Adventure Hooks: Campaigns in the Cold (Part 1)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 18, 2011

This summer we ran a series of adventure hooks that featured numerous bizarre and strange happenings that occurred in the Sun & Moon Tavern (part 1 | part 2). These articles have been incredibly popular and continue to be among our most widely read pages from the past six months. It seems pretty clear to us that our readers want more short, quick adventure hooks.

One of the reasons the Adventure Hooks from the Sun & Moon Tavern were so popular was that they all centered around one common location. It made coming up with the adventure hooks easier for me as the DM, but I think it also made them more appealing for readers.

Before I sat down to brainstorm more adventure hooks I wanted to come up with a theme to tie them all together. The answer was as simple as looking out my front door. I decided to put together adventure hooks that all took place in a snowy environment.

In my experience very few games actually take place in the snow, but I’d like to change that. By offering some creative (and in a few cases just crazy) adventure hooks, perhaps you’ll be inspired to set the next leg of your campaign in a harsh and snow-filled setting.

These adventure hooks can be used in a campaign that takes place in the desolate tundra of the fringed arctic or just outside of a town or village that happens to get a lot of snow during the winter.

Of course, a lot of these can easily be adapted to any environment. So even if your campaign takes place in a more hospitably environment you’re still likely able to pull some inspiration from the adventure hooks below.

  1. The PCs find an adventuring party dead of exposure. A search of their gear reveals that they are all wearing magical armor. The only way to get the armor off of the bodies is to thaw them out. When the bodies begin to thaw they awaken and attack.
    [They were zombies who wandered too far north and then were frozen when winter came.]
  2. During a particularly cold night a lone traveler shows up at the PCs’ camp seeking a warm fire. He is looking for his teenage daughter. She’s been lost for a few days. She’s an experienced Ranger with the skills to survive the cold, so he believes she’s alive and possibly nearby. In the morning he’s gone without a trace. There is no evidence of his coming or going. Days later the PCs find a statue of a father and daughter whom were lost in a terrible storm over a hundred years earlier. The resemblance is uncanny.
  3. The PCs discover a hot spring where a wide variety of creatures relax peacefully despite their normal inclination to kill each other. They explain that the springs are neutral ground and that combat is forbidden. Fighting here means permanent banishment, something none will risk in this cold environment.
    [The spring’s source is a steam mephit that is “on vacation.” He finds the cold relaxing and enjoys eavesdropping on all of the conversations he overhears as people come to bathe in the springs.]
  4. The PCs awaken and find that everything their wearing is devoid of colour. All of their outer wear is white.
    [A primal yet playful spirit stole their colours while they slept. As long as they wear the white clothing and armor the spirit will watch over them. If they change into something else he’ll alert a nearby monster that they ruined his fun and he should attack the mean adventurers.]
  5. The wood that the PCs use for their campfire burns strange colours. There is no harmful effect, but the smoke also exudes these strange colours alerting a nearby tribe of nomads that someone is burning wood from their sacred forest.
  6. The PCs meet an old Dwarven prospector looking for a deposit of rare gems. He had a map but lost it a few days earlier. He knows the cave with the gems is nearby. If the PCs agree to help him find it he’s give them a cut of the riches.
    [In fact he’s been looking for the mine for over 20 years. He lives in a nearby village and comes out every week looking for his mine. He’s more likely to lead the PCs into the cave of a hibernating bear than gems.]
  7. While seeking shelter from the harsh cold the PCs find an intelligent monster that is clearly not suited to the cold climate. It believes that the world is in the midst of an ice age and it’s doing its best to survive.
    [The creature was unintentionally transported from its warmer climate to the far north when a summoning went horribly wrong.]
  8. While traveling across the open tundra or across a lake the PCs hear strange noises. The noises continue for hours but they are unable to pinpoint its origin.
    [This is merely tricks of the wind amplifying and carrying various sounds to the PCs’ ears. There is no threat, but the players don’t know that.]
  9. After consuming fish from the nearby lake, the PCs begin to give off a faint odor. Anyone who ate the fish is unaware that they smell off. The odor will attract some monsters while keeping others at bay.
    [DMs are encouraged to have fun with this, specially if some PCs eat the fish and other do not.]
  10. The PCs learn about a group of renowned hunters that provide the most exquisite meat to a nearby village. The PCs stumble upon the hunters while they are field dressing their latest kill: a Purple Worm (or some other monster that most people would be revolted to learn they’ve been eating). The hunters don’t know what to do but fear that their secret and in turn their livelihood will be exposed.

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1 Blinkey January 18, 2011 at 11:24 am

Another excellent article! I don’t think there’s a single hook there I don’t immediately like. My personal favourites are 4 and 9. I can see immense potential for hilarity and ‘wtf’ moments as the players try to work out what is happening to them. Hook #8 is brilliant simply on its potential to freak people out (‘As you cross the desolate tundra you hear what can only be described as dragons mating’).

Thanks for coming up with and sharing these. I’ll certainly work a couple into my current campaign.


Blinkey 😉

2 Camelot January 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm

White dragons!

I love dragons.

3 Ameron January 18, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Glad you liked these. I’ve already got a few more adventure hooks in mind for the second part of this series (which I’ll likely run in early February). I agree that #8 has awesome role-playing potential. Nothing’s scarier than what the players imagine themselves – especially when there’s no real danger.

It was a fight with a White Dragon that got me thinking about adventure hook #7. The players in my game were battling a White Dragon that was summoned to a warm weather environment. The cold attacks were unexpected and deadly. As a twist on that encounter I wondered about an encounter with a creature found in warm weather suddenly and unexpectedly in the cold. Adventure hook #7 was the result.

4 Captain DM January 19, 2011 at 12:07 am

Oh man, I love these! I loved the Sun & Moon ones, too, but I felt like some of them were more for fleshing out the location than for adventuring. These are perfect, and a winter season just got nice and snowy in the campaign I’m running. I couldn’t help but laugh at #1 and I’m going to use #2 to lead them to a hidden tomb under the statue of the wandering family. Thanks for this!

5 Sunyaku January 22, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Considering climate and environmental conditions is a great catalyst for brainstorming adventure hooks. This was a fun read. 🙂

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