“Make no little plans, for they have no magic to stir men’s blood”Daniel Burnham, Architect and City Planner
Some years ago as we sat around the gaming table, we got to talking about how there were D&D adventures written for Christmas with the usual cast of Santa, Krampus, and the occasional Grinch but where were the ones with the other holiday traditions? This led to a series of Seasonal One Shots, consisting of a mixture of homebrew and pillaged bits of other content, official and otherwise.
Where I went wrong was in getting caught up in the world building of it all. It should have been a quick Five Room Dungeon design but it quickly snowballed into a feverish creation of an entire Holiday World Setting that was not needed for this One Shot. I bundled together some of the better bits for a Pay What You Want pdf (click here for that Easter Eggs & More and if you think it’s worth 25 cents, cool beans!) but there was a great deal left on the cutting room floor.
It’s a little late in the season for writing your own Easter Themed One Shot, but here are some of the ideas that got generated for my own bit of brainstorm for what eventually got dubbed the Star Isles (aka the Isles of Spring) in my Holiday World.
Eggs were going to be a big part of it. First, I made a quick list of creatures that came to mind when it came to laying of eggs (dinosaurs, dragons, owls, griffons, cockatrices, basilisk, etc.) and thought about a few hooks. The one I settled on for this adventure was of all things not about hatching the eggs but an Infinity Gauntlet style adventure concerned with gathering the Eggs of Creation. This was a mistake for a One Shot but something now in the back of my mind for a bigger adventure.
I followed a similar tact with the thread of candy, with a quick list of traditional candies like Peeps, chocolate, and a mild digression into food for the main course like ham and scalloped potatoes. From this came the notion of a Tyrannosaurus Peep as an encounter, a few consumable chocolate magic items that provided momentary buffs. Then there was the Voodoo Chocolate Bunny – depending what body part you bit off, you could inflect a temporary curse on an opponent.
RITES OF SPRING
Then I went researching into various cultural rites of spring, themes of rebirth, and festivals celebrating the ending of winter. This ranged from the Bosnian Festival of Scrambled Eggs to Hanami (Cherry Blossoms) in Japan to the dressing as witches in Finland for Wick. The themes of rebirth rang out loudly with the lore of the May Queen and the Green Man which fit easily into a connection to the Fey. In a moment of silliness there was the notion of a Sailor Scout style of floral themed handmaidens to the May Queen, because why not?
THE CAST OF CHARACTERS
The PC Heroes were drawn into this world by the strongest tool the DM has – a shoehorn. With a one shot, there is no sandbox, just the adventure ahead of them. Wanting to add some local flavour, I created a race of Rabbit Folk (this being before WotC created their own) I dubbed the Leapus and a whole lore surrounding the Giant Stone Bunny Heads (yes, of the Star Islands … I’m not proud and I do love a good pun).
I’d been working with revising some aspects of Factions for another game, so had fallen into the idea of Factions for this Holiday World. If the heroes were to ally themselves with the Wheel of Seasons (a work still in progress and the subject of another blog post soon I expect), then there had to be Something Wrong with the seasons. Was it the one eyed Winter Queen and the May Queen was sending a hit squad to take her out? Maybe the Eggs of Creation needed to be gathered and placed in the Sacred Temple before time ran out? I liked that latter idea, but still needed a villain to the piece.
If the major adventure theme was Rebirth and Renewal, then obviously Undeath was the opposition. Thus did the Grey Isle emerge, a land of Shade with an Undying Prince in command. It got further fleshed out with themes of fungus and rot (with a nod to the comic stories of Swamp Thing and Animal Man), giving name and form to the Phalloides Pharaoh of Mycanos who had kidnapped the Erl King from Tir Bel Taine and inflicted upon him a maddening curse of the Grey Rot. The Adventurers were to be quested to recover one or more Eggs of Creation from the jungle island of Omphalos and use them to rescue the Erl King and cure him of his madness so that he could be returned to the May Queen and the Rites of Spring could occur.
Like I said, I got out of control in the world building and took what should have been a simple rescue mission into a much longer series of encounters and side missions. Mad with creation, I let it get away form me but I still really enjoyed much of this world I had created.
I really leaned heavy into the whole Jungle Adventure trope and decided to use some of the maps and encounters from Tomb of Annihilation with traps and such. I drew up a few more planned encounters which included:
- The Leapus Village (upbeat)
- Peep Stampede (smaller marshmallow creatures, fleeing the ferocious Tyrannosaurus Peep)
- Fungal Lizard Folk (regular lizard folk raiders, now with a diseased bite attack and in the service of the Grey Pharaoh)
- Stone Guardians in the shape of Giant Rabbit Heads
- A Mummy Boss (singing Rocky Horror Picture Show lyrics as tossing around Cutting Words at the PCs)
I’m still a bit haunted by the meh ending of that game and someday hope to revisit it and streamline it into a much better focus on the main quest. Meanwhile, there was a whole bunch of Lore created that I’m still massaging into a playground for future Holiday Specials.
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