D&D 5E How to run a cooking contest in iD&D

I want one of my PCs to challenge a powerful, nigh unkillable, fairy lord to a cooking contest to save their town. How can I make this mechanically interesting and fun? Bonus points if we can involve the rest of the party as well.
 

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billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Mechanically: 3-5 rounds of checks vs increasing DCs, give them 1 point for every point their check exceeds the DC
Give them small extra bonuses for creativity in describing the dish they’re making. Involve other PCs in running around town finding difficult ingredients - if they get them, give the check advantage.
 

aco175

Legend
There is always the hunt to kill the monster/animal that is being served. You could give out a point scale of monsters where a boar is worth 10 points, a bullette 25, and a dragon 100 points. Same with other ingredients, with skill checks used to find exotic mushrooms and such. You can also have hazards that need to be overcome and rival groups trying to stop them, or help if they are against the other lord.
 

Oofta

Legend
Depends on how you want to resolve it. Like @aco175 said, part of it could be gathering ingredients which could be it's own side-quest.

If you don't want to do that (or in addition to), you can also add additional challenges to the meal preparation. One question: who is the judge? Because that could affect things. So some thoughts on how to use different skills

Part of an impressive meal is presentation.
  • Juggling knives acrobatics
  • Display elegantly with performance or persuasion
  • Surprise the judge by thinking you are preparing one thing and then delivering another with deception

Who is the judge? What will they be impressed by? This could be arcana, perception, history, insight or religion

Can you affect the opponents meal or preparation?
  • Do an ingredient substitution with sleight of hand and stealth
  • Perhaps intimidate them
  • Figure out what they're making with an investigation

Then there's the actual process of cooking itself. Someone with proper background or tool is obviously going to get proficiency.
  • Consider giving them advantage if they have medicine, nature or survival.
  • Athletics to tenderize meat

Then of course there are obstacles and things that could go wrong.
  • Perception to notice the opponent is trying to harm your meal
  • Someone has a valuable item/animal/ingredient that they're unwilling to part with (people can be unreasonable). Do you convince them with persuasion, intimidate or just steal it?
 

I'd watch an episode of something like the Great British Baking Show or Iron Chef for inspiration. The different parts of the meal could be assigned to different party members - different dishes might require different skills. Getting the perfect meringue might take nimble fingers, while remembering what goes in cameline sauce could be intelligence. Turning a massive board on a spit might be strength or con. And of course, there's always swaying the judges as a charisma check.

Another good source of information would be the videogame Battle Chef Brigade.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Gathering certain spices guarded by monsters, or worst Granny who don't allow no kids in her root cellar. Granny is 999 year old elf who was a pc at one time.
Special frying pan has been unseasoned by an evil person. Someone call the witcher.
Kids are trying to help. Was that one teaspoon, tablespoon or 5 cups of sugar.
Some one has used Chef Charlie's knife to cut leather. Be a dear and ask the Tinker to sharper it.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I’d honestly just wing such a challenge. Your players have a goal: defeat the fae lord in a cooking challenge. You have an obstacle in the way of that goal: the fae lord himself, and his preternatural cooking skills. It’s up to the players to come up with a plan to resolve that conflict, and it’s up to you to apply the rules of the game to resolve the outcomes of the players’ actions. Fortunately for you, your source of conflict is also naturally dynamic, so you can have it react to the players’ actions, making the encounter far more interesting than a static challenge would be.

The one thing I wound caution you against is breaking this potentially dynamic encounter down into a series of simple execution challenges. If the encounter is just roll to gather ingredients, roll to prepare the ingredients, roll some number of times to cook the meal, roll to plate and present it appealingly, try to get enough successes to do better than the fae lord, it’s going to feel static and boring. What you want to do is have the challenge evolve in response to the players choices. Present the players with the scenario and let them come up with their own strategies and declare actions. Resolve those actions as you would, and introduce new complicating elements, like maybe the fae lord tries to sabotage their ingredients or tools. Maybe he uses magic to charm the judges. Maybe he warps time so the players have to rush to get their dish completed while he can take his time. What exactly he’ll do will really depend on what the players do; that’s the advantage of a dynamic source of conflict.

If it helps, you could devise a simple system for tracking the players’ progress. Maybe they need X successes before Y failures. Maybe there’s like a judge satisfaction stat that goes up when the players do something well and goes down when they mess something up, and they win when they reach a certain score and fail when it gets to low. But keep it simple. Let your fundamental DMing skills do the heavy lifting, rather than your system design skills.
 
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Sound advice. Maybe go as far as giving them a required ingredient a la Iron Chef, like shrieker or cockatrice, something weird to spark creativity, and let them come up with what dishes they're making. Challenge their creativity as much as their dice rolls.

The one thing I wound caution you against is breaking this potentially dynamic encounter down into a series of simple execution challenges. If the encounter is just roll to gather ingredients, roll to prepare the ingredients, roll some number of times to cook the meal, roll to plate and present it appealingly, try to get enough successes to do better than the fae lord, it’s going to feel static and boring. What you want to do is have the challenge evolve in response to the players choices. Present the players with the scenario and let them come up with their own strategies and declare actions.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
"A cooking competition? Well, I do so love food. But if I am the judge, I cannot be a participant. I know!"

The fairy lord waves their hand, animating a brush, which paints a summoning circle. They they cast 3 spells, summons a bugbear chef, 3 fairy sou-chefs, 17 butterflies, and a redcap riding a blink dog.

"There, they can do the cooking. And I will judge. But wait, what if the food doesn't taste good? I know, I will need a taste tester, and only have to eat the best dish! Someone from the village, with a naive palette. Hmm. You!"

The fairy lord points at a villager. A child.

"Yes, you. If you want this to work. Or do we have another volunteer?"

Someone else volunteers.

"Very well."

"Hmm, to be fair, it should be a blind taste test,", then the fairy lord blinds the villager volunteer by stabbing crystal flowers into their eyes. They start out clear, but quickly become crimson with the blood of the villager.

"If the taster dies before you deliver the dish, you forfeit. Now, off with you. I want"

Now roll on some random encounter tables for ingredients.
 
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Hey everyone, I know this thread has been dead a while but I just stumbled across it and happen to love making homebrew rules for things like this and thought I would give it a go! This is totally inspired by Iron Chef.
DCs for the competition itself will be set to 14, 18, and 22. (Make these whatever you feel appropriate for the characters' level)

-These DCs are for determining the outcome of the Helpers' rolls and the Cook's roll at the end of the round. A team consists of the Cook and up to 2 Helpers. The challenger (Cook) decides how many helpers they want to use, up to 2. Each helper brings the total DC down by 2, so with 2 helpers, the DCs are 10, 14, and 18.

-Each round consists of 2 phases: Prep phase and Cook phase.

-During the Prep phase, the Team has an opportunity to perform up to 3 flourishes. Each flourish has the potential to impress the judges and help you win extra points, but if failed will cost you points. A flourish can also be used to hinder the other team and cause them a penalty. A bonus results in a +2 to your round final dice roll and a penalty amounts to a -2 to the end roll. You can also think of these bonuses and penalties as just raising or lowering the round DC.

-During the cook phase, the helpers roll their assistance dice and attempt to meet the DC for the round. The bonuses or penalties accrued from the prep phase apply to the Helpers' rolls. The result of the Helpers' dice rolls determine if the cook gets advantage, disadvantage, or a neutral roll. If the result of the Helpers' rolls are that they (both if there are 2 helpers) meet or exceed the round DC, the Cook gets advantage. If they (both if 2 helpers) fail, the Cook gets disadvantage. If there are 2 helpers and one meets and one fails, the cook gets a neutral roll. Finally, once the result of the Helpers' rolls are determined, the Cook makes his final roll for the round. Add together all bonuses and penalties from the 2 phases and the advantage or disadvantage from the Helpers' rolls. The amount of points won for each round is the total result of this roll minus the DC of the round.

-Example: For round one the DC is 10. If the Cook has 2 helpers and they have succeeded with all 3 flourishes (+2 for each flourish netting a +6) and the Helpers both succeed in getting a 10 or higher (needing to roll a 4 on the D20 due to the result of the flourishes), then the Cook makes a D20 roll with advantage and gets a natural 20, the team scores 16 points for the round: 20 on the dice, +6 from the flourishes, -10 for the DC.

*I would also allow a player with proficiency in Cook’s Utensils to be allowed to add their proficiency modifier to the final roll.


Ideas:

The prep phase will have a possibility of up to 3 flourishes. A flourish is a skill check of whatever you can think up and roll the related skill to either grant your team a bonus or land the other team a penalty. Want to throw a carrot in the air and dice it up before it lands? Roll acrobatics. Want to distract a helper on the other team to mess up what they are working on and have to start over? Roll a performance (or even use a spell slot to ensure a success, like minor illusion to make it look like you’ve cut off your finger. *absolutely no evocation allowed). Have some sort of exotic ingredient you want to add to the dish? Add an automatic success. It is my opinion that any sacrifice a player makes, like using a spell slot or parting with an item like an exotic ingredient should grant an automatic success but rule it as you like. Maybe that only grants them an advantage to the roll? All DCs for these rolls will be up to the DM to determine. How hard would it be to throw a carrot up into the air a dice it before it landed?

Anyway, cheers!
 

Voadam

Legend
Bonus points for "Iron Chef" challenge. Everybody knows that fey are vulnerable to cold iron. :)

Ooh, revenge as an ingredient. A dish best served cold in the Iron Chef challenge, to symbolically strike at the fey weakness.

Team ups for skill parts of the skill challenges in 5e is always mechanically worthwhile if you can swing it. One to do the skill, one to give advantage as a support helper. This can encourage more people to be involved. If you want it more of a group challenge than an individual one this can help, particularly if you want people not specialized in things to still help out and contribute and be involved.

Perhaps two other PCs are working some skill angle to give the lord disadvantage. One to do the skill (deception or whatever) with one helper giving them advantage.

That is four PCs involved in one opposed skill roll.
 
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Run it as (my version of) a Skill Challenge. Something like the following:

COLD-IRON CHEF
Complexity:
4 (10 successes required)
Duration: 3 rounds ("prep," "cooking," "presentation")

Description: This is a performance cooking competition between the attendants of Feylord Hellekin and the player characters. For the fey, this is an extremely serious affair, equivalent to gladiatorial combat--and actual lives may be on the line. However, just because it is serious does not mean it cannot also be silly or humorous; indeed, Lord Hellekin prefers a circus to accompany his bread, though he frowns upon those who grub for advantage rather than discovering it on their own.

Skills: Survival, Medicine, Nature, and History all have some bearing on the process of cooking a meal. Medicine, Nature, and Arcana can be used to identify signature ingredients, or to aid others in their efforts. The presentation round benefits from a theatrical bent, such as Acrobatics, Performance, or Diplomacy. The Feylord appreciates creativity and ingenuity, however: if a player offers a novel interpretation that makes sense to you, give +2 to the roll, but only for the first such attempt, as he finds repetition boring. At all stages, defense against the attendants' interference and spying (Athletics, Insight, Perception, etc.) may be useful.

Complications: This is, at root, a performance before Feylord Hellekin. In truth, the food itself might be the best dish ever cooked, but if it was dull to watch it being made, he may rule against the party. An entertaining failure that leads to heightened tension might actually be beneficial in the long term, perhaps allowing a later, creative recovery to grant 2 successes instead of 1. Conversely, a failure that is both important and yet boring is a serious issue, and may reduce the number of successes by 1. Creativity, spontaneity, and panache are essential, and Hellekin's attendants will absolutely be trying to sabotage the players' efforts. Skirmishes or wrestling matches breaking out between the two teams can split the party or divide their attention, making it harder to complete their dishes; conversely, spying on the opponent team or correctly predicting their moves can get the party ahead of the game and cast his attendants in a bad light (making them seem lazy or derivative.)

Full success: Feylord Hellekin is duly impressed with the party's panache and potables. As they have already paid him with both a good meal and a good show, he will be inclined to grant them a boon, so long as it does not significantly harm his house or his political position within the Seelie Court. Should the party go above and beyond, he may even grant them personal favors in addition to their core request, as a gesture of friendship earned.

Partial success: If the party falls only just short of 10 successes, consider the following options.
  • Hellekin enjoys the show, but spits out the food, declaring it inedible filth. To cleanse his palate, he demands another show: the players must now turn their steel against his attendants...in the middle of the kitchen!
  • The performance bores him, but the food is cooked to perfection. Since he does not usually watch his chefs prepare his meal, he wants the players to teach his attendants how to cook the food as they just did, and will give his aid once they have done so.
  • The competition is interrupted before it can be completed by assassins from a rival Seelie courtier, hoping to make it look like the adventurers had poisoned Hellekin. The party must save Hellekin's life, and preferably capture (rather than kill) at least one of the assassins for questioning later.
  • The competition is so fierce, Hellekin cannot decide who the winner is. Until a winner is decided, he is unwilling to offer aid--so he sends the party out to a neutral arbiter with a sense stone, containing his impressions of the event. Though he may imply otherwise, even if the arbiter chooses his attendants, he will aid the party if they dutifully carry out this mission, out of respect for their sense of fair play.
Failure: Hellekin is unimpressed with the party's actions, and while he will remain a gracious host, he will require a substantial service rendered before he will consider actually helping the party. Perhaps he has a political rival he wants taken down a peg, or a brash young scion of his house needs protection while she goes out on some venture even he considers ridiculous. Whatever the situation, the party has made no friends in the fey realm yet, and their position is precarious until they do--meaning other, more nefarious interests may offer their aid...for a price.
 

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