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Friday 16 December 2022

Friday Fantasy: A Yuletide Snowball Massacre

A Yuletide Snowball Massacre: A Ridiculously Festive Battle Royale for 5E is an adventure for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. Published by Critical Kit, it is designed for a party of six Player Characters of Third to Fifth Level and is intended to be played in a single session, either as a one-shot or as part of an ongoing campaign. As the title suggests, this is a very different type of scenario, a Player versus Player battle in a snowbound arena for the entertainment for others, last one standing wins the battle and a prize! Although nominally set in the same campaign world of the Western Lands as the publisher’s other scenarios for Dungeon & Dragons, Fifth Edition, the scenario is really setting agnostic. All it needs is a winter with plenty of ice and snow and some kind of midwinter festival—it need not be Christmas, and the setting have a court of winter fey. Other than that, the scenario does require some set-up. The only given background is that Queen Mab of the Winter Court desires some entertainment and this time it is the Player Characters’ turn to fight each to death in the Perpetual Winter Arena. So the Player Characters may have come to the attention of Queen Mab before and be selected because of that or they may simply be selected at random. In whatever way it is set up, the scenario is easy to slot into a campaign, whether between adventures or an interlude or even dream sequence during an adventure. The scenario can even start en media res with the Player Characters suddenly waking up in the arena and having to fight.

The scenario does begin with some advice about player expectations. This revolves around things—Player Character death and Player Character interaction. For the former, it suggests that the players be made aware that death in the arena is not necessarily final—although if run as a one-shot, that may not be the case, since the players will not be as attached to their characters. For the latter, it suggests that the players embrace the fun. There are guidelines too, for the Dungeon Master on handling certain spells, but these are kept short, and for the most part, the Dungeon Master will need to make rulings at the table as normal.

A Yuletide Snowball Massacre takes place in the Perpetual Winter Arena. This is a snowbound forest glade and marked with spawn points, an icesheet where everyone can lose their footing, and present boxes that the Player Characters can open Present Boxes to find potions of healing, Candy Cane Wands, and the dread Snowbody! The latter is an evil snowman which is stealthy in snow, has sharpened twigs to attack with, and frost breath. They can also be summoned when a Player Character activates the one-shot Candy Cane Wands, which can also fling snowballs, an Ice Mephit at a target, turns the caster’s nose into a carrot or forces him to make snow angels for a round, or covers the caster in glitter and makes them look fabulous and thus, difficult to attack. There is a table of effects which the player can roll whenever his character uses a Candy Cane Wand. As a bonus action, the Player Characters can also throw snowballs at each other.

As an arena scenario, A Yuletide Snowball Massacre comes with a twenty-four by sixteen-inch poster map on sturdy paper and in full colour. This is a scenario which definitely requires counters or miniatures. There are also stats for the Snowbody monster, plus details of the Candy Cane Wand, Boompowder Baubles, and the Snowbody Stone, the latter the ultimate prize for the winner standing at the end of the battle royale.

Physically,  A Yuletide Snowball Massacre is decently presented, everything is easy to grasp, and the map is rather nice. It is an easy scenario to use, but it would have been useful if there had been stronger advice on the set-up or the ways in which the scenario could be used.

A Yuletide Snowball Massacre is not going to be suitable for every gaming group or campaign, at worst being a frivolous diversion, at best a frivolous and festive diversion, some light-hearted Player Character versus Player Character action. However, as more than a one-shot, the inventive Dungeon Master could doubtless find a reason to work A Yuletide Snowball Massacre: A Ridiculously Festive Battle Royale for 5E into her campaign.

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