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Author Topic: What should an rpg about cooking include in its crunch?  (Read 2633 times)
Tazio Bettin

Posts: 5

« on: October 16, 2009, 06:30:08 AM »

I've come with an idea of a game which focuses on the process of cooking.
The CA I'm aiming at is GAM, that is, in a game about cooks who compete with each other. But I find myself kinda lost in regard to what such a game's crunch should include.
A friend of mine suggested that the creativity of preparated dishes should be rewarded, which is an idea I had not been considering at first, despite now considering it quite vital... I could find no reference on the subject, and as far as I know, nobody created a similar game.
Do you know any coherent roleplaying game that focuses on cooking? If so, how's the crunch like?
And what do you think such a game should feature?
Let me add that ingredients may be completely invented, as the game I'm having in mind has a fantasy setting (so you might end up cooking dragon steak or chimaera escalope, for instance).
Thanks for any help you can give me!


Posts: 118

« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2009, 09:59:29 AM »

As far as my knowledge goes there are no RPGs explicitly about cooking, although there are a few generic system that might be able to do an OK job at it. (Although even then maybe only for one encounter/session, probably not a whole game). So you're on your own there I think.

I would think that such a game should feature maybe the difficulty of cooking, managing your team of chefs, preparing great food on tight deadlines, dealing with mishaps both normal and malicious, and I don't know- the struggles in the life of a chef? I'm not really sure. I imagine some sort of iron chef or hell's kitchen style stuff would probably have to be going on for it to be interesting

In any case, good luck.

Posts: 286

Kevin Vito

« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2009, 11:35:44 AM »

First food has to smell good.
Then food has to look good.
Then food has to taste good.
If players are cooks, they should have control over all three areas.

The five basic tastes are Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty, and Savory. Players should be able to combine the tastes with different smells to produce an infinite variety of flavors.
Callan S.

Posts: 3588

« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2009, 01:23:34 PM »

I'd suggest going the other way around (rather than trying to grasp at colour). Find either an existing board game that you like and is preferably simple. Snakes and ladders is one. Then build in imagination couplers, as I like to call them - like perhaps if you land on a certain square ("Stroke of cooking genious"), the player can describe their characters genius stroke and the GM assigns 1 to 3 sqares of extra movement along the track. That's just a simplistic example, just to get the idea across.

Without such a backbone structure, I think designing almost ends up a simulationist trip in terms of 'what reeeeeaaallly should makes up a cooking game?' And I mean, there is no 'really' or 'should' answer to that, unless some creator god suddenly turns up and tells us all. So don't try to hard to figure out what 'should' be in there. Or make it 'should' as in what should be in there if it is to make you happy (you personally - none of this 'I'm happy when other people are happy' stuff!!).

Philosopher Gamer

Posts: 67

A Very Powerful Wizard

« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2009, 12:40:30 AM »

This sounds like it falls into tricky territory.

Advanced cooking is way too complicated and subjective for a realistic ruleset to capture it well, but too specialized a type of knowledge for GM common sense and GM-fiat to be a resolver (and besides, this sounds like a competitive main-focus type conflict, which breaks down real easy unless given fairly static and clear rules).  I agree that some sort of abstract challenge to represent the cooking is probably best.  How well this works as a cooking RPG rather than a generic game with a loose cooking theme is going to depend on how well you can match the abstract cooking rules to. . .the cooking experience?

What is the cooking experience to you?  As in, what is it about cooking that you think will make a good RPG?  What makes a great cook different from a bad or okay one?  Is it creativity in food-concept, and if it is how do you judge creativity?  Is it cooking skills, something that's more on the character sheet than in the player's control?  Is it how well you can memorize complex charts detailing the statistical effects of what happens when sweet/spicy/sour are mixed in differing amounts?  Is it the passion and artistic soul of the cook, and if it is how would that be represented in gameplay terms?  Cooking contests are interesting in that the contests could easily be set up to cap a session of playing, so the majority of the session could easily be turned into preparation for the cooking challenge, with the various actions performed granting bonuses in the climactic cook-off.  What kinds of pre-cooking actions grant bonuses could do a lot to set the tone of the game, as well.  The danger is, however, that if the ways to get these bonuses are too mechanical it would turn the game into a scavenger hunt for bonuses, while if they're too subjective it will easily turn super-frustrating when applied to competitive challenges, especially those between players (actually, who will be cooking off against who usually? will it be player vs. player or player vs. NPC usually?)  Where, exactly, is the challenge focused in this game?

Directly simulating the cooking experience probably isn't practical for a RPG, so how are you going to capture the experience of cooking with your rules without trying to model the mundanity of it?  You could probably make perfectly fun game without tying it to cooking in any way but the descriptions the participants give, but I'm assuming that because you started a thread here focusing on the cooking aspects rather than the mechanical ones that you are interested in capturing the mood of cooking on some level with your game.  If this assumption is wrong my take on all this will change quite a bit.

On a side note, do you have any formal training/experience in professional cooking?  I don't think it'd be necessary, especially if this is more a game than a simulation, but whether you're building this from inside or outside of the cooking world will influence some of your design choices, probably.

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Posts: 469

also known as Josh W

« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2009, 06:56:19 AM »

Ok, so it's a competitive game, where is the point in play that you know who's won? Is it when the judges vote for which one they liked more? Is it when the points the judges give you are compared to the cost of the meal? Is it when (as one TV program strangely does it) people watching someone eat vote to decide which one looked the tasty-ist?

You can work backwards from that point then; when you've worked out what are the winning criteria, and what makes a difference in the mind of the judges, then you can go on to what kinds of things might produce that. And then finally you can set up the resources and tactics using your flexible setting in order to make that process interesting and complicated. I say finally, because that's just when you can first start testing it out.
Sebastian K. Hickey

Posts: 141

« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2009, 06:30:53 AM »

As an ex-chef, I can tell you there is no point in making a roleplaying game to model the industry with accuracy (unless you want 70 hours per week of verbal abuse and pennies for pay).  However, making a game to model the romance of cuisine sounds interesting.  You're asking what sort of crunch should be included in a game about competitive cooking.  Well, I don't know the answer to that question directly, but any dish could be judged by the following separate components:

Ingredients - The foundation of the meal.  Ever hear the phrase 'you can't polish a turd?'
Preparation - Everything requires prep, from sauces, to marinades, from butchery to proofing.
Timing - The cooking process itself is just a mix of heat and timing.
Dressing - How does it look, how is it presented, with what is it accompanied?
Spin - Elegant naming, descriptions, lighting, ambience, service, etc.  All of it adds to the dining experience.

In real life, a good chef is fast and consistent, can give feedback on stock levels and makes sure costing is efficient.  A great chef can write up and edit new menus frequently, using similar ingredients, is good with people, can motivate a sloppy crew, can work for ages without sleep, can learn and teach with efficiency, understands money and the Zeitgeist, and has passion, talent and experience in the food industry.  He also has vision and is good at rescuing a dish.

In a game, you could scratch all the boring stuff.  Assuming that all the characters are chefs, there is no need to measure their cooking skill, but it may be important to measure the components of the meals themselves.  That way, players can tell stories of the work they do before the meal is judged.  The game would be about gathering, preparing, timing, dressing and laying down the spin.

If I were to write a game about fantasy cuisine and competitive cooking, I might offer a structure like this:

1) Begin the game with an abstruse statement ('The king wants a banquet of Great Fingers and Fey Sauce')
2) GM assembles a panel of judges.  Each judge has a 'Peculiar Taste'.
3) GM assembles a group of rival cooks (colour, more than anything else).
4) PCs have X time to complete the recipe.  Award points for the components above (getting the fingers of a Minotaur, marinading them in pixie tears, stealing a bottle of sparkling goblin brandy, organising a band, etc.).
5) For each point they get, give the PCs a dice.  For each Peculiar Taste they challenge, remove a dice.
6) Use the dice to determine if they are successful in beating their opposition.

In this respect, the game is about prep (and one's audience) more than anything else.  If you've worked in a kitchen yourself, you'll agree that's what cooking is ultimately about.

Lastly, creating a recipe is very different from cooking in a kitchen.  When I baked a pork and rhubarb pie, I was concerned with the nuances of flavour, and I was editing as I cooked.  Next time I made it, there were refinements.  And so on, until I was happy with the recipe as it stood.  From then on, it was about making it quick, and making it in advance.  That's the cooking part.  All the art is done in advance, really, whether that be under tuition, or on your own, it's all learned and tested many times before it's given to the customer.  That's why 'compliments to the chef' rarely means anything any more, as it's all done like lab work in most restaurants. Most chefs have as much creative contribution as the kitchen porter.  Sorry, I digress.

Tazio Bettin

Posts: 5

« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2009, 06:40:25 AM »

wow thanks to everyone!!!
I really received lots of useful and interesting imputs, and I think that it's going to help me much into focusing on the mechanics I'm going to build. Lots of good questions that help visualize what the game should be about!
Thank you very much Cheesy

Nathan P.

Posts: 536

« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2009, 01:19:44 PM »

I've never played it, but you may want to take a look at  Intergalactic Cooking Challenge. It looks like it's in a similar vein to what you're talking about.

Nathan P.
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Posts: 52

« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2009, 04:47:02 AM »

Have you watched any of this? http://www.anime-source.com/banzai/modules.php?name=Anime&rop=showcontent&id=992 I suggest it! That format would be the easiest to translate into a mediocre table top rpg.

i don't want this to sound mean but

You should really ask yourself if you should be making an rpg at all, i can see tournament cooking leading to some very interesting tactical game play but I'm not sure where it's going to generate the interesting narrative a role playing game needs. have you considered maybe making a board or card game.

When I think of cooking and story telling I think of a few things

food service management, having to support it as a small business, hire staff, get good reviews, balance family life ect

The lives of service people thrust together by the need for employment, maybe "character death" is what happens when that waiter really does land a carrier in acting and moves on from his job as a waiter.

anyway that's just my two cents

Posts: 311

I like games! and theory! and The Forge!

« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2009, 07:45:29 AM »

Any cooking game that includes a restaurant management component must bring the dreaded FOOD CRITIC into account.

Posts: 311

I like games! and theory! and The Forge!

« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2009, 07:49:23 AM »

Orwell, George.  Down and Out in Paris and London.
Wesker, Arnold.  The Kitchen [play]
Bourdain, Anthony.  Kitchen Confidential.
Big Night.
Eat Drink, Man Woman.
Eat the Rich
The Cook, The Thief, The Wife and Her Lover


Posts: 66

The name's Youssef.

« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2009, 01:39:40 PM »

Answering directly to the subject line of the thread:

Math ratios.
1/6 + 1/8 = ?
3/8 + 19/3 = ?
Just a crunch mechanic you can try to implement that adds cooking color.

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The Magus

Posts: 33

« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2009, 10:32:57 AM »


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