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by Mike on 17 January 2022
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. This article contains spoilers for Rime of the Frostmaiden.
Rime of the Frostmaiden has a problem with closure. It's an adventure with two separate and independent "final areas", Grimskalle and Ythrin, and it isn't clear why you should care about the latter if the characters' goal becomes ending the endless night.
Luckily we can make a few changes to tie these two locations together and build a conclusion supporting both areas. We'll talk about these changes here and in the writeup for chapter 7.
Here's a quick summary of the changes we can make to chapter 5.
When the characters arrive on Solstice, we can offer a number of locations and interconnected paths to take them from the docks to Grimskalle. Here's one example pointcrawl we can run but I encourage you to build your own.
For more on pointcrawls, see Pointcrawls for Overland Travel.
This pointcrawl can contain a number of interesting locations including:
These locations can be connected with a range of natural pathways:
Such locations and pathways offer some fun exploration to the otherwise relatively barren island of Solstice.
Instead of keeping Grimskalle and Ythrin separated in the story, connect the two together by tying the endless night to both locations. One cannot simply kill Iskra the roc to stop Auril's spell. One cannot even stop it if they have the Codicil of the White in hand. The spell is required, yes, but so is containing the power that fuels it — power from the Netherese city of Ythrin. This gives the characters reasons to go to both locations to stop the endless night. This power can come from the mythallar contained in Ythryn or to something else of your choosing.
In my own game, this was a powerful elder evil named Thruun based on Father Llymic from the older D&D book Elder Evils. In my game, elves drew the elder evil into the world thousands of years ago and then Netherese wizards encased it in a huge sarcophagus in the bottom of Ythryn so the Netherese wizards could harness its power. With the city collapsed, Thruun's essence has leaked from its sarcophagus and caused all sorts of problems.
You can, of course, choose your own source of power in Ythryn based on the characters' story and the story that evolves at the table. If nothing else comes to mind, the mythallar described in the book may be just the thing.
If you're not feeling the tests as written in Rime of the Frostmaiden, here's an alternative.
Instead of the existing tests, we can replace them with tests of the actual characters. How far will they go when facing Auril's tests — tests intended to show the loyalty of would-be anointed druids in Auril's service?
Before the characters get to the tests, or even to Grimskalle, make sure you pay particular attention to the character's backgrounds. What do they want? What are they almost completely unwilling to give up? What do they fear? What will happen to them if they become lost?
Then we have the tests themselves. Tests that focus on isolation, cruelty, endurance, and preservation.
When the characters enter area G10 they see the four doors. When one of them touches a door, they are tested. They find themselves put in a position where they must make a hard choice, an impossible choice, and one that proves to Auril that they are willing to give up everything to join with her. Will they let loved ones freeze to death? Will they give up their family name and dynasty? Will they let their body become destroyed by a parasite living within them? Will they turn their back on the people of Ten Towns?
This is where we grab those knives the players have been giving us and stab them in the heart (with careful reason and clear safety tools in place). The idea here is that they prove their willingness to give up everything they love to join Auril's anointed. Even if the choice wasn't real, the characters will be forever changed by their choices. They know, deep down, what they are willing to give up.
Or maybe they don't. Maybe when facing the tests they give the finger to Auril and show they will not give up who they are. If the characters fail these tests, the third form of Auril arrives and gives them what-for. When they defeat the form, the Codicil is unprotected and they can grab it up and go.
This can be a real fun series of roleplay scenes to see how the characters act given the tests in front of them. Some may accept the test. Some may reject it. Regardless, they will be forever changed by facing them and learn who they really are.
You choose when, how, and with which form Auril attacks the characters. Perhaps her third form guards the Codicil of the White itself. Perhaps when they take the Codicil they find her first form in the chamber behind them or face her outside of Grimskalle.
We can test our boss here by letting them face the one to three forms of Auril before we unleash all of them on the characters at once in a final multi-phase boss fight if we choose.
You may need to tweak the stat blocks of Auril's forms. The crystalline form, for example, is seriously hindered by having only ranged attacks and no good way to escape from being pinned down. Instead, give it a legendary action to misty step. The other forms too need some work. Give them access to spells like Cone of Cold and make her ice darts more like ice lances, throwing around 36 cold damage a shot instead of 3.
With some tweaking, the island of Solstice and Grimskalle can be excellent end-game location worthy locations for our characters to explore. Use these tips and your own ideas to customize the island to suit you and your group.
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