Like most special events, we here at D20Collective like to celebrate our holidays by way of tabletop gaming. And like any other festival, it’s great fun to match your session to the occasion.
You could go with the traditional ‘Save Santa Claus’ storyline, or simply include fantastical celebrations of a Christmas-analogue festival, both of which are tons of fun. But personally, I prefer to get a little more esoteric with my oneshots, just to mix it up and keep my players on their feet.
Here are a few (more unusual) ideas for Christmas or holiday oneshots!
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
If you watched the Green Knight movie that came out earlier this year, you might be forgiven for missing just how this story fits in with Christmas. The movie, shall we say, look some liberties in theme and plotline from the original poem. The poem itself begins in the middle of a yuletide feast for the knights of Camelot and ends on the next year’s yule!
Start your party in the midst of winter solstice celebrations, feasting the holiday, and the incoming longer, warmer days. Suddenly, a giant, green man walks into the hall, and challenges them to a contest: do the damage that you can, and have the blow returned. A worthy opponent will be given a handsome reward.
After a fight with either a single party member, or the whole, the strange man picks up his missing limbs and announces that they’ll need to meet him in the Green Chapel to take the return blow and receive their reward – without telling them where it is.
The party then must venture forth to locate the chapel, face their consequences, and discover the motivations behind the strange, magical knight.
The Island of Misfit Constructs
Rudolph is great and all, but I think most tabletop gamers can relate just as firmly to his friends on the Island of Misfit Toys. This small home made for toys that don’t quite work right also serves as excellent inspiration for a locale, and perhaps a mission or two, in DnD.
It’s easy enough for your party to get lost in a blizzard in the midst of winter – particularly a magical one. Luckily, they can find some help in the form of a friendly Warforged (perhaps a nutcracker in appearance?), who leads them to a small village which seems to be located on an island, somehow! This can be extra confusing, especially if they weren’t anywhere near the ocean when they entered the storm.
This island, home to any number of golems, warforged, and animated items that don’t quite work right, exists in a small subplane, created by the mayor of the town to keep the malfunctioning creations from causing problems – their greatest fear. The town can then provide the party with any number of quests and missions, and plenty of intrigue too. Perhaps the townsfolk collect cursed magical items, fond of their similar brokenness, and one or two are causing problems. Perhaps there are some who’d like to find fixes for themselves, or who resent their creators and want revenge. Perhaps, even, the mayor would like their assistance in putting on a holiday festival to ease the island’s melancholy.
The Little Matchstick Gnome
Hans Christian Anderson’s famous holiday tale of The Little Matchstick Girl isn’t necessarily a happy one, but it does make for a compelling and magical story. And you can give the sorrowful tale of a lonely little girl freezing to death something of a happy ending of your own.
If your party spends much time in the city over the winter solstice, they might find themselves face-to-face with the ghost of a little gnomish child, dressed in rags and holding a basketful of matches. She’ll tell the party that she’s well aware that she’s dead, and is a little abashed about it, asking them for a favor. Just before she froze, she says, she saw a shooting star. Her granny always said that shooting stars were the souls of good people being taken to the afterlife, and she unthinkingly followed it right out of her body! Now she can’t find her way back to her own corpse.
She’d like them to help find it, if they can – she can’t offer them much, but she’d be ever so grateful to them. And this is the sort of holiday that grants true supernatural rewards for good deeds. Perhaps following her little trail of ash and matches will gain them a pleasant gift for the holiday?
Adventurers in Toyland
There are a couple versions of the Christmas operetta, Babes in Toyland, the later version being much more lighthearted and sentimental than the original. Even later films and CDs have further adapted and altered the story, but all contain a similar core – two children finding their way into the world of Mother Goose, embarking on a holiday adventure.
Toyland itself easily makes its home in the Feywild, a land ruled by a Toymaker, inhabited by Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, Old Mother Hubbard, the Moth Queen, and a few others. And while Toyland is a fun and whimsical place, it can be just as dangerous as the rest of the feywild.
Finding escape from Toyland makes itself a priority for the party – the place can only be entered or exited during December, after all. And if they’d like to solve any other quests or earn any other rewards before they leave, they’ll have to manage their time well.
You could go the route of the original, and make the Toymaker evil, crafting dangerous, maiming toys, plotting to kill children on the material plane, and scheming to marry Contrary Mary against her will (very like a Christmas-y Strahd). Or, if you prefer the later, more whimsical version, the woods surrounding the blissful Toyland provide many a dark and dangerous dealing of their own.
Do you have any ideas of a holiday oneshot? Let us know below, we’d love to hear them!