Skill Challenge: The Kitchen Adventure

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on November 25, 2009

There are tasks in D&D that are deemed so trivial or non-important that they happen off screen. You just assume stuff happens and the game proceeds. In many cases no checks are even required. Then there are the tasks that are a little bit more important and the result of the check will have some kind of impact on the game. Nothing life-or-death, but some noticeable effect. And then you have full blown skill challenges with all the structure and XP that comes with it.

From time to time it’s interesting to take some of those marginally important tasks and turn them into skill challenges. These are opportunities to encourage creative role-playing. There is structure and there is XP, but the real objective of the encounter is to have fun. If the PCs happen to earn some XP along the way then that’s just a bonus.

A creative DM may build on the outcome of the skill challenge and give it more importance once he sees how the PCs are handling things, but the initial objective isn’t usually that significant.

This skill challenge falls into this middle-ground. It’s designed to let the PCs have some fun in a non-threatening way. The more the PCs get into it the more enjoyment they’re likely to have. It’s up to the DM to decide if the success or failure of this skill challenge leads to something grander.


It’s time to show off your culinary skills. The PCs need to prepare a meal.

  • The PCs need to infiltrate the castle and see an opportunity to do so disguised as cooks. Unfortunately, their disguise is so convincing that they get stuck preparing a meal for the royal family and a dozen guests.
  • The PCs need information or services from a local merchant. He agrees to help if the PCs agree to be his cooks for a week.
  • Boastful drunk-talk gets a PC in over his head. He claims that he can prepare a meal suitable for a king and challenges anyone to prove him wrong. The royal chef accepts the challenge and suggests a public cook-off.


2 PC level +2 (requires 6 successes before 3 failures)

Primary Skills

Diplomacy, Dungeoneering, History, Insight, Nature, Perception, Streetwise, Stealth

  • Each skill can only be used to accomplish 1 success towards the overall skill challenge unless noted otherwise.
  • Skill checks denoted as assist do not count as a success or failure towards the overall skill challenge.


Diplomacy (moderate DC)

Never underestimate the importance of presentation. People often judge a meal by it’s appearance before they even taste it.

Dungeoneering (moderate DC)

Know your ingredients. A successful check means you’ve found an interesting combination of ingredients.

Insight (moderate DC, maximum 2 successes)

Part of being a good cook is knowing when to experiment. You let your instinct take over and add various herbs and spices.

History (hard DC)

You remember a recipe, or at least the recipe’s key ingredients, to a meal your mother or wife once prepared for you. Maybe you even helped make this memorable meal yourself.

Nature (moderate DC)

Know your ingredients. A successful check means you’ve found an interesting combination of ingredients.

Perception (hard DC, maximum 3 successes)

Use all of your senses. Does it smell right? Does it taste ok? How does it look?

Stealth (hard DC)

You try to hide your mistakes, like putting the burnt side down.

Streetwise (hard DC)

You try to find out the likes and dislikes of the people you’re cooking for.

Nested Skill Challenge: The Show Before the Meal

Depending on the setup, the PCs may be preparing this meal in front of an audience. Here are a few examples of how PCs can use other skills to make the act of cooking as important as the meal itself. The DC will vary depending on the complexity of the task the PC attempts. In order to count as a success in the skill challenge the DC must be at least moderate.

DMs are encouraged to run this nested skill challenge as a Complexity 1 (4 successes before 3 failures). If the PCs successfully complete the nested skill challenge they gain 1 success towards the main skill challenge and a +2 bonus to all checks for the remainder of the larger skill challenge.

Primary Skills

Acrobatics, Arcana, Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate

Acrobatics (moderate DC)

Add some physical flare to your actions. Juggle spice bottles or flip the food multiple times before letting it hit the frying pan.

Arcana (moderate DC)

Use Mage Hand to retrieve items, gather bowls or mix ingredients.

Bluff (moderate DC)

Convince the audience that your meal is going to taste better than anything they’ve every tried before. Really sell it!

Diplomacy (moderate DC)

Keep up the banter, explain what you’re doing. Nothing impresses people more than hearing an expert dumb it down for common folk.

Intimidate (moderate DC)

You know how to talk trash while in the kitchen.


You manage to prepare the meal to the satisfaction of those eating it. Any favours you were promised should be paid in full. Any disguise you might be attempting to pass off has just been solidified. It you participated in the nested skill challenge then your overall success has made you an enemy in your competitor.


You grossly misjudged some of the ingredients, overcooked the meal or just lacked the presentation skills to make it appear appetizing. No one believes you are a good a cook as you’ve claimed.

1 Alric November 25, 2009 at 10:55 am

The best part is using mage hand to mix the batter. That motion kills your wrists.

Very creative post.
.-= Alric´s last blog ..100 Motives for the commoner on the street =-.

2 Dave November 25, 2009 at 3:24 pm

I like it!
But why stop at Mage Hand? If you’ve got a Wizard who knows scorching burst, let him use Arcana to “flash fry” something. Does the Rogue know Sly Flourish? Perhaps a Thievery or Dexterity check could could allow her to toss something in the air and slice it us before it lands in the bowl. A fighter could use Crack the Shell to break eggs like no one has ever seen (an Athletics check, perhaps, or a free success for spending a Daily power).

3 Ameron December 1, 2009 at 11:36 pm

I’ve found that a good imagination, a decent Arcana check and a DM willing to say “yes” have resulted in many interesting uses of Mage Hand. Using it in the kitchen seemed like a natural fit.

Why stop with Mage Hand indeed. I think your suggestions are fantastic. If I was your DM I’d certainly allow them. I always encourage my players to be creative during skill challenges. If they can come up with a creative way to use a “combat” power in a skill challenge I’m always willing to let them try.

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