I am a DM/GM for a role playing game, and I want to plan a large festival for the game. I want to have it as authentic as possible, but don't know where to start. From the various fiction sources I've read I have thought of the following:

  • Jousting
  • Archery
  • that strength thing at carnivals today where you hit the lever and it sends the thing up to hit the bell
  • ?

Any others that would have been at a "typical" festival ranging between about 1000AD-1600AD?

1 Answer 1


Carnivals with games of chance and skill are mostly an invention of the 19th and 20th centuries. One source credits the 1893 Chicago World's Fair for the start of the traveling carnival.

A better choice for the Middle Ages would be tournaments and hastiludes, festivals showcasing various sorts of military-based games. Wikipedia's article on tournaments has a lot of information for you. Their article on hastiludes doesn't have a lot of depth, but it briefly mentions many other types of military sporting events.

You might also take a look at the various village sports of the Middle Ages like mob football. Cheese rolling is also a good fun traditional game, though it's not known how far back such an activity dates from.

  • 1
    Just to point out that a tournament proper was a noble pastime and not likely to be part of a festival attended by common folk. Dec 2, 2012 at 12:52
  • How did peasant manage to get festivals anyway? Weren't they supposed to work?
    – Louis Rhys
    Feb 7, 2013 at 2:50
  • 1
    @LouisRhys (And, due to the huge time difference, anyone who's interested): apparently peasants had quite a few days off every year, what with religious and local celebrations.
    – Mac Cooper
    May 14, 2014 at 21:52
  • Probability theory as we know it today emerged from analysis of dice games in the early modern era. That's not quite medieval but it's definitely way earlier than the 19th century. Nov 7, 2022 at 13:26

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