Those deluxe Dungeons & Dragons boxed sets from Beadle & Grimm’s? Totally worth it
In June Wizards of the Coast announced that its next published adventure would take players to the Forgotten Realms’ frozen north to battle a mysterious force of nature. The campaign was published on schedule and was received well by critics — including here at Polygon.
Shortly after that announcement, the team at Beadle & Grimm’s revealed Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden Platinum Edition — the latest in its line of limited edition deluxe boxed sets. What could possibly be included in a D&D adventure to warrant a $499 price tag? It was a closely guarded secret until packages began shipping in early November.
I’m surprised to say that it’s totally worth it.
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I’ve been running games as a Dungeon Master regularly since the launch of 4th edition back in 2008, and I’ve always had two main goals. First, I want to draw my players into the game with the use of both tactical combat encounters and rich storytelling. Sometimes that means making props and handouts — like a leather journal showing the original David Sutherland drawings for the Tomb of Horrors, or a printed version of the entire floorplan of Castle Ravenloft mounted to foam board to serve as dungeon tiles.
But, in addition to using props and maps, I also want to make my life as easy as possible when I’m the DM. There are lots of moving parts to a game of D&D, especially when you’re the one steering all the monsters and moving the storyline forward. Anything that goes toward lightening the cognitive load on the DM gives them more mental bandwidth to make the game more interesting, and the team at Beadle & Grimms made that the focus of this Platinum Edition — and then some.
First, they took the entire 320-page adventure and broke it down into six slim paperback volumes — one each for the game’s major chapters, plus an appendix so you can keep track of things like trinkets, creatures, magic items, and unique spells. Shredding the book in this way is a great method for helping harried DMs to stay focused on what matters during a given play session. It also helps prevent them from having to lug an entire hardback volume around every time they go to play.
My only complaint is that these documents are, so far as I can tell, carbon copies of the source material as presented in the core campaign book. It’s just that they’re cut up and reproduced — page for page, and in order — inside these smaller, magazine-style booklets. It would have been nice to see Beadle & Grimms make an effort to mix things up a bit and present the material in a more efficient way.
The kit also includes a custom DM’s screen. Like any screen, it serves to hide the DM’s dice rolls when necessary, but Beadle & Grimm’s version also serves as an extension of the Appendix mentioned above. That’s where you’ll find your handy-dandy pronunciation guide for all the non-player characters in the game, a list of random encounters, and the rumors that players will need to come across to advance to the next story hook. There’s also a map of Icewind Dale and a quick guide to overland travel. It also adds in easy-to-reference rules for exhaustion and the other conditions that players are likely to encounter in their travels. Overall, it’s one of the best DM screens that I’ve seen for any modern campaign.
What surprised me most was the number and quality of the physical maps included in this Platinum Edition. They come in many different shapes and sizes, and run the gamut of textures from card stock to artist-quality linen. They’re even rolled up together inside a custom-printed Rime of the Frostmaiden cardboard tube—that way no one will mistake it for a mailer that needs to go into the recycling.
At the most basic there’s a set of four double-side battle mats: rugged, glossy board game-style maps that can be mixed and matched to create most of the more pedestrian combat encounters in the game. They’re big enough to get the job done, but not so large that they won’t fit on the kitchen table alongside all your books. You can choose not to use those battle mats, of course, but it’s wonderful way to subvert player expectations.
Any DM knows that whenever they stop the action to get out the maps and miniatures, players sort of shut down. They know that a combat encounter is on the horizon, and they kick back and wait for it to begin. So just beginning every session with a battle mat on the table, and using even for non-combat encounters, encourages players to keep searching for new role-playing solutions to in-game problems — even when combat is a certainty.
Beyond those battle mats, there’s also a regional map of all of Icewind Dale, plus an alternate style in-world version of that regional map by the excellent cartographer, Devin Rue, with plenty of room for the party to add in additional locations by hand as they’re uncovered. There are also a few other maps, each with different textures — from a sturdy twill to a dappled, eggshell-like paper stock. The quality of the materials is excellent, with several of these maps that could easily be stretched on a wooden frame or put behind glass.
I won’t spoil the adventure here, but know that these maps are also at reproduced at different scales. They range from the regional maps mentioned above to traditional one-inch square grids to detailed maps of entire cities. Everything is sourced from the original book, including the full-color maps by cartographer Jared Blando. All told, it’s easily hundreds of dollars worth of printed material, all of which would require plenty of back and forth with the staff at the local FedEx store or a mom-and-pop printer to get just right.
Beyond that, there are also at least 15 other paper handouts — everything from hand-written letters and in-fiction zines to scrolls and other oddball ephemera. Many are double-sided, there’s an assortment of textures and treatments, and a few even come bound with twine. Basically, just about every major encounter or settlement in the campaign has something physical to go along with it.
And that’s not even mentioning the jewelry! There are two pendants, two pins, and a large metal map marker for use in the campaign’s climactic, final encounter. Not only are there things that you get to show to your players, but there are tokens and trinkets that they can win — and wear — to the next session.
There’s so much more inside the box that it’s hard to get it all into one review. I haven’t yet mentioned the 60 encounter cards (full-color, quarter-page illustrations designed to sit on top of the DM screen while you describe the scene), the smaller 8.5”x11” maps, or the pre-generated characters that come with. There are also 20 painted plastic miniatures from the WizKids Icewind Dale collection. And there are four bonus encounters that don’t come with the original campaign, intended to take the place of the generic, random encounters. There are also a handful of more spoilery items that will help the DM to keep track of the action during big battles, unique non-combat encounters, and even to manage the secret character hooks that get awarded to each player before the campaign begins.
As someone who has spent hours and hours studying books and prepping handouts for my players, Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden Platinum Edition is a treasure trove. It’s full to bursting with more things that will enhance the tabletop experience than I have the time or ability to make myself. Stack it all up — especially the gigantic maps and the jewelry — and I think that fans definitely get their money’s worth. For a campaign that will take most groups the better part of a year to finish, the $500 price tag actually seems reasonable.
Of course, this particular platinum edition — like all of Beadle & Grimm’s platinum editions — was produced in limited quantities. All 1,000 units have already been spoken for. But, if you still want to get a feel for what it’s like, or if the $500 price tag is just too daunting, know that Beadle & Grimm’s also has lower-tier offerings. Inside, you’ll find all the same time-saving devices (like shredded campaign books, encounter cards, and more) but without some of the more elaborate handouts and maps.
The Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden Silver Edition is just $175. Split five ways between players, I can’t think of a better holiday treat for your favorite Dungeon Master.
Beadle & Grimm’s Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden Platinum Edition was reviewed using a final copy provided by the manufacturer. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.
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