Campaign Setting: Icehold (Location and Environment)

Here are more Icehold campaign notes, which are my focus for all this week. You can read the first entry and Icehold Index here.

Location and Environment

Icehold, also known as Jokullnaf, sits to the farm far north, halfway between the lands of the Njor and the Northern Pole. Even the seas around it are frozen most of the year, and its harbor is typically only free of ice from June to September, and is always frozen sold from November to April. The average temperatures of those months reaches a high of 6° C (43° F). It is below freezing nearly all the rest of the year, with the coldest month averaging high temperatures of −15.5° C (4.1° F), but sometimes getting as cold as −39.1° C (−38.4° F). On the coldest days, a cup of warm tea thrown into the air turns to powdery snow before it hits the ground.

Snow and ice on the ground are nearly universal, which is just as well since rivers freeze and even the deepest wells hit ice rather than liquid water. Nearly every building and most camps keep firesburning nonstop, year-round, with firestone the most common source of heat (a single fist-sized hunk of firestone weighs roughly half a pound, 4 pounds of firestone can keep a typcial stove hot and warm a 20 ft. x 30 ft. house for 24 hours, making it roughly 10 times as efficient as coal). This both heats an area and allows snow and ice to be melted daily for fresh water. It also ensures new fires can easily be started from the burning firestone, should that be needed.

Those local to Jokullnaf know how to survive the deadly cold, and warming magic is common, but some nevertheless freeze to death every year. Buildings are well-insulated, so much so that in the short summer most activity is taken outdoors as the buildings can get uncomfortably warm with just the heat of people in them. Clothing and armor are almost always layered, and extremely thick hooded cloaks known as feldjar are common. Feldjar are made of two thick layers of furred hide, sewn with the fur facing inward to form a thick insulation, and are designed to be buttoned closed if necessary, but generally warn just draped around the shoulders to it can be thrown off if necessary for any detail-oriented work.

Conversely, there are a few regions of the lands around Icehold where massive heat rules. Several apparently-dormant volcanos are close enough to the settlement for their red glow to be visible on a clear night, and many have slow lava flows down into apparently-bottomless pits. Anyone coming close to the molten rock find the air goes from freezing to burning surprisingly quickly, and when snow falls the lava hisses and can produce steam able to scald skin, which may twist and shift suddenly in strong winds. Even beyond the volcanoes, a few of the old firestone mines have caught fire often the decades. The entrances to these are unknown, but occasionally a vent opens in the ground and burning smoke and cinders jet out… before enough ice falls into the crack to make the ground shale so hard it closes access to the burning mines as suddenly as it opened.

The deadly temperatures are far from the only regional challenges Icehold residents face. When the sun sets on October 28th each year, it does not rise again until the 15th of February (111 days later), and due to mountains cannot be seen from town until shortly after the first week of March. Conversely, when it rises on April 18th it does not set again until August 23rd (127 days later). For weeks at either end of these periods the is enough glow to see even though the sun does not properly rise, though the light is dim, in the times known as the Blue Nights.

Some nights, the sky lights up with Spirit Tides from the Ocean of Souls, the literal path (also known as the Low Road) spirits of the departed take to reach the afterlife from the mortal realm. When the Spirit Tides are green, they can be safely observed, and individual spirits cannot be visually picked out. But on especially cold nights they can turn blue, purple, red, or yellow, meaning the barrier between the Spirit Tides and the mortal realm are too thin for safety. Specific souls can be seen, or if you are high enough on a mountainside even spoken to. Such nights draw undead, necromancers, and grieving beloved of the recently lost, but anyone looking at the tides also risks a spirit possessing them, or breaking free to become a spectre or wraith. If work must be done during the nights of strong Spirit Tides, locals to Icehold wear wooden blinders over their eyes, keeping their vision restricted to a narrow band they focus down, away from the skies.

(Art by Jasper W)


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About Owen K.C. Stephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is a full-time ttRPG Writer, designer, developer, publisher, and consultant. He's the publisher for Rogue Genius Games, and has served as the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the Editor-in-Chief for Evil Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps. He has a Pateon which supports his online work. You can find it at

Posted on May 17, 2023, in Microsetting, System Agnostic and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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