Note: This was originally posted on the old blog in January 2020, hence the cold context.
It’s been real cold in Vermont this week and we’re looking at some winter weather this weekend so I decided to write this post about frosty themed adventure hooks. Stay warm, and enjoy!
#10: City of Ice
Thousands of years ago, there was a great cold front that moved across the land. Not quite an ice age, but perhaps a momentary glimpse into what one might be. It snowed even in the far reaches of the south, but the north was wracked with rime and snow. After several months, when summer finally came, the land returned to normal and cities naturally defrosted. All but one, the legendary City of Ice.
Somehow, the city did not thaw as the others did. It is unknown if the cold lingered as a result of magic, or some otherworldly power, but the city remained encased in ice and snow, and it’s inhabitants mysteriously vanished.
What became of the city? Why has the ice and frost remained for years after the great blizzard? What secrets, lore, treasure, and nightmares lie sealed within the ice? Is the city a trove, or a tomb?
#11: The Yeti Fortress
In a mountain range to the north, in the western half, there lies the home of an old Orc tribe. To the east there lies an alleged great civilization, uncontacted for time immemorial. The Orc High Shaman, who is second in command to the Warchief, began communing with the elements and eventually twisted the elemental forces of ice that reside in the mountains to his own will. Together, they located a Yeti sentinel, a watchman of the Yeti people who is posted far away from Yeti lands to watch for intruders. The savage Orc interrogated the poor Yeti, casting spells to speak to the creature, and tormenting it with various magics and foul steel-forged devices. The Yeti would not speak to the Orc though, and the Yeti knew what was to come should he test his captors patience. The Orc eventually grew frustrated with the Yeti, and having expended magical energy felt weary. His lack of judgement threw him into a rage and through psychologically tormenting magic, he murdered the poor Yeti, and sliced off its paw at the wrist.
After attaching the Yeti paw to a chain, the shaman inscribed it with Orcish runes, and used it as a focus to gain increased control over the elemental forces of ice in the mountain range. Through this power, the shaman learned the great fortress of the Yeti people lay to the east, constructed of magical ice and placed across a bridge over a great span of icy chasm. The Orc ordered a pair of his largest enslaved ice elementals to guard the bridge from any intruders, while occasionally orcs would go scouting for the fortress, unable to find it in the weather and winding unmapped paths in the mountains.
Your party should encounter the Orcs first, and decide to trust them or not. The Orcs will convince them they are trying to recover lost artifacts from the true savages, the inhabitants of the fortress to the east, which they have been unable to find. The shaman may give the party his paw totem, to allow them to pass by the elementals and infiltrate the fortress, telling them the inhabitants are likely dangerous and evil.
The route is fraught with environmental hazards and savage beasts, and within the fortress, there are frozen environmental and elemental denizens to face before the party discovers the chamber where the yeti people stand frozen in place by the corruption to the ice elementals they were once friends with.
The party must defeat a great elemental within the chamber, upon which the ice encasing the Yeti people will begin to melt and they will not attack the party after awakening from their frozen slumber. They will explain that the corruption of the elements lead to their imprisonment and that the culprit must be stopped. They will also be appalled at the savage paw totem given to the party, and will attempt to turn the party against the orc tribe that was poisoning the land. The party may hear some loud impacts, and upon returning to the parapets of the fortress the party will see the Orc warriors waiting at the entrance to the fortress, an army with siege engines ready to take over the hold, which they could previously not locate.
The party may hold back the siege and fight the Orcs or allow them to pass unhindered. They may ally with who they prefer, though the Yeti seem to be more good, and the Orc tribe more evil. If the fortress is defended they may find themselves the recipients of some impressive magical items gifted by the Yeti king. Should they betray the Yeti, they may themselves at the end of an Orcish spear.
#12: Forest of Frost Sprites
It is said that in one of the snow covered forests of the realm, there is a grove wherein there are a family of frost sprites. These magical fairy cousins have been known to cause all sorts of trouble and tricks, from auditory illusions to stealing travelers boots so their toes get frostbitten.
What do the sprites want? Are they evil? Naive? Playful and misunderstood? What secrets do they hold? What power might they have?
#13: Cold Snap
The town the PC’s are in, has found itself the victim of a strange and sudden cold snap in the weather. Where it was warm and sunny only hours ago, it’s getting cold fast, and by night the town officials believe everyone will need fires, and citizens are rushing to prepare for the decreasing temperature.
Families are worried about their loved ones who are away hunting, ranging, or otherwise working nearby. The town and its officials are concerned about surviving, and are trying to appear compassionate while only really caring about themselves. People are scared. No one knows how or why this is happening but it’s causing widespread unrest.
As night falls the people grow irritated, and irrational. Some are destroying furniture and gathering at neighbors homes to sit around fireplaces together. Others are stealing from shops, and the guard are slow to respond, unable to react quickly.
Soon after dusk, it’s below freezing, and people are advised to stay indoors. The few who are outside are covered in what appears to be every blanket they own, and are carrying several torches, or huddling near lanterns clutched nearly to the flesh of their chest. They might be moving between houses to collect more furniture and lumber to burn. There may be one attempting to travel south.
Anyone who is outside for more than five minutes, regardless of clothing, fire, or magical effects suffers from the cold in whatever way the GM deems appropriate.
The absolutely frozen night is long, and people are terrified. They act irrationally, they may steal, they may even murder. Perhaps the party is present during such an event and must maintain order throughout the night. Perhaps they manage to gather everyone together in the mayors large home and go out to collect burnables themselves.
However, this is no natural weather. Something in the dark is causing it, and it’s growing closer. Perhaps the players survive through the night.
Then again…perhaps not.
#14: Wizard’s Winter In Paradise
On a far south tropical island, people have only heard from tourists and strangers what this thing known as “winter” is. They have never known a day that wasn’t sun-baked and ocean-kissed, nor have they ever known of snow. A visiting wizard to a notorious wizards tower decides to grant the inhabitants of the island a taste of his favorite season.
Unbeknownst to him, as he is preparing his weather spells in the tallest room of the tower, there are magical items which will amplify his spells. He conjures snow from the tower windows, and the islanders are astounded at the magical discovery of snow. However, after it begins to accumulate only a hair, the people begin to get cold and send someone to ask him to stop.
Upon arrival to the wizard tower, the messenger is met with the visiting wizard arguing with the head wizard about the magic, and how he cannot stop it. The man panics and races away in fear.
The party may be tasked with ensuring safety and order amongst the islanders. They may be asked to ascend the wizard tower and dispatch any lingering magic, be it elementals, anomalies, or other strange magical creatures summoned by the amplified cold magic.
Whatever they must do, they must do before permanent damage is caused to the islands people or landscape.