Text on parchment talking about an extravagant breakfast for a noble.

Combat and quests aren’t the only thing you will find in a fantasy world. There are also beautiful cities and interesting people. And in these cities are foods eaten by these people. This seemingly tiny detail can add a lot of depth to your world.

A lot of fantasy writers (Tolkien and GRRM come to mind immediately as prime examples) like to intersperse their narratives and worldbuilding with scenes of “food porn” that evoke the senses of taste and smell for their readers. You can do this too, and it can make homebrew or unique settings feel more detailed and alive. Rather than just handwaving food and saying “It’s there and your characters eat,” you can call attention to the little details of it.

Think about the type of foods eaten in different places. Are elves notoriously vegan or vegetarian in your world? Describe markets and inns found in elven towns as having mostly plant-based products. Since elves often have a cultural closeness to nature and a reliance on plant products, it’s likely that their foodstuffs might be more nutritious and flavorful. They’re likely carefully cultivated. Describe the vibrant colors of their fruits and the larger-than-usual size of these things. Portray freshness. This is merely an example. Thing about how this may vary as opposed to dwarven foods, which are likely more hardy and robust, things like grains and dried foods that would keep well underground where they spend most of their time.

Of course, you can also hone in on the food to display context. Food found at an inn will be different than the stuff you find at a noble’s feast. One is likely to be filling and functional, the other will likely be a bit of culinary artistry. You can use this to set certain ideas in the heads of your players. By describing the extravagance of the noble’s meals, you can convey the level of her affluence, illustrating that she has money to blow on it and the desire to experience the pleasure of good tastes. In doing so, we’ve said a lot about her character. She is wealthy of course. And a bit of a show off, if she wants people to see the variety and quality of her table and be impressed by it. She also clearly enjoys it herself, so she is probably at least a little bit of a hedonist if she’s wants to enjoy complex tastes for their own sake rather than for simple sustenance. Conversely, if you have a beggar eating a single scrap of stale moldy bread, they’re clearly on hard times. Things are especially bad for them. They’re likely desperate and in need of some help. And thus we know about his character at a glance as well.

So narrating food to your players will do more than serve to just make everybody hungry. Though it might do that too, it can also convey important information about the setting or the characters. Plus, it’s great practice for your narrating skills, as you’re describing tangible objects. Describe the rich aroma of baking bread wafting through the room and causing your mouth to water as your nose takes in the sweet scents of cinnamon and sugar liberally sprinkled over the still-warm loaf, enticing you to try the tasty treat being offered to you. It tends to put you in the right head space for going into rich details and draws your players in with the base human desire of hunger.

How does food factor into your games?

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