In early 2017 I ran a one-shot tabletop game that repurposed the story of A Christmas Carol and some rules from D&D 5e. It was quite fun! I can’t wait to run it again next year!
Overview of What it Was
The players were all newly deceased spirits in purgatory who had been assigned to the Holiday Cheer Special Projects (HCSP) division in order to atone for whatever misdeeds they’d done in life. HCSP’s leader, Jacob Marley, informed them that he was working on an extra special project this year to try to save his old business partner, Ebenezer Scrooge’s soul. All the characters had to do was help out the three spirits as they needed. Really all they should have to do is stand around as security since nothing could possibly go wrong. Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim were the equivalent of undercover agents who had been working on Scrooge for years and hadn’t had much luck. They’d be “on the ground” ready to help too.
Pretty straightforward except for one problem: Krampus and his minions!
You can read my adventure notes if you’re a GM who wants to run it yourself. If you do, please let me know how it goes!
HCSP Adventure Notes
Here’s the character sheet I put together for them inspired by terrible inter-office HR memos:
Part of making their characters was they had to come up with one “good deed” and “bad deed” they did in life to end up in purgatory. While it’s an overly simplistic system of morality, it provided great fodder for them to role play with throughout the game. Turns out that a name and two facts can go a long way to getting started with a character.
Highlights from their characters included such deeds as:
- managed to correctly solve the trolley problem (back when trolleys were a thing)
- saved the police chief’s baby!
- baked laxatives into the PTA’s cookies
- invented high fives!
- taught his chemistry class how to make thermite and chlorine bombs
They were also able to be from any time period they wanted in order to reinforce that time works a little differently in this setting.
Classes and Equipment
From there they picked an archetypal class: Fighter, Rogue, Mage. That determined some basic stat modifiers and which equipment would make sense for them to take. Speaking of equipment: I changed up the names of items. Weapons were things like a Christmas tree (to use as a bludgeoning weapon) or a whip made out of garland. Armor were objects like elvish coats (in red or green!) and a gingerbread shield.
For stats we used a stripped down D&D stat block: Strength, Wisdom, Dexterity. For a one-shot like this you can fudge almost everything a player might want to do into any of those three. For a long-term campaign I don’t think it’s not enough detail to make rolls seem “fair”, but for a one-night game it’s more than enough and vastly reduces referencing of character sheets.
They each choose “Christmas Spirit” spells/cantrips they could cast. Such things like Snow (creates a snowfall in a 10x10 area), Cookies (heals for 1d4), Good Cheer (gives the target an extra 1d4 to their next attack roll), etc. This ended up being a really fun mechanic that they used to solve puzzles and combat in interesting ways.
If you want to see the Character Creation notes they’re here:
link to character creation notes
Notes for the Session
We finished in a few hours, although I think starting earlier in the evening and going another half hour would have let us breath a bit in each scene. There were some story causalities that were cut on the fly to keep everything moving. The original notes had the GM reading longer passages from A Christmas Carol. Pulling out the book turned out to be more of a tonal shift in the game than expected though. Next year I’ll work in the descriptions into the game.
There were also too many spells to choose from vs. interesting equipment or options for the fighting types. Something I planned on doing and quickly abandoned was quick sketches for equipment and spell cards. Since there’s a discrete list of both it would have made for a quicker reference for players who might not love reading blocks of rules, plus gives you another fun visual element. Playing dress up is always fun.
It was nice running a session where the stakes were low. We were trying to tell a fun story together in one night. No one was in danger of really dying (although there was danger they had to contend with!). I wasn’t tracking things like spell slots or really caring too much about combat placement unless it was interesting. Heck, I was even balancing the game on the fly since it was designed to accommodate as many players as who could show up!
It went well enough that I’ll be tweaking it and running it again next year (and the year after that most likely). If you want to be notified of when this happens get in touch!