Icewind Dale

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Icewind Dale is a name that can refer to any of three things relating to the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons & Dragons. First and foremost, Icewind Dale was R.A. Salvatore's sandbox for The Crystal Shard, a tolerable adolescent-aimed fantasy book, if pulling in a lot of 1980s D&D tropes. That book got swiftly expanded and retcon'ed into the second series of Forgotten Realms, with the Dale as one of the most far-northern areas covered, basically so it could touch as little of the already-established Realms as possible. Finally, Icewind Dale is the name of a number of D&D based videogames... also set in the Icewind Dale region. Icewind Dale is also featured in the adventure Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden.

The Region[edit]

The Ten Towns of Icewind Dale

Icewind Dale is an area of arctic tundra that is the northernmost explored area of Faerun; primarily home to wandering tribes of nomadic barbarians called the Reghedmen, it has gained small permanent settlements made up of fishermen, hunters, trappers, miners, craftsmen, dwarves, and merchants who come for the local trade in ivory, gems and furs.

The Ten-Towns[edit]

The bulk of "civilization" in Icewind Dale consists of a loose confederation known as "The Ten-Towns", because there are ten of them in total. These are located in close proximity to the three lakes of Icewind Dale, which are exploited for their fish - primarily Knucklehead Trout, a massive fish with a large, densely-boned, rounded skull that can be carved into valuable ivory.

The smallest lake, Redwaters, is home to the two villages of Dougan's Hole and Good Mead, which are the smallest, poorest settlements of the Ten-Towns.

Lac Dinneshere, larger and located to the north, houses three settlements; Easthaven, Caer-Dineval and Caer-Konig.

In the west lies the largest, deepest lake; Maer Dualdon, home to the Lonelywood Forest and the town of Lonelywood, as well as the other villages of Bremen, Termalaine and Targos.

Between Lac Dinneshere and Maer Dualdon sits the massive, solitary peak known as Kelvin's Cairn, the only true mountain in the dale proper. Just south of here lies Dwarven Valley, hub of the dale's dwarven population and the informal "eleventh town" of the region.

The largest, most well-developed settlement is the tenth town of Bryn Shander; located in the dale's southwest and roughly equidistant between the three lakes, it serves as a trading hub for both trade between the Ten-Towns and between Icewind Dale and the rest of the world. The wagon trail known simply as Ten Trail leads south from Bryn Shander down through the North/South pass to the settlement of Hundelstone. Eastway, the dale's only paved road, links Bryn Shander to the communities surrounding Lalc Dinneshere.

The Reghedmen[edit]

The indigenous peoples of the Icewind Dale, the Reghedmen are nomadic reindeer hunters who have inhabited the Dale for generations, colonizing the areas from the Reghed Glacier to the Sea of Moving Ice. They are similar in some respects to the more famous Uthgardt tribes, who inhabit regions further south from Icewind Dale, but have their own distinct pantheon and tribes, though they do share the basic pantheon of Tempos and patron totem beasts and a similar deep distrust of arcane magic.

Originally, the Reghedmen were bitter enemies of the Ten-Towns and raided them frequently, but that came to an end after the two groups were forced to work together to fend off a mad wizard wielding a powerful fiendish artifact who sought to conquer the dale. Many of the inhabitants of Caer-Konig and Bremen in later editions descend from Reghedmen survivors who briefly merged with the town's population, before deciding collectively to return to "the old ways".

Other Settlements & Locations[edit]

The only other major permanent settlements in the Icewind Dale region are Kuldahar located in its north and Karkolohk, a goblin fortress, both in the Spine of the World Mountains, and Revel's End, a prison in the far north on the coast of the Sea of Moving Ice. of these locations, Kuldahar is the most notable, as it huddles close to a massive mountain-sized oak-tree that has been fed and protected for generations by a mystical gemstone known as the Heartstone Gem; it receives a regular flow of traders from the Ten-Towns, largely because the Heartstone Gem surrounds the Great Oak with a permanent summer, making it a local source of agriculture.

Noteworthy locations include:

  • The Black Cabin: A solitary lodge that serves as a refuge for travelers.
  • Jarlmoot: The ancient and sacred meeting grounds for the local Frost Giant clans.
  • The Accursed Tower: Also known as Damien's Tower, a dungeon consisting of a wizard's tower that sank into the earth when its foundations were dangerously overheated, leaving would-be entrants to dig down thriough the roof to break into the tower.
  • Dorn's Deep: A long-abandoned dwarven fortress.
  • The Severed Hand: The ruined, haunted remains of an elven fortress once known as the Hand of the Seldarine.
  • The Lost Spire of Netheril: A Netherese flying city turned frozen ruin, once known as Ythryn.

The Novels[edit]

The (slightly inaccurately tagged) Icewind Dale Trilogy was the second set of novels to be printed for the Forgotten Realms, after the Moonshae Trilogy. It was the literary debut of that most infamous of drow, Drizzt Do'Urden - though not the chronologically first of Drizzt's stories, which would be presented as an unnamed trilogy some time after Drizzt became popular. In this series, Drizzt is Strider not Aragorn; he's got no arc, needs no arc. As for the Dale, only the first book actually deals in that.

Spoiler.gifThis article contains spoilers! You have been warned.

In The Crystal Shard, Akar Kessel, a once-insignificant wastrel of an apprentice wizard, betrays his master and is himself betrayed, and left for dead in the snow. "Luckily" in the aforementioned snow he stumbles upon the eponymous shard: a powerful and malevolent artifact called Crenshinibon. Kessel's pathetic need for rethpekt allows him to be seduced, and he starts becoming a dark lord in an ice palace, Snow Queen style. Down in the Icewind Dale, dwarf fighter Bruenor Battlehammer has adopted barbarian Wulfgar as his indentured man and archer Catti-brie as... we don't know exactly what, she's mostly there to tease Wulfgar. Bruenor and Wulfgar assemble the Ten Towns and the barbarians to defeat eeevil, with the help of renegade Drow ranger Drizzt Do'Urden (playing Batman) and halfling rogue Regis (playing... Circe, with his gemstone). As noted TCS wasn't a Greenwood joint so wasn't intended for the Realms as originally written; it works fine as a standalone.

In Streams of Silver, with Kessel dead (um, spoiler?), Bruenor talks his friends into seeking out the lost dwarfhold of Mithral Hall, his ancestral home. It proves no easy journey, for the dread dragon who drove the dwarves away still lurks in its shadowy depths. Boy, nobody ever thought of writing a story like THAT before!!

In The Halfling's Gem, Regis is kidnapped by the assassin Artemis Entreri, working on behalf of the thieves-guild-master whom Regis betrayed years ago, forcing Regis' friends to stage a rescue.

The Legend of Drizzt graphic-novel / funnybook series collects these.

The Games[edit]

As a game series, Icewind Dale spans four entries; Icewind Dale proper, the two expansion packs Heart of Winter and Trials of the Luremaster, and the sequel Icewind Dale II. The original trinity use Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2e as their base ruleset, whilst ID2 uses Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. Unlike the similar Baldur's Gate series, the Icewind Dale games take Your Dudes to the extreme; there are no NPC party members, and instead you generate and flesh out the entire party you want to play as at character creation.

Icewind Dale[edit]

Your custom-created party is chilling in the town of Easthaven in the year of Mirtul, 1281 DR (Year of the Cold Soul); after doing a few low-level good deeds, you come to the notice of the town leader Hrothgar, a semi-retired adventurer who is putting together an expedition to investigate strange goings on in the town of Kuldahar. However, your expedition is attacked by Frost Giants, and you are the only survivors. Continuing to Kuldahar, you get caught up with investigating the strange goings on, which ultimately leads you to thwart the attempted invasion of Icewind Dale by two rival fiends - the marilith Yxunomei and the pit fiend Belhifet. As part of this, the party must enter the tomb of an ancient undead barbarian warrior, explore the sundered ruins of an ancient elven fortress haunted by the ghosts of the elves and orcs who died trying to claim it, restore the mind of a maddened baelnorn, and fight through the monster-infested ruins of the dwarf stronghold of Dorn's Deep.

Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter[edit]

An Uthgardt barbarian shaman seeks out your party at Kuldahar - either during or after the events of the main game - and begs for your assistance in stopping his chieftain, Wylfdene, who has become intent on attacking the Ten-Towns. It turns out that Wylfdene is actually possessed by the spirit of Icasaracht, a mighty white dragon matriarch who was slain by the founder of Easthaven, and who has now risen from the dead to seek vengeance. After much chaos and struggle to exorcise her, your party chases her down and slays her again.

Icewind Dale: Trials of the Luremaster[edit]

Unlike the other games in this grouping, Trials of the Luremaster doesn't take place in Icewind Dale. Instead, it takes place out in the middle of the fucking Anauroch desert. The excuse is that, if you're playing this continually, this is the direct sequel to the events of ID1 and ID:HoW and your party left the Frozen North and headed somewhere warmer after all your battles were done. Anyway, the plot is simple: guided by a mysterious halfling named Hobart Stubbletoes, your party has come to the ancient ruins of Castle Maluradrek - you can pull this off in-game by meeting Hobart in the Whistling Gallows Inn in Lonelywood, which is the town where you start your quest in Heart of Winter; he teleports you directly there. Inside, an insane undead bard with a knack for rhyming verse challenges the party to prove themselves heroes by granting the castle's undead inhabitants eternal rest at last.

Icewind Dale II[edit]

A true sequel to the original Icewind Dale and its expansion packs, this game is set 30 years after the events of everything. Your party are a band of mercenaries hired to defend the town of Targos, because an organization called the Legion of the Chimera - an array of halfbreeds and mixed-blood creatures seeking equality and acceptance for their kind - has gone screaming off the deep rails due to the persistent racism they faced from the Ten-Towns (the last straw was when the mayor of Bryn Shander tried to assassinate the leaders of the Legion by sending the fey'ri pastries infused with holy water) and has now fallen under the influence of the cult of Iyachtu Xvim.

...Despite what you're thinking, this came out in 2002. And in fact it's shown that the Ten-Towns really are kind of to blame for all this, but the Legion is treated as the bad guys because, well, mostly because they're different kinds of half-breed monsters. Also the overarching story was (according to George Ziets) written by Joshua Sawyer in a weekend.

Dark Alliance[edit]

Hot off the press and announced during the 2019 Game Awards, there is going to be another D&D game taking place in Icewind Dale. Details are scarce right now, but it is listed as a "4 person co-op RPG" that lets you run around as Drizzt and his buddies killing dudes in a frozen hellscape.

Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden[edit]

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An adventure for 5th edition D&D, where the players attempting to stop an endless winter brought to the Dales by Auril the Frostmaiden (natch), who's looking to strengthen her domain of cold and snow by forcing a constant winter in the north. The Dales are covered in a blanket of snowclouds and is ravaged by snowstorms, threatened by hungry wildlife and many other threats. The players start out in the Ten-Towns, dealing with local issues and getting used to the remarkably survival-heavy gameplay, before getting embroiled in small adventures outside the cities. At the midpoint of the story, a clan of Duergar threatens to destroy the Ten-Towns, and finally, the journey goes to Auril's Abode to end her physical form, and to a lost Netherese city in the Reghed Glacier.

The adventure has an emphasis on isolation, survival, body horror a la the Thing and a surprising amount of wacky encounters. The book also features a lot of the weirder aspects of the Forgotten Realms, especially at the end, where it turns into something akin to a weird 50'es sci-fi story.

Dungeons & Dragons Campaign Settings
Basic D&D: Mystara (Blackmoor) - Pelinore
AD&D: Birthright - Council of Wyrms - Dark Sun - Dragonlance
Forgotten Realms (Al-Qadim - The Horde - Icewind Dale
Kara-Tur - Malatra - Maztica) - Greyhawk - Jakandor
Mystara (Hollow World - Red Steel - Savage Coast)
Planescape - Ravenloft (Masque of the Red Death)
3rd/3.5 Edition: Blackmoor - Dragonlance - Eberron - Forgotten Realms
Ghostwalk - Greyhawk (Sundered Empire)
Ravenloft (Masque of the Red Death) - Rokugan
4th Edition: Blackmoor - Dark Sun - Eberron
Forgotten Realms - Nentir Vale
5th Edition: Eberron - Exandria - Forgotten Realms
Greyhawk - Ravenloft - Ravnica - Theros - Strixhaven