La Tomatina

Once a month here on the Molten Sulfur Blog, I run content taken from our book Archive: Historical People, Places, and Events for RPGs. This post is one of eighty entries in Archive, each more gameable than the last!

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La Tomatina
World’s Largest Food Fight

In the small town of Buñol, just thirty miles from Valencia, Spain, there is a whole week of parades, fireworks, food, and street parties, starting on the second to last Wednesday of every August. The town of 9,000 doubles in size for the festivities. The day before the last Wednesday, the narrow streets beneath the town’s medieval bell tower fill with the delicious scent of tomatoes. Paella simmers in giant pans over wood-burning fires, each recipe competing to be the best. After the contest, there is a feast of wine and food throughout the town that lasts until the early hours of the morning.

Then, just as the sun wakes over the horizon on Wednesday morning, shopkeepers and business owners along the central plaza start boarding up their windows. The cobblestone streets are overtaken by large trucks filled with ammunition free to the crowds that swarm the square. The people in the plaza are all either minimally clothed or dressed in old rags doomed for the trash. An exploding bottle rocket sounds the start of the fight. Thousands of people gather up their ammunition and within minutes the town square is doused in 120 tons of sloppy, squishy tomatoes. More than 20,000 revelers pelt anything within range of their veggie blobs. The streets become rivers of mushy seeds, pulp, and tomato guts. The participants are all coated a uniform red. The delightful insanity ensues for exactly one hour and ends with another pop of a bottle rocket.

The origins of La Tomatina and how Buñol became home to the world’s biggest food fight are unclear. The most plausible theory suggests that it all started in 1945 when an annual parade of enormous figures with big heads was passing through the streets of Buñol. Some youngsters wanted to participate, but the adults wouldn’t let them. In a moment of youthful impulse, the kids grabbed some tomatoes from a vegetable stall and started throwing them at their perceived oppressors. The police ended the retaliation, but a year later, some other kids started another tomato fight. Again, police intervened and the local council tried to ban the activity. The ban had little success as year after year the event continued to grow until it reached the ludicrous size it is today.

La Tomatina in Play

At the table, your party might relax in Buñol for a few days and partake in the festivities. Or maybe they don’t even know what they’re walking into when they stroll into town on the last Wednesday of August. They could show up just as the tomatoes fly, or they could arrive shortly after the event and be forced to trudge through bright red sludge to get where they need to go. Perhaps the party intends to conduct a heist in Buñol and use La Tomatina as a distraction. They would have exactly one hour to break into one of the boarded up stores, grab what they need, slip into the madness, and drench themselves in tomato slop to show they were participating. But what if it doesn’t go as planned? What if the heist takes too long? What if one of the PCs accidentally treads some tomato across the floor, sparking an investigation? If the item is important enough, local authorities might keep people from leaving Buñol. Imagine 20,000 people forced to remain in a small town meant to hold only half, and the party stuck among them, trying to find a way out of the mess they made.

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