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Hump Day Hazard: Shadowcreep Ice

Hump Day Hazard: Shadowcreep Ice

Ice_bergCommon in places touched by the cold grasp of shadow, shadowcreep ice is an unnatural substance that freezes in areas of darkness and melts when exposed to light. Rumored to have first dripped from the stalactites of a grotto inhabited by an undead primordial, this hazard has claimed the lives of numberless adventurers who had failed to discern its nature before stumbling, slipping, or plummeting to their frigid demise.

In its frozen state, shadowcreep ice exudes a fell mist, which causes severe frostbite moments after exposure. The liquid form of shadowcreep ice is viscous and murky, like oil, and any attempts to evaporate it yield only thick clouds of noxious gas. Explorers desperate for sustenance have imbibed melted shadowcreep ice on occasion; their bodies were invariably found, scarred by self-inflicted wounds, mere paces away.

Shadowcreep ice is found throughout the deepest caverns, though adventurers have spotted patches of it even in the Astral Plane and far-flung corners of the fey world. Alchemists of questionable repute claim to have distilled melted shadowcreep ice into a potion capable of granting darkvision and resistance to cold temperatures; rare is the adventurer who partakes of such tonics. Many warlocks have likewise sought to unlock the magical properties of shadowcreep ice, though few have discovered any usefulness that other, more conventional reagents do not already provide.

Shadowcreep Ice (Level Variable Elite Obstacle)

Hazard (XP Variable)

A warped sheet of dark ice glimmers ahead, the light of your torch chasing away the shadows in its growing cracks.

Hazard This sheet of obsidian-tinted ice fills 20 contiguous squares, turning them into difficult terrain

No check is needed to notice the shadowcreep ice

Additional Skill (Dungeoneering)

DC 17 + 1/2 hazard level—You understand the ice threat

DC 22 + 1/2 hazard level—You deduce the ice’s reaction to light and darkness

Trigger The ice attacks when a creature enters or begins its round in a square of shadowcreep ice; it also attacks when a creature stands up from prone in a square of shadowcreep ice

Opportunity Action           Melee
Creature on the ice
Level + 5 vs. Reflex
Normal high cold damage (by level), and the target is knocked prone
Any square of shadowcreep ice within 5 squares of a light source on initiative count 0 must make a saving throw or melt; melted squares are harmless, and immediately refreeze when no longer within 5 squares of a light source; any creature standing on a square shadowcreep ice when it re-freezes is attacked (as above), but on a hit, the creature is immobilized (save ends)


◊ With an Acrobatics check (DC 22 + 1/2 hazard level) and a move action, you can move into a square of shadowcreep ice without risk of falling; if the check fails or you move more than 1 square, the ice attacks


Shadowcreep ice makes for a dangerous hazard by itself, forcing the PCs to think carefully about their movement and use of light in an encounter. However, shadowcreep ice becomes much more potent when combined with other natural hazards or traps. This is a favored strategy of intelligent subterranean denizens, particularly drow and wayward myconids.

Most commonly, thick sheets of shadowcreep ice are cultivated over a large crevice or spiked pit. When the ice melts, intruders must react quickly (level of hazard + 5 vs. Reflex) or fall through the gaps in the sheet. Particularly cruel enemies may fill the pits below with frigid water that extinguishes light sources, trapping their victims as the ice above hardens once more.

The defenders of subterranean strongholds also might erect pillars out of shadowcreep ice that support a purposefully weak ceiling overhead. After the PCs’ light sources melt away the pillars for a certain number of rounds (one round per square of height), the ceiling tumbles down and attacks every creature in the area (level of hazard + 5 vs. Reflex, limited moderate damage by level plus knocked prone; miss half). Of course, the builders of this trick will have a way to escape and avoid being crushed themselves.

Sample Encounters

Level 8 Encounter (XP 1,750)

  • 2 death shards (level 8 artillery; Monster Manual 2)
  • 1 beholder gauth (level 5 elite artillery; Monster Manual 2)
  • 4 decrepit skeletons (level 1 minion; Monster Manual)
  • shadowcreep ice (level 4 elite obstacle)
  • whirling blades (level 5 obstacle; Dungeon Master’s Guide)

Level 15 Encounter (XP 6,400)

  • 1 drow priest (level 15 controller; Monster Manual)
  • 1 drider shadowspinner (level 14 skirmisher; Monster Manual)
  • 3 drow warrior (level 11 lurker; Monster Manual)
  • shadowcreep ice (level 11 elite obstacle)
  • 6 elite water-filled spiked pits (level 1 elite warder; Dungeon Master’s Guide)

Level 22 Encounter (XP 20,850)

  • 1 void lich (level 20 elite lurker; Open Grave)
  • life eater haze (level 22 obstacle; Dungeon Master’s Guide 2)
  • pain vault (level 20 warder; Dungeon Master’s Guide 2)
  • 4 5-square-tall shadowcreep ice pillars plus crushing ceiling (level 22 elite obstacle)

Trick-or-treating just isn’t as safe as it used to be. Watch out for… black ice! You got a “trick” for us? Let us hear it.

4 thoughts on “Hump Day Hazard: Shadowcreep Ice”

  1. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with the word “turns”. Reminds me of the 1980s…

    And hey, it was good enough for Gygax and Arneson, right?

    More seriously, I appreciate the fact that this hazard references creatures from various sources.

  2. “Turns” still exist in 4E in the technical sense (PHB 269), but they refer only to an individual character or monster’s actions (“at the start of your turn”, “until the end of your next turn”), rather than an entire initiative cycle (round).

    In the case of the shadowcreep pillars, they would have melted before everyone had a chance to act if it lasted X turns, rather than X rounds! :D

    Of course, some DMs might be into that kind of thing… ;)

    Thanks for the favourable comments so far! ^_^ Some of my players are already suggesting ways to turn it into a nasty golem!

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