You better watch out: Festive monsters for your Christmas dungeon crawl

Season's Greetings by Jo Chen via DeviantArt

It’s December, my weekly Unknown Armies game has had its annual Christmas special, and I’ve been listening to a reading of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather.

As a result of one or more of these things, I’ve found myself thinking about a dungeon crawl that drops a band of adventurers in a wintry ice fortress and pits them against an evil Santa Claus and his Christmassy minions. Here are some monsters that might populate such a dungeon crawl, which you can use for a game of Dungeon World if you’re so inclined.


Even in Dungeon World, where monsters are real and death lurks everywhere, people sometimes forget to be afraid of the miraculous.

Take, for example, the fat fairy king in the red winter coat. They say he is a jolly man with a great belly laugh. A feast is held at midwinter in his honour, after which the nights get shorter and the days warmer. It’s a time when whole families get together. Children are showered with presents, supposedly from the fairy king himself although grownups know better.

No-one living can remember the last time the fat fairy king was seen. In the centuries that he’s been gone, people have forgotten to be afraid.

They have forgotten that the fairy king is fat because he gorges himself on the sacrifices that are left for him at his midwinter feast. They have forgotten that his winter coat is red because it is steeped in the blood of those sacrifices. They have forgotten that families used to gather because they foolishly believed there was safety in numbers. They have forgotten the grisly fate that awaits children on the fairy king’s list… a fate that no amount of presents can make better.

Now, the fat fairy king’s ice fortress has risen again, and winter has come in full force. Children have already gone missing, no longer afraid of the fairy king’s colourful entourage. Midwinter is approaching. Soon, the fat fairy king will feast and the missing children will be gone forever…

That is, unless a band of heroes can break into the ice fortress, defeat the fat fairy king’s festive servants, and save the children before the feast begins…

Dire Reindeer

Group, Large

Antlers (d8+2 damage, 1 piercing); 10 HP; 1 Armor

Close, Reach, Messy

Special Qualities: Flight

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!”

The fairy king’s stables are filled with these fearsome beasts, which pull his great hunting sleigh and charge down his prey with their wicked antlers and their sharp metallic hooves. They snort and stamp before the king rides out, and when they rut they lock horns with the force of a thunderclap. Don’t let their charming names fool you, they’re deadly and they’re mean. And if you ever see one with a red nose… run!

Instinct: To assert dominance

  • Impale on antlers
  • Trample
  • Take to the air

Present Mimic

Solitary, Stealthy, Amorphous, Hoarder, Cautious

Ribbon tentacles (d10 damage); 12 HP; 1 Armor

Close, Reach

Special Qualities: Shapeshifting

This is a thing called a present.
The whole thing starts with a box.

A box? Is it steel? Are there locks?
Is it filled with a pox? A pox! How delightful, a pox.

There are none of the usual treasure chests in the fairy king’s fortress. Instead, prized possessions are kept in brightly decorated boxes tied up with string and ribbons. And among the piles of gift boxes lurk creatures that take their shape, to lure in and devour would-be thieves.

Instinct: To entrap

  • Engulf the unsuspecting
  • Wrap up and top with a bow
  • Hide as a different box
  • Redirect attacks onto its contents

Gingerbread Golem

Horde, Tiny, Construct

Candy cane-swords (w[2d6] damage); 3 HP; 0 Armor


Special Qualities: Edible (in moderation)

Run, run, run as fast as you can!
You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!

The fairy king traditionally only eats people, children specifically, but that’s only once a year. The rest of the year, he needs a substitute, and his elf workers aren’t going to volunteer. Instead, they bake little people out of gingerbread, and imbue them with enough life so that their terror will satisfy the fairy king’s hunger. The fat fairy king likes a good hunt.

Instinct: To flee

  • Outrun
  • Attack from inside

Glitter Slime

Solitary, Large, Amorphous, Hoarder

Engulf (d8 damage ignores armor); 20 HP; 1 Armor


All that glitters isn’t gold. Sometimes it’s this bastard. It’s not the deadliest thing in the fortress, but it’s probably the most annoying. Months after you finish it off, you’ll find bits of it still in your hair and shoes and pockets. If you’re really unlucky, the glitter you find will be your own treasure, which it digested when it was still alive to keep itself looking pretty.

Instinct: To beautify

  • Get glitter everywhere
  • Make sparkly forever
  • Digest shiny things

Pine Treant

Group, Large, Intelligent, Amorphous, Organized

Walloping branches (d10+2 damage); 18 HP; 2 Armor

Close, Reach, Forceful

Special Qualities: Wooden

Although they are smaller than their deciduous cousins, the pine treants are the only ones that can survive in the perpetual winter that surrounds the fat fairy king’s ice fortress. This gives them a feeling of superiority, as well as a certain loyalty to the fairy king that lets them keep their forests. They hang their branches with bright decorations, and their leader typically wears a star for a crown.

Instinct: To guard the woods around the fairy king’s fortress

  • Move with implacable strength
  • Hurl explosive glass baubles

Tinsel Trap

Solitary, Stealthy, Amorphous, Construct

Strangle (d10 damage ignores armor); 12 HP; 2 Armor

Close, Reach

The whole ice fortress and the woods surrounding it are festooned with shiny garlands of gold or silver foil. What better way to hide the fat fairy king’s hunting traps? Don’t step under the wrong wreath, or you’ll find a festive noose closing about your neck…

Instinct: To snare

  • Attack the unwary

Winter Elf

Horde, Small, Intelligent, Organized

Workshop tools (d6 damage); 3 HP; 0 Armor


From a distance you might think they’re dwarves or halflings, but don’t say that to their faces. They’re elves, through and through. They keep the fortress running while the fairy king sleeps, in their green uniforms and their pointy hats and curly shoes, and in return he lets them use the fortress’s workshop for their own ends. What do they make, you say? Toys? For kids? Hahahaha…

Instinct: To create

  • Sound the alarm
  • Unleash one of the workshop’s creations

The Fat Fairy King in the Blood-Soaked Coat

Solitary, Large, Magical, Intelligent, Hoarder, Organized, Terrifying

Sunder Claws (b[2d10]+3 damage, 1 piercing); 16 HP; 4 Armor

Close, Reach

Special Qualities: Fey Magic

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake

Hardly the jolly old elf you’ve been told about, is he? That beard is white, supposedly, but you wouldn’t know from all the gore on it. If he’s in a laughing mood, I suggest you be somewhere else. He’ll still see you, of course. He can always see you. But maybe, just maybe, he’ll settle for some prey a little closer to home.

Instinct: To hunt

  • Throw a minion in the path of danger
  • See the quarry, wherever it is
  • Command the cold
  • Pass through impossibly narrow passages
  • Feast on the fallen
  • Bellow a terrifying “Ho, ho, ho!”

Header image is Bad Ass Santa by Jo Chen via DeviantArt.

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