You’ve prepared your post-apocalyptic campaign and now you’re about to have a half dozen or more people over to your house for hours. They’re going to need something to eat in the wasteland you’ve created. Victoria Rosenthal of Pixelated Provisions and author of Fallout: The Vault Dweller’s Official Cookbook has some advice on how to fit your meals into your game’s theme.
Just like a good GM, Victoria knows that immersion is key. While writing the official Fallout cookbook, she dove deep into the game’s lore to find recipes that not only taste good, but would be right at home in the wasteland. “I started my recipe research with a giant study of all the recipes I could find in all of the Fallout Games. I’ve played a good majority of the games, but I had to go back over a lot of things I may have missed,” she said. You can emulate this approach in your own games by finding foods that are mentioned in your lore and storybooks that you can use as a basis for the meals you make for your players
Finding real foods that can act as stand-ins for your game world’s food can, in some cases, be surprisingly easy. “I started to translate all of the fictional flora and fauna into real life ingredients,” Victoria says. “Some proteins like Brahmin were easy. Since Brahmin is a mutated cow, I used both beef and bison and worked with seasoning to come up with a flavor that matched.” For the food that doesn’t exist in present day, pre-destroyed Earth, you can make some clever substitutions. “The iconic Deathclaws were certainly the hardest decision to make… Since there aren’t any pigs walking around in Fallout, using things like pork belly as a translation for Deathclaw meat fit perfectly with keeping the book balanced.”
GMs face a similar challenge while creating the environment for their games. Crafting stories, characters, locations, and events to fit inside the world you’re creating for your players is a fulfilling challenge. But everyone has to eat. Rather than ordering a pizza, cooking your own food gives you another opportunity to bring your players further into the story.
Even if your game isn’t specifically Fallout-themed—though there are plenty of Fallout-specific RPGs that are worth checking out—the Fallout cookbook can still be an invaluable tool. “Most of the recipes [in the book] work wonderfully for a post apocalyptic themed game night,” Victoria said. As an example, she suggests the Mystery Meat-Wrapped Nukalurk as an appetizer.
In the Fallout universe, Nukalurks are a mutated form of Mirelurks, a gigantic crustacean that bears a resemblance to crabs and other marsh-dwelling creatures. Since there aren’t any crabs the size of humans walking around in real life, Victoria used scallops instead. The recipe also calls for wrapping the scallops in bacon. Or, as the book puts it, “Mystery bacon from the Raiders at Nuka-World. At least, they told me it was bacon. I don’t think I saw a single pig while I was there.”
Recipes like this give you another avenue for world-building. Just like Victoria did, you can use the recipes to expand on character backstories, flesh out the world your players are inhabiting, or even use them as quest rewards. For example, if your players are in a tavern, you could offer their characters food in-game and then serve the dish in the real world.
The best part about working with a wasteland theme is that if things don’t look perfect, if you have to improvise some parts, or if not everything fits, then it just helps the immersion more. “If someone wanted to host a Fallout party, the key to capturing the universe’s feeling would be chaos and disorder,” Victoria said. “Everything in Fallout is messy and disorderly so your food should look the same way! Mismatched plates, random objects adorning the table, messier plating, etc. Be creative with how to present your food and don’t be afraid to make things messy!”
The post-apocalyptic setting is fun because it lets you imagine what it’s like to improvise survival in a world more hostile than our own. Food is key to that survival, which makes it one of the best ways to immerse your players into the game. Next time you get your players together, try making your meal out of the materials (or real-world equivalents) that your characters can scavenge in the ruins of the old world.
What kind of foods do you use to help immerse your players in the world of your games? Have any recipes you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.
More Wasteland Gaming!
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Images credits: Victoria Rosenthal