I’ve never seen West Side Story but I know enough about it to know it’s about rival gangs vying for control of their neighborhood. I imagine if you were to plop the Sharks and the Jets down into a fantasy setting that The Frozen Forge by Dusten Martens is what you might end up with. In this 4th-level adventure rival cults are struggling for control of the Bashield Forge. One cult has gone so far as to enlist the help of a frost giant known as Hodgar, the Disgraceful.
The Frozen Forge
Creator: Dustin Martens
Publisher: DMs Guild
Product Length: 20 pages
When I don’t find them terrifying, I find cults pretty fascinating organizations. From a historical or fictional standpoint, they’re intriguing. Modern-day cults…sheesh. Anyway, this adventure features two cults: one is the Cult of the Eternal Flame and the other is the Cult of the Crushing Wave. Members of the former cult were drawn, like moths, to elemental flames and Cecilia Bashield summoned a fire elemental to her forge and then trapped it there so it (the forge) would burn…eternally. The cult agreed so long as they’d get influence over the forge upon Cecilia’s inheritance of it. Cecilia’s father, Barrett, would have none of this and demanded she leave the cult or forfeit her inheritance. She chose option C and killed her father instead.
Enter the other cult. The Crushing Wave crew. They’re a cowardly lot and rather than destroy the Forge themselves, they enlist Hodgar to do it for them with a blizzard bomb they provide him. Why would a frost giant ever help the cult? Well, he’s low in his ordning and looking to advance his career by any means necessary. He’s ready to stoop to nearly any level as long as he doesn’t get caught. Just like in corporate America, yeah? He successfully set off the bomb but there were consequences. Lots of them.
Those within the blast radius were cursed and became “ice zombies” or “ice skeletons”. And that pesky fire elemental was converted into a “blue fire elemental”. These undead are constantly seeking warmth and the recently-converted elemental is sucking out all the warmth in the whole neighborhood. Kind of like when you were a child and your parents admonished you that they couldn’t warm the whole neighborhood when you left the front door open, this elemental is like a huge front door through which all the warmth is escaping. It’s up to your adventurers to stop neighborhood cooling and locate a local merchant’s missing employee, Gilbert.
My Reaction to The Frozen Forge
All in all, this feels like a pretty solid adventure. The players have a couple of different paths to victory and depending on which hook you go with, the adventure could be as short as 2 hours to as long as 8. Of course that also depends on how your table runs. The hooks are good and I like that he’s offered a Joe Friday-esque hook called “Cut to the Chase” wherein the adventurers can effectively skip the preview and backstory and throw themselves headlong into the action.
There are a handful of good NPCs for the players to engage with and the rumors are great. I love that so many of them are untrue. While not completely needed, the overland map by Elven Tower is a nice touch. The map of the forge itself though is a different story. It’s brilliant. It’s not only good-looking, it’s compact! It’ll be some close-quarters encounters once the PCs venture in. There is room for a bit of investigation as well as some combat with cultists within its walls.
One of the things I think could have been done better is the emphasis on the cold weather. There is a passing mention of cold weather consequences that tells you to refer to the Dungeon Master’s Guide but that information could have easily been included in the adventure itself as a quick reminder. Otherwise, I got the impression that the weather was more a bit chilly than it was cripplingly cold. A second thing I found myself considering is why so many of the locks on chests required a DC 18 Dexterity check to pick, yet were so old and brittle that any damage done to them would break them loose. An 18 is reasonably high for a 4th-level rogue to pick. Yet a commoner could simply punch it and succeed where the rogue could very likely fail.
Dustin mentions that this adventure loosely ties in with the Princes of the Apocalypse and Storm King’s Thunder adventure campaigns so if you want extra things to do with those, here you have it. But the adventure is generic enough that you could easily run it as a standalone anywhere in Forgotten Realms or even in your homebrew worlds. You may find yourself wondering who the real villain is after running this campaign. Is it the blue fire elemental? Or maybe it’s Hodgar with his challenge rating of 8 against these 4th-level characters. The petulant heiress of Bashield Forge? Who knows. It might just be the cults sowing discord across the land. Or their masters. You could incorporate a lot of misdirection and build a bigger campaign from this brief adventure and I hope you do!