I, Arella, started The Bardic Chef many years ago, back in very early 2017. I had been writing down the recipes my tabletop rpg character, Prianna Rein, had been making in games for awhile, but never really put them anywhere public. A dungeon master of mine encouraged me to do so, in order to have the recipes accessible for the rest of the group, and things just went on from there.
Cooking has always been a way of life for me, as an expression of creativity, a way to show extra love to the people in my life, and as a celebration of events and good things going on. The character Prianna was created as a way to cope with negative things in my life, and give me an outlet to navigate them while also feeling distanced from who I really was. Everything from having a negative adoptive family life growing up, identifying parts of my sexuality, discovering a heritage from my birth family that I never knew I had, and navigating disability have been aspects of the character, and have gotten me through a lot. These things married one another in her becoming a bard that practices the arts through what she cooks. As my muscular dystrophy condition worsened, and I wasn’t able to cook in real life like that anymore, I turned completely to Prianna to give me an outlet for that area of creativity.
An additional note: If you find any of these recipes in other tabletop/D&D places, they were not given with permission, and were stolen. At no point have I ever granted permission to use these in PDFs/books/publications.
The blog works as follows: All cooking is limited to what can be performed within a standard tabletop RPG game (often D&D, but others have been used). A kitchen in these games often has a stone oven, some sort of cauldron/pot/pan situation, a work hard, and utensils. Out in the field, however, she’s often limited to what can be done over a campfire, which is taken into account when making these recipes.
Restrictions aren’t as hard when it comes to cooking techniques. If something wasn’t invented until the 1930’s, but she still could use something like magic to recreate it, she’ll do it.
She must have all ingredients on hand to create the dish in-game. As all of these recipes were things she actually made during a play session, this applies to every post. It’s considered default that she has wild berries, assorted nuts, and a few basic spices with her at all times in her personal pack. Otherwise she has to use what she can find around her, or what she’s purchased or hunted along the way.
Spellcasting is considered just another tool in her kitchen arsenal. She’s known for using her party members, or NPC friends, to help her out. Frozen or cold treats can be helped along with a well-placed ice spell. There’s an entire arsenal of fire-related spells to be use for charring or a quick source of heat. Druid spells are helpful for locating fresh produce or herbs. She considers the kitchen to be a central family place where everyone has a talent, and she also considers every party she enters to be an extension of family. That being said, Prianna strongly believes that using any type of “prestidigitation” spell to enhance flavor as “cheating”, and frowns on anyone using it instead of actual skill to create delicious food.
In most circumstances, a d20 roll (often in a performance-based bardic skill) is made to find out if a part of the recipe was successful or not. Recipes can take between 3 – 10 rolls, depending on recipe complexity. A roll under a 10 is a failure for that part of the recipe. 10 – 15 is basic quality success, and 15-20 is “maybe Gordon Ramsey wouldn’t call me a donkey” quality. 20+ is a successful recipe that makes it into her cookbook to keep. 30+ is a masterpiece, and work is done with the DM of that particular game to figure out what that means for her long-term. In the Five Courses of Strahd game she’s currently in, an entirely new system with multiple levels has been developed to test her culinary skills, as simple d20 rolls just weren’t enough anymore.
She has a general rule about monsters/creatures, where “if it can speak common, or obviously has crazy-high intelligence, I don’t want to cook it”. She has broken this rule a few times, including some more horror-related scenarios she doesn’t like to talk about, but it will always require an extremely dire situation to get her to cross that line. Blood, however, is something she’s incredibly comfortable in using, given how close she’s been to vampire lords throughout her years.
She doesn’t like to prepare foods that will negatively impact another character (poison, sleep spells, make ill, kill, etc) unless put into very difficult situations where it’s required to escape. She feels that altering recipes like that is a waste of her talent, and would prefer cooking for an audience that’s awake and aware, to appreciate all her hard work. She won’t work with ingredients that have a known negative effect, like potions, poisonous meats, or certain alchemy/spell-casting components. Positive effects, however… that’s another story entirely.
Lastly, the blog will likely have an influence of Eastern European cuisine at times. This is because many of the games she plays in are based out of Ravenloft, particularly Barovia. Hungarian and Romanian cuisine are used to represent “local” cuisine there, and many of the surrounding domains take from other Eastern European cultures as well. I’ve also started doing a lot of research into traditional Roma (Romani) cuisine, as Prianna is half-Vistani, and is learning more about it as she goes. I want it to be as authentic and respectful as possible, and it will show up as time goes on.