Monday, December 16, 2013

Favorite Food

Hearkening back to this post, and this post as well, my equipment list has a great many things on it that are not, shall we say, 'useful' - like roast rabbit, brandy wine, shark fin soup, dried prunes, licorice root, dried coconut, etc.  The sort of thing one might like to find by the ton for treasure, but not really something the players are motivated to buy.  Although, for those heavy into the role-play thing, they will order a turtle soup or buy melons instead of oranges at the town market (not shown in links).

But I had a little idea tonight that I thought I'd bounce around ... if only so I don't talk about my book again.

The character background generator could be put to good use here.

Suppose we had it generate some 'favorite foods' for new characters, in addition to 'hated foods' ... the sort of things the characters would really hate to eat.  Is this the sort of thing that one is allowed to pregenerate?  Is it not, after all, sort of beyond our control why we like or dislike a particular thing?  Isn't that physical ... and on the level of no one really knows why?  I think it very well could be.

There could be three levels of food generation - rare things really liked, common things really liked, general things really hated.  Then, if the player eats that rare thing (and the key is, in my world, can the character FIND it?) the character gains, say, a hit point for that day.  If the character eats common, liked food, the character gets a +1 constitution check.  If the character eats really hated food (presumably because they have to, there's no other food or they do not wish to be rude), the character is potentially unwell (-1 strength, -2 constitution) for 8 to 16 hours?

Well, some combination of minor benefits and penalties.  There's room to play around with it, try different things, see if it motivates people to get interested if there's almonds or pistachios or opium for sale in this particular town.  Causing them to grumble if its been a long, long time since they could find that one thing they really, really like.

I think it could produce some interesting emotional game play.  Ideas?


Anonymous said...

I love this idea. It's a great way to encourage players to flesh out their characters and dig a little deeper into the setting.

You could also use something similar for other small pleasures, yielding some kind of modest karma bonus for enjoying a nice set by a talented harpist, or catching an engaging impromptu production from some itinerant thespians.

Butch said...

It's a neat idea, and I'm a proponent of the theory that hit points don't just reflect your ability to absorb physical damage, but also skill, experience, and luck. To that end, it makes sense that eating your "lucky dish" would give you an extra hit point.

On the other hand, I love it when players come up with stuff like this on their own -- Ahmet's aversion to pork, for example -- but once you get into bonuses and penalties, it takes the fun out of it and becomes just another game mechanic.

Having a character scour the market for boiled eel because he wants to is fun; having him buy boiled eel by the ton because it gives him an extra hit point isn't.

Alexis Smolensk said...

That's perfectly true, Butch ... but the fact is that most players DON'T scour the market for the privilege of being able to write a word, and the number next to it, on their character sheet. If the buying of food at the game table actually resulted in a waiter appearing at your elbow and placing a steaming bowl of it next to you, that might be "fun," but it also might be a solution to the dull mechanic of your needing food to live.

Part of the search in the game is to produce a solid, visceral reaction to the various elements of the game - so that, yes, a hit point may not feel like the satisfaction from food, but there's the "fun" of having that 1 extra hit point on the game day it keeps you from being killed.

Lukas said...

Well, here's a question...

What about getting tired of the food? I mean, you find it, buy enough of it to last 3 months and eat it every day.

This has ruined foods for me when I was in college. I would think it would just start making the food step down the scale bit by bit...

Alexis Smolensk said...


My system might make it impossible to find enough to eat every day; often, only 1 item is available per week ... but there's the chance of you're being in that actual place where that rare item is made, pates de foie gras, qat or caviar, what have you.

A couple of points

1) No player gets tired of their food now, though they eat potatoes and beets for weeks, or "rations" in most people's games, whatever is cheapest and most easily carried. So, if you're eating truffles every day, the game has lost nothing from the previous incarnation, except that truffles are a drain on your wallet, and you'll be that much more miffed if they burn up in the black dragon's acid breath.

2) The point you make is exactly the one I made with Ennui months ago ... and I'll quote Maximillian here:

"... the grasping urge to encode a statistical model for the relief of existential need strikes me as the textbook symptom of the disease. I hope you will laugh along with me tonight. Tomorrow I will ask after your health."

So let's leave 'boredom' of food on the table, shall we?

Maximillian Boii said...

Heh, now I don't need to comment here ;)

Not that I did; I'm with Butch.

Rachel Ghoul said...

I know for a fact OSRIC has a table of random food items in it, and I suspect that like most of OSRIC it's cribbed from the 1e Dungeon Master's Guide. Such a thing might be useful for this.

Lukas said...

Don't worry.... Alexis has probably over 100 food items with updating availability and price based on location and time of year.

I bet that would be a great way to adapt what he comes up with to other tables though.

Charles Taylor (Charles Angus) said...

I cannot recall at the moment, but do you generate food or other allergies? That would be one step beyond hated, even if it was only mild (itchy mouth type thing, I know people that get that from eating raw fruit).

Alexis Smolensk said...

There is a low chance on the character generator I use that produces chronic maladies the character is expected to live with. I can't remember if an allergy is one of them; but it may be that allergic reactions are the result of the industrial age, and were in fact non-existent at the time of my world.