Game for the Holidays

I have just gotten back from a week away. Setting scheduled posts through WordPress before I left meant that for the entire time I was away, I didn’t have to spare a thought for gaming or related issues. Now that I am back, trying to clear the dust off that part of my brain, I am of two minds about the value of time off.


I find I am having a harder time priming the pump of inspiration with a week of not writing anything but my name even though I left with a lot of ideas in various stages of development. Since getting back yesterday, I have written only one post, and it is slated to appear on Saturday for use on Halloween, so to get back in the swing of things, I thought I would post about writing or preparing for Holiday Sessions.


What to do for the Holidays?

Personally, I am not a big fan of one-shot games. I don’t mind trading games from story to story, but a single night of a character or system tends to be unsatisfying for me. Old standby approaches to the holidays like running a Beyond the Supernatural scenario, or one for Call of Cthulhu, Chill, or Unknown Armies has not really been my response of choice. Sure, if I do not have a regular group and am not currently involved in a steady game, I will be more than happy to run a holiday event for people, but if I do have a regular group, I prefer to do something different.


In many ways, I like to have the holiday session reflect the actual nature of the holiday around which it occurs. I might try to interject some opportunities for romance around Valentine’s Day, and try to bring issues of the bond of friendship and trust between the characters to the forefront during the sessions leading up to that session. For Thanksgiving, I like to have a turkey or ham, and spend most of the day hanging out with the people in my game group having dinner, and observing the tradition of sharing the things for which we are thankful before leaping into the session. As with Valentine’s Day, I like to color the sessions leading up to that one with mini-plots which highlight blessings and advantages in the lives of the characters and culminate in something significant, possibly campaign-changing. Halloween is my favorite, and probably the most common reason invoked for having a holiday session, but my least favorite for doing so. Like hypnosis, it is much harder to achieve the desired mood when everyone is expecting it and conscious of it in a ‘special’ way. Horror more often drifts into Hilarity, and while fun is had by all, the entrance of comedy of this sort into what is typically a game of horror, just makes it all the harder in subsequent sessions to maintain or develop the necessary atmosphere. As a result, and of course to really bring out the spirit of Halloween that I appreciate most, I like to get at some more traditional aspects of this chimerical holiday.


In a Halloween holiday session, I like to cross a line somewhere between a harvest festival like Thanksgiving, and a wake. I like to set the stage for there to be reminiscences in-game about characters which did not survive, about hearth and home, and most importantly, about thoughts and predictions about what might be to come. It is good to take stock of where we are in the game and how the foundations of the story so far can be built upon to take us in new directions. Of course, around our real table there will be treats and tricks, and I like there to be an extra seat set aside for absent or departed friends – not for maudlin purposes, but because I like to focus on good memories of those we have left behind.


In all of these examples, the holiday can be made to serve both story and group, bringing both to a newer and better level of enjoyment and connection.


What do you do?

I guess we have all heard of the clever GM who distributed M&Ms to players (secretly equivalent to their Hit Points) and watched with glee as they ate them. With each consumed candy, he would describe their growing weakness creating a maddening terror in the players as they tried to figure out what sort of spiritual force was killing them.


What sorts of things do you get up to for games which fall on holidays? Enquiring minds want to know~


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