Vicious Venues02/18/2005

Winter's Heart Glacier

The Winter's Heart Glacier contains encounters of level 9-12
and is suitable for use with any D&D campaign.

The glacier flows from the surrounding heights, a slow-motion river of snow and blue-white ice. What lurks among the snowdrifts and rocky outcrops?

Background for the DM

The Winter's Heart Glacier is so named for the icy winds and blizzards that blow from it starting in late autumn of each year. The foul weather from the glacier is a natural phenomenon. Local legends, however, attribute the icy seasonal winds to a being called the Frost Warlock, who reputedly sleeps in the heart of the glacier through the summer and emerges in late fall to send bitter cold and snow into the lowlands. This legend has some basis in fact, as we shall see below.

The Setup

The Winter's Heart Glacier winds some 19 miles through mountainous terrain. The glacier's width varies between three and five miles throughout its whole length. The surrounding mountains might be high or low (see page 90 in the Dungeon Master's Guide), as appropriate for your campaign. The glacier begins in a high slope about 15,000 feet above sea level and drops to about 5,000 feet above a valley at its lower end. All nonacclimated creatures labor to breathe in the thin air at this altitude. A character must make a Fortitude save each hour (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or be fatigued. The fatigue ends when the character descends to an altitude with more air. See page 90 in the Dungeon Master's Guide for more information.

As one might expect, temperatures on the glacier are cold -- between 0° and 40° Fahrenheit during the day, and 10 to 20 degrees colder at night. This exposes creatures to cold or severe cold as noted on page 302 in the Dungeon Master's Guide. When temperatures are above freezing, the whole glacier is subject to avalanches (see page 90 in the Dungeon Master's Guide).

Whenever the weather is clear and sunny, the glacier's ice and snow gleam brilliantly in the sunlight. As mentioned in Frostburn on page 12, the glare can partially blind creatures with unprotected eyes (a veil, dark goggles, or a blindfold or cloth mask with slits cut in it provide protection). An unprotected character must make a Fortitude save each hour (DC 10, +1 per previous attempt) or go snow blind.

A snow-blind character takes a -2 penalty to AC, loses any Dexterity bonus to AC and moves at one-half speed. The snow-blind character also takes a -4 penalty on Spot checks, Search checks, and any other check that relies on sight and a -4 penalty on most Dexterity-based checks. In addition, all other creatures have concealment (20% miss chance) against the snow-blind character.

Snow blindness lasts 1d4 hours, or 1 hour after the afflicted character enters a dark or shadowed area. (A remove blindness spell can remove it.)

The PCs might have to cross the glacier while traveling in the mountains, or one of the following events might draw them there.

  • A party of mountain climbers or hunters has vanished on the glacier during a storm, and the PCs are recruited to rescue them. The missing characters might have fallen into a crevasse and become trapped, or perhaps they have fallen prey to the monsters on the glacier. Alternatively, they may have become guests of the satyrs living near the glacier (see below).

  • The PCs hear rumors of a great treasure lost in the mountains centuries ago. Recently, bits and pieces of this vast hoard have turned up at the base of the glacier, apparently carried down to lower altitudes by the flowing ice. This treasure might indeed be part of an ancient cache lost near the top of glacier, or it could merely be the abandoned hoard of some monster. In any case, Jusii, the genie of the glacier (see below) resents attempts to explore the lower glacier.

  • The PCs are traveling during a cold snap, and they awake one night to find an invisible hand tracing frosty artwork on their windows. It's Jusii, playing Jack Frost (see below). If the PCs inquire about the incident, they hear the legend of the Frost Warlock and his lair in the Winter's Heart Glacier.

Exploring the Glacier

Though mostly just snow and ice, the glacier has some noteworthy features, as described in the boxed text below and in the sections that follow:

Sharp, rocky peaks rise majestically all around. Through this rugged vista winds a long ribbon of ice and snow that gleams a brilliant white in the sunshine like a river of pale silk. Here and there, the gaping cracks and jagged ridges break the smooth surface, looking like frozen rapids in a great river.

Ridges and Drifts (EL 12)

These areas form where the glacier flows over rough terrain and the ice buckles. The resulting pressure ridges rise between 5 and 20 feet high. Climbing over them requires a DC 5 Climb check. Snow also tends to drift around the ridges, creating areas of soft, deep snow about 2 feet thick. Creatures of Medium or smaller size suffer hampered movement in the drifts, as follows. (See page 12 of Frostburn for more information.)

A Small or smaller creature must pay 4 squares of movement to enter one square in the drift. The Tumble check DC for a Small or smaller creature increases by +8. A Medium creature moving in the drifts pay 2 squares of movement to enter a square, and its Tumble DC increases by +2.

Areas of ridges and drifts often occur near areas with crevasses, and vice versa.

Creatures: A frost worm loves to burrow in these drifts.

Frost Worm: hp 147; see Monster Manual page 111.

Tactics: During the day, the frost worm lies buried in the snow, watching for prey. When it spots a potential meal, it looses its breath weapon, then charges and bites. It continues attacking the same creature until that foe drops. Once its chosen prey falls, the worm trills and tries to pick up the fallen prey and carry it off. Otherwise, it fights to the death.

At night, the worm prowls the surface, trilling as it goes. If it encounters prey, the worm tries to carry off a stunned victim. It looses its breath weapon if attacked or pursued.

Crevasses (EL 9)

In areas where the glacier passes over high points on the terrain underneath, the ice stretches and breaks, forming crevasses 2d4x10 feet deep, 4d12x10 feet long, and 1d8x10 feet wide. There is a 25% chance that a crust of snow covers any crevasse, creating the appearance of an unbroken surface. The crust, however, can support only 8 pounds. A character approaching a hidden crevasse at a normal pace is entitled to a DC 10 Survival check to spot the danger before stepping in, but charging or running characters don't have a chance to detect the crevasse before they reach it. A character falling into a crevasse may attempt a DC 20 Reflex save to catch the edge, in which case he falls prone in a square at the edge of the crevasse.

A crevasse's walls have a Climb DC of 18.

A crevasse often occurs near areas of ridges and drift and vice versa.

Creatures: A pair of remorhazes, which are normally solitary, have made a nest together in the depths of a crevasse that is 30 feet deep, 80 feet long, and 15 feet wide. Heat rising from the creature's bodies has helped form a crust of snow over the crevasse.

Remorhazes (2): hp 73 each; see Monster Manual page 214.

Tactics: The remorhazes usually rest about 10 feet under the surface, with one on either side of the crevasse. By design or by chance, the two creatures' tremorsense abilities cover the whole length of the crevasse. When one remorhaz notes prey nearby, it burrows up to attack with surprise while its mate moves into the crevasse, then burrows up to attack as well. It takes the mate 2-3 rounds to join the fight. If either remorhaz swallows someone whole, it immediately retreats under the snow, which collapses to fill the tunnel the creature has left behind. Fortunately, the blockage is fairly easy to clear. A Small or larger character can clear it away with a full-round action, revealing a slippery tunnel about 8 feet wide. A single Tiny or smaller creature needs an extra full-round action to clear the blockage for every size category below Small. Two or more creatures who cooperate to clear blockage are treated as a single creature of the next size category larger. For example, two Tiny creatures working together can clear the blockage with one full-round action. Movement inside the tunnel is hampered for creatures that do not have burrowing speeds.

Ice Caves (EL 12)

Several, long, rambling ice caves riddle the glacier's lower end. The interconnected caves create almost a mile of twisting corridors and chambers. Some of the passageways lead to crevasses higher up in the glacier. The caves have slippery floors that hamper movement and ceilings between 5 and 12 feet high. Walls inside the caves have a Climb DC of 18.

Anytime except winter, pools of meltwater form in the cave, then freeze again into crystal clear ice. Many of these pools have only a thin crust of ice, with 1 or 2 feet of freezing water beneath. The crust can support only 20 pounds. A character approaching a pool at normal pace is entitled to a DC 15 Survival check to spot the danger before stepping in. If someone runs or charges in the caves (difficult because of the hampered movement), the character doesn't have a chance to detect the pool before stepping in. The freezing water in the pool deals 1d3 points of temporary cold damage. The water also soaks the character's footgear, and a character with wet feet takes a -4 penalty on all checks and saves to resist the effects of environmental cold, such as the hourly save a character must make to avoid the effects of cold or severe cold on the glacier.

Throughout the caves, visitors find sculpted walls, floors, and ice columns of almost unearthly beauty. Here and there, floors and walls made of otherwise clear ice have fantastical patterns of frost traced across them. The patterns have their own eerie beauty. To the untrained eye, these features seem like an unusual natural phenomenon, but a DC 15 Knowledge (nature), Knowledge (dungeoneering), or Appraise check reveals them to be artificial.

Creatures: A qorrashi (a kind of frost genie, see Frostburn, page 131) named Jusii (YOO-seyee) has created the sculptures and frost patterns. Because of his artistic temperament, Jusii found life among his almost universally lawful neutral people much too restrictive, so he exiled himself to the glacier, where he spends endless hours sculpting and painting, using small amounts of pure water instead of pigments. From time to time, he even ventures down the mountain and into more civilized areas, where he creates his frost paintings on whatever suitable surfaces he can find (most often windowpanes and frozen ponds). He only does so when cold weather prevails in the areas he visits, however. Jusii doesn't care for even moderate temperatures, and his art requires freezing temperatures or lower.

Jusii: Male qorrashi genie sorcerer 6; CR 12; Large outsider (cold, extraplanar, lawful); HD 7d8+28 plus 6d4+24; hp 98; Init +9; Spd 30 ft., fly 60 ft. (perfect); AC 23, touch 16, flat-footed 18; Base Atk +10; Grp +18; Atk +13 melee(1d8+4 plus 1d6 cold, slam); Full Atk +13 melee (1d8+4 plus 1d6 cold, 2 slams); Space/Reach 10 ft./10 ft.; SA chill, frostbite, spell-like abilities; SQ darkvision 60 ft., icewalking, immunity to cold, lawful subtype, outsider traits, plane shift, telepathy, vulnerability to cold; AL CN; SV Fort +11, Ref +12, Will +13; Str 18, Dex 21, Con 18, Int 18, Wis 16, Cha 21.

Skills and Feats: Appraise +4 (+6 when appraising calligraphy, paintings, or sculpture), Bluff +15, Concentration +14, Craft (calligraphy) +13, Craft (painting) +13, Craft (sculpting) +13, Diplomacy +19, Escape Artist +15, Hide +1, Intimidate +17, Knowledge (arcana) +13, Knowledge (nature) +9, Listen +13, Move Silently +15, Search +9, Sense Motive +13, Spellcraft +16, Spot +13; Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Empower Spell-Like Ability (cone of cold), Heighten Spell, Improved Initiative.

Languages: Auran, Celestial, Common, Draconic, Giant, Ignan.

Chill (Ex): In addition to his normal slam damage; Jusii deals an extra 1d6 points of cold damage with a successful melee attack.

Frostbite (Ex): A creature that sustains any cold damage from Jusii's melee attacks must make a DC 17 Fortitude save or become frostbitten. Creatures suffering from frostbite are fatigued (cannot run or charge; -2 penalty to Strength and Dexterity). These penalties end when the cold damage is healed by any means.

Spell-Like Abilities: At will -- endure elements, invisibility (self only); 3/day -- cone of cold (DC 20), ice storm; l/day -- create food and water, gaseous form (up to 1 hour), major creation (created vegetable matter is permanent), persistent image (DC 20), wind walk. Caster level 14th.

Icewalking (Ex): This ability works like the spider climb spell but applies to all icy surfaces. Jusii can move normally on any icy surface.

Lawful Subtype: Any effect that depends on alignment affects Jusii as if he has a lawful alignment, despite his neutral alignment.

Plane Shift (Sp): Jusii can enter any of the elemental planes, the Astral Plane, or the Material Plane. This ability transports him and up to six other creatures, provided they all link hands with Jusii. It is otherwise similar to the spell of the same name.

Telepathy (Su): Jusii can communicate telepathically with any creature within 100 feet that has a language.

Vulnerability to Fire: Jusii takes half again as much (+50%) damage as normal from fire, regardless of whether a saving throw is allowed, or if the save is a success or failure.

Sorcerer Spells Known (6/8/6/4 per day; caster level 6th): 0 -- arcane mark, dancing lights, ghost sound (DC 15), mage hand, message, prestidigitation, ray of frost (+15 ranged touch); 1st -- chill touch (DC 16, +13 melee touch), magic missile, protection from chaos, shield; 2nd -- detect thoughts (DC 17), see invisibility; 3rd -- displacement.

Possessions: Bracers of armor +1, ring of protection +2, cloak of Charisma +2, lesser metamagic rod (Maximize Spell), pearl of power (1st-level spell).

Tactics: The satyrs of the glacier (see next entry) cannot resist teasing Jusii about his art, and they often deface his work just to make him angry. As a result, Jusii resents visitors. He skulks around his caves invisibly and plays a few pranks of his own when he notices an intruder. He might use ghost sound to create phantom footsteps, stentorious breathing, clinking coins, giggling, or distant music to confuse or distract characters. He also might use persistent image to create something for the characters to flee from or to chase, such as a big monster, a nubile young maid, or perhaps a dwarf or gnome laden with gold or gems. If the PCs take the bait, Jusii leads them to a frozen pool, where they might get their feet wet.

If anyone damages his art, Jussi attacks, beginning with ice storm or empowered cone of cold. Once he is visible, he uses displacement, then wades in for melee attacks. If his foes prove resistant to cold, he combines slam attacks with chill touch. He casts the spell defensively or flies out of melee reach. If he has time, he uses a heightened chill touch. If reduced to less than half his hit points, he flies out of reach, then resumes magical attacks, using his spell-like abilities or maximized magic missiles if his spell-like abilities prove ineffective.

Characters who don't provoke a fight might speak with Jusii, provided that they can spot him or just surmise that something lurks in the caves. The suspicious and temperamental genie uses his detect thoughts spell to gauge the character's intentions before revealing himself.

If the PCs indicate any interest in the genie's art or mention the satyrs or others who have seen his work, the genie responds as follows, and he is inclined to talk over any PCs until he is done.

"It is good to see someone who appreciates true art. Those others -- they are peasants! They have the bodies of goats and the souls of pigs. No beauty has ever touched their hearts. Do you know those hairy devils sometimes destroy my art? You don't destroy art! I would rather starve to death than see one of my masterpieces fall into their hands. It's like crushing a diamond and mixing it with pig slime!

"This sculpture here, you see darlings? You see the use of negative space to set the mood? No one else here can even comprehend the message of a piece like this one. And look at this painting! Have you ever seen such textures on the glacier at sunset? Of course you haven't, because I paint what I see, and an artist's eye sees what others do not. Breathtaking, isn't it?

Maybe one of you would like to sit for me? You are good studies -- well formed, good teeth, the hair is a little straggly, but no matter. I do not often get to use models, and I want to experiment some more with the humanoid form. Come, come -- it would only take a few weeks, and you would be immortal, like the gods! What do you say, will you sit for Jusii?"

Ramparts (CR 11-12)

Rocky slopes flank both sides of the glacier along its whole length. Evergreen trees cover the slopes lower down. As the altitude increases, the trees become stunted and eventually disappear, giving way to lichen and eventually to bare rock at the glacier's top.

Creatures: A troop of advanced, cold-dwelling satyrs frolics on the slopes and on the glacier below. Their leader is Drotius, a satyr bard, and he is the only one with a set of pipes.

Glacier Satyrs (3-8): Male and female advanced satyrs; CR 3; Medium fey; HD 10d6+10; hp 45; Init +1; Spd 40 ft.; AC 15, touch 11, flat-footed 14; Base Atk +5; Grp +5; Atk +5 melee (1d6, butt) and +2 melee (1d4/19-20, masterwork dagger) or +8 ranged (1d6+2/x3, masterwork shortbow with +2 arrows); SQ damage reduction 5/cold iron, low-light vision; AL CN; SV Fort +6, Ref +8, Will +8; Str 10, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 13.

Skills and Feats: Bluff +14, Diplomacy +3, Hide +18, Intimidate +3, Jump +16, Knowledge (nature) +11, Listen +20, Move Silently +18, Perform (wind instruments) +13, Spot +20, Survival +11; Alertness[B], Cold Endurance*, Dodge, Great Fortitude, Mobility.

* New feat from Frostburn.

Languages: Common, Sylvan.

Possessions: Masterwork dagger, masterwork shortbow with 17 arrows, quiver, 3 +2 arrows, potion of shield of faith.

Drotius: Male glacier satyr bard 6; CR 11; Medium fey; HD 16d6+32; hp 88; Init +2; Spd 40 ft.; AC 19, touch 13, flat-footed 17; Base Atk +9; Grp +9; Atk +12 melee (1d6/18-20, masterwork rapier) and +4 melee (1d6, head butt) or +12 ranged (1d6/x3, masterwork shortbow); Full Atk +12/+7 melee (1d6/18-20, masterwork rapier) and +4 melee (1d6, head butt) or +12/+7 ranged (1d6/x3, masterwork shortbow); SA pipes; SQ bardic knowledge +8, bardic music (countersong, fascinate, inspire competence, inspire courage +1, suggestion) 6/day, damage reduction 5/cold iron, low-light vision; AL CN; SV Fort +9, Ref +14, Will +14; Str 10, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 15, Cha 21.

Skills and Feats: Balance +4, Bluff +24, Concentration +8, Diplomacy +12, Hide +19, Intimidate +7, Jump +18, Knowledge (nature) +17, Listen +27, Move Silently +25, Perform (wind instruments) +28, Sense Motive +8, Spot +24, Survival +12, Tumble +8; Alertness[B], Cold Endurance*, Dodge, Great Fortitude, Heighten Spell, Mobility, Weapon Finesse.

* New feat from Frostburn.

Languages: Common, Draconic, Sylvan.

Pipes (Su): Drotius can play a variety of musical tunes on his pan pipes. When he plays, every creature within a 60-foot spread (except satyrs) must make a DC 20 Will save or be affected by charm person, sleep, or fear (caster level 10th; Drotius chooses the tune and its effect). In the hands of other beings, these pipes have no special powers. A creature that successfuly saves against any of the pipes' effects cannot be affected by the same set of pipes for 24 hours.

Bardic Music: Drotius can use bardic music six times per day. See the bard class features on page 29 of the Player's Handbook.

Countersong (Su): Drotius can use music or poetics to counter magical effects that depend on sound.

Fascinate (Sp): Drotius can use music or poetics to cause one or more creatures to become fascinated with him.

Inspire Competence (Su): Drotius can use music or poetics to help an ally succeed at a task.

Inspire Courage (Su): Drotius can use music or poetics to bolster his allies against fear and improve their combat abilities.

Suggestion (Sp): Drotius can music or poetics to make a suggestion (as the spell) to a creature that he has already fascinated.

Bard Spells Known (3/5/3 per day; caster level 6th): 0 -- dancing lights, detect magic, ghost sound (DC 15), mage hand, resistance, summon instrument; 1st -- animate rope, charm person (DC 16), expeditious retreat, Tasha's hideous laughter; 2nd -- glitterdust (DC 17), silence (DC 17), sound burst (DC 17).

Possessions: Bracers of armor +2,ring of protection +1,masterwork rapier, masterwork shortbow with 20 arrows, quiver, scroll of blur, 2 scrolls of cure light wounds, scroll of heroism, potion of fly, masterwork satyr panpipes.

Tactics: The satyrs spend their days playing their pipes, dancing, and occasionally tormenting Jusii. They've given the genie the nickname "Jack Frost" because of his penchant for working with ice and snow. When the satyrs notice newcomers on the glacier, they're quick to test their mettle. Their favorite ploy involves an ambush of sorts. The satyrs form a circle along the newcomers' line of march and hide themselves as thoroughly as they can. Assume they "take 10" on their Hide checks, each gaining a +2 bonus for their careful preparation. When their quarry enters the circle, all the satyrs leap out of hiding and play their pipes. Drotius picks a character and uses his fascinate bardic music power. Initially, the PCs will have some difficulty recognizing where the magical attack is coming from, or even that they're under attack. If the characters suspect something, a DC 10 Spellcraft, Knowledge (arcana), or bardic knowledge check reveals that bardic music is in play, and a DC 16 Spellcraft, Knowledge (arcana), or bardic knowledge check reveals that the ability is fascinate and that Drotius is using it.

If Drotius succeeds in fascinating someone, he then tries to make some kind of embarrassing suggestion, such as doing a chicken dance, making snow angels, or the like. If either attempt fails, Drotius starts again, with an attempt to fascinate someone else.

If the party becomes violent, the satyrs try to protect Drotius by getting between him and the PCs, firing their bows at whatever targets seems best. In the meantime, Drotius uses his pipes to create a fear effect, then casts Tasha's hideous laughter on whoever looks most dangerous among those who escaped the fear effect. After that, Drotius uses inspire courage, and all the satyrs try to withdraw from the fight. They use their high speed to get away and their bows to discourage pursuit.

About the Authors

Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and was the Sage of Dragon Magazine for 18 years. Skip is a co-designer of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (rabbits and deer are not Skip's friends) or works on repairing and improving the century-old farmhouse that he shares with his wife, Penny, and a growing menagerie of pets.

Penny Williams joined the roleplaying game industry as Game Questions Expert for TSR, Inc. in the 1980s. Since then, she has served as RPGA Network Coordinator, PolyhedronNewszine editor, and Senior Editor and Coordinating Editor for the RPG R&D Department at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Now a busy freelancer, Penny edits for several game companies and runs the online playtesting program for Wizards products. When not enhancing the cruelty of the deaths PCs will suffer at the hands of designers, Penny puts up jam, works jigsaw puzzles, and tutors students in math and science.

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