The latest release from Wizards of the Coast returns to the iconic region of Icewind Dale, in the Forgotten Realms setting. Just as much a setting book as it is an adventure module, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden brings together the very best elements of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).
The Rime of the Frostmaiden campaign is designed for four to six characters, charting their progress from level 1 all the way to level 11. Unlike conventional games, where levels are gained through acquiring experience points (XP), here levels are gained through completing missions and achieving objectives. Ergo, it becomes inherently rewarding for players to take the time to explore the setting to uncover new missions for them to undertake. Not only will this make their characters better prepared for what is to come, but it discourages players from wanting to rush the storyline.
Before detailing the adventure, Rime of the Frostmaiden takes the time to describe the setting of Icewind Dale. Unlike the stereotypical western European inspired fantasy settings, Icewind Dale stands out for its land of snow and ice. The first hundred pages of Rime of the Frostmaiden is dedicated to the Ten-Town settlements and the wider region of Icewind Dale. In many ways, the setting feels just as much a character as it is a location, as the land and people will react differently as the character’s progress.
Rime of the Frostmaiden also addresses the manifold challenges of living in such a region and what it means for travel. Here, a simple trek between one of the towns of Ten-Town can become a fight for survival due to an ill-timed blizzard or a sudden avalanche. It also discusses the necessity for winter clothing and the ramifications, such as everyone looking the same when wrapped in furs.
Horror is very much a part of this particular module, going from folk horror (similar to The Wickerman) through to the cosmic horror akin to H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. However, Rime of the Frostmaiden remains a fantasy adventure and the horror elements are balanced by moments of wonder and majesty, creating a narrative rollercoaster for the players to experience. This ensures that the story never feels overwhelmingly horrific or uninhabitable. We find out why people choose to travel to Icewind Dale and how they thrive.
Rime of the Frostmaiden is a huge module, clocking in at over 300 pages, giving dungeon masters (DMs) everything they need to run the adventures and beyond. The book opens with setting and background information, ensuring that everything that happens has context within the wider world of Forgotten Realms. We are then presented with a detailed overview of Ten-Towns – the ten settlements of Icewind Dale – and their inhabitants, including maps of every location and portraits of each of the principal characters, before delving into the adventures themselves. The final fifty pages of appendices include statistics for all of the characters, creatures and items that are introduced in the book.
The structure of this module is exceptional, clearly explaining to the Dungeon Master the varying narrative paths that the players can take in the story, and the consequences of each of their decisions. The size of this book means that notes will need to be taken, but Christopher Perkins’ writing and structure has done much of the heavy lifting that DMs would have otherwise needed to do.
Throughout the book are some truly stunning character portraits and illustrations, evoking the horror and majesty of the setting, as well as presenting a series of uniquely identifiable characters that the players can meet.
However, whilst combining character portraits with their background and character sheet looks great, it is challenging to show the portraits to the players, without inadvertently revealing information. As a detachable double-sided map of Icewind Dale, and each of the Ten-Towns settlements, is included, a similar series of handouts for character portraits would have been useful.
Thought has also gone into the formatting of the text and pages, with different types of information (such as game statistics or text to be read out) being presented differently. This allows DMs to quickly skim through a page to find the information they require at a glance.
Previously, when people have thought of adventure modules for D&D, they have often been dungeon delves with elaborate traps. However, Rime of the Frostmaiden is vastly different in that regard. We are presented with different types of quests for players to follow, from bounty hunting to investigating the local wildlife, before potentially confronting a god. This ensures that every player has their chance to shine, whatever the type of character the players choose to play. That is not to say that there are no dungeons to explore in Rime of the Frostmaiden, but rather that their presence is justified.
The ending of Rime of the Frostmaiden is suitably epic for all players, and potentially has huge implications for the future of the characters and the wider setting of Icewind Dale, that could possibly create an entirely new campaign.