What's the Best Holiday to Game?
  • What's the Best Holiday to Game?


    With the Thanksgiving season upon us in the U.S. and many families getting together around a table, it's not too much of a leap that some of them might play a tabletop game after dinner. Which holidays lend themselves to playing RPGs with your family?


    Photo by Libby Penner on Unsplash

    Tabletop role-playing games were always meant to be played around a table. In the earliest games, that table was large -- co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons Gary Gygax references games with as many as 20 players -- not unlike a large family gathering sitting down to a meal. That's not all holiday get-togethers share with tabletop gaming.

    Experienced gamers know that a significant barrier to gaming is scheduling. National holidays make that easier, ensuring friends and family are off from work and school to be able to play. Scheduling games to play on certain holidays can be a good idea, unless there are other obligations that wouldn't make it appropriate to play. Depending on the holiday, those obligations can be significant. Let's take a look at the federal holidays and their applicability to gaming:

    New Year's Eve/Day

    There's no reason that New Year's Eve can't be a tabletop gaming event, particularly as games often run late into the night. That said, New Years is often a time to spend with a significant other, so any game will likely need to be inclusive for both. There might even be value in a game that races against the clock, with the finale ending at the strike of midnight.

    Martin Luther King Jr. /Columbus /Memorial /Veterans Day

    These holidays can be recognized as a day of service. Depending on how a family observes it, gaming would be best served as part of a community outreach (for example, an educational RPG at a library for kids). It's important to be sensitive to your player's backgrounds and preferences. If everyone is amenable, you could celebrate Memorial or Veterans Day by running a historical military-themed game as a form of remembrance.

    President's/Labor /Independence Day

    These holidays don't usually have a specific obligation, which makes it perfect for gamers to get together. Any game on Independence Day would be best served if it incorporates explosions into the backdrop of the game. And of course, the game will have to work around fireworks or any other celebratory activities.

    Religious Holidays/Thanksgiving

    Including Christmas, Jewish holidays, and Thanksgiving, these holidays tend to have a family obligation, so plans for game will likely rely on your family's interest in role-playing games and their own holiday traditions. Some holidays have specific religious observances that will make a game difficult, but if there's a holiday of a religion your family doesn't celebrate, then it's similar to the aforementioned "low obligation" holidays.

    These holidays will of course vary depending on your region, country, and family customs. Any tabletop game, including role-playing games, will need to be playable by the whole family, so kids may be part of the equation. The game probably can't drag on for very long. And for gift-giving holidays, gamer gifts can be put to good use right after.

    No matter what holiday you celebrate, here's to getting together with friends and family, sharing a good meal, and hopefully a good game too!

    Mike "Talien" Tresca is a freelance game columnist, author, communicator, and a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to http://amazon.com. You can follow him at Patreon.
    Comments 19 Comments
    1. SirGalrim's Avatar
      SirGalrim -
      Ugh. Narrow minded article. There are other holidays. And there are other countries than USA.
    1. Jhaelen -
      Quote Originally Posted by SirGalrim View Post
      Ugh. Narrow minded article. There are other holidays. And there are other countries than USA.
      Then why don't you suggest a couple of other holidays from different countries?
    1. Anselyn's Avatar
      Anselyn -
      Boxing Day: For most people the big family gathering is Xmas Day but Boxing Day is a bank holiday, can be a quiet day, and there's no need to cook with so many lefovers around.
    1. delericho's Avatar
      delericho -
      My former gaming group had a semi-formal tradition of getting together for a game a few days after Christmas. It was always good fun.

      (Perhaps interestingly, there was an old tradition in the UK of telling ghost stories at Christmas - "A Christmas Carol" being the most famous of these, of course, and also the point where the character of the stories really started to change. So getting together for some sort of horror RPG might be surprisingly appropriate.)
    1. talien's Avatar
      talien -
      Quote Originally Posted by SirGalrim View Post
      Ugh. Narrow minded article. There are other holidays. And there are other countries than USA.
      I agree, which is why I wrote:

      Quote Originally Posted by talien View Post
      These holidays will of course vary depending on your region, country, and family customs. Any tabletop game, including role-playing games, will need to be playable by the whole family, so kids may be part of the equation. The game probably can't drag on for very long. And for gift-giving holidays, gamer gifts can be put to good use right after.
      Thanks for reading!
    1. Jacob Lewis's Avatar
      Jacob Lewis -
      Extremely narrow minded article. I mean, come on! Who is gonna want to learn rules, build characters, and provide backstories for the annual holiday RPG your weird uncle tries to get everyone to play and show where his real talents for make believe and Tolkein emulating shines outside of his temp jobs where he is constantly held back and his dreams are suppressed by the realities of real world obligations. Let them play Monopoly and pretend to enjoy their company like true Americans by being competitive, cut-throat, and greedy!

      Or play Cards Against Humanity and let them find out what an awful human being you really are without the excuse of alcohol. Or with, your call.
    1. Koloth's Avatar
      Koloth -
      2nd the best games for holiday family gatherings are likely board/card games. Preferably ones that are fast/easy to learn/explain. You don't want some young kid's first group gaming experience to be hours of tedious character design followed by running out of time when folks decide it is time to leave. One of the Holiday themed Munchkin games would be a good place to start. Or something Cthulhu related for Halloween.
    1. delericho's Avatar
      delericho -
      Quote Originally Posted by Koloth View Post
      You don't want some young kid's first group gaming experience to be hours of tedious character design followed by running out of time when folks decide it is time to leave.
      Indeed. For a one-shot, I would recommend that the DM prepare a suitable set of pre-gen PCs for use. If people have their own characters to use, that's fine, but if not they can at least jump straight in with a pre-gen.
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Arbor Day.
    1. DerekSTheRed -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      Arbor Day.

      With pregen PCs that are all treants.
    1. Henry's Avatar
      Henry -
      It's funny, but for the past decade or so, the big holidays are for my groups the WORST time to game, because those are the occasions that everyone schedules to spend extra time with family in most of our cases, being largely 40-somethings with kids or extended families. Our typical schedule is that our last game of the year is usually around mid-December, and the next game is about three or four weeks later usually on the second week of January (after New Years' has passed.)
    1. schneeland's Avatar
      schneeland -
      Quote Originally Posted by Henry View Post
      It's funny, but for the past decade or so, the big holidays are for my groups the WORST time to game, because those are the occasions that everyone schedules to spend extra time with family in most of our cases, being largely 40-somethings with kids or extended families. Our typical schedule is that our last game of the year is usually around mid-December, and the next game is about three or four weeks later usually on the second week of January (after New Years' has passed.)
      Yep. Even without kids, holiday time is typically family time (it's basically the only time of the year where I see my parents for more than a weekend). Thus holidays are typically board game/card game time, and RPG activity goes into hibernation and wakes up only a few days or weeks after that.
    1. Over the Hill Gamer's Avatar
      Over the Hill Gamer -
      Black Friday is the best gaming day of the year.
    1. dvvega's Avatar
      dvvega -
      Personally, I find all of the holidays lend themselves to great gaming - no matter the country - as long as the holiday itself is fully understood.

      As I wrote that my mind wandered to the movie Coco - about Dias de los Muertos. That would be a great adventure for children to go on, firstly as an education of a cultural belief and secondly as a great adventure.

      Anyway, any holiday works as long as the group understands the holiday and why it is a holiday.

      D
    1. MNblockhead's Avatar
      MNblockhead -
      Chinese New Year is made for gaming. You get a week off to visit and handout with family and in many families gaming is already part of it, albeit mahjong and card games, or taking the kids to markets to play various carnie-style games. Board games would fit in okay, especially if playing with kids. Would be hard to get the in-laws to play TTRPGs though....
    1. jedijon's Avatar
      jedijon -
      It’s really hard for me to tell how serious this article is—playing war games you wouldn’t normally to celebrate someone’s military service?

      Did I maybe misread the part that I’ll be out of town and gathering with people of widely mixed ages and interests—who I see but rarely? Because that’s what my holidays often are.

      And IF I AM in town with my main group of friends...many of them will have traveled.

      Nope. A quick board game among that minority that is interested—that’s the ticket. And you can expand that to having everyone participate in a “party game” but you kinda have to know what type will be successful, have seen the Korean game of horses amuse a crowd with throwing the sticks when their family visited our family at Christmas.

      I won’t be roleplaying with or near my extended family, just not a good play, that.
    1. pogre's Avatar
      pogre -
      We have a long tradition of Holiday gaming around here. We even have a sort of mini-convention the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. This weekend we have 3d Zombicide Black Plague on Friday evening, a big miniatures game on Saturday afternoon, a WFRP 4e adventure Saturday night, and the usual D&D campaign Sunday.
    1. MichaelSomething's Avatar
      MichaelSomething -
      No mentions GM's day???? For shame....
    1. Richards's Avatar
      Richards -
      We game with one other family of four, and for close to the last decade we've always made it a point to have them over on New Year's Day around noon for the first D&D session of the year, followed by a two-family dinner. That's also often when we exchange the Christmas gifts we got for each other, as we're usually each busy with our own respective families around Christmas.

      Johnathan
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