Last week, Divinations from the Collective presented a brief rundown of the history, and notable entries, to the canon of Dungeons and Dragons novels. Among those listed was a series of novels by T.H. Lain.
Plague of Ice is a later installment to this series, following its party of adventurers through a series of frost encounters and dilemmas, taking them all the way to the Elemental Plane of Ice, and back again. It’s a good, short, read, and an excellent source of inspiration of any campaign.
Here’s a brief overview and review:
The Characters of Plague of Ice
Plague of Ice, like all the books in this series, features the example, ‘archetype’ characters that are found in the 3/3.5e sourcebooks. In this case, Lidda, Redgar, and Hennet (Halfling Rogue, Human Fighter, and Human Sorcerer) are joined by Sonja, a Part-Elven Druid who does not appear in the sourcebooks.
The characters are fun, especially if you’re already familiar with them from previous novels, premade modules, or the one-person adventures that Wizards of the Coast also released. On top of that, they’re well-written and believable, without sacrificing their power and skill to make them so to a layman reader. Each had their own unique style of combat, too, which got a great deal of detail and specificity in the writing.
I especially enjoyed Lidda, whose special sort off blend of the cynical, the carefree, and the strategic really pulled me in. Her style of fighting, too, was perhaps the most engaging of the lot. While the others were brave, and sometimes clever, with their sword and sorcery, Lidda’s tactics had the most flair out of all of them. I’m definitely going to incorporate some of her moves into the next rogue that I play!
The Plot of Plague of Ice
The story starts not with our main party, but with another, less talented one. They find an ancient city of wizards’ towers, and within one a magical prize. But, being uncareful as they are, they trigger it by accident, releasing a wave of cold into the land, creating the titular plague of ice.
We then come to our protagonists, who have been hired by a nearby city to investigate the cause of the sudden, endless winter. As they pass through the now-wilderness, they encounter several unusual beasts for the area, and begin to wonder just what could have caused this seemingly malevolent frost. When they finally make it to the lost city themselves, it only gets more complicated, bringing in a small army of quasits, an ancient cursed amulet, and even a white dragon.
It’s a fairly basic sort of DnD campaign plot, to be honest, but the novel itself doesn’t suffer for it. With it’s emphasis on the exact movements in each fight and encounter, they don’t feel as repetitive as they otherwise might. And you really get the feeling of following along and figuring out the mystery of the frost along with the party, rather than just following them as things are revealed.
If you’re more into the epic-scale fantasy story, you might want to give this one a miss, though. It’s definitely got a good grounding in a more realistic adventuring – decision making, strategizing, and the need for quick thinking are placed higher than moving character moments or high-powered concepts.
Adapting the Plague of Ice Novel into a Tabletop Module
Since this novel reads so much like a DnD module, it would be fairly easy to turn its plot into one. There might be a few challenges, of course.
I can’t really seem to get a good grasp on the level equivalents from the game to the novel, for instance. The party struggles somewhat with a group of orcs at the beginning, and the spellcasters use quite few spells, without too much firepower to them. But later they manage to hold their own against a winter wolf and a dragon! Granted, they didn’t exactly k.o. those later monsters, but it does lead to a slightly confusing challenge rating for your own party when adapting the book.
I would also recommend being aware that this module does require a bit more strategy and survival than later editions (namely, 5e) really account for in their culture and playstyle. If your party aren’t likely to plan ahead, make smart adventuring decisions, and critically think about the information that they’re being given, they could easily find this module far too difficult or confusing for them. But if your party is into that, then it’s perfect! I tend to find the 3/3.5e groups, perhaps appropriately given when this novel was written, tend to lean more toward that style of play.
Once you’ve gotten those issues hammered out, all that’s left is the plot hook! Luckily, a few are readily available to you:
- One of the characters knows someone in the party that triggered the plague of ice. They’ve been missing for a while, and the sudden cold from where they were last headed is pretty concerning…
- The town had put out a notice for adventurers, offering them a pretty decent reward for stopping the sudden onslaught of winter.
- This kind of natural disaster is pretty destructive. If any of the characters live in the area, they’ve already got a vested interest in making sure it goes away so that people can hunt, grow crops, and generally survive.
- A massive amount of arcane energy would be given off by the sudden activation of the trap. Any characters particularly interested in magic would think it likely that there might be something of interest there for them…
Have you read this novel? What did you think? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!