Black ice is one of the few features of the Carceri that the 5e Dungeon Master’s Guide mentions, and by far the most evocative. Every location in Everdown is an abstracted prison cell. Unlike the previous map, the Panopticon, this area is much simpler. In that area PCs had to figure out how to persuade people to give up the secrets they needed to escape. In contrast, here they have to push through the harsh climate and vicious denizens to continue ever downward. With this in mind as the DM, play up the difficulty of the environment, and the ubiquity of predators.
This is a module for 4 level 5 PCs.
Items and creatures that can be found in D&D source-books are bolded. Flavor text is italicized. The numbered list below corresponds to the numbered locations on the map above. If the PCs attempt to take a long rest in an insecure location, or are too indecisive, harass them with polar bears.
It seems like you fall forever, until falling becomes meaningless. You are no longer accelerating. There is no feeling of motion and nothing in sight to judge your movement relative to. It’s not dark though. You can see yourself; you can see the emptiness past your outstretched hands. There are shapes out there. Your mind is playing tricks on you; the void can’t possibly know what you’ve done.
What do you see in the shadows?
When you fall through the roof of the cave and smash down on the cold hard floor, the crush of reality on your senses is overwhelming. The smoke of a camp fire is an assault on your nose, as is the stink of the man-bear who sits on a bear skin rug beside it. He greets you, and then waits patiently for you to collect yourself.
The environmental conditions in this part of Carceri are severe and will have the following effects on PCs:
- Whiteout Conditions – It is not actively snowing on the black ice, but the wind constantly blows the snow around, creating whiteout conditions that lightly obscure vision within 30 feet, and heavily obscure vision outside of that range.
- Slippery Ice – The ground is smooth black ice. Consequently, movement speed is halved. Dashing characters need to make a successful acrobatics check. On a failure they are either unable to move, or slide past their desired endpoint by 10 feet.
- Extreme Cold – Every 100 feet of movement, PCs roll a Constitution or Survival check (DC 15). On a failure, they take one level of exhaustion.
Locations on the Black Ice
- Barry’s Cave – Barry the Werebear is one of the prisoners of this part of Carceri. He is gruff, but generally friendly and gregarious. Barry is content here. Accordingly, he can give the party information about the other denizens of the Black Ice, but he cannot tell them what lies past the exits on the north and east sides, or that these are even indeed exits. Barry can also teach them how to prepare hides like the one he is sitting one.
- A Polar Bear’s Feast – A single polar bear stands in the middle of this area with a fresh kill. For now it’s an Axebeak but when I have time, I’ll make a proper penguin stat block. This polar bear and all other polar bears in the area are hostile to every character but other polar bears. Since the bears suffer no ill effects from the cold, heroes who craft cold weather gear from their pelts will not need to make survival checks every 100 feet of movement.
- The Caves – The caves that line the west side of the area offer the adventurers respite from the cold, but also present the risk of a random encounter. When the characters choose to enter a cave, roll on the Black Ice Cave Random Encounters table below.
- The Rock Pillars – All of the rock pillars, the light gray shapes similar to this one, are about 25 feet tall. They require a DC15 acrobatics or athletics check to climb. The other denizens of the black ice, including the remorhaz, are not able to climb them. These pillars rise above the whiteout conditions. As a result, the players can see to the edges of the map, including the The Stone Throne (9) where the frost giant sits.
- A Crack in the Ice – In the center of the area, there is a crack in the ice where liquid water is exposed. The water is dark and viscous. Axebeaks congregate around the edges, and dive in when approached.
The Ways Out, and the Foes that Guard Them
- Remorhaz – Two remorhaz (beyond deadly encounter) burrow under the ice here, just outside the entrance to their lair. They are ambush predators, and will attempt to surprise the party. As hunters, they are primarily intersted in food, and will attack weaker targets than the PCs if presented with the opportunity. Accordingly, they are not guards, and have no interest in keeping food, er, I mean the PCs out of their lair.
- Lair Entrance – One entrance to the remorhaz lair, and one of the two ways for the PCs to leave this location.
- Remorhaz pack – A second pack of two remorhaz await the party here. As before they are hostile to everything they can eat, including the Frost Giant (9).
- Stone throne, Frost Giant – The Frost Giant who sits on this throne watches over the area, and is aware of the different beings that inhabit this place. It is also aware that an entrance to the remorhaz lair is under it’s throne. The Frost Giant is completely unconcerned about anything, except for whether or not anyone tries to go under its chair. In fact, they’ll kill anyone who tries.
Leaving the Black Ice
Just survive long enough to get into the remorhaz lair. Not that going there will be a big improvement, because momma remorhaz gots babbies to feed.
Black Ice Random Cave Encounters
|1||A Blink Dog Appears and leads the party safely to the next cave, which contains the corpse of and adventurer wearing a pair of Boots of the Winterlands . If this encounter was previously rolled, this cave is empty.|
|2||A treasure chest is visible from the entrance of the cave. Upon entering the cave black, smoky tentacles erupt from the opening of the bag of holding. Then, it scuttles across the floor, upside down, held walking on the tentacles, lowers itself down over the chest and sucks it in. The tentacles shoot back into the mouth of the bag. The note now reads: “It was a mimic. Trust me. I did you a favor.” If this encounter was previously rolled, this cave is empty.|
|3||3 Yeti (hard encounter) inhabit the cave. If this encounter was previously rolled, this cave is empty.|
|4||14 Ice Mephits (hard encounter) inhabit the cave. If this encounter was previously rolled, this cave is empty.|
|5||4 White Dragon Wyrmlings (hard encounter) call this cave home, but are out hunting right now. Evidence of these inhabitants is present in the form of burrows dug into the walls They will attack the party when they try to rest, or when they leave the cave. If this encounter was previously rolled, this cave is empty.|
|6||This cave is empty|