Tag Archives: festivals

Real Lives: PCs Have Them Too

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It’s absolutely amazing how much time Real Life™ takes up. Between loosing my grandfather, getting married, moving house, and getting kiddo to and from school everyday on a now (thankfully temporary) 40 minute each way commute, life as pretty much eaten up my time for the last couple of months.

Which got me thinking: our PCs have lives, too. I’m sure I’m not the only GM who’s had PCs fall in love and get married. While no characters in any of my games have given birth, I’m sure I’ll run across that before my gaming career is over, too. And death, both PC and NPC is an ever-present risk.

But how often do players (through their characters) take time to mark these events? Every society in the world has special rituals and events to honor these major life changes. Yet in our games, they often get glossed over as “down time” and largely ignored. This is passing up a great roleplaying opportunity.

Wouldn’t it be a great change of pace from a regular game session to actually roleplay through a wedding (particularly if two of the PCs are getting married), a funeral or wake, the birth of a child? It would take some extra preparation on the part of the GM–designing the ritual for example. But you could find descriptions of the particular ceremony in question on line and use that, changing it as needed to fit your game. You’d want to make sure every PC had a part in the ceremony, true.

There are a couple of ways you could approach this, as well. First off, if the ceremony is taking place in the PC’s own culture, you could pass out information the characters would know about the ceremony a week or two ahead of time. Or you could arrange it so the PCs end up having the ceremony in an unknown culture and leave the PCs to bumble along as best they can on their own. Along those lines, a PC could even find themselves married without their knowing it (remember Daniel in the Stargate movie?).  Sure, it’s cliche, but if it’s something that happens once every couple of campaigns or so, it never really looses it’s punch. It’s definitely something that should be an extremely rare event, or your players will get really jaded, really fast. (“I’m married again? What’s she look like this time?”).

You could even make it a really special session by making the ceremony a live-action event, even if your group doesn’t normally do live-action. You could have everyone dress the part of their characters and have an in-character party. Depending on your game’s setting and your players’ ambitions, you could even serve food that your characters would have eaten in the game world (or as close to it as possible). You can find all kinds of interesting food by searching on-line for various ethnic recipes and there are a number of sites on-line with medieval and Renaissance European recipes.

Have any of you ever roleplayed a life-changing event in your PCs lives? How did it go and what did you do? Do tell!.

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Let Us Give Thanks: Chinese Harvest Moon Festival

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With this being Thanksgiving weekend here in the US, I got to thinking about harvest festivals in general. I rarely see harvest celebrations in RPGs and yet in real life, they’ve been an important part of life throughout at least a large part of human history. Harvest festivals bring families and communities together; surely our fantasy worlds would also have similar rituals and festivals?

chinese-moon-goddess(Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimmiehomeschoolmom/ / CC BY 2.0)

Harvest Moon Festival

Celebrated in the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the year, the Harvest Moon Festival draws family members from far and near to celebrate the beauty of the moon together. The Chinese believe that the moon is  at it’s fullest and brightest, symbolizing completion and abundance. Like Thanksgiving in America, people use this harvest festival to give thanks to the gods for the blessings they’ve received over the past year.

This ancient festival is celebrated with parades, brightly colored lanterns, feasting and moon gazing. Children stay up late and lovers holding hands dot benches, hill tops and river banks. The most well-known of foods eaten are moon cakes – small pastries stuffed with a variety of fillings, the most common being a lotus seed paste. Traditional foods for this celebration are red, the color of luck and fortune.

Lanterns festoon public and private areas. Traditional lanterns take the shape of carp, butterflies, rabbits, lobsters and star fruits, among others and are usually colored red. Also known as “Women’s Day”, it makes the beginning of the “dark of the year”, the period of time when the days grow shorter and the nights long. This time of the year is considered yin or female. Women set up altars to the moon goddess Hengo or Chang-o, decorating them with moon cakes, round foods, tea, rice and wine.

When the moon is full, mankind is one

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Let Us Give Thanks: Homowo Festivals or “Hoot at Hunger”

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With this being Thanksgiving weekend here in the US, I got to thinking about harvest festivals in general. I rarely see harvest celebrations in RPGs and yet in real life, they’ve been an important part of life throughout at least a large part of human history. Harvest festivals bring families and communities together; surely our fantasy worlds would also have similar rituals and festivals?

For the rest of the month, I’m going to detail various harvest festivals from around the world that you can use as inspiration for your own games.

(Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/kkendall/ / CC BY 2.0)

homowo drummerHomowo or “Hoot at Hunger”

This is a festival celebrated by the African Ga people, marking their migration to Ghana. According to tradition, the Ga people suffered a severe famine; Homowo celebrates the bountiful harvest they achieved after reaching their new homeland. Essentially, Homowo consists of sharing a meal with the living and dead members of the family in celebration of the harvest. It also marks the beginning of the Ga year.

The festival draws family members from far and near back to their ancestral towns. Normal daily business is suspended and the festival is considered a time of social harmony where debt payments may not be demanded, nor can oaths be taken or legal proceedings begun. It’s believed that ancestral spirits will cause the death of anyone who breaks these traditions. In a fantasy setting, this could be literally true.

Homowo Eve

On the eve of Homowo, men bring their father-in-laws bottles of gin and women bring their mother-in-laws firewood for cooking the next day’s feast. The senior women of a family smear the window sills of their home with ochre to protect themselves from any evil spirits that might enter the town during the night. A fantasy version of this could have the ochre blessed with a Protection from Evil or similar spell.

Modernly, guns are fired to warn people to stay inside their homes as the ancestral spirits enter the town on this night, but you could have the local clerics use bells, horns, or other noisemakers for the same purpose. Late that night, the Ga king sacrifices a sheep and shares it with senior members of the Ga government.

Homowo Day

Early Homowo morning, women of the household prepare a feast for the family. The male heads of household pour libations and a portion of the feast food on the graves of their ancestral spirits. Then the family gathers and eats together, ignoring the usual social hierarchy were senior members of the house eat before junior members and men eat before women.

After the feast, the community celebrates with a dance during which social norms are suspended. Anyone may dance and people may wear the clothes of the opposite sex, sing songs making fun of important people, and/or dress in tattered rags. Everyone can dance as equals. While the dance continues, all social constraints are thrown off.

Ngoo Wala — The Day of Remembrance

In Accra, this takes place the day after Homowo. Families gather to mourn their members who died during the last year. People go from house to house greeting friends and relatives, wishing them well in the upcoming year. This is a customary day to settle disputes and arrange marriages.

Three weeks later, Homowo closes with a children’s celebration that involves a legal looting of the local markets.

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