A Cool One-Shot — Dread of the Ice Devil (D&D 5e)

Dread of the Ice Devil

Author: Christopher Waples
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
Page Count: 14
Available Formats: PDF
PDF (DTRPG) – $4.95

Dread of the Ice Devil is Christopher Waples’ first published adventure and, upon its release in August 2020, it made quite the impression with buyers and rocketed to the Dungeon Masters Guild’s “electrum best seller” status in a mere 30 days. Let’s take a look to see if it stacks up with its “electrum” status.

For the sake of transparency, Christopher provided me with a copy of this adventure for review purposes. I would also like to mention that I have a long personal history with Dungeons & Dragon spanning thirty-seven years, and the Forgotten Realms is one of my favorite campaign settings to play within.

To run this scenario, you will need the D&D fifth edition core rulebooks (Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual) and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. The Monster Manual and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes contain stat blocks for most of the creatures found in this adventure. If you do not own Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, alternative monsters are provided.

Christopher’s intro to the scenario paints a compelling picture for would-be buyers and, with a few modifications, could serve as a good elevator pitch when canvassing for potential players. The adventure itself is designed to be played in approximately 4-5 hours, as a one-shot adventure by a party of four 5th level characters.

Deep within Icewind Dale lies the mountain of Kelvin’s Cairn. Buried inside is an ancient, long-forgotten evil, trapped in an icy prison. This evil is an Ice Devil known as ‘The Dread Frost,’ a general of the great armies of Stygia, the vast frozen fifth level of the Nine Hells.

Dread of the Ice Devil is a mystery that unfolds deep within the belly of a foreboding mountain. The characters can act upon the information provided by the goliath, Thaladred, to investigate the mysterious flashing lights that occur each night on Kelvin’s Cairn and rid it of the evils found within. Otherwise, the dark plans of Gymira Icebound, a duergar warlock, will succeed and her master’s general will be freed.

Like other one-shots, Dread of the Ice Devil assumes either the DM has pre-positioned the PCs to be headed to Caer-Konig following a previous adventure or that the players are fine with starting a new game or even a campaign in this northern location. Either way, Caer-Konig is the starting point. Upon arrival, well past midnight, the adventurers have a brief fight with an abominable yeti and a gibbering mouther. Upon conclusion of this scene, they’re introduced to the adventure’s actual story hook – something about lights up on the Kelvin’s Cairn and a recent increase in the number of attacks on Caer-Konig.

The adventure’s hook is presented the following morning by a goliath named Thaladred, but there are no roleplaying tips for how to address party’s that may not be enticed into taking the assignment. Though he does appeal to their good nature and possible desire to keep innocent civilians safe, he also offers 600 gold coins to each adventurer. Once they accept the assignment to venture up Kelvin’s Cairn, the adventure progresses through a classic series of encounters, culminating in a final encounter.

The party will only arrive at the cliff face entrance that Thaladred believes is the source of the lights after successfully negotiating three mountain mishaps (a d12 random chart is provided). Once there, adventurers must contend with a series of encounters in an old dwarven complex meant to keep the ice devil imprisoned. The interior of the complex is small, consisting of only a handful of rooms, but each is richly detailed with a variety of DM-friendly assets. These include: read-aloud text, dimensions and terrain composition of each location, encounters within, investigation information (for those inclined to search), and several locations also offer ways to increase or decrease the encounter lethality or provide a Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes replacement option.

Each of the encounter locations, if encountered in a linear fashion, provides a challenging situation for a 5th level party to overcome. Players will have to contend with their diminishing resources (spells, potions, etc.), all while continuing to press on to stop a ritual from being completed. There really isn’t any time to stop and rest, so, yes, they are under a time limit. Once they begin the final encounter, the ritual is nearly complete, and they must contend with both the threat of the ice devil being released and the equally pressing threat from a warlock and several duergar. As the last encounter plays out, the adventurers may successfully deal with the warlock and her duergar allies, but will they be able to stop the ritual in time? You’ll have to play to find out!

The scenario is a complete package, including not only a well-conceived story but also serval options for DMs, empowering them to tailor the experience to their players’ expectations. There are several maps included, but these vary in quality. The maps included for Kelvin’s Cairn are beautifully rendered, having an antiqued look to them. The maps (player and DM) for Caer-Konig are nice. The maps (player and DM) for the Kelvin’s Cairn complex are functional but rather amateurish in their presentation. The latter two map sets appear to be created using map-making software, and while they are not professionally commissioned maps, they are more than functional.

After reading through Dread of the Ice Devil, I can see why it rocketed to “electrum status” in short order. It’s a good, solid one-shot scenario with a plausible story. I do have two issues with the scenario, first, I would like to have seen alternative ways to hook the party into the story should the main plot hook not appeal to them, and second, is the inconsistent quality of the cartography. Neither of which prevents the scenario from being played or actually diminishes the game experience in any measurable way. I do appreciate that Christopher has considered monster alternatives for those, like me, who do not own Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. As a DM who tends to just “grab and run” scenarios, I do like that he’s included ways to increase or decrease the toughness of the encounter. This is especially great for one-shots when there is a mix of player experience and even character levels present.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a well-written scenario with a cool story, you can’t go wrong with Dread of the Ice Devil. 

~Modoc

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