Every few seasons, the OSR discord engages in a sort of content-creator’s Secret Santa – this Spring, we’ve got the Secret Jackalope event.
The gift I asked for was:
D&D monsters redesigned as phase bosses – hit them enough, they go Phase 1 to 2 to … to whatever, w/ new abilities. Like JRPG/MMO bosses, but I don’t literally want JRPG/MMO design, I want OSR design.
And I got a lovely entry from Rosie of the blog-podcast hybrid, The Gelatinous Cube. I highly recommend checking out the podcast she and her brother run on encounter design – it’s a monthly listen with a ton of delightful tidbits to offer – their latest episode (as of this writing) is about a princess being captured by a fire-breathing dragon – ye olde fairy tale classic – with a stress response generator for the princess in question, giving the typically passive princess in the story some interesting agency that she does not typically have. Fascinating stuff. Listen HERE.
In turn, the gift I was tasked with giving was:
Some fantastical spices that can be added to meals to create interesting flavours and effects. bonus points if the effects are both a blessing and a curse!
This prompt came from James of Ten-Foot Polemic, a wide-ranging OSR writer and one of the first team of administrators of the OSR discord.
I confess, I went a bit off-topic. I find fantastical spices to be…sort of hard to use, personally, in the same way that I find real-life spices hard to use in a vacuum. When I’m whipping up new dishes, I tend to think in terms of sauces, you see. And I apply various spices in combination because I’ve either read of the combination in a cookbook, or because I’ve heard about the combination from one of the talented cooks in my life. And so, without further ado…sauces, fantastical ingredients, and their varied effects!
D12 Fantastical Sauces & How to Make Them
|1||Bomb Citrus & Ginger Sauce||Bomb Citrus, ginger, oil, soy sauce, meat stock, white pepper, shallot paste|
|2||Chateau Chuckola Sauce||Chuckola cola, roasted oranges, honey, orange zest, water, cayenne pepper|
|3||Compound Basilisk Butter||Petrified thyme, basilisk fat|
|4||Fire Clove & Citrus Pepper Sauce||Fire clove, citrus pepper, oil, sherry vinegar, meat stock, garlic paste, tomato paste|
|5||Joynut Cream Sauce||Joynut cream, turmeric, oil, sugar syrup, meat syrup, garlic paste, shallot paste|
|6||Kraken’s Ink Sauce||Distillate of ash amaryllis,, white wine, oil, sugar syrup, kraken ink, kraken stock, tomato paste|
|7||Lemon & Treant Beurre Blanc||Ground treant bark, lemon juice, butter, lemon zest, white wine, white pepper, shallot paste|
|8||Nethergranate Nut Sauce||Nethergranate juice, nethergranate molasses, butter, ground walnuts, meat stock, onion paste|
|9||Pinpricka White Sauce||Pinpricka, eggs, oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic paste, brown sugar|
|10||Salt Apple Wine Sauce||Salt apple preserves, salt apple juice, oil, white wine, meat stock, white pepper, shallow paste|
|11||Softly Screaming Sauce||Shrieker mushrooms, white wine, oil, beholder eye fluid, meat stock, white pepper, thyme|
|12||Tea & Phoenix Pear Sauce||“Dragon” tea, phoenix pear preserves, honey, phoenix pear juice, meat stock, carrot paste, rice vinegar|
d12 Applications of Fantastical Sauces
|d12||Applications of the Sauce|
|1||With chicken or duck (your choice)|
|2||With beef or lamb (your choice)|
|3||With pork or veal (your choice)|
|5||Generously, with vegetables|
|6||Light drizzle, over vegetables|
|7||With noodles or pasta|
|8||With local wild game|
|9||With locally caught fish|
|10||As a dip for fried skewers of street food|
|11||Baked into a meat pie|
|12||In a seafood gumbo (a thickened stew with celery, bell pepper, and onions)|
How to use the above tables
In order to properly create regional cuisines, you need to have identifiable dishes in that cuisine that make some sort of sense – the ingredients need to be local, or they need to be heavily imported into that region.
So, unless you are literally improvising a dish in one of the most connected metropolises of your fantasy setting, I don’t recommend using this table “live” during play, nor do I recommend using the full 1d12 table. Instead, look at the ingredients list and the various applications, and trim your table down to 1d8 or even 1d6 for each locale, before rolling to generate cuisines.
And take care to have “reactionary” regional cuisines appear as well, independent of the table. For instance, if the Barony of the Azure-Maned Lion specializes in Veal in Lemon & Treant Beurre Blanc, you could imagine that a province to the south, the Barony of the Shrouded Wood, has better relations with the forest, though fewer grazing lands…so they pointedly have their regional cuisine be Chicken in Lemon-Infused Beurre Blanc, a more Treant-friendly reactionary cuisine.
By trimming your tables before use and by creating reactionary cuisines, you can seed your world with meaningful and unique food cultures. Feel free, in addition to trimming, to fill up the tables with other options. And yes, if you were formally running a fantasy restaurant, you would rapidly hit a bit of creative frustration with purely sauce-based dishes generated from random tables – there are deeper ways to approach the fantasy culinary world. But considering that players rarely interact with fantasy food in D&D-like games, this amount of depth should suffice for 99% of tables. If you have a culinary student or a straight-up professional chef playing at your tables, don’t bother with this.
Ask them to help you create something instead. It’ll be a learning experience for both of you.
The Flavor Matrix
Once you’ve created your regional cuisines, you are basically done for most games. Occasionally however, a cheeky player may attempt to have a conversation with you about food. They may ask things in-character about the seasonality of the food, what else can be made with the sauce, or the taste of the food…or they will ask you, out-of-character (especially if they are your child and you regularly cook for them) if you can make the fantasy regional cuisine into like, a real dish.
This flavor matrix is to help with all of these awkward situations.
|“Dragon” Tea||Pu’er tea||Spring||tea + barbecue flavors|
|Basilisk Fat||Duck fat||Autumn||basilisk fat + parsley + potato fries|
|Beholder Eye Fluid||Korean “tuna tears”||Autumn||beholder eye + lemongrass + pandan|
|Bomb Citrus||Dry curacao||Year-Round||bomb citrus + almonds + figs|
|Brown Sugar||Sugar||N/A||brown sugar + blueberries + lemon|
|Carrot||Squash||Autumn-Spring||carrot + garlic + potatoes + petrified thyme|
|Cayenne Pepper||Hot paprika||Year-Round||cayenne + butter + giant crayfish|
|Chuckola Cola||Lambrusco (or other sparkling red wine)||Autumn||chuckola cola + duck or fatty fish|
|Citrus Pepper||Scotch bonnet pepper||Year-Round||citrus pepper + onions + ginger + chicken|
|Distillate of Ash Amaryllis||Islay scotch||N/A||amaryllis distillate + honey + ginger + lemon|
|Eggs||Aquafaba||Spring||too many to name|
|Fire Clove||Blend of scorpion peppers, green szechuan peppercorns, chipotle, paprika, & cloves||Year-Round||fire clove + tomatoes + soups & stews|
|Garlic||Chives/shallots||Year-Round||garlic + olive oil + tomatoes|
|Ginger||Galangal/allspice||Year-Round||ginger + soy sauce + fish|
|Ground Treant Bark||Blend of tarragon & parsley||Spring-Summer||treant bark + chicken + lemon|
|Ground Walnuts||Almonds||Autumn||walnuts + caramel + prunes|
|Honey||Maple syrup||Summer||honey + almonds + nethergranates|
|Joynut Cream||Coconut cream||Year-Round||joynut cream + beef or lamb + curries|
|Kraken Ink||Squid/cuttlefish ink||Not Winter||kraken ink pasta recipes|
|Kraken||Octopus or prawns||Not Winter||kraken + chorizo + lemon|
|Lemon||Lime||Winter||lemon + berries + cream|
|Meat Stock||Shellfish/vegetable stock||N/A||too many to name|
|Mustard||Light use of wasabi||Year-Round||mustard + garlic + oil + shallots + vinegar|
|Nethergranate||1 dash of hot sauce per 100 ml pomegranate juice||Autumn-Winter||nethergranate + basilisk + olive oil|
|Onion||Shallot||Summer-Autumn||too many to name|
|Orange||Tangerine/clementine||Year-Round||orange + chocolate|
|Petrified Thyme||1/2 teaspoon of thyme per 100 g dukkah||Not Winter||petrified thyme + fish + couscous|
|Phoenix Pear||Pineapple||Spring-Summer||phoenix pear + almond flour + egg yolk + vanilla|
|Pinpricka||3 parts paprika, 1 part pop rocks||Autumn||pinpricka + bacon|
|Rice Vinegar||Apple cider vinegar||N/A||rice vinegar + sesame oil + fish + rice|
|Salt Apple||1/2 tsp salt per apple or per 75 ml apple juice||Autumn-Winter||salt apple + caramel + toffee|
|Shallot||Yellow onion||Summer||too many to name|
|Sherry Vinegar||Rice vinegar||N/A||sherry vinegar + walnut oil + pork or veal|
|Shrieker Mushrooms||Any mushrooms, make shrieking noises yourself||Spring||shrieker mushrooms + garlic + parsley|
|Soy Sauce||Coconut aminos||N/A||to many to name|
|Thyme||Oregano||Summer||thyme + rosemary + shrieker mushrooms|
|Tomato||Grilled red bell peppers||Summer||too many to name|
|Turmeric||Ginger||Spring-Summer||turmeric + cilantro + chile pepper + stewed catoblepas|
|White Pepper||Black pepper||N/A||too many to name|
|White Wine||Vermouth or wine-based vinegar||N/A||white wine + garlic + cream + otyugh|
Ingredients & What They ARE
“Dragon” Tea – tea that is consumed and excreted by dragons. The idea is that dragons are highly selective about the tea bushes they consume, and that their digestive tract uniquely processes the tea in a fashion difficult to reproduce elsewhere. While this creates a great story for a luxury product, in actual practice many farms capture dragon wyrmlings, cut our their breath weapon generating glands, and force-feed them tea. A potential quest hook for animal-rights-type players.
Basilisk Fat – consumption makes you immune to petrification for life. Many mid-level adventurers will splurge on this ingredient for this exact purpose. Tastes very mild, so a scam market has sprung into existence.
Beholder Eye Fluid – used for dares among the ultra-rich. Bestows random minor effects (use the random eyebeam tables and riff on those effects, keeping them relatively cosmetic and short in duration).
Bomb Citrus – imagine an orange, but instead of a normal orange rind, it has armadillo skin plates. Then imagine that the orange has some sort of weird symbiosis with magical yeast that goes on, causing the juices within the orange to ferment while it sits on the tree. Like, magical fermentation, so it produces ridiculously high-proof spirits with no distillation whatsoever. Then imagine that it can blow itself up due to Fire Element shenanigans. Yeah. That’s a bomb citrus. Give it the same mechanical impact as a molotov cocktail would have, and make it native to whatever equivalent to the Plane of Fire you have. Delicious and dangerous.
Chuckola Cola – name is borrowed from the Mario & Luigi franchise – highly fizzy wine that doesn’t lose its fizz even when cooked into a sauce. Tastes kind of like a thin and uninteresting red wine without much acid or tannin otherwise, so wine snobs don’t go for it, but its novelty factor insures it has a market.
Distillate of Ash Amaryllis – just a smoky spirit, akin to the halfway point between a peated scotch and a smoky mezcal in our world. The Ash Amaryllis is another exploding plant from the Plane of Fire, this time in flower form. Whether it’s sapient and aggressive or just highly volatile is anyone’s guess. Its effects are ironically more bombastic than the Bomb Citrus – treat as you would a fireball spell if a flower goes off. The distillate itself is safe and inert.
Fire Clove – we’re going to keep this one classic. Eat enough fire cloves, and you get fire breath (as per a young dragon’s breath weapon) for one hour. This only applies to fresh fire cloves, so some sort of magical storage solution is needed if you want to use this on adventures. The effects get dramatically less impressive as the fire cloves dry, though their taste actually improves a lot. As such, most restaurants who serve fire clove dishes don’t have to worry about more than a snort of smoke from their patrons.
Joynut – just a coconut. In our world, the three pores of a coconut caused them to be called “face fruit” by the Portuguese, due to the face-like arrangement. In a fantasy world, we can amplify this. Joynuts actually bear the faces of the recently deceased, often in an expression of bliss or peace. They are valid speak with dead targets.
Nethergranates – spicy pomegranates that grow in whatever Afterlife Planes you have – in classic D&D cosmology, that would be Hades, Tartarus, the Abyss, Mount Celestia, etc. Eating nethergranate seeds locks you onto that plane, unable to leave. However, if transplanted from their home plane onto another plane, they still flourish and lose their plane-locking effect.
Petrified Thyme – a type of creeping thyme that only grows on petrification victims for unknown reasons. While delicious, it can temporarily petrify people who are trying it for the first time. Useful for heist missions, or if you want to create some cultural hubbub about it, you can compare it with the tingling feeling people get from experiencing mild tetrodotoxin in fugu or from eating buzz buttons. You can even make it based on preparation – an improperly prepared dish with petrified thyme can petrify the guest, while a properly prepared dish merely causes an interesting half-second instance of petrification that thrill-seekers chase.
Phoenix Pear – sort of a Chinese cameo. “Phoenix pear” is an antiquated name for what Chinese people used to call pineapples. You can still find Chinese desserts called “Phoenix Pear Tarts” that are just pineapple tarts.
Pinpricka – a spice that jumps around the tongue creating tickling sensations. In high enough doses it can be used to briefly incapacitate someone. In such a scenario, match the effect to the spell, Tasha’s Hideous Laughter.
Shrieker Mushrooms – most D&D-esque games will have either this literal hazard in their monster manual equivalent, or something like it. Essentially, they are mushrooms that can be easily transplanted, and that shriek when in close proximity to living beings. They’re used by many monstrous humanoids as a natural alarm system. The shrieking function gets softer but doesn’t fully goes away when they are cooked.