Review by C.J. Bunce

Franklin, Scott, Shackleton, Dyre, Hillary, MacReady, Torrance, Norgay.  Name your favorite stone-cold adventurer from real life or fiction and ready yourself for what may be the deepest, most detailed world building in your Dungeons & Dragons gaming yet.  Ed Greenwood and R.A. Salvatore’s Icewind Dale will take on new meaning for you as a place of excitement and troubled outcasts, nonstop pitfalls, and numbing despair–if you’re not careful.  In Wizards of the Coast’s latest adventure, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, players will journey across lands doomed to darkness by a frostmaiden of many faces, known to embody all of winter’s cruelties.  Your most bone chilling nightmares lie ahead, and survival is only the beginning.

Story creator and lead writer Chris Perkins and his team have packed this big volume with every trope and homage to cold adventures and ill-fated quests of the past, from mythic denizens of Scottish lakes to John Carpenter’s desperate team in The Thing.  The simple incorporation of the impact of weather on living things brings survival skills back to the basics.  Your initial journey will offer numerous opportunities within the settlements of Ten-Towns before you make for Icewind Dale.  Who can say no to the Mt. Everest-inspired expedition up Kelvin’s Cairn at Targos (actually a mountain climb with creatures to thwart you)?  And what of this dwarf and bundled figure in the snow–will they be an aid or hindrance?  Each chapter brings a new dark force all as players try to find a way to stop the frostmaiden Auril.  Success or failure could mean a breach of more than the natural course of the weather she has created.

Visit the Keep at Caer-Dineval, as Xardorok Sunblight begins to exert his influence through others to accomplish his own ugly ends.  You can almost smell the sulfur in the air at the Cauldron Caves, then marvel at the beautiful entrance to the Frost Giant lodge, stumble upon a Greyskull-esque fortress, witness the mammoth tusks at the Verbeeg Lair, the stranded ship the Dark Duchess, the prison at Revel’s End, the ruins of Ythryn, and then reflect on the simple but evocative windswept landscapes.  But nothing can ready players for what Auril has up her sleeve.

Chwinga, werebear, duergar, abominable yeti, night hags, legacy brotherhoods, mountain goats, reindeer, many encounters with (stunningly rendered) wolves, and there even may be whales and dragons here–so many creatures are found in Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden it feels like it is another Monster Manual.  Fifty icy themed creatures in all are introduced in the appendix, in addition to the dozens tucked into every other page.

Character and environment artwork, an eye-popping use of color by the art department throughout, and those new maps (some updates of familiar places)–every new D&D volume needs a Mike Schley giant foldout map–it conjures that great find many of us once experienced with the latest copy of National Geographic, our very first adventurer guide.  (Schley created the maps for borg writer Elizabeth C. Bunce’s high fantasy Thief Errant series, so it’s doubly fun here to find his work inside another D&D project).  DMs can hand out player-specific secrets, all which can be copied from an appendix to the volume.  Don’t miss Chris Perkins’ afterword, where he speaks of the isolation of the current pandemic and its role in the release of this book.

This has my vote for the best storytelling and the most stunning artwork and art design of any fifth edition volume.  The next adventure from Dungeons & Dragons is coming to your online or brick and mortar game shop next Tuesday, September 15.  Pre-order Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden now here at Amazon.  Two cover options are available, the bright blue cover featuring Tyler Jacobson’s gorgeous frostmaiden and Hydro74’s soft-finish variant sold only at game shops.

 

And a reminder to take a look at the accessory set (purchase separately), among D&D’s prettiest tie-in sets offered to date.  With the Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden Dice and Miscellany you get:

  • Eleven dice (two d20s, one d12, two d10s, one d8, four d6s, one d4)
  • Foldout map of Icewind Dale and Ten-Towns (10.5″ × 15.75″)
  • Felt-lined box that functions as two dice trays
  • Twenty double-sided cards with descriptions and illustrations of characters and creatures

And fans of miniatures will want to check out the tie-in figures, a random assortment of 45 characters:

Learn more about the miniatures set here at the D&D website.