CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Comfort Food

How Your Palate Affects Your Character

Illustration by Luis Perez
Everybody’s gotta eat. Throughout history, food has been an important part of our cultural identity. From how we grow it, to how we harvest it, to how—and what—we eat it. Dishes from around the world can show everything from environmental conditions of an area to the socioeconomic situation of its people. Furthermore food can be an extremely personal experience, with everyone having favorites—especially that one dish that always reminds us of home. So if food plays an important role in our world, how come it’s something we often overlook in our characters, or in our game worlds?

Growing up poor you aren’t often exposed to a lot of different types of food. Toiling the fields for a noble or even working a farm owned by your family you often don’t see exotic spices, or meats. Depending on climate basic grains, simple meats like chicken and pork, and root vegetables are all a lot of common folk see. So how does your character react to new foods when their new wandering lifestyle takes him to the bigger cities?

An interesting way to bring life to our characters is to think about their taste palate. Some folks like myself, have texture issues. Things like avocados and hummus, which are much beloved by many people, feel weird on my tongue and I just can’t eat them. When you’ve spent your life eating potatoes, bread, and stews made of leftover scraps, you may find that new flavors assault your tongue. A farm boy from Taldor may be put off the taste and even smell of spices on his first trip to the Osirion market.

“Weird” things are only bizarre because we aren’t used to them. In some places where protein sources are rare, insects may be the only way to get some required nutrient. The first time I heard that the Japanese ate raw seafood my stomach did somersaults—side note, I’m a huge fan now—because it seemed odd to me. Some people in India find the thought of eating cow abhorrent. Places where it is hard to even grow grain means feeding larger animals like cows and even pigs may be impossible, leaving things like cats, dogs, and rats as sources of food. When confronted with the odd new dishes eaten by the Tian, how does your Chelish noble react?

The taste, smell, and types of foods aren’t the only reason meals can play an important role in our character’s lives. In many cultures the family meal is the center of the day. The time and love used to prepare the meal, as well as the whole family sitting around to eat are integral actions in everyday life. How does the outlook of the noble boy whose family ate in stark silence at a table so big you have to call out to other diners differ from the woodsman’s family who sit and eat dinner together and talk every night?

Not just what a person eats but how they eat it can be important to character development. In the west we use silverware and dishes. The further up in the social structure you are the more of these items you have, maybe even fine china for special occasions, and there is a proper way to use each utensil. But what is considered proper or an insult is different in many cultures.

In Japan eating with chopsticks is consider as much an art as the way food is served in the first place. Stabbing at one’s meal instead of gently lifting it is considered an insult. Some cultures eat with their hands, usually a specific hand and it’s considered insulting to eat with the other. Some cultures serve food that is eaten by being picked up in pieces of bread, often the food is served on this bread like a plate. Burping in the west is seen as crude, where as in many other places it is seen as an expression that one enjoyed the meal.

On Golarion there is a lot to be said about the types of beverage people drink, but very little is said about what kind of food they eat. Some analogs are obvious with Tian being an amalgam Asian culture, Osirian being Egyptian, Varundi being Indian, and Katapesh—and its satrapies—being Middle Eastern. But what do the European analog cultures eat? What different foods exist in Brevoy than in Cheliax? Nidal and Andoran are neighbors but their cultures are vastly different. Do the two have differing food offerings or are they nearly the same? And what about non-human races?

Does religion have anything to do with food choices? Does a worshiper of Irori put different things into her belly than a devotee of Shelyn? What of the gluttonous gods like Urgathoa and her followers? Do they just shovel any old thing down their gullets or do they only devour the finest most well-made delicacies? Cannibal gods like Zura add an interesting twist on how food is eaten, when that food is usually other sentient creatures.

The last thing I want to talk about is delicacies. What is a delicacy to your character, and their culture? With an incredible array of monstrous and mythical creatures are some of them considered special meals? Poached owl bear eggs, hard to get but considered to be one of the finest breakfasts in all of Taldor? For the evil among us, the exceedingly rare but much sought after unicorn steak? A character whose sole reason for adventuring is to travel the world and try different delicacies, even rare or endangered animals, could be quite interesting to play.

So how has food affected your character? Does he have a favorite dish? Is there a food that always reminds her of home? What are her table manners like? Does he personally like to cook? When making your next PC ask how and what your he likes to eat.

The CRB is food for your gaming soul, and if you’ve been nourished by this and the other fare that I’ve provided for you, please consider donating to my Patreon. The community of CRB readers continues to grow, hitting 1000 Twitter followers, 100 Tumblr followers and 200 Facebook likes this week. I can also be found on Google+, and my inbox is open on all platforms for questions, comments, and discussions.

The opening illustration was created by a fine artist Luis Perez. You can find him on TwitterTumblr, and on Instagram at luisperezart.


  1. Book three of Hell's Rebels has a banquet encounter that gives a lot of ideas for exotic dishes from various regions.