Winterval's Shadows

You have been floating for… you don’t know how long. It’s cold, it’s dark, but you are not alone. You’re surrounded by others like you: empty, amorphous shadows. You would love to leave, to breathe air and walk on land, to live like the real people who inhabit the town just outside your forest. But you can’t, not until you get a body.

Your chance comes in the form of a travelling party breaking through the ice and falling into your lake. You jump to steal one of their bodies and take their existence. Now, you and the rest of your shadowy friends have until the dawn of the third day to complete a series of tasks to ensure you will keep your new bodies, while ensuring the rest of the townsfolk don’t find out what you are and put you to death.

Winterval's Shadows is a Dungeons and Dragons 5e mini campaign for four to five players, designed to be played and finished in two to three games (or one really long one, if you're dedicated). It is low-prep for both players and GM, with a pre-planned plot line, well-developed world complete with map, buildings, and NPCs, and pre-made character sheets each with unique history and ties to the story and world.

The Challenge

In this game, players assume the roles of shadowy, fey-like entities that reside within a frigid lake. Perhaps they are souls of the long dead, or perhaps they are something else entirely. But regardless of their origins, they all want the same thing: to gain a body, escape this lake, and feel what it is to be alive once more. There is something they want to do above all else. It can be as simple as reading a book, or as complicated as falling in love, and is unique to each individual.

The passage of time is hard to track here. But one day - or night, maybe? - you hear people near the bank of your lake. You rise to the surface and wait just beneath the ice, watching, silent and hopeful. It’s a group of five people. They have a cart and four horses, two for driving and two saddled for riding. One of the features of your lake is that in the winter, when the snow is piled high like it is right now, the edge of its banks are easily missed, and with the ice as thick as it is, it’s possible to walk right out onto the water without realizing it. Which is exactly what this group has done.

One frigid night, a travelling party crashes through the ice of their lake. The shadows jump at the chance to claim a body and crawl out of their imprisoned home. Now that they have their new bodies, however, their trials have only just begun. It is now midnight, two nights before the full moon. They must complete four tasks:

If they fail to complete any one of these tasks by the dawn of the third day, they will die. Permanently, this time.

The Stolen Bodies

These people are dead. Their lives were sapped from them by the frigid waters. All that’s left is you. As you crawl out of the lake and onto the snowy banks, you aren’t affected by the cold that killed them. But you are real now. You’re solid now. You have a body, with a nose and teeth and lungs and hair and elbows and fingers and toes. As you take your first unsteady steps on the lake shore, you take stock of what you are and what you need to do.


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The Town Itself

Winterval is an isolated location, sitting just at the edge of the Marawick Forest. The nearest other settlement is a solid three days away by horse, and that’s only when the weather is good. Right now, in the depths of winter, Winterval is locked in an icy prison. Travel in and out is difficult and treacherous. Nonetheless, Winterval persists with a particular stubbornness that is imbued in everything from its people to its buildings to the stray dogs that haunt its muddy snowbanks.

A massive wooden wall, constructed of timber upon timber, rings around the town, to protect it from any dangers that might encroach from the Marawick. Potato and leek fields fill the northern terrain, although they are currently buried by snow and frost. Winterval’s main industry comes in the form of harvesting resources from Domant’s River, which runs through its heart. They harvest tin, iron, and Winterval's main call to fame, bone. But it’s not just any bone.

The exact origins of the Domant’s River skeletons is unknown. Some say there was once a great battle deep within the Marawick. Some say the Marawick itself is a massive cemetery, and the bones are slowly washed out by the river. Whatever the case, the skeletons are without a doubt of unearthly origins. And they have a spectacular affinity for magic. They can be carved into powerful magical foci, and Marawick bone meal is a highly sought-after alchemical ingredient.

The city is guarded by its military regiment, the Swords of Winterval. Town mayor is officially Aebria Martin, but everyone knows that true power lies in the hands of Brynna Brook, the head of the Swords. The Swordsmen are everywhere in town and manage everything from police work and guard duty, to trade regulations and civil disputes. They also manage the upkeep of Winterval’s wall.

Friends, Foes, and other Figures