A festive little something for Into The Odd, in the style of some of Chris McDowall's encounter tables...
"Keep Christmas in your own way" is an expression often heard in the districts of Bastion and beyond. Indeed, while people throughout the world do a multitude of things their own way, there is only the time around the Winter Solstice with which they demand and expect that they be allowed to do things exactly as they want.
If you are travelling at that most special time of year you encounter people or other things celebrating Christmas in their own way, perhaps you will be invited to join in...
Celebrants of Festivus
A short man holds court over others who he refers to as his family. All present save for his wife will be referred to as "my disappointments". He barks orders in a halting manner, every sentence threatening to erupt into shouting.
1. "Feats of strength!" he cries out, and demands that everyone present perform some suitably difficult deed. Anyone who refuses will be forced to wrestle him.
2. "Lamentations!" He invites everyone present to list the ways in which everyone else present has disappointed them in the last year. He insists on going first, and will continue ad nauseum. Roll a d6 every hour, and on a 1 he concludes with "Festivus is concluded! Get. OUT!"
3. "Find the Festivus Pole!" The focal point for celebrations is missing! Everyone present must work to find it. If anyone asks about it they are beaten around the head and told to look for it, find it! The man has no idea where it is or when he last saw it.
4. "I Hate Decoration!" Each person in turn must remove any ornament or decoration to their clothing and belongings. This includes being prompted to damage jewellery for being ostentatious.
Re-enacters who celebrate the "true" meaning of Christmas by staging plays. If encountered they will be a few people short for their next production; everyone else will be pressganged to witness the play.
5. Little Donkey. The stuffed head of an ass is produced, and worn as a hat. Little Donkey must carry a man and a (pregnant) woman on his back while a very long song is sung.
6. Three Kings. Two of three kings are required. As are their gifts. These will be obscure items that are in no way common place to regular people. The cast will become upset and angry if they are not to hand.
7. Herders. "We used to herd a flock of sheep at this point in the play, but that was getting a bit silly. So we dressed up these four dozen stray cats. Herd them to the altar!"
8. The Babe. The person playing the babe is wrapped and bound in swaddling clothes and placed in a stone trough. The Kings and Herders bring their gifts, which are laid at the babe's feet. The Herald makes a long speech about how the babe is a great and glorious person, whose life saves all and who is to be honoured. At a suitable dramatic point they draw a blade: "...yes, and then they died for us!"
The Queen's Speech
The local monarchy is ruled by a Queen of some import, perceived or real. At this festive occasion they are obliged to make a speech to her subjects and anyone else passing through. The Queen is accompanied by a court, a retinue, some knights and is set up in a pavilion or suitable manse.
9. The Year Past: "...at this time of year we look back..." The Queen talks about last year. This includes re-framing the actions of the players as having great negative consequences on the general populace. The longer that she talks, the more likely that others present will come to realise that the players did these terrible acts.
10. The Year Ahead: "...looking forward..." The Queen is truly prophetic, as she looks around and sees the players her eyes glaze over and she says three ominous things. At the end of the speech a courtier will inform that players that the Queen is never wrong, just misinterpreted.
11. Dreadful Boring: "...as I was saying..." The Queen will not stop talking, talking as though she were reading the minutes of a local rotary meeting in a flat monotone. Anyone who falls asleep will be executed.
12. The Fight: "...our enemies are everywhere!" The Queen is rallying support for her cause. Anyone present will have been treated well, given a great meal, and then the speech will be sprung on them. Part sales pitch, part commissioning. Anyone who refuses will be treated as an enemy of the Queen and her subjects.
The year's end attracts ghosts, a natural time of reflection, it draws them in all forms. The next time the players enter a room or any kind of enclosure, they hear a knock and regardless of them answering it, something arrives.
13. The Former Colleague. A deceased adventuring friend, now weighed down by the life he lived. He will exhort the others to change their ways (whatever that might mean). If they agree he will grant them a small boon, providing perhaps the location of a nearby Arcana or a truth that only a ghost might know. If they refuse he will attack them, dealing a point of damage to all stats for each attack, and chilling a victim to their core.
14. Remember. A hovering light appears, and if it is followed the scenery will blur and lead the party through a series of difficult scenes from their past. Once each person has passed through a memory, they will find themselves exactly where they wanted to be in the present. If anyone dies in a memory they will find themselves back in the present, and everyone outside of the party will have no idea who they are.
15. Rumour. A jolly man appears and escorts the party through a series of moments in the present. He asks the adventurers what they want to see, and they will see exactly a moment of that place, possibly seeing something interesting. Anyone else seen in those moments cannot perceive the party.
16. Revelation. A silent shadow shows a possible future in which all of the party are either dead, horribly maimed or thoroughly insane. Hints will be given that this might be avoided if they give up all of their treasure, Arcana and possessions to the shadow. The shadow is in truth an enterprising rogue with a weird Arcana who has latched on to an idea for scamming people.
An old man sits in a shabby but festively decorated hall. He is fat, dressed in grubby red clothing with white fir trim, and is possibly drunk given the way that he sways even while seated. Beside him is a large, rough brown sack with PREZNTS written on it. A small child with fake pointy ears is stood nearby, and beckons you towards the old man, who smiles as you approach.
17. Sit On My Knee. The youngest player is invited to sit on the old man's knee and tell him what they want this year. The old man will talk to them as if they are small children. For every minute that they sit on his knee they will become a year younger physically (but retain all of their mental faculties).
18. The Naughty List. The old man looks sternly at everyone present. "I have a feeling that you've all been very bad this year!" He demands that everyone tell him the worst thing they have done this year; the person who is deemed to have done the worst thing is given a lump of coal. This will burst into a searing hot flame 3d6 minutes after it has been given.
19. The Nice List. The old man smiles kindly at everyone present. "Now you all look like good girls and boys, don't you?" Everyone present is invited to tell the old man about how they have been good in the last year. The person deemed to have been the best in the last year is given a small, badly wrapped present from the sack. Inside is a minor Arcana.
20. Feed the Reindeer. A stamping of hooves is heard from a back room. "Ah yes, we couldn't find a reindeer this year," says the old man, removing his fake beard and mopping his brow. He explains that they found something close enough and glued antlers on. He's really busy just now, but if you could do him the kindness of feeding the reindeer he'll give you all a present. The back room contains a monstrous creature with comedy antlers and red nose stuck on. It charges.