D&D Ideas — Holiday Adventures

Real World Adventure Hooks for D&D — Hiding in Plain Sight
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Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is holiday adventures. In the spirit of the holiday all about giving we’ve got a promo code to give you to use in Nerdarchy the Store and another one from our friends at Nord Games. We’ve got an item update in the Product Spotlight coming straight from the community and an update on our end of the year mega giveaway and changes coming to our 2020 schedule. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy, by signing up here. Holiday adventures are a great way to take what we know from our own traditions and add a fantastic flair. Maybe the Krampus of your holiday adventure is a hyper-intelligent arctic chimera like the one in Gang of One from our wildly successful Out of the Box: Encounters for 5th Edition Kickstarter.  The Out of the Box Pledge Manager remains open for late pledges. You can get your hands on the book and all the add-ons including presale badges for Nerdarchy the Convention, or upgrade your badge to Legendary or Artifact level. There’s also a FREE encounter Seizing the Means you can download for a sneak peek at the sort of content you’ll find in the book. Check it out here.

5E D&D holiday adventures
In Gang of One, an arctic chimera gets their hands on a powerful magic item that gives them all sorts of devious ideas. This is one of 55 encounter in our Out of the Box book. Click the image to check out a FREE encounter we created as a sort of preview for what to expect in the book. [Art by Kim Van Deun]

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The holidays are a great time to break from your normal D&D game by injecting the festivities from the real world into the game. Alternatively you can use the holiday season to inform and enrich your own game world by creating holidays unique to your world.

It’s the perfect time to introduce winter holidays into your game. There are literally dozens of real world holidays you can use for inspiration in your game worlds. Combine a fantasy themed holiday with any of your favorite holiday movies or shows and bam! You’ve got a holiday themed adventure to plop into your game.

Heat Miser and Snow Miser from The Year Without a Santa Claus could easily be turned into a D&D adventure. Two opposing supernatural forces with the players, NPCs, village, town or city in between all perfectly timed during one of these winter holidays to set the backdrop. There are probably dozens more of these kinds of kids shows you could repurpose into holiday D&D adventures.

I personally love taking known pop culture stories and sliding them into my D&D games. Especially the moment when the players have figured out what you’ve done. It’s even better if you can tie these to holidays you make up for your own games. The former Nerdarchist Ryan did this with The Krinch that Stole Father’s Winter Day. It’s an adventure that you can pick up at Nerdarchy the Store here. Another chance to use the MOUNTUP promo code!

From Ted’s Head

I’m preparing to run my own holiday themed adventure as this month’s fan game is happening for me tomorrow, but by the time you get this the game will be in the past. If you are interested in gaming with Nerdarchy, you can sign up for our newsletter, looks like you already did, or sign up for our support us on Patreon. Both of those methods get you a chance to game with us each month. So if you do both you get two chances, doubling your odds.

But you did not want a commercial, you want gaming info so here goes. You can have a lot of fun with holiday adventures. It is entirely up to you if you wish to include harsh weather into your hazards. I have had to walk long distances in freezing cold weather, wind blowing in my face though heavy snow. It is not easy. When we look at what the heroes had to deal with in the Lord of the Rings, it certainly looks daunting. If you think not, go back to the first movie and watch it again. Look for the part where Gandalf is parting the snow with his staff. See the look on all their faces.
But harsh weather is only one element. Speaking of elements, that is the next thing. Winter themed adventures tends to work with monsters that are all about the cold damage. So I recommend either diving in head first and really use those yetis, white dragons, winter wolves and all those monsters that either resist the cold or do cold damage. Or you turn the idea on its head and while your players are all prepped for resisting cold, you throw a baddie at them that deals fire or lightning. Part of being a DM is keeping players guessing and on their toes and the ol’ switcheroo is one way of doing it.
You can use all the tropes for adventure planning, but if you are looking for some quick adventure hooks for some holiday adventure stuff why not try out some of these?

Investigation. Something has been stolen. Is it the feast, the toys or something else special? I guess a kidnapping could be inserted in this one as well. Here the characters are tasked with solving the crime and restoring the lost items/person potentially within a time frame. Because there are so many ways of doing this, what is taken and by who this idea can be done over and over again without the feeling of rehashing material it is a good well to go back to. Just remember to mix it up and have a lot of fun with it. You have to factor in motive — the villain need to have reasons as well. One thing to consider is what if the item stolen is gone. Does the adventure end badly or can a new item be made in time?

Magic. This theme is much broader than the last. The magic of the holidays is important and it can mean something different to each of us. Some might never truly feel the holiday spirit, some claim to do but are not sure, while others fully bask in it. It was tough for me this year but there was a moment a few days ago that really touched me. I will not bore you with the details but it was a really nice family moment. So one area you can touch on with magic is there is something wrong with the holiday magic or holiday spirit. Another direction is to add magic into something that might not need it or should not have it. In this case magic has gone awry and the party needs to find a way to set things right or get it fixed. The opposite of this idea is the magic has been removed from an item or person. You can combine it with the theft idea above or something else. The idea of the quest is to do something to get the magic restored. The item or person might need to be taken somewhere or the item must be present during a magical moment. And by magical I do not mean to cast a spell on it, but to be present during something that is all about the spirit of the season.

Gifts. Sometimes you as the DM want a nice easy session. In my last game I took the idea gifting to my players and turned it into a game. I had been very light on the amount of magic item opportunities and the campaign is almost over. While there was no actual mention of holidays or even festivities but the party was able to barter or negotiate with a number of vendors in a planar market and get access to better gear knowing their foe was still alive and they need to put him down for good. While there was combat there was no actual threat to the party and they were able to get even more magic items before the session was over. In my interpretation the session was a gift. No real challenge and a power up was had by all. I even had all the PCs minis around a Christmas tree on the battle mat at the beginning of the session. Fun was had by all.

However you want to prep your games, keep that last line on your thoughts and just make the session Fun!

From the Nerditor’s desk

My take on holiday adventures doesn’t have anything to do with what the characters encounter or how the Dungeon Master prepared a themed quest in the spirit of the special time of year. Instead, the holidays often represent a perfect opportunity to experience any sort of adventure at all. The Nerdarchy crew all loves Dungeons & Dragons of course, and lots of other roleplaying games too. And we get lots of chances to relish in the fun of playing games with a wide variety of people.

But there’s a lot of people out there who don’t have a solid game group or a Friendly Local Game Store nearby. And I am certain there’s no small number of people in the Nerdarchy community who almost never find favorable circumstances to play games. My own home game group sort of deteriorated over the past year. Holiday adventures are a reason to get together with friends and roll funny shaped dice for a few hours. There are so many resources out there — including TONS of free ones — to pick up and find a complete adventure opportunity ready to go.
Tell a group of friends you’re having game night at your place and invite them to come. If D&D is your jam, create some pregenerated characters (if you’re really crunched for time) or create characters together as a group. Many other games are more self-contained and often have rules, characters and adventures all in one book. A one page game like Honey Heist is doesn’t get much simpler.
What I’m saying is this kind of holiday adventure is more about celebrating the holiday with friends doing something fun and nerdy, whether the quest is to save Mother’s Day when all the breakfast in bed goes missing or whatever. If your appeal to gathering for holiday adventure falls short, there’s lots of other places to connect with others for a special holiday adventure too. Our own Discord or Facebook group or even a blind post on social media can work. I’ve done it both looking for a game and running one — it works!
The best tip I have for experiencing holiday adventure of this sort, if gaming isn’t a regular part of your life, is offer to be the Game Master. Tell friends and family you’re running a game and invite them to play. The GM wields incredible power!
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