"Bold tradesmen of the Inner Six, guided by lodestones, have ventured to find Thule in recent decades, building trading posts on its snowy shores. These settlements find their wealth not in furs or timber (for Thule is devoid of most life), but in "salvage." Every year, curious coins, artefacts, wondrous gemstones, devious weapons find their way into the ports of the Inner Six, though the trickle of treasure grows thinner and thinner and trading posts are lost quicker than they are established. Now, none but the boldest or most foolhardy of sailors venture to find the Winter Isle, even guided by lodestone in the height of summer. Yet, it is said the "salvaged" wealth of the Dead Island remains largely untouched."
- from the writings of Erbius the Loremaster, Magus of the Fifth Order
Get your d6 ready. We're going to Thule.
Who will take us to Thule? Roll two or three times, but no more. Not many ships attempt the journey.
1. He calls himself Griegis the Great. His sailors call him Greg Groglord. His cog's timbers seem soaked with the stuff.
2. Didn't really catch his name - accent is from a different continent. You think he has dark skin, but you can't tell under all those furs. His crew come from all parts, and seem to speak a bastard mix of seven languages with gusto.
3. Pelias, Magus of the Fifth Order. His academy is funding this expedition for research purposes. He is serving as captain, and though he's never sailed before, he's read plenty of books about it. How hard can it be?
4. Cruach. Dark hair, darker eyes. Is that hood made of human skin?
5. Meliss. Red leather gloves, fine figure but too much cheap makeup. She is secretly running away from a convent her family placed her in, and even stole the clipper she sails. Her sailors are also fellow runaway nuns.
6. A grizzled captain named Ysper. He has one eye and stinks of fish, but he and his crew bear weapons and mail that have seen battle.
What's the port we reach like? Roll two or three times.
1. Good docks, but they're locked in ice. You beach/cast anchor half a mile away.
2. The tavern's the only warm building in town. Tough to breathe with all the smoke, though.
3. Fine log buildings. Those few occupying them tell you that they tear three down each year for firewood.
4. Centered around a shrine to Winter. The icicles that hang off it are blood.
5. Five huts. Only three are occupied.
6. Clustered warily in the midst of sprawling ruins reaching to the sky and into the sea. You're afraid of getting lost just finding your way inland, and surprised your ship didn't run aground on the sunken buildings that make up the "harbor."
What are the rumors about places to find treasure? Roll two or three times.
1. "There's a massive gate set in the biggest mountain in that there range. No, no idea who could even open something that big."
2. "We've got a mine up in those hills. You want treasure? Get digging. I'll sell you this pick for half off."
3. "There's a dead city a couple day's slog north of here - no one's come back from setting foot in it, but imagine what treasures lie inside!"
4. "The coniferous forest west of here practically oozes valuable gums and resin when spring comes - but it's been years since a good thaw. And prospectors aren't the only things in those woods."
5. "Follow that stream for a couple days into a small valley - tombs are carved into its walls. Sure, most of the doors are woven with ancient magics, but that one expedition got filthy rich from cracking one! Pity about that shipwreck just within sight of shore - can't dive for the salvage in these waters, unless you want to end up an iceberg."
6. A wild-eyed woman tells you that the only treasure you'll find here is death.
What's the terrain we travel through? Roll as needed.
1. Glacier-ridden mountains. Rockslides and glacial rifts aplenty.
2. Fir forest. The only sound you hear is the occasional whump of snow falling from overladen branches.
3. It takes you hours to even realize you're walking on a frozen lake.
4. Bare grey granite. Some gravel sinks and rifts carved by frost action, but the horrendous winds keep even snow from gathering here.
5. Bog. Ancient muck beneath a thin crust of ice. Tread carefully.
6. Just snow as far as the eye can see - which isn't far, in this weather.
What's the Weather? AND What should be our soundtrack while travelling? (Or the GM's soundtrack while prepping?) Roll 3d6, or 1d20 if preferred, for weather. If using music, re-roll weather when the album ends. If not, merely re-roll as needed.
3. Steady sun. You feel warm for the first time since coming here. "Ótta" - Sólstafir (Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube)
4. Heavy clouds, light snow. "Echo" - Apocryphos, Kammarheit, Atrium Carceri (Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube)
5. Blizzard. "Exercises in Futility" - Mgła (Bandcamp, YouTube)
6. Blizzard, broken by periods of calm, drifting snow. "Winter's Gate" - Insomnium (Spotify, YouTube)
7. Bright sun, freezing air. "The Bones of a Dying World" - If These Trees Could Talk (Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube)
8. Heavily overcast. "Of Dawn and of Ice" - Kammarheit, Phelios (Bandcamp, Spotify)
9. Bright sun, biting wind. "The Great Cold" - The Great Cold (Bandcamp [FREE DOWNLOAD])
10. Bright sun, drifting clouds. "Helluland" - Northumbria (Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube)
11. Slate-grey sky. "Markland" - Northumbria (Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube)
12. Steady snow. "The Illusion and the Twin" - Aythis (Bandcamp, Spotify)
13. Slate-grey sky, steady winds. "Akrasia" - Sinke Dûs (Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube)
14. Heavy snow, no wind. "Stone Speak" - Apocryphos (Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube)
15. Light grey sky. "Black Soma" - 36 (Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube)
16. Steady sun, but still a chill in the air. "Earthshine" - Tides from Nebula (Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube)
17. Whipping snow. "Without" - Solip (Bandcamp [FREE DOWNLOAD], Spotify)
18. Heavy snow, biting wind. "Funeral in an Empty Room" - Blood Box (Spotify, YouTube)
You should be using rules for the toll freezing temperatures take on an adventurer in all weathers but the first.
Sun will hinder visibility in most areas (painfully bright reflections off snow and ice).
Overcast skies offer the best visibility.
Snow hinders visibility, obviously.
Winds make checks to resist cold more difficult.
Blizzards are death. You can't see (you will get lost if you move), and you'll freeze if you stay put without excellent shelter and fire.
What might we find while travelling?
1. Once a tree, now a carven totem. May bear a curse, or a blessing.
2. An ancient cairn. Is there treasure?
3. An adventurer. Frozen. Gear (and possible treasure) is intact.
4. Unexpected ruins. May be as small as a standing stone, or as large as a city.
5. Food (winter berries, game, etc.)
6. This frozen pool doesn't reflect back faces, but something else entirely...
Encounter checks shouldn't just be for monsters. Use this table, PLUS the monster and event table below and the weather table above, to manage encounters.
What monsters might we encounter?
1. A sasquatch/yeti/wampa. It watches, and flees if noticed, but next time this encounter is rolled, it will return with several others and attack in bad weather.
2. A tribe of orcs. Several bear ancient, strange weapons (see below).
3. Wolves. They are gaunt and starving, and will attack if their numbers are greater. If the battle goes badly, however, they will flee.
4. A group of 2d4 adventurers. If the party has treasure and is weakened, they will fall upon you. Otherwise, they will talk and give you false directions (4-in-6 chance of becoming lost if followed.)
5. A dream-shade.
6. A ghost of the whiteout.
What else might happen to us?
1. Equipment breakage!
2. Temperature drops dangerously low!
3. Trap! Placed by furriers, or by something more sinister?
4. Does dusk really come so soon?
5. Specific environmental hazard (avalanche in mountains, thin ice on lake/river/bog, whiteout or glare blindness on plains...)
6. Tracks/traces. Roll on the next table to see what made them - that creature will be the result of the next encounter check unless action is taken.
What treasure might we find at our destination, besides coin?
1. Silver nose piercing, set with a diamond.
2. Enamel triptych of an indistinct set of faces. Ancestor or deity?
3. Circlet. May or may not constrict around the head of the wearer during sleep.
4. Bejeweled belt. Eat four times as much, gain twice as much weight.
5. Decorative mirror. You always look better in it than you do to the naked eye.
6. Musical instrument made of a strange metal. It only plays five notes, but each note has a host of faint but manipulable harmonics.
1. Couch, for reclining on one's side.
2. Folding screen enameled with nudes.
3. Throne. Good luck carrying that.
4. Uncanny bust. Valid channel for speak with dead or the like.
5. Exquisite sarcophagus. It is carved and enameled to look skeletal, but the body inside is perfectly preserved.
6. Erotic statuary.
3. Stone tablets about...
1. Fungal horticulture.
2. Twelve kinds of ice.
3. Coal inventory.
4. A royal genealogy of millennia past.
5. You don't know - you gain a mental illness before you can comprehend it.
6. A random magic spell.
1. Sasquatch/yeti/wampa. Fuzzy.
2. Waterworks. Water still flows up and down through this tiny model.
3. Catapult. Intricate, functional.
5. Ship, made of iron, and without sails. (Floats in water.)
6. Tin soldier. Bears a spear of three points, and wears a horrific mask.
5. Grave mask. They are said to bear powers:
1. As charm or similar, 1x/day.
2. +1 armor, and spell as shield or similar, 1x/day.
3. Grants infravision/darkvision.
4. As eyebite or similar, 1x/day.
5. Lies ring hollow in the ears of the wearer.
6. As wish or similar, once.
6. Ancient weapon:
1. The names of each person killed appear in fine script on the blade. There are already 27.
2. Cuts through stone just as well as through flesh.
3. Always hot to the touch. Minor burn if you do more than brush it.
4. Blade of +1, but lets loose piercing shrieks while in contact with another metal object.
5. Cuts through wood effortlessly. Fell a tree with an idle swing.
6. Drinks blood - no blood splatters when cutting or piercing. Very clean, and each blow that does damage grants +1 to the next attack made within a minute (stacks to a limit of +5, at which point the next blow does double damage and the count resets to +0).
For a week, I'm challenging myself to write SOMETHING gameable (monster, NPC, magic, location, item, etc.) each day. To make it interesting: it must be inspired by the first song that comes up on shuffle from my music library each morning. This is a (bonus?) 8th post, inspired by "Eos" by The Great Cold (Bandcamp [FREE DOWNLOAD]). I was able to make it significantly "bigger" than the rest. It wasn't a ton of work, but still, a couple (fun) hours went into this. Let me know if something this size is worth reading - or, even, worth using!