"Blood On The Snow", A Christmas Adventure

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Hello! Last year I ran a heavily modified version of an adventure called Clause for Concern, where you have to rescue Santa and save Christmas.


I'll recap the first adventure below, for context

In my version, the three PCs were Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer, an officious high elf organizational administrator of the town of Christmas, and a gnomish ranger who was the captain of the rangers of the north pole.

They discovered that Santa was missing and Christmas was being trashed by ice mephits and goblins. As they make their way through Christmas, at certain points they have flashbacks of deep old memories, from before the Big Guy was jolly, before his hall was bright and noisy with toymaking, when he carried a spear made of polished obsidian and was at war with the darkest beings of Winter. Bit by bit each of them remembers, which I interjected 3 per PC after failed saving throws as they dealt with things meaningful to them in the present.

Our capt of the rangers recalls at one point being sent as an assassin to kill the Big Guy, and recalls that she was the quiet death of winter nights and treacherous black ice over killing water, and her candy cane sword was black and red like blood on black ice. She recalls how she failed, and how this terrifyiing figure gave her mercy, and told her about a dream, a hope, a future, like nothing she'd ever imagined.

Our elf recalls being young, gaunt, a trickster with no home. He remembers running, laughing at first and then focused as wolves get closer behind, from the Palace Of Evernight, where lived the Queen of Deep Winter, who he had displeased. He had laid traps of crafted ice to slow pursuers, because he'd known he'd leave with something that wasn't his, but also wasn't hers. He remembered being met by a huge bear of a man, who asked him if he'd like to see a place where he could build whatever he liked in safety, and when the wolves came the man fought beside him and helped him escape. (the item was a sentient toy named Jack In The Box, who can answer questions and give gifts, if you have the nerve to ask and the heart to listen)

Rudolf remembers earning his place at the lead of the Big Guy's sleigh team, and then remembers a battle where the sleigh is damaged and Claus is riding on his back straight into the face of a dragon named Avalanche, and using back hooves and antlers to rip the dragons head apart with Claus and his spear, Hunt.

Each of them take on aspects of their old selves as they recall the past they haven't thought of in over a thousand years, along with memories of helping Claus build Christmas, and turn the Longest Night into a time to burn bright against the oppressive darkness and remind eachother of good cheer and joy and fellowship, and becoming who they are now by choosing who to be, day by day, every day, over a centuries.

Eventually they reach Santa's study, which is warm and bright, with hot cocoa kept warm by the fire and fresh cookies beside it, and they take a rest, and I give them a choice. They can remain as they have become for just a bit longer, recall the frost and wind and sleet and blood and their old names and keep the shiny mechanical bonuses they've gotten from recalling those memories, or they can take this time to choose again to be who they've become, and give up those bonuses.

They choose to let go once more of the past, and be who they have chosen for centuries to be, and multiple people at the table possibly cried a little. They also take cookies with them because they are greater healing potions.

Then they keep moving, taking the back door from the study down to the cellar where Santa has been building something new, and confront what has happened.

As they sneak down, they see that the Clauses are trapped in a circle of power as a terrifying woman they all remember as The Queen of Deep Winter, Santa's most ferocious enemy in ancient days. The encounter to end her spell is complicated by two factors. First, that there are 3 power crystals powering a barrier around the circle of power. Second, that the Queen has created simulacrums of the Clauses. The team overcomes all this, and figures out that the purpose of the spell isn't to harm the couple, but to force them back in time to what they were, so that Winter can return to what it was, as she names him by a name older than our heroes, older than complex ideas and traditions, older than humans, maybe. She calls him Blood Upon The Snow.

They beat The Queen, and as they are freeing Santa, our elf wizard goes to the bleeding Queen and gives her a cookie, in a gesture of kindness and warmth she has possibly never experienced before. Santa reaches his hand out, and his spear, Hunt, appears as he grasps it, and he slams it into the floor. When he does, there is a glimmer of the old Claus as his voice rings out in command, and then he softens, waves the spear and the detritus clears, and he leaves the spear hanging in the air as he approaches the Queen, and offers her the same thing he offered our heroes, centuries ago. A place of safety, where she can find out who she could be in such a place.

In epilogue, I have the players tell me what they're characters are doing on the first day after the Christmas break (from Christmas day to January 6th), and they see the Queen learning to make toys, and I close as we zoom out with a classic monologue about Christmas, hope, and choosing how to be and who to be with, day after day, every day, until the darkness of the past is a shadow on the wall, lit by the warm fire and the cheerful voices of friends and family, and the adventure comes to a close.

Now, I want to follow this up this year, with a sequel! Rather than remembering themselves, I want them to learn about the true nature of Claus, of the concepts of Winter in general, and about why Santa's oldest name is Blood Upon The Snow, and how a being with that name becomes Father Christmas.

And I need help!


I'm thinking that maybe his spear, Hunt, is stolen by another ancient Winter being, and the heroes must venture out into the wilds to retrieve it.
Perhaps Santa falls ill without Hunt, which has other names in many languages, and is the blade that fells the prey in a winter hunt and it is the bolt of lightning which strikes a mighty tree and splits it's trunk, and other things besides, and it is part of Santa's deepest nature. He cannot be him without it.

The adventure will deal with identity, like last time, but from a different angle, more focused on accepting who you've been and synchronizing that with who you are, and about how our very fundamental nature stays with us even as we grow far beyond it.

I'm thinking of not using D&D this time. Maybe a Kids on Bikes variant, or a pbta or fitd game, or the cypher system even. Something where character creation is fairly simple and descriptive, and the mechanics are about success resolution and other things, perhaps most importantly, where challenge doesn't come from attrition, so that there can be campfire scenes in between conflict encounters, and resting that often has no real impact on balance.

So, any ideas? Anyone know any games that do that stuff well already? Anything that is close enough to hack into a Christmas theme?

I'd like streamlined ability to prepare, and to cut back to the past, both to scenes of preparing something for just this sort of situation, and to the distant past to dredge up some lost bit of lore or simply memory from a life long since put behind.

Magic and weapon fighting both need to just work, and I'd love to have ritual magic and quick and dirty magic, if possible.

Anyone run a "powerful entity is sick and needs this artifact which was stolen" adventure before, have any thoughts?
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I guess a more succinct ask would have been better than extraneous contextual explanation. 😂

I am now wondering if the new Monster of The Week expansion would be a good fit.

But the PCs aren’t mortal beings of crude matter, but beings who embody some part of winter and the Yule season.

Since my players don’t read enworld forums, I can say that Santa Claus began in the darkness before humanity dreamed it’s first dream, born when the first hungry wolves gave desperate chase to some unfortunate deer in the dead of winter, in the moment when desperation turned to hope as the blood of the prey hit the snow, and the pack instinctively knew that it would survive to see spring.

And as humanity grew and evolved so did he, becoming all the things that come in midwinter on the longest nights and give hope to the weary and desperate who struggle to remember the sun, and eventually he understood that he needed to build something, to become more than one being and to give a greater light of hope in the darkness, and he became the Yule King, and Father Christmas, and Saint Nicklaus, and Santa Claus.

But the core remains, no matter how you grow and evolve. The wolf remains a wolf, even if only in some quiet part of the mind known only in dreams, and at his core Claus remains the moment in the morning of the longest night when blood hits the snow.

And I can do that in D&D. 100%. But why not use this opportunity to run through something new, that is made to handle characters of a different nature, in a different kind of story?

So any recommendations or advice or thoughts would be very welcome!
 

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