they never seem like desperate apocalypse survivors who would probably offer the PC's as sacrifices so that they don't have to risk anyone they love.
The other issue for me is that having the PCs walk into this has a huge likelihood of alienating them from wanting to help the townsfolk. The PCs are supposed to be heroes, but here they're immediately put in the path of not wanting to help people who are so willing to screw themselves over. When my players were creating their characters, I told them "You don't have to be Good, but helping the people of Ten Towns overcome this terrible winter curse is the premise of the adventure so make characters that would have reasons for wanting to do that". I don't need WotC trying to make my job (and my players' jobs) any harder by encouraging them to say "Screw these people, I'm going back down south." God forbid the towns try to enter up the PCs as sacrifices as some people have suggested. There's also the farcical element that as written, these sacrifices have been going on for twelve months now and the Rime hasn't improved at all.

Someone else suggested above that even if the PCs are wanting to help at this point, stopping the sacrifices will become their number one goal which makes doing any of the side quests not related to that goal seem out of character.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Not to mention, a lot of the leaders of the towns are portrayed as good and moral people who probably wouldn't okay this unless they had proof it was the only way to survive. Also, none of the town descriptions take this into account--NPC's are generally friendly, eager to chat and worried about things like elections for a new speaker or missing iron shipments, they never seem like desperate apocalypse survivors who would probably offer the PC's as sacrifices so that they don't have to risk anyone they love.

The overall number one problem with the book is that the apocalyptic conditions described in the introduction are not reflected at all in the subsequent adventures, locations, and NPCs. After two years of no sunlight and 40 below, the Ten Towns should be a deserted wasteland. About 95% of plant and animal life in Icewind Dale should be dead. The dwarves you're supposed to meet in Bryn Shander who want to overpay you to recover their stolen ingots from some goblins? Those dwarves are either dead, have long since left the region, or have degenerated into cannibalism (kinda like The Road, but way worse). The goblins who stole the ingots? Dead. The elk herds hunted by the Reghed nomads? Dead. The Reghed nomads? All dead.

One of the first things you kinda have to do is as a DM with IWD: ROTF is decide that either the Everlasting Rime can't possibly be as intense as the book describes, or can't possibly have been going on for TWO YEARS. 2-3 months of those conditions would be an emergency that needs to be fixed immediately; after 2 years of that it would be way too late; everyone would be dead.
 

The PCs are supposed to be heroes, but here they're immediately put in the path of not wanting to help people who are so willing to screw themselves over.
That's not heroes, that's judgmental bastards. If people didn't help people who had screwed themselves over no human would ever get helped ever.
 
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lluewhyn

Explorer
And then, wait for it, when they catch up, whether it's after following or losing time along the street, WHATEVER HAPPENS, the drows are still there waiting for a apparatus of kwalish to take them. So, basically, and as usual for the whole chapter, whether the adventurer fail or fail worse, it does not matter. Nothing the PCs do matter, and for me this is the worst possible design for an adventure which is supposed to be centered around the characters.

Your choices and luck will determine whether you "Fail, or fail harder". That was a good portion of the adventure for me in a nutshell.
 

lluewhyn

Explorer
One of the first things you kinda have to do is as a DM with IWD: ROTF is decide that either the Everlasting Rime can't possibly be as intense as the book describes, or can't possibly have been going on for TWO YEARS. 2-3 months of those conditions would be an emergency that needs to be fixed immediately; after 2 years of that it would be way too late; everyone would be dead.
That's why I decided to go with 2 months, because 2 years means everything is dead or left. I don't care how isolationist these people are, no one is sticking around in these kinds of weather conditions without even getting into the sacrifice issues.

Not that it matters for the PCs since they don't have thermometers, but I also tend to think "Average daily temperature is -49° F with windchill lowering that even more by up to 80° is kind of harsh too. When the PCs enter Termalaine, there's a boy on a crate shouting to the people passing by about the local news, which is kind of comical when you think about the temps.
 


lluewhyn

Explorer
That's not heroes, that's judgmental bastards. If people didn't help people who had screwed themselves over no human would ever get helped ever.
If the PCs talk to the people in charge, they find out that no one told them to do this, they just decided to start murdering their own townsfolk on a hunch, and despite absolutely no beneficial change in weather they're still murdering their own people 12 months later. The PCs are not going to want to help those particular leaders very much. At the least, there's a good chance that they will demand the sacrifices be stopped before they decide to help.

If the PCs get picked to be in the lottery, especially after helping a town already, it's game over.
 

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