Holiday themed adventures are a staple of many gaming tables… but here are five other ways your adventurers can celebrate the holidays.
The holidays are upon us, and that means holiday themed adventures with giant turkey dragons, or centaurs that are half human, half turkey, and gravy oozes and mashed potato golems for now–and in a few short weeks, it’s all gingerbread constructs, krampuses of various ability and scariness, races to get around the world in time, and reindeer centaurs. I don’t really want to think too hard on the centaur thing, so let’s talk about how it’s perfectly fine if your adventurers take the time off from the holidays.
While yes, you can go around and fight gobble-ins, or rescue Nicholas from his ancient prison in the land of the Heat Miser, it’s also entirely possible to run a session where your adventurers slow things down and spend a while celebrating. The downtime activities in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything can be a lot of fun if you end up playing them out. So let’s take a look at five ways your characters can celebrate (fighting off bandits and holiday golems is always an option).
Perhaps the most iconic way for your adventurers to spend the holidays. With three different options (upper, middle, and lower-class) your characters will spend their time and money on fine food, strong drink, and good friends. Carousing is all about socializing and celebrating, and if you do it well, you might make friends.
As a result of your celebration, you make a Charisma check and might have some new friends–or you might end up with an NPC that is hostile to you, just like real life. And like real life, there are a few risks associated with gathering your friends, not the least of which is ending up in charge of running a local festival, play, or similar event. When playing out these scenarios, consider who the characters like; this is a perfect chance to catch up with a favorite NPC and attend a feast, participate in skill challenges as contests, and see how it all shakes up.
For those of you who are concerned about the commercialization of holidays, and who worry that we’re losing sight of the true meaning of Black Friday, there’s the Religious Service option. You can take this option to perform a religious service. And while this is mostly aimed at characters who are clerics or paladins or the like, consider the classic option of a temple’s Holiday Pageant but they are in need of extra performers. And it just so happens the characters fit the bill.
Or you could go the more traditional route and show a temple’s charity activities: players might assist in delivering religious ceremonies or preparing a feast for the poor and hungry–this is a great place to sow the seeds for future adventures as the characters encounter NPCs who either see their generosity or hidden cultists scheming to take down the temple. Complications can include being sent on a holy quest or accidental blasphemy. If you’re playing these out, consider what the characters are doing, and look for skill checks like Performance, Persuasion, Knowledge (Religion), and possibly Intimidate.
The option of real heroes. Gambling can be a ton of fun if played traditionally–the characters take some quiet time while the rest of the city is preparing for whatever feast day to engage in some illicit gambling. The suggested method is: Wisdom (Insight), Charisma (Deception), and Charisma (Intimidation) to see how well you do when gambling. But you could also play the whole thing out like a tournament. Have the characters make checks each round, as they try and win a spot at the top. You could even seed some villains in there, or introduce a rival or NPC the players need to impress/talk to.
Or you could do the truest form of gambling, which is–the characters have returned from their adventures only to realize they have missed out on the prime opportunity to get any kind of good gifts or food or whatever, and now, on the eve of whatever holiday you have, they have to race through the shops to try and secure something decent. Use the same checks as per the standard gambling method, but the stakes might mean eating alone in a restaurant, or facing down your bitterest rival to try and secure a turboman.
Or go another route–the holidays are a fine time for the nobility to travel. Perhaps some more criminally minded folks are interested in perpetrating crimes while the city celebrates. This can be a ton of fun as well–characters can stake out noble neighborhoods and find out which families are wintering in the Southlands. They might even pose as members of the City Guard to try and ascertain which manors have the best loot.
Just watch out for any members of the family that have accidentally been left behind alone.
Or, if you’re anything like me, you’re looking at the holidays as a chance to get caught up on that reading/homework you definitely meant to do. And that’s where the Research tables come in. Ordinarily the table is meant to reflect a workweek each time you roll–but consider giving characters the opportunity to make a Constitution check to take on an extra workweek in the same allotted time, representing all-nighters and cram sessions as the character works furiously to try and accomplish something.
Of course, you can stack on levels of exhaustion or add an increased risk of a complication like: “a sage becomes obsessed with convincing you of a number of strange theories about reality,” or “if you had known that book was cursed, you never would have opened it,” which seems like a pretty typical result of trying to get your end of semester assignments done in two days.
So keep your holiday adventures, but if you’re looking to avoid traffic on all the major dungeon crawls, here are a few other routes you might take.