Dire Yuletide Guide
a DM guide to Dire Yuletide
a DM guide to Dire Yuletide
This is a holiday themed D&D one-shot inspired by Icelandic folklore. No Santa, elves, or (flying) reindeer. It’s weirder and darker than that.
It is optimized for three level 3 D&D characters.
Maps, tokens, and other assets for this game.
After player and character introduction, I read this whole passage out loud:
You are residents of Arborg, a small, isolated village in the far north where the summers are cool and the winters are long and deadly.
Arborg would be known for nothing at all were it not for the fine quality wool produced by their sheep. You trade clothing and tapestries with villages further south in exchange for medicine and steel and other things you can’t produce yourselves.
Because of your relative isolation, few people know about–and fewer people believe in–the magic of the north where you live.
The giant Thrym, made of ice and wind, walks the frozen hills leaving blizzards in his wake.
The demon Gryla haunts her mountain cave while her husbands and children try to avoid her and stay out of her way.
Forest spirits and ice devils are common sights.
Life is short and difficult in Arborg, but it is your home and you love it because your family, your children and your ancestors are all here, and there is great beauty to enjoy.
And now it is the season of Yule! During which Arborg celebrates the passing of the darkest part of winter, the promise of spring, and the hope of seeing the dawn of the new year.
It is a joyous time of feasting and dancing. But as with most things in Arborg, it is tinged with magic, and danger.
Because in the times of the old, the ancestors offended the demon Gryla by failing to gift her the fine woolen garment she coveted. And she cursed Arborg to ever suffer twice every Yule. The first curse unavoidable but mundane. And the second curse avoidable but severe.
The first, unavoidable but mundane: each of the thirteen nights of Yule, one of Gryla’s sons will take up residence in or near Arborg and remain for thirteen nights. The Yule Lads are all michievious pranksters, thieves, and tricksters. Mostly harmless, and easily appeased by leaving small favors for them.
The second, avoidable but severe: on Yuletide Eve, Gryla sends her beast, the devil cat Jolakotturinn, to Arborg where it visits each home and devours anybody who has not been gifted and dressed in new Yuletide clothing.
And so with time the story of the Yule Cat has become a tale used by parents to scare their children into being industrious and generous. And the people of Arborg make clothing and give it away. So that everybody may have something new to wear on Yuletide Eve.
An alternate beginning. I didn’t use this, but was toying with the idea of the characters starting as outsiders to the town, so that there would be a feeling of weirdness and otherness when they discover that townfolk are obsessed with clothing.
You have spent the last several days on the road trekking through the cold, escorting a trading caravan to the town of Arborg where you are to pick up parcels of clothing to carry back south. The traders are spooked from hearing strange yowling and howling during the night.
When you arrive in Arborg some children run up to you and beg for clothes. They refuse food and gold despite being obviously hungry and poor.
There is a wild party the night before Yuletide Eve! Feasting and dancing, music and stories.
I have a couple of new players, so these activities are for fun, and also an introduction to ability checks.
Maybe a Yule Lad will come along and steal some sausages or yogurt!
The children wake up early on Yuletide Eve to find all of their new clothes are missing. They wail and cry because they don’t want to be eaten by the Yule Cat.
Upon investigation, it is discovered that in each house, the clothing has been replaced by a finely carved wooden toy similar to those left to good children by the Yule Lads.
The Yule Lads hide themselves around and outside of Arborg.
The most approachable lad is Gully Gawker. He hangs out outside town laying around in a gully.
If you find them and show them the toys, they will tell you it is the handiwork of Doorsniffer and Windowpeeper, and that they saw the two of them poking around beneath the East Bridge.
8-x-5-4 | | | 9 6 2-3 | | 7 1
The entrance to the caves is hidden under the East Bridge. Maybe one of the Yule Lads knows where it is. Maybe they can find it by following a trail of wool fibers.
Long dead, freeze dried, and preserved by the cold, some thin bodies still wearing scraps of leather armor sit around a table. A few plates and mugs have long been picked clean of food by something. At the head of the table sits a full plate plate of armor, presumably also with a body in it.
If the players approach
Shelves, cupboards, and workbenches hold arcane and alchemical ingrediants. In the center of the room is a large bubbling cauldron.
A player can can make an arcana check to use the books, ingredients, and the cauldron to try to brew a potion. On a success, they make 1d4 healing potions. (Heals 2d4+2.) On a fail, the potion is poison. Regardless of a success or failure, the user of the cauldron has a 50% chance of being cursed:
1d8 Hex Table:
Piles of bones, large claw marks on the floor and on the stalagmites. This chamber is guarded by a huge half-zombified dire polar bear. He has dwelled here since long before the ice witch took up residence. And he guards his chamber with a mindless rage.
Searching the bones reveals 200gp, and a cursed -2 dagger
There is a fork before you. No matter which way you choose, the way forward is blocked by a dead-end. Scrawled on the wall before you is “You can only go backward from here.” When you turn around, there is a wall five feet behind you blocking your retreat.
Solution: only by walking backwards can you go back the way you came. When you get back to the fork, the 2nd path is the correct way forward.
Streaks of blood and an eerily pulsing wall, which is actually a slushy gelatinous cube. Vulnerable to fire.
Long dead skeletons remain tethered to the wall by rusty manacles and chains. In the back of the room is a the jailer’s office: a cluttered desk, a chair, and a locked chest bound in brass. Searching the desk will reveal an iron key to the Witch’s sanctum.
The jailer’s chest holds the missing clothes. It can be opened with the key found on the Ice Witch (8).
If the skeletons are disturbed, a restless ghost will appear.
The thick wooden door is bound in iron, with an iron lock. It can be opened with the iron key found in the prison (7).
Inside, there are piles of blankets on the ground and scarves and tapestries hung on the walls.
The witch is hiding behind one of the tapestries. She will present herself as one of the village children, claiming to have followed a trail of woolen fibers to the caves. She will attempt to distract the players from searching for the missing clothes by asking them to take her back to the village.
If found out, she will reveal her true form and attack.
At half health she will retreat to the ethereal plane and then return with the Yule Cat. The cat will make a show of assessing their clothing and then will eat the witch. If the players think quickly, they can give each other scarves to wear to avoid the cat’s wrath. The cat will spit out a brass key which will unlock the jailer’s chest (7) and then bound out of the cave.
In the hoard room behind the witch’s sactuary is a chest with:
It is now a race against time. The cat is summoned. The sun is setting. The heroes must race to the village and clothe the children.
Commence with a chase scene! Difficulty 3.
If they succeed, they’ll have a chance to act before the cat starts ripping into houses. If they lose, the cat has already eaten 1d4 children by the time they get to the village.
|2||Snow drifts||Cramped space|
|3||Blowing snow||Poor visibility|
|5||Chunks of broken ice||Impediment|
|6||Herd of walrus||Animal herd|
|7||Snow bank||Uneven Ground|
|8||Field of Ice boulders||Obstacles|
|9||Ice bridge over river||Hazard|
|10||Pond covered by thin ice||Hazard|
There are four houses. The big house has 8 kids. The smaller ones have 3, 4, and 5 children. 20 kids total.
The cat takes one combat round to take the roof off a house. It then takes a round to eat one child.
If a player attacks the cat it will stop what it’s doing for the next combat round to swat them away. DC 18 to hit. On a hit they go flying into a snow bank, land prone, and take 1d4 bludgeoning damage.
Three attacks on the cat, it will leave the house it’s currently at and move to another. This takes one full round.
Anybody trying to dress kids makes a dexterity check. On a success, they dress two kids. On a fail, the dress none.
Once all the kids are dressed or eaten, the cat will leap into the air and fly away.
Most of this adventure is taken wholesale from two existing adventures:
Yule Lads on Drawfee