DMs Guild Review – ColdBlood

Supplemental rules for surviving the frozen wastes of Icewind Dale.

dms guild review

This review has been sponsored by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Alice Loverdrive

Wizards of the Coast describes Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden as a survival-horror adventure, though horror elements are sporadic at best. The eternal winter the party endures could be tuned to create a more horrific atmosphere. Coldblood attempts to expand on these themes with new rules and undead statblocks.

At fewer than a dozen pages (not including full page art and statblocks), Coldblood isn’t nearly deep enough to cover everything I want from a Rime of the Frostmaiden survival supplement, such as sacrifices, safe zones, travel times, encounters, and mounts. It focuses mostly on two areas: Long resting and death.

Long resting is a huge issue in Dungeons & Dragons, and often conflicts with pacing, overland travel, and random encounters. In our Tomb of Annihilation campaign, I adopted long rest restrictions while hex crawling in the jungle.

The idea of fully healing up every night isn’t exactly appropriate for survival-horror, either. Coldblood correctly identifies automatic long rests as a problem that needs adjusting, and I agree that the party should only Long Rest when they’re at a safe location where they can unwind and de-stress.

However, the solution that’s given here is dissatisfying and problematic. Even once your characters reach a safe place where they can “bring peace to their soul,” (examples given include gambling, drinking and praying), a PC must make a WIS save. Only on a 18+ do they gain the benefit of a Long Rest without any repercussions.

On a roll of 11-17, they get the Long Rest with some added baggage, such as “you attract trouble,” or the PC literally disappearing for several weeks (the supplement suggests playing a different character in the meantime – what!?). If you’re unfortunate to roll 10 or less, you don’t get the benefit of a Long Rest at all.

The numbers are way too high, the emphasis on WIS is unfair to any non-WIS characters, and it introduces the possibility of some characters resting and others going without. It’s way too harsh and unfair. Survival can be brutal, but it shouldn’t render some characters completely powerless even if they do everything right.

Some adjustments might include lowering the DC, letting the PC choose the ability score to roll (drinking could be CON, for example), and turning it into a group check or skill challenge. I would also let the in-town Long Rests be automatic – that’s the whole point of returning to town!

dms guild

When it comes to death, PCs that die in the frozen wasteland could avoid death and take on different characteristics, such as permanent flaws, or even beneficial effects, like cold resistance or +1 to AC. On the more extreme end, the character could be transformed into an undead NPC – a supremely dark twist if you can pull it off.

The added flavor to death is interesting, and could be especially helpful for keeping low level PCs around past their untimely demise, though I prefer the Lingering Injuries table from the Dungeon Master’s Guide as a suitable means of punishment.

The supplement also provides several undead statblocks, one for the Cold-Blooded Husk a PC could transform into, and two inspired by the Draugr from Skyrim. These statblocks incorporate mini-tables for weapons, armor, and enchantments, adding a neat layer of customizability. I’d love to see that be the norm for humanoid (or vaguely humanoid) statblocks.

Despite its short length, the supplement includes an appendix that re-lists the few rules and ideas it provides, while hiding one of the more important sections in the final page. Player Principles is a simple but effective list of bullet points on how to run a survival-horror campaign. This should have been expanded and detailed on the opening page, and served as the basis for the entire supplement, rather than a footnote at the end.

Pros:

  • Streamlines supplies, gear, and rations into Adventurer’s Pack uses.
  • New frost-themed undead creatures feature tables for weapons, armor, and enchantments.
  • DM advice for running Survival-Horror campaigns.

Cons:

  • The “Keeping Yourself Sane” rules are poorly balanced and create more problems for the DM.
  • Lacks expanded rules on mounts, travel times, encounters, and other aspects of survival.

The Verdict: While far from comprehensive, Coldblood streamlines and expands upon the survival horror potential of Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden.

This review has been sponsored by the publisher Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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