The Feast of Gold: Wrestling Grandfather Time

13th Age - Happy Feast of GoldFeast of Gold Public Service Announcement: What do you get for the Wyrm who has everything? Perhaps one of the few remaining pre-orders of 13th Age, the new fantasy roleplaying game from Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo! With your help, we’ll break 1,000 pre-orders by Christmas, making this a record-setting game for Pelgrane Press. The Lich King thanks you in advance for your support.

And now, 13th Age convention GM and magic item mastermind Ash Law presents her take on what the Feast of Gold might be, and how it’s celebrated in the Dragon Empire…

Ah – The Feast of Gold. Everywhere celebrated slightly differently, but everywhere celebrated. Even some monstrous races observe the festival – kobolds especially. Of course, most folks celebrate the Great Gold Wyrm’s victory over darkness with feasting and drinking and song. But if you are travelling away from home in the Dragon Empire, it is best to know the local traditions as they can vary widely.

In Axis the highlight of the winter feast is a candlelit tour through the Archmages’ ice palace, where magical surprises and gifts entertain the young and young at heart. In the streets adults set up tables and offer hot mulled wine and mugs of soup to strangers, as illusions dance overhead.

In Santa Cora and the surrounding lands there are no magical ice palaces, but labyrinths are drawn on the ground for children to walk instead. Priests and priestesses wait at the center to hand out wrapped presents to those that walk the narrow winding paths.

The other important difference between Axis and Santa Cora is that in Axis, antlers are worn by revellers, and they carry fiery whips to ‘chase out the darkness.’ In Santa Cora children are encouraged to drive out the darkness by shooing away dancers with antlers who represent the darkness. Quite what the antler-bedecked High Druid makes of this is not known.

In the dark Wild Wood the celebrations are simpler and more primal – big fires in the night, dripping fat from roasting meat, and heavy dark ale.

In the Elf Queen’s domain the elves of all three races gather around sacred trees that have their roots in the dark caverns of the Silver Folk and reach branches towards the stars. When the holy stars of Carrierrac, Elizabethtebazile, and Rasmussenessumsar rise above the forest’s canopy the elves begin a song that lasts until the sun’s rays change the colors of the night sky into day. The voices of the whole elven nation lifted into joyous chorus to greet the rising of the mid-winter sun can bring a tear to the eyes of even the dwarves.

In Drakenhall the Feast of Gold is celebrated ironically. Children go from door to door acting out plays mocking the Great Gold Wyrm, playing tricks and singing rude songs. For the adults of Drakenhall the festival is a time for drinking and revenge. The enforcers of the law (such as it is) turn a blind eye to the many murders that take place, the masked feast an excuse for doing dark deeds. Surprisingly this seems to keep the city intact, acting as a release of pressure and allowing the city to stagger drunkenly into the new year with the air cleared of lingering grudges. The dark narcotic wine made from the midnight-blooming flowers kept by The Blue is given freely to all, the more drink that flows the less blood is spilled. Many a potential victim of vendetta has found that a shared bottle of the Blue’s wine mends broken bridges and prevents loss of life. Each year The Blue stands on a balcony and gives a speech to the gathered crowds, her charisma holding the city together during the darkest time of year.

The dwarves celebrate the coming of Grandfather Time, a mystical figure who carries a pair of axes and travels with nine beautiful horned maidens. Grandfather Time, the dwarves swear, is real – he can walk through walls, crush rock into diamond with his powerful fists, and any weapon turned against him turns to rust. According to the dwarves his horned maidens scourge oathbreakers and the lazy, but reward those that obey tradition with gifts of strong gold-flecked drink and rich fruit cake. Every year the Dwarf King chases, catches, and wrestles Grandfather Time to win yet another good year for the Dwarves, and after Grandfather Time is pinned to the floor he and his maidens join the king in distributing gifts to the needy. To point out that the whole celebration is accompanied by drinking and feasting goes without saying – these are dwarves!

While other icons may celebrate privately or make carefully staged public appearances the Crusader leads the celebrations like he leads his armies: with great vigour. Using gnome-made firecrackers the Crusader wakes his troops from their slumbers, running through barracks yelling and banging on a great round shield with his fist. His troops fall in behind him and join in his mad dash. Eventually every soldier under his command, from his greatest general to the lowliest pot-girl is following him along palisade walls and over parade grounds until the army falls exhausted to the ground (the Crusader still going strong). With a hearty laugh he then bids his troops to drink and be merry – a day of feasting and camaraderie away from the usual duties of an army. The Crusader knows that his army will fight harder in the coming year because they have bonded as a whole on this one day.

The Orc Lord celebrates all the traditions, all at once. He figures that anything the others can do he can do better and harder. The Feast of Gold in the lands he controls is a time of chaos, feasting, and confusion. It is traditional for Orcs to publicly display their gold during this time, giving it away to prove how wealthy and successful they are. Huge warriors wander their encampments and villages dripping with gold chains that they give as gifts to all that they meet. The point is not to bring joy, but to be seen as so powerful that one can afford to give away treasures.

The paladins of the Great Gold Wyrm somberly celebrate their devotion to the icon, remembering in deep-voiced song the sacrifices that the golden dragon has made to keep the world safe. While others may play at chasing away the darkness they themselves keep the forces of evil at bay by strength of arms. For those who march under the golden banner it is a time to reflect upon those that have sacrificed all, and to give small gifts of appreciation to their comrades and loved ones.

In Shadowport the people celebrate with a festival of lanterns and crystals. They stroll around, admiring the glass decorations on houses as the golden light from their lanterns illuminates their faces. Groups of singers stand on corners competing to be the loudest and most tuneful, alliances of groups shifting as smaller groups harmonize to drive larger groups away from their turf. The mock-war of songs echoes running street battles of previous ages, and the groups of singers are named after long-dead rioters. Dark fur cloaks and bright-painted half-masks adorn stilt-walkers, jugglers, and fire-eaters as they pass through the crowds clowning and tumbling.

ASH celebrates the Feast of Gold with body paint and antlers as tradition demands. This year her gaming group might get to see her Grandfather Time and Nine Horned Maidens minis.

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