The bitter cold bites down to your bones as you slough through the thick snow. You feel each step dragging you down as the weight of your equipment feels heavier with each movement. Everything is completely white as the ice storm blinds your sight. Just then off in the distance you hear a strange howling sound…
Dungeons & Dragon‘s newest campaign release is ‘Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden’ where DMs will have players journey to the northern regions of Faerûn for an adventure of horror that will chill the spirit of even the bravest of heroes. The book was first announced earlier this year during the virtual D&D Live 2020 event and will be available for purchase on September 15th.
Long time fans of the Forgotten Realms setting and those of you who played the Icewind Dale video game series are already familiar with the locale in question. There’s winter weather wildernesses, hordes of orcs, barbarian tribes, and the iconic dark elf ranger known as Drizzt Do’Urden (don’t expect the character to be a big part of this module).
As an avid fan of D&D when this book was first announced I was pretty excited and even more so when it was revealed that it will be horror themed. Players who have explored every nook and cranny of the mists of Ravenloft in ‘Curse of Strahd’ will now have a terrifying winter wonderland to traverse. But before you read any further, this is the part where we warn you about possible spoilers. So if you’re a player then we would suggest turning back and having your DM get the book or even picking up the book for them (because that would be super nice)
Adventurers will travel to the Far North to test their mettle and keep their wits about them as they seek out the secrets of the Frostmaiden. One of the things that head writer Chris Perkins wanted to emphasize in this release was the sense of isolation and hopelessness. The lands of Icewind Dale has been long locked in the icy grip of an everlasting winter night now. The few people who have made this area their home live in fear from the dark and foul things that lurk in the shadows.
There’s multiple points of entry that players can take when jumping into this adventure. DMs can run parties at level one by way of the Ten Towns which is the settlements formed around the frozen lakes of Icewind Dale. Or find other points of access around levels four to six. There’s even a handy list in the beginning of the book that suggests why the characters would be in Icewind Dale based on their backgrounds in the beginning of the book. Which is a good thing because things will pick up REALLY quickly with encounters that includes vampires, doppelgängers, mindflayers, dragons, and more.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this adventure is all the story paths that players can take the story which can allow a DM to make their games unique to their group, while still keeping to the presented framework.
I can totally even see a DM take their group off the rails entirely and go off in their own direction. Which can make for a really fun story and then just use the book as a series of locations and encounters with various creepy crawlies.
Another thing that I really like is that each of the aforementioned Ten Towns has it’s own personality, secrets, and story hooks. Players will be able to use them as safe heavens from the things that go bump in the night. The encounters here is a mix of the terrifying to the weird.
The big bad here of course is the Frostmaiden aka Auril who an evil deity of cold and winter. She is the cause of all the hardships that’s going on in Icewind Dale. This should be one of the main goals for DMs to have their players work towards, which includes a dungeon and a final battle that should prove quite a challenge.
One would think that would be the end…but nope! Like any good scary story, the end isn’t always so obvious. As we said before, it’s all about choices and depending on what path you take, you just might end up riding off peacefully into the sunset or things can take a turn for the worse (and we’ll just leave it at that). It’s here that we want to leave you the reader with a chance to check out the book for yourself, when it officially drops in the next few days.
What did we like about ‘Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden’? Even if you don’t go all in on the adventure, it’s still a great sandbox for DMs to play in. Also, as with almost all of D&D’s releases, the art here is just top notch. It comes with a nice double sided map that can be quite helpful in keeping track of your location.
And what did we not like? There are a bit of pacing issues here and there. Some of the environmental stuff can be a pain in the butt to deal with (honestly just house rule anything that ends up bogging down your game).
When it comes to D&D horror, in our opinion ‘Curse of Strahd’ is still pretty much the standard with it’s classic Gothic Horror of Dracula, the Wolf Man, and etc. But the terrors that stalk the tundras of Icewind Dale is refreshingly different, especially if you like your scares with a bit of the strange and weird like ‘The Thing’ meets ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ while still sticking to the overall fantasy elements of D&D.
‘Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden’ is set for release on September 15, 2020 via online or retail stores. There’s also two cover options which includes the standard version with art by Tyler Jacobson and a collector’s edition with art by Hydro74 that’s exclusive to game shops.