Dungeons & Dragons players will soon be bundling up and casting continual flame, as Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden releases September 15th. Longtime fans are eager to return to Icewind Dale, the land once roamed by Drizzt Do'urden. Newer players probably don’t even know who that is, or why the D&D equivalent of the obligatory snow level is so exciting. Both could probably use a little history lesson. So here are five things you should know before starting an Icewind Dale campaign.
It All Started With Some Very Good Novels
It’s easy to imagine D&D settings as the creation of those who write sourcebooks. Or we just toss them aside to make our own homebrew worlds. Icewind Dale, however, is a rich setting from notable fantasy author R.A. Salvatore. The Icewind Dale Trilogy told the tale of Drizzt Do'urden, a dour drow ranger who found friends while saving Icewind Dale from barbarians, wizards, and demons.
Salvatore’s work resonated with readers by adding humanity to the classic D&D adventure. Sure, a party of wildly different companions fought baddies and found magic items, but Drizzt’s character growth is what made it so compelling. Likewise, Icewind Dale itself held universal themes. No matter your past, you can find a new life in Icewind Dale… if you can survive.
Ten Towns Are The Only Safe Haven
Icewind Dale lies in the northernmost parts of Faerun, beyond where most adventures happen. The first place many Icewind Dale campaigns will see is probably one of the Ten Towns. As the name implies, these ten settlements cooperate to make a living in the harsh lands. For the most part, the towns stick close to three major lakes, and few residents dare to go far beyond their vicinity. The one major exception to this is the Spine of the World, a deadly chain of mountains inhabited by hardy folk, barbarians, and the most dangerous of monsters.
Only The Strong Survive
Even outside of the mountains, it takes a certain kind of person to make a home in Icewind Dale. Fish is the region’s greatest, and perhaps only, commodity. Specifically knucklehead trout. The bones of the trout are just as valuable as the meat, as certain skilled artisans can use them to make intricate carvings called scrimshaw. As such, fishermen and craftsmen make up the bulk of honest trades. Dwarven miners are also plentiful. Rangers guard settlements and keep the trails safe (finally giving players a reason to actually play a ranger).
On the sketchier side of things, Icewind Dale is known as a haven for desperate folk. Many criminals on the run end up there, as do those forced into exile. For players, this means a chance to use the criminal or charlatan background. Just be ready to explain to fellow party members why you’re innocent (or why they should trust you despite your past crimes).
Who The Frostmaiden Really Is
Once players settle into the Ten Towns and fend off some deadly creatures, they’ll soon stumble upon the legend of the Frostmaiden. She is in the new adventure’s title, after all. She’s even teased on the book’s cover as some kind of owl-headed humanoid. Reports say the adventure carries a horror vibe similar to John Carpenter’s The Thing, making the Frostmaiden the silent monster who stalks you when you’re alone in the tundra.
But there’s more to her than meets the eye. SPOILER WARNING It’s been heavily implied that the Frostmaiden is an aspect of Auril, the Goddess of Winter. She’ll transform into her other aspects as part of a new multi-form boss battle mechanic in D&D 5e.
Things Are Going To Get Weird
SPOILER WARNING again if you really want to go in blind, but D&D designers have revealed a very odd thing players will discover in Rime of the Frostmaiden. Narrative Lead Chris Perkins recently tweeted about secrets buried under ice and snow. The picture attached looked to be an alien city. As in, something out of a sci-fi movie. What is this high-tech town doing in Faerun? We’ll have to wait until September 15th to find out.