Holiday Adventure Brainstorm

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
I'm planning to run a one-off game, over several sessions, with some family over the holidays. Only some of the participants are familiar with D&D. Parameters are:
  • I'm going to hand them all pregens, each with a brief backstory.
  • The game will start with the trope of being prisoners who must escape, both to let us jump straight into the story and to pre-answer the "why are we going on this adventure?" question.
  • It's going to take place in the far north, in a world of ice and snow, probably mostly in a "dungeon".
  • It will have some kind of a Christmas (possibly in the generic sense) theme. Maybe they have to rescue Santa Claus, or "Nicklaus", or whatever. Yes, I know that's a groan-eliciting cliché for most of us, and has been since about 1981, but it will be new for this audience.
  • They won't be first level, but also not very high level. Somewhere 3-6 range.
  • One or two of the players will be on the young side, so it can't be too dark/violent.
And...that's all I got so far.

What are your ideas? Help me brainstorm this.
 

aco175

Adventurer
Jack Frost and his snow golem Frosty are the BBEGs who kidnapped Santa to keep him from delivering gifts to children. The group was taken hostage by the evil snow elves (goblins) that are helping Jack thinking they are there on his behalf. The Santa elves (gnomes) managed to sneak a NPC scout in to set the PCs free and give them the quest on behalf of the children of the world.

You can make magic items like tinsel grappling hook and eggnog potions. I would have the PCs around 3rd level and give each a cool item and a few one-use items. Make sure you give Jack a cool monologue before the big fight and allow Frosty a cool slide on his belly move.
 

Eltab

Explorer
One villain has background music: the Heat Miser / Freeze Miser tune.

Rudolph and his nose are out looking for the PCs. It is not obvious if he will rescue them or attack them.

Random Encounter: the Abomina-bumble. This one has its teeth. It mostly chases you around and gets the action going again.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
Instead of rescuing a Santa Claus type, where you'd have to either explain why "Nicklaus" can't help out in combat or run him as an extra NPC, what about having the PCs rescue some flying reindeer? As a bonus, they could use them to get away from wherever they're escaping from. (But then they'd find that the reindeer won't be controlled and insist on flying straight home, allowing for a "Nicklaus" encounter as the coda to the adventure.)
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
I'm planning to run a one-off game, over several sessions,
You have an interesting definition of one-off.

  • It will have some kind of a Christmas (possibly in the generic sense) theme. Maybe they have to rescue Santa Claus, or "Nicklaus", or whatever. . .
  • They won't be first level, but also not very high level. Somewhere 3-6 range.
  • One or two of the players will be on the young side, so it can't be too dark/violent.
Claus always becomes "claws." Always. Santa's a were-polar bear.

Why not first level? I let out the same rescuing-Santa groan when I hear that a D&D game starts at mid-levels.

Plot (young player friendly): Santa was delivering gifts at 30,000 feet when he reached backward to grab some snacks, and accidentally knocked several gifts out of his bag. Treasure hunt!

Or if Santa Claws HAS TO be rescued, he also bumped the Fuel Dump control on his sleigh, so he'll need some diesel-nog to top off the tank and fly home.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
The Angry GM is not to everyone’s liking, but you may find his article about writing Christmas (And other holiday) themed adventures useful. Or you may hate it and ignore it completely, which is also valid. But either way, I think it’s worth linking to here:

Personally, I think the save Santa premise will be great, especially for a group with a lot of new players, but I do think that the experience will be made much stronger if themes of community, goodwill, and faith (not necessarily religious faith, belief in the goodness of others is just as good if not better) are front and center. Saving Christmas by killing the bad guy can be fun, but saving Christmas by keeping hope and cheer alive is heartwarming and much more in line with the vibe of the Holliday.
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
To add to the holiday reunion, you can make custom backgrounds that everyone can then mix and match with a character pregen. And you can then tie the background in to the story if you can do one tie in for each background.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
The Angry GM is not to everyone’s liking, but you may find his article about writing Christmas (And other holiday) themed adventures useful. Or you may hate it and ignore it completely, which is also valid. But either way, I think it’s worth linking to here:
Awesome. I love Angry DM. Hilarious.

Personally, I think the save Santa premise will be great, especially for a group with a lot of new players, but I do think that the experience will be made much stronger if themes of community, goodwill, and faith (not necessarily religious faith, belief in the goodness of others is just as good if not better) are front and center. Saving Christmas by killing the bad guy can be fun, but saving Christmas by keeping hope and cheer alive is heartwarming and much more in line with the vibe of the Holliday.
Yeah, I think I agree with that. Lots to think about.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
If you really feel like going the extra mile, one thing I saw in another holiday game (see links in this post and summary in this one) was customization of spells to a holiday theme. They had healing ho-ho-ho instead of plain old healing word, and the light cantrip required a material component of a red glass ball, which was then placed on someone's nose. That kind of thing. It really added to the flavor.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
Taking some of the ideas above, here's the beginning of a sketch. Maybe overly inspired by The Grinch.

  • Players are each independently on their way to a village that is known for an annual midwinter feast, and they meet up on the road.
  • There's a yet-to-be determined event on the road on the way to the village. See below.
  • When they arrive at the village, expecting decorations and preparations for a feast, it's desolate and quiet. The villagers are there, but they are all locked up in their own houses.
  • A valuable/magical/ancient McGuffin is missing, and the villagers all blame each other for the theft, and think the big celebration can't happen without it.
  • The event on the way there is a clue to what actually happened, which is that somebody else stole the McGuffin, with a hint about how to find it.
  • Cue standard adventure, with dungeon and combat, etc.
Here's the catch: I want the McGuffin to be irretrievable, so that the "lesson" (for the villagers) is that the celebration doesn't actually require the physical object. Ideally the players would help the villagers realize this. Sympathy for the villain who stole the McGuffin wouldn't be bad, either.

Because there will be at least one young child playing, I would like combat to be against non-humanoids. Preferably not even animals. So I'll need something like animated snowmen for them to fight.

More ideas? So far the feedback is great.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
Suggestion: make it so that the McGuffin is something the "villain" truly needs, while the villagers just want it. If the PCs recognize this and decide to leave it with the "villain," that would be golden. But if they retrieve the thing and bring it back to the village, make sure the villagers ask for the full story of who had it and why that person wanted it. Then the villagers can decide to give it up and ask the PCs to return it.
 

Larnievc

Explorer
I'm planning to run a one-off game, over several sessions, with some family over the holidays. Only some of the participants are familiar with D&D. Parameters are:
  • I'm going to hand them all pregens, each with a brief backstory.
  • The game will start with the trope of being prisoners who must escape, both to let us jump straight into the story and to pre-answer the "why are we going on this adventure?" question.
  • It's going to take place in the far north, in a world of ice and snow, probably mostly in a "dungeon".
  • It will have some kind of a Christmas (possibly in the generic sense) theme. Maybe they have to rescue Santa Claus, or "Nicklaus", or whatever. Yes, I know that's a groan-eliciting cliché for most of us, and has been since about 1981, but it will be new for this audience.
  • They won't be first level, but also not very high level. Somewhere 3-6 range.
  • One or two of the players will be on the young side, so it can't be too dark/violent.
And...that's all I got so far.

What are your ideas? Help me brainstorm this.
Last year I had a carnivorous foul mouthed reindeer called Glory Wolf turn up and needed to sent home.

This year it will me a vegan painfully polite reindeer called Celestial Harbinger who will need to be helped.
 

jayoungr

Adventurer
As for enemies ...

1. Don't forget that not all encounters need to be combat, and not all combat needs to be to the death.

2. I've used ice mephits reskinned as just floating balls of ice that exude extreme cold (the breath attack).

3. You could also borrow the "snowbolds" from the adventure I linked above:

There was an added encounter with "snowbolds" (small snow elementals) on the way through the woods. Their main attack is to peck with their carrot noses. When killed, they turn into blobs of snow for one round, but they will re-form on the next round unless their hats are removed, either before killing them or while they are in the blob phase.
 
Maybe they have to rescue Santa Claus, or "Nicklaus", or whatever. Yes, I know that's a groan-eliciting cliché for most of us, and has been since about 1981, but it will be new for this audience.
Maybe the PCs are in prison because they were picked up on suspicion of murder. To clear their names they must find the real Serial Killer who has been murdering Santa's elves...

...by crushing them.
 

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