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by Mike on 12 July 2021
This is one of a series of articles covering the Wizards of the Coast hardcover D&D adventure Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. The other articles include:
You can also watch my YouTube playlist of Frostmaiden Lazy DM Prep videos.
With an open-ended style, piles of potential quests, and little guidance to help DMs; chapter 1 of Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden can be challenging to run. Today we're going to look at some tips and tricks for getting the most from Rime of the Frostmaiden's first massive chapter.
This chapter assumes you have already run a session zero for Rime of the Frostmaiden to ensure your players and their characters are aimed in the right direction for this adventure. It also contains many spoilers for the book.
Here's a quick summary of the tips in this article:
Bryn Shander is an excellent starting city for this adventure and the Foaming Mugs quest is one of the few quests that works well for 1st level characters. While you can choose any of the ten towns to begin, many of the quests are deadly to 1st level characters. Foaming Mugs, however, pits the characters against a bunch of goblins trying to steal dwarven iron ingots. As long as the goblin boss and polar bears don't get involved, they shouldn't have trouble completing the quest and getting to 2nd level.
Let your own interests drive which quests you choose to reveal when running chapter 1. Don't expect to reveal them all. Chapter 1 has about three times more quests than the characters should accomplish before heading into chapter 2 and many sub-plots your characters could get involved in. It's easy to get bogged down in chapter 1.
Before you start, decide which quests you want to put in front of the characters and which you cut. Plan on roughly five to seven quests and pull quests out of the list when the characters choose another path.
Here's a potential list of quests you may want to run after Foaming Mugs:
Add new quests as the characters complete them and pull off quests the characters have skipped twice. You want no more than two or three active quests at a time.
The starter quest, Cold-Hearted Killer, can be a mystery the characters unravel as they travel throughout the towns and complete other quests. I'd skip the Nature Spirits quest.
You can move some of these quests if it works better. The White Moose quest, for example, may take place in the woods between Bryn Shander, Good Mead, and Dougan's Hole instead of Lonelywood. The Unseen quest can take place in Easthaven instead of Caer Konig. Move the quests closer to the characters if you want to save time traveling all over Ten Towns.
If the idea that the speakers of Ten Towns send their own citizens to die in the cold doesn't sit right with you, as it didn't with me, add a new antagonist called the Children of Auril. This cult, led by the cult fanatic, Father Lake, built a following across Ten Towns and it is they who demand the sacrifices. Given their popularity, the speakers are powerless to stop the cult, but the characters may not be. The Children may have built a new and mysterious temple in the old House of the Triad in Bryn Shander where they conduct terrible rituals in the chambers beneath the exposure of which would shatter the faith of their followers across the towns. This is a good way to redirect the concept of the sacrifices away from the city's government and to an entity the characters are free to hate.
Most of the quests in chapter 1 consist of helping the people of Ten Towns survive the endless night. There's always room to add secrets and clues that foreshadow later stories in the adventure but one quest has a strong connection holding more importance than the others: The Unseen. This quest reveals the weapon being built by Xardarok Sunblight that comes to play in chapters 3 and 4 of the adventure. It's important that the characters expose the duergar, learn of the plot, and get a lead on the location of Sunblight Fortress to head into those chapters.
The good news is that you can move this quest's location to just about any city, including Easthaven, a much easier reach from Bryn Shander than Caer Konig.
You can also choose to remove the entire Sunblight threat completely. As a storyline it has little connection to the rest of the adventure and some later parts of, such as the dragon's attack on Ten Towns, may not run the way we want as written.
Instead we can remove the duergar threat completely, skipping these quests in chapter 1 and focusing the adventure on Auril and the Netherese power beneath the ice. It's a big cut to make but it might better focus the adventure if that whole arc is something you don't dig.
Early in the chapter, the characters learn of the murders taking place in Ten Towns. Instead of immediately being handed the identity of the killer, run this quest as a mystery in which the characters slowly put together a timeline of murders coinciding with Torgs traveling merchant caravan. Then, at the right time, the characters can face Sephek Kaltro and bring him to justice. This also helps ensure the characters don't face Sephek at 1st level which can be very deadly. Instead, if the characters are higher level by the time they face Sephek, consider giving him some icy ghouls who follow him around hidden in the shadows.
Here are a few quick tips for some of the quests in chapter 1. I haven't run them all so you'll find some quests missing.
I have no useful feedback on the remaining quests, which I feel you can safely skip. Check out Bob Worldbuilder's Frostmaiden videos for details on these and other quests if you need.
Rime of the Frostmaiden's wide open structure gives you lots of room to add your own stories and stories connected to the backgrounds and drives of the characters. Feel free to add in these stories and tie the NPCs found throughout Ten Towns to the characters themselves. Be careful not to run too wild. It's easy to get stuck in this chapter for a long time with the characters stuck at 3rd or 4th level far longer than they should be.
With their quests completed and safely at 4th level, it's time to begin chapter 2!
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