In wine, beer, coffee, etc there’s the concept of the perfect pairing. At its simplest, the concept is to find foods that complement that specific flavor notes of the beverage. More completely you can find ways to do this through similar and disparate notes – sometimes hitting opposites on the flavor wheel gives the taster an experience that highlights both the food and the beverage.
Pairing beverages with gaming in something I just do. When playing Awf I always have a beverage. Sometimes that beverage is inspired by his personality – drinking an earl grey lavender toddy out of a masonry mug to highlight his duel cultures of dwarf and bladesinger. Other times the beverage connects to the adventure that Droop’s Brigade is going – Skookum Caverns, a barrel aged strong ale, as we enter Wave Echo Cave.
The use of flavor here helps inspire the story being told during that gaming session. The flavors evoke a mental space where Awf’s unique history of annoying elves enough that they taught him bladesong, despite his being a stubby dwarf, is brought to the forefront. Or, the dangers and darkness of a cave are brought to the front of mind through can art and the potency of a strong ale.
Flavor does wonderful things. Pairings aren’t just about maximizing the flavor experience. The connection between taste-smell and memory is powerful. People buy Kona coffee because it awakens memory, much more than due to its quality. A margarita on a cold winter day can put your headspace back to a nice beach vacation. Hot cocoa in front of a fire, even while home alone by yourself, will send you dreaming back to a Christmas visit to a small town.
As roleplayers, in Dungeons & Dragons or any other game, we can use the magic of flavor to help us. The foods and beverages of your game night are important. Make those small choices that aid gaming, just like you would a token, art, or cosplay.
Rather than confine yourself into using flavor as a way to connect your current character, you can also use flavor to inspire new characters.
Each of those characters started with the simple prompt related to a beverage and the object out of which it is consumed. From there decisions were made not just regarding the race, class, and background, but also to inform the skills, attributes, spells, and weapons chosen.
Rum connected to sailors, pirates, merchants, or water genasi. Carbonation was an indication of something light, refreshing. Salt a connection to authority. The mistaken belief that halflings are just old children popped into the head with the root beer.
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What those various prompts did was start internet searches into the techniques used to create certain beverages, into their history, into their cultural significance. Chasing those touchpoints and activating them through D&D and by including others in the process, my character portfolio expanded. These are now new NPCs, or maybe even PCs, that would never exist.
Food and drink can inform your characters just as art, books, movies, shows, music and media can. Great cooks say that their meals tell stories. Adapt that into your PC and NPCs.
Empower flavor to empower the stories you tell.
What type of character builds a replica longboat and uses it as a charcuterie table? How does that inform who they are?