Wintry Fantasy World Building Inspiration for D&D

I think I’ve mentioned it in a few articles now, but one of my favourite parts of Dungeons and Dragons (or Pathfinder) is the ability to produce new worlds. Even if you’re just dreaming up a small hamlet, you can let your brain go wild creating it. However one thing I struggle with is inspiration or prompts for new places. As a result I started a Dropbox folder to store tonnes of fantasy world building inspiration in.

This article, which I think I’ll turn into a small series on world building inspiration for DMs, is a small collection of the winter or snow themed pictures I’ve got stored.

D&D World Building: Sun gleaming off the snow covered mountains
A gorgeous photo of the snow covered mountains by Howard Smith. Feel free to describe this to your party as they move from mine to settlement. (Copyright Howard Smith)

Winter World Building Inspiration

Hopefully these pictures will help inspire you when you come to describe worlds locked in a permanent ice-age or those now in a season of winter.

These may be the images I use for fantasy world building inspiration (please send your own ones in the comments below) but the images themselves are copyright of their original artists.

I don’t claim to have any ownership of these, they’re merely here because I think they’re cool and they help me build new worlds (in my head!)

Winter Wonderland Inspiration

Snow, ice and blizzards make for great world building details.

Brittle, frost-covered plants softly snap as the players brush pass.

Their cloaks and robes now sodden with melted snow.

The paladin, in her chilled metallic armour, scans the tree line ahead but only notices the tiny red berries puncturing the endless white.

Bizarre 3-toed animal tracks are clearly visible in the snow, leading off into the dark, claustrophobic forest.

Beside the tracks, a bright crimson red streak has been absorbed into the perfectly white snow.

Giant looming ice-covered mountain peaks stand in the party’s way, trapping them from escaping the oncoming skeleton horde.

In fairer weather the sheer rock faces could be climbable, but cold numb fingers would make it nigh on impossible

Here are a few pictures I use for inspiration when building rural winter building encounters.

Winter Town Inspiration

Although it makes D&D towns prettier and slightly quieter (snow absorbs sound), snow and ice have less impact on building descriptions compared to outside the town.

However, it does heavily affects the mood of townspeople.

You enter The Shy Pig tavern and are greeted by a blast of warm air.

The roaring fire in the centre of the large hall is surrounded by a deep crowd of patrons, laughing and enjoying the cheer.

Although the free tables are some distance from the fire-pit, this inn is plenty warm and you’re just pleased to get out of the blizzard

You step carefully off the ship onto the snow-covered cobbles, your breath forming large clouds of condensation.

Looking up and down the deserted harbour front, your eyes follow the cart tracks up the torch lit hill.

Your eyes finally fall upon the snow-covered turrets of the gatehouse, the snow clearly building up against the closed portcullis.

Two guards huddle closely around a burning brazier of oil, unaware of your presence in the darkness.

Here is a small collection of some of my more urban world building pictures I use for inspiration in winter themed games.

I hope these pictures have helped give you some world building inspiration when the snow falls and the ice builds up.

Don’t forget too, severe and prolonged exposure to the cold can bring on hypothermia and other environmental damage.


Winter Terminology & Descriptions

  • The cart track is covered in a thick blanket of fresh white snow. The pine trees and small nearby shrubs peak out from under their new white coverings. Animal tracks crisscross each other on the otherwise barren path.
  • The party continues on, delving deeper into the open hillside and ever further away from a well trodden path. The wet snow now clings to the legs, making each step a little more unforgiving.
  • Your breath freezes against the cold-numbing air. You’re captivated by the silence of the town, as it sleeps through another peaceful winters eve.
  • The wind howls around you, piling up even more snow in the nearby drifts beside the castles curtain wall. A soldier walks over, bracing herself against the cold. With one hand she shields her eyes from the wind and snow. Visibly shivering, she suspiciously eyes you up and down.
  • As you leave the tower you notice that darkness has descended. Clumps of wet snow flakes have begun to drift down from the invisible clouds high above.

Book Recommendation

As a lover of RPGs and all things wintry – you may be interested in the WotC campaign: Icewind Dale Frostmaiden.

Navigating in a blinding blizzard, a fall into frigid water, an avalanche that threatens to bury you alive—the frozen wilderness is full of unique challenges and deadly hazards.

This book provides tools for DMs running adventures in landscapes of snow, ice, and bitter cold. Rules are included for a variety of survival challenges, from hearing through howling winds to reeling in a great catch while ice fishing.

D&D campaign book – Icewind Dale Frostmaiden

Buy the frozen D&D book, Icewind Dale Frostmaiden

Your own winter world building inspiration

Please drop a comment below on what inspires you when your building your D&D worlds

Now you’ve finished this article, you may also be interested in another world building inspiration article I’ve written – Spaceship Exteriors. It’s quite niche haha.

4 thoughts on “Wintry Fantasy World Building Inspiration for D&D”

    • Thanks Spencer, I’m glad you found this inspirational post interesting. I’m actual in the process (have been for a while) of writing a few more fantasy world building posts – stay tuned.


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