Auntie Solveig Steals the Holidays by Christopher Walz (@DMChristopherW)
“Save the holidays from a real grump in this one-shot adventure for characters level 5 to 7.”
In the spirit of full disclosure, I was provided a review copy of this supplement for a full and honest review.
The peaceful fishing village of Whitecap has angered Auntie Solveig Kringlebones, a Bheur Hag, with their merry making around their holiday, Giving Night. Auntie has enlisted the help of wintery Goblins from the Feywild and local creatures to do her cruel bidding. The village has been besieged with snow and now the Goblins are sent to leave cursed presents for the children to find!
I do love a background that is fun to read and truly paints a picture. This definitely sets the scene, portraying so much of the village and holiday’s manner, as well as the machinations, minions and mind of Auntie Solveig Kringlebones.
Information is also provided for setting the adventure in your game. It is designed to be setting neutral, though specific locations for the Forgotten Realms, Eberron and Barovia (Ravenloft). The level of thought and care in this little box speaks volumes of the Walz’s craft.
The adventure is divided into three parts:
Part I: The Hag’s Helpers. The party come across some of the villagers as they all seek shelter from the storm in and inn, which a Goblin Boss decides to lay siege too, despite Auntie’s plans.
Part II: Against the Storm. After defeating the Goblins and learning of their master, the party now must battle Whitecap Peak and a deadly storm.
Part III: The Mother of Greed. The party make it to Auntie’s abandoned fort and confront her in the middle of her making a mockery of Giving Night.
Using This Adventure
Advice on clearly reading through the adventure, which is designed to be easy to run, with the caveat of their being some advanced creature tactics to be aware of.
It’s also advised the adventure is playable in one 4-5 hour session, though there are options, particularly in Part II, which (along with players) could potentially cause it to run much longer.
It is advised to use existing level 5-7 characters or any of the 6 on them level 6 pre-generated characters provided in a separate zip file.
The referenced core books are mentioned, along with advising checking out Volo’s Guide to Monsters for more details on Bheur Hags.
Four hooks are provided for existing characters, with the pre-generated character already having hooks. These include Seeking Shelter from the storm, using Whitecap as a launching point for an expedition into a giant settlement for Icy Plunder, one of the PCs having a relative in Whitecap they’re
Visiting for the Holidays, and the PCs being hired by a large city merchant to make inroads with Whitecap for their Mercantile Pursuits. These provide a wide range of reasons to find themselves in the adventure, as well as being full of inspiration for further adventures.
Part I: The Hag’s Helpers
The opening scene is set beautifully in the description and evocative boxtext with simple details that instantly breathe life into the Frostshield Tower, its proprietor and the situation. Opportunity is given for the PCs to mingle with the townsfolk, with four NPCs provided with brief, interesting bios. Don’t forget all the previous information the adventure has provided that the NPCs will have varying amounts of knowledge of.
An Unexpected Present
A strange present appears, introducing the cursed gifts with comprehensive information and checks provided, as well as the unfortunate and amusing ways bad luck can affect the townsfolk. This causes concern and sets a party of townsfolk and PCs to heading out as the Goblins are looking to come in.
The Goblins burst in and attack led by their boss, Tukkok Elf-Biter, whose unique statblock and the map of the Inn are provided on the following pages. All maps are also provided separately in a zip file also. Detailed information on how the Goblins fight, rob and flee, along with the townsfolk’s cowering and Brygitte Frostshield’s additional equipment and actions.
Adding excitement to the encounter a perilous situation involving Goblins and a child in a locked room occurs during combat, prompting quick responses and action. This could be a really heightened and exciting moment, but it is also good to be aware that this could also be difficult for some players. This is something you may want to discuss using Safety Tools or at least checking in with the group, and if necessary, another NPC could be used.
The Goblins themselves are Goblins of the Frozen Wastes of Winter, coming from the Feywild and part of the Unseelie Winter Court, and have additional traits added to the standard Goblins statblock to reflect this.
The rewards and attitude of the townsfolk and Brygitte reflect the level of success the party had in defending the Inn and its occupants.
A Bout of Bad Luck
More townsfolk show up with more cursed gifts leading to more bad luck shenanigans from the ridiculous to absolutely frustrating. This is something you could really have some silly fun with, rolling with the suggestions and making up your own misfortunes. I’d recommend channelling some awful infomercial antics! Bringing a thankful end to unfortunate buffoonery, a map can be found and/ or information given by any captured Goblin leading to the abandoned Fort up the mountain.
Part II: Against the Storm
The party venture forth to save the day, hopefully, or get persuaded by Brygitte offering a rewards
Along the Way
Six encounters are included for the journey up the mountain, with the recommendation of two for the suggested run time, though each of them is a lot of fun. Rules and checks are provided for tracking the Goblins and the extreme weather conditions. The encounters include, blackbird spies, an avalanche, a frozen camp with undead inhabitants, Winter Wolves and their kin, treacherous climbing and a cackling fly-by attack from Auntie herself!
It really depends on your time frame and player enjoyment, but I can see using all the encounters to really create the sense of climbing such a difficult mountain in adverse conditions, as well as exhibiting the Fey influence and power of Auntie. There is also advice on how to handle the Auntie encounter and setting up the foreshadowing of the battle to come.
Part III: The Mother of Greed
The party face a perverse mockery of Giving Night, a Fey ritual to destroy it. This may be confusing for the reader and players, but thankfully enough information is provided, as well as checks for and the very interesting lore, which are provided.
Approaching the Fort
Depending on how the party faired on the way up, this is a chance for stealth and surprise, evading a Goblin patrol between towers. There’s even an optional sneaky, not so sneaky way through a pipe system.
The Fort Map is included in the text for easy reference, as well as separately in a zip file. You can never go wrong with Dyson Logos maps; they are the perfect balance of functional and aesthetic.
Approaching the North Tower a truly awesome, brutal and violent sight of a Yeti on their ramshackle throne and their treatment of the Goblin serfs. The picture is all the more bizarre when the festive fellow the Yeti is dressed and acting as, albeit with Feywild and bloody twist. Looks like it’s time to fight Santa Claus and their green elves! Can the party win and find something interesting in Santa’s sack?
A collapsed barracks holds more Goblins and their boss, Tukkuk, who has his own Feywild freezer of goodies, including an awesome new magic item: Snowball Bag, which is a nifty uncommon bag of magic exploding snowballs! Included in the text for convenience.
A southern tower contains Goblins making cookies, overseen by a Nilbog, which leads to a very confusing and ridiculous encounter with the Goblins trying to stuff PCs in the oven! I do so love a ridiculous and flavourful room and encounter, and this ties wonderfully into the story and will provide some glorious mayhem!
The party finally meet face to face Auntie Solveig Kringlebones, vividly described as, “a bent, ancient woman, her skin the colour of a day-old bruise, crackling gleefully”. If they don’t attack from the get go, Auntie invites them into her dark ritual...but eventually gets bored and attacks. Though if they is prepared, they are flying and her minions are ready to rumble. Tactics are clearly laid out for all situations, including the attempted theft of their reindeer-skull topped staff and for reinforcements, of the party haven’t killed them all yet. Auntie’s statblock is included in the text and has some hilarious and horrifying actions and abilities! A box for extra suggested ridiculous and disgusting abilities is also included featuring rotten cookies and month-old eggnog...
Victorious, the party can find a magic item for each of them under Auntie’s tree. They can return to Whitecap heroes, get paid and revive Giving Night. However, suggestions are made for further adventures, including Auntie plotting revenge next winter solstice if they escape, if the party played the Hags game Spring Eladrin may come to confront them when the ice melts, and an incredible, farcical, brilliant idea involving the ‘real’ Santa who wants the party’s help as his toyshop has sunk into the Feydark! I desperately want this to be a sequel adventure!!!
This adventure is truly a joyful, violent and silly affair not necessarily suited for children, but big kids like myself will absolutely love it! As I mentioned before, there are a few things that it would be good to ensure are covered when introducing this to your players, preferably with safety tools. These include violence to a child, graphic depiction of Goblins getting splattered and the eating and forced drinking of rotten food and drink. It’s always best to be sure everyone can have as much fun as possible, and this adventure is absolutely filled with it.
The craft and cafe taken over the combat scaling and tactics, mixed with the fantastic writing by Walz and their wonderful handling of whimsy, truly single this out as one of the best holiday adventures out there! When you add the spectacular layout by Nathanaël Roux (@freeners) and the delightfully dark an, whimsical cover and interior art by Dana Braga (@danaxbraga), who truly captures the ridiculousness, holiday fears and Fey cheers, the whole thing comes together as something seriously special and well worth having some festive fun with!