Salutations, nerds! Today I want to talk about Dungeons & Dragons taverns and things you can acquire in them. Specifically, let’s talk about the tavern menus. Are you the kind of Dungeon Master who likes to give your players a handout of a menu that’s prefabricated or do you prefer to make it up on the spot? Either way, there are useful things to consider when it comes to your taverns and the food that is available in them.
In D&D it’s okay to play with your food
Where in the world are you?
Geographically, you’re going to have certain foods on your tavern menus more readily available in certain places than others. The coast is going to have a lot of fish while mainland farms will have a lot of vegetables and meat if there is livestock available.
You can fish in rivers, too, but it’s less likely to be a staple in a place like that than it is when you live right on the coast. Cultures that live underground are likely going to have a lot of mushrooms in their diet, possibly blind subterranean fish and perhaps even magical plants that have been specifically engineered to grow in dank places like this.
Mountains tend to be difficult to grow things on and most livestock won’t take well to life there, but goats are more or less in their element so you’ll very likely end up with a lot of goat meat. Yes. But also consider the byproducts of goats — milk, cheese, other dairy products.
Forested areas will likely have a lot of mushrooms as well. There could be nuts, berries and fruits from the trees in the area as well as deer and other wild game.
Who in the world is around?
Cultural differences are going to be a big thing as well when it comes to what food is available in your local Dungeons & Dragons taverns. Dwarves like to brew things, so they’re going to have a lot of beers and meads and ales for sale. A dwarven tavern probably has its own menu just for the beer!
Meanwhile, elves stereotypically eat light. Nuts and berries, fruits, salads. If there is meat it’s more likely to be chicken or fish. Some kind of a snack wrap would seem perfectly at home in an elven establishment and if you’re looking to drink you’re very likely to have a nice selection of fine wines at your disposal.
I have to imagine dragonborn cook the hell out of everything. Meat cabobs, fried cucumbers, fried potatoes, some kind of flambe, you name it. I have a pretty strong feeling they’d be heavy on the spices as well.
Consider how you roleplay this! If you’re playing a dwarf, and let’s face it you don’t get much more ‘meat and potatoes, hardy meals’ than dwarves are, how are you going to react when a dragonborn presents you with something like a spicy curry?
Your character could be by turns thrilled and horrified with some of the strange cuisine they come across in their travels.
But…but that’s not food!
What parts of the animal are considered kosher to eat in different places in your setting? There may be a few that consider it perfectly ordinary to eat things like raw fish if it has been prepared properly, or others that will gladly devour every part of the animal including the guts and brain. Others still might consider the feet to be unclean and refuse to eat the legs of animals.
Which animals are acceptable to eat might change as a cultural staple as well, from place to place. If you’re reading this you probably come from a place where it isn’t acceptable to eat dogs and cats because they’re pets, but there are others still that raise certain breeds of dog and cat for their meat and this is considered perfectly acceptable.
How do you suppose a dragonborn would feel about the prospect of eating snake meat? Maybe it would make them uncomfortable; I know a lot of humans that won’t eat the meat of mammals because it makes them uneasy and I know more still that wouldn’t flinch at eating a pig but if given the opportunity to try monkey meat would completely lose their cool.
Using magic in culinary endeavors
We got a lot of cool stuff like this in Ingest Quest and in the latest Scarlet Sisterhood, Nerdarchist Dave let the party sample a whiskey that was liquified lightning. There are all kinds of cool things that food can do. After all we already have potions.
So what do you think would happen if you cooked and ate a basilisk? Might there be Dungeons & Dragons taverns and restaurants in your world that particularly specialize in cooking and serving exotic monsters to the very wealthy and very adventurous? That sounds like a quest hook to me, and one most of my parties would be more than willing to embark on.
What about magical spices? I like the idea of a haste pepper that gives you an extra bonus action for an hour after you eat it.
How do you handle the food?
What’s your Dungeon Master style when it comes to all things culinary? Do you describe your food like George R.R. Martin or C.S. Lewis and leave your players with their mouths watering or is it something you have a tendency to gloss over? Let’s be fair, it’s not honestly all that plot important most of the time and it’s perfectly okay to play it that way, but sometimes it can be more fun not to.
Are you inclined to engage in delightful dish descriptors? What’s the most creative food custom you’ve come up with for your setting’s tavern menus? Please let me know in the comments below and as always, stay nerdy!
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Speculative fiction writer and part-time Dungeon Master Megan R. Miller lives in southern Ohio where she keeps mostly nocturnal hours and enjoys life’s quiet moments. She has a deep love for occult things, antiques, herbalism, big floppy hats and the wonders of the small world (such as insects and arachnids), and she is happy to be owned by the beloved ghost of a black cat. Her fiction, such as The Chronicles of Drasule and the Nimbus Mysteries, can be found on Amazon.