Celebrate Good Times - or Not!
In all role-playing games there is a time to kill and a time to die, but often we have time to celebrate too. These celebrations are created by the GM, and Players just seem to show up for the encounter. But what is the point of all this killing and dying if we are not living? What do you live for?
One way we express the desire for living is by celebrating!
There are thousands of ways to celebrate, from the basic hug at a birthday party to the multi-world celebration of the founding of the empire. Obviously I can't cover all of these―even in a series―but I will try to talk about them in the general contexts of character creation, playing, meta-gaming and settings.
One of the best times to create a celebration is during character creation. As you complete your background, you will start to realize what is important to your character. Take some time to ask how they celebrate these aspects of their lives. Keep in mind that if your celebration is being played out during character creation or “session zero,” it's probably best to keep it small and personal, so as not to interfere in whatever story the GM might be planning (but of course this depends on the playstyle of your GM: your celebration might just be the concept that gives them a great idea to run with)!
You should decide how personal this celebration is to your character. Is it a major celebration like a religious or national holiday, or is it more like a birthday or a wedding with just a number of family members and friends? The easiest way to expand on this celebration―like so many other creative brainstorms―is to answer the basic questions of journalism: who, what, when, where and why.
Lets say you've created a halfling mage for a fantasy game. You decide that the day they gave up their family clothing business to enter mage school is important to the character. This is an anniversary, so it’s a personal holiday as opposed to a larger holiday. With this determined, it's time to detail how the mage celebrates this important day.
First, we have already answered the why and when questions. It’s the anniversary of the day they started to study magic. So pick a day. Keeping it simple, let's say it’s an early winter day after the fall harvest and the last opportunity for their family to sell clothes for the winter. The winter solstice is easy to remember, so let's call it that. The question of where can be just as important. Do they make a pilgrimage back to the school or the family home? Or do they just celebrate wherever they are at the time? In this case let's say the Player decides it’s a personal achievement, so they can just celebrate wherever they are. They can go back to the college of magic for reunions, perhaps. Let’s say we want to express an ironic sense of life and humor of halflings. So we decide that the character creates clothes using magic for their closest friends, and that answers the how question.
n just this paragraph we've learned that the character is ironic, creative, and has close relationships with their friends. These characteristics will help us to define the character's actions in the future. The character may find creative ways to approach combat, conflict or other problems. In social situations we might expect them to exhibit some irony, or a sarcastic attitude. To a certain extent, they will definitely embrace their friends.
The idea is to use the concept of a celebration to link different parts of your background into a set of behaviors, so you can better understand how your character acts and what they value.