Tuesday, October 12, 2010

[Elf Bait #5] It's The Little Things - Part 3
Holidays and Festivals

Over the years, I have learned that holidays and festivals are great for adding a sense of place to my fantasy RPGs. Sometimes it's just a little thing like a local fair or celebration occuring at the time the rest of the adventure is going on or a convenient hook, but other times it is the sort of thing that can drive the adventure itself. In this installment of Elf Bait, I'd like to share a few examples of holidays that I've used in my Homeland campaign setting.

Blood Moon
Every five years, when the three moons of Celni, Ilshora, and Navi align on the longest day of the year and block out the sun's mighty sphere there comes a time that the people of the Valley call Blood Moon.

Blood Moon is a time of fear in the valley where there are no tall walls or city guards to keep the common folk safe. What's more, there is no evidence that the other parts of the world are afflicted by the events that ensue during Blood Moon. So the people of the valley have consigned themselves to enduring it alone.

When the moon goes bloody the valley folk hold up in their homes or in common buildings such as inns, shops, etc.. They do not venture out and it is the duty of every member of a community to prepare for the coming of Blood Moon on his or her own. Though sharing is never a problem except in extreme circumstances, it is still thought of as bad form to not at least make an effort to try and supply oneself for the duration of the dark passing.

What the people are hiding from is the opening of the very netherworld. Blood Moon brings forth the host of the dark places. The woodlands creep with Witch Wood and the streets moan with living shadows. Travellers unfortunate enough to be caught on the road during this dark time are harried by all manner of manifestations, but none are more feared than the Garl.

The Garl are the unquestioned masters of Blood Moon, flying throug the skies, casting their dark shadows across the bloody sphere of the eclipsed sun. The Garl swoop and cry, screaming and haunting the people of the valley. Those they catch, they carry away or rend where they are found. Those so rent are doomed to walk the nights as spectres and haunts, their spirits bound to the place of their death for all eternity. Blood Moon is truly a dire time.

If not for the powerful energies that flow through the valley during this time, no sane man would brave venturing forth during Blood Moon. There are those that do, however, seeking to unlock the secrets of the dark passage of the eclipse. Legends abound about Blood Moon's thinning of the veils between plains and increase in magical energies during the time. There are also legendary places which can only be reached during the time.

Blood Moon is not known by just men, however, and the other races of the valley also mark its passing. To the elves it was known as Kagonost and the dwarven observers of this time know it as Gurok. To the Unmen of the valley it is seen as a holy time when their ilk are given a time to rise and reap the valley for its spoils. They call it by many tribal names but nearly every clan and tribe has some name for it. The Thanes of the western peaks know it as Hemhost and mark is as the day when a great giant swallows the sun and they can see his face leering in mockery at them from the face of the prominent moon.

Using Blood Moon
The grim, haunting nature of Blood Moon obviously invites good, solid horror-themed adventures but it can be used for other plots. Perhaps there is a plot that hinged around the magic of the holiday. Also, it would be interesting to use the onset of Blood Moon as a ticking timer in a story, forcing the players to get some task completed before the chilling holiday occurs.

In the wilderness of the valley, the human people have found ways to keep themselves connected to their neighbors. Central to their Winter festivities is the celebration of Wintermeet. Originally just a mid-winter trade gathering, it has grown over time, into a holiday in its own rite. Marked by family and community gatherings, feasts and general festivities, the holiday of Wintermeet is celebrated on the Winter Solstice before travel becomes too perilous and most settlements are locked by snow, ice and cold-savaged beasts.

Wintermeet has been "glorified" further by the inclusion of the elves in its observance, adding a sense of magic, wonder and splendor. During the first night of the holiday's seven day observance, hopeful children waits by their windows, eager for a glimpse of the elves' midnight procession - a display of magic and pageantry specifically for the purpose of the holiday.

Though the festivities of Wintermeet are marked with feasting, games, stories and the exchange of goods and gifts, trade also occurs during these gatherings. It is not uncommon, however, for a certain generosity to be extended to those who may not be able to afford the asking price. The elves, who will have arrived during the dark hours will have set up a wonderful gift display for the community they are visiting,always seeming to include those things most needed by the folk of the settlement or township.

Festivities continue for a full three days and then the various families and groups part company in a final twilight feast, usually enjoyed in the brisk outdoor air, warmed by roaring fires and elven magic. It is not uncommon for some of the elves to escort their human friends through the cold winter wilderness to the safety of their homes.

Using Wintermeet
Wintermeet is the sort of holiday that really invites stories and adventures involving a sense of wonder but it can also be used for good social role-playing. The gathering of people together can bring new faces, skills, rumors, etc. into an area. Also the appearance of strangers can bring with it unexpected trials and troubles which, juxtaposed against the wonderful time of year, will strike a particularly worrisome tone in the game.

1 comment:

  1. Nice! When I make a calendar for a game world, I always leave in a day between years. It's usually a holiday of some significance.

    I have also been more than happy to throw the occassional county fair type thing into the mix, usually as a distraction - players always want to assume that the fact that a bunch of toothless carnies are in town means they are involved in the plot. This is especially fun in modern or post-apoc settings...


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