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Rime of the Frost Maiden, Ch. 3 Sunblight Fortress – GM Collection

A conglomeration of the best resources from around the web to help you run the Sunblight Fortress dungeon in your campaign.

The Sunblight Fortress is the first of three major dungeon crawls that make up the core story of the Rime of the Frost Maiden. In addition, it leads to one of the most memorable events in the campaign, and a key pinch point in the story. As most GMs, when I was preparing to run this chapter of the campaign for the first time, I scoured the internet for advice and suggestions to plug some of the gaps the source material leaves open. Since no game is ever the same, there are countless bits of useful information, guides, tools, provided by all of those GMs that have already walked this path.

In an effort to create a single source for everything you might need, I have included sections for gm suggestions, music, hand outs, game aids, maps, 3d models, print figures, and anything else that you might use to run a game either virtual or in person. I have done my best to link to original sources or attribute creators where applicable.

This guide will hopefully provide you with direction and links to find what you need to make the chapter as fun as possible for your group. On top of linking to some of the most useful materials, I have added some pieces of my own that I use to decrease the time you need to spend searching and preparing for your adventure!

If you’re just looking for the fun hand outs, treasure cards, and STL files, download them here!

Story Suggestions, Changes and Updates.

Reasons for the players to investigate Sunblight are a little light in the text, but ultimately the Duergar themes throughout chapters one and two should get them to the doorsteps. Inside the fortress, there are a handful of story strands that are unique to the fortress and don’t have many, if any, connections to the rest of the campaign.

In order to steam line the dungeon and make GMing a little easier to manage, I removed all Asmodeus connections and replaced any mention of him with the Duergar god Duerra, I swapped one of the still living sons of Xaradorok as the leader of the rebellion plot cutting Muzgardt, and pulled all of the myconids, quaggoths, and mind flayers from the dungeon. Below is a bit more detail about each side theme and some suggestions to help run or rework each one.

Muzgardt Mania

For me, this one was a no brainer. Replacing Muzgardt with one of the sons fits the narrative of the story while needing very little of the game to change. This still means there is someone close to Xardorok on the inside, you can still have the duergar loyal to Nildar or Durth helping the players into and through the dungeon, and this gives the GM the more time and reasons to build out one or two NPCs instead of overloading the players with half a dozen.

A rebellious son can also drive a clearer reason for the players to approach the fortress. Should one of the sons be captured or spoken with during chapter one or two, the duergar son can sew the story about Xardorok being driven mad by the chardalyn stone and direct, or even ask, the players to Sunblight with the warning of the evil he is about to unleash.

Finally, this can create some devastatingly good roleplay moments with a father being backstabbed by one of his sons, or a ruthless father crushing his sons out of madness.

The Asmodeus/Duerra/Levistus Connection

As written, the adventure has Asmodeus pulling Xardorok’s strings and driving the dwarfs to build the dragon siege weapon. I think the best way to handle the dwarves motivation is based on previous events in your campaign, but ultimately to reduce the underworld influences down to a single source.

Outside of Sunblight, the only other location where a devil or demon plays a major role in the campaign is in Caer Dineval where the Black Sword follow Levistus. Inside of Sunblight, there are statues and references to Duerra the Duergar goddess, as well as the plot that Asmodeus is pushing the dwarves to act against ten towns.

Since Duerra is the least represented entity among the three, I suggest changing her appearances to the GM’s choice of Asmodeus or Levistus. If the players have previously run into the Black Swords, it would be easy to add connections between the duergar and the swords by adding a few of the amulets around the fortress, or even having Avarice make an appearance in Sunblight.

Likewise, creating a connection between the devil of Caer Dineval and the devil in Sunblight can create another reason for the party to investigate the fortress. If one of the players picked up a Black Swords amulet, you can have the duergar react to it, or confuse them for allies leading to fun social encounters.

Myconids, Quaggoths, Umber Hulks Oh My!

The myconids and underdark creatures are not as confusing or impactful as the other themes in Sunblight, so my suggestion would be to read through the encounters, and keep anything that you think your party will enjoy! That being said, the fighting between the quaggoth and the myconid doesn’t add any development to the story of the dwarves, winter, or the Chardalyn Dragon. I find it better to cut any of the encounters or bits that don’t add to those themes so that you have more time to explore the main bulk of the dungeon story.

I increased the number of lizards, dwarves, and constructs to balance out getting rid of the mindflayer and quaggoths. I found it much easier to use the creatures from the underdark to add flavor to many of the fights, but didn’t use any of the side themes of the quaggoths attacking the myconids. I didn’t have any of the creatures interact with the players much outside of combat.

That being said, for kind and benevolent GMs, the myconid resurrection power is an easy way to allow dead or dying players to have a second chance at life, without feeling like you had to deus ex machina a solution for your players. For that reason alone, some GMs may want to keep them in the story.

Instead of the duergar using the myconids to create the dwarven constructs, it is a good opportunity to flesh out the story of Asmodeus/Levistus and have the dwarves use their power to create them. You can add additional artifacts, magic circles, or other scenery to add to the theme. In the temple, have a shrine to Asmodeus where the dwarves are magically formed into the monstrous creatures, and have Klondorn in the act of sculpting a new hammerer when the players stumble into the room.

The Dragon Debate – When to Unleash the Beast?

One of the biggest debates for anyone running ROTFM is part of the Sunblight Fortress encounter. The question is, when do I release the Chardalyn dragon? Because this article focuses on Sunblight, and not Destruction’s Light, I will only be covering the choice of when to release the dragon, and won’t be covering anything after the players start their pursuit.

With the heavy focus on lengthy travel and the risk of some truly awesome random tundra encounters, it can feel like a waste of time to try to bypass the overland travel in ROTFM. As a result, releasing the dragon as the players arrive at the fortress, and the players choosing to chase after it, means that you as the GM need to speed through the players getting back to Ten Towns, having the players spend two or more days of in game travel immediately after having spent all that time walking down to Sunblight first. Additionally, as has been pointed out by dozens of GMs around the net, it is easy to end up in an infinite loop of dragon chasing. Not to mention the risk of taking away the players ability to effect the game by having no chance to stop the destruction of 10 towns.

So, this all leads to a big event that can really amp up your players, or greatly douse their spirits.

The choice really comes down to how you as a GM want to use the event in your campaign. Most suggestions fall into a few different buckets.

  1. Release the dragon ‘by the book’ as the players approach the fortress.
    • This approach forces the players to make a choice, enter the fortress or chase after the dragon. The frustrating piece here, and why so many suggest changing this bit of the campaign, is that the players will be making this choice with almost zero information.
    • Depending on why the players are pursuing the Sunblight Fortress, the players may not feel like entering the fortress is time sensitive. Additionally, without entering the fortress, the players don’t know what the dragon is design to do, the order of the towns it’s going to attack, or even the damage it is capable of inflicting. Without knowing where the dragon is going, catching up to the dragon is almost impossible.
    • Notthebeastmaster has made excellent posts about the issue with rules as written, as well as providing some of his own solutions here which I will let speak for themselves. If you decide to use this option, I would suggest using one or more of nothebeastmaster’s suggestion, and if you can support him on dmsguild!
    • This is my least preferred option, and I would recommend looking into one of the next options.
  2. Another option is to have the dragon still chained or under repair as the players enter the forge, allowing them to fight the dragon inside of Sunblight.
    • This option can give the players a way to deal damage to the dragon before being released, or allowing them to stop the dragon from being launched entirely preventing Destruction’s Light from happening. I strongly encourage you not to allow the players to stop the dragon launch entirely! While it is tempting to provide your players the freedom to stop the threat before it starts, this will in actuality prevent them and you from some very fun and impactful RPG experiences!
    • If the players are at the lower range of the level suggestions, this can be dangerous.
    • For teams that have made deep connections to other NPCs, allowing the players to get some damage on the dragon can be a useful tactic in order to later prevent the dragon from destroying the bulk of Ten Towns. However, there are easier ways to handle the dragon once the players are defending the towns, and don’t relate directly to Sunblight Fortress. So while this idea is a good one, just be sure that you are not making the forge battle too difficult for your players by giving them another target.
  3. My preferred option is to release the dragon after the players have had a chance to at least partially explore Sunblight Fortress. This half-measure between the others allows for a lot of fun encounters.
    • You still need to be careful that you are not overloading your party during any fight where the dragon also appears, but allowing the party to get some damage on the dragon without stopping it entirely can make the next chapter a little easier for low level parties.
    • Many suggest having dragon partially finished or chained as the party arrives only to have the dragon released during the fight. This method will reduce the consequences of the choice to chase the dragon, and will allow the players to explore the fortress without feeling overly penalized.
    • The countdown: If you would like to add more suspense, have the players each roll a single die as they enter the dungeon. Make sure that the die they roll will average into a range of 25-40 total points, and lay those dice out in the middle of the table. Each time the party enters a new room, decrement one of the die. Once the dice hit 0, release the dragon! Should the players reach the forge, I then move to decrementing the dice by 1 each round.

Ultimately, releasing the dragon should force the players to make a tough choice, but it shouldn’t feel like a no win situation, or that the players are forced to make a decision because the consequences for one choice far outweigh the other.

More NPCs and Increasing the Return Options

The prison cells are a great way to introduce new characters to the story, as well as solve one of the biggest issues regarding Chapter 5, Destructions Light, how to get back to ten towns in a hurry! I would suggest adding prisoners to connect any of the campaign adventures or stories that you need to introduce.

Vellynne Harpell

Chapter 3 ends with Vellynne from the Arcane Brotherhood showing up to find the party, but it always made more sense to me for the party to find her inside of the fortress. Once found, she can then offer to help get the players back and ask them for help. This even allows you to have a cool scene where she will raise her necromantic dogs as described in James Haeck’s post on DnD Beyond.

Skytower Goliath

If the players haven’t yet encountered the goliaths, now is a great time to thrown a captured Skytower Goliath into the story! Adding one opens the party up to the additional adventures, as well is with a little change in geography, can provide an awesome option for catching up with the dragon.

Cast a little GM magic, and have skytower moved to within 4-8 hours of Sunblight fortress. For letting freeing them from their shackles, the goliath can offer to take the players back to Skytower and secure an audience with the goliath’s leader. Should the team play their cards right, you can have them not only start to get involved in the goliath conflict, but also riding back to Ten Towns on a pack of griffons!

This also opens the possibility of having the goliaths assist in taking down the dragon, or even having an awesome aerial combat!

Arcane Brotherhood Magic

Since the Arcane Brotherhood is already a staple in the campaign, you can have another member locked up or inside the fortress who can help the players. Have one of the Brotherhood members offer to cast a teleportation spell that can get the party back to town, but only if the players can find their spellbook.

This will encourage the players to explore the rest of the dungeon if they haven’t yet, and will allow them to get back to town without having to spend too much time traveling across the tundra. Remember that the spell can/will take an hour or more to prepare, and you can make it so that the Brotherhood member can only port them back to a town that is not early in the dragons flight path.

When I used this option, I had the Brotherhood member only able to teleport the players back to Bryn Shander. This still left he party with a heavy choice. Should they head east and try to cut the dragon off as quickly as possible but risk missing it, or should they head west to protect towns that they were more confident hadn’t already been attacked.

Frost Lizard Mounts

Quite possible the most awesome, and most overlooked possibility for getting back a little quicker are the lizards caged up inside of Sunblight Fortress. Instead of just having them caged, have a small stable with harnesses and riding gear. If you want to be more direct, you can even have a lizard wrangler or trainer embedded with the rebellious dwarves who can help the players.

If the lizards are some kind of frost creature or have some resistance to the cold, then that provides great justification of why the lizards can traverse the tundra without getting tired as quickly as other mounts. Use this as a way to allow the players to travel as fast as they would with dog sleds, but not be limited to the 1-2 hour limit before having to rest!

Where to Find Resources in the Books

Sunblight, like many DnD official adventures, hides the needed material across many of the official books. The dungeon crawl is written in complete detail in chapter 3 of the ROTFM resource book which covers pages 171 through 185.

Here is a list of the monsters and helpful info outside of the ROTFM campaign book, and where you can find them in the other 5e source books. For those who prefer digital tools, links have been provided where possible.

Sunblight Fortress Official Map
Rime of the Frost Maiden source book pg 175
Chardalyn Dragon Stat Block
Rime of the Frost Maiden source book pg 281
Arcane Brotherhood Member Stat Blocks
Rime of the Frost Maiden source book pg 268
Duergar Hammerer & Mind Master Stat Block
Rime of the Frost Maiden source book pg 286
Xardorok Sunblight Member Stat Blocks
Rime of the Frost Maiden source book pg 287
Mind Flayers: Scourge of Worlds Information
Volo’s Guide to Monsters pg 71
Doppleganger Stat Block
Monster Manual pg. 82
Duergar Stat Blocks
Monster Manual pg. 122
Myconids Stat Blocks
Monster Manual pg. 230
Quaggoth Stat Blocks
Monster Manual pg. 256
Rust Monster Stat Blocks
Monster Manual pg 262
Umber Hulk Stat Block
Monster Manual pg. 292

Miniature Models and Prints

If you are looking to buy a great set of detailed minis, I would recommend this set. It is often on sale for less than $1 dollar a mini.

It includes a number of excellent minis for the Sunblight dungeon including a mimic chest, mind flayer, doppelganger and a couple of dwarves. Additionally in the set are other miniatures that work will with the ROTFM campaign including a yeti, snow golem, guards, kobolds, and an assortment of humanoid figures.

For the 3d Printer People

If you have a 3d printer, here is a list of miniatures and free 3d models that I found that fit well for the Sunblight adventure.

As many in the TTRPG world know, a great resource for many of these is MZ4250. He has tons of free files, and a patreon where you can find even more. If you don’t find what you need on this list, you should start with his full catalogue to find what you need.

I also used a few pieces of printed terrain to add some volume to my maps. I tried to focus on just the key story pieces.

For the Original Printer People

For those looking to keep things quick and cheap, printable miniatures is one of the best ways to go. These can be printed and placed into small stands like these. I would suggest getting a multi-color pack, that way if you decide to use multiple copies of the same printed art, you can differentiate units at the table by their base color.

Printable Heroes has an excellent free selection of Duergar. Printable miniatures are a great entry point into using miniatures, or work fantastic for anyone without a 3d printer.

Music

There are some excellent options provided by themsireensdidthis, and more throughout the comments of their post.

Atmospheric music for the approach, and searching through the stone halls.

Music for a battle within the deep dungeon.

GM Aids, Hand Outs, and Print Outs

Item Cards

The fortress is one of the few dungeons in ROTFM that the players can come away with quite a bit of treasure. If your party is into that sort of thing. To make the finding of these items a little more fun and to help them remember they had them, I created these familiar item cards to hand out as the items were found.

Maps

There are tons of free community driven resources for Sunblight.

Other Suggestions and Resources

Here are some links to some posts, videos, and resources that provide alternate ideas and can further help you make Sunblight as fun as possible!

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