Art by Rowan MacColl
Adventure Calendar is a series of 25 winter-themed random tables that mesh together to build an evolving setting and campaign for your favourite fantasy RPG, whatever that might be. You can learn more about the project and find the full list of published tables here.
The world is ending. The First and Final God, a primordial force of frost and stillness, the source of all winters, is slowly coming back to life; come midwinter, it’ll all be over. As the mortals of the land struggle to survive, it becomes apparent that this is an apocalypse against them; it is an ending of the world that they’ve built. The tools and technologies they’ve created start to flicker and die like a guttering candle.
[I’ve attempted to write this table as a list of things that steadily get worse, so you can use it as a tracker to keep pace of what’s going on in the general environment. Or: roll a D4 every session and add it to the previous result to see what fresh hell the player characters face this week. Or: when the players push back against the First and Final God’s agents, move it back towards 1, and when their enemies gain ground, move it towards 20.]
- The sun is reduced to a dim red orb, occluded by a pall of smoke and drifting ash from burning forest and buildings.
- Wild animals, their attacks once sporadic and desperate, become organised and vicious. Predators team up with each other to tear apart their targets, with birds of prey acting as spotters for packs of wolves that chase injured and bleeding humans into traps set by bears.
- Domestic animals turn against their owners; you see someone getting stamped and gnawed to death by their once-loyal horse.
- Gutters and roofs are lined with fellravens – great cackling bastard corvids the size of dogs with serrated beaks that rip and tear apart their prey. Fellravens absolutely refuse to eat Doom Elves [link]; you’ll often see a lone elf, scratching away at paper with their inky fingertips, surrounded by a protective, cawing spiral of birds.
- The written word withers and dies. You have to concentrate to read even simple texts.
- The cold becomes infectious, passed from person to person like a virus; stand too close to someone that’s shivering and the cold will spread to you. You can burn it out with warmth if you’re quick enough.
- Every time you use a tool, there’s a [10% cumulative] chance it’ll break or come apart in your hands.
- The sun no longer seems to rise – the heavens are taken up by the end of the world. Strange stars hang in the bruised sky.
- Walls, machines and other structures start to break down as if what remains of the world is turning against the people in it. Rust creeps over metal and floors collapse as entropy accelerates.
- One night, the full moon is destroyed and it crumbles into burning shards that tumbles toward the surface of the world.
- Language breaks down; you struggle to speak words of more than two syllables aloud, and your words confuse rather than communicate.
- Clothes become itchy and constricting, and armour doubly so.
- Light sources illuminate half of what they used to; all luminescence they project is sickly and weak, tinged blue-green and flickering.
- Stars come detached from their moorings in the night sky and streak towards the luckless earth.
- Fires no longer ignite, unless there’s something divine or magical about them; they just fail to take.
- Every night at midnight, through scattered clouds and smoke, you can see the war in heaven smash the sky apart. Deities of all types sally forth against the implacable majesty of the First and Final God who, while wounded and streaming star-cluster blood into the void, smashes them to pieces. On its crown it bears a terrible crown the shape of a Svartfjell itself.
- Injuries stop healing. [Hit point loss is permanent unless magically-restored.]
- Even magic healing falters in the face of this great undoing. [Reduce all numerical magical healing by half.]
- The First and Final God kills a deity that was important to some or all of the player characters. You see it happen, and watch a force you thought implacable and unchanging collapse. You can take relics from the body, if you’d like; a fraction of the god’s power remains within.
- Magic – the oldest and most powerful technology of all – stops. Practised cantrips no longer spark into life. Once-powerful spells are just strange words.