My friends are foodies. I mean, really. You should see the table sometimes: 55% foodstuffs, 45% gaming materials. So, what’s the real star of the evening – the game itself or the grilled cheeses and pastries and goddamned Oysters Rockefeller?
I realized that the games I run are the only time we all get together. Just a few years ago we still had regular parties, summer barbecues, Halloween bashes, New Year’s gatherings, or just plain old TV night – three or four guys with beer and chips. But that was three years ago now.
One guy moves out of the city. Two other guys have children. Another has to work three jobs. A few have minor health issues. And then, all of a sudden, the TV nights and barbecues and big dinner parties are just gone. Three players told me that my game is the only social event left in their lives where they get to “see the others”. An awesome thing, right?
But also a problem.
Because now Game Day isn’t just Game Day anymore – it’s Party Day, Booze Day, Talk Day, Pot Smoking Day and Food Day altogether. Of course, the game suffers. It’s not sharp, not focused. Towards the end of the session, it’s a big mess – not on the game table but around it. Honestly, I don’t know exactly how to deal with it.
If a DM puts in sixty hours of prep work and spends two hundred dollars on miniatures, paint, foam boards, wood, plastic wood, clay, silicone sealant, epoxy and other stuff – well, that final result should be the focal point, come Game Day. If it’s still just some silly excuse to get together and smoke weed / drink / eat / chat...
I didn’t expect to suddenly become Keeper of the Social Cohesion or something, and I didn’t ask for such a job. All I wanted was to run a First Edition AD&D campaign and do it just like we used to do it in the early eighties: exhilarated, focused, silly and fun. The silly and the fun ought to be in-game, though, and on the table. Half an hour spent talking about some silly / fun episode of Family Guy doesn’t count as fun-and-silly tabletop gaming, sorry.
If I ever run games at cons or over with Adventurers League, it’ll be a sharp contrast indeed: keen players, not stoned, not half-drunk, with their livers not acting up from too much olives or prosciutto. I’ll be out of my depth for sure. After two hours these players will be done with everything I’d prepped, and we’ll still have two more hours to go – and me, I’ll be like, “Ugh, I’ve got nothing, guys. Usually that’s enough to fill six hours at the table! Are you really sure you don’t want to discuss Breaking Bad or Mister Robot for a while?”
I’m starting to think of these games as “luncheons with a side dish of gaming”. Eating is something the guys do enthusiastically – but then sometimes it’s a hassle just to get them to pick up a die and roll new init. I don’t really mind, because it is only twice a year. But man, it’s insane. Think six-inches Subway sandwiches, but instead of sweet teriyaki beef or turkey breast you put a giant Wiener in there with lots of mustard and slaw. Some of my friends gobble TWO of these monsters plus a homemade cheeseburger, and then wash the whole thing down with a beer or two... and it’s only 3:15 PM. This is not dinner yet, right?
Please note that these are just the LEFTOVERS.
D&D has changed a lot since I was fifteen. I was part of a D&D “club” back then, and so we had access to a nifty little classroom with a chalkboard and six tables and lots of chairs, plus one teacher’s desk. We could use that room every day between 12:15 and 1:00 PM, and then again from 3:45 to 4:45 every day except Fridays – and we sure used every motherfucking minute of that allotted time. Sure, when the bell rang at 11:45 we went downstairs to the cafeteria, but only because we had half an hour to kill and mister what-was-his-name wouldn’t open our D&D room for us before 12:15. We ate whatever disgusting food the cafeteria had to offer and already debated about our party’s next move. By 12:10 we were back upstairs, waiting by mister what-was-his-name’s tiny office, and at 12:15 sharp we gently knocked on his door. He came out and unlocked our room. By 12:16 the rulebooks were already open; we played a solid 44 minutes until the 1:00 PM bell. We just played. Books, pencils, graph paper, dice. No cheeseburgers. No spaghetti. No meatloaf. No giant Wieners with pickles and mayonnaise. No Pepsi. No beer. No wine. No coffee. No Southern Comfort or cognac or anything. We were hungry for power and glory – not goddamned steak tartare.
Even in the early nineties with Cthulhu, Warhammer and Stormbringer – we gamed a lot, and didn’t eat much. Nowadays we eat a lot, and don’t game as much as we used to.
Food has officially become some sort of a gaming nuisance. But what can you do about it? We’re not teenagers anymore: we need our eight burgers a day, right?