Happy Yuletide, everyone! This year’s Holiday comic comes courtesy of our latest Patreon Poll.  Asked to pick which seasonal monster would do battle with our heroes, our Quest Givers settled on that lovable Christmas demon Krampus. (Better luck next year Wendigo, Demon Reindeer, and Mimic Santa’s Sack!)

As we all know, Krampus is the anti-Santa sent to punish all the evil-aligned kiddies of the world. Not content with passing out lumps of punitive coal, Krampus comes armed with birch branches for swift beatings, as well as a basket or sack designed for spiriting away naughty children. Presumably said children are then eaten, taken to Hell, or drowned. You know… all the usual Hallmark Channel holiday hijinks.

Of course, the most fun you can have with Krampus is pretending to be him. That’s where the Krampuslauf comes in. And if you’re anywhere near as American as this writer, you had to google it. A parade dedicated to dressing up as demons and drinking schnapps sounds like good fun to me, but you’ve got to admit that it might be too metal for mainstream audiences. Is it any wonder then that Magus hasn’t heard of it? I can only assume that our uncultured catgirl grew up watching White Christmas, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, and Love Actually. 

This all brings me to the larger point of today’s comic: when you’re confronted with the strange and new, take a moment to investigate before acting. We all know how important it is to identify monsters, but the same can be said for weird cultural traditions. For example, I could easily imagine gamers making some assumptions about a society where folks regularly cosplay fiends. Same deal with traditions that involve live sacrifice (the church is evil!), explosions (these people are crazy!), or simulated drowning (the church is evil again!). It’s possible to make any of these things into “gotcha moments” where players are set up to think that something nefarious is afoot. It’s equally possible to decide “my character overreacts” like Magus did in today’s comic, which is occasionally worth the lols. But more generally, I think it’s best to use cultural traditions as “part one” of an encounter rather than the whole thing.

For example, rather than simply throwing Krampuslauf at the party as a “look how interesting this setting detail is” element, you could insert the real Krampus into the festival. The heroes have been hired to track down the actual demon, which is trying to use the parade as camouflage for its child-napping habit. For the live sacrifice example, the church can be a recently-reformed cult. They used to sacrifice sentient creatures, but now only do animals. How will the party react when they realize that some evil-aligned druid has awakened the terrified creature en route to the chopping block?

So as an exercise in worldbuilding, what do you say we each put a twist on a holiday tradition? Pick a real world cultural practice, then figure out how to build an RPG plot around it. Will goblins steal the fireworks? Will aquatic doppelgangers replace the unsuspecting novices during baptism? Perhaps a well-meaning brass dragon is taking all the fun out of La Tomatina by dominating the tomato fight? Sound off with your twists on tradition down in the comments!


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