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Gaming Goodies: Adding food adds fun

Written by cyberkyd - Published on May 30, 2011

The Boring Anecdote…

The last time I hosted a group to launch an RPG campaign, I provided iced tea and oatmeal cookies. Everyone went through the standard character building and then we began our game. Shamelessly, I forced the party to start in the Golden Wolf Tavern, thus fulfilling the ancient RPG cliché of a dark inn as a meeting place. As it was getting late in the adventurer’s day, the band ordered their meals. I rolled fairly high numbers for the food quality, what the service was like, and the menu’s variety. Soon both the characters and their real-life players were salivating at descriptions of crispy golden bread, juicy vegetable beef stew, and savory legs of spiced mutton. Compared to these in game delicacies, store bought oatmeal cookies just couldn’t cut it.

The Explanation…

I’m not trying to say that you need a tender pork roast or a baker’s dozen loaves for a D&D session, but it certainly helps set the mood to have a few treats that at least correspond with in-game foods. Yes, most of the time exact recreation is impractical. You don’t have an unlimited budget to buy dedicated groceries or an assortment of ready-made cuisine at your disposal or Top Chef ranks in Cooking. But here are some tips that may help you set the table during your next session:

  1. Buy white and red grape juice. They can be used as a cheap/nonalcoholic alternative to wine. Add a bit of cranberry juice or clear carbonated beverage for a tang.  If everyone is of legal drinking age plus won’t be driving for awhile, consider opening a cheap bottle that is otherwise gathering dust in someone’s liquor cabinet.
  2. A lot of bakeries discount or even give away day-old bread which is still good as new. Cutting a loaf through the middle three times, creates three ‘bread plates’ like they used in medieval times. If the players manage to tick off the local authority, some of the staler bread with water is suitable jail fare. And it’s amazing how adventurous even bread with simple cheese can seem when accompanied by a bardic speech.
  3. I’ve been trying to find the perfect substitute for Lembas, the famous Tolkien food of the elves.  I imagined Lembas to be somewhat like pound cake but the books seem to indicate that Vanilla Wafers are best pre-made fit. For a truly LOTR experience, wrap the wafers in green cabbage or some other large edible leaf.
  4. Farmer’s markets are great places to find fresh local foods at decent prices.  In addition to often being tastier than supermarket fare, vendors are usually open to some haggling.  Yes, a chance to try out your Diplomacy.  Locate a market close to you via http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets/
  5. Every so often, grocery stores will have a sale on canned goods.  Stock up a ‘gaming pantry.’ And have people keep an eye out for good manufacturer’s coupons or other periodic specials that you can take advantage of.  Those things not liked can be donated to a soup kitchen or other charity.
  6. See if everyone in your gaming group can bring over a suitable menu item for a full  D&D-like meal. Then when your party stops for the day, have the players eat it in character.  This dinner roleplaying gives you more time for dice rolling.  But more importantly, it offers an opportunity for everyone to engage.
  7. For that special victory feast or an otherwise important repast that your characters have, ask each member of your group to donate an unused gaming into a pile.  (Part of being a gamer means having a shelf full of books/dice/maps/minis that you don’t use).  Sell the lot on an auction site or at your FLGS to later use these proceeds as your budget for the celebration’s refreshments.

So let’s imagine the scene with our DM substituting actual tavern fare for the session’s snacks instead of chips that come in plastic bags :

DOORBELL: *ring*

DM JOE: Hello, Moe! Good to see you!

MOE: Hi, Joe. Sorry I’m a bit early, but I had to pick up my cousin at the airport at the same time, so I just figured we could both come now. Cho, this is Joe.

CHO: Hi, Joe.

MOE: *Sniff* Say, something smells good. What’s cookin’?

DM JOE: Oh, just some beef stew. Here, let’s set up the game.

(30 minutes later)

DM JOE: The serving wench asks what you want to eat.

*Cho and Moe stare at pot on stove*

CHO and MOE together: “Beef stew!”

And So…

Food sets the mood, is always appreciated around the game table, and can make a night truly memorable. When you go to the movies, you get snacks. When you attend a party, you eat appetizers. On that same note, let the foods your group eats help whet everyone’s appetite for adventuring… Bards optional.

Happy Memorial Day from all of us at DungeonMastering.com!

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Written by cyberkyd

Cyberkyd is the creator of the BlakLite™ RPG System, and a writer of articles and fanfiction. At fifteen years old, he hopes to soon write articles for major RPG magazines. Check out his RPG’s web site at chaoscreatures.com, and get a copy of the player’s manual for free!

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6 Responses to “Gaming Goodies: Adding food adds fun”
  1. Liack says:

    Just reading this, my mouth is watering! Dipping a chunk of warm bread in some stew…yummy! Plus it shouldn’t take much time to prep…And a quick google search can probably give you some simple recipes…

  2. iserith says:

    A crockpot or other slow cooker is a great addition to the gaming table. Slow-cooked meats like pot roast or pork shoulder are cheap and delicious with very little prep required. Simply throw in the meat, some broth, some wine, some veggies, and spices, and let it sit and cook while you’re gaming. The smell will be fantastic and the taste succulent. By buying cheap cuts of meat for the slow-cooker (high amounts of fat or connective tissue which breaks down over a long cooking period) and splitting the costs amongst the group, you can have tasty gourmet meals at gaming that cost a couple dollars each – less than you would pay for unhealthy processed snacks and pizza.

  3. DoveArrow says:

    I almost tried something like this once for Ravenloft, but my wife almost threw a fit, saying it was too much like LARPing. :-P

  4. Squee says:

    Our characters actually own a tavern in our campaign, so we’ve created a fictional menu, and then had an in game event for the taverns opening where we did the RP over a meal deal. Monkey brain curry, fried goblin fingers, and baked giant spider legs (yellow curry with meatloaf, chicken fingers, and skewered shrip breaded in coconut.) It was really exciting, and definately helped build the atmosphere. We’re going to have another one, making different things from the menu, next weekend. I’m also about to start making mead for such events, and one of the other players wants to brew some of the beers we serve.

    If any of you play Eberron, and end up spending some time in Sharn, come on down to The Saucy Wench.


  5. Ghoul says:

    My campaign has a food spread every week. It usually consists of Grapes, Cheese, bread, crackers, dip, and some type of desert. I consistently make up fantasy name for the actual food. At the formation of the gaming party, the ‘leader’ character hoisted a drink in toast and that cued me to bring in 7 gobblets filled with sparkiling grape juice. The group loved it.


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  1. […] Likewise consider an in-depth roleplay over a meal.  Check out this recent DMing article, Gaming Goodies, for how to do that on a […]

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