Justice Playthrough #120: Knights of the Kitchen Table

I’ve seen my fair share of TTRPGs in this trawl, and I do not find myself saying this often, but:

This one might be a bit over-designed.

Page 57, Game 5: Knights of the Kitchen Table by Bat Enthusiast

You and your fellow players (minus the GM) are all residents of your basic FantasyLand, with knights and wizards and dragons and, most importantly, the KING. Specifically, you lot are all the king’s kitchen staff. The king would like you to prepare a feast — but seeing as this is FantasyLand, there are liable to be all sorts of bizarre complications, like imps infesting the bread oven, or the thieves’ guild having swiped all the really good dishes, or the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy having caused the nearby town to become infested with zombies which could really be a problem when you go shopping for fresh produce.

All of these complications have one thing in common: they’re YOU problems. Now get to work. That feast isn’t gonna just happen by itself, and you’d rather His Majesty not hand a one-star review to Yelp. (Yelp is the name of his executioner.)

So. Based on that description, what kind of experience comes to mind? Some light silly storytelling game, right? Something with a smattering of random charts and loosely-defined character attributes to help you along as you come up with a goofy magic-spiced culinary tale together?

The actual game is 40 pages of very fiddly medium-weight rules loosely based on White Wolf, defining five attributes and twelve skills, with eleven races and five character classes to choose from. For the record, the five classes are: Chef, Knight, Fool, Butler/Maid, and Advisor.

If you’re asking yourself “If this game is all about preparing feasts for the king, why is only one of the character classes actually qualified to prepare feasts for anyone?”, then congratulations, you’ve spotted the first major problem.

The basic premise sounds fun — or, at least Fun With The Right Players, which is pretty much the default caveat for every TTRPG ever. Whatever. But role-playing the kitchen staff? That sounds like it has all kinds of potential.

The game goes into significant detail laying down a ruleset that’s often only tangentially related to its core premise. This feels like the dev had these rules in their pocket as a result of some other project, then grafted-on the kitchen stuff at the last minute. Why not dig into the various roles within the kitchen? Okay, there’s a head chef, fine. How about a sous chef? A saucier? A chef de partie and demi chef de partie? A patissier, a chef garde manger, a kid who washes the dishes and may or may not have a genius rat under his hat controlling his movements and making inexplicably amazing food?

Okay, sure, some of those folks COULD have been knights, but whatever they used to do, they got their asses busted to the kitchen. Why not build in “What you used to be doing” or “Desire to actually be in the goddamn kitchen” as mechanical elements within the game?

Why is the equipment list so fiddly? Why do the rules explicitly state that a frying pan costs two coins? If I only have one coin, does that mean I can’t have a frying pan? Does the fuckmothering ROYAL KITCHEN force its staff to supply all their own equipment?

There’s an interesting game here, I think. But if you’d like to dig it out of these rules, they’re going to fight you. The rules are overly specific where they would benefit from hand-waving, and leave out the details that would actually make their intended setting come to life.

These rules need a pass with an editorial chainsaw. Everything that doesn’t support the setting needs to be excised ruthlessly, and replaced with the details that would flesh-out the corner of the world the players actually inhabit. (And if the author is reading this, feel free to steal my idea and make Yelp the executioner’s name. You’re welcome.) To a fantasy chef, a dragon’s hit points aren’t nearly as important as information on how dragon flame affects the bread’s flavor.

The game isn’t awful, and if you think the concept sounds awesome, by all means give it a look. But I can’t exactly recommend it, either.

Will this next game teach me anything about the proper temperature at which one should roast a land shark?

Page 50, Game 28: 1-6 Oozes in the Dark by Deus Ex Minima

“A print-and-play micro-module for 5e”

Ah, oozes. Definitely a job for the saucier, my bad.