The Coldlight Walker




Jibblet hated the cold. Supposedly, there were lost shinies out in the north, but so far all he’d found was ice, snow, and this inconsequential village. He wouldn’t be staying long, the shinies couldn’t wait. The Village Elder had warned Jibblet not to travel in the dark. What a fool! Jibblet feared no darkness! Though, he did take the lantern he was offered. The Village Elder had then warned Jibblet that a blizzard was coming. What a weakling! Jibblet could not be defeated by a puny storm! Though, he did accept the thick fur coat he was offered. The Village Elder had hesitated with her final warning to Jibblet, but pressed on… “If, in the darkness and through the storm, you see a light… run.” What a coward! Jibblet ran from nothing! Though, he did take the dagger he was offered. The Village Elder looked sad as she watched Jibblet march into the cold tundra.

In hindsight, maybe the Village Elder wasn’t quite the foolish, weakling coward that Jibblet had taken her for. The darkness was impenetrable, and the blizzard was ferocious. Jibblet was battered by snow and was certain he had been walking in circles for the better part of an hour. Maybe, just maybe, the shinies could have waited an extra day. As he wandered through the utter dark, his skin burning where the icy wind slashed at it, his limbs growing numb, he began to doubt his choices in life. But then… a light in the pitch black. Salvation! It was a beam of light, shooting into the sky, like a lighthouse to the drowning sailor that was Jibblet. He sprinted towards the light on his frozen feet, all warnings forgotten.

The light suddenly flicked around and focused on him with painful precision, blinding him for an instant. His vision slowly returning, he glimpsed the light source… a shambling corpse in winter weather gear, blazing ghost light pouring out of it. Jibblet almost died then, as inhumanly strong hands snapped out to grab him. His vision was blurred, but he managed to dodge them, and… with the Village Elder’s words echoing in his mind... he began to run. Surrounded by ghost light, Jibblet didn’t see the ray of cold magic that killed him. Many days later, the Village Elder would find the unfortunate kobold, completely frozen, another victim of the Coldlight Walkers.

Hello, Monster Enthusiasts! This is Nicholas with Into the Dungeon, and welcome to another reading from TheTome of Dungeoneering. There is a light in the darkness, and it’s not the good kind of light. Meet the Coldlight Walker, a ghastly, undead abomination created when a humanoid dies from severe cold, but, for whatever reason, their soul does not pass on to the afterlife. They are filled with a cold fury at their fate, and you can expect them to be relentlessly hostile to any living creature they encounter.

What makes these poor fellows unique, is that they’re not simply an angry frozen corpse forever wandering in whatever frosty wasteland they died. The unique circumstance of their soul being trapped on the mortal plane causes their remains to be consumed by a blinding, ghostly light that beams out from any part of their body that is exposed. Are you trapped in a blizzard at night? Yeah, that’s not a lighthouse that a crazy architect built in the middle of a mountain pass. It’s a crazy undead horror consumed by the spectral light of its damned soul.

The Coldlight Walker is a relatively new addition to tabletop lore, showing up in the 2020 Dungeons and Dragons adventure book “Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden.” Their lack of tenure means that typical adventurers aren’t going to see them coming! Well, yes, they’re going to literally see them coming, but you know what I mean. The Coldlight Walkers are a sturdy undead creature capable of bludgeoning reckless adventurers to death without too much trouble, but come with a number of cool features. Their blazing ghost light is the obvious one, giving a tell-tale indicator when one is nearby. They are able to temporarily blind players by hitting them with the light beam burning out of their face. I realize the snarky among you are already saying, “yeah, any bright light will do that.” The ghost light is distinctly intense, and a great element with which to pressure your players. This thing is extremely difficult to look at, so if you want to make the encounter more challenging, have players be at a disadvantage when targeting the Coldlight Walker. You can also change the nature of the ghost light to have more… concerning effects than just being hard to look upon.

What if a full blast from the ghost light could paralyze a player? Or induce feelings of helplessness? Or maybe even let the player experience the hate that these monsters carry within them? Are the snarky people back, asking, “what does it even mean to experience hate?” It means the affected player takes a swing at their closest ally, if we’re being straightforward. But you could also have it be a purely narrative effect, giving players a clue about the origins of the Coldlight Walker.

Coldlight Walkers are a great monster for campaign narratives, and I definitely consider this a top tier feature of theirs. For one, they’re great for gradually building tension. Your players can get lots of forewarning about them! Let’s say our low level players start their adventure in a mountaintop village that overlooks a pass leading into the unexplored frozen North. If they talk to any villagers about the dangers of the pass, they’ll be told to stay away from the lights. If the players look out at the valley when it's dark, they can see pinpricks of light, wandering eerily through the snow covered landscape.

If they venture into the pass, they’ll start to find the frozen remains of the Coldlight Walkers’ victims, completely entombed in supernatural ice that won’t melt. Did the players fight some bandits? Maybe they find the entombed corpses of the remaining bandits. As night falls, a good perception check will let the players know that the distant lights are… getting closer. And of course, once the players have finally encountered the Coldlight Walkers and, hopefully, not died horribly, you can embrace their built-in narrative feature by gradually unfurling the mystery related to them. Remember, Coldlight Walkers are created because their souls were trapped on the mortal plain… How? Why? An evil necromancer? A lost artifact? An angry god? These are questions that can further drive your campaign and allow the Coldlight Walkers to be an easy narrative stepping stone.

There’s another feature to the Coldlight Walkers, which really justifies the “cold” in their name. When they’re not pummeling you into pulp, the Walkers can use a ray of cold magic to blast you into icicles. But that’s not the scary part… you see, these things are supernaturally cold. Simply getting hit by one will cause players to take cold damage. If they manage to kill an adventurer… that individual is frozen in magical ice that cannot be melted. And the unlucky adventurer cannot be raised from the dead. Imagine the look of panic on your players’ faces when their spells are completely unable to revive their lost comrade. Now, this magical ice will melt after 9 days, and then the usual resurrection shenanigans can take place. But the players don’t know that, do they? Unless they listened to this podcast. Oops. Or, if you’re looking to really spook your players, change that 9 day rule to… forever.

I absolutely adore the Coldlight Walkers, and I’ll probably find a way to shoehorn one into any campaign I ever run. Are you in a science fiction campaign exploring a moon? Yup, there’s gonna be a Coldlight Walker Astronaut. Are you in a modern real world setting, eating at a restaurant? Yup, there’s gonna be a Coldlight Walker in the restaurant’s walk-in freezer. Outside of the great opportunities for creepy ice-themed undead, I think these guys can also be fun comedic tools if your players need the relief. The evil necromancer has lighting problems in his bleak castle of doom? Yeah, he’s hung some Coldlight Walkers from the ceiling to improve the local ambiance. Frozen lake needs a lighthouse? Yelp, the party has been tasked with hunting down a Coldlight Walker and strapping them somewhere appropriate for a makeshift lighthouse. Makes the Walkers not quite as creepy anymore, but certainly useful.

Now, I do love me some miniatures, and if you’re dying for one that represents the typical look of the Coldlight Walker (that typical look being a spooky person in a thick fur coat), the Icons of the Realms set Snowbound has a Coldlight Walker in it. But I’m going to make an unusual pitch to you, dear listener. How about instead of a miniature… you use a flashlight! Yes, you heard me right, a flashlight! Buy a small flashlight, turn it on, and that’s your miniature. Point the flashlight at whoever the Coldlight Walker is currently fixated on. Maybe don’t do this if your goal is to create an extremely spooky atmosphere… although honestly, I think I’d do it even in a scary campaign setting. On that note, until next time everyone, remember… if, in the darkness and through the storm, you see a light… run.

Whew, what a spooky undead abomination, thematically appropriate for the month of Halloween. Want to know something else that’s spooky? Not liking and subscribing to our content. Y’all wouldn’t want to scare me, I know you’re better people than that. So get to subscribing and liking! You can find more information at patreon.com/intothedungeon and inthedungeon.com. If you’re on the fence about this whole “not spooking Nicholas” thing, here’s a few words from our resident spook expert, Jibblet: “No spook, give shinies!” Truly a maestro of the spoken word. On that note, see you at the next reading from The Tome of Dungeoneering.


Sources

Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden




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