It’s the time of year that we gather with our friends and family and have great merriment. Do your characters’ ever do that in a game? Beat the Big Bad and save the town, the kingdom, the planet, the galaxy. Do they stop and have a celebration, a party, get medals?(ala a New Hope) Sure some of these events mark the end of a campaign, and rightly so, but other smaller victories should be rewarded, and offer the chance for the PCs to cut loose and develop.
It’s time for a party. Maybe it’s a holiday in your campaign, or the PCs are being honored or rewarded. This should be more of a fluff session then an action scene, but it should also be ripe with roleplaying. It also can be the setup for more things to come. A scene like this can end an act of your campaign or start a new one.
Joyous. It is time for celebration. It is ok to have a few moments of somberness and reflection. Most victories come with some loss or some collateral damage, this shouldn’t be forgotten like a cheesy 80’s action film, but don’t let reflection bring the whole session down… Unless of course it is driven by the PCs and not the NPCs. Lighten things up a bit, have people having a good time.
Familiar NPCs should be present and willing to talk with the PCs. Similar to the Banquet write down the NPC the players have come in contact with. What is their situation now? How has the PCs made their lives better or worse? Maybe a suspicious NPC has come around and now respects the group? Or another NPC is infatuated with a PC.
Well, there aren’t really any threats in a scene like this. If your campaign calls for it, you could have some minor intrigue, gossip mongering, and the like. But don’t over play it. The scene is about letting the Player Characters kick back and relax. If they have to look over their shoulders than they can’t really have fun. In fact, as the scene starts you should ask “So what does _________ do to have fun?” or something like that, and then build the scene off of their responses.
That said you could have a party crasher as things wind on. Maybe the next big bad or just the inevitable law showing up. It shouldn’t be overly confrontational, just someone throwing their weight around to keep the PCs in check. A party crasher should be a set up to something to come, not an adventure itself. However, your players being players probably expected a crasher from the moment they knew a party is going to happen. So I would probably reframe from having one unless the reason is quite compelling. (I always think back to the Wedding celebration scene from Braveheart and the worst case of party crashing ever)
The Mechanics are all up to the players. It’s a party what do they want to accomplish? Maybe they want to try to develop a relationship with an NPC, have a drinking contest with a Mandalorian, beat a dwarf at darts, or simply sit in the dark corner trying to seem all mysterious.
Scenes like this are great for a GM because you get to see what is important to the Player Characters, you get to introduce new NPCs and maybe trickle in a plot hook or three. Don’t try to drive the action though let the PCs run the show. What are they doing, how well does it go. Don’t force them to roll for everything. Just meaningful things. Your PC wants to flirt with the Nobel’s son, let them. Have it work. Don’t force a charm check. Think of the complications you could introduce later.
Callbacks – Celebrations are the best time for callbacks. Bring back NPCs from earlier in the campaign. Make them remember things said done by the PCs. Maybe the cook made 20 roasted ducks because a certain PC ordered the duck every time he visited the inn.
Pry – NPCs should ask the stoic warrior why he doesn’t drink. They should want to know if the ranger plans on settling down, of the mage wants a family. They should ask questions of the PCs. Normal questions. And they probably won’t take short easy answers. They should probably get belligerent when drunk too. So force your players to think about these things and answer these questions. It could lead you down some interesting paths. There will also be a few dead ends too, so don’t worry too much about them.
Respect your table, if you can’t your player’s decisions – So the Thief wants to sleep with the barmaid, the warrior princess wants a working girl. These things can happen and are in fact quite common in gritty fantasy, noir, and some sci-fi. It doesn’t fit every setting, however, or every table. Make sure everyone is comfortable with where a player is taking things. Know your players’ boundaries and reel them in before things get out of hand.
The Transition. — Ok this is a long and complicated tip but bear with me. So the PCs beat the big bad and are having a party. This usually ends an Act of a Campaign. The next story, however, doesn’t usually begin right away. Empire Strikes Back doesn’t start the day after A New Hope. So the scene of Revelry could be a great cap before a time jump. “As the music dies the scene fades to black. We catch back up with everyone 6 months later. What is _______ doing?” Don’t be afraid of a time jump. It allows for off-screen character development. Relationships to mature, events to happen characters to grow. It allows the Players to tweak their characters a bit, reinvent them a little. Spice things up if they feel their character is getting stale. (that said if you do a time jump. The whole cast doesn’t have to return. Could be a great chance to introduce new heroes) If you are doing a time jump. I recommend doing it mid-session like this after a party and not at the very beginning of the session. This gives your players’ a chance to get into the mindset of their character, get warmed up to role-playing. So when you ask them ok, where do they see their character in 2 years, they are in a better place to answer and not coming in cold.