After the party had defeated the Ice Hunter’s champion by a narrow margin, they were begrudgingly given shelter for the night in a way that would earn the village no more than two stars on Trip Advisor. The accommodations were in the form of a seal-skin hut whose previous occupants were quote missing at sea unquote after having departed for a hunting trip. The party was told that dinner would be served shortly, after which they could ask their questions of the Chief during the tribe’s post-meal “happy hour”.
The dinner consisted of — wait for it — fish. Not just fish, but fish in stew form, the lowest form that fish can take in an attempt to be made edible. Of course, when in Rome (or in this case Oyaviggaton, since there is no Rome in Faerun and the whole adage just falls apart so back to the recap). But not so fast, said the waladin. He was already miffed that the Chief refused to acquiesce to the demands of random strangers in his own village — funny that — so he wasn’t in a trusting mood. Casting Detect Poison, it was revealed that — surprise! — the meals were laced with something disagreeable. The druid suggested that maybe there was a regional ingredient that the tribe had become acclimated to, but which was registering as poison, but the Frostkimmr‘s translator Dugan couldn’t recall any Ice Hunter food he’d ever tried that he wasn’t able to stomach eventually.
Now on high alert, the party sent out a few animalistic spies to check their hut’s perimeter (all clear) and to see if there was any kind of quote unusual unquote activity going on in the village proper. In sea bird form, the druid was able to eavesdrop on a heated conversation between Chief Barking Seal and the Shaman, Bonecarver. Thanks to the bard’s Tongues spell, she was able to discern that Bonecarver was upset with the Chief over his treatment of the visitors. She claimed that the gods had promised the village salvation, and that his actions may have ruined what she saw as the fulfillment of their promise.
Hoping to hear more, the bird-druid followed Bonecarver back to her medicine hut (because if we’re stereotyping, we might as well go all-in) in an attempt to spy on the woman. Like a secret handshake or something, the Shaman recognized the bird-druid for who she was, and spilled the details to her, asking her to bring the party to her hut once the sun went down.
The deal was this: Barking Seal’s grandfather had found Oyaviggaton when he was Chief, and also found Aranathur in residence. For refusing to submit his entire tribe to the service of the Great White Wurm, the Chief was swallowed whole, ensuring the cooperation of Barking Seal’s father, the new Chief. He collected the rest of his tribe and willfully placed them in the dragon’s service as they claimed Oyaviggaton as their new home. Barking Seal followed in his father’s cowardly tradition, then, and refused to do anything to anger the dragon. That included trying to free his tribe from the wurm’s service. But Bonecarver wasn’t so afraid. She prayed to the gods for help, and they answered her by sending her Adventure Co (which was the best the gods could do on short notice). The Shaman explained that the berg was riddled with caves, and that the dragon had a lair at the very bottom of the hollowed out structure. She also revealed a passageway into the ice at the back of her hut, which the party quickly investigated.
Being inside an iceberg confers a certain amount of risk in the forms of hypothermia and unsure footing, as both the druid and the waladin discovered as they tried to climb down the frost-encrusted ladder with less than Olympic-level grace. To add insult to injury, the rest of the party executed perfect 10.0 dismounts (even from the Russian judge!) all the way down. A quick heal-up later, and the party found themselves in an intricately designed ice warren with vaulted ceilings and mirror-like ice floors. The strangest part was that this was no mere cavern hewn from frozen water; it was a veritable temple to Draconic influences. The walls were carved with epic scenes involving dragons fighting dragons, dragons fighting giants, and dragons hoarding massive hoards. Pillars and buttresses of all shapes and sizes were carved from berg itself and were decorated with leering dragon heads that secured whale-oil lanterns in their sharp-toothed mouths. With the dancing flame-light, it might actually all be really pretty, if it weren’t so fucking creepy. And cold. Really. Really. Cold.
Almost as soon as they ventured out into the main hallway, the party ran into their first cavern dweller — an ice toad. Unlike the reptilian cousins that they had met in the Mere of Dead Men, this toad was more toad than Mr. Toad. His webbed feet slapped against the sheer ice as he hopped slowly down the hallway. Around his neck he carried a crude bag filled with tools. He paid the party no mind as they exchanged glances, and then slap-hopped his way past and continued down the tunnel.
Further along, the path sloped up sharply, causing the party to detour into another cavernous room filled with a frigid fog that severely reduced visibility. As the point-elf, the ranger crept into this cavern and slowly revealed several large, immobile shapes looming over him. Further investigation revealed a series of frozen giants, all quite dead. In the distance, the high-pitched, guttural language of kobolds could be heard from somewhere in the cave (the acoustics sucked, making pinpointing the sources impossible).
Never one to pass up an opportunity to exercise her species-fluid sensibilities, the bard donned her kobold costume (gawddamned kobold costume) and with a little magical shoring up assistance from the waladin, headed deeper into the cave to recon the situation. She found that there were 10 dead giants in all, and that the kobolds were polishing the ice walls and the rime-encrusted corpses and were fixing up any other ice carvings that needed attention. All in all, this looked suspiciously like a trophy room. But once again, thanks to the Tongues spell, the bard was able to listen in on the kobold’s conversations. One of them dropped a casual aside that mentioned a “horned woman” somewhere in the warren. The party suspected that it might have been talking about Maccath the Crimson.
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This session was a good example of organic direction. The module provided some seemingly conflicting information regarding the fish stew and the intentions of the Shaman, but in the end both were presented as a way for the GM to work within a larger framework, and not have to rely on a “connect the dots” kind of progression.
The Detect Poison attempt was really smart, although I’ll admit that if the module hadn’t actually included that as a potential plot point, I wouldn’t have thought to include a positive result. Yes, the tribe tried to poison the party, knocking them unconscious with the intent to leave them in the ice caverns for the dragon’s minions to find, but yes, the Shaman seems to be the only one who wants to get the hell away from the dragon. Even if the party had just eaten the stew, any members who succeeded in their CON check would have gotten the admission (and antidote) from the Shaman. They would have all had to have failed in order to have ended up in the caves against their will, but the Detect Poison, so in the end the scenario followed options available through the module.
One of the more difficult things that I was focusing on was how to deal with the idea of being inside an iceberg. It’s cold, it’s kinda-not-really dark (there are lanterns for kobolds and ice toads), but most importantly, it’s slippery. This is a significant portion of the environmental description in the module, so it has to be significant. Unfortunately, “ice” only has official rules that treat it as “difficult terrain” which means reduced speed when moving. Since we’re not dealing with traditional mini-movement and speed, that effectively negates the difficult terrain modifier. But the ice has to play into it somehow. One way is that the map is actually color coded to indicate the heights of sections, which allows us to understand when there’s a ramp leading down (Wheeeeeeeee!) or a ramp leading up. Leading up is of particular concern because the players will have an extremely difficult time making it up those slopes…difficult, but not impossible if they can figure out some way to master the ice. Otherwise, there’ll probably be some kind of imposition on them during combat if they try and move. Dodging during combat, whether active or implied, has to take the icy conditions into account in some way, I feel.