It’s come around to that time of year, again. In colder climes, snow begins to fall, fireplaces begin to crackle, and the coziest sweaters begin to appear on the people you meet. Even in warmer climes, like here at D20Collective’s Guild Hall, a chill takes to the air. Not just that, but the trees (or cacti) are strung with tiny twinkling lights and sparkling tinsel. Because not just has winter come, but along with it the holiday season.
Those of us who love the festivities also love to bring it into every aspect of our lives, even our TTRPG tables. Running a themed one-shot is popular (and we’ll be going through our top picks for premade modules soon!), but there are smaller, easier ways to get your group into the atmosphere as well.
Dungeons and Dragons Holiday Cookies
What’s better for the holiday than a plate of freshly baked Christmas cookies? Plus, if your group celebrates other holidays, these don’t technically have to be Christmas-themed. Sugar and gingerbread cookies work the best for this since they can be decorated to fit with your game of choice. Here are a few ideas for shape and decoration (pictured to the left is the Tarrasque DND Monster Cookie Cutter by Crashpixel).
Combat Cookies: make your cookies in the shape of the enemies that they’ll be fighting during the session. If they land the killing blow, they then get to eat them!Potion Cookies: similarly interactive to the combat cookies, potion cookies can be eaten whenever a player receives healing. It might even encourage some risk-taking!
- Gingerbread Adventurers: Gingerbread men are a classic, and they’re even more fun when you provide them with cocktail swords and icing armor, gearing them up for an adventure!
- Party-Inspired Cookies: If you’re a deft hand in the kitchen, you can customize your cookies to your players, using recipes that reflect each character. Lemon for a light cleric, perhaps, or chocolate for an edgy cleric? More elaborate recipes like stained glass cookies are sure to impress as well.
Advent Calendars are a popular tradition in which you open a small gift each day during the month of December, leading up to Christmas. Usually they have chocolate, a small toy, or Bible verses for the more traditional, but you can easily make your own tabletop advent calendar.
You can buy a big bag of random dice and hand out one a day to each of your players for a fairly cost-effective plan. In fact, most premade DnD advent calendars use dice for their rewards. You could also use miniatures, although that might get a little pricey if you don’t have a source to buy them in bulk or 3d print them yourself.
An alternate option is magic items and homebrews. You don’t even have to wrap those, just send out the link each day! Plus, you can give the same item to everyone in the group at once. To get you started, here are a few homebrewed item and encounter collections available on DMsGuild (clicking on each title will link you to its page).
- Aurora’s Whole Realms Christmas Catalogue
- 12 Christmas Slays
- Xhango’s Magic Item Christmas Catalogue
- The Winterval Wonderland Pack
- Festive Tables and Encounters for the Holiday Season
- Holiday Countdown
Dungeons and Dragons Carols
You can find plenty of atmospheric holiday music for the background track to an adventure, but you can also lighten the mood with D&D carols. These Christmas music parodies are hilarious! You can use them pre-session, during your gathering and warm-ups, or during your sessions as a bardic performance.
You can find some all over the internet, but I personally like these ones performed by Papers and Pencils.
Writing Your Own Carols
If you want to make some custom carols for your game, the process is pretty simple. Simply select a song with a tune that you like and obtain a copy of the lyrics. You can listen to the song for this, but I prefer to print out the lyrics, with extra space between each line. Then, simply go through and alter the lyrics to fit your game. For a simpler, more familiar carol, you can change one or two words and keep the majority the same. For a more elaborate song, you can change whole lines and rhymes. Remember to keep the number of syllables in each line the same! That’ll ensure that the song sounds ‘correct’ when sung.
Fantasy Food and Beverage
As I’ve mentioned in previous Divinations, a little food and drink goes a long way to set the mood for any table. Aside from cookies, there are plenty of other food and beverage options that fit with both a fantasy medieval and holiday theme.
This is mostly, of course, due to the fact that many holiday favorites are old traditions: spiced wine, clove and nutmeg for flavoring, sweetmeats and small pastries. Turning out a few fantasy treats also doubles pretty easily as a holiday feast and saves you from having to wait for the pizza to arrive!
For drink, I’d recommend this spiced wine (called Hypocras) and buttered beer, both of which can be made non-alcoholic if so desired. For food, there are even more options. I personally like tempered gruel (called Drawyn Grwel, and actually very tasty, akin to biscuits and gravy, despite the modern connotation of the dish) and Heathen Cakes, a sort of meat and onion pie. If you want to get super accurate, you can also use this medieval piecrust recipe.
Do you have any holiday traditions for your tabletop group? How do you get into the spirit of the holiday? If you have any other ideas, we’d love to hear them! Let us know in the comments.