Eating food seems to be an oft-overlooked activity in Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy RPGs, and not without good reason; narratively, having to stop every day and roleplay a meal (or three) would quickly become tedious. Time is precious and there are already no shortage of reasons groups fail to get a game together so, when they do, most folk will just want to crack into the meat of an adventure rather than fiddling with the potatoes surrounding it.
Fantasy novels sometimes go to great lengths to describe incredible banquet feasts. It’s almost always dull, with endless lists of opulent settings and the inevitable mention of lamprey pie.
Other stories use a dearth of supplies to help build tension and heighten the stakes (steaks?), although I’m yet to hear of a fantasy author brave enough to set up an epic tale of bravery only for the main protagonist to die of hunger. How bleak would Tolkien’s epic seem if, after succumbing to the Ring, Frodo started seeing Sam as a cartoonish roast chicken in a cloak?
Of course, with a bit of imagination, there’s some fun to be had with the eating mechanism in D&D. Perhaps you’re a little tired of your group marauding the land and casually murdering their way through your carefully-crafted storylines?
I suggest a simple campfire scene as a perfect way for characters to interact in a more intimate way. To explore their backstories, repair equipment and help them bond. Have them cook food from their character’s childhoods or tribes. Maybe your bard can be a bard for once and entertain people rather than trying to seduce literally everything.
Really impress upon your players that this session is special. Insist it upon them, let the wine flow, encourage their imaginations and play relaxing music. They’ll never see the ambush coming.
The Dungeons & Dragons 5E ruling on food consumption seems to have been written by someone who either never cooks or has no concept of how much they eat per day.
“Each character needs to consume one lb of food per day.” That’s 443 grams - less than half a kilo.
The average (AVERAGE) male human needs (NEEDS) to consume 3,000 calories per day (PER DA- I’ll stop doing this but you get the idea). For women it’s 2,500 calories. Orcish figures are much higher.
To give you an idea of portion size for a main meal, each component - typically meat, protein, veg - is usually around 100 to 150 grams. An average chicken dinner could therefore be 450 grams but nowhere near the required calorie intake. Meanwhile, a Mars bar is 228 calories and roughly 50g, so even five Mars bars (450g) only gives you 1,140 calories.
So how do we go about making food for our RPG adventurers? This is going to require some deep diving, predominantly into animal fats!
The foods with the highest calorie counts per 100g are mostly rendered animal fats, yum! Tallow - rendered beef fat - has a whopping 902 calories per 100g.
Next up are dried foods, which I feel are cheating somewhat given that they are only more calorific by virtue of their lack of water and reduced mass from their fresh counterparts. 100g of goji berries contains 349 calories, while the same amount of pasilla peppers contains 345 calories.
Then we get into the nuts - macadamia and pili nuts (yep, me neither) - before finally we get to things that are recognisable and likely to be consumed quite often.
Bacon is ranked quite highly, no surprises there. French fries, of course. Garlic took me by surprise: 149 calories per 100g. That said, even the most ardent member of the Garlicarati would struggle to get up to that amount in one portion.
Pepperoni, peanut butter, puff pastry, the aforementioned pili nuts, pasilla peppers, palm oil, pecans, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, pistachios, poppy seeds, praline and parmesan all score highly with no discernible connection between them.
Onion rings are bad. Wow, SO bad. I need to cut down on my onion rings. 276 calories per 100g - a portion usually being about 200g.
So, here goes, two recipes fit for a dungeon-crawling D&D adventurer - one based on efficiency, the other designed to actually be a nice meal.
Gygax’s Food Stick (the efficient option)
- 1x (200g) Kielbasa cured sausage (1,232 kcal)
- 50g beef tallow (451 kcal)
- 100g crushed macadamia nuts (718 kcal)
- 100g chopped goji berries (349 kcal)
- Mix the crushed macadamias and finely-chopped goji berries and flatten out on a plate.
- Skewer the kielbasa lengthways, leaving enough stick to use as a handle.
- Dip into the melted tallow to coat, then into the crushed nut and berry mix until completely covered.
- (Optional) Drizzle with clarified butter sauce.
Okay, I have an idea.
- Serve with 100g of onion rings (276 kcal).
New calorie total: 3,026
Beef Short Rib Confit Pie (the tasty option)
For this we’ll be making confit, which is to say we’ll be slowly poaching the ribs in beef fat. Once done, the fat is discarded along with the bones - saving you valuable weight in your adventurer’s pack.
- 1kg (approx. 4) beef short ribs (1,000 kcal)
- 1ltr tallow (9,000 kcal)
- 100g garlic, one large head (148 kcal)
- 200g (approx. 2) onions (64 kcal)
- 100g puff pastry (551 kcal)
- Sprigs of fresh rosemary
- A few chopped chives for garnish
- 1 egg (143 kcal)
- 250g potatoes (217 kcal)
- 200g butter (1,420 kcal)
- Sprinkle the ribs in salt and pepper and refrigerate overnight. Rinse, pat dry, re-season and submerge the beef ribs in melted tallow along with half the garlic, a halved onion and the rosemary. Cover tightly with parchment then foil and place into a preheated oven at 150°C/300F for 8 to 10 hours. Open some wine.
- Chop the remaining garlic and onion and sweat down for 8 mins - slowly, don’t let them brown, just have them melt. At the last second, crank the heat and add a glass of red wine, reduce until sticky.
- Peel and chop the potatoes, then place in cold, salted water. Bring up to the boil for 8 to 10 minutes or until soft. Strain. Begin mashing them whilst adding the butter. Once you have the consistency of a smooth hummus, stop and season.
- Once your ribs are done, very carefully remove from the oven, open the foil and let it cool down.
- Crank your oven to 220°C/430F.
- Beat the egg into a cup and brush liberally over the puff pastry sheet (cut to your desired shape). Place this on a parchment-lined tray and cook for 15 mins until golden.
- Gently remove the ribs from the fat. Perhaps spoon the meat into a sieve and press to remove excess fat. (You want to keep some in there, we’re not monsters.) Discard all but the meat. (Okay, we are monsters.)
- Mix in the onion/garlic into the meat and season to taste.
- Plate up in a fancy way, look up what a quenelle is and, if you are a monster, serve with onion rings.
Calories: ??? (LOTS)