Monday, July 6, 2009

Holidays in D&D: Part Three

You make your ways through the crowded streets, passing by various buildings, some of which appear to be small privately owned shops, or minor pubs like the one you tried to gain entry to before. Likewise, these taverns also have their doors closed. You cross over Sharkfin Bridge and continue West through the slum district until you reach a main intersection.

To your right stands a tall, incredibly flashy building that seems out of place this close to the slums. Marble columns carved to resemble trees line the walls of the building and a large illusory image of a scandalously writhing woman with pale skin and green hair undulates on a miniature stage built to resemble a forest glen above the main entrance. A golden sign labels this establishment as "The Dancing Dryad". Unfortunately you only have time to catch a glance at it, as you hurry the rest of the way towards Oak Island.

Walking along this road you can see to your right where the rock drops off to a lower layer, and the western edge of the peninsula. This district is filled with large manors and expensive looking houses. Several roads lead down into the district, and city guard can be seen patrolling in small groups rather then individually around this high class district.

Reaching the eastern edge of the bridge connecting to Oak Island, you cross through a large stone structure, open to the air. A sign labels this structure as the "Saltmarsh Point Forum", and as you walk through the center of the forum, you pass by four statues, flanking you two to a side. The statues depict a paladin, a rogue, a wizard, and a druid - likenesses you imagine to the four adventurers who founded Saltmarsh so many years ago.

As you cross the bridge, you don't have to be a dwarf to admire the architectural wonder, as the bridge is held aloft by only four thin pilings that reach down to the ground and seabed below.

Crossing over to the other side, you enter a large abandoned squat stone keep, now overgrown with vines. Reaching the exit on the other side you are met with a sea of people.

Creatures of all races and genders crowd this small island, lining up before a large platform.

You can see a wide open span of the island stretching out behind the platform, dense patches of oak trees lining the edges of the plateau. Some of you manage to spot a small staircase to the side of the keep which you all head to, drawn both by the idea of not having to stand in the back row of an almost endless crowd of people.

You all make your way up onto the roof, passing by a young noble couple catching a private moment in the stairwell. They blush and run off as you approach, giggling. As you reach the roof, you all can't help but congratulate yourselves on such a find. You seem to be the only four up here, and sitting on the crenelated wall gives you a commanding view of the masses below, the arranged platform, and the island beyond.

Turning around you can see the city spread out before you, fireworks still echoing in the sky, as hippogryph riders do somersaults in the air. You sit back and manage to try and relax for the few minutes you have before the opening ceremonies start

- - -

There are many ways to incorporate holidays into your game. Many campaign settings will provide a list of common holidays in their world, while source material on deities is a good place to look for religious festivals. Homebrewing holidays isn't all that hard either, and based on your knowledge of the group you play with, it might be best to tailor your festivities to whatever your group might enjoy.

Traditional Holidays
Most holidays are annual, and the most common ones are based on the changing seasons. Midsummer, midwinter, the end of the dry season, the beginning of harvest season, and so on all make good options for holidays.

Such universal yearly dates probably encourage celebration through your world or campaign's continent (though the biggest celebrations and balls obviously take place in the capital city).

Other traditional holidays typically mark the beginning of something. Whether it's the day a nation first gained independence, the day a great war ended (or began), or the day a town was founded - these celebrations can be local or broad, focused around individual towns and may even bring animosity from some communities who opposed the change (despite how long ago it was).

Religious Holidays
Holidays linked to deities can add fantastic flavor to any game. From secret underground masquerade balls held for a god of trickery and shadows, to festivals for the goddess of love where candy and contraceptives are sold in the streets (if you catch my drift).

Religious holidays can add a lot to games especially if you have one of more players whose characters are devoted to the deity in question. Special invitations to them and a number of guests can get the party as special guests to unique celebrations, and make players value their dedication to the gods in your game.

Guests of Honor
Nothing will entertain your players more then holidays specifically surrounding them. Did your players more or less single-handedly save a small town from an overwhelming assault? Perhaps they saved the life of a town's mayor! Such grand actions may make the characters local heroes and may encourage a small annual festival to be held in their honor.

Unexpected invitations to the PC's as "guests of honor" to a festival held in their honor for actions they took a year (and several levels) ago should delight and surprise your players. A feast, a ball, and grand gifts from the town such as a boat, or a home of their own, will give your players a chance to relax and revel in their own accomplishments (perhaps while they even watch the town's children re-enact the events in a small play).

If all else fails, celebrate your player's birthdays in-game by giving their characters a birthday party too! Having all of their favorite NPC's surprise them with small gifts and a big cake can add to any session! For maximum surprise, encourage your group to keep the celebration a secret and procure a real cake for everyone to enjoy. There's a lot of different ways you can approach this idea, but the number one rule is HAVE FUN WITH IT!

As the last part to this series on holidays, next time I'll give you all a holiday ready and raring to be celebrated in your next session. Happy celebrating!

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