Dragon of Icespire Peak is the introductory adventure for the 5th Edition Starter Set, designed for PC levels 1 – 6. It is a complete sandbox adventure, and does not have a ridgid narrative structure. The basic story is that your heroes are adventurers for hire, travelling the countryside, completing various missions. This leads to your players leveling up and gaining items that will allow them to challenge a viscious White Dragon, that has been terrorizing the land.
In a sandbox adventure, the player choose which direction they want to go. Often this is done by placing a map in front of the players with several points of interest, and maybe a few scant rumors to guide the way. In Icespire Peak, this is accomplished via a village message board that list the various missions available to the players. This method also keeps the players from getting in over their head, new messages are added only after the party reaches the level requirement to open them.
This adventure is also perfect for a Western Marches campaign. Most campaigns revolve around the same band of heroes, week after week. And thus the same players, need to show up, week after week. But in a Western Marches campaign, the players can change from week to week, whoever shows up to play, plays. So far in our campaign, we have had a different roster of players for every session. There are two key elements to make this style of play work:
- Each session needs to be a self-contained episode, essentially a one-shot dungeon. In Icespire Peak, each mission is playable in about 2 – 3 hours.
- The campaign needs to be based out of a central hub, for all the players to meet and journey out from. In my campaign, following the events of The Lost Mine of Phandelver, the town of Phandalin created an Adventurers Guild in the abandoned home of the deceased Woodcutter. (I’ve marked it on my DM Map.)
Speaking of The Lost Mine of Phandelver, The Dragon of Icespire Peak is a perfect companion for that adventure. By adding the message board and the rampaging dragon to the Lost Mine storyline, you can create an absolutely epic campaign that should take players up to 8th level and beyond. In the maps section, I included an area map that despicts all of the locations found in both adventures.
This is a complete overview of our experience playing this adventure. There are five sections:
The Campaign Diaries – Where we tell the tale of the Menagerie, a merry band of side show freaks, recently escaped from the Sea Maiden’s Faire, a travelling gypsy circus.
The Charts – All of the charts and tables that I use to run the campaign. They include Monster Stat sheets, Encounter Lists, Village Rosters, Rules Synopses, Campaign Setting Overviews and more. I include the adventure-specific charts and a blank copy if you prfer to make your own. If you want a more in-depth analysis of the charts, check out my Dungeon Master Resource Page.
The Maps – All the maps that I used to run Dragon of Icespire Peak, including several custom maps. The Player Maps have all hidden locations, traps, and secret areas removed. They are also great for a virtual tabletop.
The Handouts & Extras – All the handouts and accessories I used to run this campaign. I usually print the handouts using a variety of construction and specialty papers cut to fit my printer. They can be printed as is or used as a starting point for your own creative spin.
The Online Resources – I’ve included links to some excellent websites that can help you run your game, along with some awesome YouTube channels that will improve your skills as a DM.
If there is anything else that you think I should have here to help you run your own campaign, please leave a comment.
Session 1 – Having just escaped the circus, our merry zoo hides out in a gnoll seiged inn, and then almost eaten by the dragon.
Session 2 – The Menagerie is joined by a mysterious stranger at the bar, and she/he nearly derails the adventure. And Orcs attack!
Session 3 – The Menagerie hunts for a deadly “shifter” in a gnome cave, but really all they care about are mushrooms and barrels of wine.
Session 4 – The Menagerie is nearly wiped out during a walk in the woods & ends with an epic aerial battle with a Manticore and Dragon.
Session 5 – The Menagerie find a lighthouse, and deal with banshees, the world’s ugliest harpy, and their own destructive tendencies.
Prior to every campaign, I give my players a folder for their character. The two pockets hold their character sheets, spell cards, handouts, and other PC related items. The center binder holds four important handouts.
Rules FOUR PAGE – A brief Rules synopsis that includes info on Adventuring and Combat basics to help new players learn and veteran players remember some the of the core rules of D&D.
Critical Hit-Fumble Table – Although this is included in the Rules FOUR Page, some have asked for this expanded Critical Hit / Fumble chart spearately. My players love this chart since it allows them the chance to completely obliterate an enemy at the risk of falling flat on their face or stabbing an ally.
Equipment List – All the basic equipment commonly available for purchase. While it can be fun to role play the shopping spree, usually it’s just easier for players to look it up and tell me what they bought. Plus, it keeps the murder-hobos from killing your shopkeeps. Obviously, prices can be adjusted, based upon the availability of the item and the quality of the shop.
Sword Coast Codex – The Lost Mine of Phandelver (as well as most of the published adventures) takes place in the official D&D setting, The Forgotten Realms. This two-page Overview gives your players the common knowledge that a person living in the Realms would know. Basic Geography, Known Factions, Currency, Major Gods, the Standard Calendar, and a Brief History of the World are included. I’ve removed any reference to a specific date, so that you can set the start of your campaign whenever you want.
Up next are all the charts and tables for the DM eyes only. No peeking, you conniving, cheating, double-crossing, lily-livered, dice-fudging, min-maxed, hobo-murdering, meta-gaming PCs! For further explanation of any of these tables, go to my Dungeon Master Resource Page.
Party Character Stats – I keep all the important character stats on this Cheat Sheet. You can see it attached to my DM screen below. It helps me plan encounters and keep things balanced, especially when running things on the fly.
Monster Stats Icespire – The thing I miss most about OSR modules is that Monster Stat sheet included in the back. This puts all of the relevant combat data for every creature in the adventure all in one place. No more forgetting a special ability, or hunting through the book for a single stat, or flipping back and forth when running combat with two or more monsters. This single page will make running the adventure ten times easier.
Encounter List Icespire – This Master List has all the keyed encounter areas of the adventure. This helps me keep track of every room at a glance; including Monsters, Traps, Treasure and Experience Points that can be found or earned in each room. No more forgetting a cool trap or missing a key plot point because it was buried in the text.
Phandalin Village Roster – The adventure lists about a dozen NPCs in the village of Phandalin. I expanded the local map and included a roster of every resident of the town’s 40+ builings. The new roster lists a several more shops, class and level listings of the important NPCs, a few gossipy details, and a rundown of every combat-capable citizen just in case the village ever cam under seige again, say by a band of fanatical Half-Orc devotees to Talos.
For those of you who prefer to make their own lists, here are links to clean, blank versions of all these charts. If you prefer to type your own, you can recreate them using Microsoft Excel.
Calendar Forgotten Realms – Bonus! This is a blank calendar for use in the Forgotten Realms setting. Use it to plan out the timeline of your campaign; never miss a festival, celebrate every holiday, and maybe create a few of your own.
The Handouts & Extras
There are a number of excellent additional resources available online to help you be a better DM. Here are a few that I use all the time. I often keep the website tabs open on my phone or tablet to refer to them as needed during a game.
Roll 20 D&D 5th Edition Compendeum – Roll 20 is one of the best virtual tabletop systems and they have compiled a complete listing of every rule, monster, spell, and more that is D&D. The link does offer virtual books for sale, but the entire database is fully searchable and completely free. Just use the Search Bar to type in whatever you need to find and get the full description and statistics of that item. This resource is invaluable.
Forgotten Realms Wiki – Every article of fact, trivia, and lore relating to the Forgotten Realms (where the 5th edition adventures are set) can be found here. This is a tremendous source for inspiration to add favor and spice up your campaign. Perfect for researching the people, places, and events of the world’s greatest fantasy setting. I use this all the time.
Kobold Fight Club – Wandering Monsters are a staple of D&D. Nothing keeps players on their toes better than some random thing jumping out from the shadows. But the tables provided in most modules are pretty boring. Kobold Fight Club uses math, algorithms, and magic(?) to create memorable and unique random encounters for any level. Yip, yip, yip!
Drivethru RPG – This is an excellent source for finding all the OSR D&D adventures and modules from every edition, but especially 1st and 2nd edition. They mostly come in PDF format but some have a print on demand option. I have been replacing all of my original and lost D&D materials using this website. In the rare event that I can’t find what I need, I will use the Dungeon Masters Guild which is their sister site.
There are a number of excellent YouTubers who produce good, useful content related to roleplaying games and D&D specifically. Here are a few of my favorites.
Matthew Colville – This is by far and away, the best channel for getting advice about being a dungeon master. His series on Running the Game is phenomenal, and covers every topics from running a simple hack-and-slash dungeon to an open sandbox adventure and even a deep, sophisticated politcally-motivated Game of Thrones style campaign. His love of RPGs is evident in every syllable of every word. And the streaming of his actual gameplay sessions is the only one I can watch, even over Critical Roll! I would kill to play in his campaign.
Seth Skorkowsky – This is a kick-ass site that dives into a ton of great stuff such as DM tips, player advice, RPG Philosophy, adventure reviews and overviews. He also discusses several other RPG systems, including Call of Cthulhu, Cyberpunk, and Star Traveller. His videos are always fun to watch and his interlaced skits are the only ones that are actually funny. Plus, I met him once and he is a truly great guy, so I’ll try to help him out. Not that he needs it. His channel just won an ENnie award for best online content!
Jorphdan – Jordan the ph is silent has one of the best channels that delves into the lore of the Forgotten Realms. He has plenty of other things on his channel, such as reviews and advice about the 5th edition D&D adventures, a series on creating your own world, and collaborations with other YouTubers. But it is his encyclopedic knowledge of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting is without equal. From the gods, factions, races, nations, geography, and history of the fabled land of Faerun, Jorphdan is the omnipotent god of trivia.
This is still a work in progress. As we continue through the adventure, I will add more material as it is created. Stay tuned.
And if you like these Resources pages, then check out the ones I’ve created for the other campaigns I’m running at the D&D Campaign Resources Page.
As always, it’s better to show than tell, and Game On!