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Fight and Dance at Winter Festivals!

Fight and Dance at Winter Festivals!

Around the world, many cultures celebrate festivals during the long, bleak winter nights. Following the conclusion of the harvest, people hole up in their homes with candles and wait out the season. Amid the cold and dark, winter festivals provide an opportunity to renew friendship and re-establish a sense of community.

Nowadays, many of our real world holidays focus on gift giving to friends, family, and coworkers. Many rituals have sprung up around gift giving, including white elephant exchanges and advent calendars.

While you wait for sleds bearing your package to arrive—or while you celebrate after the gifts are open—frame a one-shot adventure for those you love involving a fantastic winter festival!

Verzetz, the Festival of Resistance

Centuries ago, the Chimib Empire invaded the Rifius Federation during the late fall. The lightning onslaught by the Chimibi cavalry crushed the federated forces, and the Rifian lands were promptly annexed into the imperial holdings. One small Chimibi legion remained in the former capital, while the empire’s elite troops went to conquer new lands for the glory of the Empress.

At least, this is what Chimib thought. No one consulted with the Rifians.

The Chimibi immediately replaced Rifian bureaucrats with foreign lackeys and local collaborators. The Chimibi sought to impose the their legal code over Rifian lands, which drastically differed from their half-millennium common law. Most offensively, the Chimibi outlawed the worship of local faiths in favor of the Imperial Creed.

Resistance to imperial rule first solidified as youthful rebellion. In the Ynderzhen foothills, a young acolyte named Aslik Dohri thrust her spear through the belly of an imperial foot soldier who despoiled her abbey. The first winter snow was pink, as Dohri and her villagers chased an imperial company back to the capital.

The imperial response was sluggish. Legion commanders incorrectly concluded that this was an isolated incident. News of Dohri’s courageous blow spread through the countryside, begetting more acts of resistance. By the time the imperial legion mobilized in retaliation, heavy snow carpeted the Rifian lands. The legionnaires were beset by Rifian guerillas, who popped out from tunnels and frigid arcane portals to assault the invaders. In a short time, they killed two-thirds of the legionnaires, and routed the rest.

To commemorate their triumph over impossible odds, the Rifius Federation celebrates a festival on the anniversary of the Battle of Divren Valley. Celebrants dig tunnels through the snow and prepare ice sculptures reminiscent of icy portals used during the resistance. The cynical among the Federation believe that this celebration is a thinly veiled training exercise for the next invasion.

Try these adventure seeds to introduce Verzetz to your game:

  • Students at the Rifius Architecture College have built massive tunnels underneath the Divren Valley battleground. When a record crowd arrives to celebrate the centennial anniversary, the tunnel collapses. Can the PCs save those injured in the collapse? And can they protect them from the subterranean monsters drawn to the disaster?
  • The Chimib Empire has never forgotten the embarrassment of the Rifian resistance. Sensing a weakness in the Federation’s defense, Chimibi legions against invade Rifius. Can the PCs help turn the tide of war before spring thaw?

Feshtenshtraub, the Festival of Ice Wine

The merchants of the Grübotz are renowned for their wines. The Grübotzers haven’t traditionally grown their own grapes, but they do purchase varietals from faraway markets. They blend different wines which are then aged in oak barrels, providing a unique terroir desired by the wealthy and noble worldwide.

In the last two decades, the Grübotzer wine merchants invested their profits into vineyards of their own to control their own grape supply. Vintners warned that, while the Grübotzer summers were good for growing grapes, the sudden and severe frosts would result in catastrophe for harvests.

The first several seasons were profitable, as the vintners completed the harvest before the first frost. In the fifth season, winter came early. Half the harvest was left frozen on the vine.

While the merchants lamented their losses, vintners spoke with the local druids on ways to respectfully dispose of the frozen crop. The druids recommended that the vintners harvest and press the frozen grapes to determine whether the crop was truly lost. This experiment resulted in a uniquely sweet dessert wine called eiswein—yet another desirable (and profitable) wine export for the merchants of Grübotz.

To celebrate the unexpectedly successful frozen harvest, the merchants now host a festival called Feshtenshtraub. Here, the folk of Grübotz eat smoked cheeses and meats and drink the many oaked wines that are normally imported. Desserts are pastries made with fig and loganberry preserves, washed down with a thin flute of eiswein.

Bards debut their newest songs during Feshtenshtraub, and bakers test out new pastries to sell in their shops. Brave souls participate in the trunkertantz, a dancing contest, judged by the merchants of Grübotz. At the conclusion of each round, half the participants are eliminated, and the surviving participants drink a flute of eiswein before the next round. The winner of the trunkertantz has their debts forgiven by the merchants of Grübotz.

Try these adventures seeds to introduce Feshtenshtraub to your game:

  • For one vineyard, the rime-crusted fruits of the harvest have disappeared! The vintner approaches the PCs to locate the harvest, which the PCs learn were stolen by wintry rum gremlins (see Tome of Beasts 1).
  • After three ships carrying Grübotz barrels sank in a season, Captain Lunther Bechenbaum is facing financial ruin. The only way to avoid debtor’s prison is for the captain to win the trunkertantz—and he’s asking the PCs to help winnow the competition.

About Benjamin Eastman

Benjamin L. Eastman was introduced to D&D by his four closest friends—who immediately betrayed his trust by sacrificing his first character to a demonic artifact. Undeterred, he’s played all manner of RPGs in the intervening years. In addition to writing Warlock Lairs and monsters for Kobold Press, he’s contributed to the Stargate RPG and Americana, and co-authored DMs Guild adventures including Baby Tarrasque. He is perhaps proudest of the bar brawl—his first published monster in the Creature Codex

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