[WiC] Terrain Powers

Explore the festivals held in colder months with guest blogger Matthew Brenner of Blood, Sweat, and Dice.
Part of the Winter Is Coming RPG Blog Festival.

A change in seasons can be a cue to change up your encounter style.

The frozen fields of winter make a great setting for battles in most any fantasy story. The problem lies in the fact that winter-themed encounters in Dungeons and Dragons are often little more than a few enemies with ice-based powers and more squares of difficult terrain on the battle map. To add a fresh twist to your next wintry encounter, here are three new terrain powers specifically for use in frozen surroundings.

Along with explanations of how these powers might work in an encounter, they have also been designed for easy use with the Caverns of Icewind Dale dungeon tile set. The dungeon tiles are not necessary for using these powers in any encounter you design, but the extra help is there if you already own the set.

Click to enlarge,
or download PDF below.
Our first power is Thin Ice. Anyone from a cold climate can tell you that thin ice is dangerous. Thin ice kills people who are not careful. With a little bit of help, thin ice can be a real hazard in combat. With a well placed strike form a hammer or an axe, or even a Magic Missile or Thunder Wave, one of your heroes can shatter the ice beneath their enemies’ feet. If you want to turn the tables on the players, then your monsters can use a mix of soldiers and controllers to force the PCs onto weak ice themselves. Many of the Icewind Dale dungeon tiles have small, frozen ponds on them. There is one two-by-two time in particular that has a small frozen pond on one side and that same pond with broken ice on the other; just flip the tile to show the terrain change on the field.

Click to enlarge,
or download PDF below.
Shattered Crystals gives an extra bit of fun to any party member who can force a little movement. What wizard would not enjoy pushing a giant into his throne of ice, breaking it and adding a little extra damage at the same time? This power makes great use of several of the tiles in the Icewind Dale set that contain objects made of ice. There are two ice statues, an ice throne, and three ice “hills” in the tile set, and each of those tiles has a shattered version of the original object on its opposite side. This detail means that your battlefield can be dynamic as the heroes and monster smash every ice structure in sight.

Click to enlarge,
or download PDF below.
Of course, no set of combat encounters would be complete without a good old fashioned Snowball fight. For a comic scene, you use this power in a battle where the heroes defend a snow fort or a similar construction from an advancing horde of minions. Non-controllers might really enjoy being able to take out three enemies in a single round, if they roll well. If you want something a bit more dramatic, you can have the heroes get pelted by snowballs from a crowd who perceives them as traitors or failures. Deciding whether to lash out at the peasantry or suffer their attacks in silence could be a moment that defines a party in both their own eyes and the eyes of the populace they fight to protect.

Ye Olde Medieval Snowballe Fighte Has Begun!
Winter provides many opportunities for unique combat scenarios. If you have a chance to take advantage of this setting, do not drop the ball and just run standard encounters. Use the change in scenery as an inspiration to change up your gamer a little. You players might enjoy the breath of fresh winter air.

What terrain powers or effects have you used in combat encounters during the winter? Do you already own tiles that portray a wintry scene, or would you be building one from scratch? What are other types of terrain powers you would like to see addressed in the future?

See more entries in the Winter Is Coming RPG Blog Festival.

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