Every year, on one specific day, the boundaries between the Spirit World, the Land of the Dead and the World of the Living reach their thinnest point. On this day, the souls of the dead are permitted to leave their dwellings in the Otherworld to return to the Living World, or to explore other realms temporarily. Other creatures, such as Folk and Outsiders are granted similar permissions, able to walk freely and depart from their places of origin to wander freely.
For mortals, this day carries a very specific meaning. It is a holiday, a most important one.
In the Temperate Lands, this festival is known as Goblinwatch. It is said that on this night, the Folk are permitted to go out and play pranks on people, loosing animals, pretending to be people and turning those people into animals. The best way to avoid this fate is to bribe the Folk with gifts of baked sweets, strong liquor and salted meats. The most popular treat that is left out are fruit and cheese tarts, which are left on platters of wood, silver or gold and only prepared with utensils made of anything but iron.
If the Folk appreciate your gifts, then they are supposed to leave your house alone, and may even reward you for your excellent hospitality.
What Gift have the Folk left the house that provided an excellent gift?
1- They have left a bottle of wine. The wine appears magical, but is actually perfectly normal.
2- They have left a bottle of brandy in a bottle made of ice. The brandy, if drunk, slows down time to make a night or day stretch out longer for the drinker. It still gets you drunk.
3- They left an enormous pie. Cutting into the pie will cause it to explode, revealing that there is a live foal in it. The pie is still perfectly edible, though now it has hoof prints on it and is probably partially smashed. The foal is non-magical.
4- They seemingly left no gift, but this is misleading. A small group of Brownies are now living in the house and will clean it whenever everyone is asleep, away or not looking. But if they tell anyone about this, the Brownies will make a mess of their house and leave.
5- They leave a baby on their stoop. This child is clearly abnormal, growing at an accelerated rate. For the first seven days, the child will age one year a day. Once they reach the age of 9, they will begin growing and aging at a normal rate. The child will be a diligent helper and very talented at whatever it is taught. For seven years, the child will stay to help his adoptive parents. But once he reaches the age of 16, the child will say good-bye, run off into the forest and never be seen or heard from again.
6- They leave a single seed. If eaten, nothing happens, but the seed is tasty. But if planted, the seed grows into a 1d3 [1= Faerie Tree that will bring good luck and protect the household from casual misfortune (but not curses); 2= A fruit tree that produces fruit that is magical or extremely valuable (50%); 3= A giant stalk that grows up into the Upper Air, climbing it will lead you to a 1d4 (1= Cloud Giant's Palace; 2= Djinn's Manse; 3= A Sphinx's Nest; 4= The floating monastery of the legendary Order of the Flying Fist.]
What have the Folk left for the house that failed to provide a gift, or the gift was lousy?
1- They leave a farm animal tied to the fence. The animal is actually a horrific shape-shifter though, and whenever it sees an opportunity, it will transform back and raid the vegetable garden, steal eggs and chickens from the henhouse and generally make trouble.
2- A flute carved of a single piece of wood. The flute is cursed in that whatever song is played causes extreme reactions (songs about war drive people to homicidal rage, love songs charm people into being obsessed with the musician, sad songs make people contemplate suicide, etc). This also affects whoever is playing the tune
3- A bottle of wine that when the wine is exposed to the air, it explodes and splatters everything around it in low-quality alcohol.
4- A delicious pie that makes whoever eats it shrink down to three inches in height.
5- One important member of the household has been transformed into a 1d4 [1= Water Buffalo; 2= Pig; 3= Tiger; 4= Crocodile.]
6- A huge diamond. The diamond is actually a rock that has been covered by an illusion. The enchantment will wear off after 1d6+1 days and the diamond will be revealed to be a worthless stone.
In the lands of the Handsome Men, there is no Goblinwatch, as the Folk and Handsome Men despise each other. Instead you have Hunt's Day, a day of inversion. The normal social norms are overturned and people are free to engage in all the gross, degenerate or unclean behavior that they are normally forbidden. This includes such things as eating in public, holding hands and kissing in the front yard, not sneaking your trash out under a layer of trash and other more mundane things. The day also has such events as the Ugly Contest, where contestants compete to make themselves the most hideous, the vegetable fights, where neighbors pelt each other with overripe or bruised fruits and vegetables to the Naked Love Confession, where people get naked and try to approach their beloved to give them a tearful confession, or a smooch, while other participants chase them with ribbons to try and restrain them and cover their shame.
Then, once all the good fun has been done, the people return to their homes, lock their doors and hide. Then the jails are opened, the condemned are set free and the Handsome Men are unleashed. Thus begins the Night of the Hunter's Moon. The Handsome Men transform into their War-Faces, assuming monstrous strength and visage and stalk the empty streets, pursuing the condemned and any others who happen to be unfortunate enough to fall to their claws.
In the morning, clean-up begins, the Handsome Men don their beautiful faces once more and any condemned criminals who survived are officially pardoned.
from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
In the Orzanian Empire, they celebrate Goblinwatch, but also have a separate tradition. For the day, the royalty and the Emperor don the hues of Colors not their own, cover their faces with masks and wander the streets anonymously. Meanwhile, the Clowns are let out.
Anyone can be a Clown, all they have to do is paint their face white with spots indicating their Color or wear a mask that does the same. These Clowns participate in a great game, a mock-war to crown the Clown-King. Whoever wins the war can crown their own Clown-King, who is the ruler of all clowns and festival-goers, and is permitted to make any decrees he wishes, as long as they are not immoral, shameful or not in the spirit of good fun.
The Imperial Capital of Au-Mar is known to have an extremely elaborate festivities each year, with the construction of an elaborate mock fortress just outside of the city gates. This building hosts a wild party each year.
Then, the next morning is the Festival of the Glorious Departed, the day meant to honor those who died in service of the Empire. This is primarily warriors, but it also includes mothers who died in child-birth, those who worked themselves to death or showed courage in the face of the Empire's enemies and certain death.
This day includes such traditions as apologizing for any acts of rudeness committed during the last year, making sacrifices to the Gods and to your fallen kin, and in Au-Mar, giving gifts of wood or oil to the Emperor. His Imperium then uses these gifts to burn down the mock-fortress that hosted a lavish party the other day- then all who are present smear themselves with the ashes to remind themselves of the dangers of indulgence and the necessity of sacrifice.
In the Cold South, where Ancestor worship is much more common, this occasional is also called All Soul's Eve or Night of the Thin Veil. On this night, people don masks and throw parties with music and dancing. They burn incense and rejoice to draw the souls of the dead home.
Then, slowly and subtly, the crowd of celebrants grows and grows, until you are amidst a great, teeming host. It is extremely taboo to ask someone if they are alive or not, so simply dance and enjoy the evening. This is an occasion for joy, with dancing and stolen kisses and delicious foods. Today is also a day to indulge forbidden pleasures and taboos. For some, kisses are not enough. A romantic rendezvous with a stranger is always an option, especially since you're both wearing masks and your one-night lover might be gone come the first feelers of dawn.
Sometimes children result from these exchanges, and depending on the whims of fate, they either die prematurely or live rude, vigorous lives that put the normal living to shame. They are almost always great, whether because they are heroic or wicked can vary. But they are never normal.
Other times, an ancestor might lure a descendant away to whisper a message in their ear about something the living have forgotten, or some piece of information about the future overheard in the Courts of the Underworld.
Credit to Joseph Manola for the idea
The other Party-goers:
Of course, the Folk aren't the only ones out tonight. The Night of the Thin Veil is also a night where the other denizens of the other world enter the Living World to cause mischief and destruction. One of the primary ways this is done is through the various Hunts that take place on this night.
To see what party of hunters that are heading your way, roll on the tables below:
What's that sound I hear?
1- The thunder of hooves
2- Distant screaming and wailing
3- The clang of metal armor and weapons
4- The screech of eagles and trained birds
Then you see...
1- A great host of spectral warriors, galloping on the shades of horses through the air.
2- A pack of dogs with bodies made of smoke and the faces of men.
3- A parade of Demons, Spooks and lesser Spirits from beyond
4- A horde of Folk, armed to the teeth and riding wild beasts
5- A swarm of hungry ghosts, incorporeal and shapeless
6- A silent procession of men in dark robes. Closer inspection reveals them to be skeletal forms carrying rusty farm implements. They are draped in holy symbols and prayer beads, their empty eye-sockets filled with coins.
They are lead by...
1- A man on a black horse with skin that is translucent at the right angle, wearing a diadem of eerie, silver-white fire.
2- A golden-haired woman with eyes like stars who wears shining white and rides in a chariot pulled by pegasi.
3- A screaming horror with no skin and cruel brass horns. It is covered in 1d6 additional mouths which spout prayers, blasphemies or prophecies.
4- An old woman in a hooded cloak carrying a rod made of holly wood.
5- Oberon, the October King, Sovereign of the Folk and Ruler of Autumn. He resembles an impossibly masculine naked man with muscles like a marble statue, flowing locks and a beard that holds all the colors of the changing leaves, with eyes of piercing blue. Draped in a raiment of cobwebs and crowned in dead branches, he is more regal than anything you've ever seen.
6- A dog the size of a carriage, coal black with eyes of flame, wreathed in smoke. The dog breathes fire and can speak, though it is loathe to do so.
They are hunting...
1- A ghost(s) who have escaped the Underworld or never departed for there in the first place.
2- An Outsider(s) who are illegally in this world.
3- A powerful creature such as a 1d8 [1= Genie; 2= Giant; 3= Dragon; 4= Sphinx; 5= Mind Flayer; 6= An Orc; 7= A Kua Toa Godling; 8= A Psychomaster.]
4- The members of a particular group. Specifically, a particular 1dX [1= Ethnic group; 2= political faction; 3= Religious minority; 4= Organization.]
5- No one in particular, but if they encounter anyone on their travels, the Huntmaster/Huntmistress will challenge that creature to a Test of 1d3 [1= Courage; 2= Character; 3= Cunning.] Those who fail the test are free game to be targeted. Those who pass are rewarded with 1d6 [1= A fragment of the Huntmaster's power; 2= Treasure; 3= Something seemingly worthless that later transforms into treasure; 4= A magic item; 5= A consumable item that grants the gift of flight; 6= The ability to call the Hunt again.]
6- No one in particular, but any creature they encounter is fair game.
1- A household is awoken to find where the eldest daughter was, there is now a hungry tiger. The Folk were evidentially displeased with the family's offerings. Please, find some way to restore the daughter back to her normal form.
2- A ghost comes to you and tells you, "Don't let Frieda dig up your Grandfather's bones, it'll happen again, just like in the Summer of the Ascension." You have no idea what the ghost is referring to, and you don't know any Frieda.
3- A wealthy man hires you to go pick one of his kinsmen who was arrested many months ago in the lands of the Handsome Men. The rich man has heard that the Handsome Men release criminals on Goblinwatch, so he wants you to be there to escort his brother home and keep him safe on the way there.
4- You encounter a young woman clutching a bundle to her chest, streaked in mud with welts on her arms and legs, running for her life. As she flees away from you, you hear the distant sounds of an approaching hunting party. Will you help her? And what is so precious that she would risk the wrath of these otherworldly hunters rather than hand it over?
5- A stranger comes to you the night before Goblinwatch and presents you with an invitation to join a special hunt, for special prey. The messenger informs you that refusing the offer will open you up to being hunted yourself. Will you join the hunt- even though what they are pursuing is likely just as dangerous? And will you be able to escape from the hunt before morning, or will you end up riding with them forever?
6- There is a story of a woman who rides a chariot through the air each year. One year though, her chariot was damaged and she disguised herself, then asked a local tradesman for help repairing it. That tradesman was given a pile of horse dung as a reward, but the next morning he found it had turned to gold. A local merchant wants you to try and damage the sky-woman's chariot, in the hopes that he can help her and receive a similar reward. He will share it with you, of course, assuming he receives one.