Monsters on the Menu

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on September 9, 2009

When was the last time you gave any thought to what your character eats? If your gaming group is anything like mine you don’t even track rations on your character sheet. A lot of players are content to let the little details remain little and not worrying about them. (It’s a good thing they have faithful servant to see to these things.) But in a fantasy RPGs like D&D, the world is full of strange and exotic creatures. So doesn’t it make sense that some of these beasts would eventually find there way into common cuisine?

As long as the PCs are on the road their diet will probably consist of dried goods and trail rations. Basically anything that’s easy to carry and packed full of nutrients. Good for the body, but bland and tasteless. Since exploration and travel is such a big part of D&D you know that when PCs finally get to a village or city they’re going to make the most of it. They’ll go to a nearest tavern, inn, fest hall or any other place where they can have a warm meal and a cold beverage. Most of the time PCs just say something like “I order food and drinks” and that’s all the DM requires. But why not be creative and add some flavour to the menu. “Today’s specials are deep fried displacer beast tentacle, boiled basilisk tail, gorgon steak and steamed sahuagin eggs.”

A clever DM can even bait an adventuring hook by placing a few interesting things on the menu. As the PCs hear the options they may start to wonder where this restaurant is getting its monster meat. More importantly how can this place possibly keep enough meat on hand to be featured on the menu with such frequency? After a few inquiries, the PCs may learn that the proprietor can’t keep up with demand for these new items on his menu and he is willing to pay adventurers a fair sum to keep his meat locker stocked.

Once the PCs realize that monster meat is valuable (and delicious) they may take steps to field dress the next really exotic monster they defeat in combat. Of course transporting the raw meat and then convincing anyone to purchase it may become a side-quest in and of itself, but it may be worth it. Assuming everything goes right and the PCs sell the meat, what happens when people realize it’s delicious and want more? “Those beholder eyestalks were the tastiest things I’ve ever eaten. Got any more?”

Perhaps a wealthy patron, possibly a retired adventurer himself, has developed a strange craving for some exotic food (dragon steak is a good example). Realizing that the city’s limited supply is running out he may hire the PCs to find more for him. But how do adventurers get their hands on more dragon steaks? Do they try to purchase meat from other towns or adventuring companies or do they decide to hunt down a dragon for themselves?

What if it’s a PC who’s developed this strange cravings and not some NPC? Maybe the PC was served dragon steak at a banquet, not knowing what it was, and now that’s all he wants. He orders it any time he sees it on a menu and will travel great distances to get a good cut of meat. If his cravings are strong enough he may even try to hunt down a dragon himself. How will his desire for this exotic food influence his decision making?

The next time the PCs pull up a chair and get ready to order a meal, give them more options than stew. You may find that giving the PCs a taste of something exotic on the menu leads to great role-playing and adventuring ideas.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Wyatt September 9, 2009 at 1:51 pm

That kind of stuff is typically sacrilegious in my campaign setting. Eating a spirit will cause you to puke your guts out for around a week and probably die after. Dragons in my setting are Spirits, and practically any majestic creature you would find edible (barring owlbears or something funky like that) are Spirits and commanding some respect. Animals are fair game though.

What I try to emphasize, culturally at least, in my games is the preparation of food. How certain pairings are believed to be the cause of odd moods, like searing seafood in a fire instead of boiling it (water on water = culturally okay) and how certain foods are aligned. Anything made by magic or a ritual, for example, while very convenient, is considered sludge as far as the alignments go.
.-= Wyatt´s last blog ..Happy Cirno Day! =-.

2 Alex Hoffman September 10, 2009 at 12:14 am

A very interesting thought – my players don’t tend to think about eating that much, but I’m intending to give my latest campaign a much more realistic flair.

To twist the idea though – what if exotic meat was poisoning or harming the local populace? Perhaps they had to switch to exotic stuff because their herd animals were killed by marauding bandits, and now most of the children in the town have a strange illness. You could use your regular bar scene to develop a healing mission or a mission to find medicinal herbs.

Love the blog, keep it up!
.-= Alex Hoffman´s last blog ..Stupid Web Games – Rise & Ruin Open Beta =-.

3 Ameron September 10, 2009 at 10:48 am

@Wyatt
Thanks for the insight, Wyatt. It sounds like you’ve given this a lot of thought already (much more than my group). If the DM wants follow the example you’ve used, I’m all for that. But if eating “monsters” isn’t culturally taboo in your campaign then why not throw something exotic on the menu and see how your PCs react. I’ll bet many won’t care or do anything differently.

@Alex Hoffman
Switching to the exotic because the normal isn’t safe to eat is a great idea. I’m going to use this in a future adventure for sure.

Back in 1987 TSR put out a 96-page accessory called I13 – Adventure Pack I. It has a bunch of independent, mini-adventures that the DM can drop into his campaign. One of them was called “Steaks” and it had a restaurant owner who’s been loosing business hire the PCs to investigate the source of his competition steaks. In the end the PCs learn that the steaks are from a purple worm and have to decide if they want to reveal this to the hungry patrons.

Although this book is out or print and hard to find, it’s well worth it if you can get a used copy.

4 Rook September 10, 2009 at 10:40 pm

I like this new twist on the more mundane aspects of adventuring. And how timely, since my low-level group just acquired the local tavern as just payment for services rendered. However, the only monsters they have killed of late have been goblins and I don’t think “goblin cutlets” would be a great seller, so I guess it’s time to go a hunt’n.
(whoot, whoot. Heeerre owlbear, owlbear owlbear)

In a related question, I wonder if Dire animal meat is tougher and less tasty than normal animal meat? Guess I’ll ask our local ranger.

Keep up the great posts.
.-= Rook´s last blog ..NPCs with Names: the Player’s Obsession =-.

5 Ameron September 11, 2009 at 9:56 pm

@Rook
Thanks for the positive feedback. I know that some of our readers aren’t interesting in the mundane aspects of D&D so I’m always hesitant to run this kind of article. I know this really appeals to me so in the end I’ve got to assume that the readers that keep coming back share a lot of the same sensibilities and enthusiasm for D&D that I do. I’ll keep doing these kinds of articles as long as I think they’d appeal to me if I was just a reader.

I had a campaign that took place in a tavern/inn years ago. It was a lot of fun. I think incorporating this kind of exotic flare to the menu is just one more way to make the locale interesting. As for what to serve… I leave that up to the DM and the Ranger. But for the record I think meat from dire animals would be even more flavourful, but that’s just my take.

6 Jonathan Drain | D20 Source September 28, 2009 at 1:07 pm

See the convenient link below for my take on the magical side-effects of eating monsters.
.-= Jonathan Drain | D20 Source´s last blog ..Wizard Needs Food Badly: Eating Monsters =-.

7 Tyson J. Hayes September 28, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Wonderful thoughts, and something I shall be throwing into my campaign. I’m using the Iron Kingdoms setting and they build into the Monsternomicon campaign hooks similar to this. One specifically has to do with a gland that garners the person eating it +2 to their Str and Con for 24 hours.

Personally though I like my hooks a bit more nefarious (I think I spent to much time in Ravenloft as a player) so the glands would likely be addicting. Or the new very quite menu item at the local bar is real “meat” in the meat pies (ala Sweeny Todd).

But then again I keep trying to move my alignment away from evil. :D
.-= Tyson J. Hayes´s last blog ..Character Considerations: Naming Your Character =-.

8 Ameron September 29, 2009 at 2:50 pm

@Jonathan Drain | D20 Source
Thanks for the link.

@Tyson J. Hayes
I like the idea of these exotic foods being addicting. If nothing else it makes for an interesting character quark.

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