Holiday Adventures – Entries From The Holiday Contest

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0344

A Brief Word From Johnn

Tips Request: Looking For Sound Effects

Here’s a tip request I received about sound effects:

I’ve always wanted to GM a game where I could play from my computer the street sounds of a bustling city, a horse’s hooves walking across cobble stone, the rustling of leaves in the trees out in the forest, insects buzzing, or the background sound of clinking drinks and talk that you find in an active bar

In the past I’ve been directed to video games, but I don’t own many of them, or else the sound files are compiled into a file that is of no use to me.

Do you know where I could get sound effects?

Thank you,

-James A.

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If you know of a good source for sound effects, please let me know. Thanks very much!

Thanks For The Forums Feedback

Last week I polled you as to whether or not you’d visit forums at Results were about 70/30 yes/no. Thanks for all the feedback. I haven’t made a decision yet, and more feedback is always welcome.

Huge RPG Sale At RPGShop

I don’t normally put ads in the Brief Word Section, but I wanted to call your attention to an impressive sale at RPGShop on a ton of books from a lot of different game systems. Many books are half price or more. I’ve already placed my order, and apparently certain titles are going fast on a first come, first serve basis. Anyway, I thought this might be a way for the frugal gamer to finally get those wishlist titles like I did.

Here’s a complete list of what’s on sale:

Get some gaming in this week – it’s good for you.


Johnn Four
[email protected]

Holiday Adventures – Entries From The Holiday Contest

I recently held a tips contest looking for holidays and holiday encounters GMs could drop into their games. Following are a few of the contest entries. Hopefully one or more of these catch your interest and find a way into your current campaign. Stay tuned for more holidays to appear in future issues.

St. Karik’s Day of Humbling

From Andy

The idea of materialism doesn’t seem to differ much from culture to culture. To place one’s energies and emotions into an object is a waste when those energies and emotions could be put into something more rewarding, such as the faith of one’s god.

Hundreds of years ago, an insane lord became quite vain, growing richer as the serfs beneath him, unable to fend for themselves, grew poorer. It was a simple farmer known as Karik Lucas who changed things forever.

Karik was the most blessed farmer in the lordship as his crops grew better than the other serfs. He was generous with his crops, sharing whatever was left after his lord commandeered most of it.

One day during harvest Karik awoke with a vision. As the lord’s men came to take away the serf’s inventories, Karik lit his ablaze, along with all his tools, and some even say his clothes. He burned his home and stood defiantly in front of them. “Your lord will find that our god does not take kindly to people trying to buy their way into salvation!” is one of the many things he is rumoured to have yelled to the lord’s men.

It was then that a mighty wind swept over the blazing field, carrying flaming wheat up into the sky. The burning embers floated over the heads of serfs and their fields, never once setting them ablaze. They drifted over the mighty stone walls that separated the lord from his subjects, and landed delicately on the thatch roofs of his towers, setting them all ablaze.

It is said that if it wasn’t for all the fineries the lord kept within the castle, the blaze would not have been so bad. However, it gutted the castle and destroyed the lord in the process. Although Karik was beaten to death by the lord’s men, the serfs revolted in the confusion and times became much better and happier.

And so, hundreds of years later, on the harvest, one field is selected randomly for burning (this differs from community to community – sometimes it is the worst yielding crop, and often it is the best). If anyone is found to be carrying anything – anything at all – and someone is able to mutter Karik Lucas’ name before they drop it, they must destroy whatever it is in front of everybody. It is a test of piousness among serfs, as any possession is a valuable one.

Holiday encounter ideas:

  • A lord who sympathizes with his serfs and appreciates their holidays throws the players into jail for not destroying their weapons when confronted by the serfs as they walk through town.
  • As rumors of a serf woman giving birth to a noble’s son on the harvest surface, the lord makes his way into the town and utter the name ‘Karik Lucas’ to her as she holds her newborn….
  • During the ritualistic burning of a field, the flames catch the nearby forest on fire, driving all sorts of dangerous wild beasts into the town.
  • Someone is told to destroy a holy relic on the harvest, and factions form immediately, causing infighting even in the upper echelons of the township.
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From David Dow

Originally started as a day to ensure children would help with the perennial chore of raking autumn leaves, Leafgather has since become a community holiday celebrated by all.

Early after breakfast everyone gathers on the local green and sets out to rake yards and courtyards. Once a sufficiently large pile of leaves is gathered, everyone hides a small present somewhere in the pile. When the mayor/village elder whistles, everyone rushes forward to dig through the pile to get a present. Wheeee!

Holiday encounter idea: Everyone loves presents. Party members trapped in a town celebrating Leafgather can participate by buying small gifts and exchanging them with the villagers or just among themselves. Players can write the gift down on a slip of paper (folded over) and everyone can draw a slip from a hat (or a small pile of leaves for added flavor).

We’ve expanded this holiday into real life. It’s great for gaming groups with several couples and/or children. After a large pile of leaves is raked together, everyone puts a small, wrapped gift into the pile ($5-$10 works well) and then dig in just like their characters. Great with a serving of hot cider (or wassail for the daring). Children love this holiday, since it involves gifts and rolling around in a giant leaf pile. Adults seem to love it too.

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Winter Solstice

From David Dow

Winter Solstice is a day to honor ancestors and departed family members. Families gather together to dis-inter the recently buried, clean their bones, and re-inter them in ossuaries or crypts. In honor of the season, the participants must fast during the day and light no fires while the sun shines. Once the work at the graveyard is done, families hie themselves off to gather together, light some much-needed hearthfires, and feast themselves.

Holiday encounter ideas:

  • Party members passing by a cemetery or participating with family must help to fight off a group of undead attacking the holiday celebrants.
  • A party member with an auspicious ancestor hears word that said ancestor is being re-interred and his/her attendance is requested.
  • Possible adventure ideas include finding the wrong body buried, no body at all, a collection of magical items to tempt the PC into grave-robbing their own ancestor, a fight against would-be graverobbers intent on doing the same, or a sudden discovery that the beloved ancestor’s death was actually a murder (glowing bones, small bones of some kind of magical parasite inside the coffin, an arrowhead alongside the bones, etc.).
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From David Dow

A holiday sacred to the campaign’s god of reason, culture, and intelligence. The day is spent in quiet contemplation, often in a library sacred to the god of learning.

Holiday encounter ideas: Sages eager to take advantage of the holiday’s +2 circumstantial bonus to Knowledge skill rolls hie themselves off to libraries and other centers of learning. They could hire the party as bodyguards, engage them to go do research in their stead, offer some much- needed advice in return for the party’s help in some other matter, etc.

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The Drowning

From David Dow

Sacred to the campaign’s god of the sea, this day is celebrated by those whose livelihood or life depend on the whims of the deep, dark blue.

Offerings are made to the Old Man of the Sea on this day in hopes he will spare the lives of good fishermen and mariners in the year to come. Wines and oils, coins and valuables, and especially live animals are given in offering to the god. Lakes and rivers can be used if there is no access to the sea.

This holiday is popular with sailors and fishermen, for by tradition no work may be done over the waters on this day. It is said that ships that dare sail are never seen again, lost with all hands.

Holiday encounter ideas:

  • The party must travel on this day, and must either force a crew to take sail on the most accursed day or man the ship themselves.
  • The party is staying at a seaside village and find that the locals are considering them as the final offering to the sea god.
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From David Dow

Sacred to all deities, children who intend to pledge themselves to a deity’s service will do so on this day.

Holiday encounter ideas: Party is engaged to escort a young prodigy to a larger city, where he/she intends to pledge to a deity. Possible side treks include the discovery that the intend deity is a very evil one, or that the child actually intends to run away and leave the party to explain their disappearance. Perhaps the temple they deliver the child to isn’t what it seems, and they have to break in to rescue the innocent child they just delivered into the cultists’ hands.

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Prayer for Prey

From David Dow

Traditionally an evil holiday, members of rival cults set aside their differences to engage in wholesale hunting and slaughter of innocence.

Holiday encounter ideas:

  • Party members find themselves the prey of a previously- affronted evil cult, or just innocents caught in the path of an evil rampage.
  • The PCs’ inn has been chosen as a target.
  • A well-timed raid to destroy/loot an evil temple while (most of) the cultists are away killing innocents elsewhere.
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Hay Day

From David Dow

A time for locals to join in together on community projects, such as barn raising, bridge building, road repair, and fence mending. Communal feasts afterwards are de rigueur.

Holiday encounter idea: Party members with exceptional strength or magical talent could find themselves entreated by locals to assist in major projects. Perhaps the barbarian can help raise a new mantle stone onto the henge, or the powerful wizard can fill in a steep ravine with stone to make a dam.

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Judgement Day

From David Dow

Sacred to the god of justice, this day is a chance for the guilty to confront their pursuers and find a way to make amends rather than ‘face the hammer’. By tradition, followers of the justice god will not execute these seekers on this day, but will instead offer them advice on how to make amends or otherwise repent their evil deeds.

Holiday encounter idea: Perhaps an old enemy of the party approaches the party’s justicar and asks for help in changing his ways. It could also be another chance to deceive the pursuit or get close enough for an attack….

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From Ticho

The holiday is similar to Christmas, but the focus is on eating the foods of the season (or location for tribal cases) and not gift giving. Those who prepare food are considered the ‘Santa Clauses’ and after a night of feasting, someone sneaks another meal on the table to be found in the morning.

Holiday encounter ideas:

  • A head chef is kidnapped by a rival town.
  • A chef needs a specific, ingredient that is rare or being held by a rival chef.
  • A grinch has poisoned a particular type of food that must be figured out through complaints made by him overheard by locals.
  • Folks wake up early to find nothing (stolen? eaten by an even earlier riser? goblins?) and attempt to “save Cookmas” in time for the children.
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From Ticho

A time for halflings to appreciate their usual feasting lifestyle. Fasting is observed and small favours are given as gifts instead of physical objects.

Holiday encounter idea: A rogue halfling decides the occasion unfit and plans a large feast, either forcing the PCs to convince the unhappy one or the whole town that receives fancy invitations that Hobbitsgiving is important.

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Rites of Fecundity

From Tim Roberts

From all corners of the jungle, once every year, the {insert animal} travel to the place where they were born to conceive and bear the next generation. Some will not survive the journey due to weakness, predation, and injury, but they must attempt the journey. It’s in their nature, it’s in their hearts to do. The mates are not always the same every year, but once they do choose a mate, they are fiercely loyal to each other for the duration.

Very near to this yearly mating place is a village of humans. The humans honor this mating ritual of the {insert animal} with a similar one of their own. Once the {insert animal} arrive (which is always the same time every year), the humans offer a bounty on them. By leaving food out for these creatures, the villagers pray the creatures will bless them with a prosperous mating themselves.

The villagers mate once yearly to aid in population control. The village doesn’t have enough food to support high populations, so they limit reproduction using religious means.

Encounter ideas:

  • The PCs are in the wrong place at the wrong time {or the right place, depending on how you look at it}, and are coerced into the mating ritual.
  • The female PCs are in danger of being stolen from the group to add outside blood into the village’s gene pool.
  • The PCs kill one of the sacred animals. The villagers claim that one of the PCs has to die now to compensate for the loss of the sacred.
  • The PCs could abolish this holiday if they found a way for a consistent, abundant source of food for the village.
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Despicable Dwarf Round-Up Day

From Tim Roberts

The higher-class humans round up the dwarf race that lives in the same area. The humans treat the dwarves like dogs, using them as slaves, pack creatures, and anything else that they could put them to use as. The dwarf population would normally be a bit larger than the humans, but the dwarves have yet to catch on to their strength in numbers, since the humans limit the numbers.

Nonetheless, the humans have four days a year where they round up a certain number of the dwarf population, enslaving however many they need to make up for the slave dwarves lost throughout the year, or for whatever increase in demand there might be. They sell the rest as slaves, guides for the area, travel companions, etc.

This holiday tends to be a form of recreation for the humans of the kingdom. Elves often take part in the holiday, too. Some even say this holiday began as a truce between the human kingdom and the elvish kingdom.

Encounter ideas:

  • The PCs have acquired one of these dwarves during their travels. The dwarf is more learned since leaving his native land, and he tells the PCs of the way his brethren are treated and begs the PCs for their assistance in liberating his kin.
  • If one of the PCs is a dwarf: The PCs are traveling through the area during round-up, unawares. During the night, their dwarf is captured by humans who believe him to be one of theirs that is just guiding the PCs through the area.
  • The PC dwarf falls in love with one of the oppressed dwarves who happens to be a slave to the humans.
  • There could be an underground railroad style resistance where the dwarves hide in underground tunnels during these four days. The PCs could help hide the dwarves. Alternatively, they could uncover this underground railroad and map it out for the human kingdom, if they are not partial to the dwarven race.
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Harvest of the Seven Moons

From Tim Roberts

Once a year, the moon is in the right place and is full enough to emit light off of seven different rock and crystal composites around a mountain. To all who view the mountain from the base it appears that seven crescent moons float in a semi-circle upon the mountain. The legend goes that the seven moons are really directions to a hidden treasure. Needless to say, the villagers celebrate this day to commemorate those who sought the treasure.

Encounters ideas:

  • A village could use the legend of the treasure to lure adventurers to a focal point, such as the center of the semi-circle, so that the adventurers are actually sacrificed to appease a god. Now the party of PCs must discover the peril they are in and overcome their greed.
  • Perhaps the DM could create a puzzle and have the legend be true. Starting from the left and going clockwise, the moons could be turned in different directions. How the moon appears to turn could correspond to how mountain trail turns. It could have several branches of trail at every intersection, and the way the corresponding moon turns would be the same way the correct branch moves. It would be like an outdoor wilderness maze.
  • A competition could be in place every year for the holiday in which the first person to bring back a piece of rock and crystal deposit that glows from the moonlight wins.
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The Widowmaker’s Hunt

From Tim Roberts

Annually, hunters and adventurers gather in the tavern of a certain city to celebrate the Widowmaker’s Hunt. This holiday is held every year on the same day in commemoration of Sir Pacalotacus, who hunted monsters that killed many wives’ husbands. Single-handedly, he killed 2 trolls, 1 landshark, 1 cockatrice, and a werewolf all in the name of justice and revenge for the bereaved widows. However, the werewolf infected him with lycanthropy, and after consuming belladonna to cure the affliction, he died of poison.

In this tavern is a wall outcropping that looks like a doorway and is imbedded with gems and runes. Once a year, this doorway opens into a portal, and those who step into it are teleported to a random place within a day’s walk. The purpose of the competition is to earn the most unique, dangerous, and precious hunting trophy, and to find one’s way back to the city by whatever means within a week’s time.

The winner has a plaque of their name placed under the trophy mounted in the tavern and wins a magical item. Also, groups are allowed in the competition. However, many hunters go solo because only one magical item is up for grabs. When going through the portal, if a group of people wish to stick together, they must make a chain of holding hands.

Encounters ideas:

  • The adventurers could enter the contest because they wish to earn the prize or perhaps for the fun of hunting a possibly rare monster or animal. For DMs who like to keep the amount of magical items down and like their players to have to earn each item, the players will jump on the opportunity.
  • For groups that like to separate, they can get separated should they join the hunt and enter the portal. Thus, they must either find each other and join up, make their way back to the city on their own, or try to compete and outdo their party members.
  • The adventurers could end up in an alternate material plane.

Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters

Have a roleplaying tip you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!

SRD Import Into MyInfo

From Johnn Four

Over the holidays I found a version of the d20 System Resource document at that works great for importing into the MyInfo software.

I used the SRD – HTML ZIP Version. I’ve tried importing numerous d20 SRDs but this one has worked out best because all the rules have been placed into separate files. This means, upon importing, most rules are put in separated tree nodes, and MyInfo thrives on that kind of document organization.

Other SRDs typically contain groupings of rules in single files or pages. When MyInfo imports those, it means the rules get jammed into single documents, and I don’t get the same utility from that.

For example, after importing the DMReference file, spells are each given a separated node in the document tree, so I can find, clone, display, filter, tag, and manipulate each spell individually.

Last session I crafted a druid NPC (actually, I used the lizardfolk druid from Monster Manual IV). For his spells, I just cloned spell documents from my imported SRD and created a custom spellbook. This paid off during the session when spells started flying – it took microseconds to reference each spell in MyInfo.

In addition, I could make notes and changes to the spell documents. I could track what spells were cast by using document tree icons, and I’ve started noting what works, what doesn’t, mistakes I make, and best practices for spells as I use them in-game. Because I cloned the spell documents, my notes appear in my spell library as well as in my campaign notes.

Here’s a screenshot:

To import the SRD – HTML ZIP Version into MyInfo:

  1. Download the file and extract it into a folder
  2. Create a new MyInfo Topic
  3. Select from the MyInfo menu: File > Import > Folders & Files
  4. Browse to the folder containing the extracted files, select the SRD sub-folder, or one of the folders within SRD if you want a specific category of rules
  5. Click OK

The import is not perfect due to the layout of the source material, but you will see it’s ready to use and 90% perfect. My approach is to tweak imported content as I use it rather than trying to clean-up everything at once.

MyInfo website (MyInfo has a free 28 day trial).

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The Staff of a Castle

From John Eikenberry

In most medieval campaigns, castles play an integral part of the scenery. During one set of court-based adventures, I needed to have the names of the various staff members of the castle and also a quick description of what they did. So, I created the following list.

Running a fortress:

  • Steward/Chamberlain – handles the day-to-day operation of the fortress and its treasury
  • Troops – to protect the fortress and surrounding area
  • Commander of the forces – to lead the troops
  • Trainers – to train the troops
  • Stone mason, stone cutter – to repair the stone walls, build new buildings
  • Blacksmith (several?) – to shoe horses, make basic metal needs
  • Cooking staff – to cook for everyone
  • Chef – to lead the cooking staff
  • Food procurers – to get the food needed by the cooking staff
  • Hunters – to catch fresh game for the fortress
  • Carpenters – to build and help with repairs
  • Heralds – to keep the devices straight, to take care of the paperwork of the court
  • Servants – to clean, serve, help
  • Castellan/Chatelaine – supervise servants
  • Chaplain – to take care of the religious aspects
  • Gardener – to grow food, make the grounds look wonderful
  • Diggers – to help with earthen fortifications, wells
  • Armourers – to build and repair armor
  • Weaponsmiths – to build and repair weapons
  • Fletcher – to build and repair bows and arrows
  • Grooms – to take care of the horses
  • Stablehands – to take care of the stables
  • Pages, squires – to help with the troops
  • Engineers – to help design fortifications, large equipment, and counter diggers and sappers
  • Surgeon – to take care of the sick
  • Jailer – to take care of any law breakers
  • Entertainers – to keep everyone happy
  • Priest/Religious leader – to provide spiritual guidance
  • Astronomer/Astrologer – to advise
  • Court Magician

There are also special functions that would be associated with the running of a kingdom. Here are some of the additional roles.

Running a kingdom:

  •  Advisors – to help the King/Queen make the right decision
  • Tax
  • Economic
  • Political
  • Military
  • Regent – to rule the land in the absence of the King/Queen
  • Tax collector – to collect the money needed for the treasury
  • Messengers – to send messages to towns, troops in the field
  • Spies – to gather information
  • Counterspies – to make sure enemies don’t gather the right information
  • Constable/Law enforcement – to catch criminals
  • Diplomats – to make the enemy feel safe
  • Construction engineers – to make improvements (roads, aqueducts)
  • Treasurer – to handle the kingdom’s money
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Cool Places To Hide Things

From Bill Honchell

I was wondering if you had any ideas on some cool places for hiding things. I’m not talking about big items, but things the PCs might not even know are important: clues, maps, keys, etc.

For example:

  1. Place information in the pattern of a set of plates. Within the nice swirling blue patterns around the dinner plates at the table there is a clue.
  2. Messages that can only be seen with specific light or environmental settings. For example, the black light list of stolen cars from the movie Gone in Sixty Seconds, or when moonlight touches a specific window or door and something is revealed for a short period of time.
  3. A message could be hidden behind peeling wallpaper in the bathroom.
  4. Notes or letters taped in interesting or uncommon places.
  5. If you want to go spooky/horror, maybe the dead are trying to speak to the PCs, and they send messages spelled out in blood that could leak up from floorboards or out of electrical sockets. (In the movie Gothika, I think the ghost communicated by cutting messages into a person’s arm. That would be great for demonic possession stuff!)
  6. A series of paintings where each piece of art constitutes a part of a larger painting, and if they’re put in the right order, the large painting becomes a clue.

What kind of clue can be split into smaller, standalone pieces? Maybe the painting points to something in the room, like some kind of secret passage or mechanism that activates a sliding or revolving bookcase.

Perhaps there could be something actually within the painting? I saw a show where something was hidden under the painting, and the investigators had to use an X-ray machine to see what it was.

Maybe the frame of the painting is hollow.

[Johnn: Dear readers, if you have any suggestions for cool places to hide things, please e-mail your ideas for inclusion in the e-zine: [email protected] ]