Sunday, 10 July 2022

Thoughts on G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl

“Through endurance we conquer.”
― Ernest H. Shackleton

G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl
Some dozens of leagues to the north and west of the STEADING OF THE HILL GIANT CHIEF […] amidst the tallest mountain peaks, is the stronghold of Grugnur, Lord of Frost Giants. As frost giants have been amongst those who have been in the reaving bands, the party is to deal with them as the hill giants have been dealt with. Death and destruction are to be meted out to the frost giants in the same measure they gave to the peoples below.
[G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl – 2]

G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl is a very different animal from G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief. It is similar in its brevity—this second being a scant 8 pages, as was its predecessor—but that is where the similarity ends. Although as ground-breaking and imaginative as G1, it is not its equal. Although it might be in the hands of a competent DM.
Why is it not? Because it treads the same ground as the first, if in a different environment. One might add that it does not add to the GDQ story, only spanning the space between G1 and G3.
Frost Giant
Maybe I’m being unfair. It’s a good module. It’s an exciting adventure. It was the first to highlight Frost Giants, giving us insight and a template into the environs they would most certainly live, elaborating on the thin description given us in the Monster Manual. It also bridges the gap of difficulty that spans G1 and G3. Frost Giants are tougher and smarter than Hill Giants, after all. But are they as organised, or cunning?
Hill Giant: HIT DICE: 8 + 1-2; INTELLIGENCE: Low; ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil [MM 1e – 45]
Frost Giant: HIT DICE: 10 + 1-4; INTELLIGENCE: Average to low; ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil [MM 1e – 44]

I will presume that you, gentle reader, have read my earlier THOUGHTS on G1, and have (or had) every intention of pursuing this classic series of adventure modules as a campaign, and not a series of tournament modules. I expect, though, that each and every one of you were transported between the 1st and 2nd installment by the magical means offered in the prior when you did play the 1st.
That would not be my preference now. It was a plot device that moved the story along quickly, but it did not add to the story. It was convenient. And it would probably be lethal to the PCs. AD&D was an exercise in endurance, or might I say attrition. HP were precious, and not easily recovered then, not without magical means, anyway; and even then, few magical aids replenished those spent hit points in their entirety. Were you to try, you would deplete your store of potions before too long, or have pressed your clerics into little more than walking first-aid kits.
I would rather a lengthy campaign, where the party stormed the STEADING, and once successful, reported back to those noble lords who set them upon their task. Let those noble lords heal the party; they were decidedly cheap in their rewarding success, after all.
[T]he party has been instructed to keep any and all loot they chance upon, this to be their reward for the perils they are to face. [G1 – 2]
That was generous of them, wasn’t it? What if the Hill Giants were destitute? The PCs would have risked life and limb for what? Glory? The undying gratitude of those noble lords who would not risk their own skins in defence of their peasantry? Even if the Giants were not, how might the PCs transport their murderous spoils? (We knew there was going to be treasure, of course; treasure was part-and-parcel with XP, and treasure was crucial for PCs being able to pay for the exorbitant fees to Level Up.
Besides, there would be no treasure at all except what they could carry should they be using the convenient magical transport. Just sayin’.) Also, they were ordered to return with their findings, weren’t they? As they are now.
Those members of the party who have participated in the raid upon the STEADING will know that their most important mission, however, is to garner intelligence as to what or who is behind the unholy alliance of hill, stone, frost, and possibly other types of giants as well. Any such information gained is to be delivered by the fastest means to the nobles sponsoring the expedition, while the party is to follow up clues in order to prosecute offenders. [G2 – 2]
Their reward? The same as last time.
Any treasure taken is to be kept by the party; this is their reward for the perils they must face—and they are bound to face many in the weird ice caves and rocky caverns of the Jarl. The evil root is deeply grown here, far worse than among the hill giants. [G2 – 2]

Having gained a map leading to the Frost Giant’s lair, the heroes arrive, finding a harsh and unforgivable landscape.
The Rift
The whole place is windy and very cold. Visibility atop the Rift is about 150’. The wind at the bottom of the Rift is worse still, and visibility there is only 30‘. The floor of the Rift is a maze of snow and ice hillocks and mounds, with peaks of ice and rock thrusting up here and there like fangs. […]
Other than a few traces of giant footprints, the ice and wind-driven snow hide all traces of who or what use the ledges to gain access to the caves. The party must learn for themselves what lies in store. [G2 – 2]
Prudence predicates that they find a redoubt of refuge, and scout further before committing themselves fully.
There are two icy ledges along either face of the Rift. Both slope slightly downward, with occasional high steps which combine to make the paths progress from 250’ above the bottom of the Rift at their beginnings to about 150’ above at their far ends to the south. The two paths are indicated by slender arrows. The dark outline is the Rift, and the openings along it are the entrances to the caves and tunnels in its face. [G2 – 2]
Frigid. Icy. It’s likely that the unwary might skate off the precipice into the rift, their fate certain death, I imagine. It is indeed an inhospitable place. To anyone but a Frost Giant, or any other arctic-esque species, that is.
Into the Rift
Our heroes plunge into the cave and tunnels.
The northern section of caves and caverns is basically formed from ice, with a few areas of rock here and there. In these areas a faint greenish light will make torches or similar lights unnecessary. [Convenient] [G2 - 3]
And will all too soon discover that this mission will not be as easy as that against the Hill Giants was; if that was, that is.
The Frost Giants are not drunk, nor are they lax in their vigilance. Even if they are, and they might be (who would expect anyone might assault this largely inaccessible lair?), they will not be for long.
1. GUARDROOM ICE CAVERN: 4 frost giants […] lair in this place at all times to prevent any unauthorized use of the south passage. If any combat is going against them, one of their number will flee down this passage to give the warning of intruders to [other nearby] guards. There are 4 piles of hides, 4 giant sacks, and a pile of rocks and ice chunks for hurling. The guards will certainly hurl missiles if they are not immediately meleed. [G2 – 3]
2. GUARDROOM ICE CAVE: 3 frost giants […] on standby guard. If they hear noise from area 1. they will rush there to help, or if they are attacked they will raise a cry to bring the guards from 1. to aid them. [G2 – 3]

If that were not enough, the caves themselves appear to be against the party.
3. EMPTY ICE CAVE: If loud noise is made herein, the ceiling of ice and icicles will collapse, inflicting 3-30 hit points of damage on each creature in the cave. [G2 – 3]
This adventure will be a grind. Imagine how even more so had the PCs were to attempt this without replenishment?

Take heart. Gary Gygax saw the need that the PCs might need just that.
5. ICE CAVERN: The giants have frozen 8 corpses of mutilated victims, standing them upright in blocks of transparent ice. Evidently these are meant to "frighten off' any trespassers. The bodies are obviously hacked and very dead, not merely frozen whole. Each of these corpses has some valuable item with it in the ice [.] [G2 – 3]
The corpses are replete with magic weapons, wands, rings, and a suit of armour of vulnerability thrown in for good measure. This is AD&D, after all; why wouldn’t there be a few cursed items scattered about?
But take care, because this generosity is not without its own peril.
If a fireball is used to melt the ice blocks, all magic and jewelry will be destroyed. Lesser fires or chipping will cause melting or vibrations which have a 10% per block cumulative chance of causing the ceiling of ice and icicles to collapse and inflict 6-60 hit points of damage on each creature beneath. [G2 – 3]

Further breadth of the evil confederacy is illuminated as the heroes plunge ever deeper into the caverns.
8. SOUTH CAVERN: Ogre mercenaries serving Jarl Grugnur dwell here. There are currently 12 ogres […] here. All fight fiercely. [G2 – 4]
13. ICE CAVERN: This place is the home of a band of yeti who are scouts for the frost giants. [G2 – 4]
24. VISITORS’ CAVE: 5 hill giants […] are camped here awaiting a summons from the Jarl. The cave has 5 heaps of hides and 5 giant-sized bags. Bag #4 has a gold-inlayed skull with a report from the hill giant leader (Chief) to the Jarl inside. It is a pass to the Hall of King Snurre, also, and the biggest hill giant knows that they are bound south to the realm of the fire giants after seeing the Jarl so as to take a message to the fire giant King. [G2 – 5]
25. VISITORS’ CAVE: 5 stone giants […] of very large size have come here to pay their respects to the Jarl and to see how well the frost giants are doing in their war on humankind. They will report their observations to other stone giants if they get the opportunity. They will fight only if attacked. [G2 – 5]
26. SPECIAL VISITORS’ CAVE: This location is warmed somewhat by volcanic activity, and it is lit by dim reddish light. In it are 3 fire giant messengers […] who have delivered their message and are about to depart for their own land. […] The strongest fire giant carries a token of the Jarl’s fealty to King Snurre, a solid silver statue of a bear [.] [G2 – 5,6]

All this is quite interesting, but the best part of the adventure has very little to do with the GDQ plot, if anything. The best part is in the lower reaches of the Rift, itself.
The deep floor is as unwelcoming as the glacial surface.
Winter Wolves
If the party is on the floor of the Rift and fleeing from pursuing monsters, any change in direction by the party will entitle them to a die roll to determine if the monsters continue to follow, with 1 or 2 on a six-sided die indicating that pursuit continues, 3 through 6 meaning that they have successfully eluded the monsters. This is allowed due to the blizzard-like conditions in this area.
[G2 – 3]
Needless to say, the PCs will not avoid what they cannot see.
27. WINTER WOLF PACK: This wild pack of 7 animals […] is encouraged to roam the place by the frost giants. [G2 – 6]
Nor will they be able to prepare for what greater dangers await them, if they are too bold, or so foolhardy as to ever flee in a direction they have not already cleared.
Which brings me to the Remorhaz. Is the remorhaz as daunting as a dragon? Probably not, but it is certainly as fearsome.
28. SNOW COVERED DOME OF ICE: This formation has been caused by the creature which lairs inside, a remorhaz 30’ long […] which has recently moved into the rift. A number of skeletons are around its icy den, one of a human with a ring of 3 wishes on its bony finger and a bastard sword (+2 giant slayer, no special intelligence, align to suit the party if desired, otherwise it is Lawful Good). If the monster is destroyed by heat (fireball, lightning, wall of fire, fire elemental, etc., the treasures are lost-destroyed or sunk into the ice and non-recoverable.
[G2 – 6]

Speaking of dragons…
If the PCs aren’t careful, one or more of them might slip while combating the remorhaz and plunge deeper into the rift.
30. Ice-coated sink hole around 12’ diameter and 100’ deep which gives access to level #2, area 2. [G2 – 6]
Where that unfortunate soul will come face to face with just that. A dragon that is.
2. VAULTED CAVERN: The noise of moving the boulder which closes the place off from the rest of the complex will awaken the 2 white dragons kept herein. A large, ancient male […] rests atop a heap of treasure: 72,000 s.p., 17,320 e.p., 2,966 p.p., 8 silver boxes’ filled with ivory (weight 3,000 g.p. each, value 4,500 g.p. ivory, 1,500 g.p. each per box), 1 alabaster statue (4,000 g.p. value), 7 white marble statues of no great worth, a scattering of 1,900 1 g.p. base value gems, 11 pewter serving pieces of small worth, 24 various weapons (a +2 dagger amongst them), 9 shields, 8 suits of armor (including a silvered set of black +3 chainmail), 27 urns of small value, and 61 bottles and flasks which have no value except for 1 which holds poison, 1 which is a potion of fire resistance, and another 2 which hold potions of diminuation and polymorph (self). He is directly against the portion of rock which splits the entry to the lair into a north passage and an east passage, and he will surprise intruders on a 3 in 6 basis. His mate […] is at A. [G2 – 6]
White Dragon
Or should I say 2 dragons:
A. This location is a ledge with a cave-like recess, the whole being about 30‘ above the floor of the cavern. On the ledge a medium-sized, very old female dragon, the mate of the ancient male, hides and watches to see who enters the place. Frost giants bearing treasure to dump on the pile are the only acceptable intruders, for all feeding is done personally by the Jarl and his wife who bring tender morsels to their pets. The female dragon will fly silently to the aid of the male, surprising opponents 4 in 6. She hides 12 1,000 g.p. base value gems (8 opals and 4 diamonds). [G2 – 6]

Is the 2nd Level ore dangerous than the 1st? What do you think?
If the party is luck they will not slip and fall into this trap; and if they do, I suggest they haul ass to find their way out again if they are not in peak health or depleted of spells. That would be prudent. But pragmatism has its price.
Should they ever decide to leave the ice caverns to rest, the Frost Giants will be prepared for their return.
If time permits, the giants will organize traps, ambushes, and last-ditch defenses against continuing forays into their stronghold. [G2 – 2]
The Frost Giants will also be searching for them on the surface, too, so if they mean to rest, they had better cover their tracks. As below, so above…

Frost Giant and Winter Wolf
Wandering Monsters:
4. 1 frost giant and 2-5 winter wolves searching for possible intruders (ONLY IF PARTY IS KNOWN TO BE AROUND) [G2 – 6]

Diving deeper into the glacier, the PCs will unearth that more evil races are answering the call. They’ve not found mention of the mysterious Eclavdra, whoever that might be, but they can only suspect that this force must be behind this gathering, for the giants have never been able to coordinate before. Any such confederation has always failed as the stronger bully the lesser; sooner or later each jarl would eventually try to bring his brethren to heel. And indeed, few of these evil species would tolerate anther for long. Until now.
6. EMISSARIES’ CAVERN: 5 ogre-magi […] recently arrived from the Lord of their kind. They have had audience with the Jarl, and after a special wassail to be held on the morrow they will depart for home with a treaty scroll. This scroll is signed (a special mark) by the Jarl and offers the Lord of Ogre-Magi 100,000 g.p. value in gems, plus whatever loot his minions garner, if they will join the war upon mankind in this territory. [G2 – 7]
7. GUEST CAVERN: A torchlit, tapestried place, with skins and hides covering the floor, and a bed heaped with pelts. There is a chest, a bag, a table, 2 chairs, and a small cabinet here. The cloud giant […] who is the current guest has just agreed to join the Jarl as his chief henchman. [G2 – 7]

Storm Giant
In sooth, Grugnur, Lord of Frost, is most curiously confident that whatever is afoot cannot possibly fail. Why else would he presume that he could tantalize a Storm Giant? That such a thing were even possible?
8. PRISON CAVERN: Several torches light the place dimly. A storm giantess […] who is comely to those of her ilk […] is chained on the north wall with huge manacles at wrists and ankles. A fur rug in the middle of the place bears a table and 2 chairs. Upon the table are heaps of food on golden platters […], in silver bowls […], and 2 huge flagons of ivory set with gems […] set to tantalize her into submitting to the Jarl’s will and becoming his leman. This durance vile makes her a friend to any who rescue her, although evil characters will cause this aid to be of brief duration. [G2 – 7]
Storm Giant: HIT DICE: 15 + 2-7; INTELLIGENCE: Exceptional; ALIGNMENT: Chaotic good [MM 1e – 45]

The 2nd Level is a slog. It’s an endurance run. The party has personal pets (polar bears), household guards, and Carls (personal bodyguards) to wade through before finaly breaking through to the Jarl’s personal quarters. And more clues to who lies behind this dastardly plot.
Grugnur, Lord of Frost Giants
The eastern portion of the cavern is partially screened off by hangings. There is a huge bed, a small table, a chair, 2 stools, a chest, a trunk, and various odds and ends of clothing, armor, and weapons here and there. The walls are hung with pelts and rugs of no worth. The lid of the trunk has a secret drawer in it which contains 6 parchment scrolls in tubes: […] #3 is a map to the HALL OF THE FIRE GIANT KING [….] [G2 – 8]
Will they succeed in defeating Grugnur, Lord of Frost Giants? Possibly. Probably. Most certainly. That depends on how prepared they are, how tired they are, and how skilled and lucky they are. I can’t see how they shouldn’t, though; any group who can defeat a remorhaz and 2 dragons ought to make short work of a Fire Giant.
Then again, Gary has left Grugnur and escape route.
A. Behind the wall hangings on the eastern portion of the north wall is a hidden escape tunnel. It is a natural passage about 1 mile long which turns south and exits at the base of the mountain/glacier area, out of sight of any near the rift. The alcove to the northwest appears empty, but if it is examined with care there is a 1 in 6 chance per person examining the area that they will note a thick iron bar protruding from the wall at about 10’ above the floor. The bar moves downward and transports whatever or whoever is standing on the floor of the alcove to a spot some 50’ distant from the entrance to Snurre’s Hall (the Hall of the Fire Giant King). [G2 – 8]
Sadly, there’s that magical transport option, again. Feel free to use it, if you wish. I prefer the map option, but you already know that, don’t you?
It’s a better approach for a well-rounded campaign, in my opinion.
And isn’t that what a story arc is all about?
If you plan to continue this campaign by using the other modules in the series, be certain to keep track of the fate of important giants and their allies or captives. The former will generally flee to the next higher ranking stronghold, and the latter will be available for assistance to some parties. [G2 – 2]

Is G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief the better of the 2 adventures, thus far? Maybe. Probably.
Is it my favourite of the 2? Nope. Not by a long shot; even if I might have, in my enthusiasm, suggested as much in my earlier post. Hear me out: I love beginnings. I lean towards them. I believe G1 has more role play opportunity. And I’m partial to the Weird Temple in G1’s bowls. Yet, I prefer this one.
Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because of its locale. I’m a Northern boy, and I do so love the setting, the Viking-ness of it all, of the swirling, blowing blizzard, of the sheer ice, the remorhaz and white dragons. I love the feel of the icy, scintillating caverns, and can hear the ice growl and grown as it shifts and crackles and flows.
I’m impartial. Unabashedly, unforgivably so.
I will pause here to reminisce on how poorly I read the passage describing the rift (and the entire adventure, likely) when I was younger. I did not then, and still do not now own a physical copy of the original monochromatic published module, only the G123 1981 compilation, so I did not have the benefit of the “isometric” back-cover view of the rift. Silly fool that I was, then, I’d always assumed that the entirety of the Upper Level was “underground,” as is befitting of all dungeons, however their makings. The Rift was an enormous ice cavern, to my mind, and not open to the air. Needless to say, I’m humbled by embarrassment.
That did not, and has not, diminished my love for this early gem, this icy diamond in the rough. Its fire flares for me still.

“God help us, we can't keep up this pulling, that is certain. Amongst ourselves we are unendingly cheerful, but what each man feels in his heart I can only guess.”
― Robert Falcon Scott, Scott's Last Expedition: The Journals

One must always give credit where credit is due. This post is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them, and the new old guards, Carl Sargant, James Ward, Roger E. Moore. And Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean Reynolds, Frederick Weining. The list is interminable.

The Art:
Cover art, by D.A. Trampier, from G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, 1978
Frost Giant, from Monster Manual 1e, 1977
Back Cover art, from G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, 1978
Into the Rift, from G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, 1978
Into the Rift, from G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, 1978
Remorhaz, by D.A. Trampier, from G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, 1978
White Dragon, by David C. Sutherland III, from Monster Manual 1e, 1977
Frost Giant and Winter Wolf, from Dungeon #199, Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, 2012
Storm Giant, from Monster Manual 1e, 1977
Grugnur, from Dungeon #199, Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, 2012
Polar Bears, by Bill Willingham, from G123 Against the Giants, 1980

9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2009 Monster Manual 1e, 1977, 1978
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
9016 G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, 1978
9017 G2 The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, 1978
9058 G123 Against the Giants, 1978, 1981

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