Festivals of Fantasy
Seeing as we're coming up on the Christmas period, I thought it would be time to revisit an older post of mine, originally published on d20radio.com on January 18th, 2019.
As many of you may have seen, I’ve spent a lot of blogs deep-diving into domains, and creating gods and the like – as you may have guessed, I have a fascination with the religions of these fantasy worlds of ours. But one thing recently struck me, as something that I needed to address. Back in the days of AD&D, you’d often find an absolute ton of extra information on various topics, including the gods, and it struck me when paging through the Adventurer’s Guide to the Sword Coast, that so much of this information has fallen on the wayside. Each god and clergy is described on a quarter page, where they used to have a huge several-page spread.
So this time, I’m going to dive into something that almost every religion has, holy days, and how to tie these into your campaign. Specifically, I’m going to pick a few holy days, from major Forgotten Realms deities and look at how you might use one in your campaign. (All of these holidays come from the Faiths & Pantheons book, from way back when).
Auril – Goddess of Winter – Neutral Evil
The holiest day of the year for Auril is called Midwinter Night, and it is a festival of Ice-dancing that lasts through the night and is meant to lure in new people to the clergy. Scenario: A group of PCs come into town, on the coldest, darkest night of the year. They see lights and hear music and laughter from down near the lake that is frozen over. It turns out to be a festival and the whole village is turned out, but there’s a strange sensation of fear in the air from the villagers taking part. In the middle of the ice is a beautiful figure, ice-skating, and carving intricate patterns in the ice, wearing only the skimpiest clothing, but unaffected by the cold. Of course, this is the local high priestess of Auril. And the ice skating? Well, that’s, in reality, a gigantic hypnotic ritual, that, if finished, will enthrall the populace of the village, enslaving them to the will of Auril.
Beshaba – Goddess of Misfortune – Chaotic Evil
Beshaban priests generally ignore holy days, sticking to whichever ones are important to them as individuals. The exception is Shieldmeet and Midsummer, where they engage in wild revels of destruction and general rudeness.
Scenario: The PCs have been in town for a while when one morning they’re suddenly confronted by a bunch of adults making childish, but exceedingly rude gestures at them. This continues throughout the day, eventually escalating into some of the townsfolk attacking the PCs. As the attack is fought off (they’re likely to be unarmed), the PCs notice a column of smoke coming from nearby. This is the local temple of Bane that is under attack by the Beshaban faithful. If they are not stopped, the destruction is likely to spread to the rest of the town, but if they ARE stopped, the Bane temple will likely rebuild quickly and potentially take revenge.
Chauntea – Goddess of Agriculture – Neutral Good
Chauntea’s holy days correspond to the seasons, as seems natural to her, but she does have one interesting tradition, that newly wedded couples should spend their first night together in a freshly tilled field, to ensure fertility.
Scenario: The PCs are traveling through farmlands, tracking monsters that have been on a rampage. As they pass through the field, they notice a young woman, who’s been knocked unconscious. Upon awakening, she explains that she and her husband were to pass the night in the field, as part of their religious beliefs, but she must have fallen asleep, because she awoke to the sounds of a scuffle, and was hit on the head. Where is her husband now, and could the PCs help her find him?
Kossuth – God of Fire – Neutral
Kossuth is the lord of fire, and of course, he represents purification through fire, as well as the destructive powers of the flames. Most of his rituals involve some version of “walking across coals” or firewalking, and are fairly personal. However, each temple celebrates its founding as a holy day, where they invite senior and high priests from around the Realms as well as other dignitaries to the celebration.
Scenario: While the PCs are in town, they suddenly notice an increase in visitors, all of whom are dressed in bright red, orange, and fiery robes, reminiscent of fire. A bit of inquiry reveals that some of the locals know them as worshipers of Kossuth from around the area. However, shortly after these a couple of fire giants arrive, as well as an enormous fire elemental (who is not particularly careful with what burns), plus the arrival of a young red dragon. It seems that they’re all here for the celebration of the fire festival and holiday at the local temple. It seems the High Priest has something to announce, but, as is traditional, first, something big must be set alight – and Kossuthans aren’t known for keeping the fire in check.
These are just a few examples that can be gleaned, but I hope it gives you a bit of insight into some of the fun that can be had with the religions of the various fantasy worlds. Until next time.