- Skill based competitions
- Carnival games (with a twist)
- Food-related challenges
- Overarching plots
- Overall thoughts
Skill based competitions for every stat
This one is the first that always seems to come to mind when I’m planning a festival for my games, and it’s really easy to make sure that everyone in your group, whether they are playing a strong character, witty character, or average Joe, can participate.
To make a skill-based festival competition, take whatever skill you want from your particular system and try to think of a way to make it into a short, non-combat showdown.
For D&D, it could look something like this:
- CON – hold-your-breath competition
- DEX – obstacle course race
- STR – farmer’s carry competition
- CHA – tall-tale tell-off
- INT – stump the expert challenge
- WIS – house of mirrors race
And for a game like Magical Kitties Save the Day that uses Cunning, Fierce, and Cute:
- Cunning – swipe a fish for the feast
- Fierce – tree climbing (and getting back down) race
- Cute – get the most head pats from strangers
For general festivals, here’s a list of some fun ideas for both physical and non-physical skill based challenges.
Physical and speed based competitions might include:
- Foot race
- 3-legged race
- Rock wall or giant tree climb
- Obstacle course race
- Farmer’s carry
- Archery or ax throwing
- Arm wrestling
- Hide and seek
- Various track and field events
- Hold-your-breath competition
For speech-craft or other non-physical traits, try out other types of skill competitions like:
- Music competition (solo or battle of the bands)
- Tall-tale tell-off
- Horseback riding
- Stump the expert
- House of magic mirrors maze race
- Talent shows
- Scavenger hunts
Classic carnival games, with a twist
Another set of challenges that I use is to introduce classic carnival games but put a spin on them that fits the theme of my game and makes it a little more interesting so it isn’t a straight skill challenge.
For example, I would take a bottle toss game, but maybe the trick to it, for a medieval themed setting, is that there’s a little tentacle creature inside the bottles that tries to whack the ring that you toss away! Or, I might have an archery skill booth, but players can only use a toy bow and arrow that gives them disadvantage on the roll! Or, for a more futuristic setting, the game is rigged with electronically controlled magnets that make it super hard to win!
This gives a REALLY good opportunity for players to work together. While the character with high physical stats may be good at playing an unaltered version of the game, they need the character who notices things and can figure out the trick or even the odds with magic to support and guide them if they want to win.
Some ideas to try are:
- Bottle ring toss (something swats the rings away from certain bottles)
- Hand bowling (rigged with magnets)
- Basketball toss (with an illusory backboard)
- Archery (with a toy bow and arrow)
- Water pistol target shot (it’s living water that dodges targets)
If you’ve been following TTRPGkids, you know I like to include food in my games, and festivals are no different! Food can be exciting and wonderful, and it can be a great catalyst for interesting and creative challenges.
You can introduce a wide variety of cook-off competitions as part of a festival, and it can really help to give life and culture to the world you create. Does this region have a particular cuisine that it’s famous for? Is it a particular sweet? Or a type of curry? Or a particular way to cook, like BBQ? What season is it and what kind of food would they make for this celebration? And for those who don’t participate in the competition itself, this still gives a wonderful hook to describe smells and let characters try new foods so you can describe the taste and bring in those really immersive elements to the story.
There’s also eating competitions (that don’t have to include drinking/alcohol). From hot-sauce tasting to pie-eating, they can be a good challenge for the tougher characters in the group to test their mettle, and you get the opportunity to still name some funny creations (hot sauces are particularly fun to name).
You can also have a blind-folded taste-test-guess competition for your more attentive characters… who are brave enough to try something they can’t see. Characters are blindfolded and asked to try a bite of something then guess what it is. You can do this through a roll for the character or could even describe and leave it to the player to guess the food from the description.
Overarching plots for your festivals
In addition to modular challenges that players can pick and choose from, I also like to sometimes include a bigger all-festival event that isn’t necessarily dangerous (like a menacing creature crashing the event or thieves breaking in), but adds some fun to the party.
I once ran a masquerade party that was put on by the city’s wealthy mayor, and the mayor offered a VERY nice prize to whoever could figure out who he was during the party. Players needed to keep an eye out for anyone behaving a bit strangely, ask questions to find info about the mayor, sneak about the mayor’s house, and generally stay attentive to what was going on through the whole event until making their guess at dawn. This gave players who didn’t want to do carnival games and skill challenges an opportunity to use their investigation skills, and it let me drive the main plot forward as they were actively seeking out info about this NPC that was very critical to later in the game.
There’s lots of other challenges you can set up like this too! You could try:
- Guess the masqueraded host by dawn
- Solve a riddle that the host included on the invitation
- Find the host, who is missing
- Earn competition points to gain audience with an NPC
- Chase down a wild goose who is causing chaos throughout the festival
Overall thoughts on all-ages friendly TTRPG festival challenges
I LOVE using festivals in my TTRPGs, especially since I tend to run a lot of holiday one-shots for Halloween, Christmas, New Years, etc. Because of that, it’s important for me to make my festivals unique from each other so they stay interesting to my players, while also making them kid-friendly for games with my kid or for grown-up games that kiddo might overhear. I had a lot of fun and success with the ideas above, and I hope you do too!
Thank you for reading, and I hope these ideas help you to find some new challenges to add to your TTRPG festivals! Please let me know in the comments your thoughts and ideas – I would love to hear them, and it could help give inspiration to other readers too!If you liked this post, make sure to subscribe to the TTRPGkids monthly newsletter to stay up to date on the latest reviews, tips and tricks, game and podcast list updates, and more! Thank you for playing tabletop RPGs with your kids and sharing this awesome hobby with the next generation!