Spoilers for magic items in Rime of the Frostmaiden.
As written, Rime of the Frostmaiden includes a typical number of magic items, but only one useful magic weapon, a +2 trident. That count excludes the Berserker Axe, which attaches a harsh curse, and 6 laser rifles, which I don’t count as magic. Some players will relish letting their rogues and rangers become raygun-blasting snipers, but many players, including those with greatsword-wielding barbarians, may not fancy where a laser rifle steers their character.
Dunegon masters can change the adventure’s loot to fit their players, and you, I, and the designers all know it. Surely though, the lack of magic weapons comes by design, from a choice the authors made because they felt it enhanced the adventure.
What motivated this choice?
The stinginess reinforces the scarcity and struggle that sets the adventure’s early tone. ThinkDM writes, “It’s meant to convey desolation at the surface level of Icewind Dale, literally and figuratively. This sets a contrast to the high magic stuff happening later in the adventure.”
The adventure mainly avoids granting magic items that only suit a particular class or character, favoring wondrous items, protective items, and even a wand of magic missiles that any character can use. This avoids the awkward moment when the party finds a +2 longsword even though everyone wants a rapier. (DM hint: When you announce the find to that party, pronounce “longsword” as “rapier.”)
D&D’s fifth edition design aims to play fine without magic items, but a lack of magic weapons weakens fighters, rangers, and rogues against creatures resistant to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from non-magical attacks. Every character suffers moments like when the fireball-blasting sorcerer enters the forge of salamanders. However, the game makes creatures resistant to non-magic weapons common enough to lead the designers to give monks and druids fist and claw attacks that count as magic. The D&D Adventurers League gives out magic weapons to any fifth-level character who wants one. This avoids both penalizing the classes that need them and the awkward moments when a group finds the wrong type of magic sword.
In Frostmaiden, a certain infestation of vampires could overwhelm a party without magic weapons. At best, that barbarian spends a night feeling ineffective. Hope you found a laser rifle.
IMC, after a harrowing adventure in a Clarke-ian science lab, the heroes ended up with laser ri… no, they didn’t. They ended up with a selection of advanced science-y tools they didn’t understand, of some unknown metal that they couldn’t recognize. When they returned from the lab (which collapsed and filled with water behind them!) to the dwarven PC’s hometown, a master smith was entranced by the metal and offered them a deal: “Give me half the metal, and I’ll use the other half to make you weapons!” The PC’s got to choose like 5 pounds of metal weaponry, ending with a shortsword, a pair of daggers, and a scad of crossbow bolts.
And what does this metal do? it *acts* like magic (and silver), without providing any bonuses to hit or damage. (“argentium”, a manufactured “mithril”)
So maybe give them those laser rifles, but have a friendly (or greedy!) smith offer to melt them down and make something else (keeping an undamaged one for himself!). Then the barbarian can have his unobtanium greatsword – maybe with a laser rifle core in the hilt that allows him to “empower” the blade with +2 radiant damage for 3 rounds or something. Whip up an awesome themed homebrew item, get rid of the troublesome anachronistic weapons, and yet keep the power level in place, both for 5e and the module.
Just my $0.02…
That’s a very fun idea if you don’t like giving the party laser weapons. Well done!
I’ve read that Frostmaiden is a dumpster fire of an adventure, but the laser rifles takes it to a whole new level.
I would be very curious to hear how intentional it was. It could be. But I am not sure it was intentional to add a shield guardian to a certain adventure, or to have such incredibly strong unique items in other adventures. I think it just sort of happens without Rime or reason! But I would love to find out!
I’m currently prepping Rime. Personally, as someone who likes to run sandboxes, I think it’s a great adventure. There’s a few editing issues where info isn’t presented well, but that appears to be a universal problem in WotC adventure models. The bones are all good.
The lack of magic items is 100% intentional, as is the fact that both the trident and the axe show up when they do—the previous chapter is one of the climacteric showdowns. It’s conceivable that happens before level 6, but either way, the party should feel the desperation of that fight. Limited resources (spell slots, X/day features, etc.) are likely consumed just getting to where the party needs to be. Once they get there, damage resistances and immunities further compound the problem. (And the designers clearly account for any lasers that may have been discovered.)
I like the old school approach of having lots of magic weapons in adventures. Rather than be Santa Claus handing out tailored loot, I like having tons of loot and the players make the best of what they get. Extra weapons can go to retainers or be sold.