Confession time. I have never played 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. From what I gather it is much maligned due, in part, to its playing similar to a video game. Some love that. Some hate it. I skipped out on 4E for a simple reason: I didn’t have anyone to play it with. I played AD&D and 2nd Edition with my brothers growing up and as we got older we dabbled in 3.0 and 3.5. At any rate, I’m not here to hate on any edition or to say that 5E is the best (though I love it). I’m here to talk about a 4E adventure, Menace of the Icy Spire, that was converted not just to 5E but also to a solo adventure by Paul Bimler.
Menace of the Icy Spire by Paul Bimler
Writer: Paul Bimler (aka “5E Solo Gamebooks”)
Publisher: DMs Guild
Product Length: 44 pages
Note: You will also need a copy Dungeon Magazine issue no. 159 ($4.99 on DMs Guild) to play this adventure. That magazine comes with other great material too.
For this adventure, I opted to play “solo” with my friend, Jason. He and I both rolled up 9th level characters. I chose a druid and he settled on a battlerager. We spent 3 or 4 hours battling extreme cold, goblin cutters, hexers, and sharpshooters, and iron defenders. All without a dungeon master (don’t worry, DMs…your jobs are safe).
A dwarf battlerager and an elf druid may seem like an unlikely pair but one of my favorite things about roleplaying with Jason is he always comes up with a reason we are all together. He led us through the Lost Mine of Phandelver where our party of miscreants included a rogue with aspirations to become a great assassin, a wizard hell-bent on capturing the rogue’s soul, and a paladin. Believe it or not, Jason found a way to make it work! Anyway, his battlerager had a fascination with my druid’s magic. And my druid secretly admired the dwarf’s capacity for brute carnage. They had a pretty decent bromance going on.
But I digress, on with my thoughts on this conversion!
What is the Icy Spire? And What’s so Menacing About It?
Simply put, the Icy Spire is a tower prison for a warlock named Draigdurroch (no relation to Craigdarroch Castle, to my knowledge). Fey creatures sealed the tower with an enormous block of powerful magic ice. The problem is the magic is causing the temperature in the Gray Vale to drop to unseasonably cold temperatures. This has a detrimental effect on crops and since no one has seen or heard from Draigdurroch in 30 years the residents are wondering if they could finally enjoy their summers once again or if this nasty weather (blizzards in broad daylight) will continue.
The residents of the Gray Vale are not exaggerating. The weather in this area can kill you if you don’t take proper precautions. Stock up in Loudwater and head out to brave the freezing temperatures and deadly encounters and see if you cannot lift this curse on this peaceful community.
Why Should You Buy It?
One of the best reasons I believe Menace of the Icy Spire is a good adventure to own is for expediency. I don’t know about you but sometimes I get an unexpected opportunity to play D&D, but I can’t find a game on short notice. With an adventure like this I can go find a couple of pregenerated 9th level characters—or just one 12th level character if you want real challenge—and make some adjustments to suit the adventure and then just start playing! No need to read the adventure beforehand.
Even if you consider having to buy Dungeon Magazine issue no. 159 (because you are Lawful and wouldn’t dream of acquiring it some other way if you don’t already own it, right?) this is an inexpensive product for a fun evening of lifting curses and killing baddies.
What I enjoy about Paul’s work is that his solo adventures never feel linear. Of course, sometimes I have binary options but, by and large, the adventures are free form. Foolish decisions have consequences. Some encounters are deadly. But they are always entertaining.
I will admit that it was slightly cumbersome to flip between two documents regularly. And I did miss Paul’s typical formatting of hyperlinks within the PDF (i.e. “Make a perception check, DC 15. If successful, go to 79. If unsuccessful, go to 45.” do not have links to their respective sections. You must scroll to them.). But otherwise, the production was on par with the rest of his work that I have seen so far. The art, while sparse, is effective.
We tore through this adventure in a few hours’ time. We were ambushed, and we overlooked traps. But ultimately, we made our way through Draigdurroch’s tower and successfully lifted the curse of the Icy Spire. The encounters were thoughtful, challenging, and engaging. The organization was nice but beware…you really do need Dungeon Magazine #159, as the author has stated, to fully enjoy this adventure. In fact, you’ll need the maps for a meaningful playing experience.
- Proven concept (adventure previously published in 4E)
- Good options for players to roleplay, explore, and do battle
- Not short, but not overly long either
- Switching between two documents was not super fun
- I like links in the PDFs in solo adventures
Thanks, Paul, for the review copy of Menace of the Icy Spire.