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Adventure Calendar Day 15: D8 Concerned Villagers

Art by R Michalak

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.

As the weather grows increasingly bleak – even as far as winters up in the far north go – and monster attacks increase, and the Doomsayers preach apocalyptica in the streets, the people start to take action.

1: THE BLACKSMITH, who’s never made a sword in his life and much preferred doing horseshoes and the occasional copper sculpture, has started churning out as many weapons as he can to fight off the coming dark. He says that there’s a vein of particularly resonant ore in the foothills near Dovescopp, but his son went missing a few days ago after he left to look for it. If you can make sure he’s okay, there’s a magic weapon in it for you. [They’re not brilliant magic weapons; they function as +1 flaming weapons, but each of them has D20 charges when made. Expend a charge every time you hit with an attack.]

2. OLD MR FELL, who was never especially in touch with reality since his wife left him, has given away all his worldly possessions (there’s a perfectly good armoire in there that no-one seems to be claiming, if you’re interested) and walks out into the snow to die “amongst the voices.” If you keep an eye on him he’s sure to lead you to something interesting (and you might be able to talk him out of dying too).

3. YOUR COUSIN MELAS was always rather quiet and bookish so it came as a surprise when you heard she was sneaking out at night to sacrifice stolen farm animals to dark gods. Her dad caught her and stopped her, but now the attacks on the town from strange beasts have increased, and she says that it’s because she can’t do her sacrifices. Are you going to help her, or try to keep the monsters at bay some other way?

4. THE WIZARD, who you always thought was a bit aloof and never quite fit in with everyone else around these parts, decided to get the hell out of town and magicked her entire tower (with her in it) to an adjacent alternate reality. Unfortunately, due to the rules of As Above So Below, a wizard from the reality they fled to (and their tower) has taken their place, and they’re understandably furious about the whole thing. They have some cool books from an alternate reality – and green hair, which is fancy! – but no way to get back home without the help of some brave adventurers willing to steal stuff from wizards in neighbouring towns. They offer to bring you along for the ride, if you’re willing to lend a hand.

5. THE OTHER WIZARD, who you always suspected was kind of a shyster and didn’t actually know any magic, is offering teleportation spells away from here. A few of the richer families have taken him up on it; upon investigation, you’ll discover that he’s just fed everyone poison, took their stuff, and then fed the bodies to his three identical pig familiars to get rid of them. If he was sacrificing them to some dark god that might be exciting and perhaps worthy of respect, but it looks like he was just robbing them.

6. THE BARON, who has boarded himself up in his chateau and surrounded himself with guards whilst hoarding supplies. People are going hungry and the town is defenceless against a spate of wild animal and monster attacks – maybe someone could persuade him to share with everyone else. There’s bound to be a way to get in that he’s missed. Or maybe you could just threaten to burn it down.

7. SISTER BELLIGERENCE, who loves celebrations and getting everyone in the village together during the festive season, and is attempting to keep the Winter Festival going despite the terrible weather and general lack of enthusiasm from the townsfolk. She has a few other hangers-on who are stringing up bunting, handing out little cakes (they’re not very good) and trying to get volunteers who are willing to help decorate the tree. It’s pretty sad, but if you help out and put the effort in, a party might give the town a much-needed boost.

8. VESTERAS, a brilliant but difficult scholar who was sent up here by their university to study ptarmigan migration patterns, has packed in the ornithology and is instead trying to work out what’s in store for the north by recording, cross-referencing and analysing everything that the Doomsayers are yelling in the town square. It’s not an exact science, but they have some theories – the primary one being that the drugged-up prophets are plugging into potential futures, and that the clearer and more common a particular topic is, the more likely it is to happen. [Vesteras has access to several of the tables from this collection, each missing a couple of entries, and written in an academic and speculative tone.]

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Adventure Calendar Day 14: D6 Things You See On The Outskirts Of The Village

Illustration 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.

1: SICKLY MIMIC. The north used to be full of dungeons back during the Second Lich Period – no end of undead magicians made their homes here and used their mouldering armies to conquer nearby towns and villages, repair damaged buildings, and improve regional transport infrastructure. Adventurers arrived in force, which triggered the end of the Second Lich Period as they killed all of the Liches, but their dungeons (and weird genetic inventions) remain to this day. 

This one is a mimic that looks to have been malnourished as an infant and not properly trained in transformation by a parental figure, so while it’s doing its level best to look like a chest full of gold and jewels it isn’t really pulling it off. Other things it attempts to look like are: a nice warm fire (the flames look like painted tinfoil), a rescuable princess (face is on sideways, wrong number of legs) and a Sunday lunch (roast chicken the size and shape of a large dog, all cutlery is spoons).

2: JUDAS HUMAN. Wolves tend not to hunt people, but times are tight. Kenning-Wolves sneak into the houses of desperate inhabitants and coerce them into helping with their scheme – gain the attention of someone tasty-looking, lead them into a copse of trees just outside of the village, and watch as they’re torn apart by the pack. It’s a fair deal – the wolves give their pet person meat from their non-humanoid kills, which is becoming increasingly hard to come by. Plus, the wolves are good at sniffing out someone who carries a lot of grudges and wouldn’t mind having a pack of wolves on hand to tear apart those who have wronged them in the past.

3: ICE GHOST. If you die from the cold, you come back as an ice ghost. Unlike most ghosts who often have complex and multilayered requirements to put them to rest, ice ghosts have a pretty straightforward motivation – to get warm. Fire no longer works for them, and their ethereal bodies don’t produce heat on their own so no matter how much they bundle up they’ll never get warm – instead, they have to leech warmth from the bodies of people and animals foolish or curious enough to come near. Depending on how long a ghost suffered before it died, it’s actually relatively straightforward for them to move on to the next plane of existence; there’s a folk song about a woman who brings Bad Men to his dead lover’s ice ghost so he can rest. There are five verses, and three victims total, so helping them isn’t entirely out of the question as long as the song’s accurate.

4: DIFFICULT WINTER SPIRIT. There are legends about this sort of thing all over the province – a beautiful, pale-skinned, feminine ice-spirit meets a wanderer in the countryside, they have an exchange of some kind, and the wanderer ends up dead. Sometimes you have to tell them you’re pretty or they stab you; sometimes you have to look at but not speak to them or they shove you down a ravine; sometimes they give you a baby that attracts snow so quickly it buries you; sometimes you have to give them hot water if they ask for water because if you give them cold water you die. It would appear that these different stories point to either lots of different ice spirits with different rules, but in fact there’s only one of it and it just likes being difficult to give it an excuse to kill people.

5. TREE MOTHER. It’s considered traditional to descend into the dark forests and catch wily and recalcitrant trees for display during the Festive season. This tree – this especially large, ancient and gnarled tree – is out for revenge. Someone in town has taken her favoured child and she means to steal it back and kill anyone responsible for taking it. She doesn’t move, per se – it’s more that she appears exactly where she needs to be, when unobserved. Occasionally she’ll attack by manifesting a dark-wooded branch directly through someone’s chest. The snowstorm that picks up as you approach her stings the eyes, so she has a chance to relocate when you blink. [Hard Fortitude save to keep your eyes open in a snowstorm; on a success, she can’t move for a minute or so.]

6. A FRIENDLY SNOWMAN. What fun! Some local children look to have built a jolly snowman on the edge of town. It’s got everything you’d expect from a snowman – a strong three-segment body, a battered but respectable hat, and a big pointy nose which you presume is a carrot. In fact, the buttons on its chest look like they’re made out of gold coins! However, when you get close enough to steal them, the horrible ruse is revealed – in fact, local goblin scallywags have built it, and they’re hiding in trees and under snowdrifts around it ready to leap out and mug you for whatever you’ve got in your pockets. There’s one hiding in the head, too, which explains the nose.

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Adventure Calendar Day 13 – D6 Travellers from Abroad Who Probably Want to Hire You, An Adventurer

Art by Annabelle Lee

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.

1: Prince Otto Castellan, fourth son of a family who have long fought against the darkness and played central roles in over a dozen prophecies in the last couple of centuries. Wessex Castellan slew the Night Hag that plagued the benighted city of Yarim with nightmares; the young Spuria Castellan returned the Astral Chalice to its rightful resting place in Ebon Vault; and the indominatable matriarch Quaria Castellan personally destroyed a vampiric invasion that threatened her estate with nothing but a handful of injured knights and a single cannon. 

Otto has been shipped off to the north in order to keep an eye out for any evil and slay it should the chance arise – although really the Castellans just wanted him out of the way somewhere his romantic dalliances and mild alcoholism wouldn’t cause too much trouble in society. He has noticed the coming of this particularly dire winter and is really not looking forward to leaving the fireside and killing whatever’s causing it.

2: Three Wise Men who have traveled here from the far south upon the backs of strange many-legged creatures in search of a messiah. Last two kingdoms they had a shot at came up empty and they don’t want to go back home empty-handed, so they’re asking around to see if anyone’s got any spare spiritual leaders being born just in case. Balkarian, the eldest and by far the smartest of the three, looks like he’s desperate to go home and would probably be open to taking part in some sort of ruse to convince the other two to do so.

3: Kane, just Kane, wears a big hat and coat, likes to hang out in dark corners of bars nursing a single pint and mutters grimly if anyone attempts to drum up a conversation. Kane is a hunter of Doom Elves and he’s heard tell that there are a few round these parts, so he brought his crossbow and silvered blade and got to huntin’. Despite being a terrible misanthrope and enthusiastically willing to throw other people in the way of danger, Kane is an expert on doom, so he could probably teach you a thing or two.

4: Sintil, a scholarly-looking druid (they pair a tweed jacket with the typical thatched-roof druid haircut) who has long been touring magical colleges espousing restraint on the use of sorcery due to the increasing likelihood of widescale environmental backlash. After being forced out of their lodgings down south by proactive venture-capitalist wizards, they’ve steered their crusade north and are handing out literature on the various different magical apocalypses that await the mortal inhabitants of the material plane should they carry on recklessly firing arcana into the atmosphere.

5: Bryn Broadham, adventurer-at-large, more moustache than you’d know what to do with, wearing a now-tattered wedding suit under his cold weather gear and armour. His impossibly beautiful husband-to-be Horatio was abducted at the altar by a jealous winter fey, and the heartbroken Bryn is looking to find ice dragons that he can train to pull his special Ethersled that – he reckons – will allow him access to whatever backwater dimension his beloved is frozen solid in. Best of luck to him.

6: Quinn Hyssop, half-elf astrologer, interested in taking readings of the stars at the foot of Svartfjell. Quinn believes (correctly) that the stars here are “going backwards,” in as much as stars that were thought lost centuries ago are now visible in the night sky. He’ll pay handsomely for anyone who’s willing to accompany him (and help carry his bulky, heavy equipment) to the mountain and keep watch while he stares up into the uncanny heavens

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Adventure Calendar Day 12: D12 Things the Doomsayers are Yelling in the Town Square

Art by Rollin Kunz

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.

Doomsaying is an ancient and often disrespected art in the northern territories where down-on-their-luck sages ingest dangerous amounts of hallucinogenic drugs blessed by a priest from one of a variety of religions and attempt to attune their minds to a higher state of consciousness, peering into the machinations of the cosmos and unveiling the secrets of the universe. It doesn’t often work for a number of obvious reasons, but of late the number of doomsayers has increased (it’s a buyer’s market at present when it comes to prophecies) and many of them are saying broadly similar things.

If questioned, Doomsayers won’t know much about what they’re saying (although they’ll attempt to pass themselves off as clued-in with some apocalyptic ad-lib) – they’re more of a receiver than a scholar, picking up messages from the heavens and relaying them as best they can through their inferior, whacked-out mortal mouths. 

1: “THE DREAMING DEEP! The wretched fire beneath the earth, trapped and struggling like a stuck pig! The maddening pulse! The dawn unending!”

2: “The mountain is going to give birth to twelve terrible horses and they will trample us all to death.”

3: “Have you heard the whispers of the muttering godsworn dwarves? Have you listened beneath your floorboards in the dead of night as they shuffle and scheme beneath our feet? Can you hear the click-clack of their metal teeth, plotting our doom? They will come!”

4: “They pulled out the pin! They damned us all! They spilled this eternal winter from a gaping heart-wound!”

5: “The great wolf has tasted the blood of the gods and knows their words – she alone can spin solace from endings!”

6: “Old Mother Absolution’s blood is ready! The dying soil begs lifeless and cold for her nourishment! Slit her, slay her, flense her, bleed her dry!”

7: “Take off your shoes! Your feet are the roots of the soul and you are spitting in the faces of the gods by sheathing them. Let your feet unadorned and glorious scratch and chafe upon this perfect world; let your blood mingle with the earth’s!”

8: “I alone have seen the truth! I alone have been touched by the finger of destiny! I have clenched the skeins of fate in my hands and I alone control the future! Come into my house! Everyone! Inside! Before it’s too late! Take off your clothes and get into my back room!”

9: “The azure crest across the ink-black sky! Heavy and insidious despair, hollowing and all-consuming, a blight on the mind! Close your eyes – hide away from it – look not upon the sky when it comes!”

10: “The First and Final God awakens from eons of wretched dreaming slumber! It brings a great and terrible winter upon the world – a winter that will last forever more!”

11: “The Brimstone Church welcomes all! Only there can you be cleansed of the sin that perverts the world! Eat deep of our fiery blessings and be purified with fragrant light! Kids under five eat free, please take this menu – uh, I mean, scripture.”

12: “The Spiteful Ones hold the key! Watch for their signs – lettering on window panes, flickers in mirrors, a whisper as you sleep! These vicious abortlings will be the architects of our salvation!”

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Adventure Calendar Day 11: D8 Slumbering Creatures That Have Awoken With The Coming of This Dreadful Winter

Illustration by Kanesha Bryant

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.

1: DOOM ELVES. Doom Elves are a naturally-occurring phenomenon that appear when something absolutely terrible is about to happen; they emerge from somewhere, newborn and fully-grown, and observe it happening. They are scholars of misfortune and tragedy. They write down events in great books bound with leather and slate in a tiny font produced by puncturing their ink glands with their nib-sharp fingernails and scratching it out on the page. Doom Elf libraries – accessed by opening any suitably grand door with the key hanging around the neck of every Doom Elf – have a wealth of information on a wide variety of apocalypses. But they seem unwilling to give up the key, and that ink also functions as a powerful neurotoxin. [Medium Fortitude save or take 2D6 damage on a successful attack.]

2: GODLING SWARMS. Gods come from the old places – the deep forests, the caves, the crevices where light is scared to shine and time slows until it’s molasses-thick. When people visit these places (and they really oughtn’t if they know what’s good for them) sometimes godlings – tiny parasitic aether-entities, barely real in any given universe, let alone this one – latch on to them like leeches, give them funny ideas about the meaning of life and how we should treat one another, and before you know it you’ve got a full-blown religion on your hands. 

But: something’s driven them out of those ancient places, and now they’ve gathered together for mutual protection and are stumbling through the foothills and woods in vague humanoid shapes. Unobserved, they’re invisible – observed, they flicker into the appearance of whatever they reckon will be most impressive to the viewer. They’re not very good at it, and some nights the outskirts of Bostivol and Dovescopp are lousy with animal-headed wretches stuttering from one avatar to the next in a frantic attempt to find a believer or two. [Easy Will save (medium up close, hard if you’re in arms’ reach) or become infected with the seed of a new religion.]

3: FIRE TROLLS. Waiting – writhing – cursing one another, and the thoughtless god that made them – in the depths of the earth, near the molten core, in a world of smoke and darkness, huffing on sulphur to survive. These slug-like creatures have blood of molten stone and, like cicadas, bury themselves beneath the earth and surface only occasionally to mate. Unlike cicadas, they’re each the size of a horse, and they’re so hot you can’t come within a few yards of them without catching fire – and they’re fully conscious and furious for the duration of their imprisonment under the earth. 

Once it gets cold enough on the surface, they’ll climb up through winding tunnels, find one another, mate, and then die after disgorging their horrid larvae back down the way they came. This sets everything around them on fire and leaves them as statue-corpses wracked in coital tension – neither of which do much for property prices in the region. This year – the first time in centuries, you believe – it’s cold enough for them to clamber up to the surface world.

4: YETIS. Yetis celebrate the Festive Season too, and they normally keep to themselves and make do with gutting musk oxen and standing on mountaintops instead of coming into areas inhabited by non-yetis. But this year their celebrations seem to be falling earlier than usual (it’s based on ambient temperature rather than date, yetis round these parts don’t belong to a calendar-focused culture) and the animals they’d hunt to give away to one another are nowhere to be seen having fled south earlier in the season. Confused and desperate for gifts, yetis are raiding farmsteads for anything that could be classed as a present – cows, pigs, wagons, things that are on fire, chimney stacks, a shed, etc. 

5: GIANT MAMMOTHS. Really giant mammoths, too. They’ve got backs broad enough to build a small village on, tusks that could overturn a farm in a matter of seconds, and when they walk the ground shakes. The druid visiting town believes that they evolved to survive and prosper in an incredibly cold environment, but – until now – the only place cold enough for them to live was around the peak of Svartfjell. With the advent of this particularly grim winter, they’ve been able to come down the mountain and eat all sorts of interesting new things like trees, houses, and the occasional person. They’re far too big to fight; you might as well try to stab a house to death.

6: ICE ELEMENTALS. The Ice Elementals of the Northern Kingdoms, and of Svertfjell in particular, are a proud and noble folk with complex, multi-layered etiquette and ritual practices taught to one another in their reverberating, haunting voices. Their jewelry is especially beautiful – made from captured weather patterns bundled into everfrost, each year’s winter is its own unique vintage and refracts light in a particular way. They are keen to establish an embassy down in the lowlands to encourage trade with the people there, and offer their mastery of frost and ancient creaking-ice poetry in exchange for establishing transit routes and – maybe? – marrying off a princess or two to cement the allegiance. 

Unfortunately, the tallest known Ice Elemental to date is 9 inches tall, as a result, and no-one takes them seriously. 

7: CRYSTALLINE ROCS. Great fractal birds made of hollow crystal bones and thousands of razor-sharp glass feathers that swoop almost invisible through the sky. Crystalline rocs are rarer than most beasts round these parts and prefer to sit in quiet contemplation of a thousand thousand sunsets atop mountain peaks, so if they’re moving south, you know that something’s up. The first sign that a roc is above you is the low drone of the wind rushing over their bodies and reverberating through their bodies; the second is a loose feather tumbling from the sky, scything clean through anything foolish or immobile enough to be underneath it, and smashing to pieces once it hits the ground.

8: WITCH SUMMER HOUSES. And: outhouses, observatories, etc. There was a fashion a while ago for witches to put great big legs on the bottom of their houses so they could stomp around to be wherever they needed to be. Even seasonal places of residence or specialised buildings were retrofitted with unnecessary legs – often bird-themed, but sometimes they looked like stag limbs, octopus tentacles, spider legs, and so on. Now, with the coming of the coldest winter in living memory, dozens of these mountain residences are blindly fleeing the blizzards of their own accord. Their legs don’t quite work properly due to poor maintenance and the cold, so they’re unstable on their many feet, and it seems like some of them are trying to steal parts of other houses for repairs, or food, or maybe just out of spite. 

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Adventure Calendar Day 10 – D8 Rumours From Afar

Art by Kanesha Bryant

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.

1: Up in SELWERD, where they make bad sausages and terrible husbands – according to the innkeeper – people have started digging into the snow with bare hands in search of the “singing.” The innkeeper says it’s typical Selwerd rubbish and they should spend more time slaughtering their hogs properly, but you’ve heard trappers and merchants whistling some strange new tunes on market day these last few weeks. Maybe there’s something in it.

2. HAMMERUM is a fairly grim fishing town up on the northeast coast, not too far from Bostivol, and you hear that the people there went weird after seeing the northern lights in the night sky. They built loads of pillars out of snow, right in the centre of town, some leaving their boats untied to drift out to sea. They stuffed dead birds into the pillars, too, dozens of them; and it’s at this point that you stopped believing the kid from Hammerum who comes down the coast to sell fish and told him to stop telling tall tales.

3. RINDSOLM, part of Dovescopp, has a monastery devoted to a god that no-one cares about tended to by a handful of wizened priests and attendants. There used to be a nunnery there, but they had a falling out with the monastery and it caught fire and no-one talks about it any more. But: this trapper Fredrik passes through Rindsholm to pick up some beer on occasion (the monks brew it, and it’s godawful, but it’s cheap), and Fredrik says that the monks were all entirely naked, wrapped around each other in the courtyard, frozen to death. Fredrik talks a lot of bollocks to try and get a free drink, but this time it seems like he might believe what he’s talking about.

4.  Up in TVERSTED, they uprooted the big tree that – as it turns out – was holding up half of the mountainside above the town. Huge rockfall, couple of houses destroyed – and you’d think they’d know it was a bad idea. Half of the men in the village went down into a great hole under the tree in search of treasure they all knew was there; that was a week ago, and none of them have come back since. Their spouses are doing a whip-round to afford a team of adventurers to go down there and get them back, but they’ve had no takers as of yet.

5. In BRUSUND, they found the body of an ancient warrior beneath the floorboards of the burgermeister’s house – and she’s been asking to leave. It all started when they were digging out yet another basement down there and some of the labourers heard voices; they got the priests in, did a bit of scrying, and found the corpse of someone who’s claiming they’re a warrior queen. (They might be, but there’s no local record of anyone noteworthy sharing her name – Helsdottir – so maybe take it with a pinch of salt.) Anyway: she’s furious that she’s been unearthed and wants to go north to meet her husband, who is very likely also dead at this point (but potentially less talkative). Pretty soon the poltergeist activity is going to be impossible to ignore.

6. No-one’s stolen the presents under the tree in VISUND. Normally, see, they leave presents out there for the fair folk – little bits of arts and crafts, maybe a little honey, paper flowers, that sort of thing – and they’re taken overnight, and none of the children get stolen from their beds. But this year, no-one’s taken them. And a couple of kids have gone missing – maybe? It wasn’t entirely clear. Might be best to check it out.

7. You’ve heard rumours about the Deeps – semi-abandoned, semi-dilapidated tunnels with pockets of backwater isolationist dwarves throughout – near ROSVOL, a handful of farms built around an ancient and crumbling windmill. The normally elusive dwarves have taken advantage of this year’s poor harvest to trade food (mushrooms mostly, some awful dried cave fish) with the desperate inhabitants in exchange for parts from their windmill. Now the people of Tosvol can’t sleep because of the mechanical grinding coming from underneath the settlement; and one dwarf, whose common isn’t particularly good, is asking where they can buy “God parts.” Perhaps they’re trying to build a church? You hope they’re trying to build a church.

8. They’re an odd bunch in WISTHOLM; even the other monks in Dovescopp avoid them. But you receive a wedding invitation indicating that the High Priest of the monastery there is intending to marry the North Wind to broker a peace between the world of mortals and the realm of the elements, which is a terrible idea but he’s refusing to listen to detractors. Next week at noon he’ll stand, withered and sky-clad and daubed in sacred symbols, and it will all go terribly wrong as the North Wind takes him as her husband and blows everything to pieces.

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Adventure Calendar Day 9 – D8 Winter Festival Games

Illustration by Annabelle Lee

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.

1: GREASED DIREBOAR HUNT. Direboars – great big wild pigs with spiked hides and a bit of infernal blood in their ancestry – are more popular than most people would like around sites of ancient but low-grade evil, like the Obsidian Scrape or the ruins of Raven’s Rest. After a few generations of catching greased hogs, the young folk in the region became bored of it, and decided to up their game by greasing a direboar and trying to catch that instead. A fun side effect of their demonic ancestry is that direboars can’t be hurt by fire, so a few enterprising lads run entirely illegal after-hours hunts where the beasts are set alight and hunters in thick leather and damp rags attempt to wrestle them to the ground. Which is all well and good until one of them manages to reach the town and set something on fire, but they’ve been okay up until now.

2: SKY TOWERS. Each family (and family is a broad term in this instance) is given space in a clearing on the outskirts of town to build a sky tower, which is a tall, thin structure made of sticks, logs, wicker and branches – the family with the tallest tower at the sunset wins a big jug of cider and some sweets for the kids. After they’re all built, some places burn them and sing songs, but that really depends on how flammable their town is and how drunk the participants are. Sabotage of other families’ towers is expected, but nothing past stealing a few branches or “borrowing” a ladder – any sort of damage to another teams’ tower is frowned upon.

3: TREE HUNTING. Most houses have a fir or pine tree somewhere in their houses over the festive season due to an ancient argument between the region’s King and a forest spirit, and it’s important to let the forest spirits know who’s boss. Some folks even humiliate the tree by dressing it up in stupid baubles – a mockery of fruit! – and sing insulting but tuneful songs to it whilst gathered around the fire. The biggest and best trees to bring home and make fun of are clever, mobile, and evade capture in the deep woods by coordinating with barbed dryads and explosive pixies. But: the Baron of Salen gives out a handsome reward for the “best” tree brought before him on midwinter’s night every year, so bands of tree-hunters arm up and descend into the lightless forest to try and bring home a choice catch. 

4: ST MARTHA’S PILGRIMAGE. Bit of a misnomer: St Martha is a whacking great boulder of dubious spiritual importance that the inhabitants of Salen keep in one of two temples on hills at opposite ends of the town. At the end of the first week of Winter Festival, they get a few drinks in and then move her from one temple to the other – this is hugely dangerous even in optimal conditions, but here we are. More than one house in the shadows of the temples has been “blessed by St Martha,” which is to say had a chunk of wall taken out by a massive boulder that rolled down a hill.

5: THE RIDDLING PIG. A farmer brings a pig to the market square and everyone tells it riddles; the best riddle gets the pig, usually butchered, sometimes alive. It’s said that all the riddles make the pig unusually intelligent, so unlike your average pig, it can function as a wizard’s familiar if desired. [It’s no more intelligent than any other pig in terms of following orders and it certainly can’t talk, but you can do spells through it, and no-one suspects a pig.]

6: WIZARD-BAITING. It’s common amongst young people during the festive period to propose that any wizard they meet is a rubbish wizard and could never do even a single spell – then the wizard has to prove them wrong by doing some entertaining magic frippery. That isn’t Wizard-Baiting – Wizard-Baiting is the grown-up version of this where you get visiting wizards drunk and try to convince them to fight each other in a spectacular display of magic in the pub coach park. Sometimes people bet on the outcome but really it’s just about watching the show. 

7: WOLFSNACHT. Everyone howls throughout town on wolfsnacht; it’s a means of communicating with one another, and it’s considered good practice to pick up and repeat a good howl. The hoary old village elders know all the secret meanings of the howls, and most people know how to say a few things (like “we’re drinking here!” or “I got married this year and I want everyone to know” or “anyone fancy a kiss?”) or maybe their own name. It’s dying out of fashion, really, and most of the kids these days are just howling any old bollocks. Anyway: a village elder approaches you, your throat sore from yelling, and tells you that someone is howling something pretty evil out there – they’re using Wolfsnact as a means of communicating to coordinate several dark rituals all at once. 

8: SKY IDOLS. As sky towers, above, but: it takes place in the dead of night, over the hill and out of sight of the town, and you don’t bring the kids along or give away free cider to anyone, and instead of building towers you build wretched goat-man idols with cruel eyes and beards of briar and thorn, and you always set them alight and you watch silently to make sure that they’re burned away to nothing, and you spit and curse the name of The Bastard Winter to drive him away for another year.

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Adventure Character Day 8 – D8 Winter Festival Visitors

Illustration 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 Winter Festival attracts all sorts of strangers to the north. Who’s the most interesting person milling around in the crowd?

  1. Mister Christmas who is definitely not a mind flayer and very much likes Christmas. You think “Christmas” might be his word for the festive period, which is weird, but here you are. He’s got a big white beard, just like a human might have, and also regular human glasses and a perfectly ordinary red suit and hat combo just like a person would wear. He has a large sack of gifts that he’s giving out to everyone – nothing too elaborate, just bags of nuts, cheap trinkets, carved wooden toys, that kind of thing. Seems like a genuinely decent guy. 
  1. An Ominous Stranger. More ominous than your normal stranger; this man is dressed in a hooded cape, his face is perpetually in shadow, and he bears a curved knife of curious design. He trails you through the market and waits until one of you is alone to make his approach. He is a cheese salesman; the cape contains a full cheeseboard and that knife is designed to both slice and pick up bits of cheese. He’s singled you out as a great prospect for investing in his cheese business, and in a voice like poison gravel he suggests that you should try some of his wares. They’re delicious. He’s just really weird. 
  1. Tigers For Sale! This guy has ended up with a job lot of black-and-white striped tigers and now he can’t shift the buggers. He’s set up shop in the corner of the Blackspur tavern and is happy to talk at length about how tigers make “great pets and better gifts” and how affordable his prices are when you consider that tigers can hunt for their own dinner. The tigers are kept in a series of ramshackle cages down at the docks where they’ve eaten more than one stevedore whose families have been hushed up with a promise of a cut of the eventual tiger sales.
  1. [Sound of fracturing ice,] a travelling ice elemental, who’s taking some time off their normal winter shift after coming into some money following the death of an elderly ice elemental aunt. They say they’ve come all the way from the other pole and that the snow here “smells fascinating” and “is warmer than proper snow,” which you don’t really understand. [Sound of fracturing ice] is interested in hiring a local guide to take them up to the peak of Svartfjell, which is a terrible idea, but they seem easy to trick and have a lot of very cold money to throw around.
  1. Dr Neon Arcana, rival to Professor Flouro Wizbiz and actual inventor, accompanied by their research assistant Argon Floresce BSc. The strikingly beautiful Dr Arcana has come to defend their honour against the scurrilous accusations laid against them by Wizbiz in several journals of note, but Wizbiz has wisely cast a spell on himself to appear invisible to anyone who’s trying to kill and/or sue him for libel. Are you willing to help out? Whose side will you choose?
  1. Chance Alhambra, legendary ice sculptor. Chance is famous all across the north for their uncannily lifelike renditions of wildlife and legendary heroes – and has more than once come under suspicion that they’re in fact just turning animals and people into ice instead of actually carving it. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth; they make all their sculptures themselves. But they’re so good at it that sometimes their art comes to life, and they can’t afford another incident, they say tearfully outside your window in the middle of the night, so could you please help?
  1. Ironpelt, a world-famous half-ogre trapper and hunter selling pelts of animals she’s hunted in her wide and storied travels. Most of them are just nice to look at but she’s claiming a few of them have magic properties – wyvern scales that can turn any blade (“kicked it to death,” she explains without being asked), bearskin rugs that will animate and protect the house they’re in from intruders, wolf pelts that keep you as warm as it is inside of a wolf but don’t smell nearly half as bad, and so on. Ironpelt is known for giving away pelts to people that she fancies, so you might be able to get a freebie if you charm her.
  1. Gather-The-Spears-For-A-Crimson-Dawn-Approacheth, “Gather” to his friends (if he had any friends), a star-god priest exiled from the Bone Steppes for his apocalyptic brand of worship – he believes that all the star gods are as naught against the might of the Great Absolution that is coming, which is the kind of thing that gets you kicked out of not just one but several clans. Gather is en route to Svartfjell, the great mountain to the North, where he will witness the true wisdom of the stars. He isn’t wearing shoes and he’s already lost a couple of toes to frostbite.

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Adventure Calendar Day 7: D12 Fantasy Yule Lads

Illustration by Rollin Kunz

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 Yule Lads appear during the festive season and get up to all sorts of mischief – they’re a cross between fairies, goblins and the shorter variety of elf. Most of them aren’t directly harmful, but they certainly cause trouble. (You can learn about traditional Icelandic Yule Lads here.) Roll a D12 to see which Yule Lad is in effect every morning throughout the festive period.

It is certainly possible to track down a Yule Lad, but most attempts to exact retribution for their mischief will end up going awry – they have a supernatural protection (a 95% chance to evade damage, as long as they’re running away) and any attack they evade inflicts half its damage on their would-be attacker. A successful attack flat-out kills them. (You monster.)

1: Potion Licker, who tongues around the tops of your potions when you’re not looking. In addition to getting his horrible spit all over the bottle, he halves the effect of your potions when drunk (so healing potions restore half the amount of hit points, invisibility potions last half as long, etc).

2: Coin Chewer, who steals D20% of your carried cash and chews it up then spits it into a hole in the woods. Coin chewer has big flat teeth that he uses to mess up your coins, and the more valuable the coin, the better it tastes to him. 

3: Little Wizard, who swaps an item’s enchantment for another enchantment and then swaps the original enchantment with a third one and before you know it the whole town’s in uproar. 1-in-6 chance that he’s swapped out an enchantment for a random one while you were sleeping.

4: Door Shuffler, who rearranges doors so they open somewhere else. 2-in-6 chance of it happening every time you open a door that hasn’t been opened since last night. The effect wears off after an hour or two but is liable to trap you in your house if your front door will only open into the spare room upstairs.

5: Hole Taker, who steals holes, even when they’re meant to be there (donuts, keyholes, archways, buttonholes, etc) and replaces them with more of whatever it is that the hole is in. Has a bag full of holes that he will jump into to escape if cornered, which rarely works.

6: Goat Boy, who rides goats around and leads them into mischief. Not a huge problem if you don’t own goats, but having one break into your quarters and eat your bedclothes is less than ideal.

7: Tune Thief, who steals your ability to sing and has an incredible voice. (Not his own, probably.) If a bard has their singing ability stolen by Tune Thief, they can’t cast spells until it wears off (a couple of days at least) or they track him down and get it back. While Tune Thief has your voice, they can cast all the bardic spells you can.

8: Chimney Yeller, who yells down chimneys. Real piece of work. Wakes up the kids.

9: Key Taker, who is building a shrine out of stolen keys somewhere deep in the forest. If you have a key, he took it; the shrine is intended to open a door to the Yule Lad Dimension, which Key Taker would be heartbroken to find out doesn’t exist. 

10: Goose Lad, who artlessly disguises himself as a goose and tries to blend in; this upsets the geese. This happens at the worst possible time for you. A flock of upset geese inflicts D4 damage if you end your turn within its area of effect. 

11: Wand Fiddler, who expends charges from your magic items when you’re not looking. 1-in-3 chance of him firing off a charge into something exciting while you’re resting; if he’s spotted, he’ll run off and there’s no need to roll again until you next rest.

12: Gift Hustler, who swaps gifts he finds with the gift he’s holding in the hope of “winning.” Not entirely clear what he hopes to win, what the conditions are, or whether he knows you’re supposed to open the presents.

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Adventure Calendar Day 6: D6 New Arrivals From The Far North

Illustration by R Michalak

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.

Seems like something’s happening up north; there’s a wide variety of people and creatures moving down through the thick forests and mountainous regions and out into the plains that lead to the southern seas. Who, or what, is crossing your path today?

1: GOBLIN PILGRIMS. These goblins are freezing, and they’ve absolutely had it. They used to worship “The White,” which is their name for an ancient frost god, but it stopped listening to their prayers and they started freezing to death so they did a schism, killed their High Priest by kicking him into a big hole, and started worshipping the concept of sunlight and warmth instead. They’re on a pilgrimage to the desert, which they’ve heard tell of in stories, where it never snows at all. They need help getting onboard a boat across the ocean; the new High Priest offers blessings of warmth and heat in exchange for assistance.

2: THE FIRST ONES. You’d heard stories of people who split off from society thousands of years ago and went to live in the woods – or maybe they never left the trees after their cousins started building houses and lighting fires. Whatever happened, they’re here now. Their bones look heavy, their bodies are mostly covered in thick dark hair, and they wear the uncured pelts of animals they’ve killed for warmth. They don’t speak any language you recognise; if you find a way to talk to them (magic? Charades? Magical Charades?) then they speak of the rancid stink of something long-dead crawling over the land, and a frantic desire to get away from it. 

3. THE UNDYING LEGION OF KING SVALBARD. King Svalbard ruled the North centuries ago, and when he died, he was buried with the corpses of his most trusted soldiers. (Some of them weren’t corpses when he died, and had to be encouraged along by the usurper Queen Janmayen.) Legend was they’d rise from their graves when he returned to unite the North – but they got bored of waiting, and the King hasn’t moved in several hundred years, so they kicked out the doors of their mausoleum, grabbed their rusted swords and armour, and shambled down south to work as sell-swords instead. They’re good fighters, even if their bits keep falling off, and anyone with a working knowledge of ancient runic poetry can hold a half-decent conversation with them. 

4. KENNING-WOLVES. When these wolves taste the blood of something they’ve killed, they learn the trick of speaking that thing’s language (or whatever they use instead of language to communicate). The older the wolves get, the more languages they can speak. This one is ancient, scarred, the size of a horse and speaks in a faltering but effective common tongue, implying that she’s only started eating people fairly recently.

5. THE STATUE DRUID. Looks like this guy calcified into a cross-legged statue ages ago – there’s moss and lichen growing all over him. He’s carried around on a badly-built litter by four bears (dangerous ones) who are currently working out how best to take food from the town as they depart for warmer climes. The druid himself is a magical artefact that miraculously heals wounds [restore 2D6 HP or gain D6 THP once per day when you touch him] but the bears don’t want to let you near.

6. THE MOUNTAIN WITCH. She used to live up in the mountains, but she’s moving south “for the winter,” as she says. She’s brought her entire house with her by sticking legs to the bottom of it and having it walk. You’ve heard of houses with giant chicken legs before – this one just seems to have lots of normal-sized legs, mainly taken from elk and moose. She sits on the veranda and smokes a pipe, and is willing to teach old stone-magic to anyone who’ll bring her curiosities and endure the (deliberately) long-winded stories of her youth while she stays in town. She leaves after a week or two; her house waddles off into the river and swims away, leaking slightly through the floorboards.

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