Expert DM Competition 33: Create a Holiday!

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XDMC 33: Create a Holiday!
Welcome to the thirty-third Expert Dungeon Master Competition! The primary purpose of the Expert Dungeon Master Competitions is threefold:

  • To create a resource for new Dungeon Masters drawing on the vast talent pool of the experienced Dungeon Masters of this forum.

  • To create a fun and vibrant competition that is sportsmanlike and friendly.

  • To showcase the creativity and talent of Dungeon Masters like you.


The best way to keep informed about the competition is to join the Expert Dungeon Master Competition group. There you can review the rules, archives, and future contest ideas, and get broadcasts telling you when new competitions begin and when results are released!

Holiday

The topic for this competition is Holiday. Campaigns generally do not occur in our world, but in a fantastical realm of gods or demons, of monarchs and tyrants. Historically, people would pay homage to these entities in festivals commemorating the turn of the seasons, a mythic miracle from ages past, or even a remarkable victory or event within the lifetimes of the celebrants. PCs find these celebrations to be a welcome respite from the danger of adventuring... or a dangerous adventure of its own. This contest asks you to devise a commemoration suitable for insertion into a campaign.

Required Elements


In order to enter this competition, your entry must fulfill the following required elements:

  • Holiday: Name your holiday.

  • History: Explain why the holiday is observed. The holiday need not be religious.

  • Horology: Describe when the holiday is observed. It cannot be observed more than once a season, but may last multiple consecutive days.

  • Hullabaloo: Describe how the holiday is observed. The holiday need not be festive.

  • Heroes: Briefly describe one or more ways to involve the heroes in the holiday, either as part of the observance or with holiday-themed encounters.


If you fail to include a required element, you will receive a score of zero in Themes.

Optional Elements


Each entry must include three of the following optional elements:

  1. Anomalistic: The holiday never occurs on the same calendar day in consecutive years.

  2. Clandestine: The holiday cannot be celebrated openly.

  3. Diversified: Either the holiday is never celebrated in the same location twice in a row, or each community observes the holiday differently.

  4. Epicurean: The holiday involves an unusual feast of some kind.

  5. Heterodox: A select group believes the holiday means something the majority of celebrants does not believe.

  6. Impossible: During the holiday, one or more supernatural acts or phenomena are possible without the use of magic or ritual.

  7. Jeopardous: Observation of the holiday sometimes maims or kills celebrants or spectators.

  8. Mandatory: The authorities allow or mandate that anybody who refuses to observe the holiday be punished.

  9. Profane: The holiday commemorates an evil god or allows celebrants to engage in otherwise forbidden behavior.

  10. Repurposed: The holiday is now observed for a different reason than it was when first celebrated.

  11. Ritual: Observation of the holiday involves the casting or interruption of a Ritual.

Your entry should list the optional elements you intended to include. If you do not, you will be scored only for those elements the judges happen to notice.

General Rules


Following are some general rules of the Expert DM Competition. The complete list of rules is in the Expert Dungeon Master Competition Group Wiki.

  • Code of Conduct. All entries must comply with the forum's Code of Conduct.

  • Contest Duration. Contests usually run for two weeks, beginning with the post announcing the competition. The Coordinator may extend the duration of the contest at his discretion after consulting the other judges for that competition. However, such extensions should be done very rarely.

  • Edits Made at Entrants' Own Risk. A judge may download your entry any time after it is submitted. So any edits you make might not be considered by a judge. For this reason, you should submit your entry in as complete a form as possible. Use the preview function liberally. Once winners have been announced, entrants may edit their entries.

  • Multiple Entries Prohibited. Each applicant may only submit one entry during the period in which entries may be submitted. Submitting multiple entries disqualifies all entries. Additional entries may be submitted after the competition closes, but they will not be judged.

  • Multi-Post Entries Prohibited. Each entry must be contained within a single post. The judges must ignore any subsequent posts.

  • Outside Materials Prohibited. Your entry may not include material hosted on a website other than wizards.com and community.wizards.com. Images from your profile gallery may be used. The judges must ignore material hosted on other websites.

  • Plagiarism and Peer Reviewing Prohibited. All entries must be the original, exclusive work of the applicant. Entries found to be copying the work of another, or that have been posted for review prior to the close of the competition, will be disqualified.


Judges and Schedule


The contest will run from today through Friday, December 23, 2011. All entries must be submitted no later than 12:00 midnight at the end of that day (Eastern Standard Time). The judges of this contest are Johnathan_Vagabond, Lord_Ventnor and Wipxepitl, and the coordinator of this contest is wrecan. Good luck and have fun!!
Questions and Answers

(questions posed by potential entrants and the coordinator's response)


Q. For purpose of the "Clandestine" optional element, what does "openly" mean?

A. "Openly" means the celebration can be perceived by members of the public.  If a stranger visiting the community would not perceive that a holiday is being observed, then the holiday is not being celebrated openly.

Medalists and Scores

We are pleased to announce the winners of Expert Dungeon Master Competition 33!

The bronze medal goes to...


Frostpanner_19
for
Hadassah's Reckoning!


The silver medal goes to...


Astrolingus
for
Time of Atonement!!


and the gold medal goes to...


geoffa
for
Spring Raid!!!

This means geoffa and frostpanner_19 are our newest Heroic Dungeon Masters!  Congratulations to all of the medalists and thanks to the judges, Johnathan_Vagabond, Lord_Ventnor,  and Wipxepitl!

Stay tuned while we plan Expert Dungeon Master Competition 34.  In the meantime, enjoy these carefully tabulated scores:





















































































No.CreativityUsabilityThemesClarityBonusTotalEntrant's Entry
1127 1/37 5/66 1/333 1/2Barvas' Rebirthing Time
213 2/310 2/398243 1/3geoffa's Spring Raid
310 2/3117836 2/3Pluisjen's Heroes' Homecoming
411 2/312 2/38 1/67 5/640 1/3Astrolingus' Time of Atonement
511 2/38 5/69 1/38 1/338 1/6Frostpanner_19's Hadassah's Reckoning
611 1/38 1/26 1/68 1/234 1/2akitayne's Gnollhunt
710 1/311 1/27 1/28 1/337 2/3Resurrection_Man's Portos's Pearly Moon Festival
A very appropriate XDMC for this month...  

Maybe I can try to get involved in this one.
A very appropriate XDMC for this month...  


Indeed! Nice touch to have the deadline just before Christmas

I sure hope I can find the time to conjure up an entry.
I intend to participate in this one. I am soooo glad to see this one chosen. Thank you!
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
I have an idea.  Now I need to force myself to be disciplined and finish grading all of my students' exams before I start working on XDMC!
I heard that they are making a new video game, where you control the Netherese flying citadel of Sakkors, raining death on your helpless enemies below. Working title: Mythal Command.
I think I shall probably get on board wityh this one.  I've been meaning to attempt the XDMCs for some time, but this is the first on that's really caught my attention.
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
The Rebirthing Time

Once every few decades a trail of humans can be seen making its way out of the flood plains of El Majal in the great desert, and climbing the winding path to the great sandstone caverns of the Maker's Bones.  This is a sign that the Rebirthing Time is upon the People of the Grain, and that the great river will soon cover their homes and fields, leaving with it a richer soil and many years of better harvests.

Legends tell the People of the Grain that they first emerged into the world from the caverns where they will spend the next few weeks, and during the time that they are there they must observe the old ways from before they learned to harness the waters and the soil.  For this reason, they leave all of their possessions behind them, and bring only clothes spun from the flax that grows in the region.  All of the finery brought to their villages by trade is left in their now-abandoned homes. 

The People of the Grain survive their time in the caverns by gathering the plants and berries that grow upon the mountainside and eating the the mushrooms that grow within the deeper caves.  The eating of meat is strictly forbidden.

Once the waters of the great river recede, the people return to their villages, where all of their possessions remain miraculously untouched—the grain is dry and everything is in the same place as it was before despite having spent weeks under the surface of the flowing river.  The rich mud brought by the waters covers only the fields themselves.

It is at this time that the Rebirth begins in earnest:  all debts owed to members of the People of the Grain are cancelled, and the first person to enter any house may claim it for herself and her descendents until the next Rebirthing Time.  Not only does each house come with its contents, but it comes with certain rights.  Many village homes are attached to the right to work certain fields.  A house in one of the towns may comes with the right to work a certain trade.  The most desired homes are those that come with the right to rule.

The Rebirth can be a dangerous time—although entry into a home establishes a legal right that will be absolutely upheld, the laws do not protect the people as they rush to claim desired locations.  Fights can and do break out, and people die.  People take dangerous risks in their rush to reach desireable locations; and more than one person has tumbled to his death while trying to find a shortcut down from the Maker's Bones.  It is during this time that schemes and intrigues hatched during the weeks in the caverns come to fruition.

The quick, the strong, and the clever rise to the top of society.  The timid take their place at the bottom.  In the weeks and months following the Rebirth, the new social order takes shape, new alliances are made, and a new equilibrium is reached.

Getting the Heroes Involved:  There are several ways to involve the heroes in the Rebirthing Time.  If they are from El Majal or own property there, then they may participate in the festival itself, and may attempt to lay claim to some of the choicest positions in the society during the Rebirth.

If the heroes are outlanders, then they might arrive just at the time that the waters are beginning to rise.  They might be approached by someone who promises them great rewards in exchange for help during the Rebirth.  Perhaps this is a person who owes them money or a favor, and they will be unable to collect if the person is unable to claim a good location.

Finally, the legends of the People of the Grain's origin is true—they did emerge into the surface world from the sandstone caverns, but only after spending centuries of bondage in the Underdark.  Now, a new Underdark empire has learned that a vulnerable and defenseless population will be spending weeks on the outskirts of its domain.  If the heroes are travelling through the Underdark, they will hear of this as well.  Can they convince the People of the Grain to alter some of their oldest traditions?  If the heroes cannot convince them, will the heroes defend them against Underdark slavers?

Optional Elements: Anomalistic, Impossible, Jeopardous, (Arguably) Epicurean.
An entry already? Looks like Barvas rolled 20 on initiative

I'm still stuck in the concept phase. Let's hope I manage to get past that...
First blood goes to Barvas!  Welcome to the XDMCs, and your entry has inaugurated the entry list above.
First blood goes to Barvas!  Welcome to the XDMCs, and your entry has inaugurated the entry list above.



Thank you kindly.  Happy to be here.
@Wrecan: You put the link to the entry in the Questions post rather than the Entries post.

Nothing.

That is all.

Oops!  Fixed.  I guess I'm not used to people not having questions.
Oops!  Fixed.  I guess I'm not used to people not having questions.


Question:
Why are you not used to people not having questions? ;)
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
I have a question.

Clandestine: The holiday cannot be celebrated openly.

What is "openly"? Does it mean that the celebration is only known to the celebrants? Or does it mean that people celebrate on their own in secret? Or just that it's not celebrated in public, even though everybody is aware it's happening?
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.

Spring Raid (a.k.a. Wife Catching Day)


A brief account of Spring Raid


Most of the women had given up any pretense of work, setting aside their sewing as they gathered around Ilsa, the mayor’s daughter.  “What was it like?”


Ilsa took a deep breath before beginning her tale.  She clearly relished being the center of attention.  “Well, I had to take some bread around to my aunt’s house.  I asked Tom and Robbie to come with me because, you know, everyone figured that it was raid day.  There were four of them hiding in Mara’s orchard and they kind of caught us by surprise.  Tom was on the ground before he knew what was happening, and Robbie put up a good fight but there was three of them and only one of him.”  Everyone knew Robbie was still sporting a black eye from his tangle with the orcs, and Ilsa had seen several other large purple bruises when he took his shirt off.


“We got back to the orc caves about half an hour before sundown,” Ilsa continued her story.  “They had a big fire going, with a roast boar on a spit.  It was actually pretty good, and they make this juice out of fermented berries – that stuff would liven up our parties here in town!”


“I heard they picked Dorna as the prettiest,” interrupted one of the listeners.  “Isn’t she a bit, you know, chubby?  I mean, even an orc could see that!”


“It’s not exactly prettiest,” explained Ilsa.  “They picked Dorna as the best wife.  Apparently she made a good impression when she hit the chieftain’s son with a rolling pin.  Who understands orcs?”  The girls all laughed at the thought of the feisty baker beating an orc with a rolling pin.  Her temper had made her a much less desirable catch with the young men of the village.


“Then we danced,” Ilsa picked up the story again after the laughter subsided.  “They’re not exactly graceful, but they dance with a lot of enthusiasm, kind of like most of the boys here in town.  And they sang us some orcish songs, mostly about old battles where the orcs were victorious against all their enemies.  They tend to leave out the ones like Marlonsburg where the King’s men drove them off.  And then they walked us home the next morning, just in case there were any bears up on the mountainside.”


Optional Elements:


Anomalistic – the exact day of Spring Raid is determined by the timing of snow melting on the mountainside.  It can vary by several weeks between one year and the next.


Jeopardous – although weapons are forbidden during Spring Raid, it does involve a lot of fisticuffs and wrestling.  And some celebrants don’t always follow the rules . . .


Repurposed – while it was originally a celebration of the Orcish gods and their warlike ways, Spring Raid now celebrates the fact that the orcs no longer carry out real raids against their human neighbors.


History:


Orcs in many areas honor their gods of war and pillaging during the first raid of the spring.  It marks the beginning of battle season, when the orcs venture out to take what they want from the weaker races.  After being cramped in their caves all winter, the orcs are usually particularly violent and destructive during Spring Raid.  Other races know that they must prepare their defenses or suffer death, destruction and loss.


When the orcs of the Gray Mountains negotiated a treaty with the humans of the Red River Valley, the cessation of spring raiding was one of the humans’ primary demands.  The orcs argued that it was an important part of their heritage and religion, but the humans would not relent on this point.  Offered the carrot of trade goods, and threatened with the stick of military reprisals, the orcs finally agreed to stop raiding the neighboring villages.


In some parts of the valley, where orcs and humans live close to one another, the tradition of Spring Raid continues, but instead of a violent attack it has become a rough and tumble game that signifies the new friendship between races.


Horology:


Spring Raid is celebrated on the first day when there is no snow on the ground between the orc and human villages.  Historically, if the orc raiders left footprints in the snow, then it was too easy for human soldiers to track them back to their caves after the raid.  Because the timing of the celebration depends on the weather, it can occur on different days between different pairs of villages, and it moves from one year to the next.


Hullabaloo:


The celebration of Spring Raid is meant to mimic the old raids that the orcs carried out against the humans, but with less bloodshed and destruction.  The orcish participants, predominantly young males, try to sneak into the human village, catch human females and carry them back to the orc caves. The human participants, also predominantly young males, try to keep the orcs from doing this.  There are rules to prevent excessive violence:



  1. No weapons are allowed.  Participants are welcome to fight, using their fists or grappling, but are discouraged from causing serious injury.

  2. If a combatant admits defeat, or is knocked unconscious, his opponent must accept the surrender.  The defeated must return to a pre-determined spot in his own village before he can play any further role in the game.  Most participants will give up a losing fight relatively quickly, but some young men have been known to endure a beating if they think it might impress the right young woman.

  3. Offensive magic is not permitted, but illusion, charm and trickery are allowed.  If any individual is known to have magical powers, he is regarded as a powerful ally or an opponent to be wary of.  If such a magic using individual grows so powerful as to unbalance the game, he will often remove himself voluntarily.

  4. Women cannot be taken from inside of buildings.  More cautious women can avoid trouble by staying indoors most of the day, while the more daring make a point to run as many outdoor errands as possible during the day of Spring Raid.

  5. Property damage is strongly discouraged.  If a building is badly damaged, the orcs have been known to help with repairs once the raid is over.

  6. All “hostilities” cease at sundown.  Any woman who has not yet been delivered to the orc caves is allowed to return to her home.


After sundown, the orcs throw a great feast, treating any human women that they have captured as honored guests.  One woman is toasted as the “most desirable wife” and participates in the first dance after dinner, with the orc chieftain.  Some women honored in this way consider it a great compliment, while others downplay it saying that orcs have very strange tastes in human women.  In any case, the most desirable wife is not actually required to marry anyone, and the morning after the feast the orcs escort all of the women back to their home village.


In an effort to build fraternity between orcs and humans, every fifth Spring Raid is a reverse raid.  Humans venture up the mountain, and endeavor to carry orc women back to their village.  The humans also throw a feast for the captured women, and choose a “most desirable wife” from among the captured.  The orcs almost all agree that humans have strange tastes in orc women, and any orc thus honored is usually the butt of some good-natured mockery when she returns home.  She is clearly too weak and too pretty to make a good orc mate.


Heroes:


There are several ways in which the heroes might become involved in Spring Raid, though it is probably a better fit for low-level heroes.


If the heroes are native to a village that celebrates Spring Raid, or if they are passing through such a village at just the right time, they may be asked to participate.  A young lady may request an escort while she undertakes some lengthy outdoor task, and the PCs must defend her from orcs while staying within the rules of the game.  Young men planning a reverse raid may seek out the expertise of adventurers who have done real fighting against orcs in order to plan a more successful strategy.  Perhaps there was some loss of face five years ago when the humans failed to capture any orc women . . .


Another opportunity to involve the heroes in Spring Raid involves a group of orcish malcontents.  A vocal minority of the orcs wish to return to their glory days, when they took what they wanted and did not have to abide by any sissy rules like not killing people and returning the women the next day.  These orcs try to sabotage the festivities by sneaking weapons into the game, causing excessive injuries, or destroying property in the human village.  Both sides would want the PCs to find the troublemakers, since the majority of both humans and orcs prefer to live in peace.

I heard that they are making a new video game, where you control the Netherese flying citadel of Sakkors, raining death on your helpless enemies below. Working title: Mythal Command.
The list is updated!

I have a question.

Clandestine: The holiday cannot be celebrated openly.

What is "openly"? Does it mean that the celebration is only known to the celebrants? Or does it mean that people celebrate on their own in secret? Or just that it's not celebrated in public, even though everybody is aware it's happening?


"Openly" means "in the open".  It means that there are no public celebrations.  To a stranger in the community, there would be no indication that a celebration is occurring.  Why the holiday is celebrated clandestinely is, of course, up to each contestant.
Can it be a one-time holiday, or does it have to repeat at some interval as most of ours do?


A one-time only holiday won't be disqualified. 
Time for a bump.  So I present to you a sample holiday...

Freedom Day
from "A Taste of Freedom", Futurama (Season 5, Episode 4)

History
: "My fellow Earthicans, we enjoy so much freedom, it's almost sickening. We're free to chose which hand our sex-monitoring chip is implanted in. And if we don't want to pay our taxes, why, we're free to spend a week with the Pain Monster."
Horology: Freedom is observed on a fictional date that looks suspiciously like July 4.
Hullabaloo: "If you wanna do something, you do it, and to splick with the consequences."  (Nude hot-tubbing is customary, and there is a parade sponsored by Charleston Chew!)

Some ways to get the heroes involved...

"A fabulous, crabulous day!": The Decapodians choose to invade Earth on Freedom Day to enslave all humanity.  Why? "Bah! Your planet doesn't deserve freedom until it learns what it is not to have freedom. It's a lesson, I say!"  You have to stop them.

"Kill the traitor!": Someone somehwere does something so vile that the Earthicans simply can't accept it, notwithstanding it being Freedom Day.  "Yes, fellow patriots, I ate your flag. And I did it with pride. For to express oneself with doing a thing is the very essence of Freedom Day! Bless this planet and all its wonderful people!"  It's up to you to remind the people of Earth the true meaning of Freedom Day.  Or help them kill the traitor.  Really, I don't care.

Optional Elements:


  • Epicurean: The holiday involves an unusual feast of some kind.  "I wonder what the shroud of Turin tastes like."

  • Jeopardous: Observation of the holiday sometimes maims or kills celebrants or spectators. "Happy Freedom Day! Ow, I think I broke my wrist."

  • Profane: The holiday commemorates an evil god or allows celebrants to engage in otherwise forbidden behavior.  "If you wanna do something, you do it, and to splick with the consequences."

Heroes' Homecoming

History: Some 35 years ago, a small Halfling agircultural community near a hill was 'conquered' by a young and overconfident Black Dragon named Hissengard. The Halflings were unarmed and unable to really do much about it, and so reluctantly accepted their new tyrant master. Hissengard kept a close eye on his subordinates and demanded much tribute from his people. He also enforced strict and unfair rules and did all the other things a young, powerful and evil creature would do to his people. Being small and somewhat removed from the regular roads and kingdoms, nobody really heard the news of this dragon plague, as Hissengard forbid anyone from leaving the area.


However, 9 months after the start of his rule, a group of young Halflings secretly started building a raft. They used it to sail downriver when Hissengard slept and searched for a group of heroes to help them. Eventually, they did and under the cover of darkness, the children sailed into town with 3 mighty heroes on their raft. Those heroes vanquished Hissengard and freed the village, and the people gave a great feast in their honor and erected statues of them in the town square.


About one year afterwards all was well again in the village until suddenly a group of youngsters vanished. People searched for them, to no avail. It was not until they came sailing back in two weeks later with a group of picked up travellers that people realised what had happened, and from then on a tradition was born.


Over the years, it grew more elaborate. It was Berend Broeknagel, the community's local livestock farmer, who came up with the idea to make the celebration even more reminiscent of the old days and challenged the "heroes" to battle one of the drakes he kept on his farm. That also stuck, and over the years it became a bit of an honor challenge for the local youth to find the biggest possible 'heroes' that took one the largest of the Drakes. Those heroes that refused, only dared battle something weak (like a Needlefang) or even got mauled in the ring ensured that their retrievers would be the target of jokes and taunts for months to come. Those heroes that dared go into the ring with a Ragedrake on the other hand, would make sure their retrievers got a lot of attention, better jobs and the affection of the local boys and girls.


After each homecoming, the children would bring the heroes to a makeshift ring, where they fought the drake of their choice, and if they won, the beast would be slaughtered and prepared for the big feast. If the heroes failed, the feast would be a lot more meager and the heroes would probably not be applauded quite as much. (Nor would they if the feast consisted of a single Needlefang Drake)


Horology: The first signs of Heroes' Homecoming for the community is always the dissapearing of some of the youth somewhere in autumn. When exactly this happens depends on their planning, although they aim to leave on the same day as those kids 35 years ago that helped defeat the dragon. From then on, it's a waiting game. As the goal is to secretly bring the heroes in by night, generally the first sign that Heroes' Homecoming has started in earneast is the sudden arrival of a group of strange people in the middle of the night.From there on, the next afternoon is the challenge, which ends with a feast in the evening. Generally the following morning the heroes are brought back to whereever they were picked up, or are free to leave on their own.

Hullabaloo: The local children always figure out amongst each other who is allowed to take part in Heroes' Homecoming, although the unspoken rule is that nobody is allowed to go twice and generally children around the age of 15 are chosen. These kids secretly build a raft and then leave when it is completed. The parents are unaware of which children are preparing this and will only realise after they've left. Having a child be a part of Heroes' Homecoming is a point of pride for most parents.
The children will then roam the river and major roads in the surrounding area, looking for a suitable group of challengers. Depending on their spirits, food supplies and how much they're pushing to bring back the most awesome heroes, they will approach travellers and ask them to "be the hero" and come with them to the village.
Once suitable targets are found, they will be brought back on the raft in the middle of the night, where they will receive a place to sleep with the children's parents. The following morning, they will be dressed up in suitable gear if neccesary (the Halflings have some spare armor and weapons for Medium creatures) and then be brought to the arena under loud cheering. The night before, the heroes will have selected the size of Drake they want to enter the arena with, and it will be waiting inside.
After the heroes have done battle and came out victorious (or not; there's handlers standing ready to jump in to try and save them if things go wrong) the animal will be dragged off with more cheering, and the heroes will be invited to song and dance while the evening's feast is prepared.
Then, a great feast is hosted, with the heroes being first to taste the drake they killed (or jeered at if they didn't kill it) and the entire community joining in afterwards.

When the fires of the feast burn out, it signifies the end of Heroes' Homecoming and the heroes are free to leave and return to their normal lives as travellers. The children who brought them will then live with the honor or shame their heroes brought upon them, at least until the next year when a new group is ready to secretly go out.

Heroes:
The easiest way to involve the players is by making them the target of the retrievers. The Halflings will either come up to them and ask them if they want to be heroes (like they aren't already) or, if particularly bold that year, even test them a bit by trying to steal their belongings, taunt them, or otherwise try to piss them off.

The players could also wander into the village at night, looking for a place to sleep, when they are mistaken for the homecoming heroes. When the villagers realise that they aren't together with the kids, they explain that they're worried, as the retrievers have been gone for far too long and something might've happened. This will let the players search for the children, with the holiday starting when they bring them back. The children could for example have had a boating accident, or fallen prey to bandits disguised as travellers.

Optionals:


Anomalistic (it's never certain when the retrievers come back with their heroes)


Epicurean (the feast involves eating a drake, which are not generally considered edible)


Jeopardous (the 'heroes' must do battle with an angry drake)

Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
The list is updated!

Hi! This is the first time I'm attempting anything of this sort, so I hope this is a good attempt!

The Time of Atonement


History:
The Temple of Yassura is an almost unheard-of religion whose main (and perhaps only) temple is located in the city of Nagarum. The priests that inhabit the temple are a secretive lot, keeping mainly to themselves, to the meditation chambers within the temple, and the prayer-garden within the temple grounds. When interacting with the public, the priests wear veils to hide their faces, so only a few citizens know the identities of any of the priests. The temple does, however, offer healing services (both mundane and magical) for free (or for low costs if the medical procedures are complicated) to those in need. Every day, between the hours of dawn and dusk, the temple accepts petitioners who wish to have their wounds and illnesses tended to.


Every year, sometime during winter, the temple closes its doors for a week. No priest leaves the temple for seven days and all petitioners are refused entry. For those who notice the connection, this period also marks the occurrence of an annual spate of spectacular and gruesome suicides: men sett themselves alight on top of local landmarks, douse themselves in acid in the middle of public squares, drive groups of horses wild and then throw themselves in front of the stampeding horde; these and more have all occurred during this seven-day period. The temple is never closed aside from this seven-day period, and bizarre suicides never occur outside this time-frame.


Horology:
The week-long period always occur during the winter months. The exact days seem to change every year, and there is never any announcement from the temple itself.


Hullaballoo:
Once a year, during the winter months, several priests of Yassura develop strange marks on their faces. These marks cannot be removed by known magic, and are too structured to be considered natural. The marks always last exactly seven days before fading away. Each year, different priests develop the marks, and which priests develop them follows no conceivable pattern.


The priests believe that the marks are a sign of chastisement from their god Yassura. Thus, these seven days are known as the Time of Atonement. The temple is closed, and the priests spend all their time fasting, meditating and praying, hoping to absolve any sins they may have unknowingly committed during the year.


However, a small, secret, schismatic sect exists within the temple. This sect, calling itself the Hand of Yassura, believes that the chastisement is not a punishment for sins, but a demand for tribute. Thus, priests who are marked and who also belong to the sect prepare themselves for public and violent suicide, always making sure that the method of suicide makes it impossible to trace their identities back to the temple. The rest of the temple, though disturbed by the events, have little knowledge about the Hand, and are reluctant to let people outside the temple come and investigate. 


Unbeknown to anyone involved in the religion, Yassura is no god, but a moderately powerful demon prince, who manages somehow to mask his powers and activities. The seven day period represents a time when he gains more direct access to the temple and can claim the souls of those who sacrifice themselves to fuel his own power. The gruesome rite has been going on for years, and Yassura has steadily been growing in power.


Heroes:
There are a number of ways the heroes could be involved:


1)      Few know that it is the priests who commit these bizarre suicides, but a family member of one of the priests could have suspicions and approach the heroes for help. Alternatively, local law enforcement, or even a priest of the temple of Yassura might enlist the heroes to investigate the suicides, which might be viewed as possible homicide (since they occur at such a regular basis).


2)      The heroes could witness one of the priests attempt a suicide, perhaps one that would harm innocent bystanders as well, such as an explosion, or the aforementioned stampede. Heroic types would try and stop put a stop to this.


3)      One of the heroes themselves could be inflicted by a mark, if they spent a significant amount of time in the temple, received major magical treatment (healing or any other spells) from the priests, and/or took part in any temple ceremonies. The Hand of Yassura might take this anomalous occurrence to be an omen and send assassins to kill the hero as a special sacrifice.


4)      If the suicides are allowed to occur unchecked, Yassura may just receive enough power this time round to manifest an avatar, which the heroes may then have to deal with. 


Optional Elements:


Heterodox: The Hand of Yassura has its own, secret beliefs, different from the majority of followers of the Yassura


Jeopardous: Some of the priests feel compelled to kill themselves as part of their “divine duty”.


Clandestine: Few outside the temple have any knowledge of the Time of Atonement. They only see that the temple closes semi-randomly every year. Few make the connection that the yearly suicides have anything to do with the temple.


Profane: The Time of Atonement serves an evil demon, though not even the Hand knows this.


Anomalistic: The Time of Atonement occurs during the winter, but the exact date the marks appear don not follow a discernible pattern.

The list is updated.  Welcome to the XDMCs, Astrolingus!
The list is updated!
With less than 40 hours to go, it's time for one more bump.  Time to get in those last-minute entries.  In the meantime, here's another supplemental entry...

Festivus

For the rest of us!


From "The Strike", Season 9, Episode 10 of Seinfeld

History
: Developed by the warlock Frank Costanza, who became deeply disappointed in the commercialism of other Winter Solstice holidays while pummeling another man while trying to obtain a focus for a ritual for his son.

Horology: Festivus is celebrated on the 23rd day of the last month of the year, which is abotu two days after the Winter Solstice.

Hullabaloo: Festivus is celebrated through three stages.  Because Festivus is an obscure holiday and looked upon with suspicion, disdain, and large heaping of sarcasm, it is celebrated privately in homes.  Only trusted friends and family are invited to celebrate Festivus:

Stage One. The Festivus Feast
.  First, all the celebrants gather around a table to eat a meal, which must be prepared in some sort of loaf or casserole form, made from unusual ingredients that were never meant to be eaten in a single meal, much less a single dish.  This is only meant to prepare the celebrants for the unpleasantness to follow.

Stage Two. The Airing of Grievances.  Next, the patriarch of the family tells the assorted people how each of them have disappointed the patriarch in some way.  While commonly believed to be a way to encourage people to improve themselves in the coming year, or simply as a means to destroy the ego of any possible challenger in the coming Feats of Strength, in fact, the Airing of Grievances is the process by which a powerful Ritual is cast.

Stage Three. The Feats of Strength.  Finally, after a minimum of ten minutes of Airing of Grievances (the minimum casting time for the ritual), the ture purpose of Festivus begins: the Feats of Strength.  The patriarch of the household challenges one attendant to a wrestling match.  Festivus cannot be declared to have ended until the challenger is pinned.  This is a challenge involving contested rolls of Athletics, Acrobatics, Endurance, Insight, and Intimidation.  The patriarch decides which Skill he will roll and which Skill the challenger may use to oppose it.  The patriarch may not repeat a combo.  The match continues until the challenger wins three consecutive checks.  Due to the Ritual, the patriarch receives a +6 bonus to all Skill checks for the first round of the match, which is reduced by 1 every other round, until he has a -6 penalty to all checks.  If 25 rounds pass without the challenger getting three consecutive successes, then the patriarch is still pinned, but the challenger knows it is not due to any accomplishment on his part.

The secret of Festivus, however, is that the ritual of Feats of Strength actually robs the challenger of some of his life force and gives it to the patriarch.  The patriarch gains an extra month of vitality and strength for every round after the fifth that the wrestling match continues.  Meanwhile, the challenger loses one month of longevity for each month the patriarch gains, seeming to age unnaturally, through premature baldness, bad eyesight, a struggling libido, etc. 

Note that the patriarch can cast the "Feats of Strength" even if he is not a Ritual Caster, such is the power of the magic of Festivus. 

Heroes: The heroes can be involved by being invited to a Festivus celebration.  Perhaps the patriarch may ask one of the PCs to engage in the Feats of Strength!

The heroes may be asked to stop the Ritual by a son of a Patriarch who has never been able to defeat his father, and will die an early death if the ritual is nto stopped.  He has been so humiliated over the years, that he doesn't have enough self-esteem to simply not attend the Festivus celebrations.

Optional Elements
Clandestine:
The holiday cannot be celebrated openly.
Epicurean: The holiday involves an unusual feast of some kind.
Impossible: During the holiday, one or more supernatural acts or phenomena are possible without the use of magic or ritual.
Ritual: Observation of the holiday involves the casting or interruption of a Ritual.

Gnollhunt (Holiday)


History                 


Several small elven communities in the Dales have celebrated a holiday they have called Gnollhunt for about a century.  These villages long before relocated near an entrance to the Underdark and were subject to frequent raids by the drow.  The constant threat of violence caused the elves to remain much more vigilant and the majority of the elves began to revere the demi-god Shevarash the Black Archer.  Shevarash long ago took an oath to neither smile or laugh until all the drow were exterminated, so the elves in these communities tend to lack the usual elven happy-go-lucky temperament and wear dark hued clothing.  The adult residents do not show any sign of frivolity and the only laughter heard is usually a child’s followed by a sharp crack from a switch.


                Around a century ago a large band of marauding gnolls invaded and ravaged the Dales.  The elves were not quite as prepared as they thought to deal with this threat and many elves perished from battle and starvation.  Finally one of the best rangers around, Marsas Bluefeather, concocted a plan to combat the gnolls that involved the elves dressing up in gnollskins, laughing like gnolls and eating scavenged food.  He had hoped that by mimicking the gnoll culture and learning from it that they would be able to defeat them.   Several elders scoffed at the recommendations but changed their minds when Marsas brought them the heads of two gnolls without even a scratch on him.  The other elves took his advice to heart and their decisive victory came during the full moon on a crisp autumn night which drove the gnolls from the forest.  Unfortunately, Marsas perished during the final battle and is also remembered during this time.


Horology             


Gnollhunt is an elven holiday observed over a three night period consisting of The Laughter, The Hunt, and The Feast.  The Hunt itself is observed on the night of the second full moon after the autumnal equinox, called the Hunter’s Moon by some, and is sandwiched by The Laughter and The Feast.  Since Gnollhunt is dependent on the full moon, it is rarely observed on the same day every year (anomalistic).


Hullabaloo


Gnollhunt is celebrated over three different nights and in several different ways by different villages.  In preparation for Gnollhunt, each village searches out a wide clearing in the forest and builds a roaring bonfire for the celebrations.  Custom dictates that they never use the same spot (diversified).  During the day they fast and wear a single feather dyed blue as a signifier of the holiday and as a reminder of Marsas’ wisdom and heroism.  At night they dress up as gnolls, either in the actual dried skins of gnolls or sewn costumes made from other animal skins, all the while still wearing their blue feather. These elves do not openly tell others of their observance so as to not seem as though they worship demonic forces (clandestine).


The first night, The Laughter, is always the favorite of the elves.  On this night they are permitted to laugh and dance and make merriment when otherwise they are not allowed to while observing Shevarash’s edicts (profane).  They traditionally dance and drink all night around the great bonfire in the clearing.  The laughter and revelry can sometimes be heard in nearby human settlements.  Villages are all but deserted during this time.  The next morning they are back in their villages performing their day to day chores as if nothing happened the night before.


The second night, The Hunt, occurs during the actual full moon.  While this night is more somber and serious, the elves still look forward to it just the same.  Some of the villagers go on a hunting binge through the forest, collecting small and large game as well as gathering fruits and nuts.  Some villages just have a parade back to their village to simulate a hunt but others have been known to capture travelers, such as humans and dwarves, and bind them at the bonfire site until the next night (jeopardous).  Many of those caught do not realize that it is elves and not gnolls that have captured them.


The third night of Gnollhunt is The Feast.  After fasting for three days, the elves are ravenously hungry and settle in for a huge feast with all of the foodstuffs hunted and scavenged from the night before (epicurean).  The elves gorge themselves on whatever is available, which has, in some extreme cases, included the eating of captured travelers.  At the end of the night's festivities there is the solemn removal of their costumes.  The next day there is no evidence of any holiday; no costumes, no blue feathers, nothing.


Heroes


The heroes are captured by elves wearing gnoll skin costumes.  Will they escape?  Or will they become dinner?

The heroes happen upon a large gnoll encampment.  The gnolls are busy dancing around a bonfire.  Do they attack the 'gnolls'?  Or quietly slip away to the nearby elven village?

Yeenoghu has endured this practice for too long.  The gnoll's deity send agents to end this once and for all.  Do they descend upon them in a fury of claw and fang?  Or do they sunder the elven villages from within by possessing key figures within the communities?


The heroes happen upon a seemingly abandoned elven village but find it teeming with drow hard at work setting traps throughout the settlement.  Do they stop the drow from setting more traps and chase them away?  Do they wait for the elves to return? 

The contest is closed!  Thanks everyone who participated and be patient over the holidays while the judges perform their holiday magic!
I know I'm past the deadline, but I wanted to submit a holiday that I actually ran in my campaign.



Harvest Pennies, Harvest Pies!


Sehanine made Pelor cry.


Wear a mask to hide your face,


Your harvest pennies will be safe;


Go around without disguise,


pay the Goddess Harvest Pies!


The Seven Mills Harvest Festival

 The festival is very much like our Hallowe'en and Thanksgiving holidays rolled into one.  The Seven Mills Harvest Festival celebrates the last full moon1 of the growing season, when traditionally farmers brought their biggest harvest to the mill, and it lasts for seven days and nights.  During the festival days, long lines of wagons snake through the streets as farmers wait at each of the city's seven mills in order to have their grains and other harvest goods ground.  Children run in shrieking masked mobs begging for treats. At nights, masked revelers hold drunken parades and stagger from pub to pub, delighting in beer and cider and the companionship of the festival.


Origins


Once long ago, Sehanine threw a ball for all of the gods and goddesses.  As the goddess of trickery she decreed that it would be a masque and everyone must come wearing a costume so that each could play pranks on the other without retribution (secretly she feared Kord’s wrath, for lo, sometimes he could not take a joke).  Pelor refused to be a party to trickery but could not refuse an offer of hospitality, so he came undisguised, and because all the other gods were disguised, he was the butt of everyone’s jokes, including Kord’s, for lo, Kord can kind of be a jerk sometimes, and when he chocks you jovially on the shoulder, verily, the bruise is legendary.

Each of the gods had a different joke to play on him, but Sehanine stole a silver penny from his pocket and placed it in the night sky where she thought Pelor would never find it -- that is why now, Sehanine’s full moon always rises at sunset.  Pelor had to search the night sky for his penny and as he grew more and more nervous, he quit work earlier and earlier each day, and the days grew short and cold.  When he found it, he discovered that it had been placed there for all time, and that by searching and searching he had let the light and warmth of summer dwindle.  Each year Sehanine holds another masque, and each year Pelor falls for her trickery, and to this day, the three months after Sehanine’s Feast are the coldest and darkest of the year, and the full moons are silver-bright.


Observance


The Festival consists of seven days of harvest-work and seven nights of revelry.  Bands of children roam the streets in motley and masks, gleefully mobbing anyone without a mask and chanting “Harvest pennies, harvest pies!” and picking the pockets of anyone who won’t pay the children off with a harvest pie2 or three to share.  Because the festival is a festival of the town’s patron deities, this pickpocketing is condoned under the law3!

Masks and disguises are an important part of the festival.  Most costumes are generic, and different people take different masks seriously.  Some of the more popular costumes and their meanings are as follows:



  • Pelor - A member of the day-watch or a follower of Pelor4 who is upholding the traditions of the festival.  People dressed as Pelor usually hang a large obvious purse on their person with hundreds of iron blanks and one real silver coin, inviting children to pick their pockets.  City Guards naturally do not prosecute theft of these purses, but they are also likely to look the other way for real pickpocketing, depending on their faith.

  • Sehanine - A member of the night-watch or a follower of Sehanine who, despite wearing a costume, chooses to participate in the picking of pockets.  

  • Devil - a favorite of locals to Seven Mills

  • Sheep/Wolf - the two-sided costume invites playful games of TAG with foxes and is a favorite of small children.  The front of the mask is a wolf's head, but the back is a confused-looking sheep.  The children stagger along backwards looking like sheep, and then at some signal one child will turn around and roar, reveal that he is a wolf, and chase the other sheep.

  • Chicken, duck, or other fowl - also typically for children, although halflings will often wear more flamboyant bird costumes (parrots, pea****, etc.)

  • Fox - a thief and trickster!  Likely a devotee of Sehanine.  Foxes will often walk among a pack of children, trying to “sneak” along behind the shepherd.  Shepherds are expected to “play dumb” until the children are all laughing and squealing with delight.

  • Shepherd - favored by parents looking after a creche of children

  • Orc - orcs are a common favorite costume this year, with General Silverhand and his orc army rumored to be in the countryside spoiling for war.  Little boys and brave youngsters are dressed as the scariest orcs from the stories.  Silverhand is a heavy favorite.

  • Dragon - dragon costumes tend towards the very elaborate, and usually indicate vanity.  Wealthy merchants and guild members often spend lots of gold on a suitably indimidating dragon costume, and when two dragons encounter each other in the street, there is a bit of ritual “territory squabbling”.  Dwarves favor large, intricate, mechanical dragons that seat two, three, or four dwarves, and may even shoot jets of low-temperature fire or bright magical sparks.  The proprietors and staff of each of the Seven Mills frequently sponsor the creation of a dragon for the evening parades.

  • Mermaid - many girls dress up as river mermaids and sing harvest songs; merchants’ daughters spend lots of money on vibrant blue “tails” for their dresses.


1.  The harvest festival is Anomalistic because it coincides with the lunar calendar, and not the normal seven day calendar.
2.  The harvest festival is Epicurean because of the variety of harvest goods served during the day; harvest pies are seasoned with fall spices and are typically apple, pumpkin, and/or spice bread.
3.  The harvest festival is Profane because its celebrants are allowed and encouraged to break the law by picking pockets!  
4.  The harvest festival is Heterodox because followers of Pelor celebrate it differently than followers of Sehanine and the other gods.  They pretend to enjoy being the butt of the jokes, but at home they have their own private feasts where they mourn the disappearance of the sun for the winter.


I added Jurph's entry to the list of supplemental entries.  Frostpanner, you can make the edit to your entry, and if the judges haven't started reviewing your entry, it won't matter.
for lo, Kord can kind of be a jerk sometimes, and when he chocks you jovially on the shoulder, verily, the bruise is legendary.




Jurph, this made my night, I laughed so hard.  A pity you didn't get this one in on time, I love it and I'm probably going to steal it and work it into my campaign!
56774838 wrote:
Far, far too many people seem to be enraged by the very thought of other people enjoying a version of the game that they don't.
Follow my my blog and my twitter, I also write stuff over at NewbieDM.com sometimes!
While we're waitign for scores, I thought we could talk about the next competition.  The category for competitions ending in "4" is "Map".  Usually, I take an old tile set from the Dungeon Tile Mapper, make two maps from it, and ask entrants to populate it with traps, creatures, terrain, and creatures.

However, with the new Virtual Table available to all DDi subscribers, I was wondering if people would be interested in a "Make Your Own Map" contest.  Use the VTT, or the Dungeon Tile Mapper or other program, if you are not a DDi subscriber, to make a map and populate it and then post it here as an entry.  Essentially, you are asked to make a short delve.

Would people be interested in this very open-ended competition?
I personally think populating a map is more fun then making one.
Epic Dungeon Master

Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!

Your Kingdom awaits!
Update 5th Sep 2011: Added a sample kingdom, as well as sample of play.
The contest is closed!  Thanks everyone who participated and be patient over the holidays while the judges perform their holiday magic!

wrecan, my vacation started earlier than planned, so I never was able to complete my holiday write-up. But I want to thank you and everyone who entered for providing the forum and content that I love! This has been my favorite XDMC to date.

Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
I personally think populating a map is more fun then making one.

Ditto. Double ditto.

Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
My only concerns is that the three map contests we've had have seen sparse participation.  They are XDMC 5, XDMC 14, and XDMC 24.  And I don't know why that it.  Are the maps inaccessible?  Too big?  Too crowded?  Are the optional elements to constrictive?  Too boring?  I really have no idea how to make this type of contest more appealing to people.  So let me know.  Give me ideas.  How can we excite people to participate in the map contests?
What about populating a map of a kindome or small setting?  Something smaller in scope then the Nentir Vale to make the project actually doable since you are not getting paid?
My only concerns is that the three map contests we've had have seen sparse participation.  They are XDMC 5, XDMC 14, and XDMC 24.  And I don't know why that it.  Are the maps inaccessible?  Too big?  Too crowded?  Are the optional elements to constrictive?  Too boring?  I really have no idea how to make this type of contest more appealing to people.  So let me know.  Give me ideas.  How can we excite people to participate in the map contests?

As the winner of #14 and the last place finisher of #24, I'd venture to say that my opinion on what makes it good or bad might be irrelevant.    When we did the "populate a map" thing in the Wyrmling DMCs, I think we had a decent turnout though I can't remember exactly.  I couldn't find the post on the forums either.    I think as long as the "limitations" on the map aren't too contraining, people shouldn't find the contest too intimidating.  I'm sure there's plenty of DMs out there who have built particularly interesting boss fights and such who would love to share their work.

For XDMC #14, I thought the two maps idea was pretty good, though allowing for additional modification would've been nice.  For #24, I don't think folks truly understood the mechanic behind the flipping of tiles, etc.  Honestly I'm not sure if *I* did either.

As far as building the maps goes, I like the option of using the Virtual table and/or DTM for those without Insider access.

For this one, I think it'd be good to make it a 1-3 encounter delve, with threats totalling a 3-encounter XP total for whatever party level you're designing.  That way you could have a single, huge castle throne room with 3 encounters' worth of XPs in it, or 3 small rooms, each holding a single encounter.  The map(s) should have a theme like Castle Throne Room or Kobold Lair or Thieves' Guild, with threats following that theme.  Perhaps an optional could be to give a list of 10 radically different monsters/NPCs and require the inclusion of one or more of those monsters into the encounter, like we did in the contest where we had to choose monsters from a given mini set and build an encounter around that.  I had a ball doing that one.  

My $0.02 (US).
Sorceror: "I'll attack the [solo monster] with Chaos Bolt." Warden: "Don't you ever use encounter powers?!?!?" Sorceror: (casually) "I don't need to." ----------- "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live." - Martin Golding
For me, a "populate the map" contest initially sounds like a "create an encounter in this specific place". I like that idea. I also like that I can think of many variations on "create an encounter in this specific place" that opens this up to lots of creativity -- the map location might (depending on the map locale provided) suggest:


  • a skill challenge

  • a combat encounter

  • trap(s)

  • a home base for the PCs.


My bias is against "making a map" because I have no:


  • Photoshop skills

  • Photoshop-alternative skills

  • Visual arts interest

Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
Perhaps an optional could be to give a list of 10 radically different monsters/NPCs and require the inclusion of one or more of those monsters into the encounter, like we did in the contest where we had to choose monsters from a given mini set and build an encounter around that.  I had a ball doing that one.


Not many people participated in that contest either.