This is part 4 of a series about running Rime of the Frostmaiden. Check out Running Rime of the Frostmaiden – Introduction & Overview for a more in-depth description of the series.
In this article, I’ll go over how to guide the action in the very open beginning of Rime of the Frostmaiden, as well as how to include more foreshadowing and create a better connection between the various storylines as the characters explore northern Ten-Towns.
This is done following the loose structure outlined in Part 2: Structure and building upon the start laid out in Part 3: Starting Strong. If you haven’t read those articles, you may want to do that first – but even if you don’t, I’ll try to make sure you can follow along regardless.
As this series focuses primarily on the adventure’s overall story and structure, whatever we go into detail with below has to do with guiding the action, adding more foreshadowing, and tying various storylines (Auril, Xardorok Sunblight, and the Arcane Brotherhood) more closely together. For more details on how to run individual encounters, locations, and quests, check out the DM’s Resources for Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden.
Alright, without further ado – let’s get into it.
Running Northern Ten-Towns
Following the outline laid out in Part 2: Structure (see above), we have started the adventure in the northwestern part of Ten-Towns (Bremen, Bryn Shander, Targos, and Termalaine). What we want to do now is have the characters remain in this area until they hit 3rd level, which is when we can start to lead the characters toward Caer-Konig and the duergar conspiracy.
Assuming that we have followed the start laid out in Part 3: Starting Strong (or something close to it), this means that we pick up the action when the characters:
- … have completed the quest in their starting town (we’re assuming Bryn Shander, but could just as easily be Bremen or Termalaine) and have reached 2nd level.
- … have learned about a ‘Lake Monster’ in Bremen and/or troubles with ‘A Beautiful Mine’ in Termalaine.
- … may have received the ‘Cold-Hearted Killer’-quest and/or the ‘Nature Spirits’-quest.
- … may have spoken briefly with the ‘Mountain Climb’-adventurers and learned about their search for ‘Oyaminartok’ and/or have encountered Vellynne, who’s asked them to keep an eye out for Nass Lantomir.
Whether they have learned about one quest or another, it seems likely that the characters must pass through Targos. But, before we take the action to Targos, we need to quickly talk about the two Starting Quests.
Starting Quest: Cold-Hearted Killer
The first Starting Quest revolves around pursuing and eliminating the possessed killer Sephek Kaltro. Below are some quick pointers on how to fit this quest into the adventure’s structure and use it to enhance the story. For more detailed information on running the quest (including how to make it more of a murder mystery), see page 9 and 14 of the DM’s resources.
Cold-Hearted Killer as Structure
First, it’s important to realize that the characters aren’t meant to catch up to Sephek before they have reached 2nd or preferably 3rd level, as he’s a formidable challenge. In addition, we may hold off on letting them catch him, because we can use the characters’ pursuit of Torg’s to help guide structuring the chapter.
We do this by having the quest giver (Hlin Trollbane) initially point northward to Targos. In Targos, Torg’s did arrive the day before the characters, but nobody knows where the caravan went since. In lieu of better leads, the characters are likely to presume that Torg’s headed either north to Bremen or east to Termalaine. However, nobody has seen Torg’s recently in any of these towns either. As the characters eventually come back through Targos, they discover that the caravan headed out with Garret (from the ‘Mountain Climb’-quest) toward Kelvin’s Cairn before it veered off toward Caer-Konig (a bit more about this under ‘Getting to Caer-Konig’ later in this article).
Foreshadowing: Auril’s Frost Druids
In the book, we’re only told that “the spirit of a frost druid beholden to Auril” possessed Sephek Kaltro. To make things a bit more concrete, we can have the recently-killed Vurnis, twin sister of Ravisin (the druid at Lonelywood’s Elven Tomb), be the frost druid that possessed Sephek.
If the characters haven’t dealt with Ravisin before confronting Sephek, you can have him exclaim that “you may destroy this mortal vessel, but Ten-Towns will not escape the Frostmaiden’s embrace. My sister will see to it!” If the characters have already dealt with Ravisin, you can instead have Sephek exclaim that “you! You killed my sister! By the will of the Frostmaiden, my vengeance shall be swift and cold!”
As Sephek dies, the spirit leaves his body as a small cloud of icy vapor, (maybe) escaping to fight another day. If you’re using Geluvicken (see Part 1: Background) as a replacement for Auril on the Isle of Solstice, you can have the spirit whisper coldly that “you have gained nothing this day. Queen Geluvicken’s work continues and the Frostmaiden’s fury shall not abate until all of Ten-Towns is buried under ice and snow!”
Starting Quest: Nature Spirits
The second Starting Quest has the characters searching for chwingas for a researcher who wants to learn more about the unnatural winter in Icewind Dale. Below are some quick pointers on how to fit this quest into the adventure’s structure and use it to enhance the story.
Nature Spirits as Structure
While the book would have you roll for when spirits are present, it’s entirely up to you when you want to introduce them. You can simply have no spirits appear for as long as you want to, ensuring that the characters have reason to visit more towns. If you want to steer them toward a particular town, you can always have any NPC they ask offer that town as a suggestion:
- As they arrive in Targos, an NPC might say: “Well, there’s rumors of a monster in the lake up by Bremen – could that be what you’re looking for?”
- In Bremen or Termalaine, an NPC might say: “I don’t know about chwingas, but there’s a white moose up by Lonelywood. Sounds mystical to me!”
Lastly, when you’re ready, you can use the quest to point toward Caer-Konig, by having a character they ask inform them about petty theft in Caer-Konig, that very well could be the work of the small trickster spirits.
Foreshadowing: Auril’s Frost Druids / Duergar
The book provides no details about what Dannika (or Vellynne, if you have her be the quest giver for this quest) actually learn if the characters manage to retrieve a chwinga. That’s a shame, because it seems like a good opportunity to provide some foreshadowing, in the form of wordless clues:
- If asked about the darkness and the endless winter, you can have a chwinga mimic staff-wielding frost druids casting spells on innocent beasts and/or a regal lady flying across the land on the back of a bird and casting a spell.
- If asked about duergar, chardalyn, or theft near Caer-Konig, you can have a chwinga squat down and waddle around to mimic a rotund duergar sneaking about, picking up stones (chardalyn) and pocketing them.
Lastly, you can even have the chwingas be the one to point out the duergar’s tracks toward the duergar outpost in Caer-Konig instead of the Shorard-sisters, if you have the characters find the chwingas in that town.
Alright, with the Starting Quests covered, let’s take a look at Targos, the characters’ likely first stop.
When the characters arrive in Targos, they likely already have plenty of leads available to them, so we don’t need to bother them with more. That’s well and good, because we may want to hold onto the quest here – ‘Mountain Climb’ – as we can use it later to steer the characters toward Caer-Konig and the duergar. What we instead want to focus on, is adding some foreshadowing that ties the story together and underscores the adventure’s main goal.
Foreshadowing: Auril’s Frost Druids
The first thing we can have the characters notice as they come into town is the frozen body of a man stripped to the waist tied to a post in the town square. The man, a merchant by the name of Denbek Tommersen, was drawn in the last lottery and sacrificed (stripped bare and soaked in cold water in the freezing cold) to Auril a handful of days ago. The town Speaker, Narth Maxildanarr, has left him hanging to keep the townsfolk properly intimidated. He’s also confiscated the merchant’s wares, ostensibly for redistribution, although little has been shared with the townsfolk yet.
If the party asks questions about what’s going on in the middle of the square, the townsfolk aren’t happy about it, but most seem convinced that the sacrifices are necessary. This has been the consensus in Targos ever since a female druid, Vurnis (the twin sister of Ravisin, who the characters may meet later in Lonelywood), came to the town a few months back and declared that only by performing sacrifices could Targos hope to appease Auril the Frostmaiden, whom she claimed was responsible for the eternal winter. The townsfolk believed she continued toward Termalaine and Lonelywood, but haven’t seen her since.
Following the order of Auril or her agent Geluvicken (see Part 1: Background), Vurnis and her sister Ravisin have held similar speeches in most of Ten-Towns, but only the leaders in Dougan’s Hole, Good Mead, and Targos have listened. For his part, the speaker of Targos, Naerth Maxildanarr, doesn’t necessarily believe the druid’s claims, but has little regard for the life of his subjects, so sees little harm in it. Besides, the lottery is a great way to keep the townsfolk cowed, earn a little extra by accepting bribes to keep people out of the lottery, and provide a handy way to eliminate anyone who’s overtly critical of him and/or has valuable possessions that can be confiscated.
Once the characters have learned what they can in Targos, they’re likely to head out toward Bremen or Termalaine, and perhaps Lonelywood, seeing as they have heard rumors pertaining to these towns.
In Bremen, the characters can undertake the ‘Lake Monster’-quest as it is described in the book, perhaps learning that the frost druid Ravisin gave the lake monster its sentience.
Pointing to Lonelywood
If the characters haven’t been to Lonelywood yet, we can add to the characters parlay with the plesiosaurus (if they speak with it) and give the characters a chance to seek out Ravisin by having the plesiosaurus explain that it met Ravisin on the far bank of Maer Dualdon (which would be near Lonelywood), where it has seen her in company with a white moose.
In Termalaine, the characters can deal with the ‘A Beautiful Mine’ as it is described in the book. Should they happen upon the psi crystal, it is probably a good idea NOT to have them lead to the crashed nautiloid just yet (this can be explained by the crystal having a limited range, for example), as we want to keep them in Ten-Towns just a little bit longer.
Foreshadowing: Auril’s Frost Druids / Pointing to Lonelywood
If the characters ask around about frost druids, or if we just want to give them a new lead, the townsfolk can explain that two female frost druids have passed through town in recent months – the first a month or two ago, the second some weeks later. Both tried to convince the townsfolk to make human sacrifices to Auril (which the townsfolk and the Speaker refused) and headed on to Lonelywood. They haven’t heard or seen them since, but there’s been reports of a large, white moose attacking folk out near Lonelywood.
Lonelywood runs much as in the book, except that we can add to the story that Ravisin’s sister, Vurnis, was slain by the retired assassin Iriskree Harrowhill, when she visited town to convince the people to start sacrificing to Auril. We can also foreshadow the duergar by having Ravisin and her beasts gathering chardalyn for the gray dwarves.
An Afternoon Assassination
In this little addition, Iriskree (owner of The Happy Scrimshander) recognized the potential dangers of the frost druid’s message and decided to solve the problem as she knew best – by following Vurnis into the woods and stabbing her a few times in the back. Ravisin came to the area to exact vengeance after one of her awakened beasts found Vurnis’ dead body a few weeks ago, but she doesn’t know that Iriskree is behind the murder.
For a fun little extra scene, you can have the unassuming Iriskree exclaim “All this trouble just because you kill one meddling druid? Well, that’s what you get for trying to help out, I guess!” with a straight face when the characters return to Lonelywood from the Elven Tomb to explain what’s happened.
Foreshadowing: Xardorok and the Chardalyn Dragon
One of the ways we can improve the adventure’s structure is by tying the duergar’s presence closer to Auril and her frost druids. We can do this by placing a small pile of chardalyn in the Elven Tomb where Ravisin resides. If the characters ask the awakened shrub or a similar creature about it, they can learn that Ravisin instructed her awakened minions to gather the chardalyn “for the gray ones” and that it was to be transported southward in a few days. I’ll elaborate on the connection between the druids and Xardorok’s duergar in the next article in this series.
Getting to Caer-Konig
Once the characters have reached 3rd level – or there about – and have explored most of their leads in Bremen, Bryn Shander, Lonelywood, Targos, and Termalaine, we can begin steering them south toward Caer-Konig and the duergar plot. This can happen at various points, depending on how things play out in your campaign, as per the examples below.
When the characters are ready and come back to Targos on their way from Bremen or Termalaine, we can spring the ‘Mountain Climb’-quest on them. This happens much as in the book – the dog Boy has returned without its owner and Garret’s husband asks them to follow up. As they head off to Kelvin’s Cairn, they may come past Caer-Konig on the way to pick up supplies. If not, we can steer them there after, as Garret or the halfling Perilou ask them to take them there, so they can rest up before heading back to Targos.
Chasing Torg’s Caravan/Nature Spirits
If the characters have still not completed their Starting Quest, you can also use it to steer the characters toward Caer-Konig. This can happen as they learn from someone that Torg’s has crossed the tundra toward Caer-Konig (perhaps traveling alongside Garret, if you also want them to pursue the ‘Mountain Climb’-quest, as explained earlier) a few days ago, or anyone they ask about nature spirits informs them there’s been a lot of reports of petty theft in Caer-Konig, which could very well be the work of chwingas!
Unravelling a Conspiracy
If the characters speaks with the awakened shrub in the elven tomb near Lonelywood and have wrapped up their other obligations in the area, you can also have the awakened shrub there inform them that as far as it knows, the chardalyn pieces Ravisin was hoarding were to be delivered to a town by the foot of “the tall mountain in that direction”, pointing southward.
At this point, the characters have likely expended most of their leads in the northern part of Ten-Towns, which makes it likely they will probably head toward Caer-Konig like we want them to. You don’t have to rush things, though, so if you want to give them some more options and go through some more content before then, you can slip in an extra quest or two after the characters reach 3rd leve, such as:
- The characters learn about Good Mead’s issues with stolen mead as they stop by an inn or tavern.
- While passing through Bryn Shander toward Caer-Konig, Copper approaches them and asks them to visit his friend in the ‘Black Cabin’.
- The characters speak with Speaker Duvessa Shane in Bryn Shander, who wants them to check out ‘Karkolohk’.
- A fisherman shares tales about gnolls who’ve killed people south of Easthaven, near the ‘Cackling Chasm’.
- As they pass through Easthaven, they are presented with the ‘Toil and Trouble’ quest.
Example: Levels 2-3
To help give an overview of what’s been presented here, here’s an example scenario. Note that this isn’t a blueprint or a firm guide, just an example to help illustrate how things could look as the characters travel around the northern part of Ten-Towns:
- The characters head out from Bryn Shander toward Targos, looking for Torg’s Caravan and armed with rumors about a lake monster in Bremen and kobolds in Termalaine’s mine.
- As they arrive in Targos, they see the remnants of the town’s last sacrifice to Auril and hear about a frost druid named Vurnis that may have travelled west toward Termalaine. Nobody knows where Torg’s Caravan was headed, but they learn that the murdered shipbuilder had bribed himself out of the lottery.
- Heading up to Bremen, the characters speak with the plesiosaurus in the lake and learn about a frost druid named Ravisin, who supposedly lives near Lonelywood.
- Heading back through Targos, the characters arrive in Termalaine, where they solve the town’s issues in the mine and learn that two frost druids have come through Termalaine in the past months.
- In Lonelywood, they unravel the frost druid’s presence in the Elven Tomb and learn that the frost druid’s are gathering chardalyn for ‘the gray ones’. The characters advance to 3rd level.
- Running low on leads and rumors, the characters head back through Targos, where they are approached by Garret’s dog and speak with his husband, who informs them that Garret struck out across the tundra with a band of adventurers and Torg’s Caravan and asks the characters to find him.
- The characters complete the ‘Mountain Climb’-quest and are directed toward Caer-Konig, where they finally catch up to Torg’s Caravan, deal with Sephek Kaltro, and receive the ‘The Unseen’-quest from Trovus and the Shorard sisters.
In the next article, we will pick up from here and discuss how to steer the players through the rest of the beginning of Rime of the Frostmaiden as they work to unravel the duergar’s evil plans. This will include a additional foreshadowing and details on how to add in more locations from Chapter 2: Icewind Dale.
In the meanwhile, if you’re looking for more in-depth advice on running and balancing various scenarios, encounters, and locations in Rime of the Frostmaiden, as well as DM’s resources such as DM’s notes, cheatsheets, item handouts, and full-color encounter maps for Icewind Dale, check out the Complete DM’s Bundle for Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden here. If you just want some cool maps for your game, you can also just pick up the maps right here on eventyrgames.com.
Have fun and keep it cool,