This is part 7 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, we’ll discuss how to change the way Auril is presented in the adventure from Chapter 5 and onwards, so we can avoid some of the issues facing a deity in the flesh too soon may cause for the adventurers – and the adventure itself! In addition, there’ll also be some more general advice for running Auril the Frostmaiden during the adventure’s endgame, regardless of whether or not you implement the bigger changes.
Note that most of the ideas in this article are also covered in the DM’s Resources for Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, so if you have already picked up the resources, you shouldn’t be too surprised to find some familiar ideas, phrases, and even whole paragraphs. Even so, having the ideas laid out in a single article may help give a more concise overview of the suggested changes – that’s the intention, at least.
Alright, without further ado – let’s get into it.
Rime of the Frostmaiden – The Frostmaiden
As mentioned in the beginning of this series, one potential issue with Rime of the Frostmaiden is that the titular antagonist, Auril the Frostmaiden, can be encountered on the Isle of Solstice in Chapter 5: Auril’s Abode. It is not a certainty that the characters will face her, but as written, it is possible that the characters might encounter Auril while searching her fortress for the Codicil of White.
There is certainly something cool about running into a goddess, but in this particular case, I think there are more drawbacks than benefits. Auril’s presence on the Isle of Solstice creates the following potential issues:
- Auril can be a very tough foe and may cause a total party kill if faced too soon.
- If the characters manage to defeat Auril, their primary motivation for going to Ythryn (ending Auril’s Everlasting Rime) dies with her, at least as the adventure is written.
- A ‘random’ encounter with a goddess in a barren bedroom isn’t exactly the most epic encounter scenario.
There’s various ways you can get around this issue, which includes ensuring that Auril doesn’t kill/isn’t killed by the party, that the characters are given strong advice to avoid encountering her, or by implementing the advice given in Part 1: Background about having Auril’s Everlasting Rime be permanent, so her death doesn’t ‘end’ the adventure. In the DM’s resources, we describe several ways to do this with additional advice for running Chapter 5: Auril’s Abode, but in this article, I will focus on one idea in particular: replacing Auril with an agent, the frost giant druid Geluvicken.
Geluvicken is the daughter of the frost giant Queen Vassavicken, who lays entombed underneath Grimskalle, and is one of Auril’s most zealous followers. In this scenario, it is Geluvicken who takes off from Grimskalle each night to strengthen Auril’s spell. Geluvicken is also the hidden hand behind the frost druid activity in Icewind Dale – it was she, who sent Ravisin and her sister to ravage Ten-Towns (pg. 85) and/or Yselm to lure the characters into a trap (pg. 103).
Like her goddess, Geluvicken is arrogant and aloof, but she also possesses a great fury and an unyielding devotion to her goddess. She will attack at any perceived slight to Auril and will never accept defeat, fighting on to the bitter end. Her motivation is simple: she is deeply devoted to Auril and bears a strong disdain for the peoples of Icewind Dale, whom she feels have usurped her ancestral kingdom.
Part of the reason you may want to use Geluvicken instead of Auril is that having the characters encounter her creates fewer issues – in fact, you may even want the characters to encounter her, so you can use her death (or anger at the characters’ escape) to foreshadow Auril (see ‘Introducing Auril’ below).
But first, let us take a quick look at how an encounter with Geluvicken might look and some ideas for running such an encounter.
In the Bedchamber
If the characters infiltrate the fortress while Geluvicken is home and head into her bedchamber, the frost giant immediately attacks. Two snow golems manifest from piles of snow near the staircase and attack alongside her.
Outside the Chamber of the Codicil
If Geluvicken was home when the characters entered the fortress or has returned while the characters underwent Auril’s tests, she is alerted to their presence as soon as the door to ‘G22. Chamber of the Codicil’ is opened. She hurries down to confront the characters in ‘G10. Ice Rink’, where she commands the reluctant giant walrus Ukuma to fight alongside her.
As the Characters are Leaving the Island
If Geluvicken is only just returning home as the characters leaves the isle or is slow to react to the theft of the Codicil of White, she pursues them on her roc:
- If the characters are leaving on the back of Angajuk, Geluvicken and her roc show up as they are 120 ft. from ‘I1. Ruined Dock’. Once all characters are atop Angajuk, the whale dives under the surface, preventing Geluvicken from continuing the chase.
- If the characters are leaving on the Ravenous, Geluvicken and her roc show up shortly after the ship sets off from the island. The characters have little chance of escaping the swift roc, but are aided by the ship’s two ballista (+6 to hit, range 120/480 ft., 3d10 piercing damage), which are manned by six sailors.
- If the characters are leaving on griffons, the roc catches up to them in the air shortly after they depart the island. The characters are unlikely to escape on the slower griffons, but the griffons can aid them in combat against Geluvicken and her mount.
Running an Encounter with Geluvicken
Regardless of where the characters encounter Geluvicken, she meets them in much the same manner: by cursing them as “Intruders!” and “Defilers!” and swearing that they will become “offerings to the Frostmaiden!”. Her tactics in combat are simple:
- Geluvicken focuses her attacks on any character who has the Codicil of White.
- If she has had time to prepare, she has freedom of movement cast upon herself.
- Her strongest spell (control weather) is of little use in combat, so she relies on spells like whirlwind, cone of cold, and ice storm to deal with the characters.
Using Geluvicken instead of Auril also serves another purpose: her defeat allows you to introduce Auril as the adventure’s main villain in a more ominous way. When Geluvicken is nearly defeated, or the characters are close to escaping from her with the Codicil of White in hand, you can read or paraphrase:
The frost giant roars in anger as specks of snow and shards of ice whirl around her, slowly lifting her until she hovers several feet of the ground. Turning her face to the skies, the giant yells: “Frostmaiden, I have failed you! Accept my final offering – this pitiful mortal coil and my eternal soul – so that you may deliver your cold judgement to those who have wronged you. Auril, I beseech you, use me as your vessel!”
While the giant speaks, rime spreads across her body, until she is completely covered in a thick layer of ice, just as the last words cross her lips. The giant’s body stills then, as does the whirlwind of ice and snow, as if time itself has stopped. Creaking loudly, the giant’s head turns toward you, eyes glowing with a fierce, blue light. She looks straight at you – through you, almost, her gaze as cold and sharp as icicles – and says in a voice that is simultaneously as soft as a whisper and as deafening as thunder: “I see you.”
With those words, the giant’s frozen body and all her belongings explode into millions of small, icy shards that come clashing to the ground underneath it, until there’s nothing left of the giant but scattered piles of ice and snow – and the echo of an eerie voice on the wind: “I see you…”
Geluvicken’s sacrifice has brought Auril – or at least an aspect of her divinity – to the Material Plane. The goddess has come to finish the work that has been started – and to get vengeance on the adventurers and prevent them from undoing her spell. Luckily, Auril is yet too weak to manifest in a physical form, and must bide her time. This gives you a chance to introduce Auril in her various forms later in the adventure, as she stalks the party through the snow, before eventually bringing her full strength to bear against them in Ythryn.
Vengeance Served Cold
Another benefit of not letting the characters kill Auril in Chapter 5: Auril’s Abode, is that we can inject a bit more horror into the adventure, by having the goddess pursue them as they make their way toward the Reghed Glacier with the Codicil of White in hand.
If you insert various locations in Icewind Dale before the characters make it from the Isle of Solstice to the Caves of Hunger as suggested in Part 6: The Open Railroad, you can have Auril or her agents show up to harass the party as they do so. You can also wait until the characters are closer to the entrance in the Reghed Glacier, as described in the example encounter below.
Encounter with Auril
By the book, the characters meet up with the Elk Tribe as they head for the Reghed Glacier (see Chapter 6: Caves of Hunger). Here they encounter the hostile Tiger Tribe, who are unlikely to be more of an inconvenience to the party and their allies. We can make this scenario a bit more ominous by introducing Auril to the fray!
Instead of having Mjenir immediately urge the characters to flee when the Tiger Tribe appears, the Elk Tribe just fights alongside the party. Combat is likely proceeding smoothly, with the characters and the Elk Tribe handily defeating the Tiger Tribe. Just as the outcome of the combat seems all but certain, you can read or paraphrase the following:
You see the champion warrior Hengar wield his spear to devastating effect, delivering a killing blow to the enemy in front of him. As he turns around, eyes scouring the snow-blasted tundra for his next opponent, a dark form materializes out of the blizzard behind him. With the head of a snowy owl, black talons, and dark goat horns protruding from its brow, the hunched, 7-foot-tall biped strikes a grotesque figure. Its visage is a mask of cold fury as it buries its talons in Hengar’s back and lifts the large warrior off the ground. Ice forms across the warrior’s body and his face twists in a soundless scream as the life fades from his eyes. The figure discards the champion’s lifeless corpse without much care or thought, and turns its cold gaze on you. Huge skeletal shapes start appearing from the snowy darkness behind the creature, lumbering toward you with uneven strides. Around the giants’ legs, dead barbarians begin to rise from the snow, spectral light shining from their corpses. “Flee!” roars the druid Mjenir, an unmistakeable note of awe and terror in his voice. “The Frostmaiden has come! You must go now! Find a way to save the Dale – we shall delay her as much as we can, but you need to flee. Now!”
Auril has arrived alongside three frost giant skeletons and quickly creates up to six coldlight walkers from the many corpses on the battlefield.
Realizing that they are outmatched, Mjenir desperately urges the characters to escape into the caves and find a way to save Icewind Dale. Auril’s forces are still a few hundred feet away from the characters, giving them enough time to escape if they make haste.
If the characters flee as instructed, the druid runs with them to the entrance, while the warriors of the Elk Tribe lay down their lives to delay the giants and coldlight walkers. At the entrance, Mjenir pulls forth a hallowstone (see below) and activates it. For as long as he remains here, concentrating on the stone, Auril and her undead minions won’t be able to come closer, allowing the characters to read the Rime of the Frostmaiden and enter the glacier when they’re ready. When the path opens, Mjenir urges: “Go! I will delay them, but I won’t be able to hold the spell forever. You must make haste!”
Making a Stand
Even for a party of 8th-level characters, Auril and her forces are likely to be an exceedingly difficult challenge – which every NPC within earshot should let the characters know. But, adventurers being adventurers, they may still decide to chance it.
If they do and things go poorly, make sure to have Mjenir continually urge them to flee, once more offering to cover their retreat. You can also have Vellynne instruct her zombies to hold off the attackers while she races ahead to read the Rime of the Frostmaiden and open the entrance, urging the characters to follow.
During this encounter, you can have Auril stay back, contend to watch as her forces test the characters’ mettle. If the characters still manage to kill Auril’s first form, her Divine Rejuvenation and appearance in a new form may be just what is needed to make the characters realize that they should flee.
Winning the Battle
If the characters are somehow holding their own in the encounter with Auril and her forces, or just refuse to flee altogether, you can also have Auril disappear after the death of her first form, but have a cold laughter resound around the characters, letting them know that her defeat isn’t final. You can also have Mjenir or Vellynne tell the party as much: “We may have won this day, but it takes more than this to kill a goddess. Auril will be back, stronger and with more allies. We should not tarry here!”
If the characters flee and Mjenir employs the hallowstone, Auril and her forces disappear back into the snowy mist, biding their time. Mjenir maintains his concentration until Avarice shows up about 12 hours later and kills the druid and any remaining Elk Tribe warriors, which also opens the way for Auril and her minions to chase after the party. If the characters are victorious, the goddess waits until she has regained the use of her first form before picking up the chase.
In either case, Auril doesn’t show up again before the characters have been in Ythryn for a day or so, as described in the book (pg. 260).
By introducing Auril on her island and demonstrating a smidge of her power outside the Reghed Glacier, we have laid the groundwork for an epic, final showdown with Auril in Ythryn, as the characters have laid claim to the ancient city’s mythallar.
As written in the book (pg. 260), Auril arrives a day after the characters have entered Ythryn, dispels the force field around Iriolarthas’ spire, stands on the spire’s balcony, and sends her minions out to kill the characters.
While the idea of having Auril show up and display her godly powers by casually dismissing the force field and taking up position on the balcony is cool, it also messes up the chapter’s pacing. The characters are unlikely to have figured out the Rite of the Arcane Octad in just one day, so to have Auril show up and just make all their efforts meaningless by dispelling the force field can feel like a bit of a letdown. In addition, if Auril is on the balcony of the spire, the characters may end up having to face her and Iriolarthas in rapid succession, which would likely be too much for them to handle.
You can still have Auril show up after 24 hours, but instead of claiming the balcony as her base of operations, she takes up position in a location the characters have already explored, such as ‘Y24. Tower of Enchantment’ or ‘Y4. Tower of Abjuration’. The sudden drop in temperature and a ‘random’ encounter with her minions should let the characters know that Auril has arrived!
Final Encounter with Auril
Auril is a fitting final encounter for the adventure, which means that an encounter with her needs to be placed at the very end. You can do this by having Auril show up to attack the characters in full force once they begin unraveling her Everlasting Rime, as described below.
After dealing with Iriolarthas in his study, the characters can finally attune to ‘Y23. Ythryn Mythallar’ and use it to cast control weather and end Auril’s Everlasting Rime. However, you can decide that casting the spell isn’t enough: To completely undo the effects of Auril’s Everlasting Rime, the spell must be in effect for the full 24 hours, during which the character(s) casting the spell must remain within 30 feet of the mythallar.
Once the spell is cast, Auril quickly becomes aware of what is happening and hurries to throw her full strength at the characters. Whether Auril and her minions show up at ‘Y23. Ythryn Mythallar’ mere minutes after the characters start casting the spell or halfway through the 24-hour window (if you want to give the characters an opportunity to take a long rest) is up to you.
You can start this battle of with a skirmish – a frost giant skeleton and a pair of winter wolves – which lets the party know that Auril is probably onto them. An hour or so later (enough for the party to take a short rest and prepare themselves), Auril shows up with her remaining forces.
Remember, you can choose to include only some of Auril’s creatures to begin with, introducing more during the combat if the characters are having a too easy time dealing with Auril. Conversely, if the characters are getting overwhelmed, you can let characters attuned to it know how deadly touching the mythallar is, which may prompt characters to push foes into the mythallar.
The most important thing is that this final battle is suitably difficult, while still making sure that the characters have a chance of actually defeating Auril. Knowing what is at stake, Auril fights until all three of her forms are destroyed.
When the Frostmaiden dies, her minions may flee or turn into mists of snow, at your discretion – and the characters get to rejoice at having defeated the evil goddess and ending her spell of darkness!
This post concludes the ongoing series of articles on running Rime of the Frostmaiden. It’s been a joy writing them and I only hope that someone somewhere out there gets something out of them. Over the coming days and weeks, I intend to go back over the articles, polishing them up, and perhaps even combining them into a downloadable PDF. In any event, if you’re reading this, thank you for following along!
As always, 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,