Nicholas the Gift-Giver's Northern Palace
In the farthest northern reaches of icy darkness stands a fabulous palace -- the grand home of a mysterious tribe of gift-giving elves. At least, rumors speak of such a place. Great riches and rewards supposedly emanate from the Northern Palace, so surely any party of adventurers will find it a worthy location to seek out.
The rumors are only partly true. While the so-called Northern Palace is indeed home to a famous gift-giver, its principal inhabitants are not elves -- they're gnomes, reindeer, and a couple of humans. The Northern Palace serves as the home and workshop of Nicholas the Gift-Giver and his helpers.
The Northern Palace is hundreds of miles beyond the farthest extent of civilized habitation -- as far north, it is said, as it is possible to go.
Using the Northern Palace
Dungeon Masters who wish to introduce their group to a nice, cold jaunt north followed by a warm welcome and some time off from the rigors of adventuring may want to include the Northern Palace in their campaign. If you wish to include an appearance by Nicholas the Gift-Giver himself, you can use the stats presented in this free download! Some of the options for tying this into your current campaign include the following:
Within the palace, the atmosphere is warm and comfortable throughout.
Doors: The doors throughout the palace are made of stout wood. None are locked. Although the majority of the palace's inhabitants are gnomes, most doors are generously sized even for humans.
Lights: Except where noted otherwise, the palace is cheerfully lit by torches and lanterns throughout.
Heat: The temperature within the palace is magically maintained at a comfortable level of warmth throughout. Many areas feature fireplaces or other heat sources; these seem intended to provide a cheery environment as much as extra heat.
Ceiling Height: Many of the rooms throughout the palace -- especially the large workshops -- are cavernous, with ceilings as high as 30 or 40 feet. In most rooms and passageways, however, ceiling height is 12 feet.
Aura of Sanctuary: The palace is a place of peace. All of its inhabitants are protected by a permanent effect similar to the sanctuary spell, except that a separate Will save is required for any attack made against a character or creature residing in the palace. (Succeeding in the save does not allow the opponent to attack normally from that point on.) The effect applies to a resident as long as he or she is within one mile of the palace.
Areas Not on the Map
Several key areas of the Northern Palace are detailed below and on the map, which shows the main floors of the principal buildings. The palace is quite large, however, and not all of it is detailed here. In particular, the ground floor of the main building has storerooms filled with raw materials, food, extra reindeer tack, and similar items. The floors above contain the feasting hall, bedchambers for the Claus family and guests, and the toy lab where new toys and gifts are invented and developed. The gnome quarters are located in the rear building's several upper floors.
1. Great Foyer
The palace is entered via a huge round foyer, which serves as a gathering area for the inhabitants as well as an entrance hall. Since the main floor of the building sits well above ground level, a large staircase against the side of the tower leads to the front door.
Any creature entering by the front door becomes the target of an effect similar to the sanctuary spell, except that each attack against the target requires a separate Will save (succeeding in the save does not allow the opponent to attack normally from that point on). This is the same effect that applies to the inhabitants of the Northern Palace.
Any character arriving as an expected guest might find a gift with his or her name on it under the tree. (A gift will be put under the tree for any guest -- expected or not -- remaining in the palace for more than one day.)
Download (408k PDF) of the random gift generation tables.
New Magic Item
Yule Log: This large log burns warmly and brightly when set afire. When burning, once per day it functions as if it were the center of a holy aura spell, granting all the benefits of that spell to the 15 closest creatures within a 20-foot-radius burst.
The yule log burns down to a small fragment after 24 hours. However, if that fragment is saved when the fire is put out and later used as kindling to start a new fire with a regular log (weighing at least as much as the original yule log), the new log becomes the yule log.
Caster Level: 15th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, holy aura; Market Price: 48,000 gp; Weight: 200 lb. (fragment 1/2 lb.).
2. Gnome Workshop
Here, in one of the several workshops in the compound, the gnomes toil merrily at their vocation: making toys. The annual demand is staggering, and shifts of toymakers are on duty 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Creatures: At any given time, several gnome toymakers are at work in the workshop. The gnomes are friendly folk, and although surprised at the appearance of any strangers, most guard no secrets and all are happy to show off their work.
Tactics: Although a few individuals are somewhat secretive about their work, the toymakers generally welcome any visitors with enthusiasm. Anyone new to the gnome workshop is treated to a frantic and disjointed (but very enthusiastic) tour of the facility and piled up with samples of toy wagons, hobby horses, dolls before he or she can escape the room.
3. Candy Cane Shop
No holiday season would be complete without candy canes, and this is their mystical source. Enormous vats cook up the thick, sugary goo from which the canes are made. They are rolled, cut, and formed on tables scattered in and among the vats, then hung to dry on the many chains that haphazardly cross the vaulted ceiling.
The palace's main kitchen, another huge room filled with the scents of good food, adjoins the candy cane shop.
Creatures: Several gnome cooks toil merrily at their tasks here.
Tactics: Anyone attempting to sneak a candy cane is in for a harsh reprimand from the sharp-eyed cooks. Anyone asking nicely, however, is welcome to a candy cane -- but no more than one per person per day.
4. Reindeer Stables
The large building at the rear of the courtyard is dominated on the ground floor by the reindeer stables.
Nicholas's sleigh reindeer are kept here. Each has its own stall, which is a large, comfortable chamber befitting an intelligent, well cared-for creature.
Creatures: Nearly twenty reindeer live here -- not just the star performers, but a number of backup reindeer, as well. During the day, some rest in their stalls, but many spend their days playing games in the palace courtyard. (Statistics for reindeer are in last year's winter holiday fun freebie.)
5. Sleigh House
Removing the large tarps reveals an enormous sleigh. Some 10 feet wide and 20 feet long, it is twice the size of a conventional snow sleigh.
Nicholas the Gift-Giver's Sleigh: This finely-crafted sleigh is painted bright red with green trim and gold filigree. At the front is a large, padded bench seat; behind it is a cargo area capable of holding copious bags of gifts.
Any creature harnessed to the sleigh gains the ability to fly (as the spell) for as long as it is so harnessed. If pulling the sleigh does not exceed the creature's maximum load, the sleigh flies with the creature in the same manner as it would be pulled along the ground.
The sleigh grants the driver the ability to cast time stop. This effect can be cast any number of times, but only during the night of December 25th.
Caster Level: 19th; Weight: 250 lb.
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