image credit to dnd.steinhour.com
Holidays can help make any campaign setting immensely more immersive. Also, if you’re cheesy like me, you can have a really fun “Holiday Episode Special” for you main game centered around a clear parallel to a real one! Unfortunately, having holidays in your game can be rather daunting for a couple of reasons. The first and foremost is the idea of calendar/date keeping. Usually if you want to keep a somewhat realistic element to your setting, having some sort of calendar system really cements that together.
The problem? Well, that makes you have to really pay attention to how much time passes during quests and day-to-day activities that the PC’s may engage in. In short: it’s a huge pain in the rump. However, this extra work you put it can certainly pay off with emotional investment from the players, a more immersive world, and even perhaps leading to pressure on the players to secure a lineage depending on the length of the campaign. Nothing’s more exciting than when your mortal players decide they need to have children to continue their line. This means another campaign down the road in the same world, with similar characters and a rich history that is cooperatively created. Ah, yes, the sweetest of fruits of our labor.
Per-usual, i’m going to take all of the bad stuff I said could come from time keeping and turn it upside down on its head: I do none of that. I try to incorporate seasons and holidays into my games, a sense of time passing, but without all the crazy book keeping that comes with it. Loose and fast, that’s the Heavy Metal GM way. As of right now in the Ald Sotha campaign, the PC’s are caught a month and some change into an early winter. I definitely did this for thematic purposes, an early winter brought on by a white dragon named Carinth, but now I’ve brought the idea of seasons and time to the front.
Whenever there’s a semi-major shift in time (i.e days or weeks), I ask my players if the time spent sounds sufficient. If they agree, great; if not, we agree on something else and it may change the outcome of the task. To keep track, I just keep a mental log of near how much time has elapsed. Rather than keeping a full-on calendar, I just guestimate and it seems to work nicely. My group certainly appreciates the looseness of the way I run things, thus it works beautifully at my table. If you have a more detail oriented group, maybe this ideas not for you. Try it out, be open and reactionary to how your players receive it, make adjustments accordingly. A GM’s learning curve never ends.
Placing holidays within this looseness could seem like a difficult task, and it certainly is. Luckily for us though, the typical fantasy role playing setting is a sort of medieval/dark ages type setting. The reason why that’s such a beautiful thing is because holidays revolve around mainly a few things: the harvest, the seasons, birth/death of major political figures. So it’s easy to just throw that out there before there’s a lull in the major story arc and/or a shift in seasons. That way, PC’s aren’t so focused on the exact date of the holiday and focus primarily on what’s happening in the world when that holiday is. Holidays are also great places for story hooks. In a city, a holiday celebration could be a big gathering of people where something could go wrong or an important NPC can make an appearance to talk about something happening elsewhere.
Religious holidays, for those pesky clerics and paladins, are a little bit more tricky. These can pretty much be plopped down anywhere in a campaign and just fudge the date. However, the problem with that is then players may be focused on finding that date again if the PC’s are adventuring for longer than a calendar year in-game. Personally, I would just let the player define the specifics of the holiday, give me an approximate time of year it happens, and just address it if it comes up again. Make a note somewhere it can be revisited and do your very best to feed into that players interest in the event. If the players are taking the time to make something up for the setting, you MUST honor that. Nothing is more disappointing than coming up with something and having it never amount to anything.
Here are some holiday ideas for 13th Age’s Dragon Empire setting:
Stay Metal \m/