J – Joust – games, tournaments, festivals, celebrations. Calendar.
Entertainment is a common way to keep the commoners distracted from their lot in life. In ancient Rome it was “bread and circuses”. What sort of celebrations and contests will there be? Will they be regular events on the calendar?
Is there a spring festival, a harvest festival, midsummer? What seasonal things are a big deal in this culture?
Will any of these elements survive down to the present culture near an ancient, fallen city?
Hippodromes, stadiums, coliseums, jousting yards, etc.
Will there be statues or other monuments to memorialize famous sports stars?
Will elements of the calendar be evident in orientation of buildings, or specific types of buildings? Will the calendar be a series of buildings, stones, or landmarks? Is the calendar based on the sun, moon, stars, seasons, or seasonal event?
Would their be massive stones used for having the light of the rising, midday, or setting sun to mark the beginning or end of a festival? This would be for dramatic flair. What remnants of such calendars would survive in the towns and villages of the present day in your campaign, if this refers to a collapsed city?
See my article on Calendars And Random Generation, which can be useful for picking random dates for different kinds of festivals.
Humans, demi-humans, and humanoids would all have different days and times for their celebrations.
Types of Festivals/Celebrations/Events:
- Spring Roundup
- Party (Birth, Birthday, Wedding, Anniversary, Death, Victory, Just Because, Special Day, etc.)
- House/Barn/Church Raising (The whole community gets together to build something and has a big feast at the end.)
- Seasonal Event determined by the calendar, season, start alignment, eclipse, comet, etc.
- Civil Holiday (Foundation of the city, kingdom, king’s birthday, etc.)
- Religious (significant day in a given faith, holy day, etc.)
Types of Contests:
- Feats of Strength
- Races (Foot, horse, chariot, wagon, cockroaches, etc.)
- Roll to hit vs AC for Archery – Can be tedious. Quick resolution for speed of game play. If there are 20 contestants, rolling to hit for all 20 for three shots each will take a lot of time.
- Flip a coin
- Pick high/low card
- DM/Player story interaction
- DM Tells the Story
- Player Tells the Story
- Players Tell the Story for what other players do
- Mechanic from other system, like Fudge/Fate, Apocalypse Engine, Advantage/Disadvantage from 5e, etc.
- Roll vs. Ability Scores
In addition to festivals, or even as part of them, other forms of entertainment were gladiatorial combat, as in ancient Rome. In the Middle Ages, and at many other times, putting animals in a pit or other structure and letting them fight, either like animals or dogs vs. bulls, i.e. bulldogs, or cockfighting, or people vs. animals or monsters. I have been in some campaigns where you start off as a slave fighting for his life in the slave pits. This was common after Conan The Barbarian came out in the early 1980’s. It was one of those tropes like you meet in a bar. Every new group of characters in our various games, if they met in a bar, we had to have a bar fight. I haven’t played or GM’d in a session where the players got in a bar fight since high school.
Players will ask what is there to do in this town for fun? Gambling, wenching, drinking, eating, fighting, etc. are all common for some players. In my current campaign, my players haven’t asked that question. They are content with the tavern that caters to adventurers. They happened to be in town when there was a festival and took part in that. I determined on my game calendar when certain events would happen, and if the players are not in town, they only hear about it, if it is shortly thereafter, or if they ask about the time since they were last in town.