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    Halfling in the Playground
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    Sep 2015

    Default Re: The Harrowing Halloween Harvest of Horror

    In various pagan myths and traditions, Halloween can often be counter-posed to a different sort of celebration. The festivals and rituals associated with them had great significance to these peoples and many of the echos of that significance can be seen in Halloween. Some pagan and druidic circles celebrated Samhain (sow-ahn), a time of year when the veil between the living world and the dead world is supposed to be at its thinnest. Some groups still hold these ceremonies today. There are different versions of the rituals involved, but they all tended to center around remembering the dead and inviting them to commune with the living for the night. Below, I borrow from some of these traditions. The original traditions were reverent and respectful, and I've tried to echo some of that, while adding bad consequences for getting it wrong.

    The Dumb Supper (Ritual Incantation)
    Checks Required: 5 successful Cooking checks, DC 12 (int or wis, at caster's option), 3 successful Knowledge (religion) or (arcana) checks DC 15, and 1 wisdom save* (DC 13) per participant to avoid calling out or speaking during the ritual.
    * Depending on your players, it may be more fun to rp this instead of having them simply roll for it.
    Failure: If a preparation failure occurs (cooking or religion/arcana check), the table catches fire and the ritual fire blazes up intensely before winking out. Participants suffer 4d6 psychic damage and must wait until next year before attempting this ritual again. But see text.
    Components: V, S, M, B
    Duration: Sunset until midnight.
    Participants: At least one, but no more than three.
    Checks: One per participant for each 15 minutes of the two-hour preparation period.
    Backlash: If the ritual succeeds, the participants are unable to sleep for 24 hours, waking from bizarre nightmares if they try.

    There are times when the veil between the living and the dead runs thin. After the autumnal equinox, when the scorpion-tailed constellation rests 15 degrees above the horizon, this time has come. For 24 hours after that event, this ritual may be invoked to invite the spirits of the dead to cross over that divide, joining the living for company and conversation. But among the dead are many who would take advantage of such an invitation for their own ends and great care must be taken when preparing the ritual to ensure unintended guests are not set free to wander.

    In order to work this Incantation, the caster and any assistants must prepare the feast of the dead. The ritual begins with the clearing of the ceremonial space that is to be used, which must be enclosed in a circle of salt, Marigold petals, and burning incense at least 15 feet wide. A table is set in the circle, bearing small bowls and plates, along with a few extra plates for ghostly visitors. A fire is lit within the circle as well, along with white candles for the table. The invitation to the dead is spoken and the ritual is begun. (Note: the ritual need not be outside. If the circle is drawn around a residence, the ritual may take place at the kitchen table. The fire lit may be the hearth or stove. If inside, doors or windows must be left open to the outside.)

    Over the next two hours, the participants must prepare various symbolic foods, including at least one favorite of the deceased that is to be summoned. Each dish is prepared, as far as possible, within the circle during the ritual- using the ritual fire to complete cooking. Some preparation may, of course, occur beforehand. Once finished, the food is placed on an appropriate dish and run through the smoke while its symbolic meaning is recited, then placed on the table. While the food is being prepared, invitations and summons to the dead are repeated in a chant. Foods might include various roasted nuts and seeds, dried fruits dipped in honey, fresh bread, hearty stew and the like. Taken together, these form an invitation for the dead that linger near the border between life and death.

    Once the last dish is laid on the table, the guests sit for dinner, but now they have company. Ghostly forms, indistinct, linger in the air around them. The dinner is eaten in silence. The only sounds heard are the sounds of night, the clicks and clatters of dishes, and a faint susurrus of whispers that gradually becomes audible from the visiting spirits. As their voices rise, so, too do their forms gradually gain distinction and color. Some of the dead will appear to help themselves to portions of the food. It is common for the more mischievous of the dead to try provoking sounds from ritual participants, which they may do by pretending to be a loved one, making it seem as if the table has caught fire, and other forms of trickery. If one of the participants does speak, or make any other vocalization, the ritual is ruined. Worse, the magic binding the dead to civility is broken, and they may attack, ruin property, or attempt to possess one of the casters. If any of the casters leave the circle, the dead are also free to do so and may wreak whatever deeds they will until the first light of dawn burns away the gossamer magic that ties them to this side of the veil. (The spirits are generally similar to Unseen Servants in what they can move or do, but there is almost always mixed in one or two more powerful ghosts.)

    Once all but the favorite dish of the invited spirit is eaten, that person, or at least something that looks and acts like them, manifests itself. The spirit sits in an empty chair and begins eating the last dish. While it eats, the spirit makes conversation, which the ritual casters may respond to. During this conversation, the visiting spirit will answer one question from each participant truthfully as if they had cast the Commune spell, though the spirit may respond with any one word or short phrase, rather than just yes or no. The spirit takes 5-10 minutes to finish eating, and when it does, the candles on the table go out and the spirits depart.
    Last edited by erradin; 2015-09-30 at 07:58 PM.