For the campaign I’m running, I wanted to try something a little bit different from the combat-heavy adventures that had dominated the last few sessions. I knew that the party had to head back to the main settlement of the region where they adventure to press a claim for a keep they are trying to establish. There was a Ducal council scheduled in the near future and the players had already indicated that they were going to take a break from their heroic deeds to return to the town for the meeting. This gave me the perfect opportunity to try something different as the town setting is, at least usually, not quite as conducive to dungeon delves and epic monster battles.
I still wanted the players to feel that their characters had significant challenges to overcome, and to retain the sense of excitement that is generated by rolling dice to determine whether your character achieves a brilliant success or fails tragically in his endeavor. So I decided that, along with the political councils and meetings there would also be a festival going on. Over the festival’s five days, a number of contests would be held in which the players could participate.
Ideally, I wanted to have at least one or two contests that each player could enter. I stacked the deck a bit to feature events that would appeal particularly to the various character types in the party, but I also tried to keep them reasonable and within the scope of what one might find in a pseudo-medieval tournament.
I’ll go into more details below and in the next few addendums to this article on how each of the events went, but overall it was a huge success in the game. Several players told me that these sessions were some of the most fun they’d had in the campaign or in their recent gaming experience. I was concerned that the simple contests might seem tame in comparison with the heroics they’d been performing in the course of their more traditional adventures, but that wasn’t the case at all. I think the change of pace revitalized the campaign and significantly deepened both the personalities of the individual characters and the cohesion of the party as a group.