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Fantasy Foodies (Part I): The Epicurean Adventurer

medieval cook transI have a guilty little secret – I am a total fan-boy of “reality” TV cooking shows.  Top Chef, Master Chef, Kitchen Nightmares: I love them all, and if it involves cooks sweating away to produce fantastic cuisine from strange and unexpected ingredients, then it’s even better!  Nothing like seeing that moment of panic on a contestant’s face when they realize that a) they have never cooked [rare food] before and b) have absolutely no idea how to prepare [rare food] without the likely risk of personal injury.

Schadenfreude?  Guilty as charged!  But on the other side, it’s awesome to watch a talented chef succeed at making a dish so tantalizing, that you wish you could jump through the TV screen and try a bite!  And honestly, I also love to cook, and have been inspired to try out new ingredients and techniques I’ve never considered just from watching these crazy cooking shows.

I’ve even tried my hand at medieval cookery.  I was once a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and there were a lot of local members that are VERY good cooks.  In fact, our local membership used to hold a Cook’s Night, where folks could bring a medieval dish or their home-brewed wine (or ale or mead), and everyone could try a taste and see who brought the best taste.  Sort of a Renaissance version of Top Chef, it was great fun, and you got to sample some pretty strange cuisine.

Most medieval cooking is an acquired taste to modern palates.  Medieval and Renaissance chefs used spices and herbs in amounts and combinations that most people would find downright shocking on the tongue.  Hot spices were not as common back then as they are to modern cooking, but aromatic herbs such as grains of paradise, galingale, and hyssop were common spices but hardly ever used these days.  And strange ingredients such as gold leaf (metal), lavender (flower), and sandalwood (wood) were included in fanciful medieval dishes.

Alchemists used to ingest gold frequently, as did nobles and royalty, believing it to have special powers.  Apparently, gold leaf is indigestible but can’t hurt you either, so it was really just a very expensive way to decorate a food.  By the way, you can still buy chocolates, wine, and other foods with gold in them, although it does nothing for the taste, but adds a bunch to the price.

pleyn delit coverAs an aside, if you’re curious about medieval cooking, there are a number of good websites on the subject.  And there is also an excellent medieval cookbook called Pleyn Delit (Plain Delite), which has modern interpretations of recipes from medieval texts and manuscripts.  There is one recipe that is really tasty called “Hennys in Bruet”, which the original medieval recipe went something like this:

Hennys in bruet schullyn be schaldyd & sodyn with porke & grynd pepyr & comyn, bred & ale, & temper it with the selve broth & boyle it, & colowre it with safroun & salt it, & mes it forthe. – from Pleyn Delit

It’s really just chicken in a cumin sauce, but you’d never know that looking at the original recipe!

But all this got me thinking – if medieval cooks in the real world were using strange herbs and materials in their foods, would it be so far-fetched for a cook in a D&D world to be using rare meats and spices, and possibly residuum in their food, to create magical effects?

High Fantasy Foods

Any cook in any D&D world setting can boil an egg, or roast a join of beef, or make mutton into shepherd’s pie, but I think it would take quite a different set of skills to cook up dragon steaks, hippogriff haunch, or basilisk tail.  Not to mention that adding a powerful magical ingredient like residuum would certainly take some training.

Becoming a Magical Cook is much like becoming a Ritual Caster or an Alchemist.  It takes a feat, and allows you to access special recipes much like rituals or alchemical formulae.  Magical Cooks keep a recipe book (ritual book) and can purchase new recipes or find them as treasure from ancient tomes and scrolls.

New Feat

Mystical Chef

Benefit: You can make magical food items of your level or lower. You must have the correct recipe and training in an appropriate skill.

Special: If you receive the Ritual Caster feat as a class feature, you can take the Mystical Chef feat instead.

Fantasy foods take time to prepare, much like rituals do, and produce a food which has magical properties to pass on the an adventurer who eats it.  Fantasy foods take a special rare ingredient, such as protein from a dragon, hydra, bullette, or other monster, or a produce or fungus from creatures like myconids, shambling mounds, or vine horrors.  These can be purchased for gold in major cities, or can be procured in combat during the course of an adventure.  The other main ingredient is a small amount of residuum, which is added to the food during the cooking process.

Magical cooking uses knowledge skills such as Arcana, Religion, Nature, and Dungeoneering to check for the level of success while preparing a recipe.  A Mystical Chef will need to be trained in one or more of these abilities in order to produce an edible magical food for his fellow adventurers.

To use a magical food, it is simply eaten, and the fantasy foodie gains certain benefits or abilities from the meal.  But there are limitations on how much or often a magical food can be used, as follows:

Rules for Fantasy Foods

  • Only one magical food can be “active” on your character at a time.  Eating more than one will result in the newly ingested food becoming active, and any powers from the previously ingested foods will cease.
  • Magical foods are a meal, not a snack, and can only be eaten during a short rest.  You cannot eat a magical food during combat, but many are designed to benefit characters after a combat.
  • Eating more than three magical foods a day (between extended rests) result in illness.

A character binge-eating magical food is afflicted with Residuum Dysenteria:

Residuum Dysenteria                                                     Level X Affliction

A terrible abdominal pain, cramping, and evacuation make activities a burden.

Stage 0: Target recovers but remains queasy for several hours.

Stage 1: Target takes -2 penalty to attack rolls

Stage 2:  Target take -2 penalty to attack rolls, and has weakness.

Stage 3: Tareget take -2 penalty to attack rolls, has weakness, and is slowed.

Check: At the end of each short or extended rest, the target must make an Endurance check (DC moderate for level of last food eaten) or the affliction worsens.

Check back in the next blog for Part II of the series, where I will have a selection of magical recipes for Mystical Chefs to try out!

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

About The Author

Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.


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