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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.

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