Skip to main content

Raiding Winter

We’ve talked previously about the various holiday specials that may make their rounds at the Never Say Dice households on a yearly basis. We’ve even looked at gathering inspiration from a few of those specials with dives into How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Lately at the blog, perhaps due to the passing of Jules Bass last year, our collective minds seem to be gravitating toward Rankin-Bass's holiday productions. Fortunately, there are a number of these holiday stories to choose from. As a child, one of my favorites was Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. Maybe it had to do with being exposed to Fred Astaire movies at an impressionable age, as he serves as narrator here. It could just be that it's another Rakin-Bass classic. Perhaps, though, it's more about the magic they included in the story. (No Bugsy, I'm not talking about the yo-yos.) While you can take "magic" in a more generic literary sense to describe the supernatural holiday happenings, I was speaking specifically of our favorite evil wizard turned helpful friend... the Winter Warlock! So let's put on our magicing hats and see if we can conjure up some inspiration from this beloved (by me, anyway) holiday special.

The Winter Warlock is a fascinating character in these specials, as he starts out a terrifying teleporting thaumaturge with powerful cryokinesis and slowly becomes the humble, helpful tritagonist with faltering powers. Despite how important he is to this special's plot, when the story is later recounted as  flashbacks in the Rankin Bass special Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, Winter Warlock is completely cut out. This is likely due to the fact that the primary antagonist of Christmas in July is the visibly similar King Winterbolt. Regardless of the apparent similarities, though, the two are very different. Though Winter Warlock loses most of his magical abilities after he's reformed and become a holiday ally, we get to see enough of his good magics to bring a little holiday inspiration to our own tabletop games.

The easiest inspiration to take from Winter Warlock and his magic would be the first trick he teaches Kris Kringle. Winter gathers a ball of snow, and with a little magic, shows Kringle that Jessica, his romantic interest, is searching for him. Snow aside, at first glance this comes pretty close to some sort of Orb of Scrying. Unfortunately, one of those already exists in D&D. Perhaps, if you play a winter-themed magic user yourself, you even play your own scrying spells this way. However, this isn’t exactly how good old Kris Kringle goes on to use, or at least how we can imagine he does -  one can plainly see that Santa intends to use the trick to know if you’ve been bad or good (so be good for goodness sake)! There may already be that Orb of Scrying and all those other orbs in D&D, but no Orb of Detection of Evil and Good, yet! Certainly, the jolly old elf would be able to tell your deeds with such an Orb. If you're creating this yourself, you may want to consider how many uses per day you’ll allow (Kris Kringle, of course, gets to use it as much as he needs), or limitations to place on your version of the item.

With Winter disenchanted due to his change of heart, his remaining magic (and therefore our inspirations) becomes a bit limited. All winter has left are some meager magic leftovers he keeps in his pockets: a short-circuited wand, a dried up potion, the tiny stubs of a hundred or so magic candles and a few handfuls of magic feed corn. The easiest one to lift here is probably the magic feed corn that causes reindeer to fly. Limiting such an item to reindeer would be pretty cruel to players, though! You could open it up to all mounts as a temporary item. Giving players a temporary flying horse could lead to all sorts of interesting things. The other route you might consider is to have it be something related, but still slightly different: Feather Fall. Not nearly as powerful a spell, it still serves a useful purpose. If you renamed/skinned that corn into Seeds of Feather Fall, you’ll have provided your players with a useful temporary item.

The other items in Winter’s pockets might seem useless and powerless, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a little inspiration from them. What were the original purposes of those magic candles or the potion before it dried up? Could it be reconstituted and made usable again through the right boiling technique? Perhaps we’ve just invented magic tea. The most interesting bit here, though, might be that short-circuited wand. What did it do before it went haywire? What caused it to short-circuit? While there's already a Wand of Winter in D&D, you may be a bit reluctant to hand out easy charges of sleet and ice storms. You can easily reduce this to a simple Wand of Frost and keep only the Ray of Frost cantrip. Or, conversely, if you want to amp it up a little, you could add other cold-themed spells such as Cone of Cold or Wall of Ice.

Of course, you can always find other inspirations in this story. Maybe the Kringle family’s clothing allows for communication with animals? Kris sure doesn’t seem to have too much trouble understanding penguins, despite them being from the literal other side of the world. Perhaps you can find some new use for dried-up potions or ritual candles melted to the nubs. Or maybe you’ll find alternate uses for the things we already discussed in this post. You can always cross-reference with the rule books and other people’s creations and see if you can come up with a cool combo. You may even want to take a look at other systems or previous D&D editions as well. Remember, the key isn’t finding a perfect match in your ruleset, but finding a way that inspires you to get close to the effect you’re after and still bring joy to the players. Even if you can’t settle on something you’ll have an opportunity to include in your games, the thought exercise is a fun one and may lead to something completely different down the line. Until next week, enjoy your holiday specials and enjoy all of your media adventures.

Send questions, comments, and stop-motion animation to neversaydice20@gmail.com or @neversaydice2 on Twitter... we've all agreed to just start calling it Twitter again, right?

Popular posts from this blog

Devouring "Roll for Sandwich"

Good timezone to Never Say Dice fans, adventures in Aardia, TikTok and beyond. No, I’m not the Roll for Sandwich guy (neither of us is), but if you haven’t heard of him already (or especially if you have), this week I wanted to talk about the TikTok/YouTube show Roll for Sandwich hosted by Jacob Pauwels. The premise is exactly what it sounds like: every episode, the host rolls dice to determine the various items that comprise a sandwich (except when the episode is about s’mores). He assembles the sandwich, then actually eats and critiques his random creation. If it sounds pretty niche to you... it is. You should  probably be both a bit of a foodie and a TTRPG fan in order to truly appreciate both the strange layered creations and the roleplaying references. My eldest son has been so interested in the web series that he decided he wanted to try doing it for himself. So, for the last week of summer this year, we took stock of our cupboards, made our own charts, and proceeded to consume

Be a Grinch! (in a Tabletop RPG)

The Holidays may be almost over (for a while), and we hope you’ve all enjoyed your seasonal music and movies/specials. We here at Never Say Dice have covered the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special and the new LEGO edition a few posts ago. A common thing many of us into tabletop RPGS like to do is incorporate media into our games. After all, many of us have grown up with the blending of media and the holidays as a given. It provides us a framework to build on and a common touchpoint to the people at our tables, virtual or otherwise. One classic character featured in holiday specials and commemorated in his own song is the Grinch, the avocado-green villain with strange cardiac growth problems apparently linked to his personality. The Grinch, villain though he may be, has a slew of characteristics that would make the character an excellent one at the gaming table. Those of you not familiar with Suess-lore may really only know the Grinch from the How the Grinch Stole Christmas animated

An Introduction to Risus

While roaming the internet in the late nineties/early noughties, I came across a TTRPG that was rules-lite and called itself “the anything RPG.” Want to play a high school cheerleader/samurai-in-training part-time goth enthusiast fast food cashier? The hot pink stick figure art glared back at me. Nah, not interested. But I was wrong. The stick figures were actually purple, and Risus is a surprisingly versatile, handy and down right fun TTRPG. I wouldn’t figure that out though till I discovered it again several years later. Even though it was written as a comedy system (and somewhat lighthearted response to GURPS) you really can use it for just about anything: space opera, high fantasy, pulp, vampires,western, any movie setting you could think of...seriously anything. You can read a far more detailed and interesting history in a number of other places should it strike your fancy. It is time for your Risus indoctrination introduction. Risus really is versatile and fairly easy to learn

Willy Wonka - Cartoonish Supervillian or Time Lord?

Every spring, in at least some of the religions practiced in the States, brings yet another holiday full of varied confections: Easter. For some reason, perhaps it’s the candy content or the garish colors associated with the holiday here, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory seems to be the movie that most often comes to my mind. While there are other pieces of media that are more “classically Easter” entries, Willy Wonka just seems to belong here. Perhaps there’s something to those giant eggs, as well. Whatever the reason, it’s in our common consciousness around this time of year, and that has had me thinking about a couple of common internet theories. One common thought is that the titular character Willy Wonka is an incarnation of Doctor Who ’s (only semi-titular) protagonist, the Doctor. The other would have you believe that Willy Wonka is a cartoonish supervillian originating in the DC universe, most likely one of Batman’s adversaries. For this post, let’s go over the arg