Few things are more challenging than the perils faced by mountaineers exploring dangerous rocky terrain, and when you add in wintery or sub-arctic weather it just increases the danger.
Below is a D20 table of random encounters that can be used to when your player party is forced to journey across the snow covered peaks.
Please note: Each of these would benefit from a bit of elaboration by the GM, nor do they apply specific game mechanics.
|1||The characters find the frozen remains of a group of 1D4 explorers who vainly sought shelter in a hide tent when caught during a blizzard; the remains are partially buried by snow and will take 1D6 rounds to dig out. Less squeamish adventurers may be able to salvage some climbing equipment and perhaps some of the unfortunate explorer’s notes on their journey.|
|2||A huge ravine bars further passage in the direction the PCs were travelling, the ravine is (1D6+5)x 10 feet across and will require ropes and/or careful planning to cross. There is a 1-in-6 chance that there are tree stumps or large rocky outcroppings on the far side that may aid in these endeavours.|
|3||There is a terrifying rumble from the distance and–on a neighbouring peak–the party can see a huge avalanche of snow cascading down the side of the other mountain.|
|4||From up in the air the player characters hear the cawing of mountain hawks, a small flock of which are circling an area, if the players investigate roll a further 1D6 to see what has attracted the hawks attention.|
1-3) The freshly dead remnants of a mountain goat, from which 1D3 rations can be obtained.
4-5) The corpse of an explorer who died recently.
6) A small encampment of mountain nomads from whom the hawks hope to scavenge scraps.
|5||Stumbling through the snow, the players find the mouth of a cave that promises shelter from the driving snow and biting winds. Roll a further 1D6 to see if the cave is occupied.|
1-3) The cave is occupied by a bear or other appropriate creature.
4-5) The cave is empty.
6) The cave was used as a refuge by a previous group of explorers, the long-dead remnants of a camp are found here, if the GM is feeling charitable there may be some small amounts of gear that can be salvaged.
|6||A tree clinging to the edge of the mountain gives way with an ear-splitting shriek and tumbles into the abyss below.|
|7||Your group stumble across a crude wooden cabin built in the relative shelter of a rocky outcropping, the cabin is occupied by a crotchety old hermit who moved to the mountain to get away from people. Although the hermit is not predisposed to be welcoming, getting supplies up here is hard, and if the player characters share some of their goods with him the hermit may be able to give them valuable information about his mountain home.|
|8||A herd of 1D12+3 yak slowly make their way over the mountain peaks, there is a 50% chance that these beasts are domesticated and are being lead by one of the people indigenous to this area.|
|9||A loud noise causes an avalanche that rushes towards the party. Anyone in it’s path must make a DEX save to get out of the way, failure results in the unfortunate party member being swept 2D6 x 10 feet in the direction of the rock fall, taking 1D3 HP worth of damage for every ten feet they have travelled.|
Once the party have dug themselves out of the avalanche each person who was caught in it must roll 1D6, if they roll a 1 then they have lost 1D3 items of their equipment in the avalanche (the player chooses which items).
|10||The body of a person is found frozen, lying in the open, they are wearing only a thin robe (certainly nothing that would protect from the harsh conditions in the area), the robe is painted with strange occult symbols and multiple footprints lead away from the scene.|
|11||The player characters find signs that some sort of ritual was conducted in this area, there are signs of frozen blood, the remnants of burnt offerings and sacrificed animals; this ceremony was to appease the winter spirits and–if they are disturbed–the snow forms into a vaguely humanoid figure and attacks them (use stats for a clay golem or something similar).|
|12||The player party find the remnants of a large animal such as a bear, mountain lion or dire goat, examination of the corpse shows that it appears to have burst open from the inside before freezing.|
|13||The characters reach a huge frozen ice-sheet that shines with an almost mirror like sheen, however when they look at their reflection they notice that one of the party (chosen at random) is not reflected. Whether this in omen or a mere fluke of the ice formation is down to the GM and the needs of their game.|
|14||Fighting their way through the snow the player party discover a cave set in the side of the mountain potentially offering respite to them and shelter from the storm. Roll a further 1D6 to see if the cave is occupied.|
1-2) The cave is occupied by a mountain lion or other appropriate creature.
3-4) The cave is empty.
5) The cave is occupied by a tribe of mountain dwelling tribespeople who worship the winter spirits that they believe control the weather. If the player party can bargain with the tribe, they may be given shelter, but the tribe is wary and cannot afford to be lavish with their winter supplies.
6) The cave is empty but signs show it was previously occupied by a tribal people, carvings on the wall of the cave will–if translated–tell a story of how the tribe was lead to the cave by friendly winter spirits in return for sacrifices.
|15||An arctic doppleganger stalks the PCs in the form of an animal native to the region, it will attempt to isolate one of the player party and consume them before taking their form and blending in with the rest of the group.|
|16||A shaggy, great bear moves slowly through the thick snow, whilst not immediately hostile to the PCs, if attacked it will defend itself. However if the PCs follow it the bear eventually heads to a small mountain stream where fish can be found.|
|17||With an ominous rumble a torrent of rocks, loosened by the recent weather begins to cascade like a wave of stone towards the player party. Anyone in it’s path must make a DEX save to get out of the way, failure results in the unfortunate party member being swept 2D6 x 10 feet in the direction of the rock fall, taking 1D6 HP worth of damage for every ten feet they have travelled.|
|18||Deeply impressed in the snow are a number of tracks made by a large canine creature, there is a 2-in-6 chance if the PCs follow these tracks that it will lead them to the cave lair of a pack of Dire Wolves.|
|19||A recent thaw, followed by a cold-snap has caused this area to be covered in a thick coating of ice, covered by a light dusting of snow. Anyone traversing this area on foot without special footwear must make a DEX save to avoid falling prone as they slide on the ice. Although not dangerous in itself, their sounds of distress may attract mountain predators, not to mention the danger of sliding off the edge of the peak itself.|
|20||The characters discover the frozen carcass of a mountain goat that was abandoned by it’s fellows after sustaining a leg injury, if they are desperate 1d3 portions of frozen rations can be extracted from the carcass.|