December 18th, 2008: In case you are away from the computer next
Thursday(when my 4th annual Needfest Special will be debuted), Happy pre-Needfest! I've been celebrating Needfest quite dutifully for four years now, here is some
useful information on the holiday you may or may not know or have put to good use in your campaigns:
(From Greyhawk the Adventure Begins)
The frigid seven-day period marks the transition from one calendar year to another, and is usally accounted as
the start of a new year.
Each noble of Greyhawk invites his vassals and servants to dinner one night during this week, and charitable gifts
of food and drink are common at such parties...Overindulgence and merrymaking are the rule. Some middle-class and
noble citizens have a tradition of decorating their homes with yellow candles, boughs of evergreen branches, and
even magical lights and ornaments.
Needfest is not a religious celebration per se, but local religions take note of it nonetheless. Special
services are held at many churches and temples, complete with singing, music, sermons, and feasts to which the
priests and their helpers invite all parishioners.
The religions of Rao, Pelor and St. Cuthbert banded together after the Greyhawk Wars to feed the refugees that flooded
the city...On Godsday (the 4th of Needfest), hundreds of small loaves of breadare distributed from booths at the Low Market
to needy citizens from the Old City...
The clergies of Heironeous, Pholtus and Trithereon do not participate, but they attempt to perform good deeds
each day during this week.
The evening of Needfest Godsday is also known as Midwinter Night. On this night , only aquamarine Celene is visible
in the sky, as Luna is new. For this reason Midwinter Night is also called Handmaiden's Glory or the Dim Night.
This is a holy night for priests of Celestian...
The height of the midwinter celebration is Needfest 7th, the Feast of Fools...The Feast of Fools is thought to
have been established as a holiday by Zagig Yragerne...but evidence suggests it is much older than that, perhaps
dating back to the days when the city was brought into the Great Kingdom, around 1 CY.
The Rhennee mark Needfest with their own peculiar customs. Rhennee in the city during the Feast of Fools usually
pretend to live in the city as normal citizens, addressing everyone by familiar (and incorrect) names with friendly smiles.
Elmshire holds the whole week as a public holiday as well, celebrating very much as Greyhawk does with feasting,
drinking, dancing, gift-giving, decorating, and revelry - though without the Feast of Fools.
Hardby marks the occasion with music, cheer, bright magical lights, the excessive consumption of spirited
drinks and the usual widespread fistfights between sailors, dock workers, soldiers and anyone else who wants to join in.
Narwell sees much singing, dancing, and drinking during Needfest, but without the glitter seen elsewhere...The major
local event is the Frostbite Run on Freeday, in which contestants clad only in loincloths and boots race around the
town walls three times, cheered on by screaming, maniacal citizens. The winner gets a small kettle of gold coins.
(From the Greyhawk Calendar by Kent Matthewson)
(Needfest 1st) Begins with 'Mummergin'. People wear disguises and try to remain unrecognized, in order to celebrate the wondrous and
strange effect that magic and magical creatures have in the world. Nevertheless, it should be noted that actual use of magic in such disguises is
considered cheating, and is frowned on in most areas. There is dancing and general carousing, and the high point is a parade and the
Performance of the Mummers, a play in which good and evil battle. Evil wins but the youngest speaking child resurrects good and removes the
evil from the bad actor. It is rare but not unknown for some members of evil cults to take steps at this point, and vigilance is usually tight in
One exception is The Empire of Iuz, which holds a variant play in which their evil lord fights good and wins.
This is usually enacted by having priests in ceremonial masks publicly fight, defeat, and then sacrifice a lightly armed prisoner
amidst general rejoicing.
Needfest is also known in some places as the Feast of Telchur, this holiday honours Telchur's valiant battle in creating winter,
and celebrates the beginning of winter's waning. In some places, an elaborate play commemorates this event (Great Kingdom).
In others, remembrance of family and recital of the family tree is an important part of the day (Keoish principalities, Geoff, and Ulek).
Most places, however, celebrate primarily with an open house dinner after dark, the giving of presents, chainlighting of candles, and singing and
folk dancing. The goal is to make the sun feel like he is missing the fun so that he comes back before it gets too cold.
As many of you know by now, in my own comic, St. Cuthbert has taken on the properties of Earth's Santa Claus.
As such he has a list of all the boys and girls on Oerth. Sometimes he gets letters asking for gifts from children.
There is this one letter he got a long time ago that is VERY disturbing however...
Check it out!