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Basic Information

Glaciers are large masses of persistent ice (surviving over a time scale of many years). Glaciers are primarily found in the Antarctic, Greenland, certain other parts of the high Arctic, and high mountains.

Glaciers flow, rather like rivers or lava flows, though much slower - a 'fast' glacier may move a couple of meters per day (though the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland moves up to 20 meters a day). Fast-moving glaciers can even produce 'glacial earthquakes', and the frequency of these quakes appears to be increasing — possibly due to climate change? They are also relatively noisy whilst they are about it - a glacier on the move makes some alarming creaking and groaning noises as it goes.

Glaciers can be extremely slippery, so they're definitely hazardous terrain. In game terms, expect a movement penalty, and a chance for falling or sliding. An unfortunately timed/placed slide can take you right off the edge of a glacial cliff, possibly resulting in somewhat more falling damage than normal for the height of the cliff because of momentum gained during the mostly-vertical slide just before the fall.1 Many glaciers are also riddled with cracks and crevices which can become hidden under a crust of snow - like the glacial cliff edges, these can prove to be deadly traps for the unwary … with the added bonus that they can open and close in real time, potentially trapping and crushing someone before they can be rescued.


1. Wikipedia article on glaciers
2. Wikipedia article on glacial earthquakes

Game and Story Use

  • Glacial earthquakes and other oddities of glaciers might become important in a campaign set on an ice planet or during an ice age.
  • Out Of Place Artifacts from the distant past might be found preserved in a glacier.
      • In a pulpier / softer science / more fantastic game, prehistoric animals or monsters might be unfrozen from glaciers.
        • The glacier may be serving as a can of evil for something, and by the time everyone realises what is about to thaw out, it may be almost too late.
      • In between the two, entirely mundane things from the distant past occasionally fall out of glaciers … Otzi the Iceman for example.
  • During a global ice age, expect to find the northern and southern edges of the map delineated by walls of ice where the glaciers come to a sudden end, with rivers of meltwater flowing down from them and foothills made of debris pushed ahead of them. Thousands of years later, there will still be some significant geography along this line … at the moment, however, it is entirely spectacular.
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