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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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Adventure Calendar Day 5: D6 Party Concepts

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.

Your party doesn’t necessarily need to have a reason to hang out together and go on adventures – but in case they do, or you want to cement them more into the setting, here are some group concepts you can choose or roll randomly to help them get going. 

1: ADVENTURERS’ UNION REPRESENTATIVES. After several exploitative laws were passed governing the distribution of salvage and bounty in Salen, the Barbarian/Lawyer Kazadrach the Well-Read gathered the disparate adventurers, tomb-robbers and mercenaries into a viable political force. The Adventurer’s Union has argued down the Barony to a tax rate of 23% on treasure taken from their lands by registered adventurers, and they offer healing and equipment repair services from their offices that overlook the town square. Kazadrach has hired you as representatives for the union – you’re in charge of monitoring unlicensed adventuring and actively recruiting anyone who wishes to undertake derring-do on your turf.

[When you rest in Salen, restore twice as many HP and/or stat points as usual. If you restore fully as part of a full rest in your system, gain +1 to hit and damage in the first encounter after you leave Salen.]

2: THE BARON’S MONSTER-HUNTERS. The Baron of Salen loves a hunt, and he also loves it when monsters aren’t rampaging through his town. To that end he has formed a cadre of monster-hunters who operate within the area – a mix of seasoned vets, aggressive research biologists and posh enthusiasts who were able to buy their way into the club in search of a thrill. The Winter Festival is a great opportunity for the hunters to parade their most impressive kills through the town and maybe chat up some impressionable onlookers, as well as providing a distraction for the Baron so they can get on with the serious business of neutralising actual threats to the town without him insisting on coming along and getting himself in trouble.

[+1 to hit and track a particular kind of monster. GM: please put this particular kind of monster in the game.]

3. OLD BELLWETHER’S DISCIPLES. Mercutio Bellwether is a truly ancient monk who espouses cosmic uncertainty, oscillating between states in a zen-like state of perfect unconfusion. He and a few other monks live in the old monastery in Dovescopp to the west, nestled on a stony outcrop that thrusts up above the forest canopy. You have sworn to protect Bellwether and his associates and perhaps, given time, come to understand their wisdom.

[You do not gain levels as normal. Instead, whenever you roll a D20 to resolve a dangerous or exciting action and it’s equal to your current level, you gain a level at the end of the scene.]

4. BOUND GUARDIANS. The Church of Eternal Resurrection has a deal with adventurers that come through Salen – in exchange for six months of protecting the town, they offer a valuable blessing. For the duration of their employment, the adventurers will probably not die if they sustain a fatal wound while guarding the place, and instead come back to life in the chapel upon the next morning. To make sure that the town stays safe over winter, the priests bind the resurrection spell to the church, so if anyone decides to flee the town they’ll quickly find their previous deaths catching up with them.

[If you die, roll a D8. If you score equal to or over the number of times you’ve died so far this campaign, you are reborn in the Church of Eternal Resurrection upon dawn of the next day. You lose all your gear (unless your companions pick it up for you) and a level in the bargain. If you flee the region, you die in an exciting and demonstrative manner. At the end of the six month period, assuming you survive, any weapon you use acts as a +X magic weapon, where X is your character level divided by 3.]

5. CHOSEN OF THE WINTER COURT. There are faeries in the forest – beautiful things, impossibly so, as fierce as a midwinter gale and ephemeral as a snowflake. You work for them. Maybe it’s by choice – the fae offer glory and riches beyond compare. More often than not it’s due to a curse on your bloodline, or because you were left in the woods to die and one of them raised you as their own, or because you’ve got one of those faces that the fair folk can’t ignore. After the Summer Court went to war against and annexed the Spring and Autumn courts into their domain, the Winter Court are the last bastion against an endless number of supernatural tragedies emerging from the dark places of the earth – and the last defenders of the wild places against those who would seek to destroy them for profit. 

[Once per game, pick one: halve an incoming instance of damage, bypass a single barrier by becoming ethereal, summon a cold winter wind, or roll with advantage on a navigation or survival check in the wilderness. The fae have jobs for you, on occasion, but more often than not they just leave it up to you and have another endless dinner party.]

6: STAR-GOD WANDERERS. Each tribe of nomads in the Bone Steppes worships a different star god, and no end of skirmishes have been fought over the superiority of one deity over another. Your tribe was on the losing end of one of those wars, and you’ve been declared exiles from the Steppes and branded as heretics by a rival faction. Taking your ark – the heavy, ornamented box where your god resides on this plane – you have made your way to the northern territories in search of a deeper communion with your patron on the mountains of Svartfjell, and perhaps absolution for your sins. 

[While your ark is properly set up in your camp, you gain the ability to curse your foes with righteous and inscrutable star magic. By pronouncing a specific person or beast anathema as part of a ritual around your ark, you reduce their level (and HD and appropriate modifiers) by D3. You must slay the foe before you can curse another.]

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Adventure Calendar Day 4 – Magical Gewgaws from Professor Flouro Wizbiz

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.

“Why hello there, adventurers! My name is Professor Flouro Wizbiz, and – well – I’m something of an inventor. I live here in my tower and make magical fripperies, arcane gewgaws, occult diversions and enchanted stocking-fillers. I’m sure you’ll find something that tickles your fancy – oh, do have some more eggnog while you browse, won’t you? It’s magic!”

[Assume Wizbiz has D6 of any given item in stock.]

1: FULL-BODY HAND WARMERS. Held in the hands, but the heat from them spreads through your entire body. Gives a respite from cold weather equivalent to sitting indoors next to a roaring fire. DO NOT EAT. [D4, then D6, then D8 damage increasing appropriately every round until immolation. Average Toughness save to retch it up.]

2: “LIVING” WOODEN SOLDIERS. Not actually living – just animated with some leftover souls that Professor Wizbiz had laying around the workshop. 1/day, activate them by winding them up with a special key. Will follow orders and do anything that a regular soldier would do if they had no working elbows or knees and their gun was just a bit of wood. 

3: LUMINESCENT HAT. Soft felt top hat that lights up in a variety of colours and patterns. Controlled by a series of trigger words printed in a chapbook, which is surprisingly easy to lose. 

4: UPHILL TOBOGGAN. Bored of walking back up to the top of the hill after you’ve sledded down it? This toboggan goes uphill, so now there’s no need! Holds three children, which is equivalent to about one and a half adventurers (depending on gear) and there’s a 1-in-6 chance that it will refuse to go downhill if asked to. Rumours of the uphill toboggan gathering momentum as though it were travelling downhill are falsehoods circulated by Doctor Neon Arcana, the Professor’s main business rival.

5: SOCK OF HOLDING. As Bag of Holding, but with a narrower hole at the top (it’s cheaper to make this way). A minute or so of digging around in there will turn up a: 1: Walnut 2: Sad Tangerine 3: Two Chocolate Coins 4: Mesh Sack of Marbles 5: Whistle 6: Candle

6: CRACKING CRACKERS. Unfathomably loud crackers; cause minor ear damage if used without protection in an enclosed space. Not entirely clear why Wizbiz is selling them. He’s attempting to brand them as the “crackiest crackers on the market,” but clearly no-one wants that. Useful as a distraction, plus you get a paper hat, a bad joke, and a little toy of some kind, so it’s not all bad. [Average Toughness save or be deafened for D6 rounds; ear protection gives you advantage on this check]

7: BOTTLE OF MAGIC EGGNOG. You know how you feel more charismatic after a couple of drinks? This eggnog actually makes you more charismatic [roll with Advantage on your next attempt to charm someone] and, as a completely unintentional side-effect, more likely to buy magic items [roll with Disadvantage to resist purchasing something in Wizbiz’ shop]. 

8: TINSELWURM. Legally, this is a pet – a sort of glittery snake made out of tinsel that eats small mammals, eggs, and anything that a regular snake would eat. (You’d think it would eat baubles or something, and it does try to, but they make it ill.) Can function as a serviceable wizard’s familiar or a bad ranger’s animal companion [stats as small snake] and is functionally indistinguishable from any ambient tinsel in the area until it moves. 

9: REALITY-ADJACENT CANDLES. These candle frames use surprisingly affordable extradimensional magic to burn a flame in a universe one step away from our own, meaning that they won’t ever set fire to the tree or tinsel or presents or anything like that. On occasion you may notice the fire spreading beyond the immediate vicinity of the candle wick, but this is nothing to worry about and no cause for alarm.

10: BOARD OF ENDLESS CHEESE. Three times per day, when the silver cloche on top of this wooden platter is removed, you will find that it contains a modest but respectable amount of cheese – two portions of hard, one soft, and at least one that smells of feet. You also get enough crackers to eat the cheese off, some lacklustre grapes, and maybe some chutney in a little pot if you’re lucky (1-in-6 chance of chutney).

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Adventure Calendar Day 3 – D6 Places To Go, People To See

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.

If you’re in need of a spark for an adventure during the festive season, roll on the following table. (It also doubles as a useful description of the major locations in the campaign, which is nice.)

1: SVARTFJELL, a cluster of towering and intimidating mountains to the north, with scattered, insular settlements often made up of a single family and a few hangers on. Folk here are even more superstitious than normal, and that’s saying something – there’s a difficult etiquette to grasp when it comes to talking to them, as they refuse to speak certain words in sight of the mountains for fear of angering them. 

In a surprising move, hunters from the region are requesting assistance from people down south to help catch the vast herds of reindeer and moose that are moving through the woodlands. What’s got them spooked?

2. BOSTIVOL, a riverport town to the east, which is famous for exporting dried fish and absolute bastards. “A Bostivol Handshake” is common parlance for a surprise punch to the back of the head, and despite catching and selling the majority of the fish in the area, it remains a run-down and hopeless berg rife with infighting and ancient, poorly-understood family rivalries. They maintain a broad polytheist view, worshiping any river or water deity they can get their hands on, and the dock is clogged with carved votive offerings to bring in a good catch.  There are plenty of folk tales of Bostivolians interbreeding with mysterious fish-folk from under the sea, but none of these are true, and that’s just the way they look and smell naturally. 

A polytheistic fish cleric staggers into your town as autumn is fading into winter; he complains that the river is freezing over sooner than expected, and that the votive offerings aren’t helping. He’s offering coin to those willing to accompany him to the source of the river up the mountain to discover what’s going on – and the less you mention to the other Bostivolians about this, the better.

3. THE BONE STEPPES, named after the ancient skeletal remains of giant creatures that dot the landscape, are largely inhospitable due to the rocky ground, thin soil and packs of vicious predators that haunt the place. The people throughout this southern region are scattered and for the most part nomadic, occasionally setting up meets in the larger carcasses, and are experts on tracking the movements of the stars and winds to navigate this otherwise trackless and desolate area. Their gods are just as portable as the rest of their lives, and each family carries a devotional shrine to their favoured star-god from camp to camp.

A traveller from the north is making their way down to the steppes, and needs protection from bandits and wild animals en route to the yearly meet in the carcass of a great fallen wyrm – they have vital information to relay to the tribal elders. 

4. DOVESCOPP, to the west, has a strangely calming air to it – the gentle rolling hills, the flocks of birds in the sky, and the many picturesque lakes make it a place suited to tranquility, which explains the large number of convents, monasteries and zen retreats spread throughout the area. Each hermitage has a “patron” bird that favours flocking and nesting around the building – they don’t get a choice in the type of bird, and there’s nothing that undermines the serenity of a week-long vow of silence like bunch of magpies pecking the back of your head every time you go to meditate in the woods.

A nun, accompanied by her pet snow goose Besthenome, needs help getting back to her nunnery with a sled full of presents for all her sisters, kindly donated by the faithful in town; you’ve been paid by her superiors to keep an eye on her and make sure she doesn’t get too distracted by worldly temptations like gambling, caring for injured but still dangerous wolves, and kissing beautiful milkmaids.

5: SALEN, a coastal town in the centre of the region, which boasts something approaching a tourism industry – lots of local legends (some of them true) draw in adventurers in search of glory and slaughter, but most of them end up sitting quietly in one of the many cosy inns spread throughout the winding streets of the town. Given that the town is also popular with wizardly types due to particularly strong leylines, the economy of Salen has boomed over the last few decades, and travellers from distant lands show up in port on a weekly basis looking to trade.

Not every adventurer who comes to Salen is up to the task. You keep an informal eye out for those who might get in trouble – and when an underdressed sorcerer stumbles into the tavern saying that the rest of her adventuring party got lost hunting kenning-wolves in the woods around the town, you sigh and put on your hat before setting off to save them. Or take the valuables off their rapidly-cooling bodies; either works.

6: THE DEEPS, a network of abandoned dwarven tunnels that run throughout the region, which are largely uninhabited but often used by nefarious types to lie low, spring ambushes or hide treasure. The reason they were abandoned is that the dwarves who originally built them just didn’t have their hearts in it, so they’ve not lasted very well at all and flooding, collapse and the ghosts of betrayed miners are a frequent threat. Nowadays the only dwarves you’ll find in the deeps are isolationist weirdos burdened by a difficult relationship to their indifferent gods, and they’ll often flee rather than talk to you.

A refugee dwarf – off-white skin, hairless aside from a prosthetic beard, bag of stone slates with engineering secrets on them stolen from a mining workshop – says they’ve heard all about the Winter Festival from books and talking to outsiders and they’re desperate to experience it themselves. They don’t mention the Oblation Cadre who are hunting them in order to offer them up as a sacrifice to their gods, but it’ll definitely come up before long.

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