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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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Adventure Calendar Day 2 – D10 Winter Festival drinks and snacks

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: FIERY CINNAMON WHISKEY. Brewed with real fire elemental ambergris! Almost impossible to drink, but it lets you breathe fire (D3 damage to anyone standing nearby) as a quick action for a minute or so after you get it down your neck. Pass an easy Toughness test when you drink it or immediately puke flaming booze down your shirt (D3 damage to yourself and anyone you’re sick on). 

2: MARCHING GIN. Military drink popular with the Winter Festival employees; it keeps you on your feet despite events conspiring to push you off them. It’s a Bostivolian drink and they put pickled herring in the bottle for reasons they’re unwilling to explain – you can get it with or without at the festival, and most people choose without. (The Bostivolians get it with herring as a mark of pride and love to pretend that it isn’t disgusting.) A measure of Marching Gin downgrades all exhaustion and cold weather penalties by 1 step, or if the game you’re using doesn’t have tiered steps, it provides advantage on rolls made to endure tiredness and bad weather. 

3: SINGING CIDER. Skilled bards serenade this drink and the song lives in the liquid; drink some and you can sing the echoes of it for a while. (Unskilled bards sing into the cheaper versions by the barrel-load, often using bawdy songs and illegal lyrics to draw in customers.) Rich people use it to sing musicals or operas at excruciatingly long dinner parties (or worse, tour the neighbourhood and knock on doors to inflict the performance on other people); the kind you can afford gives you about five minutes of synchronised atonal yelling about salacious deeds performed under the mistletoe.  

4: LEOMUND’S EDIBLE HOUSE. Is that THE Leomund, copyright Wizards of the Coast? Hard to tell – if it is, he’s lost weight. Probably not him, if any lawyers ask. Anyway – someone called Leomund is here, and he’s selling gingerbread house making kits. You stick it together with icing, and when it’s all set, you can open the front door and magically walk inside even though it’s only about eight inches tall. You could probably modify it into some wild and unpredictable shapes, but make sure you don’t end up in some sort of interdimensional biscuit collapse.

5: LEOMUND’S EDIBLE HORSE. Determined to recoup his costs despite initially filling out the wrong section on the order form, Leomund is offering magically-animated gingerbread horses. They absolutely hate getting eaten and, being two-dimensional representations of horses rather than actually horse-shaped, they can’t really move. There’s an awful basket of them writhing at the front of the stall.

6: IOUN CAKE. Made by trainee wizards as a means of raising funds for supporting out-of-work or alchemically injured sorcerers, roughly one in twenty of these small almond-and-honey cakes contains a functional ioun stone – the kind that orbits around your head, glows slightly, that kind of thing. It’s traditional to buy one when you come along to the market, and if you get one with an ioun stone in it, that’s good luck. (The ioun stones are non-functional, in as much as they don’t do anything aside from hover and look fancy.) Unscrupulous wizards (or people passing themselves off as wizards) will reduce the odds of getting an ioun stone to increase profits, and it’s not unheard of for a stall to contain zero lucky cakes. Elder wizards from local towers and hermitages make a show of walking past ioun cake stalls with big horseshoe aethermagnets to detect magic, and turn you into a frog if none of your cakes are appropriately levitational. 

7: GLITTERSNUFF. Not food or drink, but: you put it up your nose, and that’s close enough. Glittersnuff is a shiny power that produces a moderate high in the user leading to increased jollity and overall festive cheer, but rampant sneezing after use is the main draw – users eject great plumes of glittering dust and luminescent mucus from their noses and mouths, and sometimes it’s in cool shapes like dragons or boats or firework displays (moderate Charisma check when you use it to have it function as glitterdust spell). Given that the festive market takes place at the height of flu season, most every cleric in town has argued that a drug that makes you sneeze on one another is a terrible idea and it should no longer be sold. 

8: DRAGON EGGNOG. It’s not made from real dragon eggs, of course – that would be ridiculous. Instead, much cheaper wyvern’s eggs are used to make this absolutely massive drink, usually purchased in a sort of bucket to share between friends. It’s traditional to let a guest of honour take their eggnog out of the wyvern’s eggshell, but as bits of it tend to come off in your mouth as you drink, it’s also traditional to find a polite reason to refuse it.

9: YEAR BREW. Dark beer so viscous you’d probably need a fork to break it up before you drink it. Stuck in a barrel at the festival every year and left to mature until the next year’s festival, whereupon it is drunk and part of it is mixed back into the next year’s batch. Year Brew is widely considered to be awful, but if you drink a pint of it and manage to keep your head (hard Toughness check or do something embarrassing) then you’ll earn the respect of the enormous, wide-as-they-are-tall men that sell it in big wooden flagons every year.

10: TWO-HEART SAUSAGE. This chewy sausage is made from the minced cardiovascular muscles (heart) of a male deer (hart), and despite being created in service of a pun, it’s pretty good. It’s served cured and sliced thin, rolled around pickled vegetables – a popular variant is to wrap it around an artichoke heart, making it a three-heart sausage. Experiments in search of a four-heart sausage continue every year, but so far nothing has stuck.

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Adventure Calendar Day 1 – D10 Festive Spells

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.

During the festive period, all spellcasters can use these spells in place of their own – it’s just that magical a season! To do so, roll on this table to generate a result instead of preparing a standard spell. Once you’ve successfully cast a Festive Spell, you can treat it as a spell you know until Spring. (Optionally, during the festive season, roll a D6 for each spell a spellcaster prepares during a rest period – on a 1, it’s replaced with a random spell from this list when cast. Being suitably festive can remove this penalty.) If it comes up, all spells are level 1.

1: ANIMATE TINSEL. Allows the caster to animate and control tinsel as well as modify its colour, texture, shine and so on. Every time you cast this spell, your mastery of tinsel increases. Should you use this spell in combat (perish the thought) the tinsel inflicts D3+X, where X is the number of times you’ve cast this spell, and as it’s a magical effect it ignores Damage Reduction.

2: BAUBLE OF WONDERMENT. Conjures a beautiful bauble of spun glass that entrances and fascinates the viewer (Will save vs your spellcasting ability), filling them with festive cheer. If broken or pierced (on a critical fail whilst holding it, or can be done so deliberately) the bauble bursts in a dazzling spray of light (easy Dex save to avoid temporary blindness to anyone within 10ft).

3: GUIDING STAR. Marks out a star in the night sky that guides the caster towards their intended target; it doesn’t actually change the star, just their perception of it. Roll with Advantage on Navigation checks assuming you’re looking for something spiritually important or mentioned somewhere in prophecy.

4: DECK THE HALLS. Instantly decorates a 40ft x 40ft area in festive trimmings – tinsel, holly, candles, baubles, bunting, mistletoe, socks on the walls, roaring fire in the fireplace, monogrammed pajamas, you name it. These decorations last until the next morning – when dawn breaks they will crumple into dry, tattered paper and blow away in the slightest breeze.

5: MULL LIQUID. Makes a liquid you’re holding hot, spiced and fragrant – and safe to drink, too. Drinking it restores D6 HP. 

6: CHANGE OF HEART. Target makes an average Will save vs your spellcasting ability or is struck with the true meaning of the festive season. This differs from target to target, and if they don’t recognise a “true meaning” or don’t understand the festive season, they take D8 psychic damage from conflicting information and their nose starts to bleed uncontrollably.

7: SUMMON MASSIVE CANDY CANE. The cane is about eighteen inches long and surprisingly heavy. Makes an excellent present for children, and functions as a D4 Bludgeoning weapon. If you roll a 4 on your damage dice, it inflicts double damage and then breaks into pieces.

8: STONE TO GINGERBREAD. The most reliable way to make a Gingerbread House. Turns a stone or brick wall into architectural gingerbread – tougher than usual gingerbread, but significantly softer than stones and much tastier. Also turns mortar into icing and windows into melted-down boiled sweets.

9: MAGIC MISSIVE. Conjure D6+Level cards featuring a fat robin, a cosy-looking cottage, deer, holly, and the like. Each card comes with an envelope and, when inserted into an addressed envelope and thrown into the wind, it will magically travel to the intended recipient. 

10: ANIMATE SNOW GOLEM. Snow isn’t the most sturdy material to build a golem from, but it’s abundant and teaches us a powerful lesson about impermanence. This spell allows you to confer sentience, animation and a pretty good singing voice on a humanoid statue made out of snow assuming it has a hat. The snow golem is broadly loyal to you, and is aware – some might say upsettingly aware – of its own impending mortality, so will undertake dangerous tasks that other servants might balk at. (Snow golem has stats as Skeleton, complete with resistance to Piercing and Slashing weapons, and carries whatever weapons you give it. Any fire-based damage it suffers is doubled.)

Next: D10 Festive Drinks and Snacks

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ADVENTURE CALENDAR

WHAT IS THIS?

Adventure Calendar is a setting and campaign that I’m telling through the medium of random tables – 25 of them, one released each day of December, up until Christmas Day itself. All of them will be available for free as individual articles, and at the end of the month, I’m going to bundle them all up into a pay-what-you-want PDF. It’s an experiment in worldbuilding, and I really hope it goes well.

UPDATE: If you’d like to get the whole Adventure Calendar compilation as a PWYW PDF or a fancy designed and illustrated booklet, it’s now available here!

Each of the pieces is illustrated by an artist who isn’t me. I’m paying for this through my Patreon – instead of a one-page game this month, we’re doing this. My takings from the Patreon will be split six ways between me and the artists. Everyone who backs the Patreon at a physical reward level will get a little zine with all of the tables in it when I do mailouts, and we’ll make the zine available for sale at cons and the like (once cons are a thing again). I’ll credit each artist individually when I post their work – please give them a follow, and maybe even commission them for some illustrations. 

The artists are:

Rollin Kunz
Kanesha Bryant
Rowan MacColl
Beck Michalak
Annabelle Lee

One of the best things about random tables is the unsteady relationship they have with canonicity, so to that end – everything that you read in a table is potentially true if you want it to be but not necessarily true if it would make for a worse story. Don’t go sifting for the One True Plotline, because I haven’t written one.

You’ll be able to use the random tables right away, and as more and more of them are released, the situation in the setting will advance and evolve into something different. You don’t have to use all of the tables, obviously. Just use the ones you want. Hell, don’t even roll dice – just pick the entries you like. I’m not your dad. I’m not going to tell you what to do.

MECHANICS AND THAT

I’ve done my best to write the mechanical parts of these tables with an eye to making them easy to adapt into your home game by working in generic terms. Primarily, rules are [bracketed away in square brackets like this,] although I’m sure I’ve missed them out a few times and just put them in the main text. Here are some examples of what I’m doing:

  • I reference “Easy, Average and Hard” saves or skill checks, which you can adapt to your rules system and player character power level. In D&D terms, these equate to DCs of 10, 15 and 20. (I think?)
  • I use a mixture of invented and pre-existing terms for stats, but hopefully it’ll be easy enough to figure it out.
  • Some effects have Dx damage or Dx healing. These assume a low-level D&D campaign or your favourite OSR alternative (I recommend Electric Bastionland). You’ll in fact note throughout that this is basically written for D&D but so loosely that I don’t have to determine firm data for things like spell DCs and GP costs; this is because I am motivated enough to write 25 different random tables but lazy enough to not do it properly.
  • Occasionally I’ll reference “[stats as X]” – please use the appropriate creature’s stats, or something that’s vaguely close to it.
  • When I say “roll with Advantage,” it means roll twice to check and pick higher. When I say “roll with Disadvantage,” it means roll twice to check and pick lower. 

I’m going to update this post with each table as it goes live, so if you want to keep up to date, you can check back here. Or you can follow the #AdventureCalendar hastag on Twitter.

DAY ONE – D10 Festive Spells
DAY TWO – D10 Things To Eat And Drink At The Winter Festival
DAY THREE – D6 Places To Go, People To See
DAY FOUR – D10 Magical Gewgaws from Professor Flouro Wizbiz
DAY FIVE – D6 Party Concepts
DAY SIX – D6 New Arrivals from the Far North
DAY SEVEN – D12 Fantasy Yule Lads
DAY EIGHT – D8 Winter Festival Visitors
DAY NINE – D8 Winter Festival Games
DAY TEN – D8 Rumours from Afar
DAY ELEVEN – D8 Slumbering Creatures That Have Awoken With The Coming Of This Dreadful Winter
DAY TWELVE – D12 Things the Doomsayers are Yelling in the Town Square
DAY THIRTEEN – D6 Travellers from Abroad Who Probably Want to Hire You, An Adventurer
DAY FOURTEEN – D6 Things You See On The Outskirts Of The Village
DAY FIFTEEN – D8 Concerned Villagers
DAY SIXTEEN – D8 Colours of Northern Lights that Spark Madness
DAY SEVENTEEN – D8 Ancient Magic Items, Sensing Chaos and Unrest, That Rise to Prominence
DAY EIGHTEEN – D6 Cults Who are Attempting to Curry Favour with the First and Final God
DAY NINETEEN – D6 Heroes who are Probably Not Going to Avert the Apocalypse but Might be Useful Distractions
DAY TWENTY – D20 Signs of the Apocalypse
DAY TWENTY-ONE – D6 Horrible Ways To Die
DAY TWENTY-TWO – D12 Awful Yule Lads Who are Here Now
DAY TWENTY-THREE – D6 Nightmare Florae And Faunae Of The Apocalypse
DAY TWENTY-FOUR – D6 Blessings from New and Terrified Gods
DAY TWENTY-FIVE – D6 Items That Could, Theoretically, Avert The End Of The World