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Basic Information

Niflheim is the frigid land of the dead in norse mythology. It is one of the Nine Worlds. It is the Underworld, and one of several places for a viking or norseman to spend eternity. Which hall or world they end up depends largely upon how they die: see Helheim for more details.

Niflheim borders on Ginnungagap, the great abyss in which the world was created. This restricts the entrance to Niflheim to just two main routes.

To get to Niflheim from Midgard you must ride North and down for 9 days.
Near the end of the trip, you must cross the river Gjöll (which is freezing cold and has knives floating in it), most likely via the bridge guarded by Modgud. The recently dead travel this route, so the trip may prove disturbing.

Alternately, you could climb down the roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. Keep an eye open for Níðhöggr the dragon who chews upon the roots. Níðhöggr is almost always in a foul mood, because Ratatoskr (a magic squirrel) carries insults between it and a great eagle high in the branches of the world tree.

Another reason the dragon may be in a bad mood is because Niflheim is a terribly cold and inhospitable place. It is the location of Hvergelmir, the wellspring that feeds all cold bodies of water. Niflheim is also the land of mist, covered by a constant icy fog. You would not choose to vacation here.

Somewhere in Niflheim is Helheim, the lodge of Hel herself. All the dead pass through her lodge.


1. Non-Fiction Book: Mythology for Dummies by Blackwell and Blackwell
2. Non-Fiction Book: Usborne Illustrated Guide To Norse Myths And Legends by Evans and Millard
3. Fiction Book: Norse Mythology: Great Stories from the Eddas by Hamilton Wright Mabie
4. Website: Wikipedia

Game and Story Use

  • Undead, wolf-beasts and other strange monsters could be based out of Niflheim and raid into Midgard (land of mortals). Like Viking raiders, they strike unsuspecting villages, loot and take prisoners, and vanish into the mists.
  • To perform a Resurrection the PCs must travel to Niflheim and bargain with Hel herself.
  • After a TPK, the party wakes up in Niflheim. They must choose between serving Hel, and being exposed to the bitter cold. Eventually, an escape route may be made known to them, but for now they have to try not to rock the boat too much.
  • The PCs follow a rune-covered treasure map. Turns out the treasure is grave goods that were placed on the funerary ships of viking funerals. To claim the treasure they must battle against or outrace the dead.
  • For more norse-specific game and story ideas see Hel and Helheim. See also Underworld for ideas about lands of the dead in general.
  • North and down for nine days eh? The literally minded modern traveller could meet the conditions of that by riding his horse (or bike, or whatever) for a given time or distance on a north facing treadmill with a downward slope. Magic being what it is that could actually work.
    • Even funnier, an engineering company builds a new vehicle testbed facing north and on a slight downward slope … during an endurance test run the prototype vehicle disappears…
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