When I first read about the Prince of Frost in Manual of the Planes, I thought he sounded like a great villain, so early in the campaign, I began laying the seeds for his appearance. At that time, he had just been statted up in Dragon 374, but I hadn’t even looked at the stat block. I was interested in the Prince of Frost as a concept. A villain who thought the only way to preserve life in its perfection was to freeze it. (This idea later played into some crazy winter-crazed treants that attacked the PCs).
I wasn’t sure how the Prince of Frost would feature in the campaign, so at first the PCs only encountered his minions, members of the “Wintershard Fey.” At this point, the player weren’t even aware that the Prince of Frost was pulling the strings. Soon, they learned that the Prince was somehow involved with Vecna worshipers, but the odd relationship between the two factions was a mystery.
At some point it occurred to me that I could unify the Prince of Frost and Vecna into a single plot arc related to an existing campaign thread. It worked so well, it probably seemed as though I had planned it all along. For a while, the characters had known that bad guys were attempting to learn the Raven Queen’s name. I had decided to feature Vecna as a campaign villain, because I think he’s a much more interesting and intelligent adversary than Orcus. Vecna was trying to learn the Raven Queen’s name because he wanted dominion over the domain of death. Oh, and how convenient that the Raven Queen should have the domain of winter, the very thing that the Prince of Frost should covet.
Realizing this alliance set in motion the heroic-tier finale of the campaign—a battle against a lamia of the Wintershard Fey who was using the hand of Vecna (which one of the players would later put on). The lamia was about to perform a ritual to unlock the secret of the name from a diary from a former exarch of the Raven Queen. The PCs stopped them, but they unleashed a blast of time magic that sent everyone present hurtling across time, providing a glimpse of things that had come to pass and a preview of what would happen if they failed to stop the Raven Queen’s death. Several months passed for each of the character, and during that time, they acquired their paragon paths. Eventually they were reunited.
But I never forgot about a certain eladrin who had also been present when the time magic exploded. I tried to think of how I could tie him back into the story, and it dawned upon me that he would have the same advantages that the PCs had when sent back in time. With knowledge of the future, he could recreate himself into a powerful archfey. So the Prince of Frost was born. Paradoxically, he created himself back before the ritual by ordering himself, a lowly eladrin foot soldier, to participate in the ritual created him. Confused yet? Pretty sure that my players were 🙂
The PCs didn’t realize this until coming face to face with the Prince of Frost in his fortress. I liked the story and mystery of Cendriane (also from Manual of the Planes), so I incorporated its downfall into the rise of the Prince of Frost. This also tied in to a dead eladrin princess the PCs had had visions of.
When the time came to battle the Prince of Frost, he was quite cordial at first—after all, the PCs had created him. He offered each of the characters a boon. They refused to take his offer, though. The characters were not about to let his evil schemes persist, so battle ensued. As a DM, I faced the challenge of making a battle against a level 31 solo fun (when the characters were only level 16).
I say it all the time—it’s important to make the players (not just the characters) feel heroic. This philosophy is one reason why I like throwing challenges at them that are high above their level. I learned this lesson from my first campaign, when I through an angel of vengeance against level 11 characters (if you’re interested, you can read about it in columns by Michele Carter and Chris Tulach in the Player’s Strategy Guide). Fighting something much higher than your level can be fun, but it can also be a drag if you can’t hit. Thus, I built in a mechanism by which the characters could break the Prince of Frost’s power, leaving him as the simple Ghaele of Winter he once was.
The Prince possessed a seed which he had corrupted for his own purpose, and this seed was buried within his throne. The PCs had learned of its whereabouts from another fey denizen, and a ghost of Cendriane had told them how to melt the seed and defeat the Prince. Of course, the first few rounds of combat were pretty rough. The Prince automatically hit except on a natural 1, and although his damage was minimal, he had some brutal control effects that slowed the characters’ advance on the throne.
To help stack the odds in the PCs favor, I had allowed them to gather allies during their adventures in the Feywild. They had acquired some firbolg reinforcements based on how fast they managed to break into the Prince’s fortress. They had also acquired the ability to summon the Colossus of Cendriane. They had other humanoid allies, who had been icy statues in the Prince’s garden. Each player had an NPC with a fairly simple function, which gave him or her more to do during combat (since a lot of enemies were involved). The characters had also gathered evidence that helped dismiss enemies (in this case, a fomorian) from the fight, making it easier.
It might sound complicated, but all these factors amounted to a climactic fight with many objectives and enough going on to make it feel like more than just a regular encounter against the bad guy. The PCs, through the help of their allies, were able to complete the objectives and overcome the prince—and, surprisingly, let him survive. This battle inspired me to find other ways to give the PCs allies to call upon—I like the idea that as the character achieve epic level, they have more powerful allies they can call upon. Eventually, they might even have armies. Trying to make a battle feel cosmic or epic can be a challenge when the PCs seem small and insignificant. Making them marshals of great forces across the planes is a neat way to add a sense of drama to the campaign, both because the PCs are fighting on behalf of many more people, and because if they fail, they see tangible results in the deaths of their comrades.