Level Up (A5E) ENterplanetary DimENsions: Chilly Cryos

Winter may be on its way out but ENterplanetary DimENsions has one last icy foray before the season is over: Chilly Cryos!

Cryos Level Up 5E DnD 5E Banner SHRUNK.jpg

Illustration by Joyce Maureira.

It’s said that the cold enveloping Cryos is unnatural in its lack of mercy and pervasiveness—as though the chill itself is sentient and clawing towards the heart of every living thing within its grasp. This was not always the planet’s plight, but long ago magics wrought upon the realm forced cataclysmic changes that have trapped it in a fierce cycle of nigh-frozen seas and oceans of slush. Fathoms freeze in a matter of moments, their rapid transformation displacing ice shelves the size of countries with a rapidity that few are able to survive. Dangerous as it is there are countless wonders hidden in the ice floes and lethal frost, both relics of the forbidden arcana from epochs past and miraculous inventions left behind by creators made to flee for their lives.

After causing a near apocalypse the use of magic was completely banned across the breadth of Cryos, and only in recent times (with technology reaching heights beyond what most arcane and divine spells can achieve) has it become tolerated albeit looked down upon. The rugged peoples of this place survive by huddling together into massive cities, each a collection of floating buildings crafted using scientific achievements that have come to dominate its societies. When the thaw and freeze of the planet’s oceans and seas crack the world apart their homes compensate as they flee for safety, waiting until the waves abate before powering towards each other anew. Over time many of these hardy and rugged communities have accidentally migrated, entire settlements disappearing into the fold of growing cities—if they are not swallowed into the cold abyss or crushed between massive icebergs suddenly appearing from the mists first.

Planar Traits. Cryos has the following planar traits and the Narrator should make use of the darkness, extreme cold (see Crystalizing Cold), frigid water, rushing liquid, and strong winds encounter elements. When it is possible to do so, noticing one of these encounter elements before it is too close to avoid requires a DC 14 Nature check.

Crystallizing Cold

Exposure to the fierce open air of Cryos allows the peculiarities of its crystallizing cold to take hold. At the end of every hour a creature is exposed to temperatures at or below 0° Fahrenheit (–18° Celsius), it makes a Constitution saving throw (DC 10 + 1 per previous save) or it suffers a level of crystallization. Immunity to cold damage grants an automatic success on this save. A creature gains an expertise die on its save if it is resistant to cold damage or wearing cold weather gear.

Saving throws made against effects or spells that deal cold damage have disadvantage.

When the temperature is at or below –40° (Fahrenheit or Celsius), saving throws against crystallizing cold have disadvantage.

Finishing a long rest in the presence of abundant heat (such as a bound fire elemental, 3 campfires per creature, or in a sufficiently warmed safe haven) reduces a creature's crystallization level by 1. Also, a casting of lesser restoration can reduce a creature’s crystallization level by 1.

Table: Crystallizing Cold
Crystallization Level
Rattled and can only long rest while roughing it (regain half the usual amount of hit dice, do not recover from fatigue or strife)
Regain half as many hit points as normal from a long rest, when spending hit dice to heal on a short rest roll twice and use the lower result
Suffer a level of fatigue, disadvantage on Wisdom checks
Suffer a level of strife, when spending hit dice to heal on a short rest heal the minimum amount
Suffer a level of fatigue and a level of strife, disadvantage on Wisdom saving throws
Regain no hit dice on a long rest, while in combat at the start of each turn make a Constitution saving throw (DC equal to current crystallizing cold save DC) or be slowed
Petrified into ice

Frozen Foes

Beyond the safe walls of its wondrous cities there are still creatures that lurk across Cryos, some searching for warmth but all keen on a fulfilling meal. Packs of winter wolves lurk behind lumbering yeti and in their collective wake are lethal íssax (see To Save A Kingdom), knutadraugr still thirsty for battle even after being slain, and ghosts that rise to haunt the snowy drifts. Frost giants are well suited for the chill and intentionally keep the company of ice mephits, relying on the little elementals to serve as scouts or harry prey into crevasses where immense size becomes an overwhelming advantage. The deadliest of the denizens comfortable amidst the crystallizing cold are remorhaz and white dragons, and only fools dare tread in the territories of such monsters. While the dangers they present are not as immediate, cities across the realm offer a reward for the heads of winter hags. These witches protect themselves with charmed ice worms and animated wights, goading nature to bring terrible ruin to the world’s floating settlements then turning any remaining husks of wondrous technology into ruinous abodes before moving on to repeat this savagery when the slush and ice reclaim it all.

Icy Innovation

The cities of this world are contained bubbles of self-sufficiency achieved through countless technological marvels that warm the air, purify the water, provide food, and most importantly keep out the ever present cold of Cryos. This reliance upon science has developed over the centuries after the forbiddance of magic following the cataclysm, making the people of this place value intellect as much as they do rugged brawn. The primary source of meat for most cryosians are carefully bred hlaupa (see To Save A Kingdom), a dangerous but resilient livestock that can survive the blasting chill of the world when the devices protecting their pens (typically located away from the most populous parts of a settlement) malfunction—a freezing death that can easily overtake most beasts in a matter of hours.

Thermal Tumult

In the ancient past the winters of Cryos were not constant yet still incredibly fierce, and to survive the yearly chill its peoples embraced many traditions of pyromancy. Over time their arts of arcane and divine fire achieved unprecedented heights of sophistication—and their societies reached too far, enacting grand rituals to permanently blunt the ferocious chill. Cryosian pyromancers conjured massive quasi-ethereal flues on mountainsides and nets of magic across the sky trying to capture the warmth of the summer, concentrating it to be released when the frost came. At first it seemed their grand experiment was a success and for a century the world enjoyed a pleasant cycle of seasons, but then their tampering took its toll as the winters grew ever colder and the summer shortened until it disappeared entirely, followed soon after by spring and fall.

The heat of Cryos captured by the pyromancers lives on however, reappearing in devastating pyroclasms across the planet as though in some cataclysmic game of hide and seek with the terrible cold. When subjected to these firestorms glaciers as big as mountains can boil away in moments (creating a melting freeze that means death for most caught in it) or be blasted into massive tsunamis of slush and ice hundreds of feet high, and every settlement is heavily thermally shielded to prevent mass casualties from the entropic infernos.

Melting Freeze

2nd tier (terrain)
Challenge 8 (3,900 XP); DC 17/15
Area Region (time varies)
The rush of cool water suddenly splashes on your boots as everywhere you can see the ice is rapidly melting, the surface underfoot becoming like a freezing freshwater sea as you walk upon it.

Get Moving. Nature or Survival checks reveal that this sudden anomaly is certain to quickly reverse itself and that the best solution is to climb to safety. Those who do not reach higher ground automatically fail the group check.

Slickened Ice. Checks made to climb up glaciers and other large chunks of solid ice have disadvantage from the slick water running off of them. A creature that critically fails an Athletics check knocks loose chunks of ice already dislodged by the shifting temperatures, taking 9 (2d8) bludgeoning damage. Any creature climbing behind it makes a Dexterity saving throw, taking half as much damage on a failure.

Up and Away. The use of fly, levitate, rope trick, or similar magic triggers an automatic success for that adventurer.

Possible Solutions
Anyone using climber’s gear gains an expertise die on Athletics checks to climb up slickened ice. The use of a boat (or anything that can be quickly rigged to float with an Engineering check) qualifies as higher ground, though it cannot be salvaged after freezing in the ice. Using a shovel halves the time required to free a creature trapped in the ice from a melting freeze.

Critical Failure: Adventurers, mounts, and vehicles in the area become trapped in the ice as the surface suddenly refreezes. A creature trapped in the ice takes 18 (4d8) cold damage and suffers 1d4 levels of crystallization, and 10 (3d6) minutes of digging are required to free it. In addition, the party loses 10 (4d4) Supply to the freezing waters.

Failure: Adventurers, mounts, and vehicles in the area become trapped in the ice as the surface suddenly refreezes. A creature trapped in the ice takes 7 (2d6) cold damage and suffers a level of crystallization, and 5 (2d4) minutes of digging minutes of digging are required to free it. In addition, the party loses 7 (2d4) Supply to the freezing waters.

Success: The adventurers reach safety.

Critical Success: While scrambling up to higher ground the adventurers notice something miraculous. Roll on the Boons and Discoveries table.


3rd tier (supernatural)
Challenge 15 (13,000 XP); DC 20/16
Area Immediate (special)
Unexpected warmth lifts into the air as a muffled popping echoes in the skies above, sparks of something igniting into a beautiful shimmer—then the entire world suddenly explodes into flame!

Duck and Cover. Nature or Survival checks reveal that the strange noise, odd shimmer, and unusual warmth presage a terrible inferno, granting advantage on checks made to take cover. Creatures in three-quarters cover take half damage from the pyroclasm.

Inferno. Any creature or object not behind full cover makes a Dexterity saving throw as the world ignites.

Warning of Doom. The devastation of a pyroclasm is foreshadowed 3 (1d4+2) rounds before it ignites.

Possible Solutions
The use of magic items that create a shelter, burrowing beneath ground, or hastily making cover from items nearby (with Athletics checks to tear stones from the ground and Engineering checks to cover gaps) can protect a creature from the devastating flames.

Critical Failure: The adventurers each take 55 (10d10) fire damage and any water they are carrying flash boils, reducing their Supply by half. In addition, anything flammable they are carrying or holding catches fire, taking 5 (1d10) ongoing fire damage until a Dexterity check is made to put out the flames.

Failure: The adventurer takes 45 (10d8) fire damage and some of the water they are carrying flash boils, reducing their Supply by 4 (1d8). In addition, anything flammable they are carrying catches fire, taking 4 (1d8) ongoing fire damage until a Dexterity check is made to put out the flames.

Success: The adventurer takes 35 (10d6) fire damage and a bit of the water they are carrying flash boils, reducing their supply by 3 (1d6).

Critical Success: The adventurers miraculously take no damage, and in the seared aftermath come across something special. Roll on the Boons and Discoveries table.

Encounter Element: Tundra Time (+3)

Areas of Cryos can become so impossibly cold that time itself slows down. When the temperature is at or below –40° (Celsius or Fahrenheit) reality crawls forward at a reduced rate causing the following effects.
  • Creatures are slowed.
  • When casting a spell with a casting time longer than a bonus action, the spell’s magic takes effect at the start of the spellcaster’s next turn.
  • As long as a creature is not incapacitated, paralyzed, rattled, restrained, or stunned, once before its next turn it can gain an expertise die to its AC against a single weapon attack made against it by a creature it can see.
  • Ability checks made to roll initiative have disadvantage.

Salt Sculptures

The melting and refreezing of the water on Cryos create breathtaking natural works of art, the salt separating out into formations no amount of magical or technical expertise can emulate. Most salt sculptures are destroyed by brutal waves or endless wintry storms, but art collectors everywhere instantly recognize their superb value. Extracting a salt sculpture requires both an Athletics check and Engineering check in a process that takes 70 (2d6 × 10) minutes. A failure on either check ruins the salt sculpture. A salt sculpture has AC 9 and 4 (1d8) hit points per size category (maximum 5d8).

Table: Salt Sculptures
Removal DC
Average Weight
60 lbs.​
2d4 × 100 gold​
140 lbs.​
2d6 × 150 gold​
250 lbs.​
2d8 × 250 gold​
600 lbs.​
2d10 x 350 gold​
1,000 lbs.​
2d12 × 500 gold​

Edit: Special thanks to @Tyler Omichinski for helping figure out what cold-place things this entry was lacking!
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Mike Myler

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