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You Know What Your D&D Game Needs? A Good Carnival

Image by István Kis from Pixabay

Sure, everyone knows the thrill of a good combat at your TTRPG table. Throw some bad guy creatures at your party and let them work out the aggression of a long work week. But every once in awhile, you need to mix it up. I am here today to propose that when the time is right to drop a fun event that can add some games for your group. Find an excuse for a carnival, a festival, or a wedding. Part of what makes it work is that you can use the same dynamics of rolling dice and taking chances, just play it out in a different way. So here are some games that I borrowed, modified, or created for a recent wedding in our weekly game.

Ale, Ale, Ale, Oops!

“Cheers!” by gemma.amor is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This one is a classic! Over the course of four rounds, contestants each drink an ale, making constitution saves to stay in the game (And it gives a great chance to make silly names for each round of drinks!). A failed save prevents a character from continuing to drink and they lose the competition. If they fail the constitution by more than 10 or roll a natural 1, they immediately begin to retch and vomit everywhere, again, losing the competition.

Contestants drink until only one of them is still able to drink – he is the winner:

  • 1st round: Mug of Golden Goat (DC 11 CON Save);
  • 2nd round: Mug of Umber Hulk Ale (DC 13 CON Save);
  • 3rd round: Mug of Mandrake Mocha (DC 15 CON Save);
  • 4th round: Mug of Ochre Jelly Ale (DC 17 CON Save);
  • Bonus Round. This round starts if more than one contestant is still standing and lasts until there is one or none contestants left: Green Death Ale (DC 20 CON Save per mug).

Bumper Behemoths! 

Tiny versions of fearful creatures are raced around a small pen. Players can bet on any creature they want with a 25 gp buy-in. Do play by play as each creature rolls a 1d6, playing for four rounds. If at any point, 2 creatures roll 6 in the same round, they attack one another. For next level DMing, you can roll this all out ahead of time and record a play by play of the race, with or without visuals) Also, it is a fun way to introduce some of the larger, very cool looking creatures in a safe way; my list included these: Remorhaz, Stegosaurus, Yuanti-Anathema, Behir, Wurm.

Pin the Eye-stalk on the Beholder!

This one is an archery competition, wIth targets at 50, 100, 200, 300 yards. Archers are given 8 non magical arrows and are not permitted to use magical equipment (a dispel magic spell is cast on each bow during preliminary inspections of the competitors). The target at 50 is worth 50 points, the target at 100 is worth 100 points, etc.

Each target’s AC is proportional to its distance 50y (AC5), 100y (AC10), 200y (AC 15), 300y (AC18). Archers can hit whichever target as many times as they’d like to score the highest amount of points. Apply disadvantage for targets outside of a weapon’s range. You can let there be a great archery prize as well as let players make bets for or against their fellow PCs!

Gambit of Ord!

This card game is a Matt Mercer creation that I became aware of on one of the Campaign one episodes of Critical Role.

Rules: 50 gold pieces initial buy-in. Each card player rolls 1d8, keeping the die hidden. Each player has the chance to raise the bet, call the bet (meet it), or fold. It continues until all bets are equal. Then each player rolls a 1d6, keeping it secret as well. A final chance to raise, call, or fold. Each remaining player rolls 1d4. They all reveal the 1d8, 1d6, and 1d4, adding them all together. The winner takes 80% of the pot (the other 20% goes to the casino).

Ties split the 80%. (Sleight of Hand can give a reroll; Deception can force a fold but you may want to leave that a secret from your players and see if they come up with it!)

The Dash for the Lady in Lace!

A greased pig dressed in a lovely lace veil is released into the crowd. Whoever can coral the pig and return it wins their choice of gifts from the bride and groom or the king and queen of the carnival or festival. This one is basically an excuse to let all kinds of things happen. Set a high number for your players to be able to grab the pig, then they have to hold on to it and get it to the table that makes them a winner when others, including their fellow PCs, contest their progress as there can be only one winner!

Putting games like this and others together can make for a good curveball night for your players and for you as a DM. Not hard to put together, it can be a great next step before you head into the next big step of your campaign. Have you ever designed some similar games? What tips would you give to help make a silly fun night happen?

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