Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a ghost story, to begin with. It’s part of a long tradition of telling scary stories at Christmastime; and when handled well, the ghosts can provide us with a shiver even as we gleefully watch them terrorize Ebenezer Scrooge in order to turn his heart from wickedness. The other day I saw a trailer for a BBC production that’ll air here in the States this year, and which looks to be a genuinely unsettling dark fantasy take on the story. Seeing how it depicts the afterworld Jacob Marley is condemned to, my thoughts turned to the nature and power of the three spirits of Christmas—and what they might be like as an icon in 13th Age. . . .
(For background, here are different takes on the Feast of Gold holiday from me, Adam Dray, ASH LAW, and Mac Sample.)
The Three Spirits of Goldfeast
The Three Spirits are inextricably linked to the midwinter festival of feasting and gift-giving known as the Feast of Gold, or Goldfeast. Depending on your relationship with Goldfeast’s ideals and customs, meeting them might be a joyful occasion—or the most terrifying ordeal of your life.
“Rise! And walk with me!”
Unlike other icons the Three Spirits do not reside in a place, but in the acts of goodwill and generosity that are at the heart of Goldfeast. Although they are at their strongest during this festive season, their influence extends throughout the year.
The nature and origin of the Three Spirits are unknown; indeed, they are unlike any other type of spirit found in the Dragon Empire. Followers of the Archmage theorize that they are created by the thoughts and feelings of the many thousands of sentient beings who celebrate Goldfeast, while followers of the Priestess (and many of the Crusader’s) believe they are servants of the gods of Light.
Each of the Three Spirits has a domain: Goldfeast Past, Goldfeast Present, and Goldfeast Future. Each of them has the power to transport itself and other beings across space and time. When traveling in this manner the Spirits and their passengers cannot be seen or heard by anyone they encounter, and cannot affect the world in any way—they can only observe.
Much like the Prince of Shadows they prefer to act in secret, subtly guiding people into situations where they can do good. However, when a situation is so urgent that they must intervene directly, they appear in person one after another—Past, Present, and Future—never at the same time, and always in the dead of night.
The Spirit of Goldfeast Past appears as a small, ageless humanoid with long white hair. It wears a white tunic embroidered with summer flowers, and a glittering belt. Its form fluctuates, with arms, legs, head, and torso appearing, disappearing, and multiplying. A bright, clear jet of light springs from its head, and in one hand it carries a conical cap like a candle extinguisher. It has the ability to teleport beings back in time to any Goldfeast they experienced in their lifetimes.
The Spirit of Goldfeast Present appears as a bugbear-sized humanoid wearing a green robe trimmed with white fur. Around its waist it wears a swordbelt with an empty, rusted scabbard. Although it radiates abundance and good cheer, it travels with two lesser, more disturbing spirits who appear as starved children—if asked, it introduces them as Ignorance and Want. It has the ability to teleport beings to any place in the world where Goldfeast is being celebrated, or where the absence of celebration is noteworthy.
The Spirit of Goldfeast Future appears as a tall figure completely robed and hooded in black, its face hidden in darkness. The Spirit never speaks, and the only visible part of its body is a pale hand with which it silently points to whatever scene or object it wishes another to behold. It has the ability to teleport beings forward in time to future Feasts of Gold.
Adventurers and the Icon
The Three Spirits take a keen interest in heroes who can serve as their agents to help people in need or trouble. They also seek to turn the hearts of those whose lives are marked by greed, cruelty, and hard-heartedness, and their methods are harsh and unsparing.
The Priestess, the Emperor, the Great Gold Wyrm, the Elf Queen, the Dwarf King, and the High Druid. The Prince of Shadows appreciates that the Spirits often help his followers, though he gets very annoyed when he has to spend Goldfeast finding a replacement for an agent whose heart inconveniently grew three sizes that day.
A few fringe scholars believe that the Lich King is somehow also the Spirit of Goldfeast Future, giving evildoers one last chance to repent before they die and their tormented ghosts become his forever.
The Crusader, Diabolist, Orc Lord, and the Three are almost always at odds with the Three Spirits.
The Elf Queen and the High Druid have hinted that the Spirits came into being long before the Feast of Gold was established, and may be a remnant of a much deeper, older power.
The True Danger
Everything will be all right as long as there are those who know how to keep Goldfeast well. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!
13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.