Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden is a huge book. Chapter 1 is about 100 pages long, and the story is not linear. It can definitely feel overwhelming.
I am going to try to help you make sense of this thing. I read the whole book, I wrote a guide to it, and I've run many published campaign/adventure paths from beginning to end. Hopefully I can help you launch and maintain a successful game even if this is your very first time being a Dungeon Master.
I put a .pdf version of this article in my guide on the DMs Guild. It's pay what you want!
Advice For New Dungeon Masters
If you are new to being a Dungeon Master, there's a few general things to keep in mind.
Picking Players: Picking your players is extremely important. One "bad" player can ruin the whole thing. The bane of D&D, in my opinion, is selfishness. This is a team activity. Really, you're all working together to create a movie or a TV show that occurs in your imagination. The players get to be the stars. You're the director.
If you have a player who does something that is ruining the experience for others, you have to talk about it with them. If they can't adjust, they need to go or they will ruin it for everyone. I've seen it happen many times. Remember, someone can still be your friend even if playing D&D with them doesn't work out.
Errors: Don't worry too much about making mistakes. You're new! DMs who have been playing for 30 years make mistakes every single time they run a game. There's just too much going on for anyone to manage without slowing the game to a crawl.
Versus Mode: It's not you vs. the players. You're a referee, to a degree. You will be fine-tuning the difficulty as you go. It's OK if some encounters are easy. Players generally love it when it's easy. They'll get bored if it is always easy, though.
Read the Book: If you're going to run Rime of the Frostmaiden, then you're going to need to read the book. I know. It's huge. Once you know what the full story is and where everything is going, it's going to be so much easier to roll with all of the wacky stuff your players might do.
Again, I wrote a full guide to try to help you run this adventure without having to read every single room entry. The guide is essentially a huge outline of DM notes.
You Can Change Whatever You Want: Nothing is stopping you from changing the story however you see fit. You're not doing it "wrong" if you modify this book. If you want, just use some of the new monsters and magic items and make your own adventure, it doesn't matter.
That said, running this "by the book" is fun because you'll meet other people in life who have played it and you can compare notes. This adventure in particular has a few insane outcomes at the end. Some groups might go back in time. Others might summon the tarrasque!
What Do I Do?
So, how does this work? You read the book, and then you have yourself some work to do. I'm going to give you a somewhat abbreviated version of the most important things you'll need to tackle in this campaign from beginning to end.
Draw Secrets: Check out page 14. Each of the characters should have a secret. You can do like the book says and randomly hand them out, or maybe work with each player and see what fits best and what appeals to them.
Pick a Starting Town: Choose which town from Chapter 1 that you want to start in. I went with Bremen, because I like the "Lake Monster"scenario there.
Pick an Introductory Adventure: There's two of them. Cold-Hearted Killer (pg 22) and Nature Spirits (pg 25). Both of these adventures involve a quest where the heroes need to travel to other towns searching for something. The idea is that, as the heroes are searching Ten-Towns to complete the intro quest, they will pick up and complete the side-quests in each town. The group will have a few side quests under their belt before they actually finish the introductory adventure.
This brings us to our first wrinkle. What if your players ignore the side quests and are intent on finishing the intro first? Be ready for that. The bad guy in Cold-Hearted Killer is challenging and if the group is first level when they find him, they're in big trouble if they try to fight him.
Here's a broad look at the basic idea/flow of this adventure.
Going Town-to-Town: Chapter 1 is all about exploring the towns. It is very open and you'll need to have a handle on a few things:
- Know the Towns: At the very least, read up on the settlements closest to your starting town.
- Figuring Out Travel Distances: (see "Overland Travel" pg 11) There's a scale on the map. The group will probably have snowshoes, so they'll travel 1 mile every two hours.
- Sprinkling in Random Encounters: When the group travels through the "wilderness", use the chart on pg 105 as a guideline. I'd pick some out in advance and drop them in when the time feels right. You might also want to warn your group before you start that not everything in this adventure is scaled to their level. They may need to run or make friends sometimes, if possible.
Gaining Levels: Check out "Character Advancement" on page 18. The group hits level 2 as soon as they complete 1 quest. Once they do 3 more, they hit level 3. Then they do 5 quests to hit level 4. Once they're 4th level, they no longer gain levels from completing the chapter 1 quests.
Note: I am a bit confused as to whether the group is meant to 5 total quests, or 9. If I am mistaken, that means the group hits level 2 after one quest, hits level 3 after 2 more quests are complete, and then hits level 4 after 3 more quests are finished.
Chapter Two: Once the heroes hit level 4, they're meant to do some of the chapter 2 adventures. Like chapter 1, this is a collection of adventures for the group to "stumble on" through the towns.
One problem I have here is that I really like a lot of the chapter 2 adventures. I kind of want to run most of them! Check out page 101. It says the group gains a level after spending 2-3 sessions exploring Icewind Dale.
I plan on running a lot of the chapter 2 stuff, but I'm wary that the group might get frustrated that they aren't leveling fast enough. The problem is that Chapters 3 and 4 want the group to be no higher then 6th level. So we're squeezing a ton of content into levels 4 and 5.
This is a case where I'd plan all the stuff I want to run, but monitor player reactions as we play and see if they are OK or if they feel like it's slowing down too much and no story progression is being made.
Linking Quests: Take a look at page 103. These are the set-ups for the adventures later in chapter 2. Most are linked to a specific town. You might want to plan ahead. If you want to run the Black Cabin, then the group should be in Bryn Shander.
I mean, you can always change it. You could put the Black Cabin anywhere you want! But, if you want to keep things the way they are in the book, a little planning is needed.
Random Encounters: As this book goes on, the heroes will find themselves making many, many expeditions out in the snow. You can use the guidelines on page 105 to see how frequent the random encounters are.
Getting to Chapter 3: Once the heroes find the map to Sunblight in the Easthaven Ferry (see "The Chardalyn Caper" on page 68), that's their cue to move on.
The Choice in Chapters 3 and 4: Once the group gets to Sunblight, they will see the chardalyn dragon take off and fly to Ten-Towns. They have a fateful choice to make:
- Chase the dragon.
- Go inside Sunblight and deal with the duergar.
If the heroes don't chase the dragon, some or all of Ten-Towns will be destroyed.
Catching Up with the Dragon: In my guide, I discuss at length the issues with going all the way back to Ten-Towns while the dragon is wreaking havoc. I made a handy travel/time chart and everything. The way I figure it, no matter what the group does (unless they can fly or teleport somehow), Dougan's Hole, Good Mead, and Easthaven will be destroyed. Probably more towns, too.
Sunblight: Sunblight is a large complex, a pretty straightforward dungeon. The group can team up with Grandolpha and her many duergar and overthrow Xardorok if they like.
Meeting Vellynne: The most important thing is that the group meets Vellynne whenever they decide to leave Sunblight. She will help them deal with the chardalyn dragon, and then she hopes they will help her obtain the Codicil of White from Grimskalle (see "Vellynne's Quest" on page 194).
The Codicil: This book (detailed on page 317) is really important. It contains the actual Rime of the Frostmaiden, a poem that can open the passage to the lost Netherese city of Ythryn. The problem is that this book is on the island that Auril herself lives on.
Facing the Frostmaiden: The heroes go to Auril's island. You're going to be in a weird spot here. Auril is the villain who has put Icewind Dale into constant night/twilight for 2 years. She is sort of, pretty much, the big bad guy of this whole book.
Yet she appears in chapter 5, and there are two more chapters that follow. If the group kills Auril (to do so, they have to destroy all three of her forms) or her roc, the rime is lifted.
That might make the last two chapters feel like "extra credit." I mean... the time of darkness is over. Mission accomplished!
It is sort of left up to you how you want to handle this. There are notes in the book for Auril showing up in Ythryn in the final chapter (see "Auril's Wrath" on page 260).
The ythryn mythallar in chapter 7 can end the darkness that plagues Icewind Dale.
My instinct says that the best bet is to set it up so the group defeats one or two of Auril's three forms at Grimskalle, and then she flees. The group grabs the codicil, and they continue on to Ythryn so they can find and use the mythallar to end the rime.
That said, the book seems to work under the idea that Auril's three forms were defeated in chapter 3. From that point on, her curse is very slowly being lifted. See "Ending the Everlasting Rime" on pg 213. "It takes awhile for Icewind Dale to return to its natural climate, but life becomes a bit easier as the frigid temperatures rise to a bearable cold."
The Glacier: The heroes have the rime, the poem that can open a passage to the lost city of Ythryn. The group goes to the Reghed Glacier with Vellynne, they read the rime as the Elk Tribe holds off the Auril-sympathetic Tiger Tribe, and a huge crack opens in the glacier - a passage to a dungeon inside.
This crack leads to the Caves of Hunger. The gimmick with this dungeon is that there is a gnoll vampire named Tekeli-li who strikes at the group, then flees, over and over. Hit and run tactics.
The Necropolis: Once the group has passed through the caves, they arrive at the Necropolis of Ythryn, presumably with Vellynne. The heroes will likely be unaware that one of Vellynne's rivals, Avarice, will follow with her crew of evil tieflings.
Auril may show up too.
Obtaining the Mythallar: Here's how this works. There is a force field blocking the heroes from getting both to the mythallar and the main tower of the city, where some really cool treasure is (and it's also the home to Iriolarthus, the demilich).
To get that force field open, the adventurers must find inscriptions in eight towers (each devoted to a school of wizardly magic). Using the inscriptions, they learn how to bypass the field and enter the fortress.
Once the Field is Down: The group can walk right up to the mythallar and finally let the sun shine on Icewind Dale.
How Ythryn Fell: The group will learn how the floating city of Ythryn fell in the first place. If the group tampers with the obelisk that caused the problem, they could find themselves back in time.
Bad Guys: We're at the end! The heroes will have a lot of antagonists to deal with:
- Iriolarthus the Demilich: Ythryn is his home.
- Vellynne: She's an ally, but she does want some of that treasure - all the best stuff, actually.
- Avarice: She sets up her team in a tower and is intent on looting the city.
- Auril: If Auril is still alive, she shows up with a bunch of snow golems and hunts down the heroes.
Planning Out Your Campaign
Now what I want to do is to show how you can prepare the adventure. As I read the book, I took notes on what I wanted to use and what I wanted to foreshadow. I want the group to feel things coming, and have everything make sense. I want the world to feel "alive."
So let's go through my plan to run this. I'll list the scenarios I want to use and the things that happen along the way.
Hopefully this will help you see how you can take the "tools" this adventure provides you to create your vision of how this story unfolds.
Just a Plan: Please keep in mind that players always do things that you don't expect, so it is very likely they will veer "off course." That's one of the hardest parts of being a DM - rolling with the curveballs. Having to pull quality gaming out of thin air is very difficult. That's why it pays to be prepared. The more familiar with the material that you are, the easier it will be to roll with the punches.
Picking Secrets: You might want to have a "session zero" where everyone makes characters. They'll also need to draw their secrets. You could do this via text so the other players don't have any clues as to what the secrets are.
If I were going to PICK the secrets to hand out, I would take:
- Escaped Prisoner: Because I like the "Id Ascendant" plot.
- Littlest Yeti: Because it is amusing.
- Midwinter Child: Because it directly ties into Auril, and I like the idea that Auril isn't necessarily a villain that is beyond redemption in some way.
- Reghed Heir: Because the Tiger Tribe is actually pretty involved in the story.
- Reincarnation: I just think it's fun.
Do They Know Each Other: Another important thing you should talk to your players about: Do the characters know each other? Or are they going to meet at the beginning?
Travel: Keep the travel chart in mind ("Overland Travel" pg 11). It takes 2 hours to travel just one mile by foot with snowshoes. Axe Beaks are definitely going to be mounts that the group will want to have.
Starting Town: One other extremely important thing we need to do is to pick a starting town. I want to pick the town based on the quest adventure I like the most. Our first few sessions need to be good to make sure the campaign doesn't crash and burn right away.
Sample Campaign Plan
Now I'm going to show you my plan for running this campaign. I've read through the book, now I'm going to drop in all the clues, hooks, and NPCs to create what will hopefully be a fun, "full" experience where it feels like what the characters are doing is all building to something big.
I'm to break this outline up by character level.
I think we should start this whole campaign off in Bremen (pg 27), because that's where one of my favorite chapter 1 adventures is located.
Note: I may have put TOO MANY chapter one quests in here. Just throw some in the garbage if it feels too slow for you.
(pg 22) Cold Open: For the introductory adventure, I think we should use "Cold-Hearted Killer" (pg 22). The idea here is that the heroes will be searching Ten-Towns for a serial killer, and stumbling on the various quests along the way.
The heroes are in Bremen, and have been called to meet with Hlin Trollbane at the Five-Tavern Center. He gives them their quest. The group will basically get their quest, walk outside, and march right into the hook of the "Lake Monster" quest.
(pg 28) Bremen - Lake Monster: I'd like to change the intro to this scenario slightly. Let's have it where Brynsk Berylbore just tried to scam another group of adventurers into catching fish in monster-infested waters. This group of adventurers are the doomed heroes from "Mountain Climb" on pg 87:
- Mokingo Growling Bear Akannathi: A male goliath.
- Perilou Fishfinger: (acolyte MM pg 342) Female halfling follower of Yondalla.
- Astrix: Female tiefling who mumbles and swears.
This group of heroes is on their way to Targos and are put off by the whole scam. They'll gladly let our heroes deal with it. They are on axe beaks and once they interact with the party, they ride off.
Hopefully the group takes the hook and deals with the awakened plesiosaurus. Once they do, boom, they're level 2.
Clue: Once the group completes the quest and gets their scroll of animal friendship, they catch word that Torg's was last seen headed to Targos.
Axe Beak Propaganda: As the group is about to leave Bremen, an NPC tries to sell them some axe beaks (50 gp each). The NPC says, "I'm sure you're aware that sled dogs spend as much time resting as they do pulling sleds! These axe beaks, they cost less to feed and they're much faster. Plus, when times are lean.. they're delicious. By the gods, just a little gravy... so tender..." This hungry salesperson can't fight off the hunger forever! The heroes need some axe beak mounts sooner or later.
We should try to make it clear early on that axe beaks are a good choice for mounts. In chapter 5, time is of the essence! Check out "Dogsleds" on page 20. Sled dogs have to take a short rest after one single hour of travel!
Axe beaks have a speed of 50 and have no such restriction. If the group has sled dogs in chapter 5, then they might be moving so slow that the chardalyn dragon will wipe out pretty much everything.
Travel From Bremen to Targos: Looks like 2.5 miles. That's 5 hours by snowshoe. The group will have to cross the frozen Shaengarne River.
Encounter: While crossing the frozen river on the way to Targos, have the group stumble on a battle. A wounded duergar is fighting a chardalyn berserker (the duergar wants the chardalyn to bring back to Xardorok to be added to the chardalyn dragon). Give the group the chance to do something. Both creatures might just end up fighting on cracked ice and plunging into the frigid water, drowning.
The point of this is just to show off chardalyn, and hint that the duergar want all the chardalyn they can find.
Arrival at Targos: The group can check in at the Luskan Arms, maybe hear a rumor that the other adventuring party went off on a quest. Asking around about Torg's, people have seen Torg's caravan around but aren't sure where they are at this moment.
Then... the group sees a sled dog running through the street. This is the hook to Mountain Climb, one of my favorite chapter 1 adventures.
(pg 87) Targos - Mountain Climb: The heroes are hired to go find Garret, who guided the adventurers to Kelvin's Cairn.
The Journey: The group can take the road to Termalaine, takes 4 hours. They could stay at The Eastside (pg 93) if they want. Then the trip to Kelvin's Cairn looks to be about 10 miles. 20 hours by snowshoe!
Arveiaturace: As the group heads to the mountain, a blizzard hits (see pg 10). Run Arveiaturace (pg 105). This is not meant to be a battle, obviously, just an introduction to this unique dragon. We can have it where she's just eaten a polar bear and isn't hungry.
At Kelvin's Cairn, the adventurers deal with goats, an avalanche, yetis, and find that 2 of the 3 adventurers are dead! They can save Perilou and Garret, though.
The heroes return to Targos where Garret is reunited with Keegan and score some sweet scrimshaw art. Keegan can also note that he is certain that Torg's has gone to Bryn Shander.
Travel from Bremen to Bryn Shander: It takes 5 hours on the road to get from Bremen to Bryn Shander.
When the group arrives, they can get a room at The Northlook (pg 33).
(pg 34) Bryn Shander: As the group searches Bryn Shander for Sephek, they are approached by three frost-bitten dwarves (the hook to "Foaming Mugs"). Yes, looks like the group is headed back to Kelvin's Cairn! Before the group heads out...
Avarice: I don't want to use the Caer-Konig location, but Avarice herself is important to the adventure. So let's use her here. While in The Northlook, Avarice approaches the adventurers (she has Black Sword cultists at a table nearby in case things go sideways). She asks the heroes a few things:
- What do you know about Netheril?
- Have you heard anything about a city trapped in ice?
- Have you seen a woman - an old wizard who trembles, usually had kobold zombies with her?
Avarice offers to pay the group handsomely for information. In fact, let's have her give the group 50 gp and a scroll of knock. That spell comes in handy many, many times in this adventure. She'll send her agent (a gargoyle, either Gurgle or Gargle) to check in with them periodically.
Goblins: From there, the heroes set out into the snow for the "Foaming Mugs" quest, going through the blizzard and eventually catching up with the goblins. The "cart" is a sort of rolling fort, it's pretty cool IMO.
Goliaths? Maybe during the final battle a goliath party (pg 109) from Wyrmdoom Crag shows up to help the heroes. After the goblins are dealt with, a game of Rolling Boulders ensues.
Return to Bryn Shander: Back in Bryn Shander, someone claims they saw a dead body in Torg's caravan. The frozen corpse of a male half-elf in his thirties with a stab wound in his chest. The body was being stuffed into a sack (see pg 24).
Journey to Easthaven: Takes 7.5 hours by road.
(pg 63) Easthaven - Toil and Trouble: I think that you should hav eDzaan being burned right as the heroes enter Easthaven ("Toil and Trouble" pg 62).
An NPC either in the crowd watching the burning, or perhaps a patron of The Wet Trout will appear shaken. The citizen will tell the heroes: "I've seen that wizard before. He was here with a white-skinned lady with horns, and an older woman. They were all wizards, I'm sure. They got into a disagreement and I thought the spells would start flying. But they didn't get into a spell duel. They just went their separate ways. It seemed to me like they were on some kind of mission or quest, but I've got no idea what that would be. Do you think they're here to save Icewind Dale?"
The citizen witnessed the incident described on page 268, where the Arcane Brotherhood decided not to work together to find Ythryn.
Cauldron Caves: From there, the group can search for the missing fishers, find Cauldron Caves, and deal with the hag within.
Herd of Beasts (pg 110): On the way back to Easthaven, have the group spot a massive herd of Elk, who are being hunted by a few members of the Elk Tribe. Mjenir the shaman is among them (Mjenir will offer to help the heroes open the glacier on pg 215).
Let's have Mjenir tell the heroes: "I've seen you before, in visions! Ten-Towns will burn soon, and then the spark in Icewind Dale will be snuffed out for all eternity. I am certain that you are the only ones who can save us from the eternal night. I will do everything I can to aid you, but you must beware. The Frostmaiden is thrice as powerful as the strongest mortal!"
Return to Easthaven: The heroes return and spot Torrga Icevein's Caravan (see pg 24). From the caravan they can track Sephek, who is looking for his next victim at The Wet Trout (pg 60). The heroes can at last finish off the introductory quest.
Celebrating: The citizens might celebrate with the heroes, only to become depressed - there's no more booze. Apparently something has stopped the delivery of alcohol from Good Mead. The citizens will beg, literally beg, the heroes to go to Good Mead and fix whatever the problem is.
Travel from Easthaven to Good Mead: 4.5 miles on the road.
(pg 73) Good Mead - The Mead Must Flow: As soon as the heroes arrive at the town, the despondent citizens approach them. They are leaderless! Their Speaker has been killed (see pg 72).
The Dead Speaker's Body: Good Mead is the second town on the dragon's flight path in chapter 5. Good Mead is very likely to be destroyed. Let's foreshadow that a bit. If the group goes to the Shrine of the Flaming Sword (pg73), a lone citizen is mourning the loss of Speaker Kendrick Rielsbarrow, lighting candles. The citizen says quietly: "I had a dream last night that Icewind Dale went completely dark. No twilight, no stars, nothing. All of us snuffed out, just like our poor Speaker. Is that what is going to happen? Has Tempus left us? Do the gods even care?"
The Mead Must Flow: Hopefully the adventurers try to help the poor people of Good Mead ("The Mead Must Flow" pg 73). They find the verbeeg lair. When the group gets to V7., let's stick in the half-eaten corpse of a duergar who has five shards of chardalyn. The duergar infiltrated this place using its power to become invisible, found some chardalyn, but was sniffed out by the polar bear and killed. We're putting this here just to foreshadow the duergar storyline.
As the heroes leave the lair, presumably successful, Gargle, Avarice's gargoyle, flies down and lands in front of the the heroes, kneeling respectfully. It holds a scroll with a question: "Have you seen the wizard? Heard anything about a lost city?" It expects the heroes to write a response on the scroll. The gargoyle offers them a pouch with 50 gold in it as a reward. How handy that an axe beak costs 50 gp, right? What a coincidence.
Helping Good Mead Recover: The people will love the heroes, and might try to get them involved in the "New Town Speaker" business on page 78. While this takes place, a friendly brother and sister from Dougan's Hole show up asking about booze. Their Speaker gave them money for a barrel and everything, plus a bunch of delicious fish.
While there, the citizens of Dougan's Hole will talk about how talking wolves are probably going to try to take what they have and they ask for "Stealth Tips" from the heroes to get their cargo back to town safely. Most people in Good Mead roll their eyes at the story, but it's true - awakened winter wolves really are extorting the people of Dougan's Hole.
Journey from Good Mead to Dougan's Hole: 6 miles.
(pg 53) Dougan's Hole: There is a good chance that Dougan's Hole is doomed in chapter 5. I think it's fun to play with this a little:
Ominous: Have a citizen confide in a hero: "I can't shake the feeling that we're all doomed. Something bad is going to happen here, so I'm getting the hell out, and so should you."
Misty Eyes: Parents pause to watch their children playing - poking a dead hare with a stick. The parents say: "You know, Dougan's Hole ain't such a bad place. In fact, I'd say it's a good place for kids to grow up in. We don't have much, but we've got everything we'll ever need."
Explosives: Old Merle is stacking barrels of oil right next to his little shack. He writes "Cawshun - Flame Abble" on them. If someone points out that it might not be a great idea to put explosive barrels right next to his house, he'll say: "Well shoot, pally, they ain't gonna be here fur long! Plus, I like the dang smell of it."
Obviously, when the dragon breathes on this pile of barrels poor Merle is going to be exploded like few creatures have ever been exploded before.
(pg 53) Holed Up: Two kids are missing. The group can speak with the winter wolves at the edge of town. They try to convince the characters to go to the Icy Lodge. There, the heroes can free the kids and deal with Nosru, the awakened mammoth.
On the way back to Dougan's Hole: The heroes hear Arveiaturace nearby. She killed a polar bear, but knocked it into a cave and she can't reach it. If the group goes in and retrieves the bear for her, she eats it and claims that her master thinks they would make fine apprentices.
Somewhere in here, have Arveiaturace mention a strange treasure she wanted to add to her hoard but couldn't - the psi-crystal (in the mine on M12. page 99). It grants you the power of telepathy. Her "master" wants it. It is in the gem mine near Termalaine. She can't get at it without going to war with the miners (the dragon is unaware that kobolds have overtaken the mine).
Journey to Termalaine: This is a bit of a tough one, as far as "directing" the group goes. I want them to go all the way from Dougan's Hole to Termalaine, which means either they trudge through the snow for what looks to be about 11 miles, or they take the road and pass through Good Mead, Easthaven, Bryn Shander on the way to Termalaine.
If the group has somewhat befriended the dragon, then she could "escort" them there through the snow, which might provide additional incentive. Heck, maybe the group could fight alongside her against the wandering frost giant (pg 109).
(pg 94) Termalaine: Have the group meet an NPC in The Blue Clam - an old adventurer haunted by a mistake she made long ago. She was plundering a dungeon with her party, and they accidentally thawed out a number of monsters - one of which was an umber hulk. The hulk fled by digging a tunnel in the wall. They could have pursued it, but they figured it could be dealt with later. The hulk ended up tunneling back to town and killed a number of citizens, including the hero's own brother.
She felt responsible. She should have dealt with the threat right away, but honestly she was more focused on the promise of magic items. She fled to Ten-Towns and now her days are full of booze and regret.
The point of this is to plant an idea in the group's mind - when the chardalyn dragon flies out of Xardorok's fortress, they should stop what they're doing and go after it.
(pg 94) A Beautiful Mine: The group hears from a boy that the mine has been overtaken by monsters. Speaker Oarus can give them the details. The group can head to the mines, which is a fun multi-level dungeon, and deal with them.
When the group first nears the psi crystal, have it flare up for a moment. A light washes over the heroes. For just a moment, they can see into each other's minds and sense a surprising secret in a comrade's mind - but it's immediately lost.
Each has been touched by the crystal, and later on, they'll all be hearing the deep speech beacon that will draw them to the rashed nautiloid.
On the Way Out: I think we should set up the idea that the Tiger Tribe (pg 306) are bad guys. Their leader, Queen Bjornhild, worships the Frostmaiden, and her tribe will actually try to kill the heroes when they go to open the glacier (see pg 215). We can use the "Humans" encounter on pg 111. An ambush, perhaps, doesn't have to be deadly, we just want to impress on the group that the Tiger Tribe are vicious opponents.
The Crystal: Remember that if a character attunes to the psi-crystal, they'll start hearing the deep speech telepathic signal (pg 133)
The Gargoyle: Avarice's Gargoyle delivers a message to the group. There is apparently an elven tomb near Lonelywood. It is entirely possible that this place could lead to a lost city of fabulous riches. She urges the group to check it out and will reward them. She warns that they should be wary - her wizardly rivals are likely also looking for it.
Journey From Termalaine to Lonelywood: 1-2 hours.
(pg 80) Lonelywood: Once the group arrives, they learn about a white moose attacking loggers ("The White Moose" pg 81. This quest leads to the Elven Tomb, and while there is no passage to Ythryn, the group might make friends with a mummy, which is not too shabby.
Meeting Vellynne: On the way back from the tomb, the group will notice a large, white dome amongst some green pine trees. A snowy owl is perched on a tree branch. This is a leomund's tiny hut (PH pg 255) and inside is Vellynne Harpell (pg 274) and her kobolds. The owl is her familiar. Remember, Vellynne and the kobolds can see out of the dome perfectly fine.
Vellynne will try to befriend the heroes (she is meant to travel with them when they go to Ythryn). She will ask them what they know about Netheril and will try and find out if they've seen a wizard with a magic orb - the professor orb that Nass Lantomir stole from her.
Overall we want to give the impression that Vellynne is nicer and more trustworthy than Avarice.
She tells the group that there is apparently a whale with a magic boat on its back that can be used to search the Sea of Moving Ice. She feels certain that this whale could be a valuable source of information on both the lost city and ending the Everlasting Rime. She also thinks the whale can help her find her professor orb (she's right, sort of. The orb is on Auril's island). She asks the heroes to go to Bryn Shander with her to find out more.
Journey from Lonelywood to Bryn Shander: The group can take the road back to Termalaine, which is 1-2 hours. Then they can take the road most of the way to Bryn Shander and then cut across the snow (6 hours).
Ice Troll: Let's have an ice troll attack during the journey. Vellynne and her kobolds can help out, buffering the difficulty. After the fight, Vellynne can offer the group the ice troll's heart, explaining the uses of an ice troll heart (detailed on pg 294):
- The heart can only be damaged by fire.
- For the first 24 hours, the heart has magical properties.
- If you eat it, you can regenerate like a troll for a time.
- If you bury it in the ground, it summons a blizzard.
Bryn Shander: The heroes arrive at Bryn Shander and quickly learn that this whale actually exists! via the whale oil merchant in the Whale Oil Quest (pg 103). The group can't help but notice that Vellynne's tremors have gotten worse. She is in no shape to make this trip. She needs to keep her kobolds with her in case one of her rivals arrives in town.
(pg 114) Angajuk's Bell: On the way to Angajuk's bell, the party is attacked by a Coldlight Walker (pg 107).
The Dragon: When the group arrives at Angjuk's bell, Arveiaturace is there eating some fishers. She is still hungry, and wants to eat the whale if and when it surfaces. She asks the group to summon the whale with the bell. The group can convince Arveiaturace that the whale is a friend, but the dragon is still hungry. If the heroes use the fishing equipment of the dead fishers, they can catch fish for knucklehead trout (see "Fishing for Knucklehead Trout" on pg 11). Let's say that the fishers were using nets, so that the heroes catch a big pile of fish using the same rules as catching a single fish.
Return to Bryn Shander: Vellynne has fallen ill, but will want to hear all about Angajuk. She is being tended to by Copper Knobberknocker, a gnome acolyte of Lathander (see "Provisions for Macreadus" pg 103. He will ask the group to take provisions to his friend, offering free healing to those who complete the quest and return.
(pg 116) Black Cabin: This one is pretty wild. Macreadus is dead! And he's in the Ethereal Plane. He was building a device that he hoped would end the Everlasting the Rime. The heroes can try to finish the job!
(pg 103) Zero Rum Quest: This quest is supposed to be found in Bremen, but let's say that the Tavernkeepers of Five Tavern Center in Bremen sent an NPC to Bryn Shander to find someone who can help them. The NPC will of course remember the heroes for defeating the Lake Monster way back at the beginning.
(pg 127) Dark Duchess: The group can take Angajuk to the ship. On the ship - there is no rum. It turns out that this is a lair belonging to Arveiaturace! The heroes can deal with the kobolds and the ice troll.
The group can befriend Arveiaturace by adding to her hoard, rather than taking from it. She will then fly to another wrecked ship and bring back 5 barrels of Moon Mountain Ale (from the Moon Mountain Brewery detailed in Dragon Magazine #299).
Return to Bryn Shander: When the heroes get back to Bryn Shander, they find that Vellynne is gone. Vellynne saw that Avarice was in town and decided to get out and go resume her search for the professor orb.
Avarice has heard that the group met with Vellynne and she wants to know everything. She wants to know if Vellynne knows about Jarlmoot... She akss the group to go with her to Bremen. She thinks she might have found the key to ending the Everlasting Rime.
Journey from Bryn Shander to Bremen: 2 hours to targos, 2 more to Bryn Shander.
Bremen: I'd like to change up Yselm's Way (pg 137) and replace Yselm Bloodfang with Avarice. Avarice isn't an agent of Auril, and she won't necessarily betray the adventurers. She'll just accompany them to Jarlmoot and hope that they will do the work for her - possibly pulling a disappearing act on them and then making up a story about why she bailed on them once everything is safe.
As they explore Jarlmoot, the heroes hear the psychic beacon more and more. It almost gets to the point of ruining their short and long rests. Something is pulling them to an area south of Dougan's Hole...
Journey from Bremen to Dougan's Hole: 1-2 hours to Targos, then 1-2 hours to Bryn Shander, then 6 hours to Good Mead, and 4 hours to Dougan's Hole.
Dougan's Hole - (pg 103) Distress Signal: You could use the NPCs on page 103 to direcct the group to the nautiloid, but I prefer a more direct approach. I want to avoid having the entire adventure consisting of NPCs handing out quests when possible.
Journey from Dougan's Hole to Id Ascendant: Looks like it is about 14 miles through the snow. The group should be able to avoid mountains, but who knows, you might want to have "Mountain Travel"(pg 11) rules handy.
(pg 132) Id Ascendant: As the group nears the nautiloid, they will spot an eerie glow. After the group explores the ship, they may have to deal with the bulette ("Bulette Proof" pg 137).
The Yeti Hunter: Once the group returns to Dougan's Hole, they can meet Mylbor Tafferac the NPC from "Hunt for the Red Yeti." He'll tell the heroes about the yeti and ask them to come to Easthaven and maybe he'll teach them a thing or two about yeti hunting.He's hunting a legendary Red Yeti...
Dougan's Hole to Easthaven: Trip to Good Mead takes 2-4 hours, Trip from Good Mead to Easthaven takes 4.5 hours.
Easthaven - (pg 104) Hunt for the Red Yeti: When the group returns to Easthaven, have them walk by the area where Dzaan burned. We just want to remind them of that incident, seeing how they are about to meet his clone.
At the Wet Trout, Mylbor Tafferac challenges the group to find the Red Yeti. The patrons get into it. If the group does find and kill the Red Yeti, let's have Nynetra give the heroes a bottle of Elverquisst (the drink that the professor orb knows so much about).
(pg 145) Lost Spire of Netheril: While hunting for the Red Yeti, the adventurers stumble upon a 20-foot-high spur of rock and a tunnel in the snow. This tunnel is the entrance to the lost spire. In the spire, they'll meet Dzaan's clone, who will try and get the group to go to the rune chamber so that he can become real.
Remember that at the end, some bugbears might show up ("Bugbear Incursion" pg 152). You could switch this out for some Tiger Tribe members, or some chardalyn berserkers.
(pg 103) Dragon Bone Stew: Once the heroes have rested in Easthaven, Dannika Graysteel will ask them to go to Wyrmdoom Crag to fetch some white dragon bones.
Journey Toward Wyrmdoom Crag: This is a long trip! Looks like 30 miles or so, and it will include "Mountain Travel" (pg 11). What I want to do here is to wedge in the Cave of the Berserkers, which is near Wyrmdoom.
So, let's say that the group is on their way to Wyrmdoom Crag, and they are attacked...
(pg 107) Chardalyn Berserkers: A band of berserkers attack the heroes. One of them is wearing the Frostmaiden's Ring. If the ring is taken, all creatures within 100 feet of it are engulfed in swirling snow and are teleported to the icy path that leads to the Cave of the Berserkers (pg 124).
(pg 124) Cave of the Berserkers: Don't forget the main gimmick of this place - there is a magic font that prevents the berserkers from dropping below one hit point!
Let's put the remains of some duergar in room Q6. They tried to invade this place and steal the chardalyn, but were found and killed by the nigh-invincible berserkers. We're doing this to reinforce the idea that the duergar are after the chardalyn.
Once the group deals with the cave, they can get their bearings and realize they're not too far from Wyrmdoom Crag.
(pg 166) Wyrmdoom Crag: At the crag, the group could, in theory, befriend the goliaths. The dragon bones they seek are right there at the entrance, where chwingas lurk, ready to be a nuisance.
Return to Easthaven: When the group returns, have Rinaldo at the White Lady Inn conducting a small string ensemble. They are playing "The Dark Between the Stars" (the song that the group might conduct on page 257).
I would describe the song as the musical equivalent of the feeling of falling into a vast pit of darkness. Heroes trained in Performance might get advantage when it comes time to conduct this piece in Ythryn.
(pg 68) The Chardalyn Caper: Once the group has rested, the duergar steal the chardalyn from the town hall. The group can track them back to the Easthaven Ferry, where they find a map leading to Sunblight.
From here on out, you can just run it by the book. Everything's been foreshadowed and now it is time to pay it off. One note about the battle with the chardalyn dragon:
If the group has befriended her, I think it might be cool to have Arveiaturace fly in during a dramatic moment and help the group finish off the dragon. We could do a scene where the chardalyn dragon knocks the wizard off Arveiaturace's back, and a character who has been exceptionally kind to her can climb on and fly around on the white dragon's back. Maybe Arveiaturace will even dimly realize that her "master" has been dead for a long time and that she should let him rest.
Keep in mind that a campaign is a tough thing to complete. You'll need to get a group of players that can consistently meet on a regular schedule. When things start to feel like they're dragging, do whatever you have to do to fix it. Hand wave stuff, turn a journey into a montage, have a battle end due to a freak accident, whatever.
The whole point, really, is to have fun. Don't beat yourself up or spend time comparing yourself to other DMs. Every DM has their own style, like a director of a movie. Play to your strengths and hide your weaknesses.
Thanks for reading, and good luck!