Nicholas the Gift-Giver's Northern Palace
Have a Merry D&D Holiday!
By Charles Ryan

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.

Getting There

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.

Northern Palace Map
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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:

  • Simple Curiosity: The PCs hear the rumors of a palace filled with treasure to the north, and, being in between adventures, they decide to see if the rumors are true.

  • By Assignment: Someone has heard that the Northern Palace not only exists, but that it is currently woefully empty due to some malignant force or is now controlled by the vile creature or group of creatures. The gift-giver lord who used to live there may even be dead. The PCs are sent north not only to discover whether the place exists, but also to discover who is currently holding control over the palace. (Perhaps the PCs arrive only to find a couple of very peculiar guests that would normally be at their throats or brains or other extremities and discover these guests are laid-back and quite noncombative. What do the PCs do then?)

  • By Mistake: A portal or teleport goes horribly awry, or so the PCs think when they end up in front of the Northern Palace. What will they discover inside? (This option is great if your PCs need some time off to recover from a particularly nasty resource-eating adventure. A fellow guest may be a high-level cleric who can assist with any dead compatriots.)

The Palace

The Northern Palace rises from a plain of white. Despite its forbidding, desolate surroundings, the building seems strangely cheerful. A warm glow beckons from its many windows, which are frosted deeply with snow and ice. Dark green wreaths adorn the doors, contrasting with the palace's red trim, and evergreen bunting, iced in a thick layer of fresh snow, hangs beneath deep eaves.

The centerpiece of the palace is a thick, round tower, beneath which a wide vaulted passage leads into an inner courtyard. Massive, blocky buildings form wings to either side of the tower. A large door faces the front. No battlements or defenses are in view.

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.

Wooden Doors: 1 in. thick; hardness 5 hp; hp 10; AC 5; break DC 18.

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.

The palace's entry room is an astoundingly luxurious chamber 50 feet across and at least that high. The walls are carved in evergreen patterns and gilded in gold and rich red and green paint. Thick carpets cover the inlaid floor, and a fire roars in a huge hearth opposite the front door.

The room is dominated, however, by a huge tree that is 15 feet across at the base and more than 40 feet tall. Toys and trinkets in red, green, and gold, punctuated by tiny candles that glow cheerfully among the evergreen branches, richly adorn the tree.

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

This high, bright room would be cavernous if it weren't stuffed with all manner of gears, conveyer belts, catwalks, and machinery. Scores of long, low tables are scattered throughout the room. In the bright light of scores of lanterns, small figures clad in red and green move about, busy at tasks of small construction. Some chatter among themselves, others sing, but the clatter of their work and the ever-churning machinery all about them overwhelms their voices.

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.

Gnome Toymakers (Varying Levels)

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

A sweet, minty smell fills the air in this brightly-lit chamber. Numerous large vats filled with thick, bubbling liquid -- some milky, some bright red -- sit on raised hearths. Overhead, the high space is crisscrossed with conveyerlike chains, from which dangle thousands of red-and-white-striped, cane-shaped confections.

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.

Gnome Cooks (Varying Levels)

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.

A long, wide corridor stretches some fifty paces or more, and the air within is touched with the sweet scent of straw and heavy animals. A dozen large dutch doors line either side of the corridor; most have their top halves open. Through these open doors, large stalls are visible. Each is hay-strewn and features an ornate feed trough and water barrel.

At the eastern end of the corridor, an eerie red glow emanates from one of the open doors.

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

The large, dim chamber is lit only by small, high windows coated heavily with frost. A pair of large double-doors lead, apparently, out into the courtyard, but they are currently barred. Row after row of tack and harness hang from pegs in the wall, but the primary feature of the room is the huge form in its center, that sits silently shrouded in heavy tarps.

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.

New Artifact

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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