I was very excited when the excellent Mud & Blood podcast asked me to run a one-shot Actual Play for them of Hypertellurians. Because it was to be released on Christmas, they asked if I could make it seasonally themed.

After running a whole bunch of Christmas themed adventures over the years, it starts to get tricky to come up with new spins on elves as demons or Krampus as the the big bad. So I decided to take a slightly different approach and take one of the adventure seeds from our recent book, Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher, and give it a seasonal spin by making yuletide the background for the various stops the characters might make on their adventure.

Here is the spread from the book with the full adventure seed.

Haunting of Tombs adventure seed spread.

In this somewhat light-hearted adventure, the party are chasing part of their vehicle, which has become possessed—in this case by a yuletide spirit—and gone off on a tour of the Ultracosm to bring cheer and happiness to the needy of the worlds. However the spirit lacks any kind of moral of societal framework to do this in, and chaos, hilarity, and tense battles ensue.

Yuletide edition notes

Here are my notes for adapting the seed from the book to a seasonal one-shot. Note that they are pretty rough, and in some cases just mnemonics, like “a south Germanish town”, meaning rural, bucolic, with timber strutted buildings.

Overview

  • Order on a mission to bring alms and yuletide joy to the less fortunate
  • During a routine pre-mission blessing ritual, a yule spirit slips into this cosm and inhabits part of TOMBS, which takes off and goes on a (misguided) ultracosmic travel loop
  • The spirit is called Zodraz
  • Its jumps can be tracked from the remainder of TOMBS using its instruments to scan for residual aetheric disturbance patterns from the ultracosmic engine
  • The remainder TOMBS has a secondary ultracosmic jump engine
  • TOMBS is powered by the penitents in the oubliettes (perhaps a rival coven who failed their yuletide mission)

Stop 1—Yuletime town under siege

  • Late 19th century south Germanish town (Appenweier), yule time
  • War zone, centered around life-size manger/crib display in town center
    • Trenches, rich and poor huddled in them with pitch forks, torches, the odd saber or rifle
    • No children (they’ve all been taken by Zodraz)
    • Fires, snow, smell of burned lifestock
  • Animated wooden toy soldiers (Frenchish) run amock, organized in companies, with tiny rifles and bayonettes
    • HD 1, hp 2, dmg 1d4 (armor counts 1 less)
  • Aether readings strongest in crib, so it must be approached to get a good reading
    • Crib has “desecrated” straw man statue of Krampus
  • PCs arrival: TOMBS crashes into trench
  • Shortly thereafter, parachute attack from squadron of toy soldiers
  • Townfolk names: Franz, Johann, Josef, Leopold, Anna, Maria, Elizabeth
  • Soldier names: Jean, Louis, Pierre, Marcel, Henri, Louise, Yvonne, Madelaine, Josephine

Stop 2—Vampire castle beleaguered by kids

  • Gothic castle à la Dracula, belonging to Neculai Tepes, and his wife Julietta, who calls him Voivode
  • Overrun by the kids taken from the Germanish town
    • Front door open, letting elements in
    • Intermittent laughter from groups kids running past in distant room
    • Furniture in chaos, expensive, ancient curtains all cut up
  • Kids dressed in makeshift uniforms from curtains
  • Library, some kids playing “burn the witch” on pile of books (“I’m not a witch, I’m well read!”)
  • Triplets, speak in one super creepy voice (“Mother doesn’t like strangers walking into her house unannounced”)
  • Neculai tries to intimidate intruders by climbing up wall (huge, red robe), but falls off; he’s too fat on blood
    • Can’t take it anymore, the noise, the screaming
    • Begs to be taken along
    • Explodes in massive shower of blood if pricked
Tactical Mobile Battle Shrine.
Art by Anna Molla

Stop 3—Lepers

  • A colony of exiled folk ravaged by a wasting disease
  • When Zodraz appears here it dumps a fresh selection of amputated limbs
  • Upon the PCs arrival it has done just that, and the poor diseased folk are idly picking through the macabre pile
    • A selection of rings and bracelets still attached to amputated limbs
  • Lamenting the fact that they cannot replace their wasted away limbs with these ones, and decrying it as a sick joke

Stop 4—Ritualistic amputation aftermath

  • A site prepared for quasireligious rites in a forest clearing
  • A toppled stone monolith is covered in blood from sacrificial limb amputations
    • A wickedly sharp sacrificial knife, still seeping fresh blood
  • Zodraz has recently passed, demanding its regular tribute, and the cultists are just heading back to their villages, a little lighter, but still high on adrenaline

Stop 5—Animal overabundance

  • The tiny settlement of Hoarden has fallen on hard times
  • Its salt mines have dried up, and vital travel routes with supplies have broken down due to nearby border disputes
  • But the people of Hoarden are no longer starving: Zodraz appears regularly and gifts them livestock. So much livestock. The place is overrun by it now, and it’s become a real problem.

Stop 6—Lunar farm

  • In the red lunar duchy of Ilvarness, the space cows are disappearing without a trace
  • The locals suspect alien abduction
  • A huddle of rabid space cows, frothing at the mouths. Perhaps accompanied by several moon calves.

Stop 7—Mai tais at the beach (Australian Christmas)

  • On this, Zodraz’s seventh stop in his pan-cosmic loop travels, he rests
  • On a deserted white beach, sipping mai tais
    • In the background, Carols by Candlelight
    • A selection of beach wear completely unsuited to a sentience haunting part of a mobile battle shrine
    • And an embarrassment of ready prepared cocktails

Closing thoughts

If you have heard the Actual Play you’ll notice that we never got around to stops 3 to 6, which is roughly what I expected. It meant that the joke of “and on the seventh day he rested” was wasted, but on the other hand a multiple scenes adventure like this is great for a one-shot, as it’s easy to drop scenes as time constraints demand.

So there you have it, a full outline for a seasonal adventure, silly as anything. If you end up running it, let me know how it went! And if you need a Christmas bazaar for your players, check out Hoozier Babgottle’s Seasonal Wares.