Feasts and Festivities – Part TwoNovember 9, 2018 Off By TK
Welcome back, adventurer! Last week we tossed around some ideas about customizing basic food choices to fit the environment. We also laid the foundation for the most basic of festivals that your party may find themselves part of. This week we’ll discuss entremets (also known as “subtleties”) which were artistic dishes and illusion foods meant to be eaten and enjoyed. We’ll also be infusing a little spirituality into our festivals.
So tuck in your napkins and grab your forks! Let’s dig in!
Just Like Grandmother Used to Make
What is the best dish of your favorite holiday? Thanksgiving dinner? Christmas breakfast? Valentine’s Day dessert? Founding Day lunch? Regardless of culture or country of origin, I’d be willing to bet that you can pick out a single favorite food, a family recipe or traditional staple without which the day would not only be incomplete, but possibly ruined altogether.
With a little ingenuity, your world can be the same way. What was your half-orc mage’s favorite snack during the harvest festival? Perhaps a peppered wild boar jerky or black bread smeared with a hearty helping of bear fat? Do your gnomes sit down to a long table for a traditional acorn soup, seasoned with sweet grass and poured into a baked, split tuber that they’ve grown for generations? Now, take this experiment a little further and make that soup a centerpiece. Is it a bread cougar fishing beside an acorn soup stream?
During the height of the Middle Ages, several Western European courts served entrements between courses at feasts. The dishes evolved from a mere conversation piece into a delight to the senses: delicious, decadent food that was staged and posed to entertain the noble masses. Do a little research and see how you can add rabbits posed as pegasi, troll meat that regenerates on the table, and roasted peacocks in their full glory to the celebrations that your party finds themselves attending.
Celebrate Good Times
In last week’s article, we talked about the basic reason a culture may have a festival: celebrating the seasons. In those cases, worshiping nature in its primordial form may be all the spirituality required. The falling leaves, the frost upon the grass, the song of birds on the budding fingers of fruit trees—millions around the world chant prayers and offer gifts to these simple spirits. It is reasonable to believe the same about your fantasy world.
However, if you’re taking it a step further and establishing a pantheon, infusing your festivals with religion may seem much more daunting of a task. Many beginning world-builders base their pantheons around a prototype found on Earth, such as Grecian, Norse, or Egyptian cosmology. Instead of copying and pasting the Olympians or Aesir directly into your new world, think about the culture that you’ve already begun to build. Why would an island paradise need a god of the roads? Should a conservative, ascetic nation acknowledge a goddess of wine?
There shouldn’t be a reason that a culture you have invented would attribute every phenomenon to a deity, so the trick to developing your own pantheon relies on sussing out just what priorities these societies hold near and dear. A war-mongering country might expend more resources elevating a stern, faceless, martial god with blades for arms. They may also spend more money on celebrations that commemorate an overwhelming victory with massive parades and gladiatorial battle re-enactments. How do gladiators cope with their wealth and fame here? A tribe of elves living beneath a waterfall may worship a goddess of rain and rushing waters who has a salmon’s head, and their festivals may all take place on floating lily pads, with roasted cattails and alligator stew. Ask yourself how the party would react to a village like this, where gondoliers are considered an honored class, as opposed to a more typical town.
That’s all for this week, adventurers! Next time, we’ll chat about using trinkets and gifts to encourage building players backstory, as well as the joy of cyphers and single-use magical items.
About The Author
TK is a speculative fiction writer and part-time eldritch horror. They can be found as a cast member of The Demonplague, Unearthly Twilights, The Land Between Two Rivers, and Hell’s Belles on the Don’t Split the Podcast, WebDM, and Dungeons & Dragons networks, respectively. Their gothic and cosmic horror stories can be found at tkjwrites.com and very soon in print in a collaborative set of short stories and comics with artist Kayla Cline. TK themself can be found on Twitter @tkjoinsthefray.