Saturday, October 20, 2018

What Holidays Are Celebrated in Your Game?

Holidays are one of things we don't usually think about, but like a thousand everyday details they can make your world feel truly alive. Not only that, but you can often use them as a way to provide insights to religions, to cultures, and to characters who celebrate (or who choose not to celebrate) these particular days of importance.

Come on, hon, we don't want to miss the ritual sacrifice!
Even more important than these days existing, though, they can often be used as a kind of shorthand to explain what matters to a culture, and to give players something to grab onto for additional characterization.

Making A Holiday

The easy version is to look at real-world holidays, and just change the names. But if you want to make something more memorable for your game, I'd recommend going through the steps and doing the heavy lifting.

Step One: Why this day? Typically a holiday marks an anniversary of some event, or it represents a particular milestone that is worth noting and celebrating. Something like the founding of a nation, the start of a new year, or the resurrection of a particular deity are all examples.

Step Two: How is this day celebrated? Are there feasts? Competitions of skill? Are gifts exchanged? Or is this a day to be spent in quiet prayer and reflection? Is there fasting? Different holidays will have different rituals and trappings associated with them, and you should know what those are.

Step Three: What is the significance? Sometimes the significance of a day is basic; this is to remind us we've been an independent nation for 100 years, for example. Other times this significance can be deeper, and is tied into the day's traditions. A harvest festival near the solstice may mark the end of another growing cycle and the true start of winter, for example, but it also marks the closing of the year and the final chance to send the souls of all those who have died onto the next world. The celebration, then, is one part funeral, one part celebration of life, and a send-off for loved ones and enemies alike.

Once you have these questions answered in the broad strokes, you can move on to what makes these holidays unique to the cultures, religions, and countries in your setting.

For Instance...

To help get the juices flowing, I thought I'd provide a few examples of holidays you could use to get started. And to all the DMs out there, feel free to use these!

Light a lamp for every soul so they may find their way to the other side.
- Among the Joruwen elves of the Skytop Mountains, lunar eclipses are events of great import. Members will carve prayer candles, putting small pieces of paper in the wax. On the day of such an eclipse, the candles are lit at dawn. As they burn, the prayers are eaten by the fire. Then, on the night of the eclipse, members take the stub of their candles outside, and blow them out. The smoke drifts to the sky, carrying their prayers to the sleeping goddess Malis. After the candles are blown out, the Joruwen light fires to welcome the return of their goddess, and they share their prayers with one another. Prayers are not to be judged by others, but if you would not admit what you prayed for to your friends and neighbors, then the common wisdom says you should not be asking your goddess for it in secret.

- The Bannock tribes of orcs (an umbrella term for several tribes who live in the Gorand Hills) mark every spring equinox with an entire week of games, competitions, boasts, and mock raids. This is a time where no war is to be made, and spilling blood outside the rules of the competitions is a great taboo. This week of peace is called the Haran-Gar, and it has been a tradition for celebrating the coming year, settling disagreements peacefully whenever possible, and letting off the tensions of long winters without causing blood feuds. Weddings that take place during this period are considered particularly blessed, and many matches are made to stop disputes between different tribes.

- In Baragor it is tradition to light the longest night of the year with fires big and small. From candles to bonfires, the Devil's Night is brightly lit to keep away the agents of evil who might try to steal among them in the darkness. Celebrations begin at sundown, and stretch all the way until dawn. Characterized by feasting, storytelling, garish costumes, love making, and competitions, the night's excesses are seen as a way to show that the city's people will not succumb to the night, and to re-affirm that they do not feel winter's teeth.

These are just a few examples of how the combination of celebration style, specific time, and cultural purpose can create a unique holiday. You can add as much detail as you want, and even base entire sessions around exploring what happens on these days (or using the taboos of the days to complicate certain adventure hooks). Big or small, these days can add a lot of detail to a character, and to a setting.

Also, if you enjoyed those examples, then you might also want to check out A Baker's Dozen Pieces of Lore as well as A Baker's Dozen of Rumours (And The Truth Behind Them). Both supplements are by yours truly, and they're meant to help DMs add more flair and flavor to their settings without straining anything.

That's all for this week's Fluff topic. Hopefully it gets the gears turning for all the players and DMs out there. Also, if you have cool holidays you want to share, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

For more of my work, check out my Vocal profile, or click my Gamers archive to see only my tabletop stuff. To see my books, head over to my Amazon author page. And if you prefer some audio stuff, check out the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I make videos with others gamers for both players and dungeon masters alike. To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, to help support my work, consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi or becoming a patron over on The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. Seriously, every little bit helps!

No comments:

Post a Comment