It started with Shadowrun and corned beef.
When I had first come to Atlanta to start work with White Wolf, I started up a D&D game for some of the gang. At the time, Ian Lemke (who was developing Changeling: The Dreaming, a job that I admittedly envied) had a long-running Shadowrun game going on. He invited me to join the game; for the next session, on St. Patrick’s Day, he was planning to run the adventure Celtic Double-Cross. The game would take place at the apartment shared by my good friend/ex-girlfriend who’d gotten me to apply to White Wolf in the first place, and her roommate, a rather quiet woman whom I’d eventually marry. To make it all particularly St. Paddysish, there would be Guinness of course (a beer I never learned to love), and Aileen fixed up a big mess of corned beef, potatoes, carrots and soda bread.
I don’t remember a lot about the game itself, save that my rigger had to start out (before he joined the party) acting as a bodyguard away from his car, which he did not like. Of course he didn’t! Rigger. But naturally I remember the festive occasion of it all. I also remember previously thinking that corned beef sounded nasty — being dumb enough to confuse it with creamed, chipped beef — and becoming a convert that night. To this day I love Reubens considerably more than Aileen does, given her distaste for sauerkraut and rye.
I can’t say that holiday gaming became a tradition from that point on, because there are many, many holidays we missed. Part of this is no doubt because I am the sort to run ongoing campaigns until the wheels fall off or until we reach an acceptable stopping point. But as we spent more time on the Internet and found out more about other gaming groups doing the same, sometimes we’d grab the opportunity.
Valentine’s Day — A one-on-one session with Aileen (go figure), in which her necromancer had to help the ghosts of two young lovers from feuding families.
St. Patrick’s Day — A pack of marauding fey assassins (“leprechauns”) forced down the skyship Bifrost for its unending cauldron of whisky (“pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”), using magic seeds to choke the ship with vines (“shamrocks”). The players had to investigate the shipwreck, where the fumes from the cauldron was making everyone drunk as hell (holiday “tradition”).
Easter — A pack of elemental terrors had stolen some dragon eggs. Eggs? That’s it? Yeah, I know. Sometimes the link is tenuous. I feel there was a rabbit-Kin in that game somewhere, though. I believe I also ran something about hidden gems more recently but boy my memory is spotty.
(Edit: Aileen reminded me about the gems and the rabbit-Kin thing. It was a session where a small group of allies had been captured and imprisoned in gems, their life forces being used to empower wicker golems. “Eggs in baskets.” And it was a rabbit-Kin that guided them there. Memory not what it used to be.)
Independence Day — Not sure I have done this! You’d think I’d find a game with explosions.
Halloween — Numerous opportunities. Of course, given how Halloween trappings tend to find their way into any game I run (as anyone who’s seen my miniatures cabinet might guess), there are remarkably no standouts in my brain. Usually there’s something involving witches, werewolves, vampires, ghosts, mummies or stitched-together corpses going on several times in October.
Thanksgiving — Intrigue at a feast.
Christmas — A pack of Games Workshop-style beastmen (“reindeer”) besieging a sacred elven star-oak (“Christmas tree”). The beastmen may or may not have been led by a minotaur with a blood-soaked muzzle. Special Bonus Round: There’s a small caravan of traveling elves trying to reach the sacred oak so that they can receive its blessing for a child about to be born. Pity the racist locals won’t let them stay at the inn.
That’s not actually a lot, is it? Well, it’s certainly true that holiday gaming isn’t nearly as much of a tradition as the holidays themselves. Again, I blame the ongoing campaigns: if you know from last session that this week you’re going to visit the vampire salon in disguises, and everyone’s looking forward to it, then the session probably won’t be hijacked by fey wearing green. But it’s worth a shot every now and again if the story’s right.
Aileen still fixes a St. Patrick’s Day feast every year, whether we have company or not. I suspect it’s because that first dinner was also the first salvo in her war for my heart, fought through the battlefield of the stomach. That sentiment endures, even if we don’t have people over for Irish beer and delicious corned beef. As far as I’m concerned, St. Patrick’s Day is personally a reenactment of that particular time, in which we celebrate her deciding to stealth-court me and the camaraderie of good friends. Even if I’m not a little bit Irish, that’s become our holiday for different reasons — as these things do, just as secular people still celebrate Christmas.
Even so, this coming Wednesday, Aaron’s going to run his Call of Cthulhu game in which we’re all Irish mobsters, and Aileen’s planning an Irish cream-based dessert. I’m calling that close enough. Holiday gaming continues!