Party Like its…1107
Looking back at the previous points, we saw that celebrations are great opportunities to show off various aspects of your character. They give you a reason to live, not just to struggle and kill. We learned that the key to roleplaying a celebration is understanding the rituals of the celebration, and the various ways your character might approach these rituals. When we talked about hanging out with friends in the meta-gaming section, we observed that celebrations help bond friendships and can extend far beyond gaming. Similarly, a good celebration in-game should bond our PCs. Keeping these ideas in mind we can develop all manner of celebrations for our games.
Let's finish this talk about celebrations by applying them to setting development. I'll begin with a little background.
All of this talk about celebrations began a few years ago when my brother and I were having a talk about Traveller and the concept of what happens when the fleet jumps into a friendly system. In naval terms this is generally known as “Fleet Day.” When my family lived on Hickman Air Force Base next to Pearl Harbor, my mom got to go to a Fleet Day for the arrival of the USS Enterprise. It took three Polaroid photos to capture the whole carrier, so just imagine how exciting it is when an Imperial Fleet jumps in system. Wow, just wow. It’s a big deal. How could we implement this idea in Traveller? Lets get started on figuring this out.
What is Fleet Day?
The Classic Traveller Era is centered around the 5th Frontier War, so the military―the starship navy―matters. This makes the fleet a big deal, leading to celebrations over its arrival. While the Imperial Navy might have many celebrations both known and unknown to the general public, Fleet Day is normally open to everyone, so it allows access to all characters.
When is Fleet Day?
Fleet Day occurs when the Admiral's Flagship with its escort fleet arrives in a system. In Traveller this might be a Subsector, a Sector or a Domain Fleet Admiral. It all depends how often you have these admirals out with the fleet. I would tend to go with a Subsector Admiral, and the rare appearance of the Sector Fleet. Fleet Day might last a day or several days. In this case I am going to make it a whole week.
Where is Fleet Day?
While any world may celebrate the fleet; the major Fleet Day would be held at the Fleet HQs. I am a big fan of the Five Sisters Subsector, so in this case it would be when the fleet returns to Iderati. The exact location depends on where the HQ is in the system I select, so I'll say the physical celebrations will be held planetside, with a lot of media streaming in celebration of the fleet’s arrival.
How is Fleet Day Celebrated (i.e. the Rituals)?
The rituals of Fleet Day can be divided into several categories: active duties, veterans, and civilians. You can and should have multiple rituals. In this case we are going to flesh out one of each type.
There are many events that can happen when the fleet returns, from military balls to award ceremonies and mustering-out events. For Fleet Day, the most important of these events is saluting the fleet. At Pearl Harbor, you get a 21-gun salute with the full crew standing on the decks. Of course these things are hard to do in space, so we need some new rituals. I imagine a fly-by of space fighters and a laser show streamed to everyone, with some good music and full news coverage. Then the Admiral and his staff arrive on-world, where they are met by a marine honor guard. As Players you could participate in the fly-by, you could watch it from a nearby ship, you might be part of the honor guard or simply watch the coverage from some special location. The most obvious action against these patriotic rituals would be a terrorist attack on the fleet. While you almost certainly couldn’t do this against the whole sector fleet, a small subsector or system fleet could be vulnerable to such an act.
Obviously most veteran celebrations will be private affairs, but in a game where a good percentage of the PCs are veterans we should think about some rituals for them. Veterans might gather for camaraderie, for support, or for remembrance. Any celebration should focus on one or more of these rituals. Since this celebration is a time of patriotism, I want a day of remembrance focused on success. So: on the second night of Fleet Week the Veterans of Iderati all gather at their HQs to celebrate their victories in the 4th Frontier War, and their actions along the furthest boarder of the 3rd Imperium. They begin with an honor guard, followed by a short memorial ceremony for their missing comrades. This is followed by a time of sharing stories of the past. Maybe there are some videos or readings, artists and performers may present their patriotic works. After this comes a bout of drinking. Acting against these rituals can be as simple as an act of disrespect stemming from someone's extreme loss. Of course under these circumstances a drunken outburst of loss, regret and PTSD might be expected and ignored―unless a fight occurs.
While the fleet returns and the veterans remember past days, the civilians of Iderati are invited to celebrate too. We've already talked about the media streaming the arrival of the fleet, but the best way to bring civvie PCs into the day might be the classic “open house.” This event permits children and their parents to walk around checking out the space fighters, cutters, system defense boats or patrol ships. These really make a great impression, not to mention all the marine and army equipment to be seen: grav tanks, cannons, etc. Food and drink from far and wide is available as people walk around taking in the majesty of the fleet. The whole thing can be topped off with an air show and or a mock assault by drop infantry. There is rarely any trouble at Open Houses because they're attended only by those who want to be there, and they tend to be popular family events for the relatives of military service men and women. Any disturbances that might arise would probably involve political activists and agitators protesting the military. This is not to say there could not be a terrorist attack, but for PCs this would be a rather singular escalation of events.
Summing It Up
This final essay on celebrations built on all the previous essays, in an effort to help Players and GMs see how the rituals embodied in ceremonies can help define characters and the events around them. Celebrations of all types are excellent encounter settings, where Players are given a chance to act positively with the rituals or decide to act against them. While an encounter with a dragon can show off your fighting skills, a celebration with all its complex rituals gives you a chance to show off your social skills.