First our brewed-up arctic weather rules: (these are at the bottom of the 1st campaign diary but we’re attaching some light explanation here)
TRAVEL IN THE FROZEN WASTES:
WHEN TRAVELING IN THE WINTER A CON CHECK MUST BE MADE DAILY DC10. A FAILURE ACCRUES ONE LEVEL OF EXHAUSTION, THIS RESETS WHEN A DAY IS TAKEN IN SHELTER TO “RE-WARM”. (ONLY RESETS LEVEL OF EXHAUSTION ACCRUED FROM BEING COLD)
TRAVELING THROUGH A BLIZZARD REQUIRES A CON CHECK DC12 MADE EACH HOUR OF TRAVEL IN BLIZZARD CONDITIONS. A FAILURE ACCRUES ONE LEVEL OF EXHAUSTION AND RESULTS IN 1D4-1 COLD DAMAGE.
IF A CHARACTER FALLS INTO FRIGID/FROZEN WINTER WATERS THEY CAN SURVIVE FOR A NUMBER OF ROUNDS EQUAL TO THEIR CON MODIFIER (MIN OF ZERO ROUNDS). AT WHICH POINT THEY BEGIN TO MAKE A CON SAVE DC10-15 (DEPENDING ON THE COLDNESS OF THE WATER) IF THE WATER IS NOT FREEZING THE DC IS 10-12 AND FAILURES ACCRUE A LEVEL OF EXHAUSTION.
IF THE WATER IS FREEZING TEMPERATURES THE DC IS 11-15 AND A FAILURE ACCRUES 1 LEVEL OF EXHAUSTION AND DOES 1D4 COLD DAMAGE.
Con Check vs Con Save. This ruffled some feathers but here’s why we did what we did: The check for traveling through the arctic wastes represents the assault of the cold on your body for a full days travel. Thus we made that a check instead of a save. We also went with levels of exhaustion instead of cold damage or some other effect because when paired with the check instead of a save the frozen wastes will still be dangerous to travel when the characters are level 10. Environmental damage doesn’t make sense to scale up so sure 1d4 or 1d6 cold damage is terrifying for levels 1-3 but when you reach even mid-tier play it’s easy to just laugh that off. We wanted the Northern Reach in winter to remain a place where only the brave venture out into in the winter months.
It’s a Con Save when you fall into frigid water because you make the check for every round you’re in the icy water. It does do cold damage on a failed save but really it’s those stacking levels of exhaustion that make staying out of the icy waters horrifying for any level of character.
MORE TRAVEL CRUNCH: We also made traveling across the frigid lands challenging by doing a 3-point skill check for each days travel and randomized the weather conditions:
Each day requires
Navigation: Wis/Survival- The base DC is 12 to successfully navigate through the snow covered Northern Reach. Environmental factors increase the difficulty Per table below. A failed Navigation check adds 1 day to the journey
Perception: Wis/Perception: It’s not a matter of IF you find danger in the Northern Reach but WHAT danger you find. Perception check should be made by the character “on watch” before each encounter. This determines if they see signs of the danger or stumble into it blind. Environmental factors affect the DC as above
Weather watch: Nature or Survival can be used for this check: Weather conditions change suddenly in the Northern Reach. A successful check means that the party is able to predict weather changes BEFORE they occur. This can mean life or death in the Reach as a Blizzard can make an already hazardous region doubly lethal.
Weather for the day: d10
1) Clear:(No Modifiers)
2) Light Fog: +1
3) Light Snow: +1
4) Light Fog and Snow: +2
5) Moderate Fog: +2
6) Moderate Snow: +2
7) Moderate Fog and Snow: +4
8) Heavy Fog: +3
9) Heavy Snow: +3
10)Blizzard: +6-8 (roll a d3 for result 1-2=+6,3-4=+7,5-6=+8) also use Blizzard travel weather rules.
Modifiers Add to DC of survival/perception checks. Also add to players Stealth rolls.
Time of weather change: D4
This is pretty light mechanics for most editions of D&D but much more crunchy for 5e than any weather mechanics we could find. We had the party split the 3 checks up among the party members, this made traveling across the wastes a group effort and since the sorcerer has the magic initiate feat and chose Druid spells from that feat he used druid-craft each day to get a bead on the weather. We then allowed him to either make one of the other two checks or assist another player throughout the day given the party advantage on at least one of the checks. It worked really well to make the party function as a party and work together as they trudged through the deadly ice and snow.
We also made a buffed up crab for the harbor scene here’s our buffed up gianter giant crab:
Crab Ran-GOON: size Large
StR Dex Con Int Wis Cha
18(+4) 15(+2) 16(3) 1(-5) 10(-) 4(-3)
Skills: Stealth +3
Senses: Blindsight 30’. Passive Perception 10
Amphibious (can breathe air or water)
Crab Ran-GOON makes 2 attacks per round both with claws:
Claw: +5 to hit Reach 5’
Damage: 1d8+4 bludgeoning damage. and the target is grappled ( target can use their action to attempt to escape escape DC13) Each claw can only grapple one person. A person who is grappled must make a STR save each round it is grappled or take 1d4+4 Bludgeoning damage
Bonus action: Crab Ran-GOON can make a call once per day and 1d4 nearby giant crabs will come to it’s assistance.
XP: 200 (honestly spit-balling here, didn’t do the algebraic equations to determine this but it feels right. We’re also doing MileStone advancement in this campaign so it’s moot for us.. may matter for you if you use Crab Ron-GOON though).
Ran-GOON performed to perfection. It’s high AC meant that it stood several rounds of combat with 5 low-level characters. It’s ability to restrain and crush meant that once it got it’s claws on a character it was able to squeeze two of them into submission and the bonus ability to summon assistance from standard Giant Crabs (it summoned 2) kept the battle VERY interesting as just as it turned for the party more pinchy-boiz showed up to the party!