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Holiday specials in your campaign

Written by Expy - Published on December 16, 2008

Flesh out your world with a little holiday special

Actually, let’s make this “flesh out everyone’s world with a holiday special”.

  1. Write a comment – share a cool holiday special that you think would be cool to run in a campaign (max 50 words).
  2. You will get one entry in a contest for each comment you leave (max 5).

Free dice from GM dice
We’ll be giving away 2 dice sets from GM Dice.  Each set will come with a dice bag too.
NOTE: This contest ends on Wednesday December 17th at midnight.  So you have exactly 2 days to share your in-game holiday special ideas in the comments below.
More free dice!
Dice sets from GM Dice are being given away on other sites too.  They’re all sites that I personally read so even if you don’t win anything you will enjoy these websites.
  • Chatty DM – the best bang for your buck.  Chatty is, er, chatty.  He’ll keep you entertained for hours – sift through his archives during a slow day at work.  You will not regret it!
  • Critical Hits – the best RPG news source, great entertainment value, and a snazzy website design.
  • Gnome Stew – the best GMing website out there.  It’s 100% GMing and they have a slew of talented DMs writing on the site.  And if you’re not into game master stuff you can always rub a gnome.
  • Jonathan Drain’s d20 source – more d20 stuff that you can shake a portable hole at!  News, entertainment, artifacts, and more.  Just plain RPG goodness – check out these house rules if you’re not convinced!
  • Also check out these 2 podcasts for a chance to win free dice sets: Wapcaplets and The Tome Show
Don’t forget to share your holiday special ideas below!

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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45 Responses to “Holiday specials in your campaign”
  1. Mad Hatter says:

    I once did a mini-adventure for my group in Germany. I had them board a ship and go to an island where they had to deliver a message. The island turned out to be a Mallorca clone (a famous get-drunk-and-party island) and the time on the ship was priceless (with trashy drunken dwarves and shot-sipping banshees and more. Total alcoholic mayhem.

  2. Trent Boyd says:

    What I did once that i thought worked well was that the religions have there own special holidays I once had the PC participate in one of these holidays
    I can’t honestly think of which religion and what holiday but they all work
    make it special and unforgetable
    Maybe even take Wackking day (yes from simpsons) and make is a St cuthbert Holiday but goblins inplace of snakes (that would make my pc’s day)

  3. Thoth says:

    The gaming group tries to get together every year and exchance small gifts before diving into some hot chocolate, Xmas baking pot luck, and a great game! This year we might even tackle Kringus!

  4. Nekona says:

    A great fear has spread across the land and it is up for you to save Yuletide for the tiny gnome town of Denburrow. Froststryke the white dragon lives in a great cave above the town, and is up to no good to ruin the gnomish festivities. He has been stealing presents, tearing down decorations in the night, and even freezing the tree at the center of town. Can you stop Froststryke or this year will the gnomes be saying “bah humbug?”

  5. AlphaDean says:

    I have a few differnet Holiday Adventures I try to run each year. I also try to through in some sort of variation. So Hear is my 1st one:

    The Mountain Race: PC’s vs two groups of NPC’s in race from the mountain top to the valley village. It’s a winter solstice celebration event the winners receive the a year long natures blessing form the local druid. Unbeknowst to the PC’s though is their is normally an evil player in the game who wants to assissnate the druid

  6. AlphaDean says:

    During the time of the Autumn Equinox the People give Thanks to the Great Stag Lord. He turns comes and makes the land fertile. This year during the Moon dance festival the Stag Lords Clerics are slain horribly and his alter difiled. The PC’s must find who has done this and bring them before the alter and the Stag Lord for attonement.

  7. AlphaDean says:

    Adventure of the New Day: At years end the King of the Empire holds an annual competition to select the New Champion of the realm. The Champion of the Realm is gifted with a newly enchanted item of Power to aide them in their duty. This year the Item of Power has been stolen…the PC’s need to find it

  8. AlphaDean says:

    From back in the day we had an adventure that involved the Dark Khris and the shadow elves. Imagine Santa Clause as a twisted Drow, pissed off because Humanity has defiled his very nature. Now its time for some revenge

  9. AlphaDean says:

    Last but not least there was an adventure about a gold dragon who would assume the guise of a human every year and bestow gift and magic upon the town of Drake Hurst. Drake Hurst always payed homage to the Gold Dragon and he in turn took care of them. This year though, the human brings nothing but pain, curses and misery…what has happened to
    thier benefactor

  10. Granger44 says:

    I’ve always liked the idea of a celebration or holiday prior to some sort of sacrifice. The PCs come in and see everyone celebrating. Then they uncover the reason behind the celebration and meet the sacrifices.

    This idea also works for the arranged marriage that either the bride or groom (or both) is against.

  11. Melkior Whiteblade says:

    There is a day between years that doesn’t belong to either year. It’s known as No Year’s Day. On this day, promises that are made and broken in the subsequent year have a way of causing ill, but if kept cause good. A sage tells the PCs why…

  12. Francis B says:

    I’ve done two holiday adventures in my games. In one the party had to get their hands on an item that was being offered up for reward in a heavily gnomish community during the “Festival Games”. One long night of laughter ensued as the PCs entered the games and ran through various D&D versions of wonders like “American Gladiators” and “The Hidden Temple”. But in the end the PC’s team (the Purple Parrots) got exactly what they needed to finish their quest, and we had a great time doing it. I think they liked bashing gnome heads with the “double pillow stick” the most though.

  13. Francis B says:

    The second one was a plot device to set off the campaign as the players were thrown into the various activities of Arrowmeet an elven holiday that celebrated Corellon’s time of raining down tree trunk sized shafts of deadly damage on the orc god Gruumsh. The PCs got to spend time talking to people in festival, drink honey mead and play various mini games. The whole thing culminated into a hunt where the PCs bagged a very dangerous dire wolf that had been plaguing a nearby human village. Of course the bear turned out to be lycanthrope, and one of the players was infected, but that is a tale for another day.

  14. Francis B says:

    I don’t think it will count for the whole dice-giveaway thing because it doesn’t have to do with an “in-game” holiday adventure, but every year I try to get my players together for both a Hallow’s Eve and April Fool’s day session. We usually play a random Ravenloft adventure for Halloween, but I can vividly remember our first April Fool’s game. We ordered pizza and I had tons of random candy as well. The characters were suckered into testing this wizard’s workshop and home to make sure it’s defenses against intruders were up to snuff only to face strange creatures like the lowly Platypus Swarm and the Pinocchio Golem. But it all culminated in a battle against a piece of pizza I threw down on the battle mat (or rather a pizza on some wax paper I threw down upon the battle mat) I handed the players some plastic knives and every time their characters did significant damage I had them cut off portions of the pizza. Since the pizza had razor sharp pepperoni blades of death they quickly deprived it of that weapon, and so in game the pizza no longer could use those pepperoni chakrum. All in all, it was a great game. And how often can you say that you’ve eaten the boss of the dungeon?

  15. Jessi B says:

    I’m preparing to run a holiday game next week – however, it’s not D&D. It’s “Kobolds Ate My Baby”. The premise is that Santa crashed his sleigh, and the kobolds have to attempt to deliver toys to good children. (It’s more likely that they’ll EAT all of the kids, though – they’re babies.) There’s some horrible Christmas-y deaths that they’ll have to roll against, including being baked in a figgy pudding and being beaten to death by living nativity.

    (This isn’t for the contest, I just wanted to share.)

  16. Troy Hughes says:

    The party gets snow-bound at a lonely wayfarer’s tavern on Yuletide’s Eve. Not so bad, right? Plenty of ale, a roaring fire, and companionship.

    And then the orc raiders attack, taking advantage of the blizzard to sneak into the courtyard and open the gate for the horde.

    At midnight, when the fight is at its most desperate and things are looking the darkest, the blizzard suddenly subsides and a full moon shines down, casting a pure clean glow that disheartens the raiders and tips the balance in the party’s favor.

    After a bit of mop-up the adventurers can regroup and continue with their festivities, warmed by the reminder of their company’s fellowship as illuminated by a Yuletide miracle.

  17. Mike Kenyon says:

    This year, I’m adapting Dr Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. Replace the Grinch with your villain of choice (I’ve actually stated out a ‘grinch’) and see if your players figure it out!

  18. Argokirby says:

    This year for our gamin group’s Christmas party I have pulled a theme out from way back. We are going to run a single session game. The basic plot, a band of wild winter elves have kidnapped a dwarf king, and they are forcing him to oversee their construction project (i.e. the making of little toys).

    The PCs have only one chance to rescue him, it seems on yule the elves load the poor dwarf king onto a sleigh and force him to deliver all the presents to the people of the world. This is such a great adventure because it always takes a while for the players to catch on that they have been sent to “rescue” Santa Clause from the elves that hold him captive. Once they figure it out they have to decide weather to save Santa or not.

    Last time a ran this (before my current group) the party’s dwarf volunteered to take the Dwarf Kings position, freeing the king, and living for an eternity as Santa Clause. It was sad and heroic at the same time.

  19. Rose says:

    This is the one my group ran last year. The party is hired to take a strange bag to the head priest of a church before the Winter Equinox. The head of a different church is trying to stop them. Will they make it to the church in time for the ceremony.

  20. Nicholas says:

    I’m assuming I’m not eligible but I think it would be cool to run an in-game secret santa. Set up a gold spending limit and have the PCs buy presents for each other.

  21. Yax says:

    Great ideas everyone. Keep them coming!

  22. Matt says:

    A village has asked the party to rescue 12 gnomes from the “Ulltide” clan of ogres. The gnomes were kidnapped by the clan’s cheif, Zantaklaz, as they travelled from their hidden workshop in the Frozen Wastes to the village. The gnomes were carrying mechanical toys for the children of the village, as they have done for generations. They can’t offer much, though the local priest is well-connected with the (insert relevant religious order here).

  23. Nocturne says:

    Last year, the way I ran my “holiday special” was to start it out rather mundane. So gather ’round children, and come listen to Nocturne’s Beloved Christmas Special.

    The PCs were headed to Suzail from the Stonelands, but had to stop at a village due to weather during Yule. There, they discovered that an insane and ancient, yet benevolent white dragon that fulfilled the role of “Santa” for the village. They helped him deliver presents to the children.

  24. Visionseer says:

    Tharic was the name of the god of the dwarves, so we celebrated Tharicsfest about the time of Christmas/Hannuka every year. I created St. Nickelaxe, rewording the poem by Clement Moore, and launched his legend. Of course, he was captured and held ransom by a goblin named “Grungy” and his Terror Terrier. The twist was that the goblin was Dominated by the little dog… who was a polymorphed major demon. Ah, what blood! What screams! What fun!

  25. Jeremy says:

    Classic holiday animation #1 -Snowman in the village comes alive — are the friendly? If yes, then PCs must find a way to save him before he melts (magic? escort above mountain snowline or other cold place? ) — and if successful he can grant a boon or answer a question once a yer on the first snowfall.

  26. Jeremy says:

    Classic holiday animation #2 -Unseasonably warm spell — death valley heat blast — in the middle of winter. Cause? — Heat miser vs Cold miser (possibly fey, possibly something else). PCs must discover the cause of the seasonal disorder, vist each in their lair, somehow resolve the conflict between the 2 (diplomacy? quest? combat vs elemental minions?) in order to put the seasons right again.

  27. Jeremy says:

    Classic holiday animation #3 – PCs must find a way off the Island of Misfit Clockwork and Animated Objects. Or find a way to get there and retrieve an item as part of a quest.

  28. Jeremy says:

    OOps realized I left off the last half of classic holiday animation #1 as I was rewriting it. Oh well — consider this Classic holiday animation 1.5-

    If it is unknown whether the snowman is friendly, then it could be a handy culprit for mysterious deaths in the winter hinterlands. Several farming families have been found frozen solid inside their home. The only clue left behind are gift boxes left in front of each person, each containing a yuletide gift carved out of ice. Are the deaths unintentional, or is the snowman mocking their yuletide festivities? Either way, it’ll take more than fire to melt away this (evil?) snow golem.

  29. Nathaniel Daffinee says:

    I came up with something kind of similar to Jeremy’s animation#1:

    -Children in a village have disappeared just before the yuletide. An ancient storyteller speaks of a cave in the hills. The culprit is Frosty, a snow golem who was once the town’s guardian, but after a long sleep, was forgotten. He took the children to rekindle belief in him.

  30. Thasmodious says:

    In my homebrew world, all religions share a two day long High Holy Festival that occurs on the last day of the old year and the first day of the new year. It’s in winter, with gift giving and religious ceremonies. My PCs have had a few adventures centered around this time of year. One memorable one – The PC cleric of the God of the Dawn was asked to find out what happened to the intelligent dire polar bear that was to marshal the traditional parade in the Empire’s capital city. He learned through divination that the bear had been kidnapped by followers of the dread God of Night (portfolio: death, murder, etc) and was being held deep in the bowls of their hidden temple somewhere in one of the layers of Carceri. He had 3 days to teleport around the world, recruit the other PCs to help him, travel to that plane, find the temple, and rescue the bear. In the process they actually destroyed the temple, on the first day of the High Holy Festival, an act celebrated throughout the mortal world, but they faced divine punishment for such a crime against the collective Gods, which led to another crazy fun adventure.

    It was a blast and the whole idea was inspired by an episode of Veronica Mars where two rival high schools steal each other’s mascots.

  31. Thasmodious says:

    I also love doing Halloween themed stuff around Halloween. The PCs stayed at a road side inn one time and during the inn’s group dinner, someone was murdered. They then discovered they couldn’t leave the inn and another patron died. So they had to figure out what was happening and stopped it. I used a setup for a mystery dinner party night I found online, fantasied up obviously and it worked great. A vampire was behind it, throw in some ghosts and a couple evil outsiders, and a mysterious stranger who was first a red herring and later an ally rounded things out.

  32. St-Etienne says:

    Upon arriving at the Putanamehere village, The PC’S stumble on a raid searching the great traitor to the Putanothernamehere God of good (or whatever). By accident or DM’s exmachina the meet a lovely couple bearing a newborn child with the mark of the god. he’s no treator just rejuvenator of the faith to be. they have to protect him against his own church…

  33. Dave T. Game says:

    (not entering the contest)

    It’s New Year’s Eve, but for some reason the new year won’t come. Every time there’s a countdown to 0, the PCs find themselves back at the beginning of December 31st, everything reset except that the PCs remember each time. Perhaps a series of strange occurrences have to be solved before they are released into the new year?

  34. Francis B says:

    Perhaps Dave T. Game they have to rescue the baby new year from an evil intelligent Roc who believes that he will die this year and therefore stole the baby from out of Father Time’s home so the new year will not come. Oh how I love that movie.

  35. Thasmodious says:

    I’ve enjoyed this post, it’s had me brainstorming all day. Here’s one stolen from a ST:TNG episode (points if you know which one) – on the PC cleric’s religion’s most holy day, a long dead hero/leader of the faith is miraculously resurrected by a True Resurrection spell and usurps the church’s leaders, declaring the church will move in a startling new direction. This causes a schism as many flock to the banner of the risen hero, who declares a holy war on a rival, but friendly religion perhaps from the same pantheon or another good deity (or neutral, whatever). The faithful masses arm for war while the PC cleric and his party must learn the truth of the sudden resurrection and the ancient prophecy it’s tied to. In the end, perhaps some clergy attempted the resurrection and an evil outsider or spirit answered the call rather than the fallen hero (maybe a balor or pit fiend) or the party learns that the hero wasn’t all he was cracked up to be the first time around and this is really him. One path leads to a more adventure/combat based resolution (with perhaps a big ritual to separate the body from its real inhabitant) while the other may be much more RP centered, with the PCs having to convince influential faithful of the folly of the ancient hero.

    Or, the whole thing could be flipped and when the cleric learns the truth, and the reasons behind it (a small group of clergy are trying to wrest the faith away from the stagnant, aristocratic leaders and incite a resurgence in faith) presenting the PC cleric with a moral conundrum.

  36. Jacob says:

    I plan on running a one-shot adventure where the PCs have to defend Santa’s sleigh from flying enemies! I haven’t worked out yet how I’ll make sure all the PC’s can fly, though… maybe I’ll just give them all rings of flying for free.

  37. Jacob says:

    Have a Grinch-esque Super villain start stealing Christmas, then have him only be defeatable by an Elf weilding Santa’s Slay, an equally Super Weapon. It would be great for a Solo adventure.

  38. Jacob says:

    I’m changing my mind as I write this. I’m running multiple one-shot adventures, using all different ideas! What Yuletide cheer.

    Remember the Random Minion Generator (Release the Super-intelligent robot bunnies with laser eyes!)? I’m going to run a rules-loose, Anime style game where Santa is infiltrating the world with evil toys. When to PCs go to his dungeon, it goes into upcoming boss fight mode: Santa fights momentarily, loses and flees and bogs down the PCs with his Toy Minions, PCs wade through and catch back up with Santa, who fights momentarily and flees. Repeat until you run out of awesome toys, then have the Drow Bodyguards bust out their awesomeness.

  39. Jacob says:

    Give your PCs no hint of this, but in your session closest to christmas, in the middle of the big climactic battle, have everything suddenly be christmas themed!!! Candy cane weilding Fighters, Wizards blasting away with Wands of Burning Hot Chocolate, Thieves Sneak attacking with Icicles, Clerics Buffing allies with Bestow Holiday Cheer, The possibilities are endless.

  40. Cat says:

    How about having the PCs deal with good old King Herod and the slaughter of the innocents? In game terms, give them a powerful boss (evil wizard, red dragon, whatever) and an oracle foretelling the birth of a great hero who will drive evil from the land forever. They have to protect the child in question from the boss’s wrath, and see if they can thwart the boss’s plans to murder every child in the country under age two. This is also a bit of a moral conflict for a good party– will they welcome the Chosen One, or will they be jealous of him for stealing their thunder?

  41. OmegaZ says:

    I started new campaign last week and gave my players a “holiday special” right away :P
    Their first employer was a talking head… ( A adeptus mechanicus lost all other parts except head) Whose servant was described to be just like santa claus, except that he was bald :)

    If I manage to run a session before christmas eve I’m going to run a funny sidequest for them. The Carebears are going to teleport them to the their plane (which in this case is filled with thousands of christmas decorations) and if they solve the quest given by the Carebears. They’re gonna get some nice randomly rolled christmas gifts from the bears.

  42. Gabriel says:

    Perhaps the ideal holiday tale could be a twist on Zwarte Piet, or Black Peter (who would spirit away naughty children). The twist on this could be a corruption of the character. A dark figure surfaces in the winter months and abducts children, leaving no trace of his entrance of flight from the residence. This would ideally be a Dark One or a Doppleganger, as a drow seems a little too sophisticated for something like this. In any case, the general holiday theme could take place, and the players are begged by an old man who suspiciously resembles Santa Claus to stop the kidnappings and bring the villain to justice. This would be a long chase of the “thief” archetype as the players desperately try to uncover not just the reasoning behind the kidnappings, but how exactly to stop a villain they cannot trace.

  43. DM Gar'rin says:

    In my homebrew world, the adventurers have to save a village of halflings by teaming up with Father Christmas to defeat Jack Frost and his army of Snow Golems.

  44. barasawa says:

    I was thinking of basing an adventure on the song, “The Twelve Days Of Christmas”.

    The patron sends the group to help the townsfolk out for some reason.

    First, they have to find/rescue Old Mister Partridge. Turns out he got treed by wolves on his morning walk out in the old orchard. (Pear trees)

    Second, the local cleric broke his leg, and needs someone to go fetch the pair of messenger pigeons from a colleague of his.

    Etc., I think you get the idea.
    If all 12 tasks are completed, give them a non-material reward. (Like a blessing, or unexpected help with a campaign arc plot point.)

  45. barasawa says:

    Almost forgot, I know I missed the contest. Just wanted to share the idea.

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