Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Thoughts on RotF and SKT

 Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden is actually a good adventure module to come out of 5e. Leaning into horror and high fantasy tropes, the designers have delivered an adventure dripping with theme, creativity, and identity. Even the low level encounters are unique, such as a sentient plesiosaur in a frozen lake, and the marquee villain of the adventure, Auril the Frostmaiden, is finally engaging on her own. It’s not perfect, and suffers from pacing and railroading problems like every other 5e adventure, but it’s a step up from the others, at least.

Storm King’s Thunder, on the other hand, is one of 5e’s worst adventures, sitting near the bottom with the likes of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. It has grindingly terrible pacing issues and an overall lack of focus in the campaign which results in feeling like the ending comes out of nowhere. And, it requires the DM to basically write half the module himself in order to run it.

And yet, I find myself possessed by a desire to modify, tweak and home brew SKT into something playable and fun, while my interest in RotF remains mostly academic. I think that’s because RotF is good enough on it’s own, and to play it you would have to do little more than run it as written.  There’s also a significant overlap between the two adventures- one of the main quests in SKT revolves around Frost Giants attacking Icewind Dale in search of a magic ring. These giants are also worshippers of Auril and seek to extend an everlasting winter over the North. RotF already prominently features Frost Giants around both Icewind Dale and the abode of Auril herself, so importing SKT’s material into it would be redundant. But going the other way, and importing material from RotF into SKT would flesh out a truncated and ill defined quest line and add more content to a barren section of the map.

Realizing that I could take the story of Auril herself and graft it onto the Frost Giant princess and keep the rest of SKT intact, and in fact improve it by doing so, completely shattered my interest in running RotF. SKT itself is more a tale of high adventure, of confronting dangerous foes and exploring savage lands. When I first bought it, I was on this huge “Barbarians” kick and the appeal still remains. The Savage Frontier is an ideal setting in which to explore those themes and play through some straight tropes, instead of the more atmospheric horror of RotF. I have no problems with double dipping as well and running RotF right after SKT and revisiting the Frozen North storyline twice.

For home brewing SKT, I imagine throwing out the plot as written but keeping mostly the setting info and keeping the conflict itself in broad strokes. The Giant Lords and their plans will remain, but the adventure would be more faction driven as the players could choose which Giants to ally with. As for the infamous third chapter, I see that more as barbarian adventuring against other tribes of men, elves, dwarves and orcs, and I’m looking forward to exploring those tropes. For the Frost Giants, not to give too much away, I would replace the Jarl with his daughter, make her a Chosen of Auril and grant her possession of the Codicil of White, wherein she gains the power to extend the Arctic regions southward. 

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Thoughts on RotF and SKT

 Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden is actually a good adventure module to come out of 5e. Leaning into horror and high fantasy tropes, t...