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D&D World Building Ideas - Frozen Wasteland Campaign Setting





Introduction: D&D World Building Ideas - Frozen Wasteland Campaign Setting


Dungeons & Dragons players and dungeon masters alike are born world builders love to build unique and immersive worlds for their campaigns. One particularly interesting and challenging setting to create is a frozen wasteland campaign setting, where the players must struggle to survive against the harsh elements and fierce creatures that roam the icy tundras.


In this article, we'll explore seven world building ideas for building a frozen wasteland setting for your D&D campaign. From ancient ruins buried beneath the ice to mysterious creatures lurking in the snowdrifts, these ideas will help you create a rich and engaging world that your players will never forget.

  1. Ice Caves: One of the defining features of a frozen wasteland is the abundance of ice and snow. To make the most of this, consider creating a network of ice caves that the players can explore. These caves can be home to all manner of creatures, from ice trolls and frost giants to magical beasts that have adapted to life in the frozen tundra.

  2. Ancient Ruins: The frozen wasteland can be home to ruins and relics from a bygone age. These ancient structures can be a source of great wonder and mystery, and the players may uncover powerful artifacts and secrets hidden within them.

  3. Frozen Ocean: The frozen ocean is a treacherous and deadly place, but it can also be a source of great adventure. The players may have to brave icy waters and fierce sea monsters to uncover the secrets hidden beneath the frozen waves.

  4. Mysterious Tribes: The frozen wasteland can be home to mysterious tribes and cultures that have adapted to life in the harsh environment. These tribes may have unique traditions and beliefs, and the players may have to navigate their way through cultural barriers to gain their trust.

  5. Snowstorms: Snowstorms can be a constant threat in a frozen wasteland, creating blinding whiteouts and deadly snowdrifts that can bury entire villages. The players may have to navigate their way through these storms, using their survival skills and magical abilities to stay alive.

  6. Arctic Wildlife: The frozen wasteland is home to a wide variety of arctic wildlife, from fierce wolves and sabre-toothed cats to massive polar bears and woolly mammoths. These creatures can be a source of both danger and opportunity, as the players may need to hunt them for food or avoid them to stay alive.

  7. Magic: Magic can be a powerful force in a frozen wasteland setting, as the harsh environment may require the use of magical spells and artifacts to survive. Consider creating unique spells and magical items that are specific to the frozen wasteland, such as spells that create warm pockets of air or items that can protect against the cold.

These are just a few ideas for building a frozen wasteland setting for your D&D campaign. With a little creativity and imagination, you can create a world that's both challenging and rewarding for your players.


Winter is coming, and with it, the icy wilderness that lies beyond the walls of civilization. For adventurers in a historical fantasy or medieval world, the frozen tundras and snow-covered mountains present a whole new set of challenges to overcome. From Game of Thrones and Jon Snow's journey beyond the wall, to the frozen fortress of Utumno in Lord of the Rings, and the iconic Battle of Hoth in Star Wars, icy wilderness adventuring has been a central theme in many works of fiction. And now, it's a great choice for your Dungeons & Dragons campaign.


But with this great choice comes a lot of time and effort. Building a frozen wasteland setting for your fantasy game requires little details and careful consideration of the history of your world. Wizards of the Coast have given us some possible answers to our worldbuilding questions, but it's up to you to fill in the gaps and bring your icy wilderness to life. You can use the industrial revolution as a deus ex machina to explain how some of the more difficult-to-acquire materials have been procured, but ultimately it's up to you to create a world that feels authentic and immersive.


So, if you're ready to take on the challenge of icy wilderness adventuring, let's dive into some central themes and ideas that will help you create a frozen wasteland setting that will have your players on the edge of their seats.


In the wasteland

Building a frozen wasteland setting for your Dungeons & Dragons campaign can be a challenging but rewarding task. One of the major challenges is the lack of major cities and established infrastructure, which can make it difficult for players to find a place to rest, stock up on supplies, and receive quests. Good world building is key to addressing these challenges, as it allows you to create a rich and detailed world that feels authentic and immersive.


If you're running an ongoing campaign in an existing setting, such as George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series or Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series, you'll need to make sure that your frozen wasteland setting fits seamlessly into the second world you're working with. Consider the small details that make your setting unique, from the shape of city walls to the layout of holy sites. By incorporating these details, you can create a setting that feels like a natural extension of the fictional universe you're working in.


Another challenge of setting an adventure in the frozen wastes is the long way between points of interest. Players may need to traverse great distances to reach their next objective, which can be tedious and time-consuming. To keep your players engaged, consider adding random encounters along the way, or give them a great hook at the beginning of the adventure to keep them invested.


Magic users may also face unique challenges in a frozen wasteland setting, as the hard magic system may be less effective in extreme cold. Consider adding magic items that can protect against the cold or provide other advantages in this type of environment.



Ice Caves


Adventuring in ice caves can be a thrilling and dangerous experience for players in a frozen wasteland setting. One of the defining features of this type of environment is the abundance of ice and snow, making ice caves a natural addition to your setting.


To make the most of your ice caves, consider creating a network of interconnected tunnels and caverns that the players can explore. These caves can be home to all manner of creatures, from ice trolls and frost giants to magical beasts that have adapted to life in the frozen tundra. Encounters with these creatures can be a great source of excitement and challenge for your players.


However, navigating through ice caves can be a dangerous and treacherous task. Ice formations can shift and crack underfoot, creating unexpected hazards for the players. Environmental hazards such as icy stalactites and slippery cave floors can also make movement more difficult. Consider adding traps and obstacles to challenge the players, such as collapsing ceilings or hidden ice slides.


Ice caves can also be a great opportunity to incorporate puzzles and riddles into your adventure. The natural formations of the caves can be used to create intricate puzzles that require the players to use their wits and problem-solving skills to solve. For example, players may need to navigate a maze of icy tunnels or decode a cryptic message etched into the walls.

Overall, adventuring in ice caves can be a thrilling and rewarding experience for players in a frozen wasteland setting. Just remember to balance the challenges and dangers with the rewards of exploration and discovery to keep your players engaged and invested in the adventure.


Encounter


As the players navigate the labyrinthine, frost-glazed tunnels of the cave, they come upon an ethereal spectacle - a shifting, shimmering wall of ice. Trapped within it are dozens of tiny, sparkling creatures - Ice Sprites, their delicate wings pinned against the cold, cruel ice. Their voices, barely a whisper on the wind, carry a plea for help, explaining their entrapment at the hands of frost giants, invaders of their crystalline sanctuary.


Before the players can act, the air grows heavy with a deep, resonating laughter echoing through the tunnels. A chilling breeze sweeps through the cave, coalescing into a Frost Wraith, a spectral servant of the frost giants. It tells the players the sprites have been imprisoned for their mischievous deeds against the giants, and warns them not to interfere.


If the players choose to help the sprites, they need to devise a strategy to melt the ice wall without causing harm to the sprites. This could involve magical means, careful application of fire, or even finding a way to redirect sunbeams from the cave entrance. Yet, they must also deal with the Frost Wraith, who will attempt to stop them, chilling their bodies and sapping their warmth.


As the ice starts to melt, the rumbling footsteps of frost giants can be heard approaching, alerted by the Frost Wraith's cries. The terrain works to the giant's advantage; however, the players can use it to their favour as well - causing ice stalactites to fall, creating slippery ground, or using the melting ice to cause a flash flood.


After the frost giants are defeated and the sprites are freed, the players are met with an outpouring of gratitude. The sprites, in their joyous freedom, perform a mesmerizing dance of light and frost, encasing the players in protective, glowing armour of ice that is warm to the touch. This "Sprite's Blessing" will shield them from the harshness of the icy wilderness, providing resistance to cold and ice, and a light in the darkest frost-covered caves. In addition, the sprites offer to guide them through the icy labyrinth, revealing shortcuts and hidden paths.


Ice Cave Encounter Stats:

Ice Sprite (Small Fey, Neutral Good)

  • Armor Class: 14 (natural armour)

  • Hit Points: 10 (3d6)

  • Speed: 10 ft., fly 30 ft.

STR: 3 (-4) DEX: 16 (+3) CON: 10 (+0) INT: 14 (+2) WIS: 13 (+1) CHA: 14 (+2)

  • Damage Immunities: cold

  • Senses: passive Perception 11

  • Languages: Common, Sylvan

  • Challenge: 1/4 (50 XP)

Actions

  • Dagger. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4 + 3) piercing damage.

  • Frost Ray. Ranged Spell Attack: +4 to hit, range 60 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (2d6) cold damage.


Frost Wraith (Medium Undead, Neutral Evil)

  • Armor Class: 13 (natural armour)

  • Hit Points: 45 (10d8)

  • Speed: 0 ft., fly 60 ft. (hover)

STR: 6 (-2) DEX: 16 (+3) CON: 10 (+0) INT: 10 (+0) WIS: 12 (+1) CHA: 14 (+2)

  • Damage Resistances: acid, fire, lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks

  • Damage Immunities: cold, necrotic, poison

  • Condition Immunities: charmed, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained

  • Senses: darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11

  • Languages: the languages it knew in life

  • Challenge: 4 (1,100 XP)

Actions

  • Life Drain. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) necrotic damage. The target must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or its hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage taken. This reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0.

  • Frost Breath (Recharge 5-6). The wraith exhales a blast of freezing wind in a 15-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw, taking 18 (4d8) cold damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.


Frost Giant (refer to the Monster Manual p.155) You can choose to use the Frost Giant stats directly from the Monster Manual, or customize them based on your party's level. For example, you might add more hit points, increase the Armor Class, or give the giants special abilities such as an "Ice Boulder" ranged attack or a "Blizzard Roar" that can freeze characters in place.

Frozen Ruins


Ancient ruins can be a thrilling and rewarding location for players in a frozen wasteland setting. These structures can hold the secrets of civilizations long gone, and be home to all manner of magical artefacts and treasures. However, navigating the ruins can be a dangerous task, as they are often filled with traps, puzzles, and guardians that have long protected the ancient knowledge within.


As the players explore the ruins, they may encounter a group of frost giants who have taken up residence within the ancient structure. These giants have discovered a powerful artefact hidden within the ruins and will stop at nothing to keep it for themselves. The players must use their wits and skills to navigate through the ruins and defeat the giants in order to claim the item for themselves.


Alternatively, the players may come across a group of magic users who have been drawn to the ruins by ancient knowledge or powerful magic that still lingers within. These magic users may be friendly, and offer to share their knowledge and power with the players in exchange for their help in uncovering the secrets of the ruins. Alternatively, they may be hostile, and see the players as a threat to their own goals.


As the players delve deeper into the ruins, they may encounter puzzles and traps that test their intelligence and agility. For example, they may need to solve a riddle in order to unlock a hidden door or avoid triggering a deadly trap that could leave them trapped within the ruins forever.

Overall, ancient ruins can be a fantastic source of adventure and excitement for players in a frozen wasteland setting. With careful planning and creative thinking, a skilled DM can create a memorable and rewarding experience for their players.


Frozen Ruin Encounter


As the party navigates the labyrinthine, icy corridors of the ancient ruins, they're suddenly met by an eerie, pale light. A spectral figure manifests before them - a ghostly explorer, his ethereal form shimmering with an icy chill. This is Yorik, once a renowned archaeologist and adventurer, now bound to these ruins by his failure to recover a sacred artifact - the Heart of Winter. Yorik shares his story, his voice echoing with regret and a deep, mournful chill. He begs the party to aid him in his unfinished task, promising to guide them through the ruins in return. However, his spectral form exudes an uncontrollable frosty aura, which can inadvertently freeze the party or alter the environment in unexpected and potentially dangerous ways.

Complications:

  1. Yorik's Frost Aura: As Yorik guides the party, his icy presence has a chance to freeze party members, causing cold damage or potentially freezing them solid for a short period, especially during moments of strong emotion from the spectral explorer.

  2. Environment Alteration: Yorik's presence can also cause environmental changes, freezing surfaces (potentially causing slips or falls), freezing shut doors or mechanisms, or even causing icy stalactites to fall.

  3. Rival Explorers: Yorik's appearance and the cold light he emits can attract the attention of rival treasure hunters, adding the threat of combat and competition.

Problem-Solving:

  1. Balancing Interaction: The party must figure out a way to interact with Yorik without succumbing to his frost aura. Perhaps they can communicate from a distance, use magic to shield themselves, or find a way to temporarily calm Yorik's chilling aura.

  2. Navigating the Environment: With the additional icy hazards, the party will need to carefully navigate the ruins, making use of their abilities to avoid slips, falls, or other accidents.

  3. The Heart of Winter: Once they locate the artifact, the party must figure out how to safely retrieve it. The Heart may be guarded by traps, monsters, or could even be encased in magical ice that requires a specific method to safely thaw.


Yorik, The Icebound Apparition (Medium Undead, Neutral)

  • Armor Class: 11

  • Hit Points: 45 (10d8)

  • Speed: 0 ft., fly 40 ft. (hover)

STR: 7 (-2) DEX: 13 (+1) CON: 10 (+0) INT: 10 (+0) WIS: 12 (+1) CHA: 17 (+3)

  • Damage Resistances: acid, fire, lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks

  • Damage Immunities: cold, necrotic, poison

  • Condition Immunities: charmed, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained

  • Senses: darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11

  • Languages: the languages it knew in life

  • Challenge: 4 (1,100 XP)

Actions

  • Frost Touch. Melee Spell Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (4d6) cold damage.

  • Chilling Blast (Recharge 5-6). Yorik releases an icy burst. Each creature within a 15-foot radius must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw, taking 22 (4d10) cold damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Passive Ability

  • Aura of Frost: At the end of each of Yorik's turns, each creature within 10 feet of him takes 5 (1d10) cold damage, and the area within 10 feet of him becomes difficult terrain until the start of his next turn due to the ice formation.


Lair Actions If the fight takes place in Yorik's lair (the area where the Heart of Winter is kept), Yorik can manipulate the icy environment to his advantage. On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Yorik can take a lair action to cause one of the following effects:

  1. Yorik chills the very air in the chamber. Each creature of his choice in the lair must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or take 10 (3d6) cold damage. Yorik can't use this lair action again until he has used a different one.

  2. An icy blast erupts from a point Yorik can see within the lair. Each creature within a 20-foot radius centered on that point must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 14 (4d6) cold damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. The blast creates an area of difficult terrain until initiative count 20 on the next round.

  3. Yorik calls forth the spirits of the icy ruins. These spirits manifest as spectral warriors in spaces Yorik can see within the lair. Each spirit makes a melee attack using Yorik's Frost Touch attack. The spirits vanish after making these attacks.

To make the encounter more challenging or interesting, consider adding mechanics to the Heart of Winter. Perhaps it has an aura of intense cold or has the ability to summon ice elementals. Yorik's emotions could be linked to the Heart, and his mood could affect the environment, creating dynamic and shifting challenges throughout the encounter.

Frozen Ocean


The frozen ocean is a vast and dangerous place, full of treacherous ice floes, biting winds, and deadly sea monsters. However, it can also be a source of great adventure for intrepid players who are willing to brave its icy depths.


As the players venture out onto the frozen ocean, they may encounter all manner of dangers, from treacherous icebergs that threaten to crush their ships to fierce sea monsters that lurk beneath the waves. These monsters can range from giant polar bears and walruses to deadly leviathans that can capsize even the sturdiest of ships.


To survive on the frozen ocean, the players must be prepared to face the challenges that come their way. They will need to have the right gear and supplies, such as warm clothing, snowshoes, and sturdy ships that can withstand the harsh conditions. They will also need to be skilled sailors, able to navigate through treacherous ice floes and fierce storms.


One potential encounter in the frozen ocean could be a battle with a pack of ice wolves that have learned to hunt on the frozen ice floes. These wolves are skilled hunters and can move quickly over the ice, making them a dangerous opponent for the players.


Alternatively, the players may encounter a band of ice pirates who are preying on ships that venture too far into their territory. These pirates may be seeking treasure, supplies, or prisoners to sell into slavery, and the players must use their skills and wits to outsmart them and avoid becoming their next victims.


Overall, the frozen ocean can be a challenging and rewarding location for players in a frozen wasteland setting. With careful planning and creative thinking, a skilled DM can create a thrilling and memorable adventure that tests the players' skills and courage in the face of harsh and unforgiving conditions.

Frozen Ocean Encounter


As the players traverse the frozen ocean on their ice runner, they spot an imposing iceberg fortress rising out of the icy expanse. This is the home of the Frost Monarchs, a clan of ice giants who guard the iceberg and its hidden secrets.


As the party approaches, they notice movement on the fortress walls. Ice giants patrol the perimeter, hurling massive chunks of ice at any who dare approach. But these giants aren't mere brutes - they are a complex society with individual personalities, quirks, and even internal disagreements that could be exploited.


The Frost Monarchs fiercely guard a sacred artefact encased deep within the iceberg, known as the Crystal Heart of the Frost Maiden. This item is said to grant control over the elemental forces of ice and snow, and its power keeps a primordial ice beast in hibernation.


The players must decide how to approach this encounter. They can choose to engage in ranged combat with the giants, dodge the ice chunks, and rush towards the iceberg. Alternatively, they might try to negotiate with the Frost Monarchs or sow discord among them. Or they could stealthily infiltrate the iceberg to steal the artefact or awaken the hibernating beast.


The environment itself is a challenge. The iceberg is treacherously slippery, and parts of it might collapse under the weight of the combat. Icy winds whip across the surface, reducing visibility and making movement difficult. The players can use these elements to their advantage or risk falling prey to them.


If the players manage to defeat or outsmart the Frost Monarchs and claim the Crystal Heart, they will face further challenges. Their actions may anger the elemental spirit of the iceberg, leading to another battle or a need for appeasement. They'll also have to deal with rival treasure hunters attracted by the artefacts' power and territorial sea monsters disturbed by the commotion.


Frost Monarch (Ice Giant) - Large Giant, Neutral

  • Armor Class: 15 (natural armor)

  • Hit Points: 126 (12d10 + 60)

  • Speed: 40 ft.

STR: 23 (+6) DEX: 9 (-1) CON: 20 (+5) INT: 10 (+0) WIS: 14 (+2) CHA: 12 (+1)

  • Skills: Athletics +9, Perception +5

  • Damage Immunities: Cold

  • Senses: Passive Perception 15

  • Languages: Giant

  • Challenge: 7 (2,900 XP)

Actions

  • Multiattack: The Frost Monarch makes two greatclub attacks.

  • Greatclub: Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 19 (3d8 + 6) bludgeoning damage.

  • Rock (Ice Chunk): Ranged Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, range 60/240 ft., one target. Hit: 28 (4d10 + 6) bludgeoning damage.

  • Cold Breath (Recharge 5-6): The giant exhales a blast of freezing wind in a 15-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 16 Constitution saving throw, taking 21 (6d6) cold damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

The iceberg fortress encounter is now not just about combat, but a test of the players' diplomatic skills, ingenuity, resourcefulness, and adaptability, leading to a truly memorable experience in the frozen wilderness.


Mysterious Tribes

The frozen wasteland can be a lonely and dangerous place, but it's not entirely uninhabited. There are some cultures that have managed to thrive in the unforgiving environment, adapting to the challenges of the harsh climate and living off the land in ways that outsiders may find mysterious or even magical.


These mysterious tribes can provide a rich source of adventure for players who are willing to explore the frozen wastes. They may have valuable information or resources that the players need to complete their quests, but they may be hesitant to share their secrets with outsiders.


To gain the trust of these tribes, the players will need to navigate cultural barriers and show respect for their traditions and beliefs. They may need to participate in traditional rituals or earn the respect of the tribe's leaders before they can be accepted into the community.


Once the players have gained the trust of a tribe, they may uncover hidden knowledge or powerful magic that could aid them in their adventures. They may also forge lasting alliances with the tribe that could prove useful in the future.


However, approaching a mysterious tribe is not without its risks. The players may encounter hostile tribes that view outsiders as a threat, and they may need to defend themselves against attacks or sabotage. They may also need to navigate the complicated politics and rivalries between different tribes, which could be a source of conflict and intrigue.


Overall, encountering mysterious tribes in the frozen wasteland can be a rich and rewarding experience for players who are willing to put in the effort to build relationships and learn about new cultures. It provides an opportunity for immersive worldbuilding and storytelling that can deepen the players' understanding of the world they are exploring.


Tribal Encounter


As the party navigates the icy wilderness, they encounter a nomadic tribe known as the Frostborn, well-known for their wisdom and harmony with the frozen lands.


The Frostborn are welcoming but firm, making it clear they are not in need of "rescue" or help from outsiders. Instead, they share stories about their culture and way of life, including their deep respect for the land and its ancient spirits.


In return for their hospitality, they request a favor: They ask the players to investigate the nearby Ancestral Monolith, a sacred site for the Frostborn. Recently, the spirits bound to the monolith, known as the Frost Wraiths, have become agitated and hostile, disrupting the tribe's rituals and causing unnatural blizzards.


As the party approaches the monolith, they see the Frost Wraiths - spectral figures of swirling snow and ice. The Wraiths communicate telepathically, warning the players not to disturb the monolith.


The players must decide whether to negotiate, deceive, bypass, or combat the Wraiths.

If the players manage to calm or bypass the Wraiths and investigate the monolith, they discover the source of the agitation: a powerful artifact lodged within the monolith that has been resonating with disruptive energy.


The players must decide how to handle this artifact.


Depending on their actions, they could earn the gratitude of the Frostborn tribe or accidentally exacerbate the situation. This encounter encourages diplomatic interaction, respect for indigenous cultures, and problem-solving, presenting a more challenging and engaging experience for your players.


Frost Wraith - Medium Undead, Neutral

  • Armor Class: 13

  • Hit Points: 75 (10d8 + 30)

  • Speed: 0 ft., fly 60 ft. (hover)

STR: 6 (-2), DEX: 16 (+3), CON: 16 (+3), INT: 12 (+1), WIS: 14 (+2), CHA: 13 (+1)

  • Damage Resistances: Acid, Fire, Thunder; Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Nonmagical Attacks

  • Damage Immunities: Cold, Necrotic, Poison

  • Condition Immunities: Charmed, Exhaustion, Frightened, Grappled, Paralyzed, Petrified, Poisoned, Prone, Restrained

  • Senses: Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 12

  • Languages: Understands all languages it knew in life but can't speak

  • Challenge: 5 (1,800 XP)

Actions

  • Life Drain: Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 17 (4d6 + 3) necrotic damage. The target must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or its hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage taken. This reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0.

  • Frost Blast (Recharge 5-6): The wraith unleashes a chilling gust of wind in a 30-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw, taking 21 (6d6) cold damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

  • Horrifying Visage: Each non-undead creature within 60 feet of the wraith that can see it must succeed on a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened


Snowstorms


Snowstorms can be one of the most treacherous aspects of a frozen wasteland, and DMs can use them to create challenging and memorable encounters for their players. Snowstorms can be particularly dangerous because they can strike suddenly and without warning, leaving the players stranded and vulnerable.


During a snowstorm, visibility can be severely limited, making it difficult for the players to navigate. The players may have to rely on their survival skills to create a makeshift shelter to wait out the storm. They may also have to ration their supplies and find ways to stay warm in sub-zero temperatures.


In addition to the physical dangers, snowstorms can also create psychological challenges for the players. The isolation and confinement of being trapped in a snowstorm can cause anxiety and stress, which can impact the characters' decision-making abilities.


To create a snowstorm encounter, the DM can describe the howling wind and blinding snow that surround the players, forcing them to make perception checks to avoid getting lost or disoriented. The players may also have to make constitution saves to resist the effects of hypothermia and frostbite.


During a snowstorm, the players may come across other travellers who are also stranded in the blizzard. These travellers could be a source of information or even allies, but they could also be hostile or untrustworthy.


To make the most of a snowstorm encounter, DMs can use the environment to create tension and challenge the players. For example, the players may have to cross a frozen lake or river during the storm, making dexterity checks to avoid falling through the ice. The players may also have to fend off aggressive snow creatures that are drawn out by the storm.

Snowstorm Encounter

As the party battles the fierce elements of the relentless snowstorm, they stumble upon a cave emitting a faint flicker of light. Inside, they find a group of five travelers seemingly seeking refuge from the storm - a grizzled hunter, a young couple, a quiet elderly man, and an injured woman. The woman, Delia, has a severe wound that needs immediate attention. The group explains they were attacked by a vicious ice beast, but the details of their story are inconsistent, and they seem suspiciously nervous.

The party must decide whether to help Delia and unravel the truth behind the travelers' story. They can use their Medicine skills to tend to Delia's wound, and Insight, Persuasion, or Intimidation to question the travelers. Investigation checks might reveal hidden weapons or stolen goods, suggesting the group may be more than just innocent victims.

As the night progresses, the tension mounts. The party hears strange noises outside the cave - is it the wind, or is the ice beast real? If they confront the travelers about their inconsistencies, the group reveals their true nature. They're not mere travelers, but thieves on the run who had planned to rob the party. Or perhaps, the injured woman is an escaped convict, and the rest are bounty hunters undecided on their next step.

Depending on the party's actions, this could lead to a tense negotiation, a battle in the cave, or forming an alliance to face the storm and possible ice beast outside. The adventure's conclusion will depend on the party's ability to navigate through the deception and the storm. This encounter adds suspense and fear by creating a sense of claustrophobia and uncertainty. The players will have to use their wits and intuition, not just their combat skills, to survive this chilling encounter.

Here are five possibilities as to the true nature of the strangers.

  1. Escaped Convicts: The group of travellers are actually prisoners who have escaped from a distant gulag, using the storm as a cover. They are desperate and dangerous, willing to do anything to avoid recapture. The injured woman, Delia, might be an innocent they kidnapped for some leverage or a fellow convict.

  2. Bounty Hunters and their Quarry: The travellers are bounty hunters who have caught Delia, an infamous outlaw. They're resting in the cave due to her injuries, but they're wary of the party and ready to fight if necessary. The tension rises as they try to decide if they can trust the party or if they should eliminate potential threats.

  3. Cursed Individuals: The travellers are cursed individuals who turn into ice beasts during snowstorms. They're trying to contain their transformation and prevent harm, but the storm outside is triggering their change. They are nervous because they don't want to hurt anyone else, yet they don't know how to explain their predicament.

  4. Thieves Guild Members: The group are members of a notorious thieves guild, hiding out after a recent heist. Delia's injury was sustained during their escape. They're planning to lay low until the heat dies down, but the appearance of the party has thrown a wrench into their plans.

  5. Cultists: The travellers are cultists serving a powerful frost demon, and the injured woman is a sacrificial offering. They're in the cave to perform a ritual that requires a snowstorm. The party's arrival is an unforeseen complication, and they're trying to decide whether the party can be used to their advantage or if they're a threat to their plans.

Arctic Wildlife

The players trekking through the frozen wasteland must be constantly aware of the wildlife that surrounds them. The harsh and unforgiving terrain is home to some of the most fearsome and powerful creatures in the world, all adapted to the frigid temperatures and barren landscapes.

From the massive polar bears to the elusive snow leopards, the arctic wildlife is not to be trifled with. However, if the players can learn to navigate and survive amongst them, they can be valuable sources of food and resources. Hunting for food in the frozen tundra is a challenge in itself, and the players must use all of their skills and knowledge to successfully track and take down these beasts.

In addition to hunting, the players may encounter these animals in their natural habitats. They must be careful to avoid confrontation with these beasts, as they are fiercely territorial and will not hesitate to attack if they feel threatened. The players may need to use their stealth and survival skills to navigate around them or find a way to distract or deter them from their path.

As the players explore the frozen wilderness, they may also come across some of the more rare and mystical creatures that inhabit the region. From the massive woolly mammoths to the elusive yeti, these creatures can offer unique challenges and opportunities for the players. Whether they choose to hunt or observe them, the players must be prepared for anything when it comes to the unpredictable and dangerous arctic wildlife.

Encounter


As the party trudges through the frozen wasteland, a low growl echoes through the air. Suddenly, they are surrounded by a pack of wolves, their fur blending with the snow. At the forefront stands the Alpha, its eyes glowing with a pulsating, magical light.

The party quickly realizes that this is not an ordinary pack. The Alpha is imbued with arcane energy, making it stronger and more aggressive. This presents a formidable challenge for combat-focused characters.

Alpha Wolf Stats:

  • AC: 15

  • HP: 70

  • Speed: 50 ft.

  • STR: 18 (+4), DEX: 15 (+2), CON: 16 (+3), INT: 7 (-2), WIS: 12 (+1), CHA: 8 (-1)

  • Senses: passive Perception 13

  • Languages: Understands Common but can't speak

  • Challenge: 5 (1,800 XP)

Actions

  • Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 3) piercing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

  • Arcane Howl (Recharge 5-6). The alpha wolf releases an arcane-infused howl. Each creature within 15 feet of the wolf must make a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw. On a failure, the creature is frightened until the end of its next turn.

The party could opt to fight, or they could explore non-violent solutions. A character skilled in Animal Handling could try to calm the pack or assert dominance over the Alpha. Magic users might detect and identify the source of the Alpha's magic and try to dispel it.

Delving deeper, the players might uncover that the Alpha's magic comes from a cursed artifact buried in the snow, which the Alpha found and has been unknowingly using its magic. Removing this artifact could revert the Alpha back to normal, but might also awaken other dangers sealed within the artifact, adding another layer of intrigue and potential conflict.

Finally, a successful negotiation or dispelling could lead to an alliance with the pack. The wolves, now free from the Alpha's aggressive influence, could help guide the party through the harsh landscape or assist in a future combat encounter.


Magic

In a frozen wasteland, the use of magic can be a crucial factor in the success or failure of any adventure. From the creation of shelter to the use of spells to combat the icy elements, magic can provide the players with a means to survive in an otherwise deadly environment.


Consider designing unique spells that reflect the challenges of the frozen wasteland. For instance, a spell that creates a warm pocket of air around the caster, allowing them to move around more comfortably in the freezing cold. Other spells could include ones that create barriers of ice to protect the caster or ones that can summon snowstorms to obscure their movements.


Magical items can also play a critical role in a frozen wasteland adventure. A magical cloak that provides warmth in the coldest temperatures or boots that allow the player to walk on top of deep snow drifts could be essential for survival. Magic weapons could also be designed to reflect the harshness of the environment, such as a sword that is imbued with the power of frost or a bow that shoots ice arrows.


Encounters in a frozen wasteland that feature magical elements could include the players stumbling upon a powerful magical artifact that is capable of controlling the weather or a battle against a tribe of magic users who have harnessed the power of the frozen elements.


Incorporating magic into a frozen wasteland setting requires some thought and creativity, but the result can be a rich and rewarding experience for both the players and the Dungeon Master. By creating unique spells and magical items that reflect the challenges of the environment, the players will feel more immersed in the setting and will have a greater appreciation for the importance of magic in their survival.




Encounter


The players stumble upon a small cave in the midst of the frozen wasteland. Inside, they find an old hermit named Einar, living in solitude. He seems unbothered by the harsh conditions outside, sustained by his magic and wits.

Einar has in his possession a magical item, the Heart of Winter, which is said to protect its bearer from the deadly cold of the wasteland. But Einar values it greatly - it is his insurance against the perils of the frozen wilderness. He is not keen to part with it without something in return.

Einar is a potent spellcaster, having honed his skills over the years of isolation. He is knowledgeable about the arcane arts, and can teach the players new spells or give them information about the magical history of the region.


The Favour

Einar requires the players to complete a quest for him before he will consider parting with the Heart of Winter. He asks them to venture into a nearby, forsaken Frost Giant fortress to recover a lost tome, the Codex Glacialis, containing ancient spells and lore.


The Twist

However, Einar has a secret. He was once a respected member of the Frost Giant tribe, transformed into a human by a spell gone wrong. The Frost Giants, considering his transformation a bad omen, banished him. The Codex Glacialis holds the key to reversing his transformation.

The players might discover Einar's true identity through clues in his cave or through the reactions of the Frost Giants in the fortress. They may also notice that Einar becomes increasingly desperate as they get closer to acquiring the Codex. This could lead to a moral dilemma - should they return the book to Einar, knowing he may regain his Frost Giant form and potentially pose a threat, or keep the Codex and the knowledge it contains for themselves?

The encounter can be resolved in various ways, each leading to different potential rewards and consequences. This could include an alliance with Einar, the wrath of the Frost Giants, access to ancient spells, or even a potential transformation curse of their own.


Einar, the Hermit (Human form)

  • Medium humanoid (human), neutral good

  • Armor Class: 12 (15 with mage armor)

  • Hit Points: 40 (9d8)

  • Speed: 30 ft.

Stats:

  • STR: 8 (-1), DEX: 14 (+2), CON: 10 (+0), INT: 17 (+3), WIS: 12 (+1), CHA: 16 (+3)

Skills:

  • Arcana +6, History +6, Perception +4

Senses:

  • Passive Perception 14

  • Languages: Common, Giant

Spellcasting:

  • Einar is a 9th-level spellcaster. His spellcasting ability is Intelligence (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks). Einar has the following wizard spells prepared:

    • Cantrips (at will): mage hand, prestidigitation, ray of frost

    • 1st level (4 slots): mage armor, magic missile, shield

    • 2nd level (3 slots): misty step, scorching ray

    • 3rd level (3 slots): counterspell, fireball

    • 4th level (3 slots): ice storm

    • 5th level (1 slot): cone of cold


Actions:

  • Quarterstaff. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 3 (1d6 - 1) bludgeoning damage, or 4 (1d8 - 1) bludgeoning damage if used with two hands.

Einar, the Frost Giant (if transformed back)

  • Huge giant, chaotic neutral

  • Armor Class: 15 (natural armor)

  • Hit Points: 138 (12d12 + 60)

  • Speed: 40 ft.

Stats:

  • STR: 23 (+6), DEX: 9 (-1), CON: 21 (+5), INT: 10 (+0), WIS: 14 (+2), CHA: 12 (+1)

Skills:

  • Arcana +4, Perception +6

Senses:

  • Passive Perception 16

  • Languages: Common, Giant

Spellcasting:

  • Einar retains his spellcasting ability from his human form, but as a frost giant, his spellcasting ability is now Wisdom (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks).

Actions:

  • Multiattack. Einar makes two greatsword attacks.

  • Greatsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 25 (4d6 + 6) slashing damage.

  • Rock. Ranged Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, range 60/240 ft., one target. Hit: 28 (4d10 + 6) bludgeoning damage.

Einar's transformation from human to frost giant provides a unique challenge and a surprising twist for the players, changing the dynamics of the encounter drastically.



Conclusion


Alright, fellow dice-rollers and dragon-slayers, it's time to wrap up our chilly foray into the Frozen Wasteland campaign setting. And, by 'wrap up,' I mean bundle up in your best in-game furs and conjure a warming spell or two. After all, even the most hardened adventurers have to respect the icy grip of hypothermia, right?


In our journey across the tabletop tundra, we've gone from spectral guardians in ancient ruins to fierce ice giants atop colossal icebergs. We've seen how an arctic setting can turn the usual dungeon crawl into a struggle for survival, where a simple 'Produce Flame' cantrip can be as valuable as a 'Fireball'.


In the Frozen Wasteland, the cold isn't just another number to keep track of next to your hit points—it's a relentless foe, a constant challenge to be overcome. Your players will have to think outside the usual fantasy box, trading tavern brawls and forest encounters for blizzards, frostbite, and potentially a very awkward conversation with a sentient magical wolf.


And remember, fellow DMs, ice isn't just for making the party's ranger regret not taking 'Endure Elements'. A frozen environment is a gold mine (or should I say, ice mine) of storytelling opportunities. Deception, betrayal, and moral dilemmas can lurk behind every icicle. And let's not forget the secrets buried beneath the permafrost or hidden within the heart of a glacier.


Make your players feel the harsh winds, the blinding snowstorms, the crunch of snow underfoot. Get descriptive with your narrative. If your players aren't huddled together for warmth by the end of the session, you're not doing it right!


And of course, don't forget to reward your brave ice-trekkers. From ancient runic artifacts to enchanted fur cloaks and mysterious magical charms, there's plenty of frozen loot to go around. After all, nothing warms the heart of an adventurer like the glitter of gold, right?


So, brave DMs, it's time to put on your fur-lined storytelling caps and take a frosty step into the Frozen Wasteland. It's an environment that demands respect, creativity, and maybe a Wild Shape into a polar bear. Adventure, danger, and a chilling good time await. Remember, it's not the cold that kills—it's the frost giants. Happy gaming!


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