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  • The Frigid Feeding Grounds – Winter Encounter for 5e

A cabin in the snowy wilds was once a rest stop for travelers but has recently become infested with icy undead. They use it to draw in prey and feast on frozen bodies.

The tundra claims many victims. Scything cold fills vast plains of white wasteland, pierced by mountains and forests. The elements dig beneath armor to drain travelers of their strength. Bones ache and muscles stiffen. But worse than all of that are the creatures that call the tundra home. Twisted by their environment, they share its unfeeling nature with the addition of bloodthirsty hunger.

Sparse cabins act as one of the few reprieves from the cold. They provide shelter and safety for travelers, shielding them from the winds and snowfall. Without these rests, many more would surely be lost. This leads to them attracting a large number of desperate individuals who are already weakened by the environment. They are the perfect feeding ground for creatures who might prey upon such individuals.

One such building has become infested with a pack of vicious ghouls. They await travelers who hurry to the building’s protection, emerging from the snow to strike. Those that are unable to escape are frozen by the ghouls’ venom, then consumed.

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The Snowy Hamlet

Ahead of you, nestled in the trees, you spot a small building. A log cabin is pressed into the foot of the slope. Its exterior shows little signs of upkeep, with snow piling high around its perimeter and on its roof. A chimney pokes through, though you do not smell any trace of smoke. It is only as you step closer and the trees part to grant you a clearer view that you see that the door has had the snow cleared from it.

DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check…

While you cannot see through the frost on the windows, a sound does catch your ear; a faint scraping. It is similar to the sound of carving or even of something chipping at stone, though you cannot make out exactly what it is.

Within the building, a winter ghoul is enjoying its meal. The ghoul is hunched over the body of a human man, which is frozen solid amongst scatterings of bones, ice shards, and other scraps. The scraping sound is the ghoul’s teeth and claws grinding into its food.

DC 20 Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Investigation) check…

Looking around at the building’s surroundings, you are hard-pressed to find anything amid the blanket of white. That is until you spot a small shape rising from it. What you initially thought to be a small stone appears to in fact be ice, with only a small section of it visible above the surface.

The frozen object is a discarded limb of one of the ghouls’ victims, encased entirely in a thin layer of ice.

The winter ghouls, winter ghast, as well as any winter wolves, are also waiting beneath the snow. Remember to roll their Dexterity (Stealth) checks (with advantage from their snow camouflage) and use that to see if a player spots part of them in the snow. They will attack when they are found, when the cabin’s door is opened, or if they recognize that their prey is attempting to leave.

Opening the door…

The door jams for a moment, then creaks open to a central room of still, bitter air and dilapidated furniture. The atmosphere, while still numbing, rushes you with the scent of blood and rot. Scraps of bone and ice clatter out of the door’s way as it moves, drawing your eyes to the carpet of red-stained frost on the ground.

In the room’s center are two forms. One is a man on his back, frozen in an expression of panicked terror beneath an encapsulating layer of ice. The other hunches over him, scraping into this ice with its jagged claws and lifting frozen bites to its mouth. It twitches in response to the noise and begins to turn. Nearby, sections of the snow rustle awake and similar creatures emerge.

Battle Map Downloads

You can find a few winter battle maps, including the one this encounter was designed for, below…

Winter Ghast and Winter Ghouls

The creatures are humanoid, with stark white skin and eyes like icy blue beads. Their bodies are gaunt and exaggerated, with skin that seems stretched over tensed muscle. Guttural growls rumble from behind rows of jagged, drooling teeth, and the ends of their fingers form hardened points.

Winter ghouls are undead whose bodies absorbed and adapted to the freezing temperatures of their environment. This has changed their abilities, filling them with an icy venom and developing a taste for frozen flesh. To sate this hunger, they have become ambush predators. They hide beneath the snow, waiting for unwary victims to stray into their territory.

Groups of the ghouls are often led by the largest and most powerful of them, a winter ghast. The ghasts’ intelligence allows it to set traps and construct plans, as well as to ally its pack with local winter wolves.

Both of the winter variants began as combinations of the regular ghast and ghoul and the winter wolf. The most obvious changes were the snow camouflage ability, immunity to cold damage, and Stealth proficiency.
Beyond that, they needed something to make them more distinct and special. This came from a modification to the ghoul’s TPK-prone paralyzing venom. Rather than instant paralysis, their claws’ effect was changed to a gradual freezing venom, inspired by the gorgon’s petrifying breath action. The progression from being restrained to paralyzed was a perfect fit for freezing, though petrification has a habit of quickly ending fights and lives. To remedy this, it was changed to require several failed saving throws, taking a target from restrained, to stunned, to petrified. A petrified target will also slowly thaw on its own over 24 hours, should it survive. Low-level parties do not need to worry about carting a frozen friend to the nearest cleric.
Finally, in the case of the winter ghast, its stench ability was traded for a larger frigid aura that slows movement rather than poisoning targets.

Stat Blocks for D&D 5e

Winter Ghast 5e Stat Block
Winter Ghoul 5e Stat Block

Click to zoom in!

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About the author

Troy McConnell

Part-time DM and author of 2-Minute Tabletop's encounters, map lore, and characters. Basically, I write about all the campaign ideas that I don't have time to run. All with the assistance of my feline familiar, Wink.

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