December 28, 2009

RPG Holidays


I do not particularly like articles written about holidays at this time of the year. They are usually about stats provided for Santa Claus or his evil variations. It's all a bit too silly for me. Other than perhaps Narnia, modern day holidays have no place in a fantasy setting.
However, in most rpg settings holidays in general are overlooked.  Very seldom does a setting explain the holidays of the everyday folk within the setting. Sometimes you will have an adventure where a holiday is the backdrop to the adventure, but that is usually the extent of it. Personally I feel adding holidays and festival days to a campaign can make it more alive. If the characters have experienced a specific holiday once, and it comes around again, there is a sense of time passing, of the world moving. Experiencing a holiday also brings out the history of a culture (are they celebrating a revolution they won?) or its people (are they allowing a peasant to rule the kingdom for a day?)

The key is to have a holiday make an appearance more than once. The hard part is designing or including holidays into a campaign. Here are some ideas.

National
The day the revolution that freed them from an older culture began.
An important battle.
The day a national monument was finished.
The day a nation joined another nation.
Birthday of the ruler of the nation.

Religious
The day a prophet revealed his written words to the faithful.
The day a diety made an earthly appearance.
The death of a religious founder.
The day the religion became the official religion of the nation.

Cultural
A day celebrating births.
A day commemorating death.
Day of hedonism.
Day of piety and restraint.
The final day of a championship of a national sport.
Left-handed people.

Nature
Harvest
Planting
Start of a season-Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Transient
First snow of the year.
First rain in April.

Here are some adventure seeds utilizing the above ideas.

The day the revolution that freed them from an older culture began. Night of the Fire. On this day the homes and fortresses of the oppressing nation were burned in one night, sowing enough chaos that a revolution was able to start and eventually succeed. This is celebrated by keeping a fire lit outside the home from dusk until dawn.
The former ruling nation is planning an invasion to launch on this day.

An important battle. Four Days of the Hill. This commemorates the Battle of Shale Hill; this battle took place over four days for control of the hill and ultimately all the defenders were killed. However, the winners were so weakened they had to withdraw and the nation was able to remain free. The holiday is four days wherein no businesses are open and people are only allowed to speak for 1 hour of each day.
A necromancer is intending to raise the fallen that still reside around the hill as his evil minions. The days of their death allows for stronger undead servants so his ritual will reach its peak and conclude on the fourth day of the holiday.

The day a national monument was finished. The Stone Giant is a 40' high statue of the founder of the nation. The holiday is a day of national pride and gifts of flowers are left at the base of the statue as offerings to the national well-being.
A rival nation intends to destroy the statue by leaving explosive spells at the base. Alternately, a wizard has found a way to animate it and is planning on using it against the nation.

The day a nation joined another nation. This is known as the Day of Joining, which celebrates the alliance of two nations made years ago. It is a popular day for weddings as it is considered good luck to be wed on this day.
A rival nation seeks to divide the two nations. During a royal dinner one of the leaders of a nation has been replaced by a shapeshifter and his intent is to cause discord, with the eventual hope of a cessation of the alliance.

Birthday of the ruler of the nation. The Most Holy Day. The despot king has ruled far beyond his years and forces the people to celebrate this holiday. At noon, everyone must partake of wine in the squares of each village within the kingdom. Political leanings are often on display during this time.
A revolution is planned for this day. Revolutionaries have added poison to the wine. They figure all who support the king will drink. While a revolution would be a good thing, many innocents will die from the poison.

The day a prophet revealed his written words to the faithful. Day of the Word. Throughout the day people greet each other by qouting a passage from the written word.
A member of the church claims to have found additional writings in an old cave. The words seem to follow the theme of the original writtings, with a select few passages that alter some of the religion's precepts. People take sides and there is gold to be made by those willing to get their hands dirty for one side or the other.

The day a diety made an earthly appearance. Heavenly Mandate. Following the idea that even the high can step down to help those below them, this day is filled with gift giving from those who have plenty to those who do not. The rich enter the dwellings of the poor distributing gifts.
The original diety visitation was an eleborate hoax. However, through the years the holiday has taken a life of its own and has transformed into something that brings happiness and aid to those in need. Rumors start to circulate about the origins of the holiday and the hoax. Some wish to stop the information about the hoax from coming out to continue the good that comes from the holiday. Others wish to reveal the truth. The players are caught in the middle.

The death of a religious founder. Day of Our Guide. The founder of the religion was killed upon a whipping post. From this act of martyrdom the religion spread like wildfire and became the state religion. On this day the devout partake of self-flagellation, while others just go through the motions.
Someone claiming to be the son of the Guide makes himself known. Now many want him dead for heresy, while others support his claim, often for their own advancement. The players have been hired to look into his claims.

The day the religion became the official religion of the nation. Holiest Day. On this day at the top of every hour all members of the kingdom must kneel facing the capital city (wherein the kingdom declared the religion the only one allowed within the kingdom).
A rival religion, as well as a few political revolutionists, have plans to start a revoultion on this day.

A day celebrating births. Day of the Newborn. Special birthdays are held on this day for everyone born in the last year; it is held in the village center where everyone joins in. It is considered lucky to born on this day, or conceived on this day. Many couples forgo sex after this day for a month to assure themselves the conception happened on this day.
People born on the lucky day are disappearing. They have been taken by Fey creatures who need their aid (these people have a slight attachment to Fey). Once they have solved the Fey dilema they will be returned. The players may be one of these people or may be tasked with finding and returning these people (and thus being drawn into solving the Fey problem, an adventure in itself).

A day commemorating death. Dance of the Dead. On this day everyone paints their face black and white for the day. That night people gather at a town center and each tell one story about someone who died in the past year.
The dead start to rise as ghosts on this day. They do not attack anything, they simply stand in place without making a sound. However, an unearthly cold starts to pervade in their presence and soon begins to spread. The land begins to grow cold and unhealthy. An underworld diety is trying to spread his influence into the land of the living. The players must figure out how to severe the link between the land of the dead and the land of living.

Day of hedonism. Light Festival. This holiday starts at night. Light is a major component of the night and a variety of light sources, eleborate torches, candles, bonfires are on display throughout the land. People wear elaborate masks and those who are out that night can indulge in any activity with one rule; 'All actions with another must be with their consent'.
In a large metropolitan community, for the last three Festivals, someone has been killing people. It is expected this will happen again and the players are tasked with stopping the killer, or in this case, killers as the killings are being committed by a group.

Day of piety and restraint. The Unfestival. The purpose of this holiday is to do nothing exciting. People eat and drink nothing. They go to work as normal. Silence is the order of the day, unless it pertains to work. Laughter is a heresy. The intent is for people to gain a better understanding of the freedoms and vibrancy of life by showing how life would be without them.
There is a small but growing movement that eshews this holiday. They meet in secret and deliberately forgo the holiday. These are mostly harmless activities, but state leaders view thee activites as affronts against the nation. As such they pursue the miscreants with a severity beyond its necessity. The players come across such an rousting of some youngsters and if not stopped the youngsters will be killed. This encounter may draw the players into a larger matter of a totalitarian town leader who uses the law to enforce his own opinions upon the people.

The final day of a championship of a national sport. The national sport is a form of soccer with no goalies (no one is allowed within 10 feet of the goal, the goal is smaller and the game is played more violently) called Hardball. It is extremely popular within the region. Each year various towns enter a series of tournaments which concludes over a week. The last day, Highball Day, sees a mass of fans collecting in a fevered pitch.
A thieves guild has been fixing the games to make alot of money on the gambling involved. Games have a very set time period wherein play is allowed and games not finished end with the score at the end time. The thieves guild has done a variety f things to make sure their chosen team has progressed to the end game, but they have saved their harshest measure for the end. They have drugged the food and drink on the last day of the tournament with a magical additive that will cause the crowds to enter a berserker rage upon a specific signal, which will likely cause the game to be forced to end. They will do this once their team has a lead. The players may stumble across this plot earlier in the week or on the last day.

Left-handed people.  Left Holiday. In the past there was a major battle with the future of the nation at stake. During the battle the general lost his right arm, but was able to lead the nation to victory nevertheless. Since then the general and the battle has been commemorated by this special holiday. During the day all people do everything with only their left arm. In additon, all those people who are usally left-handed are the guests of honor at a special dinner in the town square.
Someone has taken to attacking people on this day and chopping off their right arm. At first many fear it is the ghost of the general exacting some revenge upon the people. This is based upon testimonies that the attacker acts as a ghost would. In fact it is an obscure descendant of the general with access to magics that allow him to move through walls. This descendant is bitter about being insignificant and is exacting his revenge.

In addition, we've all heard of wacky special days people observe throughout the year. Such things as "Talk Like a Pirate Day". Here is a link to a website that makes a list of these days (it starts with January but you can follow it for more). You can use this as an inspiration for your own holidays.
http://familycrafts.about.com/library/spdays/bljandayslong.htm
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