I’m running D&D again. This time, I’ve got hold of a crew of 4 players, a mixture of veterans and newcomers, to run through Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. I’ll be blogging here about how I’m adapting it, tweaking it, and approaches to it (worth noting if you’re interested that Sly Flourish has already done a great job of this here – I’m not going to duplicate his work!)
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One of my players is brand new to roleplaying. So, instead of expecting him to dive into character creation and commit to a long campaign, I thought I’d run a one-shot with pregens to set the scene. This is set in Ten Towns, in the same place as the game, foreshadows some of the content, and gets everyone on the same page about tone. It’s an idea I’ve heard Simon Burley, esteemed designer of Golden Heroes, talk about as his default campaign starter (he calls it a “Session Minus One”) and I’ve never done it before.
It’s first level, to keep everything simple, and is a fairly linear progression, although all of the encounters have a few ways to resolve them. Most of the opposition arrives in waves, which is a good trick for balancing 1st level fights – they can be really swingy when one blow can knock out a player or opponent, so having not everyone attack at once means you can adjust the level of challenge on the fly a bit. It’s balanced for 3 1st level PCs – just add or subtract bandits or undead if you have more or fewer.
It went great – and we’re now one session into the actual campaign! In a couple of months I hope to follow this up with a ‘review’ of the first chapter, Ten Towns, based on actual play. Inspired by Fear of a Black Dragon, I’m trying to limit my reviews to products or adventures I’ve actually played or run, because I think this is most useful – although I appreciate not all reviewers can do this, and if everyone did there wouldn’t be many reviews around! There’s a place for reviews-after-reading as well, they just do different things.
But, I digress. Here is the adventure, presented exactly as my prep notes looked for it – let me know if you use it here or on Twitter @milnermaths !
Into the Snow
A Rime of the Frostmaiden prelude adventure (3 x 1st level PCs)
You live in the far north, beyond the Spine of the World, in the desolate icy realms of Ten-Towns. For the past two years, Icewind Dale has been stuck in an endless winter – every night, strange lights appear, and every night lasts forever as the sun fails to rise. Trapped forever in glacial ice, you eke out a precarious living.
As we open we see you trudge across an open snowfield, a heavily laden sled pulled by two huskies, Gore and Chew. It’s three hours since you set off from Easthaven, one of the more prosperous towns, and you carry on your sled beer, mead, and supplies for Caer Dineval. Caer Dineval has been without beer for two weeks now – you can’t imagine their pain.
- Describe your character – what are they carrying, how are they walking alongside the sled
But the going has been hard. 9 hours this would normally take, but the snow has come in and you fear a blizzard is coming. As you cross an ice floe, you notice the dogs startle – and the wind threatens to tip your sled over.
- Ask the PCs what they are doing to prevent the tip. Generally it might be a Survival (Wisdom) check, but they could use other skills as well. At least half (rounded down) need to make it – if they fail, they are overwhelmed when the raiders attack and suffer disadvantage on Initiative checks
Scene 1 – Raiders in the Ice
Out of the snow and ice appear shadows, and the barking of dogs – you are under attack!
There are 4 raiders (bandits), but only 2 attack – and 2 rough huskies (mastiffs). As they fight, each round they see the snow get thicker – and as they flee / are defeated, they notice the sled has been raided.
0 failures – they have grabbed some of the supplies, and a prized bottle of Calishite brandy, charged with delivery to the Caer Dineval castle by your patron
1 failure – as above, but a couple of barrels of mead have gone as well
2 failures – all the supplies are taken
3 failures – one of the huskies has been dragged off as well
As the storm momentarily clears, they can attempt to make sense and give chase.
A Survival (Wisdom) check DC 15 will reveal that the storm is only briefly abated, and they had better follow the tracks now – they lead towards some rough hills which might also offer some shelter
A History or Investigation DC 11 check shows the men to be natives of Icewind Dale, clad in rough winter clothes – accustomed to living in the wilds, but not themselves Rheged Nomads
Scene 2 – The Chwingas
As they follow the tracks, they make their way towards the hills. Strange black crystals occasionally jut from the horizon – DC 15 Arcana to reveal it is Chardalyn, a magical material found only in Icewind Dale.
But the storm gets worse. Ask for DC 10 Survival checks to avoid becoming Exhausted – and then DC 10 Perception to notice a shelter ahead.
A group of 6-inch-tall animated dolls, about 5 of them, are dancing around a fire
DC 15 Arcana or History to reveal these are Chwingas – tiny fey folk who can be helpful if charmed.
They mimic the characters, then ask them to dance – an appropriate skill check must be made (at DC 12) to receive a charm from each of them.
They award these charms in order: Charm of Vitality – Charm of Heroism – Charm of Bounty
The PCs can rest while the storm rages around them, and when it passes there are no signs of tracks. The Chwingas, however, can indicate the way their raiders went – up a narrow path to a hill cave
Scene 3 – The Hill Cave
With the mastiffs caged up outside, they can see the tiny cave as they approach – a group Stealth check DC 10 is enough to gain entry. They see the 4 raiders, and a teenaged girl, Varana. She is clad in wispy clothes despite the biting cold and seeks no trouble.
They can try and recapture their stuff, and this is an easy fight – the bandits will only fight to ⅓ of their hp – so 3 hp or less- before surrendering. Then, they tell them the story
Varana was a sacrifice, one of the lottery chosen by the Children of Auril, a cult who seek to end the endless night. She escaped, with her friends, three months ago. They move around a lot, looking for shelter. She clearly has some sort of magical power – as if the frost won’t touch her as she has escaped the Frostmaiden’s clutches – so she protects her friends.
They cover their tracks with the blizzards that follow Varana around… the PCs didn’t leave any tracks here, did they? (At that, they hear the howl of the dogs from outside, and a splash of blood – and the cult death squad attacks)
The cult death squad is an instrument of icy doom – a goliath zombie and a pair of skeletons crash through, while another 4 skeletons attack the following round
As they defeat (or are defeated by) the death squad, they find Varana is gone. They can trudge back to Caer Dineval with their recovered loot.