The Leg-Lamp of Vecna

I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me, Christmas just isn’t what it used to be. That is, a full month of anticipation slowly gaining steam into rabid impatience culminating in a berserk frenzy of presents-opening. Sure, I was pretty focused on the materialistic gains. But the holiday just felt special somehow. As I got older, and especially as I became more able to buy my own stuff, the jubilation at getting a bunch of new stuff subsided. Then came the year Mom left out cold french fries and water for Santa instead of milk and cookies. She wasn’t fooling anybody, though. We all knew it was my parents behind the presents on Christmas morning. Also, I was 20. Mom’s really into traditions.

That’s not the point. The point is, it feels like it all changed. I cringe when I hear Christmas music now, a result of having worked at a Radio Shack during the holidays in 1995. I hate seeing the Christmas decorations go up in department stores the day after Halloween. I love my family and my in-laws, but it’s stressful dragging your toddler to celebrate Christmas multiple times every year. I’m annoyed by the repeated festive shotgun blasts of joyous holiday messages on TV that just don’t feel realistic or sincere, and then I feel like a Dire Grinch. And nobody wants that. (Fun holiday fact: a Dire Grinch’s heart has to grow at least five sizes in one day before he starts performing good deeds. Also, he is one size class larger than a standard Grinch and his sled is pulled by a worg with an antler tied to its forehead.)

I’m fully aware of the fact that growing up ruined this just like everything else. It’s easy to enjoy Christmas when you don’t have to do anything except for flip out after you open the thing you totally wanted that you’ve been going on endlessly about since late August. It’s so easy to look at the world with scorn and sarcasm, and let all the stuff that annoys the crap out of you overshadow everything else, and I think that’s where my Christmas went. Crushed under the enormous pressure of a bunch of annoying crap, and turned to coal. And you thought it was naughty children that got that. Add one more bitter yule log to the fire.

I want my damned Christmas back. The one I enjoyed and looked forward to. I may not get that, but what I can do is use this red-and-green-hued mass hysteria to my advantage. There are two times of the year one is most likely to get presents: one’s birthday, and Christmas. Only during the latter are people prone to fits of needing to feel togetherness at all costs. This is when you can strike.

Now all you have to do is ask for games for Christmas, and talk people into playing them with you.

That’s right, my nefarious Christmas scheme is to get people together to play games. Why? I’ll tell you why. Because a couple years ago, I borrowed a Wii just so I could get my whole family together on Christmas to play Wii Bowling. It was the first time we’d played videogames together since I was a kid and we all played Time Pilot and Ladybug on the Colecovision. I’m not even remotely exaggerating when I say it was the very best Christmas I’d had since I was a kid. For those couple hours, it was fun again, and it was special because I knew I wouldn’t have this chance very often. This year, I got a Kinect, and I would like to engage in similar Christmas shenanigans. I’ve tried a couple times since then to pull this off again, but never to the same effect. I suppose this will be the unattainable goal I chase after instead of reliving the innocent joy of a child on Christmas. You gotta have one, right?

On a smaller scale, this is also a great excuse to play with my family. Specifically, the portion of it that lives in my house. My son’s only 2, and the games we play together may not make a particularly large amount of sense, but they’re still a lot of fun. Once he recovers from the initial shock of getting ten thousand Hot Wheels cars for Christmas from the grandparents, I don’t doubt his little imagination is going to invent several new kinds of racing. I cannot freaking wait until he’s old enough that one of us opens an Xbox game and we’re both giddy that we can play it together. And I’m not afraid to bust out some old-school Scrabble or Monopoly to play with relatives who don’t consider themselves Gamers (with a capital G). I’d kill to play games all day over Christmas break with my wife and kid. (And I wouldn’t regret it, even with faced with the electric chair!)

It’s always been odd to me (and a giant pain in my ass) that the Christmas season seems to nuke the crap out of everyone’s availability to play D&D with their friends. Especially since I had my regular group break up about a year ago due to people moving and other real-life obstacles, it hits me directly in the face how much I miss getting together with them too. I don’t care how many puppies save Christmas or how many sitcoms show me the “true” meaning of the season. I don’t care what kind of fake togetherness crap is being served in the fruitcake. I don’t even care if any games actually get played. I just want to have fun with the people I care about. It’s what a good Christmas means to me now.

God bless us, every one (giving us +1 to attack).

And rocks fall on any creepy uncles, killing them instantly. No save.

Photo credit


  1. TheLoremaster says:

    I hear ya about gaming around the holidays. My family makes it a point to do a Family Game Night over the Christmas break. There’s a lot of kids in my family, and several teachers, so it’s a good time to gather at someone’s house, eat leftovers and treats, and play some games. It’s usually some form of trivia game, but Apples to Apples has made an appearance several times. I’m hoping to introduce them to Great Dalmuti or Once Upon A Time this year.

    As far as Christmas spirit goes, listen to Tim Minchin’s “White Wine In The Sun”: You’ll be glad you did.

  2. I like it. I really like it. Christmas is supposed to be a time of thanks, in my mind, and an appreciation of what we’ve been given. Family is one of the best things we’ve been given, no matter what form that family takes. So why not do some gaming with that family? It’s something fun and enjoyable that everyone can participate in.

    On that topic, I suggested Carcassonne for my little brother’s Christmas present. Should go smashingly; it’s his introduction to a more sophisticated class of strategy games beyond RISK. (Though a Christmas game of RISK would be wonderfully fun too)


    I don't -think- he reads Critical Hits…he's not into RPGs yet.

  3. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a version of D&D you could play with normal people, as opposed to gamers? Seriously, a game where you could play a warrior or wizard with a character build that consisted of a player saying, “I want to play Conan,” and you hand them a card with a picture and a couple of stats on it. Dice rolling with no more than one modifier. An adventure you could roll up out of a book in five minutes with an objective that could be completed in one to two hours.

    Paizo is threatening to make a Basic Set. After about three tries at making an intro or simpler version of 4e, I’m sure WOTC isn’t done with the concept yet. It’d be nice if it was something like this.

  4. We’re getting together this week for our regular Thursday game, the night before Giftmas eve… Take that, holiday! You won’t keep me from enjoying my Dark Sun, dammit!

  5. I’m home for Xmas–but will be attending my regular Thurs. game via Skype. Be fun to see how that goes.

    @jdh417: Have you tried the Ravenloft board game? It’s pretty close to the version of D&D you’re wishing for.

  6. I haven’t. I’m sure it’s a good board game, but why can’t there be an actual table top RPG to play with non-gamers?

  7. TheLoremaster says:

    I dig Castle Ravenloft, but it might be a bit much for non-gamers to handle. There are a LOT of RPGs that can be played with very little pick-up time, but you might have to dig a bit. Check out the system behind Faery’s Tale, which can be modded easily for many settings. FUDGE or FATE are pretty decent too, with a very simple dice mechanic. Couple of pre-gens, and you’re off.

  8. I hear you and completely agree. My group temporarily disbanded for Christmas, so I invited an old friend to my in-laws’ enormous house to play his first-ever game of Dungeons and Dragons. My mother-in-law went through the room a couple times to get canned foods from the walk-in pantry. She gave us weird looks every time, and my sister-in-law called me a nerd. Me: 1. Annoying people who ruin Christmas by pretending to glorify it: 0.

  9. This year I was very over all the jihads on Christmas and sales and bad movies well before the holidays.

    Board games, “get-together” games and video games like Rock Band or Mario have always been a staple of our holidays. It is always great fun. Here’s to hoping you recover your Christmas.

  10. @ jdh417: you should check out Risus. It works with anyone who has half an imagination and a minute is enough to make a character. A picture is just icing on the cake!

    The Holidays will still be anathema to our regularly scheduled games, but with a game that is easy enough to prep and play, you can do a pick up game almost anywhere.