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Adventure Calendar Day 25: D6 Items That Could, Theoretically, Avert The End Of The World

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: THE HEART OF THE MOUNTAIN. Which is also the heart of the First and Final God, set on an ancient stone plinth in a chamber of volcanic rock. It beats once a year in midwinter, normally – now, it beats once a day at midnight, stacking up successive winters atop one another. If you can time it right (you really don’t want to be standing next to it when it beats) then you could potentially stop the First and Final God by stabbing it with a powerful enough weapon. Or: just freeze to death as urfrost leaks out of the puncture wound.

2: DWARVEN GODKILLER BOMB. A handful of these devices were built in bygone times by a well-funded sect of radical gnostic dwarves. Not content with simply maligning and badmouthing the gods in their incendiary books of secular philosophy, they also took to actively seeking out and killing them as revenge for previous crimes against dwarfkind – and the most popular method of doing so was the so-called Godkiller bomb, specially designed to detonate in this and as many neighbouring dimensions as possible.  Unfortunately you can’t just order one; you’ll need to break into the abandoned dwarven vaults (which are beneath the occupied dwarven vaults, full of nasty pro-religion dwarves self-shackled to a blind idiot god), bypass whatever twisted clockwork guardians they left in place to guard the bombs, and lug the tremendously heavy and unstable device out of there and into the path of the First and Final God. (And then make sure you aren’t caught in the pan-dimensional shockwave once it detonates.)

3: BLACKIRON SPIKE. The First and Final God was betrayed by its ungrateful divine children in a manner familiar to gods everywhere and, unkillable and primordial as it was, it was pinned in place beneath the mountain Svartfjell with the Blackiron Spike – a massive pitted pin the size of a full-grown man’s leg, impossibly heavy and ancient, the first metal tool ever created. About three months ago, the cult of the Pinned God [link] pulled it out and things have been going steadily downhill since then.

Here’s the thing: you can’t hope to destroy the Blackiron Spike, as it’s made from the bones of the First and Final God itself. The cultists that pulled it out (the ones that survived, anyway) have been transporting it as far away from the writhing body as they can – they’ve managed to get it halfway across the Bone Steppes, en route to a major port on the other side where they can hand it off to allies in the south. Presumably someone could put it back in, if they were quick enough. [Teleportation magic or any spells that increase movement speed don’t work in the presence of the Blackiron Spike – it’s just too heavy, spiritually, to be affected. You can lug it about with a successful Hard Strength check though, or put it on a cart, just fine.]

4: THE DEVIL’S HOT ROD. Let’s not mince words here: this is a car. This is a big fat open-topped car with plush sinner-skin leather interior, a speedometer with goetic runes instead of numbers, an exhaust that roars like a lion who smokes two packs a day and a sawn-off shotgun in the glove compartment [2D8+Dex damage; you can’t reload it but there’s a new one in there every time you open it]. It runs on the souls of the damned and is powerful enough to chew through anything that the First and Final God can try to slow it down with. You could probably use it as a ramming weapon too [3D10 damage at speed, ignoring magical protections] but the Devil would be awful upset if you damaged the paint job (he got Michelangelo in special to do it).  

5: THE FIRST AND FINAL AXE. This is the hand-axe of the god of the same name – lost during its original fight against the upstart deities (or peacefully relinquished as the god went into torpor, depending on which version of the legend you go by) and transformed into the mountain Svartfjell itself. If you know the right words, and have power enough to speak them aloud, you can summon it to your hand. Thankfully, it appears at a regular axe-size for you.

[If it’s thematically appropriate, Svartfjell disappears when you summon the axe. If not, assume that the mountain is a pale imitation of the axe, and sticks around for now – especially useful if you want to have a climactic fight atop it.]

The stone-bladed axe is designed to fell World-Trees and behead gods, so it’s really not designed for mortal hands. You probably have enough divinity inherent in you to make two or three swings before your blood catches fire or you’re utterly hollowed out from the strain, so use them wisely. [+6 handaxe. If you hit, you inflict 5D20+6 damage, but you take an equal amount of damage yourself. Don’t try to get clever with this in regards to DR or feats or anything like that – you take the damage. If you take more damage than you have hit points remaining, you explode and inflict 2D10 damage on everyone around you.]

6: THE GREAT STONE CALENDAR. In one of the lesser-known monasteries of Dovescopp, the acolytes worship a stone calendar that predicts the end of the world. (Or rather: it stops, right about now-ish, and it’s been eerily accurate for the last thousand years or so.) Their sacred books (also in stone, but slightly smaller) say that their god of divisions, measuring and boundaries created and bestowed it upon them. How can something carved in stone a thousand years ago be accurate in terms of seasonal variations, dates and times? Easy: it isn’t describing the world. The world’s describing it. The Great Stone Calendar is calling the shots. So theoretically if you can get hold of some truly epic stoneworking tools, you can extend it – and there’s the corpse of more than one creator god rotting on the foothills of Svartfjell at present, so presumably you can rifle through their celestial pockets in search of something suitable.

Make sure you get it right, though. You don’t want to end up trapped in a time-loop forever because your chisel hand slipped. Or accidentally scrub out the last four hundred years of mortal civilisation before you die.

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Adventure Calendar Day 24 – D6 Blessings from New and Terrified Gods

Art by Rowan MacColl.

Adventure Calendar is a series of 25 winter-themed random tables that mesh together to build an evolving setting and campaign for your favourite fantasy RPG, whatever that might be. You can learn more about the project and find the full list of published tables here.

1: AUTUMN. Frantic and fractious Autumn, half-dead and gossamer-skinned, with ashwood bones and leaflitter hair. Their domain is least amongst the fae courts, but with spies everywhere; they bless you with secrets, knowledge, schemes and foresight. They are vicious and sharp in a way that Summer will never be; desperate and hopeful in a way that outstrips Winter; and wise beyond the grasp of gracious Spring. 

[Once per session, declare that an NPC is actually in the pay of Autumn, and works for you now – or at least on the same side as you.]

2: HALCYON. Halcyon is a wine-drunk god of rutting and song; the kind they don’t make any more. He woke up this morning with a hangover that could kill a kraken at twenty paces and saw what sort of state the world was in, did approximately three minutes of thinking while he drank a coffee so black that light could not escape from the espresso cup it was stored in, and decided to sort things out himself. Reasoning that there can’t be any parties if there isn’t a world to have them in, he appears to you in a vision and offers you a drink from his celestial chalice – those who drink from it are blessed with a fortitude beyond that of mortal beings and a generally pretty chill outlook on things. 

[When you get drunk and/or high (-1 to all rolls, cumulative until you sober up the next day) and have a bit of a party, heal all lost hitpoints. Whilst at a party you roll with advantage to bring other guests around to your way of thinking. Dead people, as long as they have a drink in their hand when the party starts, also heal all lost hit points.]

3. JONHUR, THE GOD OF TALES. There are few things better than a good story, and Jonhur knows this – so he’s looking for the sort of well-intentioned gang of vagabonds that would, in any good story, save the world from destruction. Your gang of vagabonds seem to be perfect for the job, or so he says. Full disclosure: you’re not perfect. You’re not the first gang of vagabonds he’s tried. All five of his earlier choices died in horrible accidents related to attempting to save the world. Jonhur would never tell you this (he’s a gentleman) but as you embark on your quest it’ll become clear that you’re not the first people to get torn to shreds in this temple and you probably won’t be the last. 

[As long as you don’t resolve your central conflict, you can’t die – it just doesn’t make any sense. You always cling on to life due to your plot armour. (This is actual armour that he gives you – usually a helmet.) However, if your central conflict becomes unclear or unexciting, you take double damage from all sources until you get a proper plotline. Jonhur is forbidden from explicitly coaching you but will do his best to set you up with interesting lives.]

4. KYGERACH, MAINTAINER GOD. It’s no fun being the central god out of three – one gets to do all the creation, one has the catharsis of destruction to look forward to, meanwhile muggins over here is stuck spinning cosmological plates and performing patchwork repairs on the universe. And now the world is ending! Not on my watch, sunshine.” Kygerach is a once-calm maintainer deity who isn’t about to let the world end now, just when things are getting good. As such, they’ve thrown open the vaults of heaven and are giving out god-killing (or at least god-injuring) weapons and armour to those that they reckon are in with a shot of kicking the snot out of the First and Final god. Get in there quickly before they change their mind! 

[Open the DMG, pick out three magical items each – any of ‘em, doesn’t matter – and write them down on bits of paper. Draw two randomly from a hat. Enjoy your new equipment – it’s soulbound to you and you can’t trade it away. Kygerach is an equal-opportunities god and honestly easily tricked, so the remaining magic items are distributed amongst any mortal rivals you have at present.]

5. THE WINTER COALITION. Mother Winter, calculating and cruel, a craftswoman beyond compare. Dregr, hoary pig-man of the deep forest, laden with steaming gifts for young children. Jack, prince of snow, whose breath is a sudden squall and whose hair is a sweeping drift but who still manages to look pretty good in a waistcoat. Little Lost Holly who stalks the frozen backroads looking for a man to keep her warm. This rag-tag collection of gods, supernatural creatures, creatures from myth and embodied elemental forces all have one thing in common: Winter. They were under the impression that the fourth season was supposed to be their domain, and now this Johnny-Come-Lately (or Johnny-Come-Originally, depending on who you believe) First and Final God is stomping around demanding that it’s theirs. In an attempt to even the odds, they’ve (mostly) put aside their differences and teamed up into an unprecedented super-team of chilly immortals and are actively recruiting heroes to fight on their side.

[You are no longer harmed by becoming too cold or too hot; you can walk through the strongest blizzard shirtless without discomfort, or plunge your hand into molten iron and suffer no ill-effects.]

6. THE SPITEFUL ONES. The First and Final God had children. Not in the normal way that people have children; it’s more like it made smaller, flawed versions of itself without any interference from anyone else and sent them off to die in experimental attacks against whatever primordial forces occupied the world at the time. It felt no remorse over this; it doesn’t do remorse. It doesn’t do emotions, except perhaps hate, but that seems like too small and too human a word for how it behaves with respect to warmth and life. 

Anyway: the kids. Not all of them died. Some of them hid away in the dark places of the world, and learned, and understood that their purpose in life was to die so their creator could gain an edge over what it perceived as its enemies. They didn’t like that, so they teamed up and killed The First and Final God – or brought it as close to death as it could get.

Now: it’s waking up from eons of a death-sleep, and they’ve gathered together to kill it again; a ramshackle collection of dusty angelic figures, missing limbs and teeth and eyes, having spent an eternity in hiding. It’s stronger than ever and they’re old, and tired, and imperfect, and desperate. They turn to mortals for aid and know in their hearts that, even if it works this time, they have another eternity to wait out before it happens all over again.

[Each member of the party gains a companion – a withered godspawn, monstrous and ancient, roughly assembled into a humanoid form. They phase in and out of reality as needed. When they aid you, you roll with advantage when you act against the First and Final God and its mortal servants. If you ever roll the maximum result on both of your dice, the companion is slain after the action is resolved.]

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Adventure Calendar Day 23 – D6 Nightmare Florae And Faunae Of The Apocalypse

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: FLESH-ABOMINATIONS. Cast enough ritual spells as a group and something’s bound to go wrong eventually – usually it’s just memory holes and shared delusions, but the stakes are higher at the end of the world and there’s a lot of loose magic flying about looking to earth itself in some luckless occultists. Many of the cults that came to power as the First and Final God grew in strength have been reduced to shuddering, wretched piles of flesh and bone that crawl through shattered villages leaving a trail of red-black effluvia behind them, desperately searching for something to eat or at least a clean and final way to die. They’re not fast – anything but, really – but they usually have increased magical ability compared to what they exhibited before the transformation, and the spells they’re casting aren’t out of any book.

2. WIND-WOLVES. Legendary hunting animals of the gods, these are stiff winds that inflict damage and hunger for flesh in exactly the same way as a large wolf. They’re invisible and largely intangible (because they’re wind) but you can pin them in place with a metal spike, at which point they manifest physically and all you have to deal with is a large angry wolf.

3: SUNTREES. A pacifist earth deity, unwilling to directly fight against the First and Final God, has bestowed these strange trees on the world in an attempt to bring comfort to the beleaguered people on the forefront of the apocalypse. Each tree stretches at least a hundred feet into the air, their spiralling bark iron-hard to the touch and resisting any axe, and their creaking branches hang heavy with swollen, luminescent fruit. The trees themselves are warm enough to provide shelter from storms, but be sure that none of that fruit falls on you while you’re resting – they’re full of unadulterated life magic, which is powerfully carcinogenic to mortals. 

4: THE SONG THAT ENDS THE WORLD. Don’t worry – it doesn’t actually end the world. The world’s going to end regardless of what tune you sing. But this mimetic virus spreads as a song, released into the world by the death-throes of a hubristic god of wizardry; when you sing it (and it’s hard not to once you know the song) the area around you is pitched further towards its undoing. [Once you’ve heard the song, roll an average Will save every few hours. On a fail, you’ve been humming it without noticing, and the GM rolls on an appropriately weird table to see what happened as a result.]

5: DOOM ELF QUEENS. The Doom Elves don’t mention their home lives much, because they don’t really have one – they’re summoned into existence as a side-effect of potential disasters. But who summons them? Doom Elf Queens, that’s who – flickering storms of burning gas, crystalline spurs and stuttering unreality produced by the explosion that created the universe, or as they view it, the worst and most important disaster on record. Things were much easier before existence got in the way. Indestructible and inscrutable, they have come to this world to witness the end of it, much in the same way you’d go down to the local park to watch fireworks. They have dressed up in local garb so not to alarm the indigenous inhabitants of this dimension, but seeing as they’re perpetual glitches in the fabric of reality, they’ve not done a great job of it.

6: THE SERPENT THAT EATS THE WORLD. This feathered reptilian nightmare is too large to comprehend; occasionally when you pass a valley or a fresh rent in the earth you can see a slowly shifting pattern of scales, pulsing impossibly huge beneath the world like sentient lava. It wasn’t planning on eating the world for another couple of millennia but here it is ending already, and it’s not about to miss its chance. In the limitless caverns beneath the world, the coils of it are tightening and writhing as it quests ever-closer to the surface to claim its prize; but not if the First and Final God destroys it first. It’s one of the few things big enough and mean enough to kill a god outright, but then you’ve still got a world-eating serpent to deal with, which is pretty much just as bad.

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Adventure Calendar Day 22 – D12 Awful Yule Lads Who are Here Now

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.

1: GOAT GUTTER. Guts goats. Wears the steaming entrails like an awful scarf. Takes off his trousers a lot, scratches his genitals with bloody hands, really just not a nice guy.

2: FIRE LAD. Fire Lad loves fire! Fire Lad will set your house on fire. Fire Lad will set you on fire! Fire Lad is building a flamethrower in the ruins of an inn out of oil and drainpipes, and before it explodes and kills him, it’ll do a lot of harm.

3: ARM-TAKER. Collecting arms to “build a woman” in a cave on the outskirts of Salen. Not entirely clear why he’s just using arms or what this woman looks like – or how far along he is with her. Last couple of nights she’s started making noise at night (you can hear her even over the driving wind) so clearly he’s worked out some sort of mouth-analogue. 

4: KNEE-BREAKER. Knee-Breaker hates seeing people walk around on their big long legs so he smashes their knees apart with hammers to teach them a lesson. He never uses the same hammer twice; sometimes he leaves them as traps to attract people, which isn’t a great idea, because people generally don’t want to touch blood-soaked hammers. This upsets Knee-Breaker no end.

5: GRAIN SPOILER. Pisses or retches horrible black-brown translucent fluid into stores of grain and other food, which ruins it. Can be seen in the distance gulping muddy water out of a big wooden bucket, waggling his bushy eyebrows at you, and pointing excitedly at your pantry.

6: SAUSAGE-MAKER. This Yule Lad gives presents of cured sausage to good children; the catch is that the sausages are made out of bad children. Sausage-maker counts children who are disgusted by the thought of eating their friends as “bad,” so he has a near-endless source of potential sausage candidates.

7: NIGHT-CACKLER. Night-Cackler finds the end of the world hilarious – must be a Yule Lad joke that non-Yule Lads don’t get – and he sits on your roof and cackles about it whenever you try to sleep. In an effort to keep up with the other new Yule Lads (as laughing is pretty benign), Night-Cackler also has a gun.

8: CORPSE-DANCER. Crawls inside the bodies of dead relatives and animates them, fooling you into thinking they’ve come back to life, before tumbling out of their arse and running away laughing. Corpse-Dancer is terrible at this (and can’t get the voices right) but it’s still very upsetting even if it is a bit amateurish.

9: SLEEP-DRAGGER. Drags you out into the wilderness when you’re asleep and leaves you somewhere exposed to die. Sleep-Dragger has a magic sack with sleep-sand in it that he sprinkles over your brow to make sure you don’t wake up, but he often runs out of sand halfway through a night’s work, so the remaining victims just get the bag over their heads and are kicked about a bit if they complain.

10: MURDER LAD. Artlessly but effectively arranges murders so it looks like someone the victim trusted did it, sowing mistrust and discord amongst what remains of the communities in the north. Works at night, prefers blunt instruments to sharp ones, and can be warded off by simply never sleeping and constantly watching one another.

11: TOOTH-TAKER. Steals your teeth right out of your head when you’re asleep. This hurts a lot but he has a little knife that he holds against your throat when you inevitably wake up, then he winks at you and theatrically makes “shhh” noises whilst yanking out half a dozen more.

12: ANGEL LAD. Sits on top of pine or fir trees and opens his mouth extra wide; a reddish spotlight shines forth and illuminates anyone attempting to hide from wild animals, monsters, opportunistic raiders or other Yule Lads. Angel Lad smokes stinking cigarettes that give him a terrible cough, which means that while he’s hacking up a half a lung you might be in with a chance of evading his searchlight.

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Adventure Calendar Day 21 – D6 Horrible Ways to Die

Art by Beck 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.

[All of these environmental terrors inflict X damage, where X is the number of hit points you happen to have at present. A successful save halves the damage, rounding up.]

1: URFROST FREEZES YOU SOLID. Urfrost is Cold, capital-C Cold – not just the absence of warmth but active, malicious cold that wants you dead. No protection – not even divine aid – is viable against the onslaught of Urfrost that roams the abandoned streets and blasted wastelands in clouds of glittering ice-crystals forming on the wind. It crawls in through keyholes, bleeds through the lining of the warmest coats, quenches fires and stops your breath in your throat.

2: NUCKLAVEE KICKS YOUR HOUSE APART. The Nucklavee – a giant half-horse, half-man immortal with eyes that shine like spotlights and the stink of disease on its ragged breath – is the harbinger of destruction and doom round these parts, but since the world started ending, it’s had its work cut out to keep up. You can build as many fences and light as many fires as you like to keep the wolves and the cold at bay, but when a monster the size of a warehouse wants to stomp your house to bits and kick you into the sea, there’s very little you can do about it.

3: EARTH OPENS UP, SWALLOWS YOU WHOLE. As the land is wracked and twisted under the weight of the rebirth of the First and Final God, the earth is rebelling against the unnatural cold – even soil and rock is withering and bending like wheat-stalks. Valleys have the habit of opening into yawning chasms, dropping anyone standing within them deep into the shadowed bowels of the earth. On one hand, it’s warmer down there, so that’s nice; on the other, it’s the domain of malevolent dwarves who are doing their best to go undetected by this new and vicious winter, so they’ll probably eat you and try to repair the hole before anyone notices you’ve gone.

4: FROST GIANT STEPS ON YOU. Frost Giants are big – too big, really, to make sense. They’re too large, too heavy to exist in this plane of reality and instead reside in some adjacent oversized domain of perpetual duels, impossible feasting, logistically-challenging sex and endless political manoeuvring. As the First and Final God makes even their reality an uninhabitable wasteland, they’ve gathered their horizon-walkers and are setting off to find a new, relatively lush place to live a couple of dimensions over. They’re bringing their massive oxen with them too, because they don’t want to carry all their massive treasure themselves. What this means for you is: on occasion a foot the size of a redwood tree or a cow the size of your average glacier will spontaneously manifest where you’re standing and crush you into a lumpy red paste, and there’s very little you can do about it. If it’s any consolation, the Frost Giants and/or oxen are far too big to notice you, so don’t take it personally.

5: STARFALL. The heavens have grown too cold, and the stars have become brittle and fragile as the sky freezes over. The slightest cosmological shift is enough to shatter a constellation and send it tumbling towards the earth – bright, scintillating, enthralling and utterly destructive. There are great gaps of void where stars once were, making navigation difficult if not impossible, but that’s the least of your worries – far more concerning is the way that large sections of the countryside are being lanced by high-velocity shards of star that explode on impact and bury glassy shrapnel sideways through tree trunks. You can use starfall shards as fuel for magic items, so some enterprising sorts are picking through the wreckage in search of large enough lumps to sell. [A shard the length of your forearm recharges D6 charges to a magic item, or if the item doesn’t use charges, it increases whatever it does by +1 for a scene.]

6: COLLATERAL DAMAGE FROM THE WAR IN HEAVEN. As the struggling deities of the new world strive to fight back the coming of the First and Final God, the luckless inhabitants of the mortal plane are caught in the crossfire. Three houses in Bostivol were destroyed last week when a 100ft glowing arrow, loosed from a brave and noble protector god’s bow, missed its mark and buried itself in the coastal town. The horned head of a wise sculptor god smashed into the north end of Dovescopp and took out a monastery, and now it’s just there and it’s starting to freak people out. (It’s still alive; it’s a god’s head, after all. You can talk to it.) 

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Day 19 – D6 Heroes who are Probably Not Going to Avert the Apocalypse but Might be Useful Distractions

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.

1: CLENCH HARDWHISTLE, a Big Damn Hero and a level thirteen fighter (he states this aloud in the street to anyone who’ll listen) who’s never met a problem he couldn’t stab to death. Clench is unaccompanied but has a magical talking sword that acts as a sidekick – the sword hates him, but can’t leave and wouldn’t ever dare speak out against him when he could hear in case he uses the Punishment Scabbard again. Likely cause of death: frozen solid attempting to stab a blizzard.

2: VENERANCE SKALL, who’s technically an evil necromancer but it’s the end of the world so the overall standard for heroes has been significantly lowered. Venerance is leading an army of skeletal thralls that are immune to the freezing cold – she started with her family burial plot and travelled north, following visions delivered to her in dreams of torment, picking up or creating large amounts of corpses en route – and, bundled up in magically-warmed fox-furs on a sled pulled by six undead wolves, she intends to strike at the heart of the eternal winter in the north and kill it. What she does after that isn’t super-clear, but people aren’t asking too many questions so long as there’s a person in charge of the north, rather than the First and Final God. Likely cause of death: stabbed by eight skeletons during a labour dispute, causing her entire army to collapse at once.

3: BRILLIA GOLDTOWER, a shiny paladin with good teeth and better hair, acting as a representative from The Great Harvest Temple in lands far to the south. Driven by visions from her god, she has gathered together a people’s crusade made up of malnourished but terribly faithful farmers armed with improvised weapons, glory-hungry noble scions eager to earn a place in heaven, and a dubious selection of adventurers who believe that if the First and Final God is this powerful then it’s probably got something worth stealing. Brillia is a good egg and has a kind word for almost anyone, and really makes you think that this Harvest Temple lark might be worth looking into. Likely cause of death: drowned after heavy armour caused ice covering frozen lake to crack.

4: FRANZISKA, an ingenious red-headed burglar with a heart of gold, leading a gang of legendary thieves to steal the Winter’s Heart from the peak of Svartfjell. (Her compatriots are: Dwarven mountebank Brigham Goldtooth, half-ogre spellthief Krug Etherbreath, master lock-picking gnome Honks McCavity and the reformed abyssal cultist Erebus Wardshadow.) Likely cause of death: temple collapse.

5: HAUNCH MERRYWEATHER, chosen of the Summer Court, a permanently shirtless and perpetually well-lit man with a big hearty belly, bulging muscles, and chest hair you could bed down in for the night. Haunch has never been cold in his life, even in the midst of a driving blizzard, and to be honest he can’t even imagine what it would feel like. (He’s not tremendously bright.) He’s heading up a collection of kissable sprites and elegantly-dressed feybloods on a last-ditch mission/sexy cross-country party to seal the arctic rift shut before the First and Final God overwhelms the world. Likely cause of death: betrayal by Autumn Court double-agent.

6: THE BEAST, technically a collection of about fourteen druids who have soul-bound themselves to each other allowing them to transform into a huge and protean monster easily capable of eating an elder kenning-wolf whole or giving an angry frost giant a good run for its money. Outside of beast form, the druids are rapidly coming apart as the soul-binding process has given them unwanted access to each other’s memories and thoughts leading to no end of arguments. They don’t have a leader – but the one of them that does most of the talking to outsiders, Derenthal, is looking for a way out of the group or some way of silencing the thoughts of the other members in his head. Likely cause of death: massive cardiac arrest as giant heart attempts to beat in fourteen different patterns and gives up.

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Adventure Calendar Day 18: D6 Cults Who are Attempting to Curry Favour with the First and Final God

Art by Beck 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 world becomes a frozen wasteland, the people of the north are searching for meaning and security in unusual places. For years now, as the echoes of the First and Final God’s awakening reverberated backwards through time, cults in service of it have blossomed into being as human minds attempt to rationalise what’s about to happen to them – although none of them have got the name right. While each of these cults is devoted to a facet of the First and Final God, they certainly don’t know that (and if they do they don’t care), and will happily go to war with one another in an effort to please their deity.

1: WRETCHES. Followers of Pondiferous Wretch, prophet of the end times, who froze to death thirty years ago but hasn’t let that stop him leading an effective cult. Pondiferous is kept in a windswept temple on the northern slopes of Svartfjell where he never defrosts, and from his frostbitten and withered lips come vile orders from the cult’s patron diety – The Bastard Winter. 

A monstrously cruel god, The Bastard Winter doesn’t go in for the ineffable you-are-as-ants-to-me shtick that a lot of immortals wind up in – he hates the living, hates sunlight, and hates when anyone’s doing better than him. He is the god of grandparents frozen to death, of rotting harvests, of gangrene and necrosis. The Wretch cult are hell-bent on taking everything they can get from people too weak, kind or stupid to stop them in an effort to outlast the apocalypse on the right hand of their misanthropic lord.

2: SLAYERS OF THE PINNED GOD. The Pinned God – they never got a name – was a primordial storm of frost, a walking wasteland, an end-of-the-world waiting to happen. They were speared in the chest by one of those handsome gods with good hair and a sensible number of limbs and, while they couldn’t be killed per se, they were pinned to the earth and damned to spend the rest of eternity caught between life and death. When they breathe in a ragged and sucking lungful of air, the world experiences summer – when they breathe out, a fraction of their power spreads through the land, and the land freezes over. The Slayers reckon that the god who threw the spear did half a job, and that – with the correct rituals and maybe tricking a few other immortals to help out – they can rid the world of winter and bring in a perpetual summer, ending hunger forever.

They’ve just now pulled out the spear – it’s within the centre of the mountain Svartfjell and also the mountain itself, which is hard to wrap your head around but they’re doing their best – and realised how much trouble they’re in. The Slayers are a group of well-meaning academics and militant gnostics whose careful calculations and algorithmic ur-calendars have done nothing to prepare them for an unfettered eternal winter.

3. THE MIDWIVES. Blood-soaked aunts and grandmothers who have buried more than their fair share of stillborn babies, the Midwives are a sect of zealots devoted to ending this world and replacing it with a better one. As hopeful and glorious spring comes from the depths of hideous winter, they reason, a truly glorious spring must await the survivors on the other side of the worst winter the world has ever seen – and so they rolled up their sleeves and set about making it happen. First, they must descend into the great stone womb beneath the temples of Dovescopp to the west, then deliver the avatar of the great winter and overcome the labour throes of the earth herself, and only then begin the task of raising it to adulthood before ritually slaying it in the depths of winter.

All that happened roughly seventeen years ago. The avatar of the great winter is an unremarkable girl who guts fish in some smokey Bostivol back-room and can’t seem to keep her hands warm, no matter how long she sits by the fire, and with luck the Midwives will be able to drown her in a lake on her eighteenth birthday – as long as no-one else determines her true nature and tries to exploit her latent power for themselves, or she learns of what’s happening and tries to change things. 

4. ONIEROMANCERS. “The Dreaming Deep! The God Beneath the Earth, whose dreams are the flickering auroras in the sky that bring blessed madness to men! Whose body is stone and whose tongue is lashing meltwater! Whose mouth is a thousand caves! Whose voice is wolf-song and scything wind! God of star-sight and obsidian visions, who slumbers fitful awaiting the coming dawn!”  

The Onieromancers are a cult of soothsayers, wizards and warlocks who believe that they have seen behind the curtain of divinity and fate and witnessed the terrible truth – that the Dreaming Deep, the God Beneath The Earth, is behind it all. All other gods are but facets of its majesty or fractured interpretations of the truth by mortal minds unable to comprehend the enormity of the cosmos. The most eldest members of the society operate in a chemically-induced trance that allows them to slip into the living dreams of the God and “ride” them to gain impossible foresight and arcane power at the cost of being asleep all of the time and coming wholly unattached from reality. They believe their god’s awakening is an inevitability and they hope to hide within its consciousness to escape the coming apocalypse.

5. SEERS OF THE TWELVE. The mountain is going to give birth to twelve terrible horses and they will trample us all to death. Storm, whose mane is lightning, will run to the north; Darkness, upon who light does not shine, runs to the east; Terror whose eyes are pitiless stars, runs to the west; Tumult, the thousand-legged, runs to the south; Murder the bloody-hoofed, Treachery the white-barded, Starfall the sky-spanning and Frost the glacial-paced cover the four intercardinal directions; the identities and directions of the remaining four are subject to much discussion amongst elders.

The seers are part of an ancient tradition that originated in the nomadic tribes of the Bone Steppes; on a clear day you can see all the way to Svartfjell even from the southern coast. The horses are representations of natural (or unnatural) phenomena but also, crucially, actual horses that an enterprising eschatologist could ride, assuming they don’t immediately die upon contact. As the end of time draws forth, many of the tribes in the steppes have selected a champion to ride one of the horses and are offering sacrifices in an attempt to secure a seat on the back of the apocalypse.  

6. THE TRANQUIL. Life is chaotic and strange and dangerous; far better is still and stable death, a gradual and predictable decline into nothingness and peace. The Tranquil are a cult that attracts broken, melancholic individuals who feel like life passed them by; husbands jilted at altars, mothers of dead children, or those unable to pursue their passions due to injury, circumstance or lack of talent are common recruits, but there are no end of tragedies both great and small that have driven desperate people to find solace in religion.

The Tranquil preach that death is the natural state of the universe (far more of it is dead than not, after all) and life, as frantic and surprising as it is, is an abomination that we have been cursed with in exchange for some ancient sin. There is peace in understanding that you, and the world of those around you, are wrong – that it’s not you, it’s everyone, and you’re the only one smart enough to have figured it out. In addition to standing motionless in the cold to bring themselves closer to understanding the perfection of death, the Tranquil espouse many small acts of faith rather than singular gestures – poisoning harvests, setting fires, strangling cats, stealing heirlooms, and sabotaging machinery. To be alive is to hope, and to allow others to hope in the face of their inevitable demise is a sin.

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Adventure Calendar Day 17: D8 Ancient Magic Items, Sensing Chaos and Unrest, That Rise to Prominence

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. STONEKILLER. A great double-handed dwarven hammer covered in fine hexagonal decoration and words of unmaking. Stonekiller absolutely loathes buildings – the fact that it was probably made in a building fills it with an existential disgust that can only be drowned out by destroying a few buildings, or at the very least knocking over a watchtower. Like most dwarven weapons, Stonekiller is fuelled by the transferred wrath and malaise of the crafter (who runs a nice craft workshop for dwarven kids four days a week down by the coast thousands of miles from here) and as such it is furious whenever awoken, so most users keep the business end under a blanket to avoid having to calm it down. Stonekiller is convinced that the First and Final God built Svartfjell and, as such, wants to knock it down. It won’t be able to – it’s a mountain! – but it might be worth bringing it along for the ride. [+4 greathammer. Ignore hardness and/or DR of buildings and inflict double damage against them.]

2. ASHES. Ashes hasn’t met a flaming sword it didn’t kill and eat. Ashes is a flaming sword itself – a classic magic item for a reason – and it is singularly devoted to being the only flaming sword in existence. At a pinch, it’ll make do with eating regular fires, but what it really wants is to get up amongst the echelons of the gods and see what kind of flaming swords they have on offer. [+3 flaming sword. If Ashes is held against another weapon with a fire enchantment, it will consume that weapon’s enchantment and boost its own bonus by half of that conferred by the other weapon until the next new moon.]

3. THE MURDER STONE. Everyone’s heard the story of the first murder – two brothers, one of whom was kind of a dick, you get the gist. This stone was the evil brother’s weapon of choice. It is forever stained with dried blood, it feels heavier than it ought to in the hand, and all it wants to do all day is kill. [+2 D4 hand weapon. Every time you roll an attack against someone you’re trying to kill with this weapon and don’t land a critical hit, its crit range improves by 1 and its crit damage increases by one step (triple, quadruple, five times, etc). Once you crit, the bonuses reset and the red mist clears from your vision.]

4. DEATH’S MESSENGER. This bow is ridiculous. Stolen from Death Herself (which is why she uses the scythe now), it was designed by a forge god who had a dramatic and entirely unrequited crush on her and as such is hugely over-embellished and awkward to use. The bearer is perpetually surrounded by ravens; clouds dramatically swirl over their head when it’s drawn; nocking and drawing back an arrow causes all sound to cease around the shooter; it’s covered in ruby-eyed skulls and platinum bones; etc. [Critical hits with this weapon kill the target. Critical misses with this weapon kill the user.]

5. DOOM COMPASS. This simple iron compass, lightly patterned with rust, uses the sharpened fingerbone of a doom elf instead of a magnet – and instead of north, it points towards the nearest available source of doom. [In the Adventure Calendar campaign, it will tend to point towards the location of the First and Final God.]

6. WINTER’S EDGE. Winter’s Edge is a beautiful knife created by elven artisans from some fallen and forgotten kingdom that once ruled these lands. (It’s certainly older than anything you’ve seen before.) In addition to being a well-made magical weapon, it is legally married to the First and Final God and is very excited to reunite with its spouse after what feels like, and has indeed been, millennia. Winter’s Edge is actively recruiting people to bring it closer to the First and Final God so they might once again be together. [3+ dagger.]

7. SOULTAKER. Soultaker is an ostentatiously evil-looking punch dagger that feels heavier than it should and is always unsettlingly warm to the touch. Those slain by Soultaker enter the service of their killer as undead thralls – for a while, at least, until they go off – and after that their souls are taken. The weapon has its own bespoke universe where it lives surrounded by the enslaved spirits of the thousands of people killed by the weapon, waited on hand and foot. (Or: waited on pommel and blade, at least.) [+4 Punch dagger. Creatures slain by this weapon become a dim-witted zombie under the control of the wielder for D6+(their level) hours, at which point they decompose at an accelerated rate and must be abandoned.]

8. GLORY’S CHAMPION. This mighty greatsword shines like the rising dawn and sparkles with all the splendour of heaven; the parchments attached speak of sacred missions to slay wicked sorcerers and promise that the angels themselves have your back. With this at your side, nothing can stop you. [+0 Greatsword that’s desperate to take part in averting the apocalypse so it’s lying about how good it is. If it comes up, it functions as a +4 greatsword that also adds +4 to the AC of anything you hit with it, but don’t tell the player about the second part]

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Adventure Calendar Day 16 – D8 Colours of Northern Lights that Spark Madness

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.

As the world freezes solid and reality cracks like ice on a pond, the sky above the battered earth fractures into new and terrifying patterns. Auroras dance and flicker across the heavens – the dreams of dying gods spilling out in multichromatic sprays that burrow into the weak minds of mortals and skew them into patterns unthought of.

1: RED. The bringer of fury – a crimson stain on the snow leaving spilt blood as black as the unadorned vastness of the night sky. Brother turns on brother; father on son; beasts of the field gnash and tear at one another, hungry for meat. [Average Will save for each hour of exposure; on a fail you double your rolled melee damage until the aurora passes, but for each hour you don’t spill someone or something’s blood, take D8 psychic damage.]

2: BLUE. The bringer of despair – a sadness as vast and heavy as winter’s snowfall, creeping under curtains, settling on the roof with an audible creak. The afflicted lose all sense of purpose and lay down in the snow to die, or collapse on the floor of their house until the sun rises once more (or the colour of the aurora changes). [Average Will save when you first see the blue light; on a fail, drop to the floor where you’re standing until the aurora passes or someone drags you out of the light.]

3: WHITE. The bringer of greed – a hunger that ransacks heavens and murders mothers. Those struck by this light become frantic and desperate with greed, and have no qualms about carrying out atrocities in the name of securing more wealth. [Easy Will save at the start of the night, increasing to an Average by midnight and Hard by the early morning. On a fail, you are possessed with a frantic lust for wealth, and must secure D100GP worth of supplies before the morning or the aurora changes. When the effect wears off, lose 1 HP for each GP unclaimed.]

4: PRISMATIC. The bringer of waking dreams – a puppeteer plucking at the strings of the world by accident or design. Towns have been overtaken with dozens of sleepwalkers, their eyes unfocused and mouths slack, working in tandem to achieve nonsensical tasks – slaughtering every pig in the village and draining the blood into a pool in the market square, building mazes out of dirt mounds and discarded planks of wood, writing epic poetry in esoteric languages on the walls of buildings, and so on. [Easy Will save or spend the night engaged in a strange task set by an unseen hand. Sharp pain allows the target to make another save attempt.]

5: GREEN. The bringer of fire – strange flames that spark into life when bonfires or torches are struck by the light from the heavens. Quickly spreading out of control and burning an eerily beautiful emerald green, they consume buildings and forests in raging conflagrations but leave snow untouched. [20% chance an open flame will spread out of control when exposed to the aurora. Snow won’t extinguish it – you need water, or sand, or some other solution.]

6: YELLOW. The bringer of tumult – a ringing, reverberating metallic noise that echoes throughout the valleys of the world. The light from the heavens is loud – people caught in the open when it comes into effect are deafened, and even those safe inside can’t sleep or focus on much. [Recovery rates halved due to the maddening ring. Hard Toughness save if you’re caught in the light; on a fail, you’re deafened for a day or two.]

7: BRONZE. The bringer of time – chronological aberrations spill out from the dreams of dying gods and mar the landscape beneath them. Trees sprout overnight, houses crumble and rot, skin wrinkles and bones grow fragile, minds strain and break. Sometimes the land reverts to normal once the aurora has passed, sometimes not. [Everything within the light ages a year for every ten minutes of exposure; Hard Will save to reduce it to a year per hour instead.]

8: TURQUOISE. The bringer of water – strange, shimmering waves descending from the heavens to the ground. The light acts as though it was clear, traversable liquid, meaning that unattended items have a chance of floating off and anyone or anything caught in the light will, eventually, drown.

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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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