Dungeons & Dragons' best worst spell: Cooking up chaos and comedy with Conjure Food and Water
'45 pounds of bland but nourishing food'
Behind an aggressively mundane name is a Dungeons & Dragons 5E spell with the power to save lives, thwart assassins, escape from angry shopkeepers and even make a healthy snack. Yet despite this spell being both useful and funny, it is criminally overlooked by the community of creative D&D spellcasters simply because it seems unimpressive at first glance.
While rules aren’t necessarily made to be broken in tabletop roleplaying games, there is a certain flexibility that allows players to devise often hilarious and sometimes practical alternate uses for their heroes’ mighty abilities. Create Food and Water might just be the best the best of them, deserving of its own banquet for the helpful and ridiculous situations it can produce.
Create Food and Water is a third-level conjuration spell that costs only one action to cast and creates 45 pounds (about 20kg) of food and 30 gallons (136 litres) of water. Its description in the Dungeons & Dragons 5E Player’s Handbook is barely a paragraph and focuses mainly on how many characters could be fed with the spell. It was probably intended for keeping the party alive if they wander into the wilds without buying any provisions, but it has so many uses. If you’re desperate, you might use it to activate a floor panel with a monstrously looming wedding cake, or maybe try and extend your 50ft of rope with some plaited lengths of spaghetti. But the possibilities for Create Food and Water are as boundless, and dangerous, as a suspiciously-priced all-you-can-eat buffet.
The advantage of the spell’s brief description is that it leaves a lot to the imagination. The only thing Create Food and Water really specifies is the weight of the food, and that it has to be “bland but nourishing”. What the description doesn’t mention is the quantity of food or the space it can take up - something a player can absolutely exploit.
Take my mischievous luck-worshipping cleric, for example, who once attempted to steal a rare item. He could have tried any number of things to escape when he was immediately spotted by the annoyingly diligent shopkeeper. Instead, he cast Create Food and Water. In the space between the cleric and the rapidly-approaching shopkeeper my character called upon a throng of (bland) meringues to appear. Precisely 45 pounds worth of meringues, in fact. The intention here wasn’t to distract the owner with French candies, but to bury him in them. After a bit of creative googling, mathematics and a discussion with the DM, we came to the conclusion that 45 pounds of meringue would be a conservative 12,000 of the stiff-peaked desserts. The resulting explosion of food (and a little bit of water) practically filled the entire shop, forcing the shopkeeper to wade and swim through a ball pool of sticky, crunchy dessert as my cleric made his escape.
That’s far from the end of Create Food and Water’s utility. After discovering the multiple ways this spell could save a life, my cleric and I went on a mission to seek out all of its possible uses. Some of the results weren’t nearly as mischievous as the meringues. Once, a band of deadly assassins was tracking the party through the wilds. Our many attempts to outrun and outmanoeuvre them had failed, and we came to the realisation that our best chance to escape was to ambush them. The plan was as old as it was brilliant: to stuff our bedrolls with pillows to make it appear we were all sleeping. The problem was, we didn’t have any extra pillows, and the rolling fields we were travelling through didn’t have much we could use as a substitute. Luckily, I had Create Food and Water ready, and one spell later we had enough baguettes to make a veritable Terracotta Army - but with bread. A Ciabatta Army, if you will.
In this case, the exact number of pointy bread rolls didn’t matter, and we went to work placing, snapping, squishing and eating our stocks until they were the rough semblance of sleeping heroes tucked under heavy covers. Perhaps the assassins thought they would get an easy quarry when they spied our camp; instead, their blades wedged between countless columns of soft bland bread, and we attacked them from the shadows. I had suggested we also sharpen some of the extra baguettes to create a spike pit, but apparently that idea was “unreasonably ridiculous”.
Create Food and Water is so powerful that it can even be used in combat, even if wheat-based spears aren’t an option in Dungeons & Dragons - yet. While the party was heroically battling a pack of ravenous owlbears, some unlucky rolls had our knightly paladin quickly knocked unconscious. We were told in no uncertain terms that the owlbears were hungry, and I was more than a little worried that the paladin would be dinner before we could dispatch the beasts. Obviously, I could have tried to heal the fallen hero, but I was concerned that he would be too weak to continue the fight. My first backup option was to possibly create a pile of food for the owlbears to eat, but the blandness of the food might have angered them further. So instead I buried the paladin in an enormous pile of dry crackers.
His body was completely submerged in whatever crackers are made of, hiding his tasty flesh from giant starving bird eyes. Without the body to feast on, the owlbears would have to focus on the rest of the party trying to kill them. If they did decide to gorge on the banquet before them, the owlbears wouldn’t be able to eat many at once anyway, given the natural dryness of crackers.
There are a lot of spells in Dungeons & Dragons 5E that have alternate uses. Some of them are even beneficial. But none can match the awesome power of Create Food and Water. Whether you’re using it to distract opponents, create a tsunami of bland food to wash away villains or something new, this is a spell that cannot be beat, and that no cleric, druid or paladin should go without. And there’s so much more to do; I’ve barely begun experimenting with the water it creates, or all the deliciously bland combinations of spells that could be used with Create Food and Water for all new effects.
After all, no-one will know the benefits of creating 45 pounds worth of bland soup until someone takes that bold first step and tries it.