Once upon a time a group of fearless adventurers, long famous for their incredible feats and well respected in their world for their knowledge and bravery, their long traveled road paved with slain monsters and grateful commoners, and the weariness of a good day's work behind them, decided to gather on a Saturday afternoon at Jacob's place and play some Dungeons & Dragons.
Our chosen characters were as follows:
Item: One half-elf Ranger who secretly always wanted to learn to cook, but only managed to learn how to kill;
Item: One human witch (male, thank you very much) slightly cursed by the gods, manifesting a nasty case of "I have the left arm of a giant insect and it affects my Charisma";
Item: One shifter warden/shaman on a mission to protect life, nature, and anything that doesn't try to kill him; accompanied by
Item: One pixie barbarian called Honeybadger, completely batshit insane (embodied by a candy-fueled yours truly)
Oh, and we played in the setting of Exalted.
Nothing could possibly go wrong with this setup, ever.
Our merry gang of good-natured sociopaths (bordering on Chaotic Neutral) was hired by a noble house to act as ambassadors to a local pocket of the Feywild (or whatever the Exalted version of that is) and negotiate trading rights with a bunch of soulless murderous fairy creatures, or at least stop a rival merchant guild for negotiating their own terms. Upon arrival we delivered our killer opening statement which only a fool would refuse, and impressed Her Magnanimous Arboreal Highness enough that she allowed us to participate in the competition to win the above mentioned trading rights. Although the light political nuances were mostly lost on us, when we were pointed at a bunch of NPC's and told "defeat them and you win" we managed to grasp the gist.
The first trial was a game of riddles which was probably the most meta competition between PCs and NPCs I have ever played, but it was also immense fun. Moving on.
And this brings us to the topic of the WIN: The second trial was a cooking contest.
Admittedly, when he planned the campaign our DM managed to skim over the fact that during the previous gaming session our half-elf had acquired a +12 to Cooking. From the God of Cooking himself.
Our team had 25 hours to gather ingredients. We decided to go big or go home. Through a not-so-anonymous tip from a stag-horned fae soldier (nicknamed collectively as Swiggity Swag and probably anxious not to end up in the roast) we found out that a Questing Beast had been spotted nearby.
That was all we needed to hear: Momma was bringing home mythic meat for dinner!
It took us about 2 real life hours to trap the beast, fail at trapping the beast, get slapped around by the beast (spectacular roll of natural 1's there), resort to plan B, and finally kill the thing while the ranger was continuously yelling instructions on where we were allowed to shoot/stick/burn it in order to not ruin the meat. Once the monster had been slain, we found out that there were three baby Questing Beasts nearby, which instantly made us all break down in fits of guilty conscience (of varying degrees). We kept them as pets in the end. The DM did not expect that.
Returning to the fairy castle, we had to come up with a menu. And this is where things got completely epic. Also, completely out of hand.
Rachel, the player of our half-elf cooking master, decided that turning a Questing Beast into a five-course meal required ingenuity, precision, and preparation. So instead of declaring the general idea of "we cook the meat" and rolling some dice, here is what we ended up with:
First course: On the theme of Swiggity Swag providing us with the quest (also known as Joseph Campbell's Call to Adventure): Cream of venison soup with hart hoof stock.
Second course: On the theme of the nature of the Feywild, and us tracking the Beast through the woods: Spinach and green salad with snake neck, toasted acorns and local berry vinaigrette
Third course: On the theme of the epic fight: Trio of Questing Beast: Gyro style spit-roasted smoked lion shank, grilled marinated leopard flank steak, goat cheese and peppercorn stuffed snake tongue braised with bay leaves and local mushrooms (Bay leaves. as in, "baying of thirty hounds." Get it? Get it?!?!)
Fourth course: Butchering the beast and finding the puppies: Hash of sweet potatoes, carrots and root vegetables with slow roasted leopard rump, liver and topped with poached eggs. Also, decorated with the snake skull of the beast and its heart within the skull, floating and surrounded by fire.
Dessert: Chocolate flourless cake with a cat-fruit puree spiked with two-three drops of slightly hallucinogenic Questing Beast venom and frozen rice-cream, courtesy of the elemental ice powers of our shaman.
(We stopped for a pizza break halfway through planning)
After we spent about an hour creating this menu (during which we found out more details about Questing Beast anatomy than we ever desired to know), it was time for the cooking. *drumroll* Our two teams shared a kitchen and had 8 hours to prepare all the above mentioned delicacies (which means Rachel did not only make the menu, she also broke down how it would be prepared step by step, which is more work for an imaginary feast than I ever put into my entire nonexistent real life cooking career). This was already pretty epic in itself, but then came the kicker: The competing team decided to mess with us.
Hour after hour the pixie, who was not sanitary enough to be allowed near food but made a great sentinel, had to roll a Perception check to intercept the competition's attempts at spoiling our menu. This ranged from punting rats back across the kitchen (and into their soup) from beating demon-monkeys to death with frying pans (not allowed to shed blood under fey laws), to bursting bubbles of poison before they floated above the pots. It was a team effort, and darn did we roll like heroes to save the food!
Our cook-off was observed and broadcast by a tiny cyclops carried around in a pot by four flying pixies, which I guess is the D&D version of a moving camera. The campaign increasingly started to feel like an Exalted edition of Iron Chef. This feeling only grew stronger once we had to face the judges: A feline fey bard, a Lady of the Lake, and a Satyr version of Gordon Ramsay, which is probably the most awesome NPC I have ever encountered in a game.
The competing team put up a good fight: they even served a pie that seemed suspiciously like the final resting place of one of their companions. But even that could not defeat us! In fact, we won so hard that when Gordon RAMsay had to pay an honest compliment without snark, he lost his fae essence of sarcasm, and simply disintegrated.
These 12 hours were among the most entertaining of my life. Which proves a couple of things:
1. Rachel is a freaking genius,
2. DM Jamie is also a freaking genius, also an incredibly patient man for letting us ponder over the carcass of an imaginary beast for 6 real life hours,
3. We are all nuts and we love it, and
4. Role-playing games are not all about crawling around in dungeons and killing things. There shall come a day when you will look at a hidden, unused corner of your character sheet, and cry out:
"Hey guys, I have a Skill for that!"
D&Dinner is served.