Sadly, I missed out on the January Blog Carnival. However, I am much more organised this month, so I can participate once again. For further details about the RPGBA, please click the logo at the top of the page.
Despite the unseasonal weather in the UK at the moment, this is still winter. Thus, the appropriate theme for this month’s Blog Carnival is the Icy Embrace of Winter. The topic was summarized by Nils as follows;
How do you incorporate Winter, Snow, Ice, and Frost into your games? What evocative places have your adventurers visited? What terrors lurk our in the snow-covered forests? What alien creatures burrow beneath the glaciers of the polar continent? How do you simulate the effects of the cold season (or the frozen continent) in your game?
For my contribution to the Carnival, I would like to present some of my notes regarding the Plane of Ice in my Tales of the Hero Wars Campaign.
The Eternal Winter
The cosmology for my setting is based around multiple elements, far more than the standard four. Each element is tied to a plane that embodies the traits of that element. Plus, each element is also paired with what I call a Condition Rune, a more emotional representation of the parent element.
Thus, Niflheim is the Plane of Ice, and home to its associated Condition Rune of Torment. The result is a cold, cruel realm.
Before we continue, I should like to address the name I have chosen for the Plane. As you might know, Niflheim is the primal realm of cold from Norse mythology. While I have altered the cosmology for my setting, I have kept the associations with cold. Adapting an existing name is not original, but I struggle finding suitable names and I am a great believer in adapting from existing sources as a great way to save time and energy when creating a setting.
Mix together enough pieces from disparate sources, and the Players will not really notice and you save yourself a great deal of energy, energy that can be better served by creating exciting plots for your games.
Realm of Ice
Cold winds doth blow
As to be expected, Niflheim is the typical realm of ice, snow and bitterly cold winds. The bulk of the Plane is composed of solid ice, threaded through with shifting tunnels and vast ice caverns. At the heart of the plane is a shallow ocean of drifting icebergs. Bordering this ocean are sheets of ice of varying thickness, that shift and break according to the rhythms of the realm.
So far, so predictable.
However, with the addition of the Torment Rune, Niflheim starts to show its unique character. Parts of the Plane actively want to toy with visitors. A bitter winds howls maddeningly, tunnels close behind visitors, herding them to blizzard-filled caverns where the planars hunt them for sport.
Nipping at your toes
Niflheim is home to an unusual mix of creatures.
First of all, there are the various Ice Elementals. Most are large, hulking creatures of living ice, eager to purge the heat of visitors from their icy realm. There are smaller, crystalline beings of ice who torment whoever they can catch, slowly torturing them as they feed on the warm screams of their victims.
Deep within the heart of the plane are the frozen cities of the Ice Planars, carved from living ice into delicate spires of beauty. Within these glittering cities live races of planars evolved from cephalopods. The Ice Planars are tentacled creatures, often with an armoured carapace. They feed on heat, on pain and on the still-living brains of mortals.
Yes, this does mean Illithids, lifted from the D&D cosmology. I have also added variants on this classic race, such as the armoured Nautilus with a retractable beak for feeding. These are cold, cruel races that enjoy enslaving and tormenting the mortals they encounter.
A Realm of Evil?
All that glitters is cold
So is Niflheim all bad? Well, no, that would be a little too dull. Drama comes from conflict, as the old saying goes, and there is conflict enough within Niflheim. Aside from rival Illithid cities, there are other factions active in the Plane of Ice.
High in the glacial mountains of Niflheim is the Rime Palace, home to a figure better known as Jack Frost. This enigmatic being is part Seelie Court renegade, part Ice Angel and probably at least a demigod. Here a weak sun shines and the frost glitters with faerie fire.
The Ice Fey that serve Jack Frost can be found anywhere in Niflheim, usually in conflict with the harsher aspects of the realm. They can offer aid and sustenance to travellers, but only if you can pay their price, for nothing is free in Niflheim and Jack Frost will need allies when the Seelie Court finally catches hold of him.
Wonders of the Realm
Treasures in the Ice
For all the perils of the Icy Plane, there are enough reasons to draw visitors to risk the endless cold. The deepest parts of the realm hold seams of shimmering blue coldfire, the only way to forge the yellow bronze native to the Plane of Fire. A metal from the Plane of Fire will endure any heat, but becomes molten in cold fire and can be forged as other metals by expert Bluesmiths.
Other brave travellers come seeking the Blue Ice, from the coldest parts of Niflheim. This ice is ever-frozen, and in the hands of the Rime Jewellers it can be turned into glittering gems that emanate cold. Wear enough Blue Ice, it is said, and you can walk the Plane of Fire unharmed.
So there we are, a few notes about my Plane of Ice. The Players in my Tales of the Hero Wars campaign are yet to visit Niflheim, but our next cycle of tales is planned to be set in a certain City of Doors, so they may yet come to brave this frozen realm.
What sort of thing do you think I should add to Niflheim? Share your thoughts in the comments.