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Some Great Pumpkins (We Think) For Your Games

Orange gourds and their kin are popping up all over. Halloween decorations are starting to dot the North American landscape. “Basic" people (we're told) are rushing to the shops to get themed lattes. The smell of the fall season is in the air, and the time has come to bring that fall feeling into our tabletop games. And I’m not just talking about the Risus Pumpkin Spice Edition... no, this week we’re talking about the pumpkins themselves! From the smallest squashes to the greatest of orange fruits (yes, pumpkins are a fruit, not a vegetable!) pumpkins dominate the fall season. And what better way to bring all that autumn-ness into our games than by incorporating this old favorite. And just how will we do that? Grab yourself a slice of pumpkin pie or bread (or maybe some pumpkin soup? Roasted pumpkin? You pick!) and join Never Say Dice as we do a little picking at our pumpkin patches. - A

Flavored Text

The quickest and easiest way to get fall, and pumpkins, into your game is to include them as part of the flavor text. This could be rotting pumpkins in alley ways, or the treats (and/or tricks) sold by food vendors and inns, made with roasted, pureed or baked pumpkin. The landscape may be covered with them or townsfolk might have their own private pumpkin patches. Anywhere you see pumpkins and things made from them pop up in real life, you can snag them put them into your games as flavor. You don’t have to stop with real world inspiration, though! Come up with your own unique ways to incorporate pumpkins into your setting. There might be pumpkin fights, pumpkin boat competitions, or pumpkin stacking challenges. While you’re at it, maybe even include one on the gaming table itself. (If you’re playing in person. Do not attempt to run an online game with a pumpkin on your keyboard. We learned this the hard way. This has been a Never Say Dice public service announcement.) - A

Pumpkin Space

Linus Van Pelt was onto something when he imagined the lore of the Great Pumpkin. (At least, we can assume that it was him, and not an established religious sect in the Peanuts universe.) There's something inherently otherworldly about a pumpkin patch, especially after the sun's gone down and particularly in the interstitial moments of dusk and the approaching dawn. Maybe it's the way the pumpkins seem to hold the color of the sunset even as it drains from the sky. Maybe it's the way a pumpkin patch is both carefully ordered (like a a cornfield) but also chaotic, with vines growing in all kinds chaotic ways and the pumpkins themselves taking on a myriad of shapes, sizes, and hues. Neither here nor there, it's the kind of place where the borders between our world and a far stranger one are a little thinner - the kind of place to see sights and creatures beyond our understanding... and to summon them. There's a reason Linus's Halloween night vigil has the air of a ceremony, after all. If you're running a horror or dark fantasy game, the kind of thing where magic is rare, complicated, and involved, a pumpkin patch is a great setting for a ritual or unearthly encounter. As for whether the players are summoning or battling the monsters and dark forces... well, that depends on the game. - B

Pumpkin Magic Items

While Pumpkins might be magical all on their own, enhancing your fall season with their orange fruity goodness, they can easily become magic items in your tabletop adventures. Historically, after domesticating the first pumpkins, Native Americans used them as food, tools, and even medicine, and there's no reason we can’t do the same. A one-use magical pumpkin item might have any sort of effect you like. All you need to do is pick the composition and potency... but you don't need to go with the obvious form. While I'm all for some strange-looking potions (orange health potions? Health potions should be red!), I firmly believe we should take a route more appropriate to our central ingredient here. Pumpkin soup that gives 2D6 temporary hit points. A pumpkin tart that mimics a class effect, like giving an extra sorcery point or bardic inspiration. Roasted pumpkin that gives advantage on strength-based checks until the next long rest. There could be pies, soups, stews, breads… you get the idea. Presenting something simple, but single-use, will make it memorable and exciting for the players and for their characters.  - A

Pumpkin Monsters

Certainly, Never Say Dice wouldn’t be the first to suggest that you can pumpkin-ify your monsters. If you want to take the quick route (and what lazy time-strapped GM doesn't?) you can just reskin an existing monster and call it a day. For something on the heartier side, a troll that looks like a pumpkin would be a great place to start - that Regeneration feels right for a plant-based monster. Or you could make your own pumpkin-like Beholder creature, they’re already kind of pumpkin-shaped, right? Look at all the eyestalks stems! Just make sure you’re also keeping to the pumpkin theme when reskinning a Beholder’s attacks. Consider things like Poison Spray, Hail of Thorns, Infestation, or Thorn whip... just imagine the Pumpkin-Beholder drawing you closer to its gaping maw! If you’re going to make up something from scratch, still consider abilities like the aforementioned Regeneration, some sort of seed attack, a vine attack and/or the ability to summon “gourdlings.” A Great Pumpkin that starts sending brand new little pumpkins after the party as reinforcements? That's going to be one memorable spooky game. - A

Pumpkin Adventure Hook

We’ve got the flavor, some ideas for magic items and even a few monster ideas. We need an adventure for our players though. With the groundwork we’ve already laid, setting up an adventure hook is as easy as pumpkin pie. A merchant, innkeeper, or other ally of the party is in need of a special ingredient for their next magical creation. The party can have a cut of the meal, but they’ll need to venture forth to a Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch and bring back the biggest gourd there. Waiting for them, of course, will be one of the monsters mentioned above. Throw in another group or two after the same prize, a few other creatures of the night, and we have a spooky adventure for our tables to go along with the hook . - A

Pumpkin PCs

With all that done, we'll still need some players to enjoy all this. In the spirit of the season (and this post) why not let them be pumpkin-themed as well? As with pumpkin-based monsters, you’re likely to find plenty of takes on plant-based races for your characters out there. If you’re creating one yourself, though, just as with the monsters we talked about before, consider giving the player character some things like Minor Generation, Poison Spray, Thorn Whip, etc. Of course, you could go another route and just make a regular character that's pumpkin-themed. As strange as it is, somehow the phenomenon of David S. Pumpkins seems to have embedded itself in the Halloween season. As always, feel free to do your own build, but something about an Archfey-supported Warlock just feels right for DSP. Proficiencies in Intimidation and Nature seem appropriate as well. For the pact boon, consider going Pact of the Chain (there is no reason DSP can’t have a skeleton skinned familiar) or Pact of the Talisman. As for smell and invocation choices, there are plenty of possibilities there. And quick as that, we have our very own David S. Pumpkins. -A

Pumpkin π

If you're going for something more intellectual in your horror game, there's something to be found in both the shape of pumpkins and the way they grow. If geometry is about measuring and charting the world around us into mathematical logic (the word literally means "land measure," after all), then there's potential for horror when things don't quite match up. After all, the H.P. Lovecraft's work not only led to the Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG, but also taught most of us the phrase "non-Euclidian geometry," and used the concept of geometrical wrongness in stories like "The Dreams in the Witch House." A slow-burn investigative horror session could use pumpkin patches (which are, again, eerie by nature) that don't make sense when you map them out, or even the pumpkins themselves to subtle, yet powerful, effect. Are they all perfectly round in a way the defies probability? Are they all imperfect, but in the exact same way? The natural world becoming unnatural in small, but measurable, ways, is one of the mainstays of psychological (and even cosmic) horror, and the pumpkin patch presents plenty of possibilities for improbable precisions. - B

Smashing, Pumpkins! Simply Smashing!

Pumpkins are pretty incredible - functioning as both symbolic objects that imply a certain time of year, certain moods, and even certain histories and locales. But also, as we've hopefully conveyed, they're physical objects with tangible elements to engage with... on both natural and supernatural levels. So, if I can reword Andy's preferred sign-off to be more seasonally-appropriate... get out there and  let the gourd times roll!- B

Send questions, comments, and Great Pumpkin incantations to or "X"-press yourself @neversaydice2.

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