Feb 11, 2014

Blog Carnival – February 2014 – The Icy Embrace of Winter

Babbling at the Counter #28 – Pen and Paper

Blog Carnival – February 2014 – The Icy Embrace of Winter

New month, new Carnival. This one is hosted by Nils at Enderra, and is winter related. So thank you Nils! Hope this post makes a good addition to the Carnival!

What can you do with winter? Well, let me offer you a multi-purpose, multi-genre idea: “Snowed In”. You had seen it before? Yeah, it's an oldie but a goodie, so let's disassemble it.

For those at the back of the class, the idea here is to use the inclement winter weather to trap the party at a location. This gives a few advantages; the most important one is a closed and controlled environment. Of course, this only works if the characters can't deal with the snow easily. No teleportation or such non-sense is allowed.

You may be tempted to run a murder mystery or something like that here. I'd rather you didn't. You see, that kind of things can go off the rails in a snap. My recommendation is taking advantage of the character's inability to leave the place to create tension and drama.

I'd go with either a creature on the shadows or have the building itself turn hostile. In more realistic games, an unusually tough madman can do the trick. Make it about whether or not the characters will survive the storm. Take advantage of the unknown. Where will the next attack be? What is the enemy working on?

Clever players may build fortresses or safe rooms, given enough ingenuity and resources. Just remember that whatever is stalking them can do the same. Taking out the power is a simple but effective first step, and even better with creatures of the night. This, though, is far from the only thing to do.

Water is interesting because you both need it to live, and because it can kill you. Poisoning the water supply can make the characters leave their safe place, and hallucinogen drugs can make that panic room a mortal trap. On the other hand, we have the option to flood them out of there. Combine the two if you are really nasty.

Talking of death by oxygen deprivation, smoke can work, too. Fire adds another layer of dangers, and as always, an enemy that's immune to it has home advantage. You may find this “Unstoppable Monster” idea useful to plot, so I'll just leave the link.

Now, if your group likes “Horror” more than “Adventure”, trapped + time = horrible, horrible stuff. To the usual lack of food and water you can add a bit of dementia, and some pests only make things worse. Not an expert on this kind of stuff, but I'm sure there are enough books and movies to get you started. What makes this different is the time the characters will be trapped. A good monster adventure can take only a night, or even a few hours. For more “horror” inclined games, the character may spend days if not weeks trapped.

Well, hope something here sparks your imagination. Till next time, have fun in the snow!

- The Storeman


  1. Awesome post. I think, however, that a murder mystery can be effectively used in the "snowed in" environment.

    Case in point: Where I currently live, our average winter snowfall is around 87". Last year, it was 127", but that's beside the point. A local theater hosts a murder mystery party whose theme is "snowed in". While I haven't been, I hear it's an awesome experience.

    I've been, in my winter-fueled madness, working on a new adventure for Tiny d10 where characters become trapped by a snowstorm in some type of encampment. They soon discover an infectious parasite takes a host and him or her to murder.

    The adventure goal would be surviving the snowstorm, preventing infection, and curing/killing infected individuals.

    This would be sort of like a murder mystery, as murders between NPCs could be later discovered by players, forcing them to investigate and deduce who is infected.

    1. First of all, I'm curious about this adventure you are talking about, and hope to see some more!

      Now, about the murder mystery: Of course it can be done. It's just that most mysteries (if played a la "Sherlock Holmes") can be really hard to run. I don't shy away from investigation, but tend to highlight the action sequences more than the "gathering clues" phase.

      A GM confident and skillful enough can pull a real mystery off, and he/she certainly should!

      I just think most groups, and GMs, would be more comfortable with a "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" kind of mystery (shadowy foe with lots of ass kicking) than with a "The Mentalist" or even "Sherlock Holmes" type (mostly talking and evidence gathering).

      As always, Your Mileage May Vary.

  2. Yeah, I'm still drafting the idea, swinging between being motivated by my wintry environment and being depressed by the grey and white emptiness of it all. Lol

    And you're certainly right - a Buffy style investigation offers a lot more to an RPG, and running a "pure" investigation requires a unique, clue-gathering-specific system like GUMSHOE (used in 'Trail of Cthulhu'), rather than a typical RPG.

    My (hopefully) upcoming adventure will be much more similar to Buffy (and 'The Candyman') than to ToC.

    1. Don't get depressed! White and grey are pretty good colors.

      And good luck with the adventure!