I had a plan with backup plans and a wide array of support. What could possibly go wrong??
Overall, it went pretty well. People enjoyed it. It was fun and humorous. There was one major hiccup, and some player frustration. But, overall, pretty decent.
This Christmas campaign was supposed to last 3 days or so. Since we game once per week, the campaign would have spanned most of December.
We finished the campaign in late February. Oops.
Timing was by far my biggest mistake here. Everyone enjoyed it, but the first week of December is over now, and I am still hesitant to put up Christmas decor – and not just because of my usual reluctance to give up Halloween. We all are. Too much Christmas last year means it needs to chill out this year. (preferably with rain. California needs rain.)
So, they met Ollie in the bar and were immediately suspicious of his vagueries. Like, immediately. But I filled in the cracks with some plot caulk and kept going.
To this day, the characters hate Ollie. It turns out that being magically transported to another plane without your consent makes some people upset. Who knew? However, thanks to being stuck in another plane, they chose to continue the mission despite their strong desires to spite him.
The lair of a beholder has some tells. When you pass within the boundaries you feel like you are being watched. Just, constantly. So, instead of having my super clever super secret “Santa was the villain all along!” reveal, their plot twist senses were tingling the entire time. Oops. Also, I totally forgot to reveal some of the other lair effects until late on after a reread about beholder lairs.
My possessed Mrs. Claus, played by my friend Diana*, who wasn’t fully versed in D&D rules, was also immediately suspect… because of her nonchalant manner of handling the character. When she was able to get into enjoying roleplaying the character, the players were not enthused because of Diana’s chaotic nature. It was unfortunate, but apparently Mrs. Claus puts the special mushrooms in her late night cookies and, well, there had to be some redacting.
* Diana isn’t her real name, but Pandora isn’t mine, so I have to keep up the anonymity. You understand.
Diana really got to shine in her end battle scene when her evil self was able to act accordingly, rather than trying to keep the secret, unleashing an army of gingerbread cookie constructs and a gingerbread cookie golem (a la Shrek).
These special gingerbread cookies are made with a recipe that allows them to explode on impact as an attack, dealing fire damage. They can also deal the damage when used as a thrown weapon – no animation required. The spell is below, should you choose to use it. I am quite proud. Can you tell?? It was great.
Speaking of my nifty system above…
Here is the custom spell sheet I made for my guest player, complete with boxes to make check in to check off the spell slots. Custom made. Beautiful.
Having batches of anthropomorphic gingerbread cookies attack my players was absolutely excellent. And even though they were able to pretty easily subdue Mrs. Possessed Claus, she still got some good cray-cray-villainy time in before they broke the curse and freed the much less exciting real Mrs. Marie Claus from her fleshy prison. And because Marie Claus is not as insane and evil as the evil sorceress that possessed her, my guest player enthusiastically quit. Which, if I am totally honest here, was a big relief – one less player to wrangle.
As another clue and distraction, I placed a necromancer in the underground tunnels. She is guarded by a granny abominable yeti, named Carol, who speaks common and reads weird romance novels. This necromancer is recently single and miserable, drinking a bit too much vodka, and also uses her dark research to develop technologies to help kids with disabilities. I wanted to give our characters a different viewpoint on necromancy because many of them are extremely biased against necromancy, and I think that it is a great tool for science. I also wanted to make them question any intentions they might have had about murder-hoboing their way through my overly-elaborate dungeon.
The addition of Carol the frisky sassy granny yeti was a last-minute one. You see, I had set up a random encounter table for their journey from the literal North Pole to Santa’s village. They randomly encountered 4 yetis (2 parents and 2 kids) and killed them all. They then found the yeti cave where grandma and grandpa abominable yeti were napping, but chose to avoid that conflict. So, having them befriend Carol was a wonderful way to guilt-trip them about jumping to conclusions and murdering a family of 4 by having her tell them about how she took this guard job to make some money to help out the family because resources have become scarce.
[Insert evil DM laugh here.]
Can you see how my 3 session game lasted way longer than it should have??? Too many side plots!
So, they got through all the big things. All the weird side quests. All the investigations and conversations. They needed a long rest before entering the final chamber and meeting Xanta the beholder.
That final battle was epic. Like I mean, AMAZING. It lasted 2 days. Every player character took damage. Two player characters were downed (Rescued before failing a 3rd death roll). Player characters who had never taken damage took hefty damage. It was amazing. Everything finally came together. They finished out the story. Rescued the characters that needed rescuing. Went back to say farewell to the giants. Absolutely perfect ending.
It was a great 1st time experience. I learned a lot. I hope this inspires you to start campaigns or mini-campaigns of your own. It was a great baby-step to help prepare me for officially DM-ing my own full campaign, which I am working on right now.
Oh, also, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Tweet me @PandoraCray!