The latest Dungeons & Dragons tome to be crammed into your DM’s bookshelf is Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden. The adventure throws characters from levels 1-11 into an unending winter’s night brought on by a goddess’ wrath. The D&D designers made it clear that horror is the intended theme, with John Carpenter’s The Thing cited as an inspiration. As if to emphasize this, the first chapter gives players many opportunities to face terrifying foes beyond their abilities. Yet as the book reaches more hands, some DMs are finding the deadly beginning quests to be too much.
So which chapter one quests in Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden are actually suited for a first-level party? Read on as we take the guesswork out, and show you the best Ten Towns quests to get your party to level two in Rime of the Frostmaiden.
Let’s get the no-brainer out of the way first. The book itself suggests this as one of two starting quests, and it’s the easier of the two. The adventurers are approached by a scholar who wants to study tiny elementals called chwingas. She hands the party a lantern that can track the little guys, and encourages them to leave town. From there, the DM rolls to see if players encounter chwingas whenever they visit a new town. Once they find chwingas, all the party has to do is play nice and one will join them. That’s it, quest completed, no danger.
The lack of combat (even if the players attack the chwingas for some reason, they just run and hide) makes this a gentle way to guide a party to their first accomplishment in Icewind Dale. It can also get them a level up. As such, Nature Spirits is the ideal starting quest for a party of beginners. The flipside is that the wholesome experience doesn’t quite set the tense tone Frostmaiden is supposed to have. Experienced players might enjoy one of the more challenging quests.
This one also comes somewhat recommended by the book. There are Ten Towns that players will explore throughout the beginning of Rime of the Frostmaiden, each with their own quest. The suggestion is to start in Bryn Shander, the biggest town. Doing so will see the players approached by a group of dwarves. The dwarves had to abandon a sled full of iron ingots when a yeti attacked them, and now they want to hire the players to track down the sled and return the cargo. Along the way, players will need to pass some easy Wisdom checks, wade through a blizzard, and fight goblins who stole the sled.
Foaming Mugs makes for a more action-packed start to a Frostmaiden campaign. It sets the party up for their first expedition outside the relative safety of the Ten Towns. There’s plenty of opportunity to sell the danger of Icewind Dale with both the blizzard and the carnage of a yeti attack. Yet there’s also a wide safety net – the blizzard isn’t combined with any monster encounters, and the yeti is never actually seen. The only combat is against goblins, and even then options are given to ambush them for a surprise round or force a surrender through intimidation.
The closest town to Bryn Shander is Targos, which makes it very likely that players will decide to go there next. Once they arrive in Targos, they’ll find a lost sled dog. Long story short, the dog belongs to a local guide, and the guide’s husband wants adventurers to climb a mountain and find out why the dog came back alone. The DM can throw a Wilderness Encounter at the players on the way to the mountain. Then, the way up the mountain involves battling wildcats, an avalanche and the yeti itself… unless the players are smart about it.
Running Mountain Climb as the first quest will require some DM skill and probably players who aren’t newbies. The DM should keep an eye on the player’s HP and how much fun they’re having. The Wilderness Encounter and avalanche can be skipped if the players are already too worn down. Our suggestion is to nerf the crag cat fight, however. Toning their HP or damage down will make it easier for first-level characters to stay in the fight longer. And remember, the book suggests that one crag cat runs away when the other is killed. No need to drag out the fight.
Finally, when it comes to the yeti, give the players a chance to make peace. This quest is great for showing players that negotiation and fleeing are just as viable as hard-fought victory. Mountain Climb is also ideal if a player has the Littlest Yeti secret. This gives that player time in the spotlight and makes this quest more tenable for lower level parties.
Going back to the easier side of things, the DM can try to push players past Targos and to the westmost town of Bremen. The party finds Bremen to be a small fishing town in decline. The everlasting winter froze the waters they used to fish on, causing a food shortage. But the weather isn’t the only reason. Players who agree to sail out find an intelligent plesiosaurus that is acting on orders to attack fishing boats.
Fighting a dinosaur might not sound like a task for first-time adventurers, but that’s the beauty of this quest. The quest-giver is a researcher who just wants notes on the beast of the lake. Players are given the opportunity to talk to the beast if they’re clever, and get some clues that will pay off later. Or they can just take notes and run. The people of Bremen might welcome the party as heroes if they kill the lake terror, but they’re not the ones who gave the job.
Things can get dicey if the players decide to attack the plesiosaurus, but again, that’s more on them. The ensuing fight, which might very well end with their boat sinking, can serve as a reminder of the harsh land that is Icewind Dale. It is the DM’s job to keep things from getting so difficult that the game stops being fun, but the players still have agency. These quests offer the best chance of getting the party to level two alive, communicating the peril of the setting, and making the characters feel like heroes.
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