Friday, March 25, 2011

Open Friday: Holidays & Celebrations

It was on this day in 1634 that English colonists first set foot on Maryland soil, which later generations would celebrate as a local holiday. Given that, I thought it might be interesting to ask about the role holidays and other celebrations have played in your roleplaying campaigns. Do you use them as occasions for adventure? Have you invented any unique holidays or celebrations? If so, what are they? Basically, use this Open Friday to talk about almost anything related to holidays and celebrations in your campaigns.


  1. I can see both my childhood and current home on that map. Lived in Europe in between the two. Never wish to leave MD but the traffic, high cost of living and cold winters are wearing on me now. Still, MD has the best flag in the union by far. Thanks for sharing that map.

  2. Sham, being from New Orleans I think the flag of Louisiana is superior, but the flags flown over New Orleans by both the French and Spanish were superior to that. Dieu Le Roi!

    James, Happy Lady Day!

    In answer to your prompt, I've never really used holidays in my games. No one ever really had enough interest and I've never been able to keep a game world calendar.

    One of the things I did like about TSR's Gazetteer series, the ones dealing with Known World/Mystara, were the calendars and festivals included with them. Never was able to put them into practice but enjoyed the complexity of the world they suggested.

  3. Does a wedding count as a celebration?

    One of my DMS had our party attend the wedding of a two characters who had retired from the game (both had moved to a different state and ended up getting married in the real). Our characters were all required to bring wedding gifts. The Priest of Night/Darkness in our group thought a small statue enchanted with a continual darkness was just what they needed. It got unwrapped, a sneak attack was launched, there was a kidnapping of the groom (nice touch), party pursues, etc.

    Still, compared to the "you find a map...." I always thought it was a creative thing to do and he did an excellent job running it.

  4. For my current campaign the assumption is that no dungeoneering happens on the Sabbath or obligatory feast days. I need to keep better track of the optional feast days, as the hirelings will want those off, too.

    One PC is a Muslim and thus is operating with a different religious calendar, but that has yet to come up. I'm still straining to put together a good calendar for AD 1139-1154 with all the saints' days, historical events, astronomical info and weather. But right now at least I can tell you what date everything happens in the campaign and when the biggest events are. My major problem is that I want to get all this stuff right.

  5. Never did so in my old D&D campaigns, but I did make use of the religious holidays in the (WFRP) Old World calendar as plot points, event timers, etc. Since I like detailed religions and cults in my game, I tend to create special "holy days" for each.

  6. My current 3E campaign just wrapped up a very long adventure that had its roots in the celebration of Gnomish Winter-Feast, where all the gnomes get together and have a carnival, complete with improvisational street theater, dangerous rides, pie eating contests, too much drinking, a parade, name it!

    The party had too much fun and two of them ended up in jail, an alchemist pretending to be a made-up devil pretended to steal the souls of hundreds, and then there was a merry romp through a dungeon which resulted in a couple of party fatalities.

    All in all, a normal holiday all things considered.

  7. I've introduced 'harvest festivals' into past Fantasy campaigns. In some cases, they've been a 'mechanic' to allow the characters to meet and converse with a variety of NPCs - even enlist retainers/henchmen/hirelings.

    I used a harvest festival in my last campaign - but with more emphasis on the events following. After the festival, the local priesthood would gather together the remaining foodstuffs and distribute them to neighboring villages (which were struggling communities). One character was a member of the priesthood, so the hope was to have them (and the party) accompany the priests. (And, of course, there were desperate bandit gangs, and goblins, deep in the woods to harass the party).

  8. I ran a heroic (semi-) historical British fantasy campaign where the conflict was always humans vs. humans (more REH than modern fantasy) *except* around the different seasonal tides.

    At those times, as the villages and towns engaged in their seasonal rituals and festivals (which reconnected the citizens with a mythic timeless space - whether they realized it or not) the barriers between the otherworld and this world became exceedingly thin and things became a bit.. wyrd.

    It was interesting to see the *players* become superstitious as the festivals approached. :-)

  9. It got unwrapped, a sneak attack was launched, there was a kidnapping of the groom (nice touch), party pursues, etc.

    One of my cousins married a Latvian-American girl, and the wedding reception featured a traditional "kidnapping" of the bride, who had to be ransomed with numerous bottles of vodka.

    Apparently, it's traditional, not just a family quirk.

  10. In Runequest holy days were very important. By Heroquest the holy days had been highly codified and participating in the community's holy days was considered to be the 10% time and resource commitment for a lay-member/common worshipper.

    In my old fantasy campaign festivals celebrated either important agrarian events (eg Harvest Day) or astronomical events (eg Summer Solstice). These were generally seen as excuses to relax and party by all involved.

    The Church had a plethora of holy days they could celebrate, most of which were created on the spur of the moment to commemorate various historical events of vast (or comical) repute to the church. This was a consequence of my experience system, which required that gold be spent "appropriately" to earn experience. Which meant that religious characters could sponsor feast-days and minor festivals once a month. I really should have listed these festivals on the calendar, but I never did. Besides half the fun was making up a tale of the saint's day.

    The only exception to this was Mitra's Day, which celebrates his death above the falls that bears his name. Since Mitra was the patron saint of the Church Militant (the Brotherhood of Mitra's Fist), this was rather important to clerics (who were all members of this order). It was celebrated on the Autumnal Equinox.

    Attempting to create an official day of worship was one of the things that lead to the schism that brought down the Church and Empire. Until that moment there was no official day of worship. Afterwards people chose either Sunday or Moonday as a sign of their allegiance (or quietly attempted to privately worship on other days as a sign of their neutrality in the matter). This also politicised the astronomical festivals.

    In one of my Traveller games Earth Day was celebrated to celebrated to commemorate the mother world. However since Earth (and it's starving teeming multitude or right-wing religious nuts) was the bad guy in the campaign (which was set in the High Frontier), it tended to be unofficially celebrated by rerouting the gas pressure outlet of the sewerage system into the Earth Commisionar's atmosphere feed.

  11. I totally use holidays in my current campaign. One of the players has a Cleric character who belongs to a religion that is steeped in ritual and ceremony much like Medieval Christianity. He is expected by his superiors in the church to "turn in" non-believers and to conduct his duties while out adventuring and spreading the faith.

    I sent out a calendar to the team when we started the campaign and marked the major church holidays on it, which are all feast days of the "Hallowed Patrons" (basically - "saints") of the church, and I expect the player to keep track of when they are coming up so he can plan accordingly to be available for prayer and service.

    He's forgotten a few times, and was properly chastised by his superiors.

  12. In my game (Pangea), there's a city that once fought off an Orc horde.

    Every year they re-enact the battle, with the army playing themselves, and the unfortunate city watch 'greened up' as the enemy.

    And every year the city watch gets the bejeebers beaten out of them by overenthusiastic soldiers.

  13. In Cadiz, Spain, we have a giant barbecue in August, a celebration that mix a local football summer championship and the end of summer.

    A couple of times I used this celebration as background, and was very funny, because the adventures were fantasy (modern day fantasy, of course) but locations were real.

  14. James: "Do you use [holidays and other celebrations] as occasions for adventure?"

    Way back when, yes we did. When a birthday was near, a "spotlight" adventure was sure to accompany. Usual group, and everybody got to play just like always, but the plot or resolution might have special importance for the birthday lad or lass. If no group game coincided with the day, most of our GMs were easy touches for a birthday solo adventure.

    James: "Have you invented any unique holidays or celebrations?"

    That we didn't do, tho' we do have planned a dinner party/reunion in 2034...

  15. I usually just tailor vague expies of real-world holidays, often with certain details mixed.

  16. The feast of Mkarilb* Talmarias. Every year on the 76th day of Twinmoon, all children 7 years of age or older get a tattoo of a Nimothres** fighting a dragon, upon which the Talmarias is mounted on their backs.

    *Mkarilb: A term roughly equivalent to saint.

    **Nimothres: A scaled horse with dragon wings.

  17. Lately we've been focusing on playing Pendragon. The gaming session covers one year of time and the holidays are the focus of scenes within the session. So, in some sense, the entire campaign hangs off the holiday calendar. The big Christian holidays are the focus: Easter, Pentecost and Christmas. The yearly campaign season generally starts at Pentecost.