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The North

North of the Spine of the World and west of the towering Reghed Glacier is a frigid expanse few dare to explore, let alone inhabit. This icy land of windswept tundra recently became locked in a perpetual, dark winter without reprieve. Auril the Frostmaiden, the divine embodiment of winter’s fury, has withdrawn to this cold corner of the world to live among mortals. Further, she has cast a terrible spell over Icewind Dale, to the detriment of most of its denizens.

Each night before midnight, Auril takes to the sky on the back of a white roc and weaves her spell, which manifests as a shimmering curtain of light—a beautiful aurora that illuminates the night sky and fades before dawn. This powerful magic prevents the next day’s sun from rising above the horizon, turning midday into twilight and trapping Icewind Dale in winter’s dark embrace, with no sunlight or warmth to melt the snow and ice. Each casting of the spell leaves the Frostmaiden weakened, with just enough divine power left to barricade the Mountain pass with Blizzards and churn the Sea of Moving Ice with blistering winds. Such measures discourage travelers from approaching or leaving Icewind Dale, further isolating the region. Icewind Dale has thus been trapped in a different reality from the rest of the world, for though the sun never rises over the dale, it continues to rise everywhere else.

The people of Icewind Dale know Auril’s wrath when they feel it, and they have a name for the unending winter she has inflicted on them. They call it the Everlasting Rime. No one understands why the Frostmaiden has imposed her will in this way or why the other gods refuse to Challenge her. This prolonged winter, which has gone on for more than two years, threatens to doom not just the flickering lights of civilization known as Ten-Towns but also the indigenous flora and fauna that need sunlight and the change of Seasons to survive.

Despite Auril’s Blizzards and other deterrents, visitors still come and go.

The Ten Towns

Like the famous drow Drizzt Do’Urden, many people who come to Ten-Towns are outcasts, fugitives, or pariahs in Search of a place where they can be tolerated, if not accepted. Some came here determined to make their fortunes. Others come for the solitude, or to escape notice and stay out of the reach of the law of the Southern cities. Today, four hundred years after the formation of Ten-Towns, most folk are here because they were born here, grew up here, and expect to die here. They’re fishers, loggers, miners, hunters, trappers, furriers, and traders accustomed to the harsh climate, the slow pace, and the isolation. Like the hardy lichens and determined Reindeer of the tundra, residents endure and do what’s needed to survive.

Icewind Dale has few trees, so lumber is cut from the slopes of the Spine of the World or the depths of the Lonelywood Forest. Stone from the hills and valleys surrounding Kelvin’s Cairn supplements wood as a building material in Ten-Towns. Homes have sharply pitched roofs to prevent snow from accumulating on them.

The people of Ten-Towns wear layers of woolen clothing often topped off with fur cloaks. Under these heavy clothes and cloaks, one resident looks very much the same as another. Outdoors, it’s hard to tell the people of Ten-Towns apart—and easy for clever Monsters to hide in their midst.


Ten-Towns didn’t spring up overnight. It started from humble beginnings four centuries ago. Immigrants from all over Faerûn came here in Search of escape or adventure and built a modest trade post atop the hill where Bryn Shander now stands. One by one, settlements sprung up on the shores of Maer Dualdon, Lac Dinneshere, and Redwaters. The ever-present threat of orcs and other Monsters compelled the poorly defended lakeside towns to turn Bryn Shander from a modest hilltop Trading post into a walled town capable of defending all Ten-Towners if and when the worst comes.

Most of the towns contain trace evidence of the immigrant cultures that birthed them. This evidence is carved into houses, statues, and other fixtures. For example, the dinosaur carvings on the older buildings of Good Mead remind folk that many of its original settlers were Chultan.

Residents of Ten-Towns tend to remain indoors when they’re not working, since it’s so frightfully cold outside, which gives each settlement a deathly quiet aspect. Most people who venture outdoors are bundled up in so much Cold Weather Clothing as to be barely recognizable, and they don’t stand around long enough for the cold wind to get the better of them.

Auril’s winter spell has caused the population of Ten-Towns to dwindle and has heightened rivalries that have simmered for years, turning neighboring towns against one another as competition for resources becomes increasingly intense. The alliance of Ten-Towns won’t hold if the mounting tribalism continues to threaten the Common good.

Life Off the Lakes

Most of the ten towns except Bryn Shander are built on the shores of three big lakes. The largest population of Knucklehead Trout is in Maer Dualdon, the deepest of the lakes. Redwaters, the shallowest lake, almost completely freezes in winter, making the Fishing there difficult. Lac Dinneshere catches the worst of the winds blowing off the Reghed Glacier to the east and thus has the roughest waters. Small thermal vents at the bottom of these lakes keep them from freezing completely, even in the coldest winters.

Ten-Towns Fishing boats are simple affairs. The smallest are rowboats and single-masted skiffs that require careful handling to avoid capsizing. Larger, twin-masted cogs and keelboats with single decks handle the wind and waves better. These ships fly the flags of their towns and provide fish for the whole community, not for any individual Fisher.

When thick ice covers the lakes, many fishers stay to the shelters of their homes and hearths, but the most dedicated or desperate cut holes in the ice and dangle their lines down in hopes of tempting hungry trout.

Fuel Sources

The folk of Ten-Towns don’t have a lot of options when it comes to keeping warm. People from Good Mead, Lonelywood, and Termalaine burn wood salvaged from nearby forests to heat their houses. In the other towns of Icewind Dale, wood is too precious a commodity to burn, so whale oil is used in lamps and small stoves around which townsfolk huddle for warmth.

Ten-Towners buy their whale oil from whalers who live on the shores of the Sea of Moving Ice. Whaling is thus a lucrative (if inherently dangerous) business in Icewind Dale.

The Towns