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The Ice Gnomes: An Expansion

by Alan Jones

The Land of the Ice Gnomes


This reclusive group of gnomes lives high up in the mountains of Karameikos near the boundary with Thyatis. Rarely seen, they shy away from contact with outsiders apart from their lowland cousins. The main resources of the area are gems and precious metals from the few mineral veins, snowberries harvested from steep cliffs and narrow ledges, snowberry wine that is made from the berries and is a delicacy, goat skin jackets and fur lined boots. Tourism is also a major draw to the area; lowlanders come to sky and to climb and to hunt the mountain lions and white apes that eke out a living in the bleak, rugged mountains.


click on image for larger view


Frost Giants As for normal D&D monster
Ice Leeches See Below
Ice Trolls As for normal AD&D monster
White Apes As for normal D&D monster
Black Bears As for normal D&D monster
Ice Wolves As for normal D&D monster
Wind Wraiths See Below


Appearance & Dress

Like most of their brethren, Ice Gnomes stand some 31/2 feet tall and have piercing blue eyes either side of a long, bulbous nose. Their silver-gold hair is usually worn long and tucked up inside their hats. Beards are often short and neatly trimmed as the cold air on the mountainside can freeze it into a solid uncomfortable block. They tend to wear bright clothes. Emerald greens, bright sky blues and ruby reds are most common. Thick hose, woollen jackets over thick linen shirts, fur lined boots and - most typically of all - tall pointed hats, which often have tassels and fluffy woolly balls. The hats are an indication of status; their stripes, both number and colour, show the gnome's profession and rank.

Status is important, and an Ice Gnome will flaunt it at any possible opportunity. Hats are an outward indication of class and clan much in the same way as a knight's shield. In general, the more stripes a hat has the higher the gnome's rank in society. A gold tassel denotes a clan head while blue baubles indicate the number of children the gnome has. Members of the military class wear red hats; green hats are worn by the farmers, gold hats by the ruling aristocracy, and blue hats by the artisans. The stripes can be any colour and reflect the personal taste of the gnome. A matriarch within the gnome's clan (an important role that tends to be handed down from mother to daughter) knits the hats.

Though most Ice Gnomes live to a ripe old age, more than usual die young thanks to their proclivity for daring deeds on the ski slopes. Many gnomes can be seen in Snowyundermountain with an empty sleeve or being pushed in a wooden cart because they have lost a leg. Others fall down crevasses that open suddenly or are buried in avalanches. Even the caves themselves hide dangers and the eerie Wind Wraiths claim those that stray up into the higher peaks. The life of an Ice Gnome is a dangerous one but one packed with excitement and beauty.


Slim and agile, the Ice Gnomes love nothing better than climbing the mountains in search of small glaciers and sheltered snow fields upon which to work their art. They are accomplished ice-sculptors; people have travelled far to marvel at their creations. The carvings can last for many seasons in the shady hollows where the sun never reaches, but these locations are few and only the best go there. Curators of these areas visit the sculptures every day to clear away snow and to make sure that none have toppled over in the night. Occasionally if a very cold snap is predicted they may bundle straw, a rare commodity, around the statue to protect it. Other statues are destined to last for only a few weeks or even scant days before melting away.

The Ice Gnomes specialise in creating statues in the likenesses of both magical and mundane creatures. The best amongst them is Skip Gildersleeve. This young gnome has created quite a following amongst his people, many of whom trail up the mountainside as he searches for the perfect piece of ice. This can be a dangerous quest - several gnomes have died in ice and rock falls over the years, and so complex devices have been invented to help them climb. To reach the most popular snowfields, a cable car-like vehicle has been invented. The open sided car is hoisted on a twisted cable of horsehair up to the snowfield. The gnomes descend either the same way or by skiing down the snowy slopes. While the gnomes love this device, happily waving their speedysnowfeet (skis) out of the open sided car to friends below. The few humans, elves and dwarves that have experienced the cable cars are less enthusiastic!

While interesting inventions and artistic creations are at a premium among the gnomes, theft is still almost unheard of in Snowyundermountain and other Ice Gnome settlements. Stealing things would bring disgrace upon one's houses, and so is frowned upon. Young gnomes may occasionally steal an oldster's hat but a severe spanking normally stops them from doing it again.


The gnomes are not overly religious. There is a temple to Garl Glitterlode in the centre of Snowyundermountain but people also revere the Old Man of the Mountain, the spirit of the mountain itself. When a gnome dies, his collection of hats will be unravelled and used to form part of the burial shroud. Burial is difficult, as the rock is hard, but a few softer regions within the cave system have been exploited. These Caves of the Dead are a very private place for gnomes and tend to be peaceful places with none of the gaudy colours of elsewhere.


Ice Gnomes' names are a little less extraordinary then those of their lowland companions but still tend towards the flowery and descriptive rather than the prosaic.

Roles & Genders

The male members of a clan tend to hold most of the important posts, apart from where money and hats are concerned. In financial matters, the clan head will defer to the Holder of the Clan Purse who is usually his wife, elder sister or mother. Male and female children are equally encouraged to adventure, pursue artistic careers before taking up their place within the family business.


Ice Gnomes speak the same language as their lowland cousins, but with a distinct accent. Many also speak Thyatian, Darakonian, and Traladaran dialects for those rare occasions when trade with the humans is needed.

History: Outside & In Then Out Again

The Ice Gnome race has always been one unafraid to explore the least hospitable areas of Mystara. Some 3000 years ago, the first recorded Ice Gnomes lived in the icy southern wastes of Hyboria. From here they migrated north then back south again as the ice sheets advanced and retreated. It was during these migrations that they discovered the southern polar opening and wandered into the Hollow World. The continuous sun displeased them but they soon found caverns in which they made their home. They soon discovered the floating islands and some made them their home. The majority, however, grew weary of life in the Hollow World and made their way, via the floating islands, to the Mystic Conveyer and returned to the surface in the middle of the lands controlled by the Atruaghian Clans. Moving east and north they found the mountains of Karameikos to their liking and settled there in the city now known as Snowyundermountain.

It is said that some of the floating islands in the Hollow World are themselves hollow, the insides carved out by those industrial Ice Gnomes that stayed behind. The strange devices they have invented produce ample snow for skiing and ice for carving within these hollow islands. No one knows if this is true or not. Perhaps someone could convince Prince Haldamar to mount another expedition in search of this lost clan of Ice Gnomes.


With Other Gnomes. Ice Gnomes are on very friendly terms with the other gnomish types. Ideas are exchanged and the lowland gnomes will often come visiting to partake of the fresh clean air, some skiing and of course copious bottles of Snowberry wine! Families will sometimes exchange troublesome youngsters to see if a change of location will curb their unruly behaviour.

The Ice Trolls. The Ice Trolls are the Ice Gnomes' most feared enemies. They both want the same caves and hunting grounds, and are prepared to fight over them. The hatred runs deep, and from an early age the gnomish young are taught to loathe and fear the trolls in equal measure. The most heated aspect of the enmity is the Snowberry. To the gnomes it makes excellent pies and a fine fiery spirit. To the Ice Trolls the berry is a hallucinogen and is heavily used by Shaman and Wokani in their spirit trances. The shrubs only grow in a few sheltered locations and harvests in recent years have become smaller.

Frost Giants. Strangely, the gnomes and the giants get on well together, mainly because the giants seldom see the gnomes. Both have a love of tales and strong spirits so when they do meet the gnomes can normally side track the giants with tales of their exploits.

Other Races. Gnomes and humans rarely meet, as Snowyundermountain is well away from the main passes between the human nations of Darokin, Thyatis and Karameikos. When they do meet, the humans often annoy the gnomes by talking down to them rather than treating them as intellectual equals (the gnomes would probably think they are superior to the humans). Dwarves and gnomes share a love of caves and narrow, dark places and so get on well, especially if they are sharing a bottle of Snowberry wine. Elves and gnomes have little in common but a shared love of natural beauty. Occasionally an elf will spend time with gnomes learning the art of ice sculpture.

Important NPCs

Skip Gildersleeve

History. Skip has shown a talent for ice-sculpture from an early age. He had an eye for shape and form that few before him had and he was the youngest gnome to have a carving placed in one of the art havens. His parents are very proud of him, as is the whole of Snowymeadowundermountain.

Personality. Skip lives for his art. He will carve every day if he has the chance, but is becoming a little nervous: What if his talent deserted him - what then? This has given him a perpetual frown and a short temper with other gnomes. He is pondering moving away from the mountains, perhaps to Threshold for a while to see more of the world. He hopes that this may give him inspiration for a whole new set of sculptures. Skip's other passion is magic; in his spare time he spends hours studying old scrolls looking for devices that might help with his carvings. He can also seem distracted, for example if he catches a glimpse of a beautiful view, a pretty flower or a bird perched on a rock he may stand still for a few moments regarding it and deciding how he could reproduce it in ice. He dreams of carving a wind wraith one day, but he has never seen one and part of him knows that he never will unless he can get free of Snowymeadowundermountain.

SkipAppearance. At 79 years of age, Skip is on the verge of being regarded as an adult rather than a child prodigy. He has red-gold hair tied with a deep blue cord at the nape of his neck. His eyes are a deep green. His beard is short and neatly trimmed. His nails are badly chewed, a bad habit he has when considering what to do next when carving. He wears sturdy woolen trousers and jacket over a linen shirt. When working, he defies convention and dons a flat cap as this is less likely to fall off when he moves swiftly around the sculpture.

DMing Notes. Skip is pondering moving away from the mountains, perhaps to Threshold for a while to see more of the world. He hopes that this may give him inspiration for a whole new set of sculptures. If a low-level party was heading out into the wider world, Skip could be persuaded to come along.

Combat Notes

1st level Magic User, AC 7, hp 3
Languages: Gnome, Thyatian Common
STR 11 INT 15 WIS 10 DEX 17 CON 16 CHA 10
Skills: Art (Ice Sculpture) [I], Riding (Skiing) [D], Magical Engineering [I], Survival (Mountains) [I], Mountaineering [D].
Spells: Read Magic, Light, Analyse
Items: Dagger (1d4), Ice Axe (1d3), Skis, Magnifying Glass, 50' Rope, Grappling Hook, Iron Spikes (6).

Important Sites


The largest settlement is that of Snowymeadowundermountain. It has a population of just under two thousand gnomes plus a few humans, elves and dwarves. It lies beneath the tallest peaks in the range and it can take a while for lowlanders to adjust to the altitude and the bright clear light reflecting off of the snow. Many gnomes wear brightlightmadedarker goggles constructed from sheets of dark mica, especially on sunny spring and summer mornings. The gnomes call it a city but in human terms it is no more than a small town. It is divided up into seven holdings; one for each of the five families, one for those under holy orders and one for the royal household.

Ice Gnome PCs

Ability Scores

Ice Gnomes get a +1 to Dexterity and Intelligence but -1 on Charisma and Strength.


Character Classes

Ice Gnomes can be take any class, but thieves and clerics are uncommon. Clerics would be followers of Garl Glittergold or The Old Man of the Mountain (actually Terra in a male form).

Weapons & Armour

Ice Gnomes can wear any armour allowed by their class, but tend to prefer padded leather jerkins as this is warmer than metal when outdoors. If adventuring into the deep dark passages below the mountain then they will wear metal armour. Favoured weapons include daggers, short swords, catapults and slings.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Ice Gnomes are very dextrous and thus get a +1 to their Dexterity (up to a maximum of 18). They are also hardy folk and gain a +1 to their Constitution score (up to a maximum of 18). They cannot help but fiddle with machines and magical devices, it is in their nature. This means that they gain a 5% chance per level of identifying the purpose of any magical item or mechanical device. However, each time they find a new mechanical device (one they have personally not seen before) they must make a Wisdom check. A failure means that they will stop whatever they are doing and take the device apart. A further Wisdom check is then required a failure means that the device will no longer work after it is put back together. With new magic items, a failed Wisdom check means that the gnome will immediately try out the item be it putting on a ring, drinking a potion or firing a wand. Weapons are exempt from this desire.

Recommended Skills

The gnomes normally choose from the following non-weapon proficiencies:

Appendix 1 - New Monsters

Ice Leeches

AC: 7
Hit Dice: 2
Move: 30
Attacks: 1 Bite
Damage: 1d4
No. Appearing: 4d10
Save As: F1
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: V
Intelligence: 2
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 25
Monster Type: Lowlife (Rare)
Terrain: Mountains, Arctic

Ice Leeches are blue-white, slug-like creatures some six inches long. They move through snow or ice by melting the substrate in front of them forming smooth sided tunnels and hives. At the anterior end the ice leech has two rudimentary eyes that are sensitive to heat more than light. Below this is a circular mouth with pointed hollow teeth. Ice Leeches live high up in mountain ranges and in the far north and south of Mystara. They live in burrows and hives snow and ice of these wastelands. The main hive is usually several yards beneath the surface but the tunnels much closer to the surface. These tunnels are the way that Ice Leeches trap their prey (see Combat below). The queen leech is much larger, up to 18" long and 6" in diameter. She spends her time in the hive laying eggs.

Combat. To catch prey, Ice Leeches tunnel close to the surface of the snow and bore out a hollow pit some three feet in diameter. When a creature treads on the surface of the snow above a pit they fall through and are often surprised (1-4 on a d6). The ice leeches will then move in and grip any bare flesh with their teeth. They inject a liquid into the victim's blood which causes the creature to freeze unless a save vs. poison is made. The leeches will then consume the victim over a period of several days.

Habitat/Society. Arctic and mountainous regions where snow lies all year round or where the ground is permanently frozen. Society is hive-based with a single queen and many workers.

Ecology. Ice Leeches feed on any warm blooded creature that they can get their teeth into.

Wind Wraiths

AC: 0
Hit Dice: See Below
Move: 150
Attacks: 1 (Touch or Spell)
Damage: 1d12 + Special
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: See Below
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: Nil
Intelligence: 15-18
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 500 per Hit Die
Monster Type: Undead, Enchanted (Very Rare)
Terrain: Mountains

Until recently, no one knew where Wind Wraiths came from. Research at the Glantrian School of Magic has revealed that Wind Wraiths are the flayed souls of mages that lost control of a air elemental and were killed by their former subject. It is rumoured that Earth Wraiths, Water Wraiths and Fire Wraiths also exist but there have been no confirmed sightings.

Combat. Each wind wraith is an individual and should be rolled up as a mage NPC. Their hit points and Thac0 are the same as the mage before they were killed by the elemental. The spells that the mage had memorised at the time of his or her death are present in the wind wraith's "mind," and return each dawn. The only spells the wind wraith cannot cast are those which control elementals. They attack mages first then other spellcasters.

Habitat/Society. Wind Wraiths live alone near high mountains awaiting other mages. They will attack those who carry items of elemental control, or cast spells of the elemental school with extra vehemence.

Ecology. Wind Wraiths have no ecological niche.

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Copyright (c) 2000, Alan Jones. Used by permission. All rights reserved.