While tending to my holiday obligations this year, I began contemplating the conception of holidays and celebrations within a given culture, and how vital they are in providing a cultural identity. Observed holidays can speak volumes about the values, history, and priorities of a group of people. Therefore, providing such “window dressing” when introducing a new culture to your players in a home game can help an unknown city of mindless NPCs take that leap into a living breathing community of believable people. Perhaps the townspeople are busily preparing for upcoming festivities, or maybe they are already in full swing. What is the feeling in the town? Is it pulsing with excitement, or are the people somber and reflective? Holidays can help you set a mood, quickly provide narrative exposition, or give an interesting backdrop for quest hooks. Of course, sometimes a party of adventurers steamroll their way off-script into one of these locations, so having a roll-chart ready to pull up can help an unprepared GM look like a clairvoyant. So for those that want some extra details about their towns, here’s a randomized chart.
* NOTE: This is designed for a fantasy setting, but a couple tweaks could make it work for other genres.
What kind of holiday is it? (Roll 1d12)
1. A seasonal festival. Spring planting, Summer or Winter solstice, or Fall harvest.
2. Birthday of a local leader (king, governor, tribal chief, mayor’s eldest daughter)
3: Anniversary of the death of a local hero, king, or town founder.
4. Religious high holiday, marking the adoption of a specific Deity as the town’s patron.
5. A public wedding celebration, perhaps of a notable person or persons.
6. Observed day of remembrance for a great battle, end of a war, or liberation of the town or realm from foreign control.
7. Local election, perhaps for mayor, sheriff, or judge. Public debates or voting may occur.
8. A great tournament, contest, or other organized leisure event.
9. Anniversary of some mystical or magical event that helped shape the town, such as a portal to another realm opening up , or the sudden appearance of a magical object or creature.
10. Anniversary of some natural or catastrophic event that helped shape the town, such as a great earthquake, tidal wave, or meteor that fell from the sky.
11. Strange custom. Perhaps completely superstitious, or based in religion or cultist beliefs. A day where everyone wears buckets on their heads to keep the corn-eating spirits away, for example.
12. Apocalypse celebration. According to legend, an Oracle, or the local calendar, this is the day that the world is supposed to end.
How is it celebrated? (Roll 1d20)
1. Traditional feasting.
2. Dancing, singing, and live music.
3. Courting and the admission of love for a secret object of affection. All remaining singles are randomly and forcibly coupled.
4. The granting of a boon upon the townspeople. Perhaps extra food rations, gold and treasure, or practical items.
5. With a day of silent meditation, where no business may be conducted and nobody may verbally communicate.
6. A public execution of the town’s most hated criminal.
7. With the sacrifice of an animal, where each townsperson is required to drink the beast’s blood.
8. With the sacrifice of an innocent person, virgin, or elder, in order to appease the gods or devils.
9. By exchanging gifts with strangers in the street.
10. With a huge bonfire where everyone brings an equal amount of fuel to signify unity.
11. With the juggling of geese.
12. With the choreographed mass suicide of each and every member of the town.
13. With a battle to the death between two armed combatants.
14. With the personal blessing of the town clergyman upon every citizen, including a fortune reading or prayer for luck and prosperity.
15. By sacrificing an object of personal value or importance.
16. By throwing food and excrement at all outsiders until the sun sets.
17. By participating in a seven-hour chant while holding hands in town square.
18. With the release of 1000 chickens into the village, which must be collected alive in the highest amount in order to crown the Festival Champion.
19. By marching to war on a neighboring city.
20. With a 24 Hour “purge-style” day of lawlessness with no legal ramifications.
Enjoy, and happy holidays!