Saturday, January 13, 2018

What Do Your Characters Eat?

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Anyhoo, on to this week's update!

What Do Your Characters Eat?


There are certain parts of a game we sort of take for granted. We assume our PCs go to the bathroom when they need to, that they wash their clothes, shave, and upkeep their gear during downtime. While we might occasionally talk about how the fighter takes a whetstone to his sword, or how the wizard prestidigitates the cook pot clean, we just let a lot of this stuff happen off-screen. One of the things that falls into this category is food. We know our PCs are eating, and that they need to do it fairly regularly unless they're using magic, but we just sort of hand wave it away. If you bought rations, or make Survival checks, then you've ticked another box, well and good, on with the show!

However, what your character eats, and what they prefer to eat, can say a lot about them.

And about your world, too.

Preferences and Palate


It's pretty rare for the DM to actually tell you what's on the menu at the inn, or to get specific about what kind of forage you find on the trail. However, this is a detail that can add flavor to both your character, and they world they inhabit (pun very much intended).

As a for instance, if your character was a campaigner with the army, was he a grunt or an officer? If he was a foot soldier, did he get used to eating salt pork and beans? Or, if he was an officer, was he used to the fresh meat, vegetables, and other viands afforded to those in command? If your character grew up on a farm, are they used to things like fresh milk, eggs, and apples that can cost you a dozen silver pieces to get in the city? Or if you grew up in a monastery eating plain food, then is your palate just not refined enough to enjoy rich foods (to the point that it might make you sick if you indulge too copiously)?

One cup for breakfast, and for dinner a bed of it with some fish. Sometimes we'd even have salt!
Food plays a bigger part in our lives than we often think. For example, did coffee (or its fantasy equivalent) exist where your character is from? Is it harder to get where they are now? Is your character a vegetarian? Are they a picky eater? Do they like fruits, or vegetables? Do they prefer savory, sweet, or spicy foods? Is there cuisine of a particular type associated with where they're from that will always make their night better? Or do they eat things other people would never consider eating, like large insects, or spitting lizards? Also, can this character cook? Anyone can just brown a haunch of meat, but does your PC know which herbs to add, which spices to use, and how to make even the gamiest meat tender? If so, their companions are probably more than pleased to have them along on the trail.

Another thing to consider, since we have access to fantasy races and unusual class abilities, is whether some of your PCs eat things that would be dangerous for normal humans to consume. For instance, does your tiefling like to drink tea that's still boiling, since their fire resistance means it won't hurt them? Does your alchemist like to put deadly poisons on his food as spices, since they can't harm him due to his altered anatomy? Or does your character have an alternative method of gaining sustenance? Do they only eat food conjured magically, using spells like hero's feast? Do they have the ability to snack on sunlight, like a verdant-blooded sorcerer?

There's also the question of how much your character needs to eat. Because while your wizard might be an ascetic who only needs the bare necessities to survive, if you have a knight who's six and a half feet tall, weighing in at more than 300 pounds, it takes fuel to keep that machine going without losing bulk. Even if there is no game mechanic for such.

It's also important to remember the material plane is not the only plane in existence. What would fruit from the celestial realms taste like? Or a stew made from shadowlands serpents? What kind of liquor do they brew in the nine hells? There are all kinds of possibilities out there if you want to explore what fantasy foodies might consider "exotic" enough to send adventurers to retrieve.

It's Just One More Aspect of Who Your Character Is


You can include, or not include, as much detail as you want when it comes to your PC. Everything from how they look, to who they're friends with, to where they've trained is often on the list, but you can go deeper if you want to. Often it's the little things, those insignificant details we don't always think about, that makes characters feel truly unique, though.

That's all for this week's Fluff piece. If you'd like more content from me, check out my Vocal archive, or head over to the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I work with other gamers to make skits, advice videos, and lore for the world of Evora. To keep up on my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to become a monthly supporter for Improved Initiative, check out The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. All it takes is $1 a month to earn yourself some sweet swag, and to help me keep the blog going.

3 comments:

  1. This was one of the few things that one of my former rp friends did right with his character, a half-orc gladiator. He wasn't a dumb barbarian: being a sort of entertainer of the upper classes, he knew his way around a banquet, while my slum-dwelling locksmith/thief knew nothing of fine foods and such. So while we were at a soiree at one point in the campaign, my gladiator friend was guiding me down the banquet table, explaining what all the exotic food items were and giving me recommendations while I just sorta stared bug-eyed and nodded periodically.

    Then the hooker that took me to bed turned out to be my crazy ex and tried to kill me. A pleasant evening all-around.

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  2. One of my favorite things to do for my games is to make a list of the most popular foods in a city according to price

    For example, in my game, in the colonial city of Lanacost, which is surrounded on one side by dinosaur-infested jungle and sea monster-infested ocean on the other, there is a LOT of interesting cuisine. In the lower class areas, workers will often pool their money to buy and grill a longneck log, a huge cut of rib or flank from a sauropod. The middle class areas enjoy things such as saurus steak, or shark stew. But the upper class areas indulge in foods such as sea serpent caviar, kraken calamari, Tyrannosaur mignon, and other sorts of food.

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  3. I like to consider that gnomes and fetchlings may have special palates.

    In the first world all sensations are stronger, which includes taste so I like to imagine as gnomes always pouring hot sauce, salt, or some other added flavor.

    On the other hand, fetchlings are from the plane of shadow where everything is muted. Regular food might just be to strong.

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