What Do I Know About Reviews? Icewind Dale: Cult of the Shattered Peak (Dungeon Masters Guild Product)
One thing I have really enjoyed about the more recent D&D 5e adventure offerings is that they have spawned a lot of interesting ancillary Dungeon Masters Guild products related to the locations and the storyline. For Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, we received offerings detailing Candlekeep, and alternate scenes that could be used to start the adventure from Elturel or swap out the Candlekeep sequence for a more integrated set of encounters.
Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frost Maiden has similarly spawned ancillary products exploring and expanding the adventure’s scope, and today, we’re looking at one of those products, Icewind Dale: Cult of the Shattered Peak.
Not only am I a fan of Icewind Dale as a location, but I’m a fan of ancient ruins tied to elements of Forgotten Realms history. One of my favorite plot elements introduced in the Player’s Guide to Faerun in the 3.5 era of D&D was the Cult of the Shattered Peak. The Cult of the Shattered Peak is a secret society that keeps track of Netherese magic and artifacts, attempting to keep them out of the hands of the public, to prevent another catastrophe like Karsus’ Folly.
This Dungeon Masters Guild product brings the Cult of the Shattered Peak into the 5e D&D timeline, and adds options for integrating the content into the storyline of Rime of the Frost Maiden.
The PDF of Icewind Dale: Cult of the Shattered Peak is 34 pages long. This includes a cover and credits page which also includes a table of contents. The rest of the product involves multiple chapters of content, formatted on an icy backdrop similar to the formatting used for the D&D Next era Legacy of the Crystal Shard adventure.
A Brief History
This section gives a brief history of the different eras of the Netherese empire, from the founding to the height of Netheril’s glory, to its cultural preservation in surviving nations as the Shadovar enclave of Thultanthar, the returned City of Shade that dominated much of 3e Forgotten Realms’ narrative.
This is a nice, succinct explanation of what Netheril was, why it was important, and how it continues to influence the modern Realms.
This also introduces the Cult of the Shattered Peak, Netherese survivors who have vowed to never again see Netheril’s pride cause the massive harm that the old empire caused. This also provides Renown rankings, as well as specific abilities that the ranks confer to those that have achieved those ranks.
The official 5e support for factions seems as if it peaked with the expansion of factions and the inclusion of the faction missions in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. For those Dungeon Masters Guild products that have been engaging the topic lately, it appears that there is a trend to not just provide favors or one-time benefits for various ranks, but an ongoing thematic benefit, which draws inspiration from more recent products like the Guilds in Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, or the Piety ranks in Mythic Odysseys of Theros.
I’m a fan of a simple, thematic reward for different factions, and wish this kind of implementation was standard from the start. As an add on, it may add another vector for gaining iterative abilities, but it’s modular enough to be ignored if you don’t want that additional means of character advancement.
Playing as a Cultist
This section provides a new background for characters that want to have characters that have been members of the Cult for a significant amount of time, The Shattered Peak Agent. Additionally, there is a Sundering Knight fighter subclass, and an Agent of the Shattered Peak rogue archetype.
There is also a feat for Shattered Peak Initiates, which provides access to Loross (an ancient Netherese tongue), as well as minor spellcasting.
Speaking of expanding an existing mechanic in the game, there is also a section that summarizes the Cult of the Shattered Peak as a patron for a campaign. This provides the nature of your involvement with the cult, operatives and contacts that you know, and commonly assigned missions.
Both of the subclasses appear to involve learning how to cast spells while being able to counter the abilities of other spellcasters. The Sundered Knight feels a bit too much like it’s trying to be distinct from Eldritch Knight, while making the mechanics more complicated, but the Agent of the Shattered Peak (which has a name that will potentially cause confusion given the background provided in this section) feels more like what a clandestine cult agent would be, and is less concerned with using the base structure of the Arcane Trickster, while shifting non-spellcasting abilities towards killing mages and countering spellcasters.
Using the Cult
This section adds various additional NPCs and objectives to scenes that already exist in Rime of the Ice Maiden. There is supplementary material for Chapter 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and the Epilogue. In addition to adding contacts and NPCs to maneuver the PCs towards the goals in the adventure, there are additional scenes provided as well, including new chases, and new individuals that might provide a connection to story elements.
Depending on the choices that the player characters make, the additional Cult of the Shattered Peak material could provide context, add in a new antagonist group to complicate matters, or introduce potential allies at different junctures of the story.
While I haven’t sat down side by side with both products, it seems as if you could add the additional Creed of Auril material from Sam Dillon’s supplement into the same campaign that also features Cult of the Shattered Peak elements, if you don’t mind juggling multiple additional supplements.
In addition to adding context to each of the existing endings of the adventure, this also adds an additional possible adventure to the list of resolutions, bringing the total up to four.
Appendix (A, B, C)
The final section of the product includes three pages of NPC stat blocks, including common cult agents and the stat blocks for some of the named leaders in the Icewind Dale area. There is a page of new spells that gives options for hiding weapons, draining magic items, and deflecting spells. There are also magic items including scrying devices, arcane shackles, and the long running Netherese magic item, the Blasting Scepter.
This is a great alternate framework for starting Rime of the Frost Maiden, which addresses some of the issues that have been brought up about bridging the early aspects of the adventure with the later sections. In addition, the Cult of the Shattered Peak is a great faction to bring forward into modern Faerun and makes the existing “power players” more vibrant. I really appreciate the additional structure given to the Renown levels as well as the details added to the patron section.
The “story” of the Sundering Knight doesn’t come together well for me, while it’s thematic and part of the game, more counterspelling and spell turning isn’t as exciting for me as other game options might be.
Recommended–If the product fits in your broad area of gaming interests, you are likely to be happy with this purchase.
The Realms has a rich history, and that’s why I love it. That said, I love it when a product can succinctly summarize some of the depth of the Realms in context of a relevant storyline, bringing forward the texture of the Realms without bombarding people with the entire Arcane Age and half the Grand History of the Realms.
Products like this are one of the things I enjoy about the Dungeon Masters Guild. They supplement and enrich other existing D&D products and give DMs more options to present to their play groups.